Last time, I discussed the appearance rates of the cards currently on the restricted list, and took the opportunity to explain why some of them don’t belong there. This week, I’m going to look at a lot of noteworthy unrestricted cards and discuss their fluctuations over the last seven and a half months. For the people who’ve been paying close attention to Type One over that whole time, there won’t be many surprises here, but for the relatively un-hardcore reader, you can catch up on a lot of conventional wisdom all at once. I include the full index of cards (including the ones I don’t discuss) at the end of this monstrosity, which should be done for next week.
Before I get around to that, though, I should point out the gaps in the data, which I’m not going to attempt to interpolate. (Basically, missing decklists.)
January: 2 Hulk Smash, 1 MUD
February: 1 Dragon, 1 IsoGAT, 1 TnT
March: 1 Affinity, 1 FCG, 1 Hulk Smash, 1 Madness, 1 Stax
April: 1 FCG
All the numbers here are in terms of the average number of copies of that card that appeared in a Top 8 of a tournament with greater than fifty players. (Somehow I forgot to mention this last week, because my subconscious expects all of you to think like me. Go figure.)
_2.5,_1.6,_1.8,_1.1,_0.9 Bloodstained Mire
_5.9,_5.0,_6.0,_8.2,_6.2 Flooded Strand
13.8,_9.4,12.2,_9.8,13.2 Polluted Delta
_1.7,_2.2,_1.0,_1.8,_1.3 Windswept Heath
_4.0,_6.8,_5.6,_5.7,_4.0 Wooded Foothills
_1.8,_0.0,_2.0,_1.1,_1.8 Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]
_6.6,_4.0,_8.4,_7.4,_5.7 Tropical Island
16.1,_9.0,12.6,11.4,11.7 Underground Sea
_7.7,10.8,12.4,_7.2,12.0 Volcanic Island
Most of this is fairly unsurprising, and probably the most significant note is Volcanic Island’s competitiveness for”top dual.” Sadly, Red itself isn’t awesome, so much as its interaction with brown is awesome (this is why I call Goblin Welder the best Red card ever). Nevertheless, the declining prominence of Black is leading to important sideboard shifts, which we’ll see signs of later.
_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.1 Adarkar Wastes
_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.2 Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.3,_0.3 Karplusan Forest
_0.0,_1.4,_1.8,_0.0,_1.3 Shivan Reef
_2.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.1,_0.1 Underground River
_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.1,_0.0 Yavimaya Coast
Shivan Reef is the only painland to really make itself known, but I think it’s fair to say that they might not be as dead as they appeared upon the initial introduction of Onslaught fetchlands. The justification floating around especially for Shivan Reef is that Workshop Slavery has a lot of pressure to provide both colors, and is vulnerable to losing all of its Volcanic Islands to a mana-destroying opponent like Fish. To avoid getting screwed for Red, while still providing enough Blue sources, the deck needs permanent sources of both. I suspect this kind of reasoning is what would drive any of the other painlands to really resurface in another deck.
_6.8,_6.4,_4.0,_3.6,_3.6 Bazaar of Baghdad
Unlike at the end of last year, when people were very concerned that Bazaar was going to hit The List in the immediate future, it has instead calmed down. Steve Menendian turned out to be right: Dragon is by definition a fair combo deck for Type One. It almost can’t win on the first turn, and that’s a long enough window to allow the format to remain safe. R/U/G Madness has also been declining, because recently it just hasn’t been fast enough to play a no-disruption plan (or even a plan with four Circular Logic) Some recent Italian Madness decks have drifted into a kind of crossbreed with U/G Madness, incorporating Force of Will to protect the threats that hit the table.
_0.2,_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.6 Great Furnace
_0.2,_0.0,_0.8,_0.0,_1.7 Seat of the Synod
_0.1,_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.0 Tree of Tales
_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.6 Vault of Whispers
The earliest use of artifact lands was in a TnT deck waaaay back in 2003, after which few appeared (as extra Slavery artifacts for Goblin Welder) until Darksteel wrought Type One’s first real Block Constructed-plus-Moxes deck. (Madness doesn’t count, it needed Bazaar and really liked Lion’s Eye Diamond.) They won’t be side by side, but later you might notice that more Arcbound Ravagers appeared in April than did Psychatogs. A new contender for best creature ever? Hard to tell just now.
_0.4,_3.8,_1.4,_1.6,_2.6 Ancient Tomb
_0.2,_0.2,_1.6,_0.3,_1.0 City of Traitors
_4.8,_7.0,_6.4,_4.2,_8.9 Mishra’s Workshop
Personally, I’m rather un-surprised that as Type One refines itself and winnows out the weakest decks, its use of tempo-breaking lands is increased. For Extended-playing observers who still think cards like Ancient Tomb are underused, one of the reasons a deck like Food Chain Goblins wouldn’t use it in T1 is because of an abundance of colorless producers. If you’ve already got a boatload of Moxen, Mana Crypt, Strip Mine, and Wastelands, Ancient Tomb is hard to squeeze in while still being able to pay colored mana costs with regularity.
_1.0,_1.6,_0.8,_1.6,_1.7 Faerie Conclave
_5.2,_5.0,_3.2,_4.4,_3.3 Mishra’s Factory
_0.0,_1.4,_0.0,_0.3,_0.0 Treetop Village
Manlands are slow, clunky, and make your mana base barely workable, but I still love them. Faerie Conclave is rising along with Fish decks (and Landstill, too, though that isn’t really”rising” anymore).
_0.5,_0.4,_0.2,_0.0,_0.0 Dust Bowl
The last entry in the Land section is about destroying the opponent’s supply of the cards discussed above. Dust Bowl has totally evaporated, vindicating once again New Englander theories about Germans being crazy. Wasteland oscillates up and down, which probably has a correlation with the strength of control decks at different times. January is the highest, though, because everyone and their brother had The Ph34r for Dragon, which had just been tearing up the global metagame.
_0.2,_0.0,_0.4,_0.0,_0.0 Phyrexian Furnace
_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.4,_0.0 Scrabbling Claws
_8.0,12.0,_9.8,_6.2,_6.9 Tormod’s Crypt
Tormod’s Crypt is far below its peak (like Wasteland, Crypt was in vogue right after Dragon’s wave of victories), but still packed routinely by a wide set of decks. Dragon decks are always looming just on the horizon, waiting for people to stop using sideboard slots cautiously. Moreover, all Goblin Welder and Psychatog decks inherently have an interest in the graveyard, though there are usually more important cards to sideboard in against them. Expect Tormod’s name to keep showing up (and keep those The Dark cards you bought ten years ago from being completely pointless).
_0.0,_2.0,_0.8,_1.6,_0.3 Damping Matrix
Damping Matrix is an oddball success story of Mirrodin design, and one which I suspect was planned for Type One. It sees play in 4C Control sideboards, and the first reaction of a lot of people is,”Wow, it shuts down Psychatog! Nice!” Despite what looks like a gamebreaker against Psychatog, it’s actually a wasted card, because the Tog player can just use Pernicious Deed or Cunning Wish for a solution, and then win anyway – meanwhile, you wasted a card and three mana in a control-on-control attrition war.
The real purpose of this card is to shut down Mindslaver and Goblin Welder. Slaver decks often pack only a little artifact removal (generally Rack and Ruin) and keep it in the sideboard. If they don’t know whether a Control opponent has Matrix, their sideboarding is made much more difficult by the threat of it. In some builds, there’s even less artifact removal, because a boarded-in Gorilla Shaman can in a pinch kill a Mox, which Goblin Welder can exchange for a more serious artifact threat. Under the Matrix, this trick is neutered, making escape much more difficult.
_5.3,_4.4,_0.8,_2.6,_3.7 Null Rod
Null Rod’s effect is obviously inherently powerful in Type One because of Moxes, and I don’t expect it to go away, ever. Even against a less-than-balls-to-the-wall combo deck like Hulk Smash loses about a third of its mana base when this hits the board, and a deck like Fish capitalizes on the damage with Wastelands, as well. Against a Tendrils of Agony combo deck, it borders on an immediate”game over, man, game over” moment.
_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.8,_1.3 Arcbound Crusher
_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.1 Arcbound Overseer
_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.7,_2.9 Arcbound Ravager
_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.3 Arcbound Stinger
_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.4,_1.6 Arcbound Worker
Obviously these didn’t see play at the beginning of my reports, but they’ve certainly started showing up now, including some that are far too unworkable in formats with less copious mana. Arcbound Overseer is not one of the cards, I’m guessing, R&D predicted would end up in a T1 Top 8. The reason for such a diverse group of Arcbound creatures is that not only is there a Type One Affinity deck, there’s a Modular deck, too (see #6 here). There is something seriously nutty about this block, I’m tellin’ you.
_4.8,_8.6,_6.6,_6.0,_8.0 Chalice of the Void
_3.6,_4.8,_3.2,_1.7,_2.2 Sphere of Resistance
_2.7,_3.8,_4.6,_2.3,_3.4 Tangle Wire
Lock components have been more or less important factors in deck construction since Steve Menendian’s original Stax article, but lately as prison decks have become deemphasized, different cards have come to the forefront. Trinisphere made a big splash in April, particularly in Workshop Slavery sideboards, and as an addition to TnT. Chalice of the Void is, as predicted on first sight, an important card. Decks still have to run artifact removal of at least two different casting costs in their Cunning Wish sideboards on the sole concern of running into Chalices.
_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.3,_0.3 Darksteel Colossus
_0.4,_0.8,_1.2,_0.6,_1.8 Platinum Angel
_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.3,_1.1 Sundering Titan
Other formats need Tooth and Nail to play with the big boys. We scoff and use Goblin Welder, or just hardcast them. Once again, though, there’s a lotlotlot of Mirrodin in this category. The much-belated incorporation of Memnarch into Slaver decks shows that we’re still plumbing the depths looking for more, and I’m sure there’s something to be found. Sundering Titan is the card of these that I expect to rise more.
_1.2,_2.0,_1.2,_0.7,_1.6 Karn, Silver Golem
_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_1.2 Myr Enforcer
Affinity came upon us with Darksteel, and I’m expecting that Stacker decks will gradually be replaced by their faster, more savage Block Constructed cousin. TnT devotees won’t give up their attempts to rejuvenate the archetype in the foreseeable future, though, so Juggernaut and Su-Chi will keep showing up. Because of this, Masticore’s streak of always making the results is likely to end, as is Karn’s.
_0.2,_0.4,_1.2,_0.4,_0.0 Grafted Skullcap
_0.2,_1.2,_0.6,_0.4,_0.3 Mind’s Eye
I remember back in October when people were debating over whether Mind’s Eye was a good replacement in Welder MUD for Grafted Skullcap, particularly revolving around the danger of someone casting Hurkyl’s Recall in response to the”discard your hand” triggered ability of Skullcap. I guess it was never really a settled question, because they show up pretty evenly over time.
_0.1,_0.4,_0.4,_0.6,_0.6 Lightning Greaves
_0.0,_0.4,_0.0,_0.0,_0.0 Mask of Memory
_0.0,_0.0,_0.0,_0.6,_0.7 Sword of Fire and Ice
Let it never be said that Type One doesn’t have enough creatures for creature-helpers to be useful. Lightning Greaves is the standout winner from Mirrodin, which is kinda funny when you look back at Mike Flores preview of the card for the Sideboard, wherein he states that”Lightning Greaves was probably intended primarily for Limited, rather than Constructed play.” Despite this, look for Skullclamp to continue showing up in higher numbers. (Have I mentioned that Affinity is too darned good?)
_2.0,_2.4,_1.8,_0.3,_0.7 Isochron Scepter
Everyone who said this was going to get restricted should put a”kick me” sign on the back of their shirt if they don’t learn their lesson for next time. My Extended-playing compadre Matt Katz was under the impression that the Scepter”has to be right” in 4C Control
Brainstorm, as the second most-played Blue card (and thus the second most-played card), is now almost as widespread as Force of Will. Almost every deck that can use it, does, usually as a four-of. One of the things that intrigues me most about Brainstorm is its high use in non-Dragon combo decks, to the point that I’m not sure whether control gets more out of it. Much like Draw-7 spells, I think it benefits combo more, since they are seeing the same number of cards, but with more brokenness. Control gets three more chances to find Force of Will, while combo sees three more ways to Win Right Now. One of the factors distinguishing TPS from Draw7 is the former’s reliance on Brainstorm to find the next piece of brokenness, and the latter’s goal of not having to use Brainstorm, preferring to cast bomby draw spells instead.
_3.3,_2.6,_8.0,_4.9,_4.4 Accumulated Knowledge
Probably the only draw spell that self-regulates its metagame power level (by making matches where both sides use it nightmarish), I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that AK will never exceed the February high point of two playsets in an average Top 8. Any higher than that, and the randomness of mirror matches should knock more of the AK-wielders out of contention.
Thanks to the intense campaigning of JP Meyer (and henchman Rian”Nut Low All-Star” Litchard), public opinion on Standstill has shifted closer to what Standard players a few years ago figured out when people tried the card in Psychatog: Standstill can be played around in most situations so that it’s about as useful as a Cephalid Coliseum. As a result, people like Jacob Orlove and Dan Richardson a.k.a. Pern have been straight-up replacing Standstill with Brainstorm and liking it. I predict that Standstill will continue to be played, because budget Fish players are obstinate (how else would someone play Spiketail Hatchling?), but that it won’t show up in my reports as much.
_0.4,_2.4,_3.4,_1.3,_3.8 Thirst for Knowledge
I omitted several very lightly used draw spells from this section, but wanted to highlight a few things about Thirst in particular. First is that I don’t know why anyone was discussing restriction. There’s just no basis for that. Slavery (using both versions’ combined total) barely even tops the metagame charts for April, when both Mana Drain and Mishra’s Workshop versions were hyped as the next hot thing on the internet.
_0.9,_0.4,_1.4,_0.6,_1.0 Future Sight
I think Future Sight is the poster child of totally broken card concepts. It’s got an effect that was actually worthy of a Type One competitive control-combo deck (#1 here, sadly neutered by Burning Wish’s restriction), yet it is appropriately costed and clearly not at the ridiculous level of something like Yawgmoth’s Will, for which I’m not sure there exists a”fair” cost. People have tried it in everything from 4C Control to TPS to a Show and Tell deck that hasn’t yet made my results, making it by all accounts the most fair unfair card in an extremely long time. I expect it to keep showing up rather than disappear.
_0.2,_0.0,_0.2,_0.0,_0.0 Arcane Denial
_0.4,_1.4,_1.6,_0.4,_0.4 Circular Logic
_0.0,_1.4,_0.0,_0.3,_0.2 Mana Leak
_0.2,_0.2,_0.0,_0.6,_0.4 Teferi’s Response
_0.2,_0.0,_0.0,_0.1,_0.0 Voidmage Apprentice
I think that this is the definition of Johnny-Spike:”Will concede the point that you have to play Blue in Type One, but will insist on using off-the-wall counterspells while doing so.” That’s not to say that all of these are terrible (Daze, for instance, makes sense for some decks), but most of them are just nutty. If I had to guess, I’d predict that Dismiss, Disrupt, Envelop, Foil, Forbid, and Thwart won’t appear in the next six months. It’s hard to be sure though, because T1’ers are notorious for sticking to Johnny-ness.
Once the powerhouse counter of four-Gush Gro-A-Tog, it’s been astoundingly stable since I started taking data. Considering how bouncy the use of entire colors has been over that period (Green is literally a jagged line), this looks to me like it’s hit equilibrium. That means that it’s at exactly the level where it’s still useful to people to run it as a surprise card, but it’s used infrequently enough that people don’t metagame specifically against it. (Remember how Mind Twist used to get cut because of the risk of wrecking yourself?) I predict more of the same.
Stifle is kinda like Misdirection, in that it has narrow uses that should always find a target at some point during the game. In most matchups, it can at least go one-for-one, whether that be against a fetchland, a Smokestack trigger, Mindslaver, Pernicious Deed, or whatever. The problem is that like other narrow answer cards, it’s going to often show up when it’s not appropriate. So, like Misdirection, it’s been shifting to a sideboard one-of in decks using Cunning Wish, at least as far as Hulk and other more controlling decks go. I think as long as Fish is usable (meaning as long as Type One has a relatively low level of aggro decks, which should be forever) and Cunning Wish is unrestricted, there will be room for Stifle.
_7.7,10.4,_8.8,_9.8,_9.3 Mana Drain
20.7,14.4,20.8,18.2,20.4 Force of Will
My most substantive comment on these cards is about their relation to each other, which could create an article all by itself if I delved into the theory it exposes. For now, though, consider the implications of Force of Will occurring, in a typical month, about twice as much as Mana Drain. This signals that there is an ample supply of decks out there which have the recommended nineteen Blue spells to run FoW, but either lack the requisite sixteen Blue mana sources, or a purpose for running even a card as powerful as Mana Drain. It’s not that they have no use for countering… it’s that UU is too slow for their game plan. Let that sink in and remember it the next time you’re looking at a decklist.
_5.5,_4.2,_7.4,_6.0,_6.3 Cunning Wish
This is another relatively stable card I felt I should include, even if I can’t find a good way to combine”Last Action Hero” and”Last Broken Unrestricted Tutor” into a Schwarzenegger joke. One of the assertions commonly made about Cunning Wish as opposed to its restricted cousin, Burning Wish, is that it cannot be broken, because instants are too fair and utility-oriented to be unhealthy – an assertion which I feel is broken by Berserk. Because of this, as well as the more popular toolbox uses of Cunning Wish, I expect it to continue to rise as T1’ers everywhere refine their deck choices.
Next time, the much less important colors, and likely some overall trends.