The Kitchen Table #247 – Five Color Update and Changes

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Thursday, August 21st – Hello my friends, and welcome back to the weekly column dedicated to the realm of the casual. I am your host, back from a long list of posts on the Five Color Ruling Council group, here to let you know all of the stuff happening in Five Color right now.

Hello my friends, and welcome back to the weekly column dedicated to the realm of the casual. I am your host, back from a long list of posts on the Five Color Ruling Council group, here to let you know all of the stuff happening in Five Color right now.

As regular readers of the column will know, I have been a member of the Five Color Ruling Council for a long time – six years! Over that time, I have successfully championed many changes in the format, and I am proud of that. I am also proud of my votes against some changes, such as the one to ban all one-mana tutors, a highly controversial vote that splintered the community for a few months into different sides, and one that I still believe was in error.

Five Color, for those unaware, is a casual friendly format that requires a minimum of 250 cards, 20 cards in each color, and uses Vintage legal sets. Because of the quirkiness of the format, we maintain our own B&R list, and we have generous mulligans. You can find out more about the format over at our homepage.

Back on January 10, in the 215th edition of The Kitchen Table, I outlined a giant proposal that I sent to the Five Color Ruling Council, and I sent each as a separate proposal, instead of all one great thing. This allowed the individual members to pick and choose what they wanted to support. Some were cleanups, others were rules changes, and a bunch were cards I believed should be debanned and restricted (or unrestricted).

If interested, you can find that article here.

Although several of my suggested rules changes were seconded and voted on, with many passing, not a single card I suggested was seconded. I thought this very, very strange, since, for example, Adrian Sullivan advocated unrestricting Bribery two years prior in a proposal, and we as a Council has approved voting to unrestrict it then, but we put off the proposal due to the backlash against the Great Tutor Banning in the Winter of ‘06. I felt it was time to put it back on the list, and yet no one seconded it, or any other card.

I didn’t even get a second on Dimir Machinations or Perplex, and we had unrestricted Drift of Phantasms a few months prior.

Here were the cards I wanted action on, and submitted back in January.

Deban: Shahrazad, Bronze Tablet, Darkpact
Deban and Restrict: Parallel Thoughts, Wild Research, Sundering Titan, Earthcraft
Unrestrict: Grinning Totem, Bribery, Perplex, Dimir Machinations, Doomsday, Channel, Recollect, Infernal Tutor, Rhystic Tutor, Planar Portal, Glittering Wish

I believe that any format should allow players the opportunity to play with as many cards as possible. Just because a card was deemed troublesome years ago does not mean it would be so in today’s modern environment. Some older restricted cards included Recurring Nightmare and Corpse Dance.

Five Color has advanced as a format, and there are tournaments being held. We need to clean up the B&R list and modernize the format. Although we’ve done a lot, there are still a lot of sacred cows the format has to slay. (Such as the “Players with no Permanents may not speak” rule, which is poorly thought out for tournaments – how would I call a judge, for example?)

A few months ago, we finally took Dimir Machinations and Perplex off the list (Drift of Phantasms has already come off).

This past week, a new ballot went up, and it has two rules changes and six cards for unrestricting. That means this cards were nominated and seconded and are now up for the general Council to consider.

I’ll introduce you to the new ballot, then I will tell you how I intend to vote, so that my votes are public, and you have the freedom to disagree or state a logical case to change my mind (it’s happened before).

Rules Changes:

1). Modify the Invitational. In Five Color, we have a biannual Invitational with about nine players or so getting invited. We’ve never had official rules for it. This rule proposes an official Five Color Invitational rule set, including how to determine who gets in, where to hold it, and such. The major change is that we, the 5CRC, have the right to veto a suggested Invitational Card (the winner gets to create a limited 5C only card that is legal in 5C tournaments). This way, no one can make this card: “Ancestral Is My B*tch. U, Instant, Draw Five Cards.” Or make something like it. I consider this change to be non-controversial, good stuff that you need to do occasionally.

2). Remove Ante From the Rules. Here’s the fun thing about this. I proposed this rule change in January. It was seconded. It was defeated 3-5 despite there being seven members on the 5CRC [Nice math — Craig, amused]. I guess they wanted to vote it again, because I didn’t propose or second it (why put something up when it failed in May?).

I think we should remove it from the rules. Tournaments aren’t played for ante, so removing it does not affect tournaments. According to the rules, we only allow real, hardcore ante as a option, but since tournaments aren’t using that option, and since our job is to monitor the format from a tournament’s perspective, we should remove it.

It also removes a chunk from the rules, and that’s a good thing. We want a format’s rules to be as concise as possible. Reducing the rules also means we can drop their size. You don‘t want a new player to see a big list of rules when they first check out the website, so any chance we can get to cut some out, we should take.

The most important reason to cut ante is the big issue it causes in drawing people to your format. Imagine if I described a format to you, and you were interested in what I had to say. Then I added, “Oh, and ante is optional and encouraged.” Are you going to go a PTQ with a deck in the new format, or are you moving on?

Even an optional ante is a problem for a lot of people. I like ante in some cases, and you‘ve seen me advocate ante in limited universe formats like Shandalar and Shop. I just don’t think modern day Constructed formats are the place for ante. The ante mechanic was designed to be used in what would essentially be a limited universe, in a world where players bought a few packs of a set, and that‘s it. Fighting over your anted Scryb Sprites had meaning in a limited universe. We don’t play in limited universes in Constructed Magic, not of the sort envisioned by Richard Garfield.

As such, I enjoy ante, and think it still works as a mechanic in those formats that come close to approximating the original limited universe theory of Magic, but in the normal constructed game, I think we should steer clear of ante. And I’m not the only one.

I can’t tell you how many forum posts I get in Five Color articles, or e-mails, that say “I like the idea of Five Color, but I can’t respect any format that allows ante.” Ante is a stumbling block, and with a great format like Five Color, we should remove stumbling blocks in order to give more players an opportunity to experience it.

One More Issue

There is one more issue being voted on, before I move to the six cards up for unrestricting. We have to vote on a chair. Everybody wants Jeremy Bush as chair, but we needed someone else to go up against him, so I nominated myself, and Dominick Riesland nominated himself. I‘m not voting for me… I’m voting for Jeremy… but I thought you’d like to know.

The Six Cards

1). Bribery. I feel this is finally the time it will be unrestricted. This card’s presence on the B&R list is a mistake, and it’s been there for ages. I’ve tried to get it off numerous times, as have others, such as the aforementioned Adrian. This is a holdover from a different time in Five Color’s life, and we have evolved past that time. We have to pull this off, its presence on the B&R list is unsightly, and I feel good that this will be the time that Bribery finally gets its number punched.

2). Grinning Totem. This is another card from an old age, still sucking on the B&R list. I argued for this card’s unrestricting for years, and was told that it will remain restricted, because it gets Contract from Below. It was one of several cards to get the axe because of an unfortunate interaction with Contract, and the format was not willing to slay its sacred cow of Contract, so it and others remained where they were (another example is the banned Parallel Thoughts, which I advocated we move to the restricted list back in January, but there was no movement there.). Grinning Totem has got to go, its time on the list has well exceeded its power level, and like its twin Bribery, it is an artifact of a older B&R list, the time when cards like Mind Over Matter, Recurring Nightmare, Mangara’s Tome and other relics of a bygone age dominated the format.

3). Doomsday. Doomsday is a card that scare people, but they can’t abuse it. In an era with Hulk Flash as a viable combo deck in the game (and Hulk Flash is different in a deck with 250 cards from what it is in Vintage), Doomsday is just too slow, too fragile, and too difficult to set up. No one runs Doomsday. If we unrestrict it, and someone breaks it, then we can always put it back, but I prefer to err on the side of allowing players to have cards. Perhaps the reason why no one can build an uber-powerful deck around it is because Doomsday has never been as broken as we thought it would be.

4). Channel. This is another card that we fear more than we should Sure, the days of Channel-Ball are behind us, and this would be difficult to pull off in Five Color, but there are those who remember Channel with fear, and then they want to keep it on the list. What could someone do with an unrestricted Channel? I have no idea, but I know what they are doing with a restricted Channel – they aren’t using it. I’m always wondering why we should have cards that are restricted but are not powerful for anyone to play with. If it’s not powerful enough to run as a one-of, why should I fear it as a four-of in the environment? I think Channel and Doomsday suffer from what I call the Black Vise Effect. We unrestricted Black Vise (at my urging) despite the concerns of numerous people on the 5CRC that it might dominate tournaments and it was such a pain. What is the result? Very few run Black Vise, even as a four-of. Time had passed it largely by. I suspect time has passed Channel and Doomsday by as well.

If there is no known way of breaking a card, and no one plays it as a four-of, and there is an established deck that is likely to be better, faster and more reliable than any deck that abuses this card, then I think the argument for unrestricting it is very, very strong.

I proposed that all four of these cards be unrestricted in my January proposal, and I stand by it today. I will likely be voting to unrestrict these four cards.

5). Sterling Grove. This card has been around the block for a while. Automatically restricted when Invasion was released for being a tutor, this card has languished on the B&R list ever since, despite being slower than Idyllic Tutor, since both cost three, and Sterling Grove puts the enchantment on top of your library whereas Idyllic puts it in your hand. We never restricted Idyllic Tutor and no one cares. As such, some on the 5CRC have advocated that we remove the Grove from the list, and although it was not one of my proposed cards back in January, I can see the argument.

I like enchantments, and I think everyone does. However, I think we need to reassess our views of enchantments. Sure, this card can protect them, but that’s not what go the Grove restricted. It was a handy tutor, at a time when every tutor, no matter how bad, got restricted. Today we are learning to leave many tutors alone. It’s time to relax our view of tutors, and allow Sterling Grove off the list. As such, I intend to vote for its unrestriction.

6). Skullclamp. Now, I think there are a lot of cards that should come off the B&R list. Our collective fear of tutors has allowed Rhystic to be on there too long, and Infernal should come off as well. Glittering Wish does not get anything threatening, akin to Golden Wish, which is unrestricted. Recollect sees little to no use in tournament decks. Frankly, I think we could unrestricted Regrowth and be alright, but Recollect is a good place to start. Planar Portal is way too expensive, and is another auto-restrict from Invasion, along with Sterling Grove, and another card that time should allow us to reassess. Perhaps we could look at Diabolic Intent, the other transmute cards (other than Tolaria West, which should remain restricted), or Replenish. These are cards I might consider, and I could see others advocating for.

Skullclamp? Aggro decks have lost some of their luster due to the loss of Contract. They were the best deck on the totem pole by a bunch, so much so that there were those advocating for the restriction of Armageddon, as a way of slowing them down. Now that aggro decks are merely good, instead of dominating, there is a push to unrestricted the one card on the B&R list whose unrestricting would power up aggro.

I have no desire to return aggro to its previous form. I like the power combo has right now, and I like the power level aggro is at. I’d like to give control a bone or two, but the unrestriction of Skullclamp will give combo a tool and amplify the power of aggro significantly.

I have to wonder if those advocating for the unfettered status of Skullclamp have even played aggro. I have, and trust me, there are times when Clamp is better than Contract from Below, and usually better than Ancestral Recall. Perhaps they have played aggro and they want a tool again.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I intend to vote to keep Skullclamp on the B&R list. I’ve both played and played against enough tournament caliber aggro decks to know the power of the ‘Clamp firsthand.

I’m told to write between 2500 and 3000 words when I can (I usually go over), but before I began this sentence I was at 2506, which is a good amount to be at. I’ve gone over the proposed changes, and how I intend to vote, so I have fleshed out the issue. Don’t worry, I suspect next week I’ll get back to my normal length, and you can get your articles teeming with verbiage.

One more thing, before we go. Over a month ago, I published the Casual Banned and Restricted list in its first iteration, and took feedback. Now I want to get your feedback after mulling it over and playing around with it for a while. Have you been using it? How did it go? After playing around with it for a few weeks, are there cards that stand out as not restricted worthy? Are there are that need to be on the list but weren‘t?

Write back to me in the forums and let me know. I expect to publish an update in 249, right before my Semiquincentennial article.

I hope to see you in the forums, or next week.

Until later…

Abe Sargent