(I’ve never had a column that started off with a rant… May as well try it!)
There won’t be any Type I this Invitational – I really wish it was there somewhere. 5 Color is fun, but the strategy is quite different, and 250 card decks still haven’t grabbed me yet.
I thought I was alone. Then, last week, Chris Pikula told me, to my surprise,”No Type I at the Invitational this year is terrible. Most fun format every year.”
He went on to narrate the Type I round.”My match against Alex (Shvartsman) was one of the most fun matches I had in a long time,” Chris said.”I have no idea how I won either game.”
“First-turn Blastoderm meets Edict?” I joked.
“It was a stupid Edict,” he replied.”It hit me once, then I Ritualed out Necro, Necroed for like ten, and found Edict. I had to Ritual/Edict, burn for one. And then two turns later, I did the same thing again to Edict away a Serendib. And then I won the game with two Juzams, with me at one.
“He couldn’t block ‘cuz his only creature was a Jackal Pup.
“I miss Necro.
“Game 2, he did first-turn COP: Black. I drew my one Masticore and then Mind Twisted him and got his Mind Twist the turn before he could Twist me to kill my ‘Core.”
I only get to read tourney reports about Type I on the Sideboard just once a year, and I was actually happy with even that! Hey… Chris makes it sound fun, doesn’t it?
(End of rant.)
By now, everyone knows that Type I control decks were never the same after Fact or Fiction. When it first came out, Zvi Mowshowitz said in his Sideboard review:”Is it Fact or Fiction? It’s way too good to be real, but it is.” By the time the Invitational came along, Mike Long was saying that it was like cheating in Type I.
If it’s that good in Type I, then it should be broken in other Constructed formats, right?
That’s not quite what everyone is saying these days.
Fact or Fiction in IBC
Especially after using it in Invasion Limited’s earliest days, the idea that Fact or Fiction is not broken in Block Constructed might be curious. I posed the question to Felix Gonzales from my country’s national team, and he just replied,”That’s hard. It’s a very good, splashable card.”
But, of course.
I quizzed Paul Leicht and some others on #mtgwacky. The first answer I got was,”What part of EOTFOFYL don’t you understand? End of turn Fact or Fiction you lose!”
The answer was immediately, qualified, though. Fact or Fiction gets stronger if the cards it reveals are stronger, but a good deal of IBC is about the bears. Some decks would rather draw and play a creature on turn 2 than play one on turn 5 with a random card as a bonus. The key word: tempo.
The strongest opinion on the subject was given by Zvi.
The Solution, Zvi Mowshowitz, 23rd Place, Grand Prix: Denver, Invasion Block Constructed
4 Caves of Koilos
1 Dromar’s Cavern
4 Coastal Tower
4 Stormscape Apprentice
4 Meddling Mage
4 Galina’s Knight
4 Spectral Lynx
4 Voice of All
4 Lashknife Barrier
3 Unnatural Selection
3 Pure Reflection
2 Aura Blast
As he said in part 2 of his Solution analysis on the Sideboard:”Against a control deck, trading end of turn Fact of Fictions will lose the game. As Darwin Kastle put it when we talked at the airport returning from Denver:”Can your deck go ‘land, go’ as well as my deck can go ‘land, go”? The answer is that it most certainly cannot, and therefore it shouldn’t try. On the flip side of the coin are the matchups where The Solution plays control. Here the opposite happens. The way The Solution loses these matchups when it isn’t mana screwed is when it chokes on Fact or Fictions and therefore can’t keep up on tempo. It’s true that without the Fact of Fictions, there’s a danger of the deck running out of cards to play, but making the creatures in the deck more effective works fine as a substitute – and therefore Lashknife Barrier can take the place of Fact or Fiction in these situations.
“That doesn’t mean that there aren’t situations where this hurts. In particular, it can become problematic when the identity of the beatdown player is unclear. Those are the situations where there’s a need to reload. Despite that, after sideboarding Fact of Fiction is less important to me than cards like Gainsay or Disrupt. Doing the math on space, that means that even with extreme sacrifices, Fact of Fiction doesn’t get into the deck. I didn’t even run all four Lashknifes after sideboarding in mirror matchups, where it’s clearly a very good card. The only real situation comes against the worst matchups for the deck, like David Price Denver deck. Here again, there’s the issue that you can’t really win a long-term card fight against Prophetic Bolts and Flametongue Kavus with just Fact of Fictions and therefore you shouldn’t try. Gainsay going into both decks slows both sides down, which is another reason why going into control mode is a mistake and why I had four Disrupts and only three copies of Gainsay. If there’s a long-term fight here it would have to be based on Crimson Acolyte to neutralize a few cards and followed up by other problematic permanents. But clearing room for the Acolytes would be tough and not having them removed at the wrong time would also be difficult. Still, this is the best argument for their inclusion if nothing better can be found; I have never tested this matchup.
“The idea is still clear; the fight must be based on permanents and/or tempo strategies or it will fail. In addition, the extra lands from Fact of Fiction just weren’t making that much difference, since the deck can function fine without more than about five lands. It’s useful to have more, but it doesn’t make that much difference in most situations. In some special ones it does though. So if mana often doesn’t matter, the Fact of Fiction will simply give the two worst of three spells, which isn’t worth the time.”
Key word: Tempo.
Fact or Fiction in Extended
What Zvi was saying helps us figure out why Fact or Fiction was curiously missing from the Extended decks at Worlds.
Check those decks very carefully.
Bob Maher, Jr. played Oath with four Brainstorms and four Impulses, but no Fact or Fiction.
John Ormerod and Gary Wise played Draw-Go with Gaea’s Blessing with the same eight cards, but no Fact or Fiction.
Jon Finkel“Baby Bluey” used four Ophidians and four Thieving Magpies along with Ancient Tombs, but no Fact or Fiction.
Other mono blue decks labeled”Draw-Go” either had no Fact or Fictions, or used only two.
Does tempo explain why these blue decks passed up the card?
A lot of it. Looking over the decklists, one sees a lot of White Weenie, Stompy, and Sligh decks. After the bannings and the death of Survival and extremely fast combo decks, weenies became good again, backed by disruption. In Type I, a mono-blue deck can blunt the first wave of weenies by Impulsing for Powder Keg. This just doesn’t work against White Weenie, because waiting for two counters is just too long – and that’s assuming Meddling Mage hasn’t named Keg.
The simple answer is that by the time you get the mana to cast Fact or Fiction, it might be too late. My Aussie friend Jarrod Bright e-mailed:”If something costs four mana or more, you’ll want it to be able to handle situations which you find yourself in on turn 4 if your first three turns have been relatively inactive.Â Fact or Fiction just doesn’t do this.Â Indeed many four-one FoF splits were made at Worlds because a player knew that their opponent had to take the one card (often a creature, Oath of Druids, Disk etc).”
Getting to four mana was also more difficult, because decks actually had lower land counts. This was also well-explained by Jarrod:”The fact the most successful decks were those which forwent the ‘most powerful’ cards in favour of the quickest cards led to a trend to the lowering of the average casting cost and land-count of most decks.Â This in turn led to the Australian Team’s Forbidian deck running only twenty-two land (and a lot of cantrips), meaning it was very fast and very reliable.Â If reduced to topdecking at any point, it can count on having a good chance of drawing a non-land card (a thing control decks with 25+land often suffer from).”
Following Zvi’s explanation, though, we would expect the control decks to use Fact or Fiction at least on each other. Instead, we just saw a lot of Ophidians. A three-mana creature and a four-mana instant should be comparable – but in Extended, the three-mana creature blocks bears and kills Pups. Left alone, it demolishes control decks just the same.
Blessing Draw-Go, John Ormerod, 5th Place, Worlds 2001, Extended
1 Dust Bowl
4 Thawing Glaciers
1 Tropical Island
4 Force of Will
4 Force Spike
2 Gaea’s Blessing
2 Nevinyrral’s Disk
4 Powder Keg
Other decks had no Ophidians, but as John posted on Beyond Dominia:”For the Blessing Draw-Go that I played at Worlds, in the control matches FoF would be fine – but you tend to win those matches anyway. Certainly a normal Oath deck has almost no chance. Against beatdown it’s just too slow, you want to Impulse/Brainstorm into your Kegs really fast.”
Fact or Fiction In Type I
If Fact or Fiction is now worse in Extended, shouldn’t it be bad in Type I? After all, a lot of the cards are the same. Swords to Plowshares pinch-hit for the control decks, too, and you have even nastier weenies like Savannah Lions. Impulse and Brainstorm are all legal, too… As is Force of Will.
If you look at it, Type I is also fast, but that’s because of more than potent, cheap spells. Aside from cheap spells, the control decks also get mana acceleration from Moxen to Tolarian Academy. With Moxen and a Sol Ring, you can usually get to four mana by at least turn 3 instead of turn 4, which makes a big difference. This doesn’t even count turn 2 Mana Drains that turn into turn 3 Fact or Fictions with counter backup.
The available removal is very different, too.”Tutor for Balance” alone changes the entire picture, and even if you discard a few cards to clear the board, reloading with Fact or Fiction afterwards is a win. The presence of the original Lightning Bolt as well as Chain Lightning also makes Ophidian an easier target for red decks, subtle but important difference.
Tempo is important, but swings are incredible in Type I. Mana Draining an early creature and then playing a turn 3 or turn 4 Abyss with counter backup turns the entire game around, for example. That doesn’t even count sheer brokenness; FoFing into Yawgmoth’s Will with a Black Lotus out can win the game at turn 3.
With threats like Moat, The Abyss and even an early Morphling on guard duty available even on turns 2 or 3, Type I weenie decks have to be much faster, and the two-mana White Weenies are very difficult to use. This usually means going back to Jackal Pup and friends, or the 2/1 creatures for one mana. This allows other decks, like mono-blue, to find and drop a Powder Keg, then Fact or Fiction to steal the momentum from the opponent.
Simply put, surviving to see four mana is a bit easier in Type I. The control decks have an easier time taking the tempo.
And, even if a control deck is caught in a slow draw, sheer brokenness allows Fact or Fiction to swing the game. Imagine if the five cards were Library of Alexandria, Demonic Tutor, Fact or Fiction, Yawgmoth’s Will, Mind Twist.
You can see why this card is even better than Stroke of Genius, a restricted card. (FoF can’t be Misdirected, too.) Getting any two of the above cards for a four-mana instant is incredible. (It just can’t function in combo decks because combo components can be placed in different piles, or in 4-1 piles.)
The curious thing, though, is the number of Fact or Fictions played at the last Invitational. Zvi was the only one who played four, but that was because he played mono-blue, which depends on them to win. Among the other control players, Mike Long and Noah Boeken played three each – but Gary Wise, Bob Maher, Jr. and Jon Finkel played only one each. Three is the number preferred by a number of Beyond Dominia regulars, but Brian Weissman, myself and others prefer to use four, even if it means winning with extra copies in hand.
The Keeper, Mike Long, 2000 Magic Invitational, Type 1
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Mind Twist
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Merchant Scroll
3 Fact or Fiction
4 Mana Drain
4 Force of Will
2 Diabolic Edict
1 Gorilla Shaman
1 Disrupting Scepter
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Sol Ring
1 Grim Monolith
1 Mana Vault
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Strip Mine
1 Library of Alexandria
4 Underground Sea
4 Volcanic Island
2 City of Brass
1 Swords to Plowshares
2 The Abyss
2 Lightning Bolt
The lesson here is to pay close attention to what come with a certain card to figure out if it is good or not. As mentioned, tempo was the key word in IBC and Extended. With more acceleration (including Mana Drain), more potent creature kill cards, and more broken cards to frustrate the opponent who has to split them, an expensive card drawer becomes much more powerful in Type I. The lesson is clear, too, for Type I players who explore Extended with their Type I benchmarks fresh in mind.
Think about this when scouting Odyssey for cards for various formats before you trade.
Oscar Tan, a.k.a. Rakso
[email protected]; rakso on #BDChat on Newnet
Type I, Extended and Casual Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (http://www.bdominia.com/discus/messages/9/9.shtml)
Featured writer, Star City Games (http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/archive.php?Article=Oscar Tan)
Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance (http://www.casualplayers.org)