You CAN Play Type I #118 – Back to Basics, Part VIII: Revisiting Card Advantage Part 2

Continued discussion of Card Advantage Theory, including cards headed to the graveyard, and a treasure from the Usenet archives.

Dilemma: Counting Cards That Are Already Headed To the Graveyard

Due to the Forge[/author] Armor”][author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] Armor v. Armor of Thorns debate, Geordie’s Item #17 was also hotly debated:

“17. You attack with your Goblin War Wagon and Yotian Soldier, your opponent blocks your 3/3 with his own War Wagon. After damage has been put on the stack, you cast Forge[/author] Armor”][author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] Armor, sacrificing your War Wagon, and putting four +1/+1 counters on your Yotian Soldier.

“17. You are down one card. You spent Forge[/author] Armor”][author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] Armor and Goblin War Wagon (-2) in order to beef up your Yotian Soldier. Following this, the enemy War Wagon took the ‘ol dirtnap from the stacked combat damage. (+1). A net loss of one card. Still, your board position is looking rosey, as you have a 5/8 Yotian Soldier!”

As discussed, Mike Flores felt the answer should have been -0, since he doesn’t write off Forge[/author] Armor”][author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] Armor until the Yotian Soldier is destroyed.

In true Paragon fashion, however, I’d like to respectfully disagree with both Star City’s funniest writer since Rizzo, and one of the greatest columnists in Dojo history.

Well, okay, not really.

Seriously, I’d point out that the discussion is misleading, and you have to realize that the play is actually good, even if you end up down by one card. My answer, in fact, is that the play is +1 card advantage in a very specific sense.

To explain, we first have to tabulate what happened:

-1 card (Goblin War Wagon moves from the board to your graveyard)

-1 card (Forge Armor moves from your hand to your graveyard)

-1 card (Goblin War Wagon moves from the board to your opponent’s graveyard)

Total: -2 – -1 = -1 card advantage

However, it’s better to do things step-by-step. First, let’s take the War Wagon trade:

-1 card (Goblin War Wagon moves from the board to your graveyard)

-1 card (Goblin War Wagon moves from the board to your opponent’s graveyard)

Total: -1 – -1 = +0 card advantage

Then the Forge[/author] Armor”][author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] Armor:

-1 card (Goblin War Wagon moves from the board to your graveyard)

-1 card (Forge Armor moves from your hand to your graveyard)

Total: -2 card advantage

Notice something?

Taken separately, you should have -2 card disadvantage, but the scenario only results in -1. This is because you lose only one War Wagon where you should have lost two. You”cheated” and sacrificed that War Wagon that practically had lethal damage already to Forge[/author] Armor”][author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] Armor, killing two birds with one stone.

Thus, while you really got -1 card advantage, you also really saved a card from the play. If your frame of reference is what it would have cost you to cast Forge[/author] Armor”][author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] Armor normally (again, if), you’re actually up by one card.

And again, the difference between a 1/4 and a 5/8 Yotian Soldier is beyond the parameters of card advantage theory. There is one, but it’s for another lesson.

Dilemma: Counting Cards That Are Already Headed Towards The Graveyard, Part II

This isn’t any special rule or outlandishly named subcategory of card advantage theory, take note.

It’s just a straightforward application of general card advantage theory. I’ll give you another hypothetical example: Your opponent casts Disenchant on your Juggernaut. You tap your Goblin Welder in response and exchange it with the Karn, Silver Golem in your graveyard.

The count isn’t too hard:

-1 card (Juggernaut moves from the board to your graveyard)

+1 card (Karn, Silver Golem moves from your graveyard to the board)

-1 card (Disenchant moves from your opponent’s hand to your opponent’s graveyard)

Total: 0 – -1 = +1 card advantage

Instead of two even trades, you milk +1 card advantage from out of nowhere. This is easily explained, and you just ended up sacrificing one Juggernaut where you would have lost two.

Again, this is just part of the general framework, and this”cheating” on a cost and milking an extra card is found in so many other situations. For example, discarding Basking Rootwalla to Compulsion parallels the Welder example.

So again, just count the cards.


Every fundamental Magic theory can simply be traced back to the underlying architecture of the game, which is summarized as:

1) You draw one card per turn

2) You untap your cards once per turn (your mana producers, most importantly)

3) You play up to one land per turn

4) You attack up to once per turn

This isn’t quantum physics we’re talking about, and every doctrine from card quality to mana curves can be explained when you talk about breaking one of the above four fundamental restrictions.

Card advantage is simply about violating the first restriction.

It’s really a very simple concept, and if you cut out all the examples, clarifications and counterarguments, the preceding sentence is all there is to it. I concretized it in”Counting Card Advantage” and clarified everything I had to clarify in”Recounting Card Advantage“, and I still haven’t really added much to what Paul Pantera already wrote in 1995.

It’s that simple, and you don’t need any more terms or definitions beyond”find out how to take more than one draw per turn.”

The value of a Magic theory is its simplicity and practical application, and I really don’t think card advantage needs to be dressed up with so many subcategories because the general theory accommodates every possible scenario, with a little common sense.

I’m speaking from experience here. When I wrote”Counting Tempo” and discussed it in the context of land drops (Part I), then spending your mana per turn (Part II), and then attack phases (Part III), the first person I consulted was Eric“Danger” Taylor, the man who first articulated tempo theory on The Dojo.

What did he tell me?

Essentially, just forget it, or at least be careful. Tempo is really simple, so don’t mangle it beyond recognition or bury it under a lot of junk.

In fairness, I didn’t think it was that simple – but then again, I’m not EDT – but I took the advice to heart, and made sure to stay well within the three fundamental restrictions I outlined. Thus, I didn’t create any new, artificial categories, though maybe EDT silently concluded I explained the same thing from three different directions without realizing it.

Card advantage, however, is far more visible, more concrete, and more easily explained. My above little charts with the (+1)s and (-1)s are all you need, and that covers every perceived segment of the general card advantage theory from”virtual” card advantage to the more outlandish and abstract unifying”resource” theories in so far as they don’t mix tempo in yet.

Again, simplicity over semantics.

Sex is extremely simple – unless you have Bill Clinton defining it.

Let’s not bury the Magic theories we use as teaching aids underneath a lot of rules to the rules to the point that the elegance of it all withers and the passion dissipates.

Just count! You can’t go wrong with the above little card advantage tables.

Going back to the forum thread, Geordie posted,”If you know everything about card advantage, you can sit here trying to poke holes in PCA all you want. There are still thousands of Magic players out there that think that casting Fists of the Anvil on their Omega Myr to kill Fangren Hunter is ‘Even Steven’. I just want them to know that it’s -1.”

Again, with all due respect, I’m not sure how”PCA” or”Pure Card Advantage” is distinguished from the card advantage we’ve been talking about for the last eight years, except that the general card advantage theory doesn’t have holes in it, and has held up fine all this time. If you want them to know that play is -1, all you have to do is make them realize that you only draw one card per turn.

Card advantage as we know it already explains Decree of Justice perfectly, right?

(I’m sorry, but I couldn’t resist. Geordie posted,”Oscar, you’re not ‘up cards’ if you cycle Decree for 20 Soldiers. You’re still even. Once your opponent has to trade his Wrath of God or whatever for your 20 Soldiers, then you’re up a card.” I could only respond,”Have you been subscribing to Inquest lately? It’s not too late!” Oh, he’ll make me pay for this wisecrack…)

Anyway, Geordie, I still want my Eugenius rating.

(As he e-mailed, though, this is indeed one hell of a dry topic. Contrary to his message, though, I think he’s the man to liven it up, and I’ll step aside here. I still want first dibs on the terribly vague”resource theory” proposed on the forums, though, which was nothing more than the obvious”card advantage + tempo = broken.”)

Till next week, and Merry Christmas!

Oscar Tan (e-mail: Rakso at StarCityGames.com)

rakso on #BDChat on EFNet

Paragon of Vintage

University of the Philippines, College of Law

Forum Administrator, Star City Games

Featured Writer, Star City Games

Author of the Control Player’s Bible

Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (R.I.P.)

Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance

PS – Just to show you that what we’ve been discussing is still the same theory first posted on Usenet eight years ago, let me reproduce that first, now legendary post. Underneath the now antiquated examples and scattered thoughts, nothing has really changed.

(“The player who gets to draw, keep, and use the most cards wins?””Always counter Ancestral Recall, even if it’s your last counterspell and you’ll be tapped out?””Always get rid of Library of Alexandria?” Familiar? Hell, what about,”I will play Type II some day?”)

Date: Fri, 18 Aug 1995 16:26:09 -0700

From: Paul Pantera

Subject: Type I Discussion

My name is Paul Pantera. I was here about six months ago – now I’m back. I’ve been lurking for a couple of weeks to see if there was anyone here who was worth talking to. Seems like lots of the other forums have been taken over by newbies from AOL and prodigy.

I play Type I. I will play Type II some day, but I haven’t been able to buy enough Ice Age cards, and there’s nothing that frustrates me more than not having the cards I want to make a deck. If you didn’t figure it out from that, I’m a money player. I have every card, and I have four of every interesting card. I’ve been playing for a long time, and I spent a lot of money early on. I also bought a few people’s collections. (BTW if you’re interested I also run a large internet sale.)

I have won a Type I tournament and I’ve placed second twice. That’s quite impressive for the bay area because we have some of the best players in the world here. Too bad Origins wasn’t closer to here this year (and too bad the world championships were Type II – yuck.)

Well, from the posts of the last couple of days I have decided that there are people worth talking to here, so I thought I’d start a discussion of Type I strategy. Newbies will want to read this as well because I’m going to go over some of the basics and some of the advanced strategies of the game.

I am now going to tell you the secret of success in Type I. Remember where you heard this. The secret to winning in Type I is card domination. The player who gets to draw, keep, and use the most cards wins. I didn’t make this up – it came from Brian Weissman, the best player in my area. More about him later.

To illustrate this, here’s a statement: whichever player gets the Library of Alexandria or Mind Twist on the draw, wins. When I first heard Brian say this I said”yeah, right” then I started noting the draws in type I tournaments, and he was right ten out of ten. It’s amazing the power of those two cards. I can’t believe they didn’t remove Mind Twist, but it’s less important without Moxes and Lotus.

Based on this concept, here is the tournament deck which Brian built. Did anyone read Zak Dolan article in the last Duelist? He describes a deck that’s so defensive that the only source of damage is two Serras. This is it.

A word about Zak Dolan. He lives around here and can be seen at game stores trying to cheat little kids out of their cards. He has zero DC points for this year because he refuses to play anyone because he loses. To this deck.

It has won pretty much every tournament in this area in the last six months. Around here, it’s known as”The Deck.” No one has been able to make a deck which consistently beats it and can still hold its own.

4 Mana Drain

3 Counterspell

1 Braingeyser

1 Time Walk

1 Timetwister

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Recall

2 Red Elemental Blast

1 Regrowth

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Mind Twist

4 Swords to Plowshares

3 Disenchant

2 Serra Angel

2 Moat

3 Disrupting Scepter

1 Jayemdae Tome

1 Chaos Orb

1 Sol Ring

5 Moxes

Black Lotus

1 Library of Alexandria

2 Strip Mine

3 City of Brass

4 Tundra

2 Plains

4 Islands

1 Volcanic Island

2 Underground Sea

1 Plateau


Blood Moon

1 Plains

2 Island

2 Dust to Dust

1 Jayemdae Tome

1 Moat

2 Circle of Protection: Red

1 Counterspell

1 Control Magic

1 Balance

Some people play different variations. I think Brian is playing twenty-eight land (plus Sol Ring) right now. This deck is 34/26. You do this because you almost never get a bad draw. I can’t believe the people on this list saying”I don’t understand how I got a bad draw – I had all twenty land in my deck!”

It’s much easier to get a good draw with a Permission deck anyway. That’s the problem playing direct damage or Land Destruction – sometimes you don’t draw any of the right cards, and you lose. That’s why permission is so much better – as long as you get two blue, you’re set for a while.

You’ll notice first off that this is a permission deck. Nine counterspells in all (some people replace a counterspell with Deflection.) The main cards in the deck are the Disrupting Scepters and the Moats.

I don’t know where to start. This is a lock deck – it wins by putting your opponent in a position where they’re helpless. At the end of the game, you’ve got a handful of counterspells and a Serra Angel, your opponent has no creatures and no cards, and he’s taking 4 points a round. Even if he draws something good, you just counter it.

The point of the deck is to get your opponent with no cards. Don’t cast a Serra unless your opponent has no cards and you have a counterspell to back it up! This is not a fast deck.

The secret to winning in Magic, and the thing that separates good Magic players from the not-so-good is:

1) Knowing which spells to counter

2) Knowing what to Disenchant and when

3) Knowing which creatures to Swords

4) Knowing where to aim the Orb

5) Knowing what to Tutor for

6) Knowing what to Regrowth/Recall

You’ll notice that this deck is chock-full of these cards, which makes it hard to play. If you give a beginner this deck, they’ll lose. The guy who designed it, Brian, can beat just about anyone, any time, even if they’re playing the same deck. Here are a few pointers:

1) Don’t counter creatures, especially non-flying ones. Let the Swords and Moats take care of them.

2) Counter card drawing and discarding effects like Hymn to Tourach and Mind Twist.

3) Don’t counter artifacts unless you absolutely have to. I’d counter a Scepter if I didn’t have a disenchant because it is the enemy of permission decks.

4) Don’t disenchant Moxes (unless you have Blood Moon out). Save your Disenchants for important stuff.

5) Always counter Ancestral Recall, even if it’s your last counterspell and you’ll be tapped out.

6) Your opponent will try to bait you with spoilers. For example, he may play Time Walk hoping you’ll counter it, so he can cast something really important. Don’t be fooled.

7) If you draw good cards like Time Walk or Chaos Orb, don’t cast them right away. Save them to bait your opponent later.

8) Save Strip Mines to strip islands to keep your opponent from countering. Strip mines are great because they can’t be countered. Always use it to get rid of Library of Alexandria. You’ll want to get rid of Mazes too. Remember to use them before you Timetwister, because then you can get them back.

9) Don’t play too much land – hold it in your hand. It will help alleviate the effects of Mind Twist or Disrupting Scepter. Or Balance.

10) don’t tap out! It sounds corny to leave two islands untapped so your opponent will think you have a counterspell. It works! If you want to cast a Tome or a Scepter, wait until you counter something with Mana Drain, and use that extra mana to cast it. You’ll still have plenty of untapped lands for countering (and bluffing).

11) If you’re using the Library early in the game, you may have to discard. If you have a Serra, discard it. You won’t need it until later.

12) Don’t counter life-gaining effects. This is a lock deck – even if you’re opponent has one hundred life it doesn’t matter – he’s going to take four a turn and there’s nothing he can do.

13) If you have the Library, don’t lose the use of it! It’s the”I Win” card. Don’t play stupid cards to get less than seven. Draw a card during your opponent’s upkeep. This way, even if you have to counter two spells during your opponent’s turn, your next draw will bring you back up to seven.

14) Don’t just leave two Blue untapped. Your opponent could have a Strip Mine and then you’re helpless. Leave as much Blue untapped as possible. Discard cards instead of playing them if you have to.

A lot of these tips can be used with any deck, and others are more specific to The Deck. But remember, you’re purpose at the beginning of the game is to rid your opponent of cards. Don’t worry about anything else. Then, when he has no cards, get the Serra out. It works every time.

The other important skill is knowing how to sideboard. You don’t sideboard against a certain color, you sideboard against certain kinds of decks.

Land Destruction – You rarely see good land destruction decks in type I any more because it’s hard with moxes and stuff. The best way to beat land destruction is to sideboard extra land. He will run out of cards, and he’ll be helpless.

Creatureless – You rarely see true creatureless decks in Type I because they’re so easy to sideboard against. Pull out the Moats and Swords, and replace with 6 useful cards!

Direct Damage – Put in the CoP: Red. If you get the Tutor, get the Ivory Tower (also called the Ivory Plower). Another good Sideboard card against Direct Damage is Zuran Orb.

No Blue- Take out the REB and at least one Scepter. The Scepters work best against permission decks. They’re less effective against Weenie and Direct Damage decks.

R/G Weenie – Take out at least one disenchant (these decks rarely use any good artifacts or enchantments). Put in the extra moat, and Balance.

White Weenie – Extra Moat. Ouch. and Balance.

Big Creature (Juzam, Juggernaut) – Control Magic

Juzam – I love watching the Juzam player’s face when I put down a Moat. It’s great watching someone’s creature kill them.

Permission – Put in the extra Tome against any slow deck, including permission decks. This will give you card advantage.

Discard – There are lots of card you can take out (usually Moat, Ivory Tower, Scepter, etc.) Put in the Tome and the counterspell. Balance also works well against these decks.

Of course decks with no basic land are victims. Sideboard in the Blood Moons instead of the Regrowth, Mind Twist, and Tutor (or something else that’s less useful against that particular deck). Use the Strip Mines to get rid of any Basic Land they do have before the Blood Moon comes out. Use the Dust to Dust and Disenchants to get rid of on-color


Okay, now that I’ve handed you a viable Type I deck, I need your help to try and beat it. The best I have done so far is basically the same deck, but I’ve taken out the Blood Moon sideboard effect and replaced it with the anti-Deck sideboard:

Sideboard out:

2 Moats

4 Swords

1 Ivory Tower

Sideboard in:

2 Island of Wak-Wak

1 Maze of Ith

3 Tormod’s Crypt

1 Jayemdae Tome

I take out the Ivory Tower because all it does is give lives. You don’t need lives against this deck – you need cards. If you’re playing against the deck, as soon as you take damage, you’re dead meat. You’re in a lock.

Tormod’s Crypt works well against the deck because it effectively counter’s the Time Walk/Regrowth/Recall combo. Plus, if you can remove both Serras from the game then you’ve probably won. So what I’m doing here is removing his ability to do damage. But if I’m not careful he’ll run me out of cards. I’m thinking about adding a Cane (I already have the Timetwister, but that’s not too good because it puts him back up to 7 cards).

Other cards that work well against The Deck:

Jester’s Cap – remove 2 Serras and they have no way to do damage. Might also want to remove Braingeyser to keep him from running you out of cards.

Black Knight

Order of the Ebon Hand – Protection from White (can’t be Swordsed)

Mountain Yeti

Homarid Warrior – Can’t be Swordsed (if you’re careful)

Scavenger Folk – It can destroy artifacts and it can do a point of damage

Eternal Flame – This is my new favorite card. Since this is a slow deck, I think you could make a deck where you could get out 10-15 mountains (maybe with Blood Moon) and use Eternal Flame to do a bunch of damage, leaving lots of mountains untapped for REB/Pyroblast.

The Abyss/Preacher/Seasinger – All of these need to be dealt with before he can cast a Serra, but it’s usually not a problem because the Deck can win a waiting game.

Chains of Mephistopheles – Shut down the card drawing ability of the deck.

Black Vise – Terrible against permission decks like this. It’s always the first thing to get Disenchanted

Monsoon – Expensive but good. It makes him think twice about sideboarding his disenchants for Dust to Dust. Only problem is, how are you going to play Type I without Blue? You’d have to use all IA multilands I guess (don’t count as Island).

Amnesia – I once got beaten by a deck exactly like this except that it had Sedge Trolls instead of Moats and Amnesia/Mana Short combo instead of Scepters. You cast something and leave two Blue untapped. During your discard phase, he Mana Shorts you. Now you’re tapped out and he casts Amnesia. Game over.

Psychic Purge – You can choose to discard the Psychic Purge when he uses the Scepter on you – ouch for him. You don’t see it very often though because it’s such a weak card on its own. It’s good combined with Library of Leng too, but you’ll never see that in Type I.

All of the creatures have the problem that they don’t fly, and are therefore shut down by Moat.

Let me know if you think of any other good cards to help me beat The Deck, or if you have a good deck concept which you think can win. In the future I’ll talk about deck building strategy, because most of what I’ve talked about here is playing strategy.

Also, if I go to a tournament, I like to jot down a few notes about some of the winning decks, and post a”tournament report.” These were very popular. It’d be good if other people started doing this as well.