You CAN Play Type I #138 – Firing Up Fifth Dawn, Part III: Sorceries

Oscar’s continuing review of Fifth Dawn for Type 1, this time including such platinum hits as Night’s Whisper, Serum Visions, and Bleiweissian mega-bomb All Suns’ Dawn.

Best. Reaction. Ever.

An anonymous soul from TheManaDrain.com read last week’s Back to Basics special (see”Six Beginner’s Delusions You Meet in Heaven“) and had this to say:

(Quotes the column)”You also get flamed for posting that ubiquitous, gawdawful Black/Blue counter/discard deck that has nothing but four Avatar of Will to win with.”

(Then comments…)”I assume this is a reference to my old deck because I don’t recall anyone else ever advocating Avatar of Will. First of all, I will concede that I was a super-scrub at that time, but even then, I won my share of games even at GenCon level tournaments. It just proves that with all the fast acceleration in Type 1, anything can happen. I’ve used Avatar of Will (sometimes even hard casted) numerous times for the kill where Negator simply would not have worked. I will have to correct you and say that I never had counters in my deck except for my very first tournament deck where I sideboarded Force of Wills and Misdirections. I only used the broken blue (Ancestral, Time Walk, and occasionally Mystical Tutor) and tested out Recoils. Another thing is that I never had four Avatar of Wills, only two, but they were accompanied by the usual specters and shades. Negators or Masticores were in various combinations in the maindeck/sideboard.”

“Anyways, thanks for the trip down memory lane. It’s always good to remember where you came from and how much you have learned from then. However, I probably haven’t given up my scrub status yet as I try to perfect a Crucible of Worlds based control deck.”

Glad you all liked it. I’m still waiting for the man of the moment Steve Jarvis himself to chime in.

More books for Oscar

An unexpectedly huge number of readers sympathized with the pile of science fiction paperbacks in my room. Almost everyone took me to task for missing just one more key author, and here’s the compilation:

  • Philip K. Dick (doh!)

  • Harry Turtledove

  • Michael Moorcock

  • Terry Pratchett

  • Steven Erikson

  • Ursula LeGuin

  • Brian Lumley

  • Neal Stephenson

  • Robert Hughes

  • Greg Egan

  • Julian May

  • David Gemmell

  • Tad Williams

  • Robin Hobb

[I could make another list as long as this plus the original of missing suggestions, but it cheers me to see Robin Hobb here. I think Vernor Vinge is a crucial absence though, and Gordon Dickson should probably be tossed into the mix for those who like military Sci-Fi. I’ve also found myself enjoying David Farland’s Runelords series, and hope it continues to get better.- Knut]

A number of other readers scourged me for not picking up Roger Zelazny. Sorry, I recently picked up the Amber compilation with all ten books in trade paperback size. There, happy?

Apologies for not being able to reply to every recommendation. Real life beckons, beginning with my appearance as prosecutor for a twelve-year old rape victim. Sadly, not everything falls into place as neatly as a stack of cards.

Firing Up Fifth Dawn

Again, our two rules for sizing up new cards:

Is the card more efficient than an established benchmark? (Or, do I get more bang from my buck?)

Does the card do something no past card ever did, and if it does, is this new card playable?

And, for the more general discussion, refer to”Shadow Prices” (see”Counting Shadow Prices“).

We’ve gone through half the set and threw in a Steve Jarvis-inspired Back to Basics column that took a lot of the common threads from these regular set reviews. Now we move to sorceries, and usually look at Rule 2. Sorceries are less flexible than instants, but are allowed a stronger punch. Often, we simply look at whether the spell is cheap enough relative to its effect, and the best examples range from Duress to Yawgmoth’s Will itself.

Night’s Whisper

Residual shadows of Gush make Night’s Whisper the most interesting sorcery of Fifth Dawn. Since Whisper has a mana cost, though, the obvious comparison is to Skeletal Scrying. Obviously, once you can make three cards or more-roughly the Fact or Fiction mana range-Whisper is suboptimal.

Thus, as a control pick, Whisper is uninspiring. It would shine, however, in a deck characterized by a number of small boosts instead of one big play like a mid-sized Scrying. That would have to be a deck that wants a small card advantage gain very early, at the two-mana rung of its curve.

Once you think like this, your mental trail shapes up towards aggro-control, where you have two obvious places to begin.

First, you have Suicide Black. Even assuming Suicide would be great right now, it likely won’t work out, since the two-mana rung is the most jampacked in Suicide (see”The Nantuko Conspiracy“). Post-Necro, Suicide focused on early disruption and then a threat, and never used Skeletal Scrying or some other midgame refill.

Second, of course, you have the archetype that got Gush restricted in the first place: Roland Bode’s Growing ‘Tog (see”Head to Head: Growing ‘Tog“).

However, while it’s obvious that Whisper is not Gush, I’d like to spell out exactly why.

GAT, with its low land count and extremely cheap spells, was structured to turn Gush’s drawbacks into strengths. It could play a couple of spells, Gush, replay a land for an additional mana, cast another cantrip, and have that next pitch counter ready by the end of the turn.

Again, you saw how the original GAT played in my Head to Head sample, and how that one card boost could mean having that one last counter in hand to defend Dryad with.

Whisper, on the other hand, costs two mana (or about a turn’s worth) instead of netting an extra one. Yes, you have a serviceable economy card drawer again, but the tempo is still worlds weaker.

You come to a bunch of conclusions. First, the Fastbond combo mode is no longer there to truly race when you need to. Second, the whole package is simply slower to defend and to refill its pitch counters than it used to be.

Thus, while Whispers is likely better and more straightforward than the Accumulated Knowledges GAT has been trying to fit, and while Whispers fits very well in the Turbo-Xerox style engine, you wonder if the bigger picture will work. That is, what if the cantrip engine is just too slow that you’re better off trying to fit the full Intuition/AK engine anyway (which leads to Hulk Smash) or something else like Ophidian. In short, something that will have less use for a quicker but weaker draw spell.

Outside aggro-control, I’m not sure where Whisper could end up in. You might consider it for the same role Deep Analysis plays in the control mirror, but a strong draw spell is preferred to a quick one in the more methodical control mirror. Hulk is the noteworthy control deck that doesn’t use Scrying, but it’s also the one with the Intuitions to maximize DA.

Serum Visions

The obvious comparison is to Brainstorm, and you might you can craft a debate between Visions’ ability to clear chaff on top of the library on its own and Brainstorm’s greater flexibility. However, since every interested deck will have Polluted Delta, tutors, Impulse, or some other reshuffler for Brainstorm, I think the point is moot.

Nevertheless, it’s a solid cantrip albeit a sorcery.

Cantrip? Okay, so you think of GAT again.

For this narrower concern, I can’t do better than the earliest commentary by TheManaDrain’s Matt last April 24, 2004. I’ll quote the entire post here for posterity:

“Now that the card Serum Visions is confirmed via scan, some discussion about its place in GAT builds that run Sleight of Hand has arisen. The following is an analysis of both cards’ relative merits by an exhaustion of possibilities.


–First we will consider the cards’ merits in the absence of other information about the status of the top cards of your deck.

–The shuffling ability of tutors and fetchlands is not relevant here, because for Sleight you don’t know what the third card is going to be, and for Visions you DO know but will either leave the card on top or put it on bottom anyway.

–All sub-cases are eqaully likely with respect to each other.

–Winner of each sub-case in parentheses.

Case 1: one of top 3 cards is the one you want to keep – Winner: Tie

Sub-case A: Top card is the one you want, next two are no good. (VISIONS)

Visions: gets the good card now and a random card next turn

Sleight: gets the good card now and a bad one next turn.

Sub-case B: Second card is the one you want, top and third are no good. (SLEIGHT)

Visions: gets a bad card now and the good card next turn.

Sleight: gets the good card now and a bad card next turn.

Sub-case C: Third card is the one you want, top two are no good. (TIE)

Visions: gets a bad card this turn, good card next turn.

Sleight: gets a bad card this turn, good card next turn.

Case 2: two of top 3 cards are ones you want to keep – Winner: Tie?*

Sub-case A: Top two cards are the ones you want, third card is no good. (VISIONS)

Visions: gets a good card now, good card next turn.

Sleight: gets a good card now, bad card next turn.

Sub-case B: Top and third card are the ones you want, second card is no good. (TIE)

Visions: gets a good card now, good card next turn.

Sleight: gets a good card now, good card next turn.

Sub-case C: Second and third cards are the ones you want, top card is no good. (SLEIGHT)

Visions: gets a bad card now, good card next turn, good card on third turn.

Sleight: gets a good card now, good card next turn, random card on third turn.

Case 3: three of top 3 cards are cards you want to keep – Winner: Visions

Visions: gets good card now, get second good card next turn, and a good card after that.

Sleight: gets good card now, get second good card next turn, and a random card after that.

Case 4: none of top 3 cards are cards you want to keep – Winner: Visions

Visions: gets a bad card now and a random card next turn.

Sleight: gets a bad card now and a bad card next turn.

*Considering cases 2A and 2C, Visions gives you four good cards and one bad card, Sleight gives you three good cards, one bad card, and one random card. This is partially offset by the fact that Sleight gives you its good cards faster than does Visions, and so Visions’ overall superior card quality may prove ineffective at offsetting Sleight’s speed if you don’t get to draw that third card (by either natural draw or Ancestral Recall or whatever). This is however a very marginal advantage and I judge it to be less important than Serum Visions’ overall superior card quality.

Thus, Serum Visions is superior to Sleight of Hand on its own merits (i.e., cast without any other knowledge about the status of your library). But, what about in combination with Brainstorm?

Case 1: Brainstorm, putting two bad cards back. (VISIONS)

Visions: One bad card in hand, one on bottom of library, next turns’ draw is known.

Sleight: One bad card in hand, one on bottom of library, next turns’ draw is random.

Case 2: Brainstorm, putting one good card and one bad card back. (VISIONS)

Visions: One good card in hand, one bad card on bottom of library, next turns’ draw is known.

Sleight: One good card in hand, one bad card on bottom of library, next turns’ draw is random.

Case 3: Brainstorm, putting two good cards back. (VISIONS)

Visions: One good card in hand, next turns’ draw is good, third turns’ draw is good or random.

Sleight: One good card in hand, next turns’ draw is random, third turns’ draw is random.

So Serum Visions also has a superior interaction with Brainstorm.

CONCLUSION: Any deck that would run Sleight of Hand should be running Serum Visions first. It is assumed that all such decks will be running four Brainstorm as a matter of course.”

All Suns’ Dawn

Ben Bleiweiss predicted All Suns’ Dawn would be the next big thing in Type I (see”18,000 Words: Some Words About Fifth Dawn in Type One“), and I quote:

All Suns’ Dawn

“This spell is expensive. It also has a massively game-swinging effect.

“Returning up to five cards at once to your hand is major, and All Suns’ Dawn is easily splashable in any deck that would want to return five colors of cards to their hand. Initially, I see a majority of Type One players pooh-poohing this spell as it requires five mana to cast. They are idiots, plain and simple. Keeper can easily run a copy of this in their deck, and use it to get back:

“A) Demonic Tutor/Mind Twist

Force of Will/Mana Drain/Ancestral Recall/Brokenness

Balance/Swords to Plowshares/Decree of Justice/Dismantling Blow

Fire / Ice and Gorilla Shaman

E) Okay, so there are no good Green targets here except for

“Either way, the two-to-four for one on this card is pretty major, and this card should be given a good, hard look.”

Thing is, I think it’s a Helm of Obedience (see”Six Beginner’s Delusions You Meet in Heaven“).

Ah, aren’t keywords lovely?

First, by nature, this goes in”The Deck,” so costing five mana and being Green mean it has to make my jaw drop way lower than Manila’s Maui Taylor.

Jaws still okay?

Okay, as I was saying, that jaw-strain wasn’t caused by All Suns’ Dawn at all. Dawn is dead until you can start using it as an extra-strength Regrowth, so the question is how long it’s dead in hand.

The mana cost is only the first tempo problem. Regrowth effects are inherently slower because you have to wait for the card you want to hit the graveyard. In Dawn’s case, you have to wait for a mix of them, in different colors. Simply, by the time that happens, it isn’t that much more game breaking than the bombs you already have, and those and Skeletal Scrying are dead for much shorter periods.

Moreover, you don’t see Future Sight in”The Deck” anymore, do you?

Sorry Ben.

Roar of Reclamation

This is a lesson in incremental thinking (see”Incremental Thinking and How to Say No to Cute Combos“). Where’s the increment?

Here, consider the resources you have to add to go from Goblin Welder to Roar of Reclamation.

Welder, at one Red mana, lets you set up Mindslaver, and this can seriously disrupt an opponent or lock him down outright. I can’t think of a combination of artifacts that would justify Roar since winning more never helps. Even if you play the comparison to Replenish to the hilt and consider Roar as a backup spell in an artifact-based control deck along the lines of the Type II Urza-era Replenish decks, Welder did well in those.

Channel the Suns

In all honesty, I’ve wondered more than once whether this John Liu card might yet have a Type I twist. Technically, after all, you net a colored mana of your choice.

The best possibility I can think of is some combo deck using this to filter colorless mana into colored. At present, however, they seem to be doing well enough with multilands and Chromatic Sphere. Then again, maybe Bringers or Sunburst will be the next big thing, in which case we have a very good Green Dark Ritual.

Beacon of Creation

I’ve been wanting to find a use for Beacons as well, but you have to admit that the reshuffle ability isn’t particularly relevant. Beacon of Creation may look like an interesting twist to the Saproling generators that saw play in Masques-era Type II. Then again, no deck will have that many Forests and Beacon of Creation, and even then it’ll take a while before you find and play enough Forests.

Beacon of Unrest might look interesting as well, but for five mana, you can find and play something better, never mind the reanimation. Beacon of Tomorrows, well, might’ve been interesting with Dream Halls.


I’m not sure if you want the condition instead of the regular Shatterstorm since a deck with some big artifact fattie will have the supporting cheap artifacts anyway. And even then, Meltdown can be played earlier and flavored to taste.

Reversal of Fortune

The new, overcosted, watered-down Word of Command? Just go back to Grinning Totem if it makes you happy.

Shattered Dreams

One of those watered-down Duress knockoffs for artifacts? Wonderful, now you can miss mana artifacts played out on turn 1 and have the opponent discard that Welder target.


My card counting articles have already detailed why Bribery generates no card advantage, unlike Control Magic (see”The Ten-Second Card Advantage Solution“). The best Acquire could probably do is steal some artifact deck’s lone artifact fattie or even lock it out of its own Legendary Artifact kill, but that’s pretty narrow.

Screaming Fury

Reckless Charge this isn’t. Nice try, though.

Rude Awakening

This could actually be an interesting casual combo card. The first ability mimics Turnabout, which netted mana back with High Tide. The second one can be the win condition, though you have to play enough land first.

Well, that’s it for this week. Do me a favor and pray for my client while you wait for the next column.

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

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Author of the Control Player’s Bible

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