A call from the grave, Part II
I thought this Philippine Law Journal business would tide over and I could get back to more exciting writing. Instead, I got chained to my desk for a month. It was hilarious, though, since we worked so fast we released the first issue at our own induction, headlined by no less than the Senate President and a Supreme Court Justice.
I think I’m getting the hang of this, and will be able to resume normal life shortly. For example, my frat brother Ryan Reyes mentioned last week that he was actually planning to catch the Champions of Kamigawa Prerelease last September 18 at this new shopping complex called Eastwood City.
Magic, we concluded, must be on a renaissance if you walk through the new posh shopping promenade in Manila and see Prerelease posters hung from every post, in between cafes.
I envy my bro. His high school group reminded him he hadn’t played for years, and egged him to take a weekend off from Law School. A giddy smile crept onto his face as he related his plans.
Meanwhile, I used my newly-discovered powers as Chair of the Law Journal and called an “emergency meeting” of the editorial board in a tequila bar.
I must be the only editor-in-chief in the University of the Philippines’ history who listed “21-ounce premium margarita” on an “emergency agenda.”
Again, if you have any cutting edge legal articles on the Third World, send them in…
Deck Doctor segue
I found a little time to pick up my electronic pen again, but first, let me segue into a very energetic letter from Ryan Messick:
Hi Mr. Tan,
Let me just say I’m a big fan of your articles, and my visits to Star City have been few and far between since you stopped writing (for the most part) your feature series. I’m a teacher in training, with a year and a half left, and Magic Type One has been my format casually forever. As I went from high school to college, I finally acquired a set of control cards, and P9, so I can finally play control like the big boys.
I’m a control player from way back, when I played a two angel, 12 counter standard deal, with Time Bomb as my alternate win/lose badly condition. I thought I would give you a decklist that I’ve recently tried out, with some success, and then I would like to discuss a few other cards I was thinking of and see what you think. This endeavor is a hobby/obsession, and a couple of my play group are going to Chicago for Star City’s tourney on the weekend of Nov. 6 for some fun, and, hopefully, at least a top 8 finish between us, so we can get another piece of power.
If you don’t have time to get back soon, I understand, but it would be cool to have a little insight from Magic’s top sensei before I head out into combat, kind of like a young jedi getting Yoda to give a nod before heading off to some distant planet for guaranteed death and little chance of success. Without further ado:
Ryan’s 4 color paradox:
1 x Library of Alexandria
1 x Strip Mine
4 x Wasteland
4 x Flooded Strand
2 x Polluted Delta
4 x Tundra
2 x Underground Sea
1 x Plains
1 x Island
1 x Volcanic Island
1 x Black Lotus
1 x Mox Jet
1 x Mox Sapphire
1 x Mox Ruby
1 x Mox Pearl
1 x Sol Ring
4 x Force of Will
4 x Mana Drain
Card Draw/Utility: (17)
1 x Swords to Plowshares
1 x Balance
1 x Mystical Tutor
1 x Demonic Tutor
2 x Brainstorm
1 x Whispers of the Muse
2 x Skeletal Scrying
1 x Yawgmoth’s Will
1 x Ancestral Recall
1 x Time Walk
2 x Cunning Wish
1 x Decree of Justice
1 x Tinker
3 x Exalted Angel
1 x Morphling
1 x Gorilla Shaman
1 x Rasputin Dreamweaver
1 x Platinum Angel
1 x Darksteel Colossus
1 x Crucible
1 x Tormod’s Crypt
1 x Panoptic Mirror
2 x Tsabo’s Web
1 x Stifle
1 x Fact or Fiction
1 x Gush
1 x Rack and Ruin
1 x Vampiric Tutor
1 x Coffin Purge
1 x Swords to Plowshares
1 x Disenchant
1 x Divine Offering
1 x Orim’s Chant
1 x Rushing River
As you can see, this is a rough 4 color control deck, with a few tricks, mostly based on Tinker and or the broken power of Rasputin Dreamweaver. Here are my problems, and it would be great to get feedback from someone who doesn’t play workshop or food chain goblins.
1) I really despise Mystical Tutor for its ability to duress yourself by giving you the card you want next draw, but I think it is necessary.
2) Should I take out a Brainstorm or Skeletal Scrying maindeck to make room for FoF? I love that card, but it usually is a turn 2-3 play or later, and that has been a problem for me.
3) The two cards that I like out of CoK are Cranial Extraction and Gifts Ungiven. Have you seen these? Gifts looks like intuition for all sorts of broken stuff, then get two, so I think it is at least as good as FoF if played well. Cranial Extraction looks like a great play at 3B for 4CC (think way better Jester’s Cap), but it is a sorcery and a sideboard guy, definitely not first game potential. Cranial strips all of one copy of a card from an opponent, removing them from hand, graveyard and library, so I think it might be the all-mighty Man Show/TnT stopper, or even the more omnipresent Workshop/Slaver stopper, what do you think?
4) What do you think about my creature base? Are 3 angels too many? I thought a single Grim Lavamancer in the board might be a good addition for FCG and Slaver, but I haven’t tried it out yet. Is the Morphling good for a surprise, or should it be a second decree, mana leak, or something else?
5) The interaction between Rasputin Dreamweaver/Platinum Angel/hardcast Darksteel Colossus/Decree of Justice is amazing, and it leaves a 4/1 beater afterwards. Plus Rasputin is pitch fodder for FoW, so I think the argument for his inclusion is unorthodox but good.
6) I’m expecting Workshop decks and all things besides fish in abundance (the tourney is allowing five proxies). What do you think are good side board choice against these? Rafinitty is also big in Type One in the Midwest, lots of people crank up their type 2 decks with borrowed power to drive them. Crucible of Worlds may be the most oft-played new card, do you think the mana base will stand up, or should it change? With that in mind, do you have any preferred anti-artifact strategies?
All right, I’m starting to feel like a reporter asking a U.S. General about where the weapons of mass destruction are, so I’m going to wrap this up. Please take this email as one coming from a type one enthusiast without a fellow control devotee to bounce specific card choices with (I don’t think Workshop Slaver counts as control, it is far more like solitare/prison). I would appreciate any comments you might have, and I hope you are able to start writing again for Star City soon.
P.S. If you’re looking for a great series of books in SciFi, check out Robin Hobb’s Farseer series, and the subsequent The Tawny Man trilogy. They’re a blast to read and involve a lot of surprise, without being a constant good guy gets the damsel type of thing.
I wanted to answer this letter here, since Ryan Messick sounds just like Ryan Reyes, and I truly miss my own version of this energy. Anyway, there are some basic points I think we can all learn from here.
Mainly, you can’t miss how Ryan pulled some utility spells to include a bunch of experimental tricks.
While experimentation is always good, I think what Ryan was trying to do is a common path for exploration, and you have to gauge the effect on the deck’s structure very carefully. Basically, you see a deck able to pull a surprise Tinker for Darksteel Colossus, or use Rasputin Dreamweaver as an uber-Basalt Monolith for a surprise hardcast Colossus or Decree of Justice.
Certainly, this allows a surprise win or two. However, I can spell out two problems. First, you’re inserting mini-Sneak Attack problems into your deck. The Funker-esque (see “Head to Head: The Funker“) Tinker move may be a dead topdeck with only six cheap mana artifacts, for example. The way the rest of the formula goes, you may as well play the old “The Shining” and aim for a semi-combo deck (um… Control Slaver?).
Second, imagine an opening hand clogged by a useless Colossus or Rasputin, and the further detail that you had to cut support cards like Brainstorm to accommodate them. The evolution of “The Deck” involved painful cuts of expensive bombs in favor of cheaper, more flexible setup cards, and Brainstorm led the list (see “History of ‘The Deck’: 1996-2000“).
Moreover, note that the added cards are useful mainly for winning, but you already have the now common Exalted Angels and single Decree of Justice. The original “The Deck” had just two Serra Angels and a Braingeyser to win with (see “History of ‘The Deck’: 1995-1996“), and modern versions have just enough Angels to find at the right time and execute a controlled beatdown (see “The Deck is now Aggro-Control?“).
The reason? Precisely to avoid dead cards early.
Again, this is compounded because you removed Brainstorms, especially since they have yet more synergy with the upped fetchland count and Crucible of Worlds. For that Fact or Fiction, I’d much sooner cut that Whispers of the Muse, a slower, less synergistic relic (see “Control at a Crossroads“).
I won’t go through Ryan’s build slot-by-slot, but I think becoming conscious of this mentality forces the deckbuilder to see his picks in a completely new light. For example, Grim Lavamancer would likely not do that much more than a Fire / Ice, and maybe less, since the former has summoning sickness. Similarly, the extra Morphling doesn’t do anything right now the Angels don’t. Look, further, at Panoptic Mirror, and Tsabo’s Webs in a deck that already has Crucible and Wastelands.
Simply, the advice I’d like to give is that there is danger in cool things. Never focus on tricks at the expense of flexibility and synergy, not when they’re weaker than Yawgmoth’s Will, Balance, Ancestral Recall, and the new Crucible / Wasteland / fetch land action. Control players hype “The Deck” as a bag of broken tricks, but you can’t afford to believe your own propaganda and let the flashy finishes draw your attention from the methodical play that set it up (see “The Control Player’s Bible: Introduction“).
Well, I hope this tidbit helped, Ryan. Again, I envy the enthusiasm pouring from your e-mail. Good luck in Chicago; I had the privilege of passing through once and spending an afternoon at the Shedd Aquarium.
Incidentally, I reserve comments on the new cards for the usual set review.
O, Brave New World!
Frankly, I’m surprised that none of the usual suspects commented on Type I.5 at length here on StarCityGames.com, and it’s been a while since the new Banned list was announced. Or rather, no one aside from Sebastian Smith, who managed to unseat me from my lofty perch as the indefatigable sourpuss of Vintage in just one article (see “Calling You Out: A Message to the I.5 Community“).
Simply, I don’t understand where all the negative energy about the “new I.5” came from.
The new I.5 stands to be come everything I.5 and Extended wanted to be.
Okay, if you disagree, hold off on e-mailing that ten-page rebuttal to Knutson, and calm down.
What is Type I, and what is Type I.5? What is The Matrix?
Seriously, Type I was envisioned to be the format where you could play with almost any card ever printed, and they take pains to keep the Banned as opposed to the Restricted list at a minimum. Ideally, Type I.5 was supposed to be a less random Type I adjunct, created simply by banning all restricted cards.
Anyone who’s tried either format knows it only worked on paper.
What happened was that Type I.5 was condemned to live its days in Type I’s shadow. Since the available cards were almost identical, and with the increased acceptance of proxy tournaments, playing Type I lite just had little appeal. Yes, there were dedicated I.5 players and groups, but I’ve spent years fielding questions on how to play Type I on a budget. I’d posit that the kid with the cheaper Revised and Mirage oldies would rather play budget Type I and slip in a Mystical Tutor, Yawgmoth’s Will and a Sol Ring than force I.5 in a play group where no one had Mana Drains or Mishra’s Workshops anyway.
Further, tying the Restriction/Banned lists was completely artificial, and soured gameplay. In 2001, I wrote that there was no reason whatsoever to ban Fact or Fiction from I.5, where it was less useful without fast mana, as it was less useful in Extended (see “Why Do They Say Fact or Fiction Isn’t Broken?“). Last year, I wrote there was no reason to restrict Earthcraft in Type I (see “Is Type I Broken?, Part II“), and Aaron Forsythe now confirms in writing that their reason was to ban it in Type I.5.
Quoting that last column, my exact words were: “Having one Banned/Restricted List to control two very different formats is proving more and more unwise as more expansions are added. Can we just admit it instead of compounding the problem each year?”
What was Type I.5 supposed to be?
Let’s take a little walk down memory lane.
Almost ten years ago, in Magic’s earliest years, there was once a Golden Age – yes, I’m pushing it for the benefit of my Type I-oriented audience – when Type I was the only format in Magic. Unfortunately, as the newer sets left the presses, Wizards needed to attract newer players who didn’t have those expensive Beta cards like Black Lotus. Thus, Type II was born, and as Paul Pantera wrote in 1995: “Too bad Origins wasn’t closer to here this year (and too bad the World Championships were Type II – yuck.)”
While I.5 had a modest share of the limelight such as the format the original Fruity Pebbles (Enduring Renewal / Ashnod’s Altar) deck was intended for, it was, again, mainly in Type I’s shadow. As more sets left the presses and several Type II rotations later, a lost Magic generation emerged, one left with a bunch of old cards they couldn’t play in Type II, but not enough of the old cards to fully enjoy Type I.
Many at the time agreed that most old players caught the bandwagon around Revised – I myself began when The Dark was current – so Extended was born, and it placed its initial cutoff at the sets around Extended. To give you an idea of the mood, the first Extended pre-banned the likes of Kird Ape and Serendib Efreet, while the current one is more properly alarmed by Goblin Recruiter and Metalworker.
So people got to trot out their old cards again, and they even kept the Revised dual lands in after one rotation. Now, however, there have been so many sets that the people who want to play with older cards without dealing with the hundred-dollar power cards are alienated yet again.
What now, a Chronicles Extended or Extended Extended?
I think Wizards correctly decided to take the “Type I lite” format that was never relevant and finally give it an identity of its own.
Type I.5: The format that never was
No, I don’t consider myself to be doing a Sebastian Smith here.
Certainly, I can sling mud and slip verbal daggers into ribcages with the best of the Internet flame warriors, but I’d like to be a bit more constructive here. Be warned, this is going to hurt, but if you’re a self-professed fanatic of the former Type I.5, I’m here to slap you with the cold, hard trout of reality.
Restrain your urge to jump up and defend your fallen love, and answer these questions with me.
Simply, how many people played the old I.5?
Ouch, hurts, doesn’t it? Especially after that “never relevant” quip?
But this is the reality check we need to make. I’ve pooh-poohed countless Type I fanatics who’ve demanded a Type I Pro Tour, so how much more I.5? Take note I’m not asking if I.5 ever existed since it obviously did, but I’m probing how small a following it honestly had.
I’m not going to argue over tournament statistics since these have never been tracked outside Morphling.de and Phil Stanton’s column. We have more visible, anecdotal evidence to nitpick over: Online presence.
Let’s use Type I as a barometer. Even before the height of Beyond Dominia, you’d always see Type I sections in places like The Dojo and Inquest magazine (back when Rick Swan was still in there and the evil Frohnhoefer had not yet corrupted its humor). At the height of BD, Meridian Magic would link it, even the likes of Kai Budde and John Ormerod dropped by, and the Beyond Dominia Primers formed the foundation for modern Type I literature (see “A Memoriam to Beyond Dominia“). After the BD originals like Darren Di Battista, Matt D’Avanzo, and myself made our Star City debuts, you no longer saw the customary, “Hi, I enjoy Type I so much, and let me share an overview with you” articles, and you had running columns that probed deeply into the format.
Today, you have a full bench of new Type I featured writers, with fewer regular contributors. You have TheManaDrain.com, which is quoted even in official Wizards articles. Type I has been recognized by Wizards itself as an important, if smaller, audience, and has acted on a number of the Type I community’s proposals.
So how much of this did Type I.5 have?
Certainly, Type I.5 was paid far less attention to in the original newsgroups and in The Dojo. There is to date nothing as extensive as the Beyond Dominia Primers, and there is not even a single “featured writer” on any site recognized or identified with Type I.5. There is no group that follows and publicizes Type I.5 tournaments like Phil Stanton or Morphling.de.
Most importantly, I remember encouraging Type I.5 writers after seeing a few of those “Hi, I enjoy Type I.5 so much” pieces on Star City, but I never saw a follow through. [Matt Pietarinen is probably the most consistent contributor for this format (his stuff is quite good), but when we get busy, Type 1.5 articles tend to fall by the wayside a bit because they have fewer readers. – Knut] Yes, I keep hearing about this “The Source” and I’ve tried to visit it but didn’t find it. Moreover, having a dedicated forum site is nothing compared to having a crew preparing formal articles on Star City, coherent pieces people who don’t know a thing about the format but want to know about it – like me – can look up.
For crying out loud, 5-Color is more publicized, has more thorough online documentation, and has recognized online spokespeople.
So here’s the trout of reality I’m slapping you with: Why are we Type I players, not to mention Magic players in general, supposed to sympathize with this community of Type I.5 brethren we’ve never truly heard from?
A format that might even be more fun than Type I
Harsh, wasn’t I?
But now that you’ve heard my opinion of what we’re losing – not much, strictly in terms of numbers – let me outline what we’re getting.
We now have a “Type I lite” that can step out of Type I’s shadow and enjoy its own identity, meaning it will likely develop its own gameplay doctrines instead of being perceived as a place for Type I with minor changes. It really will be a “Type I lite” and cater to a particular segment, forming a true spectrum with Type I on one end, Type II on the other, and Extended somewhere in the middle.
While Aaron Forsythe said the “new” format is a work in progress, I think it has two things going for it. First, its gameplay design benefits directly from hard lessons learned in both Type I and Extended. Examine the “new” banned list, minus the usual ante and flip cards:
Bazaar of Baghdad
Library of Alexandria
Mind Over Matter
Oath of Druids
Wheel of Fortune
Surprisingly, it’s a list you might draw after reading all the rants in my columns through the years.
Two philosophies have taken shape regarding Type I restrictions. You have Steve Menendian saying you shouldn’t restrict anything until it’s been proven degenerate and dominating, and this reflects current Wizards practice. And then you have me saying the model of Type I as an inherently unstable glob of brokenness that cancel each other out is unpalatable, and you should address unrestricted cards responsible for too much early randomness in the game (see “The State of the Metagame Address“).
The poster boy for this side debate has always been Mishra’s Workshop, a card which has never consistently dominated tournaments, yet games involving it can come down to who won the coin flip and plays his hand first. And yet, take a look at the new Type I.5. These unfun, counter-intuitive cards I’ve complained about are precisely the ones axed, such as Workshop, Bazaar of Baghdad, Illusionary Mask, and even Worldgorger Dragon. For good measure, other past power cards such as Replenish, Land Tax (with Scroll Rack), and Oath of Druids were yanked as well. Finally, just enough second-rate fast mana was left in against the two-mana Blue flashpoint maintained by Counterspell and Mana Leak.
In short, you can do a lot of things that have a Type I feel, but have the most powerful tempo and draw cards removed, tempering the violent swings that characterize full-blown Type I. If anything else, maybe this is the more “fun” pace I’ve alluded to in my column.
Further, I also proposed that you should just ban culprits like Yawgmoth’s Bargain and Tolarian Academy instead of having a too-long Restricted list (see “Is Type I Broken?, Part III“), and they did just that for the “new” I.5. You can actually try to break Crop Rotation with Gaea’s Cradle again, for example. You even have a lot of powerful but now unrestricted cards like Fork and Regrowth to toy with. Of course, I think they can take Frantic Search off of the list now.
Second, I think the “new” Type I.5 was meant to cater to the casual player, at least initially. I’ve said in the past that cards’ prices should not be a factor in determining restrictions, and that nothing should outside actual gameplay impact. However, I don’t think you can make the same argument for designing a whole new format. Gameplay aside, you now have a formal format that caters to those guys who want to play with the older, more obscure cards, but don’t want to deal with Mana Drain and other hundred-dollar cards. The people who’ll argue are those who think chasing dual lands and Type II rares is still too much effort for them, and that Wizards should have just formalized Peasant Magic.
Seriously, though, while the “casual” factor cannot be measured in direct gameplay terms, I think Type I players will be the happiest of all. It gives them both a format they can readily explore with cards they already have in their collections, and one that newer players can enjoy and use as a springboard into Type I if they want to try the latter format later on. I emphasize, however, that Type I.5 has its own identity now, and I mean “springboard” only in the sense that they have a place to meaningfully collect older cards for tournament play without despairing over a set of Mana Drains they can’t afford.
If I have to spell it out, Type I players have a direct stake in making the new Type I.5 grow, and they may very well enjoy it – some might enjoy it more than Type I itself.
So to the Type I.5 players I’ve fairly or unfairly slapped with my trout of reality, let me add that there is a fresh new format waiting to be explored here, and one that more new players and Extended veterans will want to explore with you. If you have built your small communities and firmed up your skills, there is no reason why both of these will not translate directly into building up the new “Type I lite,” and no reason why you will not be at the forefront of this brave new world.
The spoiler for Champions of Kamigawa is out. I expect a flurry of “new” Type I.5-oriented metagame and set reviews tomorrow, boys.
Back to the Desert
Hopefully, I can get finish my Kamigawa set review before the next block. Sorry, again, but there are people who need me more than my readers these days. Tomorrow, for example, I’m heading to the National Labor Relations Commission to get an order for the salary of a man who spent over a decade with his last employer only to be fired illegally. The opponent for the management? Some lawyer who is quoting the law against me, accompanied by the opposite conclusions…
But getting back to my extremely derailed China photo album, the photo in the last column about the Tarpan ruins was wrong. This is the right one, with Ken, a Canadian med student:
For today’s column, I’d like to show you a bit of the Muslim influence in the extreme northwest of China. Take a look at this street photo, for example:
Here’s a mosque we visited:
And finally, here’s a couple of nuts striking Buddhist poses in what they forgot was a mosque:
‘Til next week… I hope!
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