You CAN Play Type I #153:

Inside the Dimir courtrooms, justice is twisted and men are manipulated like puppets on strings. The steady trickling from ever present fountains dulls all sound, but fear, not vigor, fills the air. And from the great bench, the robed magistrate rises. Wearing a fox fur hat.

COLUMN: You CAN Play Type I #153

TITLE: “The Deck” is Dead, Long Live Brian Weissman!

AUTHOR: Oscar Tan aka Rakso

Inside the Dimir courtrooms, justice is twisted and men are manipulated like puppets on strings. The steady trickling from ever present fountains dulls all sound, but fear, not vigor, fills the air.

And from the great bench, the robed magistrate rises.

Wearing a fox fur hat.

“I’m filling in for Szadek today.”

Gasps fill the air.

“Rasko! We thought you were lost in the Gobi desert!” (see “Starcitygames.com Writer Lost in Desert“)

“Nah… hitting on girls in Chinese was tough. I went home, picked up my law school diploma, and hired out to be a corporate mercenary.”

He holds up a foil Dromar’s Charm in a cashmere Armani card sleeve.

“Bring in the accused… Brian Weissman!”

The Death of “The Deck”

Back in 2001, my great, long-term project was to write “The Control Player’s Bible,” a detailed reference about a deck where every slot deserved its own Single Card Strategies column.

I finished the original sixteen introductory columns, then the project fizzled. First, the Type I metagame began changing faster than anyone believed possible. Second, “The Deck” died.

Long live Brian Weissman!

“The Deck” didn’t really die.

It didn’t die when we began using Mirror Universe then Morphling over the classic Serra Angels.

No, “The Deck” kept evolving with every expansion, and was at various points called “Keeper” or “4-color control.”

Today, however, Type I control has almost nothing in common with the original 1994 list. The card advantage engines and win conditions have become so specialized that “The Deck” has actually splintered into at least six distinct Mana Drain archtypes, like lesser generals scrambling for the fragments of Alexander the Great’s empire.

Lessons from the Old School

It’s easy to forget that decks like Control Slaver, Gifts (Meandeck and Shortbus), Oath, Psychatog, um, Landstill, and what is now called 3-Color Control all arose from “The Deck” It’s easy to focus on the specifics of each while losing the old school control player’s broad view of how to play control in general.

It’s easy to box yourself in, and forget that “The Deck” was supposed to be that flexible, metagame-able framework where people tested everything from Holistic Wisdom to Goblin Trenches to, well, Dromar’s Charm.

In short, it’s so easy for young upstarts to scoff at “The Deck” while forgetting the lessons learned in those long years of evolution.

For example, Ted Knutson once joked that you can tell if a Type I player is good if attacks with idle Goblin Welders.

That’s sad.

Back in the day, a “The Deck” player might get Jester’s Capped but still win when Gorilla Shaman went all the way.

Once, I even cast Misdirection on Empyreal Armor and finished with an 8/8 Shaman. Another time, I Misdirected a Squirrel’s Nest, and Shaman led a band of chittering Squirrel tokens for the win.

Shaman did a lot more in the classic “The Deck”, from being a Jackal Pup speed bump to attacking beside Morphling with The Abyss targeting Superman, sort of like an Ewok boarding a walker with Chewbacca.

“The Deck” lives, you just have to remember its lessons and not get boxed into a single control sub-archtype of 2005.

Lesson Number One: The mana base is fragile

A haggard Weissman holds up his shackled wrists.

“There’s nothing wrong with my mana base! I was using Blood Moon with my Serras back in the Bay Area!”

“Silence!” the cooncapped one bangs his gavel as the prisoner turns towards him.

“You’re the schmuck who said Back to Basics should be restricted!”

The gavel bangs again.

Suddenly, Weissman Transmutes into New York’s Dr. Michael Pustilnik, who testifies on how to mise Neutral Ground with only ten land to thwart the Sligh player with the fifth Price of Progress in his shirt pocket.

The sixteenth introductory “Control Player’s Bible” column was “Why Control Sucks.”

The mana base was reason number one.

The original “The Deck” mystique arose from how it could use all five colors, all the way to its sideboard. In fact, the mindset that Type I players should go rainbow and have fun was why you caught me so vocal against Back to Basics and Blood Moon in the past.

Despite the best efforts of City of Brass and Polluted Delta, however, that mindset had to go.

In today’s world of Crucible of Worlds, adding too many colors is as innocent as playing Stasis in a ten-player game.

Mana base discipline in “The Deck” came slowly. The original hedge was an Undiscovered Paradise to Red Elemental Blast Back to Basics with. Then we had a lone Island to Blue Elemental Blast Blood Moon with. The fifth color was dropped only when fetch lands replaced City of Brass (see “The Control Player’s Bible, Part XIV.1“).

It took the Crucible lock to force the drastic increase in Islands that also forced “The Deck” to drop still another color. Only recently have Type I players been conscious about playing as few dual lands as possible, making this a consideration even with cards like Duress.

Again, “The Deck” didn’t drop from five colors to three because of the spells. It was to protect the mana base.

However, this is also where the identity of “The Deck” split.

Blue/black/red inevitably tend towards Control Slaver or Gifts.

Blue/black/green leans to Oath of Druids.

And with black/blue/white, you get a bunch of powerful white tricks but no real engine and feel shortchanged. Today, in fact, you might just see a single Tundra supporting a maindeck Balance and some white sideboard cards, but that’s largely it.

Application Number One: The Psychatog mana base

In 2005, Psychatog is as exciting as watching Survivor: Year Ten.

It once did what “The Deck” could but for half the mana, yet “Tog” players are now packing Darksteel Colossus instead of Mr. Teeth. I think the mana base is just as big an issue as anything else.

Compare the ‘Tog problem to the original “The Deck” evolution.

Cutting colors in 2005 is sort of like directing The 40 Year Old Virgin, except Andy can only have two friends.

Who to cut? Lose Dave and you lose The Big Box O’Porn. And so on.

With blue/black/red, you lose Berserk and lose time dealing with chump blockers. There’s Fling to speed the kill, but there’s Welder, too, right?

With blue/black/green, you lose a lot of firepower including Gorilla Shaman, Rack and Ruin, Pyroclasm, and Red Elemental Blast.

Like Andy, you have to lose your attachment to your old toys to get half a million bucks and get laid.

Sometimes, you even conclude that your chosen engine and kill just aren’t pulling their weight, if only because of the mana base. This was what happened to classic “The Deck” as last defined by Skeletal Scrying, but it wasn’t the only victim of evolution.

But I do wonder how Trish would look dressed up as Iron Man.

Or Beth, mmmmm.

Lesson Number Two: Milk the artifact mana for all they’re worth

An uproar erupts as Gary Wise steps out of the fog, fresh from the debates on whether or not Mike Long should be in the Pro Tour Hall of Fame.

“Like I said in ‘The Control Player’s Bible, Part XI: The Rubies,’ oh cooncapped one, Moxen make Yawgmoth’s Will really broken. Jon Finkel really handed it to Mike in the Sydney Invitational…”

“Gary, you told me that Obliterate-Yawgmoth’s Will play was just a joke hatched by Bob Maher, Jr. and Jon.”

“But if I didn’t spill the beans, then you and your precious Paragons would have worshipped Obliterate like Doomsday, right? Who’d you have believed, Brian Weissman or Jon Finkel?”

“I still namedropped both you and Rizzo in Part XI.”

In the classic “The Deck,” Tolarian Academy was dismissed because it was powerful but erratic, a fatal dead draw without an early Mox.

Today, however, the best control decks are loaded to the gills with fast mana, and Tolarian Academy has arguably become the most important land.

This was hardly clear early on.

When we cut green and added Polluted Delta, we also cut Mox Emerald for color consistency. “The Deck” went into an identity crisis trying to figure out how to race the ever-faster decks and added cheap disruption like Duress. Eventually, control players realized to simply load up on artifact mana again, even if it meant cutting Strip Mine and Wasteland.

Note that the rift between powered and budget control is as wide as the Grand Canyon today.

Application Number Two: The Slaver and Gifts mana bases

The top contenders for “The Deck”’s legacy today are Slaver and Gifts. Compare the mana bases to the rest before anything else.

All that artifact mana gives these stronger tempo than the other inheritors, right from Turn 1.

Sure, “The Deck” was memorable for those insane Mox-Mox-Mox-Lotus-Balance openings, but today’s control has more consistent explosiveness. Turn 1 Welder or even Tinker is obvious, but notice how the Gifts mana base makes specific cards like Merchant Scroll and Thirst for Knowledge more reliable.

The other decks have nothing as exciting as the engines these artifact-heavy mana bases support. For example, comparing what Mana Crypt does in ‘Tog is like comparing the Episode III lava duel to Hero or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or JP Meyer to Otter Driver (see “The Redemption Report“).

Future control designers will obsess over land slots but they will also have to obsess over how effectively they can use the fast mana (same goes for aggro-control designers who will always have Chalice of the Void and Null Rod in mind). Also note the possible trend in Meandeck Gifts, with control wanting to be as mono blue as possible, partly because of the artifact overload.

Lesson Number Three: Use the most powerful draw engine possible

“Like I was telling you,” drawls Ted Knutson, “oh sweatshop slave of Star City’s Southeast Asian branch, you should make your long ass theory articles simpler. Like, just say card advantage is like a pickup line.”

The magistrate raises his eyebrow.

“The best control decks use the best card draw. The best pickup artists use the best pickup lines.”

The magistrate raises his other eyebrow.

“Let me tell you about the time I went up to this hot dish in a bar and said, ‘Girl, I’m Disciple of the Vault and you’re Arcbound Ravager so let’s grab some artifacts and do something broken.” (see “Back to Basics, Part XIV“)

“And you were sober?”

“Better than cinnamon rolls, loverboy”

The cooncapped one pulls a hidden lever and a trapdoor opens beneath the unsuspecting infernal spawn of evil editor.

Knut falls into a pit filled with angsty teenage barns, all asking why he rejected their articles on “Interactivity Theory Proves Landstill is the Best Legacy Deck.”

“Use the most powerful draw engine possible?”

Have you been reading Inquest Gamer Oscar?

Like, isn’t that obvious with a capital Duh?

From Paul Pantera’s original Dojoed Newsgroup posting, “The Deck” has been defined by card advantage. We had the classic Jayemdae Tome in 1994, then unrestricted Fact or Fiction, then Brainstorm and Skeletal Scrying.

Today we have Thirst for Knowledge and Gifts Ungiven, which demand that the rest of the deck conform to their broken wishes, making Slaver and Gifts seem distinct from “The Deck” and its history.

But I said “most powerful draw engine” and not “most powerful draw cards.”

First, control needs efficient draw and enough of it. A “3-color control” more Duress and Meddling Mage than real draw may well be half-baked aggro-control, not control.

Second, however, it’s not possible to just stuff Thirst or Gifts into a deck. If you can’t maximize your draw spell, the result is still half-baked.

Application Number Three: Which is the better Oath build?

Picture Slaver. End-of-turn Thirst, discard Mindslaver, untap, Weld out and Slave.

Nice game, better luck next time, who’s your daddy now!

Picture Gifts. End-of-turn Gifts for Ancestral Recall, Tolarian Academy, Tinker, and Yawgmoth’s Will.

He shoots, he scores, the spores are burning up in space, the redubbed soundtrack says Duke is a-okay, Don Johnson thanks big brother!

This is the picture you have to match to call your draw engine credible. In fact, beyond card advantage, cards like Welder and Tinker contribute their powerful tempo boosts.

Now recall the Accumulated Knowledge or Thirst for Knowledge debate in Oath.

When the Paragons first ported Psychatog into Type I, Intution and AK almost made classic “The Deck” obsolete all by themselves. Today, however, five mana for three cards — or even seven mana for seven cards — is considered slow, as Fish matchups highlighted.

Without Welder, however, Thirst is just average. Worse, some slots have to suboptimally go to convenient artifact chaff (Chalice, Engineered Explosives, Pithing Needle, or Phyrexian Furnace), but Oath cannot use these or added fast mana as effectively as Slaver or Gifts.

So will the real Oath deck please stand up?

The deeper problem is that neither now seems satisfactory.

In “Control at a Crossroads,” I outlined the unappealing alternative draw engines for classic “The Deck,” and today opine you have no choice but to instead build your deck around Thirst or Gifts.

I wonder if the same is now true for Oath, considering its current decline. Oath is a very cheap combo, but Tinker and Welder compare and do not suffer from lack of synergy with the draw cards, need for green, and need for four nonbasic land slots. Further, any advantage against aggro-control has been muted by Umezawa’s Jitte, among other developments.

But hey, I have a foil Akroma and love her attributes too.

YEEEOOOOUUUCCCCHHHH! ::Knutson slaps Tan around a bit with a trout::

Knutson: May I remind you that Star City is a family site…

Tan: Boss, what’s your beef with flying, vigilance…

Knutson: Oh those attributes!

Tan: Boss, you weren’t one of those kids who spent too much time in the basement sofa with a Beta Serra Angel, were you?

Lesson Number Four: Don’t forget removal

“You, Tan, are a friggin’ fraud,” mutters the bald-headed fellow with Magic’ most famous facial expression.

“Why’s that Rizzo?”

“Because I’ve printed out every Control Player’s Bible column and stuck it in six ring binders, and I still can’t play Type I.”

“You still can’t?”

“How to evaluate the new cards: a primer by a guy who, despite Oscar Tan insistence, cannot play Type 1. Seriously, Oscar, I can’t. So change your column title to ‘You CAN Play Type One, Unless You’re Rizzo.’

1) Look at the card.

2) Look at your knee.

3) Watch it jerk – your knee, not the card.

4) Stop thinking what you’re thinking.

5) Put the card down and start over.” (see “
Control Player’s Bible, Part XI“)

“So what do you suggest?”

“Cover more green decks. You know, like Wakefield rakes in the hits with imaginary phone conversations between Molder Slug and Iwamori? I heard Portal’s rotating into Type I, so you could maybe do a Feature Match with Jungle Lion and Watchwolf.”

“Stick a Saproling up your ass, Rizzo.”

“I’m the guy who sent in one-word columns and still got boxes, right?”

“Use plastic dinosaurs for tokens. Scale models, if you can.”

Today’s control decks have sped up along with the entire format, and their combo wins make you think about how Star Destroyers can move across the galaxy in seconds when it’s a plot element.

You know… Lord Vader’s in trouble, I think I’ll hyperspace over and arrive with a first aid kit in time before all his skin falls off, and still grab some Krispy Kremes on the way.

Faster wins radically reduced the need for the classic “The Deck” removal complement to the point that some people get by with a single Echoing Truth main.

The 1994 build even had the full white complement of Balance, four Swords to Plowshares and four Disenchant. The removal had to be streamlined later because drawing the wrong solution could be fatal in a fast early game, but Cunning Wish brought new flexibility. Cheap removal like Swords main and Red Elemental Blast board gave a strong early game against early Fish builds and Growing ‘Tog.

Today, some people look for new uber-secret tech against creature-based decks but sometimes overlook the simplest, most classic removal options. And there are ways to hedge with spells less flexible than Fire/Ice. For example, when Jesse Pinchot won last month’s Richmond Power Nine, he had Cunning Wish with a Lava Dart option.

And, of course, Red and Blue Elemental Blasts are as classic as flexible removal gets.

Some recent successes had pronounced removal, too. Richard Mattiuzzo’s eccentric Mishra’s Workshop/Mana Drain deck that placed third in Richmond had four Oaths in the board, in addition to multiple Nevinyrral’s Disks and Engineered Explosives. Kurt Walli’s “Slaver” from Worlds had three Masticores main. Tweaks like these are a necessary evil, actually, for Manila control players because so many budget players want to play despite the lack of proxy rules, and some Slaver builds here have cards like Vedalken Shackles main.

To end, I just can’t help but note Vintage World Champ Roland Chang’s report, and how he almost didn’t remove a Kataki, War’s Wage twice in the Swiss. I also still shudder at the thought that Goblins won a Star City Power Nine, so humor me.

Application Number Four: How control beat Fish

It took a long time, but control players finally admitted that Fish was a growing threat.

They brought Old Man of the Sea — tech from the first Worlds! — out from retirement.

Unfortunately, Fish brought in Kira, Great Glass Spinner.

A lot of control players either didn’t catch on quickly enough, or did what Type I players do best: whine.

Ugo Rivard’s winning deck from Rochester last June had three Pyroclasms in his sideboard. Pyroclasm! That’s tech as old as showering before asking a girl out on a date, in case you needed “Geeks and Girls” to tell you that. You now find a couple of Clasms in every control sideboard.

Classic, simple, and effective.

Lesson Number Five: Don’t forget the mana denial

“Bring in the last witness.”

The hushed crowd parts to let the most evil man in Type I pass.

Abe Sargent.

The man with a direct line to Misetings.com and who knows how to use it.

“Oscar, I’d like to think you just played up ‘The Deck’ all those years so you could name drop every old school pro in the World. Those exaggerated IRC interviews with Kai Budde and with everyone who played Keeper at the Sydney Invitational sure brought you loads of mileage.”

“Not as much as that IRC log where Steve Menendian admitted to banging his law professor for a passing grade.” (see Control Player’s Bible, Part IV.4“)

“And didn’t you exaggerate those emails from Brian Weissman, explaining that ‘The Deck’ was really a land destruction deck? Wtf was that?”

“Um… Truthery?”

“Keep it up and I’ll impersonate you on Misetings again.”

“I impersonated you impersonating me here on Star City, and that desert joke got more laughs.” (see “Starcitygames.com Writer Lost in Desert“)

“5-Color is still more fun than Type I.”

“Ever tried Type 4 boy?”

The most valuable post-Dojo insight I received from Brian Weissman was how “The Deck” played land destruction (see The Control Player’s Bible, Part XI). Back then, some of my winning Yawgmoth’s Wills were done early, for just Ancestral Recall and Wasteland or Strip Mine, with Gorilla Shaman cleaning up.

The classic “The Deck” could have four Gorilla Shamans and two Dwarven Miners after boarding, and control mirrors are won with mana (see The Control Player’s Bible, Part V). Sure, Red Elemental Blast is efficient and all, but it’s still easier to win counter wars if you out-mana your opponent all the way to Tolarian Academy.

Now, Miner has not been boarded in years, and Wasteland had to be cut (though you did see Kurt Walli board four Wasteland at Worlds). What’s left to play mana games?

Application Number Five: Gorilla Shaman still wins games

Shaman is still easily slipped into control decks today, and it’s as good as it was when Alliances was first printed.

My lone Shaman in “The Deck” beat down, traded for Jackal Pup, won games against the earliest builds of Burning Desire with unrestricted Lion’s Eye Diamond, and reversed Smokestack locks. It was also a key Sligh weenie in the classic metagame.

Fast forward to Star City Richmond in September 2005, and witness how Jesse Pinchot won playing Gifts with two Shamans main. In the finals mirror, Pinchot’s Shaman stunted Timoney’s mana and practically won Game 1 by itself. In the semifinals mirror against Andy Probasco, Pinchot’s Shaman even ate Goblin Charbelcher.


Metagames that justify a lot more maindeck removal are narrower, but just a single Shaman main can turn specific matches around. Paired with Goblin Welder in Slaver, it can even kill artifacts for one mana.

Take that, Darksteel Colossus!


If Type I players have historically watched Extended and Type II for tech and little play strategies to port in, it’s sad if they miss tech from the classic days of Type I itself.

Ten years of history is a lot of data to mine, enough to send even Phil Stanton back to “real life.”

Type I control designers and players just have to remember that today’s control decks are still part of that storied control tradition, and you can even port tech from deck to deck. For example, Slaver tried Intuition and Oath tried Thirst for Knowledge, right?

There’s still a lot of old tricks from “The Deck” budding Johnnies might want to keep in mind. You can slip in extra counters and tweak how beatdown or how control you play. You can switch win conditions, noting how even Goblin Trenches was used back then. Thanks to fetch lands, you can even slip in a lone Tundra for classic tricks like Balance or newer sideboard options from Sacred Ground to Serenity. Remember, finally, that “The Deck” was fun to play partly because you could tweak slots to suit your personal tastes or metagame.

And remember.

“The Deck” lives on.

Even if it’s now utterly unrecognizable to anyone familiar with the Serra Angel or Morphling lists, and there is no single dominant Mana Drain archtype to crown.


I do hope this attempt at synthesizing forgotten gems of “The Control Player’s Bible” helps people who got into Type I because of my pet project.

I’d like to again clear up all the misunderstandings. First, “The Deck” didn’t have incredibly good matchups against every deck in history, but it didn’t have any truly bad matchups and its complexity and inherent brokenness let a good player milk the percentages.

Second, the feature matches were meant to showcase how “The Deck” played so they were done a la WWF and scripted so “The Deck” won every time, but I’m sure no one takes them as proof that I’m the best Type I player in the world, considering I spent a lot more time studying for the daily grind than going to the few tournaments here in Manila.

To end, today, I still recommend that beginning Type I players try out some “The Deck” redux or mono blue before jumping into fully powered Type I control. Players who begin Type I with the jewelry can miss those first steps up the learning curve, the ones involving the basics of control where power isn’t there to smooth over mistakes. There’s nothing more disappointing than a player holding Mana Drains who doesn’t know how to play out a counter war. Thus, despite the splintering of “The Deck” archtype, I still think it and all its Rosewater puzzles, as Eric “Danger” Taylor called them, was the most educational tool of the classic age.

May you never lose because your Darksteel Colossus was blocked by Noble Panther, decking you.

And, since I hear JP Meyer is doing the number crunching for Pip the Troll now, I sure hopes he includes stats on any hot females spotted at tourneys from now on. (He did claim that tourneys in his area once featured Jaypee decks like Stacker and Patriot, so players’ girlfriends ogled him…) I mean, Osyp gave us coverage about Kai spying on his girlfriend, so why shouldn’t Type I get the juicy stuff?

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

rakso on #BDChat on EFNet

Team Paragons of Vintage, still open for franchise

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