Part I: Overview
Part II: History, 1994-1996
Part III: History, 1996-2000
Part IV: History, 2000-2002
Part V: A sample control mirror match
Part VI: Playing the core cards: Counters and tutors
Part VII: Playing the core cards: Card drawing and removal
Side note: If you haven’t read the San Diego Masters coverage, I recommend you find the time. With half the metagame allegedly being Draw-Tog, the superior coverage gives you an insight into how the principles of”The Deck” apply directly into Type II. If the superb coverage by Ben Bleiweiss in the Mello-Budde match reminded you of Part V, I’ve done my job.
Part VIII: Playing the sapphires
In our last column, we took the 27 slots that make up the basic skeleton of”The Deck” and went through the specifics of several basic strategies.
The core cards:
Plus: Two slots for Fire/Ice and/or Swords to Plowshares
You might have noticed that a lot of cards weren’t discussed in the basic categories in the last article. Some cards are simply in a category all by themselves, and these are the spice of Type I.
The Sapphires: Main Color Tricks
Before going into the tricks of”The Deck”, I caution you to always make sure that your mana base consistently supports what you put in. If you play Limited, you might have found the hard way that you’d rather have that 17th or 18th land instead of registering a last-minute mediocre spell. Type I is even more unforgiving, because a one-turn pause can be fatal.
Especially to beginning players who might think they are simply unlucky when their mana base is unstable: Be as anal about your mana base as you might be in an Apocalypse Sealed Deck tournament.
Now, in Limited, you get wary of spells with a double- and triple-colored mana requirements, and especially gold cards. The strongest bomb is worthless if you can’t cast it when you want to. Thus, the”The Deck” uses double-colored mana cards in just one base color.
Because counters cost UU, the choice is obvious.
Thus, every land that produces colored mana in”The Deck” has to produce blue (a second reason is the heavy blue requirement of Morphling). Look over the cards again, and you’ll see that a card has to be extremely strong to break this double-colored mana rule (like Moat).
As a rule of thumb, never go below sixteen to seventeen blue mana sources, not counting Black Lotus. Note that a good number of the twenty-seven to twenty-eight mana sources in”The Deck” are actually colorless.
Take an extra turn after this one. (Restricted in January 1994)
Time Walk is one card that is always misunderstood by beginners.
Sure, taking an extra turn sounds powerful – and this one is no Time Stretch – but what do you really get?
Draw an extra card
Play another land
Gain an extra attack phase
Obviously, #4 is useless, and #2 is mediocre. #1 is also useless early. That leaves #3, and that’s usually all that Time Walk lets you do.
In short, Time Walk is less a gamebreaker than it is the best cantrip in the game.
Yes, a cantrip – that’s all it is. So, don’t be afraid to throw it to Force of Will and don’t let it fool you when you split Fact or Fiction piles (hello to my dear pupil, Magimaster from MTGNews). And you rarely gain anything from countering Time Walk, unless you get lucky as hell and catch an opponent turn 2, then drop a Lotus and Mind Twist on your turn.
But Time Walk isn’t mediocre. In the first three turns, playing an extra land is a crucial tempo boost. Later on, you play it before your big spells like Braingeyser and Morphling and tap out safely. It’s especially good with Yawgmoth’s Will, where you always tap out.
You usually play it as soon as you draw it, though, and the only good reason to hang on to it is if you have a Force of Will. If both of you are topdecking, you have to play it immediately to cycle into your power cards.
Each player shuffles his or her hand and graveyard into his or her library and then draws seven cards. (Then put Timetwister into its owner’s graveyard.) (Restricted in January 1994)
Timetwister is the other Power 9 card that beginners always misunderstand.
It gives both players a fresh hand of seven cards, and the other guy even untaps first. Unlike Zoo decks,”The Deck” is also far slower, and can’t play out its cheap threats then cast Timetwister to refill and gain more cards than the opponent.
In other words, if you use this, you had better know why.
We break it down into two effects:
Both of you get a fresh hand of seven cards
Both of you get your graveyards back
There are two reasons why #1 can be good even if”The Deck” plays slowly. First, you can use certain silver bullets such as Gorilla Shaman and The Abyss to make cards the other guy might draw useless, in a way giving him less than seven useful cards. In other words, if you have a better board position, from having more mana to having a Morphling on the table, Twister will skew your way. Finally, if you draw Mind Twist or Time Walk, ‘Twister ends up in your favor.
The second reason is simpler: Timetwister is the strongest comeback card against discard ever printed. It doesn’t always work, but you can Mystical Tutor for Timetwister in response to that last Hymn. It was best when Necrodecks were legal, because if Necro slipped past and he paid seven life to refill his hand, Timetwister just made things even.
(As an example of”doesn’t always work,” go back to Jack Stanton Game 1 coverage of the 1999 Duelist Invitational Finals, which pit Euro champ Sturla Bingen’s Academy – the original monstrosity that inspired the biggest restriction-fest in history – against Mike Long’s still multicolored Necrodeck:
(“Bingen played a Black Lotus on his first turn. Long wasted no time in disrupting Sturla’s game by playing a Swamp, Dark Ritual, and Hymn to Tourach, forcing Bingen to pitch a Stroke of Genius and Brainstorm. On turn two, Bingen played a Mox Jet. In response to Long’s turn two Hymn to Tourach, Sturla played a Vampiric Tutor, putting a Timetwister on top of his deck. After resolution of the Hymn, Sturla had no cards in hand.
(“Failing to draw an adequate mana supply to get started, Sturla had to sit back and watch as three Hypnotic Specters were cast on Long’s side of the board. The subsequent beating and loss of cards through the Specters’ random discard ability was too much for Bingen to handle.”)
Incidentally, there’s a third reason: To”cheat.” If, for example, you draw a couple of Moxen and play Timetwister turn 1, you just got three mana sources for free. If you also draw a Time Walk and a Sol Ring or Black Lotus to power it, then you practically cheated already. (Speaking of”cheating,” Darren diBattista, a.k.a. Azhrei, had many stories back in 1998-1999 about how he would always give his opponent a first-turn Timetwister hand with no land.)
Believe it or not, when Mikey Pustilnik wrote about his”The Deck” build on New Wave during the combo mania, he said,”This deck was designed to be consistent, but also to maximize the chance of getting lucky and making an obscene turn 1 play: Draw several Moxes and a Wheel, Timetwister, or Balance, and your opponent is unlikely to get back into the game.”
It’s not the main strategy of the deck, but…
This is Type I. Broken things happen.
Timetwister’s second effect is more subtle. With all your card drawing, you sometimes come close to decking yourself (especially when Fact or Fiction was unrestricted). Or you might get unlucky or make a mistake and get your Morphlings in the graveyard, along with most of your counters. In these cases, you want recursion, which Timetwister gives you.
Unlike other powerful cards, Timetwister is one card that you can’t play as soon as you draw it. It’s a conditional comeback card, albeit a very strong one, and sometimes it just gets pitched to Force of Will. Sometimes, you also just get unlucky with it.
Many players on Beyond Dominia love this card, but I honestly haven’t used my Beta Timetwister in a long time, preferring to rely solely on Yawgmoth’s Will and Regrowth and just accept the rare games I run out of gas. (Having studied Finance and Statistics, I suppose I just hate relying on the luck of the draw. Besides… The Apprentice shuffler hates control players.)
In ancient versions of”The Deck” and The Franchise, Tormod’s Crypt was Timetwister’s sidekick. Not only did it save you the trouble of countering everything you already countered, it also let you deck an opponent with Timetwister and Braingeyser. This added victory condition was specifically in Darren diBattista aka Azhrei’s original Franchise to make it more resilient to Jester’s Cap, and I enjoyed it as a win that was easier to force past Draw-Go.
Fans of Timetwister would love to use the Twister-Crypt kill today, but recognize that the Crypt occupies one slot too many. All it does nowadays is force the opponent to forego Yawgmoth’s Will, and that’s just not enough unless half the people in your store play Pande-burst or anything Squee.
Morphling, a.k.a. Superman
Urza’s Saga rare
U: Untap Morphling.
U: Morphling gains flying until end of turn.
U: Morphling can’t be the target of spells or abilities until end of turn.
1: Morphling gets +1/-1 until end of turn.
1: Morphling gets -1/+1 until end of turn.
First, when do you play Superman? That’s not as simple as it sounds.
Although Morphling makes itself untargetable, it still doesn’t protect itself from everything (“The Deck” has Diabolic Edict and Balance to kill other Morphlings, remember?). Thus, ideally, you want to play it only when you can pay for it, cast a counter of your own for every counter he has (you usually feint by casting a threat during the end of your opponent’s turn to bait away counters), and still have enough mana left over to make it untargetable in response to every removal spell he can throw. Rarely, for example, will you want to play Morphling with just six mana, leaving just one to protect it when he might have more than one Bolt.
Of course, not every game is ideal. Back in 1995, Brian Weissman described what he called the”Angel gambit,” where he just cast a Serra Angel with no counters to protect it. It might draw a Swords to Plowshares, but it might also win in five turns. With its untargetability, the”Morphling gambit” is much stronger.
If you take the gambit, though, you have to take it intelligently. A calculated risk is different from walking into your opponent’s counter. One example is when you’re each left with one card in hand and you topdeck Morphling with five mana on the board. Depending on the circumstances, you might just risk that card being a counter. Another situation might be when your opponent is in a better position, but gives you an opening, and you think you might lose anyway if he has all the counters you think he has.
Do remember that you can use colorless mana to protect Morphling against damage spells, since you might forget and count just blue sources.
The second question is how many Morphlings to play, since you never want to see the thing in your opening hand.
A common number nowadays is two, to allow you to take reasonable Morphling gambits that might backfire or to pitch the first to Force of Will in a bad early game situation. (Some prefer go down to one if they have other damage sources like Mishra’s Factory.) Incidentally, having two moves”The Deck” out of Jester’s Cap range, since it will still have either Braingeyser or Stroke of Genius to deck with, assuming it has no other creatures.
Finally, always remember that extra mana (from, say, Mana Drain) can be put into Morphling if you have nothing else, and that you can kill it by making it 6/0 if you need to (Balance, Oath of Druids).
Counter target spell or ability an opponent controls that targets a land you control. If a permanent’s ability is countered this way, destroy that permanent. Draw two cards.
If I could find just one spell to cut, I’d slip Response into my deck. Multicolor control decks from”The Deck” to the old Type II Donais hate an early Wasteland, and Gary Wise commented on his U/b Sydney Invitational deck,”See, I went 2c on purpose. Didn’t want to get Wasted out.”
When Response works, it’s like an Ancestral Recall because your opponent uses up one of his cards (+1 card in your favor), you save one of yours (+1 more) and draw two more (+2), all at the cost of one card (-1, for a total of +3). This quick computation doesn’t even consider the tempo you maintain. Like Misdirection, though, the possibility that the opponent might have it is usually scarier than it actually getting played.
It’s most effective when your opponent starts trying to play around a card you might not have. Noah Boeken on the Sydney Invitational:
If your opponent – especially an aggro deck with land destruction and especially one with Dwarven Miner – holds off on the early land d, you buy the time you need to develop your mana base and bring your big guns into play. Even if this just trades for a Red Elemental Blast, you traded your most insignificant blue card for his most potent red one. And if you actually have it in hand, you just Ancestraled (unless he was trying to get you to tap mana and he Mind Twists you for a lot, but if he could do that, you were in trouble anyway).
Your opponent will of course cry when a Response protects Library of Alexandria.
The problem, of course, is having it in hand when you need it, and not having it in hand when you don’t, which is why you’ll rarely want more than one. Incidentally, this becomes far more effective when you use Mishra’s Factories, since you get to Ancestral off Lightning Bolts and Cursed Scrolls.
It’s difficult to figure out if your opponent really has one. So far, it hasn’t caught on in Beyond Dominia because it’s so hard to make room. If you don’t know, it’s best to play safe and time your Wastelands when he has just one mana open, taps out or when you can protect your own Wasteland.
Oh, and what happens if your land is targeted by a second Wasteland in response to Response? A rules note from our pal Sheldon:”He does indeed draw. The original Wasteland is still on the stack, so Teferi’s Response resolves, counters it – meaning that it removes it from the stack – (even though it would eventually be countered later due to having an invalid target) and then the cards get drawn. Teferi’s Response resolves because its target (the Wasteland ability) is still valid. The legality check for the original Wasteland’s target isn’t made until the original Wasteland’s ability goes to resolve.”
Some Beyond Dominia regulars laugh at me for it, but Impulse is my personal Type I enigma. It’s a good card in itself and Finkel ran it in the deck he used to win the Sydney Invitational, but no other set of Type I Top 8 lists has ever seen this card in”The Deck”.
Basically,”The Deck” is its own worst enemy. You can see an opening hand with three Red Elemental Blasts and three Underground Seas in Game 2. Or you can get Balance, Diabolic Edict, Swords to Plowshares, and four land against a control deck. Or, you can get Morphling, Stroke of Genius, Braingeyser, and Yawgmoth’s Will, then fail to topdeck more land.
Sure, you can mulligan, but you still have the problem of topdecking five counters or lands in a row after your hand is depleted and your opponent topdecks a Phyrexian Negator.
Like beatdown king Dave Price said, there are incorrect solutions, but there are never incorrect threats. Since”The Deck” is a slow deck of solutions, it always has to have the right one in hand.
Impulse is thus a cheap, instant, card disadvantage-free way of setting up your hand that’s been a staple of control and aggro-control decks since Visions, and spawned a whole line of bad jokes on The Dojo in its time.
The problem with it, though, is that it’s hard enough fitting the spells you want into your deck in the first place, and Impulse rates very low on the brokenness scale. Other things might cost more or take longer to kick in, but they draw more than one.
(Don’t confuse the use of Impulse in decks with less colors, though. Britney Spears’ Boobs, for example, had to run Impulse to fetch Fact or Fiction against control and Powder Keg against aggro… But it had fewer options.)
I tested it, and for every few games I dug into Fact or Fiction against control or Fire against aggro, I got one that went on ’til players are almost decked… And having two or three less tricks made a difference. Matt D’Avanzo reported on his Impulse test in the mirror:”And for the record in playtesting, ‘normal’ decks played by my friends Eric (Wilkinson) and Rob kicked the living crap out of me.” And, because”The Deck” has a lot of one-ofs, you might be cutting a solution to a specific problem instead of making your deck smaller to get to better cards faster.
As Brian Weissman e-mailed last year:”First off, I believe that it already has sufficient search, in the form of three tutors, Ancestral Recall, and Four Fact or Fiction. Secondly, I think that by adding four Impulse you reduce the quantity of ‘business’ spells in ‘The Deck’ so much that you just wind up drawing all search and land.”
He added,”My feeling is that people are just in the mindset that if the card is so good in other formats, it also has to be good in Type I. I remember playing control on control vs. Mike Long on the plane flight back from Rio De Janiero about four years ago. He had Impulse in his deck and I had Mystical Tutor, and over the space of three hours, Mike didn’t win a single game against me.
“I totally attributed this to the fact that I used (Mystical) tutors instead of Impulse, and that I could get whatever I wanted at a moment’s notice. Mike, on the other hand generally just used Impulse to get lands, and didn’t have a way to reliably make sure he had Ancestral Recall every game. To me, with Fact or Fiction around, Impulse gets much weaker. The difference in two vs. four mana isn’t much to a type I control deck provided the spell is instant, and Fact or Fiction is like an Impulse that lets you keep all the cards :).”
Matt D’Avanzo fleshed out the comparison:”The thing is, FoF is like a bridge between Stroke/Geyser and Impulse. With three or four FoFs and three or four Tutors, how much more digging do you need?
“Impulse is better than FoF, usually, on turn 1-2. However I’d infinitely rather have a real tutor or (Merchant) Scroll in my hand then. On turns 3-4, I’d prefer a FoF since it digs like ‘pulse but draws cards, too.
“Thus, I never see a time when Impulse is ideal.”
Chris Pikula has a similar take:
Another end of the argument is tempo. Eric“Danger” Taylor told me,”Impulse is very good, but you can only run a certain percentage of your deck as cantrips. If you run more than that, you are always cantripping instead of playing spells; thus, you lose tempo.”
Gary Wise demonstrated this, citing his PT: New Orleans deck (it was similar to John Ormerod’s, which I listed in my Odyssey review:”I only played three Impulse because there were times where we found that two mana could be invaluable. Now, I haven’t played T1 since Sydney so I may be talking out of my ass, but when you Ancestral, you want to win, not draw three Impulses which take too much time to cast.”
Dana Heitner, a.k.a., Acolytec, one of Beyond Dominia’s leading BSB players, added,”Impulse works very well when you have multiples of a card that you are looking for (such as Oath or Fact) and already have redundant counterspells. I would not play Impulse if I didn’t have over twelve counters to start with.” Note, though, that he prefers stripping out one-ofs to come up with a more redundant deck that resembles Extended Maher Oath more than it does”The Deck.”
The best compromise is probably to consider running Impulse, but not to make a big deal of it if you can’t find room. For example, Noah Boeken commented on his Sydney deck:”I knew I could cut some spells (for Impulse) that I had main deck against beatdown because I knew my last three matchups.” Noah lost to Bob Maher, Jr. playing”The Deck,” and to Gary Wise playing the precursor of Old School Explusion, and defeated Zvi playing the precursor of BSB.
But I said that no one outside the Magic Invitational ran it. What’s the point of all this?
The last time I tried running Impulse, I was satisfied with the way it ran, but the problem was deciding whether the spells and one land I cut were better. Thing is, you try to cut the”periphery” spells, and I realized that I cut spells that filtered through the library anyway, like Merchant Scroll, Sylvan Library and a Fact or Fiction.
If you look at the arguments of Brian and Matt above, well… Mystical Tutor and Fact or Fiction are now restricted – so you might need some manipulation in between your cheap tutors and Stroke of Genius/Braingeyser. You might need more help, too, for fast aggro decks coming back after Fact or Fiction, and simply more consistency because your deck is full of incorrect solutions.
On the other hand, there might still be no room for Impulse. Merchant Scroll, for example, seems to improve because Fact or Fiction is now restricted and because Fire was printed. Or, it might just be better to add spot removal for aggro instead of Impulse. Finally, Impulse is only worth it when you use three or four.
Whether Impulse might be better after all, might be better in certain environments, or is better only in more redundant builds with less colors… I don’t think I can close the door on this issue right now.
Just remember that when you do use Impulse, your goal is never just to take care of the immediate threat on the board, because there’s more where that came from. Matt compares it to pool:”A mediocre player can sink a shot, but a good player – given the same opportunity – sinks his shot and sets up his next shot in the same motion.”
Incidentally, here’s a list of control players from Beyond Dominia and the Sydney Invitational, and their approximate positions on Impulse in”The Deck”:
Impulse is like Type II – oops, like taking your sister to the Prom
Impulse is savage and you should fit in – if you can find room
Darren diBattista, a.k.a. Azhrei
JP”The Polluted” Meyer
Adam Duke, a.k.a. Meridian
Dana Heitner, a.k.a. Acolytec
Bob Maher, Jr.
After Emmessi Tome, this was Paul Miller, a.k.a., Exeter’s signature card on Beyond Dominia, and he cajoled everyone into testing it over Sylvan Library. It smoothed draws, it could be slipped first-turn through a counter wall, it dug deeper by midgame and it could be pitched to Force of Will.
(It also distinguished Michael Bower, a.k.a., mikephoen’s Forbiddian deck, the one that won Beyond Dominia’s first Type I Tournament of Champions and was metagamed against Sligh by Gary Wise for a 2-1 in the Sydney Invitational.)
We tested it, but soon dropped it because it had one fatal flaw: Card disadvantage. Although it helps you topdeck better, the small pause can be fatal, and Sylvan Library while guilty of not being blue at least draws cards. You might be able to use it effectively in lower powered environments, but against real competition, you’ll find that crucial card sitting on top of your library the turn you lose.
Soothsaying drove home to many BD regulars, myself included, that a card not only has to be good to earn a slot in”The Deck”, it also has to be better than a few thousand other cards. As Brian Weissman e-mailed,”Certainly, in the right circumstance it could be quite powerful – but so could be a million other cards like Scroll Rack, Disrupting Scepter, Browse, Treasure Trove, etc. I just don’t like the fact that Soothsaying does not inherently create card advantage, and that I’d have to cut staple spells or restricted cards to use it.”
Ophidian is a classic control card; it’s just not associated with”The Deck”. As mentioned in the first parts, though, Draw-Go owes a lot of its principles to”The Deck”, and so does Forbiddian. There have been multicolored Ophidian decks, most notably in the Trix-dominated 1999 Kuala Lumpur Magic Invitational (Pat Chapin went 2-1 in Type I with his build).
Following the restriction of Fact or Fiction, Ophidian is once again the most powerful unrestricted card drawing spell in the game, though running it in”The Deck” forces you to either forego The Abyss or live with an inconsistency in your deck. Just note that adding Ophidian requires a bigger change in play style than it does in the build, because you now have a creature you want to protect.
On another note, sideboarding Ophidians is nothing new; for example, Kai Budde Crimson (High) Tide deck that won GP Vienna in 1999 boarded it and Pyroblast against control and combo. (Incidentally, he was only the”undisputed master of European Grand Prixes” according to Inquest Gamer back then instead of the best player in the world. Inquest even quoted him:”I’m the world’s biggest scrub who keeps getting lucky at GPs. After Vienna, I played a tournament with my winning Tide deck and lost every match!”) Just note that while it shrugs off Fire, sideboarded Red Elemental Blasts kill it in the mirror, unlike when you play against mono blue.
Think about it: The first one just replaces itself, the second one is average, and it only becomes worth it when you get to the third. But”The Deck” has the most trouble surviving in the early game… So the third isn’t your concern, is it? If the Knowledges are distributed evenly, this thing is too slow to make a difference in Type I.
But, you’ll say that Kai Budde used Intution and Merchant Scroll and won. Well, those are nice but they’re even slower, and they eat up so many slots that you’ll be forced to go down to one or two colors and play a different deck.
So, as you can see, Accumulated Knowledge isn’t the best showcase of your deckbuilding skill this January. We assume that Ed has since found other sneaky ways to draw cards, especially in Neutral Ground Extended tourneys.
There are a lot of other tricks out there for blue, but these are the”major” ones, and most not mentioned here aren’t worth mentioning. If you’re getting a bit confused by the many possibilities available for”The Deck,” brace yourself for next week. Blue spells are the easiest to consider because they can always be pitched to Force of Will and because they give you the least mana problems. Next week, when we go into other colors, you’ll have to deal with the additional headache of gearing your mana base to give you the secondary color and giving it to you at just the time you need it.
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)
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