The Control Player?s Bible, Table of Contents:
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
Part VIII: Playing the Sapphires
Part IX: Playing the Jets
Part X: Playing the Pearls
The CCGPrime Writer?s War backstory
Last January 25, Friday, I decided to finish up this article after some late night TV. I was winding up around 2:15 a.m. Manila time (about 1:15 p.m., Eastern Standard Time) when I decided to check my Writer?s War pool.
Funny. The votes for Jon Chabot had more than doubled to 122 votes since I last checked them, and that was just around dinner.
I figured he emailed a bunch of friends that day or something. Wow.
At 2:24, Jon Chabot had 160 votes. At 2:27, he had 169 votes. At 2:31, he had 178 votes, while all the other counts hadn?t moved. I was still at 176 and Mouth was suddenly third.
I wasn?t sure how many friends Jon Chabot had, but his votes doubled in thirty minutes, and his count never changed before or after that half-hour. (I know the exact times because I sent four surprised e-mails to CCGPrime.)
So I logged on to a Magic chat channel and asked if anyone noticed something funny. Sometime later, a couple of guys were joking about how Jon Chabot goes to their store and Net café, and how they got a bunch of guys to suddenly vote.
I raised my eyebrows and shrugged, and had a private chat with Eric“Danger” Taylor and Alex Shvartsman.
A couple of hours later, a Beyond Dominia regular IMed me about that same Magic channel. EDT was taking the jokers to task over the prank, and I saw jokes about running the script for Oscar Tan, whatever that meant.
I checked CCGPrime before and after that AIM conversation, and I mysteriously got two hundred votes in five minutes.
So I?ll be the first to tell you that Pool D was nothing but one big joke. As I add this intro, I have 674 votes (53%), Jon Chabot has 263 (21%), Mouth has 230 (18%) and Paul Jordan has 66 (5%).
Pool D also has twice the total votes of the other pools.
I also just got CCGPrime editor Dan Rowland?s reply:
—– Original Message —–
From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Sent: Saturday, January 26, 2002 12:24 PM
Subject: Re: Votes
Well the voting is restricted to once per day per IP address, so if anyone has one of those programs that can change there IP at a click there really is not much I can do about it. But there is a way; thus the two day concealment on votes at the end of each week when I have my little web stats program dissect and I adjust votes accordingly. But beyond that, not a lot I can do. I mean, this is just a weird contest that really doesn’t mean anything.
What Some Writers Think About The Writer?s War
I wouldn?t be honest if I said I wasn?t excited about the gimmick. My column started just three months ago, and besides, a little affirmation might be nice for Beyond Dominia ? which has always been a small, free site ? Type I players, and maybe even Manila, hardly the biggest dot on the Magic map.
I can?t deny I was pleasantly surprised when I led the poll consistently. I?m certainly not popular or anything, but even when TeamAcademy linked the poll, Mouth didn?t even get close. I also knew that the votes weren?t just because of friends from Beyond Dominia and elsewhere; the other Beyond Dominia writer wasn?t exactly doing well in Pool B.
<Monkster> March: T-Pup and I have been doing a drive for Jon Chabot. He goes to my gaming store. We?re not cheating, we?re just begging many people to vote for him 🙂
<MarchHare> Monkster: cool. It wasn?t me, it was Tan whose eyebrow got raised. 😉
<Monkster> yeah its hardly worth cheating, its not like we get anything out of it 😛
<MarchHare> I honestly don?t even have any idea who Jon Chabot is
<MarchHare> Who does he write for?
It?s just a big gag, right?
Thing is, it?s my name on that gag.
Writing is so deeply personal, so who wouldn?t be insulted?
Dan is a really nice guy, but I can?t help but say how unprofessional they are about the poll. Alex Shvartsman put it very well (and asked me to forward this):
—– Original Message —–
From:”Alex Shvartsman” <[email protected]>
To: <[email protected]>
Sent: Saturday, January 26, 2002 3:19 AM
Subject: Re: Writer War
> Writer War will never be legitimate until they find a voting engine that prevents people from voting more than once, or at least more than once per day. I was going to link to Writer War from Week In Review, but currently I think it is a joke and is detrimental to the online community. I will not link/support them until they find a way to prevent the cheating.
Fun gag, weird contest? I just can?t accept that everything I?ve written these past weeks is just some joke, that using the names of the most respected writers on the Net is just some joke, that all the people who?ve sent me e-mails are all jokes.
Maybe each week, I should just take one of Ferrett?s fill-in-the-blank tournament reports, insert”Mise!” every other sentence, then add a funny title.
But I don?t.
And I know quite a lot of people who don?t, either.
Is a writer just a name at the bottom of a page to you?
Not to me.
Take Eric Taylor. I read even his short e-mails on the Dojo many, many years ago, and he was one of the idols I learned the game with in my newbie years. It was a joy to swap e-mails on the Meridian list years later, after his column stopped. Heck, in between my first few columns, he e-mailed a few tips about how to go about it and what to expect.
Imagine that? my favorite columnist from my scrub days telling me how to do my own column. Imagine him e-mailing me that I should be happy with those Writer War results, being new and all. And imagine him sticking up for me in an IRC channel after some people decided it didn?t mean much.
EDT? Alex? Zvi Mowshowitz? Gary Wise? The Ferrett? Sean McKeown? Paul Leicht? Anthony Alongi? Scott Johns? Matt Vienneau? Ben Bleiweiss? Andy Johnson? Jarrod Bright? some guy? some guy? I got to correspond with a lot of Net writers, especially after starting my column.
Some gave me some tips for my articles, some shared their principles, some just shared a few laughs. All gave me a bit of the passion, the spark they put into writing.
All, like me, pour a bit of themselves into every computer file they send every week or so, trying to make their tiny personal space on the Net as beautiful as can be for every nameless, faceless visitor.
To have a funny writer popularity contest is one thing, but to downright cheapen what all these people do is really another.
“Hey! Jon Chabot writes much better than Alex Shvartsman! Lol! I don?t even know who Jon Chabot is?”
Yeah, maybe we?re all just a cheap gimmick.
Presenting The Reader?s War?
Hey, they said it doesn?t mean anything, right? So I?m not about to do anything.
Let me share what EDT IMed me after the funny changes in my pool:”The need to be a writer comes from within. The reason you write is not because you like it or enjoy it or it makes you feel good (all of which is true); the reason you write is because you have a burning desire to do so, even if you had to pay to write, you would do it.”
What I?d rather do is try to get something better here on Star City ? something closer to the real spirit of writing.
So let me present you with The Reader?s War.
While this Writer?s War is going on, I?d like you to stop every time you read an article you enjoy, and take the time to e-mail a short message to the writer. It doesn?t have to be long or soppy; it doesn?t take a lot of words to tell a guy you enjoyed his work.
Trust me, there?s nothing a writer will appreciate more, and money doesn?t even compare.
Send me ([email protected]) a copy, a copy of the writer?s response, and a link of the article.
What?s the prize? I promise to print the most interesting letters here every week, until this Writer?s War ends.
I?m not offering you any money. Writing is about touching a fellow human being, so that?s the incentive I?m giving you to write.
I?m not even offering to pick a Top 5 or Top 10. Writing is as unique as each person is unique.
And, writing isn?t just a cheap gimmick.
Anyway, I?ve ranted long enough? let?s just go over to the strategy notes you really wanted to read?
Hope you start gearing up for my Reader?s War after you?re done, though. There are a lot of good writers out there, after all. In fact, to help you get started, let me share my own personal list with you:
My favorite writers of all time:
Eric“Danger” Taylor: <[email protected]>
Alex Shvartsman: <[email protected]>
Zvi Mowshowitz: <[email protected]>
Mike Flores: <[email protected]>
Randy Buehler (Go find his PT Chicago Necro report): <[email protected]>
Matthew Vienneau: <[email protected]>
David Price: <[email protected]>
Gary Wise: <don?t think I can give the e-mail>
Cathy Nicoloff: <[email protected]>
Ben Bleiweiss: <[email protected]>
The best editors:
Frank Kusumoto, The Dojo
The Ferrett, Star City: <[email protected]>
Scott Johns, Mindripper and then Brainburst : <[email protected]>
The most hilarious online judge:
Michael Kastberg, Meridian Magic: <[email protected]>
And the best Magic article I ever read:
“Everything is a Time Walk” by Scott Keller
Is”The Deck” really a 5-color deck?
Well, let?s go back to Limited. If you played in the Prerelease last weekend, I?m sure you knew to avoid splitting your colors evenly, then going into a 6/6/6 land distribution. Instead, you picked a primary color and a secondary color, then splashed a third color if you needed to.
If you tried drafting 5-color decks in Invasion, you?ll remember that these weren?t really 5-color decks, but green decks with splashed colors. In Type I, it?s the same thing, even with every dual and multiland available. One difference, though, is that going up to three colors forces you into City of Brass and several duals ? so if you splash a third, you may as well splash a fourth and maybe the fifth.
The confusing part is why your mana base has to give you your tertiary colors as easily as it does your secondary color. If you take a look at the lists in Part IV,”The Deck” players maindeck 3-4 Volcanic Islands and 3-4 Tundras for just a handful of white and red cards.
One reason is because while you just have a couple of those splashed cards, they?re either so essential or so broken that you want to play them turn 1, like your secondary color cards. In other words, even if the only white card you use is Balance, you want to be able to play it turn 1.
This is Type I. Broken things happen.
However, the more subtle reason behind the mana base is usually missed by newer players.
Last week I asked you to think about what tertiary colors you?d use. If you thought about the sideboard cards, too, give yourself a pat on the head.
Take another look now at those decks I listed, but pay close attention to the sideboards. Then take another look at those mana bases.
Does it make sense now?
But remember, builds of”The Deck” have two tertiary colors, not three. You have about sixteen colored land slots, which let you run your four Cities plus three sets of duals (Underground Sea plus two others). You don?t really have a 5-color deck ? so, for example, my deck that splashes white and red doesn?t sideboard green cards that are most effective in the early game.
Again, our core:
The core cards:
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Mystical Tutor
4 Mana Drain
4 Force of Will
1 Stroke of Genius
1 Fact or Fiction
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Mind Twist
1 Yawgmoth?s Will
1 The Abyss
1 Diabolic Edict
1 Disenchant / Dismantling Blow / Seal of Cleansing
Plus: 2 slots for Fire/Ice and/or Swords to Plowshares
The Pearls: The Traditional Tertiary Color Tricks
As emphasized, white is the”classic” color but has been superseded by black. White was the color with the strongest removal, and that?s the role it plays now. We already discussed the main removal spells, so let?s go into the more exotic tricks.
I have to go into some sideboard cards to show you the full range of these tertiary colors, so I hope you don?t get confused because I didn?t do this for blue and black. When we go into matchups and sideboarding, we?ll go back to a number of these tertiary color cards.
Except the player who controls the fewest lands, each player sacrifices lands until all players control the same number of lands as the player who controls the fewest. Players do the same for creatures and discard cards from their hands the same way. (Restricted in April 1995)
What card was so broken it had to be restricted to break up a non-combo deck that was too degenerate (yet reprinted up to Fourth Edition? duh)? We have Balance and the Maysonet Rack-Balance decks from 1994.
Take it from Adam Maysonet:”It is a MIND TWIST, a WRATH OF GOD, and LAND DESTRUCTION all packed into one card that costs one White and one colorless mana.”
Used a bit differently from the other brokenness, Balance is the single strongest comeback card ever printed. Take it from Game 1 of the last match of the 2001 Cape Town Invitational:”?Dan calmly played a second land again and a Dauthi Horror at which point Kai turned to the crowd and said ?ten turns.? Apparently, Kai?s deck has problems dealing with small creatures.
“Kai used a Merchant Scroll to search for Ancestral Recall and three members of the audience rushed forward to help search the deck for it, with Brian Kibler hitting gold. The Ancestral didn?t help much against Rancor on the Horror, and suddenly Kai?s ten-turn clock was cut in half. A Jackal Pup cut it down even further, and Dan then rebuilt his hand with a Contract from Below, putting an additional Strip Mine ($2.00) into the ante.
“With Dan almost tapped out from drawing all those extra cards, Kai decided to Time Warp and Mystical Tutor for Balance. In his free turn, he emptied his hand down to one card by playing a variety of artifacts and followed it up with Balance to clear away all the creatures and reduce both players to four land and one card?”
Kai Budde?s next card was Fact or Fiction. Guess who won?
Usually, you use Balance for just one of its effects. What newer players usually see is the Wrath of God–Balance in a creatureless deck, as shown above. There?s not much to say, except you should be patient and catch two, maybe three creatures with it (unless it?s Morphling).
The Mind Twist is the second thing you look for, usually against control decks. If he gets ahead and draws more cards, you can exploit an opening and Balance both sides back. It?s best when you tutor a card drawer on top of your library or have Sylvan Library in play. This play is nastiest on turn 1, with a load of Moxen, and it?s very difficult to recover from.
(Of course, you have what Scott Johns calls”One of the most famous Type I matches ever.” At the quarterfinals of Pro Tour Dallas 1996, Tom Guevin opened with Zuran Orb, Tundra, two Moxen and Balance. Scott said the first three cards were easy and discarded three Guerilla Tactics, then topdecked Ancestral Recall and won.)
The play often overlooked, though, is the Armageddon part. If your hands are even, but he has more mana, the Armageddon is as good as using the Mind Twist part. Remember, Balance doesn?t affect artifacts and”The Deck” has built-in artifact mana, so it?s not quite even if you have Moxen out. With Gorilla Shaman, this play can win the mirror, just by killing mana.
The classic Armageddon/Balance play is the Balance/Zuran Orb combo. Be very careful with this, though, because with the new rules, you have to sac lands before you pass priority ? before he decides whether or not to counter. Also note you don?t have to sac all your land.
It?s very difficult to give specifics because how you Balance always depends on what?s on the board (especially artifacts and enchantments), in the hands, and in the libraries. For example, you don?t want to use the Armageddon on Sligh, because it can topdeck a Mountain then a one-mana creature. In fact, you want to be careful against Sligh, because it can unload a hand of instants in response and Mind Twist you while you Wrath of God. Against Stompy, to cite another example, you have to check the board carefully because your Wrath of God might just be a Mind Twist and Armageddon against you, and he easily recovers with one-mana creatures. On the other hand, against control, you can set up Balance to take away Morphling along with some cards in hand or some land, or do a very painful Mind Twist/Balance using Yawgmoth?s Will.
Usually, you have to pay attention to specific cards. Every other Balance, Yol Jamendang from my college playgroup would just respond with Fireblast to Armageddon me. Against Pox, Balance is great to abuse his own hand and land destruction, but it gets funny if he plays a Nether Spirit variant. Or, sometimes, you have the Balance and he has the Zuran Orb.
Rules notes: Remember that permanents like artifact creatures and manlands count as all the types they have. So, if I Balance with no land in play, you have to sacrifice your activated Mishra?s Factory, and you can?t say it?s counted as an artifact or a land. Also, wait for Balance to resolve completely before going to triggered effects. This means Rancor returns to hand after Balance, and isn?t discarded.
To end, remember that Balance works best when you fall behind or he overextends; there are many times when you just don?t want to see Balance. But when you want it,”The Deck” uses it more flexibly than anything else, and you can milk it with artifact mana, Sylvan Library, Mystical and Vampiric Tutor and Yawgmoth?s Will. Using Balance to bring you both back to the same footing is great, but no one wins by drawing every game. You want your scales to be as crooked as possible in at least one of the three areas Balance hits.
Like Matt D?Avanzo says,”A mediocre (pool) player can sink a shot, a good one ? given the same opportunity ? sinks his shot and sets up his next shot in the same motion.”
(Speaking of Balance, while I was writing this column, Jeremy Buffone, a.k.a. Riverboa11, sent me a quote he wanted to share from MTGNews:
(Random-Miser:”Balance is nothing compared to Multiple disks.”
Rico Suave (Brad Granberry):”[That is] the most stupid, pathetic, insane, dumb, moronic, unintelligent, idiotic, sad, handicapped, ignorant, retarded, mentally challenged, thick-skulled, intellectually inferior, sub-par thinking standard, slow-in-the-head, just plain BAD comment. It seems like you?ve been hit with a bulldozer or something.”
(It seems they were having a debate over Invincible Counter Troll and how the builder needed to make it more like”The Deck” or something. Like the man said, don?t ever underestimate Balance just because it looks complicated…)
Mercadian Masques rare
You can?t be the target of spells or abilities.
I mentioned the signature cards of old Beyond Dominia players like Matt D?Avanzo and Paul Miller a.k.a. Exeter, and I suppose Mask is my signature card. It?s not in my decklist, but when I play here in the Philippines where no one knows how to play Type I, I usually do it for fun and with no sideboards. Take note, Mask isn?t focused enough a silver bullet to main deck in competitive play, and is too expensive to sideboard compared to other hosers, but I?m listing it because casual and budget players will find it powerful (imagine Ivory Mask + Moat or Abyss).
The main thing Mask does is seriously screw burn players, and that?s pretty obvious. The caveat, though, is that it takes a while to find both Mask and Abyss or Moat, and the mana to play both enchantments. It?s easy enough to play Mask and get killed by Jackal Pups. It?s great, but it?s only a complete solution against the cheesiest pure burn decks that every old player keeps for fun (and even then, they can respond with instants).
Unintentionally, though, Mask also protects you against three other things. First, it protects you against every other direct damage spell and saves your counters. This means random things like Drain Life. It also protects you against a few random things like Tormod?s Crypt.
Second, it shields you from topdecked discard spells, and the funny thing is that a player who casts Hymn to Tourach has to target himself with Mask out. Take note: It never protects you against early discard because it won?t ever be played that early, so it?s not a silver bullet against discard.
Third and most subtly, it protects you from many different combo kills from Stroke of Genius to Pandemonium. This was funny because when I played a few fun games with the first people testing PandeBurst for Extended here in Manila, my deck happened to have both Ivory Mask and Tormod?s Crypt (for Timetwister). Of course, be alert; for example, Pande-burst will hard cast Saproling Bursts as the backup plan.
The problem with Ivory Mask, by the way, is that you can?t target yourself, meaning Ancestral Recall, Stroke of Genius, Braingeyser and even Gaea?s Blessing are all uncastable (if you do, the only legal target is the opponent).
Again, remember that Mask is mainly for casual or budget play where you aren?t sideboarding, because there are more powerful anti-red cards. See, Mask is easily”camouflaged,” because it isn?t one of the obvious color hosers that your play group will protest against. For example, I remember helping my longtime friend Kerwin Sy scour the local mall for one of theseto buy it for him girlfriend, who played with my other sadistic high school classmates who play two-headed with double burn decks.
(I think she was better off, though. I?m sure Kerwin is reading this, so I get to harass him again about playing Grow in the Manila Extended metagame where old players always bring out Sligh, Stompy, and mono blue ? even Skies. Hey, what are friends for? At least I wasn?t the one who told him to sideboard for shadow white weenie?)
Of course, if you do this in your casual play group, prepare for the inevitable Flame Rifts and Prices of Progress that will innocently get maindecked in your friends? red decks.
Sacrifice a land: Destroy target enchantment.
One reason why I go over white sideboard tricks is because in some metagames, it?s reasonable to maindeck these. The nature of white is such that it gives”The Deck” so many of its available silver bullets.
This is the signature card of Dan Rosenheck, a.k.a. CooberP, which is ironic because he?s now noted on Beyond Dominia for tweaking the”Son of Parfait” decks based around Argothian Enchantress, Replenish, and a lot of enchantments. Picture Finkel getting beat down by Shadowmage Infiltrators, and you get the idea.
Aura Fracture isn?t card advantage, and we don?t pretend it is. We?re not using it as an enchantment sweeper, but as a silver bullet that stays on the board to deal with problem enchantments in a pinch.
By problem enchantments, I don?t mean commonly-played ones like Sylvan Library and Nether Void. I mean just two:
Back to Basics
Urza?s Saga rare
Nonbasic lands don’t untap during their controllers? untap steps.
The Dark uncommon
Nonbasic lands are mountains.
The single biggest weakness of”The Deck” is its fragile mana base, and these two shut down half the deck just by entering play. Unlike other hosers, you might not even be able to respond to these or play around them the moment they enter play.
Back to Basics is the silver bullet always to be expected in any mono-blue deck, and it?s lethal when he gets the god hand of Mox, Back to Basics, and Force of Will. It?s far from invincible after sideboarding because Red Elemental Blast kills it, but some clueless mono blue players main deck four (removing all their creature defense) without thinking, and they can take you down with a lucky hand before they lose to aggro decks.
Blood Moon used to be a threat in”The Deck,” but the mana base has grown more complex since 1995. It?s annoying because your only way to kill it if it hits the board is Dismantling Blow with Mox Pearl or Black Lotus. Note that Blue Elemental Blast with Mox Sapphire can be Red Elemental Blasted by red, and that the very small white component means you can?t use Plains and Disenchants anymore (the only way to use Dismantling Blow is to float white mana in response to Moon). This trick has to be expected from any deck that uses Mountains, from Sligh to more recent builds like Stacker and blue/red decks, though you have no idea what hate they?re actually using.
Take note that mono red and mono blue have no efficient way of dealing with this cheap white enchantment, and you can main deck it if you expect cheesy opponents and force them to play intelligently. It can also be used against a few other decks with key enchantments, though Son of Parfait has Sterling Grove to counter it.
Circle of Protection: Red
1: The next time a red source of your choice would deal damage to you this turn, prevent that damage.
Circles of Protection seem cheesy to the beginning player, but they?re actually the oldest and simplest solutions to narrow decks. There isn?t really much to say about sideboarding and tutoring for this against red, except that it?s still not an automatic win. A Sligh deck can do a lot of damage in just the first three turns, and it can still tie up your Circle with attackers and use Wasteland. It can also Wasteland white sources early, or just finish you off with Cursed Scroll.
Obviously, keep enough mana open to use your Circle, and keep track of how many cards are in his hand.
With a removal spell to kill the initial rush, though, it?s hard to lose with a two-mana enchantment that stops everything from Jackal Pup to Price of Progress. Just note you want those white sources, because this has to be played against red as soon as possible.
If you have an environment with a lot of Sligh, you might consider maindecking this in place of Zuran Orb (check Finkel?s winning Sydney Invitational deck), also because it isn?t eaten by Gorilla Shaman. Note you can?t use Rune of Protection: Red and Story Circle because you only have a handful of white sources that aren?t City of Brass.
Red isn?t the only Circle”The Deck” uses, by the way. A single Circle of Protection: Black is an effective sideboard for the midgame against Suicide Black. Circle of Protection: Blue is a cheesy sideboard against mono-blue, after they sideboard out Powder Kegs that kill Moxen (it doesn?t work against”The Deck” unless it sides out its enchantment removal, and it can still kill with Gorilla Shaman if it has to).
Rules note: Remember you can use a Circle multiple times as long as there?s something of the right color on the board (even if it doesn?t deal damage), which is great with spare Mana Drain mana.
Red spells cost 2 more to play.
Whenever an opponent plays a red spell, you gain 2 life.
Sphere of Law
If a red source would deal damage to you, prevent 2 of that damage.
Aegis of Honor
1: The next time an instant or sorcery spell would deal damage to you this turn, that spell deals that damage to its controller instead.
I mentioned Circle of Protection: Red, but there?s been an entire array of anti-red spells since Beta. I?d like to take some time to contrast what they do with the classic Circle.
Chill was a classic Type II hoser ? but remember Type I Sligh has the cheapest spells available. Two Jackal Pups can hit the board before Chill, and you?ll still need a more permanent solution. Chill just tries to stall a deck of one-mana cards for a deck that can?t take advantage of the breathing room.
Warmth is a better stall card and it nullifies most of the direct damage except Price of Progress and Cursed Scroll ? but you still need a permanent solution. Now, try fitting the permanent solution, spot removal, and stall cards into one sideboard. It?s not easy.
Sphere of Law is a card I haven?t really tested, but it shuts down every Sligh damage source except Cursed Scroll and Price of Progress. Thing is, it?s expensive (though it only needs one white mana), so he can get some damage in before this hits.
Finally, just to show you how to compare sideboard cards with each other, Aegis of Honor is from the Shade2k1 sideboard listed in a past column. It looks powerful, but when you think about it, the only direct damage you have to worry about is from Sligh.
In other words, would you give up the ability to stop Jackal Pups for the ability to stop Drain Life in 2002? And the Honorable Passage (damage reflection) ability is irrelevant, of course, since”The Deck” isn?t anywhere aggressive.
Anyway, until the next time R&D gets hit by a bus, it looks like Circle is still unmatched.
Mercadian Masques rare
Whenever a spell or ability an opponent controls causes you to discard a card, you gain 2 life and you may draw a card.
Now, we go to silver bullet ideas for black, and Spiritual Focus has always been floated.
When you try to hose a deck, you analyze its skeleton and try to pick out the weakest link. Then, you hammer it till it breaks.
Suicide Black?s main components are discard, land destruction, and creatures. Using Spiritual Focus means you?re trying to fight his early discard, or his turn 1 Duress and turn 2 Hymn to Tourach.
Turn 1 and turn 2?
That means you have to use three or four Spiritual Foci and enough white mana to get it out early, and even if you do get it out consistently by turn 1, you?re still just addressing twelve cards (counting Hypnotic Specter). In other words, if one discard spell gets through and he just drops a Phyrexian Negator, you haven?t achieved much.
I suppose it might be useful in casual playgroups where someone is using a Bottomless Pit deck or something, but an easier solution is to hose Suicide Black?s creature element with Circle of Protection: Black and spot removal. Monoblack has no way of removing it, so that silver bullet wins instantly when it drops.
I?m not saying that hitting the discard element isn?t valid, only that Spiritual Focus isn?t strong enough to do it. The only thing powerful enough, in fact, is Compost, which only works if you?re using green instead of white or red as a tertiary color. The next best thing is to try multiple Disrupts and similar cheap spells, again, because you have to counter discard very early.
Rules note: You draw one card for every card you discard, which would be sweet against Mind Twist and Balance, but it?d be a waste to sideboard this against”The Deck.” You gain two life per card, too, but that?s not as relevant.
Until end of turn, target player cannot play instants, sorceries, or nonmana activated abilities. Draw a card.
This used to be a powerful stall card in weenie decks until it got errata that it couldn?t stop mana abilities. After that, its price fell like a rock, and it became a card that forced effects through.
“The Deck” is a slow control deck ? and when it does force big spells through, it has counters and Red Elemental Blasts to back up its threats. Abeyance is mainly a spell for combo decks that really have to force spells fast.
I listed it here because Chris Flaaten, a.k.a. CF, uses it in his variants that use green over red, and therefore have no Red Elemental Blasts. I personally don?t see the point, and even without red, Duress achieves the same thing with just a bit more flexibility.
Chris, though, uses both Duress and sideboarded Abeyances and prefers to force things from Sylvan Library to Mind Twist. He adds that Abeyance counters Yawgmoth?s Will.
When you do see Abeyance, never counter it unless you can also counter the spell that follows, because using your last counter on Abeyance achieves nothing. Also judge the situation carefully, because Abeyance is a cantrip that can be used as a free bluff; you might not need to counter. Finally, remember that you can Misdirect Abeyance and laugh.
Abeyance, by the way, was my favorite card in the old ProsBloom decks. Abeyance in the mirror was hilarious, especially in response to the other guy?s gigantic Prosperity.
Well, I?ll have to stop here because I have a small backlog of law school readings to attend to, and I honestly lost the mood to write any further. Let?s just finish up with the other colors next week.
Hope you start the Reader?s War promptly. Again, send all entries to [email protected]
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)
Proud member of the Casual Player?s Alliance (http://www.casualplayers.org)
P.S. -Thanks to Brian Weissman, John Ormerod, Darren diBattista a.k.a. Azhrei, JP”Polluted” Meyer, Matt D?Avanzo and Adam Duke a.k.a. Meridian for being tough critics of the drafts of this series.
Thanks to Giles Reid from the Star City list and Nate Heiss of The Magic Word (www.mtgword.com) for sending me the original Dojo files, and to Amy English for being my”guinea pig” reader.
And, thanks to Alex Shvartsman, Kai Budde, Zvi Mowshowitz, Gary Wise, Chris Pikula, Noah Boeken and Ben Rubin for invaluable insights into the Magic Invitational and Invitational playtesting.