NEWS FLASH: Black Lotus has just dropped to $2! Get them while they’re hot!
In other memorable random links, some people created an incredibly negative perception of Pat Chapin simply because his Type I Grow theory was suddenly discussed worldwide. It wasn’t fair at all, and Mike Flores wrote a lighthearted piece that reminds us of the guy’s creativity.
Disappointing feedback on Back to Basics
I wrote the Back to Basics column (originally entitled,”Are basic lands too broken in Type I?”) because I thought it would provoke some thought. I’m happy with the level of feedback I got, but I was just disappointed with so many of the replies.
I feel that so many read the title, but not the column itself.
I don’t expect people to agree absolutely, but it’s downright disappointing when you feel they didn’t read the article completely before talking to you.
How can you discuss an issue that way?
Now I wish I had access to the original e-mails from Aaron Forsythe mailbox. Heck, now I sympathize with Randy Buehler, who has to explain the interactions they check for in 8th Edition to people who want Swords to Plowshares and Savannah Lions reprinted – and won’t ever read anything he says in context before mucking up the Wizards boards.
“Pale Mage“, for example, quoted my statement that”The Deck” is part of a small minority of present multicolored Type I decks. He concluded that my article contradicted itself, because then the”problem” of Back to Basics would had little to affect.
After all, I said there aren’t many multicolor decks to hit, anyway, right?
But duh… Why else did I say there aren’t a lot of multicolored decks these days?
If”Pale Mage” felt that I was pulling a fast one and wanted something to happen to Back to Basics to help”The Deck” players, then he could’ve focused on the point. I can understand (now) how he’d get that impression, and it was a perfectly valid point – but I wish it had been established far more concretely so we could talk about it.
(To go to another point of Pale Mage, by the way, I tried to make a distinction between”casual” and”casually committed” players. When I say”casual,” I mean games in the cafeteria throwing a Thrull deck against a Thallid deck (and damn, I miss those). But when I say”casually committed,” it was in the context of Stephen Menendian story. If you’re a player who reads a few articles and joins a few small sanctioned tournaments a year, it’s possible that you’d enjoy playing a broad, personalizable deck you can just keep handy.
Multicolored aggro decks are – or should be – one choice for such people, especially if they aren’t inclined to control or combo. If you say the”casually commited” suck and should learn about the best decks, well, I think it’d suck worse if no version of so broad a concept as”multicolored aggro” can ever be good. Moreoever, it contradicts a spirit of Type I best described by Laura Mills:
“The beauty of Magic, though, is that it can be all things to all people. I’ve enjoyed Type I because it is the opposite of all the other formats out there. I don’t need to spend weeks trying to build, test, and tweak a deck just to be competitive. With Type I, I have the same deck. I might tweak it a little here and there, but mostly I can do what I like to do with other games – just grab it and play. Is there really anything wrong with that?”
(And I’m sorry if the poll was seen as more than hyperbole in the last paragraph, considering I really don’t have polling software.)
After a disappointing survey of the Net and the nice and humorous replies in my mailbox, I’d like to go through some misconceptions that were brought to light by the last column. Basically, I’m surprised at the number of people who agreed with the six extreme statements I’ll list below.
Remember, I’m not saying that every argument in favor of Back to Basics is wrong, and that you all suck, you brainless mono blue players you.
I’m just saying that some arguments aren’t very credible or realistic, and they only confuse the real issues.
Reply #1:”We only talk about restricting broken cards, and people will innovate to correct the metagame on their own.”
But I said people might precisely be unable to innovate, because it’s easier to just build mono color decks, and there are only so many ways you can build those.
Put it this way… Would you ban Rishadan Port from a block format if it made players pay too high a price for playing more than one color?
That was the main point of last week, in case you missed it.
Reply #2:”Back to Basics is fair because The Abyss also completely hoses creature decks anyway.”
Ask yourself why”The Deck” has spot removal cards, and stocks more in the board?
If you’ve ever played Stompy against”The Deck” and its Abyss, and Zoo against Forbiddian and its Back to Basics, you’ll know there’s a world of difference.
Abyss is not a complete solution, and it’s dangerous for a beginning”The Deck” player to believe the myth fed to bad aggro players. A well-built weenie swarm can get a lot of damage in, and a number of other creatures are immune.
In any case, the point is that The Abyss still gives you a shot at casting your removal. Heck, you can even cast and use a Lyrist – a creature.
Reply #3:”But Forbiddian would be a bad deck without Back to Basics.”
If a player can’t do anything with the most efficient counters ever printed, the strongest card draw and manipulation selection in a single color, a smooth mana base, plus Morphling-wall and Powder Kegs… Well, he should go play Pokemon.
Remember that I play against Forbiddian, so I can’t see why certain players make it sound like a pushover matchup if not for Back to Basics.
Reply #4:”But Forbiddian is the ONLY deck capable of beating ‘The Deck’ because of its Back to Basics.”
Reality check! Reread, “Why ‘The Deck’ Sucks.”
If you’re really adamant about the point, then put together a tournament where Back to Basics is banned unless you’re playing against”The Deck.” Anything to see if you can get a more open field.
Again, the mark of a bad aggro player.
First, I emphasized that”The Deck” is the multicolored deck most capable of dealing with Back to Basics.
Next, Morphling is a kill card – and you’ve often lost control of the game if it’s played, anyway. And you’d hurt redundant Forbiddian, not”The Deck.”
Finally, Mana Drain is just a counter, and its Drain effect is minimized by good deck construction. It’s most overpowered when an opponent walks into it with a high-cost spell – and a deck full of high-cost spells is a bad deck in the format where the cheapest cards ever printed are available.
Incidentally, if your deck is just full of big creatures, then it’s precisely vulnerable to a Mana Drain-induced tempo shift. The same deck, however, is also precisely the kind that’s completely hosed by The Abyss, since the creatures come out slow and Abyss doesn’t care about the size of the thing it’s sucking in.
The secret is that good aggro deckbuilding solves both problems.
Reply #6:”Why do you say that ‘The Deck’ is the best equipped to deal with Back to Basics among multicolored decks when, by nature, multicolored decks can run whatever enchantment removal they need to?”
But we’re talking about casting enchantment removal on a Back to Basics on the table – backed by the deck with the highest number of counters and pitch counters in the format.
Look… To show you, the next Control Player’s Bible feature match – when we finally run out of all these”issues” that crop up – has been ready since May, and it’s about one of the most entertaining aggro decks I’ve ever seen:
Shane Stoots, The Funker, May 2002, Beyond Dominia test deck
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Emerald
1 Sol Ring
1 Mana Vault
1 Grim Monolith
1 Library of Alexandria
1 Tolarian Academy
1 Strip Mine
4 City of Brass
4 Volcanic Island
It’s built as a very flexible aggro deck that can own Shane’s aggro-dominated local store in Virginia. It sucks against combo and is slightly disadvantaged against control, but it’s not one of the decks that plays itself.
Back to Basics hurts it just as much as”The Deck,” obviously, but even though Shane can board in the same tricks the latter uses – Red Elemental Blasts and Aura Fracture, for starters – he’s the first to admit it’s a lot harder for him since he has Covetous Dragons instead of Force of Will.
It’s been frustrating trying to find good multicolor aggro decks for The Control Player’s Bible… Yet if you say that the above decklist is as bad as a Type I mono blue deck that runs on Accumulated Knowledge, then you’re practically saying that dual lands can only be used in”The Deck” now.
Thus we’d have a Type I Rishadan Port.
Plus:”You are pissing on Matt Smith who did well in a big Origins tournament, so he must be a good player.”
One respected old friend actually posted this on an Internet forum, but as I said, I take the decklist and Stephen Menendian?s comments about the weakness of the Origins opposition at face value. I wanted to illustrate my argument regarding deckbuilding crutches, and found a recent decklist that did it so vividly. That was pretty much it.
(A number of readers e-mailed asking when I?d reply to Smith?s long column. Unfortunaetly, I don?t think I can find a reply to complaints about how I acknowledge the fourteen-year old from Slovakia who e-mails me, so I guess we can let everything stand.
Of course, I do wish Smith?d stop copying his article titles from Misetings.com? these things aren?t as funny the second time you see them.)
In my opinion, the single most reasonable counterpoint came from Mark Acheson, a.k.a. Nevyn. He cited the same Beyond Dominia Zoo discussions, and countered that the disincentive for Zoo and other multicolored players was the marginal return they got from adding colors.
While it’s a very good point, my counter is that Back to Basics (and Blood Moon) might be setting the premium for going multicolor – in Type I, where dual lands are legal – way too high. That may well be why the return is marginal.
In any case, assuming Nevyn is right and I’m barking up the wrong tree, maybe it still wouldn’t hurt to give people the chance to build even bad multicolored aggro and aggro-control decks. You never know what people will come up with, like The Funker.
Another incisive comment came from Benjamin Rott, a.k.a. Teletubby. He reminded me that Germany has always been Mishra’s Workshop country, and Back to Basics isn’t as effective when the other guy has Goblin Welder on the table and can drop Moxen that turn into Juggernauts.
He’s absolutely right, and even when I played mono blue with four Fact or Fictions, Stacker 2 opponents got a kick out of making me pitch a Morphling just to Force a first-turn Welder. Of course, it all goes back to deckbuilding, and mono blue trades the flexibility of something like”The Deck” for a set of other strengths. Nobody’s perfect.
Of course, the German environment can’t be used as the general rule, but it’s an excellent point.
(Seeing the penchant of some people for extreme or simplistic general rules, please don’t take this as a sweeping statement that Back to Basics can’t possibly be a problem. Saying that Goblin Welder solves the Back to Basics problem, if it exists, is like saying unrestricted Necropotence solves unrestricted Tolarian Academy.)
“The Deck” against tailor-made hate
I think that the biggest obstacle to some readers grasping what the hell I was really talking about is a possibly incomplete or out-of-proportion perception of how”The Deck” plays. Thus, they might think I was lying when I said”The Deck” is best equipped to fight Back to Basics decks, and other multicolor decks might have problems.
I decided to write this follow-up column of sorts after some funny games with Jeff Willis of San Diego. He’s a really funny guy, and we had a hilarious conversation before boarding:
Anyway, Jeff’s friend had put together a Miracle Gro variant that used Illusionary Mask and Phyrexian Dreadnought – don’t ask, please! – so he decided to do his own version. Ten minutes before he caught me, he put together a mono blue deck with Masks and uncounterable, un-Abyssable Phyrexian Dreadnoughts, plus Back to Basics.
Back to Basics
Urza’s Saga rare
Nonbasic lands don’t untap during their controllers’ untap steps.
X: Put a creature card with converted mana cost X or less from your hand into play face down. If the face-down creature deals damage, is dealt damage, or becomes tapped, turn it face up. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.
Trample. If Phyrexian Dreadnought would come into play, sacrifice any number of creatures with total power 12 or greater instead. If you do, put Phyrexian Dreadnought into play. If you don’t, put it into its owner’s graveyard.
In short, he put together what some players believe is sixty slots of pure”The Deck” hate.
(I told Jeff I’d be using our game, and it’s cool with him. Although I listed the concept as atrocious in my last column, how can anyone complain about a ten-minute deck design?)
I doubt this game is a perfect illustration of anything, but it’s not a bad picture. In fairness, what Jeff came up with in ten minutes, worse players tinkered with for over a month at a time.
06:42:22 – — Jeff says: ”I am ready.”
06:42:22 – — Rakso says: ”Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”
06:42:49 – Jeff drew 7 cards.
06:42:54 – Rakso drew 7 cards.
06:43:00 – Rakso says:’keep’
06:43:01 – It is now turn 1.
06:43:02 – Jeff plays Library of Alexandria.
Pretty uneventful start.
06:43:10 – It is now turn 3.
06:43:15 – Jeff draws a card.
06:43:36 – Jeff plays Island.
It’s a highly abnormal play, okay – and I did it because I thought he might’ve been running twenty Islands, and it was hardly a serious game (I dragged Strip Mine on Library by mistake the previous turn, and I decided to humor his surprise at me drawing landkill.)
06:43:49 – It is now turn 5.
06:43:52 – Jeff draws a card.
06:43:55 – Jeff plays Island.
06:43:57 – It is now turn 6.
06:43:58 – Rakso draws a card.
06:44:01 – Rakso plays Underground Sea.
06:44:02 – Mox Jet is tapped.
06:44:02 – Underground Sea is tapped.
06:44:04 – Rakso plays Powder Keg.
06:44:14 – Jeff says:’k’
Urza’s Destiny rare
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may put a fuse counter on Powder Keg. Tap, Sacrifice Powder Keg: Destroy each artifact and creature with converted mana cost equal to the number of fuse counters on Powder Keg.
He doesn’t like this. I got an answer to his Dreadnought, playable first-turn.
We each take five turns of land-go. He plays two more Islands and a Mox Sapphire, to get five mana on the table. I get a Sol Ring and Undiscovered Paradise to get five mana on the table. I also play a second, fresh Keg, with the first steady at one counter.
06:46:14 – It is now turn 17.
06:46:18 – Jeff draws a card.
06:46:20 – Mox Sapphire is tapped.
06:46:24 – Jeff plays Sol Ring.
06:46:26 – Rakso says:’k’
06:46:26 – Island is tapped.
06:46:27 – Island is tapped.
06:46:28 – Island is tapped.
06:46:28 – Sol Ring is tapped.
06:46:31 – Jeff plays Karn, Silver Golem.
Karn, Silver Golem
Artifact Creature – Golem Legend
Urza’s Saga rare
Whenever Karn, Silver Golem blocks or becomes blocked, it gets -4/+4 until end of turn. 1: Target noncreature artifact becomes an artifact creature with power and toughness each equal to its converted mana cost until end of turn. (That artifact retains its abilities.)
That was a surprise – it offs the Moxen Back to Basics doesn’t hit, and can be Tinkered out – since it costs as much as Morphling anyway. I’m caught with a Mana Drain and two Red Elemental Blasts, but enough colored mana to cast just one of them.
06:46:34 – Jeff says:’k?’
06:46:40 – Rakso says:’wait’
06:46:48 – Underground Sea is tapped.
06:46:49 – Undiscovered Paradise is tapped.
06:46:51 – Rakso plays Mana Drain.
06:46:53 – Jeff says:’resp’
06:46:56 – Jeff plays Force of Will.
06:46:57 – Jeff moves Tinker from Jeff’s hand to Jeff’s removed from game pile.
06:46:58 – Jeff’s life is now 19. (-1)
06:47:04 – Rakso plays Force of Will.
06:47:07 – Jeff says:’resp’
06:47:07 – Rakso removes Force of Will from the game.
06:47:09 – Rakso’s life is now 19. (-1)
06:47:11 – Jeff plays Force of Will.
06:47:12 – Jeff moves Stroke of Genius from Jeff’s hand to Jeff’s removed from game pile.
06:47:13 – Jeff’s life is now 18. (-1)
06:47:15 – Jeff says:’k?’
06:47:20 – Rakso says:’k’
06:47:22 – Island is tapped.
06:47:23 – Rakso buries Mox Jet.
I’m left with the counters in hand, the Kegs on the table and 19 life. Not as bad as it looks.
06:47:28 – It is now turn 18.
06:47:31 – Rakso moves Undiscovered Paradise from tabletop to Rakso’s hand.
06:47:36 – Powder Keg now has 2 counters. (+1)
06:47:38 – Powder Keg now has 1 counters. (+1)
06:47:40 – Rakso draws a card.
06:47:43 – Rakso plays Undiscovered Paradise.
06:47:45 – Mox Jet is tapped.
06:47:46 – Undiscovered Paradise is tapped.
06:47:48 – Rakso plays Sylvan Library.
06:47:52 – Jeff says:’ok’
I’m light on colored mana this game, but am in a good position to filter for mana and a quicker solution to the Karn. I’m in control, and decide to sit on the Keg instead of getting aggressive with the Sylvan.
06:47:54 – It is now turn 19.
06:47:59 – Jeff draws a card.
06:48:05 – Karn, Silver Golem is attacking.
06:48:07 – Rakso’s life is now 15. (-4)
06:48:11 – Island is tapped.
06:48:13 – Island is tapped.
06:48:14 – Jeff plays Time Walk.
06:48:15 – Jeff says:’k?’
06:48:16 – Rakso says:’k’
This is cutting it close…
06:48:20 – Jeff draws a card.
06:48:23 – Karn, Silver Golem is attacking.
06:48:25 – Rakso’s life is now 11. (-4)
06:48:28 – It is now turn 20.
06:48:32 – Rakso moves Undiscovered Paradise from tabletop to Rakso’s hand.
06:48:33 – Powder Keg now has 3 counters. (+1)
06:48:36 – Rakso is looking through top 3 cards of library…
06:49:11 – Rakso moves a card from Rakso’s library to Rakso’s library.
06:49:16 – Rakso plays Volcanic Island.
The third card is actually Balance, but I need to get another red or white source on the table so I can protect it. I write off the life and fix my mana.
06:49:33 – It is now turn 22.
06:49:36 – Powder Keg now has 4 counters. (+1)
06:49:44 – Rakso is looking through top 3 cards of library…
06:49:50 – Rakso moves a card from Rakso’s library to Rakso’s hand.
06:49:57 – Rakso plays Undiscovered Paradise.
06:49:59 – Rakso plays Black Lotus.
06:50:07 – Jeff says:’ok’
06:50:09 – Rakso buries Black Lotus.
06:50:11 – Rakso says:’WWW’
06:50:12 – Underground Sea is tapped.
06:50:16 – Rakso plays Moat.
06:50:19 – Jeff says:’resp’
06:50:24 – Jeff says:’hmmmm’
06:50:50 – Jeff says:’ok’
Well, that fixed a lot of things.
06:50:53 – It is now turn 23.
06:51:01 – Jeff draws a card.
06:51:04 – Jeff plays Island.
06:51:12 – It is now turn 24.
06:51:17 – Powder Keg now has 5 counters. (+1)
06:51:19 – Powder Keg now has 2 counters. (+1)
06:51:22 – Rakso is looking through top 3 cards of library…
06:51:25 – Rakso moves a card from Rakso’s library to Rakso’s hand.
06:51:29 – Rakso plays Underground Sea.
06:51:35 – It is now turn 25.
06:51:41 – Jeff draws a card.
06:51:44 – Jeff plays Island.
06:52:38 – Jeff says:’This could get very boring’
06:52:40 – Rakso says:’true’
06:52:43 – Jeff says:’If I play a back to basics’
06:52:46 – Jeff says:’VERY boring’
06:52:50 – Rakso says:’well yeah’
06:52:52 – Jeff says:’And I have several more’
06:52:59 – Rakso says:’I’ll chance it ;)’
06:53:02 – Jeff says:’ok.’
He doesn’t look too happy. He can’t have as many counters as the usual mono blue, so he’s probably sitting with a counter plus dead cards in hand. He has to wait for Morphlings – I’m sure he has at least a couple for backup – while I will get my toys one by one and be able to fetch an Edict or Balance anyway.
06:53:05 – It is now turn 26.
06:53:14 – Rakso is looking through top 3 cards of library…
06:53:32 – Rakso moves a card from Rakso’s library to Rakso’s hand.
06:53:35 – Rakso moves a card from Rakso’s library to Rakso’s hand.
06:53:39 – Rakso’s life is now 3. (-4)
06:53:45 – Jeff buries Karn, Silver Golem.
06:53:47 – Rakso buries Powder Keg.
06:53:52 – Rakso plays Mox Pearl.
06:53:53 – Mox Pearl is tapped.
06:53:53 – Sol Ring is tapped.
06:53:55 – Rakso plays Aura Fracture.
06:54:04 – Jeff says:’k’
Sure enough, the first of the toys drop, and so does his jaw.
06:54:05 – It is now turn 27.
06:54:09 – Jeff draws a card.
06:54:13 – Jeff plays Force of Will.
06:54:15 – Jeff says:’ha’
06:54:15 – Jeff says:’gg’
06:54:17 – Rakso says:’eh? :)’
06:54:21 – Jeff says:’I topdecked it’
06:54:24 – Jeff says:’needed it last turn’
Now, the log looked deceptively close, and Jeff might’ve thought I was just squeaking past with just the right solutions at just the right times, despite a color screwed start. You might wonder, though, why he never got a single hate card in, and was able to force down just a single threat.
We made sure to clarify anything that looked deceptive before calling it game.
Who can’t adapt to the metagame?
In response to the last column, some people said that”The Deck” players should simply adapt to whatever hate the metagame throws their way.
I thought they did ages ago.
You’re telling the most flexible control deck in the format to adapt? Again, my point was that the multicolor aggro decks have the much bigger problem, not”The Deck.”
Again, Back to Basics isn’t purely hate against”The Deck.”
(To give a concrete example of adapting, Carl Devos from Belgium recently e-mailed a bunch of friends on adapting”The Deck” for Incarnations like Genesis that may show up in Survival of the Fittest-supported decks, like veteran Benjamin Ribbeck tested. He settled on Matt D’Avanzo’s Ebony Charm, and has an incredible story to tell. Heck, now that I remember losing months back against even Zombie Infestation backed by Squee and Bazaar of Baghdad if I couldn’t find Wastelands, I figure I should start looking at graveyard attacks myself.
Bazaar of Baghdad
Arabian Nights uncommon
Tap: Draw two cards, then discard three cards from your hand.
(…But it’s easy to adapt a control deck. If you know what questions to ask, it’s built to have the answers. It’s the aggro decks that, by nature, trade flexibility for focus.)
While well-built Forbiddian with Back to Basics isn’t exactly a cakewalk, there are other difficult – though more enjoyable – matches where you can’t take shortcuts to winning by knocking out hate cards. Against Suicide Black or even Chapin-esque Gro Game 1, only skill and consistent play save you, for example.
To emphasize, if you ignore good deckbuilding and try to win by focusing on hate cards, something like”The Deck” can fish out silver bullets to knock out those cards, and it’s hard to consistently beat it at its own game.
If you don’t ignore good deckbuilding, then random hate card wins are just a bonus for you.
Jeff and I had a short talk after we proved his deck couldn’t beat the deck it supposedly hated.
I said that the concept lacked card drawing, and he agreed. I then proposed that his concept lacked synergy, because it wanted to find and play an early Mask and Dreadnought, but ended up having to wait several turns to build mana to counter with.
What he had was a deck that didn’t have card drawing for the midgame, yet one that couldn’t sufficiently capitalize on the early game. In short, he had a problem.
I added that he might’ve easily spent a lot of time before noticing the synergy problem, because Back to Basics could randomly get topdecked against certain decks. And so we talked about deckbuilding crutches.
Minutes later, he told me he’d just dismantle the deck. For all its counters, it turned out that it couldn’t play a protected Dreadnought fast enough. Barring a very good draw, it’d have to wait to find the second one, by which time the opponent could get something going.
Incidentally, this explains why the Mask players settled on mono black, as popularized by #bdchat op Christian Flaaten from Norway. The mono black version can cast its disruption ahead of Mask, thus getting much faster starts.
If you add card drawing to the mono blue version, you end up with something more controlling that focuses on the midgame. Then you realize that you may as well yank the Masks and put the Morphlings back in the first place.
rakso on #BDChat on EFNet
Forum Administrator, Star City Games (http://www.starcitygames.com/cgi-bin/dcforum/dcboard.cgi)
Featured writer, Star City Games (http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/archive.php?Article=Oscar Tan)
Author of the Control Player’s Bible (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bdominia/files/ControlBible.zip)
Type I, Extended and Casual Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (http://www.starcitygames.com/cgi-bin/dcforum/dcboard.cgi?az=list&forum=DCForumID89&conf=DCConfID19)
Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance (http://www.casualplayers.org)