You CAN Play Type I #64: Opening Up Onslaught, Part V – Instants

Ah, yes.”Draw X” always gets your attention, and Read The Runes caught my eye… But a small Read the Runes doesn’t look very impressive; compare this to a small Braingeyser or a small Stroke. So we end up with the question,”Can combo use this to set up the end game?”

A quick note from StarCityGames.com

Anyone looking to play some competitive Type One should be sure to attend the Richmond, Virginia Black Lotus Tournament this Saturday, November 2nd! Full info on the event can be found here! We now return you to your regularly scheduled Oscar Tan column. Enjoy!

Finally, final exams ended.

I can breathe again.

It can actually take a lot of effort not to think. I actually got into a couple of funny conversations since I was trying too hard to keep my head blank after the last five-hour final exam.

I was talking to a professor I was supposed to meet over the term break, and he asked if I’d be leaving town next week. I said I wasn’t even planning to leave my bed. He said something about very interesting vacation plans, and I had a belated laugh when a girl suggested he might’ve meant I might not be planning to stay in bed alone for a week.

Then I was discussing costume party plans with another girl. I said my first choice was to come as a law professor. I said my second was to come as a fraternity boy and bring a sorority girl as a prop.

Then I remembered she was a sorority girl when her sister asked me about it.

If people got to play me on Apprentice lately, that’s the permanent vacation my brain’s been on. The first guy I played brought out Forbiddian, of all things, so I really felt like simply conceding. One game, he got down him down to one card, and had Morphling, Yawgmoth’s Will, and Braingeyser in hand. I led with Morphling, which got Mana Drained, clearing the way for the other bombs.

Unfortunately for me, he stuck an unorthodox Stroke of Genius in and topdecked it. Guess who won.

Why can’t everyone just play Stompy or something when my brain’s on sick leave?

Anyway, I hope you remember our two rules:

Is the card more efficient than an established benchmark? (Or, do I get more bang from my buck?)

Does the card do something no past card ever did, and if it does, is this new card playable?

Opening Up Onslaught: Instants

Instants are arguably the most interesting set of cards in a new set for Type I purposes. Usually, you look for some efficient or flexible twist of something familiar over some unique new effect. It doesn’t have to be anything flashy; just look at Fire/Ice. The Judgment review went pretty well… Seedtime and Flaring Pain saw some testing, but maybe the hype has settled down.

Read the Runes

Ah, yes.”Draw X” always gets your attention.

At first glance, you get a net loss of one card (-1 Read the Runes, +X cards, –X cards discarded or permanents sacrificed). Thus, early on, you get Frantic Search without the untap ability. And if you have the mana to drive up X, you probably have better things to do than worry about than compensating for the drawback.

Of course, at second glance, you start thinking about how to make the card read”Draw X cards” and stop there. Aggro and control are iffy, but you start thinking about how Renounce worked in Type II Bargain decks, effectively converting tapped mana sources into fresh cards.

So we end up with the question,”Can combo use this?”

One way of looking at it is from the point of view of Prosperity: It’s the original”Draw X cards with a twist” spell, and it’s hardly used today despite its prominent place in the venerable ProsBloom (based around the Squandered Resources, Natural Balance, Cadaverous Bloom, Prosperity engine – now five years out of date). And hitting the opponent with Abeyance, City of Solitude, or Defense Grid is arguably easier than dealing with the discard or sac drawback of Read the Runes.

We should begin with a deck that wins with a lot of stray permanents on the table, so we go to Neo-Academy by default:

Neo-Academy, Matt D’Avanzo, April 2002

Mana (28)

1 Tolarian Academy

4 Gemstone Mine

4 City of Brass

2 Undiscovered Paradise

1 Black Lotus

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Ruby

1 Mox Pearl

1 Mox Emerald

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Diamond

1 Lotus Petal

1 Sol Ring

1 Mana Crypt

1 Grim Monolith

1 Mana Vault

4 Helm of Awakening

1 Fastbond

Combo (4)

1 Mind Over Matter

1 Capsize

2 Candelabra of Tawnos

Card drawing and manipulation (11)

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Timetwister

1 Time Spiral

1 Wheel of Fortune

1 Windfall

1 Braingeyser

1 Stroke of Genius

4 Meditate

Manipulation and utility (11)

1 Mystical Tutor

1 Vampiric Tutor

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Crop Rotation

1 Regrowth

4 Impulse

1 Frantic Search

1 Time Walk

Defense (6)

2 Abeyance

4 Force of Will

(For the unfamiliar: This deck uses Tolarian Academy and Mind Over Matter or CapsizeCandelabra of Tawnos to create infinite mana, then cast a million-point Stroke of Genius or Braingeyser at the opponent.)

Looking at its card drawing complement, we don’t see Prosperity. We see the original Draw X spells, Braingeyser and Stroke of Genius. After then, we see the cheaper but more powerful Draw 7-ish spells: Timetwister, Windfall and Wheel of Fortune. We also see the card draw rounded out by the cheap but effective Meditate.

So Read the Runes probably wouldn’t fit. You want draw spells that can be effective early, and Read the Runes isn’t something you want to set up your explosive turn with, since you’re in the best position to sac thing when you’re well under way. In other words, a small Read the Runes doesn’t look very impressive. Compare this to a small Braingeyser to start things for Academy.

The only other angle I can see is to use the discard drawback to pitch things you want in the graveyard anyway. Shane Stoots mentioned trying it as a Compulsion substitute for The Funker’s reanimation subtheme, but it doesn’t sound very interesting. The only deck I can think of that could use it effectively might be Pandeburst (which uses Replenish to kill with Saproling Burst and Pandemonium), since Frantic Search is restricted in Type I.

Of course, this doesn’t rule out that some guy will milk this for combo or Madness in Type II. I’m just saying there seem to be more straightforward options available in Type I.


I said that we don’t really look for flashy instants, just efficient or flexible ones. This is a solid choice that fits the bill.

So what’s the big deal about Disenchant being available for green? Some decks won’t bother, since they’re in a much better position to use the white effects – like”The Deck.” However, there are decks without white that want Disenchants, at least in the board and at least in certain metagames.

Looking at mono green, Tranquil Domain is standard for Stompy, used over the cheaper Emerald Charm in case of Deck Parfait, Enchantress, or some other enchantment-heavy deck. Naturalize, though, allows players to hit decks using Powder Keg instead of Parfait; an alternative a lot of players would take.

Looking at other concepts, you can see where Naturalize would be a welcome choice. From what I saw, for example, the”Zoo” decks at the last GenCon were closer to Sligh decks with one-drops in different colors (all the way to Skyshroud Ridgeback). In these sorts of aggressive decks, burn’s job overlaps with Swords to Plowshares and Savannah Lions are a pain on the mana base, so you might argue that they splashed white mainly for Seal of Cleansing. From here, you can visualize how Naturalize could help red/green based decks. You might even see it in things like blue/green, like Chapin Gro.

Again, nothing flashy, but perfectly usable. This shift in abilities plus the printing of a green Ophidian (in theory, not in result) makes you wonder if green will finally become interesting enough to be the fifth color of Magic in a couple of years.

Chain of Plasma

This is a rare spell on the efficiency level of Incinerate (recall weaker equivalents like Thunderbolt), and it impressed Ben Bleiweiss enough to name it #7 for Type I among the Onslaught cards.

I agree it’s good, but I don’t think you can take it by itself. First, let’s assume that it’s not better than existing spells like Lightning Bolt and Incinerate (if you disagree, we’ll get to that in a bit). If that’s so, then you’ll only use this in something with close to twenty burn spells, meaning mono red Sligh. You already have slots for Lightning Bolt, Incinerate, Chain Lightning, and Fireblast, plus Cursed Scroll and Price of Progress.

Simply put, that doesn’t leave any room.

The only way you’ll find use for Chain of Plasma is if you can convince yourself that it’s better than any of the spells I listed, like Incinerate or the original Chain Lightning.

I can’t.

First, take a look at the Oracle text of Chain Lightning:

Chain Lightning deals 3 damage to target creature or player. Then that player or that creature’s controller may pay RR. If the player does, he or she may copy this spell and may choose a new target for that copy.

Chain Lightning, in practice, isn’t Chained all that often because relatively few decks can pay RR – and they can be caught at times they don’t want to chain back (a control deck that won’t deal damage for a while), or are tapped out anyway. Getting it Chained back can actually be bad because you might lose a Jackal Pup or Goblin Cadets and get your tempo killed.

Note that Chain of Plasma is far easier to Chain, and you exactly let your opponent turn a less-than-useful card into an instant spot removal spell.

The main deck I’d expect to see this in is the eight-year-old’s all-burn deck. If you’ve played for a while, you should know that the concept stinks because it has no staying power, so I won’t dwell on it, even if it’s a mainstay of Type I and Casual boards everywhere.

Chain of Vapor

When I saw this, I thought it might not be useful as a Chain card, but as a twist on Hoodwink in decks that have nothing worth bouncing anyway (something like a Hoodwink that that works on creatures and still asks for just one colored mana). It might work in a very specific combo deck… But note that some of them need to bounce Tolarian Academy, a land.


If you look at this as Miscalculation’s big brother, it’s not very interesting. Disrupt and Force Spike, though, were interesting enough, so it might be more attractive to look at this as an uncounterable Force Void, with the principal ability considered as the icing.

That said, this closest thing right now to an uncounterable counter is strong in the right situation, but you can say that about a lot of cards. If you stick one or two in a control deck, it might work some of the time and be random or ineffective a lot of other times. If you stick it into a deck with more counters and, say, stick four in to replace mono blue’s Mana Leaks, you make the deck less efficient.

You also have to note that Disrupt is a bit different because people react differently to a blue player with just one mana untapped and another with three.


This is another simple, efficient card, and people might stick it into a sideboard over a Disenchant for pinpoint use with Cunning Wish. People who started with Masques, though, may not remember that this is a watered-down version of Erase, which is important against Deck Parfait’s ever-annoying Replenish and Argivian Find.

And if you want that sort of slot for a Wish-supported board, I’d take Ray of Revelation, or the slower but more powerful Allay.

Fade from Memory

Some might use this against newer graveyard-based decks like German Tools ‘n’ Tubbies (TnT) or Dragon (based on Worldgorger Dragon and Animate Dead), but note that the original Rapid Decay is surprisingly stronger.

Incidentally, the other card with a similar effect is the old Ebony Charm, and you just want to compare it with the Onslaught charms. Outside Limited, you’re annoyed they’re pretty narrow, and you won’t find any new playmates for Wishes.


You didn’t really use Fault Line, right, because you were after the cheaper Earthquake or Pyroclasm that you could reliably play before Turn 4? Obviously, the cycling isn’t a very strong incentive for playing with a Pyroclasm that costs twice as much, right?

Well, this is a Pyroclasm noted for people trying out Cunning Wish. Still, you’re sure to have Swords to Plowshares in your board, and at least it doesn’t demand double red and a bit of mana in the early game where it’s needed.


This is a solid, efficient card, and it’s probably as close to Swords to Plowshares as black is going to get.

That said, would you use it?

You might consider it for decks that rely on black for removal, like mono black or black/blue. Thing is, if you have slots for removal, it’s hard to understand why you’d take Smother over Diabolic Edict, or targeting over the ability to hit four-mana Mishra’s Workshop-produced creatures and Morphling.

Perhaps the only slots this card can get a foot in the door are those for sideboarded Contagions. Good mono black decks, for example, don’t have creatures costing more than three.

Spy Network

This is a really interesting ability, and you’d probably love it if you’re the type who likes to cheat (just kidding…). Thing is, information is something that can be produced by intuition…. And wouldn’t you rather save a card if you could get insight from your own skill? Also note that things like Clairvoyance have never been used, especially with a few effects like Duress and Scrying Glass doing the same thing with more power and no card disadvantage.

Wheel and Deal

I’m really not sure why this was printed. Either someone in R&D is a die-hard Underworld Dreams fan in casual play, or this can be traced to those marijuana-laced brownies, too.


This stuck to my head because the most prominent feature of the large University of the Philippines main campus is an old statute called the Oblation. A famous actor actually posed for it, and his Junior is being convinced to run for President so that the other actor-president, Erap Estrada, can get a presidential pardon and dodge the death penalty.

The Magic version reminds me of things like Flicker… Cards strange enough that you actually linger and wonder if they could actually be useful.

Oscar Tan

rakso on #BDChat on EFNet

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