People say I haven’t been receiving e-mails lately. Instead of”starcitygames.com,” could you guys try sending to the domain”impactnet.com,” using the same”Rakso” name? If you haven’t received a reply from me, kindly resend to this other e-mail address while we get to the bottom of technical things.
Even if the Star City address gets fixed, though, kindly pardon a slight lag in all the replies. I presently chair the Judicial Tribunal of the University of the Philippines’ College of Law. In other words, I’m playing chief justice in an entire college of lawyers. If it sounds as pleasant as skinny-dipping in a shark-infested beach, I couldn’t argue. Hell, I almost had a nervous breakdown when I asked a senior to point to the provision in the student government constitution he was basing his argument on, and the guy flipped pages in a public hearing until I asked him to admit it didn’t exist. I’m glad I can sneak in some time for columns, even if they’re far less controversial than my judicial decisions!
Anyway, in other news, Roland Bode’s German crew must be very proud of themselves. Their new aggro-control variant, dubbed”Growing ‘Tog” for its focus on both Quirion Dryad and Psychatog, was quickly exported to other metagames. Steve O'Connell a.k.a. Zherbus, for example, noted its recent successes in some tournaments near Boston.
More on these new ‘Tog-based decks in the future (including an explanation of why I and just about every Type I player never even took a second look at Psychatog until it was promoted to Extended), but feel free to rehash Pat Chapin’s joke,”Gush > Ancestral Recall!”
Reviewing the Banned / Restricted List
Unless you played Type II very early on, the Restricted List is probably one of the things that makes Type I a unique format for you. Reviewing the current tournament rules:
Type 1 tournament decks may consist of cards from all Magic card sets, any extension of the basic set, and all promotional cards released by Wizards of the Coast. New card sets are allowed in Type 1 tournaments once they qualify for DCI-sanctioned tournaments…
The following cards are banned in Type 1 tournaments:
The following cards are restricted in Type 1 tournaments:
Fact or Fiction
Library of Alexandria
Mind Over Matter
Stroke of Genius
Wheel of Fortune
The DCI stopped restricting cards in other formats and just bans them if it absolutely has to, because restrictions add an undue random factor. Many games might feel like topdecking a bomb in Onslaught Sealed, for example.
Thing is, this actually makes Type I fun and different. You know my mantra:”This is Type I. Broken things happen.” Yes, the brokenness is part of the spice, though real Type I players know the real probabilities for broken Turn 1 plays. Besides, with so many broken restricted cards allowed in the format, you don’t complain about an opponent topdecking one of them – he’ll draw one eventually if he has them.
The List is also the DCI’s handbrake on a format with all the potential to go wild. Once upon a time, for example, they had to restrict Tolarian Academy, Memory Jar, and Yawgmoth’s Bargain, plus various tutor components just to kill overpowered combo decks that turned the game into coin flips. And since that wasn’t enough, they soon added Necropotence as well, followed by Fact or Fiction.
Since that first major Urza-era expansion of the List, the metagame has finally calmed down, and there is no longer any truly dominant deck in Type I. My article on Vampiric Tutor, for example, noted how there are surely over twenty passable archetypes in the format.
On the other hand, the card pool itself has changed so that some cards’ relative power levels have fluctuated since 1996. The venerable Braingeyser, for example, became too weak when Fact or Fiction was still unrestricted in 2001.
So today’s question is: Should we change the List, even if everything seems to be fine?
I waited for Aaron Forsythe very welcome article, so now it’s my turn to chime in.
Restricted since August 1994.
This is the card Aaron began with, and is a great place to start.
Most of the cards on the List are there because they’re just too powerful, namely bargain draw like Ancestral Recall and Necropotence, bargain tutoring like Demonic Tutor and Demonic Consultation, and effects that simply defy belief like Balance and Yawgmoth’s Will.
Compared to these, Recall simply doesn’t pack the punch it used to. It reused all those broken effects back in the day – but cards have become cheaper and Type I has sped up. Recall doesn’t kick in as early as Regrowth or as explosively as a midgame Yawgmoth’s Will. In other words, it’s a bomb from long ago that loses out in today’s numbers crunch, something proven when some people tried to use it to replace Regrowth when Onslaught fetch lands forced green out of”The Deck”… And it fell short miserably.
If you want to draw comparisons, you can point to Amnesia, something used as a placeholder for Mind Twist during the time it was banned. It was an expensive but strong effect in its time, but was never restricted.
Finally, Recall’s recursion isn’t efficient enough by today’s standards that a combo deck would abuse four copies with ease.
Verdict: Give the guy a Clinton pardon-Unrestrict
Mind Over Matter
Restricted since October 1999.
Again, a lot of cards are restricted because they are undercosted draw, undercosted tutoring, or have undercosted effects that simply defy belief. Clearly, this six-mana enchantment doesn’t meet the last criteria.
When Exodus first came out, Mind Over Matter was one of those weird rares you might speculate on, the kind that look like cute junk but may turn up in a broken combo deck. The first attempts I saw used Suq’Ata Firewalker and Curiosity to set up an infinite damage combo, which was nevertheless easier to disrupt than set up.
As everyone knows, however, the infamous Tolarian Academy got printed, and the date of the restriction speaks for itself.
Thing is, we now know that Mind Over Matter isn’t as crucial a part of an Academy engine as you might think. Builds in other formats, for example, eventually cut down on the slots for the expensive card, and present Type I builds don’t want more than one anyway. It’s a finisher, something you don’t want clogging your hand until you’ve set up with cheaper cards and just need to get near-infinite mana from Academy (when you have a full hand and ten artifacts on the table). Moreover, Candelabra of Tawnos does the same thing paired with Capsize, and Candelabra was unrestricted in October 1997.
Again, there’s no known mana combo with Mind Over Matter other than in Academy, and that deck doesn’t want more than one anyway. The DCI’s restrictions have hit the wrong targets before, like the time they hit Dark Ritual instead of Necropotence trying to kill Trix (blue/black Donate Illusions of Grandeur) in Extended. There’s no need to immortalize the error.
Surprisingly, Aaron didn’t give this more than a very passing reference.
Verdict: Mistaken identity-Unrestrict
Banned from February to March 1996; Restricted since July 1997.
Some cards are restricted because they’re too powerful, others are restricted because they’re too powerful in multiples. Mana denial with unrestricted Strip Mine, for example, would probably cheese too many players out of the game given unrestricted Wasteland. Indeed, before Tempest, just about every deck packed three or four Strips, regardless of color or strategy.
Black Vise is something you don’t want to see in multiples, since it’s something most effective on Turn 1, and the increased chance of that changes how you rate Vise. Turn 1 Vise is simply one of the cheesiest plays in history, especially if you’re going second and most especially if your opponent has a couple of Wastelands. You might think it’d be great to punish slower decks – but why would you need to do that, and why do it in such a random, cheesy way? And if you argue that aggro needs a cheap, colorless threat, you already have options such as Cursed Scroll, Mishra’s Factory, and most recently, Tom Barrett a.k.a. MolotDet’s maindeck Ankhs of Mishra.
Now, you may not be convinced of Vise’s random cheesiness, even if you visualize how you can’t avoid the damage if it gets played Turn 1 on a slow deck. Consider, then, that the slow decks most capable of avoiding it are Power-laden ones that can drop Moxen to shrink their hands.
Fortunately, Aaron gave it no more than a brief aside, quoting Jess Peterson:”Obviously anyone lobbying for its removal does not remember the days of having to play against a deck with four Vices.” Now, let me add that I used to play four Vices in Stasis in casual games, evil man that I am.
Verdict: Throw away the key-Don’t even think of unrestricting
Restricted since October 1999.
When Necropotence was restricted, I bewailed the loss of a relatively easy-to-build, classic archetype that could go toe to toe with any of the top tier decks.
That just gives you more reason to listen when I tell you I was dead wrong.
A good Necrodeck is made up of four Necropotences and fifty-six other cards. If you don’t understand that, you have no business talking about its unrestriction. Its record in every format since Mark Justice placed second in Worlds ’96 speaks for itself. Hell, even at Pro Tour Rome ’98 and all its Academy decks, Andre Konstanczer placed in the Top 8 with Necro. At the Magic Invitational, Mike Long just went mono black because splashing power cards like Ancestral Recall just made his Necrodeck more inconsistent.
Three mana, one card, and your nineteen surplus life points trading for up to nineteen cards… You have to realize why this is the single most broken ability ever printed.
Many people – including myself, at one point – would rather errata Illusions of Grandeur or restrict Donate. First, the Donate / Illusions of Grandeur combo on its own hasn’t proven any more broken than other Type I combos, with no less than Kai Budde thumbing the idea down and not to mention all the Red Elemental Blasts out there. Second, you’ll have to restrict or errata every other potential combo before you can justify unrestricting Necro again. Imagine, for example, a Mask deck with four Necros. Finally, there are good aggro and aggro-control decks in the format, and”balancing” the metagame to hurt control and combo has no basis.
Further, arguing that you can unrestrict Black Vise if you also unrestrict Necro brings more problems than it’s worth. It may not get to the point of Type I becoming a boring all-Sligh format, but use your imagination.
You just have to understand that the card only has itself to blame, having abuse written all over its leering skull.
Verdict: This one belongs on death row-Don’t even think of unrestricting
Restricted since October 1999.
Once upon a time, Mirage tutors were unrestricted. You could play three or four Mystical Tutors to fetch everything from Ancestral Recall to Balance, and it took a long time before the DCI noticed how much they watered down restrictions.
Some people consider Enlightened Tutor a far more harmless card than Mystical or Vampiric Tutor. After all, the latter fetch things up to Yawgmoth’s Will, while they want Enlightened to help Deck Parfait and its tutor problem.
I’d agree, except that a handful of the most dangerous restricted cards are enchantments or artifacts. You might argue that Dream Halls– or Memory Jar-based decks won’t be dangerous enough given restrictions on everything else.
There’s no way you’re using the same argument to sell me a Necrodeck that can get back its Demonic Consultations by splashing white, though.
Verdict: Guilt by association-Don’t unrestrict
Restricted since January 1994.
Isn’t this something you’d like to unrestrict? Affects creatures, is green, looks like the stuff twelve-year old smiles are made of, and has been restricted since Magic’s earliest days?
It looks harmless enough, in fact. The most logical deck, mono green Stompy, can’t use it because it’s too conditional. If you topdeck it with no Giant Growth to go with it, your restricted Beta gem is a lot worse than the common. If you do get it with a Rancor, Giant Growth and Bounty of the Hunt, it makes for a finish so colorful it makes you giddy – but so does a Swords to Plowshares in response.
Other weenie aggro decks can’t use it, not without large concentrations of pump. At best, it gives them a very mediocre anti-weenie spell.
Still other decks with already large creatures don’t need any pump. Mask (Illusionary Mask/Phyrexian Dreadnought) decks, for example, can’t afford to cut disruption, threats or search to add a spell that’s only useful when the deck is on the verge of winning anyway.
In principle, though, a spell that doubles anything makes you wary. Unrestricted, you have the potential for randomness, since the second copy isn’t just doubling things anymore.
In practice, Berserk was recently paired by Roland Bode with Psychatog, drastically cutting down on the time one needs to reach critical mass in cards in hand and in the grave. Present ‘Tog builds use Cunning Wish to fetch the Berserk when needed, but you seriously wonder what three more copies can do with Dryad or ‘Tog and a few counters.
Parenthetically, Aaron quoted Steve Menendian a.k.a. Smmenen, who cited a series of polls he conducted. There are a lot of topics where I wouldn’t give an opinion poll much weight, and this is one of them.
Verdict: No evidence of good behavior-Don’t unrestrict
Restricted from March 1994 to October 1995; Banned from November 1995 to September 2001; Unbanned and restricted since October 2001.
Channel–Fireball was the original first-turn kill of legend, and Channel’s restriction history tells you how dangerous that particular combo (or, more accurately, Channel-Kaervek’s Torch) is to a realistic player.
As a restricted card, it’s simply nostalgic, especially if you were around for the earliest Type II days and Orcish Lumberjack and Tinder Wall mana support. I personally wouldn’t mind keeping it banned to keep a combo with little value in competitive play from randomly showing up in casual games, but what’s done is done.
Unrestricted, you wonder if anyone will actually devote slots in an aggro deck to the combo, considering how there are a lot of counterspells in Type I and red/green is better off with speed and consistency. In fact, JP”Polluted” Meyer ran a”Channel challenge” on TheManaDrain.com (and Paul Miller a.k.a. Exeter did something similar back on Beyond Dominia) and no one could come up with a credible Channel-Torch build.
Still, Channel converts one card into seventeen mana – and if that doesn’t give you pause, consider how Necropotence converts one card into eighteen net. Aggro is the most obvious place to look for abuse, but probably not the most logical. Despite the prohibitive double-green mana cost, you wonder if Channel could be used to provide a too-early mana boost to set up a degenerate combo. People argue it doesn’t exist – but everyone knows that R&D can’t monitor interactions of new cards with the Type I card pool, which is in fact how we got the Animate Dead/Worldgorger Dragon infinite mana combo.
It might be conservative or even a coward’s way out, but considering no one can think of a viable deck that would benefit from Channel anyway, I’d just go with leaving a card that can convert all of one resource into another a la Necro alone.
(Aaron quotes my one-time co-moderator Raphael Caron a.k.a. K-Run as suggesting to unrestrict it and put it on the Watch List, which isn’t a bad suggestion, either. In fairness, the Mana Drain community came up with a few creative touches that might amuse casual players more than Channel-Torch. Cluey, for example, posted on Skycloud Egg and friends.)
Verdict: Criminal record means no parole-Don’t unrestrict
Well, it’s a pretty long list and I’ve gone on far enough this week. Get back to me in a few days, and I’ll list a few more radical comments.
Again, props to Aaron for a job well done.
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