I got one of the most touching letters ever last week, and got the reader’s permission to share it with all of you:
I wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed your articles about Type 1 on Star City. Information on this format is almost nonexistent outside of your articles and TheManaDrain boards. I love Type 1, it is easily my favorite format in Magic. Though strangely, this is in spite of the fact I can’t play it. Let me explain.
I am a quadriplegic, with a broken neck. I can’t move or feel below the midchest, and I can’t move my fingers. I got into Magic at Mercadian Masques – and though I physically couldn’t play, I did collect the cards and more importantly it led me to a mental game. So I went about absorbing theory, reading, and watching games at the local tournaments. I tried Apprentice and just didn’t like it. There is something to be said for NOT having access to four of everything. I’m not sure that I can explain it, so I’ll just leave it at that.
The breakthrough for ME was Magic Online. Love it or hate it, you have to admit that it is the closest thing to the paper game online. Obviously there never will be a Type 1 there, so I have been specializing in the online Extended game. Specifically, in examining Type 1 archetypes that can be adapted to the smaller pool environment. Which isn’t easy, as it forces replacing bone in most cases rather than muscle.
My favorite article of yours was “When second best stinks.” It forced me to look – really LOOK – at what each card was doing below the surface. How it not only did its job, but also how it interacted with the other cards in the deck. It forced me to look at the principles of deck building rather than just saying”Okay, I’ll just replace Moat for Teferi’s Moat.” Because though the cards are different, the principles are the same.
At the moment, I’m working on permanents based control deck based on Enchantress’ Presence as the draw engine and Sterling Grove as search. It’s based on principles from Prison, Parfait, and Enchantress use of hard-to-remove permanents to build a superior board position. Whether the cards are there to make it viable is still undecided, but it makes for a mental challenge either way.
Anyway, the point of the letter was just to let you know how much I enjoy your articles and look forward to many more.
All I can say is, thanks to all the readers for the encouragement! It makes a lot of things worth it.
How Did The DCI Get Hit By A Bus?
In this age of instant opinion polls and online message boards, the single most dangerous thing in the world is uninformed opinion. DCI just proved it isn’t immune, either.
Once, they passed off a Banned/Restricted List change as an April Fool’s Day joke, and I actually thought they tried the same trick again:
DCITM Banned and Restricted List Announcement
Announcement Date: March 1, 2003
Effective Date: April 1, 2003
Wizards claims to listen to Type I players, but the way it proved it is ridiculous.
They’re the first to admit they can’t playtest Type I – but given how Forsythe’s little experiment was done so recently, you have to assume they based the changes solely on his e-mail opinion poll without any real thinking.
I said in last week’s article that justifying the unrestriction of Berserk via an opinion poll is ridiculous logic. Hell, it’s like figuring out where Osama Bin-Laden is hiding by taking a vote in Times Square. This week…
Berserk, Part II
Restricted from January 1994 to March 2003.
The DCI explained:”Berserk has been on the restricted list for a long, long time. We feel that the thousands of extra cards and decks that have been added to Type 1 have rendered this card less of a threat than it used to be. In addition, we think that unrestricting this card will open up many new deck archetypes to Type 1.”
I already discussed last week why Stompy isn’t using it, and why all the aggro decks don’t want it, either.
Maybe I was too subtle, so I’ll spell it out. The latest combo card in Type I is Psychatog, which is a one-turn, one-card kill the moment you get enough cards in hand and in the graveyard (which isn’t a problem with all the cheap draw and manipulation in Type I, from Intuition to even Gush).
It took a while, but Extended proved Type I conventional logic wrong. Then, Berserk, as Roland Bode found out, gets you to critical mass faster. JP”Polluted” Meyer, in fact, termed Psychatog and Berserk the new Illusions of Grandeur/Donate tandem.
There are exactly two decks that want Berserk, precisely for the combo. One is Type I Psychatog, developed mainly by JP, which is built on the combo and a few control elements. The other is Growing Tog, developed by Roland and friends, the next evolution of blue-based aggro/control.
If you know your rock-paper-scissors, you know every aggro deck’s waterloo is combo. Guess how many aggro decks are suddenly much worse in the metagame to boost these two already good decks?
At worst, aggro isn’t going to get anything out of this. But smart money says DCI is going to achieve the reverse of what it wanted to do, and more…
Necro-Donate, JP”Polluted” Meyer, April 2003 test deck, from e-mail
4 Psychatog (Illusions of Grandeur)
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Pearl
1 Library of Alexandria
4 Polluted Delta
4 Underground Sea
4 Tropical Island
3 Back to Basics
1 Shallow Grave
1 Mana Short
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Mind Twist
If the Berserk / ‘Tog combo is as powerful as people think, aggro is going to have to adapt – somehow. This is how I outlined the problem in the Star City Forums:
1) We need good aggro to balance the metagame (lesson from unrestricted Fact or Fiction).
2)”Good” aggro doesn’t have non-burn removal, because these are dead against control and combo.
3) Aggro is now steamrolled by aggro-control creatures that are ironically bigger.
4) But aggro can’t afford to be bogged down by wrong solutions in place of right threats.
TnT is perhaps the only aggro deck with the flexibility to afford even a little removal, using old-school creature tricks like Gilded Drake.
April Fool’s Day doesn’t look good.
Restricted April 2003.
This popped up, but Aaron Forsythe never mentioned it.
Surprise! Happy April Fool’s!
The DCI explained:”Every good”tutor” card is restricted in Type 1. Entomb is one of the best tutors left in Type 1, and it now joins Demonic Tutor, Demonic Consultation, Enlightened Tutor, etc. on the restricted list.”
Wait… Let’s compare card texts, please.
Demonic Consultation:”Name a card. Remove the top six cards of your library from the game, then reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal the named card. Put that card into your hand and remove all other cards revealed this way from the game.”
Entomb:”Search your library for a card and put that card into your graveyard. Then shuffle your library.”
On one hand, we have a one-mana instant that’s gelled every combo with black in the history of Type I, even Hatred decks.
On the other, we have… An”equally””broken” tutor that puts a card into your graveyard instead of into your hand?
I know Akroma, Angel of Wrath has nice boobs and all, but I didn’t think reanimating her was on the same level as Necropotence. Using Entomb with a single Nether Spirit in Pox is hardly broken, too. Finally, I don’t know of any Replenish-based deck using Entomb.
The only possible reason for the surprise restriction is a fear of the Dragon combo (Worldgorger Dragon/Animate Dead for infinite mana). Thing is, people complain about its unintuitive-ness, not the brokenness of the deck based around it.
Dragon uses one of the most vulnerable combos in Type I. The Dragon and Aerial Caravan in the graveyard are vulnerable to graveyard hate from Ebony Charm to Tormod’s Crypt, and everyone packs something for Tools ‘n’ Tubbies anyway. Animate Dead and Dance of the Dead are vulnerable to enchantment hate from Disenchant/Naturalize to Druid Lyrist. Worldgorger Dragon itself is vulnerable to Swords to Plowshares, which removes all the opponent’s permanents if it catches Dragon. It’s not faster or more powerful than anything else available, but it’s hosed in so many ways.
Perhaps the most special thing about Dragon, in fact, is that it can be built on a budget, minus Moxen. Hurting it makes the format, ironically, even less accessible, given how many players are amused by Dragon. Powered players still have Buried Alive and Intuition, plus the mana acceleration to use them more effectively.
Finally, slowing Dragon is baseless, and DCI’s official line makes no sense as well. If you feel that all the good tutors have to be restricted purely because of perceived power level, then you’d have to restrict Intuition (found in Psychatog, Army of Squirrels, Reap-Lace, Dragon, among others) and Cunning Wish (found in practically every blue-based deck out there), too.
Verdict: Prejudicial publicity and hype, but no smoking gun-Unrestrict
Restricted April 2003.
The DCI explained:”Earthcraft joins the many other combo cards that are restricted in Type 1.”
Together, these form a two-card infinite creature (or mana) combo in one color. Yes, it’s green and Squirrel Nest has double-green, but this is actually an advantage because the combo components slip past anti-blue hate. The best use of the compact combo is in Army of Squirrels, made popular by Germans Oliver Daems and Benjamin Rott, a.k.a. Teletubby.
Oliver Daems, Army of Squirrels, Champion, Dülmen August 25, 2002
AoS is basically a combo surrounded by control elements, aiming to auto-win against aggro while still having enough to go up against control. In terms of power and place in the format, though, you have to note that the Germans who want something like this just fit the Power Artifact/Grim Monolith combo into”The Deck.” Again, perhaps the most special thing about AoS is that it can be built on a budget.
Why hurt a powerful but not degenerate – this is Type I, broken things happen! – combo, and in the same stroke, introduce a new Illusions of Grandeur/Donate which has even more synergy with its engine?
Verdict: Utterly inexplicable-Unrestrict
Restricted October 1999 to March 2003.
Never mind what the DCI said, JP Meyer originally e-mailed them:”Hurkyl’s Recall was restricted because it was in the original Type 1 Tolarian Academy decks that were ridiculously overpowered even after an initial set of restrictions. The problem with Hurkyl’s Recall now is that since Mana Vault and Mana Crypt are restricted, Hurkyl’s Recall doesn’t generate very much mana. Also, Rebuild is unrestricted and does practically the same thing. As a bonus, an unrestricted Hurkyl’s Recall would be useful as a sideboard card in blue decks to use against the numerous artifact-based that have sprung up recently in Type 1.”
I can’t tell how important Hurkyl’s is to blue decks, but everything else JP said rings true. Indeed, with Rebuild, one might even make a case that a 2003 Hurkyl’s deck might – might – not be degenerate if you ban Tolarian Academy and unrestrict some of the mana artifacts (but that’s an altogether different story).
Congratulations to JP for being practically quoted in the explanation.
Verdict: The defense rests
The Type I.5 banned list
All restricted cards were banned since the beginning of Type I.
Apparently, the unrestriction of Berserk is due more to misplaced faith in popular opinion than in any logic. But why in the world would you slow Dragon and kill Army of Squirrels?
There’s actually one possible, logical reason.
Precisely because Dragon and AoS are budget decks, they’re playable in I.5 unlike other Type I combos such as Neo-Academy and Reap-Lace. Now, please take this with a grain of salt because I don’t play I.5, but imagine how power levels and metagames are different.
First of all, without the restricted cards in the mix, the power levels of strong unrestricted cards have to go up. Second, without a lot of the restricted cards, Type I control decks lose a lot of anti-aggro tricks like Balance, plus the cheap draw and manipulation to set up quickly. Aggro decks don’t lose much, so control comes out way behind in the trade.
Of course, if aggro really is stronger than control in Type I.5, two-card combos likewise improve.
Especially with no control decks to keep them in check.
Conventional logic tells us that Type I.5 is unduly cramped because it’s tied to the Type I restricted list. Banning all the tutors, for example, massacre’s control’s flexibility, yet all the restricted bombs – the reason tutors were restricted in the first place – from Necropotence to Balance are banned, too. Others, like Fact or Fiction, have no reason to be banned because Type I.5 doesn’t have the fast mana Type I does except for Mana Drain.
If the Type I.5 angle is right, though, this means Type I is also being cramped by adjustments made to Type I.5, not just the other way around.
Having one Banned/Restricted List to control two very different formats is proving more and more unwise as more expansions are added. Can we just admit it instead of compounding the problem each year?
Incidentally, the worst part of the problem is that budget decks least dependent on restricted cards are the hardest hit by restrictions really intended for I.5.
Verdict: Put men and women in different cells please-Separate the two lists!
Well, that’s it for this week. My column took an untimely segue due to the surprise announcement, and my other thoughts on the List will come out next week. I wanted to focus on the Type I.5 angle this week, and it’s exam season. Till then…
In the meantime, let’s hope that DCI have the sense to carefully think about any changes before making them binding. It’s not like Type I was going to go anywhere in three extra months.
I’ll leave you with the best take on the insanity. Umesh Patel, a.k.a. Ump from Chicago quipped:”I believe Berserk was unrestricted just to take attention away from the 8th edition layout changes.”
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