I got quite a few responses regarding last week’s article, particularly about the sample game with Stefan Iwasienko a.k.a. Womprax. I have to confess that the log was slipped in at the last minute, and I didn’t really go over it that thoroughly. Yes, we both missed him having to mana burn twice off Mana Drain mana. Heck, Mana Drain just isn’t normal in Growing ‘Tog decks, so I wasn’t alert to it myself.
Darn, you guys are sharp.
Regarding the Fact or Fiction split, Stefan agrees with me that he undervalued Swords to Plowshares. He had two Psychatogs on the board, if you remember… But he didn’t know that I had a Cunning Wish in hand, and that giving me the Swords would let me kill both.
Incidentally, I neglected to note in last week’s article that Carsten KÃ¶tter, a.k.a. Mon, Goblin Chief placed third in the May 11, 2003 DÃ¼lmen using “The Shining” which he co-developed with Stefan. (Falk Bernhardt and Benjamin Ribbeck placed first and second, respectively, both with Growing ‘Tog with red splashes.) Congratulations!
Sifting into a Storm
We discussed landcycling last week, and move on to Scourge’s other mechanic this week, Storm:
When you play this spell, copy it for each spell played before it this turn. You may choose new targets for the copies.
It sounds exciting, even scary. If Magic Online or Apprentice had special effects for each mechanic, then this is the one I want to see. I can just imagine a clear, cloudless horizon suddenly filled with the fire and brimstone of a meteor storm, then just as quickly snuffed out by a Hindering Touch.
Now, my nerves calmed a whole lot when I saw the mechanic’s marquee card, Dragonstorm, and felt confident they wouldn’t go nuts with the mechanic and take it well beyond Timmy boundaries. After all, what would they do – print a Storm card that did,”Draw a card”?
I mean, we all feel that R&D has improved the quality of the crack it smokes, right?
(Of course, I thought Buehler said that they try to avoid cards that force you to remember too many things. Oh well. Maybe they’ll have Jungle Lion in Eighth Edition, then.)
Looking at the Storm mechanic itself, it’s something you can get quite a few memorable plays out of in Limited and then try to break in Constructed where you have all the resources to set it up. In Type I, control players and, to a lesser extent, aggro-control players can try an effect that’s decent at zero to two extra copies. If there’s any Storm ability that can be used as an engine, though, you can be sure it’s going into a combo deck.
Speaking of combo decks, note the most readily noticeable feature of Storm: Even if you counter the original spell, the extra copies still go on the stack. This makes a Storm card that readily lends itself as a combo engine extremely dangerous. Again, fortunately, Dragonstorm didn’t give any hints of that, so I breathed easy.
Again, we all feel that R&D has improved the quality of the crack it smokes, right?
Here’s a quick reference of all the Storm effects available:
- Reaping the Graves
- Tendrils of Agony
- Brain Freeze
- Hindering Touch
- Mind’s Desire
- Temporal Fissure
- Sprouting Vines
- Astral Steel
- Wing Shards
Let’s start with the most complex-looking effect, based just on the length of the card text.
First of all, I have to confess that I goofed. Having seen Dragonstorm and usually beginning my set reviews with the creatures, I glossed over Mind’s Desire, and didn’t quite catch the very last phrase.
“Shuffle your library.”
“Remove the top card of your library from the game.”
No complaints here.
“Until end of turn, you may play it as though it were in your hand.”
Now it gets interesting, but at least it wasn’t,”Draw a card.”
“…without paying its mana cost.”
Take a good look at the right corner and not the six-mana casting cost. Then point me quick to R&D’s crack supplier.
In case you haven’t been playing for very long, let’s just say that there haven’t been a lot of effects with”without paying its mana cost.”
We have, for example, Rushwood Legate and friends from Mercadian Masques. While the Rushwood Legate helped Stompy against blue, it was just a 2/1 and wasn’t so bad (I can’t say”just a creature” anymore these days). We have Massacre and Submerge from Nemesis, but they just hit creatures and weren’t so bad, either.
We have Planeswalker’s Mischief from Planeshift, but that was a tad erratic. Similarly, Show and Tell and Eureka were a bit too symmetrical. (Though local store owner Edsel Alvarez once had a story of guy who went”Mox Diamond, Ancient Tomb, Show and Tell” opening against a Type II mono blue opponent. The control player stared at his Island and then at the Serra Avatar on the other end of the table.)
So I left out Dream Halls.
Click on the card link if you don’t know (or remember) what it does. This card single-handedly demonstrated how easily”without paying its mana cost” can be abused, as Zvi demonstrated in the old Type II with this infamous monstrosity:
Zvi Mowshowitz, TurboZvi, The Dojo test deck, e-mailed April 9, 1998
4 Crystal Vein
4 Svyelunite Temple
4 Ancient Tomb
4 Lotus Petal
4 Dream Halls
4 Ancestral Memories
4 Mana Severance
4 Memory Lapse
3 Gaea’s Blessing
Yes, Inquest listed Dream Halls as the worst card in its set, and Zvi just chortled,”Boy, were they wrong!” (Yes, Inquest. Surprised?) The ugly contemporary of ProsBloom (Squandered Resources/Natural Balance/Cadaverous Bloom/Prosperity) actually killed by recycling itself over and over, casting Lobotomy and Inspiration until the opponent got decked or bored to death.
Incidentally, he opened his original e-mail:”I warned that Type II was encouraging a variety of degenerate ideas. With numerous ways to generate large amounts of mana, cards and damage, I wondered what to do with all those cards.”
Now, fast forward to 2003. Dream Halls has long since been restricted, thanks to crazy Time Spirals and other brokenness. In Type I, what can you do with a Dream Halls-esque Storm card and every zero-cost mana artifact and one-mana blue manipulation spell ever printed?
23:45:12 – Rakso draws a card.
23:45:16 – Rakso plays Polluted Delta.
23:45:18 – Rakso’s life is now 16. (-1)
23:45:19 – Rakso buries Polluted Delta.
23:45:24 – Rakso moves Island from Rakso’s library to tabletop.
23:45:28 – Rakso plays Mox Sapphire.
23:45:30 – Rakso plays Mox Ruby.
23:45:32 – Rakso plays Mana Crypt.
I sort of stalled and, despite quite a few manipulation spells, was stuck with just three Islands on the board, and Mox Sapphire, Mox Ruby, Mana Crypt and Mind’s Desire in hand. I pretended my opponent had a Mind Twist and tried to see what would happen if I tried to go off at that point.
23:45:36 – Island is tapped.
23:45:36 – Island is tapped.
23:45:38 – Island is tapped.
23:45:38 – Mox Ruby is tapped.
23:45:39 – Mana Crypt is tapped.
23:45:40 – Rakso plays Mind’s Desire.
23:45:44 – Rakso says:’for 3′
23:45:52 – Rakso moves Time Spiral from Rakso’s library to tabletop.
23:45:53 – Rakso moves Frantic Search from Rakso’s library to tabletop.
23:45:55 – Rakso moves Brainstorm from Rakso’s library to tabletop.
23:46:14 – Rakso says:’playing Time Spiral’
23:46:16 – Spells played this turn now has 5 counters. (+5)
23:46:21 – Island is untapped.
23:46:22 – Island is untapped.
23:46:22 – Island is untapped.
23:46:47 – Rakso removes Time Spiral from the game.
23:47:00 – Rakso drew 7 cards.
23:47:08 – VoXidian drew 7 cards.
23:47:55 – Island is tapped.
23:47:56 – Island is tapped.
23:47:56 – Island is tapped.
23:48:01 – Rakso says:’float 3 mana’
23:48:02 – VoXidian says:’k’
23:48:03 – Rakso says:’playing Frantic Search’
23:48:04 – Spells played this turn now has 6 counters. (+1)
23:48:07 – Island is untapped.
23:48:07 – Island is untapped.
23:48:07 – Island is untapped.
23:48:11 – Rakso drew 2 cards.
23:48:16 – Rakso moves Polluted Delta from Rakso’s hand to Rakso’s graveyard.
23:48:18 – Rakso moves Island from Rakso’s hand to Rakso’s graveyard.
23:48:52 – Rakso plays Mox Jet.
23:48:52 – VoXidian says:’mm’
23:48:53 – Spells played this turn now has 7 counters. (+1)
23:49:05 – Rakso plays Gush.
23:49:06 – Spells played this turn now has 8 counters. (+1)
23:49:08 – Island is tapped.
23:49:09 – Island is tapped.
23:49:09 – VoXidian says:’k’
23:49:10 – Rakso moves Island from tabletop to Rakso’s hand.
23:49:10 – Rakso moves Island from tabletop to Rakso’s hand.
23:49:15 – Rakso says:’UUUUU mana floating’
23:50:12 – Rakso says:’playing Brainstorm’
23:50:15 – VoXidian says:’k’
23:50:15 – Rakso drew 3 cards.
23:50:22 – Rakso moves a facedown card to Rakso’s library.
23:50:23 – Rakso moves a facedown card to Rakso’s library.
23:50:25 – Spells played this turn now has 9 counters. (+1)
23:51:08 – Mox Jet is tapped.
23:51:08 – Mox Pearl is tapped.
23:51:08 – VoXidian says:’k’
23:51:12 – Rakso says:’UUUU floating’
23:51:14 – Rakso removes Cunning Wish from the game.
23:51:24 – Rakso moves Hurkyl’s Recall from limbo to Rakso’s hand.
23:51:32 – Rakso plays Hurkyl’s Recall.
23:51:37 – Mox Sapphire is tapped.
23:51:38 – Mox Diamond is tapped.
23:51:41 – Rakso says:’UUU floating’
23:51:43 – Spells played this turn now has 13 counters. (+2)
23:51:45 – Rakso plays Mox Sapphire.
23:51:45 – Rakso plays Mox Ruby.
23:51:46 – Rakso plays Mana Crypt.
23:51:46 – Rakso plays Mox Jet.
23:51:45 – Rakso plays Mox Pearl.
23:51:48 – Rakso plays Mox Diamond.
23:51:48 – Rakso moves Island from Rakso’s hand to Rakso’s graveyard.
23:51:50 – Spells played this turn now has 19 counters. (+6)
23:51:54 – VoXidian says:’k’
23:52:00 – Rakso says:’Using U’
23:52:01 – Rakso plays Brainstorm.
23:52:04 – Rakso drew 3 cards.
23:52:15 – Rakso moves a facedown card to Rakso’s library.
23:52:16 – Rakso moves a facedown card to Rakso’s library.
23:52:18 – Rakso plays Hurkyl’s Recall.
23:52:19 – Spells played this turn now has 21 counters. (+2)
23:52:19 – Mox Sapphire is tapped.
23:52:19 – Mox Ruby is tapped.
23:52:19 – Mana Crypt is tapped.
23:52:20 – Mox Jet is tapped.
23:52:20 – Mox Pearl is tapped.
23:52:21 – Mox Diamond is tapped.
23:52:23 – VoXidian says:’lol’
23:52:33 – VoXidian says:’it’s getting out of hand’
23:52:34 – Rakso says:’4UUU floating’
23:52:36 – Rakso plays Mox Sapphire.
23:52:37 – Rakso plays Mox Ruby.
23:52:37 – Rakso plays Mana Crypt.
23:52:38 – Rakso plays Mox Jet.
23:52:38 – Rakso plays Mox Pearl.
23:52:42 – Spells played this turn now has 26 counters. (+5)
23:52:48 – Rakso plays Mind’s Desire.
23:52:50 – Spells played this turn now has 27 counters. (+1)
23:52:54 – Rakso says:’U floating’
I think you know what happened from here. My opponent asked me to stop clowning around, so I eventually cast Ancestral Recall, then responded with Cunning Wish for Brain Freeze for ninety cards, decking him.
(VoXidian is Lars-Mikael Wiksten from Finland, who just graduated from high school and is planning to take Chemistry or Biochemistry at uni. He e-mailed just the day before about how to play Magic on IRC, and sure enough, caught me right the next day. My apologies for making him the punching bag, but there was really nothing he could do. He resolved his Ancestral Recall and won the counterwar to Misdirect mine and still lost because he had no clue he’d be up against an uncounterable card drawing spell.)
I think the thing speaks for itself.
Now, I said I had problems stalling, but there are so many obvious builds that are strong (as you saw) even with hardly any refinement.
The first obvious route is to go with a Tolarian Academy skeleton and overload on cheap mana artifacts. You saw what happens when those same artifacts are paired with the recently unrestricted Hurkyl’s Recall (and Rebuild even if it weren’t). The second is High Tide, which uses its namesake card and untap effects to produce more mana to cast more cheap cards to produce more mana, etc. (I tried it a couple of years ago when John Ormerod posted his build with a single Yawgmoth’s Will in it on Beyond Dominia, and had fun producing ten to twelve mana per Island, so it’s definitely fun). You need some way to set up Mind’s Desire (such as cheap draw) since you can’t just rely on topdecking all the right cards fast enough, but we know that’s hardly the difficult part.
There are many other possibilities. Yet another skeleton, for example, is Extended Trick, with Sapphire Medallions and Accumulated Knowledge. You just have to mix and match until you get the most stable combination, with speed not being that big a factor since you have an uncounterable engine that can go off in a single turn.
My log showed a mere mono blue version, and at the risk of only Blood Moon, you can add the rest of the tricks. Black gives you Duress, various tutors, Yawgmoth’s Will and Smother if needed; Red gives you Red Elemental Blast and Wheel of Fortune; Green gives you Fastbond, Sylvan Library, Crop Rotation and Regrowth; and White gives you a few possibles, like Abeyance/Orim’s Chant and Swords to Plowshares.
Here’s a draft multicolored version I was handed:
Neo-Academy 2003, Max Joseph a.k.a. Westerdale, test deck, from e-mail
4 Mind’s Desire
4 Hurkyl’s Recall
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Time Spiral
1 Frantic Search
1 Mystical Tutor
4 Force of Will
4 Sleight of Hand
2 Brain Freeze
1 Wheel of Fortune
There are so many issues to be ironed out such as the use of Brainstorm (and consequently, reshufflers such as fetch lands), Cunning Wish, Mox Diamond, Windfall, and a few other possibles. Max and I hope, though, that you use this list as a springboard that will lead to an eventual refined version, much like the original Academy and High Tide decks nevertheless still evolved after weeks of play.
The obvious question now is how to combat such brokenness.
Aggro decks, which are already stigmatized by having smaller creatures than aggro-control, don’t appear to have a prayer since their worst matchup just got even worse and eight Red Elemental Blasts are ineffectual, especially against nonblue setup spells.
Already pressed to sideboard wacky cards against Quirion Dryad and Psychatog, their only prayer seems to be to sideboard even wackier cards against Mind’s Desire combos such as Arcane Laboratory, Mana Maze, Pyrostatic Pillar, Spellshock, Meddling Mage, Null Chamber, and Chains of Mephistopheles – though this last doesn’t even effect Mind’s Desire itself. Another line of attack is to go back to mana disruption with Null Rod, Sphere of Resistance, Aura of Silence, Nether Void itself, or even wackier things like Contamination. (Blood Moon isn’t listed, but it’s obvious if everyone settles into multicolored.)
Aggro-control decks can at least try to race, and the blue-based decks will shift their counters to try to disrupt the setup cards instead (I can also picture Fish with Arcane Laboratory and Mishra’s Factory). The black-based decks – namely Tainted Mask-will probably be happier since their disruption isn’t counter-based, and a timely Duress or Unmask may buy all the time they need, barring the usual lucky topdecks.
Control is going to have a serious problem since it can’t kill quickly unless it uses Psychatog, and the tables in a battle of attrition are now overturned. Blue (and mostly blue) decks are going to be even worse hit since they can’t counter Mind’s Desire itself and have a lot of targets to try to hit if they shift to the setup cards. Basically, the combo player suddenly just needs mana, primarily.
“The Deck” is possibly the blue-based control deck best equipped to adapt, although that may not be saying much. With less counters to try for the setup cards, it can try tricks from a very small bag such as Cunning Wish for Stifle, Orim’s Chant, or even Gilded Light – though this last one doesn’t stop the opponent from setting up to win next turn.
Note, though, that your standard trick of Mind Twist isn’t ineffective, and Gorilla Shaman can still clean up. It’s just that even if you get away with Mind Twist, you still need to dispose of him quickly.
Other control decks face varying degrees of pain. Obviously, Deck Parfait and slow, permanent-based decks are in big trouble. Stax might get somewhere with Tangle Wire and Smokestack locks, but you realize that a lot of Mind’s Desire builds will pack Hurkyl’s Recall. Pox and Nether Void decks, though, should have it better since they attack both hand and mana.
You’ll observe a very nasty common denominator here – and that’s the fact that decks are forced to speed up. Consider why we don’t like things from unrestricted Black Vise to Illusions of Grandeur/Donate backed by Unrestricted Necropotence/Dark Ritual.
We could use a preemptive restriction right about now, like Stroke of Genius was. Consider that the first Mind’s Desire won’t dig very deep, but it becomes insane if it turns over a second Desire, or gets to play a big card draw spell for free to facilitate a second Desire.
Even if it were restricted, though, it’d still be there as some random”I win” card to set up in the midgame, and it can be tutored for like any other card. Somehow, I feel that a properly set up lone Mind’s Desire seems even more impossible to recover from than a properly set up Necropotence or Yawgmoth’s Will.
Of course, we know how to do it. Set aside Academy and Moxen, and focus on High Tide for I.5. Since there’s the obvious and obviously stupid policy of tying the two Banned/Restricted lists to each other, we may as well get some good out of it.
Don’t you really want to get some of that crack stashed in R&D?
My German compatriots have reported, for example, that they actually removed the Power Artifact/Grim Monolith combo from “The Shining” (combo build of”The Deck” with green) since Future Sight and Fastbond worked well enough and they could just use Zuran Orb and Yawgmoth’s Will to produce enough mana to win somehow. Their original option was to use Burning Wish to fetch Kaervek’s Torch, but now they have an even more uncounterable option, and having cast twenty spells right before winning is a breeze for the”The Shining.”
The only funny thing about it was the trouble in getting the card’s name right, since the MTGNews spoiler listed,”Tendrils of Anguish” and some people got the name confused with”Tendrils of Despair.” Some people also got”Tendrils of Anger” stuck in their heads, the most recent to e-mail me with the mistake being Anthony Alongi.
Tendrils of Agony isn’t for everyone, obviously, though it’s a simpler win option than Brain Freeze. Tendrils has a double-black mana casting cost, can’t be pitched to Force of Will and is dead until the very last second, and can’t be fetched using Cunning Wish.
Brain Freeze fits readily into any deck with blue and is easily kept in the sideboard for Cunning Wish. It does have the minor drawback of having problems with Gaea’s Blessing, which is used in many decks that use Oath of Druids. Note, however, that a Mind’s Desire deck can still overcome a Gaea’s Blessing trigger with intelligent use of the stack. When the first batch of Brain Freeze storms hits a Gaea’s Blessing, you have to stack another Brain Freeze on top of it, and then a third when the second Blessing triggers (they’re usually in pairs). When the third batch of Brain Freezes resolves and mills away the library, stack your Ancestral Recall on top of the Blessing trigger and win.
Does your head hurt yet?
Got to get some of that R&D crack…
At first glance, this looks like a glorified Mana Leak (though you can’t counter it with Force of Will, since it’ll always get at least one copy), and there aren’t that many big counterwars where you’ll need to suddenly counter everything on the stack with your last counter. Just keep the idea of a Storm counter handy, though you note that Cunning Wish for Stifle or Orim’s Chant also costs four mana.
Some younger players saw this and screamed,”Uncounterable Morphling killer!” That’s not very realistic, since a control player in control will attack before anything else, and he’ll probably be more conscious of playing a topdecked Mox now. You might have more luck with a deck with Quirion Dryad that plays cantrips before or during the attack.
The potential of Wing Shards, though, lies in its ability to mimic both Diabolic Edict and Waylay – the latter formerly the only possible anti-weenie swarm Cunning Wish target aside from Sandstorm and Starstorm. You should be able to set it up with a Brainstorm, for example, though not telegraphing it may be tougher. Incidentally, Deck Parfait might be able to use this if it can assemble the instants needed.
What I don’t like about Wing Shards, though, is that it only hits attacking creatures. Consider not being able to kill a Goblin Welder, Gorilla Shaman, or even Dwarven Blastminer that’s causing severe grief.
Reaping the Graves
I saw this and thought it’s possibly a better Bone Harvest in casual play, and a funny riposte to removal in Limited. I’ll let it leak that Reaping the Graves is Anthony Alongi‘s personal choice for best multiplayer Storm card, thinking that Syphon Soul will do more damage than Tendrils of Agony. Watch for his column next week.
(Speaking of other authors, I just have to drop a friendly rib for [author name="Abe Sargent"]Abe Sargent[/author]. I noticed that his Scourge column was already up, so I was wondering what he had to say about 5-Color. Bah, all I got was this cop-out:”The sheer number of combo ideas that this (Mind’s Desire) card has generated boggles my mind and I have to expect some of them to migrate to 5-Color.”
Oops, basic land… That’s not the same as a basic land type like Island or Swamp. Not being able to fetch duals, there’s really no point to this kids since by the time you can set up a good Storm, you don’t really need land in your hand.
Well, that’s it for this week. To recap, the obvious combo potential of Mind’s Desire is disturbing (well, now that I read the card right), and you have proof right in this article. It reminds you too much of Yawgmoth’s Bargain, Memory Jar, and especially Dream Halls, and you really want to get some of that crack.
I could be wrong and it may not be easy to consistently set up Mind’s Desire, or decks can disrupt all possible builds. Until that’s clear, though, you might all want to join me in calling out Aaron Forsythe, Mark Rosewater and Randy Buehler about another amendment to the Restricted List (and get Entomb and Earthcraft out of there while you’re at it). Heck, even restricted, the thing may prove a bit too random.
We’ve seen Black Summer, Combo Winter, and the attack of the mindless drones with Islands, Back to Basics, and four Fact or Fictions. Let’s not have an overly Stormy autumn, decided by who topdecks Mind’s Desire and who flips over the good cards.
Or, let’s hope I’m overreacting.
If all else fails, well, StarCityGames is still selling them for six bucks as of today…
Oscar Tan (e-mail: Rakso at StarCityGames.com)
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