You CAN Play Type I #96: The Control Player’s Bible, Part IV.2 – History, 2003 (Part 2)

This year’s GenCon will be held on July 23-26 at the Indianapolis Convention Center, and the Tenth Anniversary celebration will feature a Type I Championship sponsored by Wizards. As such, I think it’s about time I discuss what The Deck will look like in a July environment… And discuss how stupid Mind’s Desire still makes the environment.

“The Deck” circa 2003

The mystery Saturday winner of Origins was one Jamie Schnitzius, a Richmond, Indiana player whose last sanctioned tournament was the 1997 Type I Nationals. He told me with all candor that he slugged it out on the first day, and armed with what he saw, forum exchanges and the Control Player’s Bible, heavily modified his deck for Saturday:

“The Deck”, James Schnitzius, Champion, Origins Type I (June 28, 2003, Saturday

Blue (22)

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Time Walk

3 Brainstorm

4 Cunning Wish

1 Fact or Fiction

1 Future Sight

2 Morphling

4 Mana Drain

4 Force of Will

1 Misdirection

Black (8)

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

1 Mind Twist

1 Skeletal Scrying

1 The Abyss

3 Duress

White (3)

1 Balance

2 Swords to Plowshares

Mana (27)

1 Black Lotus

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Pearl

1 Mox Ruby

1 Sol Ring

1 Library of Alexandria

1 Strip Mine

3 Wasteland

3 Polluted Delta

1 Flooded Strand

1 City of Brass

4 Underground Sea

3 Tundra

3 Volcanic Island

1 Island

Sideboard (15)

1 Flaming Gambit

2 Red Elemental Blast

4 Pyroblast

1 Blue Elemental Blast

1 Swords to Plowshares

1 Disenchant

1 Shattering Pulse

1 Ebony Charm

1 Hurkyl’s Recall

1 Skeletal Scrying

1 Diabolic Edict

A lot of people have been asking what my July list might look like, and I’ve been honestly replying that I have no idea. Jamie’s very intelligent example of metagaming, though, lets me conveniently explain all the accumulated tech over the last several months without breaking any confidences (including some of Jamie’s, even).

Remember, this was for a tournament in June, and our problem is July, when Gush leaves and Mind’s Desire and the other Storm cards come in.

Polluted Delta and Flooded Strand

Source: Mainly articulated by Paragons; also John Ormerod and Mikey Pustilnik

The Control Player’s Bible, Part IV.1 (November 21, 2002)

No cycle of cards has revolutionized Type I mana bases as much as the original dual lands and City of Brass. John Ormerod e-mailed to ask if the fetch lands meant the end of City of Brass, and Mikey Pustilnik was reported to have the same idea. Despite initial skepticism, they were proven to be right on the money (though only Mikey P can get away with running only six dual lands, two Islands and one City of Brass in 26 mana sources, as seen in Pro Tour: Venice).

Four or five fetches are now standard in all”The Deck” builds, and they forced a streamlining of colors from five to four, the usual casualties being Regrowth and Sylvan Library. Aside from color fixing, they lend a little strength against land destruction, give a subtle life boost by replacing the more painful Cities of Brass, and double the number of reshufflers to Brainstorm’s benefit.


Source: Paragons, particularly Steve O'Connell; also John Ormerod

Opening Up Onslaught, Part VI (November 7, 2002)

When Onslaught came out, John Ormerod e-mailed suggesting a basic land or two to hedge against nonbasic hosers. At the time, I dismissed the idea because the concern was Back to Basics, and a basic Mountain for Red Elemental Blast is cumbersome (and a Plains more so). Soon, however, it became evident that Forbidian had to incorporate red for spot removal, and this let it run Blood Moon, which wasn’t hit by Red Elemental Blast, among other things. If you lost the counter war, a basic Island for Blue Elemental Blast might not help anyway since you won’t be able to protect it. And, it was a while before Sligh regained popularity enough to justify the blue Blast.

Steve O'Connell, a.k.a. Zherbus, used the IslandCunning WishBlue Elemental Blast hedge against non-control decks that sideboard Blood Moon – a popular strategy now because it affects combo, control and aggro-control. The mana base is now standard, though the drop to twenty-six mana sources means you’ll have to go back up to twenty-seven slots if you want to fit two instead of the now standard one Island.

This is the equivalent of the now-obsolete Undiscovered Paradise for Red Elemental Blast against Back to Basics.

Shoreline Ranger

Source: Paragons, particularly myself

Sifting Through Scourge, Part I (May 21, 2003)

This little experiment didn’t turn out too well, thanks to Shoreline Ranger’s measly three power (that’s a six-turn kill, counting their own fetchlands). The notes are there, though, and it may prove useful in a specific build, a particular environment (against Blood Moon, for example), or even in another deck.

I note that fellow Paragon Joshua Reynolds scaled down to just one Ranger as a pitchable fifth fetch land, and got okay results.

Note that Twisted Abomination or even Eternal Dragon are stronger finishers, but are much weaker because they do not pitch to Force of Will early.

Cunning Wish

Source: Paragons, particularly Joshua Reynolds

The Control Player’s Bible, Part VI.1 (December 19, 2002)

If fetchlands revolutionized the way every Type I mana base ran, Cunning Wish revolutionized how every blue-based control deck played.

I once wrote lengthily on why the Wishes did not need to be restricted, and concluded that Cunning Wish was the most promising of the lot, albeit as a source of flexibility with the feel of Spite / Malice. This assumed that your Cunning Wish was mainly a placeholder for utility like Red Elemental Blast and Swords to Plowshares (something it still does to artificially boost counter or spot removal elements in Game 1).

Josh proved, however, that the assumption was sorely superficial. He pushed the first line of bombs against German Tools ‘n’ Tubbies: Buyback Shattering Pulse and Allay, plus Ebony Charm. This was rounded out by Skeletal Scrying, and you suddenly had a full-fledged, instant-speed blue tutor.

Thus, where we were first playtesting just one slot in place of the conditional Dismantling Blow, three or four Wishes are now standard.

The evolution shows that there’s still a lot of tech to be mined. Paragon Matt D’Avanzo, for example, went up to four Wishes and stuck Vampiric Tutor in the sideboard to get even more utility, especially after retrieving the first couple of targets (he got it from Neutral Ground’s Steve Sadin, but it’s been tried by a number of players). I note that against Roland and Oliver playing BangBus, I wanted to Cunning Wish into Gorilla Shaman after countering a couple of big draw cards.

On another note, I long since replaced Allay with a vanilla Disenchant. There’s utility in being able to hedge against both Blood Moon or Survival of the Fittest and an artifact (even Ankh of Mishra) with one card, but in addition, it’s also nice to Wish for something expendable early and then Shattering Pulse to clean up.

The latest tech is what I’ll call the”Schnitzius finish”: Flaming Gambit. It’s the Fireball slot a lot of players since 1997 always wanted to have. He e-mailed me to say that it was his MVP:”That card alone won me several games, including a key game against Smmenen [at Origins], and the winning game vs the Sui deck. 99.9% of people don’t see it coming, and when I Wish for it, nearly s**t their pants after they read it.”

With the metagame expanding come July, I don’t know if he’ll still have room in the board, though it might be cute against a player who resolves Necropotence or Sylvan Library. It might mean, though, that a midgame Cunning Wish will have to be countered, lest a surprise Schnitzius get flashed back then Wished for again. I’m talking about room, though, since a paranoid player might want a Stifle in the board just in case (I like Orim’s Chant, but that doesn’t hit Hunting Pack).

Starting off from the cited Control Player’s Bible installment, here’s a short list of Cunning Wish targets for you to memorize:

(This is a short list? – The Ferrett)


Source: Mainly articulated by Paragons; also John Ormerod and Mikey Pustilnik

Opening Up Onslaught, Part VI (November 7, 2002)

When Onslaught first came out, John Ormerod e-mailed to immediately suggest this, due to the built-in shuffling fetch lands could give. I thought that was a trick for Sylvan Library, since how would you justify cutting broken spell slots from”The Deck” to fit in multiples of a lowly cantrip? Obviously, however, JohnO was right on the money, and you have to examine how the equally”lowly” Impulse defined its era of Type II control, and how Brainstorm was amazing in Extended paired with Impulse, Thawing Glaciers or Merchant Scroll.

Four Brainstorms with at least seven to eight shufflers are now standard, giving”The Deck” amazing consistency and tightness (Brainstorm results in no card disadvantage and lets you reshuffle your two weakest or unplayable cards back into your library, and still cantrips to dig three cards down if you can’t wait). Fitting them in was a bitch until we heard Mikey P simply cut two mana slots, since you’re replacing them with cantrips anyway.

The increased blue spell count doesn’t hurt Force of Will, either. Multiple Brainstorms also weaken the strength of discard, perhaps a salute to the retired Sylvan Library.

Impulse, to be sure, is the manipulation spell of choice for redundant blue-based decks – which isn’t”The Deck.”


Source: Old tech; resurrected by Paragons, particularly Steve O'Connell

Over two years ago, Duress was the defining card of fellow Paragon JP”Polluted” Meyer’s”Dark Keeper.” It was also used by players who ran a lot of green instead of red like Neutral Ground’s Robb Williams and Norway’s Chris Flaaten. With the restriction of Fact or Fiction, however, Duress became weaker than it was in a control-dominated metagame. Duress was then seen in builds that ran Holistic Wisdom that ran heavy green and needed a specific count of sorceries.

Fast forward to 2003. Duress was seen in”Hulk Smash,” the Type I Psychatog JP evolved. As I understand it, though, Steve O'Connell a.k.a. Zherbus tried it with”The Deck” that had Future Sight, because it could be cast from the top of the library unlike reactive removal or counter spells. This wasn’t met with much fanfare – but amusingly enough, the Paragons list saw three separate e-mails on Duress on one day, from Stephen Menendian, Darren Di Battista, and myself. Then Jamie Schnitzius’s metagamed deck was posted, and it’s indubitable that the conditions are ripe for darkness once again.

Jamie e-mailed that Turn 1 Duress was extremely game-breaking for him in Origins. If you do a table like the one we did for Vampiric Tutor, you can gauge it for yourself:

You’ll notice the change readily: Even aggro decks now have key early Duress targets. In fact, some of these may slip past a Mana Drain, especially if you go second, and are tough to remove early (there’s also the random Black LotusBlood Moon play).

Furthermore, some decks have a lot of disruption, and you gain crucial breathing room by trading Duress for one of these. Note that counters are poor protection on your opponent’s first turn, and being able to Duress on your first turn takes some pressure off your counters. It also helps keep the opponent from choosing the time to fight over a spell he’s trying to force through.

You still have to note that after the early game, a Duress has to be timed and can be weaker than a counter. It also isn’t very good against an empty hand, but we have Brainstorm now to address the latter if you’re picky.

I’d note, finally, that the July metagame is far from certain. That only boosts the value of Duress’s free peek.

Two maindeck is probably a good number to begin with, possibly three if you really want to see it more in the opening hand. Do remember, though, that you won’t have all four colors of mana available on Turn 1, so take the mana base and the tertiary color support cards like Red Elemental Blast into account if you go Really Dark.

Finally, I wouldn’t get overly fixated on beating control for July. For example, Jamie’s Origins deck was so tight against its intended targets he had to sideboard Time Walk almost every time already. Against Steve Menendian’s Growing ‘Tog, for example, he went:

-1 Duress

-2 Cunning Wish

-1 Time Walk

-1 Mind Twist

-1 Ancestral Recall

+6 Red Elemental Blast

While his six Red Elemental Blasts (he ran more Pyroblasts to help Future Sight, but Misdirection proved a larger factor in retrospect) worked, remember that you don’t want to just roll over to Sligh come July, and you only have fifteen sideboard slots.

Future Sight

Source: Paragons, particularly Steven Holeyfield aka Nameless; also German”The Shining” players like Carsten Kötter, a.k.a. Mon, Goblin Chief and Stefan Iwasienko, a.k.a. Womprax

Documentation: (publicly available)
Is Gush > Ancestral Recall? (April 18, 2003)

In my Onslaught review, I opined that Future Sight was mainly for combos, since you could run into clumps of reactive cards or land in control. However, I kept an e-mail from Steven Holeyfield a.lk.a. Nameless, dated November 6, 2002:

I WILL break Future Sight! Me and my friend Josh… Anyways, me and him been trying out Future Sight instead of our Tome or Braingeyser. Welp, that card is dumb with the fetchland-mana base and all five Moxen. We’ve both been testing out 1, and from what we’ve noticed both playing each other, and against other random decks, it’s a card that commonly gives you a net gain of six or seven cards at a minimum over the course of the first one or two turns. Fetchlands help in this regard, of course, because you get to swap the top card and try for a better one.

The real killer here, though, has been the ability to abuse the crap out of Mystical Tutor and Vampiric Tutor. It turns them both into completely idiotically good cards. Instant speed tutors for one that you can use right away. Just astounding.

Future Sight has been described as a Jayemdae Tome with shades of Yawgmoth’s Will, but it was seriously tested by Paragons other than Steven primarily because it mimicked a big Draw X, but couldn’t be Misdirected.

(If you remember the Growing ‘Tog feature match, you’ll note that had Steve Menendian had one less Misdirection, the close games would have tilted in my favor. Unlike most Germans, the guy played four even in Origins, so that single card dictated card choices.)

I’m apparently in the minority along with some Neutral Ground Paragons in that I have issues with the card. Misdirection aside, I’m happy Mana Draining into X cards, unlike the slower buildup from Future Sight on lousy top of library cards. Moreover, the triple-colored mana cost means it’s slightly more difficult to protect early. Finally, if you force it through, the opponent might topdeck some way to remove it before you get anything, especially with all the sideboarded Red Elemental Blasts. Basically, my thinking was that it’s best used in the decks geared to abuse them, like the German”The Shining” builds and their Fastbonds.

All that said, yes, you will draw a mad amount of cards if Future Sight stays on the board.

With Growing ‘Tog weakened in July and Misdirection very possibly becoming less of a factor, I’d base my decision on how it’s worked for you without considering Misdirection. Again, I’m biased because I ended up pitching the damn card every time.

Note that Future Sight cannot be fetched by both Mystical Tutor and Merchant Scroll.

Skeletal Scrying

Source: Old tech

This is something that was looked at as soon as Fact or Fiction got restricted, but it got lost in the numbers crunch until Cunning Wish was printed. Although this is established as an amazing Cunning Wish target, it’s also very logical main deck against a deck with four Misdirections and one that beats down either in large doses or not at all. Steve O'Connell, a.k.a. Zherbus, has been the advocate of this strategy in the Paragons, arguing that you can just”cycle” it if it’s uncastable. (This is in addition to the one in the sideboard – take note!)

Again, if you feel that the number of Misdirections on the stack will go down come July, I don’t think you’ll need this main, especially not since I doubt you’ll need, want or be able to use both Scryings most games.

Braingeyser and Stroke of Genius

Source: Old tech

From the above, you might infer that these two bombs were being yanked against Growing ‘Tog. True enough, the trend is to use cheaper and cheaper cards (note Brainstorm, Red Elemental Blast, Swords to Plowshares and Duress seeing play in the same deck), and it can be annoying to see either Draw X in the opening hand. Heck, even before the last big metagame shift, you already had SquirrelCraft (Squirrel Nest + Earthcraft) running Accumulated Knowledge with the Intuitions it used for combo components, and the Draw Xs were annoying me more than I was getting Mana Drain + opponent’s Force of Will.

Metagame considerations aside, I don’t think you could do without at least one of them (or some newer equivalent). I could see yanking one from the main, though, given the Skeletal Scrying you Wish out.

I’d try keeping Braingeyser, considering I’ve rarely cast Stroke of Genius in the end-of-turn in years. Stroke, though, has the advantage of needing only one colored mana and being fetchable with Merchant Scroll.


Source: Old tech

Unless you fight too many counter wars, I think this is obsolete and is easily replaced with less conditional cards, first of all Brainstorm and Cunning Wish. Many decks have been packing less Misdirectable spells (from Duress to Accumulated Knowledge) and more permanents (all the way to Smokestack).

Fire / Ice

Source: Old tech

Pro: Great against Sligh and better than Swords to Plowshares against a number of creatureless decks, it pitches to Force and is fetched by Merchant Scroll. On a random note, it’s also extremely amusing against first-turn Phyrexian Negator.

Con: It can only tap fat (though it kills the supporting Goblin Welder) and Ophidians, not kill them.

Whether or not to give it back its slot depends on what you think about the July metagame.

The Abyss

Source: Old tech

Some people advocated cutting this in the face of Growing ‘Tog and relying solely on spot removal. I disagreed. First of all, it helps against the other decks you’ll see – especially more random ones in early rounds. Second, it still helps against Growing ‘Tog in particular if you consider that it’s your second line of defense. That is, if you stop the first wave, resolving an Abyss can slow the second, though you shouldn’t make the mistake of relying solely on it at that point.

Jamie said Origins bore out this viewpoint:”Like you, I definitely think Abyss has its place. Especially with the use of Duress. The casting of an Abyss isn’t so much of a gamble when you can Duress them first, and then proceed with The Abyss. Both games against Smmenen evolved around me resolving an Abyss after Duressing him to make sure my way was clear. Then he would occasionally try and gamble out two ‘Togs or the like, only to see me kill one of them, and allow the other to die to Abyss during his following upkeep. Late in Game 2, he actually went for the Naturalize, and I was so far ahead with counters and the like, and only a few turns from victory, I went ahead and let him resolve it.”

Come July, you’ll expect Stax, Rector, and whatever Storm-supported combos as the new decks. On the other hand, you’ll also see Sligh and some other creature decks, like aspirants to Growing ‘Tog’s niche.

I’m not really wary of”new” Storm-supported combos barring an excellent series of topdecks ending with Storm, and I wouldn’t mind having Abyss as an option against whatever creature decks come up. Note while it’s not so good against TnT (and Welders still get one activation), it still clears out Tainted Mask’s support creatures.

I could understand cutting it or substituting Moat, again depending on what you expect or how you play (how comfortable you’d be with just Wishes).

Gorilla Shaman

Source: Old tech

Some people have advocated cutting this for the June metagame and Growing ‘Tog, but I don’t recommend it for July. There are a number of decks from new Academy evolutions to TnT that have a lot of artifact mana, and you’d love to have Shaman against them. It’s not that great against Illusionary Mask, but it’s useful enough against Stax’s non-mana permanents if you hit midgame. Finally, Sligh will be back and it can hit Cursed Scroll or trade for 2/1s.


Source: Old tech

I’ll just note that with Gush restricted, the land destruction option with Gorilla Shaman should be kept in mind. I think one could also justify going up to twenty-seven mana sources to add the fourth Wasteland. This isn’t just for Library of Alexandria or to color screw an opponent, but buying a little time against a Mishra’s Workshop or Tolarian Academy-based deck can help you survive.

Dust Bowl, incidentally, is too slow against early Library of Alexandria, aggro decks, combo decks, aggro-control decks, and control decks that kill with Psychatog.


Source: Old tech

Along with other old things, some have voiced dissatisfaction with Morphling #2. There are alternatives worth mentioning. Steve O'Connell has been advocating Masticore as an Abyss that attacks. It’s great against weenies and blocks fat, but you really hate the upkeep in many matchups.

Another is Goblin Trenches, more than just a novelty that came from Neutral Ground in New York. It’s not pitchable and requires the sacrifice of land, but it’s difficult to deal with if it resolves, and helps against the Stax lock.

Renewed Faith and Dromar’s Charm

Source: Paragons, particularly Darren Di Battista, a.k.a. Azhrei, and myself

Opening Up Onslaught, Part VI (November 7, 2002)

Zuran Orb was one of those conditional cards you used less and less, so more flexible life gain was called for. Cunning Wish targets aside, the best replacement is Renewed Faith, which cycles when not needed. I prefer the option to pitch or hard cast as a counter over cycling, so I use Dromar’s Charm despite the three-colored mana cost. Another alternative is to maindeck Circle of Protection: Red over Zuran Orb, with or without Alter Reality.

Do you keep the lifegain slot or not? It depends on what you think of the July metagame, but remember that Sligh will definitely be there.

Incidentally, Zuran Orb + Balance is an ancient combo, but I haven’t missed it. Moreover, we’re running less mana slots and more fetch lands. Also note that”The Shining” combos Zuran Orb with Fastbond and Yawgmoth’s Will.

Well, that’s it for this week. If you’re planning to go to the Type I Grand Prix, do drop a line like some people who I won’t name yet have. Sadly, Stephen Menendian has pursued his Law studies in Oxford, I’m not sure if the other Paragons can make the drive, and I doubt the Dülmen crew can just fly over to Indianapolis.

As for me, I’m stuck here in a law library on the other side of the world, with a Law professor-boss-Supreme Court nominee who has to submit an article to an international law journal by next week. Just make me proud in Indianapolis.

Oscar Tan

E-mail: Rakso at StarCityGames.com

IRC: 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