Have you ever found yourself getting bored with Magic? I know I do on a nearly regular basis. I used to be able to renew my interest by building Revenge of 1997, my wacky five color, Vintage-legal, control deck which is a blast to play, but that eventually stopped doing the trick. Revenge was only a temporary solution. It was a fun deck that only had serious opponents. I needed something new. I needed something extreme. I knew that White Castle was going to be too hard to find, so I went for something four times as extreme as Vintage (Type 1): Type 4.
Type 4 is a relatively new format brought to us all by Paul Mastriano a few years back. The basic premise is simple: Infinite mana, one spell a turn (Rule of Law/Arcane Laboratory, whatever). There is much more to the format than meets the eye. At the recent SCG: Rochester, I was out to dinner with most of the Shooting Stars, Ted, and a few others, including one Zvi Mowshowitz. Kevin Cron and I described the format to him and, obviously, his first response was “Fireball, GG!”. We tried to explain the rest of it to him, but something shiny caught his eye, so we gave up.
In Type 4 you don’t bring your own deck to the table like a game of Constructed Magic. Instead one person brings one large (250-300+) stack of cards for everyone to play with. This makes the format very accessible, so long as someone takes the time and invests the energy into building a good stack. It takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it in the end. In my case, the stack is the following:
Bosh, Iron Golem
Door to Nothingness
Helm of Obedience
Obelisk of Undoing
Ring of Ma’Ruf
Sensei’s Divining Top
Shield of the Ages
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sword of Light and Shadow
Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang
That Which Was Taken
Tower of Eons
Tower of Fortunes
Avatar of Woe
Bane of the Living
Beacon of Unrest
Betrayal of Flesh
Bringer of the Black Dawn
Chainer, Dementia Master
Decree of Pain
Dregs of Sorrow
Infernal Spawn of Evil
Infernal Spawn of the Infernal Spawn of Evil
Ink-Eyes, Servant of One
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Myojin of Night’s Reach
Promise of Power
Real Good Looking Tutor
Seal of Doom
Visara the Dreadful
Volrath the Fallen
Word of Command
Arcanis the Omnipotent
Beacon of Tomorrows
Bringer of the Blue Dawn
Decree of Silence
Ertai, Wizard Adept
Fact or Fiction
Flash of Insight
Fold into Aether
Force of Will
Heed the Mists
Keiga, the Tide Star
Myojin of Seeing Winds
Reins of Power
Richard Garfield, Ph.D.
Sakashima the Impostor
Sway of the Stars
Decree of the Creator
Sol’kanar the Swamp King
All Suns’ Dawn
Arashi, the Sky Asunder
Child of Gaea
Crush of Wurms
Myojin of Life’s Web
Tooth and Nail
Silvos, Rogue Elemental
Timmy, Power Gamer
Beacon of Destruction
Bash to Bits
Blast from the Past
Bringer of the Red Dawn
Decree of Annihilation
Grab the Reins
Homura, Human Ascendant
Jiwari, the Earth Aflame
Kamahl, Pit Fighter
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
Rain of Rust
Through the Breach
Yet Another Aether Vortex
Beacon of Immortality
Bringer of the White Dawn
Jareth, Leonine Titan
Konda, Lord of Eiganjo
March of Souls
Myojin of Cleansing Fire
Once More with Feeling
Opal-Eye, Konda’s Yojimbo
Pulse of the Fields
Ray of Distortion
Seal of Cleansing
Swords to Plowshares
Wrath of God
It’s missing some cards and I have what may seem to be a few odd choices, but I’ll get to those later this week.
The original way I learned how to play Type 4, which was at Origins ’03, was that someone’s stack (in that case, Kevin’s) would be brought out and then Rochester drafted. In a Rochester style draft, the players sit around a table like they would in a Booster draft, only instead of players taking cards from packs they pass to each other there is one common “pack” that you draft from, which is laid out on the table for everyone to see.
The draft begins with the first player taking a card then, to the left, the next player takes a card, and so on and so forth, until you get to the player sitting to the right of the person that got first pick. That person instead takes two cards, and then the pick order goes to the right until the first-pick-guy takes the last card out of the pack. This process is repeated until the entire stack, or however many you decide to play with, is divvied out amongst the players. Since the format gives players infinite mana to work with, lands are unnecessary for deck construction. Instead, each player just shuffles up and you’re ready to go!
In Binghamton, the way we begin is by having each player roll a D20. If two players are tied for the highest roll, the next highest roll plays first. The starting hand size varies depending on which group of people are playing in the game. A starting hand of seven cards is just way to much for such a powerful format. Instead we prefer to start with either three or four card hands.
When it comes to priority, things can get very sticky in multiplayer. The way I found best to deal with it is to have priority go to the left. For example:
Seat 1: Rob,
Seat 2: Jacques,
Seat 3: Paul,
Seat 4: Tom,
Seat 5: Carl.
At the end of Paul’s turn, Tom casts Fact or Fiction. Carl has no response, Rob has no response, Jacques casts Terminate on Rob’s Nicol Bolas. Paul casts Deflection on the Terminate. Tom has no response, Carl has no response, then Rob casts Time Stop. Jacques has no response, nor does Paul or Tom. Carl casts Absorb targeting Rob’s Time Stop. Everyone’s played a spell and doesn’t have any responses in the form of Cycling or using creatures abilities, so the stack begins to resolve: Carl’s Absorb resolves, countering Time Stop and gains him three life. Paul’s Deflection resolves and changes the Terminate’s target to Carl’s very large Cognivore. Jacques now-Deflected Terminate resolves, killing Carl’s Cognivore and, finally, Tom’s Fact or Fiction resolves.
Sounds fun, huh?
I hope this has whetted your appetite for more Type 4 awesome sauce (wow, that hasn’t been in one of my articles for a really long time. I’m slipping in my pre-fall semester state). Wednesday I’ll go over the stack, the first picks, the crap, and the crap that is actually pretty darn good.
You may be asking, “What is Tolarian Scrubbery?” or maybe “For that matter, what is Real Good Looking Tutor?”. These are some custom cards made especially for Type 4 brought to you by the members of Team Meandeck, Paul Mastriano (The Creator), and myself.
Decree of the Creator – 3UBR
Sorcery – Arcane Plains
Target player may play up to three additional spells until the end of turn.
When you cycle Decree of the Creator, you may play an additional spell until the end of turn.
You may play up to two spells each turn.
Whenever you have no cards in hand sacrifice Tolarian Scrubbery
Real Good Looking Tutor – B
As an additional cost to play Real Good Looking Tutor (RGLT), compliment target opponent.
Playing Real Good Looking Tutor does not count towards your spell limit for the turn.
Search your library for a card, reveal it, and then put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
Protoplasmic Conversion – 8UB
Permanently exchange places with target player.
(Switch hands, graveyards and libraries with target player, then exchange control and ownership of all permanents you and the target opponent control.)
(My printed version of the card doesn’t switch the players’ life totals, but it has since been errataed to do so)
Decree of the Creator has gotten a few funny looks when it comes to the subtype “Arcane Plains”. The Arcane part is to be able to Splice spells (obviously) and the Plains allows it to be searched out with Eternal Dragon! Yeah, I know these aren’t really useful in “normal” games of Magic, but this is how much I care.
(space for how much I care)
Now that you’ve seen my list, it’s probably best to explain some of what is in there and why, so I will. GOSH! (Sorry, I was watching Napoleon Dynamite last night)
Having countermagic in your stack is very important to help balance out the incredible bombs like Yawgmoth’s Agenda, Memnarch, or the like, you know, cards that pretty much “Win the prize” when they’re played. Without these the format degenerates into a “Who gets their huge bomb first?” Sort of like Type 1.
I keed, I keed – in Type 4 games actually go beyond the first two turns.
Vanilla countermagic like the old standby, Counterspell, are all well and good, but you are going to want much more out of your spells than “Counter target spell”.
Card Advantage Counters
Desertion and Spelljack:
These two are very unique in that they not only deny your opponent the card, but the tables are turned and you now can throw their big bad nasty spell right back at them! It is debatable which is better, but I prefer Desertion because it doesn’t waste your spell for the turn like Spelljack requires to play what you steal. Desertion is going to hit cards such as Memnarch, Chainer, Dementia Master, Bosh, Iron Golem, or Siege-Gang Commander and let you use them immediately, as opposed to waiting until your turn to unleash them on your opponents – if you even want to play it that turn. Regardless, both spells are incredible as they can still counter anything and still have those awesome extra effects.
Forbid, Dismiss, Decree of Silence, Exclude, Overwhelming Intellect, and Fervent Denial:
These are important in that they, well, generate card advantage (duh!). Fervent Denial is highly sought after, not only because of its reusability, but with it in the graveyard other players are forced to play around it, giving you a very subtle but solid control over the game. Decree of Silence is like Dismiss, only you may use it to counter a spell without using up your spell for the turn (via cycling).
Forbid isn’t as highly valued as Fervent Denial, but they are very similar despite Forbid’s inherent card disadvantage when used with Buyback which can easily be offset by a good selection of card drawing spells, Genesis, or Eternal Dragon. Once you’ve cast it and bought it back, again, the other players know there is a counter out they have to play around it accordingly.
Exclude and Overwhelming Intellect are very narrow in that they can only counter creature spells. Keep in mind that some of the most powerful spells in the stack are creatures: Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Bosh, Iron Golem, Chainer, Dementia Master, Siege-Gang Commander, and more. Exclude also can be a very unexpected counter for an opposing Mystic Snake. As for Overwhelming Intellect… well, it’s Exclude on crack. The average casting cost for a creature in Type 4 is extremely high, so Overwhelming Intellect will net you an insane amount of card advantage – even more than highly sought after card drawing spells such as Opportunity or even Tower of Fortunes.
Another counter that very rarely generates card advantage is Minamo’s Meddling. It won’t always X for 1, but it is very popular if only for the fact that it reveals a player’s hand; something the rest of the table will appreciate greatly. Splicing onto Arcane happens more often than you might think, and Minamo’s Meddling has crippled many an aspiring Arcane abuser.
Counters with secondary roles
Arcane Denial, Vex, Fold into Aether:
These are the political counterspells. As a matter of fact, Arcane Denial is one of my favorite counters in the stack. People are generally not very hurt when you’re letting them draw two cards, even if their bomb spell was countered. Vex is similar, but you aren’t able to draw a card off it which is one of my favorite aspects of Arcane Denial. Fold into Aether doesn’t usually put a creature into play, and when it does, it brings out something like an Elder Dragon Legend like Nicol Bolas or some generic fatty. The times where it brings out a Bosh, Iron Golem or Memnarch are the times that the victim of the counter will be much happier than the guy that drew cards off of Arcane Denial. Using Fold into Aether to stop a Bosh or Siege-Gang Commander, only to have that player plop out a Chainer is very amusing… well, if you’re the player dropping the Chainer.
Dissipate, Assert Authority, Ertai’s Meddling, and Time Stop:
These help stop recursion, the bane of most countermagic, and at the same time open up the possibility of letting you access that spell via Ring of Ma’Ruf! Ertai’s Meddling and Time Stop are unique in that they are the only two spells in the stack that can stop the uncounterable bombs like Obliterate and Urza’s Rage. Time Stop is also the only card (besides Stifle) that can stop a cycled Decree of Silence from countering something. Something I remember from when Champions of Kamigawa was coming out is that Stephen Menendian was really excited about Time Stop because of what it could deal with.
Mystic Snake, Voidmage Apprentice, Voidmage Prodigy, Ertai, Wizard Adept:
They’re tricky, especially the Voidmages and Willbender. Of all of these, Willbender is probably my favorite. His ability just hits so many things that any morph you have presents the threat of a Willbender, so people tend to let you be when it comes to targeted removal.
Targeted and global removal are just as important to a successful Type 4 stack as the countermagic. Control decks throughout the history of Magic have struggled to achieve the proper balance of countermagic and removal to be a success, and Type 4 is no different. Countermagic gives you a say about what’s going on in a game, a very important thing to have, but removal makes you far more popular in that you will be able to stop that Future Sight or Yawgmoth’s Agenda that slipped past everyone’s counter wall.
Artifact and Enchantment Removal
Disenchant variants (Dismantling Blow, Naturalize, Orim’s Thunder, Seal of Cleansing, Terashi’s Grasp, etc):
There aren’t enough Disenchant effects to not be forced to use vanilla ones such as the random Naturalize. At least it’s foil (a strong selling point for anything to make the stack)
Being a Sorcery is frowned upon characteristic in Type 4, but they’re necessary – especially when it comes to the Wrath effects. Terashi’s Grasp and Seal of Cleansing are slow, but the Grasp has life gain attached to it (something very important to have access to) and Seal of Cleansing has the “Everyone knows about me, so I better leave him alone” thing going for it.
Aura Mutation isn’t in the stack because the Enchantment targets generally don’t cost enough to warrant including it where Artifact Mutation is. If you feel you must add more enchantment removal, Aura Blast is probably your best bet, and Smash is very solid if you need more Artifact removal.
Targeted Creature Removal
There is a lot of this in the stack. The balance of creatures to removal is a very important one to maintain. It can be tough to keep a stack from becoming too beatdown-ish or too combo-ish, but it can be done. I think I’ve achieved that balance for now, though. By playing too many mass removal spells (Wrath of God, Decree of Pain, Jokulhaups, etc) you make a beat down strategy impossible to implement.
Enter spot removal.
It is debatable what the best removal card is. Swords to Plowshares is definitely superior to Terminate as its effect of removing a creature from the game is very useful against an opponent relying on graveyard recursion, especially the control decks with very few creatures to begin with. It also has the added on bonus of dealing with Darksteel Colossus. Second Thoughts and Exile are similar in that they remove attacking creatures from the game, but there are times where Exile’s life gain will be far more important than the extra card from Second Thoughts, so it’s not fair to say that Second Thoughts is the “better” card.
Annihilate is very solid in that it cantrips, but the inability to target Black creatures has come up from time to time, as has Exile’s non-White limitation (okay, maybe Second Thoughts is better than Exile), but the card advantage it gives is second only to Dregs of Sorrow and Decree of Pain.
There is another category of targeted removal; that of the “utility” variety (cards with multiple functions). My favorites are Betrayal of Flesh, Fissure, and Spite/Malice. Betrayal of Flesh is amazing if you happen to pick up a bomb creatures, especially Bosh, and is indiscriminate in what it destroys. Fissure also doesn’t care what it’s killing and doesn’t let it regenerate, but it can also destroy a land like Winding Canyons, Volrath’s Stronghold, or even the dreaded Tolarian Scrubbery). The one that is most highly valued is easily Spite/Malice. The only things it doesn’t deal with are lands and Black creatures. For the rest turn to Who/What/When/Where/Why from Unhinged.
I know it’s crazy, but this is only the beginning! In my next two articles I’ll be describing the roles of even more cards plus a list of suggestions for how to draft a Type 4 stack and some sample draft strategies. I hope you enjoy it as much as you enjoyed this one (assuming that you even enjoyed this one, which I am).