Dazed and confused (Daze in Team America)

daze artLegacy as a format is extremely fast at times. There are decks that can kill you in the first two or three turns almost every game if left unchecked, and these decks are sometimes capable of killing in the first turn of the game, with a really good draw. Examples include various forms of Storm-based combo, Belcher, Oops All Spells, to name just a few. Storm combo can be really resilient, most of the decks play lots of discard spells in order to protect their combo, while Belcher and Oops All Spells are more all-in and generally goes for the kill even without protection. In a format like that, it’s no surprise that Force of Will is considered one of the format’s most important staples – while not everyone might play them, the fact that they do exist in the format will force players of these all-in combo decks to reconsider their deck choice, adapt to these strategies, or face losing to a Force of Will in the opponent’s opening hand from time to time. In short, Force of Will does a lot to keep the format somewhat fair. For reference, consider the first ever Modern Pro Tour, Pro Tour Philadelphia in 2011. The tournament was completely overrun by extremely fast, unfair combo decks, all unhindered since there was no Force of Will or anything quite like it in the format. In this fantastic episode of The Magic Show, several high profile players like Drew Levin and Gerry Thompson bemoan the format in general, and the Blazing Shoal Infect deck in particular. The video, in its hilarious entirety:

daze.hq

Force of Will aside, Daze is another counterspell that in many ways keep the format intact and fair. It’s not played in the same extent as Force of Will, and it’s in general a lot weaker, but in some situations a lot stronger. Daze is the epitome of a tempo counterspell, it trades a card and a land drop for a soft counter, and as such is very useful in decks that are able to utilize its strengths. It is, however, quite situational, and its power is based on several factors. This post will examine Daze primarily from a Team America (BUG Delver, or Sultai Delver for the really degenerate ones) standpoint.

Daze is only good if you’re ahead. Consider the following situation: You, playing Team America, are on the play and you open a hand of three lands, Tarmogoyf, Hymn to Tourach, Daze, True-Name Nemesis. It’s not the best possible hand in the deck, but a turn two Hymn to Tourach with Daze back-up is great against most decks of the format, and following up that with either a Tarmogoyf in case you have to Daze something, or a True-Name Nemesis if you don’t, should put you in a good spot for the game. You play a land and pass the turn. Your opponent opens by fetching an Underground Sea and casting a Deathrite Shaman. And you’re behind, no matter what you do. You can let the Deathrite Shaman resolve, but then your opponent might cast something like a Tarmogoyf with Daze insurance on his following turn, and you have no real out for that, or he might Abrupt Decay your threat and still have a mana open to cast a Ponder or a Brainstorm, or if he has a Daze, he might resolve a Liliana of the Veil. You can Daze the Deathrite Shaman, but then you have to pick up your only land, and since your hand lacks one-drops, it’s a huge tempo downfall. Consider the same situation, but you’re on the draw. He casts Deathrite Shaman on his first turn, you drop a land and say go, and he casts a Liliana of the Veil. You have to Daze, and now you’re at zero permanents, and your opponent will have access to four mana on his next turn.

Dazes power is very dependent on your pressure. The tempo strategy is in essence about overwhelming your opponent in the first few turns of the game. Use your spells, trade cards and land drops to get ahead on the number of creatures on board, and win before your opponent can stabilize. If you cast a powerful one-drop like Delver of Secrets, Daze is very good follow-up, even if you don’t have any lands in play, you have a 3/2 flier, who constitutes a threat to your opponent. However, unless you have pressure on the board, your opponent is free to play a longer game and ensure enough land drops in order to play around Daze (and by extension, Spell Pierce, which is a lot harder to do though). Decks like Canadian Threshold (RUG Delver, or… ugh, Temur Delver) are experts at punishing the opponent’s mana base in the early turns of the game with Stifle and Wasteland and that keeps Daze relevant for more turns in the match.

Daze is an awful top-deck. Force of Will does cost five mana or two cards, but it isn’t that bad to draw late-game. Consider any grindy match, where you and your opponent are both in topdeck mode, looking for threats or spells to draw into threats. The board is stabilized and you’re both at below 10 life. Drawing a Force of Will against an opponent with a stacked base of mana in play is alright, since Team America can also sometimes hard-cast Force of Will for 3UU, even if it’s rare. Drawing Daze, however, is really useless towards the end of a game, for obvious reasons. Though I’ve Daze’d game-winning Entreat the Angels a couple of times, it requires having enough pressure on the board to force your opponent into making a sub-optimal play.

With these reasons above making my point clear, I do have to also point out that Daze is by no means a bad card. It is, as stated, situational, like most other counterspells in the format. It is a complete necessity for the deck, and while Canadian Threshold often returns lands much easier to their hand due to their much lower mana curve, Team America has Deathrite Shaman to stay on par with the mana development despite Daze.

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1 Comment

  1. Grim Lavamancer

     /  October 3, 2014

    I like the psychological aspect Daze. Back in the day when I still played noncasuall formats I often found myself wondering whether I should drop my early spells the turn I could afford them or wait a turn and cast them in a more Daze-proff fashion. Just the knowledge that your opponent is playing Daze can slow down your game by a turn.

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