Control in the new age

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By now, we all know how completely bonkers Treasure Cruise is. In the King of Eternal tournament here two weekends ago, six of digthroughtime.fullthe eight decks in the T8 featured it, if I recall correctly – I will be doing an analysis of the T8 in question once it’s posted online. But what about the other Delve card that got hype before the release of Khans of Tarkir, Dig Through Time? It has seen some play in Delver decks as well, as a random one-of. The selection of card it provides is obviously excellent, and the Instant speed of it is great as well, the issue is that it will always cost double-blue meaning that these powerful Delver decks will rarely be able to cast a Dig Through Time in its own turn and chain it into a few other spells, like the same decks do with Treasure Cruise. It’s likely that the little brother of the two Delve spells is better in the aggro Delver of Secrets decks.

However, Delver of Secrets based aggro is far from the only decks that could utilize these spells – I give you Gold Digger:

Link to the deck on TappedOut.net.

1 Academy Ruins
1 Arid Mesa
4 Flooded Strand
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Tundra
2 Volcanic Island
3 Island
1 Plains
1 Mountain

3 Stoneforge Mystic

4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
2 Preordain
4 Force of Will
4 Dig Through Time
3 Counterspell
2 Treasure Cruise
2 Misdirection
2 Pyroblast

2 Engineered Explosives
1 Batterskull
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Granted, the deck is very much in testing phase and the brewing is very much alive in this thread on The Source. The Stoneforge Mystic isn’t quite standard, but I like how it shores up Burn, which otherwise seems like just about the only rough match-up the deck has. I’ve only played it for a couple of spins around Cockatrice, but my initial reaction is that I am very impressed. The two maindeck Pyroblast might look like a joke, but it’s a good Miracles tech. The Dig Through Time set gives the deck incredible card selection, much better than what I experienced when I was trying out Miracles.

Take it for a spin, seriously. It’s the real deal.

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Cruise Control

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Having only played a couple of paper events with the card in question, but after a few dozen games against other Delver decks on Cockatrice, here’s the blunt conclusion: Race to the finish of casting and resolving the first Treasure Cruise, and then it’s highly likely that you win the game. It’s that simple, and the card is that good.

Delver mirrors were always swingy affairs and quite unpredictable. Sometimes, all the effective removals in both decks kept Delver of Secrets and friends off the board, and the game turned into a stall-fest. Sometimes someone draws a hand full of Stifles and Wastelands and the opponent just can’t cast any spells. Sometimes, someone draws two Delver of Secrets who flips early enough to close out the game while the opponent is desperately digging for removal. However, getting to six or seven cards in the graveyard and then resolving Treasure Cruise is another dimension to the Delver mirror, and one that should never be underestimated.

This means that several cards have now effectively increased in value, which is what I wanted to talk about today.

pyroblast.hqPyroblast and Red Elemental Blast is even more important in red Delver sideboards these days. Not only does it hard-counter opposing Treasure Cruises, it also destroys Delver of Secrets, as usual. Pyroblast remains the most useful of the two, since it’s strange wording means you could in a pinch target a land in order to get that last card for a fully-powered Treasure Cruise. It’s a very narrow situation, it’s probably almost always better to cast Treasure Cruise for 1U or 2U instead of wasting a red blast, but you never know. It is more versatile than Red Elemental Blast in any case. They’re both huge selling points for UWR and UR Delver decks.

dimircharm.hqDimir Charm is steadily gaining in value in my books. I used it in paper for the first time just last weekend. There was a time when I tried to play a BUG midrange-type deck, think Next-Level Threshold but with Abrupt Decay over Lightning Bolt. Tarmogoyf, Jace, Brainstorm, Force of Will, the lot. I also played two Dimir Charm and a full set of Portent over Ponder. The idea was to utilize all three modes of Dimir Charm effectively, and control the topdecks of the opponent. It didn’t work out, and even if I’ve tried Dimir Charm in several different shells, it has never worked out. It was always a worse Abrupt Decay with a dream tacked on to it. There were a few decks, like Sneak and Show, where it was awesome to have extra countermagic for their Show and Tell, but since it can’t hit Sneak Attack, having more Spell Pierces was better most of the time. Nowadays, with Treasure Cruise rising in popularity, I think Dimir Charm is a lot more relevant in BUG Delver and similar builds. 1-2 in the maindeck feels correct, though there’s testing to be done.

envelop.hqAnother elegant counterspell is Judgment’s Envelop. Simple, one-mana, but narrow. It’s been played as a sideboard card on rare occasions, since it can’t be played around like Spell Pierce or Daze. Perhaps, if more decks other than Delver builds adapt Treasure Cruise, Envelop will become more relevant too? These are but a few examples, there are a lot more cards that become more powerful if Treasure Cruise (and Dig Through Time) becomes more popular – Rest in Peace, Deathrite Shaman, Relic of Progenitus to name just a few.

How are you handling Treasure Cruise? Are you giving in to the dark side and playing it yourself? Are you upping the number of graveyard hosers in your sideboard? Leave a comment!

Hidden in plain sight

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dimircharm.hqA sleeper card that I’ve been working with in Legacy is Dimir Charm. Everybody likes Charms, and Dimir Charm is one of those rare exceptions of a Charm that is in great colours for the format and has three quite relevant modes. Killing most non-Tarmogoyf creatures in the format is perhaps the most flexible of the three, but countering spells like Show and Tell, Burning Wish, Entreat the Angels or Time Spiral is always nice. Lastly, it has for some time been my dream to present lethal on the board, and Dimir Charm my opponent into topdecking a land for the next turn, for a win-more feeling of goodliness.

However, with the advent of Treasure Cruise in the format, Dimir Charm seems to be rising in popularity, and many Team America pilots are trying one or two in the maindeck. I, for one, welcome our new Delve overlords, but can’t wait to counter a Treasure Cruise with Dimir Charm. I was already playing a Disfigure or a Dismember as a fifth removal in Team America, but Dimir Charm is obviously a lot more flexible, if more expensive and harder to cast.

Give it a whirl, it might be just what your deck is looking for!

The Superior Cruise

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I’ve discussed this card quite a bit lately, but that just goes to show how blown away I am by it. Hopefully, this’ll be the very last post on the card for a while, at least until I’ve been able to play with it in a few tournaments, and not just playtesting sessions. Deciding the first twentyfour or so cards in my Legacy decks has been very easy lately, even more-so than before. They usually go something like this:

4 Delver of Secrets
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
4 Treasure Cruise

But then – what to fill up the rest of the deck with? Do I want to go straight UR for a stable mana-base and quick clocks? Do I want to go RUG for disruption and Tarmogoyf? Do I want to go BUG for Abrupt Decay and Deathrite Shaman? I’ve even played around with old DeathBlade lists, but haven’t figured out the manabase just yet, it’s still pretty much just as bad as before, although Treasure Cruise can take advantage of your lands getting Wastelanded. So which is really the best Treasure Cruise deck in an open metagame?

monasteryswiftspear.fullUR Delver – Bob Huang of Team America fame has already explored this deck and took it all the way in a StarCityGames Open a few weeks ago, which I wrote about in “The hidden gem of Khans“. It is obviously a very powerful deck – going straight UR means a stable mana-base, and even though you lack green for Tarmogoyf, the deck has very potent threats in Monastery Swiftspear and Young Pyromancer. However, the deck has few ways of interacting with the opponent sans the 8 free counterspells and a suite of burn spells for your opponent’s creatures, meaning that the UR build Huang took to first place will suffer against unfair decks, which he himself admits in his article about the tournament. As Swedish metagames often are combo-tastic, straight UR Delver is not an option for me. It might be for others, if they play in fair metagames.

Patriot (UWR Delver) Example list on TappedOut.net. Adding white to the mix grants access to more and better spot removal i Swords to Plowshares, and also gives the deck Stoneforge Mystic to win the long games and generate virtual card advantage. The deck will not resolve Treasure Cruise as early as UR Delver, since it has fewer free spells, though I suppose a cheeky pilot could try to squeeze in a few Gitaxian Probe (horrifying pun unintended). The deck’s manabase is more unstable than UR’s, but the deck itself is arguably more stable. The list in the link above is what I’m toying around with right now, the deck seems well-suited to take on other Delver variants, but is weaker than the next deck against Miracles and unfair decks. A big upside compared to the next deck, however, is that Patriot is unaffected by common graveyard hate, like Rest in Peace. Sideboarding out a couple of Treasure Cruise is a viable strategy if it means the opponent will be sitting on dead cards for the rest of the match.

deathriteshaman.hqTeam America (BUG Delver)Example list on TappedOut.net. Delving into black and green grants access to the best creature in the format, the one-mana planeswalker Deathrite Shaman, and also Tarmogoyf which is sometimes strictly worse, but almost always a lot faster and more mana-efficient than Stoneforge Mystic and its likes. The same colours also grant the deck Abrupt Decay, which not only answers Rest in Peace, it also kills most of the format’s creatures as well as other problematic permanents like Counterbalance. Especially the latter is a huge wrench in the machinery for the aforementioned Delver lists. However, cutting red means no red blasts in the sideboard, which is a huge downside, and it also means not playing Lightning Bolts and other cards for quickly finishing off an opponent at low life totals. I can’t recall the number of games I’ve lost because I couldn’t keep a threat on the table against Miracles and similar opponents, with them at single-digit life. It’s very frustrating, but a reality against these decks. Team America has the best match-up against the unfair decks, however, out of these candidates, which might make it a consideration for some.

Canadian Threshold (RUG Delver)Example list on TappedOut.net. Last up is the old faithful Canadian Threshold, these days with zero cards with the eponymous ability. Thought it saddens me to say so, I think the RUG colours will be the ones that will have the hardest to keep up in the new metagame, should Treasure Cruise be the real thing. It does have some things going for it – Tarmogoyf is just as huge and fast, Lightning Bolt is great utility and the access to both red blasts and silver bullets like Ancient Grudge in the sideboard should not be underestimated. Still, the old Nimble Mongoose is obviously incompatible with Treasure Cruise, which means the deck loses one of its biggest selling points, should you want to play the full set of Treasure Cruise. I don’t think the list linked above is anywhere near optimal, but I think it’s a decent skeleton. Young Pyromancer is the new threat to go for, and though it does carry some resilience, and it plays better with the reactive spells of the deck then Monastery Swiftspear, for example.

 

My conclusion is that in a fair metagame UR Delver or Patriot is the superior choice, with the former being a bit faster but less resistant than the latter. In an unfair metagame, however, I’d much rather be on Team America, as long as there’s no Burn decks around.

Thoughtseizing opportunity in Team America

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In the latest episode of Everyday Eternal, a Magic podcast created by some prominent members from The Source, the hosts discuss the obviously bonkers Treasure Cruise, and its impact on the format, what shells are better at supporting it, and so on. Exactly which shell is the best, only time will tell, but the hosts also talked in some length about one of my favourite cards of all time: Hymn to Tourach. Specifically, they stated how it’s not good in the format any longer.

hymntotourach3.hqHymn to Tourach has been a format staple at times, which is no wonder. In essence, the card is extremely broken as it is. Forcing the opponent to discard two cards at random for only two mana is very powerful, but it is perhaps less powerful now than before. There are a few things that hinders Hymn to Tourach in its effectiveness. First of all, it’s slow compared to other single-mana discard spells, and the double-black is often quite awkward in Legacy. Secondly, it’s a really terrible top-deck, compared to re-active spells. This is an issue with all discard and one of the reasons why Sneak and Show is often such a bad match-up – in fact, it’s probably one of the worst combo match-ups Team America has, unless you count Elves and even then, you’ll more often lose to Elves through them grinding you down with card advantage than their pure combo finishes. Hymn to Tourach and other discard spells are by definition pro-active spells, and therefore don’t protect against a deck topdecking threats, like a late Force of Will would.

Hymn to Tourach does have some saving graces, even to this day. It’s just awesome against most fair decks, especially those that don’t have any natural card advantage. Examples include some difficult match-ups like Death and Taxes, or Merfolk. Another very neat quality about Hymn to Tourach is that it creates card advantage in decks that would normally not have access to these things – albeit technically through forcing card disadvantage upon the opponent.

We live in a new age of Legacy, some would argue. Treasure Cruise and, to a lesser extent Dig Through Time, have already put a dent in the format, and if they do become the staples that some of the doomsayers would claim, without getting banned like other doomsayers cries for, Hymn to Tourach will indeed become a much worse card. If the opponent can easily recoup in the mid-game by resolving a spell for a single blue mana, your investment of double-black and a card seems much less satisfying.

thoughtseize.hqThis is perhaps the main reason why many Team America pilots are looking at Thoughtseize instead. Thoughtseize has a number of upsides compared to Hymn to Tourach, most notably the lower casting cost, and also the fact that you will always take your opponent’s most dangerous card rather than just two cards at random – i.e. you will be able to nab that Treasure Cruise before your opponent resolves it. The lower mana-cost helps the tempo strategy of Team America, since you will be able to resolve more spells in the first couple of turns even if you start without a Deathrite Shaman, and it also helps sewing together the manabase a bit better, since now the only double-black card viable in the deck is Liliana of the Veil.

It should be stated that Thoughtseize is easily at its highest peak of power against the non-redundant combo decks of the format, ANT for example, and at its lowest against fair, redundant, creature-based decks – any type of aggro, really. These aren’t that common in today’s metagame, however. It should also be noted that Hymn to Tourach is a real bomb against Burn, which has with the introduction of Eidolon of the Great Revel become something of a bogeyman in the format – able to take down even big tournaments with wide metagames. Incidentally, it’s easily one of the worst match-ups for Team America, and while Thoughtseize isn’t really a dead card, since you can Thoughtseize away dangerous Price of Progresses or similar cards with a high damage output, it’s far from Hymn to Tourach, especially since most burn decks are mono-red and therefore have no way of recovering the card disadvantage from the discard. “Resolve two Hymn to Tourachs as soon as possible and at all costs” was pretty much my plan against the deck before.

What do you think of Hymn to Tourach vs. Thoughtseize today? Leave a comment!

The hidden gem of Khans

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The two cards that Legacy folks discussed most during the Khans of Tarkir spoiler season were arguably Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, and after a couple of weeks of the format being legal, both have had at least some success. It might be because it’s the brand new thing and everyone wants to try them out, or it might be because these cards are genuinely good. I for one welcome our new Delve overlords, and I’m excited to see brews of the coming weeks.

Bob Huang, of Team Ameica fame, took a deck featuring 4 Treasure Cruise to the StarCityGames Open tournament in New Jersey and came home with the trophy, amassing an impressive 13-1-2 record over the weekend with his deck. This time, Huang did not play Team America, however, he played UR Delver.

monasteryswiftspear.fullAside the 4 Treasure Cruises, Hunag’s deck contained another playset of a brand new Khans of Tarkir card – Monastery Swiftspear. I have to say I didn’t even notice it during the spoiler season, I thought Prowess was an underwhelming ability, but concluded that it’d be crazy if you had three or four creatures with it in play in limited, but otherwise the whole card feels a bit “meh”. On the surface, Monastery Swiftspear is a better Goblin Guide, but with a worse typing, but in reality, she did a lot of work for the deck. Huang himself writes in his article about the deck:

“People asked a lot of questions about Monastery Swiftspear (I call her Taylor Swiftspear), and she definitely did some work in this deck. When she’s on the battlefield each cantrip essentially deals 1 damage, and your Lightning Bolts can potentially do 4 damage. Treasure Cruise is also pivotal as it helps to fuel her back up. She was regularly a 3/4 and she even hit 5/6 once or twice”

I’m not one to argue, and I think it’s fantastic that a red uncommon creature from a new set makes a splash in the metagame. These decks already had Young Pyromancer to play with, and now they’ve got Monastery Swiftspear too. In my post “A euology for an old friend?“, I speculated that Treasure Cruise and friends means the final nail in the coffin for old Nimble Mongoose, but now it seems even Tarmogoyf is leading an even more dangerous life in the format than before. That said, with the reprint of the Onslaught fetchland and the lowered need for €100 rares, Legacy is perhaps cheaper to get into now than it’s been in quite some time!

Time will tell if the new breed of UR Delver will survive the Khans Legacy metagame. According to Huang himself, the deck had a much harder time against unfair combo decks than fair decks. Since the reactive soft counter of choice for most tempo decks in the format, Spell Pierce, is such a non-bo with Monastery Swiftspear, he elected not to play any of them even in the sideboard. What do you think of Huang’s list? What about Monastery Swiftspear? Leave a comment!

Khans follow-up

The first StarCityGames Open with Khans of Tarkir legal was played yesterday, and as is evident from the Top 8 – Treasure Cruise treasurecruise.fullhas had at least some appearance in the tournament, with six copies in the T8, along with a singleton Dig Through Time in another BUG Delver deck.

Apparently, the numbers are still a bit up for debate – the UR Delver deck played the full set, as did Karsten Cotter in his builds of BUG Delver in his article, though those lists are obviously not proven. The BUG Delver list from the SCG T8 that did play them played only two. I’d say the middle ground, three-of Treasure Cruise, is the way to go, and Stuart and Stuart of Legacy Breakfast argues the same thing in their Khans of Tarkir set review.

Obviously we’ve yet to see the last from Treasure Cruise in Legacy, I think we’ll see an even greater format penetration of it in the coming weeks. On the flip side is the new SCG policy of naming BUG Delver “Sultai Delver”. Can we all just agree to stop doing that? BUG Delver is a bad name, but Sultai Delver is even worse.

A eulogy for an old friend?

The number of creatures that has once seen play in Legacy but are now overshadowed by younger and more powerful alternatives can be made long. Werebear and Mystic Enforcer were both once played in UGw Threshold, which was the norm back when the format was almost brand new and everyone was playing Goblins, but they are both effectively neutered by the presence of Tarmogoyf. Fledgling Dragon was once played in UGr Threshold, but again, doesn’t hold a candle to the 4/5 for 1G. Tradewind Rider used to be a card, but if you walk a lap around the room at a Legacy tournament and ask everyone you meet what it does, I’m sure about half the people will have no clue whatsoever. In fact, Tradewind Rider was really only good in a specific build if Survival for a time, and even when Survival of the Fittest was the scourge of the format and eventually banned, it was the green-white builds with Iona, Shield of Emeria and Loyal Retainers as well as the straight UG combo build with Vengevine that finally got the enchantment banned.

My point is, there are a lot of cards, especially creatures, that have been very popular and powerful in Legacy but has eventually been overcome by the power creep of Magic in general. To me, the one exception is Nimble Mongoose. I remember opening Nimble Mongooses with my brother and thinking it was a pretty neat card “for an uncommon”, while cards like Mystic Enforcer were obviously better. I remember playing Nimble Mongoose throughout my last year of Vintage, in an UGw Threshold deck called “Birdshit” (which I will feature on here some day). I remember making the leap to Legacy and playing CounterSlivers for the first six months before coming to my senses and returning to my Nimble Mongooses and playing Canadian Threshold for the first time. By now, however, his old pal Werebear was nowhere to be seen, replaced by a really expensive rare from Future Sight, with art that nobody could tell what it was. I remember my brother giving me a misprinted Nimble Mongoose (the mana symbol is missing a part of the little tree) which I still play with to this day. I remember when Innistrad was released and Delver of Secrets, after much debate, was hailed new scourge of the format and the best threat in RUG, and though Nimble Mongoose took the back seat then, he was still firmly in the car.

Now, however, with a format that’s extremely hostile towards graveyards in general with Deathrite Shaman and Rest in Peace, Nimble Mongoose has a tough time keeping up. People have tried time and again to cut him from RUG, only to get stabbed by Miracles and other decks where he shines, before coming back, making reparations and adding a playset of him again. With the printing of Treasure Cruise as an Ancestral Recall competing for the same resource as Nimble Mongoose, perhaps it’s the final nail in the coffin.

I sure as hell hope not.

My first experience with Treasure Cruise

I spent friday evening with a friend testing Treasure Cruise. I had previously decided to try Carsten Kotter’s BUG Delver list with the whole playset of Treasure Cruise. The list in its entirety:

treasurecruise.full

Legacy’s next bogeyman? Survey says yes!

4 Polluted Delta
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Verdant Catacombs
4 Wasteland
4 Underground Sea
2 Bayou
1 Tropical Island

4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Tarmogoyf

4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Treasure Cruise
4 Force of Will
3 Daze
1 Misdirection
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Abrupt Decay

Basically, it’s more or less the bog-standard Team America list but with Treasure Cruise over the slots usually occupied by Tombstalker/True-Name Nemesis and the flex-slots usually consisting of some numbers of Sylvan Libraries and Liliana of the Veils. Kotter’s list even incorporates Misdirection as the fifth pitch counter (“quite good when you’re playing Ancestrals”), and I went ahead and added that as well – since I even own a couple of signed Misdirections from my Vintage days, when the norm was to play the full set of Dazes and Force of Wills and two Misdirections on top of that!

I didn’t take any notes, so unfortunately there aren’t any real statistics to show, but I did play about a dozen games against my friend’s Patriot Delver list and the few losses I scraped were from: a manascrew after a whiffed Ponder, a game where he had a very quick Batterskull coupled with mana denial, and a game where we grinded forever that he won by the skin of his teeth. In short, the deck lost to things that usual Team America loses against, but it seemed to be a bit more rare.

The mid-long games more or less all boiled down to this: him resolving Stoneforge Mystics with nothing left to get, and me resolving Treasure Cruises. And honestly, which of these cards would you rather play?

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Legacy of Khans

Speaking from an EDH perspective, as before, there are quite a few cards I’m excited about in Khans of Tarkir. Sultai Charm will digthroughtime.fullsurely replace Putrefy in all my BUG-coloured decks, and I’ll make room for a Villainous Wealth right now as the reversed Genesis Wave Gotham deserves. The new Sarkhan is easily the most powerful Sarkhan printed so far, though maybe not in EDH but in other constructed formats. In Legacy, we have Dig Through Time as a new Ancestral Memories for a fraction of the cost. Some are bemoaning the fact that it doesn’t dump the unwanted cards in the graveyard, like Ancestral Memories indeed does, but that would obviously make it much too powerful. Even while it’s depositing the cards on the bottom of the library rather than the graveyard, I’m quite sure it’ll see play in mostly combo decks, even in Legacy.

treasurecruise.fullThe card I’m most excited about, however, is not these bomby rares or charms or anything – it’s one of the humble commons, namely Treasure Cruise. Drawing three cards for, optimally, a single blue mana, is something that has historically been associated with absolute brokeness, or something with a huge draw-back stapled onto it, like additional costs of tapping four creatures or waiting four turns. Treasure Cruise wants neither of this, it wants your graveyard. Some decks, like RUG Delver, might value their threats in Nimble Mongoose higher than Treasure Cruise, while others might cut pieces that would otherwise utilize the graveyard, in order to fit this beauty in. Snapcaster Mage will have to go from my DeathBlade list, I was never really happy with him anyway, for a pair of these. Only time will tell if someone finds a list that can play more than a couple of these, although Carsten Kotter wrote an article recently, on StarCityGames.com, detailing a few various Delver of Secrets lists using the card. I’m especially excited about the “Sultai Delver” list, although I’d never call it that. It’s either BUG Delver (though that’s also a crappy name) or Team America. For life.