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A Requiem for the Casual's Skull
By Oscar Tan (Rakso)
A Requiem for the Casual’s Skull
Oscar Tan aka Rakso
September 2, 2000
Manila, Philippines
Type I Maintainer at www.bdominia.com

I am a casual player, and always have been. I have allowed my cards to pile up in my bedroom over the last five years, and just play Type I in my school cafeteria while gracing the Philippine tourney scene once every sixth months, at best (and lacking the energy to find four Rishadan Ports, never for Standard).

I have been happy all these years, simply playing the range of decks from Masques block innovations to Ice Age-era dinosaurs. No rankings, no sideboards, no big concerns aside from having occasional fun.


Great changes, questionable solutions

In the last year or so, a number of changes have shaken up the oldest Magic format. Sixth Edition killed the Mirror Universe kill. Tolarian Academy, even restricted, evolved the old Hurkyl’s Recall decks into consistent first-turn killers. The addition of Memory Jar and Yawgmoth’s Bargain removed any remaining veneer of player interaction in Type I.

Errata was soon issued, especially after the Academy deck’s potency in the Duelist Invitational. On Beyond Dominia (www.bdominia.com), which I believe is the only Type I forum on the Net, I opined that Academy, Memory Jar and Bargain should simply have been banned.

Granted, some rares such as Doomsday, Mind Over Matter and Dream Halls had combo potential, and these were reasonable preventive measures. What I could not understand, however, was the restriction of even COMMON cards with non-combo uses.

Frantic Search could untap Academy, but it also made for a different reanimation card. Crop Rotation could fetch Academy, but was also quite enjoyable with the new man lands and Gaea’s Cradle. Tinker could fetch Memory Jar, but it also allowed experimentation with the Type II tricks. Mox Diamond for my Senor Stompy or Land Tax? Mana Vault for my Erhnam Djinn? The list goes on.

The idea that a number of Type II or Extended tricks are illegal in Type I is appalling. Moreover, with the restrictions, hardly any deck plays the allowed single Jar or Bargain, and Academy is there mainly when one has Moxen. Again, would Type I (and especially casual players) have been devastated without three newly-printed rares hardly used outside combo decks?

(Players may argue that these are DCI rules casual players are free to ignore. However, rules facilitate play, even casual play. Imagine having to make clarifications before playing a player new to the usual group. Often, I have found it simpler to just follow the rules, as it can become difficult to draw the line between a fatttie deck with four Mana Vaults and another with four Strip Mines.)


They banned Dark Ritual (in Extended)?!?! Now what?

Players unable to identify with my above feelings nevertheless might have reacted the same way when Dark Ritual was banned in Extended. Again, a common was restricted, killing a dominant combo deck, but taking an entire color with it!

Of course, the Trix (Illusions of Grandeur + Donate) combo was extremely overpowered. It took only seven mana (that did not have to be played in the same turn) and two BLUE cards (in a format with Force of Will, among other things) to play. Black was a logical second color, which brought Duress (protection), Dark Ritual (fast mana), Necropotence (insane card drawing) and black tutors into the mix.

All the cards in Trix decks except Illusions and Donate saw play in many other decks, but what did the DCI ban?

Dark Ritual. The logic escapes me.

The story goes on that the powerful yet cheap and compact Trix combo gave Type I a new powerhouse, as the 2000 Magic Invitational proved. I admit that I refused to believe in the power of Trix, even after Kai Budde answered a “Don’t the Type I Invitational decks suck?” thread on Beyond Dominia.

Reflecting, I realized I had reacted to the idea that a combo deck again dominated Type I, and not to the effectiveness of the deck itself. But it was lethal, and even decks with significant discard, enchantment removal, or four Force of Will, or all of the above, had trouble with it.

Lest the next Invitational turn into Trix vs anti-Trix boredom, new Type I restrictions were issued.

Again, the same strange logic applied.

(An aside: To be fair, Channel is unreliable as a combo kill and Mind Twist is no longer as powerful as it used to be, especially when Darren DiBattista aka Azhrei mentions Misdirection. Of course, I argue that these are extremely cheesy when allowed in casual play. Demonic Consultation has been used outside combo decks, but it can be argued that an unrestricted way to fetch Necropotence itself is unfair.)


Putting the Skull to rest

Chris Pikula is famous for his remark to ban everything until Necropotence is good, then ban Necropotence. But perhaps the DCI could have done this less permanently!

Again, Illusions and Donate were never used outside the Trix deck. Necropotence, on the other hand, formed the core of one of the most classic decks of Magic since it was first printed. Players since Ice Age have played Necro in one form or another, and the deck had a long and rich history through the Mirage Block and Fifth Edition.

I stare at my four Ice Age Necros, and remember years worth of fun games with fun people. I relive countless updates with new expansions: Ihsan’s Shade from Homelands, Diabolic Edict, Bad River and Firestorm from the Mirage block, Volrath’s Stronghold and Volrath’s Dungeon from the Tempest Block, Duress, Powder Keg and Yawgmoth’s Will from the Urza Block, and Massacre and Unmask from the Masques Block.

Now, my deck is illegal. (Other players cried bloody murder because restrictions killed decks they had been winning with for a month or two, but remember, countless players including myself have played the Necrodeck SINCE ICE AGE.)

For the unfamiliar, Necropotence is so powerful because, for three black mana, it allows you to convert life points into cards. Think about it: An extra land, extra creature or extra spell can win you the game, but your life does not affect the game until you hit zero. It takes some understanding, but this is true power, and many Type I decks even declined to include life gain because they did not need it against a number of opponents.

The argument is that Illusions + Donate is not the most powerful combo in Magic, but that Dark Ritual + Necropotence is. It all began when people realized that Necropotence could be added to combo decks, beginning with Pebbles (Enduring Renewal + Goblin Bombardment + Shield Sphere or Phyrexian Walker, an infinite damage combo). Instead of adding more tutors, combo decks could just draw a seemingly infinite number of cards. With the printing of Donate, one could play a two-color combo deck fueled by Necropotence, and even gain 20 life from Illusions!


So if that was the problem, why not just…

So one of my oldest and most cherished decks got the axe because Necropotence fueled combos. Then why not restrict or ban Donate (Donate-Thoughtlash and Donate-Forbidden Crypt + Tormod’s Crypt have been mentioned) or issue errata for Illusions of Grandeur (it works only because the controller does not lose 20 life when it is Donated, only when it leaves play)?

Perhaps some other combo deck will come up to take the place of Trix. But might WotC just be more careful not to print another combo that requires two blue, five colorless mana, and two cards, both of which are blue? Fruity Pebbles is different in that Enduring Renewal is white, Goblin Bombardment is red, and the necessary tutors and defense cards are blue or black. This is far more cumbersome. Pande-Burst and other Replenish tricks, moreover, cannot work with Necropotence because cards discarded when Necropotence is in play are instead removed from the game.

Moreover, DCI claims that the new restrictions will allow more cards and more decktypes to enter play. True, but only because Trix is much less playable (no early automatic kills allows slower and creature-based decks to play), and this did not require the death of Necropotence as well. Necropotence and its cheap disruption (Duress, Hymn to Tourach, Unmask, even Sinkhole for Beta players) kept combo and control decks at bay, and control decks are left much more powerful without their two biggest opponents (fast combo like Trix and disruption-heavy Necropotence).

All these arguments seem logical to me, but strangely, not to DCI. So instead of losing Tolarian Academy, Yawgmoth’s Bargain, Memory Jar and possibly Illusions of Grandeur or Donate, players lost quite a lot, ending with the most classic non-Beta deck ever (not to mention all of black in Extended).


Kids, don’t try Type I at home

“Classic non-Beta deck,” to end, is a very important statement. Many casual players enjoy playing Type I, even though their oldest cards are from Revised. In other words, they may have a Balance, Regrowth, Demonic Tutor, Sol Ring, or even some dual lands in their favorite deck, but they have no Moxen or Ancestral Recall. And they have fun, like I do.

Two decks were quite playable without the “Power Nine” in competitive Type I: Sligh and Necro. Now that the latter is dead, players without $2,000 to spend on cards are left with Sligh, which has a lot of Type I hate (Gorilla Shaman, Dwarven Miner, Price of Progress) but none of the finesse of the classic Necrodeck.

As Javier Vazquez aka ORRGG put it, Type I degenerates, in one sense, into an “elitist” format. Others argued on Beyond Dominia that the new restrictions opened up Type I to just about every Extended deck from White Weenie to RecSur, but whether these can stand up to control decks such as “The Deck”, “The Restricted List” (Neutral Ground and Alex Shvartsman’s name) or “The Franchise” (Beyond Dominia’s name) as effectively as the classic Necrodeck remains to be seen.

And again, all these Moxless decks could have been played in Type I, anyway, by killing Trix and combo without killing Necro.

Life goes on, but when you think about the memories attached to a deck you played and tweaked for almost your entire high school and college life, DCI logic just cannot help but leave a bad taste in your mouth.

(Author’s note: For more comprehensive discussions of the Necrodeck, the Franchise, Zoo, Trix, and other classic Type I archtypes, please refer to the strategy primers on http://www.bdominia.addr.com/discus/articles/T1FAQlist.html.

For the latest banned/restricted list update, check http://www.wizards.com/dci/announce.asp?dci20000901a)

rakso@impactnet.com

Read More Articles by Oscar Tan (Rakso)!

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