Rare Earths: The World According to Zadok
First off, this week I got into a discussion with David Stroud about Trix.
*Fair warning: This article is about what he and I discussed, so I will freely be using what he told me. The points made here are the ones he made to me, simply collected and organized by moi*
Like many debates between him and me, he was right and I was wrong. The point of our argument was a decision about the banning of cards to prevent Trix, TS, Countersliver, or Pandaburst from being dominant in the environment. All these decks, with the exception of Countersliver, produce a what is known as “That dirty combo feeling” when played well. So we began to discuss how to fix it.
My original suggestion was simple: Ban Illusions, Replenish, Force of will, and Survival of the Fittest. Countersliver would still be good, but not fantastic, and the other decks would be eliminated. Oath of Druids was next on my “to do” list. Then Mr. Stroud was kind enough to say “Nah, you need to ban the combo.”
“The combo? That IS the combo. Ban Illusions and the deck crumbles”
“You really think that? Remember how many decks played with Negators instead after the first game?”
“Okay, then, what is the combo?”
David took me online, to The Dojo’s extended decks to beat. “This is the combo, Russell:
Force of Will
What do I mean? Look, in the top decks there, all but 1 have 4 Force of Wills. 4 had Duress, 3 had Demonic Consultations, and 3 had Brainstorm. NOT ONE DECK PLAYED NONE OF THESE CARDS. The closest was 5c survival, which played only Duress. And when 2 cards in two colors (Force of Will or Duress) show up in every top deck out there, you start to question how useful the “theoretical” combo is.
The bottom line: the combo doesn’t matter. 4 Negators and Necropotence work about as well as Pandemonium, Saporling Burst, and Replenish. The actual combo is not how you win, but how you defend your win method, and stop theirs. Dave then, in his infinite wisdom, gave me a list of cards that he said would make extended fun to play, if they were banned. The list included, but was not limited to demonic consultation, Necropotence, Brainstorm, Replenish, and a nod to Oath of Druids, though it wasn’t on the list. In it, he left most of cards from the list. Why?
Because, you see, banning Force of Will doesn’t hurt Necro. Why were there Force of Wills? To stop the other guy’s Force of Wills. Duress served the same purpose. They were left alone, because banning them would help the big decks as much as hinder them. Demonic Consultation, a card played as combo or counter searcher, was banned in his dream, because if you can’t find your combo, you can’t go off. It wasn’t a card that was played much in non-combo decks.
Necropotence is broken, according to him. And the more I look at it, the more I agree. I love the card, personally, but he’s right. It’s seriously deranged card advantage. Unfortunately DCI ain’t banning it any time soon. If the black summer didn’t get it banned, no way this will.
So, you ask, what was the point of this article? Am I leading us to a crusade to get these cards stricken? No. I simply think you should see what I missed. That combo is eternal, it’s simply how it’s played that makes is dangerous. Not the combo, but the methods to draw into it and protect it, are the real threats to our gaming lives. We have available to us now, the best counterspell ever (Force of Will), one of the best discards ever (Duress), one of best searchers ever (Demonic Consultation), and a defense against Duress/searcher (Brainstorm). In any environment, the best rise to the top. The first three on the list are there because they are the best cards of their sort, by quite a shot. Brainstorm is there because it compliments the others so well.
The best have risen, in T1. The top decks in the nation play with the power 9 and Library of Alexandria.
The best have risen in T1.x. The top decks in the nation play with 4 force of wills and 4 Duresses and 3 Demonic Consultations.
T2, exempt, due to it’s ever-changing composition, has been thrown in as the only format where any deck really can win. Where the best have not yet risen, and may never, because it keeps developing. And from it we take our hope.
Magic is at yet another crossroads. There are two ways it can go: We can print powerful cards now, changing the environment by making the old best obsolete, or, we can get rid of the old, and, slowly, create an environment where the best is more mutable. Where new cards can compare with old, based on merits, not speed.
In T1, the winning decks must have
1 Time Walk,
1 Time Twister,
1 Ancestrall Recall,
1 Library of Alexandria,
1 Vampiric Tutor,
1 Demonic Tutor,
1 Demonic Consultation,
1 Mind twist,
1 Strip Mine,
1 Yawgmoth’s Will,
1 Sol Ring,
4 Mana Drains.
Otherwise it can’t win. A similar situation occurs in extended. If your deck does not have “X” cards devoted to “the cards”, you can’t win. The more of the cards you have, the better the deck. Welcome to extended. Hope you brought your checkbook, because the “Must have” list is here and now, and this time it’s not restricted.
Still waitin' for word from my fan club,
(Editor's note: I did not have to edit this article at all. VERY impressive. - Istanbul)