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Revised Beyond Dominia Draw-Go Primer
By Oscar Tan aka Rakso
(This document is for casual players as well as serious ones, so I'd really appreciate comments if it's vague or lacking in any area.)


Draw-Go Primer
Oscar Tan aka Rakso
Manila, Philippines
June 8, 2000 (revised February 26, 2001)

(note: This is a casual deck Primer and sets before Revised and Fallen Empires are not emphasized, though Ancestral Recall and Library of Alexandria would automatically be in the deck. The main purpose of this Primer is to demonstrate the intelligent use of counters to newer players... never a simple task.)

CUNEO BLUE, TEMPEST-ERA STANDARD, ANDREW CUNEO
Counters (14)
4 Counterspell
4 Dissipate
4 Dismiss
2 Power sink

Card Drawing/Manipulation (8)
4 Impulse
4 Whispers of the Muse

Creatures (6)
4 Steel Golem
2 Dancing Scimitar

Others (8)
2 Argivian Restoration
2 Capsize
4 Nevinyrral's Disk

Land (25)
4 Quicksand
4 Sylvanite temple
3 Reflecting pool
14 Island


CMU BLUE, AUGUST 1998, ERIK LAUER
Land (26):
4 Stalking Stones
4 Quicksand
18 Island

Permission (21):
4 Force Spike
4 Counterspell
1 Memory Lapse
3 Mana Leak
3 Forbid
2 Dissipate
4 Dismiss

Other (13):
4 Nevinyrral's Disk
4 Impulse
4 Whispers of the Muse
1 Rainbow Efreet

Sideboard (15):
4 Hyrdoblast
4 Sea Sprite
2 Capsize
4 Wasteland
1 Grindstone


DRAW-GO, PRE-MERCADIAN MASQUES STANDARD
Randy Buehler, World Championships '99 (6-0 in Standard)
Counters (17)
4 Counterspell
4 Mana Leak
1 Miscalculation
4 Forbid
4 Dismiss

Creatures (3)
3 Masticore

Others (12)
4 Whispers of the Muse
4 Powder Keg
4 Treachery

Land (28)
4 Faerie Conclave
4 Stalking Stones
4 Wasteland
16 Island


INTRODUCTION
Blue decks have come a long way from when I first began playing. Years back, if the ordinary player wanted to build a counterspell deck, all he had was Counterspell and Power Sink (excluding Mana Drain), and had to stretch the list with picks such as Force Spike, Flash Counter, Remove Soul and Spell Blast. Even with the printing of Force of Will in Alliances, counters were always paired with another theme and were well-played in blue/white and blue/red control decks. As more and more counters were created, and especially with the printing of Forbid (which allowed a player to use weaker counters to good effect in the early game but still keep them as discard fuel later in the game), a deck that was mostly counters became possible. With the only non-land and non-counter cards (aside from Whispers and Impulse) being a creature or two and Nevinyrral's Disks, these decks often played nothing in their own turns, earning them the nickname, "Draw-Go".

Similar in structure to but at the opposite extreme of the burn decks, Draw-Go plays like a wall of countermagic. It requires great patience and skill as one can never afford to counter every spell played by the opponent but must appear to be able to. They excel in matches against slower decks where they can pick out one component of the deck and disrupt it, such as one part of a combo deck, or the victory conditions in a deck with very few of them such as a Wildfire deck. Their greatest nightmares, however, come against fast, aggressive and redundant decks which can overwhelm them with threats cheaper than the counters. At the height of their popularity, Draw-Go decks had difficulty facing red decks with cheap but potent cards such as Jackal Pup and Cursed Scroll.

This kind of deck works quite well in Type I because counters are never an incorrect solution to a problem that has yet to be cast. Excluding the power, however, the Type I casual Draw-Go regains many old friends to cover the Type II versions' weaknesses. For example:


RAKSO'S CASUAL TYPE I DRAW-GO (excluding Ancestral and Library)

Counters (18)
4 Force of Will
4 Force Spike
4 Counterspell
4 Mana Leak / Mana Drain
2 Forbid

Card Drawing/Manipulation (7)
3 Impulse
4 Fact or Fiction

Others (8)
4 Powder Keg
2 Nevinyrral's Disk
3 Morphling

Land (26)
4 Thawing Glaciers
1 Strip Mine
4 Wasteland
2 Dust Bowl
15 Island

(Note: Some versions of this Type I deck use Ophidians and less counters, and is commonly known as Forbiddian, though it has less Forbids than its Extended counterpart. Other versions use artifact mana and 4 Morphlings and are Type I adaptations of the Urza-era Accelerated Blue or PatrickJ decks. Other versions splash colors. This primer discusses the "pure" near-creatureless Draw-Go deck, which a player should familiarize himself with before eyeing less homogenous blue decks.)


THE ART OF COUNTERING SOMETHING
Since you cannot counter everything, regardless of the deck you are playing against, you will have to make decisions on what to focus on. This becomes obvious when playing against a combo deck, for example, but the weak spot of a deck is not always easy to spot. In general, however, there are things you never counter.

Do not bother with cards that have no direct effect on the game, especially on the board. This is especially true of life gain, for example, such as Zuran Orb or of a Lightning Bolt aimed at you while you are at 18 life. Do not bother with mana producers (unless there is a good reason). Do not counter cards you can play around, especially creatures that will later die to Disk, Keg or the Morphling you are about to cast. Note, however, that you have to counter them if they will deal enough damage before the Disk, Keg or Morphling stops them, and that it takes some practice to discern what "enough" is.

Do counter things that will give the opponent card advantage such as Ancestral Recall and MOST ESPECIALLY Necropotence (but do not Force of Will Hymn to Tourach unless you need to save a key card since you still end up with two cards less). Do counter things that you cannot kill (such as a Rainbow Efreet) and especially permanent sources of damage you do not expect to remove with Disk or Keg. Do counter things that disrupt your counters (such as City of Solitude and Null Brooch, and if you actually can, first-turn Hypnotic Specters). Do counter things that reuse spells such as Gaea's Blessing if you expect a slower game (you do not want to wait for three more counters, for example).

It takes a lot of skill because you have to know both your deck and your opponents' just by observing closely and making intelligent guesses (without using things such as Jester's Cap, Lobotomy, Telepathy and Urza's Glasses), but you will never be able to play a control deck without this knowledge. This can be very confusing; against older Type II Replenish decks, for example, where various spells can be good or bad depending on its cards in hand. Players will play spells to bait you and hope you counter to deplete your counters, and sometimes, they play spells you have no choice but to counter.

One example of confusion is that you might want to counter the early mana producers of an opponent, especially a Birds of Paradise, to keep mana parity to allow you to counter all his spells if necessary until you can safely play a Disk or Keg. You might not bother with a first-turn 1/1, but you might want to play Force Spike to counter first-turn Jackal Pups, Goblin Patrols or Goblin Cadets as these quickly add up. Again, things like this take a certain knowledge of both decks.

Here, for example, is the commentary of Erik Lauer for his 1998 deck in the introduction (at a time when blue had a whole range of counters, unlike the Urza Type II where the dearth of good counters forced the creation of Accelerated Blue)

"When playing the deck, the early strategy involves countering almost any spell you can. For example, a Wall of Roots or a Bird of Paradise is a card I almost always counter in the early going; if my opponent has more mana available than I do, I will become unable to counter all the threats he can present in one turn.

"After I build up to about 4 mana, I will often use Quicksands for creature control, trying to hold off on playing a Disk when possible (since I have to tap my mana, letting my opponent cast any spells he wishes). When under severe pressure I cast a Disk as soon as possible. I try to gain a little card advantage using Dismiss, then eventually gain total control via Whispers of the Muse.

"Even when sideboarding against a very aggressive deck, I tend to leave all my Whispers in (since my main midgame plan is still to gain control through Whispers). If I am bringing in either the Sea Sprites or the Capsizes I tend to take the Rainbow out. The Sea Sprites give me enough ways to win (and the Rainbow is too slow against most red decks).

"When I bring the Capsizes in, I don't want to draw Capsizes and Rainbow in my opening hand (since they are both rather slow), and I know that eventually I can protect a Stalking Stone with a Capsize. While this deck is rather homogenous (just lots and lots of land and counters), I still find it rather enjoyable to play. I don't think this style of deck takes nearly as long to win with as a deck that uses Gaea's recursion to win; a Rainbow or a Stalking Stone typically just takes 7 turns to win with after you have established control."

As a general rule, of course, always leave mana open even if you have nothing but land in your hand. This is also known as bluffing, and you win the psychological game when your opponent automatically assumes you have a counter in hand whenever he casts a spell.

As a final note, your skills in countering will be sorely tested when playing against another counter deck, and you will generally be caught in counter wars where counters fly back and forth over one spell. When these happen, try to see whether or not you want to (or can) win and count mana available and both of your cards in hand. Counter wars can be bluffs, of course, and some decks can start these wars during the opponents' end phases (with cards like Fact or Fiction, Whispers of the Muse, Turnabout and Mana Short, for example) to clear the way for their main phases.


A SAMPLE PUZZLE

The difficult judgment calls in using counters are well highlighted by Zvi Mowshowitz in discussing the Urza-era Type II Replenish deck. This dangerous deck could overwhelm the blue decks of the time simply by playing more spells than they could counter and tempting them into wasting precious counters on unnecessary spells.

This is the decklist of the theoretical opponent taken from "Matchup Analysis: Replenish vs. Accelerated Blue", published on Mindripper last April 25, 2000:

REPLENISH, ZVI MOWSHOWITZ, US NATIONALS 2000
11 Island
8 Plains
4 Adarkar Wastes
2 Marble Diamond
1 Sky Diamond
3 Brainstorm
4 Replenish
4 Attunement
4 Parallax Wave
4 Parallax Tide
4 Opalescence
3 Seal of Cleansing
1 Energy Field
4 Enlightened Tutor
3 Counterspell

SB
3 Wrath of God
3 Erase
1 Seal of Cleansing
1 Circle of Protection: Black
1 Circle of Protection: Red
1 Meekstone
1 Phyrexian Processor
1 Ring of Gix
1 Marble Diamond
1 Cursed Totem
1 Chill


Players more familiar with Type I and Extended versions of Replenish might think that this deck tried to play Attunement on turn 3, used it to discard key enchantments, then played Replenish on turn 4. Thus, they might think that they must concern themselves only with the Replenishes and the Counterspells.

This, however, was not the case. The individual cards were threatening enough on their own. Parallax Tide (and Back to Basics in some versions) disrupted one's mana, and consequently, one's defenses. Opalescence did nothing on its own, but turned every succeeding enchantment into a serious threat. Depleting the few counters available in Urza-era Type II only left one open to a Replenish that brought back countered enchantments.

Thus, if the Replenish player had a good hand with a Replenish and several threats, he could simply play the threats from least dangerous to most dangerous. Parallax Tide would be left for last since it was the most dangerous threat. Once the opponent used up his counters (and he would be forced to), Replenish sealed the victory.

However, Zvi continued: "That was what to do with a good, threat heavy draw. When you get the opposite hand it's more problematic... Here, you're doing exactly the opposite of what you did above. There you're trying to cast the weakest spell they'll counter. Here you want the strongest spell that will work. Probably the best enchantment here is Opalescence, since most players will let it through. Use Parallax Wave, Attunement and Seal of Cleansing as your pressure, all spells that don't normally get countered. Make sure to play around Treachery, since that would make their life easy, and save your real threat. If they're not being careful they'll be forced to tap out. Then you have them if you drew anything at all. Also note that drawing a lot of land can give you a chance to cast two threats and play around Miscalculation. You'll draw more threats later on."

Attunement alone highlighted the blue player's dilemma. If the opponent's hand had many threats, it would only hurt the Replenish player if used because he would draw three cards but discard four. If, however, the opponent's hand was weaker, Attunement would exchange excess land and Enlightened Tutors for threats and overwhelm the blue player.

Zvi concluded his analysis with the opinion that the Replenish player would be very happy to play the blue decks of the time.


RUNDOWN OF PLAYABLE COUNTERS

(1 MANA)

FORCE SPIKE
Cost: U
Rarity: Common
Set: Legends
Errata: Counter target spell unless its controller pays {1}. [Oracle 99/09/03]

Used in the early game, especially against potent first-turn creatures such as Kird Ape and Jackal Pup, and larger threats played with acceleration. Plays a psychological game by forcing an opponent to hold an extra mana open every time he plays a spell, slowing him down, or by tempting an opponent into having one less mana to counter with on your turn. Can still be discarded to Force of Will, Misdirection or Forbid later in the game.


DISRUPT
Cost: U
Rarity: Common
Set: Weatherlight
Card Text: Counter target instant, interrupt, or sorcery unless its caster pays an additional 1. Draw a card.
Flavor Text: Oh, I'm sorry - did I break your concentration?

Similar to Force Spike, it can affect only non-permanents but replaces itself. It is stronger against decks with early non-permanents, such as discard decks and Hymn to Tourach, though these are weaker now that Necropotence is restricted. Remember that you draw the card whether or not the cost is paid and you can let Disrupt resolve, hopefully draw a better counter, then counter the original spell. Or, you can simply pay 2 mana to "cycle" this by targeting your own spell.


ANNUL
Cost: U
Rarity: Common
Set: Urza's Saga
Card Text: Counter target artifact or enchantment spell.
Flavor Text: The most effective way to destroy a spell is to ensure it was never cast in the first place.

Far better than Force Spike when you know your opponent packs must-counter artifacts and enchantments. A top sideboard card.


HYDROBLAST
Cost: U
Rarity: Common
Set: Ice Age
Errata: Choose one - Counter target spell if it's red; or destroy target permanent if it's red.

Flavor Text: Heed the lessons of our time: the forms of water may move the land itself and hold captive the fires within." --Gustha Ebbasdotter, Kjeldoran Royal Mage
Rulings: You can target any spell or permanent, it need not be red. It just does not do anything unless the color matches. [D'Angelo 95/06/09]

The second standard anti-red sideboard (after Chill, because Draw-Go generally wins a slow game, which mono red avoids like the plague) card, it is better than its cousin Blue Elemental Blast because it can be discarded (target a land) when needed (against Black Vise, for example, a bane of Draw-Go decks). This is only weaker than BEB when used against a control deck that can use Misdirection to deflect Hydroblast from its Pyroblast.


(2 MANA)

MANA DRAIN
Cost: UU
Rarity: UnCommon
Set: Legends
Errata: Counter target spell. At the beginning of your next main phase, add X to your mana pool, where X is that spell's converted mana cost. [Oracle 99/09/03]

Rulings: The mana gain is done as a beginning of main phase triggered ability and not as a mana ability or such. [D'Angelo 00/03/03]

Voted third most powerful Magic card by Inquest, this often results in mana burn in the wrong deck. Used in the sample deck to play Nevinyrral's Disk, Fact or Fiction and Morphling earlier. When paired with Mishra's Factory, excess mana can be sunk here. Remember that you can still use this to gain mana when needed from "cannot be countered" spells (Obliterate, for example), and that buyback and kicker are not part of X.


COUNTERSPELL
Cost: UU
Rarity: UnCommon
Set: Alpha/Beta/Unlimited
Card Text: Counters target spell as it is being cast.

The solid original. No frills and no drawbacks.


MANA LEAK
Cost: 1U
Rarity: Common
Set: Stronghold
Errata: Counter target spell unless its controller pays {3}. [Oracle 99/05/01]

The third best 2-mana counter and used after Mana Drain and Counterspell slots are exhausted. Use in the early game to conserve Counterspells and in the tail end of counter wars, and discard to Force of Will or Forbid later. Outside pure blue, this is the best splashable counterspell, incidentally, with Arcane Denial a distant second.


TEFERI'S RESPONSE
Cost: 1U
Rarity: Rare
Set: Invasion

Card Text: Counter target spell or ability an opponent controls that targets a land you control. If a permanent's ability is countered this way, destroy that permanent. Draw two cards.
Rulings: Remember that a spell only targets something if it uses the word "target" in its text. For example, Armageddon is not targeted. [D'Angelo 00/10/14]

A sideboard card unless everyone has Wastelands or you have man lands, this is an Ancestral Recall against land destruction and the pesky Rishadan Ports of Type II decks that insist on tapping one of your two untapped Islands. Quite fun when you use Mishra's Factory or Faerie Conclave. The worthier successor of Interdict in casual decks based around Kjeldoran Outpost, incidentally.


("FREE")

FORCE OF WILL
Cost: 3UU
Rarity: UnCommon
Set: Alliances
Errata: You may pay 1 life and remove a blue card in your hand from the game instead of paying ~this~'s mana cost. ; Counter target spell. [Oracle 99/07/23]

This card is not a "free" spell since you lose an extra card when you play this. However, you gain the ability to counter even when you have no mana, an ability that must be used with discretion. This spell is extremely good for counter wars early in the game or when desperate (which is all the time).
In a deck with nothing but blue spells and a lot of card drawing, incidentally, you can always find a weaker card to sacrifice such as Force Spike or Impulse.


MISDIRECTION
Cost: 3UU
Rarity: Rare
Set: Mercadian Masques

Errata: You may remove a blue card in your hand from the game instead of paying ~this~'s mana cost. ; Change the target of target spell with a single target. [Oracle 00/10/24]
Rulings: You choose the spell to target on announcement, but you pick the new target for that spell on resolution. [bethmo 99/11/30]; If there is no other legal target for the spell, Misdirection does not change the target. [D'Angelo 00/07/24]

This spell is better than Force of Will in high-power environments with Ancestral Recall, Mind Twist and Stroke of Genius. Lethal when used against an early Hymn to Tourach. Always remember that while one cannot Misdirect a counter onto itself, one can legally Misdirect it to Misdirection and cause it to fizzle, which achieves the same thing.


(3 MANA)

FORBID
Cost: 1UU
Rarity: UnCommon
Set: Exodus

Errata: Buyback-Discard two cards. ; Counter target spell. [Oracle 99/05/01]
Rulings: You actually have to discard the cards if you want to pay the buyback (see Rule A.9). [D'Angelo 98/06/18]

3-mana counters are rarely used with all the 2-mana and "free" counters available, but Forbid is the best one as it can reuse itself if one holds back weaker counters or spare land. It has weakened since all interrupts became instants (Sixth Edition rules allowed other instants to be cast in response to Forbid and before Forbid returned to its ownerˇ¦s hand), but it is still potent (and can still be paired with Arcane Lab).
Use it with buyback generally if it is your last counter in hand, and be wary of using buyback in a counterwar. Also, hold back excess land to fuel the buyback.
Paired with a card drawer, Forbid allows a player to counter one spell each turn for "free" (discarding the card drawn normally and the extra card). Some players added Arcane Laboratory to their decks to turn the "Forbid lock" into a permanent one, though this is too narrow for general competitive play.


DISSIPATE
Cost: 1UU
Rarity: UnCommon
Set: Mirage

Errata: Counter target spell. Remove that spell card from the game instead of putting it into its owner's graveyard. [Oracle 99/09/03]
Flavor Text: If you weren't born with it, you don't need it." --Grahilah, former trader of Amiqat
Rulings: The card does not go to the graveyard before being removed from the game. [DeLaney 99/01/04]

The only other reasonable 3-mana spell, this is used over Forbid when recurring spells or creatures are expected. In more casual environments, this prevents Draw-Go from losing to Hammer of Bogardan, Shard Phoenix, Ashen Ghoul, Nether Shadow, and the like.

RUNDOWN OF OTHER COUNTERS

MISCALCULATION
Cost: 1U
Rarity: Common
Set: Urza's Legacy
Errata: Counter target spell unless its controller pays {2}. ; Cycling {2}. [Oracle 99/05/01]

1 mana makes a big difference and this makes it weaker than Mana Leak, but some players prefer this since it cycles after the early game.


FLASH COUNTER
Cost: 1U
Rarity: Common
Set: Legends
Errata: Counter target instant spell. [Oracle 99/09/03]

One of the earlier counters, this card can be useful in most environments. An extra counter against other counter decks that can be sideboarded by players who want more. The much newer Gainsay can be used for similar purposes, but Flash Counter counters more spells, making for a more flexible sideboard. Against another Draw-Go deck, the most important spell it cannot counter is Morphling, but this is unimportant since it can counter the counters that defend the opponent's Morphling anyway.


DISMISS
Cost: 2UU
Rarity: UnCommon
Set: Tempest

Card Text: Counter target spell. Draw a card.
Flavor Text: There is nothing you can do that I cannot simply deny." --Ertai, wizard adept

One of the last choices in a counter deck due to its cost and despite the cantrip ability, this is usually played only when little else is available. It used to be filler in its time when one wanted about 20 counters, but the Draw-Go bench has deepened since then.


QUASH
Cost: 2UU
Rarity: UnCommon

Set: Urza's Destiny
Errata: Counter target instant or sorcery spell. Search its controller's graveyard, hand, and library for all cards with the same name as that card and remove them from the game. That player then shuffles his or her library. [Oracle 99/11/01]
Rulings: It removes the countered spell from the game. This is because the first sentence puts the spell into the graveyard before you continue to the second sentence. [Urza's Destiny FAQ 99/05/25]

This "super Dissipate" looks powerful, but is really too awkward to be played, and unless it removes a key spell such as a set of counters or Disenchant.
It remains extremely fun in casual play, and can strip a careless Keeper player of half of his counters if it catches a Mana Drain or Force of Will. Remember to memorize your opponent's library, by the way.


DESERTION
Cost: 3UU
Rarity: Rare
Set: Visions

Card Text: Counter target spell. If that spell is an artifact or summon spell, put that card into play under your control as though it were just played.
Flavor Text: First the insult, then the injury.

Rulings:

    This spell includes a replacement effect. If the target is an artifact or creature, it never goes to the graveyard. [D'Angelo 99/05/01]
    The card enters play as if just cast and you get to make all necessary decisions from scratch. [Duelist Magazine #17, Page 28]
    Any X in the casting cost is zero since it is not actually being cast. [DeLaney 97/02/02]
    The card is put into play, but any effects that check if the original card was "played from your hand" (such as with Cloud of Faeries) will not trigger or otherwise consider the card to have been played from your hand. The card was put into play by the effect of Desertion instead. [bethmo 99/11/30]

The control magic counterspell is rarely played except as a surprise card due to its cost.
In casual games, it is extremely fun, extremely annoying, and has cool flavor text and Richard Kane-Ferguson art.


POWER SINK
Cost: XU
Rarity: Common
Set: Alpha/Beta/Unlimited

Errata: Counter target spell unless its controller pays {X}. If he or she doesn't, that player taps all lands he or she controls and empties his or her mana pool. [Oracle 00/10/24]
Rulings:

    When this spell resolves, you either pay X mana or let all your mana producing lands become tapped. The lands that become tapped are not "tapped for mana". [bethmo 97/10/09] If you choose to pay, you may pay the X mana using whatever mana abilities you want to use.
    Special lands which do not provide mana are also tapped by this card. [D'Angelo 00/11/06] (REVERSAL)
    If the land provides mana only for specific purposes (like Mishra's Workshop), it cannot be used to pay the X mana (unless that purpose is being filled). Mishra's Workshop, like most purposed mana, could not be used to pay for Power Sink. [WotC Rules Team 94/09/30]
    Does not increase the casting cost of the spell. It just requires a separate expenditure in order for it to succeed. [bethmo 94/05/05]

One of the "original" counterspells, it has weakened after Sixth Edition because an opponent can respond to it with other instants. It is used mainly when a player wants to Power Sink a spell (even a useless spell) during his opponent's turn, tapping him out.
Like Dismiss, it has simply been passed over after more cheap counters were printed.


SPELL BLAST
Cost: XU
Rarity: Common
Set: Alpha/Beta/Unlimited
Errata: Counter target spell with converted mana X. [Oracle 00/02/01]

A mediocre counter from the original set, it is now practically unplayable many expansions later.


ERTAI'S MEDDLING
Cost: XU
Rarity: Rare
Set: Tempest

Errata: X can't be 0. ; The first time target spell would resolve, put X delay counters on it and remove it from the game instead. ; At the beginning of the upkeep of the removed spell's controller, as long as the spell is removed from the game, remove a delay counter from it. If the card has no delay counters on it, it goes on the stack as a copy of the original spell. [Oracle 00/02/01]
Rulings:

    Note that a delayed Counterspell will be countered when it resolves since the Counterspell will no longer find that its target is on the stack, which is a requirement for countering a spell. [D'Angelo 97/10/29]
    If a spell is targeted by more than one Ertai's Meddling, when the spell tries to resolve the first time, only one of the Ertai's Meddlings will be applied to it (by the choice of the caster of the spell being affected). The other Meddlings will fail since the spell will no longer be on the stack. [D'Angelo 00/02/15]
    A targeted spell which is delayed will still succeed even if its target has phased out and back in again. [bethmo 97/11/19]
    Once it is put back on the stack, it is a "new" spell again and can be countered or even targeted by another Ertai's Meddling. [D'Angelo 99/08/18]

It just had to be mentioned. As ridiculous as this spell may seem, this actually saw use as an additional counter in its day.


RUNDOWN OF OUTRIGHT BAD COUNTERS

ARCANE DENIAL
Cost: 1U
Rarity: Common
Set: Alliances

Errata: Counter target spell. Its controller may draw up to two cards at the beginning of the next turn's upkeep. ; You draw a card at the beginning of the next turn's upkeep. [Oracle 99/11/01]
Rulings: The player does not choose how many cards to draw until the beginning of the appropriate upkeep. [Duelist Magazine #13, Page 26] They choose how many before drawing the first one. [D'Angelo 96/11/11]


DO NOT EVER, EVER, > > > E V E R < < < PLAY ARCANE DENIAL.
ARCANE DENIAL GIVES YOUR OPPONENT CARDS, AND THAT IS > > > B A D < < <.
IT IS ONLY USEFUL IN COMBO DECKS OR AS A DESPERATE SPLASH COUNTER.
THIS IS THE SINGLE MOST COMMON BEGINNER'S MISTAKE ON BEYOND DOMINIA.


MEMORY LAPSE
Rarity: Common
Set: Homelands

Card Text: Counter target spell. Put that spell on top of its owner's library.
Flavor Text: Um... oh... what was I saying?" -Reveka, Wizard Savant---AND---"Oh, I had a conscience once, but alas, I seem to have forgotten where I put it." -Chandler
Rulings: The card does not go to the graveyard before being put on the library. [bethmo 97/10/19]

Memory Lapse is not really a counter, it is an excellent stall card for aggressive blue weenie decks such as Merfolk-based ones, and is hilarious in these paired with Winter Orb. Draw-Go, however, is a much slower deck where one does not really accomplish anything in the time gained before the opponent replays the spell.
It was reprinted, but with the lame flavor text.


SCENT OF BRINE
Cost: 1U
Rarity: Common
Set: Urza's Destiny
Card Text: Reveal any number of blue cards in your hand. Counter target spell unless its controller pays 1 for each card revealed this way.

Beginning players might try to play with this. Don't, since it is a bad Mana Leak that reveals your hand.


PROHIBIT
Cost: 1U
Rarity: Common
Set: Invasion
Card Text: Kicker 2 (You may pay an additional 2 as you play this spell.) Counter target spell if its converted mana cost is 2 or less. If you paid the kicker cost, counter that spell if its converted mana cost is 4 or less instead.

Though this works against most key spells, it is worse than others because you do look strange when going second and the opponent plays a 3-mana spell when you have only two Islands in play.


REWIND
Cost: 2UU
Rarity: Common
Set: Urza's Saga

Card Text: Counter target spell. Untap up to 4 lands.
Flavor Text: Time flows like a river. In Tolaria we practice the art of building dams." -Barrin, master wizard
Rulings:

    You can untap from 0 to 4 lands. [DeLaney 98/10/05]
    Does not target the lands. [DeLaney 98/10/05]
    Can be used on already untapped lands (with no effect). [DeLaney 98/10/05]
    Can be used on another player's lands. [DeLaney 98/10/05]

This looks good, but is just too awkward, and can be countered in a counter war to keep your land tapped. The free counterspell is not usually very useful except when an opponent is trying to cast a lot of cheap permanents past your counters.
The Sixth Edition rules changing this to an instant mean that you can respond to it before the lands untap, further weakening it.


THWART
Cost: 2UU
Rarity: UnCommon
Set: Mercadian Masques
Card Text: You may return three islands you control to their owner's hand instead of paying Thwart's mana cost. Counter target spell.

You will rarely need more than 4 Force of Will against must-counter permanents, and can add up to 4 Misdirection against certain other spells. Returning Islands hurts you in the following turns, so this card looks much worse than it is, unless you really intend to use those cards to pay for Masticore's upkeep or something similar.
Keep this one in your Stasis variants. (And note Foil is usually just as unnecessary since it trades 3 of your cards for 1 of his. Misdirection is simply sufficient if one needs more Force of Wills.)


(Type II note: Rishadan Port was a popular card in the Urza-era Type II, making it better for decks to use the Port early on instead of holding back mana to counter because they prevent the opponent from casting nastier spells earlier. This does not work in Type I.)


CARD DRAWING AND MANIPULATION
Card drawing is essential to most blue decks, and Draw-Go does not use the top blue card drawing permanent (Ophidian; the top permanent drawer is, of course, Library of Alexandria) because it keeps few permanents to maximize its artifact removal. This is also why it does not use the alternatives such as Treasure Trove and Jayemdae Tome.

Instead of Ophidian, it uses the latest (and possibly last) word in card drawing: the unbelievable Fact or Fiction.

FACT OR FICTION
Cost: 3U
Rarity: UnCommon
Type: Instant
Set: Invasion

Card Text: Reveal the top five cards of your library. An opponent separates those cards into two face-up piles. Put one pile into your hand and the other into your graveyard.
Rulings: You choose which pile to put into your hand. [D'Angelo 10/14/00]

This unbelievable card takes a little imagination, but it allows you to filter through your next five cards, and pick up a key card such as Morphling, Nevinyrral's Disk, Powder Keg or Strip Mine, or pick up three to four extra cards. It is also an instant, and can be used as bait to draw counters during the end of your opponent's turn. (Beware of tapping out at this time if you expect your opponent might have something nasty, such as Boil. If you do not want it countered, use it when you reach at least 6 mana which allows you to either defend Fact or Fiction or start a counter war that will leave an opening during your turn.) In his Sideboard article, "Separating Fact from Fiction," Darwin Kastle said, "The card is so powerful that there is now a commonly used acronym referring to it: EOTFOFYL. End of Turn Fact or Fiction You Lose!"

Fact or Fiction greatly increases the consistency of Draw-Go and other control decks since it is card drawing and deck manipulation all in one.

When using Fact or Fiction, one has to be conscious of how an opponent creates his piles. Some choices are straightforward. When faced with a Powder Keg or Morphling when crucial separated from four other spells, take the four cards (especially when you already have a Keg or Morphling in hand, unknown to your opponent) unless the spell is indeed crucial.

Fact or Fiction, however, leaves a lot to the opponent's skill-or lack of it. In the same article, Darwin discussed what an opponent may do when faced with more difficult choices: "It's when there are three or more meaningful cards that it starts to get really difficult. The board/life situation and what you have in your hand are the main ways to decide which cards are meaningful... The better your position, the fewer cards will be meaningful."

"There are two main methods: make the piles as close to identical as possible, or try to fool your opponent. The first method is easier and safer. When you're not sure what to do, it is probably the way to go. The second method is harder and riskier, but the potential rewards are greater.

"The key to fooling your opponent is to convince them that your hand gives you important information that they don't have. One approach is to make the piles quickly and confidently. Put a normally powerful card that because of your hand you're not afraid of (I will call this the decoy) in a pile with something of little importance, maybe an excess land. Then the other pile will be composed of the three remaining cards, including the card you're actually most afraid of. Hopefully your opponent will become convinced that the decoy in the smaller pile scares the living daylights out of you and take it. I don't recommend overdoing this. Try to balance the piles enough that if your strategy backfires you might still have a chance to win. Of course if you're desperate enough you can take whatever risks you think necessary."

He added, "A Fact or Fiction immediately when your opponent reaches four mana can be quite interesting, especially if they didn't arrive at four mana promptly. In this situation I like to put all the land in one pile and the spells in the other. Now you are often guaranteeing a reasonable outcome. Either he is able to have some land to go with the spells he already had, or now he has some extra spells but often without enough mana to exploit this. Its important to separate the cards your opponent wants from those they need. While you should try not to be too greedy when making the separation, you should try and punish your opponent for being greedy.

"For example, when there is another Fact or Fiction among the five cards I'm separating, I often like to put it with the decoy pile. The other pile sometimes contains something so scary that I want to take my chances and another entire turn of my opponent's on a new Fact or Fiction. This is a trap many opponents fall for, since they are playing with Fact or Fiction they are usually a big fan of casting them whenever possible. As powerful as cards like Fact or Fiction are, it's usually dangerous to take too many turns for searching and card drawing and not actually doing anything that affects the board."

In more competitive Type I, however, note that mana can develop faster. Also, while Type II decks using Fact or Fiction can end up running out of cards if not careful, this is far less relevant in Type I because Morphling can be forced onto the board and win the game in only four turns.

Before Fact or Fiction, Whispers of the Muse was the card drawer of choice for decks that intend to play out long games of control (other decks used Opportunity and Stroke of Genius, for example), but it was too slow and expensive to use outside Type II. If you use it, the two things to remember are: 1) When you have four Whispers, do not be afraid to cast one early (when it is useless) without buyback to cycle through your library; and 2) When you reach 6 mana, a clever aggressive deck will try to cast something every turn to force you to counter in an attempt to stop you from drawing more cards.


Card manipulation has to be examined carefully in terms of net card gain. Frantic Search, for example, uses one card to draw two cards and discard two more for a net loss of one card (and it was used in Type II mainly to combat Tangle Wire, not to draw cards). The same goes for Attunement. Cards like Scroll Rack and Soothsaying also draw no cards and their manipulation ability is limited in a deck that is very redundant (and again, Fact or Fiction is simply faster).

Manipulation is necessary in Draw-Go to increase flexibility, and allow a player to filter into land if needed in the early game, or a key Disk, Keg or Morphling. The manipulation cards of choice are often Impulse and Brainstorm, which have a zero net loss. Impulse is the classic card as it cycles through four cards (ˇ§deeperˇ¨ than similar cards); play it early before you untap to smooth out the land and counters in your hand.

Brainstorm only digs through two cards but it is more useful in some situations due to the tricks it can perform. In Type I, it is easily cast in response to a discard spell to "hide" key spells on top of your library. With Thawing Glaciers, one can also draw three cards and return two weaker cards (excess land, for example), which will them be reshuffled away.


BLUE'S BEST FRIENDS: DISK AND KEG
This deck type would not be possible without Nevinyrral's Disk. The reset button gains you several cards because you can neutralize the entire board with it, destroying many of your opponent's cards with just one of yours. This is the reason why you can afford not to counter some of your opponent's spells and then begin countering more aggressively after you use the Disk. The loss of the Disk severely weakened mono blue in Type II, forcing them to seek faster wins partly because they could no longer clear the board.

A fun spell to use with the Disk in casual play is Capsize, as one can Capsize the Disk in response to its ability (it does not say "sacrifice" so the Disk will return to your hand to be used again). Some more serious decks use Capsize to return permanents that were not countered when they were first cast, especially regenerating creatures that do not die to Disk. Early on, they can be used as a desperation move to break the tempo of an aggressive attacking deck. (Note that in more competitive play, this combo is too slow and expensive, and a good player should be able to take control after the first use of Nevinyrral's Disk.)

The Urza Block brought Powder Keg, the popular Disk alternative, and this has become more important in Draw-Go because it can be played earlier. However, it does not sweep the board like its ancestor and does not affect enchantments. Nevertheless, it selectively kills opposing creatures, and can be used even when Morphling is already in play.

Disk is often held until needed because one does not want to avoid tapping out. Against some decks, however, you will want to play Keg as soon as you can instead of holding mana open to counter. The best example is Sligh, where you will want to destroy Jackal Pups, Goblin Cadets and Cursed Scrolls before you have to counter burn spells.

When using Keg, pay close attention to the number of counters. The number to maintain requires close observation of the opponent's deck. The general rule is to keep the counters at one less than the desired level, and add the last counter during your next upkeep. Against Sligh for example, one can add no counters (which kills man lands and Moxen) until one sees a Jackal Pup, or one can keep Keg at one counter for the weenies with the option to go to two counters if a 2-mana creature is seen. Against another Draw-Go deck, on the other hand, one will want to go to four counters and wait for the Morphling.


THE FINER POINTS OF MORPHLING
Draw-Go contains just a few creatures because when it plays a creature, it expects to win.
Morphling is the best finisher available in the game and is not nicknamed "Superman" for nothing. For beginners, though, the Morphling rules are described in this Primer as well.

(The classic choice was Mahamoti Djinn and was followed by other big creatures such as Waterspout Djinn and Silver Wyvern, but even the classic Serra Angel has been displaced by the mighty Morphling. There are alternatives, however, which survive the Disk unlike Morphling: Palinchron with its "free" casting and return-to-hand ability, and Masticore which is strong against weenies and regenerates after Disk.

Rainbow Efreet has become stronger after Sixth as it can now phase out after dealing damage, and can evade the Disk as well. Before Morphling, Draw-Go decks killed with only Stalking Stones and a lone Efreet.)

MORPHLING
Cost: 3UU
Rarity: Rare
Type: Creature - Summon Shapeshifter
Set: Urza's Saga

Errata: 3/3. ; {U}: Untap ~this~. ; {U}: ~this~ gains flying until end of turn. ; {U}: ~this~ can't be the target of spells or abilities until end of turn. ; {1}: ~this~ gets +1/-1 until end of turn. ; {1}: ~this~ gets -1/+1 until end of turn. [Oracle 99/05/01]


First, never play Morphling unless you have at least six mana (the sixth is to activate the "cannot be the target of..." ability to protect the Morphling); in Draw-Go, it is better to wait until you are in complete control. Always use this ability in response to spells and effects that target Morphling to cause them to fizzle, but note that if you have only two or three blue mana open, your opponent can attempt to unload a barrage of spells during the end of your turn to force you to tap out (you can try to conserve blue mana by instead increasing the toughness with colorless mana, if you have to). Once you can protect Morphling, play it immediately, do nothing else but keep mana open, and win in four turns.

Second, remember that if you want to fly past blockers, you have to give Morphling flying before blockers are declared.

Third, remember that Morphling untaps, so attack with it and untap it when you need a blocker.

Fourth, turn Morphling into a 5/1 for a faster kill or to kill a larger creature. The latter is done by using the reverse ability and pumping the Morphling's toughness after damage is assigned. The Morphling will deal damage based on its original power, but damage will be applied to its new toughness. Thus, to kill a Juzam Djinn, one only has to spend two mana to turn the Morphling into a 5/1, assign damage, then spend five mana to turn it into a 0/6.

Finally, against "power" Type I decks, remember that Morphling gets past both Moat and The Abyss, but dies to Balance, Wrath of God, Nevinyrral's Disk, Diabolic Edict and Tsabo's Decree as these are not targeted.

There are so many other little tricks to Morphling that one picks up as one goes. One responds to Abeyance by making Morphling untargetable. One gets past Ensnaring Bridge by turning Morphling into a 0/6 creature then to a 5/1. Note that a Replenished Treachery can legally be placed on Morphling because it is not considered a spell and does not need to target. Also note that Obliterate is used by some sadistic players as an anti-Morphling spell, and the Draw-Go player's only defense is to hold extra land in hand. Finally, some players sideboard Flash to allow Morphling to be cast as an instant and used as bait to force a counter war during the opponent's turn and create an opening for a second Morphling in the Draw-Go player's turn. (The Weatherlight land Winding Canyons does the same thing, though for more mana.)

In today's environment, Draw-Go decks usually cannot just pack one kill card such as the lone Rainbow Efreet of old because decks are faster, making it harder to maintain complete control and encouraging one to end the game faster. (Rainbow Efreet, however, is still used by some players in some situations despite its mana intensiveness because it and not Morphling slips past Oath of Druids.)

(As a final note, while Control Magic and Treachery do not affect Morphling, note that your opponent's random Bribery and Desertion become very good if they manage to get Morphling, so beware in casual play lest you become the laughingstock of your play group!)


MASTICORE
Cost: 4
Rarity: Rare
Type: Artifact Creature
Set: Urza's Destiny
Errata: 4/4. ; At the beginning of your upkeep, you may discard a card from your hand. If you don't, sacrifice ~this~. ; {2}: ~this~ deals 1 damage to target creature. ; {2}: Regenerate ~this~. [Oracle 99/07/21]

In weenie heavy environments, one will probably want to replace Morphling with Masticore. It has a brutal upkeep, but it can make up by killing weenies, surviving Disk and being able to defeat an opponent in 5 turns. It is also hard to kill when an opponent does not have Swords to Plowshares (or something like Pillage or Treachery), though it is still not as easy as Morphling to protect. One should know when to stop paying the upkeep (for example, when the ground stalls). Note that you can use Fact or Fiction in response to the upkeep to gain some breathing room (when you Impulse for it at the end of your opponent's turn, for example).

Be especially wary of playing Masticore against a discard deck, though, as you have to keep at least one card in hand for the beginning of the next turn, and a single discard spell can indirectly kill Masticore by emptying your hand.

Note that in addition to creatures, some Draw-Go decks use Treachery, and this can be competitive when creatures such as Ophidians are expected. Generally, however, these are bad (though fun) because an opponent may have no creatures, or no worthwhile creatures. When using it against a weenie deck with nothing worth stealing, steal a creature anyway if you have nothing else to do, to use as a sacrificial blocker.

Bribery, however, is a bad card (unless your opponent has only one Morphling, like some Keeper decks). Treachery costs a card and gains you one of your opponent's cards, for a net gain of one card in your favor. Bribery costs a card and gains you a card that was not in play, for no net gain. And, your opponent might still have nothing worthwhile.


LAND
Before going into individual card choices, one has to note that Draw-Go has to use a lot of mana. When a control deck faces a similar deck, the one with more mana in play often wins, and many old Type II decks used as many as 30 lands. One has to be very conscious of this when creating a Draw-Go deck. In addition, one also has to pay attention to the number of blue mana sources in the deck and make sure that it consistently gets two blue sources by turn 2 so it can begin countering immediately.

Mana development is very important for the Draw-Go deck, which is why cards like Thwart and Daze can be very bad for it and why cards like Quicksand and Maze of Ith can hurt it more than they seem to.

Aside from Library of Alexandria, there is no land stronger in Draw-Go than Thawing Glaciers. It gives you the mana to win the counter war and thins your deck, improving your draws. However, it is a slow card that many players leave out in competitive play. When using this, make sure to drop at least two Islands first unless you are sure your opponent will play nothing you need to counter. Also note that if you went second, you may end up with nine cards in hand after using Thaw and be forced to discard a card. (Thawing Glaciers' effect is not felt until the midgame, which may make it too slow for more competitive play. As shown by the casual deck at the start of the article, however, it is fun in casual play and brutal with Dust Bowl.)

Mishra's Factory is a classic utility land, and gives a backup win option as well as a powerful early blocker (remember that in Sixth, tapped blockers deal damage but a Mishra's Factory just played still cannot tap itself and give itself +1/+1). Against an opposing counter deck, remember that Mishra's Factory is uncounterable. One must choose when playing one's first land, however, as playing Mishra's Factory in the first turn will remove its summoning sickness for the next turn but disallows you from playing Counterspell.

Faerie Conclave and Stalking Stones are other alternatives, though Faerie Conclave has the problem of coming into play tapped. If you like man-lands, you may also enjoy Trade Routes. While its main purpose is to convert excess land into spells, it bounces man lands (especially after combat damage goes on the stack) and doubles as defense against land destruction.

Land destruction is necessary in any deck and especially against opposing man-lands and Libraries of Alexandia that cannot be countered. The pinpoint land destruction of choice are Strip Mine and 4 Wastelands. Dust Bowl can be added to supplement the deck because Draw-Go plays long games where the Bowl's ability can come into play and offset the high land count Draw-Go has to run.

Remote Isle is a good Type II choice as it can be cycled if drawn late, but note that Thawing Glaciers is simply more powerful.

Finally, some old decklists contained Quicksand as a creature removal spell. It has to be sacrificed and stunts your development, however. If you like this, however, my personal favorite is the Desert of Arabian Nights. Another old favorite is Maze of Ith, is actually bad because it slows mana development, but can be fun in casual play because it forces an opponent to overextend and lose more cards to Nevinyrral's Disk.


APPENDIX I: FORBIDDIAN

As mentioned earlier, the best blue permanent card drawer is the innocent-looking Ophidian. With its ability to draw a card each turn for practically no cost, it was soon paired with Forbid when it was printed, a combination that allowed a player to counter one spell each turn for "free" (using the card drawn by Ophidian and the card drawn normally). In addition, Powder Keg was a great boost because it has more synergy with Ophidian than the traditional Nevinyrral's Disk.

OPHIDIAN
Cost: 2U
Rarity: Common
Type: Creature - Summon Snake
Set: Weatherlight

Errata: 1/3. ; Whenever ~this~ attacks and isn't blocked, you may draw a card. If you do, ~this~ deals no combat damage this turn. [Oracle 99/07/30]
Rulings: See Is Not Blocked Ability, Rule E.6


Forbiddian has become a "trademark deck" of many fine players from Jon Finkel to Beyond Dominia's Michael Bower aka mikephoen:


CHRIS PIKULA, SECOND PLACE, GRAND PRIX KANSAS CITY (Extended), MARCH 1999

Land (26)
14 Island
4 Thawing Glacier
4 Wasteland
4 Mishra's Factory

Creatures (6)
4 Ophidian
2 Morphling

Counters (15)
4 Force Spike
4 Counterspell
3 Forbid
4 Force of Will

Removal (3)
3 Nevinyrral's Disk

Utility (10)
4 Impulse
4 Brainstorm
2 Arcane Laboratory


MARK LE PINE, TOP 8, 1999 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, EXTENDED PORTION
Counters (14)
3 Force Spike
4 Counterspell
3 Forbid
4 Force of Will

Creatures (10)
2 Morphling
4 Ophidian
4 Sea Sprite

Removal (4)
4 Powder Keg

Utility (7)
4 Brainstorm
3 Impulse

Land (25)
4 Mishra's Factory
4 Wasteland
4 Thawing Glaciers
13 Island

Sideboard:
1 Nevinyrral's Disk
4 Hydroblast
2 Blue Elemental Blast
1 Arcane Laboratory
3 Tormod's Crypt
3 Whispers of the Muse
1 Rainbow Efreet


JON FINKEL, FIRST MASTERS TOURNAMENT (EXTENDED), SEPTEMBER 2000
Counters (14)
4 Counterspell
4 Force of Will
3 Forbid
3 Annul

Removal (6)
4 Powder Keg
2 Nevinyrral's Disk

Creatures (7)
4 Ophidian
3 Morphling

Utility (8)
4 Brainstorm
4 Impulse

Land (25)
4 Thawing Glaciers
4 Wasteland
2 Dust Bowl
15 Island

Sideboard:
1 Annul
2 Treachery
4 Flash
4 Hydroblast
4 Back to Basics


MICHAEL BOWER AKA MIKEPHOEN, CHAMPION, FIRST BEYOND DOMINIA TYPE I TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS, 2000

Mana (25)
17 Island
4 Wasteland
1 Strip Mine
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Black Lotus
1 Sol Ring

Counters (17)
4 Counterspell
4 Mana Drain
2 Forbid
4 Force of Will
3 Misdirection

Removal (6)
4 Powder Keg
2 Nevinyrral's Disk

Creatures (6)
4 Ophidian
2 Morphling

Utility (6)
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
2 Soothsaying
1 Zuran Orb


PAT CHAPIN, 2000 MAGIC INVITATIONAL, TYPE I PORTION
Counters (11)
4 Mana Drain
4 Force of Will
2 Misdirection
1 Pyroblast

Creatures (7)
4 Ophidian
2 Morphling
1 Gorilla Shaman

Utility (14)
4 Brainstorm
4 Impulse
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Stroke of Genius
1 Braingeyser
2 Blood Moon

Mana (28)
2 Mishra's Factory
1 Library of Alexandria
1 Strip Mine
1 Bad River
2 Thawing Glaciers
4 Wasteland
4 Volcanic Island
6 Island
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Pearl
1 Black Lotus
1 Sol Ring

Sideboard
1 Timetwister
1 Windfall
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Blue Elemental Blast
1 Treachery
2 Blood Moon
2 Red Elemental Blast
1 Fireblast
1 Wheel of Fortune
2 Pyroblast
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Pyroclasm


Studying the Extended decks, one notes that Forbiddian was more successful and more consistent in a faster environment with a broader card pool. Ophidian made all the difference, before Fact or Fiction. It was more difficult to overrun, yet still lethal against slower control and combo decks. Nevertheless, it still had the same fundamental weaknesses as Draw-Go. As Chris Pikula put it in his Grand Prix Kansas City Dojo report: "The deck was built for 2 reasons: 1) it should beat the crap out of High Tide and Jar; 2) Most of us had 3 byes. This is definitely a 3 bye deck, it was not built to beat beatdown decks. The sideboard still needed a lot of work, and we knew that if we wanted to beat Sligh and Jank after boarding it would take up many slots." In fact, note the Sea Sprites in Mark LePine's deck, which act as main deck speed bumps against red.

Forbiddian differs from Draw-Go mainly because Ophidian replaces some counters, but this is actually a very big difference. Forbiddian's early strategy now revolves around Ophidian, which has more nuances than initially obvious.

First, Ophidian presents a key 3-mana spell that cannot be played during the opponent's turn. One choose when to play it very carefully. Against certain decks (or when desperate against certain decks), one will want to play it almost immediately, as its 3 toughness allows it to act as a wall in the early game. Against other decks, this would be suicide because it leaves the Forbiddian player too vulnerable to the opponent's counterattack, or will lead to Ophidian's quick death. A player should generally try to play Ophidian when he can reasonably protect it, but even then he may be forced to tap out during the end of his turn in the face of an opponent's instant removal.

Second, as can be inferred from the above, the Forbiddian player no longer has the luxury of ignoring the opponent's creature removal, unlike the Draw-Go player. (Incidentally, some Type I players have joked that Urza's Rage actually reads, "Destroy target Ophidian.") One has to defend the Ophidian with counters, though the snake replaces the cards used to protect it with new ones.

Finally, the Forbiddian player has fewer counters than the Draw-Go player, although this becomes less relevant if Ophidian enters play and begins drawing cards.

Thus, Forbiddian plays very similarly to Draw-Go, except one has to pay attention to one's 4 extra creatures. One still uses Impulse and its cousins to smooth one's draws, Powder Keg to remove threats on the board, and gain control by eventually playing Morphling. One just fits Ophidian into all this to speed up the process with broken card drawing. Of course, if an opponent focuses all his resources on eliminating or countering Ophidian and creates an opening, do not hesitate to stop defending the snake, take the opening and drop Morphling.

Because adding Ophidian adds creatures to Draw-Go, some Tempest-era decks went further and added more creatures and Mishra's Factory to use Tradewind Rider. This is a fun strategy especially when two Tradewinds give one the option of bouncing all the opponent's land, although it forces the Forbiddian player to use even fewer counters. However, the printing of Morphling and a much faster kill and one-card combo has made this strategy obsolete.

Finally, some casual players prefer to use Thieving Magpie, Ophidian's younger cousin. In general, Ophidian is far better because of its cheaper cost. In Urza-era Type II, some blue players did not even use Magpie despite its similarity to Ophidian because they would either have to tap out early (and even risk Treachery) or play it much later when they could defend it but when it would no longer have a significant impact on the game. A difference is that Magpie deals damage while Ophidian does not, but this is insignificant in a deck that concerns itself with dealing damage only when in control of the game. Magpie's only advantage is that it is much more difficult to block, and this is important for players in environments where there are more creatures.

THIEVING MAGPIE
Cost: 2UU
Rarity: UnCommon
Type: Creature - Bird
Set: Urza's Destiny

Errata: 1/3, Flying. ; Whenever ~this~ deals damage to an opponent, you draw a card. [Oracle 99/07/21]
Flavor Text: Rayne once made several unkind comparisons between the bird's naked opportunism and Urza's.


APPENDIX II: TYPE I ACCELERATED BLUE
As mentioned earlier, when Urza's Saga rotated in, blue players suddenly realized that the best counterspells left in the pool were Counterspell and Miscalculation. This was partly why Zvi Mowshowitz felt Replenish could not be defeated by a counterspell strategy, as discussed in the first section of this primer. Draw-Go adapted by no longer seeking total control. Instead, it became more aggressive and sought to play its greatest weapon, Morphling, much earlier than it ever had. Grim Monoliths made a curious appearance in the era's Draw-Go equivalents, leading to the curious evolution known as Accelerated Blue or PatrickJ (after Patrick Johnson, one of the players who made the deck type popular).

PATJ.TECH, PATRICK JOHNSON, FIRST ROUGH DECK FROM DOJO ARTICLE
Counters (11)
4 Counterspell
3 Miscalculation
2 Power Sink
2 Rewind

Creatures (6)
4 Morphling
2 Masticore

Removal (8)
4 Treachery
4 Powder Keg

Card drawing (5)
3 Inspiration
2 Opportunity

Mana (30)
17 Island
4 Faerie Conclave
3 Dust Bowl
2 Blasted Landscape
4 Grim Monolith


ACCELERATED BLUE, ZVI MOWSHOWITZ, SAMPLE DECK FROM MINDRIPPER ARTICLE
Counters (9)
4 Counterspell
4 Miscalculation
1 Rewind

Creatures (8)
3 Morphling
3 Masticore
2 Palinchron

Removal (8)
4 Treachery
4 Powder Keg

Card drawing (3)
3 Stroke of Genius

Mana (32)
15 Island
4 Faerie Conclave
4 Rishadan Port
4 Dust Bowl
1 Blasted Landscape
4 Grim Monolith

Sideboard:
2 Arcane Laboratory
3 Unsummon
1 Submerge
1 Temporal Adept
3 Scrying Glass
4 Annul
1 Masticore

According to Patrick: "Since the earliest days of magic, deckbuilders have realized the power of accelerating your mana. The rules state that you can only play one land per turn, but players have long used artifacts or other spells to increase the amount of mana available to them in the early game. Obviously, the increased supply of mana gives the accelerated player more powerful options and can often allow them to present an overwhelming threat before the opponent can react.

"In 1995-96 Brian Weissman and Chip Hogan were Mana Draining spells and using the colorless mana boost to accelerate out Jayemdae Tome + Disrupting Scepter or Icy Manipulator + Winter Orb. The concept of blue acceleration is therefore not totally new. However, the printing of an ultra-efficient control creature (who also happens to be a four turn clock) in Saga, new artifact mana in Legacy, and superb board control spells in Destiny breathed new life into this archetype."

Zvi's version differed mainly because it used Stroke of Genius to flexibly draw just 1 or 2 cards or more than 4 later on or with Grim Monolith, a debated issue of the time. It also showed how the high mana count was crucial to the deck, and how the deck compensated by trying to make the lands as flexible as possible. Dust Bowl used surplus land to attack the opponent's mana, and Rishadan Port was used as early as the second turn (instead of holding open mana for countering) to slow the opponent.

Acc Blue thus played very differently compared to earlier Type II Draw-Go decks. It had very few counters it had to use them very carefully, and used these only to slow the opponent enough for a Morphling to enter play and clean up. Its best defense was its own offense.

Despite the restriction of Grim Monolith in Type I (and note that Mana Vault works differently since it can only be untapped during upkeep, which either leaves the Acc Blue player vulnerable for 1 turn or with several points of damage), Moxen allowed the idea to be viable, especially considering Type I Acc Blue was no longer limited to the weak counters of its Type II ancestor.

Zvi played a deck with 4 Ophidian and 3 Morphling in the previous Invitational. The following year, Fact or Fiction gave the Type I version a consistency the original Accelerated Blue decks never had. As Beyond Dominia regular Matt D'Avanzo commented to the author in private e-mail, "Morphling made this deck style possible and Fact or Fiction turned it into a tier 1 deck..."


ACCELERATED BLUE, ZVI MOWSHOWITZ, 2000 MAGIC INVITATIONAL, TYPE I PORTION
Counters (14)
4 Mana Drain
1 Counterspell
3 Mana Leak
4 Force of Will
2 Misdirection

Utility (14)
4 Brainstorm
4 Impulse
4 Fact or Fiction
1 Time Walk
1 Ancestral Recall

Creatures (3)
3 Morphling

Removal (2)
2 Powder Keg

Mana (27)
14 Island
4 Wasteland
1 Strip Mine
1 Library of Alexandria
1 Black Lotus
1 Sol Ring
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Grim Monolith

Sideboard:
2 Scrying Glass
2 Masticore
2 Powder Keg
2 Hydroblast
2 Annul
2 Back to Basics
3 Treachery


After the Invitational, Beyond Dominia's second Type I Tournament of Champions (Elrond's Revenge) revealed that some regulars developed and refined the deck semi-independently after realizing how Fact or Fiction made blue more consistent (it could more reliably fetch its Powder Kegs, for example).

Type I Accelerated Blue, Acolytec, Beyond Dominia Type I Tournament of Champions II

Counters (18)
4 Mana Drain
4 Counterspell
4 Force of Will
3 Misdirection
3 Mana Leak

Utility (8)
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
4 Fact or Fiction
2 Back to Basics

Creatures (4)
4 Morphling

Removal (4)
4 Powder Keg

Mana (26)
19 Island
1 Black Lotus
1 Sol Ring
5 Moxen

Sideboard:
3 Masticore
2 Back to Basics
3 Control Magic
3 Blue Elemental Blast
2 Flash Counter
2 Gainsay


TYPE I ACCELERATED BLUE, REFINED BY DERANGED PARROT DURING THE TOURNAMENT
Counters (19)
4 Mana Drain
4 Mana Leak
3 Counterspell
4 Force of Will
4 Misdirection

Utility (8)
4 Fact or Fiction
2 Back to Basics
R Ancestral Recall
R Time Walk

Creatures (4)
4 Morphling

Removal (4)
4 Powder Keg

Mana (25)
1 Black Lotus
5 Moxen
1 Sol Ring
18 Island

Sideboard:
4 Flash Counter
4 Control Magic
4 Masticore
2 Back to Basics
1 Counterspell

The most notable refinement was the emphasis on Mana Leak, which could be played first-turn after playing an Island an an off-color Mox. Parrot also proposed that Control Magic was better than the usual Treachery against Phyrexian Negators and other creatures because it could be played a turn earlier, and that this was more crucial than holding mana open. Both Acolytec and Parrot emphasized Back to Basics as a key card in addition to Morphling.

The Keeper (5-color control) players were a target of the Accelerated Blue decks which had twice as many counters and could easily force a quick Morphling or Back to Basics against them. Strategies specifically against Accelerated Blue were floated by Keeper players. JP "Polluted" Meyer, for example, proposed focusing one's counters on forcing his sideboarded Jester's Cap through and removing 3 Morphlings, then waiting to use Obliterate once the last Morphling was played. Accelerated Blue would then run out of cards earlier due to its own Fact or Fictions.

The most extensive commentary on Accelerated Blue was written shortly before the tournament began by the Beyond Dominia poster and Cornell student known only as "Legend."

LEGENDBLUE 2001

Counters (18)
4 Mana Drain
4 Counterspell
4 Mana Leak
4 Force of Will
2 Misdirection

Utility (6)
4 Fact of Fiction
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk

Creatures (4)
4 Morphling

Removal (4)
4 Powder Keg

Mana (28)
1 Grim Monolith
1 Sol Ring
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Pearl
20 Islands

Sideboard:
4 Back to Basics
4 Gainsay
2 Annul
2 Capsize
2 Misdirection
1 Strip Mine


As Legend posted: "The two things that really make Type I Acc Blue distinct are the unusual mana base and the use of 4 Morphlings. Most Draw-Go decks use only 2 Morphlings. For Type I Acc Blue, however, 4 Morphlings are essential. It is necessary to have a Morphling ready as soon as enough mana becomes available to cast and protect him.

"This deck does not wait. The goal is not to establish sweeping control with The Abyss or Moat, or to go into recursion. The goal is simply to counter enemy spells for as long as it takes for Morphling to do the job. Hence, it is important to have Morphling ready to do his job. Perhaps even more important is Morphling's role as a defender. His blocking ability is actually a major foundation of Type I Acc Blue, because not every creature can be countered.

"The more I play this deck, the more I realize why Morphling is different than all other creatures. He is
not just a participant in the game like all other creatures. He is really much closer to being a planeswalker or a wizard, an entity with control over his own destiny. In fact, the only person he has to answer to is me. There are however, a few annoying cards that can stop him, which I will get to later.

"Also, always remember that 'excess' Morphlings can simply be pitched to Force of Will and Misdirection.
Therefore, Morphling is never useless. I have actually cast him on the first turn, although the 2nd or 3rd turn is a bit more realistic for an early arrival. These are unusual scenarios though. A more realistic expectation is to cast him anywhere between the 5th and 10th turns, depending on the draw and whether or not a lot of enemy threats are on the board.

"Now, as I mentioned earlier, this unusual mana base is a feature that sets this deck apart from other Draw-Go decks. Why?

"To use both Wastelands and the off-color Moxes would result in having too much colorless mana in a deck that absolutely has to have an abundance of blue mana. I elect to use the Moxes over the Wastelands. The acceleration that they provide in casting Morphlings, Fact or Fictions, and Mana Leaks is crucial. As I said about the Morphlings, its not Type I Acc Blue if it doesn't have all the Moxes.

"But what about Libary of Alexandria? Shouldn't I be scared?

"This deck is made with the idea of imposing its style of play on the game, not the other way around. The surest way to ruin would have been to frantically load the deck with Wastelands just for the purpose of halting Library Of Alexandria. I readily concede that this card can be a threat. So can Mishra's Factory and a whole assortment of other nuisance lands. I prefer a mana base that is solid and reliable, however, and Back to Basics and Strip Mine from the sideboard erase all non-basic land threats."

As mentioned earlier, other Beyond Dominia regulars have actually main decked Back to Basics because Type I Acc Blue is practically immune to it yet it is devastating against a number of decks. Legend, however, differed because he insisted on only 20 basic Islands and foregoing every other possible land from Tolarian Academy to Library of Alexandria. In his words, "Blue mana fuels this deck, and a failure to meet this decks mana requirements would have resulted in disaster."


TYPE I ACCELERATED BLUE MATCHUP ANALYSIS BY LEGEND

A. Keeper

Obviously, Back to Basics will win the 2nd and 3rd games if Type I Acc Blue can win the counter war to force it into play. But Back to Basics aside, always remember that Type I Acc Blue has more counters, before and after sideboarding, so be secure in that knowledge.

Type I Acc Blue can play control in this matchup, yet when it is Morphling time, it can be the aggresor. However, it is important to be weary of Library of Alexandria in the first game, COP Blue in the second and third games, sideboarded Pyroblasts, maindecked Pyroblasts, and of course the absurd first turn plays that can occur, such as a devastating Balance or Timetwister. Type I Acc Blue ought to have a healthy respect for the Keeper decks, but see Type I Acc Blue as having the slight edge here. This should be favorable as long as proper respect is given.

(Note that Keeper has only 8-10 counters. If the Keeper player uses counters against your Fact or Fictions, you can make an intelligent guess as to how many counters he has left in hand. At some points, if you have enough mana to cast Morphling, two blue mana to counter, two more blue mana to activate Morphling's untargetability, and a Force of Will in hand, you might be able to cast Morphling already or use "surplus" Morphlings to bait counters. - Rakso)


B. Mono-Red (Sligh, Straight Burn, other variants)

I consider this to be the easiest matchup for Type I Acc Blue, maybe with the exception of combo. Even if they sideboard Pyroblasts and REBs, they have to sacrifice part of their damage base to do so, whereas Flash Counter only strengthens what Type I Acc Blue was doing anyway. Misdirection, especially the extra ones int he sideboard, only add to this advantage. There are too many counters for red to push enough damage through, and Powder Keg can be a nightmare for them. Further, Type I Acc Blue will outdraw these decks. This is as close to an auto-win as it gets.


C. Deck Parfait (Mono white control)

Intriguing matchup. Very intriguing. This one revolves around one dynamic: Can the Parfait player force either
a Sacred Mesa or a Story Circle into play? If not, Type I Acc Blue should be able to win this one. In the first game, it is of the utmost importance to keep thes enchantments from reaching play, because Type I Acc Blue will just concede if they hit, having no way to get rid of them. Second and third game, Capsize helps to remedy this problem somewhat, and Annul helps as well. Don't let Abeyance through; it is typically a setup for A Story Circle, Sacred Mesa or COP Blue. Scroll Rack is worth dealing with, but is not as deadly as the hosers. Land Tax can be annoying, but not a must stop. Just focus on the hosers and be patient with Morphling in this matchup.

(Below is the Deck Parfait list of Raphael Caron as of December 22, 2000:

DECK PARFAIT (DECEMBER 22, 2000)

Drawing Engine (7)
3 Land Tax
2 Scroll Rack
2 Zuran Orb

Survival Spells/Silver Bullets (12)
1 Balance
3 Swords to Plowshares
1 Moat
1 Wrath of God
3 Aura of Silence
1 Story Circle
1 Ivory Mask
1 Ivory Tower

Utility Spells (11)
1 Enlightened Tutor
4 Abeyance
1 Planar Birth
4 Argivian Find
1 Replenish

The Kill (6)
3 Sacred Mesa
1 Jester's Cap
1 Tormod's Crypt
1 Soldevi Digger

Mana (24)
1 Library of Alexandria
1 Serra's Sanctum
13 Plains
1 Strip Mine
3 Wasteland
1 Lotus Petal
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Diamond
1 Sol Ring

Note that the Type I Acc Blue absolutely has to counter 3 Sacred Mesa and 1 Story Circle as these render Morphlings completely ineffective, as well as the 4 Abeyance. In addition, Soldevi Digger and 4 Argivian Find recycle countered enchantments, Jester's Cap can remove 3 Morphlings from the game, and Balance and Wrath of God each take one Morphling with them if they resolve.

Without counting Balance and Wrath of God, these are 14 cards that Type I Acc Blue has to deal with, and allowances must be made for mana acceleration and card drawing provided by Land Tax, Scroll Rack and Planar Birth. While Type I Acc Blue has at least as many counters, the numbers show why a skilled Deck Parfait player may just be able to force the threats through, if not the Land Tax/Scroll Rack drawing engine.

This can be likened, in a way, to the Type II Acc Blue vs Replenish back in Urza-era Type II as discussed by Zvi Mowshowitz earlier because Deck Parfait can overwhelm the blue deck with its permanents. The game is more even in Type I, however. - Rakso)


D. Zoo and its variants

There are many Zoo variants, but the general pattern is to use a bunch of 2/1s, Bolts, and Serendibs, plus a whole assortment of dangerous restricted cards. Powder Keg is the key here. Just counter creatures then play Morphling. Beware the restricted 'refill' cards. Expect the usual sideboard cards, and plan accordingly. River Boas and Blurred Mongooses can be nuisances. This match is favorable as long as everything that Keg and Morphling cannot deal with is countered. Depending on the exact build of the deck, Back to Basics may or may not be necessary.


E. Black Decks (Butter Knives, Pox, NetherVoid)

This is the worst matchup, by a wide margin. The handkill, landkill and an early, uncountered Specter or Negator can be a disaster. Mana Leak is extremely helpful here. Not much else to say, except that it is very important to get Powder Kegs into play as soon as possible and set them at 3 to stop Negators and Specters, and to be able to be ready for Scutas and Juzams. Counter as much resource denial as possible, and side in Misdirections.

Against Pox, this strategy is a little different, as their threats are slower than Negators and Specters (Keg also removes The Rack and Cursed Scroll - Rakso). NetherVoid has fewer threats, but more denial.

(It is precisely for this deck type that Parrot proposed the Control Magics in his sideboard. The already lethal anti-control Butter Knives, named after the mono black deck Chris Pikula used in the 2000 Invitational, can be even faster. Beyond Dominia's JP "Polluted" Meyer, for example, adds Flesh Reaver. - Rakso)


F. Random Decks

One of the stronger aspects of Type I Acc Blue is that it crushes random decks: sub-optimal versions of top decks, beginner's decks, unfocused decks made by intermediate players, and unexpected decks. Type I Acc Blue makes no mistake in these matchups because having so many counters is always a good remedy for the unkown. (Many of these decks are also not equipped to handle a protected Morphling anyway - Rakso)


G. Combo Decks (New Trix, Pandeburst, TurboLand)

These are the matchups that Type I Acc Blue excels in. There are typically just a few cards to focus in on, and these cards are well-known. Type I Acc Blue has too many counters for combo decks to be succesful unless they draw an unusually lucky disruptive hand. Overall, this is a nearly hopeless matchup for combo decks.


APPENDIX III: BLUE/WHITE CONTROL

(You guys think I need to add this since we get enough inquiries? It basically differs because white adds removal meaning there is less pressure on the blue player to counter everything, but there is a trade-off since the white removal can be dead against various decks to various degrees. - Rakso)

Read More Articles by Oscar Tan aka Rakso!

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