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"Budget Deckbuilding in Type I" Primer
By Oscar Tan aka Rakso
TAKEN FROM “HOW TO WATER DOWN TYPE I DECKS AND GET AWAY WITH IT”
September 10, 2000
Originally published on New Wave
Written by Oscar Tan aka Rakso
Type I Maintainer at www.bdominia.com
Ateneo de Manila University
Manila, Philippines

I began playing relatively early in Magic's history. Back then, in my old exclusive boy’s high school in the Philippines, reanimation meant not playing your first-turn Swamp so you could discard your Sengir Vampire and play Animate Dead on your third turn (we speeded it up when someone discovered the Swamp-Bog Rats-Soul Exchange combo).

The only decent counters then, barring Mana Drain, were Counterspell and Power Sink, and the idea of Draw-Go was something only a beginner feared. And we played in blissful ignorance, sticking Library of Leng, Feldon’s Canes, Fountains of Youth and Zuran Orbs in every deck as soon as they were printed.
After some time, however, I discovered the Internet, and with it, was exposed to such arcane concepts as "card advantage" and "deckbuilding focus". Though I had never even seen half the cards required to build it, there was one deck in particular I fell in love with: "The Deck."

BRIAN WEISSMAN’S "THE DECK" (1996)

Mana (28)
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring
4 City of Brass
4 Island
1 Library of Alexandria
3 Plains
3 Strip Mine
4 Tundra
2 Volcanic Island

Other artifacts (4)
2 Disrupting Scepter
1 Jayemdae Tome
1 Mirror Universe

Black (1)
1 Demonic Tutor

Blue (12)
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Timetwister
4 Mana Drain
2 Counter Spell
1 Amnesia
1 Braingeyser
1 Recall

Green (1)
1 Regrowth

Red (2)
2 Red Elemental Blast

White (12)
4 Disenchant
4 Swords to Plowshares
2 Moat
2 Serra Angel

Sideboard (15)
1 Disrupting Scepter
1 Feldon's Cane
1 Ivory Tower
1 Jayemdae Tome
2 Blood Moon
2 Fireball
2 Red Elemental Blast
2 CoP: Red
2 Divine Offering
1 Moat

In the immortal words of the creator (words which still have an impact on Magic today): "What I believe really sets ‘The Deck’ apart is its overall objective: survival. ‘The Deck’ virtually forgets about its opponent, and concentrates only on establishing itself and building card advantage… You simply concentrate on survival and drawing cards, and winning, through two angels or a Braingeyser, takes care of itself."

Years later, I look back and recall the first time I saw "The Deck", and realize that the excitement I felt is the same excitement felt by many new visitors to Beyond Dominia’s Type One Discussion Mill.
Especially when they ask the most frequently asked question on that forum: "How the heck am I supposed to play this monster with a 12-year old’s allowance?"

> > > HOW NOT TO PLAY TYPE I ON A BUDGET < < <

Many of the regulars on Beyond Dominia lack the so-called "Power Ten" (Black Lotus, the Moxes, Ancestral Recall, Timetwister, Time Walk and Library of Alexandria) and other extremely expensive cards (Moat, The Abyss, Mirror Universe, Mana Drain, Berserk), but want to try out archetypes like "The Deck." Their initial approach is to simply swap a Brainstorm for an Ancestral Recall, a Time Warp for a Time Walk, a Time Spiral for a Timetwister, and maybe a Lion’s Eye Diamond, Mox Diamond and Lotus Petal for some Moxes.

Every week, I end up giving the same speech: This does not work.

A Magic deck is made up of 60 cards, and each has its own specific structure. The deck remains the same if you replace cards only when the new cards do not alter the structure. Thus, you can generally play a Sligh deck in any format as long as cheap burn and creatures are available. There are cards, however, which are clearly irreplaceable in a deck’s structure, much like you cannot have a Replenish deck without Replenish.

One must realize that the "power" cards fit neatly into a given deck’s structure, and if its specific function cannot be replaced by another card, you have to alter the deck structure instead of making a simple one-for-one replacement.
Take Ancestral Recall. It is there for only one reason: insane card drawing. If you do not have an Ancestral Recall, you have to realize that there is no card drawer as insane, and you will have to give up this slot in the structure reserved for insane card drawing.

Generally, it is the same with Time Walk. Taking an extra turn has to be broken down into: 1) an extra untap, 2) an extra card draw, 3) an extra land drop and, 4) an extra attack phase. In a slow deck (such as "The Deck"), it is generally played early for an extra land drop or slipped in late to safely untap after a counter war. In a fast deck, you get a cheap extra turn to play more cards, giving the opponent less time to neutralize them, and a cheap chance at an extra attack. Thus, expensive alternatives such as Time Warp cannot replace it (though in very specific cases, something like Final Fortune might).

Timetwister is a little trickier. With it, you get: 1) a cheap hand refill, though for both players, and 2) a recycling of the graveyard. In a slow deck, you get an emergency refill option in the face of discard or something to play if half your opening cards are Moxes, and recycling for the late game if needed (usually with Tormod’s Crypt). Thus, Time Spiral, which costs twice as much to cast and gives you only one recycle, cannot replace it.

Faster decks, however, simply use this for cheap hand refill, much like Wheel of Fortune. While Time Spiral may not replace it, something cheaper like Diminishing Returns might. Finally, you might not even see Timetwister in mono blue decks that have a lot of card drawing, because they don’t need either of its functions.

> > > REBUILDING A POWER DECK ON A BUDGET < < <

To better illustrate all this, I will use Beyond Dominia’s most well-loved deck:

THE FRANCHISE (2000)
Darren Di Battista aka Azhrei

Blue (16)
1 Morphling
4 Mana Drain
4 Force of Will
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Timetwister
1 Time Walk
1 Braingeyser
1 Stroke of Genius
1 Soothsaying

White (6)
1 Moat
1 Balance
2 Swords to Plowshares
2 Disenchant

Black (4)
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Mind Twist
1 The Abyss

Green (3)
1 Regrowth
2 Gaea's Blessing

Red (1)
1 Fireball

Artifact (9)
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Emerald
1 Sol Ring
1 Zuran Orb
1 Jayemdae Tome

Land (21)
3 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
2 Tropical Island
4 Tundra
4 City of Brass
3 Wasteland
1 Tolarian Academy
1 Strip Mine
1 Library of Alexandria

> > > PROPER SUBOPTIMIZING (SORRY, I TAKE OPERATIONS RESEARCH SUBJECTS) < < <

- - - SUBOPTIMIZATION 1: NO LOTUS, NO MOXES - - -

This is okay. You lose fast mana, but the rest of the deck plays normally, albeit slower. What do you lose? Mainly broken draws such as a first-turn Abyss with a Black Lotus, or a first-turn Balance after dropping a Lotus, two or three Moxes, Zuran Orb and a land. You just have to remember that you will have to wait until turn 4 to play that Moat in your hand (which gives Sligh a much better chance against you), you will not get extra mana to play cards off a Timetwister, and you have to remove the Tolarian Academy.

I play this kind of slow Franchise, by the way (since I play casual games without sideboards, I have Ivory Mask against my cafeteria’s burn decks and Disrupting Scepter against all the blue decks, plus Mirror Universe just because I like the art):

RAKSO’S CASUAL KEEPER (2000)

Blue (16)
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Timetwister
4 Mana Drain
4 Force of Will
1 Counterspell
1 Stroke of Genius
1 Braingeyser
1 Soothsaying
1 Morphling

White (9)
1 Balance
1 Moat
1 Ivory Mask
3 Swords to Plowshares
3 Disenchant

Black (4)
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor
1 The Abyss
1 Mind Twist

Green (3)
1 Regrowth
2 Gaea’s Blessing

Red (1)
1 Fireball
Artifact (6)

1 Emmessi Tome
1 Mirror Universe
1 Zuran Orb
1 Disrupting Scepter
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Sol Ring

Land (23)
1 Library of Alexandria
1 Strip Mine
2 Wasteland
4 City of Brass
4 Tundra
4 Adarkar Wastes
4 Underground Sea
3 Tropical Island

- - - SUBOPTIMIZATION 2: NO POWER TEN - - -

This is still fine, too. The Library of Alexandria and Ancestral Recall cannot be helped, though you might want to add an extra Tome or a Treasure Trove. Time Walk is not essential. Timetwister might be replaced by an extra Gaea’s Blessing to speed up the recycling of key cards, mainly tutors and counters, and just remember that you can still tutor for Balance in case you face heavy discard.
Since no cards can take the place of these cards, simply omit them from the deck’s structure and distribute the slots to strengthen other parts of the deck as you might prefer. More counters or more Swords to Plowshares, for example, or four Impulses. An extra Morphling is highly recommended.

- - - SUBOPTIMIZATION 3: NO POWER TEN, NO MANA DRAINS- - -

Mana Drains are in the deck mainly to counter, and get free mana while doing it. While ordinary Counterspells can counter just as well but without the hefty price tag, the lack of Mana Drains further slows the deck. For example, you cannot play an early Morphling for two mana after a counter war during your opponent’s turn.

Lacking Mana Drains, you will have to review any mana intensive cards in your deck, beginning with Braingeyser. Mind Twist is also reduced to a midgame card, though it is still lethal when playing against an opponent without counters. Still, you have not yet lost anything irreplaceable.

- - - SUBOPTIMIZATION 4: NO POWER TEN, NO LEGENDS RARES - - -

This means no Moat and no Abyss. What do these enchantments do? They allow you to permanently neutralize most of an opponent’s creatures with just one card. Permanently is the key word, and, unfortunately, nothing from Balance to Wrath of God to Humility can duplicate this. Island Sanctuary, the most commonly seen substitute, is even worse.

So what now? Now, you sit down and think. You do not have the "Power Blue" and you cannot rely on fishing out the single Moat or Abyss in the deck to save you. The most important restricted card left to tutor for is Balance, so the tutors and Soothsaying also become less important.

You cannot play "The Deck" without its key anti-creature enchantments. However, you can still play with "The Deck" philosophy, the strategy embodied in all Type II decks from Millstone to Counter-Post to Donais U5C to Oath of Druids. These have altered the deck structure to revolve around anti-creature cards such as Wrath of God, Nevinyrral’s Disk, Powder Keg or Oath of Druids.
What I would recommend at this point to a new player is the classic Blue/White deck with Wrath of God and Swords to Plowshares for creature defense, Counterspell, Forbid and Force of Will for counters, and the favorite Impulse. This is rounded out by two Morphlings for the kill and some card drawing, usually Treasure Trove or Whispers of the Muse. Dropping the extra colors also allows you to use the card advantage of four Thawing Glaciers.

This kind of deck is much easier to build for players who began at around Fifth Edition, as its structure can remain intact without rares like Tundra, Force of Will and Balance. Moreover, learning to play the classic blue/white is the first step in understanding how to play "The Deck" and the many options one will encounter.

> > > ZOO, ANOTHER POPULAR DECK < < <

Aside from "The Deck" and "The Franchise," younger players on Beyond Dominia often ask about budget Sligh, Necro and Zoo. The first two are easier, but Zoo is much trickier.

LUKE BERRY’S ZOO (1998)
Third Place, 1998 British T1 Finals

Creatures (10)
3 Erhnam Djinn
2 Frenetic Efreet
2 Gorilla Shaman
3 Serendib Efreet

Removal (13)
4 Incinerate
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Psionic Blast
1 Balance
1 Swords to Plowshares
2 Disenchant

Other spells (11)
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Demonic Tutor
3 Mystical Tutor
1 Regrowth
1 Sylvan Library
1 Timetwister
1 Time Walk
1 Wheel of Fortune
1 Zuran Orb

Mana (26)
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring
3 City Of Brass
1 Gemstone Mine
1 Library Of Alexandria
2 Plateau
1 Strip Mine
4 Taiga
2 Tropical Island
4 Volcanic Island
1 Wasteland

The preferred Beyond Dominia Zoo decks, at present, would use cheaper creatures such as Savannah Lion, River Boa and Jackal Pup and four Wastelands. In general, however, you can see that Zoo is a mix of creatures, burn and a lot of card drawing. The latter is emphasized by three (now restricted) Mystical Tutors, which are there to pull out Ancestral Recall, Timetwister or Wheel of Fortune, and even Sylvan Library draws you four cards (at the cost of 16 life) against a passive deck.

So what are the irreplaceable cards? As before, without Moxes, the deck still plays normally, but you do not explosive draws similar to the Dark Ritual-Sarcomancy-Sarcomancy-Sarcomancy opening of the old Hatred decks. (Notice why Moxes and the Black Lotus are often traded for last by serious Type I players.)

If one removes the Power Ten, however, one is left with no insane card drawing except for Wheel of Fortune, if one has it. Without the insane card drawing, however, Zoo simply is not Zoo, and the main reason to leave blue in the deck becomes Serendib Efreet.

Thus, lacking the Power Blue, one is advised to build a more consistent classic red/green deck. This combination does not have card drawing, but one need not look for cards that explicitly say "draw a card." One only has to look for permanent abilities that may as well give you free spells. In the casual player’s red/green deck, you can use Cursed Scroll or Stormbind to give you free Shocks every turn instead of drawing more cards. This is an important thing to remember when looking for substitutes to Type I card drawing: You do not necessarily have to draw cards, just have abilities on hand!

> > > A FEW OTHER NOTES < < <

I have discussed the basic idea in trying to adapt a power-heavy Type I deck to your humble card pool. Once you understand the structure of the deck, you can make your own version, though it end up radically different from the original. There are a few more tricks, however.

Another important things is to understand why certain cards are there, especially when examining old Type II decks. For example, while you have Thwart and Gush, Chronatog, Quirion Ranger and Birds of Paradise, and Squandered Resources: Turbo Stasis is still the best-known Type I Stasis deck.

What characterizes Turbo Stasis? It uses four Howling Mines to draw its combo components, as well as new Islands for Stasis. At first glance, one might think that it is okay to give the opponent cards because he will soon be unable to use them once Stasis is played. However, giving the opponent free cards is always one of the riskiest things you can do (which is why Arcane Denial is rarely recommended). Moreover, after Turbo Stasis left tournament play, cards such as Fireblast were printed, allowing a Sligh player to finish off a Stasis player who just dropped Stasis.

One has to understand that Howling Mine was a powerful tool in its day because the main opponent of Turbo Stasis was the Necrodeck (which did not have a draw phase), and because many surprised players did not realize that the Mines were the Stasis deck’s weak spots early on. Then one has to consider if these details still hold.

Still another important thing to note is that many cards came after (or before) the deck one is examining. Looking at the Alliances-era Turbo Stasis, one sees that it used Despotic Scepter to destroy its own Stasis and Lim-Dul’s Vault to search for cards. Soon after, Mirage brought Enlightened Tutor (which made black irrelevant) and several expansions later, Claws of Gix made Despotic Scepter obsolete. A Type I player has to watch for newer cards (note Ivory Mask and Soothsaying in the above Franchise decks). In fact, a number of Type II creatures are superior to Type I equivalents, especially Urza block green weenies and Morphling.

The central idea is still the structure of the original deck. When translating it into the Type I card pool, it may change radically due to the availability of "star" cards from each expansion (Ophidian, for example), or it may not. Generally, classic decks that date back to Beta are archetypes that are not dependent on specific cards. Some old Type II decks (such as ProsBloom) are dependent on very particular components that one cannot really change much.

However, take something like Accelerated Blue. Even if Grim Monolith were unrestricted in Type I, you would radically depart from the deck structure if you turned this into a Type I casual deck. The main reason is that you are no longer limited to the few counters in Type II, and this removes the need for acceleration. Nevinyrral’s Disk may supplement or replace the cheaper Powder Keg, and Thawing Glaciers and Wasteland make Rishadan Port useless, though Dust Bowl with Thawing Glaciers is extremely fun.

Actually, no matter where you begin, if you want a casual mono blue, counter-filled, almost creatureless Type I deck, you will probably end up moving towards a Tempest-era Draw-Go deck. The trick is, of course, understanding why.
The author is a Senior in the Ateneo de Manila University of the Philippines and the Type I Maintainer of the Beyond Dominia Discussion Mills, possibly home of the only Type I strategy forum in the world.

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

Read More Articles by Oscar Tan aka Rakso!

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