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Trix Primer
By Oscar Tan aka Rakso
Type 1 Trix FAQ by Michael Bower
mikephoen on www.bdominia.com

Trix is the newest deck archetype to enter the Type 1 metagame. First seen at Grand Prix Seattle 2000 in the Extended format, the deck was first played by Darwin Kastle and Rob Dougherty and the deck design is generally accredited to Michelle Bush. Following Seattle the deck defined the Extended metagame for the rest of the season, eventually leading to the banning of Dark Ritual and Mana Vault from Extended. The decks introduction to Type 1 came at the Magic Invitational 2000.

Simultaneously played by many of the top pros, the deck appeared in many different versions. Because the deck is so new to Type 1, a ‘best version’ probably hasn’t appeared yet, and there may still be many improvements that can be made to the archtype. A scary thought, considering the deck is already capable of second and third turn wins, even against decks packing Force of Will and Annul.

The pros differed on many points, among them: land count (from as low as 11 to as high as 19), 3 or 4 Donates, splashing white for Disenchant/Abeyance, playing Academy and many colorless/off color mana sources, and the correct number of Demonic Consultations.

The deck I will use for this discussion is a hybrid of the Invitational decks, leaning toward the Your Move Games version played by Kastle, Humphries and Pikula at the invitational, but with my own twists.


Trix 2000 by Michael Bower aka mikephoen

The Combo (8)

4 Illusions of Grandeur
4 Donate

Search/ Set-Up (13)

4 Necropotence
4 Demonic Consultation
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk

Disruption/ Protection (11)

4 Force of Will
4 Duress
2 Red Elemental Blast
1 Boomerang

Mana Sources (28)

4 Dark Ritual
1 Black Lotus
1 Lotus Petal
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Jet
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault
1 Sol Ring
1 Tolarian Academy
4 Gemstone Mine
4 Underground Sea
4 Underground River
4 Badlands


The Trix combo is Illusions of Grandeur (3U, Enchantment, Cumulative Upkeep 2, When Illusions of Grandeur comes into play, you gain 20 life. When Illusions of Grandeur leaves play, you lose 20 life.), and Donate (2U, Sorcery, Target player gains control of target permanent you control.).

The idea is that when you cast Illusions you gain twenty life, and then when you donate it to your opponent (remember, you keep the life), they get stuck with an enchantment which they must pay cumulative upkeep on, and if they can’t, they lose 20 life. The combo itself is the most simple in Magic history, just two cards and seven mana, two of it blue.

The fact that the combo is entirely blue leads to another fact that makes Trix so powerful, blue also provides the best means to force the combo through (Force of Will) and the best in Type 1 utility, Time Walk and Ancestral Recall. Black is added to the mix for the incredible power of Necropotence. In fact it could be argued that the true combo in Trix is Dark Ritual and Necropotence.

Necro, the most efficient card drawer in the game, allows the Trix player to overpower the opponent in the early game by drawing into a perfect seven card hand before the opponent has enough resources in play to effectively combat the combo.

Black also provides another cheap spell to help force through the combo in Duress, which is usually used to remove opposing counter magic to force into play either Necropotence or the combo itself. Finally black provides the cheap search which leads to the decks remarkable consistency. Demonic Consultation is the most powerful of these, and although its drawback can be harsh, it leads to victory far more often than defeat.

After that, the deck commonly splashes either red or white for additional utility. Some versions use Disenchant/Seal of Removal in the place of Hoodwink/Boomerang. As an additional way to force the combo through opposing counters, some versions use Abeyance, or Red Blast. Additionally Firestorm and Kaervek’s Torch are sometimes used to slow a creature rush, or punish other decks which aggressively abuse Necropotence.


Individual Card Choices

Donate and Illusions of Grandeur: These cards form the basis of the combo while extra copies serve as the alternate casting cost of Force of Will. Some versions of the deck play only 3 copies of Donate, but in the authors opinion four is the correct number.

Four allows the Trix player to consult with less fear (often twice a game), pitch them to early Forces without crippling the deck and also more consistently allow the Trix deck to ‘go off’ a second time. As many type one decks will use Ivory Tower or Zuran Orb to prevent a single Illusion from killing them, it is often important for the Trix deck to Donate a second Illusions.

This is also where a Torch or Firestorm can help finish off an opponent who is low in life. Because of the need for blue cards to pitch to Force, playing the full complement of Donates seems to be of higher importance.

Necropotence, Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Yawgmoth’s Will, Ancestral Recall, Time Walk: All are proven Type 1 power cards and as many copies as are legal are played in all versions of the deck.

Demonic Consultation: It took a long time for this card to be recognized as the power card that it is. Many players still fear its use, believing that bad consults cost them games. The truth is that in most games the cards which are removed from the game are no less useful than if they were simply on the bottom of the deck.

All Trix cares about is getting the cards it needs in hand/play as fast as possible, therefore four copies of Demonic Consultation should be standard in any Trix combo. No other low casting cost card allows instant speed tutoring. Consult even puts the card into hand rather than on top of the deck, thereby having much better synergy with Necro than any of the Mirage block tutors, gaining time advantage by not forcing you to wait a turn to be able to draw and play a key spell or land.

Force of Will and Duress: Both are unmatched in getting the combo into play and protecting it, and always show up in fours.

Pyroblast/Red Elemental Blast: These cards are essentially the same, though very minor differences can be argued, for all intents and purposes of the Trix deck they are the same. While some would suggest that blue counters would better fit the deck, when you actually play the deck you realize that on the ‘fundamental turn’ (Fundamental Turn: The turn on which a combo deck makes it’s game winning play.

Trix actually has two fundamental turns, the turn where it puts Necro into play, and the turn where it casts and/or donates Illusions) you rarely have two extra blue mana to hard cast a counter. The combo itself needs seven mana, two of it blue, so squeezing an extra two blue out that turn is difficult. It is much easier to come up with eight, making pyro/REB the counter of choice, after Force of Will.

Yawgmoth’s Will: This card actually serves three purposes, the main one is as a way to reuse fast mana sources such as the Lotuses and Dark Rituals. Often the Will can net a player four or more mana on the critical turn.

Its secondary function is to aid in ‘going off’ by getting a second chance to cast a Duress or tutor, or to use Force of Will from the graveyard to protect the combo. Third, the Will can be used to ‘go off’ a second time, with a Donate and Illusions which have already been used once. This can be quite important if an earlier Demonic Consultation went particularly deep into the deck.

Boomerang: It is important to have at least one main deck option to deal with an Ivory Mask, or a Seal of Cleansing which has already made it into play. While ideally you want to counter or Duress such a threat, a back up plan is rarely a bad idea.

The benefit of Boomerang over other options, such as Disenchant, Seal of Cleansing or Hoodwink is that it can also deal with Elvish Lyrist or Devout Witness. Hoodwink was more commonly used by the Invitational competitors, since it requires less colored mana, which is a major concern. Lyrist and Witness are very rarely seen creatures in a true Type 1 environment, but in more casual circles they may pop up and in these cases Boomerang is certainly more versatile.

You also can’t discount Boomerang’s ability to deal with troublesome fist turn creatures such as Phyrexian Negator or Juzam Djinn. If you expect to play with a lot of players who sport full sets of Power Nine, and play full blown Type 1, Hoodwink is probably the better choice, but if you play in more casual circles Boomerang is more versatile.

Tolarian Academy: The mana sources for the deck vary greatly among the Invitational Decks. Because Trix is still a relatively new archtype in Type 1, getting the balance right between the fast artifact mana and the slower land is very much up for debate. Tolarian Academy would appear to be a natural fit, yet some invitational decks did not play it.

Black Lotus, Lotus Petal, Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, Sol Ring, Mox Jet and Mox Sapphire: All are excellent fast artifact mana sources, and all go well with Tolarian Academy. Lotus Petal and Mana Crypt appeared in less Invitational decks than the others, but both are excellent. In a deck as fast as this, the one-shot nature of Lotus Petal is well worth the added speed.

The off-color Moxes are a tougher choice as they would have to replace land to be included, and the deck is already down to 17 land in the above configuration. The version played by Steve OMS at the invitational had only 11 land however, preferring to play a full complement of Moxes. The YMG deck had 19, so clearly the pros had differing opinions on this issue. The correct ratio is probably somewhere in between.

Gemstone Mine, Underground Sea, Underground River, Badlands: The land base is fairly obvious, though it should be noted that Gemstone Mine is amazing in this deck. It is almost impossible to use up the Mine before completing the combo, essentially making it a City of Brass with no drawback in this deck.

The following cards didn’t make the cut in the author’s version of Trix, but can appear in some versions of the deck.

Lim-Dul’s Vault: Another cheap tutor, which also can be used with Force of Will. Played by the Your Move Games contingent, but disregarded by other Pros. If you favor search over disruption, this is probably the next best tutor for the job.

Kaervek’s Torch: A finishing card for use against players who manage to survive one Donate with Zuran Orb or Ivory Tower. Also useful against other aggressive Necro decks which leave their life totals too low. Torch is a metagame call, based on whether you expect a lot of mirror matches, and necro in general.

Yawgmoth’s Bargain: Bargain can be played as a fifth Necro, but it is little more than an overcosted Necro in this deck. Because of the need to put Necro/Bargain into play as early as possible, you will very rarely be able to take advantage of Bargain’s immediate card drawing ability, since you will almost always have to wait until the following turn to attempt to ‘go off’. The trade-off in required resources to put Bargain into play versus Necro is therefore seldom worth it.

Wheel of Fortune, Windfall, Time Twister: The problem with all the big Type One card drawers is that they are all ineffective once Necro hits play. None of the Invitational decks played any of these cards, except in one sideboard. In fact, these cards can all be powerful cards against the Combo, forcing the Trix Player to discard key cards from a hand carefully built through judicious over necroing.

Their best use is against heavy discard Necro, allowing you to recover with a topdeck from early hand disruption. If you expect a very heavy Necro field you may consider maindecking Time Twister, but expect to cast Force of Will off it more often than cast it.

Phyrexian Negator/ Juzam Djinn/ Hypnotic Specter: Generally kept in the sideboard, these highly efficient creatures can be brought in against control decks (or the mirror) where you expect them to sideboard heavily against the combo, usually at the expense of their creature kill.

A very good strategy which is reminiscent of the ‘transformational’ sideboards of early Type 1 decks, which took advantage of dual lands and City of Brass to swap whole colors (often Red for Blue, or vise-versa) to keep your opponent guessing and force them into having dead cards.

City of Brass: A tempting choice to replace some, or all, of the Badlands in the deck. Obviously the ‘pain’ from the City has bad synergy with Necro, but other necro based combo decks, such as Cocoa Pebbles, have used City in the past, so its not unprecedented. The deck generally doesn’t have colored mana problems though, so Cities probably aren’t needed.

Playing the Deck

My opening draw has land and Ancestral Recall. Awesome! I’ll keep it!

Maybe, maybe not. Trix is a difficult deck to play correctly, though it’s sheer power will let even a novice beat experience opponents much of the time. In the hands of a good player, who is experienced with the deck, it can be nearly unbeatable. Trix presents some interesting Paris mulligan decisions which, with the exception of other recent combo based decks, rarely come up in traditional magic games. One of the hardest things to learn is when to take a Paris mulligan.

The hard and fast rule is to Paris any hand which doesn’t have the potential to play a first or second turn Necro. The number of hands which will give you this is high, but it is important to resist the allure of hands that look good if you draw X. It takes discipline to paris a hand of Gemstone, Ancestral, Badlands, Donate, Mana Crypt, Vampiric Tutor, Force of Will, but with this hand, unless you ancestral into Necro and Ritual, which is unlikely, your draw will be too slow.

Switch the Ancestral into a Demonic Consultation and you have a God hand, which will likely lead to an easy turn three victory. It takes a great deal of practice to learn how to Paris correctly, not just with this deck, though Trix certainly rewards an aggressive player who Parises a lot.

Once you have your starting hand, which, unless you’ve Parised all the way to 4 cards, has the potential to cast turn one or two Necro, your next move is to try to get your Necro into play. Here is a sample draw, which has Parised from the draw above into:

Underground River
Badlands
Force of Will
Necropotence
Dark Ritual
Red Elemental Blast

Assuming you are going first, and don’t get to draw, this is a very good opening draw (much better than the draw above, even though the first draw had expensive and restricted cards). The most obvious play is to lay the Badlands and cast Dark Ritual, Necro. Unless you have advanced knowledge about your opponents deck, this is the incorrect play.

Even though you want the Necro in play as soon as possible, if your opponent has a force of will, he will deny you your Necro and you will be left with a very bad hand. If you lay the Badlands and say go instead, you can then cast your Necro on turn 2 with the Red Elemental Blast as back up, in case he has a Force of Will. You may even topdeck either a Duress, which will also remove a counter, and show you his hand. Or you could draw another blue card to go with your Force, meaning your opponent would have to have at least two counters and the mana/resources to use them to prevent your Necro from entering play.

Here’s another sample draw:

Donate
Illusions of Grandeur
Sol Ring
Yawgmoth’s Will
Mana Crypt
Mox Sapphire
Red Elemental Blast

Take a few moments to consider how to play this hand. If you answered ‘Paris this thing, its a piece of crap!’ then you may be a Trix player. It may look tempting to play the Sol Ring with the Mox on turn one, drop the Crypt turn two (assuming you don’t top deck land) and play the Illusions, burning for one. Then pay the upkeep turn three and donate the Illusions.

Turn three kill, right? Unless you know your opponent has no disenchant type effects, no counters, no life gain, and no discard effects, this is a pretty risky move. Most likely a counter or disenchant will ruin your day if you kept that hand. Lets say you Parised into:

Underground Sea
Donate
Force of Will
Dark Ritual
Demonic Consultation
Gemstone Mine

This is a very common hand for the deck, with a Demonic Consultation holding the place of one of the components of the Ritual-Necro combo. In this case you play the Sea, and Consult for Necropotence at the end of your opponents turn. On your turn you play the Gemstone and ritual out the Necro, this time with Force back-up.

This example illustrates a key reason why playing 4 Donates is so important. To force the Necro into play you will have to remove one Donate from the game. You will likely have also lost at least one and possibly two Donates in your consult, leaving only 1-2 Donates left with which to win. Add in the potential for your opponent to gain life, forcing you to do the combo a second time, and playing four Donates seems imperative, if you want to fully harness the power of Demonic Consultation.

So, Necro is in play, now what?

Back during the ‘Black Summer’ when Necropotence decks dominated the Type 2 tournament scene, good players discovered the tactic known as ‘overnecroing’. The idea was that rather than just refilling your hand to seven every turn, it was often worth it to pay one or two extra life to draw more than seven cards, and to discard less optimal cards, such as extra land, etc.

This ensured that you would have good plays every turn, not just a lot of cards in hand. Trix takes this idea to the extreme, commonly necroing for 8-12 the first time Necro hits play and 20+ following a successfully Illusions.

How much to Necro for depends on your hand, the amount of pressure your opponent has you under, and how much land you have in play. The first question to ask is how many mana sources do I have in play?

If the answer is one or zero (yikes!) you likely won’t be going off next turn. To fit enough mana sources into your hand would mean not having room for a Force and an extra blue card, which you will likely need. Anytime you don’t expect to go off on the next turn, you should necro conservatively, usually drawing two or so cards more than you need to fill your hand. All you will likely do the next turn is play a land and any artifact mana you draw, and if you’re lucky, duress your opponent, hopefully disrupting whatever he has planned for you, be it counterspells, or his own combo. This is Type 1 after all, he could just as easily kill you on his next turn.

If you have two or more mana, you will likely be trying to complete the combo next turn. In this case you must judge what you already have in your hand a little more carefully before making your decision. You will likely want to go for 7 to12 cards. This should hopefully give you another land to play, some more fast mana sources such as dark ritual or artifact sources, a Duress, Force of Will, or Red Blast to get the combo through, and hopefully the combo itself.

If you only draw Illusions or not enough mana to cast and or protect the full combo, you can go off in two stages, casting the Illusions, gaining the life, then drawing up a powerful hand (often spending most, if not all, of your new 20 life points) to protect the Illusions while its on your side, hopefully with at least one more Force. Then on the following turn you can donate the Illusions to your opponent after upkeeping it for one turn.

Don’t forget that cumulative upkeep doesn’t reset when it changes sides, so your opponent will have to pay four mana for it on his next upkeep. Also don’t underestimate the power of Demonic Consultation to get you a missing part of the combo at this stage (including the Force of Will, or a spare blue card). Unless an earlier Consult was particularly costly, you can often use a second now to finish the combo this turn.

If for some reason you have 4 or more mana sources, you’re probably in trouble. Your first attempt at casting necro was probably stopped, and you’ve had to top deck for a few turns. If you’ve got Necro in play now, you’ve probably depleted your opponent of counters, because he most likely also has a significant amount of mana in play and fought hard to keep this Necro off the table.

In this case you should Necro for as much as you can. Remember to keep enough to pay for your Force of Will’s alternate cost, and if you have Mana Crypt in play, enough to lose one flip. After that you just go for it. You should easily draw enough mana to do the combo, and now may be your last chance. If your opponent has as much mana as you, giving him any more turns could be fatal.

The deck type your opponent is playing also helps determine how many cards you should Necro for. If your opponent is playing a control deck, with out many damage sources, you can use your life total more aggressively. If your opponent is playing an aggressive creature strategy, you should save enough life so his next attack doesn’t kill you, and try to take him out quickly.

Remember, most aggressive decks don’t play much disruption, so finding enough mana and the combo itself, is more important than Forces and Duresses. Traditional discard Necro can be difficult, if they have Necro in play expect them to aggressively necro, looking for as much hand destruction as possible. In this case it is often good to necro conservatively, letting them burn off their life ripping up your hand, while you slowly put the combo together, likely using the two turn approach mentioned above.

However, if they have a serious clock in play such as Juzam, win now or never. Necro for enough that they can’t kill you with just their obvious damage sources, and hope for the best. The mirror is, like most mirrors, quite draw dependent, and hinges greatly on who goes first. The first player to get necro in play will almost always win.

As in anything, practice is the best way to understand the various match-ups and how much to Necro for.

So I donated the Illusions, it’s over, right?

Not yet, remember your opponent can likely pay for the Illusions upkeep for a few turns. During this time they may be able to use life gain to force you to do the combo a second time, or they may be able to finish you with their creatures. Don’t forget you have 20 new life from casting the Illusions, so assuming they don’t have a fast clock like a Juzam or two in play, use the life you gained from the Illusions to draw up a lot of cards.

You want to stock your hand with the combo again if they can survive one, Force of Wills to prevent anything unexpected, or Red Blast or Boomerang/Hoodwink. Remember that by destroying or bouncing the Illusions you will cause them to lose the 20 life before they get a chance to do anything tricky, like donate the Illusions back to you Hot potato! If they do have a clock, you will have to judge whether the upkeep on the Illusions will kill them first, or their clock will get you.

Twenty life is a lot. Unless they have a lot of pressure 20 life will stop aggressive decks cold. If their clock is slow, but they have a lot of mana, you may want to draw up a few cards, looking for the Boomerang or REB etc. and also Force of Will to prevent things from getting worse. If they have a fast clock, you will have to go all out, either find the REB or Boomerang and kill them by removing the Illusions, or they will kill you.

Don’t forget that under 6th Edition rules you can cast instants and interrupts after you get the necroed cards into your hand, before you discard. This means that if you have the mana to cast REB or Boomerang, you can Necro to one, hopefully finding one or the other and cast it now, killing them before they get a chance to hit you with their creatures.

(Note from Oscar Tan aka Rakso: There are times when one draws 19 cards from Necropotence and two-thirds happen to be land or otherwise useless cards. It happens. If you find yourself stuck at 1 life with Necropotence in play, do not forget the most desperate play available to the Trix player: Donate your own Necropotence.)

Sideboarding Trix

Finally, a few notes on sideboarding the deck. Generally the sideboard has two sets of cards. One is the anti-creature cards. Usually this will be Contagion, or alternately Firestorm. Both cards interact well with Necropotence, though Contagion is generally accepted as the better of the two for Trix. Both cards are very abusable by casting them at the end of turn, after you get your neroed cards, but before you must discard, allowing you to effectively use cards you would have just discarded anyway.

Next are the anti-combo and control cards, which are usually creatures, but can also include additional Red Blasts. As mentioned above, Trix employs a ‘Transformational’ sideboard to play havoc with other deck’s sideboarding strategies. It is possible to side out the entire combo for creatures, turning the deck into a beat down machine and giving the opponent dead draws when they side in Annuls etc. It is also possible to side in only a few creatures, giving the deck two different paths to victory, should one be stopped.


For reference here are two different versions of Trix played at the Magic Invitational 2000:

YMG Trix played by Chris Pikula, Darwin Kastle, and Dave Humphries
4 Necropotence
4 Donate
4 Illusions of Grandeur
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Duress
4 Dark Ritual
4 Force of Will
1 Hoodwink
1 Kaervek's Torch
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Lim-Dul's Vault
1 Yawgmoth's Will
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Lotus Petal
1 Black Lotus
1 Sol Ring
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
3 Swamp
4 Badlands
4 Underground Sea
4 Underground River
4 Gemstone Mine

SIDEBOARD
2 Pyroblast
2 Hydroblast
3 Contagion
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Phyrexian Negator

11 Land Trix by Steve O'Mahoney-Schwartz

3 Donate
4 Badlands
4 Gemstone Mine
4 Force of Will
1 Vampiric Tutor
4 Dark Ritual
1 Mox Sapphire
2 Pyroblast
4 Duress
1 Yawgmoth's Bargain
1 Mox Jet
1 Tolarian Academy
4 Illusions of Grandeur
1 Mana Vault
4 Dark Ritual
4 Necropotence
2 Demonic Consultation
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mox Pearl
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Time Walk
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Emerald
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Scrubland
1 Black Lotus
1 Abeyance
1 Sol Ring
1 Underground River
1 Yawgmoth's Will

SIDEBOARD
1 Balance
1 Timetwister
1 Windfall
2 Pyroblast
1 Mystical Tutor
1 The Abyss
2 Disenchant
2 Hydroblast
3 Defense Grid
1 Abeyance

Read More Articles by Oscar Tan aka Rakso!

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