Magic Memories: Fastbond


The Tentacled One
Recently, some people (very few people, really) have advocated unrestricting Fastbond in Vintage. I doubt it'll happen, and I'm actually not sure either way. Unlike with Yawgmoth's Bargain, I don't really have anything to compare Fastbond to. Nothing else in the game is quite like it. So even though I think most games have been played in environments where Fastbond wasn't legal or where players stayed away from it as a courtesy because of its brokennes, the times I have seen it and played with it led to some interesting things that don't really manifest in environments without Fastbond.

Although I've done Memories threads for some other powerful cards (Yawgmoth's Bargain, Wheel of Fortune, Survival of the Fittest), including restricted cards, I think that something like Fastbond is a little different. When it comes to certain cards in casual play, there has to be a kind of asterisk on them. Another one that comes to mind, which I didn't start a thread for but did think about, is Tolarian Academy. Irrespective of tournament legality, certain cards are so easy to explosively abuse that bringing them to casual environments requires some level of caution to keep things from becoming crazy. It's not that they're necessarily the best cards or that they are inherently problematic for casual games. But taking my example of Tolarian Academy, you're not logically going to put it in a deck with no artifacts. That'd just be silly. Being practical, if you want to put it in a deck at all, that deck probably has many artifacts in it, and probably many cheap ones. If you also have anything big to sink that mana into, Tolarian Academy could cast it more easily than some of the more elaborate tools you might use to rush out big plays. In other words, a skilled deckbuilder might fine-tune a multi-card engine to do something big (Psarketos has shown some of that with the decklists currently visible on the front page, and doing so wasn't even his primary goal with those concepts), but any moron with a Tolarian Academy and some cheap artifacts, any cheap artifacts, can produce substantial amounts of mana very early into a game, and it doesn't take much for that to become stupidly broken.

I want to be super-clear about this. I'm not simply describing broken cards or defining cards as broken. There are exceptionally powerful cards that I've used a lot and happen to like a lot, but they're only going to be unfair in a casual setting if one deliberately places them in a deck meant to maximize them. Can I break Wheel of Fortune? Yes. Is any given casual player putting Wheel of Fortune in a deck (back when it was widely available and not 85 bucks) going to ruin games? Probably not. That applies to some of the most famously powerful cards in the game, such as Time Vault, Necropotence, Skullclamp, Oath of Druids, and Yawgmoth's Will. If you want to break them, you can do it. If you're not going for that in a very deliberate way, they probably won't be ruining casual games. Not saying you should use them in casual games and not saying that you should always avoid it. But most of the time, the brokenness has to be engineered.

But certain cards, really I think it's only a handful of them that are on the extreme end, have a confluence of being very cheap to play (in terms of mana, not necessarily financially), of being very easy to use, of not having stringent deckbuilding constraints in order to unlock much of their power, and of doing something especially potent. Tolarian Academy could be the poster child of this in my mind. It's a land with no real drawbacks, all it takes to use it is turning it sideways, all it needs to break it is a board with some artifacts, and a deluge of blue mana is so easy to translate into powerful effects that even an inexperienced player could wind up with a degenerate deck in a casual setting. Give a newbie Necropotence and watch him get himself killed. Give a newbie Tolarian Academy and watch as your technically better deck gets outraced. Other cards that spring to mind as meeting all of these criteria include Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, and Fastbond. There are likely a few more. I never thought to try to make a list.

The real problem is that mana cost.

One green mana. One. If it costed more, it could still be used in dedicated combo decks for its unique ability. But at one, anyone with two brain cells to rub together can get better mana ramp from this thing by itself than from some of the most cleverly concocted engines in constructed play. "You may play any number of lands on each of your turns"? One would think that for an enchantment to break one of the fundamental rules of the game, you'd have to make it cost a lot up-front. Even if this thing had costed four mana, I'm sure it would still have been considered a good card.


The Tentacled One
I can talk about combos. And I will. But part of the inherent craziness of Fastbond is that it is a one-drop. Even without planning for combos, this means that Fastbond is a potent form of mana acceleration. First turn, if you have three lands in your opening hand, Fastbond can dump them onto the board and let you rush out a first-turn two-drop. And then those lands stick around for subsequent turns, so even if Fastbond never does anything else in the game, it already gave you a tempo boost. That's pretty good. It's only a fraction of Fastbond's power, but it's decent mana ramp value all on its own.


The Tentacled One
I said I'd talk about combos. Well, as far as I know, the original classic is with this weird little card...

...and of course, I used that combo myself. It was one of two decks I ever built using Storm Cauldron. The other was my beloved Land Tax + Land's Edge deck. Well, it's a tangent, but I really should rebuild that old thing. I could probably come up with a version that doesn't really use cards I'd want for other decks. I mean, who uses Land's Edge for anything anymore? Storm Cauldron wasn't even in most incarnations of that deck, but I think I didn't try hard enough to fine-tune the deck for it. A bit later, I tried Storm Cauldron with Fastbond instead. As with many other things, I was late to the party: tournament players were using Fastbond + Storm Cauldron back in 1996 and I didn't combine them until 2001 or so. Whatever.

Unfortunately I didn't save a decklist for this one and didn't keep it around long enough to remember the important details. My deck was probably pretty bad anyway. But the combo, well, it's a powerhouse. Under Fastbond, Storm Cauldron's first ability doesn't actually help you at all and even helps your opponents. The second ability is a mixed bag for opponents (some would find it highly disruptive, while others could take advantage of it), but for you it turns Fastbond into a better version of Channel. You can tap your lands for mana and replay them as much as you want. You do still take damage, but presumably you are making enough mana that you then use it to kill your opponent. In my hazy recollection, I abandoned my own attempt because I didn't own Gaea's Cradle, which was the card I'd been wanting to use with this combo. I'd guess that Kaervek's Torch was the kill. I may also have been using Recycle but it seems like that might have been an experimental "try this" in my notes and not something I played against real people. Well, regardless of what I did or didn't do, all of those things would work. Another factor that may have had me abandoning this approach was that Sixth Edition rules made it worse. Before Sixth Edition rules, you could play lands and go below 0 with Fastbond, then find some way to save yourself before the end of the phase, hopefully while also killing your opponent. I believe that most players in 1996 were using Glacial Chasm, so they could block Fastbond damage and go infinite. Alas, I didn't think of that when I was playing with Fastbond + Storm Cauldron.


The Tentacled One
Setting aside its current status in Vintage, Fastbond was very rightly restricted in 1996 and has almost certainly been far too dangerous to allow unrestricted for most of the time ever since then, and arguably up to the present day. Being banned in Type 1.5 and banned in the original Extended format, Fastbond didn't get a chance to have much tournament presence except as a restricted card in Type 1. Being restricted meant decks couldn't really rely on it, so it was something of a niche card, only fitting into decks that could get good value out of it without being built to rely on ever drawing it. It would get a huge breakthrough in tournament usage when Gush became a Vintage staple, as decks that could use Gush without Fastbond and Fastbond without Gush but really shined with both together became highly successful, and I'll come to that in a later post. A little later, Crucible of Worlds would show up and make Fastbond even more powerful. I'll get to that too. In the 90's, Fastbond's main presence in tournaments was in "churning" combo decks that built engines where they drew lots and lots of cards.

One of the most fascinating cards in the original core set is Lich...

First of all, that artwork is amazing. Second of all, that card has eight lines of text on it. Third of all, this was one of only two cards at the time to have four colored mana symbols in its cost (Force of Nature costs 2GGGG). Fourth of all, this is a rather elaborate attempt to craft a "your life is now your cards instead" shift to the fundamental rules of the game, but I'd imagine that it was one of the most confusing and frustrating cards in 1993. And fifth of all, while the gameplay in 1993 was necessarily haphazard and messy, I know of absolutely no application for this card in any play environment when the game first came out. There was no 4-card rule yet, a 40-card minimum deck size, and most players had no idea what they were doing (no fault of theirs: the game was new). Some players were swinging at each other with Pearled Unicorn and Scathe Zombies. Some players were filling decks with Lightning Bolt. And none of them would have had a niche for Lich. Oh, I'm sure someone, somewhere tried. But early on, Lich must have been nigh-unplayable. BigBlue nominated Lich for the Casual Card Hall of Shame. In the nomination thread, there was some discussion of the same principle I'm saying here: later printings enabled the card for highly specific combo usage, but when it was first released, those interactions didn't exist. Farmstead was rightly chosen. This is another dubious tangent, but I own an Alpha copy of Farmstead. My favorite unplayable card in my collection. Anyway, Lich was probably almost completely unplayable in 1993. In just the right situation, you could use it in a long game to buy yourself time by exchanging a precariously low life total for "now to finish me off you have to kill all of these cards I have on the battlefield." I guess if you had a lot of mana available you could turn Stream of Life into Braingeyser, but if you already have so much mana, there are probably better uses for it. Automatically losing to Disenchant is another consideration. But as new sets came out in 1994 and 1995, Lich got some tools to work with...

...and that's where Fastbond comes in. Some of these same tools would eventually coalesce into the TurboLich deck. But Fastbond-based Lich decks were already around long before that. Stephen Menendian has been one of the most helpful historians of the game. In this amazing piece, he shows the development of combo decks in the early years of the game, before ProsBloom. He found the oldest Lich deck I know of (although I'd imagine that in casual play, someone somewhere probably thought to combine Lich and Mirror Universe as a kill condition, regardless of whether such a deck was tournament-viable). It was made by George Baxter in 1995.

2 Lich
2 Erhnam Djinn
4 Juzam Djinn
1 Time Walk
1 Timetwister
1 Wheel of Fortune
1 Ancestral Recall
3 Dark Heart of the Woods
4 Strip Mine
2 Sinkhole
1 Crumble
2 Fireball
3 Fastbond
2 Dark Ritual
4 Ice Storm
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Black Lotus
4 Underground Sea
1 Badlands
2 Forest
4 Tropical Island
4 Taiga
4 Bayou
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Emerald
1 Sol Ring

4 Gloom
4 Black Vise
2 Erhnam Djinn
2 Sandstorm
3 Crumble

As seen behind the link, Menendian wrote the following...

There are many ways to gain life in Old School Magic, but perhaps the most reliable and instantaneous way with Lich in play is Dark Heart of the Woods, which will draw cards immediately. Another option is Ivory Tower, although that requires more time. Crumble is here both as removal but also life gain. I should note here that Drain life functions as a pseudo-Fireball, just as it did in Pros-Bloom, except that it is also a short-term tactic to draw additional cards.

George Baxter offers a pretty interesting and comprehensive explanation of his deck in Deep Magic, where he explains that the Lich is here mostly as a combo finisher. He uses the Djinns to buy time and provide defense. In particular, he explains that the Lich should be played only on the turn you intend to combo out, and that the specific combo requires about five lands and a Mox with Dark Heart and Fastbond in play. With this combo set up, the goal is to sacrifice Forests to draw cards with Dark Heart, and play lands via Fastbond such that you gradually, but inevitably, build up enough mana for a lethal Fireball.

I have spent some time brewing Lich decks, but I can’t claim to have had much more success than Mr. Baxter, although my list takes a different tack (I use Birds of Paradise and Hypnotic Specters). If you do decide to go in on Lich, I recommend Avoid Fates (in the sideboard) to protect yourself from Disenchant.


Now I want a format where my Avacyn Lich deck can flourish.


Sadly they entirely changed how the card works with Oracle updates, so instead I will need


The Tentacled One
Hm, I know the discrepency between "sacrifice" and "destroy" or "discard" on very old cards is awkward and has even caused controversy. Limited Edition didn't have the word "sacrifice" as a game mechanic, hence the original wording on the card Sacrifice telling you to destroy your own creature without regenerating it.

By the time Arabian Nights came along, the word "sacrifice" was used in card text boxes...

Although I don't own the card, I'm in agreement with the players who object to the Oracle text on Serendib Djinn...

Historically, it was used with Consecrate Land to nullify its drawback.

The powers that be have interpreted the text as requiring a sacrifice, which nullifies that old combo.

But I was under the impression that Lich has had such an Oracle text for many, many years, since long before Avacyn existed. Perhaps I'm mistaken on that.

Anyway, using Donate or Harmless Offering on Lich would ordinarily kill you right away, because you would be at 0 life and lose the game as a state-based effect. Of course, there are ways around this, but it becomes a rather elaborate combo (Lich, card to keep you alive once you lose control of Lich, card to give Lich to opponent, card to destroy Lich once opponent controls it, all without opponent stopping you).


The Tentacled One
I did a bit of Google searching to see if I could get an established record of a decklist for TurboLich, but nothing really came up. I know the deck is a little old and online records for tournament results aren't very good for stuff before 2006 or so, but I figured something would come up. I didn't want to spend a lot of time on it and I gave up after I started finding results linking back to the CPA (to one of my own posts, amusingly enough). Whatever. The information is out there somewhere. I did not fabricate the existence of TurboLich. It just wasn't an especially popular deck. Or an especially good deck. But it's fun, dammit.

Oh wait, here we go. TMD has an archived forum post from 2004. They've changed their site so much that some of the old content is dead links, but I did find one list, and that's good enough for my purposes...

2x Tundra
2x Tropical Island
2x Volcanic Island
4x Underground Sea
2x Polluted Delta
1x Flooded Strand
2x City of Brass
1x Undiscovered Paradise
1x Ancient Tomb
1x Tolarian Academy
1x Bazaar of Baghdad
1x Glacial Chasm
1x Mox Emerald
1x Mox Jet
1x Mox Pearl
1x Mox Ruby
1x Mox Sapphire
1x Black Lotus
1x Sol Ring
1x Mana Crypt
1x City of Solitude
1x Fastbond
1x Lich
1x Overgrown Estate
1x Pursuit of Knowledge
1x Ancestral Recall
2x Brainstorm
1x Frantic Search
1x Impulse
1x Time Spiral
1x Timetwister
1x Wheel of Fortune
1x Windfall
1x Scroll Rack
1x Demonic Tutor
1x Enlightened Tutor
1x Mystical Tutor
1x Vampiric Tutor
1x Death Wish
3x Intuition
3x Duress
1x Replenish
1x Regrowth
1x Reclaim
1x Yawgmoth's Will
1x Time Walk
1x Mirror Universe

I'm surprised that list only has one Bazaar of Baghdad. In my vague recollection, the card was an important part of the deck. And while the singleton Pursuit of Knowledge delights me (I've already done a Memories thread on the card), it was probably the author's personal pet card and not something that regularly appeared in TurboLich decks. The presence of the Onslaught fetchlands indicates that the list must have had at least a minor update between when they were released in 2002 and when the author posted the thread in 2004, but I'd guess it's closer to the former than to the latter. Anyway, the important stuff is all there. There are a few options, but the preferred path to victory in this deck would have been to get enchantments into the graveyard by discarding them to Bazaar of Baghdad and various spells, then cast Replenish. Then City of Solitude would prevent the opponent from disrupting Lich, Glacial Chasm would prevent damage, Fastbond would allow for infinite land drops, Overgrown Estate would turn lands into lifegain, and Lich would turn lifegain into card-drawing. Lands could be tapped for mana before being sacrificed to Overgrown Estate, so lots of cards and lots of mana become available. The deck could then employ the classic Timetwister + Regrowth loop that keeps coming up in these threads and run through every card, eventually casting Time Walk, Mirror Universe, and Timetwister one more time. Pass the turn (to yourself) and Mirror Universe kills the opponent.


The Tentacled One
I love TurboLich, but it's pretty reliant on Fastbond and is really not the most practical use of Fastbond anyway. In Vintage, Fastbond became associated with Gro-A-Tog and its "GushBond engine."

Tap a couple of blue dual lands, bounce them with Gush to draw 2 cards, replay them with Fastbond, tap them for mana again, bounce them with a second Gush to draw 2 more cards, replay them with Fastbond again, tap them for mana again. It's not an engine that wins games by itself, but it's efficient, only requires one mana to start, generates mana, and draws cards. All of the cards involved are strong on their own within the context of Vintage gameplay. The decks running the Gushbond engine tended to be ones where dual lands, Gush, and Fastbond all made sense to play in their own right, independently of the engine. So getting them together was even better. And that's pretty much all there is to say about that...

Just kidding. There's a whole book written about it. A real book made of paper that you can even buy, if you want to. I myself have not done so. But I'm just saying there are probably lots of words in there. Some of them are about the card Gush. Much has been written about the card. More than most cards. More than any card? I don't know, really. But not many cards get their own book. This isn't a commercial. I haven't read the book and do not own it. Rather, like many other players, I've seen it and said, "Wow, that's a thing."

Gush was restricted in June of 2003 on account of Gro-A-Tog's dominant performances in Vintage. It was unrestricted in June of 2007, and then restricted again in June of 2008 alongside four other blue cards. No, seriously, it was. Then it was unrestricted again (really) in September of 2010 and restricted again in April of 2017. That's, uh, definitely a record. Really showed that WotC are willing to experiment and not afraid to take cards on and off lists repeatedly. Also, WotC are afraid to unban Goblin Recruiter in Legacy since the format's inception in 2004 even though it probably never needed to be on the list in the first place. Yeah. Square that circle.

I had a friend who built a "Hulk Smash" Psychatog deck and I played against it with some casual deck of mine (I lost). One of the only time I played against Black Lotus in real life. The card was like $400 back then! But yeah, it seems like "Gushbond" was strictly a Type 1/Vintage thing. I never saw it in casual decks. Maybe it's just too efficient for casual players to go for it.


The Tentacled One
Fifth Dawn included the second entry in the "You Make the Card" series. The result was this...

As seems to be the theme of this thread, it was a powerful card even without Fastbond. With Fastbond, it was bonkers.

Fastbond + Crucible of Worlds + Strip Mine = kill all of opponent's lands.
Fastbond + Crucible of Worlds + Wasteland = no more nonbasic lands for opponent.
Fastbond + Crucible of Worlds + fetchlands = pull all of the basics and duals out of your library and put them on the battlefield.
Fastbond + Crucible of Worlds + Zuran Orb = infinite life and infinite mana.
Fastbond + Crucible of Worlds + Glacial Chasm = nigh invincibility and unlimited capacity to play lands out of your graveyard.
Fastbond + Crucible of Worlds + Archeological Dig = as much mana as the damage you can afford to take (should be enough).


The Tentacled One
This will be the third time that I'll have cited that broken combo deck I helped Unsanitarypigs build, which I described in the Wheel of Fortune thread. Well, I did memories threads for Wheel of Fortune and Tendrils of Agony, so the deck came to mind in those threads! As mentioned, Jared's original idea was to use Strip Mine + Crucible of Worlds to lock opponents down due to a stipulation that he wasn't allowed to kill them until after the opponent had taken five turns (or something like that). Fastbond and Zuran Orb struck me as natural inclusions. Like I said in the Wheel thread, we packed this thing with playsets of powerful cards, including several restricted in Vintage. This deck was built to be mean. It wasn't supposed to be nice. But even we were surprised and a lot of that had to do with Fastbond. Dropping Fastbond on the first turn was likely to result in the whole combo going off, dropping enough lands and artifact mana to either Ritual into Bargain, tutor for the missing piece to get Crucible and Zuran Orb, or Wheel into more mana sources and more combo components. What had started as "We'll game their stupid system by gaining infinite life, destroying every land they drop, and sitting on a storm kill until we're allowed to finish them off" soon became "This is the most broken deck I've ever held in my hands." Yes, decks built with lots of broken cards can do broken things and it's not like we didn't know. But I'd been in the habit of playing with broken cards and I was blown away. Usually a combo deck requires some analysis and fine-tuning. I hadn't been able to just throw stuff together and have it work consistently. Fastbond only costing a single mana made this all too easy.

Before building that deck, I'd used Fastbond in some of my own casual decks. I didn't do that anymore after seeing its performance in that delayed storm combo deck. I decided that Fastbond was too broken. I still embraced other land-ramp effects, like Exploration and Manabond. But Fastbond just didn't seem sporting.


The Tentacled One
Fastbond is restricted in Vintage, banned in Legacy, and unavailable in other sanctioned formats (it was last printed in 3rd Edition). Unsanctioned formats tend not to allow it either. I don't really think it's "sporting" to use it in casual formats, excepting extreme scenarios like when there is some prior agreement on the usage of powerful cards. To be clear, I'm broadly opposed to policies of implicitly disallowing cards for general casual play (whereas explicit bans/restrictions/points for specific casual formats are cool). But some things are inherently dangerous and one should take care when using them. So although I did have some fun with Fastbond in the past, I had sort of thought of it as relegated to historical contexts and to niche roles in Vintage, Highlander formats, and such.

To my surprise, some Vintage analysts believe the card should be unrestricted. Land-heavy decks based around Dark Depths are viable in Vintage, but they are not especially prominent. It does make some sense that unrestricted Fastbond might give such decks a boost without pushing them into dominance or having deleterious effects elsewhere in the format. I mean, I thought of Yawgmoth's Bargain as unrestrictable for many years and slowly came around to the notion that it was safe for Vintage. I can see similar aspects now with Fastbond, and now I can't help but wonder...


I wonder if part of the analysis on unrestricting Fastbond is simply to shake up the dichotomy between dominant Workshop decks and their closest competitor Oath, or even to diversify the rest of the field that currently comprises a huge swath of Blue.


The Tentacled One
I wonder if part of the analysis on unrestricting Fastbond is simply to shake up the dichotomy between dominant Workshop decks and their closest competitor Oath, or even to diversify the rest of the field that currently comprises a huge swath of Blue.
The biggest argument in support of a Fastbond unrestriction is that it could make Lands decks competitive in Vintage. There are rogue Vintage decks that are built similarly to Legacy Lands decks, and it might be possible that they could truly be viable with Fastbond unrestricted. A Fastbond deck would function differently from current Dark Depths combo decks, so it's unclear how good the deck would even be.

Vintage decks tend to run lots of artifact mana and fewer lands. A Fastbond deck would have to go the other direction. I think, tentatively, that such a deck could not be broken in Vintage compared to options already available. I do see some things going for it, though. It works well with The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, which is probably underplayed in tournaments.

Probably the biggest push for Fastbond's unrestriction comes from Stephen Menendian. On one hand, he's got a good grasp on the format and he correctly called Bargain (and Windfall, for that matter) safe. On the other hand, he wrote a whole book about Gush and campaigned against its restriction, so I could imagine that he's biased. But I think he's right. If anything, advocating for a Fastbond unrestriction would seem to indicate that he's given up on Gush and that he intuits Fastbond without the Gush engine is not format-warping in Vintage. He didn't address whether unrestricted Fastbond would be safe in a hypothetical world where Gush remains unrestricted. I think that's the more relevant question. If having Gush & Fastbond both unrestricted is too much, is it better for Vintage to have Gush decks or to have Fastbond decks? One might argue that both could safely be unrestricted and one might argue that neither one could safely be unrestricted. But if it's got to be one or the other, how do we decide which card to set free?


The Tentacled One
For any casual players who might care, Fastbond was recently unrestricted in the Vintage format. Let the 4x Fastbond deckbuilding commence?


Staff member
I still remember inviting someone to play in my casual group. We were all putting out our nice creature-heavy cards and attacking each other. Meanwhile, the new guy (I refuse to call him my friend), used Fastbond to pump out the lands, and eventually a Zuron Orb/Channel to unleash a Forked Hurricane that he was going to use a CoP Green to prevent the damage to himself on. After he cast the spell that annoyed everyone I reminded him that his CoP wouldn't work on the Fork, so he was dead too. All of that fun play for nothing...


The Tentacled One
I still remember inviting someone to play in my casual group. We were all putting out our nice creature-heavy cards and attacking each other. Meanwhile, the new guy (I refuse to call him my friend), used Fastbond to pump out the lands, and eventually a Zuron Orb/Channel to unleash a Forked Hurricane that he was going to use a CoP Green to prevent the damage to himself on. After he cast the spell that annoyed everyone I reminded him that his CoP wouldn't work on the Fork, so he was dead too. All of that fun play for nothing...
Yikes. You know, though, what's striking about that story isn't that someone did that, because of course people would do that. At times, I've probably been that guy...

It's that you just named a bunch of cards that were once "broken." Fastbond, Zuran Orb, Channel, and Fork were all restricted in Type 1 in the past, but now only Channel is. I mean, don't get me wrong, in context I totally grasp why that was annoying. I guess what I find interesting is how times have changed, and although it's not directly related to the unrestriction of Fastbond, that event does kind of highlight the degree of change. Because I see stuff all the time now that blows an engine of Fastbond + Zuran Orb + Channel + Hurricane + Fork + CoP away. I play a lot of EDH nowadays and routinely see far more potent stuff than that. Well, Fastbond and Channel are banned in EDH, but plenty of other broken stuff is allowed.