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Magic Memories: Pursuit of Knowledge

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
This one might be a bit obscure. I don't remember seeing a lot of other people using Pursuit of Knowledge. Even Scalpelexis had its fans, and while Bubbling Muck might not be highly renowned as Magic cards go, it was played extensively in tournaments once upon a time. But Pursuit of Knowledge, to the best of my knowledge, never really caught on. If I had knowledge of it having made an impact somewhere, I'd acknowledge that. Anyway...

In my hazy recollection, while I used the card myself, I never actually played against it. So I've seemingly been the sole advocate for Pursuit of Knowledge. Obviously, this is not true. The card features gorgeous Tony DiTerlizzi art, so somewhere out there are people who like it for that alone. And the Gatherer comments do show some distinct appreciation for the card, with a solid average rating (4 out of 5 stars) too. It's a niche rare from Stronghold that was never, ever reprinted, and is isn't so good at any one thing that it does for it to really capture the attention of the EDH crowd or anything. So my guess is that those of us who were playing casual Magic back then and thought it would be a useful inclusion in our decks have fond memories of Pursuit of Knowledge. To anyone else, it's just some old bulk rare.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
As with Fluctuator, I actually wrote an article about Pursuit of Knowledge here at the CPA at one point. I almost forgot about it! This one was way back in 2004. Yikes.

http://www.casualplayers.org/article/get.php?action=getarticle&articleid=915

My articles back then were pretty bad. Also, all of the older articles are corrupted so that many of the punctuation marks show up as Unicode replacement characters, which makes trying to read the article archives a bit annoying. I mentioned it before at some point, but I have no idea how or when it happened. I am not a computer person. I do not understand these things. Other people around here somewhere know stuff about these things. I do not. Why, just recently, I read that one of the dubious-sounding fees Comcast charges on their internet service is a "speed increase fee." Their internet service operates through fiberoptic cables. So they have managed to invent some marvelous technology that somehow goes into those tiny glass wires, it squeezes its way in or whatever, and then it compels the photons traversing the wires to pick up the pace. They are able to take actual, literal light, which was already moving at the speed of light on account of the fact that it is light, and make it go faster than it would ordinarily be going. Einstein was wrong, and Comcast have proven it, revolutionizing physics completely. No wonder they have so much money! It's amazing. It's baffling. We live in wonderful, dangerous times. How did we get here? Pursuit of Knowledge!

Well, that went pretty far afield. Anyway, the point is that I did already write an article about the card Pursuit of Knowledge and that you can, if you want, read that article or try to read it. The article was part of a "theme week" concept, a failed attempt to get more regularly published articles on the CPA front page. If memory serves correctly (it doesn't) the theme of the week was "white enchantments from Stronghold" and the week was dominated by Spiderman's 10,000-word treatise on the card Hidden Retreat. I say that my old articles are bad, and they are, but this one actually does cover most of the same ground I had in mind when I started this thread. So really, it's not that bad.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
To rehash the major points of the article, but without corrupted punctuation...

I can think of four major approaches to using Pursuit of Knowledge. There are some niche applications as well, including some that didn't exist in 2004 (when I wrote that article), which I might talk about later.
  1. Skip your draws and use them to charge up Pursuit of Knowledge, trading 3 card draws for 7. This option loses out on tempo and most decks most of the time cannot afford to skip so many draws for a payoff that may never arrive. So this option is generally bad and is almost exclusively for suckers.
  2. Use card-drawing spells to charge up Pursuit of Knowledge. This gets it to 3 counters pretty quickly for a timely payoff, but it uses both Pursuit of Knowledge and another spell (such as Concentrate) and also ties up more mana. This option is viable. Many good spells draw 2 cards, so then the regular draw phase is enough to get Pursuit of Knowledge to 3 counters.
  3. Technically, there is no requirement to stop at 3 study counters on Pursuit of Knowledge. Extra counters don't do anything, but until the activated ability is used, more counters can be added at any time with the replacement effect. This means that you can use Pursuit of Knowledge to skip as many draws as you like, for as long as you control the enchantment. Why would you want to skip your draws? Well, it's pretty unlikely, but it is an option. A long time ago, I used the card to prevent myself from losing the game by decking.
  4. Use cards the power of friendship! And as always, by friendship I mean combo. The two examples I named were Brainstorm and Sylvan Library, but there are others.
 

Melkor

Well-known member
I always loved Pursuit of Knowledge, it mainly found its way into my various W/G Enchantress types decks.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
Nice. I did have Pursuit of Knowledge and Verduran Enchantress in the same deck a long time ago. Eventually, my Enchantress deck was a more efficient build with Argothian Enchantress, Rancor, Auratog, etc. Pursuit of Knowledge, being a four-drop, wasn't included. But Enchantress-type effects are a powerful way to to charge up Pursuit of Knowledge.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
In my article, I mentioned Brainstorm, a card that would later become somewhat controversial for its overpowered utility, especially in Legacy. As Orgg appended in an editorial note in my article, if one is using Pursuit of Knowledge, Brainstorm is an excellent card to be using anyway and can not only to charge the enchantment up, but to find it in the first place. I also mentioned the possible drawback with Brainstorm: putting cards back on top of your library. With that in mind, here are the ways I could see Brainstorm being used to charge up Pursuit of Knowledge...
  1. Skip all three draws from Brainstorm, put two cards from your hand back on top of your library, then activate Pursuit of Knowledge, drawing first the two cards you already put back, then five more cards you haven't seen yet. This option is kinda bad.
  2. Have only one card left in hand while casting Brainstorm, skip all three draws, put your one remaining card on top of your library, then activate Pursuit of Knowledge, drawing first the one card that you already put back, then six more cards you haven't seen yet. This option isn't as bad as the previous one, but it does have the same sort of problem.
  3. Cast Brainstorm with an empty hand, skip all three draws, have nothing to put back on top, then activate Pursuit of Knowledge, drawing seven cards. This option is strong, but requires an empty hand to pull off, which is asking a bit much.
  4. Have a fetchland or other shuffle effect. Cast Brainstorm, skip all three draws, put back the two least relevant cards in your hand, use your shuffle effect, then activate Pursuit of Knowledge, drawing seven cards. This option is more flexible than needing an empty hand, but it depends on some of the contents of your hand being cards that you don't mind shuffling away. In some cases, that's an irrelevant matter, in others, you are giving up two known cards from your hand for seven unknown ones from your library, which is usually a pretty good deal.
  5. Skip fewer than three of the draws from Brainstorm, but get the remaining study counters in some other way, such as from your draw step. This doesn't solve the problem outright, but it does open up some other corner-case options.
  6. Skip fewer than three of the draws from Brainstorm, then hold onto Pursuit of Knowledge and just use the remaining portion of Brainstorm as you normally would. This makes for a weaker initial Brainstorm, but gives you a powerful card-drawing tool later on.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
I think that the coolest synergy with Pursuit of Knowledge is probably Sylvan Library. Sylvan Library penalizes you for the cards that you had drawn the same turn that you used its ability. Because you skip drawing both cards from Sylvan Library and the card you would have drawn as normal in your draw step, the penalty from Sylvan Library has no cards to which it applies. Meanwhile Pursuit of Knowledge becomes fully charged and ready to draw seven cards, penalty-free. The catch: Sylvan Library is a low-cost incremental value enchantment that gives you increased access to cards, so if you're using it, you probably have better things to be spending four mana on than an enchantment that takes a turn to provide any payoff.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
While green cards like Sylvan Library or Verduran Enchantress work well with Pursuit of Knowledge, my most distinct memories of the card involved using it in my old W/U/B control Highlander deck. I totally can't remember if I've mentioned it before, although it seems like I must have. This was before the days of EDH. The Highlander format I played, which as far as I know was the first format called "Highlander", was a 150-card format popular in the Seattle area in the early 00's. And my deck was a slow, grindy control deck full of all sorts of nonsense. I loved that deck. I'm sure that it wasn't actually very good, but back then, it seemed awesome. Pursuit of Knowledge wasn't too hard to charge up in the slow-paced games that my deck induced, and I had numerous cards that I could use to add multiple counters to it, such as Rhystic Study, Frantic Search, Brainstorm, and Mystic Remora. I'd imagine that it would work reasonably well with Teferi's Puzzle Box too, but I don't think I actually had them in the same deck at the same time.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
Well, I was working on EDH decks, but the dreaded COVID-19 has put the West Coast Commander League on hiatus. In particular, I was looking into ways to do interesting things with the bad Selesnya color identity creatures from Legends. No one else wants to play those guys, so it falls to me! I already played a Lady Caleria deck earlier this month and last month I did Lord Magnus. Last year I found the time to build decks around Gabriel Angelfire and Sir Shandlar of Eberyn. Despite those ridiculous displays of mediocrity, there are still three more of these white/green Legends legends left untouched. We do have a player who has claimed he'll pilot Jasmine Boreal on account of her excellent RKF artwork, but that still leaves two more of these duds that no one else will play. My plan had been to get at least one more of them out of the way now, so that I could then move on to the only worse color identity for commanders in the set: Rakdos. And black/red will be truly, truly miserable. Not sure if even I can pull that off five more times.

Anyway, before the hiatus, I had won the bounty in the West Coast Commander League and had picked a weekly point option of "Thought Trader." The wording of this achievement point was "choose to use an activated or triggered ability that causes you to do something as a replacement to drawing a card (e.g. Words of Wind)." I then announced to the group, "I will drag you all kicking and screaming onto the Abundance bandwagon." This made sense, in context. I've been using Abundance a lot in the league, and at first almost no one else recognized the card at all. "Wait, what does it do?" But over the course of a year or so, seeing me use Abundance to dodge Smothering Tithe, to negate Nekusar, to grab extra cards every turn with Sylvan Library, and to smooth out my spells/lands ratio in long games, the regulars in the shop have learned what the card is and have come to associate it with me. But some of them, particularly the ones who use Sylvan Library a lot, have finally gotten the bright idea of buying the card and using it in their own decks. It's a good card. And I've done my part to increase its popularity in EDH.

But the card that I was really thinking of, that I'd really hoped to show off for this "Thought Trader" thing was Pursuit of Knowledge. Unlike Abundance, I only actually put Pursuit of Knowledge in a commander deck a single time last year. It was in my "maybe" pile on a couple of occasions, but so far it has only turned up in
Eberyn's Finest Omelettes. That was a very weird deck, but I did get Pursuit of Knowledge to "go off" in one of the games. That was glorious. And I'm ready to chase that thrill again. Too bad I can't, at least not yet. But the card would have been perfect for the "Thought Trader" point. Missed opportunities are tragic. Curse you, SARS-CoV-2! Why must these things always happen to me? Too much? Too soon? Alright, I was laying it on pretty thick there. I'll stop, I promise.

All this Pursuit of Knowledge stuff has me thinking of it as a promising and versatile solution to the question of our times: "How should WotC do card advantage in white?" It's a topic that has seen a lot of popular discussion lately, in large part due to WotC employees openly involving themselves in the discussion. They admit that they're not sure yet. They're working on it. They are exploring "virtual" card advantage with tokens as a way for white to do this. You see, card advantage is important, but the ways different colors do it should be different from each other so that the colors fill unique roles. Black generally pays life for cards or sacrifices permanents to get them, red gets them temporarily (Light Up the Stage is the poster child for how WotC now envisions handling card advantage effects in red), and blue and green, uh, just get cards? No seriously, they haven't been very clear on that point. But they do tend to show some difference between them. White, though? WotC is stuck in a rut. And to that I say, look to Pursuit of Knowledge. Party like it's 1998. I'm not saying the answer is "use study counters" specifically. But the general concept is there for inspiration. It seems like a thematically appropriate way for white to do this. Delay gratification. Patience is a virtue. Give up drawing cards now to draw more cards later. It could be fun. What could go wrong?

They should do this. It would be good for white. It would be good for the game.

That was what I had to say anyway. But while I was revisiting this thread, a weird joke I made in 2017 caught my eye...


The article was part of a "theme week" concept, a failed attempt to get more regularly published articles on the CPA front page. If memory serves correctly (it doesn't) the theme of the week was "white enchantments from Stronghold" and the week was dominated by Spiderman's 10,000-word treatise on the card Hidden Retreat.
Um, what? Does this make sense to anyone else? I find myself in the awkward position of not getting my own joke, although it must have seemed funny to me at the time. And this was just a few years ago. Summer of 2017. Did I pick Hidden Retreat at random? I actually did a search on the forums for the card, searching in vain for some elusive clue as to why I'd even bring it up. And I didn't find anything. Then I felt like I'd pranked myself, as though 2017 Oversoul set a trap for 2020 Oversoul. I don't remember Spidey actually mentioning the card, ever. Spidey, did you ever use Hidden Retreat? Do you like the card? Would you please write 10,000 words on the subject? Seriously though, that was such a weird thing for me to say.

What was life even like back then? Oh, to be 31 again. I don't know. Now that I think about it, it's not even that weird. It's just, I don't even remember thinking of this joke before and I can't fathom why I did it.
 
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Shoe

Member
I love pursuit of knowledge, it ends up in a lot of my mono white commander decks. I wrote an article that is no longer available a long time ago about mono white draw and this was top 5
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
I love pursuit of knowledge, it ends up in a lot of my mono white commander decks. I wrote an article that is no longer available a long time ago about mono white draw and this was top 5
Pursuit of Knowledge in Mono-white commander decks, huh? That's an application I haven't actually tried yet, although I wouldn't rule it out. Mono-white doesn't have a ton of compelling synergies with the card. Do anything interesting or unusual with it?
 
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