Magic Memories: Regrowth

Discussion in 'Single Card Strategies' started by Oversoul, Feb 12, 2018.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    When it comes to card recursion, Regrowth is simply the greatest of all time. It's nothing fancy. It harkens back to the beginning of the game, when some spells were as simple and straightforward as they come.
    That's about as clean and clear as they come. Even the Alpha printing, in a set notorious for strange ways to say things, is just one word off from the Oracle text ("any" was changed to "target").

    Much like Counterspell or Dark Ritual or Stone Rain, it's just an efficient piece of utility. Not the basis for a deck, but the kind of card that fits into lots of different decks. A workhorse. It's the best at what it does, and that's about it. People generally don't think about it too much. It's good, but unremarkable. That describes lots and lots of cards. What does not describe most of those cards is "Restricted from 1994 to 2013." Nineteen years. And not for a card that was once broken and infamous, but whose time has passed. Regrowth was never scary. Regrowth isn't Mind Twist or Black Vise. It was a workhorse. It was unremarkable. It was unremarkable at the time it was restricted. It was unremarkable while it was restricted. And it remained unremarkable after it was unrestricted. Oh, it saw play. It saw play while it was restricted and it saw play after it was unrestricted. It's just that no one really cared. And that description is almost suspiciously bland. Nothing gets away with being that unremarkable. Such a level of unremarkability is, itself, remarkable. And hence, by my twisted logic, Regrowth is extraordinary.

    I'm only being kinda-sorta facetious. Every card that was restricted in 1994 seems to fit into one of these categories...
    1. It is a mana-producing artifact. It was restricted because a surfeit of explosive mana production fundamentally changes the nature of gameplay.
    2. Its restriction was short-lived, either going away with the list cleanup in 1997 or before that.
    3. It has been the subject of extensive commentary, either for Type 1 tournament usage as a restricted card, or as as a regular card following its unrestriction.
    4. It is Regrowth.
  2. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    I'll bite - Eternal Witness is a better card for only a G more, and here are some reasons why :)

    Flash it onto the battlefield as a blocker while having the bonus of a Regrowth.
    Makes an excellent target for creature bounce costs, because multiple Regrowth over time.
    Cloudstone Curio.
  3. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Eternal Witness is a fantastic card. I get superb utility from it in my Commander deck, in ways that Regrowth wouldn't work. The techniques I employ there aren't even the same as the ones you're talking about, although they're similar. I had, let's see, Karmic Guide brings back Eternal Witness, which puts Crucible of Worlds back in my hand, which I play, which lets me play Gaea's Cradle from my graveyard...

    This, and most of the other cases in which I've used Eternal Witness, are far removed from the types of decks that players had in mind when Regrowth was restricted. In 1994, most good creatures didn't yet exist. In fact, most cards were rather bad compared to what we have today. And yet, players were routinely slinging...

    Time Walk
    Ancestral Recall
    Black Lotus
    Wheel of Fortune
    Demonic Tutor
    Strip Mine
    Library of Alexandria
    Mind Twist
    Lightning Bolt
    Wrath of God
    Black Vise
    Animate Dead
    Nevinyrral's Disk
    Stone Rain
    Ice Storm
    Drain Life
    Sol Ring
    Mana Vault
    Swords to Plowshares
    Drop of Honey
    Mox Emerald/Jet/Pearl/Ruby/Sapphire

    There was a higher ratio of strong noncreature cards than ever before. The most egregious of these were restricted, but with so few of the powerful-yet-unrestricted cards we've gotten since, gameplay was focused centrally around restricted cards. If you can quickly build an army of attackers and beat me down, my Time Walk only buys me a turn, which is very good, but can be mitigated. But in a world where creatures suck and building that impressive army is unfeasible, I can Time Walk and then turn every Regrowth into a Time Walk. Restricting cards started out as a compromise. This was before Type 2 existed. Players demanded to be able to play with their cards, and banning cards ran counter to that. Restricting them to one copy per deck mitigated the brokenness. Then along came Regrowth, acting as copies 2 through 4 of whatever restricted card you'd gotten into your graveyard.

    None of this refutes Psarketos' contention that Eternal Witness is the best recursion card. Stapling a good spell onto a reasonably costed creature as an EtB trigger is a good way to create a powerful creature. In some contexts, Eternal Witness really is better. But in the contexts where Regrowth is powerful, Eternal Witness costs 1GG, compared to 1G for Regrowth. And that's a death sentence. Flash it out as a blocker? Bounce it and replay it? Bother with Cloudstone Curio at all? I don't intend for you to ever get another turn. I'm not going to let a creature get in my way. That extra green mana is a world of difference that pays for a creature, and creatures are, in some contexts, irrelevant. It's a 2/1. It might as well be a 10/10. I'm exaggerating, but only kind of. An extra green mana is a huge deal, especially because many of the decks that used Regrowth (or still do) are heavily blue and splashing for green cards comes at a real premium. 1G is is fast and affordable. 1GG, in such a deck, is just too much. Even in the contemporary Magic, some Vintage combo decks run a copy or two of Regrowth. And they wouldn't run Eternal Witness because they don't care very much about the 2/1 body and they care a whole lot about the extra green mana.
  4. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    Oh, you mean "in Legacy and Vintage." Very good, carry on then ;)
  5. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Not specifically, no. I mean, at the time Regrowth was originally restricted, Legacy and Vintage didn't yet exist. There was only one format and it was called "Magic." But the game has changed a lot since then. I said that Regrowth makes its way into some combo decks, and it does, but those combo decks aren't even that prevalent in Vintage these days. Instead, creatures are prevalent. But they're creatures like Foundry Inspector, Phyrexian Revoker, Griselbrand, Snapcaster Mage, Monastery Mentor, Young Pyromancer, and Deathrite Shaman. The environment back when Regrowth was restricted was a lot closer to something like Old School Magic than it was to Legacy or Vintage. But perhaps I'm being unclear by talking about two different things at once...

    One thing is the strange fact that Regrowth was restricted for 19 years, was restricted until relatively recently, but wasn't really talked about very much. I occasionally saw some technical discussions about its use in Vintage in "The Deck." But usually a card restricted in Vintage either saw a lot of play somewhere in unrestricted form or was used successfully as a one-off in Vintage lists, so it'd be discussed in Vintage forums and stuff. Regrowth used to be in Vintage decks plenty of the time as a one-off, but it was practically an afterthought. This piques my interest. I think that initially, the restriction of Regrowth was essentially the same as the idea behind the restriction of Recall...
    At the time, WotC were probably overly concerned that players would effectively subvert the effects of their restrictions by reusing restricted spells (especially Time Walk an Ancestral Recall) out of the graveyard. The tournament environment eventually shifted away from this one-dimensional reliance on powerful restricted cards, and yet Regrowth remained restricted until 2013. It was even legal in Legacy, but WotC still wouldn't unrestrict it in Vintage. I found that to be interesting and wanted to analyze it further.

    Separate from that, I wanted to use your mention of Eternal Witness as an excuse to compare Regrowth to other cards in the abstract. Data is somewhat limited, but my suspicion is that Eternal Witness shows up far more often than Regrowth in Legacy owing to the card's occasional use in Nic Fit decks. On the other hand, Regrowth has a minor presence in Vintage combo decks, while Eternal Witness doesn't really have a niche in that format. But I didn't have Legacy or Vintage specifically in mind, nor any hard and fast rules for comparison. For the exact job of "bring a card back from my graveyard to my hand" Regrowth is as cheap as it gets without sacrificing some functionality. Everything else is either more expensive (Elven Cache) or has built-in limitations (Revive). That's not to say no other card that provides recursion can ever do anything better than Regrowth. Eternal Witness is a great example of something that can. I also had Yawgmoth's Will in mind.
  6. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    Alright, I didn't want to go this way but you have forced my hand: Eternal Witness is actually a free cast, because Aluren. Also, it draws a card from Soul of the Harvest.

    Edit: Oh hey! I put my "thinking about Vintage" cap on, and realized in relation to your blue decks that want a Regrowth can pack Flash for other reasons with a single copy of Eternal Witness, and if you draw them together its like casting Regrowth using only blue mana! And an extra card... :)
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  7. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Not bad, but Flash is restricted, so your odds of drawing both it and Eternal Witness in the same hand are diminished. But all of this reminds me of the better version of Ancestral Recall...
    You see, under Dream Halls, Ancestral Recall discards one card and draws three cards. But under Dream Halls, Opportunity discards one card and draws four cards. Strictly better. :p
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  8. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    A good point, however discarding to Nourishing Shoal gets you 50% more life with Eternal Witness. Pretty sure thats game over!
  9. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Behold, the ultimate Magic card for pitching to Nourishing Shoal.

    I was contemplating building a Nourishing Lich deck or possibly old-fashioned TurboLich, which I used to play on Apprentice but didn't own in real life. All of the coolest people have Lich decks. It's the law, I think. I know I'll be late to the party, but better late than never.
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  10. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Sometimes, not always, but perhaps too often, I have a tendency to get a bit dry and technical in these threads. So I'm eminently pleased that this one almost immediately devolved into Psarketos and I discussing silly card interactions. Cloudstone Curio is a real gem of a card and I'm slightly disappointed that I never found the time to use it myself. I really did use Opportunity in multiple Dream Halls decks that I built, and it was awesome. Aluren is great. I've gone up against Soul of the Harvest and it's scary. And once upon a time, I was playing TurboLich on Apprentice and really did aspire to build the deck for real. That's quite the tangent, though. If you've never heard of it at all, Nourishing Lich was a "real" Legacy deck in the sense that players constructed actual decks and even played them in tournaments, but it was never a strong competitive archetype. Some Legacy tournament players pretended that it was a burgeoning tournament powerhouse, poised to wreck the format. So kind of like Rhinoseeker, except there was a real decklist. It worked by playing lots of mana acceleration, rushing out Lich, pitching Autochthon Wurm to Nourishing Shoal and drawing lots of cards, playing Zuran Orb and sacrificing all of its own lands to draw some more cards, and hopefully drawing into enough mana acceleration to drop a win condition. Anyway...

    Really, this stuff is more fun and I don't know how much I have to say about Regrowth. But I do remember now that I had wanted to point out Regrowth's best friend...
    You can Regrowth your Timetwister and Timetwister your Regrowths. Do you like getting your cards back? Well, now you can get cards to get back the cards that you used to get your cards back. It's like Soldevi Digger, which of course I also did a thread about. See?

    It turns out that I like cards that let me recast my spells. Oh yes, I suppose the jig is up. I inadvertently gave it away when I made a thread about Soldevi Digger and how I used to put it in every deck. I still love Soldevi Digger, but now the possibilities are so much more elaborate! Why, it's now possible to get all of the cards back and keep them back. Forever. See? But Timetwister + Regrowth is the OG in this situation. And it's a blast. For me, anyway. Perhaps not for my opponent. I never asked. Of course, for most of the time I've been playing this game, I didn't own a real copy of Timetwister, so the Draw7 I was employing was usually Wheel of Fortune. Regrowth isn't quite as amazing with Wheel of Fortune, although they do still work together. You can Regrowth your Wheel or Wheel into a Regrowth, you just can't use Wheel to get your Regrowths back.
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  11. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Regrowth can be used on any card in your graveyard. Usually, the most powerful types of card to target fit into two categories...
    1. Cards that you wanted to use to kill your opponent, but your opponent didn't want you to do that and managed to stop you. For example, you had a Serra Angel and your opponent killed it with Terror. Regrowth can play the role of Raise Dead in that situation.
    2. Cards that you already used that went to the graveyard naturally as a consequence of using them, so Regrowth lets you use them twice. That could be virtually any instant or sorcery, but it could also be Nevinyrral's Disk or Pestilence.
    I like the second choice myself, but both are valuable and flexibility is Regrowth's strength. It's why Regrowth was/is so widely used and no one ever cared about Raise Dead. Even though some of the time you're using Regrowth on a creature anyway, you want the option to use it on something else as well. My favorite targets tend to be sorceries. I already mentioned Timetwister, but it could just as easily be Fireball.
  12. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Perhaps the most notable tournament deck to use Regrowth as anything more than an afterthought was The Deck. Uh, that really does seem like kind of a bad name in hindsight, but it's what they called it.

    For the uninitiated, which might easily be no one around here, "The Deck" was a Type 1 archetype from the 90's that persisted early into the 00's. It was, for a time, a defining part of the Type 1 environment, with much of the discussion centered on how to split card selection between cards meant to battle mirror matches vs. cards meant to battle the entire rest of the field. The Deck evolved considerably over the years, so without picking a specific incarnation, describing it is a bit tricky. I don't want to paint an inaccurate or incomplete picture. If you're unfamiliar with it and interested in learning more, the person who probably wrote the most about The Deck out of anyone was Oscar Tan aka former CPA forum member Rakso. You could check out his old articles.

    I guess my very abbreviated take on it is that The Deck was a goodstuff control deck that exploited an environment very different from Magic as it is generally played today. Planeswalker cards didn't exist. Big creatures tended to come with huge drawbacks and there were very few of them that were any good at all (Spirit of the Night, Verdant Force). Aggro decks didn't have tools to do fast damage without taking severe risks, which made them vulnerable to disruption. The Deck used the best tools in every color to ensure that it could grind out card advantage and survive against what the opposition of the time could throw at it. Things like Moat, The Abyss, and Balance ruined creature swarms. Mana Drain could stop whatever the opponent was trying to do and then follow it up by providing mana to fuel a big Mind Twist or Braingeyser. If The Deck ran any combat-oriented creatures at all, it'd be some flexible medium-sized threat that could serve as a blocker and provide a kill condition (Serra Angel was the original, but it was replaced by Morphling and other alternatives). For much of The Deck's reign, its only green cards were Sylvan Library and Regrowth. In some lists Regrowth was the only green card. Why splash for green at all if you're only using one card? Two reasons. Firstly, The Deck was running a very greedy manabase anyway and was also splashing red for some utility, so it could afford to run Regrowth if it was already relying on City of Brass and Undiscovered Paradise. Any color is any color. Secondly, Regrowth was really strong in this archetype because it was full of singleton cards. Generally somewhere between a quarter and a third of a typical list for The Deck consisted of restricted cards, and several other slots were used for only one or two copies of a "silver bullet" answer card.

    In a deck with playsets of most of its important cards, Regrowth isn't necessarily bad, but it loses some of its potency. It's more efficient to just draw into another copy of whatever card you want to use, rather than to spend mana on Regrowth. But when Regrowth can be used to retrieve your only copy of a card, that's something else. Consequently, Regrowth is excellent in highlander formats. So is Eternal Witness, for that matter.
  13. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I mentioned this concept in the Wheel of Fortune thread too, but Regrowth was another example, although unlike Wheel Regrowth is no longer restricted. It was, though. For 19 years. And as a casual player, that fact essentially didn't matter and didn't come up.

    Certain cards I'd use got reactions out of some players on the basis that they were restricted in Type 1, but sometimes those same players were themselves unknowingly using other restricted cards. It was really pretty rare: most people would only point out my restricted cards to make sure that I was aware of them. It just stuck out in my mind. But Regrowth always flew under the radar. I think most casual players didn't even know it was restricted. Actually, by the time it was unrestricted in April of 2013, I'd forgotten about the restriction myself!

    Regrowth does turn up occasionally in Vintage decks. And when it does, usually it's 1 or 2 copies in a Storm combo deck. I've seen some MTGO decklists that were clearly intending to use it with Baral, Chief of Compliance and Accumulated Knowledge (in a roundabout way, achieving a virtual Regrowth on Ancestral Recall, which is pretty good, albeit situational). It also appears in Gifts decks, to the extent that they still exist anyway. Regrowth is very good with Gifts Ungiven.
  14. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Regrowth is the original and the most efficient, but it has spawned imitators...


    I don't care so much for most of them. Some Regrowth-wannabes, however, do have neat applications. Foremost among them is a card we already talked about a bit here: Eternal Witness.
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  15. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    Wow, that group really shows off my Nayan aesthetic preferences - Nostaligic Dreams, Holistic Wisdom, Seasons Past, and Wildest Dreams are on my extended list of, "Coolest cards ever printed." You already know how I feel about Eternal Witness, of course :)
  16. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Nostalgic Dreams and Wildest Dreams are notable as being green upgrades of Recall, a formerly restricted card. Goes to show how the game has changed over the years. I have never played with or against Wildest Dreams, so I have little to say about it. Nostalgic Dreams I remember being a fine card, though. Not having to pay extra mana for using it on several cards offered excellent utility. Seasons Past is also fairly new and I've just never seen it make its mark anywhere. The effect I could totally get into, but the six-mana cost is a bit daunting. Holistic Wisdom seems like the kind of card I'd have seen come up in some notable way at some point, but it's always been unremarkable in my experience and I guess whatever casual decks I ever saw it in didn't impress me. If you used it to any sort of success I'd love to hear about it!

    Other than Eternal Witness (of course) and Nostalgic Dreams, which I have seen pull its weight and then some, most of these just aren't cards I've seen used to do much. Restock was popular way back when it was new, but I didn't like the high mana cost and the self-exile compared to my good, old, reliable Regrowth. But there was one more that I used somewhat: Reap.

    Reap is a fun card. People who see it tend to fit into the following categories...
    1. People who dismiss it as a bad color-hoser.
    2. People who think it'd be a nice value card in a casual multiplayer game because some opponent is probably playing black, so it becomes a powered-up Regrowth.
    3. People who remember it as the centerpiece of a classic infinite combo deck!
    The engine was called "ReapLace." As far as I know, WotC started adding more of that precautionary self-exile to some spells to weaken their combo potential before ReapLace was a competitive deck, so it probably cannot claim credit for that text on Restock and such. It was probably inspired by Recall, the original "get multiple cards from my graveyard back into my hand" spell. But Reap was just a "color hoser" and didn't get that rider. Thus, ReapLace was born.

    Use Deathlace (or Prismatic Lace) to turn an opponent's card black. Reap back your Deathlace. Use Deathlace to turn another card black. Use another Reap (or Regrowth) to Reap back your own Reap and also Deathlace. From there, Time Walk, then use the two copies of Reap (or one of Reap and one of Regrowth) to retrieve each other and keep having Time Walk hop along for the ride, allowing for an infinite turns loop. Didn't find your Time Walk? Reap loop with Ancestral Recall or other draw spells until you do. Reap back tutors. If you find Black Lotus, you can Reap loop with Black Lotus for infinite mana and use that mana on any draw spell or tutor in your graveyard. As an infinite combo, it's clunky, especially by today's standards. But as an engine, it was very impressive for its time.
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  17. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Came across archived discussion on TMD for ReapLace and they even acknowledged that Lion's Eye Diamond could function in the combo. Not only was LED still unrestricted at that point, but it was essentially unplayed. I mentioned in the LED thread that it could be activated with Regrowth on the stack, but apparently that didn't catch on.
  18. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I don't think that it's intuitively obvious, but Regrowth's black counterpart turns out, comparatively, to be a bit of a dud.
    Is that too harsh? I mean, I never thought of it as a bad card. It's fine, I guess. It's been reprinted a million times and I don't see complaints about how bad it is. I don't think I've used it in my own Constructed decks since 1997, but it's come up in Limited environments and I always thought it was fine. You've got a big creature, your opponent kills it, then you Raise Dead and cast it again. It's not ideal. But it's OK.

    I guess the counterintuitive part comes in when you think, "What kind of card do I want to bring back?" And in most Magic formats, the most valuable cards in advancing the board state and progressing toward winning the game are creatures. Regrowth costs one mana more and has greater flexibility because you can grab other card types too, but it seems like Raise Dead would still be valuable. Is the lack of flexibility really that big of a drawback?

    The answer, I'd say, is along the lines of, "Well, kind of." Flexibility is good. But there's also more to it. Because it turns out that in practice, Regrowth isn't used primarily on creatures at all. Creatures are targets of opportunity, relatively low-percentage for most Regrowth-packing decks. Regrowth on a creature is giving up tempo for little benefit, unless that creature is notable for some abilities that are EtB, LtB, "sacrifice ~", etc. In most decks, you'd rather just draw and play another creature than draw and play a spell that lets you get a creature out of your graveyard, which you then play a second time. There are exceptions, of course, but it's usually inefficient. This is why Animate Dead is a classic competitive card (you're not paying the mana for the creature) and Raise Dead is unremarkable. You could Regrowth a creature, just as you could target a land, enchantment, artifact, or even planeswalker. But when Regrowth shines, it tends to be not when it is used as a "get back my dead thing" card, but used on instants and sorceries, or on permanents that sacrifice themselves for an effect. It's a "get this spell back and cast it again" effect, and that's better than inefficient creature recursion. That's why Regrowth was restricted in Vintage even as it was legal in Legacy: they were worried about Regrowth on Time Walk or Ancestral Recall, not on run-of-the-mill spells.
  19. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I recently revisited the Dark Ritual thread and noted the myriad utility of such a simple spell. Regrowth probably has that same sort of thing going on. One could probably analyzed its role in different environments and have a whole lot to say about it. My own applications have generally been brainless stuff like "get my Kaervek's Torch back." And when it comes to that, well, I've said my piece.

    While it doesn't have as much potential in the sort of fun, broken combo decks that I like, the "second best" Regrowth incarnation is a lot more interesting. I haven't played my Commander deck lately, but Eternal Witness was (is?) one of the stars of the show. In a deck filled with creature recursion, Eternal Witness turns creature recursion into Anything recursion. I mentioned Eternal Witness as a utility creature in Nic Fit decks. Generally, its nature as a creature can be exploited with most of the best green engine cards, a task for which Regrowth is unsuited. Off the top of my head, it can serve a unique role with such cards as Survival of the Fittest, Aluren, Green Sun's Zenith, Evolutionary Leap, Greater Good, Birthing Pod, and Collected Company.
  20. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Regrowth is back for Masters 25! They'll be reusing the art that appeared in Duel Decks: Heroes vs. Monsters...

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