Magic Memories: Wheel of Fortune


The Tentacled One
For a few years now, I've had my very own copy of Timetwister, a card that has a special place in my heart, despite being generally regarded as the worst out of the "Power 9" and not really in the same league as the other eight. I didn't make one of these threads for Timetwister and I probably never will. Like I said, I do own one copy but I haven't had it for all that long. I am not the guy who looks back and fondly remembers winning casual games in the 1990's with a well-placed Timetwister. I'm just not that cool. I wish I were. No, by the time I was introduced to the game, "Power 9" was already a thing and Timetwister was completely out of reach, a thing of myth and legend, not a card I could actually acquire. And so I used its red cousin all the time.

These days a single copy of Wheel of Fortune would set you back by about $80 or $90. Unlike Timetwister, it made it into the Revised core set, so there are far more copies of it in existence, but it is on the Reserved List and it is recognized as a powerful card, so it's expensive. But for a long time, Wheel of Fortune could be acquired for a few dollars: there wasn't really tournament demand for it and the excessive hype regarding the Reserved List hadn't yet spiked card prices. I got my Wheels for next to nothing. They weren't considered valuable back then. I even played with them unsleeved.

I liked Wheel of Fortune because I owned it and because it was obviously powerful. I think just about all players are attracted to powerful cards and really only become soured on them when things go wrong. But Wheel's power, at the time, was unclear to me and I'm not sure how clear it was to anyone, really. Wheel of Fortune was restricted in 1994, but I don't know how much that even mattered at the time, how significant it was. Things were really messed up back then. Copy Artifact and Regrowth were restricted at the same time, despite not being thought of as banworthy by most players. Many tournaments (most?) either banned all expansions sets or banned some of them. Things were hectic. I don't know exactly why Wheel of Fortune was restricted, but in retrospect it turned out to be one of the right moves (unlike, say, Feldon's Cane or Gauntlet of Might).

So yeah, it was restricted. Back then, and really I think for what still constitutes most of the game's history, casual players have fallen into a few broad categories when it comes to these things.
  1. "Anything goes" players. Often younger, or less enfranchised (small collections), or only playing infrequently, or isolated (only playing with a small circle of friends). They tended not to know the contents of Banned/Restricted lists and not to care. If the topic came up, they might try to accommodate others or they might resent being told that they couldn't or shouldn't play with their cards. Some of them didn't know about banned cards, some of them knew but didn't care, and some of them knew, but felt that tournament lists applied explicitly to the tournaments played in accordance to them and that there had to be prior agreement before such constraints were applied.
  2. "Keep things fair" players. A lot of these tended to have more experience and just didn't want to experience stupid gameplay where matchups were extremely one-sided, so they saw the official proscriptions as a clear, sanctioned signal that could help prevent brokenness. Some of them might have witnessed firsthand the early cheesiness with Power 9 cards in 1993/1994. They tended not to focus on lists comprehensively, but to think of them as a guideline. Some of them were unclear on how many lists there actually were and which cards were actually on them. I have a memory of one player objecting to my use of Necropotence in a casual deck because it "was banned" while his own deck, which he was playing while saying this, contained Regrowth and Sol Ring, which were banned in the same format. Many of these players would adopt house rules when they found that official tournament lists didn't address the cards that were overpowered in their local playgroups.
  3. "Strict adherence" players who were familiar with the distinctions and contents of official lists and who only played in accordance to a set format, but who were nevertheless playing casual games and usually not actually building decks that were commonly used in tournaments. Some of these players were rogue deckbuilders who participated in tournaments but prided themselves on brewing their own decks that diverged from the established metagame, emphasizing style and creativity, rather than winning. Some of them didn't go for tournaments but religiously eschewed banned cards anyway. While this category could technically include players in any format, in my own personal experience, this type of person almost always played Type 2. Sometimes Extended. Never Type 1 or Type 1.5.
  4. "Multi-format" players, who either played in tournaments or were sufficiently familiar with them to understand which lists applied to which tournaments and why the cards on the lists were chosen. They tended to have some interest in different game variants and to explore different ways to play, because if they didn't then they were just tournament players and not really playing casually at all. These tended to be very experienced players or people who played with a lot of very experienced players. Pretty much by definition, they had different decks for different occasions.
Speaking for myself, I've pretty much bounced around between Category 1 and Category 4. I'm pretty well-settled into Category 4 these days and favor it as the ideal place to be, at least for people who play most of their Magic outside of tournament settings. But there are fine people in all four categories and nothing wrong about being in any of them. However, conflict can emerge when players in different categories interact without understanding that they're in those different categories. Regrettably, I've contributed to this in the past.

But oddly enough, not with Wheel of Fortune! You'd think so, as I used it all the time and it's such a powerful card. But nope. When I ran Wheel in my casual decks...

-Players in Category 1 didn't care, for obvious reasons.
-Players in Category 2 didn't seem to notice. I got objections to my decks that used Mind Twist, Necropotence, Tolarian Academy, Braingeyser, and Force of Will (that last one was not actually banned anywhere officially, but like I said, this category includes a lot of people who are a little fuzzy on the actual contents of ban lists). But never Wheel of Fortune.
-Players in Category 3 weren't usually playing against me anyway (and if they were, I don't think I used Wheel of Fortune in decks that I piloted against them).
-Players in Category 4 knew what they were getting into.

So yeah, it's a little weird in retrospect because the card is so obviously powerful, but it wasn't unique and I wasn't the only one doing it. I saw other people happily throwing Wheel of Fortune into their casual decks. Even more commonly, this happened with Mana Vault, Sol Ring, Zuran Orb, Feldon's Cane, Maze of Ith, and Underworld Dreams, among others. I think my same breakdown applies in those cases: the players who would be inclined to care about cards being banned were either explicitly playing in formats, were playing with others who had agreed in advance on card legality, or they really only cared about the cards that they thought of as egregious, and Wheel of Fortune's brokenness just wasn't recognized.


As a historically type 3 evolved to type 4 casual, I may have some experience with why some players might not have minded. I really love utility red cards, and thus have played more than a few matches with Reforge the Soul (proc on others turns with Manamorphose with a Lightning Helix in hand for the more common case it was not top deck).

I really like the mechanic, especially as a surprise, however the high school kids were always of the consensus that it helped them as much as it did me. I know for statistical fact that many of those decks were more disrupted than helped, though one of my favorites also showed definitively that it helped his Infect deck more than it did my own, on average.

Between the matchups where people simply like drawing more of their deck, and the matchups where the symmetry can get broken in the wrong direction, I suspect this mechanic just tends to feel "fair" to casual players.

It also reminds of an old favorite, Final Fortune, and its even better update, Glorious End.


The Tentacled One
I really like the mechanic, especially as a surprise, however the high school kids were always of the consensus that it helped them as much as it did me. I know for statistical fact that many of those decks were more disrupted than helped, though one of my favorites also showed definitively that it helped his Infect deck more than it did my own, on average.

Between the matchups where people simply like drawing more of their deck, and the matchups where the symmetry can get broken in the wrong direction, I suspect this mechanic just tends to feel "fair" to casual players.
Psarketos beat me to the punch. This aspect is huge. One meme I've noticed is for players to sarcastically state, "Symmetrical effects are always fair." Wheel of Fortune can't be broken: everyone gets to draw cards! A sentiment that rings hollow when you see me cast all of the spells in my hand, refill it with Wheel of Fortune, then do it again, and then do it yet again in the course of a single turn. That would be my "Wheel in Flames" deck.

As I noted in my article, that deck is an extreme case. For something a little less insane, I'll note that in my very first article on this site, in 2004, I advocated the use of two copies of Wheel of Fortune in Burn decks (no hyperlink on this one because articles from the far back, while technically readable, look very messy because much of the punctuation has been turned into Unicode replacement characters). The idea there was that if your Burn deck runs out of gas, you can refill your hand and go for the kill.


The Tentacled One
I'll get back to our regularly scheduled programming in a bit here, but here's a brief aside...

My previous post linked to my "Wheel in Flames" article from January of 2015. In that article, I noted that the reliance on Wheel of Fortune prevented my deck from being a budget list, as the card had risen in price, sitting in the range of $15 to $20. It was a budget card in the past, probably not more than a few years prior. I'd acquired two copies myself in the 1990's for my Burn deck when the card was dirt cheap and I had no idea that it was even banned (nor did I care). Then I picked up a couple more a little later in bulk purchases of Revised cards because it still wasn't really a money card, probably worth like $1 or so. Didn't even give it much consideration at the time, although I really liked the card and wanted to have at least four copies. So I thought of Wheel as a budget card before I wrote that article, but found that by 2015, the price had gone up. Well, it happens. A bit odd, though, because Wheel is too old to be legal in popular tournament formats, is banned in Legacy, is not a Commander staple, is not a Vintage staple, is restricted in Vintage, and has no special relevance for any of the popular unsanctioned formats. Demand for the card just isn't/wasn't that high. Vintage Storm decks sometimes ran with the card, but there weren't a lot of those.

So I practically forgot about that. And recently I started this thread, looked up the prices on Wheel of Fortune, and found that it is going for about $90. In under three years, the price on this card has gone up by about a factor of six. I don't think that it's because Dark Petition Storm spiked it upward. I don't think that it's because it became more useful in Canadian Highlander. I don't think that there's been a surge in the popularity of no-holds-barred 60-card constructed Magic. I don't think that Commander players have been buying the card up. No, I know exactly why this happened: it's because the card is "on the Reserved List."

And without turning this whole thread into a Reserved List rant (although I'm inclined to think that the more of those we have the better, shout it from the rooftops, never shut the hell up about it, etc.), I just want to emphasize how crappy this is. It's not my loss, not directly anyway. I have (at least) a multiple copies of the card. But this setup is, fundamentally, stupid. Last week, I was in a local game store and a guy walked in asking the owner about prospects for selling old cards, wasn't looking to sell anything right then but just wanted to make inquiries as he'd been out of the loop for years. The owner advised him to isolate his Reserved List cards and hold on to them as they'll go up in value because WotC has promised never to reprint them, and to sell his other cards because they'll go down in price if they're reprinted. This is not good. Things are moving way too quickly and something is going to give with this whole secondary market mess. I don't know what the eventual outcome is going to be, but I can't imagine that, if something isn't done soon, it could be good.


The Tentacled One
My most prolific use for Wheel of Fortune would easily be in red Burn decks, which is a little odd to consider because, before I built "Wheel in Flames" I had not used Wheel of Fortune in a Burn deck in years. I first used Wheel in a Burn deck in either 1998 or 1999, kept it up through about 2007 or so only because I wasn't really updating my Burn deck, and then built Wheel in Flames in 2015, although I never really used that deck very much: it was mostly just a proof of concept. I shifted the focus of my Burn deck from strictly casual to Legacy-legal (and even played it in Legacy tournaments), so Wheel was out. The card has lots of other cool applications, which I am going to try to remember here, but my earliest memories are of dumping a hand full of Burn spells onto my opponent's face, then casting Wheel and refilling my hand. Simple, straightforward, and really quite powerful. Realistically, I think that's probably the product of a bygone era, though. If Wheel is available, a simple aggro Burn deck is probably less potent than a red Storm deck using Grapeshot and Ignite Memories, sort of like my "Wheel in Flames" but not a multiplayer deck and better.


The Tentacled One
No one else has chimed in on it, but a while back I started a thread in "Classic Questions" about "top five memorable cards." I'd seen the question come up elsewhere and thought it was interesting because narrowing it down to five cards is tricky. For myself, I settled on Dark Ritual (already started a thread on that one), Necropotence (haven't started a thread on it, but I keep mentioning it in every Magic Memories thread and I'm obsessed with the card), Force of Will, Sol Ring, and Wheel of Fortune. All cards that I've used extensively and seen other use as well, all dating back to the 90's, and all doing something extraordinary. I picked Wheel not just for itself, but because it is emblematic of powerful sorceries, and big sorcery plays pretty much define the game for me.

I started out my Wheel of Fortune applications in red Burn decks, and then branched out to goofy multiplayer decks. And I'll talk about some of those. But my appreciation for the card took on a new layer when I began trying it in combo decks. When it comes to the use of Wheel in combo decks, I noticed two broad categories.
  1. Decks that could use the card-drawing to find combo pieces. Wheel of Fortune draws 7 cards for 2R, which is a pretty good deal, so it excelled in this role. This could be something as simple as Channel + Fireball. An early favorite of mine was Sliver Queen + Ashnod's Altar + Heartstone.
  2. Decks that use Wheel of Fortune directly in a combo. Probably the oldest example is with Underworld Dreams. "We're both drawing cards, so I don't see what you're so mad about!"


The Tentacled One
For some reason, most of the cards that really seem to combo directly with Wheel of Fortune are black. Underworld Dreams is the first and one of the most potent. Others include Megrim, Phyrexian Tyranny, Chains of Mephistopheles, Kederekt Parasite, Spiteful Visions, Waste Not, Liliana's Caress, Notion Thief, and, for Commander players especially, there's Nekusaur, the Mindrazer.

Nearly anything that takes advantage of players either drawing or discarding cards could work. It's even feasible, and really quite strong, to pack some reanimation spells and use them on creatures dumped into graveyards by Wheel of Fortune, whether your own or your opponent's.


The Tentacled One
In the Lion's Eye Diamond thread, I talked about the emergence of Storm decks starting in 2003 and resulting in the restriction of LED. Wheel of Fortune was part of the suite of cards responsible for this and I think that Wheel has never really lost its association with Storm combo in the meantime. Not ever Storm deck uses Wheel and not every deck with Wheel of Fortune is a Storm deck, but there is a lot of overlap. In an environment with cards like Dark Ritual, Lotus Petal, Mana Vault, Mox Emerald, Black Lotus, etc., it is often the case that Wheel of Fortune, in drawing 7 cards for 3 mana, actually generates more mana than it costed to cast, while simultaneously digging for combo pieces. Storm is far from the only place in which such a tool is valuable, but it is just such a natural fit: you're casting spells that give you access to more spells that give you access to more spells, and instead of needing to build an engine that makes enough mana for a kill with Fireball or setting up some other particular condition like an infinite combo, you can simply fall back on the fact that along the way, casting spells, which you were doing anyway, doubles as the fuel for your kill.

That's the glory of Storm. That's why I want to exhort it not as a broken mechanic. That Mind's Desire, Tendrils of Agony, and Empty the Warrens all happen to be pretty strong cards is neat, but I'm talking about style, not power. Old combo decks had to get engine going for acceleration, and then use that acceleration to build yet another engine, like ProsBloom transitioning from the Squandered Resources engine into the Cadaverous Bloom engine and chaining Prosperity into bigger Prosperity in order to get enough mana for the Drain Life kill. It's not that I dislike such complexity. It was a cool deck. But using the acceleration, the spells you've cast in engine-building, as the direct source that enables your win condition is different. It's smoother, sleeker, more graceful. But for it to work, the mana production and card-drawing have to be up to certain standards. One way to get card-drawing of such a caliber is to use the "draw 7 spells." And in Vintage, the good ones are all restricted. But Wheel of Fortune just might be the best of the lot.

Wheel of Fortune vs. Tinker + Jar

The most obvious point of distinction is that Wheel is one card and Tinker, as a source of card-drawing, requires two cards. For this to work, you need to have Jar in your library, not in your hand. You also have to sacrifice an artifact. Jar leaves your existing hand in limbo, giving it back at the end of the turn and discarding whatever was left over in your new hand. Also, Jar can be left on the battlefield and saved for later. In slower decks, these aspects could be advantageous. Storm decks want to go for a single-turn kill, so the hand in limbo is useless, whereas graveyard recursion can get use out of any cards discarded to Wheel. Tinker is a very broken card with other applications, like simply cheating a Blightsteel Colossus on to the battlefield and beating one's opponent to death. But, for the specific case of going for a Storm kill, I prefer Wheel of Fortune.

Wheel of Fortune vs. Windfall

While Windfall can do a good Wheel of Fortune impression, it usually relies on the opponent's hand to pull that off. You're playing a combo deck, so you're trying to go fast. You want to cast the contents of your hand and then refill it. Your opponent might still have 7 cards in hand, in which case Windfall is every bit as good as Wheel. But it could very easily be a smaller number. Draw 5 is, needless to say, not as good as draw 7. Windfall can also sometimes be even better than Wheel. I've especially noticed this when using Yawgmoth's Bargain: I can churn through my deck and, with a hand of 10 or 11 or even more cards, use Windfall as a kind of super Wheel. But if I have Bargain out, I'm already in a good spot. Windfall has the unfortunate problem of being a worse card when one needs it most.

Wheel of Fortune vs. Timetwister

This is where I feel like there's a real contest. These are the true, streamlined, draw-7 spells. No strings attached. In Timetwister's favor, it is a blue card. Unfortunately, with how Magic is designed, that is an advantage. More importantly, Timetwister shuffles graveyards and hands back into libraries before drawing cards, while Wheel just dumps the old hands into the graveyards and leaves them there. Which is better? Depends. If you got off to a rough start and want to dig deeper into your deck, shuffling your old hand back in might be less valuable than ditching it and drawing cards that are guaranteed to be fresh. But if you have already used powerful cards, such as Black Lotus or Ancestral Recall, and they're sitting in your graveyard, you'd prefer the chance to draw them a second time. So the difference is situational, but I think that realistically this favors Timetwister. The caveat, and it's a big one, comes in the form of a black sorcery from Urza's Saga.

If you do have spells in your graveyard that you'd like to cast a second time, instead of bothering to shuffle them up into your library and trying to find them again, I recommend casting them directly from your graveyard. I mentioned the power this thing offers in the LED thread, and I'm doing it again here. Yawgmoth's Will is crazy. People tend to recognize this. It is known. And in a comparison between Wheel of Fortune and Timetwister, the existence of Yawgmoth's Will just might push Wheel over the top. Not that the contest is really necessary in the first place: if you're using one, you might as well use both.


The Tentacled One
Many years ago, a local gamestore used to run these "Type Fun" tournaments with no set format. They kind of made up rules as they went and often changed things on the fly. It was a total mess. I went a few times and actually won one of them. What did it take for me to win a tournament? Well, they decided to make it Two-Headed Giant. Then they decided that last time they'd done Two-Headed Giant it took too long, so each team would share 20 life instead of 40. I had my Burn deck. With Flame Rift and Fork. My random partner also had his own aggressive red deck. Some of our opponents put up a valiant effort, but we dominated our matches. My other ventures into these tournaments were far less successful. I had some noticeable bad luck. But my friend Jared (former CPA member Unsanitarypigs) participated in a lot more of these and fared better. At some point, in part due to his domination, they established a new rule that players couldn't kill their opponents until their fifth turn of the game. Because that's the kind of silliness you get when you don't ban cards and people start to scrape together broken decks (it would have happened much sooner, but most of the players were young). Out of spite and wanting to make a point that this rule wasn't going to work, Jared resolved to build a deck that sidestepped the rule. An eager proponent of spite (what is wrong with me, anyway?), I agreed to help him build a new deck. We were going through his cards and the conversation went something like this...

"If I use Strip Mine and Crucible of Worlds, I can lock them out of having lands for the first five turns before I kill them."
"Well then, use Fastbond."
"Oh yeah. But I need card-drawing. Maybe Yawgmoth's Bargain?"
"Could work. Both cards hurt you. You were going to hit them with Tendrils of Agony anyway, so you could gain some life back with that."
"But that would kill them and I am not allowed to kill them until turn 5."
"Well, you'd have to make sure that Tendrils is cast with a storm count 8, so you only hit them for 18 life. Then you wait to finish them off."
"I like it, but what if I can't find what I need?"
"Oh, just use Zuran Orb and instead of Fastbond hurting you, it can let you gain infinite life. Then you can use Bargain as many times as you need to."
"Alright, so Dark Ritual and Demonic Tutor to make sure that I get Bargain out fast. What else?"
"Wheel of Fortune and Windfall?"

I don't remember exactly how many playsets of Vintage-restricted cards we packed into this thing, but when we commenced to testing it, the result took us by surprise. We thought it would be fast, but this deck was incredible. It made my Academy deck look fair and balanced. Jared later reported back to me that he won every game with it at the tournament. I forget if I ever heard if they started using a banned list subsequently, although these silly tournaments were gone years later when I returned to that store.

Yes, broken cards are broken and this is news to no one. But like I said, it took us by surprise. We'd built cheesy combo decks before. I'd been using Tolarian Academy decks for several years before this, and I'd also done Memory Jar, High Tide, Bargain, etc. But I guess we just hadn't used such a critical mass of overpowered cards that synergized with each other. I think we'd missed just how strong Fastbond and Wheel/Windfall were together.


A kid just asked this afternoon, "Is there a card that lets you play all the lands in your hand in a turn?" I responded, "Yes, it is called Fastbond. It is very old and very banned." :)


The Tentacled One
Fastbond is so broken, yet so fun. I think Manabond counts as a pretty reasonable "fixed" version.


The Tentacled One
In the LED thread, I used Demonic Tutor as an example of how cost can dramatically alter the utility of cards with essentially identical effects (Demonic Tutor is broken at 1B and Diabolic Tutor is kinda crap at 2BB). Likewise, Wheel of Fortune and Timetwister are broken at three mana and attempts at fixed versions have generally been lackluster. I'd admit exceptions for the Tinker + Memory Jar interaction and for Windfall (inferior to Wheel, but like I noted above, a reasonable version of it in some situations) and Time Spiral (expensive, but it has a niche with lands that tap for multiple mana like Tolarian Academy or islands under High Tide).

Wheel of Fate: Bad Suspend spell or worst Suspend spell?
Reforge the Soul: Mediocre. The Miracle aspect is difficult to exploit and hardcasting it is bad.
Temporal Cascade: Crap.
Time Reversal: Bad.
Diminishing Returns: People have tried to work with it for a couple of decades, but it always feels bad.
Day's Undoing: Crap.
Magus of the Wheel: Pay extra mana and wait a turn? No thanks.
Commit//Memory: Crap.
Drastic Revelation: Crap.
Overflowing Insight: Well, your opponent doesn't draw cards. But seven mana is crap.

While I love Wheel of Fortune and fancy the idea of getting to play with some truly balanced version of it, I don't think it's ever going to happen. WotC seem to view even a five-mana version of the effect as needing severe drawbacks to keep it from being exploited, but I suspect that even a four-mana version with no strings attached would be lackluster.


Meanwhile in Modern...

Turn 5: Grisly Survivor + Distortion Strike + Virulent Strike
Turn 6: Rishkars Expertise into free cast Reforge the Soul, swing for 21 unblockable, profit.

Now you take back those mean things you said about Reforge ;)


The Tentacled One
Sadly, I wasn't playing Magic in 1993 and 1994 and did not yet know of its existence (despite living what I'd guess was about 6 to 8 miles from WotC at the time). I find stories about very early gameplay fascinating because the cardpool, rules, and player knowledge were so different from what they'd evolve into by the time I showed up. And because real documentation from that era is so deplorably sparse, I'm mostly just stuck with firsthand accounts from the people who do remember those days. Mark Rosewater in particular has been a valuable source of information in this regard, as he is prolific in writing and speaking about Magic's history and was active from very early on with no real gaps. I remember his description of one of the early tournaments, from before the four-card rule. The tournament was split into two divisions: decks that won on the first turn and decks that did not. The first-turn kill decks competed by swapping who was on the play repeatedly and trading games until the first-turn player actually lost, essentially the Magic equivalent of what often occurs in tennis with competing to break your opponent's serve. So everyone in that part of the tournament was winning games on turn 1 and it was a matter of testing who was winning most consistently. Channel + Fireball was known from the beginning and was probably the most compact route to achieving this. But supposedly the deck that won it all was mostly just a big stack of Black Lotus and Wheel of Fortune. Seems extravagant now, of course. But back then it wasn't such a big deal.


The Tentacled One
In recent years, Wheel of Fortune's presence in Vintage has gradually diminished. This largely corresponds to the diminishment of Dark Ritual, a former "pillar" in the format. As a combo enthusiast, I am saddened by this. Other cards to suffer from this same trend include Lion's Eye Diamond and my beloved Timetwister. This is also tied to the abrupt rise and fall of new combo printings, primarily Dark Petition and Paradoxical Outcome, and also the sluggish takeoff of Yawgmoth's Bargain. For years, fast combo based on mana acceleration characterized by Dark Ritual had a strong, undeniable niche in the format, and Wheel of Fortune was one of the restricted staples that fit perfectly into the pillar. But that niche is in the process of vanishing to nothing.

I don't attribute this change to just one thing. But this is a pretty big factor. Ritual-based Storm decks, especially now that they have unrestricted access to Bargain (which I still believe to be a very strong card), could potentially be built to anticipate and power through Mental Misstep and blue control decks. And they could potentially be built to overcome Workshop decks. But they can't do both simultaneously. And in particular, Wheel of Fortune is a card that really suffers under the game-warping effects of Mental Misstep. Sure, the risk that when you Wheel you draw your opponent into Force of Will has been around for a long time, but it was possible to work with that. The ubiquity of Mental Misstep means that you expose yourself to more chances for your 1-drops to get countered for essentially no cost to your opponent. That's why even some Bargain decks have eschewed Wheel and Timetwister in favor of non-symmetrical draw spells like Paradoxical Outcome, which is much more situational but doesn't give opponents free chances to draw into Misstep.

I don't know what the future hold for Vintage and I am not even sure what I think should be done about this now (although I loathe Mental Misstep). I'm heavily biased as a combo enthusiast, but I do want to note that as this Ritual-based Storm archetype/pillar struggles, falling deeper into obscurity while the competition gets stronger, it's noteworthy that the old cards, like Wheel of Fortune, are still technically powerful and are hobbled. Have always been hobbled. Some fuss is being made about Mishra's Workshop, perhaps rightfully so, and the problem that it continues to dominate even as more cards have been restricted on the altar of "Keep Shops balanced." And it's a fair counterpoint to this that the blue "Xerox" decks have caused far more cards to be restricted, but get a sort of pass on the basis that they're actually multiple decks, whereas Shops decks are viewed as just Shops decks. But if we accept this reasoning, which I think is sound, the next logical conclusion is that combo decks centered on fast mana, "Ritual" decks, are far, far more nerfed than blue decks and Shops decks combined.


The Tentacled One
I want to take some time to substantiate my previous post. It my seem obvious to me, but I should probably spell it out, to be sure. And I don't claim that this is really particular to Wheel of Fortune, but the card fits perfectly into my paradigm here. Also, while casual decks are great and I should probably devote more space to stuff like the Underworld Dream interaction, I like making some commentary on historical usage and tournament viability too. Wheel of Fortune, although restricted in Vintage, has become perhaps less tournament-relevant than ever before. I dot not contend that this circumstance, or even a slough of other similar circumstances, should be used as the basis for changes. But I want to lay out the facts. It's not so much an argument, not a conclusion, as it is the start of something, the background for having discussion in the first place. So, for those who haven't followed the format too closely...

Vintage has historically supported a vast range of possible decks, but most of the recurring decks tended to fit into certain broad categories, often defined by "pillars." These shifted over the years and I won't try to be comprehensive, but roughly, they are as follows.
  • Dark Ritual: pretty much exclusively combo decks. Not every single combo deck used Dark Ritual, but enough of them did for it to be viewed as a pillar. Dark Ritual is pure mana acceleration, and these decks would attempt to build up enough mana to get very fast wins. Usually Storm decks.
  • Mishra's Workshop: a mixture of prison-based proactive control and aggressive beatdown, but the commonality was always that these decks were always artifact-heavy. Sometimes completely colorless and sometimes splashing key colored spells, but always packing a lot of artifacts, which can be rushed out by Mishra's Workshop.
  • "Blue": Originally when the "pillars" idea was used to refer to powerful unrestricted sources of mana, this was the Mana Drain pillar. The problem was that not all of these decks ran Mana Drain and that the usage of the card became inconsistent. These decks are all over the place. Some are tempo-based, some are more like aggro-control, some are reactive control, and some are combo. But they all use a lot of blue cards like Brainstorm, Ponder, Preordain, Gush, Treasure Cruise, etc.
  • Bazaar of Baghdad: its own monster, a kind of bizarre aggro-combo.
  • Null Rod: aggressive decks that maindeck some disruptive elements to keep powerful Vintage cards in check. They run more creatures than most other Vintage decks. Confusingly, Vintage Merfolk decks are Null Rod decks and not "Blue" because they're only running a normal-looking, sane package of blue instants and sorceries, whereas "Blue" decks run a lot more blue non-creature spells.
Some competitive decks don't really fall neatly into those categories, but usually they work well enough. Now, looking at the Vintage restricted list, it's mostly easy to sort out which "pillars" have and would exploit which cards...

Null Rod
Nothing. Most of these decks do run some restricted cards, but not very many and they often try to exploit the reliance of opponents on restricted cards, hence the use of Null Rod to shut down Moxen and such.

Bazaar of Baghad
Nothing. Bazaar decks do their own thing and sometimes run no restricted cards at all. I can't think of any restricted cards that might, if unrestricted, help Bazaar-based decks than it would help the competition.

Mishra's Workshop
Chalice of the Void
Lodestone Golem
Thorn of Amethyst
And that's about it. Those four cards were all restricted because of their usage in Shops and it is generally assumed that they would be safe if not for Mishra's Workshop. But I'll give them one more card because it seems to fit them best and they certainly always seem to use it.
Strip Mine

Dig Through Time
Library of Alexandria
Merchant Scroll
Monastery Mentor
Treasure Cruise
This one's a bit trickier to pin down, but I'm comfortable going with those eight cards because they were either restricted in response to their role in decks heavily employing blue spells or because those would seem to be the decks that get the most out of them now. But because I'm so generous, I'll also give them credit for Gitaxian Probe. I think combo players could get more out of it, but it was aggro-control decks based around Monastery Mentor (itself not yet on the list at the time) that got the card restricted. I'll even throw in a few other cards that controlling blue decks tend to use more than other decks do. This is a bit of a stretch, but as you'll see, I can afford to be quite generous in this contest.
Gitaxian Probe
Mystical Tutor
Time Walk

Ancestral Recall
Black Lotus
Demonic Consultation
Demonic Tutor
Imperial Seal
Lion's Eye Diamond
Lotus Petal
Mana Crypt
Mana Vault
Memory Jar
Mind's Desire
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Sol Ring
Time Vault
Tolarian Academy
Vampiric Tutor
Wheel of Fortune
Yawgmoth's Will
Too bold? I don't think so. Every single one of these cards, if unrestricted, would do more to directly boost the performance of dedicated combo decks centered around fast mana. Yes, blue control decks love casting Ancestral Recall, but a combo deck gets more out of it, hands down. Now, some of these cards, if unrestricted, might not turn out to do all that much. Channel and Flash mostly do their own thing, although that thing is very much a combo thing. I suspect that Imperial Seal, Memory Jar, and Windfall are not actually strong enough to give combo decks an advantage against the current competition. Fine. If we scratch them we're still left with fully twenty-six cards. That's considerably more cards restricted for the sake of keeping combo decks in check than for any other purpose.

I realize that I might come across as glib here. One might protest that while of course combo decks use Mox Sapphire, so do Blue decks and Shops decks, and even the decks in the other categories. And indeed they do. But combo decks were both the historical reason for restricting the card and it's the case that combo decks can do more with it than the other decks can. Not that anyone is seriously advocating for the unrestriction of Mox Sapphire, but if it were to happen, I'd bet Storm decks would start performing better. And some of these cards, like Wheel of Fortune, only ever appear in combo decks in Vintage. Now, I won't even go so far as to say that the players who are on those other decks owe combo players some sort of entitlement for combo decks to have a niche in the format. But I think it's fair to ask that the players, the analysts, and WotC, when thinking about the Vintage restricted list, to consider that if combo decks are underperforming and also have more cards restricted to keep them down than all other types of decks combined, maybe that state of affairs is just a bit much.


The Tentacled One
The last couple of posts got a bit too technical on analysis of tournament Magic for my tastes when it comes to this whole "Magic Memories" theme that I've contrived. It's not that I'm opposed to talking about tournament decks. I probably spent more time doing it in the LED thread, but that was to serve the purpose of showing the evolution of the usage of a card that went from being considered bad for the first several years of its existence to seeing all sorts of applications. I wanted to highlight how players had found way to exploit such a card and how deckbuilders have learned to use tools that were available in the past, but were left unused. I found it to be an interesting topic that converged with my interest in a classic artifact from Mirage.

But with Wheel of Fortune it's really more that I have an axe to grind. Not going to try to hide that. I really like Storm combo, and while Wheel of Fortune had been restricted for years before the Storm mechanic existed, the big plays with Wheel of Fortune refilling a hand and then Yawgmoth's Will to replay all of those cards were what made the early Storm combo decks so impressive, so formidable, so cool. But, along with the other iconic cards in these decks (including Timetwister, a "Power 9" card), Wheel of Fortune in Vintage is becoming a dying art, and not because of new insights or because it's truly outclassed by something else.

Anyway, Wheel is particularly overpowered when played alongside enough other overpowered cards. For casual play, perhaps my "Wheel in Flames" deck is too much, but that's a matter of taste. I do think that the other applications I talked about, things like Megrim, are fine. And there are definitely other options, including some new ones. Psarketos brought up Grisly Survivor, one of several Amonkhet Block cards that gain value from you discarding your hand. And that's just scratching the surface. There are a lot of applications to explore and I think that this kind of effect is a good thing to incorporate into casual Magic.

And hey, despite my tongue-in-cheek dismissal of Reforge the Soul, it does a serviceable job. So if you don't own Wheel of Fortune or don't want to use a banned card, I guess you could pay 3RR for the same effect. I guess. If you want to. It's fine, really. Not as good as 2R, but it doesn't ruin the experience, I suppose.

No, seriously, Reforge the Soul is fun.


insert avatar here
I love Wheel. But eighty bucks? I had to verify that, but you're correct. Crazy. I never play my beat up copy, but this one has been through a lot.