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CardShark Content - Chris Morling (4/4/2001)

Virtual Card Advantage (04.04.01)


We’re a few weeks past Pro Tour: Tokyo. This tournament was won by Zvi’s Mowshowitz, using a deck designed by John Ormerod, heavily metagamed against red.

Here is the decklist:

4:Crimson Acolyte
Crimson Acolyte
Crimson AcolyteSet: Invasion
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Cleric
Rarity:
C
Number:
11
Artist:
Orizio Daniele
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
Protection from redW: Target creature gains protection from red until end of turn.

4:Galina's Knight
Galina's Knight
Galina's KnightSet: Invasion
Cost:
2
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Merfolk Knight
Rarity:
C
Number:
248
Artist:
David Martin
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Protection from red

4:Meddling Mage
Meddling Mage
Meddling MageSet: Planeshift
Cost:
2
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Wizard
Rarity:
R
Number:
116
Artist:
Christopher Moeller
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
As Meddling Mage comes into play, name a nonland card. The named card can't be played.

4:Stormscape Apprentice
Stormscape Apprentice
Stormscape ApprenticeSet: Invasion
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Wizard
Rarity:
C
Number:
75
Artist:
D. Alexander Gregory
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
W, T: Tap target creature.B, T: Target player loses 1 life.

4:Voice of All
Voice of All
Voice of AllSet: Planeshift
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Angel
Rarity:
U
Number:
19
Artist:
rk post
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Flying. As Voice of All comes into play, choose a color. Voice of All has protection from the chosen color.


4:Absorb
Absorb
AbsorbSet: Invasion
Cost:
3
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Number:
226
Artist:
Andrew Goldhawk
Text:
Counter target spell. You gain 3 life.

4:Exclude
Exclude
ExcludeSet: Invasion
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
56
Artist:
Mark Romanoski
Text:
Counter target creature spell.Draw a card.
4:Fact or Fiction
Fact or Fiction
Fact or FictionSet: Invasion
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
57
Artist:
Terese Nielsen
Text:
Reveal the top five cards of your library. An opponent separates those cards into two face-up piles. Put one pile into your hand and the other into your graveyard.

4:Repulse
Repulse
RepulseSet: Invasion
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
70
Artist:
Aaron Boyd
Text:
Return target creature to its owner's hand.Draw a card.


4:Coastal Tower
Coastal Tower
Coastal TowerSet: Invasion
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
U
Number:
321
Artist:
Don Hazeltine
Text:
Coastal Tower comes into play tapped.T: Add W or U to your mana pool.

10:Island
Island
IslandSet: Oversize Cards
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
X
Artist:
Tony Roberts
Text:
T: Add U to your mana pool.

10:Plains
Plains
PlainsSet: Oversize Cards
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
X
Artist:
Tony Roberts
Text:
T: Add W to your mana pool.


Sideboard:

2 Aura Blast
Aura Blast
Aura BlastSet: Planeshift
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
1
Artist:
Ron Walotsky
Text:
Destroy target enchantment. Draw a card.

3 Crusading Knight
Crusading Knight
Crusading KnightSet: Invasion
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Knight
Rarity:
R
Number:
12
Artist:
Edward P. Beard, Jr.
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Protection from blackCrusading Knight gets +1/+1 for each swamp your opponents control.

4 Disrupt
Disrupt
DisruptSet: Weatherlight
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Adam Rex
Text:
Counter target instant, interrupt, or sorcery spell unless its caster pays an additional 1.Draw a card.

3 Gainsay
Gainsay
GainsaySet: Planeshift
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
26
Artist:
Roger Raupp
Text:
Counter target blue spell.

3 Pure Reflection
Pure Reflection
Pure ReflectionSet: Invasion
Cost:
3
Color:
White
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
27
Artist:
Scott M. Fischer
Text:
Whenever a player plays a creature spell, destroy all Reflections. Then that player puts a white Reflection creature token into play with power and toughness each equal to the converted mana cost of that spell.


This deck uses some traditional forms of card advantage. Fact or Fiction
Fact or Fiction
Fact or FictionSet: Invasion
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
57
Artist:
Terese Nielsen
Text:
Reveal the top five cards of your library. An opponent separates those cards into two face-up piles. Put one pile into your hand and the other into your graveyard.
can always be used to draw three cards (though it shouldn’t always be used that way.) Whenever Exclude
Exclude
ExcludeSet: Invasion
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
56
Artist:
Mark Romanoski
Text:
Counter target creature spell.Draw a card.
is used, it costs you one card (-1) to counter a card of your opponent (+1) and draw a card (+1) for a net +1 cards. Disrupt
Disrupt
DisruptSet: Weatherlight
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Adam Rex
Text:
Counter target instant, interrupt, or sorcery spell unless its caster pays an additional 1.Draw a card.
and Aura Blast
Aura Blast
Aura BlastSet: Planeshift
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
1
Artist:
Ron Walotsky
Text:
Destroy target enchantment. Draw a card.
in the sideboard can be used similarly to Exclude
Exclude
ExcludeSet: Invasion
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
56
Artist:
Mark Romanoski
Text:
Counter target creature spell.Draw a card.
.

One of the key ideas in this deck, however, is a non-traditional kind of advantage. This deck can gain virtual card advantage against an opponent. Virtual card advantage is a very hazy subject. When a card you have permanently removes one or more of your opponent’s cards it gives a clear card advantage. When it neutralizes the card in a more subtle way, the card advantage isn’t real. It’s virtual.

For example, if I play Light of Day
Light of Day
Light of DaySet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
U
Number:
29
Artist:
Drew Tucker
Text:
Black creatures can't attack or block.
, I’ve neutralized all of the black creatures intended to attack or block that my opponent draw or plays. Those cards, however, can still be used. My opponent could discard them instead of an important card. My opponent could change their color and attack. My opponent could find a way to get rid of the Light of Day
Light of Day
Light of DaySet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
U
Number:
29
Artist:
Drew Tucker
Text:
Black creatures can't attack or block.
and attack, and so on. While my opponent is shut down by Light of Day
Light of Day
Light of DaySet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
U
Number:
29
Artist:
Drew Tucker
Text:
Black creatures can't attack or block.
, however, I’m up several cards. Since this advantage is so fragile, however, we call it ´´virtual card advantage´´.

If I were holding several red removal spells, my opponent dropping a Crimson Acolyte
Crimson Acolyte
Crimson AcolyteSet: Invasion
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Cleric
Rarity:
C
Number:
11
Artist:
Orizio Daniele
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
Protection from redW: Target creature gains protection from red until end of turn.
would cause me a great deal of trouble, in the form of virtual card advantage. Now, my removal spells couldn’t target my opponent’s creatures. If I used a Thornscape Battlemage
Thornscape Battlemage
Thornscape BattlemageSet: Planeshift
Cost:
3
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Wizard
Rarity:
U
Number:
94
Artist:
Matt Cavotta
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Kicker R and/or W. When Thornscape Battlemage comes into play, if you paid the R kicker cost, Thornscape Battlemage deals 2 damage to target creature or player. When Thornscape Battlemage comes into play, if you paid the W kicker cost, destroy target artifact.
to destroy the Acolyte, I’d recoup all of the card disadvantage. If my opponent beat me before I could destroy the Acolyte, the card advantage would be ´´real´´. If I destroy the Acolyte, then the only advantage my opponent would have would be in tempo. The turns I could have been using destroying creatures I spent elsewhere, due to the presence of the Acolyte. It isn’t until after the game that we know whether the advantage was in cards or in tempo.

One of the goals of this deck is to play enough virtual card advantage to make it real. Meddling Mage
Meddling Mage
Meddling MageSet: Planeshift
Cost:
2
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Wizard
Rarity:
R
Number:
116
Artist:
Christopher Moeller
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
As Meddling Mage comes into play, name a nonland card. The named card can't be played.
looks like a good card, but in general you’ll play it naming a removal spell and your opponent will simply destroy it with another removal spell. It will give temporary card advantage, neutralizing a certain card in your opponent’s hand, but the card advantage will be quickly lost when your opponent gets rid of the Mage.

Ormerod’s deck gets around this with Crimson Acolyte
Crimson Acolyte
Crimson AcolyteSet: Invasion
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Cleric
Rarity:
C
Number:
11
Artist:
Orizio Daniele
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
Protection from redW: Target creature gains protection from red until end of turn.
, which can stop all of your opponent’s targeted red removal spells. The Acolyte can protect the Mage, and Zvi’s opponent could do very little about it. Zvi could stop his opponent’s removal with virtual advantage, then attack before his opponent could figure out a way to destroy either the Mage or the Acolyte, making the virtual advantage real.

The Stormscape Apprentice
Stormscape Apprentice
Stormscape ApprenticeSet: Invasion
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Wizard
Rarity:
C
Number:
75
Artist:
D. Alexander Gregory
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
W, T: Tap target creature.B, T: Target player loses 1 life.
is a surprisingly powerful creature. At first, it’s 1/1 beatdown. Of course, this wouldn’t have Zvi’s opponent shaking, but this is an environment in which every point of damage counts. Against aggressive opponents, the Apprentice takes out the most threatening creature the opponent controls. Against defensive opponents, it can neutralize two blockers every other turn, or one blocker every turn. In any case, the Apprentice helps capitalize on the tempo advantage brought about by the virtual card advantage.

Outside of Invasion Block Constructed, there are a few other decks that try to win using virtual card advantage. Here’s a question. How many cards does a Stone Rain
Stone Rain
Stone RainSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Daniel Gelon
Text:
Destroy target land.
neutralize? Is Stone Rain
Stone Rain
Stone RainSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Daniel Gelon
Text:
Destroy target land.
an example of card parity? At first it seems so: one of my spells for one of my opponent’s lands. Ponza, the aggressive red land destruction deck, tries to prove this wrong, principally by using the notion of virtual card advantage. If your opponent controls no lands, then her hand full of spells is useless. Ponza aims to keep the opponent’s mana supply very low, thus neutralizing all of her cards (albeit temporarily) then to win before she recovers, thus making that previous neutralization permanent.

Ponza’s signature card, Tectonic Break
Tectonic Break
Tectonic BreakSet: Mercadian Masques
Cost:
3
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
216
Artist:
Rebecca Guay
Text:
Each player sacrifices X lands.
, demonstrates this even more clearly. By using it, the Ponza player trades a card (the Tectonic Break
Tectonic Break
Tectonic BreakSet: Mercadian Masques
Cost:
3
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
216
Artist:
Rebecca Guay
Text:
Each player sacrifices X lands.
), X+2 mana, and X lands for X of his opponent’s lands. This represents a loss of tempo (the turn spent casting Tectonic Break
Tectonic Break
Tectonic BreakSet: Mercadian Masques
Cost:
3
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
216
Artist:
Rebecca Guay
Text:
Each player sacrifices X lands.
) and a card. Ponza can afford this loss, however, because it intends to win before the opponent can use the cards in her hand, thus neutralizing all of them for some serious card advantage.

Another deck that uses virtual card advantage is the much maligned (perhaps rightly) TurboChant deck. TurboChant aims to use Orim
Orim
OrimSet: Vanguard
Sub Type:
Character
Rarity:
X
Number:
5
Artist:
Rebecca Guay
Power:
+0
Toughness:
+12
Text:
Your creatures can block as though they had flying.
’s Chant to shut down its opponent’s turn over and over again. It accomplishes this with Recall
Recall
RecallSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Richard Kane Ferguson
Text:
Choose and discard X cards: Return X target cards in your graveyard to your hand. Remove Recall from the game.
and Relearn
Relearn
RelearnSet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
93
Artist:
Zina Saunders
Text:
Return target instant or sorcery card from your graveyard to your hand.
to recur the Chant and Howling Mine
Howling Mine
Howling MineSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Mark Poole
Text:
Each player must draw one extra card during the draw phase of each of his or her turns.
to ensure a steady supply of Chants and recursive cards. Of the four principal cards in the combo all but Relearn
Relearn
RelearnSet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
93
Artist:
Zina Saunders
Text:
Return target instant or sorcery card from your graveyard to your hand.
operate at a card loss. Orim
Orim
OrimSet: Vanguard
Sub Type:
Character
Rarity:
X
Number:
5
Artist:
Rebecca Guay
Power:
+0
Toughness:
+12
Text:
Your creatures can block as though they had flying.
’s Chant, Howling Mine
Howling Mine
Howling MineSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Mark Poole
Text:
Each player must draw one extra card during the draw phase of each of his or her turns.
, and Recall
Recall
RecallSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Richard Kane Ferguson
Text:
Choose and discard X cards: Return X target cards in your graveyard to your hand. Remove Recall from the game.
all give a one card advantage to the opponent.

TurboChant believes it can do this, however, because it believes it can stop the opponent from ever capitalizing on the cards she draws. If TurboChant works, the opponent never gets to put drawn cards to use. If TurboChant successfully shuts down the opponent then the virtual card advantage gained by Chanting every turn becomes real card advantage. Every single card the opponent drew was neutralized. In practice, TurboChant often has trouble maintaining the lock, and at this point the actual card advantage the Chant player gave to the opponent will be enough to actually win the game.

Card Advantage wins games. So does Tempo Advantage. Anyone playing Suicide Black against Light of Day
Light of Day
Light of DaySet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
U
Number:
29
Artist:
Drew Tucker
Text:
Black creatures can't attack or block.
can tell you that Virtual Card Advantage wins games too. When you make your opponent’s cards useless, even temporarily, you put yourself in a strong position. If you can capitalize on that position, you can leave your opponent staring at a hand of good cards while you win despite the card count.

Chris


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