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CardShark Content - PlutoNick (10/16/2002)

Magic: the Gathering deck building has been traditionally been split into contemporary categories, based on certain themes that are at each time period popular due to the introduction of new cards or new combinations; as such, we have our Psychatog
Psychatog
PsychatogSet: Odyssey
Cost:
3
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Atog
Rarity:
U
Number:
292
Artist:
Edward P. Beard, Jr.
Power:
1
Toughness:
2
Text:
Discard a card from your hand: Psychatog gets +1/+1 until end of turn. Remove two cards in your graveyard from the game: Psychatog gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
s, and our MBCs, and our Opposition
Opposition
OppositionSet: Urza's Destiny
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
40
Artist:
Todd Lockwood
Text:
Tap an untapped creature you control: Tap target artifact, creature, or land.
s.

As we detach ourselves from the current themes and take a more overall look of the game, other and more generic themes come to mind that encompass the former; we have themes based on control (reactive decks that seek to maintain board er, control, until a certain lock or winning combination can come into the picture), resource manipulation (where you try to limit the opponent's resources while building up your own; attack his hand's cards, his mana sources, his graveyard), direct damage (where sligh, suicide black, and decks usually with a good splash of Red fit in).

What I want to go through now is a yet more ´´overall´´ look of the game, and particularly in Standard, to see if themes that are yet more generic are still viable, and if they are being played - or if they should. Note that I am not trying to pass these as my discoveries; much better players have discussed these issues in the past. I am trying to go somewhere with it however, so please bear with me.

From a certain point of view, then, Magic deck building can fit within three very distinctive categories; this is a mindset that deals with semantics only to take card availability under consideration - i.e. the mindset is the same regardless of what sets you are playing, but you still need to consider if the cards exist to make each deck sufficiently viable.

So, that being said, the three mindsets:

* Offensive decks, proactive in nature, try to win through overwhelming the opponent without trying (or without trying much) to disrupt his game specifically; the idea is that through the presence of your many threats,the opponent will naturally spend his resources trying to fend them off, thus the aggressive player needs not deal with the opponent in any other way than his offensive.

* Defensive decks, reactive by choice, try to buy themselves time; that is their first priority, attempting to destroy the opponent's threats preferably while gaining a card advantage, before gathering enough resources to bring in the (usually expensive in terms of requirements) condition that allows for a relatively small number of ´´kill cards´´ to win the game.

* Finally, the environment disruption decks do not attack the opponent in the traditional sense, nor do they defend themselves in the same manner; what they do is cause a board-wide manipulation of basic Magic mechanics, to the point that both players suffer from the consequences, but *one* of them suffers the *least*.

As such, it is the third mindset that I wanted to get to in this article, as it appears - or, apparently, does not - in the current Type 2 scene. First, for the purpose of clarification, popular or well known decks made along these lines have been based on cards such as Stasis
Stasis
StasisSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Fay Jones
Text:
Players do not get an untap phase. Pay U during your upkeep or Stasis is destroyed; cards still do not untap until the next untap phase.
, Winter Orb
Winter Orb
Winter OrbSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Text:
A player may not untap more than one land during the untap phase of each of his or her turns.
, and the such.

In the current scene, there are several cards that seem to have the potential to cause suitably extended disruptions to the mechanics to purely be applicable; those include Mists of Stagnation, Arcane Laboratory
Arcane Laboratory
Arcane LaboratorySet: Urza's Saga
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
U
Number:
60
Artist:
Stephen Daniele
Text:
Each player cannot play more than one spell each turn.
, Mana Maze
Mana Maze
Mana MazeSet: Invasion
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
59
Artist:
Rebecca Guay
Text:
Players can't play spells that share a color with the spell last played this turn.
, Temporary Distortion, Static Orb
Static Orb
Static OrbSet: Tempest
Cost:
3
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Dermot Power
Text:
Players cannot untap more than two permanents during their untap phases.
, etc.

However, it quickly becomes apparent that basic deck concepts around such cards has become a great deal more difficult than it used to be; this is because of five reasons, mainly:

1) Decks in general are much faster these days, so the disruption has to hit home before the game has already been decided for all intents and purposes. If you can't deal with a quick 2nd turn Wild Mongrel
Wild Mongrel
Wild MongrelSet: Odyssey
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Hound
Rarity:
C
Number:
283
Artist:
Anthony S. Waters
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Discard a card from your hand: Wild Mongrel gets +1/+1 and becomes the color of your choice until end of turn.
, no use thinking about how to employ your Static Orb
Static Orb
Static OrbSet: Tempest
Cost:
3
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Dermot Power
Text:
Players cannot untap more than two permanents during their untap phases.
in three turns from now.

2) The mechanics to shield yourself from the effects of these enchantments aren't as accessible as they used to; while Orbosition allowed for an effective combination, it is still not as cost-effective as Icy Manipulator
Icy Manipulator
Icy ManipulatorSet: Ice Age
Cost:
4
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Amy Weber
Text:
1, T: Tap target artifact, creature, or land.
used to be. At the moment, there seem to be four cards in T2 that truly allow for this; Opposition
Opposition
OppositionSet: Urza's Destiny
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
40
Artist:
Todd Lockwood
Text:
Tap an untapped creature you control: Tap target artifact, creature, or land.
, Elder Druid
Elder Druid
Elder DruidSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
4
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Cleric
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Richard Kane Ferguson
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
3G, T: Tap or untap target artifact, creature, or land.
, Temporal Adept
Temporal Adept
Temporal AdeptSet: Urza's Destiny
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Wizard
Rarity:
R
Number:
48
Artist:
Heather Hudson
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
UUU, T: Return target permanent to its owner's hand.
and Dematerialize
Dematerialize
DematerializeSet: Odyssey
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
81
Artist:
Mike Ploog
Text:
Return target permanent to its owner's hand. Flashback 5UU (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)
to fit the bill, but only the first and sometimes the third get to see the light of day.

3) Game balance issues - and broken cards of the past - seem to have made the WotC particularly careful when making new cards with broad altering effects; frequent characteristics seem to be either a certain overcompensation in what the card costs (usually mana costs, which on decks that are usually not particularly fast make the theme even less viable; think Telekinetic Bonds
Telekinetic Bonds
Telekinetic BondsSet: Judgment
Cost:
5
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
52
Artist:
Jim Nelson

Text:
Whenever a player discards a card from his or her hand, you may pay 1U. If you do, tap or untap target permanent.
), drawbacks that make the card less attractive (card discarding or upkeep requirements are often employed; think Embargo
Embargo
EmbargoSet: Mercadian Masques
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
77
Artist:
Nelson DeCastro
Text:
Nonland permanents don't untap during their controllers' untap steps.At the beginning of your upkeep, you lose 2 life.
), or more limited effects of new versions of older powerful cards (think Static Orb
Static Orb
Static OrbSet: Tempest
Cost:
3
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Dermot Power
Text:
Players cannot untap more than two permanents during their untap phases.
).

4) This is controversial (as an opinion), but I blame netdecks for a severe lack of experimentation and testing - and thus, the eventual appearences of new themed decks - in the competitive playing field. Why bother making and tweaking several decks out of which one *may* work out, when you can get a Psychatog
Psychatog
PsychatogSet: Odyssey
Cost:
3
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Atog
Rarity:
U
Number:
292
Artist:
Edward P. Beard, Jr.
Power:
1
Toughness:
2
Text:
Discard a card from your hand: Psychatog gets +1/+1 until end of turn. Remove two cards in your graveyard from the game: Psychatog gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
clone with minor alterations to the local tournament and have a semi-decent chance of making it to the top four? That, combined with the lack of exposure (and let's face it, often mild forms of ridicule) that newly themed and not-yet-ready decks seem to receive when brought to our attention in web sites - they seem to be compared with ready, tested, tweaked and well tuned decks instead of worked on, and naturally found wanting - makes unconventional rogue deck ideas miss out on reaching their possible eventual potential.

5) Finally, let's not beat around the bush; it is also a lack of solid cards that belong in the ´´environment disruption decks´´ concept that makes it difficult for them to be played. Orbossition, as far as I can remember from the top of my head, seems to be the sole exception that actually got results lately. Cards like Mana Maze
Mana Maze
Mana MazeSet: Invasion
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
59
Artist:
Rebecca Guay
Text:
Players can't play spells that share a color with the spell last played this turn.
and Temporary Distortion do not have the sheer potential for shrewedness and board control that say, Stasis
Stasis
StasisSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Fay Jones
Text:
Players do not get an untap phase. Pay U during your upkeep or Stasis is destroyed; cards still do not untap until the next untap phase.
did - and their negative effects on the player that employs them are not that much easier to handle than Stasis
Stasis
StasisSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Fay Jones
Text:
Players do not get an untap phase. Pay U during your upkeep or Stasis is destroyed; cards still do not untap until the next untap phase.
' were. Combined with the afforementioned lack of preventive mechanics for your own deck, deckbuilding for this mindset has become less effective.

Now, before I go any further, a warning; I have not delved into Onslaught
Onslaught
OnslaughtSet: Exodus
Cost:
1
Color:
Red
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
C
Number:
92
Artist:
Paolo Parente
Text:
Whenever you successfully cast a creature spell, tap target creature.
spoilers nearly sufficiently enough to try and make even an educated guess on whether the situation is likely to change soon. It is however my opinion that there is still a possibility for environmental disruption to work, and work well, even with the current cardset; let's count some of their advantages.

a) You play your game and the opponent *has* to react to it. It is as much a matter of mechanics (his deck working under much different conditions than it is made for) as it is a phychological one (he has to ´´learn´´ what you throw at him and adopt, while you are already used to it; his experience at playing his deck means a lot less, and he plays under your rules, and knows it).

b) You usually need to care about defense and offense a lot less - your very theme takes care of this. Even a (in my opinion, I realize not everyone will agree) underpowered Static Orb
Static Orb
Static OrbSet: Tempest
Cost:
3
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Dermot Power
Text:
Players cannot untap more than two permanents during their untap phases.
means your opponent's beatdown offensive lines are greatly disrupted and he has to pick between inflicting damage and continuing his game; it means his MBC will need to take a while to reload after that Corrupt
Corrupt
CorruptSet: Urza's Saga
Cost:
6
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
124
Artist:
Vincent Evans
Text:
Corrupt deals 1 damage to target creature or player for each swamp you control. When Corrupt successfully deals damage to a creature or player, gain life equal to that damage.
.

c) Usually, the only parts of the metagame you need to consider deal with the speed of your deck; your deck will tend to disrupt traditional Magic mechanics sufficiently to throw off any given popular deck. I say *usually*, because playing mirror can be quite tricky. Face Opposition
Opposition
OppositionSet: Urza's Destiny
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
40
Artist:
Todd Lockwood
Text:
Tap an untapped creature you control: Tap target artifact, creature, or land.
and you may find yourself in deep trouble because of the very card you depend on to win you the game. But in general terms, assuming early game resources to assist your survival, you should be mostly looking at metagame at a lower priority than most decks *have* to.

Before closing, a warning; as someone noted recently, sometimes a theme just won't work. It will look good on paper, it will look interesting and fun in concept, it will look like it'll put your name up there on a pedestral if it works, but it just doesn't. I am not going to claim that the above *will* work; in fact, except for Orbossition, I would make the claim that environmental disruption at the moment seems to not be viable.

But, that is also my point. There is potential here, if only someone figures out how to make something out of it. It'd take testing, and work, but it could turn out to be something both effective and consistant. Perhaps Onslaught
Onslaught
OnslaughtSet: Exodus
Cost:
1
Color:
Red
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
C
Number:
92
Artist:
Paolo Parente
Text:
Whenever you successfully cast a creature spell, tap target creature.
will make it happen; I hope it does. Ever since Time Elemental
Time Elemental
Time ElementalSet: Fourth Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Elemental
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Amy Weber
Power:
0
Toughness:
2
Text:
2UU, T: Return target permanent to owner's hand. You cannot use this ability on permanents with enchantment cards played on them. If Time Elemental blocks or attacks, destroy it at end of combat. In this case, Time Elemental deals 5 damage to its controller.
+Stasis
Stasis
StasisSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Fay Jones
Text:
Players do not get an untap phase. Pay U during your upkeep or Stasis is destroyed; cards still do not untap until the next untap phase.
+Kismet
Kismet
KismetSet: Fourth Edition
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Kaja Foglio
Text:
All of target player's creatures, lands, and artifacts come into play tapped.
seemed like the end-all be-all in Magic's earliest days (remember Zak?) it has seemed to be a part of it, and I kinda miss seeing weird decks work anyway.


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