Jeff Zandi is The Southwest Paladin
in Invasion Block Constructed ?
The new pro tour qualifier season is just getting started and some patterns are already emerging. On the Invasion Block Constructed format, most players seem to agree on two things. First, the Invasion block is being widely considered the best block of Magic cards ever used for a limited constructed format. Invasion, Planeshift and Apocalypse combine an incredible array of very powerful cards. Better yet, this block also provides many building block cards that are good for a large number of different decks, like the five opposing color pain lands from Apocalypse and the five allied color dual lands from Invasion. The other thing that players really like about the Invasion Block Constructed format is the color blue. Of course, this isnít the first time that the Magic community has fallen for the color of deception and chicanery. In fact, almost every constructed format qualifier season includes at least one brief period of blue-love, when control-freak Magic players jump on the bandwagon of some blue-white control deck that happens to make it to the top eight of a number of qualifiers. Things are different in the latest limited constructed format, however. Today, blue isnít just for control-freaks that like to say Ďnoí to your spells. Today, in this format, blue is everywhere.
The top pace deck in IBC is green and blue, featuring a large number of blue spells. Unlike other speedy decks in the format, like red-black or red-green, the blue-green deck features both high quality bears, like Kavu Titan and Blurred Mongoose, as well as control elements in the form of bounce spells out the wazoo. Depending on the deck list, this deck contains anywhere from eight to twelve bounce spells and counterspell technology in the form of Mystic Snake and Exclude. The point is that blue is a major component of what is arguably the best fast-paced deck in the format.
Other popular decks in the format featuring blue include all the different versions of Gomar (insert your favorite blue-black-white deck here), as well as the blue-white versions of the Solution deck, Domain decks featuring plenty of blue, and a group of blue-black decks with either a little bit of red for Void or a little bit of green for Pernicious Deed. In short, blue is everywhere in this format. Everyone seems to want to harness the power of great cards like Fact or Fiction, Repulse and some very effective counterspells. There is another blue spell that some people are overlooking, and itís the tiny blue instant that helps fix the biggest problems that IBC decks seem to be having. The problem is multi-colored mana consistency, and the solution is a spell called Opt.
Opt is not optional
Ryan Fuller won Grand Prix Moscow with a version of Gomar that ran fewer than four of many important cards. Ryan ran three Teferiís Moat, only two Routs, and single copies of Repulse, Exclude and Hobble, but Fuller did have four Opts. Opt is the most basic power card from blue in the Invasion block. If you are playing blue, your deck probably needs Opt.
Opt helps you find mana. In control decks like Gomar or Domain, you may be playing a lot of land in your deck, as many as twenty-six. Aggressive blue-green decks may run anywhere from twenty to twenty-four lands. In either extreme, Opt helps you find the land you need sooner. The problem that players are reporting in this format is the problem of not getting the right combination of colored mana in play soon enough. Opt is the perfect small tool for helping to solve this very big problem. On turn one, when you have no other important spells to cast, you can cast Opt. When you do, it is important to remember what you are trying to accomplish. On turn one, the purpose of playing Opt is to find the mana you will need for the early game. If the first card you look at with Opt is not a land, throw it under the bus and instead take the next card. If the first card you look at is a land that improves on the mana supply already in your hand, then take that land and put your spent Opt in the graveyard with pride. People inexperienced with the power of this little spell look at the above play and see nothing special. The short answer is simply this: Opt helps you see more of the cards of your deck sooner. In Invasion block there is no more advantageous first turn play than Opt, although Land Grant comes very close. Of course, you can play both Opt and Land Grant in the aggressive blue-green deck with a lot of success. Because itís an instant, Opt is almost always a good play at the end of your opponentís turn.
After using Opt for a while, you will begin to see another subtle advantage that this card has to offer. Having Opt in your deck will literally increase the number of hands that you can intelligently keep (instead of taking a mulligan) at the beginning of the game. With a blue source and an Opt in your hand, there are more two land and even one land hands that you can realistically proceed with. Even after conceding the general usefulness of Opt, some players argue that they simply do not have room for Opt in their deck. A long time ago in Magic, there were similar arguments about the usefulness of a spell called Impulse. It didnít take long, however, before every deck playing blue contained four Impulse. Opt has been referred to as being ďhalf an ImpulseĒ. In the Invasion block, a card with even half the power of Impulse for the low cost of one blue mana is more than good enough for any deck playing blue.
What do you pull from a deck to fit in four Opt? Because the nature of Opt is to speed up the rate at which you see the cards in your deck, Opt can be fit into a deck a number of ways. In decks that operate well on only two or three mana, like the aggressive blue-green decks, Opt can actually lower the number of land you need to play. In control decks, Opt can replace the fourth copy of several other spells in your deck. Since Opt motors you through your deck faster, you will reach the remaining copies of those spells sooner.
Subtle power in a tiny blue card
The overall usefulness of Opt is not something you will see right away. The power of Opt is subtle. The advantages of Opt will mostly be noticed only after playing many games with it in your deck. The exception, as discussed previously, is in the area of mana availability. With four Opt in your deck, and there arenít likely to be many scenarios where you would use less than four, you will see solid improvements in your ability to get to the land you need sooner. At worst, playing Opt is a lot like having four fewer cards in your deck. There is one truism associated with the correct play of Opt: you will never make an error by taking the first card revealed by Opt, but you can occasionally make an error by taking the second card. This means that when you look at the first card revealed by Opt, if you find yourself having to think very hard about whether to keep it, you probably should go ahead and keep it. In the early game, passing up a land because you were hoping to get a more useful land is usually a bad plan.
Another way to think about Opt
Here is one last way to think about the power of Opt in the early game. Usually, a player going first in a game sees exactly seven cards, at most, of his deck before his first draw phase. Using Opt on turn one, the same player sees up to nine cards before his first draw phase. Seeing extra cards is very good. A lot of players seem to think that winning in the Invasion Block Constructed format is all about getting off to a good start. Opt is the perfect card to help blue players do just that.
Level II DCI Judge