Card Price Guide

MTG Fan Articles
Single Card Strategy 
Deck Tips & Strategies 
Killer Deck Reports 
Peasant Magic 
Featured Articles

Featured Writers
The Helpdesk
The Dragon's Den
Rumblings From The Ass
The Southwestern Paladin
The Heretic's Sermon
Through The Portal

Deck Garage
Aaron's School

Message Board 
Magic League

Contact Us

Pojo's Book Reviews




A Little Disruption Goes a Long Way

             If it's alternate formats you're looking for, scroll down and look for *****.  Otherwise, I'd like to discuss a point with you that I think a number of people really don't get, even though it seems so simple.

            A little disruption goes a long way.  Perhaps you'd like me to explain what I mean by disruption before I get into arguing my point.  Any action a player takes in the game, not to advance toward his win condition, but solely to slow their opponent's advance toward his or thwart his opponent's attempts to slow this player's progression toward winning, thereby disrupting their opponent's strategy, is disruption.  Discard is almost always disruption.  Land destruction is almost always disruption.  Counter magic (Counterspell and co.) is usually disruption, though Mystic Snake blurs the line quite a bit.  Burn is often disruption.  Disenchant and its buddies are disruption.  Do you see where I'm heading with this?  Playing a Stone Rain, unless I have a Dingus Egg in play, isn't getting me any closer to winning the game.  It is, however, making what you would like to do impossible to do when you want to do it, thereby making it easier for me to win.

            There are a number of valid strategies that are very heavily disruption-oriented.  There are a number of good dedicated land destruction decks, because just about any land destruction card has synergy with just about any other land destruction spell, so long as the deck doesn't become unbalanced.  True control is very strong, and it is also disruption incarnate.

            So why does it appear that I am suggesting less disruption if these and many other decks go hog wild with it and do fine?  The theory is quite simple, in most cases, the first disruptive card you add to any deck is by far the most effective.  Why?  Disruption is usually situational.  Which leads me to my next point.  Every time you add a disruptive card that has any overlap with another disruptive card in your deck, and by overlap I mean there's something that either one could get rid of, you're increasing the chances that the situation required for your disruption to be any good existing when you want to cast your disruption spell is decreased, due to redundancy and frequency of drawing one of those cards.  Take this example deck, though incredibly silly, to illustrate my point:

4 x Force Spike
4 x Fervent Denial
4 x Memory Lapse
4 x Counterspell
4 x Arcane Denial
4 x Mana Leak
4 x Force of Will
4 x Foil
4 x Forbid
24 x Island

            Now this deck includes 36 different disruption spells that have an enormous overlap: they all counter spells.  Now, when an opponent plays a spell that may be countered, there's an excellent chance you'll be able to counter it.  Conversely, at any time when they are not playing such a spell, you do nothing aside from playing the occasional basic land.  This means you waste turns.  Maybe not entire turns at a time in an obvious way, as you draw a card, untap, and play land.  Nonetheless, you're tossing away turns of tempo just because you have nothing to do.  Even if you could cast two of your spells in the same round, odds are you won't need to.  Or maybe you will but you would've been able to cast three.  Every time you enter your untap step and see an untapped land you should see a resource you failed to use.  That will happen a lot with this deck.  If you were to add Phantom Warrior, though, you'd decrease these odds, and give yourself a way to win, which leads me to my next point.

            Disruption delays your win.  I understand that sometimes without the disruption you can't win–either your opponent will stop you from doing so with disruption of their own or their simply kill you first.  That's why disruption is good.  Too much disruption, though, will delay you so much that it forces you to be in complete control of the game.  I realize this is how control players like it, but if you throw in a clock it lessens that burden greatly, because now you only have to be in control for X turns.  By a clock I mean a cheap win condition just waiting to happen, again Phantom Warrior would be an excellent example of this in a control deck.  By lessening this burden of control, you'll lessen the odds of failing at the task of completely shutting your opponent down, and thereby increase your odds of winning.

            Oh how I feel like a traitor to my control-loving brethren.

            THIS IS NOT AN ABSOLUTE!  There are very few absolutes in this game, and this is certainly not one of them.  Depending on the decks you plan to face and also upon the inherent strength of your strategy, extremely heavy disruption is sometimes called for.  However, complete disruption (like the deck above) is never helpful as you cannot win unless your opponent concedes, so there is a balance to be struck.  Where that balance is all depends.  But like I said earlier, the first bit of disruption is always the strongest, because the odds of it being useful when you want to play it are extremely high.  Perhaps another deck, an antithesis to the one above, would be a helpful illustration.

4 x Llanowar Elves
4 x Fyndhorn Elves
4 x Quirion Ranger
4 x Priest of Titania
1 x Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
4 x Seeker of Skybreak
4 x Ehrnam Djinn
4 x Blastojerk
4 x River Boa
4 x Call of the Herd
4 x Muscle Sliver
19 x Forest

            Now disruption has the redundancy problem.  That is, how many Counterspells does it take to counter a single spell?  Disenchants for a single target?  Et cetera.  One.  If asked of this deck, "How many creatures do you want to play at any given time?" the answer will typically be, "As many as I can, duh."  Redundancy is no longer an issue.  These spells are 'drops' meaning they can be played in almost any situation, and needn't be held back, which allows you a clean mana curve.  This all means you're not wasting tempo, and you don't have dead cards in hand. 

            Disruption also has the frequency issue.  How often do you really need to Disenchant something on turn X?  That will help you determine the number of Disenchants to include in your deck, but since it's a matter of odds there's an excellent chance you'll get it before you need it and have a temporarily dead card in hand.  If this deck is asked, "How often do you really want to play a creature on turn X?" it'll usually answer, "As often as I can, duh."  Frequency is no longer an issue.

            Now I ask you, what would happen if we replaced one Call of the Herd in the above deck with Creeping Mold?  That's right, it'd be a better deck.  Why?  Well because the deck as listed is too narrow.  In some metagames you'll want to kill as quickly as possible, narrow or not.  After all, speed kills.  However, it's usually in your best interests not to be completely helpless if your opponent plays a single card which causes you immense amount of troubles.  Perhaps Propaganda might be a permanent this deck would want to target with its new-found Creeping Mold.  What are the odds you'll draw your single Creeping Mold (with the mana sources to play it already in play) without any non-creature permanents to target and have no more creatures in your hand that you can cast?  I'd like to see that game.  A little disruption goes a long way.  


Auction (of the People or otherwise)

            Auction is a format in which there are pre-made decks.  A player bids starting life and hand size on a particular deck.  Then, any other player may bid.  The player who bids the lowest starting life gets to play the deck, and if there's a tie then the player in that tie with the lowest starting hand size bid gets to play it.  The catch is that they play it with that hand size and starting life in each game in the tournament.  The starting bid on each deck is 7 cards and 20 life.  In previous Invitationals they used the decks that had won a world championship to be auctioned off.  This year they had theme decks created by pretty much anyone.  You can use whatever decks you like.  There are numerous interesting twists that you can take with that.

            Good control decks aren't as good in this format.  To play that deck one must bid low life and starting hand size, since it is generally recognized to be a good deck.  A low hand size is the ultimate punishment for a control player, and low life gives you a great weakness to control's arch-nemesis, beatdown.  When you're bidding on a deck you should be thinking of the bids that previous decks went for.  The question you should be asking is, "With how small of a hand, and how low life, can this deck regularly beat those decks at their starting conditions?"  You should also ask yourself, "What will the decks that have not yet been chosen yet go for, and how low can my start be to beat them at that level?"  Talk about judgment calls!  I wouldn't recommend ever bidding higher than you feel certain about, as you can probably get a good deal near the end of the auction if you just wait, as there are fewer people to bid against you.  Always be sure to bid on each deck up to the point where you think any lower bid might not be a good deal.  That way, you're not sorry if you get that deck, and you'll keep your opponents from getting an insane advantage.  This format doesn't require good deckbuilding skills, but it does require a profound understanding of the game to excel at it.  After all, when I say judgment calls, I'm talking about decisions based on experience or strategic planning.

            The obvious requirement to hold an auction is to procure decks.  You'll need at least as many decks as there will be participants, and I highly recommend that none of them be duplicates, or even close.  It's probably better to have more decks than players, but not too many as that would make the strategy so complex that most players would be bidding more on gut feeling than clear logic.  I think the one extra deck the Invitational used is probably ideal.  It really doesn't matter much what the decks contain, as long as they are Magic cards and not downright defective, because the auction will balance any deck.  I don't care what deck you're using, if I start at 20 life and 7 cards in hand, and you have no starting hand and 1 life, so long as my deck is capable of winning it probably will.  If you are unsure of how many participants will be present, you could have each of them bring a deck meeting whatever requirements you desire, then provide a deck or two for the surplus.  The major challenge of holding an auction tournament is making sure everyone understands the rules.

            And on a side note, if anyone in central Florida decides to do this, please let me know–I'd love to join you.

May you find what you seek.

John B. Turpish


Click Here to Visit!