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
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
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
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:
x Force Spike
Now this deck includes 36 different disruption
spells that have an enormous overlap: they all counter
when an opponent plays a spell that may be countered,
there's an excellent chance you'll be able to counter
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
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
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
another deck, an antithesis to the one above, would be a
x Llanowar Elves
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
right, it'd be a better deck.
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.
(of the People or otherwise)
Auction is a format in which there are pre-made
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
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
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
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
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
And on a side note, if anyone in central Florida
decides to do this, please let me know–I'd love to
you find what you seek.
John B. Turpish