Bad Cards

I’ve been keeping an eye on the discussions and the postings regarding Orim’s Chant over the past several weeks.  A couple weeks ago I posted my first Chant deck here on The Pojo, saying that it definitely needed work, but showed potential.  I’ve changed the deck up a bit, but first I want to discuss the deck and other ideas that have been floating around regarding it.

A good Orim’s Chant deck is all about the bad cards.

Let me repeat that for you.

A good Orim’s Chant deck is all about the bad cards.

Every Chant deck I have seen, including my own, features a mix of cards that are, at best, weak on their own.  Cards like Howling Mine, Recall, Orim’s Chant, Accumulated Knowledge, Relearn, Millstone, and others.  Some of these cards form the core of an engine that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Others are simply extra chaffe.

Ok, my current deck:

        4 Orim’s Chant

        4 Recall

        4 Howling Mine

        1 Millstone

        4 Counterspell

        4 Absorb

        4 Seal of Cleansing

        4 Story Circle

        4 Wrath of God

        2 Mystical Tutor

        1 Enlightened Tutor

        4 Coastal Tower

        11 Plains

        8 Islands

So what are the weak cards in there?  Chant, Recall, Millstone, Howling Mine, Mystical Tutor, and Enlightened Tutor.  Now note, I’m not saying BAD card, or USELESS card, I’m saying WEAK.  When I say weak, I’m talking about a card, that, with no other resources on the board, serves little or no purpose.  A Recall in hand with no Chant in the graveyard or no mana on the board is a weak card. 

Any deck that intentionally runs weak cards must have the ability to make up for the inherent weakness of those cards through the rest of the deck’s construction.  In this case, the fact that Chant does not replace itself, but still has a powerful ability, is made up for by the Howling Mines.  The fact that the Recall is not a great card on its own is made up for the fact that it gets you more turns with Chants.  And the fact that Howling Mine is generally a downright terrible card is mitigated by the fact that the Chants you draw from Howling Mine will make more of your opponent’s draws ineffective.

The problem is when you mix in too many weak cards.  Or you get TOO redundant for a deck’s own good.  Redundancy is a relatively new theory to Magic.  It developed a couple years after some of the other, more major theories like card advantage and time advantage.  The problem is people try to do redundancy  bit too much.  “Hey if Fires BEFORE Shivan Wurm is good, how amazing will it be now?”  Well, it seems that with Shivan Wurm it may be a little worse, as it seems that gating ability is a little rougher to deal with than people first thought.  

The point is, just because a deck can cast Orim’s Chant 10 times in a game doesn’t mean you should be trying to cast it 40 times.  In order to cast Chant this many times, you have to play weaker cards.

Relearn, for example.  Relearn is horrible.  Not only does it cost two blue mana in a deck whose mana base is already questionable, but it only gets back one instant or sorcery, and does squat otherwise.  I have seen people trying to run this card in their decks, and I wonder what they’re thinking when there’s a creature hoard coming across the board from a Fires deck and they draw Relearn instead of Wrath of God.

Accumulated Knowledge also falls into the same general category.  Any card that simply draws more cards needs to have good cards to draw.  There’s a reason Stroke of Genius hardly ever saw play outside of combo decks, and it was because once the combo elements were gone, the environment didn’t have the tools to make that card advantage particularly good.  In the case of a Chant deck, Accumulated Knowledge let’s you draw more of the weak cards, while simultaneously threatening your win condition if you are trying to run your opponent out of cards.  Which means you have to include cards that insulate against the possibility of running your opponent out of cards.  Which leads to the final problem I have with most of the decklists I see floating around.

I’m not going to mince words here.  Millstone sucks.  Millstone is a bad card.  Horrible.  Crap.  Whereas Relearn or Recall can help you if you actually cast them Millstone is like you tapped two mana and did nothing, until the game is over.  However, it does fill a minor role in this deck, in case you need to play Tsabo’s Web out of the sideboard, and it helps speed the games up in the short 50 minute rounds.  In spite of that, Millstone is still a bad card.  So why on Earth would anyone want to play three or four of them?  Playing three or four in order to make up for Accumulated Knowledge is NOT a reason to play more than one.

In addition to all of this, the slots you occupy with Accumulated Knowledge and Relearn and multiple Millstones can actually be occupied by cards that DO something.  Cards like Counterspells, Wrath of God, Story Circle, that all help prolong the game and allow you to get control of the board.

If you play an Orim’s Chant deck, don’t be tempted to squeeze in bad cards just because they work well in an obscure situation when everything else is going juuuuust right.  Analyze the slots in your deck and make good use of every single one of them. 

Tim Stoltzfus