Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More than one Mage was Driven Insane…

An idea began to form earlier this week. A very bad idea, indeed.

I had just read an article, or a forum post, or some such thing. The topic being the relative inevitability (or even in-escapability) of Sensei's Divining Top in the EDH format.

The "SDT" as some people call it. The "Top."

The Top provides 2 important benefits:

1. It provides constant improvement for your draws, combining especially with shuffle effects (like fetchlands) to make sure you only draw the cards you want.

2. It's almost impossible to get rid of, since in reaction to most destruction you can simply stick it on top of your deck.

The top of your deck. Somewhat of a extra-ordinary place when you think about it. Smart EDH players have slaved endlessly to manipulate this one single card.

There's the whole cycle of Mirage (and Visions) Tutors. The Lorwyn Harbingers.

Tutors breed efficiency and deck consistency. Sensei's Divining Top is a subtle tutor of sorts that works over long stretches of time. Always spinning away.

Obviously, the right play here would be to stick a copy of Sensei's Divining Top in my deck. That's what a rational person would do. Pick the good card, the one everyone says is good.

But I've learned something about myself in the 15 years or so I've been playing this game.

I'm far from rational. And I instinctively avoid any perceived "bandwagons". It takes a great deal of effort for me to accept an obvious, definitive advantage when I can have a questionable, obscure advantage instead.

Especially if its a card I don't own, and that other people want to pay crazy-money for.

I'll take the secret tunnel over the main entrance any day of the week.

So I plotted from my lair at the top of Who Mountain, trying to name the nameless "element" my mind was searching for. That certain "something something."

And then I found it.

For reference…My Demonic Tutor looks like it spent a few years hiding under a desk. My Sol Ring looks like it took a ride under the leg of a cafeteria chair.

The card I now hold in my hand…the borders hold the same pristine white as when I first opened it in a pack on the sidewalk outside the local Hobbytown, U.S.A.

But the grinding in my mind was relentless. Perhaps we are all moving in a circle, destined to end up in the spot we've been trying to escape all along.

The card is in a sleeve for the first time ever. And the card is Millstone.

If you think I'm crazy at this point, there's probably little I can do to change your mind. But let me point out the various interactions.

The above mentioned Tutors are in trouble, unless you tutor for a card you DON'T want to draw, in which case…well played.

Let's look at another set of cards: 2/3 of "The Unholy Trinity of Land."

It's hard to imagine any black deck that doesn't run Volrath's Stronghold. It's also hard to imagine a blue deck that doesn't run Academy Ruins (except for mine).

I've come across them fairly often, and you probably have too. Tell me, what does a repeatable mill of two do to the recursive powers of Academy Ruins? It barfs on it. It barfs all over it like an ill-tempered Garbage Pail Kid.
barf. barf.

Yeah, I could play good cards………OR I could barf on good cards. What would YOU do?

As for Sensei's Divining Top, things get a little more complicated.

The Top has 2 independent abilities:

1. Pay 1 and rearrange the top 3 cards of your library.
2. Tap the Top: draw 1 card and put the Top on top of your library.

If you stack the activations, technically you can draw a card and then put the Top third card down. 1 card away from my millstone barfing action.

In this case, I can wait a turn for my opponent to draw. And then mill his Top right into the grumper. Unless he has some sort of extra draw to bring all three cards off the top in one go. My success is certainly not assured.

But let's look at it from another direction.

IF…and this is a big IF…you are burying your "Top" 3 cards down to duck my Millstone…I've already won. There is nothing further you could possibly do to reduce my level of enjoyment of the current game.

So I'm going to be running the Millstone. Watch out! The magic of EDH is that I will probably never draw this card in a situation where I can use it. But if it happens, get ready to barf.

This Friday, hopefully I will talk about my award-winning draft picks from my shared Two-Headed Giant pool. Yes, from prerelease.

See you then.

EDIT: People more versed than me in classic Magic note that Millstone was used plenty for disruption. Even back in Ice Age, Millstone + Elemental Augury means your opponent never draws another land!

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