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Card Advantage is Good: Treasure Cruise in Eternal Formats


Magic is a game about resources. Everything you do is in some way limited by resources, and you win the game by getting ahead on resources. The game is so heavily defined by them that if a card is too good at getting you ahead on a resource, it can completely warp a format around it.

The only way to win a game of magic is by gaining an advantage in one of three resources:

  • Life is the most easily understood resource. It’s difficult to gain an advantage by increasing your own life when creatures, which are repeatable sources of damage, are so common, but gaining an advantage by reducing your opponent’s life is a very powerful strategy.

  • Mana is the second resource. It’s the opposite of life - you start with none and get more each turn. However, it only matters if you can spend it usefully. Do nothing with your mana for a turn and it’s gone forever.

  • Cards are the final resource. Cards are the most important resource as you need them for absolutely everything you do in the game. However, they have one inherent flaw that prevents them from being the only thing that matters - they require other resources to use. An advantage in cards only matters if you can use them successfully.

Treasonous Ogre [CNS]

It’s simple enough to understand how resources work, but understanding how they interact is what makes Magic such a complex game. Treasonous Ogre costs one card and four mana, simple enough. But what do we get? We have:

  1. The ability to prevent your opponent from gaining an advantage in life by blocking attackers.

  2. The ability to gain an advantage yourself in life (attacking), but only if you give up the first ability.

  3. The ability to become better at the first two abilities by using the second when your opponent has a life advantage (Dethrone).

  4. The ability to convert three life to one red mana, which also helps to activate the third ability and makes the first more relevant.

In Magic we don’t just convert one resource to another, we also convert resources into methods of converting other resources.

We also have to look at cards relative to the format. The best methods of gaining advantage in a resource are always playable. Take a look at Paul Sligh’s original aggro deck:

This deck was from a format where everyone was required to play at least five cards from each legal expansion. In that format, the most efficient way to gain an advantage in life was to play Goblins of the Flarg. That’s right, a 1/1 for 1 was one of the best red aggressive creatures available.

That brings us to a card that’s been very controversial recently.

Treasure Cruise [KTK]

With Treasure Cruise legal, control as we know it will never be viable in modern.

That’s a pretty bold statement to make of course. Why is it so broken? Well, it’s simply the most efficient way to trade-in mana for cards. One mana and one card for 3 cards is a better rate than any other spell in modern. A control deck needs to gain an advantage in cards to win. However, any deck playing blue now can easily keep up and even outpace them in terms of cards.

Treasure Cruise also affects decks that try to deny their opponents cards. Jund uses Thoughtseize and Liliana of the Veil in concert with various 1-for-1 trades to force the game into topdeck mode where they can win by drawing more live cards. They can also use Dark Confidant to slowly gain an advantage. All of that fails when your opponent can just draw 3 at any time and undo all that.

In short, Treasure Cruise completely redefines the format by outclassing every other card advantage engine legal in the format. Maybe the format actually comes out improved, but I doubt removing a huge selection of viable archetypes from the format is a good thing.

In Legacy and Vintage, the story is similar. Every comparable draw engine in the game is banned or restricted. However, the sheer power level of the formats means there's a better chance of non-curise decks being able to compete in life or mana well enough to overcome the card disadvantage.

Dig Through Time hasn't seen as much play, but it has the potential to similarly affect formats if Treasure Cruise is banned.

In short, Treasure Cruise is so fundamentally powerful that the only way to weaken it would be to print something even more powerful or change the rules of the game itself.



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