Thursday, January 29, 2015

Should Treasure Cruise Be Banned in Standard Pauper?

Back in October of last year, as Khans of Tarkir was being released into the format, I wrote a post examining Treasure Cruise and whether or not it was too strong to see play as a Common. My conclusion was that if Treasure Cruise is consistently cast as if it were Ancestral Recall, then it is probably too strong.

Now about four months later, Wizards has recently banned this card from both Modern and Legacy and restricted it in Vintage, which certainly seems to indicate that it might be problematic. Interestingly enough, they chose not to ban the card in either Standard or Pauper, despite the fact that it has made a major impact in the latter.

Opinions in the Standard Pauper community are divided on this card, although it seems the majority are fine with it. However, there are certainly a growing number of others who would like to see the card banned from the format. Among these is a player named Zoltan, whose claim to fame is that he has played  White Weenie (WW) in pretty much every format he can, often with very good results. After this week's MPDC, I offered him a chance to submit a short guest-post on why Treasure Cruise should be banned in Standard Pauper. Today and Saturday, I want to share with you, my readers, what he has to say, in his own words:

I took my beloved WW deck and won last week's MPDC (Standard Pauper) event with it. I am an aggro player at heart, and I have played WW in Standard Pauper for years now, spanning and surviving multiple rotations. But I've had a hard time recently putting up good results because of this one maddening card.

I want to talk to the people today about such a card: a little card known as (Treasure Cruise). I don't think that it is any secret among the Standard Pauper players that I hate Treasure Cruise, for every conceivable reason that could be given. As far as I am concerned, the fact that R&D printed this card (as a common, no less) indicates that their extracurricular activities probably include copious amounts of alcohol and LSD ingestion  However, aside from personal opinion and taste, an objective evaluation of this card's power level would, in my opinion, suggest it to be banned in Standard Pauper, just as it was banned in Modern and banned/restricted in other formats. And I am not here to make jokes, draw flashy pictures, or try to win internet points by entertaining you. I am here to write an opinion piece and give a wordy analysis on why this card needs to be banned in Standard Pauper.

We have gone far enough with this broken card. Tap an island: draw 3 - the heir to Ancestral Recall, one of the strongest cards printed of all time since the early dark days of magic known as the Power 9 - not only shouldn't be a usable card anymore, but shouldn't exist as a common to be used in Standard Pauper. This is a format whose major benefit - among others - is the ability to help newer players play with easy-to-use cards, in a relaxed atmosphere, without having to worry about the sharks with more expensive and complex decks in other formats competing for more lucrative prizes, and having Power 9 type cards floating around in this format seems to not be very congruous with the general theme.

Since I already know what the proponents of Ancestral Recall #2 will say in its defense (who are, largely, control players playing control decks - surprise, surprise), I will do my best to list their arguments, and refute them as being invalid. The most common counter-arguments appear first:

1) It isn't always cast for 1 mana.

To that, let me ask you - how often have you seen someone use Cruise for 8 mana? I've played many games in the current Standard Pauper format, and even there, a format weaker in power level than the normal standard, casting Cruise at 1 mana or 2 mana isn't a big deal or hard to achieve. It isn't hard for control decks in constructed - U/R or U/W - to dump cards in the graveyard with counter-magic, burn, bounce, other card draw, even saclands, to the point where the graveyard is filled by mid-game, around turn 5 or so, where a Cruise for 1 mana to refresh one's hand is not uncommon. Even without a full delve, I've heard that 3 cards for 2 mana isn't so bad either. Cruise is a flexible card, and the same card that can draw you 3 cards for 2 mana - already good enough - could even reduce the mana cost even further to a broken level. Whenever someone taps an island for 3 cards in ANY circumstance, it doesn't matter who wins or loses at that point - the opponent on the receiving end is being cheated, and it isn't Magic anymore.

Next time, we'll take a look at how he responds to the other two most common counter-arguments. In the mean time, I'd love to hear your thoughts about whether Treasure Cruise should be banned. Let me know in the comments below.


  1. While I agree that the power level of this card is far beyond common level, I think Treasure Cruise is a fine card in our metagame.

    The main point is: cards are not banned for the their written text, but for the role they play in the format. Right now there is lack of good removal and powerful finishers for control decks and Treasure Cruise is keeping the viability of those decks while not pushing other decks away from the metagame. White and Boros decks, both token and heroic versions, are powerful and if you think on other possible good aggro decks that do not shine in our current season, they are kept away by Boros and White, not by Treasure Cruise decks (you have a much harder time winning with Mono Green against Heroics than against Izzet Cruise, for instance).

    If you look on the other recent cards that had power level above what we do expect from common cards, like Gray Merchant, Ethereal Armor or Crypt Incursion, they had much more support from other cards than Treasure Cruise has and they were not banned. Of course Cruise is more powerful than all those three cards, but if we ban it, we will be left with two or three aggro decks dominating the metagame.

    If you look into the past seasons Nivix Cyclops decks, they worked in a very similar way to the current Izzet Cruise deck, but they had no Cruise and they were usually defeated by White based aggro decks and Gary based control decks and without the Cyclops, Izzet would be even weaker. While White aggro decks lost Ethereal Armor, they gained more protection spells and their opponents lost most of their removal. Without Celestial Flare and Devour Flesh, combat math became much more simple and with the absurd amount of spells that protect from target removal, the only way control decks have to deal with Gods Willing and their friends is to cast two or three spells for each creature they want to kill. This is not possible without Cruise.

    Gone are also most of the true midrange decks, like the Gatekeepers decks, because creature size do not matter anymore.

    Despite the narrow amount of viable strategies left since rotation, we are having a nice variety of winning and top 4 decks mostly thanks to treasure Cruise. Banning it would not only be pointless because the card is not damaging the metagame, but it would also hurt the metagame and make it much less interesting, in my oppinion.

  2. Treasure Cruise has been the most fun card to build-around in the current format. It has so much potential with self-mill, control, and a way to refuel in Azorius heroic. When the engine is going it's great, but the argument that it's unfair as a U = sorcery Ancestral Recall is awful. The card requires a ton of work if you want to play it in the early game. You would have to use barely playable spells to fuel the graveyard quickly: Commune with the Gods, Scout the Borders, or Necromancer's Assistant. Even Izzet with Tormenting Voice, Magma Spray, Nullify, Lightning Strike, Divination, Evolving Wilds, and Traveler's Amulet doesn't always get there lickidy split. The card is pretty bad in the opening hand without Thought Scour in the format. The 8 protection spells available to white in Gods Willing and Feat of Resistance are so backbreaking to Izzet that they have been forced to adapt by playing as many bounce spells as possible to survive the early game. From my experience I would choose to play as the Boros Heroic side if I had money on the line vs Izzet Control (arguably the best deck with Cruise - a lot of events have been won with it).

    Treasure Cruise is more like Ancestral Visions with Suspend ~5-7 in the early game. Obviously it's a sick top-deck when the game has reached parity. Without it control decks would get stomped pretty hard. I agree with Rremedio1 that Treasure Cruise is helping create diversity in the format. Just look at the results from SPDC/MPDC. Plenty of people win with it, and plenty scrub out. You can go under it. You can counter it with Negate, Disdainful Stroke, and Cancel. You can create card advantage in other ways - like with token generating creatures. If his WW deck has a bad matchup then he should consider solving the puzzle of the format and play something that fares better. The sample size is so small that I doubt we really know how favorable the match-ups are. But let's say we do know. Don't be that guy playing the same deck in every format, even when it's not good. If you want to be a mature, seasoned magic player then embrace the need to learn how to adapt to a metagame and play various styles of decks. I find the current format to be very rock/paper/scissors, like most decent magic formats.

    Please stop comparing Treasure Cruise to Ancestral Recall - that's beyond hyperbole. It's more like Ancestral Vision with Suspend ~6-8 in the early game, ~2-3 in the mid-game, and ~0-1 in the late game. All depends on deck construction and the opponents ability to interact with the graveyard.

    In an effort to be solution oriented - what cards could be printed at common in other colors to "hose" Treasure Cruise. Currently nothing is relevant in Standard Pauper that can mess with the opponents delve/graveyard synergies. I would like to see this:

    WR - Fruit Punch Haterade Bear - 2/2 - Human Warrior

    Spells with Delve cost 1 more to cast for each card removed from the graveyard to pay its cost. Or...
    Cards can not be exiled from graveyards. Or...
    Cards in opponents' graveyards cannot be exiled unless any player pays 1 life as an additional cost.

    These ideas obviously follow the template of a card you would expect to be rare. Boros color identity is the opposite of the Sultai which supports Delve, so that's the best place to start mana-wise.

    Or they could just reprint Relic of Progenitus.

    Be creative and come up with your own hoser and share - just try not to make it too powerful :P

  3. Because it must target heroic creatures :)

    Holy Aura - RW
    Enchantment Aura
    Enchanted creatures has First Strike.
    Whenever enchanted creature deals combat damage to a player, exile all cards from that player's graveyard.

  4. Your card is much more fair than mine. Nice! I would also give the aura a +1/+1 bonus to the creature and then I think it would be playable.

    I notice that my comment was so long that I made the Ancestral Vision comparison twice, with different suspend costs. You get the point I hope - don't hate me for not knowing how to write/read good - I never enrolled in Zoolander's school xP

  5. Boros Runemark - RW1 - Enchantment - Aura
    Enchanted Creature gets +2/+2 and gains haste and vigilance if you control another red/white permanent
    When enchanted creature deals combat damage you may exile X cards from target graveyard where X = the amount of damage dealt.

  6. I'm gathering some numbers for a possible post in the clan blog. I think they are good to understand if Cruise is oppressing the format. To me it is clear that the format is shifting towards aggro, but Izzet Cruise decks are still very strong. These numbers are not the definitive answer for the banning question, but I think they are helpful.

    Numbers of season 27

    Different decks (color combination + archetype) in top 4: 26

    Decks with Cruise appearances in top 4: 40%

    Control decks: 47,3%
    Aggro decks: 44,2%
    Midrange: 8,5%

    Most wins
    Izzet Cruise: 6
    WW Tokens: 3
    WW Heroic: 2
    RDW: 2
    UB Merchant: 2
    WB Merchant: 2
    Boros Heroic: 2

    Most appearances in top 4
    Izzet Cruise: 16
    WW Tokens: 11
    UB Merchant: 10
    RDW: 7
    Boros Heroic: 6
    WW Heroic: 6

    General Archetypes appearances in top 4
    Pure control: 24
    Merchant control: 21
    Heroic: 19
    Aggro Tokens: 14

    Numbers of the last 10 tournaments

    Different decks (color combination + archetype) in top 4: 16

    Decks with Cruise appearances in top 4: 42,5%

    Control decks: 45%
    Aggro decks: 52,5%
    Midrange: 2,5%

    Most Wins
    WW Tokens: 3
    Izzet Cruise: 2
    Boros Heroic: 2

    Most appearances in top 4
    Izzet Cruise: 7
    WW Tokens: 7
    Boros Heroic: 6

    General Archetypes appearances in top 4
    Pure control: 14
    Heroic: 12
    Aggro Tokens: 8