Saturday, January 31, 2015

Should Treasure Cruise Be Banned in Standard Pauper, Part Two

Last time, I discussed the recent situation regarding Treasure Cruise. With its recent banning in both Modern and Legacy, as well as now Restricted in Vintage, there have been players calling for the card to be banned in Standard Pauper as well. While our community is somewhat divided over the issue, there certainly are those who have a very strong opinion regarding the unsuitability of this card. One such player is known as Zoltan, and last time we looked at the first part of his argument calling for a ban of this card in Standard Pauper.

His essential point is that Treasure Cruise is too similar to one of the most powerful cards ever printed - Ancestral Recall - and as such has no place in a format that caters to new players wishing to learn the ropes in a relaxed and simplified environment.

He then wanted to respond to three major objections. The first objection he listed was that Treasure Cruise is not always cast for a single mana. Even so, he concluded, the average cost is still going to be very low thanks to the presence of cheap cards to fill up the Graveyard.

You're all caught up. Let's take a look at the rest of his argument, in his own words:

2) WoTC didn't ban Cruise for normal Standard.

Aside from the obvious counter-point that I will soon make, namely that Standard != Standard Pauper, Wizards does not ban for the PRE community on Magic Online. Thus, don't expect them to have studied any fringe format like Standard Pauper and determined what's best for the players of such a format. And from what it seems, even this aside, they are late to the party anyway - how long did Treasure Cruise need to twist Modern for them to ban it? How about Jace for Standard? Their bans are not proactive enough. Additionally, it is the norm for PRE players of fringe formats = like tribal, heirloom, or silverblack back in the day  - to devise their own banlists, considering the players there are more interested and versed in their respective formats than wizards are, considering that they - from what is obvious now - don't even bother playtesting for modern. Where is Standard Pauper's banlist? Relying on a group of people who are neither interested nor playtesting the format to tell you what's fair doesn't seem like a good idea.

As I mentioned before, some people oppose a ban of Cruise, and point to its legality in Standard. The counter-argument is deceptively simple - namely that Standard is not the same as Standard Pauper - that more clarification is needed. Well, what do I mean? I mean, specifically, the decks played in the meta, and the overall power-level of cards that can fight against Cruise in aggro is way stronger. Aggro decks in normal standard can work at breakneck speed, and make the aggro decks of standard pauper look like a joke. Normal standard aggro decks are capable of punishing control decks that run cruise in a way that standard pauper cannot. Let me ask the audience - where is goblin rabblemaster in standard pauper? monastery swiftspear? stoke the flames? Standard Pauper is a format where control still gets to use its #1 card from Standard, while aggro decks get neutered and lose all of their star players. Compare a standard control deck to a standard pauper control deck - you will notice at least some of the commons overlap. Now do the same for aggro decks, and you will see far fewer overlap, in comparison. What does this tell you?

The two most popular aggro decks in standard pauper that are fast enough to beat control decks with cruise - namely, WW tokens and mono red - have another big issue to deal with: Scouring Sands. Make no mistake about it - as if Cruise is not bad enough - Control has access to what is, in a format rife with creatures of 1 toughness and of an overall low power level for their CMC, a Wrath of God for half the mana. Call me crazy, but I think that in a format where only commons are allowed, a deck shouldn't have access to Power 9 light and a big board sweeper. These two cards - Scouring Sands and Treasure Cruise - make playing aggro always feel like an uphill battle. It isn't just a race until Cruise hits; it is also hoping your opponent doesn't draw that single card that hoses your entire deck. Given the fact that people are beginning to run Scouring Sands maindeck, it is a strong testament as to how strong that card is at nerfing decks and clearing the board long enough for a cheap cruise to the Galapagos to hit. The aggro decks that can beat Cruise in normal standard do not fold as easily to Scouring Sands.

3)  Aggro decks are still better than control

This statement is neither true nor relevant. Control decks are taking top spots recently. The meta-game is shifting away from aggro and more toward control. Ask any player that plays WW or mono-red aggro - that deck rolls over to Scouring Sands. As an aggro player myself, I can tell you, the match-up feels unfair when standard pauper has access to a 2 mana board sweeper and a power-9 level type card. Even if aggro decks were somehow better than control, does that mean that a singular card as broken as cruise should be allowed? Same is true for any card in any deck, no matter who is top dog at a given time. 

Resident writer adept gwyned - purveyor of Standard Pauper as a format and host of MPDC - feels that R/W Boros - a type of aggro deck - is the strongest overall in the format. This is a deck that works like hexproof auras in normal pauper and modern, except the creatures don't have hexproof. This deck doesn't automatically roll over to Scouring Sands, however, make no mistake - this deck too has severe weaknesses that control can exploit. Firstly, it isn't as fast as other aggro to shut the game down before Cruise delivers too much card advantage to the opponent and - more importantly - since the deck relies on beefing up creatures with enchantments, it is more vulnerable to the counterspells and bounce that control runs, by virtue of having a fewer creature base than other aggro decks have, like WW.

4) Cruise can be a dead card in hand if you cannot cast it

What card doesn't have situations where it is completely useless? Even broken cards are not broken 100% of the time. (Umezawa's Jitte) and (Skullclamp) - two of perhaps the best equipment ever printed that have also experienced the banhammer by Wizards - are also dead cards if the player has no creatures. The point is - when the card has a situation where it is good - it is *too* good.

In sum, Control is the best archetype in the format, and Cruise is the best card in the format. Scouring Sands - another tool for control and probably the second best card in the format - allows for a cheap wrath of god to make sure control has enough time to set up a cruise, and Boros aggro is like a hexproof deck with no hexproof, making it susceptible to the multiple bounce spells that control runs as well as countermagic.

Finally, aside from overall level of power, I would like to say that Cruise itself destroys the spirit of Standard Pauper. I think Cruise is broken at any rarity, but by having it as common, it feels like a special affront and slap to the face to the overall theme and feel of Standard Pauper, namely that the cards are overall balanced and not too strong, to make for a format that is both fun and fair for players of all skill levels. I cannot remember the last common that was printed that was anywhere near as powerful as Cruise, and cards similar to cruise are of different rarity. Off the topic of my head, (dig through time) is a rare, and (ancestral visions) - a card, much like cruise, that was supposed to be the modern r&d update on ancestral recall - is also a rare. Both, incidentally, happen to be banned in Modern too. But by having such a card in Standard Pauper - the weakest constructed format in Magic - one that is better than 99% of rares ever printed, it seems to be the polar antithesis of the heart and soul of this casual fringe format.

Send the cruise to find treasure in the Bermuda Triangle, and good riddance to it. Thanks for reading.
If you have an opinion of this matter, I encourage you to make your voice heard. We had some great comments left in the previous post, so I'd love to see the conversation continue here. Thanks for reading!


  1. "In sum, Control is the best archetype in the format, and Cruise is the best card in the format. Scouring Sands - another tool for control and probably the second best card in the format - allows for a cheap wrath of god to make sure control has enough time to set up a cruise, and Boros aggro is like a hexproof deck with no hexproof, making it susceptible to the multiple bounce spells that control runs as well as countermagic."

    This is hardly true. In the last 10 tournaments, aggro had 6 wins and more than 50% of all decks in top 4. Scouring Sands is a great card against the tokens deck, but it is useless against Izzet Control, Merchant decks and most Heroic decks.

    The numbers show 3 top decks in the current moment: Izzet Control, WW Tokens and Boros Heroic. Results between them are fairly balanced and if you nerf any of them, the other two would become too strong.

    The banning of card should be made thinking on what decks that card is keeping at bay.

    Is there any evidence that banning Cruise would bring back other decks which are not winning or seeing play right now? He talks about Mono Red, but this deck was pushed away by Cruise or by the White based heroic decks?

    Look at the text made by Wizards explaining the banning/restriction of Cruise in Modern, Legacy and Vintage. They say they did it because Delver-Cruise decks were keeping other decks from having a chance in the metagame. Is Cruise doing the same in Standard Pauper?

    Those are the questions that need to be answered. I only see complains about how that card affects the Tokens deck, which clearly do not need any more help, as show its current results.

  2. I was basically going to say the same as rremedio. Another point to think about, is Treasure Cruise warping the format. When I say warping the format are the only decks winning those that are playing Treasure Cruise and are the other decks having to play cards they otherwise would not play in order to have a chance in the match. I believe the answer to both of these questions to be "NO". While it is also true that drawing three cards for a single mana or even two or three mana is really stong, a comment made Zoltan a couple MPDC events ago, and while I do not disagree with that statement, it is not the reason why an aggro deck will be defeated by a control deck. In all reality if I am playing a control deck and it is turn 20 and I am drawing 3 cards for one mana vs an aggro deck, I am going to win, not because I am drawing 3 cards for one mana, but because the aggro deck should have won the match 10-15 turns prior. That is why people play aggro, to beat the control deck before the control deck is able to stabilize.

  3. The hyperbolic, catastrophizing (that a word?) tone of his arguments are too much for me. There's no way Treasure Cruise should be banned in Standard Pauper. I'd be worried if every single archetype was running Cruise, but that's not the case at all.

    Thanks Rremedio1 for doing the metagame breakdown in the previous article.

    If you ban Cruise then the viability of control goes down. Aggro decks were dominating before I played the first event with Izzet Control this season. I tried a UW tokens list with Cruise the week before, but it was not a good Cruise deck. The card would rot in my hand turn after turn after turn. It's not easy to break the card. You have to build your whole deck around it. This deck has weaknesses. I've beaten it a fair amount, so have others.

    Please stop crying about how broken the card is! You know what gets me even more - the whining about SCOURING SANDS? You've got to be kidding me. If it didn't exist then every single token producer would be GUARANTEED to be better than a 1 for 1. I could teach my friend who barely knows how to play magic to goldfish a deck with a curve of creatures, token producers, and inspired charge effects and he would wreck me. At some point you need to test skill in decision-making, and playing around a sweeper is definitely one that aggro players should learn.

    I would argue that the author, a biased mono-white supported, should realize that mono-white doesn't always have to be the best deck. You don't need to play all of your creatures into Scouring Sands all at once - learn how to bait it out! He makes it sound like the existence of "wrath" makes the token archetype not viable.

    If you know people are playing ways to counter your threats - then change your build! People main-deck Scouring Sands now - great - let's try some solution-oriented thinking and cut your X/1s and start playing bigger butts. Anything that makes X/1s extra like Mardu Hordechief is just gravy.

    Fate Reforged will help with allows white decks to play less X/1s. The first deck I will try to break is Azorius Prowess/Heroic. I also think mono-red got better (Goblin Heelcutter is great and Mardu Scout is a sick one in that it can dodge Sorcery speed removal like Scouring Sands/Festergloom). Izzet Control also gets better with Whisk Away, Enhanced Awareness, and Bathe in Dragonfire, too. Tokens decks ARE GOOD according to the meta analysis, but I am firmly on the "don't play dumb X/1s when everyone has access to 1 damage sweepers" plan.

    At least gripe about Festergloom, too. If you want to argue that you don't like baby-wraths at common then at least be thorough

  4. One of the reasons I think now is not a good time to play Standard Pauper is the existence of this card. Whether or not it should be banned is moot. The fact that such a card exists and causes such hyperbolic catastrophicist (sp?) arguments is just one more thing.

    On top of the client just not working,

    on top of this New World Order conspiracy warping every metagame,

    on top of the failure to flavor the wedges properly,

    on top of the demise of the core set and new two-set-only block rotation policy,

    and on top of the new card frames being the least aesthetically pleasing rendition of the card frame....

    now you've got a card that clearly violates all the stated tenets of the New World Order that is taking up time that should be playing the format with these long, stale, hyperbolic, catastrophisitc arguments about the ban hammer on a card that should not exist at this rarity in the first place.

    The printing of this card was a bad decision. How they could print this and then ban it so soon in such huge formats says to me that they printed the thing *knowing* they'd ban it as it went to the presses! Which means I *know* that everything they've said about New World Order reducing power level and complexity at common is, in fact, one big lie.

    So I really have no horse in this race. I've returned to playing with my paper collection of cards from sets that had balanced metagames on tabletops that don't crash when my opponent fetches a basic land that has a pleasing frame, font, and art style. I'd allow Treasure Cruise in my metagame...if I thought adding Khans block to my collection would be worthwhile. Which, judging by the Fate Reforged spoilers and news about Dragons, it won't be.

    In my book, this issue is indicative of a new Dark Age in Magic for me. It's happened before. I quit after Urza's block was relesed because Wizards was just making bad decisions at printing cards. I missed some good stuff in between for leaving, but after coming back during Lorwyn/Alara times I was able to catch up.

    I'm sure I'll miss some good stuff during this down time, but once Wizards starts designing cards that are worth playing and not intentionally printing card pools that destroy Casual Competitive Rarity Restricted formats like our beloved Standard Pauper, then I'll start being an active Magic player again.

    Wizards just doesn't deserve my support anymore because of thigns like this and everything else I listed. So it really doesn't matter too much to me whether Cruise is banned or not. The simple fact that such discussion is taking place is enough to remind me of the wisdom of my decision.

    TLDR; Ban or no ban, the damage is done.

  5. If I may take the opportunity to revise my previous comment directly above:

    I still maintain that the MTGO v4 is terrible software and a far worse enemy of every format than any card could ever hope to be.

    I still maintain that Mr. Rosewater's "New World Order" is a bunch of bull.

    However, after trying my first draft in Khans-Khans-Fate and purchasing some new Magic cards IRL, I have to say the new card frames and font have indeed grown on me and I reverse my conclusion: these things are just gorgeous, unique, and definitely a step forward. I accept and embrace the change and admit my mistake.

    Also, after reading up a bit on the Tarkir storyline, I find that Wizards has hit a home run when flavoring the wedges. My bias was that the wedges should have been defined based on the non-allied color in the middle of the wedge much like the Alara combinations had the central color at their core. However, after drawing some geometric diagrams to help me memorize the wedges, I can discern that there are several ways in which to define color combinations. One of these days somebody more experienced in mathematics and geometry will probably be able to explain this better than me, but I can confidently say that we've got even more shard and wedge combinations in future blocks. Another oopsie on my part corrected!

    There are some very interesting things happening in this block and getting back to the topic at hand, I think Treasure Cruise is a fine card. It may be too powerful in the formats it was just banned in. Now Standard Pauper has a big thing going for it: this is the format where the card is NOT broken in half but merely very powerful and defining. It could very well be an excellent selling point in getting Money Magic players who still want to fully realize the use-value out of their playsets to see the light and become Standard Pauper players.

    My apologies for my rant. I was not in the best states of mind. Now I'm off to go construct some decks that make use of this powerful card that will go down in history as one of the best commons ever to see print. And my thanks to the bloggers and players who shared their thoughts on this topic. I wouldn't have been able to come to this superior conclusion were it not for opening my mind to your intelligent insights.

    (Hot damn I'm a wordy S.O.B. :-))