Now, on to the cards in question:
To Ban, Or Not To Ban…
Balance: In the few formats in which this golden oldie is legal it’s Restricted. Clearly it’s insanely powerful, especially for it’s cost, but does it warrant banning in 100CS?
Personally, I’m on the fence with this one. 100CS is moreover a creature-dominated format. Week after week this is proven true in Premiere Events. Balance could offer some much needed parity (heh) for Combo and Control players, as well as decks like Reanimator and even more Midrange blends. Generally speaking, a Control or Combo deck would be trading cards in hand for cards on board, given the aggressor had a substantial bevy of dudes. But this won’t always be the case. If you shield your eyes in such a fashion and peek but to the horizon, Balance will more often be a grotesque one-sided blowout. Any takers?
Crucible of Worlds: Okay, this is an odd one to me. Let me first offer up the obvious apprehension: 1.) Wasteland lock and 2.) abusing the crap out of fetchlands. Truth be told, I don’t see either of these as a major concern. There’s many a much-deserved nonbasic land impediment out there as is: Blood Moon, Magus of the Moon, Dwarven Miner and Blastminer, Price of Progress, and Ruination. Furthermore, why not give 100CS players more access to their single copies of dual lands?
Demonic Tutor: Let me preface this by reminding you that this card was momentarily unbanned. Of course this was a deliberate ploy to drive sales on the Demonic vs. Divine Pre-con (gross, bro). Apologies to those of you that fell for that wallet punch (myself included). (I’ve wanted to address this in a public forum for some time now. Aaaaaand exhale. Whew.)
Alright, so let’s be honest. This card is stupid like the MP3. While I’m all for combating the inherit variance of 100CS, this may be a little too much of a fix. Even at sorcery-speed, it’s just flat ba-roken. I would go as far as to say that if some of the cards currently banned were to be freed up, they couldn’t be done so in conjunction with cards like Demonic and the soon-to-be discussed Vampiric Tuor. I suppose, it can ostensibly be used for any deck, not just to ferret out Combo pieces.
Flash: One copy of this card and one copy of Protean Hulk hardly seems risquÃ© in 100CS. Again, this will have a marginal impact, if that. Of course, like some of the cards on the list, it has other, more offbeat applications (like in Reanimator), but this is an easy one for me. Unban!
Gifts Ungiven: This one is understandably under lock and key. Playing Gifts almost always means game over in short order for the person picking what goes where. It enables a number of Combos with a single flick of the wrist. I’d love to add this to Reanimator’s arsenal, but regrettably it will find its way into far more abusive decks.
Imperial Seal: 2 life, placing the card on top of your deck, and at sorcery-speed… Seems like a baby Grim Tutor. Beyond cost, it’s hardly comparable with Vampiric Tutor. I fail to see the problem here.
Life from the Loam: While we’re on the subject of “one or the other” scenarios… Loam is another slow route of abuse, going one step further than Crucible by depriving you of a draw step and involving a repeated mana cost. Clearly, it has a home in a number of potential new decks, as well as old, scary ones. Something like Astral Slide/Lightning Rift coupled with cycling lands could make a format debut. Or maybe you’ll just become a spectator to the miracle of Wasteland lock.
Lion’s Eye Diamond: The backbone of the once played “Bomberman” in Singleton’s 60 card forefather. For those of you unaware of the aforementioned deck, it involves Diamond, Auriok Salvagers, some infinite mana, a lot of clicking, and something seemingly innocuous like Pyrite Spellbomb.
Much like Flash, this card belongs pretty much in a single, solitary deck. The drawback is a hefty one, not something you just casually toss into any old deck. At its current going rate (30ish Tix), and the time-consuming manner said Combo requires, I consider this less viable than something like Belcher or even Grindstone.
Mana Crypt: This card’s inherit drawback is conveniently printed right in its text box: good ol’ coin flippin’, damage dealin’ mana acceleration! Whether it’s increasing your Storm count or ramping out threats, Crypt obviously has a wide breadth of applications, none of which make it ban-worthy as a one-of in a 100 card deck, in my opinion.
Skullclamp: From what I’ve been told, Clamp wasn’t the perverse aberration in 100CS that it has been in other formats. I find this a little hard to believe, especially with as creature-centric the format is, but alas I wasn’t playing back then. The simple truth is that this card coupled with pretty much any dude spells trouble for the guy sitting across the table. Imagine this in a deck like Elves, or, worse yet, Gobbos! My goal here is to encourage some new action, not supersize the existing competition. No way, bro.
Strip Mine: More like strip yours!!! (An old joke, and a bad one…) Bottom line, any deck that plays a fair amount of nonbasics has a palpable phobia of Wasteland. I can’t count the times that the aforementioned card has been enough to blow the wheels right off of me. Strip Mine has zero prejudice when it comes to nuking lands, turning up the volume on this threat factor (especially in tandem with Crucible of Worlds and Life from the Loam).
As the sole banned land in the format, this strikes me as odd, even for a card as historically powerful as it is. I may stand in a minority here, but I’d like to see this one lifted, if even at the cost of Crucible and/or Loam. Yet again, it doesn’t take a genius to acknowledge the “one or the other” factor going on here.
Tinker: This is an obvious include for Combo decks like Belcher, Bomberman (if again made viable), and Painter/Grindstone, speeding each up considerably to their desired end game. As I said earlier, RDW and Gobbos (specifically) remain unimpeded in their brutality. Perhaps the best way level the playing field here is to fight fire with… well, scrap metal… Seriously though, unbanning Tinker could breed some interesting Esper/Affinity-style builds- something I have longed to see in action since Alara hit the digital streets.
Umezawa’s Jitte: Equipment number two on today’s docket is another banana peel in the hallways of WoTC R&D history (whoops). And while it’s most definitely a very powerful card, I don’t think it’s nearly as fearsome in 100CS as it’s proven to be in STD (of yore) and EXT. I suppose one of the neutralizing factors of Jitte has always been the “I’ll play mine to blow up yours” contingency. Unfortunately this won’t be a casual exchange given the format restrictions. The high density of creature-based decks in the format coupled with the fact that the majority of these decks already pack similar cards like Sword of Fire and Ice would make Jitte pretty much standard in any deck that opts to win through men.
My conclusion? Arguable indeed, but I could see it happening as a positive stimulus to the existing and underrated competitive nature of the format. Thoughts?
Vampiric Tutor: Ah, we’ve saved the best for last (and alphabetically so). To this very day Vamp sits in my collection gathering digital dust with the hopes of one day finding its way back into the format. But of all the deck manipulators out there, this one is by far the most absurd.
Control continues to falter as an archetype in this format, occasionally pulling out all the stops and managing a Top 8 here and there. But on the whole, Blue decks get the thick and sticky of these bannings. Vamp would give Blue/Black a massive edge… and Reanimator… and Belcher… and every other Combo and deck with the potential mana under the sun. This spells trouble on a few too many levels to ignore. Sadly, WoTC doth protest… and (sniff) so do I.
(Regarding all the cards in question: if they pose a problem once unbanned, simply reban them, no?)
Power to the People
For the first time in MTGOAcademy history, we are hosting a vote on the topic of the aforementioned banned cards. You simply go here, click the Micropoll link, and bolster a mighty “yea” or “nay!” Afterward, you can see where the community stands on the issue. And as always, give me some chatter in the comments below. ChrisKool and I intend to use these results as part of a 100CS banning revision proposition to WoTC, so shout it loud (and as eloquently as possible, please)! And, just to clarify, this is not intended to be a soapbox for WoTC slander. I love Magic, and if you’re reading this so do you. Seize the opportunity to be heard and offer your constructive criticism. Survival of the Fittest survived last month’s Ban update. Who knows what taking a few minutes of your time could garner.
That’s all for this week, people. Check back on the 21st as Kool and myself will so kindly be providing more content of controversy: The Top 100 Cards of 100 Card Singleton!!!
Travis R. Chance (so many trolls)