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Let's Show the Door to Show and Tell

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Legacy

Show and Tell Ban

Promo cards are awesome, which I was reminded when I recently found my collection of Dragon Ball Z cards from my childhood, stocked with tons of promos.

So it may come as a surprise that I was rather disappointed when I saw that there would be a judge promo Show and Tell. The art is amazing. (Although it would have been more accurate to have one guy with a Griselbrand and the other guy with a Mountain.) The reason for the disappointment was because it meant I would have to see countless 12-year-olds put Omniscience into play and mindlessly win for a long time to come.

The basic idea for the powerful Legacy deck is to Show and Tell into Omniscience. Use free cards like Ponder and Brainstorm to find Enter the Infinite and draw your deck, putting Omnscience or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn on top.  Cunning Wish for Release the Ants and cast it for free 20 or more times, as you will likely win the clash with whatever you chose to put back after Enter resolves.

That”s it in a nutshell.

Why Banning Is Necessary

I have had numerous people ask me what the best deck in Legacy is. The answer is Show and Tell. “Why aren’t you playing it then?” is the next question, but the response is easy: Because the deck will be banned.

Some people may misunderstand me here. They may think I am saying “Show and Tell will be banned immediately.” I am really saying something else. I think Show and Tell will eventually be banned, and it is better that it happens sooner rather than later.

The promo Show and Tell was indication that Wizards didn”t “plan” to ban the card, and no changes were made to the Legacy banned and restricted list earlier this week.

But if history has taught us anything, it is that even recently reprinted cards can get the axe. For those unaware, Wizards released a preconstructed Game Day deck called “War of Attrition” that contained two Stoneforge Mystics. The card was banned a few weeks later.

Show of Tell should join that list, and there are three strong reasons why it should be:

It only gets better

Over the years Wizards has, for better or worse, made a push for huge creatures and over-the-top mythic rares. Whereas Show and Tell used to put Akroma, Angel of Wrath and Verdant Force into play, it has benefitted from better and better card quality over the last few years.  Progenitus only lasted a few sets before Emrakul, the Aeons Torn replaced it, followed by Griselbrand and then Omniscience.

The balance of cards with powerful effects should be its mana cost, but Show and Tell cares not.  Cards like Ad Nauseam get better with cheap cantrips and low cost rituals — things that are not made anymore.  Storm is about as good as it will ever be, but Show and Tell, by virtue o its nature, has nowhere to go but up.

It”s extremely hard to hate

Some players refuse to lose to certain combo decks.  They jam excessive amounts of Dredge or Belcher hate into sideboards.  Overall, I think this is good for the game.  I don’t like to lose, and I especially don’t like to lose to strategies that win in one turn.

Currently, however,  Show and Tell can circumvent almost any triggered destruction with Cunning Wish into Trickbind.  It runs Leyline of Sanctity in the board to stop discard.  It runs upwards of eight free counterspells to stop opposing counterspells.  This leads to non-interactive games of Magic.

It resembles many banned cards

Channel was initially banned in competitive Magic due to the infamous ChannelFireball combo. You would cast Black Lotus, sacrifice it for green, play a Mountain to get one red mana, cast Channel paying 19 life, and use the remaining floating green mana from the Lotus to play Fireball for 20.

Channel is a two-mana card that make upwards of 19 (!) mana. Show and Tell is a three-mana card that makes (more or less) any amount of mana and makes your permanent of choice uncounterable.

The 2004 Banned and Restricted Announcement says:

“In our effort to make sure games last more than two or three turns, we felt we needed to get rid of Oath of Druids in addition to fast mana and combo enabling cards.  Oath of Druids effectively ends the game on turn two against almost all creature decks, making it essentially impossible to have a healthy environment as long as this card is legal.”

Show and Tell effectively ends the game on Turn 3 against almost all creature decks.

The story on Tinker is a little more interesting. The 1999 Banned and Restricted Announcement cut so many cards that the DCI did not give extremely specific reasons for any of them.  This was the coming of the debacle that was Urza’s Saga. The official announcement says:

“Over the past year, the Type 1 format has been dominated by very fast combination decks. Using these decks, players can win so quickly that they have little or no interaction with their opponents other than a finishing Fireball or Stroke of Genius.  Although combo decks are an important part of any tournament environment, they shouldn”t be so fast that opponents can do nothing to stop them. The new restrictions, designed to slow down fast combo decks, can be grouped into three broad categories: fast mana, combo engines, online casino and combo searchers.:

Interestingly, Tinker falls under the “combo searchers” category.  We were still a few years off from any Darksteel Colossus action and a decade from Blightsteel Colossus.  No, Tinker was banned because it found Memory Jar in Vintage.  Tinker was a three-mana draw-seven.

When the Vintage ban list split to accomodate Legacy, Tinker was grandfathered in because there was worry it would get Darksteel Colossus or Sundering Titan; both give windows of interaction that none of the current Show and Tell targets do.

The Line In The Sand

I have explained why Show and Tell should be banned. I have not mentioned why it will be banned.

Show and Tell will be banned because people will stop playing Legacy if it isn”t. Maybe not tomorrow, but someday, it will happen.

I am not going to lie to you — people don’t like to lose. I know this is probably a shocking revelation and all. You”ve probably spent all this time up until now thinking opponents love being crushed by all your cool blue spells while they durdle around with Forests, right?

When people lose to the same strategy repeatedly, the game becomes unfun and they stop playing. This was the reason given for Delver of Secrets not being banned, even though Jace, the Mind online casino Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic got the axe. In the previous case,  people continued to play Magic despite Delver of Secrets dominating the metagame for weeks; in the latter case, tournament attendance dropped considerably.

The fact is Show and Tell is no fun. It is hard to hate. It leads to unsatisfying games where even if you have Oblivion Ring, they have Cunning Wish into Trickbind to handle it.  It took years to get Storm decks to competitive levels, and they”re very difficult to just pick up and play without extensive familiarization. In contrast, you could take some random person off the steet, spend a half an hour with them, and they could win with Show and Tell. I am not sure that is a bad thing, but it sure makes hours of playtesting and learning differing paths of play seem like they were all for naught.

The only way I have figured out how to have an outside shot of winning with aggro decks is to splash for counterspells from the board. The real solution is to just not play aggro decks.

Other Options

Some people would suggest a different approach to dealing with Show and Tell.  The main suggestion is banning Omniscience and/or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.  The problem with that is that we just end up waiting around until the next high-cost mythic with a game-ending effect is made.  Then, we are looking at banning that as well, while the enabler remains untouched.  The same argument gets rehashed every time a new high-power, over-costed card is exploited by an impressive draw engine, efficient tutor, or fast mana source.

It’s akin to putting the outside of a burning house out while letting the inside burn.  Eventually you are in the same situation all over again because you haven”t dealt with the core problem.

I suspect when Show and Tell is eventually banned, that the DCI will unban a few other cards at the same time.  They did this when Survival of the Fittest was banned by unbanning Time Spiral. There are a few obvious choices, such as Hermit Druid and Worldgorger Dragon.  Perhaps a few other interesting choices are Memory Jar and Mind’s Desire.

Hermit Druid

Hermit Druid is a part of a graveyard-based combo.  If you run all non-basic lands in your deck, you can deck yourself, which is an instant win in Legacy.  You flip three Narcomeoba and then cast Dread Return targeting Angel of Glory’s Rise, returning Azami, Lady of Scrolls and Laboratory Maniac, drawing a card and winning with Azami’s ability in the process.  This is a bit of a glass cannon; Hermit Druid also has to survive a turn to activate his ability in addition to ducking plentiful graveyard hate.  Furthermore, this effect exists currently in the form of the Balustrade Spy/Undercity Informer combo which does the same thing.  It also forces a player to run all non-basic lands in a format where at least a third of decks run Wasteland.

Worldgorger Dragon

Worldgorger Dragon on the other hand is much like Omniscience is in the Show and Tell deck, in that it enables the combo but isn”t the source of the win.

The combo for those unaware involves targeting Worldgorger Dragon with Animate DeadWorldgorger Dragon enters the battlefield and triggers, which exiles your other permanents (including Animate Dead) when it resolves.  With the trigger on the stack, tap all your lands for mana.  Worldgorger Dragon’s ability resolves exiling all your permanents; when Animate Dead leaves the battlefield, it causes Worldgorger Dragon to die, thereby returning all your lands and Animate Dead to play.   Target Worldgorger Dragon with Animate Dead and start the loop again.  This makes infinite mana and you can win with any instant-speed Fireball variant, or you can Animate Ambassador Laquatus and mill your opponent.

If this card was ever unbanned, I expect the combo would now be with Piranha Marsh instead; without it, there is a real danger with Worldgorger Dragon in that with no way to stop the combo with another Animate target or an instant-speed win, it will form an un-ending infinite loop and draw the game.  I feel that this isn’t going to happen as much as people want to think it would happen; if I am able to successfully Animate Dead a Worldgorger Dragon, I probably could have used it on a Griselbrand and won easier and safer.

Memory Jar

Memory Jar has quite a history.  Urza”s Saga was four months old when Jar became legal.  During those four months, there was a large public outcry against the large number of broken Urza Saga cards.  The DCI”s first round of bannings in December 1998 didn”t fix things, and players began leaving the game in droves.  It was vitally important to the health of the game to clean things up before too many players walked away, so quite a large number of cards were included in the March 1999 announcement, which would become effective April 1st of that year.  Players were optimistic that “Combo Winter” was finally going to end.  However, after a mere week of being legal, Memory Jar appeared in a combo deck using Megrim to kill its opponent.  The DCI felt the stakes were too high and retroactively banned the card to prevent more players from leaving.

Today the card seems worse than many other similar cards; Ad Nauseam alone tends to draw many more cards.  Reforge the Soul has failed to break any top-8s so I doubt this card would make much of a difference.  It is an artifact, so traditional sideboard tutors like Cunning Wish and Burning Wish can not find it.  It is stopped by Pithing Needle and Phyrexian Revoker.  I feel that it would give decks like Metalworker and possibly Tezzeret Control a boost, but would not be seen elsewhere.  Its” history alone is what keeps it banned, but with so many turn-one kill decks in the format already, I don’t see why this card is any worse than Goblin Charbelcher.

Mind”s Desire

Mind’s Desire is another card that I think is fine.  I have my doubts it will be removed any time soon, since it is another card with a dark past. Mind’s Desire has never seen play in Legacy; the card was pre-emptively banned before it was released.  Internal testing showed it to be extremely easy to end games when it was cast. It dominated Extended for a time, typically with Twiddle on Gilded Lotus or Grim Monolith (Hey…that sounds familiar!)

The card has a few things going against it that make it reasonable to remove from the ban list.  First, it has double-blue in its mana cost; this means you cannot efficiently cast it from Dark Ritual or Rite of Flame, both critical to fueling a storm win in the current environment.  The only blue “ritual” is High Tide, but that deck already has a six-mana win called Time Spiral anyway.  Making wo blue mana is hard for most storm decks to do quickly, so if this card was legal it would spawn a slower storm deck or just take Time Spiral’s spot in High Tide.  Mind’s Desire would not fit into an Ad Nauseam Tendrils deck due to its high mana cost.  Some people might argue that Mind’s Desire can cast another Mind’s Desire, but the result is the same if you cast Ad Nauseam: You win the game.  If anything would prevent this card from being unbanned, it is that it is more or less uncounterable without Flusterstorm or Mindbreak Trap.  I have a feeling that the storm deck that this card would enable would possibly be slow enough to lose to aggro decks like Goblins or Burn, for what it’s worth.

Finishing Up

That having been said, we should remember that a discussion like this is one of the few ways to inspire change.  I think something should change.  The topic of banning and unbanning is always touchy, since it relies on some standard that is rather unclear.  What is too good?  People tend to hold differing views, especially when they are financially invested, and this can lead to non-conversations. I only hope that I have brought some reasonable semblance of a discussion on the topic; something that might transcend the standard and let people see as I see.

Michael Linear

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