Doping with Dolphins II: The Terrible Trinket

Posted on Friday, January 11th, 2008 by JoINrbs
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Posted in mtg, strategy

Doping with Dolphins II: The Terrible Trinket

These days, it seems like sensei’s divining top is an auto-include in a lot of decks, and sometimes it makes sense. You want it in Aggro Red for shrapnel blast, and in TEPS because of its amazing interaction with mind’s desire. However, I am constantly stunned by its inclusion in 4, 5, or more-colour concoctions which attempt to combine it with counterbalance.

Let’s take a look at one of these decks:

Do not go gentle into that good night, as suggested by Remi Fortier

Basing his deck on the popular 1951 villanelle by Dylan Thomas may have won Fortier PT: Valencia, but it did not build a good deck. We can likely attribute his success to lucky draws – watching the top 8 I didn’t see him draw a second SDT a single time, unless it was to be discarded to thirst for knowledge – and solid play. The fact that a second SDT is at best a two-mana cantrip didn’t escape Fortier, who only played three, although worse players are often seen upping the number to four.

Now I’m not going to claim that there aren’t worse decks to put SDT into, and this deck actually has some good synergies with the card. Let’s look at some of them:

1. Can be fetched by trinket mage
2. Can be shuffled away by trinket mage
3. Can be shuffled away by a fetchland
4. Can find you a fetchland or trinket mage with which to shuffle it away
5. Artifact in graveyard for tarmogoyf if you destroy it with your engineered explosives
6. Allows stifle to cantrip by countering the put on top of library ability
7. Fills in the crucial 3-drop in the number of words in each card name curve
8. Easy to take out for sideboard bullets

That said, these are far outweighed by its detriments. The lesser offenses first:

1. Pumps other player’s tarmogoyfs if in graveyard
2. Low CC-card makes you less likely to cut to higher converted mana cost in a format where going first is crucial
3. You play kataki, retard
4. Risk of being shut down by your own pithing needle, especially under mindslaver (more problematic on modo, where you often need to turn off sensei golden-tail when you get paired against the first round random, and when you get paired against the guys in the 0-x bracket in later rounds).
5. Burning-tree shaman
6. Can’t be copied by vesuvan shapeshifter

Far and away though, the problem is tempo. The ablative singular form of the latin noun tempus, English for storm (tempest, temper, and New Orleans through French), tempo plays a crucial role in Magic: The Gathering as a mechanic from OLS block. Some decks can use tempo to kill you as soon as turn two with a flurry of rituals, artifacts, and then a large mind’s desire or tendrils of corruption.

Now this deck is seeking to not create tempo, as it can be used by your opponent to kill you, and yet tempo is the exact thing that SDT creates. With a low mana cost, SDT threatens to create one storm as early as your first turn, and considering that you can put it on top of your library to play it again the next turn, pretty quickly you can wind up with rains washing out the first day of the pro tour due to excessive testing, as happened in Valencia.

In contrast, you could be playing another threat in SDT’s place. One of the deck’s weaknesses is the difficulty it has in finding a win condition, and if SDT was simply replaced with Sundering Titan this problem would surely be averted.

When in doubt during deck building, just remember the rhyme: if it begins with Sensei, you’d rather have plenty. Of cabbage.