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Invasion Card Spotlight: Opt

Mike Flores




Look at the top card of your library. You may put that card on the bottom of your library.
Draw a card.

"We need alternatives, Hanna," yelled Gerrard. "Now!"

Illus. John Howe

My favorite set ever was Visions. Visions had very few truly broken cards, but was instead characterized by unspectacular powerful effects at a more-than-reasonable cost. Just run down the list of commonly encountered Visions cards, and you will see what I mean. Impulse, Man-o'-War, River Boa, Uktabi Orangutan, and Vampiric Tutor are certainly powerful... but they aren't Time Spiral powerful. Their main allure is the fact that they are very cheap cards that fit into a lot of decks, and are good against a lot of different kinds of decks. Therefore, a lot of decks played them.

Opt is just like the classic cards from Visions. While it doesn't seem to do very much, it does its little dance for one mana.

I guarantee you that most, if not all, blue-based Standard decks in the following year will play with four Opts.

Opt, first and foremost, is a cantrip card. While not true card drawing, it is reasonable card selection, and when played in a block of four, reduces a deck's de facto card count from 60 to 56 (we'll get back to this in a minute). Now if Opt were only a one card drawing wonder, it would be worse than both Sapphire Charm (hardly ever played in Constructed) and Whispers of the Muse (very commonly played in Constructed). However, Opt lets its user look at the top card of his or her library and choose whether or not that card is the one he or she wants in hand before drawing. Rather than being worse than Sapphire Charm, Opt is half the cost of Impulse for all the cards of Impulse (albeit with only half the selection). If you recall, Impulse was played in all serious blue decks while it was legal in Standard.

Extending the Opt/Impulse comparison further, I would like to resurrect two deck ideas from 1997, built by two of the game's most ingenious designers.

Alan Comer, 2nd Southern California Regional Championships
Turbo Xerox

Main Deck
4 Counterspell
3 Dissipate
1 Dream Tides
4 Force of Will
4 Foreshadow
4 Impulse
4 Man-o-War
4 Memory Lapse
4 Portent
4 Power Sink
4 Suq-ata Firewalker
4 Waterspout Djinn
17 Islands

I remember playing Alan in the finals of a Standard side event at a Pro Tour. He slaughtered my Frenetic Efreets in game one with his Firewalker Tims. I ended up getting very lucky, drawing 4 Man-o'-Wars and no Islands against his DanDans to win a tight three game series. I didn't understand why he didn't have any Thawing Glaciers. He kept Portent + Foreshadowing mine. Nonetheless, I knew Comer was one of the best players on the planet, though he didn't have a lot of the mainstream recognition (or the rogue design reputation) that he now commands.

Alan explained to me that while he had no Thaws, his deck was allowed to run on very few land because of all the cantrips! For every four 1-2 cc cantrips in one's deck, Alan told me, two land could be removed. The trick was, you had to use library manipulation early on to get to land, though later on, you could use it to get cool spells (Memory Lapse + Foreshadow and Portent + Foreshadow were particularly good). You will generally open up with fewer lands, but because your deck is essentially smaller, once you start going, it will yield more quality draws (and adequate mana) over time.

The other deck from the same Regionals was Erik Lauer's U/W deck.

Erik Lauer, Top 8 Ohio Valley Regionals

Main Deck
3 Lodestone Bauble 
4 Nevinyrral's Disk 

4 Brainstorm 
4 Counterspell 
4 Dissipate 
4 Force of Will 
4 Impulse 
1 Political Trickery 
4 Wrath of God 
1 Circle of Protection: Red 
1 Disenchant 

4 Thawing Glaciers
4 Kjeldoran Outpost 
6 Plains 
12 Island

If you look at modern control decks, the idea of only 22 mana-producing lands (4 of which destroy a land) seems pretty laughable. If there is one thing that the designers who have risen since this era (especially Zvi) have taught us, it is that we want lots and lots of land. However, like Comer's deck, Lauer's shortens itself with 11 cantrips (3 of which can return land), which makes this deck very respectable.

So with a card like Opt, we can take the Comer cantrip/abridged land count theory in at least two ways:

One of them is the post-Comer blue creature/card drawing deck. I am not going to hazard an actual deck list, as I'm not sure what kind of creature quality blue is going to pull from Invasion. However, the core theme would be lots of fliers and lots of cantrips.

Accumulated Knowledge, Opt, and Tsabo's Web are all automatic for this deck. Note that Accumulated Knowledge will be better than ever before with more cantrips feeding Knowledge into Knowledge. Opt is a given at 1 mana. Tsabo's Web is necessary as Port protection in a deck that has fewer lands than most. Likely you will want to toy with other cantrip cards, for example Brainstorm, Disrupt, and Teferi's Response, depending on the developing metagame.

The other deck possibility is a post-Lauer U/W deck. I think that with cantrips/search, a deck based around 8 Wraths would be very good. Since most Standard environments are creature-influenced (especially this post-Masques environment we will be entering), card drawing followed by card advantage seems like it would be a good plan. This deck would run blue permission and card drawing/selection (including Opt and Tsabo's Web, I should think), white removal, and some incidental win condition. Tsabo's Web is good in this deck because it protects both colors (and the expensive 4 and 5 cc nature of the deck in general) from Rishadan Port and Dust Bowl.

In sum, I think that Opt is a really exciting card. Though it is not spectacular in performance, Opt seems to be a return to the kind of card players run just because it is good and makes their decks more consistent, rather than the kind of card they play due to its overwhelming ability to win in a single turn.

To find out more about Invasion cards and Prerelease events, click here.

Tomorrow: Dave Price goes postal with Blazing Specter.

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