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Finding the Tinker Deck

Mike Flores

In 1998, Eric Taylor wrote that there were almost no new deck ideas. He said that there were very few new actual decks since the inception of competitive Magic, the first of which was Adrian Sullivan's Baron Harkkonnen, which would later become the inspiration for polychromatic control decks such as Donais U5C and any u-g list based on Gaea's Blessing, library manipulation, and Oath of Druids.

For my part, I would both agree and disagree with edt (Taylor). To be fair, the Baron was itself a defensive Big Blue descendent; though the inclusion of green (specifically Sylvan Library) in this control is Adrian's landmark, the Baron was nonetheless built on the foundations of Lauer and Weissman before him*. Though I disagree with his example, edt is fundamentally correct in that format after format, the cards fall into recognizable patterns that we call the deck archetypes.

Briefly, these include CounterSliver, Necro, Prison, Sligh, Stompy, Weissman, Toolbox, Tinker, and The Enigma. While the iconic models for decks are themselves fairly irrefutable, the positioning of one build or another historically has a great deal of play. There are, for example, many times when a deck can float between CounterSliver and Weissman (CounterRebels), Weissman and Prison (Maher Oath), or Prison and Tinker (The German Dragon). The Enigma, that most curious of decks that visits us only when a mistake has been made somewhere on the higher planes of the Magic universe, has itself touched many of the archetypes over the years.


"You're pulling a LaBarre on us!"
-Marc Paschover

Sometimes called aggro-control, CounterSliver is characterized by small and quick clocks backed up by light control elements. A bad permission deck? Usually. A bad beatdown deck? Sometimes. A beating itself? At times.

The CounterSliver deck is designed to slide low mana threats under counterspell walls and protect these with some control element (usually permission) while they hassle the opposing life total.

CounterSliver decks shine in Weissman-heavy fields, where any typical hand will yield a cheap threat, and the light-to-moderate permission count can stop creature removal and/or card advantage. CounterSliver decks also do fairly well against The Enigma, as combination decks can be broken up with permission; in the case of CounterSliver over Weissman, the opponent will have less time to either set up or recover, as he is being clocked by annoying 2/2s.

CounterSliver decks are typically awful against other creature decks because they tend to have smaller creatures and low board control. CounterSliver decks tend to be positively abysmal against board control strategies like Prison, especially those with extremely redundant creature control elements.

In the current Standard environment, there is no true CounterSliver deck. The Blue Skies deck is a little slow, but echoes the basic premise of the deck (creatures, low board control, permission). It also tends to perform brilliantly against control decks and completely flop against true creature decks, like Fires.

	For Reference: Blue Skies - "Tight" Tommy Guevin

	4 Chimeric Idol
	3 Sky Diamond

	4 Foil
	4 Gush
	4 Opt
	4 Rishadan Airship
	4 Spiketail Hatchling
	4 Thwart
	4 Troublesome Spirit
	4 Wash Out

	21 Island

While Counter-Rebels tends to play like a Weissman control deck in most matchups, essentially a u-w control deck running the Rebel chain in lieu of both its Blinding Angel and Fact or Fiction slots, against another Weissman deck, Counter-Rebels sneaks a 1 or 2 mana Rebel under Counterspell and Absorb and rides her to victory in a very CounterSliver vein.

	For Reference: Counter-Rebels - Kamiel Cornelissen

	1 Rebel Informer

	4 Brainstorm
	4 Counterspell
	1 Dominate
	2 Fact or Fiction

	4 Absorb

	2 Defiant Falcon
	2 Defiant Vanguard
	1 Disenchant
	2 Dismantling Blow
	1 Jhovall Queen
	2 Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero
	4 Ramosian Sergeant
	1 Ramosian Sky Marshal
	2 Wrath of God
	1 Rout

	4 Adarkar Wastes
	4 Coastal Tower
	10 Island
	8 Plains

Probably the best example of a "real" CounterSliver deck that we have seen in recent Constructed Magic is The Solution, which Zvi Mowshowitz used to win PT-Tokyo. The deck has a nice array of low mana clocks, including probably the best 2/2 for 2 ever printed, and is backed up by very light permission. Like the original CounterSliver decks, Zvi's has big problems with the mean old Kavu Chameleon.

	For Reference: The Solution - Zvi Mowshowitz 

	4 Exclude
	4 Fact or Fiction
	4 Repulse
	4 Stormscape Apprentice

	4 Absorb
	4 Galina's Knight
	4 Meddling Mage

	4 Crimson Acolyte
	4 Voice of All
	4 Coastal Tower
	10 Island
	10 Plains

Probably the most notable performance by a CounterSliver deck was Nicholas LaBarre's run with a metagamed Merfolk deck, where he deftly dodged the underrepresented creature decks and drew multiple Forces of Will against the crowd of Academy and High Tide players.


"Your deck is like Necro with Icequakes!"
-Josh Ravitz

While the card Necropotence itself has been both worshipped and reviled by Magic players since the restriction of Black Vise for the very first Pro Tour, the archetype itself stands for a set of principles exclusive to the card advantage engine to which they rely. Put simply, the "Necro" strategy involves the use of mana efficient threats and answers (usually one-for-one, sometimes invested), running an independent card drawing engine to keep the flow of these threats and answers moving; the "classic Necropotence" deck was a study in elegance for both mana maximization and card advantage. The reason was that Necropotence itself was so powerful that the rest of the deck could focus on just tapping out every turn, trusting that the deck's namesake would fuel the deck... so long as its life total and mana base held, anyway.

Possibly the most brilliant Necropotence deck of the classic style was built by Erik Lauer for the first PT Chicago. Randy Buehler made a huge splash with his first striking bears and Lake-powered Drains. Because Necropotence was so very powerful, getting the card into play was of paramount importance. Once that had been established, the Necropotence player would never miss any land drops, and he could afford to play invested answers like the then-underrated Firestorm. The superiority of the CMU Firestorm Necrodeck was nested in its total mana efficiency... unlike other designs running inherent card advantage spells such as Nekrataal, or heavy-hitters like Wildfire Emissary, the CMU deck expected to play more cards, rather than to expect more performance from any given card.

	For Reference: Firestorm Necro (PT Chicago '97 Winning design) - 
	Erik Lauer / Randy Buehler

	4 Demonic Consultations
	4 Drain Life
	4 Hymn to Tourach
	1 Ihsan's Shade
	4 Knight of Stromgald
	4 Necropotence
	4 Order of the Ebon Hand

	2 Firestorm
	2 Incinerate
	4 Lightning Bolt

	3 Disenchant

	2 Bad River 
	4 Badlands
	3 Gemstone Mine
	3 Lake of the Dead
	4 Scrubland
	8 Swamp

While we no longer have anything on the order of Necropotence itself to abuse in Standard, the principles of the Necrodeck remain. Eric Kesselman's Eye-Go deck keeps its hand full with Accumulated Knowledge and Fact or Fiction. Rather than sweeping the board in the traditional sense with cards like Rout, Wrath of God, or a Circle of Protection, Eye-Go answers them threats one at a time, using both heavy permission and point removal.

By pure coincidence, the original Necrodeck and its Evil Eyed descendent even have the same foil... While the classic Necros of old fell left and right to Tom Champheng's 12 protection from black Knights and Orders, Kesselman's deck prays valiantly for an early Vendetta, lest it pack to Ramosian Sergeant.

	For Reference: Eye-Go - Eric Kesselman

	3 Evil Eye of Orms-by-Gore  
	4 Vendetta  

	4 Accumulated Knowledge  
	4 Counterspell  
	2 Dominate  
	2 Exclude  
	4 Fact or Fiction  
	1 Opt  
	2 Thwart  

	2 Spite/Malice  
	4 Undermine  
	4 Tsabo's Web  
	13 Island  
	4 Salt Marsh  
	4 Swamp  
	3 Underground River  


"Better lucky than good!"
-Chris Cade

Originally the Armageddon-packing Icy Manipulator + Icy Manipulator + Winter Orb lock foil of 1996, the Prison has grown into the archetype that epitomizes board control over true control. The Prison hates creature decks and tends to play way after way to answer attack-based threats. At the same time, it tends to be completely unable to defeat well-prepared Weissman-flavored control decks because so very many card slots are devoted to creature sanction (the rare case is when a mana controlling deck will successfully play a card like Winter Orb against a true control deck with no main deck Disenchants).

In their focus on board control, from Chris Cade's original design forward, the Prison archetype has often boasted heavy mana control elements as well as creature defense. While there are no mainstream Prison decks in the current Standard environment, Brian Kibler's recently posted ThunderCats deck exemplifies the focus on a very creature- and mana-hostile environment, and shares much of the original's vulnerability to well-prepared Weissman decks.

	For Reference: ThunderCats - Brian Kibler
	4 Fire Diamond
	2 Star Compass

	3 Earthquake
	2 Flowstone Overseer
	2 Ghitu Fire
	3 Hammer of Bogardan
	4 Pillage
	4 Scoria Cat
	4 Seal of Fire
	4 Stone Rain
	1 Tahngarth, Talruum Hero
	3 Tectonic Break
	2 Dust Bowl
	18 Mountain
	4 Rishadan Port

Among decks that concentrate purely on board control, the recent development of Nether-Haups/Turbo-Obliterate also falls under the Prison. By a pure coincidence of available cards (notably Nether Spirit, Obliterate, and Urza's Rage), this Prison deck sometimes has game one deck advantage against control (a rarity for the archetype). Then again, should the true control decks recover their balance with weapons like Misdirection, Thwart, or the like, this advantage is generally lost.


"This is the best card in Magic, basic Mountain."
-Dave Price

This deck needs no introduction. Originally misnamed for the first player to qualify for the Pro Tour with the archetype (Paul Sligh), the innovative "Geeba" deck was designed by Jay Schneider. The principles of Sligh are the mana curve and playing suboptimal cards in specific combinations in order to generate selective card advantage and an overall winning design. What the deck list often gives up in terms of card quality is often made up for by its exceptional mana efficiency and the late-game burn potential of the color red.

For a short while, WotC's printing of incredibly powerful and cheap cards, including Cursed Scroll, Fireblast, Jackal Pup, and Mogg Fanatic temporarily catapulted the Sligh archetype to Enigma-level status and made it the undisputed best deck of about three Constructed formats, concurrently.

In any case, Sligh decks have historically punished slow control decks and fallen prey to busty green creatures. In environments powered up by blue super decks, forcing green fatties to the fringe, it flourished. In environments like today's Standard, where a green creature deck is the consensus first choice, Sligh is unpopular to say the least.

Will red decks make a return? For this to take place, the Standard environment will have to make room for red creatures of similar speed and power-to-mana cost ratio to the green creatures. It will have to elevate the efficiency of red's fire spells, and make them at least capable of removing the most common opposing threats. Nevertheless, don't expect a red return while Blastoderm remains legal.

All of that being said, Standard is a Sligh-poor, not Sligh-less format. As recently as PT Chicago, Austin's Bryan Hubble played a monored deck full of substandard red creatures and odd numbers of synergistic spells to a money finish.

	For Reference: Sped Red - Bryan Hubble

	4 Chimeric Idol
	4 Tangle Wire

	3 Hammer of Bogardan
	4 Kris Mage
	2 Rhystic Lightning
	2 Scorching Lava
	4 Seal of Fire
	2 Shock
	4 Skittish Kavu
	4 Skizzik
	3 Urza's Rage

	21 Mountain
	3 Rishadan Port


"SeNoR sToMpY!"
-Sensei Frank Kusumoto

The original Senor Stompy deck was developed after US Nationals 1997 by the then-Constructed specialists Team AustiKnights as a mono-green Winter Orb/mana management deck. The AustiKnight deck list was passed to beatdown specialist Brian Hacker and quickly found a Top 8 finish at that year's Worlds by superstar-to-be Svend Geertsen.

Since that time, we have come to look at "Stompy" as a monogreen beatdown deck focusing on 1- and 2- mana threats, extremely high quality creatures, and rather than the Sligh deck's red removal, creature enhancement, for the alternate punch. The Stompy archetype may have been at its height with the combination of Urza's Block "Savannah Lions," Sixth Edition's reprint of the best two mana creature of all time, and Masque Block's green reprint of the Juzam Djinn. Though his version did not include Blastoderm (as most decks of the time did), current unstoppable force Ryan Fuller was able to take the 2000 Canadian Nationals with this deck:

	For Reference: Stompy - Ryan Fuller

	4 Tangle Wire

	2 Albino Troll
	4 Elvish Lyrist
	3 Giant Growth
	4 Pouncing Jaguar
	4 Rancor
	4 River Boa
	2 Uktabi Orangutan
	4 Vine Dryad
	4 Wild Dogs
	3 Wild Might

	17 Forest
	3 Gaea's Cradle
	2 Treetop Village

Regardless of its actual lineage, there is no reason in particular why the Stompy archetype has to be a mono-green deck. At one point, Adrian Sullivan suggested to me that black beatdown decks running creature enhancement and not creature kill were essentially the same thing as the Stompy decks, and for a while, we were even saying "Hatred" while casting Might of Oaks.

In the current Standard environment, cards like Fires of Yavimaya, Assault/Battery, and Shivan Wurm create a disincentive to mono-green beatdown strategies. However, at Neutral Ground New York, it was quickly discovered that there is a Stompy deck for the format, though it has since fallen out of favor. This version of beatdown Rebels has no Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero, no utility cards at all, but tons and tons of redundant 1- and 2-mana cost creatures as well as an impressive set of damage enhancers, including Infantry Veteran, Crusade, and Ramosian Rally.

	For Reference: White Stompy - Sean McKeown

	4 Tangle Wire

	4 Armageddon
	4 Crusade
	4 Fresh Volunteers
	4 Infantry Veteran
	4 Ramosian Rally
	4 Ramosian Sergeant
	4 Steadfast Guard
	4 Longbow Archers

	20 Plains
	4 Rishadan Port

More recently, Gert Coeckelbergh of Belgium won his Regional Championships with a mono-green deck of the Stompy vein.

	For Reference: St0mpers0n.dec - Gert Coeckelbergh

	4 Chimeric Idol
	4 Tangle Wire

	4 Blastoderm
	2 Hurricane
	4 Llanowar Elves
	4 River Boa
	4 Saproling Burst
	4 Stampede Driver
	4 Trained Armodon

	2 Dust Bowl
	20 Forest
	4 Rishadan Port

Despite its unusually high mana count, in some ways the Coeckelbergh deck is closer to the original AustiKnights design that Geertsen made famous some years ago than the focused aggro decks, such as Fuller's. The Coeckelbergh build uses Tangle Wire, Rishadan Port, and Dust Bowl to disrupt the opposing mana base; unlike most, it has a non-combat "reach" spell in Hurricane... while other designs of this philosophy may command more cost efficient beatdown creatures, this deck also has a finisher should the primary plan be stopped.


"One way to put it is in volleyball terms: It doesn't matter how many points you give up as long as you only give up fewer than 15. In the same way, the Weissman School will happily give up 19 points of life as long as the final 20th point is denied."
- Robert Hahn

Many, many years ago there was a boy in California who invented "card advantage." He and his friends thought that 20 life was too little, and invented a set of rules allowing them to play longer games and explore a whole new focus in deck design. Where others sought speed, even pure card power, Brian Weissman and his cohorts developed the fortress philosophy, assembling The Deck with the outlook to answer all comers, defend always, and finish at the point that the game had already been lost... by the opponent.

The Weissman deck (affectionately called The Deck) concentrated solely on defense; while most other players divided their resources between both offense and defense, this philosophy chose to concentrate almost exclusively on one side of the game only... effectively doubling their prowess in that regard. The card mix was equal parts selection, speed, and efficiency. While The Deck may have taken a long time to win, it played from the first turns of the game with answers like Red Elemental and Swords to Plowshares. Even its kill cards played blocker while serving in the air: Serra Angel was the Blinding Angel or Morphling of her day, and Mirror Universe played both life gainer and game winner:

	For Reference: The Deck (circa 1996) - Brian Weissman

	1 Black Lotus
	2 Disrupting Scepter
	1 Jayemdae Tome
	1 Mirror Universe
	1 Mox Emerald
	1 Mox Jet
	1 Mox Pearl
	1 Mox Ruby
	1 Mox Sapphire
	1 Sol Ring

	1 Demonic Tutor

	1 Amnesia
	1 Ancestral Recall
	1 Braingeyser
	2 Counterspell
	4 Mana Drain
	1 Timetwister
	1 Timewalk
	1 Recall

	1 Regrowth

	2 Red Elemental Blast

	4 Disenchant
	2 Moat
	2 Serra Angel
	4 Swords to Plowshares

	4 City of Brass
	4 Island
	1 Library of Alexandria
	3 Plains
	3 Strip Mine
	4 Tundra
	2 Volcanic Island

There are numerous descendents to the Weissman legacy. Randy Buehler's Worlds 1998 and 1999 monoblue decks (particularly the latter) are defensive examples, hiding behind walls of card drawing and permission, killing with the essential resource of land itself. The Blinding Angel and Bribery u-w decks of the current Standard environment echo The Deck even more closely. They, too, are u-w defensive decks running mass card advantage, permission, and multi-use creatures for the kill; lists from David Price, Scott McCord, and Alex Shvartsman, among others, are available all over the Internet.


"Oh that deck... I call that 'Dystopia.dec'."
-Erik Lauer

I intend to do a more thorough analysis of this philosophy at a later date, as I find its evolution to be unusually interesting. Briefly, the deck focuses on overall utility, generally attempting to answer threats (and various types of permanents, in particular) with a variety of versatile cards. The Toolbox moniker, proper, is borrowed from Brian Kowal's Survival/Opposition deck (a 2000 era Extended deck that falls in the middle of Toolbox evolution). Toolbox's is a rich tradition that flows from Bertrand Lestree and Preston Poulter at 1996 Pro Tour-New York, through the dominance of g5c at Regionals 1997, through the Kastle and Survival / Recur (and post-Survival / Recur) decks of the following year, and back to the original G/W creature / disruption decks of the archetype's roots.

Though at first glance the Toolbox procession seems, at times, disjointed, we must always consider the efficiency of the base utility cards (and white spot removal in particular) available during any given environment. There are times when Toolbox touches the Prison, Tinker, and especially Weissman decks; certainly it has the Weissman "take all comers" attitude towards the opposition; there are even times when the Toolbox is "the best control deck" of an environment (such as the Survival/Living Death decks of Regionals 1999). While both decks strive for maximum efficiency, and by their very natures have to answer a variety of opponents, the main differentiation between Weissman and Toolbox are that the former strives for maximum defensive redundancy whereas the Toolbox plays "both" sides of the game, simply expecting more work from its cards. Because of this, Toolbox's spells often pull double weight; "removal and win condition" and "card drawing and something else" are the most common combinations.

Better than any other deck, Toolbox forces the opponent to interact with its cards. It will not play goldfish to an opposing beatdown strategy, and has the tools to defeat aggressive decks if given sufficient turns. Decks that have no cards to interact with (decks focused on board control, decks that can kill in a single turn, beatdown decks that can evade and kill in a single turn) pose the greatest challenges for the deck. Nevertheless, even control strategies sometimes fall prey to the mana sanction often employed by this tradition.

In the present Standard environment, the Toolbox position is played by PT Junk:

	For Reference: PT Junk - Becker/Flores/Senhouse

	4 Chimeric Idol

	4 Armadillo Cloak
	4 Noble Panther
	4 Wax/Wane

	4 River Boa

	4 Fresh Volunteers
	4 Parallax Wave
	4 Ramosian Sergeant
	4 Voice of All

	4 Brushland
	6 Forest
	8 Plains
	4 Rishadan Port
	1 Rith's Grove
	1 Treva's Ruins

Like many of the deck's historical ancestors, this incarnation of the g-w creature deck plays answers to the various classes of opposing permanents, and runs light life gain and a multi-purpose creature base.

As mentioned above, expect a more in-depth study of the Toolbox at a later date.


"Somehow I don't think that mana acceleration and expensive spells is a sound strategy."
-Mike Donais

I, and my sometime design partner (and Parallax-Replenish designer) Don Lim, unfortunately concur. Too often we have gotten the "all Elf draw," or the "all Monolith draw." But over and over the Tinker strategy has proved its power with both mana acceleration and extremely expensive cards can devastate the opponent, not only in their sheer power, but with the speed at which they resolve.

There have been "Tinker" decks since Magic's very beginnings. While Llanowar Elves and Wild Growths have been powering out Craw Wurms since the beginning, the most famous early design probably belongs to Jamie Wakefield, King of the Fatties. Here is the version that legend of Magic used to qualify for the first actual Tinker Pro Tour, New York '99:

	For Reference: Secret Force - Jamie Wakefield

	4 Creeping Mold
	3 Elvish Lyrist
	4 Fyndhorn Elves
	4 Llanowar Elves
	3 Overrun
	4 Spike Feeder
	2 Spike Weaver
	4 Natural Order
	3 Uktabi Orangutan
	3 Verdant Force
	4 Wall of Roots

	16 Forest
	3 Gaea's Cradle
	3 Wasteland

Note that Jamie plays exceptionally expensive spells, such as the Verdant Force and Overrun. To cast these kind of threats, he obviously has to play with a number of accelerants, here 12 different mana-producing creatures and 4 Natural Orders (which allow him to "cheat" on the mana costs.

As we have hinted, the Tinker deck proper appeared at PT New York immediately following Jamie's qualification for the Tour (to this day, Jamie refers to Tinker decks as "Blue Secret Force"). While Gaea's Cradle was good in Jamie's deck, the sometimes-banned Tolarian Academy was ridiculous in McCarrel's... and with good reason. The cards in this deck are, on average, even more expensive than those in the monogreen predecessor. Like the Natural Orders in Secret Force, McCarrel's Wildfire build used Tinker proper to find the specific artifact necessary to tie up any given game.

	For Reference: Wildfire-Tinker (PT NY '99 Winning design) - 
	Casey McCarrel

	4 Grim Monolith
	1 Mishra's Helix
	2 Phyrexian Colossus
	1 Phyrexian Processor
	2 Ring of Gix
	3 Temporal Aperture
	3 Worn Powerstone
	4 Voltaic Key

	2 Confiscate
	1 Stroke of Genius
	4 Tinker

	3 Arc Lightning
	1 Crater Hellion
	4 Wildfire

	6 Island
	13 Mountain
	1 Remote Isle
	1 Smoldering Crater
	4 Tolarian Academy

Some months after McCarrel's win in New York, unstoppable multi-champion Kai Budde of Germany won the World Championships with a mono-red version of the archetype. While his deck does not contain any blue (or the namesake card Tinker), Budde's deck, the German Dragon, echoes the philosophy of the Tinker family: extremely powerful and expensive spells powered into play by rule-breaking mana accelerants.

	For Reference: The German Dragon 
	(World Championships '99 Winning design) - Kai Budde

	4 Cursed Scroll
	4 Fire Diamond
	4 Grim Monolith
	1 Karn, Silver Golem
	3 Masticore
	2 Mishra's Helix
	4 Temporal Aperture
	4 Thran Dynamo
	4 Voltaic Key
	2 Worn Powerstone 

	4 Covetous Dragon
	4 Wildfire 
	3 Ancient Tomb
	4 City of Traitors
	13 Mountain 

Then, exactly one year later, an even more unstoppable player in Jon Finkel won the Worlds with the other (Tinker) half of the deck, just as Budde had taken the same tournament with the Wildfire half. Tipping a hat to the power of the deck, Finkel defeated Bob Maher, Jr. for the title, who was playing a nearly identical design.

	For Reference: Tinker (World Championships '00 Winning design) - 
	Jon Finkel

	1 Crumbling Sanctuary
	4 Grim Monolith
	4 Masticore
	4 Metalworker
	1 Mishra's Helix
	1 Phyrexian Colossus
	4 Phyrexian Processor
	4 Tangle Wire
	4 Thran Dynamo
	4 Voltaic Key

	4 Brainstorm
	4 Tinker

	4 Crystal Vein
	9 Island
	4 Rishadan Port
	4 Saprazzan Skerry

That being said, the title of this article is "Finding the Tinker Deck." In Standard today, we do not have a combined "Demonic Tutor" + "Dark Ritual" (that is, a search mechanism that also accelerates our threats into play) in Tinker or Natural Order. What we do have is the mana accelerant half, and the fruits of this side of the archetype (the Budde side, as it were), gives us the de facto leading deck of Standard:

	For Reference: My Fires - Zvi Mowshowitz

	4 Chimeric Idol

	4 Assault/Battery
	4 Fires of Yavimaya

	4 Birds of Paradise
	4 Blastoderm
	4 Llanowar Elves
	3 Jade Leech
	4 Saproling Burst

	3 Two-Headed Dragon
	1 Earthquake

	2 Dust Bowl
	10 Forest
	4 Karplusan Forest
	5 Mountain
	4 Rishadan Port

The traditional weakness of the Tinker archetype is hidden in Mike Donais's quote from Regionals 1999. The deck is capable of very explosive openings, but it is most vulnerable to itself. There are times when a player will not get a good mix of spells, and will instead fall prey to the "all expensive threat draw" or the "all Elf draw," whose lament I mentioned previously.

It's the last fatty that kills you.

The power of mana accelerants and expensive threats is thus: The bigger, the meaner, the monster, the more difficult it is to deal with it. Now if such a monster rears its two heads on turn 6 or 7, where it belongs, the opponent can reasonably deal with it given similar development; likely he will be able to answer with either a more mana-efficient spell or with card advantage. However, when 5/5 threats come out on turn 3, hasted and attacking, the threats are much more problematic. The Tinker decks have traditionally "out-threated" their control counterparts; because they have so much mana acceleration available to them, they can often churn out two or three threats per turn, while the opponent only has enough mana to answer one or two. In Wakefield language, "It's the last fatty that kills you."

That being said, the archetype is most vulnerable to its own draws. While with a "threat draw," meaning *sufficient* mana and no more, the modern Fires of Yavimaya deck can generally throw down Fires of Yavimaya on turn 2, Blastoderm on turn 3, Saproling Burst on turn 4, and back up each threat with another, turn after turn. When 5/5 creatures are rushing at the opponent each turn, hasted, it is difficult for even "the bad matchups," like Eye-Go or u-w counter-Wrath to answer the combined speed and power of the opponent.

The Enigma

There are times when something goes terribly wrong and there's nothing you can do about it.

Among the competitive Constructed crowd, it is joked that WotC Research and Development "has made all the decks for us, so we might as well play them." It is also joked that sometimes something slips between the cracks, and impossibly powerful cards see the light of a released set.

Now this is not, on its face, a bad thing. Zvi Mowshowitz is quick to point out that without printing "the broken cards," we cannot effectively test the limits of what *is* an acceptable Constructed card; furthermore, when any of them becomes a problem, we have the power to ban the overly powerful cards.

That being said, there are some decks that are just better than their contemporaries. These decks tend to be chock full of undercosted spells, generally those that generate incredible amounts of card advantage or time advantage, or are able to end the game in a single turn. These decks are The Enigma; they do not necessarily share a core strategy beyond being the best (though edt once wrote that when someone designs a deck focused entirely on finding the most powerful cards available, they only have enough slots left in the deck to play some sort of quick kill combination). Oddly enough, The Enigma family sometimes have a few weak spells that are simply necessary to facilitate the overall design, for example High Tide, Donate, or Shield Sphere.

If there is unity among The Enigma, it may be that for them to lose, generally the opponent must be aiming directly at that deck, because it is so effective against the bulk of the field.

There have been many decks to touch The Enigma-level status over the years; following are some of the most hated, most feared, and least popular opponents you can have faced. Many of these decks have appeared in multiple tournaments, with different incarnations and diverse pilots... I have chosen a selection from Top 8 and/or first place finishes in various Premiere Events.

	For Reference: Deadguy Red (PT LA '98 Winning Design; 
	TE-only, broken anyway) - David Price

	4 Cursed Scroll
	2 Scalding Tongs

	4 Canyon Wildcat
	4 Fireslinger
	4 Giant Strength
	4 Jackal Pup
	4 Kindle
	4 Mogg Conscripts
	4 Mogg Fanatic
	4 Mogg Raider
	2 Rathi Dragon

	16 Mountain
	4 Wasteland

	For Reference: Academy (PT Rome Winning Design) - Tommi Hovi

	4 Lotus Petal 
	4 Mana Vault 
	4 Mox Diamond 
	2 Scroll Rack 
	3 Voltaic Key 

	3 Intuition 
	3 Mind over Matter 
	3 Power Sink 
	4 Stroke of Genius 
	4 Time Spiral 
	4 Windfall 
	3 Abeyance 

	4 Ancient Tomb 
	3 City of Brass 
	4 Tolarian Academy 
	4 Tundra 
	4 Volcanic Island 

	For Reference: High Tide (GP Vienna Winning Design) - Kai Budde

	1 Brainstorm
	2 Arcane Denial
	4 Counterspell
	4 Force of Will
	3 Frantic Search
	4 High Tide
	4 Impulse
	3 Merchant Scroll
	1 Mystical Tutor
	1 Palinchron
	3 Stroke of Genius
	4 Time Spiral
	3 Turnabout

	16 Island 
	4 Thawing Glaciers
	3 Volcanic Island

	For Reference: The Skull Catapult / Cocoa Pebbles - Tony Dobson

	1 Mana Vault
	3 Mox Diamond
	2 Phyrexian Walker
	4 Shield Sphere

	4 Dark Ritual
	4 Demonic Consultation
	4 Duress
	4 Necropotence

	4 Goblin Bombardment

	4 Academy Rector
	1 Aura of Silence
	3 Enduring Renewal

	4 Badlands
	4 City of Brass
	4 Gemstone Mine
	3 Peat Bog
	3 Phyrexian Tower
	4 Scrubland

	For Reference: Trix - Scott McCord

	4 Mana Vault

	1 Contagion
	4 Dark Ritual
	4 Demonic Consultation
	4 Duress
	4 Necropotence
	3 Vampiric Tutor

	2 Brainstorm
	4 Donate
	4 Force of Will
	1 Hoodwink
	4 Illusions of Grandeur

	4 Gemstone Mine
	3 Island
	6 Swamp
	4 Underground River
	4 Underground Sea

The existence of all these decks should help in contextualizing almost everything we have seen from the beginning. Knowledge of how they position themselves aids in playtesting and matchup analysis.

Enjoy casting expensive spells!



* That being said, probably the most groundbreaking, nontraditional deck of all time *did* spring from the mind of Adrian. Now at the time of edt's original statement, this deck had not yet been invented; nevertheless, Dred Panda Roberts was, to my knowledge, the first The Enigma deck to include 11 or so copies of Necropotence with the primary objective of using that card in particular to find some 3-card combination of Pandemonium, Phyrexian Dreadnaught, and/or a proxy of the latter. Dred Panda Roberts was the forerunner of every NecroCombination deck from The Skull Catapult (PT Chicago 99) to Trix (various tournaments) to Saber Bargain (same).

	For Reference: Dred Panda Roberts - Adrian Sullivan

	4 Lotus Petal
	4 Mana Vault
	4 Phyrexian Dreadnought

	4 Dark Ritual
	4 Demonic Consultation
	3 Duress
	4 Necropotence
	4 Reanimate
	2 Vampiric Tutor

	3 Final Fortune
	4 Pandemonium

	4 Badland
	4 Sulfurous Springs
	4 Gemstone Mine
	3 City of Brass
	5 Swamp

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