How they sabotage your mana

by wickeddarkman on 23 February 2023

Main Deck (30 cards)

Sideboard (5 cards)

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Deck Description

Spammers flood the meta with faulty decks, and if you play these lists you are asking to be set up for an old scam, playing with a deck that has exploitable weaknesses.

This chapter covers how they sabotage the mana.

As an example I'll use a halfdeck currently being built by evolution.
Just as with jumpstart you shuffle two deckhalves together to have some fun.

This halfdeck is in a pinch, because I recently allowed it to evolve from green into gruul, and though it may look on the surface like it can play those two red spells, it's actually experiencing some trouble.

The green parts of the deck works satisfying enough most of the time, with 6 forest, 4 land grant and 2 lay of the land that can be cast through a lotus petal it has 12 ways to get to a forest. It isn't always that you get lotus petal and lay of the land in the same hand, so in a way it's actually closer to 10 cards. The optimal amount is 12 and the lowest amount is 9, and going below that is asking for trouble.

So since my halfdeck has 1 mountain, 2 lay of the land, 4 lotus petal and 2 tinder wall I got 9 sources. However, lay of the land and tinder wall are dependant on me having a forest, so I'm actually having 6 sources and all but one of them are only useable once, so at the moment the design is practically begging for trouble.

To make it all worse, the halfdeck is about to lose 1 lotus petal, 1 tinder wall, 1 nantuko Vigilante and a thermokarst. It will gain 4 new cards, and these cards could be anything.

Here's the thing.

I know about this weakness within the deck, and to force evolution to improve on these parts I recklessly attack those weaknesses. By destroying that single mountain and working on preventing the mana from tinder wall or lotus petal I can stop the deck from playing those 2 red spells.

In exactly the same way a spammer can design a sweet looking deck and use it to win at a tournament because noone knows about the weakness. Then, because of the popularity of that spammer, the deck gets picked up by a swarm of hopefull copycats.

Now the spammer has an edge, because he knows exactly how to exploit the weaknesses of the deck and his new deck has the tools to cripple it.

A skilled spammer can keep a number of decks floating on the top by playing them from time to time while noone else is thinking about questioning the quality of the deck.

Here's the most frequent ways they sabotage the decks you play:

1: Too few mana. The spammers use this approach when the meta is slow. In a slow meta you won lose by using low mana, and in fact having more spells allow you to have a more versatile deck. The spammer preys on this weakness by playing a really fast decktype.

2: Too much mana. In a defensive deck, having a lot of mana can be an advantage against really fast decks because you won't get mana screwed. However, this is a big weakness in a slow control meta, so the spammer will be playing that.

3: The "weak knee" approach. The mana has a weak spot, and the spammer knows exactly what that spot is. During the 2018 modern meta blood moon was really popular as a spammer card. A lot of multicolored decklists featured 3-4 bloodmoon in the sideboard, but the mana of these decks was actually not good at playing under a bloodmoon, so an inexperienced player would set themselves up if they sided the bloodmoon into the deck. The spammers themselves knew how to play around this and knew exactly what to fetch to make bloodmoon work. Everyone else basically shot themselves in the foot. There are many ways to build up a weak knee within a deck, like walls combo leaning too much on the mana enchantments in a meta where people are trying to hate bogles. I've seen far too many walls deck that plays way too many forests so these design gains a weak knee.

4: Taplands. This is a 2021+ version of having both too few mana and too many mana at the same time. The more taplands, the more you slow down the deck allowing fast decks to defeat you. Notably the decks that become competitive have almost no taplands, while a large amount of spammers post a ton of designs filled with taplands. If you are dumb enough to bite on that hook, I can't save you. This trick is behind the rise of a number of gate land designs. In this case, only play designs that won and is officially listed, and remember that you will be crushed in a fast meta.

5: problematic castingcost. There are many ways to ensure that the mana misbehaves, and one is simply to have cards that are difficult to cast unless you know the exact order in which to cast them. For example you can design a deck that focus more on its splash colors than its main color or build it the other way around. That way, unless you know exactly which land to fetch. If for example, your have a deck where all of the mana is equally split between each color, it will be harder to cast a card with two of the same mana (WW for example) than it will be to cast a multicolored spell (WU for example) unless you fetch accordingly. A deck with several multicolored and several unicolored spells will be difficult to play out unless you know which of them to focus on first. Mana isn't the only obstacle and so any spell with certain demands in its castingcost can become a spam card if played wrongly.

6: hindering cards. Just like bloodmoon can be a trap if you play it unwisely, there are cards that seem to have a clear function against certain archetypes, where it seems like the designer included it well knowing that it will be a hindrance for your own deck, but that certain deck gets punished harder. In these cases it's often a question of timing. The designer intent to play the card just when the time is right, while avoiding the crippling effect for as long as possible, but if you don't know the exact timing, then you will likely lose because of that card.

One reason why a spammer community has managed to rise is that a few select players are capeable to see beyond these kind of traps, but instead of warning the average player they start to use the same tricks themselves which means that a number of professionals are living a double life. In one side they try to trick and outsmart the general player, while on the other side they try to swap tricks with each others to remain on top of the competition in a select elite.

How to Play

Bonus article: "skyshroud, urborg and wirewood, oh my!!!"
Turn your attention to the sideboard.

The halfdeck above is something that I'm developing at a high speed (in terms of using evolution which is a damn slow process)

When combing for premodern pauper cards to add to this deck, I took notice of skyshroud elf and urborg elf.

Because I'm building up a halfdeck it needs to be adapted to getting coupled with just about any random other halfdeck, and green has the potential to make sure that the mana works flawlessly.

Think about the scope here.

My work is focused on making it easier for halfdecks to be joined at random, so anyone else who is just seeking to add some splash color to their elf deck should be able to get some nice tech out of this.

Skyshroud elf is the superior card, capeable at transforming the mana the turn that it gets played, provided that you need red or white mana immediately. It supports a naya decktype with red and/or white splash so it can be used for gruul or selesnya as well.

Urborg elf is weaker and I think it's because it support enemy colors, which is why it can only produce 1 mana. It allows for a sultai decktype with black and blue as splash, but can be used in golgari or simic decks as well.

I've listed wirewood elf as well for a laugh, because that elf is rewarded for its dedication to green by a single extra toughness. Gee that's not really worth it, is it?

Nomadic elf is perhaps the most powerful of these, but it demands a lot of green to pull of its trick. I've had situations where skyshroud elf outperformed it because it only cost 1 green in total, while nomadic elf needs at least 2 green mana on the turn it's cast.

Quirion druid was noteworthy as it can produce a 1 time effect when played, and is actually a decent beater. It really supports firebolt, while it's more or less capeable of getting arc lightning played.

At the moment skyshroud elf has gained some points as a mutation that can enter the halfdeck above. Evolution is slowly working towards a gruul version of the deck, and I'll make damn sure to harden both knees...

Deck Tags

  • Spamspotting

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Card Legality

  • Not Legal in Standard
  • Not Legal in Modern
  • Not Legal in Vintage
  • Not Legal in Legacy

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