I've gotten a chance to play quite a bit of Eternal Magic over the past couple of weeks (two Vintage tournaments, two Legacy tournaments, and two Modern tournaments), and my biggest take away from playing in these events is that if you're not casting Treasure Cruise, you probably should be. Here's why:
1.) As far as I can tell, it is basically the best thing to be doing besides maybe Jeskai Ascendancy in Modern.
2.) I have a sneaking suspicion that the days of Cruising may be limited.
Treasure Cruise is causing a boatload of problems…
Treasure Cruise is a strange card. I remember reading the card on the spoiler and not really knowing what to think about it one way or another. "How good is this card?" or "How many do I want to play with?" were my initial thoughts. It is so different than other cards that we've seen commonly played in Magic that it is strange to try and figure out what the card will be like without actually playing it:
"Will I lose the game with three copies of this spell rotting in my hand?"
Once people actually got around to casting the powerful delve spell (alongside Delver of Secrets, isn't that cute?), it has become pretty clear that casting Treasure Cruise is one of the marquee things that a player can be doing in all of the Eternal formats.
Let me start off by saying that I generally like when Wizards of the Coast pushes the power level of new concept type cards (there is no reward without some risk as they say).
It is kind of interesting, because the first format where I actually played Treasure Cruise was in Standard, the format where it is at its least broken! However, even in a format where the card feels much more "fair," the card was extremely powerful and useful in the Sultai decks that I was playing back at the beginning of the season. In fact, Treasure Cruise was basically the entire reason to play the color blue!
I feel like Treasure Cruise is a card that was basically designed to be good in Standard and that the implication of the card on Eternal formats was something that designers were probably not overly concerned with. Maybe it was just a foregone conclusion that such a card would probably just get banned in Eternal, so it wasn't really something that anybody cared to worry about.
The biggest problem with designing new and pushed cards with the delve mechanic is that such cards will always be out of whack between Standard and non-Standard Constructed formats. Modern and Eternal formats have way more and better ways to enable delve by quickly putting cards into one's graveyard via fetchland heavy manabases and super-cheap cantrips, counterspells, and removal.
It's extremely easy to get the necessary number of cards into one's own graveyard by the third turn in these older formats, a feat which is nearly impossible for most decks to accomplish in Standard. The other joke is that in older formats, there were already decks that could consistently meet the qualifications for casting quick Treasure Cruises before the card even came into existence. These decks can merely plug Treasure Cruise into a few spots and those decks are just playing Ancestral Recall!
Another one of my big problems with Treasure Cruise in the formats where it is legal is that the card is probably more powerful than other cards that are banned or restricted currently. Don't believe me?
It's pretty clear to me that Treasure Cruise is much better than these other card advantage options that the DCI has seen fit to put on the no-play list.
The Vintage Problems
The biggest winners of the Treasure Cruise lottery in Vintage were the U/R and Temur Delver of Secrets strategies. Those decks were the big time breakout decks at this year's North American Vintage Championship and catapulted four players into the top 8:
It was pretty interesting that during the Top 8 coverage of the Vintage Championship that the coverage team actually predicted that Treasure Cruise would need to be restricted in Vintage and was so bold to make the claim that "Treasure Cruise is more powerful than Brainstorm."
While I don't actually agree with the statement that Treasure Cruise is more powerful than Brainstorm--when Brainstorm was unrestricted, every single deck playing blue played four copies, which is not the case with Cruise--I do think that there is certainly room to restrict cards in Vintage that are less powerful than Brainstorm.
I was really surprised while I was watching the Top 8 coverage how huge Treasure Cruise was at allowing the Delver decks to outdraw and fight back into games against Mishra's Workshop decks. Without the help of the raw digging of Treasure Cruise, I don't think that the Delver decks can ever beat the Shops.
If the DCI isn't going to restrict some cards this time around, I think that they really need to take the opportunity to pull some of the embarrassing cards off the list:
Come on, seriously?
The deck that won Vintage Champs this year played three copies of Griselbrand, and the card was the deck's combo engine and actual victory condition! Griselbrand is better and more broken that Yawgmoth's Bargain. Either unrestrict Bargain or restrict the demon.
The whole Mishra's Workshop on the play thing is really obnoxious, and I think that with Magic Online Vintage being a thing, it's pretty clear how skewing being on the play is when one is against a Workshop deck. I would take away the card that is the most skewing when Mishra's Workshop decks are on the play: Chalice of the Void.
Vintage Should Restrict:
Vintage Should Unrestrict:
The Legacy Problems
The original broken "Delve" card.
Various Delver of Secrets decks have long been the defining and dominating Legacy archetype. There are many different flavors of Delver of Secrets: Sultai, Temur, Jeskai, U/R, and even Grixis, but they are basically all the same concept: cheap efficient threats, lots of cantrips and card selection, cheap removal, and cheap permission.
The ten round Eternal Legacy Championship tournament saw six Delver decks in the Top 8, and Anthony Leen won the Legacy Open that weekend in Minneapolis with Jeskai Delver. I'd say that is a pretty impressive feat, but honestly, it's just kinda business as usual for Delver strategies.
Treasure Cruise continues to compound the problem of Delver-based strategies being simply better than everything else in Legacy by allowing those decks to attack from an angle that they never used to have: raw card advantage. In the days before Treasure Cruise, Delver decks simply tried to trade one for one with an opponent and have some recurring source of damage on the board after all the trading was done. Now Delver decks can do their same old plan of trade one for one, but they don't even need the Delver or creature to win because at the end of it all they can just cast Ancestral Recall!
At the Legacy Championship, my Round 5 opponent played both of these spells in the first game:
I wanted to be mad at the guy for being so hateful, but deep down I couldn't really blame him. If I were going to play a Jund deck in Legacy, maindeck Chains and Red Blasts in a field full of Treasure Cruises is probably where I'd want to be too! Also, for the record, four of my eight opponents at Legacy Champs had maindeck Red Blast effects. Brainstorm hasn't been banned yet, which leads me to believe it will never be, but that doesn't mean Treasure Cruise shouldn't get the axe.
Legacy Should Ban:
Will they all just play Dig Through Time? I don't know, but I'm sure we can deal with that problem when we get there.
Legacy Should Unban:
20 cards off the top of my head that are more ban-worthy than Mind Twist:
The other thing I wanted to point out as kind of an afterthought is that I have this suspicion that Dig Through Time is actually a better Magic card than Treasure Cruise, but the fact that Cruise is a little easier to cast and is better suited for Delver decks makes it more accessible to play right now. I think it's actually possible that Dig could end up being a problem if Cruise were to get banned. It's also kind of interesting that bringing Mind Twist off the list gives decks a pretty nice answer to people who are trying to draw a bunch of cards in the mid to late game isn't it?
The Modern Problems
Of all the formats, Modern may very well be the one in the most peril at the moment. In reality, Legacy and Vintage are pretty broken already. If Treasure Cruise is legal in these formats, it doesn't change a whole lot overall. It's just a card where everything playing Delver (which was already really good) gets even better and begins to encroach on everything else's win percentages. In Legacy, it's just a situation where all the Delver decks, which was already the most played archetype, just all agree to play some copies of the card and improve overall against most everybody else.
In Modern, the threshold for what is "acceptable" and what is "unacceptable" is much more defined and the offense of some of the Khans cards is really distorting.
U/R Delver in Modern is very similar to the Vintage and Legacy version of the deck, in that it plays fast threats and tries to trade one-for-one for tempo advantage and then looks to refuel with Treasure Cruise. The Modern version is also really scary because it is basically playing all the same cards as the Legacy version sans Brainstorm, Ponder, Daze, and Force of Will!
It seemed like there was a nice balance between Delver decks and B/G/x decks before Treasure Cruise was printed, where there was a lot of back and forth and interesting stuff going on. However, with Treasure Cruise around, it is very possible for these blue decks to simply undo all of the things that a B/G/x deck has been trying to accomplish with one spell.
The other thing that I think is interesting about Treasure Cruise is that it seems to make everything shift toward playing blue decks or combo decks. As much as I love playing Affinity, I think it is probably time to put my battle bots away for a while and jump onto the Delver or combo bandwagon.
The other weird dynamic going on in Modern is that Dig Through Time also exists. So, even if Treasure Cruise were to get banned, would all of those decks just switch over and play Dig Through Time? Additionally, Dig Through Time may actually be better in the combo decks than Treasure Cruise, simply because it lets players look at a bunch of cards and find whichever combo piece that they need to win the game.
Dig can go and get the whole combo EOT!
The other deck that I think needs to be talked about in Modern is the Jeskai Ascendancy Combo deck.
This deck is so beyond disgusting that I hardly have words to describe it. There are so many reasons this has to leave:
1.) Four copies of Treasure Cruise.
2.) Breaks the rules of the format by killing before turn 4 far too often.
3.) It feels like playing against Eggs, which is a miserable experience for both sides of the table.
I haven't seen a version of the deck with this card yet, but I'm pretty sure it has to be insane. You can loot Fatestitcher away with Jeskai Ascendancy and then simply unearth it into play and use it to go off.
Jeskai Ascendancy is the epitome of the kind of deck that is extremely unhealthy for tournament Magic. I kind of hope that the deck ends up completely dominating so that it gets consensus banned quickly.
Modern Should Ban:
Modern Should Unban:
If the DCI is going to have to ban the best draw spell printed in the past ten years, they should at least throw all those blue mages who bought into fetches and shocks a little bit of a bone by giving them Ancestral Vision back. Vision seems to be a pretty clear "worse" version of Treasure Cruise, as the cost is much, much higher (four turns), and it is a much, much worse topdeck later in the game (whereas, Cruise is often the best possible).
Predicting the future is hard. After all, who knows what insane cards will get printed in the next set? That said, here's what I've learned:
I'm really interested to see where we go from here, but I see myself casting lots of Delver of Secrets between now and Christmas.