The sort-of broken Balance Deck in Original Type 2 reports

So as per the rules and emphasized in the format challenges, not only Balance isn’t restricted in the format but it’s also definitely not clear how to “break it”. What I wrote was that I sort of knew how to do it. Here’s what I meant by that.

The elaboration of the deck took quite some time. For a long time I thought it wasn’t possible. First I thought I needed to hold creatures to make the opponent over-extend and since only one Maze of Ith is authorized my only other option there seemed to be Flood.

Nothing less than the type II Moat.

Flood was a card I had completely forgotten about when I re-explored the card pool of my Magic beginnings two years ago. I tried it in heavy blue decks and it wooed me : sure it’s not without its shortcomings but it was many times incredible. Holding an entire army with it regularly happened. Anyways it seemed hard to get that mana in a Balance deck. I didn’t hack it. I thought it was all over.

Until one day I stumbled onto that :

Worst brainstorm ever.

Yep, that. This pathetic ancestor of brainstorm. An “unplayable” really. It doesn’t hold many creatures back, but what you want to abuse Balance with are efficient enchantments and artifacts to stock before balancing the rest of the world. Conch Horn is a way to stock a card. It’s not mana-efficient, but it can be “stocked” for 2 colorless which is very doable. While the card is very weak there’s yet another interesting way to use it : to save a card from your hand from all the discard in the format, the way you can save 2 with Brainstorm. You almost certainly won’t be able to do it on their turn 2 Hymn, but beyond that it can save your Balance in hand, and since Balance equalize hands size, you’re all right !

Of course that wasn’t enough. And since you want to make them discard their hand, you need yours empty, so Jayemdae Tome doesn’t seem to be a compatible card (also quite mana intensive, you want to dump your hand fast and then balance theirs away). Burn is a natural fit to balance deck : if they don’t play creatures you can dump them on their faces. But there are only 4 Bolts as cheap burn in this format and Fireballs seem expansive for the theme of the deck (although if need be it only costs one red to get rid of it).

My favorite Magic art.

Mana Vault though.. is quite the card. The card has so much potential, it’s restricted in Vintage, but it doesn’t see all that much play in 93/94, which is why, considering the card pool here is even smaller, it is a challenge to make a competitive deck with it in this format. But it combines well with Fireballs, since with them they represent an additional 3 points of damage that can be reused. And considering balance, playing a vault before balancing is like stocking three points of damage, or maybe 6, 9..

“Of course” with the Balances I play 4 The Racks, cause burn isn’t enough, and it’s a natural fit, but then is Disrupting Scepter good enough in such a deck ? Turns out, with the Mana Vault it seems to be : essentially, when you don’t have a Balance, Mana Vault will let you make the opponent discard a card the turn you play it. A turn or two later you untap the vault which gives you exactly the amount necessary to pay for the scepter’s activation, while not losing life : a match made in Avon !

Avon.png
Where all great things start.

Since in my tests and long experience with the format I’ve seen Mana Vault struggling to have an impact, I decided at the formation of the format to reinstate it to its full past potential : back then you weren’t limited to untap it during your upkeep, so you could wait during your opponent’s end phase and decide there to untap it. More useful with counterspells, but still a quite nice boost anyways, considering the card didn’t have an impact on the format. But such is the magic : an overpowered card in the most broken format is barely good enough in one of the most modest one, power-wise. In fact, before I played a proto-version of Turbo-Amnesia in the August ogt2 tourney, it hadn’t seen much play, despite that historical errata, so I resolved to show some decks that do well with it to give incentive to others to use it.

Rack Balance res

September :

Match 1 vs. Tran (Monoblack)

Game 1 I develop well and I have a Demonic Tutor and a Rack so I can point the burn at his face before tutoring for the Balance. Nice start ! Everything’s A.Ok until I forget to replace a card back from the Conch Horn. We don’t notice it at the time and Tuyen decided not to replay it as it seemed like a lost game for him anyways. Game 2 goes very well for me, stocking 2 Horns before balancing with a Rack in play and one card in hand. He finally plays a disk but I play disenchants and I have it. Tough luck.

1-0

Match 2 vs. Olga (Goblins)

Game 1 Sol Ring Rack Rack Balance. Game 2 she plays a turn 2 Ankh of Mishra. But I have a turn 2 nuisance of my own : CoP red. I only play two more lands, hoping for the liberating disenchant. I have to be careful to keep some mana open after combat because of Goblin Grenade, but she starts to overload the board so that makes it hard(er). Balance cleans things up, and the disenchant arrives. The sky clears up. Still, no rack no Fireball, and her quite full hand makes me play conservatively. The circle of protection gives me the time to find some of that. She regrets not having Nevinyrral’s Disk. That’s the thing though, I know people aren’t expecting this deck, and they don’t have artifact hate in their sideboard, since there never was a powerful artifact-heavy deck in the format before today.

nKNujF.jpg
Olga Dushina’s Sligh-Goblins

2-0

Match 3 vs. Jeff Watkins (Monoblack Thrulls)

I didn’t even realize at the time that the deck had a Thrull theme. He plays a Mindstab Thrull, and I listen to his explanation of what it does. Mistake : I end up playing a turn 1 Maze, which doesn’t stop its ability at all. So I discard three cards, then an Hymn and I have two cards, one of which is a Balance. No white mana though, lost it to the Hymn. When I finally draw the plains I have two racks. Game 2 doesn’t go so well, not much defense against his 2/2 Thrulls for 2. Luckily I don’t have cards in hand for them to make me discard. I end up throwing a giant fireball for 2 on 4 targets, including him. A Derelor finishes me. Game 3 he plays a Derelor turn 2. Mmm.. So I cast my tutor on a Balance of course. Too bad that there’s a Gloom in play and I don’t have 5 mana. I was supposed to think and fetch a Maze. But I didn’t and took too much damage to recover.

nKNNDi.jpg
Jeff Watkin’s Thrulls

2-1

Match 4 vs Winston Wood (Naya Flare Control)

I’m not too sure I understand his deck. It’s certainly wild and it goes big with Mana Flares and Shivan Dragons and other fatties. Howling Mines though, rain on my Balance Rack parade, essentially negating a half of my deck. I have to adjust to the new reality. I still end up finding a Mind Twist for the win, lucky, but his
Mines helped there. Game 2 he plays a CoP: Red, a Mana Flare gives us mana and the Mines are there too, so anything goes I guess 🙂 Oh the joy of playing a Disrutping Scepter when facing 2 Howling Mines ! When he accumulates 2 fatties I’ve amassed just enough mana to fireball him to death.

Naya Control Winston I think.jpg
Winston Wood’s Naya Flare Control

3-1

Final vs Watkins (Monoblack Thrulls)

His Thrull theme becomes more apparent. And also funky cards like Thrull Retainer, which actually was quite good back then with the rule of the time since you would sacrifice it after the creature would have dealt its damage, anyways my Maze halts three of his cards as a result. He also plays a Jayemdae Tome, surprising and sometimes a good card against my deck, but I’m not too worried as I might draw a disenchant and I do, not too much later. I expect him to bring some Energy Flux, but I don’t think it’s such a good idea to bring in some REB as those would be the only blue cards in his deck and he seems to only have the Underground Seas to play them, so it’s really a two card combo he hopes to get there. I take my chances. Things start well enough with a Maze to hold his Derelor back (always a pain in the ass when you’re monoblack). He accumulates Glooms but he’s out of luck, as I have no white card in hand. No Balance but Disrupting Scepter + 3 Racks do the job well enough.

4-1

Prompted as to why he had Energy Fluxes in his side, Jeff told me they were just in his 94 deck and he had room in the sideboard. So in the end, someone was sort of prepared for my deck, but only by accident.

October

I expect people to be ready for my deck this time. Let’s see..

Match 1 vs Olga (Goblins)

Game 1 is a bit of thriller. I’m on two. I would have killed her with the rack but she deals the 2 damage with her Orcish Artillery to get a draw. Game 2 I have an early Circle of Protection and a LOT of mana early on. And the Ankh is back. What a plague ! It doesn’t take too long ’til I find a Disenchant though. And another for the Disk (she came equipped !). She accumulates creatures and they’re starting to overload my mana. I have to let them put me down to 4, then 3 with my tapped MV to get enough mana to finish her with a fireball and a mana open in case she has a Bolt. Game 3 she doesn’t have a strong early game and I Mind Twist the two Manabarbs she has in hand before she gets to play them. Good card, that, too bad. I then have the disenchant for a third of those, got lucky with the disenchants all along. Juggernaut ? My CoP:Red doesn’t stop that ! Oh, whatever I have a subtle deck and I’ll disintegrate you for 11.

1-0

Match 2 vs Shawn Pake (UW Midrange)

I mulligan to 5, but I play Balance so if I draw one, maybe everything will be all right ? He plays Serendib Efreet, Serra Angel and some Dancing Scimitaarwat. Well okay Dancing Scimitar then. Anyways I take my trashing with flying colors. Game 2 for some reason I’m persuaded he has two lands in play when I play my balance. He has only one and that fucks me bad, as I lose two and makes the critical play very sub-optimal. A Dancing Scimitar happens and I let it live cause I have all the time in the world. He has all the disenchants he needs when he needs them, the counterspells idem. Then I managed to balance his hand two times but he seems to always recover nicely. I wasn’t meant to win that game.

1-1

Match 3 vs Jeff (Merfolks)

Game 1 Mana Vault Mana Vault Mind Twist for 7. Game 2 he curves relatively right from two Merfolk of the Pearl Trident into Lord of Atlantis. No Balance, and I don’t find any red mana. Last game he plays a turn 3 Energy Flux and I don’t remove it on the spot so I lose.

1-2

Match 4 vs David Holler (WWr)

I get lucky as the guy came prepared with the full playset of Dust to Dust in his sideboard, but didn’t get to play any as I caught two thanks to some discard and he never drew any other in our second game.

2-2

As you may have notice if you’ve watched some of the games, Mana Vault is a little bit too good with the errata I had done. Adapted from both the old functionality and the modern errata it lets you see your card before deciding to untap your vault. Additionally if you have 2 Vaults, one tapped, one not, you can prevent the damage at the cost of one mana (since only one will trigger, you can respond to it by tapping the other), though I chose not to do that when the opportunity presented itself cause that’s not what I wanted at all. The errata needed an errata. The new errata changes that and gets as close as it gets from the original functionality :

Mana Vault :
{4}: Untap Mana Vault
Mana Vault doesn’t untap during your untap step.
At the beginning of your draw step, if Mana Vault started it tapped, it deals 1 damage to you.
{T}: Add {C}{C}{C} to your mana pool.

It is effective without delay, the format definition has been updated and it’s used in the following matches.

Match 5 vs Benjamin Leard (Monoblack)

He plays an early Erg Raiders followed by a Bad Moon. But I have enough to Fireball it for 3. Which is not enough, since the Raiders now have toughness 4.. And I had enough mana to kill them mind you. Yep. At least I’ve annihilated his hand with Mind Twist thanks to mana vault. Did I tell you those two cards combine really well together ? Anyways, a good turn of burn plus Balance puts me back in the game. I draw a second rack. Second game is harder as I don’t have much creature control. He hurts me. Disintegrate for 13.

3-2

Final vs Shawn Pake (UW Midrange)

I get an early Scepter on, so despite seeing my Mind Twist countered, I still end up making him discard a lot. A balance destroys the rest. Fireball for 10. He plays a Tome, I have a Rack. Fireball finishes him. Game 2 I have an early Scepter again. I Mind Twist what’s left. The Rack ensures the win.

ogt2 pake UW Midrange.jpg
Shawn Pale’s UW Midrange

Conclusion

The deck clearly has some crazy good starts now and then, but it also has many sub-optimal Fireball + Balance nonbo ones. Sure the Fireballs can get played for one red mana, but that’s not so exciting.

So what did it it mean, that I sort of know how to break balance in this format ? That I know how to bring the format to a point where there should be no artifact hate : you just wait. Not much artifacts get played, and the massive artifact hate, if any, will disappear from the sideboards. That’s when you can bring the balance deck, when the unprepared opponents take the Balance furor at full strength, appearing in all its baruken glory.. until the opponents figure out that that deck just like the other balance decks play a lot of artifacts and bring in the hate, which is plentiful, and the deck becomes just another deck with gigantic potential and glaring weaknesses. Made to crush on his first, and to be decent after that. You know, one of those one-tournament deck.

The balance challenge still holds !

2 thoughts on “The sort-of broken Balance Deck in Original Type 2 reports

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