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The Cutting Room Floor: Nobody Rides For Free

“The Cutting Room Floor: Nobody Rides For Free”

If you would have asked me fifteen, ten or even five years ago if Wizards would print a card that basically says “Every spell you play is free,” I would have cautiously dismissed that and taken it with a grain of salt. The fact is that back when Dream Halls was printed, no one really gave the card its due; I even remember an article back in the old Inquest magazine where it was deemed one of the worst cards in the set with a “dishonorable mention,” or something to that effect. People started to realize slowly that playing cards for free is actually a really good thing, even if it means discarding a card to make it happen. It’s no wonder Dream Halls wound up getting banned even in a format where the spells weren’t ridiculously overpowered. Still, the weapons available during that time period had a difficult time contending with the card, and to this day it still doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

Enter Omniscience, a ridiculously powerful enchantment that for all intents and purposes nullifies each land you have in play as being a space-taker-upper and allowing you to just vomit your hand onto the table… for free. There is certainly no shortage of badass free spells these days, so today we’re going to take a look at one of the newest and most prolific addition to Omniscience decks, the epic sorcery Enter the Infinite.

[Editor’s note – click any of blue card names or featured card images to view and purchase the card from Jupiter Games!]

Show and TellLet’s face it: this entire discussion, the archetype and everything associated with it would be relatively useless if it weren’t for this card. You see, Show and Tell is a card that faces an incredible amount of scrutiny yet garners a lot of love from the competitive community. Some arguments range from, “Show and Tell is just broken because it accelerates into something overpowered for such a low cost,” to “Show and Tell works for both players and that creates just enough ambiguity and variance to make it just fair enough to keep legal.” I think both of these points are valid regarding the card, but you have to look at it from a design standpoint: the people at Wizards when this card was first printed probably overlooked the fundamental idea that over time as newer cards are printed it would just become more and more powerful.

Show and Tell made cards like Emrakul ridiculous because no one should be dumping 15/15’s that powerful into play as fast as turn one. (Note this is a point referencing Legacy several years ago before people started to regularly run Karakas as a solution.) The excuse that it came from Urza’s Saga is somewhat valid, however, as a good portion of the cards from that set and block were just incredibly powerful for their cost and function. Show and Tell had sat in peoples’ junk binders for years before realizing its true potential, and now that we have cards being printed every other set that get more functionally stupid than their predecessors makes for an interesting future for this uncanny blue rare.

That being said, I think there’s a lot to be said about Show and Tell as far as it being balanced in the format goes. Legacy is just a huge format and like Forrest’s mama once said, “You never know what you’re gonna get.” A good example of this was at this past NELC event. My opponent was on Reanimator and brought in the Show and Tell tech as expected. Having come prepared for that, my sideboard configuration ran extra Ensnaring Bridges matched up with some ancient technology in the form of a trio of Seasingers, a once-popular card from Fallen Empires that was used widely in Fish sideboards in Vintage (with Old Man of the Sea) to steal opponents’ threats. He decided to cast Show and Tell, and after activating my Top for a look-see, I found one hiding on the top of my deck. A tapped Top later and I was putting Seasinger into play.

Unfortunately, my opponent decided to Show in his one and only Inkwell Leviathan. This was enough to finish me off but I felt confident those circumstances would have otherwise been mitigated and swung drastically in my favor had he put anything else relevant into play.

The point here is that Show and Tell can be just a dumb card that does broken things. I came prepared for it and although I couldn’t nab that Leviathan I was comfortable with my decision. Running Gilded Drake would have been just as good there, but I wanted a permanent way, aside from Show and Tell, to ensure my opponents running unfair things would have to contend with this critter on the board and changing the dynamic of the game entirely.

Dream HallsI have to give credit where credit is due, to Ari Lax for really trying hard to bust this card open wherever and whenever he could. I think Dream Halls is a card that can operate fine on its own without Show and Tell, as it only costs two more mana to play. Still, two more mana is two more mana and there are a variety of ways you can make a deck using Dream Halls broken in half. This is also scary thought as it operates for your opponents as well, making the card incredibly terrifying if you do not know what spells or threats lurk in their hand.

Dream Halls at one point used Conflux as a primary way to tutor up multiple Cruel Ultimatums and Progenitus to cash in on lots of cards and damage. Today the card is more of a “sidekick” in Show and Tell decks aiming to abuse Omniscience, which is strictly better when paired with Show and Tell. But there’s something else to think about when it comes to that train of thought. Imagine a world where Show and Tell eats a banning and is no longer legal in Legacy. To some this is not a question of “if,” but “when.” Assuming it does get banned in the foreseeable future, there is likely going to be only one card that will allow such broken shenanigans to continue…

…and that would be Dream Halls. With Show and Tell eclipsing the fifty dollar-plus price tag, you could expect to see this card skyrocket in price if that happens. Cheating things into play these days is the norm, and with realistically only one card that can do it like Dream Halls people will flock to get their set when that happens.

Enter the InfiniteSpeaking of absurd cards, take a look at this beaut. Not only is it absolutely insane in a deck that runs Dream Halls and/ or Omniscience, it’s a card that some people probably thought they would never see. I mean, it’s one thing to play cards out (like in High Tide) where you’re paying mana to cast spells and net large amounts of mana fairly, but it’s another when you’re able to shore up that entire process by playing one card. These last few sets have seen some pretty ridiculous things get printed like Griselbrand, Omniscience and Enter the Infinite. At this point I couldn’t tell you if something like Show and Tell would never see the light of day again in the event it does get banned, because the card really is just too powerful for what it does based on its cost to function.

That doesn’t mean I want the card to get banned, though. Cards like Omniscience and Enter the Infinite will become virtual paperweights if Show is gone, but Dream Halls at least has a shot to pick up the pieces and continue to move forward. Enter the Infinite may be the latest edition of “play big or go home” spells to hit Magic, but I highly doubt it’s the last. What else could Wizards possibly come up with at this point to trump these is beyond me unless they print something that costs thirty mana and does something catastrophic to the game state. Enter the Infinite is about as broken as it gets with free cards as drawing your deck and playing it for free effectively means you win no matter what.

OmniscienceThis really is the be-all, end-all of what makes any Magic deck’s win percentage a virtual certainty when it hits the table. As I previously mentioned, when you slap this card in a deck with quad-Show you’re not only cheating this mammoth enchantment into play, you’re playing the rest of your spells for free for the rest of the game, short as it may be. Dream Halls may be Omniscience’s great ancestor, but the fact is the latter completely outclasses the former in every way if we’re talking about them in conjunction with Show and Tell. Without the enabler, Dream Halls is obviously the more suitable choice unless your deck can come up with that kind of mana that early in a game.

There have been a variety of “OmniTell” decks performing well in the current meta, which isn’t surprising given the rise of Jund and other combo making their presence felt in the current meta. With the recent legality of Enter the Infinite in tournament play, I foresee a rise in Show and Tell decks, with Dream Halls, to make their impact felt quickly and decisively. The problem with Omniscience decks though is the bottlenecking of necessity through Show and Tell. People have been playing Burning Wish to ensure they either draw into a copy or fish for one out of their sideboards, but the fact remains that the deck can really only function if a Show and Tell resolves.

Dream Halls again appears to be a “saving grace” of sorts for a deck like this to operate with some consistency. Granted if a Show and Tell resolves the game is probably going to be over, but giving the deck another avenue of cheating its deplorable arsenal of overpowered cards aside from paying their actual costs could be a viable approach to fitting Infinite into the equation. As it stands the deck can support this approach by including a copy in the sideboard as a Burning Wish target, but that is again predicated on Show and Telling Omniscience onto the battlefield. If you’re able to do that then you’re going to win, but that’s assuming you’re able to find and get off Show before you lose.

I’ll concede that Burning Wish gives the deck some consistency where it was missing before, but it just seems like the deck needs to be able to thrive aside from leaning on Show and Tell as its only way of winning games.

Something interesting did occur yesterday however at the Star City Open in Atlanta. Show and Tell littered the Top 32 with multiple variations performing exceedingly well. There was one list that stood out to me with great interest, however; one that utilized Dream Halls effectively and was able to nail down wins without being overly reliant on Show and Tell.

Pilot Steven Jackson secured a Top 16 berth at this event with the following list:

As you can see his list follows the more traditional method of winning games with Dream Halls in conjunction with Conflux and Cruel Ultimatum. However, you’ll note Omniscience found its way into Steve’s list. The interesting thing here is that this is nothing new; we’ve seen Dream Halls before and in the same contextual form. This particular list appears to have eschewed cute (yet devastating) tricks with Dream Halls like Time Stretch in favor of the two Omniscience which I think is the correct call here.

Dream Halls is basically the forgotten card within the spectrum of free enablers. This is due in large part to Omniscience, and understandably so. But to reiterate from earlier: Dream Halls doesn’t require an abundance of mana to cast as you only need five mana to get things going; which is exactly half of what it would take to cast Omniscience. I think the classic approach here was successful because of that and I’m sure Steve was able to win more games than he lost by hard-casting Dream Halls as opposed to Showing into play.

I think the classic approach here works just fine. Most people just wrote off the old, dilapidated version of this deck but the fact he was able to win as many games as he did should be telling about the direction the format is currently taking. (Did you see how many Jund decks clogged that tournament?) I like the Snags and Wipe Aways in that board to deal with annoyances like Gaddock Teeg, which can be incredibly painful for this deck to deal with. He obviously came prepared and I would reckon they were responsible for several of his wins as well.

We could also shift gears and look at just how well Enter the Infinite performed at the Open, nailing down 28th place:

As you can see, this list is more streamlined to incorporate Enter the Infinite into the equation. With a full complement of Show and Tell, Dream Halls and Omniscience, you have a very good chance of being able to draw out your deck and smash face with Emrakul until you’re literally blue in the face. Notice how these decks also run multiple cantrips in order to filter their draws to find combo pieces or protection. This is common practice in Show and Tell decks in order to sculpt your hand and fire out wins with protection.

I absolutely love this list, to be honest. Although it might be overkill to ramp up on the cheat cards it’s still perfectly acceptable to draw your deck one way or the other. And let’s not forget the old-fashioned Show and Tell into Emrakul play that most people use as a secondary win condition. Believe it or not there is still nothing wrong with dropping Emrakul into play on turn one with a Lotus Petal. Most decks cannot deal with that line of play that early but with enough mana it becomes more of a liability than anything else. That line of play really depends on the match-up, so keep that in mind.

TelepathyIt’s hard to be both excited and frustrated at the same time with these cards making their presence felt in large tournaments. It’s exciting in that it really is a microcosm of Legacy as a format in being able to play powerful spells from Magic’s past. It’s conversely frustrating because you really have to wonder where things go from here. Most Show and Tell decks up to this point have been fair and balanced, yet still powerful. Notice how each of these cards are (unsurprisingly) blue. That’s a scary thought when you consider that in five years we may be looking at a format where the best decks are predicated on playing expensive spells for dirt cheap and Show and Tell, if it’s still around, being in excess of over a hundred dollars if it remains legal.

If we follow the current path we’re on, we could be literally Entering the Infinite for years to come.

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