Ancestral Recall in Modern: How to Fight It

Let’s take a cruise

It’s all over any site providing Magic content: [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] is dangerous, especially in Modern.

On ChannelFireball, James Fazzolari wrote this fantastic article about how it deserves a ban. In a nutshell, [c]Jeskai Ascendancy[/c] has had people crying for a ban when the enchantment is not as good as the cards that support it, and Cruise is infinitely better than [c]Ancestral Visions[/c], [c]Ponder[/c], and [c]Preordain[/c].

Similarly, Travis Woo encourages us to warp Burn in order to play Cruise. Numerous Twitch streamers label their play with mentions of upcoming bans, and the discussion is on Twitter as well. Jsiri84 posed the question, “How long before Treasure Cruise gets banned in either Modern or Legacy” (not including words like ‘if’). At the end of the day, people are wondering why not to play this effect in their Modern deck, whether it already had blue in it or not.

Let’s just assume it breaks the format. Some players are going to take advantage of an effect that is worthy of a ban until the hammer falls. Other players want to fight the powerful effect. Between U/R Fish decks in Vintage, Death and Taxes decks in Legacy, and various rotating tier 2 and 3 lists in other formats, the Magic community routinely proves that a number of its players want to play the hate rather than the power. If you are one of the former, opting to play with the optimal, then right now you probably have something sleeved up with [c]Delver of Secrets[/c]. It’s a good call! If you are one of the latter, hoping to take advantage of a metagame where [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] is king, then you can attack the draw effect, the graveyard, or the casting cost

Attacking the Draw

You can first limit the number of cards your opponent draws using [c]Spirit of the Labyrinth[/c]. As I have stated before, hate is never enough. All of the permanent-based solutions will suffer against Control decks after the effect is answered at one card for one card. Afterward, the control player refills his hand and resources. The benefit of Spirit is that he presents a reasonable clock, especially with the Death and Taxes or Hate-bears style decks with which he rubs elbows. While the opponent is being disrupted, he is also dwindling on time, thanks to the 3-powered creature.

Effects that punish the draw include cards for yourself and life lost by the opponent. [c]Heartwood Storyteller[/c], [c]Mind’s Eye[/c], and [c]Consecrated Sphinx[/c] belong to the first category.

[c]Heartwood Storyteller[/c] rewards you with a card for your opponent’s [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] and other spells that go with it. [c]Mind’s Eye[/c] gives you a card for each card drawn, at the expense of holding up mana (and likely not being able to do anything with the cards drawn as a result). [c]Consecrated Sphinx[/c] doubly endows your hand over the benefits that [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] grants your opponent, provided you can make it to that stage of the game and resolve the beast.

Unfortunately, Modern does not have [c]Black Lotus[/c] and [c]Mana Crypt[/c] or [c]Mana Vault[/c] to provide the mana for [c]Mind’s Eye[/c] and [c]Consecrated Sphinx[/c], so we have to look at [c]Heartwood Storyteller[/c] for a hate-bears sort of brew.

[c]Underworld Dreams[/c] is a classic effect that was once even restricted in Vintage: Magic’s most powerful format. Unfortunately, these days it is just a penny rare and a waste of a card and three mana. [c]Fate Unraveler[/c] is similarly expensive but at least will deal a minimum of 5 damage a turn instead of 1. [c]Kederekt Parasite[/c], though, is more aggressively costed, and he could find a home in a Rakdos or Jund aggro-hate deck.

One card that swings, prevents your opponent’s draw, and draws cards for yourself all in one is [c]Notion Thief[/c]. What’s best about him is that he has the magic word: Flash. Casting him in response to a [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] means not only that your opponent must answer him or get blown out, but also that your opponent has already invested the resource of cards in his graveyard to pay the Delve cost. If Dimir, Esper, or Grixis control can find a niche in the format, then someone is going to be living the dream casting this guy in response to a draw 3. Let’s try and find a home for him in pre-existing [c]Cruel Ultimatum[/c] decks now that [c]Polluted Delta[/c] and [c]Bloodstained Mire[/c] are available to us,

[d title=”Cruel Ultimatum (Modern)”]
2 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
1 Bloodstained Mire
4 Creeping Tar Pit
1 Darkslick Shores
1 Drowned Catacomb
2 Island
1 Mountain
4 Polluted Delta
4 Steam Vents
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Swamp
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
2 Watery Grave

2 Notion Thief
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
2 Wurmcoil Engine

Other Spells
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Cruel Ultimatum
3 Cryptic Command
4 Electrolyze
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Mana Leak
3 Spell Snare
3 Terminate
3 Treasure Cruise [/d]

Oh, and did I mention that we’re going to hate [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] AND play it too? When you want to beat them, beat them at their own game. There is some tension between the [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] and [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c], so [c]Notion Thief[/c] easily replaces the latter, while [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] is clearly optimal over cards that have been played here before such as [c]Think Twice[/c] and [c]Desperate Ravings[/c].

One note, if you have [c]Scalding Tarn[/c], you should obviously play it over [c]Bloodstained Mire[/c].

Attacking the Graveyard

Another approach to dealing with [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] is to keep its casting cost at 8 by exiling the resources your opponent has in his graveyard. This means that before it was a cute option to bring in graveyard hate against blue decks, to disrupt [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c], and now it is nearly a prerequisite to winning. There are cards that remove one card in a graveyard at a time such as [c]Scavenging Ooze[/c], cards that exile the graveyard all at once such as [c]Tormod’s Crypt[/c], [c]Leyline of the Void[/c], or [c]Rest in Peace[/c], or cards that do it all such as [c]Relic of Progenitus[/c].

[c]Scavenging Ooze[/c] is a very tempting option right now for me because of the context in which [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] is most powerful: U/R Delver. Ooze eliminates options for Delve and [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c] while growing out of range for [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] to be effective removal.

In a similar way, [c]Leyline of the Void[/c] and [c]Rest in Peace[/c] are most effective against U/R decks that will have to spend a [c]Cryptic Command[/c] to restore their graveyard functionality. Once this is done, they have to build the resources to get their draw engine online.

G/R Tron decks have been playing [c]Relic of Progenitus[/c] in their main 60 for a long time, and it should pay off for them even more so now. The first Relic stops [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] long enough for the second to keep their graveyard at bay.

It should be noted that to attack the graveyard in a way that disrupts [c]Treasure Cruise[/c], the effect must be recurring or significant. [c]Cremate[/c] and [c]Faerie Macabre[/c] are less tempting in today’s metagame.

I am most saddened by the increased consistency of graveyard hate that [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] necessitates. If there were any reason I would argue for a ban, it would be that gone are the days of rotating graveyard hate. A player could sleeve up a [c]Living End[/c], Storm, or [c]Unburial Rites[/c] deck when they have noticed an absence of graveyard hate and perform well. Now, that absence will be, well, absent. There will never be an opportune time to enter [c]Living End[/c] in a daily while [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] requires that players hate it indirectly, so the format is handicapped in that way because of the card.

Attacking the Casting Cost

There’s not a lot to say here, except that I am more excited than ever to have some number between 2 and 4 [c]Gaddock Teeg[/c] in my Bogles sideboard. [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] is funny in a way that you don’t realize until you have [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c] in play, and it doesn’t trigger when your opponent draws 3. At that point, you put [c]Gaddock Teeg[/c] in your sideboard, and you aim to suit him up with [c]Hyena Umbra[/c] or [c]Spider Umbra[/c]. What’s more: Bogles players have finally been given [c]Windswept Heath[/c]! Here is my go-to deck to fight the Modern metagame on MTGO:

[d title=”Bogles (Modern)”]
1 Brushland
2 Dryad Arbor
4 Horizon Canopy
1 Forest
1 Plains
4 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
3 Wooded Foothills

4 Gladecover Scout
4 Kor Spiritdancer
4 Slippery Bogle

Other Spells
4 Daybreak Coronet
4 Ethereal Armor
4 Hyena Umbra
2 Path to Exile
4 Rancor
4 Spider Umbra
2 Spirit Link
2 Spirit Mantle
2 Unflinching Courage

3 Gaddock Teeg
4 Nature’s Claim
2 Rest In Peace
2 Spirit Link
4 Stony Silence[/d]

I know that [c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c] is noticeably absent in this list, as it is a potent weapon against [c]Liliana of the Veil[/c], discard, and Burn. With the 2 [c]Dryad Arbor[/c] and 3 sideboard [c]Gaddock Teeg[/c] I am hoping to be okay against Lili. Against [c]Thoughtseize[/c] and Burn, hoping to have [c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c] in your opening hands puts too many constraints on what is already a mulligan-heavy deck. Finally, the 10 life-gaining effects of [c]Daybreak Coronet[/c], [c]Spirit Link[/c], and [c]Unflinching Courage[/c] should be effective against Burn.

Closing Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed the article and found some new material on the [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] topic. So tell me this: What are you going to do with [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] in the format? Take advantage of its power, or exploit its prevalence? Either way, good luck, have fun.