In its first week, Treasure Cruise made an impact in every format possible. That was scratching the surface.
One of the reasons we haven’t seen Treasure Cruise in Legacy combo is because it doesn’t fit in a convenient shell. Flipping it to Ad Nauseam isn’t much fun, and most people agree that Dig Through Time fits better in Sneak and Show.
But the card is worth building around. After all, it basically reads “Threshold: This is Ancestral Recall.” That’s nuts in a deck full of cheap/free cantrips.
At first, I wasn’t sure how good Treasure Cruise would be alongside Past in Flames, but it has overperformed. There’s usually enough non-spells and excess cantrips that the important cards stay in the ‘yard for later.
The cards that Treasure Cruise works best with, free cantrips, also work really well with Past in Flames. Even if you have to empty your graveyard for Cruise, the three cards you draw are going to cantrip into even more cards and all of a sudden your graveyard is full again.
I’ve cast multiple Cruises or Cruise + Past in Flames in the same turn, even when the first Cruise emptied the ‘yard. Cruise, Past in Flames, flashback Cruise was my favorite so far.
Note that post-Past in Flames, flashing back Dark Ritual to pay for Cruise is better than delving it away. Flashing back Rite of Flame instead of delving it is even on mana, but builds storm so it’s better as well.
The Lion’s Eye Diamonds are the most suspect card in the main deck, and they’re basically there because Chrome Mox is bad with Cruise and I really want six Lotus Petals. They’re a nombo with Force of Will, but the burst in mana can keep you from fizzling and they help race when that matters. In an ideal world, you’ll never draw them and Force together, but if you do you can always save them to combine with Past in Flames after losing a counter war.
Playing the deck is taxing, but it’s equally rewarding. Going off is climbing a mountain of sequencing, and a single misstep can force you to fizzle. There’s also some timing involved, since the longer you wait the better but you don’t want to give the opponent extra time. Sometimes you want to go for the early Empty, but it’s not a requirement. Making 8 tokens needs to happen turn one to be any good, but if you’re making 42 it’s less urgent.
The deck is a new thing, and I’m still figuring out the matchups. So far it’s 4-0 against Miracles, where there’s plenty of time to cantrip and find the important cards. The deck is resilient enough to win through their countermagic, has disruption to keep them off lock pieces, and is fast enough to close the game before they topdeck more lock pieces.
Being able to run Force of Will in a storm deck is big game, and feels a lot like playing Vintage. What this means for Empty the Warrens is that you can protect it from cheap sweepers. Normal TES can check with a discard spell to see if the coast is clear, but that’s weak to the opponent hiding key cards with a Top or Brainstorm, and doesn’t deal with problem cards off the top of the opponent’s library.
I’ve had some luck in the combo mirrors, where the deck is fast enough to race slower combo but also has discard and counters to disrupt faster decks. I’ve only gotten to play a few combo mirrors, however, as people on MTGO want to test out Treasure Cruise in the more intuitive Delver shells.
Speaking of Delver, the matchups vary wildly.
Jeskai is the easiest due to all the dead MD removal and Stoneforge Mystic and True-Name being the slowest possible clocks. Post-board, we have Pyroblasts for Meddling Mage even if they do manage to name the right spell. This is harder to do than usual, since we’re using a critical mass of draw and cantrips to find the win instead of a direct tutor like Infernal Tutor or Burning Wish.
RUG applies the most disruption to our mana base, but they can get slower hands or hands without enough disruption, and you usually have time to protect the combo before going off. It comes down to being able to cast spells or not, and overall it’s close to the typical 55% that regular storm gets vs. RUG.
UR applies the fastest pressure with the least disruption. I’ve only played the matchup once so far and I’m not sure who’s favored, though I did lose the match.
And finally, BUG is a nightmare matchup because it provides a fast clock backed up with counters while keeping your graveyard empty and using discard to prevent you from sculpting your hand. The good news is, BUG Delver is every combo deck’s nightmare. It’s not fixable, but that’s fine—you can’t beat everything.
I had a tough time brewing a control deck around Treasure Cruise. Here’s this great engine, this way of taking advantage of one-for-one trades, this absolute bonkers topdeck that rewards you for the game going long, and I still couldn’t find a shell that I liked.
One limiting factor is that Deathrite Shaman nombos with Cruise. While you can prioritize your opponent’s graveyard, Deathrite is at its best in the long grindy games that end up draining everything. Those are also the games where Cruise should be breaking parity. Unlike Snapcaster and Past in Flames, where Cruise can re-fill the graveyard by drawing into cantrips and gas, Deathrite Shaman is a steady presence that prevents the graveyard from building in the first place. You can’t cast the Cruise because the Shaman made it uncastable. This matters less in tempo, because tempo plays more one-for-ones and ends the game much faster than control. BUG Delver certainly wants both Cruise and Deathrite!
Unlike in tempo and combo, control doesn’t have a critical mass of cantrips for Cruise. In fact, Legacy’s premier control deck relies on Sensei’s Divining Top and Counterbalance. While a Miracles list could be built around Cruise, it’s not a natural fit because it invests so many slots into permanents.
I started looking at oldschool Landstill shells. Some were vulnerable to True-Name Nemesis, others to Young Pyromancer. BUG Pernicious Deed had the most potential, similar to Conley’s Landstill deck from back in 2011, but I couldn’t get the numbers quite right. Without Bolt or Plow, dealing with Deathrite Shaman was an issue.
At one point, I was testing a Grixis Lightning Rift deck, and I realized my feet didn’t touch the bottom of the pool anymore. I was too deep. However, the idea of using cycling lands alongside Treasure Cruise was a good one.
4c Cruise Loam
You can never durdle hard enough.
Running Treasure Cruise alongside Devastating Dreams reminds me of an old Extended brew that used Ancestral Vision, Devastating Dreams, and Greater Gargadon to good effect. Here, Cruise is great at stocking a hand for Dreams, which in turn stocks the ‘yard for future Cruises.
There’s a small risk involved with having two graveyard-based draw engines in the same deck, but Loam is excellent at restocking a graveyard in the wake of one-shot disruption (like Nihil Spellbomb), and this shell has five natural ways of killing Rest in Peace (Abrupt Decay, Engineered Explosives).
Whenever I brew with Loam, I talk to Hoogland, and this time was no exception:
“If this mana base can cast its spells, this is likely a sweet list.”
He went on to convince me of the merits of Sylvan Library. While a great card to power out with Mox Diamond, it’s at its most busted with two Loams going. Since dredging isn’t the same thing as drawing, you can’t put them back. Neat, right?
It gets better. Imagine drawing an instant for the turn, casting it with the Sylvan trigger on the stack, then dredging two Loams and putting back nothing. They haven’t invented a device to measure that much value yet, but I’m guessing it rounds up to approximately all of it.
Going forward, one card that I’d like to test in this deck is Courser of Kruphix, which might be a bit clunky but at least it has a large, lightning-resistant ass that can survive a smaller Devastating Dreams.
The more I brew with Cruise, the more it reminds me of Skeletal Scrying, a criminally underappreciated card that I used to run in Nic Fit.
BUG Nic Fit
I’m not going to go into the history of BUG Nic Fit, just know that Baleful Strix gave us enough blue cards for Force of Will. Now we get Treasure Cruise, another blue card as well as a draw engine that complements the shell, and I’m excited to play the deck again.
The big plus to Treasure Cruise, aside from pitching to Force, is that this deck can actually cast the card without any graveyard at all. When it needs to be, it’s Ancestral Recall, and when it doesn’t need to be it’s this crappy overcosted Harmonize that’s still good because hey you didn’t have anything to do with all that mana anyway.
As far as the other slots go, this is the best Scavenging Ooze deck possible due to all the sweepers and ramp, and I’d never go below two. Being able to consistently exile the opponent’s graveyard seems awesome in a field of people testing out Treasure Cruise.
Usually, I run two Tops. Over countless games I’ve found that to be the sweet spot between flooding out on the card (spinning Top to see Top) and reliably getting it in the midgame when you need it.
Here, I think Top is a little less necessary due to the additional card draw, and Ponder helps fill the graveyard while providing some early game filtering. Still, some sort of 2-1 split is probably more correct, though I don’t know where I’m going to find the slot.
Modern UR Delver
I wrote about this deck last week, but I’ve made some changes and a few people asked for an updated list.
For starters, Monastery Swiftspear is a fine card, and often becomes a 3/4 or a 4/5. That said, I cut it down to 1 for a variety of reasons. Drawing multiples is clunky, and each extra one you draw could’ve been a spell to pump the first. It makes you want to fetch red early on, which is when I want to be cantripping.
It’s an awkward topdeck in the grindy URx mirrors where you want all your cards to be golden. If Delver is the last card you cast, it’ll still turn into a 3/2 flyer. If Swiftspear is the last card you cast, then congrats you have a 1/2.
I want the freedom to keep one-land Island hands, and I want the flexibility to spend the first few turns cantripping and playing burn spells. I found myself casting Swiftspear on turn three and four a lot, where it’s fine but not great, so I shaved it for the fourth Snapcaster and the fourth Electrolyze. Right now, I think that’s better for the meta, though I could easily see myself changing my mind in the future. Again, the card IS good.
At first, I thought the additional land drops from Treasure Cruise would help me cast Batterskull even more, but in reality it just made the deck better at grinding and gave me more things to do that weren’t Batterskull. It got cut, and with the number of UR mirrors I was facing on MTGO the Blood Moon got moved to the side.
This doesn’t involve Treasure Cruise, but I’ve crushed a few smaller events with this Junk list and I wanted to share it. I posted it on Twitter, but not everyone follows me there, so here it is with an updated sideboard:
Standard Junk Midrange
No Caryatids? Caryatid is worse than the two-drops we’re running, which are both excellent pressure early and also amazing topdecks in the late game.
No Roc? Don’t get me wrong, Roc is a great card, but you need to attack if you want it to be real. If I have a creature to attack with, it’s usually already better than whatever my opponent is doing, and if it isn’t then I want more removal. If I don’t have a creature, Roc is the last thing I want to topdeck.
I think it’s better fit for a deck with more creatures that are more expendable.
One Courser of Kruphix? This slot was originally the third Anafenza, which was great on turn three but a weak topdeck in the mirror, so I moved it to the board where it’s fine as a piece of graveyard hate and an additional body vs. control and aggro.
If you have any questions about the removal suite or sideboarding for various matchups, feel free to ask them in the comments.