People have been arguing over the merits of Dig Through Time vs. Treasure Cruise since the cards were spoiled. The reason some people still think it’s a debate is because their focus is narrow, and their immediate memory ignores factors like format differences and deck-specific needs.
Both cards have their place, and if a player limits themselves to certain archetypes they can make the mistake of thinking one of the cards is always better, even if that card is less good objectively and isn’t seeing as much play.
Let’s break down each card:
Treasure Cruise is Better When:
-You have a critical mass of similar cards, making card advantage more important than selection. To give an exaggerated example, if your entire library is only Lightning Bolts, you’d rather draw three Bolts than look at seven and pick two of them.
Delver runs a pile of efficient cantrips and disruption spells that all do similar things. If your whole deck is cards of commensurate impact, then you might as well get three cards instead of two. Also, spell density matters, and by running few lands and thinning with fetches, Delver ensures it’s as close as possible to having a library of “only Lightning Bolts.”
This is a simplification, and even Delver has power cards like Young Pyromancer or Snapcaster Mage that it wants to find, but the nice thing about running a pile of cantrips is that they do a pretty good job of finding key spells in their own right. If your three cards are all Gitaxian Probes, you’re still seeing six cards while getting Young Pyromancer triggers and filling up the graveyard for the next Treasure Cruise.
-The difference between one mana and two matters. Decks that are designed to operate with a low land count will lean toward Cruise because it’s a more efficient spell.
-Cruise is better against cards like Wasteland and Spell Pierce.
-Color requirements matter. A deck can’t splash Dig Through Time, but Legacy and Modern Burn are already splashing Cruise to great success.
Snapcasting back a Dig Through Time requires UUU, the same color commitment as a Cryptic Command. As such, decks with Cryptic Command can throw in Dig because they’re already designed to produce a ton of blue, but what about decks with different color requirements?
4c Cruise Control
This is the perfect example of Cruise being easier color-wise. At a base of UU, Dig Through Time is too awkward to be consistent in a four-color fetchland shell, especially with Snapcaster.
While instant speed would be nice, the deck has few counters, and is perfectly willing to tap out on its own turn.
I’ve had a blast tuning (and crushing with) this deck over the past few days. It all started when I decided to test out various delve enablers. I was dissatisfied with Thought Scour as a card, and Forbidden Alchemy seemed much more interesting because it did something useful in its own right.
Forbidden Alchemy into Treasure Cruise is the real deal. Not only does it prime delve, but it finds more Cruises as well. If the game goes late, the Cruises help hit land drops to flashback Alchemy.
I played a match against Dredgevine the other day where I had to compete with a horde of unkillable Vengevines, Bloodghasts, and Gravecrawlers. This would normally be a nightmare for a control deck, but a flurry of Alchemys and Cruises found me enough answers to eventually deck my opponent.
Once I had a black splash for Alchemy, the miser’s Darkblast made a lot of sense as a card I could bin and dredge back later that would also help fuel Cruise. And does it ever! With a Darkblast going, you can fire off Cruise whenever you’d like, though it is possible to dredge too much gas away.
Young Pyromancer takes on the role of primary finisher because it’s the most efficient way to convert a pile of spells into a win.
Dig Through Time is Better When:
-Your deck is leaving up mana anyway. Decks with hard counters like Mana Drain, Cryptic Command, and actual Counterspell want to leave up mana on the opponent’s turn, and Dig Through Time is an awesome tool for that strategy.
Dig’s instant speed makes it a much stronger play when you’re short on cards to delve away. You’re way less naked if you tap out on the end of your opponent’s turn than if you tap out as a sorcery, which Treasure Cruise can require.
Modern UWR Control, by Androod
The deck has some redundancy in removal, but it isn’t running the critical mass of cantrips that the Delver lists are, and with a land count of 25 a random draw is closer to being 50% land. That’s another knock against Treasure Cruise here, and double Impulse‘ing seems much better than Concentrate.
The one way the higher land count could favor Cruise is if you stall out on 4-5 mana. In that situation, Dig might help you hit land drops, but not as efficiently, and because it costs more at max delve it’s a worse card to cast at sorcery speed.
-Your deck plays key power cards that are central to its strategy. In the recent Pro Tour, the ChannelFireball Ascendancy deck ran the full four Dig Through Times before the first Cruise. The rest of the list was very streamlined, eschewing random cantrips in favor of delve enablers or the hard combo.
Scapeshift is the perfect example of an all-important power card, as resolving it wins on the spot. By the time you’d be casting Cruise, you’ve already played out your ramp spells, and drawing more of them isn’t as good as digging for that one card that wins the game.
Modern Scape, by Shinolikesbugs
Dig Through Time hasn’t had the same impact in Modern as it has in Standard. In a sea of Treasure Cruises, this is the one result I dug up from a cursory scan of the Daily results. I’ve heard Dig is really good in Twin as well, but haven’t seen it for myself yet.
This list is running the full four Scapeshift and only a miser’s Dig Through Time, but I’ve heard of other people going up to 2-3 Dig and shaving some number of the deck’s namesake, keeping the deck consistent while increasing the chance it can do something when it lacks the land count for Scape.
But really, which card is better?
Saying “it’s relative to the deck,” while true, is something of a cop-out. Even when cards are good in different decks and different situations we can still evaluate them on power level alone, and that’s why we can say a deck looks underpowered even if it contains synergies that make it competitive with the top decks.
In terms of raw power, Treasure Cruise wins by a nautical mile.
Most decks with blue delve cards also play cantrips to facilitate the delving. The more cantrips you run, the less important digging for specific cards becomes, and the better drawing three cards for one mana is in comparison to filtering two cards for two mana.
Treasure Cruise is simply the better delve card. It’s more efficient, works better with cantrips, and by drawing more cards it creates more fodder for the next delve.
Breakdown by format:
Limited: If you have to choose between both in a Sealed pool, the high land ratio and bombiness of the format mean that Dig is strictly better unless you’re only splashing blue.
Standard: Here, Dig Through Time is better because the format lacks a critical mass of cantrips, and most people are going to play around 24 land, making Dig’s filtering better.
Modern: Treasure Cruise! The card is absolutely dominating MTGO right now, and I’m sure that will spread to real life as well.
Value cantrips, like Electrolyze, were already prime Snapcaster fodder, and running a pile of Probes not only turns on Delve, but also flips Delver and turns Young Pyromancer into a win. With Pyromancer being the best win condition in the format, and also the most efficient way to turn a grip of Treasure Cruises into a win, I’m picking UR/x Pyro decks to dominate until Cruise’s inevitable ban.
That is, assuming they can find the right mixture of hate to beat the Treasure Cruise burn decks.
I’m not sure if Cruise will get banned in Legacy, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
This isn’t the most explosive shell for Treasure Cruise, and we aren’t playing as many cantrips as we could be. Still, the disruption and other draw engines fill the graveyard naturally, and the end result is that we have more business spells than the other Cruise decks in the format, creating inevitability.
A lot of the time, Cruise isn’t a one-mana spell in this deck, and I could play other draw engines, but the times when it is a sorcery-speed Ancestral Recall are the times I need it to be, because my opponent has been disrupting me all game.
Without enough cantrips, the first Cruise doesn’t chain into the second via re-filling the graveyard, but it does draw more mana sources that let me cast the second Cruise the hard way.
Cruise might get restricted in Vintage, though with Gush legal it seems less likely than a banning in Legacy or especially Modern.