Owen’s a Win – Treasure Cruise is Too Good

At the World Championships, I played Storm with Treasure Cruise. I have since been asked many times if the card actually improved the deck. It’s a valid question, one I asked myself many times during my preparation and I think the answer is: sometimes.

Treasure Cruise wasn’t great when you were trying to beat the goldfish with its obvious conflict with Past in Flames and Pyromancer Ascension, but what it did incredibly well was help you recover in games where you fell behind. The more Magic I play since the release of Khans of Tarkir, the more I have begun to realize that if your deck plays blue it massively improves when you put Treasure Cruise in it. I think it is just that simple—the card is too powerful. I believe that even in Standard, decks that lean hard on Dig Through Time would simply win more games with a straight swap for Treasure Cruise.

Its influence on any given game is too great. It lets you play a 1-for-1 grind em’ out strategy with this awesome late game card-draw engine. It took about 2 hours of playing Modern for me to tell myself that my deck was going to have 4 Thought Scour, 4 Serum Visions, and 4 Treasure Cruise. The cards that surround your blue draw are then quite good at prolonging the game. You’ll see this in the blue/red Delver decks in Modern—likely the best deck—they just run Lightning Bolt and other burn so you can have the tried and true method of creature kill and card draw and play as a control deck against anyone trying to win with cheap creatures. You’ll also see this in the Legacy Blue/Red Delver—actually the best deck.

I feel strongly that Treasure Cruise shouldn’t have been printed and in time it will be obvious that decks with Treasure Cruise in them simply win more often than decks that don’t. It should be banned in every format with the possible exception of Standard.

The most overlooked factor in Treasure Cruise’s influence is that it rewards you handsomely for just playing a good honest game of Magic. As long as you tread water and trade resources and survive, you fuel delve well and can overwhelm the opponent in card advantage. Cards that you already put in your deck naturally add to your strategy in a big way. Lightning Bolt now becomes early removal and a Lotus Petal for your best card. Fetchlands do this and so do cheap cantrips. The more cards you play and the longer the game go the better your best card becomes. It’s a card that gets better when you play the most common kind of games of Magic—an interactive one.

The more Legacy I played the more I adjusted my deck to be focused around Treasure Cruise. I cut all my basic lands for fetchlands because I never wanted to draw an Island or a Volcanic Island. I would always prefer to have a Scalding Tarn instead, since my life total was never relevant and just having 1 more card in my graveyard meant my Cruises were cheaper.

It changed the way I played the games too. I was more willing than ever to trade one of my cards for one of their cards, no matter how lopsided the trade in power was. I would now Daze any card I could, especially cantrips. If I could Daze a Brainstorm or a Ponder that meant I put a card in my graveyard and make my opponent was less likely to find their Treasure Cruise.

Now, when I Pondered, I would shuffle 100% of the time I didn’t see a Treasure Cruise or a combination of cards I knew would win the game. When one person resolves the first Treasure Cruise, it’s like a line of dominoes tumbling down—one Treasure Cruise begets the next, and after that you can find a counterspell for theirs.

It reminds me a lot of when Jace, the Mind Sculptor was legal in Standard. The player who resolved it first would win the game, but afterwards it never felt like Jace was the reason why—the cards it drew actually killed you.

So, if you wanted to win, you just had to play four of that card. When I won Player of the Year in 2011, the bulk of my good Constructed results were with Jace in my deck—one Top 8 in Extended, one in Legacy, and many others in Standard, all at the Grand Prix level. It was just the best card and it wasn’t close. It was a mistake not to play with it. I don’t think this will be the case for Treasure Cruise in Standard, but I do think it’s already the case for Treasure Cruise in Modern and Legacy.

Treasure Cruise’s dominance in Legacy could be acceptable, but in Modern it’s simply gross. There are no cards that positively interact with it except maybe Remand, but in general Remand is only a good card when you’re countering cards that have a higher mana cost than Remand, and once you’ve made the decision to play Treasure Cruise, you’re a lock to have every other card in your deck cost one or zero mana, making Remand horrible against the rest of your deck. Also Remand is comically easy to play around once you have cheap cards and library manipulation, so in practice Remand isn’t a good card against Treasure Cruise decks in Modern.

With the existence of Lightning Bolt and to a lesser extent Forked Bolt and Flame Slash you can’t just beat someone before they reap the rewards of their card advantage. In Magic’s history the single most reliable way to beat someone who was trying to win via card advantage was aggression. That isn’t a good plan in Modern, just ask Wild Nacatl.

The existence of Snapcaster Mage means that when you cast a Treasure Cruise, rather than just hoping to draw a Treasure Cruise to chain them together, you can draw a Snapcaster Mage now too and keep the train rolling.

Imagine you play a Treasure Cruise and draw into Scalding Tarn, Thought Scour, and Snapcaster Mage. You’re basically there, and you’ve made a profit of a card off the Scour, a land, and a 2/1. The deck just oozes with card advantage and it’s incredibly consistent. You can even backdoor into the Cruise by milling it with Thought Scour and flashing it back with Snapcaster. You don’t even have to draw your Ancestral Recall to cast it in every game you play!

I had a thought the other day that I was going to try and build a white weenie deck that aimed to beat the Blue/Red Delver lists using Dryad Militant and Spirit of the Labyrinth as cards that were well positioned against Treasure Cruise. That idea lasted a few minutes, until you see how poorly those creatures match up against Forked Bolt, Electrolyze, and Young Pyromancer.

It’s very difficult to brew up a strategy against someone who has extremely good and cheap removal, card draw, and countermagic. You can never “hate out” the deck. They can still burn you out or win with a quickly flipped Delver of Secrets or bury you in card advantage. Not only does the deck have incredible raw power but it’s also so versatile and flexible, it can mimic any strategy very well, seamlessly changing gears from beatdown to control.

In Standard, Treasure Cruise hasn’t made as large of a splash and that’s due to a lack of good one-mana removal spells as well as no cards even remotely comparable to Gitaxian Probe or Thought Scour. Nonetheless, in time people will make the shift from Dig Through Time to Treasure Cruise in all the blue control decks in Standard—Yuuya being the first to show us its power.

In my own preparation for Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir I settled on UB Control with 4 Dig Through Time. I wrote about the big breakthrough of playing Jace’s Ingenuity over Divination because the deck required more card advantage. I even wrote about some frustration with Dig Through Time since often you needed to grab a land, weakening the “double Demonic Tutor” feel of it. I have a feeling that at the Pro Tour, if I had just played Cruise over Dig I might have had a more powerful deck. Jace’s Ingenuity was awesome in the deck and how often does Treasure Cruise cost five or less mana? How often is being a sorcery versus an instant a deal-breaker? Where do you draw the line on delve cards, with Treasure Cruise, Murderous Cut, and Dig Through Time all being viable options?

I have a strong feeling Treasure Cruise will not be Modern-legal for the Pro Tour, which is a relief. I also have a strong feeling that the people in charge of what cards get banned likely don’t spend a ton of time playtesting Legacy and don’t understand exactly how good that card is in the format. In my experience playing with the card I can say it’s totally bonkers. But hey, Brainstorm is wildly overpowered as well and that makes the format more fun to play. It’s not unfair per se, but it is just too good of a card and that’s kind of what we’re talking about right now, right?

In summation: Treasure Cruise is really really ridiculously good (looking), and it needs to go.

Owen Turtenwald
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OwenTweetenwald on Twitter

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