Deep Analysis – Redundancy


This week’s article is all about theory.

I’ve mentioned the idea of redundancy a lot when talking about deck design, particularly when discussing combo, control or burn decks.

Time for some examples from the past.  To the time machine!

Time Machine by John Avon

Time Machine by John Avon

The first modern age combo deck was designed and played by the infamous Mike Long:

Mike Long's ProsBloom - PT Paris 1997

Main Deck Sideboard
4 Cadaverous Bloom
4 Squandered Resources

1 Emerald Charm
2 Memory Lapse
1 Power Sink
1 Three Wishes
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Impulse
4 Infernal Contract
1 Drain Life
1 Elven Cache
4 Prosperity
4 Natural Balance

3 Bad River
5 Island
6 Swamp
4 Undiscovered Paradise
7 Forest
3 City of Solitude
4 Elephant Grass
1 Elven Cache
3 Emerald Charm
1 Memory Lapse
1 Power Sink
2 Wall of Roots

This was the first combo deck to have multiple overlapping synergies to build a cohesive combo deck.  The major engines involve trading cards for mana (Squandered Resources, Cadaverous Bloom) and mana for cards (Natural Balance, Impulse, Infernal Contract, Prosperity, Vampiric Tutor).

Feel the Burn!

Feel the Burn by Plants vs Zombies

You’ll notice that both of those engines have multiple cards within them that do similar things.  ProsBloom was the first deck to fully exploit this idea of redundancy.  Since then, the most successful combo decks have used this thought process during deck design to allow for more consistent wins.

Let’s take a look at some modern decks across various formats that use this same design principle.


Main Deck Sideboard
2 Atarka's Command
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Magma Jet
4 Rift Bolt
4 Searing Blaze
2 Shard Volley
4 Skullcrack
4 Goblin Guide
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel

10 Mountain
1 Bloodstained Mire
2 Rootbound Crag
3 Stomping Ground
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Destructive Revelry
3 Dragon's Claw
3 Molten Rain
3 Relic of Progenitus
2 Searing Blood

What do you see when you look at a burn deck?

This deck is the epitome of redundancy.  Check out that list of burn spells.  There are more 3’s being volleyed here than a Golden State Warriors game.

You get a bolt, you get a bolt

You get a bolt and you get a bolt

In Modern, most of the time, six 3 damage spells will usually kill your opponent (thanks to shock lands) and sometimes less than that.

TES (The Epic Storm)

Main Deck Sieboard
1 Ad Nauseam
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Ponder
4 Brainstorm
4 Infernal Tutor
4 Burning Wish

4 Rite of Flame
4 Dark Ritual
3 Chrome Mox
4 Lion's Eye Diamond
4 Lotus Petal
2 Thoughtseize
4 Cabal Therapy
1 Empty the Warrens

2 Gemstone Mine
2 Mana Confluence
2 Polluted Delta
1 Bayou
3 Bloodstained Mire
2 Underground Sea
1 Volcanic Island
3 Abrupt Decay
2 Carpet of Flowers
2 Chain of Vapor
1 Dark Petition
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Grapeshot
1 Past in Flames
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Thoughtseize
2 Xantid Swarm

The Epic Storm, sometimes abbreviated as TES, is a Legacy combo deck.  The deck uses the same fundamentals as Pros Bloom to power out Tendrils of Agony to finish your opponent.  Usually that means that you will have to play 9 spells before casting Tendrils.  The analogy of cards for mana (Rite of Flame, Dark Ritual, Chrome Mox, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal) and mana for cards (Ad Nauseam, Brainstorm, Ponder, Gitaxian Probe, Infernal Tutor, Burning Wish) still works here.  Particularly each of those cards are very cheap and usually provide more mana or cards than the cost of the spell.   You’ll notice the number of cards used for each area.  There are 21 cards trade mana for cards with 8 of those being tutor effects.  There are 19 cards trade cards for mana, all of which cost either 0 or 1 mana and produce anywhere from 1 to 5 mana when played.

Napster - 2000 US Nationals - Jon Finkel

Main Deck Sideboard
4 Dark Ritual
4 Duress
1 Engineered Plague
1 Eradicate
1 Massacre
1 Perish
1 Persecute
1 Stupor
2 Unmask
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Vicious Hunger
4 Yawgmoth's Will
2 Phyrexian Negator
3 Skittering Skirge
1 Thrashing Wumpus
2 Skittering Horror
1 Stromgald Cabal

4 Rishadan Port
2 Dust Bowl
2 Spawning Pool
15 Swamp
2 Engineered Plague
1 Eradicate
1 Massacre
1 Perish
2 Phyrexian Negator
1 Phyrexian Processor
1 Powder Keg
2 Rapid Decay
1 Stromgald Cabal
1 Stupor
1 Thran Lens
1 Unmask

I’ve talked about Jon Finkel being a genius before.  The deck listed above was named after an early pirating file sharing software that us kids in the 90’s used called Napster.


So why was the deck called Napster?  Because the deck had and could find everything.

Napster was a control deck with access to two cards that gave the deck plenty of redundancy when necessary: Vampiric Tutor and Yawgmoth’s Will.  What both of these cards did was allow you to pack more copies of cards you needed each game than the normal 4 copies.  Tutor effects allow for you to find the card you need when you need it.  So if your deck has 2 copies of a card and 4 copies of a tutor effect, you essentially have 6 chances to see the card you need.  Yawgmoth’s Will allowed you to replay cards from your graveyard for the rest of the turn with the additional drawback of the next time they hit the graveyard this turn they were exiled.  This level of redundancy allow for a powerful control deck that dominated US Nationals that year.

Theory in Practice

Let’s take this theory into Standard:

Temur Aetherworks

Daniel Weiser
25th Place - Standard Open Indy - 10/1/2016
Main Deck Sideboard
4 Vessel of Nascency
4 Aetherworks Marvel
4 Glassblower's Puzzleknot
4 Woodweaver's Puzzleknot

3 Harnessed Lightning
4 Attune with Aether
4 Cathartic Reunion
3 Kozilek's Return
4 Emrakul, the Promised End
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

4 Aether Hub
4 Botanical Sanctum
4 Spirebluff Canal
2 Game Trail
1 Mountain
1 Island
6 Forest
3 Take Down
1 Harnessed Lightning
3 Invasive Surgery
1 Kozilek's Return
3 Dispel
4 Negate

This designer has used the redundancy to design this deck.  This not only is redundant when it comes to card advantage, search, digging, removal, and finishers, it is also redundant in Energy Creation. Without the redundancy, this deck does not work.

What deck are you going to build with this strategy?


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