So Many Insane Plays Podcast Episode 77: Masters 25 Preview and Arabian Nights Review

Kevin Cron and Steve Menendian preview Masters 25 with the reprint of Doomsday, and review Arabian Nights.

Play

0:01:00: Masters 25 Preview: Doomsday
0:42:15: Announcements: Eternal Weekend North America Date and Location
0:44:00: Team Serious Invitational Results
0:55:00: Arabian Nights
Total Runtime: 4:16:09

Show Notes

Eternal Weekend North America 2018
DDFT Wiki

A Short History of Doomsday

In June 1997, Weatherlight, the 11th Magic expansion, set sail. This conclusion to Mirage block was the beginning of a new storyline. Although a smaller set, it packed a punch. The most explosive card in the set was a mystifier that has intrigued Magic players for more than two decades now: Doomsday.

Some Magic cards unavoidably induce a whir of mental activity, as the discovery of their mere existence prompts the mind to search for ways to abuse it. Doomsday illustrates this principles to the extreme. At its most basic level, Doomsday is a drastic and irrevocable action that compresses all that a player has, and might ever draw, into a five card library, washing out the rest of the library and graveyard in the process. Being able to tutor for your best cards raises a natural question: how can you win the game, and quickly, by doing so?

The compression effect belies the adroit skill needed to wield such a tool. Not only must a player simultaneously select 5 cards from a graveyard and library (one more than the infamous Gifts Ungiven can tutor up), but you must then order them in an optimal constellation. The sheer quantity of possible Doomsday piles in any given 60 card deck is enormous, like calculating the odds a perfect NCAA March Madness bracket.

Casting Doomsday is a play that is as risky as it is bold. It is not simply the fact that with so many possible options in both card selection and sequencing that there is ample room for suboptimization. It’s that the cost of making a mistake is so great. A single miscue or miscalculation is prelude to defeat. At the same time, the precariousness of resolving Doomsday is belied by the number of ways an opponent might disrupt your plan. If an opponent plays a card that shuffles your library, like Extirpate, they can disrupt your sequencing and timing, perhaps fatally so. If an opponent counters a single draw spell or threat, there is rarely a viable backup plan. Doomsday is an all-or-nothing play.

The risks and inherent danger of wielding such a powerful spell are hardly enough to keep the most daring players from trying. It did not take players long to find ways to abuse this tremendous card.

The Timetwister Loop Kill

Creating Timetwister loops is one of the earliest combinations in the game of Magic. In the Wild Era of Magic, a Timetwister could recycle a played Timetwister in an endless cycle. After the institution of Banned and Restricted Lists, Regrowth and Timetwister were paired as a potential endless combo.

These strategies had various names: Recursion, Vercursion, and so on. But the heart of these decks was casting Timetwister for a burst of cards, and then Regrowth to replay Timetwister, which puts Regrowth back into your library to eventually recycle Timetwister. This simple 3 step sequence could be conducted ad infinitum. With his “looping deck,” the inaugural Magic Champion Zak Dolan was a pioneer of this strategy, and built a deck that was designed to set up this combo to gain infinite life and inflict infinite damage. But it took enormous effort to reach that point. One needed to survive long enough to develop a board, draw most of one’s library, and resolve cards like Stone Calendar. It was not until the printing of Doomsday that this combo could be set up nearly effortlessly.

A Norwegian by the name of Kristoffer played a Type 1 Doomsday deck to a Top 4 finish in a local tournament in December 1997, with an innovative concept.

Doomsday, by Kristoffer (December 1997)

Business (29)
Doomsday
Arcane Denial
Abeyance
City of Solitude
Mystical Tutor
Vampiric Tutor
Demonic Tutor
Brainstorm
Ancestral Recall
Time Walk
Timetwister
Wheel of Fortune
Meditate
Braingeyser
Fastbond
Regrowth
Squandered Resources
Zuran Orb

Mana Sources (30)
Dark Ritual
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Black Lotus
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Library of Alexandria
Strip Mine
City of Brass
Reflecting Pool
Gemstone Mine
Underground Sea
Bayou
Sideboard (15)
Abeyance
City of Solitude
Arcane Denial
Pyroblast
Hydroblast
Barbed Sextant

As he explained in his report, the concept is simple, but heady. The deck operates around the Timetwister/Regrowth axis, but requires a lot of work to gain just 1 mana each loop for a lethal Braingeyser. Here’s the Doomsday pile:

Here’s how it works, after resolving Doomsday:

1) Draw (however you can) and cast Timetwister. You should have at least 1 card in your graveyard (Doomsday itself), 4 more cards in your library, and you will need at least 2 cards in your hand before you cast Doomsday to not deck yourself.
2) Play Black Lotus and Lion’s Eye Diamond.
3) Cast Regrowth targeting Timetwister, holding priority so that you can sacrifice Lion’s Eye Diamond for UUU.
4) Replay Timetwister, with one mana floating.
5) Repeat steps 2-4 until you have enough mana to cast Braingeyser on your opponent to deck them. This can mean Timetwistering as many as 50 or so times.

This combo is protected by having a City of Solitude in play before you cast Doomsday, or even better, by having cast Abeyance on the opponent before playing Doomsday. The combo is much easier, however, if one of the additional cards is another Lion’s Eye Diamond, as this will speed up the number of times you need to loop each combo to win.

In the Origins Team Challenge in the summer of 1998, Andrew Cuneo of Team CMU refined this strategy into a more streamlined deck. Teammate Randy Buehler posted a brief write-up of this amazing event that described one of Andrew’s kills on behalf of their team.

Doomsday was unceremoniously restricted in Type I in 1999, in a sweeping cleanup of the Type I format, along with 17 other cards. Whether it deserved to be restricted at that time or not is open to debate, but there it lived for half a decade.

The Beacon Kill

Doomsday was unexpectedly unrestricted in Vintage (Type 1 was rebranded at the same time) in September 2004. It did not take long to find a new, more efficient way to win the game with this enabler.

The deck won after resolving Doomsday, by performing these simple steps:

1) Cast Ancestral Recall
2) Cast Dark Ritual and Black Lotus
3) Cast Mind’s Desire (generating 4 more copies)
4) Reveal Beacon of Destruction (allowing it to shuffle back into your library upon resolution), and flip it three more times to inflict 20 damage and win the game.

I happily took advantage of this combo to Top 4 at the StarCityGames Power Nine tournament in November 2004, with this list:

Doomsday, by Stephen Menendian – 3rd Place SCG P9 3 11-09-2004

Business (34)
Force of Will
Unmask
Duress
Hurkyl’s Recall
Brainstorm
Ancestral Recall
Time Walk
Timetwister
Necropotence
Gush
Mystical Tutor
Vampiric Tutor
Demonic Tutor
Lim-Dul’s Vault
Doomsday
Mind’s Desire
Beacon of Destruction
Tendrils of Agony
Yawgmoth’s Will

Mana Sources (26)
Dark Ritual
Cabal Ritual
Chromatic Sphere
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Lotus Petal
Black Lotus
Mox Jet
Mox Sapphire
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand
Underground Sea
Island
Swamp
Sideboard (15)
Back to Basics
Energy Flux
Old Man of the Sea
Null Rod
Defense Grid
Chain of Vapor

The printing or Research/Development a few years later gave Doomsday players more flexibility, as Owen Turtenwald illustrates here. Research could replace the final deck slot, and Mind’s Desire could now cast any card you could imagine from your sideboard (or main deck), giving much greater flexibility in execution. This was a powerful upgrade over the Beacon kill.

In 2009, the institution of Magic 2010 rules changes neutered this kill by creating the exile zone, and re-interpreting the functionality of cards “removed from game.”

But the real game changer came with Innistrad.

Laboratory Maniac was the most synergistic win condition ever crafted for the Doomsday pilot. Doomsday created the conditions by which Laboratory Manic would easily trigger to win the game, while also tutoring up the Maniac and the cards to cast and resolve him. This became the default Doomsday stack for the Maniac Doomsday deck:

After resolving Doomsday you can follow these steps:

1) Cast Ancestral to draw Lotus and Maniac.
2) Cast Maniac off of Black Lotus.
3) Cast Gush to win the game.

Or, if you already had Gush in hand, this is another commonly-used pile:

After resolving Doomsday, you would instead follow this line:

1) Cast Gush to draw Ancestral Recall and Lotus Petal.
2) Play Ancestral off of the Petal to draw Black Lotus, Maniac, and Probe.
3) Cast Maniac off of the Lotus.
4) Cast Probe to win the game.

I Top 8’ed the large annual Waterbury tournament with this updated Doomsday deck.

Doomsday, by Stephen Menendian - 1st Place

Business (43)
Force of Will
Mental Misstep
Flusterstorm
Spell Pierce
Thoughtseize
Duress
Hurkyl's Recall
Gush
Preordain
Ponder
Brainstorm
Ancestral Recall
Time Walk
Vampiric Tutor
Mystical Tutor
Demonic Tutor
Merchant Scroll
Doomsday
Tendrils of Agony
Laboratory Maniac
Fastbond
Yawgmoth's Will

Mana Sources (17)
Lotus Petal
Black Lotus
Mox Jet
Mox Sapphire
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand
Misty Rainforest
Scalding Tarn
Underground Sea
Tropical Island
Island
Sideboard (15)
Leyline of the Void
Yixlid Jailer
Xantid Swarm
Teferi's Realm
Hurkyl's Recall
Island

The restrictions of Gush and Gitaxian Probe collaterally damaged Doomsday’s current potential in Vintage, but not likely forever. As this short history lessons shows, Doomsday is a powerful spell for a Vintage mage and will come to the fore when the moment – and cards – are right.

Doomsday Fetchland Tendrils, in Legacy

But Vintage is not the only format to employ Doomsday. It has also proven to be a force in in Legacy.

Legacy Burning Doomsday, by g0ld_rook – 2nd Place MTGO League 12-10-2017

Business (32)
Duress
Cabal Therapy
Gitaxian Probe
Conjurer’s Bauble
Preordain
Ponder
Brainstorm
Burning Wish
Doomsday
Act on Impulse
Laboratory Maniac

Mana Sources (28)
Dark Ritual
Rain of Filth
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Lotus Petal
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Underground Sea
Volcanic Island
Badlands
Island
Swamp
Sideboard (15)
Doomsday
Tendrils of Agony
Void Snare
Cabal Therapy
Infernal Contract
Massacre
Empty the Warrens
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Shelldock Isle
Tropical Island
Xantid Swarm
Abrupt Decay

A common pile here is:

Act on Impulse has the valuable effect of allowing Lion’s Eye Diamond to function similar to Black Lotus. With just a few storm, this is a lethal finish.

There is an entire website dedicated to exploring Legacy Doomsday piles and kills, which illuminates the complexity and possibilities created by such a powerful spell

A little more than a half decade back, I developed a powerful Legacy list around another innovative combo, which can be found in the free puzzle articles below.

The sky is the limit. So what a fitting way to celebrate Magic’s 25th anniversary but with a reprint of its most skill intensive card?

We are proud to announce DOOMSDAY, in Masters 25.

Enjoy!

Stephen Menendian

Doomsday Resources & Further Reading by Stephen Menendian
The Doomsday Device: The Coolest Win Condition in Magic (11-10-2004)
Rehearsing the Doomsday Scenario: Learning How to Build Optimal Doomsday Piles (04-07-2005)
So Many Insane Plays – Eternal Potpourri: Doomsday, Gifts, and Legacy Flash (05-21-2007)
Doomsday Returns! How to Build Doomsday Piles and Win in Modern Vintage (10-11-2011)
Top 8 with Doomsday at the Waterbury, and Forward Thinking (10-17-2011)
The Legacy Doomsday Device (06-01-2012)
Doomsday: The Puzzling – Five Puzzles to Blow Your Mind! (10-21-2012)
Doomsday: The Puzzling – The Double Deathrite Conundrum (08-22-103) and Solution
Doomsday: The Puzzling – The Dream Halls Dilemma (09-20-2013)
Understanding Gush: Strategies and Tactics (07-04-2016) (The Appendix is entirely focused on Doomsday)

Doomsday Resources, by Others
Doomsday Fetchland Tendrils Wiki
Focus on Legacy – Ad Nauseam Doomsday Hybrid
So Many Insane Plays #15 – Doomsday Scenarios