Monday, 9 January 2017

Card Spotlight: Pernicious Deed

Pernicious DeedDeed is arguably the best control card of all time after Force of Will. Or at least it was. Back in the day blue control decks would splash both green and black just for the Deed. These days Deed isn't nearly as common to see or even that effective in games. When a card declines in potency or use it is typically because something better has come along and replaced it.  This is not the case for Deed, it is still the best and most efficient card at doing what it does. This must mean that the meta has shifted in such a way that makes Deed and effects like it weaker. Wrath effects have become weaker as threats have diversified and become more robust. The thing is that Deed isn't just a Wrath, it is also mass removal for artifacts and enchantments. It is an instant speed Wrath too meaning it can hit manlands. These things should count for a lot more than they seem to. In a world of diverse threats Deed should be the Wrath effect that sees the least fall off in power yet that isn't the case at all. Wraths are still commonplace to see. I am going to try and get to the bottom of why Deed has fallen off in the cube.

I think the primary reason is overall cost. To reasonably mimic a four mana Wrath with a Deed you have to pay the thing on turn three and blow it for four mana on turn four. This means you spend seven mana compared to the four of the actual Wrath. It is not quite that bad as you can either Fog an attack or deny them a turns worth of potential plays with the Deed so as to offset some of that extra cost. It is not just for early uses of Deed that it is mana inefficient. When you need to kill a Titan you have to pay 9 mana with your Deed which a Wrath will still do for just four. Most removal scales well into the late game in terms of mana efficiency but Deed doesn't. It is typically two turns to use it early game and a whole turn late game. With various sticky and robust dorks you typically expect to still be a little behind of the board post Wrath of God. They will have like  2/1 Finks left or something. This is acceptable when you pay four mana in one turn but when it is two turns and nearly twice as much mana as well then still being behind is not acceptable.

Wrath of GodThere are so many value cards and mana dumps now in cube that it takes a very long time for anything to run out of gas or have nothing to do. Getting a four for one with a Deed used to mean game over even if it took you a couple of turns to do. They either under invested onto the board and wouldn't be able to kill you or they invest enough and Deed kills them. Now they can invest as much as they need onto the board to kill you and still have enough left in hand to kill you with if you do remove their board. There is also a lot more useful stuff to do with mana than isn't extending further into a Deed. Mostly this is planeswalkers but it is also activations on cards in play, something like using a Tasigur rather than playing out another card from hand. Tasigur is conveniently another anti Deed card simply because he comes out way before turn six yet needs to be Deeded for six.

Tempo is more important than value in the modern cube compared to what it was and Deed is more of a value removal effect than a tempo one, compared to both spot and mass removal types. Deed has gone from being the proactive solution to everything to more of a backup coverall. Back in the day if you felt weak to creatures you just played more ways to find and recur your Deed. Now you play more things like Damnation and Go for the Throat. If you really want to be able to kill artifacts or enchantments then you will probably be running Maelstrom Pulse, Abrupt Decay and even Reclaimation Sage prior to Deed. Naturalize and Nature's Claim likely too! Deed might seem to do a lot of things but it does no one thing well. You are far better off playing good things that do the specific things your deck needs rather than running inefficient catch all cards. Deed is great to seal the deal. If you get ahead and can lay a Deed then you are going to feel nice and safe. The issue is when you need Deed to take you from behind to being ahead which seems to be where it is struggling at present.

Deed is pretty weak against Reanimate decks and planeswalker heavy control decks. The decks it is best against are white weenie and similar sorts of aggro decks. While you do have the massive blowout potential against such decks they are typically the quickest decks. When tempo and mana intensity are the main issues for a card that you want most against the quickest decks there is a conflict of interest going on! A potential way to improve mana intense cards is with ramp and this is often done with Deed. The issue there is that most of the good ramp effects are destroyed by the Deed. While doing this is often fine it does reduce the overall value you get from a card rather weighted on the value side of things.

Being a Golgari card isn't great for Deed either. Golgari does a fine job of midrange and control decks where you would want a Deed so that is fine. The problem is that a large number of the good golgari cards are creatures or revolve around creatures and things in play. You can absolutely make a good Golgari deck with nothing that your Deed will kill however that isn't the point. In doing so you would greatly reduce your options on things. When well over half your best cards are creatures you don't want to shut yourself off to them. As a UW or even UB card Deed would look a lot tastier than it presently does as midrange and control decks in those colours are a lot less creature focused. There is typically a much higher percentage of support in those colour of cards that are not vulnerable to the Deed.

Planeswalkers are of course the other big thing alongside the mana issues. If it were not for them, or if Deed could kill them then Deed would still represent as close to complete safety as you could hope for. Upheaval, and more so now Cyclonic Rift and Crush of Tentacles, are all performing very well. The ability to reset a board reliably is huge and gives blue really good game against a lot of the midrange decks.

Deed is still a great card. It gives a lot of control over a game and has a very powerful effect. There are still loads of situations it is a great inclusion and loads of situations where it will be your best cards. I am not trying to suggest Deed is no longer a cube worthy card. It has fallen in power but not enough to consider cutting it. This is more just to highlight that the card really isn't what it was and shouldn't be rated quite as highly as it is. Pick it and play it knowing the limitations of the card rather than because it was once a bomb.

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