Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Oh, for tuck's sake!!

tuck [tuhk]
–verb (used with object)
1. to put into a small, close, or concealing place: Tuck the money into your wallet.
2. to thrust in the loose end or edge of (a garment, covering, etc.) so as to hold closely in place (usually followed by in, up, under,  etc.): Tuck in your blouse. Tuck the edge of the sheet under the mattress.
3. to cover snugly in or as if in this manner: She tucked the children into bed.
4. to light a neon sign over one's head denoting "griefer" or "douchebag" when playing Commander: Jon responded with Hinder on Mary's General before casting Spin into Myth on Mike's. What a dick!

A lot of people seem to be ragging on the "tuck" cards recently. While this started before the information release of the recent commander product, the news that two additional tuck cards have been added to the mix has re-opened the debate.

Some say they're not good, other say that your deck is not optimised if you don't play them. What exactly is the deal with tuck spells?

A tuck spell is one where, during the resolution of that spell a card is moved from one zone either into or under a library. In 60 card magic this was never really a big deal (either positively or negatively) and the effect, while occasionally played, didn't create much in the way of debate.

Along comes the huge upsurge in popularity of EDH/Commander and suddenly there's a tuck target that is really worth tucking: an opponent's general. You see, if you bounce an opponent's general, he can just re-cast it. If you exile or kill it, that opponent can choose to move it to the Command Zone and replay it with the additional tax. All you're doing in those situation is sending the general away for a short period of time after which he (or she) is back. You have to start all over again!

Collateral damage!
The logic using tuck spells on generals is quite simple: Your opponent has built his deck around his general. If you put his general in the one place he cannot access it easily, his library, then you're gaining a large advantage over that opponent. This advantage is greater or lesser depending on two factors: 1.) that opponent's ability to search through their library and find their general again and 2.) their dependance on their general for the deck to function. An opponent has to expend turns and resources recovering their general only to see you tuck it away again the moment it resurfaces.

This naturally leads to some disgruntlement.

So it's clear that there is a significant tactical advantage to this move but this begs the question: Why would you want to do this? It's clearly not going to result in a fun game for your opponent and after all, fun is what EDH is about. It turns games into a variation of German Highlander with strange colour restrictions and, if that's the case, why not just play German Highlander?

On the other hand, if this form of removal is so efficient in this format, what is the strike against it? Surely everyone is free to run the most efficient spells at their disposal? Many say that tucking a general is a step too far. I say that there's quite a lot of other cards and spells that are worth tucking away, not necessarily just Generals.

Proposed rules change

There's a small but vocal body of posters who would see the ruling changed from its current wording to one that sees a general being tucked and offers the option to move that general to the Command Zone, exactly the same as when you would exile or kill a general:

Terror: Graveyard or Command Zone?
Swords to Plowshares: Exile or Command Zone?
Hinder: Tuck or Command Zone?

While I have no truck with the blanket tuck haters out there, especially those not down with Hallowed Burial, there is probably something to this suggestion. How important is the General to the core identity of the Commander format and to what lengths should the RC go to protect the integrity of Generals within each and every playgroup?

A recent rules update stated that this will soon be added to rule 12:

"If a Commander is discovered in exile face-down by any player, turn it face up and move it to the command zone."

This suggests that the RC are willing to take steps to stop what they see as playable loop-holes to permanently divest a player of their general but the announcement also added the caveat:

"We continue to believe that tuck (putting a general into the library) is an acceptable part of the format as a temporary answer to degenerate Commanders, but it does have unfortunate interactions with some cards in the game that move cards out of the deck face-down."

So, if you want the rule changed you'll have to convince the RC that tucking is sufficiently difficult to get around in all colours collectively and individually in order for them to consider it.

Until then, everyone is free to tuck it!

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