When Scott Johns announced Invasion Week to the writers, my heart did a little jump of joy. For me, Invasion was a major pinnacle Magic-wise. While Invasion was in rotation, I made a ton of great decks, and in limited excelled to one of the highest points in my career. Magic was doing great in Madison as well. Bob Maher was still regularly playing with abandon, Dustin Stern and Mike Hron were still very interested in the game, and we had Magic players from all parts of the country visiting us to playtest limited. Getting sixteen people with numerous Pro Tours under their belt together for drafts wasn't atypical, and for one moment, I think I could make the argument that Madison was the best place on Earth for draft. Sure, it would be an argument, but it could be made.
Incidentally, that deckbuilding fuel that Invasion gave me was part of the reason I got this column in the first place. Our editor Scott Johns was still playing Magic as a civilian on the Pro Tour in those days, and I put out so many decks (many of them bad, but a few with gems in them) working with him for Pro Tour Chicago that year, he thought of me when this column was to be resurrected. As Scott pointed out, many of the ideas I had for decks were innovative; they just weren't always Pro Tour level viable. When he chose me for this column, the main reason was because he believed that, freed from having to build PT-viable decks, I'd instead be freed up to showcase that creativity. That's allowed me to make a lot of the kind of free-spirited decks you've seen in this column. With that in mind, today I'll approach Restock – one of my favorite cards of all time.
Holding it down
Restock stood out for many players when they got their first look at Invasion. It wasn't as splashy as a Dromar, but it was a Regrowth. Regrowth was a Restricted card in Type 1, and here was a card that did a double-Regrowth. Some whiners complained about Restock removing itself from the game when cast, but I know I'm really glad about that fact – even if the engine of Restocking for an old Restock and some other good spell is an expensive one, I'm glad it isn't possible to infinitely Restock (without a lot of work). In the end, despite the buzz, it got held back by some of its baggage.
There are many limiting factors to consider. Now there is the obvious high mana cost, but also worth considering is the issue of opportunity. Even if you somehow had the five mana floating on a turn to cast it, Restock isn't useful until you have two targets available; even then, it isn't that hot unless you have two useful targets. Finally, there is the question of action and reaction – Restock doesn't really reward reaction as much as it does action. Let's check out these issues in greater depth.
Mana, always mana
The more traditional ways of building mana used to be permanents – Birds, Elves, and Stones (like Talisman of Impulse or Fellwar Stone). These will do, but slightly better are various searching methods like Kodama's Reach or Sakura-Tribe Elder. Not only do these cards get something in the grave you might want to recover, but they also are very efficient cards otherwise, capable of gaining you further card advantage.
One other way to “fix” mana has always been card drawing. Card drawing, like searching out land, tends to leave something in the grave, great for a Restock to play with. One of my favorite methods of feeding Restocks mimics the card drawing power of Ophidian, but carries with it actual mana acceleration instead: Avenging Druid.
Picking up the byproducts…
While you can always use more dedicated graveyard filling – anything from Buried Alive to Cephalid Vandal or Traumatize – byproducts make a way better way to fill the yard. An Intuition or Gifts Ungiven is all the more powerful when the cards in the yard are also effectively in range of your hand with just a single spell.
As you can see, most of the cards that get things into your 'yard are likely to be spells. Two things that Restock works particularly well with are active spells and disposable permanents. There are a few reasons for that.
The things that last (and the things that don't)
When things last, they don't go to the graveyard. Now, there is nothing wrong with a good, solid card on the table doing its job. The question is whether or not the card Restock belongs in a deck full of solid cards. Take a White Weenie deck, for example. The deck is primarily based on permanents, and even if Restock were a White spell, you probably wouldn't find yourself playing it. You can't control when the majority of White Weenie spells go to the graveyard. Only if you are “lucky” and enough of your creatures have died would a card like Restock make sense. This is just a small part of the reason that Green beatdown didn't run Restock.
Fragile but powerful creatures are another great Restock target. Flametongue Kavu can do a number on most of the reasonable creatures that aren't being “cheated” into play with reanimation or other methods, but it is incredibly fragile to pretty much everything.
Few decks want to be built of only temporary, disposable, and fragile cards. If your deck has an abundance of these cards, though, a card like Restock could be a real winner. All Suns' Dawn can return more potential cards, but the ability to return artifacts and land can be really significant. I've already mentioned one great disposable artifact (Mindslaver), but there are plenty more. Lands like Wasteland or Bloodstained Mire also make great Restock targets.
A short word on action and reaction
Simply being temporary isn't enough. Being active is also key here. Reactive cards have this strong tendency to sit in the hand until they are used to, well, react to something. This is another reason why that White Weenie deck I mentioned above wouldn't be using a White Restock – even its spells tend to sit in the hand until they are needed.
Other reactive spells, like countermagic, struggle the same way. Reactive spells depend on the opponent to become useful, and sometimes your opponent will fail to oblige. Even though I've certainly seen some powerful Restocks in my time (5-color Invitational Champion Jim Hustad has been known to RestockTime Walk and Mana Drain more than a handful of times in his day), the fact is that you will get more mileage out of having cards like Plow Under and Earthquake as potential Restock targets. They are just that much more likely to be in your grave to be recovered.
Dodging the RFG
People's dreams of infinite Restock were dashed by that pesky “remove from game” phrase that Wizards R&D decided to put on the card. Darn that R&D! Always out to ruin Green cards! Still, there are a couple of ways to go about dodging the RFG clause keeping you from infinitely Restocking.
Spellweaver Helix: Another messy one, but doable. Get that Restock in your 'yard with some other useful Sorcery. Once you've drawn the third copy of your chosen other Sorcery, your “free” Restock can recover the second copy and let you infinitely Restock. Another option is a card like Hammer of Bogardan being the other card removed by Spellweaver Helix. Once you get to the second Hammer, buying back the Hammer and casting it comes with a pretty nice bonus.
Panoptic Mirror: The clean answer. Infinite Restock is a breeze, but you might have to find something to keep that grave full. Thankfully, a Mirror can fit other spells onto it if you are out of things you want to buy back.
Just getting infinite Restocking as an option doesn't mean much without a lot of mana, but it is still quite nice to be able to constantly fill up your hand with any of the best cards you've had thus far in the game.
My deck for this week is a casual Legacy-legal land destruction deck. Legacy is still a largely unexplored format, so I don't know exactly what I'm trying to attack. Shooting in the dark, here is what I've come up with (and obviously this one is less budget-minded than some others have been):
Deed and Edict help you attack any creatures on the table, while the deck spends its time aggressively hitting the land of your opponent. Land Destruction has generally been one of the most active pastimes of a Magic deck, and when Land Destruction is working it is usually because you are either backing it up with a small clock or because you are overwhelmingly destroying your opponent's land. Here, the Spellweaver Helix can either help you simply increase your abundant ability to hit land destruction, or it can create a nice Restock engine (especially with the Flashback cards).
I hope you enjoyed this week's deck. Next week will be my last Single Card Strategies article. I'll be doing something a little different, and I hope you like it.
See you then, and have a great rest of the week.