The Price of Progress

Posted in Card Preview on May 26, 2016

By Nate Price

A longtime member of the Pro Tour and Grand Prix coverage staff, Nate Price now works making beautiful words for all of you lovely people as the community manager for organized play. When not covering events, he lords over the @MagicProTour Twitter account, ruling with an iron fist.

Hooray, it's Eternal Masters Preview Week! Do I ever have a hot preview for you!

I'm not sure why I, of all people, got asked to write this preview.

On a completely unrelated note, you should totally follow me on Twitter if you aren't already.

Now to brass tacks. Or brass tax. I was never sure which of those it actually was. Whatever.

On to the preview card:

Soak it in.

Price of Progress isn't some cherry-red sports car, engine making those fetching vroom noises under the hood. No one's going to stop mid-sentence as it drives past, wondering how much the insurance on one of those things has got to cost. No, Price of Progress is more like a family sedan with high safety ratings and side-impact beams that gets like 50 miles to the gallon.

My kind of sexy.

It takes a special kind of mage (read: sadist) to enjoy what Price of Progress brings to the table. To quote Patrick Sullivan, the greatest red mage of our time, "Red cares not for subtlety or beauty. It cares only that you follow your heart. It is simple, brutal, honest, and efficient."

[Editor's note: Probably not an actual Patrick Sullivan quote.]

And he's right.

[Editor's note: Still not an actual Patrick Sullivan quote.]

Red decks aren't known for being complex masterpieces. They don't weave grand narratives, unless you consider "burn it all to the ground" to be narrative genius. Red decks don't care about sweet new tech or innovation. Red decks just want opponents to go from 20 to 0 in the most efficient manner possible. End of narrative.

You see, that's what all of this so-called ingenuity and progress really inserts into decks: weakness. You try to do too many cute things with your deck, try to make them too complex, and you just get steamrolled. How many of you out there have had The Best Cube Deck Ever™ only to get run over, I mean steamrolled, by—and these are the words of an anonymous Internet denizen—"the jerk with the Sulfuric Vortex"?

Not me. I am the jerk with the Sulfuric Vortex. I'm the one who preys on the weaknesses others choose to put into their decks.

Deck filled with six-drops? Dead ya.

You need time to piece together your combo? Get outta here, son! I've got more worthy opponents to roast.

Weakness. Weakness is the true Price of Progress. Look around the landscape of Legacy. How many basic lands do you see showing up in decklists? Sure, there are a few here and there, but it's a veritable undiscovered paradise of Underground Seas, Tropical Islands, and Misty Rainforests. Legacy's mana bases look like ads for a travel agency. No one ever talks much about their vacations to generic Island, but they definitely take 5,000 Instagram pics (#nofilter) of their trip to a Volcanic Island or the Island of Wak-Wak...wherever that is.

I digress.

These plentiful mana bases, which make many of these so-called "powerful strategies" viable, might scream strength to you, but to the seasoned red player, they cry weakness. They meekly await the gentle caress of a welcoming Wasteland. They yearn to be destroyed, or at least taken advantage of. That's where Price of Progress comes in. For the efficient cost of two mana, Price of Progress will take a rather significant chunk of life from your opponents. Sure, it might hurt you some, but it's going to hurt your opponents way worse. In terms of efficiency, you tend to get more bang for your buck with Price of Progress than with any other burn spell in Legacy. Best of all? It's an instant. Once you get opponents low enough (which is only like 6 or 8 life with this baby in your deck), the fear gets them. And once they've got the fear, they're as good as dead.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that Price of Progress might not be the most powerful card in Eternal Masters Limited. Burn may not be the flashiest or most powerful thing you can do in Legacy or Vintage. But it, like the Burn deck it is a central part of, is cheap and effective. With all of the Bolts and supporting spells you have access to, Burn can level an opponent before they get to open their paper bags for Show and Tell, forecast a Storm, or die and pay taxes. Burn is always there, like some sort of primordial element of nature, and if you're looking for a good place to get into Legacy, it's a great start.

With all of that extolling of Price of Progress's virtues, I want you, loyal reader who slogged through this wall of text to reach this point, to know the truth of things.

I am not a red player. I made all of that up. I mean, my first deck was a red deck and I have been confused for noted red mage Dave Price (no relation) at events before, but I just can't in good conscience continue this charade. At some point, someone introduced me to Islands, and I saw the light. Nowadays, all I want to do is draw cards and do ridiculous, broken things. I mean, who wants to cast Lightning Bolt when you can cast Cruel Ultimatum, or Seasons Past, or Cryptic Command? I may be the only person in the world who loves Mulldrifter as much as DailyMTG editor Blake Rasmussen.

That said, I have probably been on the receiving end of more Boils, Red Elemental Blasts, Pyroblasts, and Price of Progresses (or however you pluralize it) than most people alive. I've felt the pain of tapping out only to wake up with no Islands. I've felt in complete control of a game when a surprise Price of Progress takes me from 12 to 0. And let me tell you: it hurts.

So when I was asked to write this preview article, the first thing I did was smash my face against my keyboard. My eternal nemesis, back from the grave. I thought I had escaped from it. I was living in a wonderland where Siege Rhino and Crackling Doom and Jace and literally anything else you wanted could go into a deck, and it was all good. Now it's back. Yeah, I know that it's not going to be Standard-legal, but it's still going to be there, waiting like some fiery red phantom in the back of my Eternal Masters boosters, reminding me of the sting and pain of defeat.

As Magic Online's own Lee Sharpe, another noted red mage, is frequently known to say, "Red cares not for subtlety or beauty. It cares only that you follow your heart. It is simple, brutal, honest, and efficient."

[Editor's note: Probably not a...well, actually, Lee might have said this one. Whatever. I'm over this article.]

I followed my heart, and it led me down a different path. You don't have to make the same mistake I did. You don't have to pay the Price of Progress. You can join the ranks of the red. You, too, can watch the world burn.

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