BREAKOUT CARD: DIG THROUGH TIME

Posted in PRO TOUR KHANS OF TARKIR - COVERAGE - EVENTS on October 12, 2014

By Marc Calderaro

Delve has been declared universally as pretty awesome. Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas had been fantasizing about taking a Treasure Cruise well before the card was in his hands, Murderous Cut goes in just about any deck with a Swamp that wants to kill creatures, and Dead Drop quickly went on the short list of top Limited uncommons in short order.

One of the cards that kind of flew under the radar was Dig Through Time.

Historically the expensive large sifting spells were good but not great. Ancestral Memories was powerful, but five mana at sorcery speed was not really where it was at. The only time Ancestral Memories was being cast in Constructed was when it was paired with Dream Halls, functionally removing its mana cost at all.

Perhaps overshadowed by Treasure Cruise at first, Dig Through Time has blossomed into the spotlight this weekend.

This historical knowledge, along with a straight-up Ancestral Recall in the set already, made players look elsewhere. When a Blue-Red Legacy list from Bob Huang debuted full suites of the Khans of Tarkir cards Monastery Swiftspear and Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time was nowhere to be found. But after this weekend, it's hard to imagine why it took us so long (even if that was only a week or so). Dig Through Time is so ubiquitous among the successful blue decks here, it's hard to imagine blue without it. No matter the archetype, if there's blue mana, there's a decent chance Dig Through Time is there.

So what makes it so good? Let's take a quick tour through the archetypes that play it. Starting with Control, Gregory Orange, (2) Owen Turtenwald, (6) Stanislaw Cifka, Andrew Cuneo, and, (5) Ivan Floch all play the full four copies in their decks, and it's often the only double-blue spell around. For control decks that have to find the right answers at the right times, Dig Through Time is a godsend. Not only is it card advantage, and at instant speed, but if you need a Bile Blight, Dig Through Time will find it for you. Just look at the Round 13 Feature Match where (5) Ivan Floch dug himself out of a hole in not one, but two games against Brad Nelson's hyper-aggressive Red-White Tokens. Control needs to have extra cards, but not just because they need to be able to go one-for-one with the opponent and still win. The cards they want have to match up with the other ones. Seeing seven cards makes sure that can happen.

Cifka went so far as to tell me control would be "completely unplayable" if not for the Dig Through Time. Cuneo nodded strongly in assent, but he did want to add, "it's not as good as Ancestral Memories for zero." Cuneo, knowing full well the Dream Halls deck of the days of yore still remembers not even having to pay two mana for his draw spells.

Moving onto combo, the Jeskai Ascendancy deck plays as many as it possibly can. The deck must assemble four cards to get their near-infinite combo off, and thanks to enchantment-based discards, Dig Through Time is often a two- or three-mana spell. Luis Scott-Vargas and Dave Williams both play all the copies the rules allow, and it can find not just one, but two combo pieces. The best part? This can be done at the end of the opponent's turn. So you might be dead on the board the next turn, but the power of seeing seven extra cards can be the last hope of finding what you need to win out of nowhere.

The last archetype here that makes incredible use of Dig Through Time is Jeskai Wins. This deck more than any others really highlight just how good the card is. Though the card-drawing spell isn't in all the builds, it's in many of them. That's pretty remarkable that a burn deck plays eight-mana card-draw spells. In fact, that's part of the reason it's so hard to name the deck. Can it be Aggro if it has Dig Through Time; can it be Midrange if it packs upwards of 15 burn spells? If any example consolidates what makes Dig Through Time powerful, it has to be its presence alongside Goblin Rabblemaster, Mantis Rider, and Seeker of the Way. Shahar Shenhar's deck plays three of them and he attributes a lot of his build's success to it.

"It costs two mana. I mean, what else do you want me to say?" Shenhar, like many pro mages, do like their card-drawing spells, and they like them cheap. About the versions of the deck that don't play the card, Shenhar said that "they must not know the match-ups." He continued, "Especially in the midrange or control match-up, they get you there." He said if you need a grip-full of burn, it'll find you a grip-full of burn.

Shahar Shenhar, who was on the popular Jeskai Wins archetype this weekend, was one of many pros who sang the praise of Dig Through Time.

Andrew Cuneo's only criticism of Shenhar's build was apt. "Wait, you're only playing three?" This card is good, folks.

The new format allows for so many awesome new things. We've seen the Abzan Midrange rise, Mardu Planeswalkers, a new combo deck, a Blue-Black Control deck that no one believed was possible, and a precipitous drop of the previously existing archetypes. It is very likely that Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir will be remembered for the rise of Dig Through Time.

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