Reconstruct History — Treasures Pt. 2: Treasure-Hosers
(Viridian Revel | Art by rk post)
Do Not Seek the Treasure!
Welcome back to another installment of Reconstruct History, where we look at popularity in cards and archetypes here at EDHREC over time.
This installment, we're following up our Treasures Pt. 1 to now look at cards that hose or hate on Treasures. First, let me set the stage a bit, as it's been some time since the last article on this juncture.
Back in April we took a look at the data here on EDHREC, and based on the data, we noticed a couple of big takeaways:
- Treasures made their debut in Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan (2017) as 25 cards, predominately in Grixis (Pirate-themed) colors.
- Since the start of 2021, we've gotten over 100 cards that produce Treasure tokens, moving out of blue and into green (which is now secondary in Treasure production)
- Cards that make Treasure tokens tend to be the most popular cards within their own set, excluding reprints.
- Nearly every card that makes Treasure tokens included in over 10,000 decks is still trending fairly steady or even upwards in popularity. In other words, most popular Treasure-makers seem to be getting even more popular over time, the major exception being Monologue Tax, which seems to be trending downwards; maybe folks are finding it not all that effective, as I have, and pulling it from their lists.
- Price and popularity of Treasure cards have a fairly visible relationship, with big offenders being Smothering Tithe and Dockside Extortionist, but even cards like Pitiless Plunderer and Deadly Dispute fetch surprising price tags despite being uncommons.
This analysis was sparked by a lot of community discussion and deliberation on whether Treasure design had simply gone too far. In pretty much the Spring of 2022 alone:
- An Op-Ed on The Gamer decried Treasures design being too ubiquitous
- Our own esteemed EDHRECast discussed how prevalent Treasures had become and how to address them
- PleasantKenobi (warning: explicit language) released a video entitled "Does Magic: The Gathering have a treasure problem? - WotC Plz" that called into question Treasure design
- The Command Zone Podcast's Josh and Jimmy stated that Treasures "warp the game in a really weird way", in part for their ability to 'carry over' mana from turn to turn.
Just what are some of the concerns with Treasures? What's their potential anyways?
The Legendary Creature Podcast recently featured an episode (warning: explicit content) titled "New Artifact Throughlines" discussing the 'New Age' of artifacts, with Treasures (among Clue and Food tokens as well) breathing new light into what artifact decks are capable of. Co-host Andy Pinkston aptly terms them as "handholds" in that they act as a means of facilitating other synergistic pieces such as artifacts entering the battlefield (e.g., Reckless Fireweaver, Junk Winder, Kappa Cannoneer), just existing on the battlefield (e.g., Cranial Plating, Nettlecyst), and leaving the battlefield (e.g., Disciple of the Vault, Marionette Master, Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest). Think of them as hooks with massive synergistic potential whether they are entering or leaving a battlefield near you.
It makes a great deal of sense to frame them this way; after all, they are analogous to Lotus Petal, a $20 uncommon that sees play in a staggering 105,000 decks! While Lotus Petal has some obvious upsides in being an actual card and something you can recur or cast with Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, it's quite similar to Treasures in terms of its utility in being effectively a 'free' form of color-fixing tacked onto a relevant permanent type.
Indeed, a look at our data shows Mazirek overtook both Beledros Witherbloom and The Gitrog Monster amidst all the Treasure support in Spring, and while he didn't stay above them, I think it speaks volumes about the power of Treasures, Clues, and Food tokens and the many "handholds" they facilitate. Back in the day, you had to do most of the work yourself to get Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest rolling, but now, if everyone else is running Treasures, you just get to mooch off of them, making him much more scary in today's Commander-scape.
Below are two screenshots of polls, the left one conducted by IGN back in April 2022 (790 respondents), and the one on the right from my own post back in April a few weeks later (1,378 respondents).
It's interesting to note some of the variation in votes here (after all, the polls do have different questions), but I think it's safe to say that there's a cadre of people who either find Treasures problematic or are skirting the line of being so.
IGN's Tom Marks interviewed Gavin Verhey, who, after the release of Gala Greeters and Ognis, the Dragon's Lash, which generate tapped Treasure tokens, was quoted to have said that Treasures are:
"...generally pretty fun, I find. Like, a little bit of mana boost is enjoyable, so I don't mind Treasures coming in untapped most of the time. I think where it becomes the most dangerous is when a card is creating a huge blast of Treasures that come into play untapped.”
In March 2022, Mark Rosewater stated:
"Treasure has proven to be both mechanically and flavorfully synergistic and is a tool I expect R&D to use in many sets to come."
But in July, amidst concerns raised by members of the player base (e.g., alargenerd), he responded on his Blogatog that:
"I hear your request for more Treasure hate cards and will communicate that desire to the rest of R&D."
The EDH Deckbuilding Channel created a video titled "So you hate all those Treasure tokens in Commander?" to try and arm viewers with Treasure-hosers and to try and combat the deluge of Treasure tokens flooding the format.
In that light, and ahead of what R&D may provide us with in terms of Treasure hate to come, what we're focused on here is what current Treasure hate cards exist today, and what their popularity trends appear to be in the wake of the Great Treasure Spring of 2022.
In Part 1, we looked at cards that produce Treasure tokens, which as far as Scryfall searches go, was a heck of a lot easier than what we're interested in today.
Let's outline some criteria for Part 2:
- Metric: Rank and N decklists. Normally I just use rank, and prefer it to help adjust the data per color of card, but since we're scraping a lot of different cards with different color combinations, I'll actually be resorting to decklists (and subsequently, Log*N decks) to help visualize some of these results.
- Cards analyzed: Cards that incidentally 'hose' Treasure tokens, from Alpha to Dominaria United
- Timeframe: Last two years (January 2020 – August 2022)
- Breaks: Year of printing, and/or monthly intervals
It's that point number two that's much trickier here, because as it turns out, there's a lot of weird, quirky ways to shut down Treasures or otherwise penalize people for using them. Sure, you can hit them with a Stony Silence or a Collector Ouphe, which are pretty blunt in their approach.
But you can also use other, quirkier cards, like Leyline of Singularity to turn all Treasure tokens (actually all tokens, for that matter!) into legendary permanents, which means they get sacrificed to "the Legend rule" (704.5j "If two or more legendary permanents with the same name are controlled by the same player, that player chooses one of them, and the rest are put into their owners' graveyards."). Haunting Wind is one of my favorites, but it admittedly fetches a heck of a price tag now, but I like that it effectively pings everyone for using artifacts, which can punish Treasures, my wife's Alibou, Ancient Witness deck, or any infinite combo decks that rely on artifacts. Then there's cards like Titania's Song, which other than containing a ballad of text, essentially makes Treasure tokens into creatures, which die since they have no toughness.
All this goes to say, there's some sweet tech out there that can punish Treasures, so I've decided to look at the list below for our analysis today.
Cards AnalyzedView on Archidekt
This is by no means exhaustive. There's bound to be other quirky cards out there that work (e.g, Corrosion), but in most cases, their popularity just isn't even high enough to scrape. Even my dear pet card Haunting Wind hasn't made the top ~2,000 black cards in the last few years, so there's really not a sense in including it in the analysis. But hey, bonus points for running one!
Popularity of Treasure-'Hoser' Cards
Let's start with a time series of how popular our Treasure-'hoser' cards have been over the last few years. A few things to keep in mind:
- Keep an eye on that Y axis, as it will change from graph to graph, but that's mainly to help scale the visuals a bit better.
- You'll notice some cards (e.g., Structural Assault) just don't have a lot of data points yet, so they don't have a detailed X axis (dates).
- Finally, and this is a big one: I'm omitting the multi-colored cards in this section (Culling Ritual, Mayhem Devil, Yasharn, Implacable Earth, etc.) These are all fantastic inclusions in your decks for multiple reasons, but they end up having an odd relationship given that the overall pool of multi-colored cards is far smaller than any of the mono-colored ones, so their ranks tend to be a bit off. Don't worry, we'll still include them in the next sections!
Rank score of mono-colored Treasure 'hosers' over last 2 ish years (Jan 2020 - Aug 2022)
Up close, we can see most aren't trending upwards despite the deluge of Treasure-producers. Some key cards have certainly jumped, like Disciple of the Vault, Fangren Marauder, and Viridian Revel, while others (e.g., Magnetic Mine) broke the 2000 mark, but only just. Time will tell if it becomes the true silver bullet against Treasures, Clues, and Food alike!
Next, we can plot all of these side-by-side to get a better sense of how they compare to one another, as well as with a fixed Y-axis (rank).
What we can see here is that, frankly, most cards are seem to fall into some basic categories: On the Rise (e.g., Disciple of the Vault), Holding Steady (e.g., Blind Obedience), or Steady Decline (e.g., Seeds of Innocence).
Popularity of 'Hosers' vs. Producers
Well, at first glance above, it doesn't look like the Treasure-'hosers' we have available to us have kept up with the increasing popularity of their Treasure-producing counterparts.
Now that we've had time for Streets of New Capenna and Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate data to settle, I think it's time we revisit the popularity of cards that produce Treasure tokens and compare them to our cards that hose Treasures. Rather than reflect the color identity of the card here, I've simply colored it as either a card that produces Treasure tokens (gold/beige) or one of our Treasure 'hosers' (teal).
With so many cards, I know it's a bit hard to make out, but our biggest 'hosers' in order are Vandalblast (133,146 decks), Blind Obedience (49,140 decks), and Mayhem Devil (36,824 decks).
These are great cards, no question, but I do think they're good because they either break parity and interact with all of your opponents' artifacts (in the case of Vandalblast, Blind Obedience) or otherwise reward you for focusing on your own strategy (e.g., Mayhem Devil, Disciple of the Vault), with the potential to hose opponents cracking Treasures or Clues just being gravy.
Overall, I think it's asking a lot of a few cards to try and keep the swell of Treasures (Clues, Blood, Food, etc.) and artifacts at bay. To me, it feels a small construction barricade against a tsunami - a David and Goliath scenario. However, as Mark Rosewater said, we very well may get more Davids printed in the future.
The Price of Hosing Treasures
Next, let's look at price and see just how much it would set you back to get your hands on some of these Treasure-hosers. I'll include both N decks and log*N decks graph in the carousel below, as it helps spread things out a bit more.
N decks and Log*N decks of treasure 'hosers' by price ($USD) as of 8/20/2022
The good thing is that most won't set you too far back, unless your reaching for outliers like Null Rod or Seeds of Innocence.
Perhaps no card embodies the community's response to Treasures than Viridian Revel, which lay dormant in bulk bins and was passed over for years as people thumbed through Scars of Mirrodin and other chaff. With the influx of Treasures going from a trickle to full-on deluge, alongside support for other artifact tokens like Clues, Blood, and Food, people started scooping these up left and right, and by the Fall of 2021, it saw an +870% increase in price. While it's still less than $5.00, I think its price jump, and more importantly, its slow and steady decline since its initial jump in price may well go to show that it is indeed a house against artifact token decks, but requires an ideal setup to fully reap its rewards.
Finally, we can compare our Treasure-'hosers' versus Treasure-producers. Compared to Treasure-producers, Treasure-'hosers' do edge out a bit in terms of price, but not much.
A lot of this is likely due to the niche nature of some older forms of artifact hate (e.g., Null Rod, Meltdown, Seeds of Innocence) and an overall smaller sample of cards we are drawing from. The good news is that there are plenty of options if you're looking to hose Treasures on a budget.
The Real Price of Hosing Treasures
Crucially, there's another price you have to pay outside of the financial one to hose Treasures, and I think it's more important to consider.
It's the price of them taking up deck slots. I think you have to ask yourself: what's the opportunity cost of slotting in artifact/Treasure hate into your deck?
I think it's safe to say that artifacts, 1) being the most popular theme on EDHREC, paired with 2) how important they are in mana ramp/acceleration for many colors, and 3) how many 'handholds' (to once again borrow Andy's term) Clue, Treasure, Blood, and Food tokens offer, means altogether, artifacts are present at probably every EDH pod, and consequently, provisioning against them is not the worst idea.
The question becomes: how far do you go? Collector Ouphe, Stony Silence, and Null Rod are efficient, but in addition to screaming 'remove me!' for your opponents, they require you to build your deck in a deliberate way to avoid hosing your own artifact development or Treasures. There's also the social cost of potentially hosing someone's deck outright, especially many decks that rely on artifacts as their only source of ramp, which may not be the experience everyone is after.
Meltdown, Bane of Progress, Hammer Mage, etc. are all excellent at smelting all artifacts into oblivion, and I'd venture to say they're worth including for that reason alone. However, you also have to worry how much damage you could inflict on your own board if poorly timed. Culling Ritual and Structural Assault becomes much more appetizing here, as you can force opponents to sacrifice their things, or otherwise benefit even if some of your own artifacts get destroyed in the process.
Viridian Revel, Kothophed, Soul Hoarder, and Fangren Marauder are great examples of benefiting you for others playing Treasures, Clues, Food, or Blood tokens, in addition to other artifacts used by any opponents. They don't outright deny opponents from using anything, per se, but rather reward you when others use any manner of artifact-to-crats, and therefore can also facilitate your own artifact development. They come with mana value, life total, and card slot considerations you have to weigh, especially on the off chance that people don't really run any of those card types your hoping for and they become dead cards.
This is why I think cards like Blind Obedience, Karn, the Great Creator, or even Vandalblast and Disciple of the Vault are the prized answers against Treasures and other artifact tokens. They are often minimal mana investments, and can be used to help facilitate your own gameplan in addition to hampering your opponents, rather than causing you to blow up your own board or break parity against your own Null Rod effects, and I think the community supports this: it's why the data is so skewed towards these options in terms of popularity.
The Best Defense is
a Good Offense Pretty Much Always Dockside
But perhaps the biggest 'hoser' of all is actually the biggest offender itself: Dockside Extortionist.
Pardon the small aside, but I think we can't do justice to 'hosing' treasures without considering the staggering 146,065 decks the gold-grubbing gobbo occupies. That's 20% of all eligible decks that include red.
The r/EDH subreddit just recently had a forum on Dockside, and many chimed in on whether they thought it was perfectly acceptable, to full-blown ban-worthy. Dockside itself can 'solve' someone else going off with Treasures as his ETB will force your opponent to consider: Do I sacrifice my tokens so the Dockside player doesn't get more themselves, or do I hold on to them so I can enact my gameplan or even respond to further actions by the Dockside player?
Regardless of where we might stand on threat assessment here, I think it shows the power of Dockside in 'answering' Treasures by forcing their removal, or just getting that many in addition to whatever other enchantments and artifacts are on the battlefield.
It epitomizes the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" philosophy, and while there's nothing wrong with that by any means, it can feel a bit of a letdown for those out there (myself included) who would rather curtail the issue rather than doubling down on it. It can be challenging when the best 'solution' just becomes being a bigger problem yourself.
Well, that does it for Treasures, Pt. 2 (mana-boogaloo). What do y'all think? Have you found yourself including any of these silver bullets against Treasures or any other glut of artifacts? Any not listed here you like (my vote still goes to Haunting Wind!)?
More importantly, do you think there needs to be more Treasure hate, or are we in a good place? Sound off in the comments below!
As for me, I'll be sure to keep an eye on cards like Viridian Revel to see if it truly has the staying power some suggest.