An order against Show and Tell by Eduardo Sajgalik
A story of Succession
Choose left or right. Starting with you and proceeding in the chosen direction, each player chooses a creature controlled by the next player in that direction. Each player gains control of the creature he or she chose.
An interesting Mind Control effect for a decent cost, which can be interesting in a creature-less deck as you would receive a creature and give none yourself, whether that’s in head-to-head or in full on Multiplayer action, particularly the latter where this kind of effect will lead to cheers and boos from the chumps opponents across the table.
You are probably wondering, quite rightfully at this point, why I am discussing this card. Not exactly a card that would seem to dominate any format, let alone one as powerful as Legacy or Vintage… right?
Back when the card was first released on Magic: The Gathering Online (MTGO), it was bugged. Remember the card text above? Well, forget it and lo and behold the new and improved version:
Choose left or right.
Starting with you and proceeding in the chosen direction, each player chooses a creature controlled by the next player in that direction. If a player could not select a creature, that player times out instead.
Or, for those unfamiliar with MTGO, here’s what the card means if you play a creature-less deck:
Starting with you, if a player could not select a creature, that player has to concede the game.
3U: You win the game
Pretty good right?
Unsurprisingly, people playing against these “Succession Control” decks (featuring Oath of Druids superstar Forbidden Orchard) were furious. They felt cheated out of the game, they couldn’t do anything. It wasn’t just unfair, it was unfun, which is substantially worse.
Some of the more inventive members of the community would kill their only creature in response to the spell – since the choice starts with the player casting the spell, they would now be unable to choose a creature and thus would time out themselves, forcing them to concede from their own game winning spell. While I would argue the right response is to take a screenshot and get these vile players banned, this is definitely a sweet move to pull off, a sort of meta-troll if you will.
You’re probably still wondering about why, in 2015, I’m talking about a bug involving a Commander 2013 card on MTGO that has since been resolved and has made a limited, although vocal, amount of noise. You could argue it was a history lesson (indeed), you could say it was a fun little factoid into integrating cards onto MTGO (which it can be), or about how messed up Commander 2013 really was (the set featuring True-Name Nemesis – although that card is messed up in a different way). Keep on reading as you take you through the end of our tale, as our story has an ending.
Wizards eventually fixed the bug and issued a nice 30 day ban to any player proven to run this “combo”. Everyone rejoiced and we left the story as another one in the long history of MTGO bugs – which, to be fair, would happen with any software over 12 years of age.
Forgotten deep in the mists of time, left alone and undug.
Or so you would think, as we are living in the shadow of its nightmarish present incarnation.
The Showcased Predecessor
The card is still legal, but as with any witness protection program, goes by a different name and has a slightly different iteration:
Each player may put an artifact, creature, enchantment, or land card from his or her hand onto the battlefield.
The comparisons are quite close – both cards are very powerful sorceries that threaten to win the game when they resolve for quite a low amount of work. Both are blue, and thus in the best colour for Eternal formats. Both are hard to disrupt, touch or interact with, a quality that should not be associated with game winning cards.
Let’s actually view this in a table.
|Show and Tell||(Bugged) Order of Succession|
|Mana Cost||2U – Sorcery||3U – Sorcery|
|Additional Criteria to win the game||One specific card in hand, potentially with more support||Opponent has a creature, caster has none|
|Weaknesses||Opponent can put into play or already have a troublesome permanent||Opponent, if they have a limited amount of creatures, can kill their own creature in response to force caster to lose the game.|
|Support cards||Blue card draw, counterspells, lands that produce 2 colourless mana||Blue card draw, counterspells, lands that produce 2 colourless mana, Forbidden Orchard|
It is shockingly close, isn’t it? A card that is bugged to win the game when cast is barely more powerful than a sorcery that is already legal in the format. And yet while Order of Succession had caused an uproar, Show and Tell is running rampant and has won many, many more matches to the discontent of many players. It is one thing when Show and Tell saw play in the Sneak & Show deck, which had tons of redundant pieces that in no way helped to set up the combo if drawn in multiples (namely, copies of Gristlebrand and Emrakul, The Aeons Torn) so that players at least felt they had a chance. Now, with Omniscience being the kill condition of choice, these decks have even negated the drawback of drawing multiple dead cards by having additional win condition cards used to cast Force of Will!
Show and Tell is simply unfair. The outcry I hear from that community is that Legacy is an unfair format, which a completely valid point – I mean, have you read Brainstorm recently? Far more importantly, I would argue that Show and Tell is the antithesis of fun.
Not much has to happen to win with the card and this makes games involving Show and Tell a miserable experience – either for the player against the deck where the card is soul crushing on the stack, or the player with the deck when their combo doesn’t come together. It’s not like Elves or Storm where a lot of individual actions take place and can be disrupted or interacted with at various stages, or Dredge which attacks on a different axis, or even Reanimator that becomes more fragile in order to gain speed and versatility. It’s all around one big card, one big permanent and rarely putting them at any risk if you are a savvy player. All for the low, low cost of 2U.
At two and a blue mana, I would argue both Windfall and Timetwister, both on the Legacy ban list (and correctly so), are less inherently broken then the card Show and Tell as they don’t lead to as many automatic game wins upon resolution.
You could argue that the deck is not dominating Legacy at the moment but it is likely one of the stronger options available out there, if not the strongest if the field was not incredibly prepared. But it cannot be enjoyable to have Show and Tell in the format and think that a single card that cheats players out of a game so easily should be legal in a format.
Let’s do one quick last comparison with one of the most deserved bans for Legacy tournament play, possibly ever:
You may put a creature card from your hand onto the battlefield. If you do, sacrifice it unless you pay its mana cost reduced by up to 2.
|Show and Tell||Flash|
|Mana Cost||2U – Sorcery||1U – Instant|
|Additional Criteria to win the game||One specific card in hand, potentially with support (Omniscience)||One specific Card in hand (Protein Hulk), tutor able (Summoner’s Pact)|
|Weaknesses||Opponent can put into play a or already have a troublesome permanent||Grafdigger’s Cage, Rest in Peace, limited interaction with creatures|
|Support cards||Blue card draw, counterspells, lands that produce 2 colourless mana||Blue card draw, counterspells.|
NB – For those unaware, a player could cast the card Flash to put Protean Hulk into play. At this point, you choose not to pay the creature’s mana cost, sacrificing it and triggering Protean Hulk’s ability, at which point you win the game through a convoluted combo. The best version of Flash also featured the interaction of Sensei’s Divining Top and Counterbalance for extra fun and as is, in the view of many, the most broken Legacy deck ever to be featured in competitive play.
Don’t get me wrong – Flash is way worse than Show and Tell. But the fact the two cards are comparable is not exactly a good sign – they both cheat mana costs in a pretty ludicrous manner in order to win the game in short order; they are both blue and have easy set up mechanics; there is little an opponent can do once the spell resolves.
Here’s the main question this article alludes to: Should Show and Tell be banned in Legacy?
In my honest opinion, based on the current metagame, there is no need to. But I would strongly argue for a banning, only with a view towards the future and how the card warps other decks around it, like a black hole from which no enjoyment escapes. And a good way to talk about this is to look at the community discussion around banning the card Dig Through Time.
When looking at bannings in Legacy, there has been quite a bit of community chatter around Dig Through Time being too powerful. Here’s the thing – if Dig Through Time had been printed back in Future Sight, no one would bat an eyelid at the card and we would have accepted it as a new, natural part of the Legacy metagame a long time ago. I say Future Sight here because it was the first set with Delve and was printed a while back. In my view, Show and Tell has survived the axe for far too long by virtue of being printed in 1999 with some of the most potent cards of all time in that particular set (ie. Tolarian Academy), hiding itself because it was not quite as broken as the others. It’s one thing when the card puts into play Akroma, Angel of Wrath or Spirit of the Night – it’s another when you have Omniscience, Gristlebrand and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in existence.
Sometimes, it’s correct to throw out the old toys so that they don’t outshine the new ones we receive, as the joy of having new interactions and wondrous environments to play in is well worth protecting. My view here is to get rid of Show and Tell, as it is stifling and you likely need to play Blue and/or Black to effectively fight Show and Tell (discard or counterspells). Do we really need a strategy that’s punishing to non-blue decks in Legacy, a format which includes a gentleman’s agreement to never have Brainstorm suffer the banhammer, a card that defines on its own a whopping SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT of the metagame?!
I am a fan of showing off shiny new cards in slow-moving formats, it makes for interesting moments as you ponder and consider their use in deckbuilding, while get to catch your unprepared and unsuspecting opponent off guard. It’s time we unlocked the non-blue decks from the shackles of oppression that Show and Tell has cast upon them in its tentacular embrace so we can, with a bit of luck, show Brainstorm who’s the boss.
In truth, Brainstorm will still be the top dog but at least those non-blueliever fools will think they have a chance against it, which is usually just as good.
While on the subject of bannings, let’s talk about my another pet peeve in Legacy, Sensei’s Divining Top – the nightmare of any online viewer and key linchpin in making sure Miracles resembles a lava lamp, moving slowly in a mesmerizing and captivating fashion, as it draws both your attention and games of Magic. I think it would be fascinating to make it Legacy’s only restricted card, a card not used as a linchpin but only for value (a use I would fully approve of). Or, in a more interesting way, we could apply Cardboard Crack’s solution to the problem:
Source: Cardboard Crack – visit them, their comics are sweet!
Get rid of Show and Tell and you would end up, in my view, with a stronger Legacy format. It’s not a particularly interactive or entertaining strategy and warps the decks that can be played, stifling non-blue decks even more than they already are. It has done damage for too long and just needs to retire away to Vintage, Cube and Casual Play.
Well, that’s at least my view on the matter.
Community Question: In your personal opinion, should Show and Tell be banned in Legacy or no?
Thanks for reading,