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Only Intrude on the Mind

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I got a text last week from Brian David-Marshall. It just said:

"EOTThopULose?"

Intrude on the Mind

For those of you who weren't alive yet in October 2000, when the card Fact or Fiction was originally spoiled, the first post was "EOTFoFULose" ... Which stood for:

"End of Turn, Fact or Fiction... You lose!"

Brian was obviously riffing on an old pun that relatively few people playing right now would even be aware of.

FoF... Thop... Brian is a master of wordplay and puns. Probably the best of anyone I've ever met. On things like deck names he just runs circles around everyone else in the Magic community; but has of course showcased those creative efforts in the wider world, doing things like killing Captain America before it was cool, created a Marvel superhero named "Mize", and of course that seminal first pitch at a Mets game.

This is just five casting cost Fact or Fiction.

Heroes hadn't yet had their first coffee of the day.

Yeah.

That'll be our excuse.

Thank GAWD Brian followed up with another text before the spiderwebs cleared.

"How often will you split 5/0?"

Did I say "gawd" already?

Let's go with the classic.

Oh mah GAWD!

Let's start with the basics:

Intrude on the Mind is obviously a Fact or Fiction variant. But... The first half of the card isn't actually Fact or Fiction: The first half of the card is Steam Augury.

Steam Augury

The original, Fact or Fiction, was a format-defining one-spell advantage engine the second it was printed in Standard, and even better (relatively speaking) in Invasion Block Constructed.

It won the inaugural Invasion Block Constructed Pro Tour in the hands of Pro Tour Hall of Famer Zvi Mowshowitz...

The Solution | Invasion Block Contstructed | Zvi Mowshowitz, 1st Place Pro Tour Tokyo 2001


... And it won the PTQ-season closing Grand Prix in the hands of Pro Tour Hall of Famer David Humpherys (after Apocalypse and Desolation Angel had been added to the mix, obviously):

[deck from https://decks.tcgplayer.com/magic/freeform/david-humpherys/u-w-b-control/156]


Zvi's argument for Fact or Fiction was simple: If you want three cards, you're going to get three cards. When Zvi advocated a more controlling uw Standard deck at US Nationals, for instance, he often said just to take the three cards (or sometimes four!)... Because that would best operate Mageta the Lion.

Mageta the Lion

... But we said a second ago that Intrude on the Mind isn't Fact or Fiction... It's Steam Augury.

Besides Steam Augury having been nowhere near the success that Fact or Fiction was when it was printed, Steam Augury (and its direct descendant, Intrude on the Mind) lose two important features of the original.

  1. You can't just take three cards. If you do a two-three split with Intrude on the Mind, and volume of cards in hand matters, the opponent can just give you the two.
  2. You can't - or you can't as easily - engage in the Counterspell bluff.

The Counterspell bluff was a unique feature of Fact or Fiction and its ability to leverage hidden information. Imagine you had six mana open and the opponent tapped out for some sort of must-counter spell.

You could respond by playing Fact or Fiction, to see if you revealed some relevant permission.

Now your opponent doesn't know if you have a Counterspell in hand already or not.

Plus, Fact or Fiction had another powerful feature that Intrude on the Mind, gladly, does share: The Five Spell FoF.

If you revealed a "Five Spell FoF" the opponent would probably be in a lot of trouble at this point. You'd always be ahead. Anything you took would be good: The only question would be how good.

What the Counterspell bluff allowed you to do was bias a more fair Fact or Fiction. Imagine the five cards came up one Counterspell and four lands. The opponent might split 1/4 and cross their fingers.

You know if you have a Counterspell already or not; they don't.

If you need the Counterspell... Well, you just take the Counterspell and you got what you needed.

If you already had the Counterspell, you could take four cards (one for four, yeah!) and use the Counter already in your hand. You'd be up a lot of raw cardboard, if nothing else.

A 1/4 split there might happen whether or not there were a must-counter threat on the stack, though. But imagine a FoF pile with three spells and two lands. The opponent might give you the Counterspell and a land versus two spells and a land. With knowledge of having a Counterspell (or not) this specific bluff, and using it in games where you had a little space for interplay, was one of the key features of Fact or Fiction.

That is, it was one of the key features of Fact or Fiction, but not Steam Augury... And not Intrude on the Mind.

But!

This card has something else going for it!

Remember BDM's second text?

"How often will you split 5/0?"

This is the one that gets you thinking...

At a minimum, every 5/0 split is what we in the long of the tooth club call, "fightin' words." You're daring the opponent to give you a 5/5 flash flyer... Or five cards in hand. Depending on the board state, either of those options is potentially a killer. The problem, if there is one with Intrude on the Mind, is that the opponent can decide which one is less of a killer in that moment.

Imagine they're crossing The Red Zone with a 4/4 creature that they'd really like to connect with, to keep... Well as much as it might pain them, they might just concede five cards to you.

This of course depends on which cards they are! If one of them is, say, an efficient removal spell, that's going to affect their decision. "This poor 4/4 is dead either way," they might think, and give you the 5/5 Thopter.

... Unless of course they're on 5 life!

While Intrude on the Mind loses some of what made Fact or Fiction so leverageable, it has its own mental sub-games that are bound to be uniquely rewarding.

Aside:

No discussion of 5/0 splits is complete without a mention of the card Blood Oath.

Blood Oath

Now of course it was the opponent who could be making one pile of zero and one pile of one card in the Fact or Fiction days. Was there a reason beyond "fightin' words"?

Well, there might have been.

Or at a minimum it might have been a masterful bluff.

What might you do, when presented a potential pile of five? Snap take it? You might be snap-taking fifteen... Especially if the opponent had four open mana.

More than one mage who had had his hand slapped (or mayhap, elbow gripped in a Roman farewell) opted for zero, quaking in bloody fear.

End aside.

Consequently, Intrude on the Mind is the most exciting card I've seen previewed in a while. I love spells! I love spells much more than permanents, from both a deck-building and a philosophical position. Spells are one-shot; so even when they are powerful, they require players to be more judicious about how they want to deploy them than permanents.

Snowballing cards like Wedding Announcement // Wedding Festivity, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, or many Planeswalkers showcase how much less strategic and skill intensive the average permanent is than spell-on-the-stack. The fact that most popular creatures are built to accrue snowballing value exacerbate the problem. It's not just 7-drops like Atraxa, Grand Unifier! A lowly Preacher of the Schism is drawing cards every turn and even 1-drops like Crawling Chorus or Voldaren Epicure come with natural bumper lanes. You can screw up a lot with a Wedding Announcement, but the card's inherent volume of battlefield position can often pull you out of it. Ditto for Fable, and so on.

For me, though; Intrude on the Mind, by contrast, already has the dominoes falling for deck-building and tactics.

Like... If you have a relatively expensive card draw spell like Intrude on the Mind... How does that impact the decisions in the rest of your deck? I would want to play a lot of cheap cards, like Cut Down or Duress, so that I could create two-spell turns even when casting Intrude on the Mind. These cheap spells would give me something to do and help me survive so that I could cast my soon-to-be-beloved Intrude on the Minds.

I might be okay playing less powerful or less naturally card advantageous answers, and make it up on volume. Like, maybe I don't go so hard on favorites like Sunfall, but I'm so gaga on both Memory Deluge and Intrude on the Mind that my plan is to bury the opponent with a full eight-pack. Let Gawd sort them out, you know?

But the most exciting part of this card, for me, is its tactical implications.

Let's go back to the Counterspell bluff. You probably have some sort of Counterspell bluff situation built into Intrude on the Mind; only you'll need two relevant answers and an opponent who is willing to play along. What I don't love about this card from the original Zvi assertion is just that you're not going to guarantee three cards every cast...

... Except you are!

One of them is just always going to be a 3/3 Thopter.

If you 2/3 split, you're always going to get a 3/3 Thopter with Intrude on the Mind, which is "your third card". If you get the three-pile, that is actually a four-pile with a 2/2 Thopter. This is already confusing to me and I've been thinking about it all week. Imagine how terrible it would be for poor opponents who haven't been thinking about this card at all yet!

From an operational standpoint, I'd recommend just playing Intrude on the Mind decks if they're remotely viable for two reasons:

  1. You want to be competent at Intrude on the Mind piles, yourself; in part as defense against other people playing Intrude on the Mind decks.
  2. If your opponents aren't practiced with this kind of deck, you get even more free value than a guaranteed three-for-one. See also Getting Edges in Paper! by Our Hero.

Back to tactics:

Your opponent is attacking you. But this time instead of a 4/4 they want to keep, it's only a 2/2. People play hella 2/2s in basically all the formats.

You cast Intrude on the Mind.

At a minimum, that 2/2 is dead if you want it dead. At. A. Minimum!

You get a 2/2 flying Thopter token and three cards and their 2/2 is gonesville on the block. Heroes: Keep three cards in hand where once they had only one [Intrude on the Mind]. It's like triple Annihilate.

Or:

You gobble their 2/2 like a delicious Food token. You keep a 3/3 flyer. The retail price on a 3/3 flyer with no drawbacks has got to be three mana, even today. That means for the other two mana you:

  1. Drew two cards. Wow that's an efficient uu at instant speed!
  2. Killed their creature, clean, and kept your Thopter. That's some 1997 Weissman era card advantage theory. You'd have to have access to old issues of The Duelist to understand what I'm talking about - years older even than EOTFoFULose... But just trust me that you'd be participating in a decades-long tradition of Control players feeling much smarter than beatdown players. It's not just card advantage: It's connection. Trust.

I can't wait to Intrude on my opponents' Minds... And then Intrude on The Red Zone with my colorless Blue card Thopter-spawn. And then Intrude on their Gawd-d life totals. This card is going to be even better than you think.

LOVE

MIKE

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