Today I’m going to talk about one of the most exciting cards from Theros—[card]Steam Augury[/card]. If you haven’t been playing Magic for a while, you might not get the hype or even why this card would be exciting; for many people, however, it’s very interesting because it’s very similar to one of the coolest cards in all of Magic—[card]Fact or Fiction[/card].
[draft]fact or fiction[/draft]
Other than just being very cool (it’s definitely in my top 5 favorite cards ever), [card]Fact or Fiction[/card] was incredibly strong—so much that it created the initial-ism EOTFOFYL, meaning, “End-of-turn [card]Fact or Fiction[/card], you lose.” Back then, blue decks were different than they are now—they had more controlling elements and rarely tapped out, so they could play the game of, “if you do something, I’ll counter it; if you don’t, I’ll play [card]Fact or Fiction[/card].” Those decks traded 1-for-1 and then used [card]Fact or Fiction[/card] to jump way ahead. I think this type of deck can maybe exist again in Standard, now that [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] is gone and you have this instant-speed card drawing.
Alas, [card]Steam Augury[/card] isn’t nearly as good as [card]Fact or Fiction[/card]. There’s no shame in that. Again, [card]Fact or Fiction[/card] was one of the most powerful cards in history. You could argue that, due to giving them the ultimate choice, it’s actually more similar to [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card]—except that you get to tutor for four cards instead of drawing the top five, so it’s clearly much worse. Regardless, it makes no sense to compare this card to previous format all-stars, because the environment is much different. [card]Brainstorm[/card] was worse than [card]Ancestral Recall[/card] and ended up being the best card in Legacy.
That said, it does have some advantages over those two cards. By choosing which cards go into each pile, you can mix and match as you want. If you play [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card] for [card]Channel[/card], [card]Fireball[/card], [card]Illusions of Grandeur[/card], and [card]Donate[/card], they’re just going to give you [card]Channel[/card] and [card]Donate[/card], and the same is going to happen if those show up in [card]Fact or Fiction[/card]. With [card]Steam Augury[/card], you can make sure that you get either [card]Channel[/card] and [card]Fireball[/card] or [card]Illusions of Grandeur[/card] and [card]Donate[/card]. Those are obviously extreme examples, but the point they illustrate is very valid.
Imagine, for example, that you are stuck on red mana and you flip a Mountain and an important double-red card—with [card]Fact or Fiction[/card], they could just split both, but with this card you can make sure that if you get your red card you will also get your second Mountain to play it. In fact, one of the most common [card]Fact or Fiction[/card] splits was lands versus spells—FoF decks were naturally mana hungry, so you couldn’t afford to give them cards and the mana to play them, you had to hope that, if they took the cards, they would then be constrained on mana. With [card]Steam Augury[/card], you can avoid this situation. It also came up that you were really looking for a card and two copies of it would show up, and you’d get a 3-2 split, so you’d get the card you wanted but nothing else; with [card]Steam Augury[/card], you can make sure you get what you need and something else for your troubles.
Another advantage this card has over [card]Fact or Fiction[/card] is the insane mind games that go with it. You know what you want, but your opponent does not, and now you can actively influence his choice. Imagine I play a spell and you play [card]Fact or Fiction[/card] in response, flipping a [card]Counterspell[/card]. Now I can split the counterspell and the other four cards, but I don’t know that you don’t have a Counterspell already, and you haven’t really given me any information by playing [card]Fact or Fiction[/card]—I know you would do it regardless of whether you had the Counterspell or not. But when you are making the splits and you split it 4-1, then you are sending me a message—“I want that counterspell badly.” Or, perhaps, if you really wanted the [card]Counterspell[/card], then you’d try to pretend it wasn’t worth much—you’d put [card]Counterspell[/card] and something else to try and trick me. Or maybe you’d think I’d think that, and so forth… there’s no clear solution here, so the card does give you a rare opportunity to beat someone on a straight mental level.
Having them choose which cards you draw is a major problem, but I think it can be mitigated when your goal is volume, and not quality. When you don’t particularly care what you are drawing, then whatever you get is good enough, as long as it’s plenty. You can get to that game state by having redundant cards in your deck and doing a lot of 1-for-1, so that you just want to beat them by sheer force of numbers. Effects that benefit from you playing any spell, regardless of what it is, are also very good with [card]Steam Augury[/card]. Imagine, for example, the following deck:
[deck]4 Young Pyromancer
4 Goblin Electromancer
4 Spellheart Chimera
1 Stormbreath Dragon
4 Steam Augury
4 Essence Scatter
4 Izzet Charm
3 Mizzium Mortars
3 Lightning Strike/Magma Jet
In this deck, you don’t care much for what spells you’re playing—you just want to cast many of them because you have [card]Young Pyromancer[/card] and [card]Spellheart Chimera[/card] (which gets much stronger with [card]Steam Augury[/card] since you get the bonus if the cards go to the graveyard too). So, if you flip [card]Lightning Strike[/card], [card]Quicken[/card], [card]Dissolve[/card] and two lands, you aren’t going to be unhappy no matter what you’re given. If you get excess lands, you can use them to overload [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card], cast more Steam Auguries, or even discard them to [card]Izzet Charm[/card].
The card can also be used in control, though it is worse there—it’s better as the top of a curve, because you can run four and then chain them into each other, which might be too slow in a control deck. I would surely try them in a UWR control deck similar to what we have so far, maybe as a two-of, and then if they are good I’d up them to three-ofs, but I wouldn’t hesitate to cut them if they underperform. Another angle would be a deck that can use the graveyard as well; I’d like to try something like this:
[deck]3 Steam Augury
4 Izzet Charm
3 Anger the Gods
3 Doom Blade
2 Mizium Mortars
3 Lifebane Zombie
2 Abhorrent Overlord
3 Whip of Erebos
The mana base might be a little ambitious, but I’m sure it can work. Here the main idea is also to use [card]Steam Augury[/card] as a value card, but it has the added benefit of putting stuff in your graveyard for [card]Whip of Erebos[/card], which you can use as another “value” card with [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card], [card]Omenspeaker[/card] and [card]Abhorrent Overlord[/card], and as a wombo combo with [card]Aetherling[/card] (if you blink [card]Aetherling[/card] while it’s been Whipped, it will come back forever). It sounds clunky, but hopefully the life link from Whip or Erebos makes it so that you have enough time. I’m tempted to add [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card] for more wombo combos, but that might be a little too ambitious.
In the end, I don’t know if [card]Steam Augury[/card] is going to see Constructed play—it’s one of the cards that you kind of have to play with to evaluate and it might end up just being bad. I’m pretty sure, however, that it’s a card that I’m going to at least try, because it might end up being pretty good.
See you soon,