Khans of Tarkir has naturally had a major impact on Standard, as it is the newest major block legal in the format, and therefore many decks are completely based around Khans of Tarkir cards. But in Modern and Legacy there are simply a lot more cards vying for the same 60 slots. The card that has had the biggest impact in those formats is almost definitely Treasure Cruise. This shouldn’t come as a major surprise, as under optimal circumstances Treasure Cruise is essentially Ancestral Recall, one of the best cards in the history of Magic, arguably the single best Magic card ever printed. In this article, I’ll discuss some Treasure Cruise decks across the various formats, and also analyze why Treasure Cruise hasn’t quite found its niche yet in Standard like it has in the other formats.
In Standard, the only play we’ve really seen so far from Treasure Cruise at the competitive level has been in the Jeskai Ascendancy combo deck. Even then, it isn’t a four-of. With an effect so powerful, why hasn’t Treasure Cruise made its way into other decks? A major strength of delve cards is including them in decks where we’re able to quickly fill our graveyard with cheap and efficient spells, often cantrips, in order to keep our hand full while filling up our graveyard. Standard doesn’t really have any playable cheap cantrips right now, almost certainly by design, which puts Treasure Cruise in a tough spot. There are a few great cheap spells, like Thoughtseize, or Searing Blood, but other than Thoughtseize, very few good spells are costed at only one mana.
Treasure Cruise is also forced to compete for space with Dig Through Time. While Treasure Cruise does give us the benefit of turning one card into three, Dig Through Time enables us to find two cards, with a much greater card selection effect, and also do so at instant speed. Games in Standard tend to go longer than games in Modern or Legacy and because there aren’t a lot of very cheap interactions, like we discussed above, Dig Through Time is often going to be a better choice. It will allow us to find more expensive, versatile answers to different threats, to be used over multiple turns. We just aren’t looking to cast a Treasure Cruise and cast those three cards right away, as is possible in some of the older formats.
Here’s the Team ChannelFireball Jeskai Ascendancy Combo deck from Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir:
Jeskai Ascendancy Combo
As we can see, even in a combo deck, Dig Through Time got the nod over Treasure Cruise. Dig Through Time is just really important for card selection, and seeing seven cards is going to get us closer to a Jeskai Ascendancy than drawing three will. However, because the deck is forced to play cards like Commune with the Gods and Taigam’s Scheming, filling the graveyard very quickly, there is still enough of a need to play a couple copies of Treasure Cruise. I expect Dig Through Time to remain the delve card of choice in Standard, unless there are some much more efficient, non-comboish ways to fill the graveyard in the next sets of Khans block.
Here’s a deck from a Modern Daily that went 4-0, relying on Treasure Cruise.
Modern U/R Delver by MARC_31
So, this is exactly what I was talking about. Here’s a deck with 18 lands, 4 Young Pyromancer, and 38 cards that cost exactly one mana (or effectively 0 mana in the case of Gitaxian Probe). Of those 38 cards, 11 of them are cantrips—the four Gitaxian Probe, the four Serum Visions, and the three Thought Scour. Of course, Thought Scour also puts two additional cards in the graveyard, getting even that much closer to Treasure Cruise for one mana. This also illustrates the difference between Treasure Cruise vs Dig Through Time. Here, when drawing three cards, many of the cards are effectively the same. Sure, we’ll often want to find Lightning Bolt instead of other cards, but nearly always we’d rather just pay one mana, and start unloading our one-mana spells again to build up to the next Treasure Cruise.
Another thing to consider is that Modern is a format with many more prevalent discard spells than Standard. Sure, both formats have Thoughtseize, but in Modern players also have access to Inquisition of Kozilek, Duress, and Liliana of the Veil. Typically, against discard strategies, drawing a lot of cards is going to be better than having very good card selection. This is especially true in the case of Liliana of the Veil, where having excess lands or weak cards to discard makes her a lot easier to combat.
Willy Edel took this to the next level and recently Tweeted about his first shot at a BUGW Modern deck featuring both Treasure Cruise and his own Lilianas, which naturally are very powerful in tandem, as after both player’s hands become depleted, his gets refilled by Treasure Cruise.
Willy’s quote from Twitter:
“Cruised my way to victory in a Modern 8-man with the most untuned and worst mana base ever. I see potential here.”
Here is Willy’s deck, from Twitter:
In addition to the four copies of Liliana of the Veil, this deck has eight 1-mana discard spells, Slaughter Pact, and two Dismembers to effectively interact at, or with the graveyard for one mana or less. Abrupt Decay at two mana, as well as cheap powerful creatures like Tarmogoyf and Snapcaster Mage, make the cards easy to cast. But of course, cheap and efficient cards are basically the trademark of Modern, which is why Treasure Cruise is very likely to become a mainstay there for quite a while.
Before we move on to Legacy, I just wanted to mention that Randy Buehler raised a question on coverage of Eternal Weekend this past weekend. What’s a better card in Modern, Ancestral Vision or Treasure Cruise? I think it’s an interesting thought experiment. I think the answer is Treasure Cruise, but I also think Ancestral Vision might be more powerful in something like a blue/white control deck than Treasure Cruise would. I certainly think Treasure Cruise is way more powerful in Delver/Burn-based strategies like we discussed above. Does this mean there is a chance of Treasure Cruise being banned or perhaps Ancestral Vision being unbanned in the Modern format? I’m not sure, but I could see it.
Last weekend featured two high profile Legacy tournaments. The first was the Legacy Championship at Eternal Weekend in Philadelphia. The second was the Open in Minneapolis. Unsurprisingly, both of those events were won by decks featuring Treasure Cruise.
Here’s Kevin Jones’ U/R Delver deck from the Legacy Championship in Philadelphia:
And here’s Anthony Leen’s Jeskai Delver list that he used to win in Minneapolis:
As we can see, the Legacy and Modern versions of U/R Delver aren’t even that different. Basically the Legacy version gets to play the cards that aren’t legal in Modern—like Brainstorm, Ponder, Daze, and Force of Will—and doesn’t have to rely on the weaker cards like Spell Snare and Serum Visions.
The Jeskai Delver list is a bit different, strategically. It still uses Stoneforge Mystic in combination with Batterskull to create a big board presence, and sometimes finish the game. Of course, this costs four mana, and puts no cards into the graveyard, so it doesn’t have the most synergy with Treasure Cruise. Anthony also played two copies of True-Name Nemesis, which has become a real powerhouse in Legacy over the past year. This is another card that really doesn’t have the most synergy with Treasure Cruise, but is extremely powerful on its own. I think these are the reasons that Anthony chose to only include three copies of Treasure Cruise in his deck. Despite having some minor non-synergies, though, and only including three copies, Anthony still went on to win the tournament. One card Anthony had that, interestingly, a lot of the U/R Delver decks I’ve seen have chosen not to include is Wasteland. I was somewhat surprised by this, given that Wasteland has historically always been one of the best cards in Legacy, especially in a deck with nearly all one-mana spells, and it also helps to fuel Treasure Cruise.
I think there is definitely an argument for adding the fourth copy of Treasure Cruise to the Jeskai Delver deck. Even though there are some minor anti-synergies, there are even more major synergies and the sheer power level alone of Treasure Cruise has been proven to be so high, I think the risk is very likely to be worth the reward. Like Modern, I’d expect Treasure Cruise to become a major staple of Legacy for quite a while to come now.
I have yet to cast a Treasure Cruise in either Modern or Legacy, yet, myself. However, with Legacy on the horizon in Grand Prix New Jersey, and then Modern not too long after that at the World Championships, I have a feeling that I’ll cast a few when preparing for those events. I like to draw cards as much as anyone, except for maybe Andrew Cuneo, so I’m sure I’ll grow to love Treasure Cruise. First, though, this weekend is the Team Limited Khans of Tarkir Grand Prix in Nashville, Tennessee. My oath brothers, Reid Duke, Owen Turtenwald, and I are going to be joining forces once again and try our hands at this new format. We’ll be doing a duplicate Team Sealed on Friday afternoon where we and some other teams will be given duplicate Team Sealed decks from which to build our decks, and then a brief match and some discussion will follow. This event will be open and free to the public, so if you’re going to the Grand Prix and in town Friday, come by and check it out. Hopefully I’ll see you there!