Pattern Recognition #187 - Tuck

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


11 March 2021


Hello everyone! This is Pattern Recognition, TappedOut.Net's longest running article series as written by myself, berryjon. I am something of an Old Fogey who has been around the block quite a few times where Magic is concerned, as as such, I use this series to talk about the various aspects of this game, be it deck design, card construction, mechanics chat, in-universe characters and history. Or whatever happens to cross my mind this week. Please, feel free to dissent in the comments below the article, add suggestions or just plain correct me! I am a Smart Ass, so I can take it.

To quote the eternal wisdom of the TolarianCommunityCollage, Teferi can go Tuck Himself. Originally a play on a certain insult, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria's -3's ability was part and parcel of a very powerful deck archetype when Dominaria was in standard. I'm not going to get into the details, but suffice it to say, being able to enure that you have a card in your library was an important contingency plan for the Azorious Control at the time.

No, the subject today is, as you may have already gotten from the title, is the Tuck pseudo-mechanic. This subject started out when on a certain Discord I attend, someone made the comment that Discarding was effectively the same as Tucking a card, thanks in part to a discussion that spun out of the existence of Covetous Urge and Hybrid Mana. Look, it was a long chain of thoughts, and I took exception to the idea that Tucking and Discarding were anything remotely alike.

Yeah. No.

So, what is Tucking? Simply put, to Tuck a card, you take that card and put it back into that player's library. Now, that's it at it's most simple. It does get a bit more complicated than that. When I describe the act of tucking, I want to make it clear that there are some effect that while they may look like a Tuck effect, are in fact not. But they are pretty close, so the confusion is understandable.

First, the example of Chaos Warp. This card certainly takes a permanent and shuffles it back into that player's library, but it then attempts to replace it with a different card. This makes it a transformation effect, and is the justification behind Tibalt's Trickery. It's not a counterspell! It's Spell Transformation!


I gotta stop getting distracted. OK, Tucking, and what doesn't count. Another thing that may look like tucking is Warp World. But as this is basically Chaos Warp writ large, it's again, not a Tuck Effect. You see, Tucking doesn't replace the card in question with anything else, and that's the best way to describe its limits.

Rather, what Tucking is, is an odd sort of removal. Now, when you think about removing a card, it usually ends up in the discard pile, or in exile. Putting a card back into the library is a far rarer effect, mostly in and with side trips into and .

Now, , I can understand as it is the colour of bounce effects, putting a card back into a player's hand, such as with Boomerang. But putting cards back on top of the library, as in the next card to be drawn, is something they have done in the past, such as with Anchor to the Aether, or for with Banishment Decree. ... I really can't find a reasoning for it, while will do it with cards like Chittering Rats, following the flavor of attacking someone's mind and rather than having them forget it to the Discard pile, like with Duress, they instead put it back into their minds for now, back into the library.

Now, Tucking to the top of the library is an interesting thing as while it doesn't look like much, as they're pretty much going to get it back next turn, it has the effect of setting what card they are drawing next. For colours without the ability to draw multiple cards, or to keep drawing - coughcoughcoughcough, you are in practice, setting them back a turn. Especially if you do this to a card they just played this turn. In my local meta, we refer to this as "Time Walking that player" as you just, basically, forced them to skip a turn.

Now it's not so innocent an effect is it?

But there are two other types of Tucking that I still want to discuss. The first is putting a card into the library some distance from the top, as per Teferi at the start of the article. Putting a card into the library this way is not as bad as Time Walking them, but it does take an active resource and delay its return to play. Now, sometimes, you do this to yourself, like with the God-Eternals of War of the Spark. Trust me when I say that getting two God-Eternal Oketra in the same sealed deck was an amazing experience. Not that I was able to do what I wanted, and have one in play, cast the other one, get the Zombie, then tuck one of the God-Eternals to do it again later though.

This sort of delayed re-drawing of the card being tucked is usually what people think of when they talk about Tucking a card. You're delaying it's return, but not delaying the rest of that player's deck. Of note, if a player has less than three cards in their library when Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or God-Eternal Rhonas does their thing, then that card goes to the bottom of their library instead, pushing the cards above it up from last to second-last, and the card at the top stays at the top.

This sort of Delay is, on one hand, not as bad as simply putting a card on top of the library as you aren't delaying their immediate draws, but on the other hand, it can be worse as you're delaying the return of something vital for them up to three turns. Three turns in which any number of bad things could happen to them, upto and including losing the game.

As a half-note here, there is an alternative to tucking that instead of putting the card into the library at a set distance from the top, you shuffle it into the owner's library. Let's take Primal Command as my example as a very inefficient way to do this, but what the heck. First, you can tuck to the top of the library, then shuffle that same player's graveyard into the library.

What you are doing with this effect is losing the card in question. The shuffling effect means that there is no way to predict when or where the card will return, and can, depending on the timing, really screw over players who have searched their library for a card, then put it on top of the library, or just Scried and kept something on top. They not only lose the permanent they had, but also lost out on the effort they went through to make sure that the card they drew next was the one they wanted.

On the last hand, there's tucking a card to the bottom of the library. Terminus or Spell Crumple for example. This effect, unless the poor person has fetch abilities, or the ability to shuffle their library to try and get it closer to the top, the card is effectively gone, and you're not going to see it again this game.

Now, before I start, I want to point out that there are cases where knowing what the bottom card of a library is can be a benefit to you. Namely because you put it there. First, Tunnel Vision, my favourite "Mill all but the bottom card of your library" card. Combine with Thassa's Oracle, and you win the game, or draw out with Jace, Wielder of Mysteries for a different win. Or if you do it to your opponent, well, they're out of a library.

Secondly, with Grenzo, Dungeon Warden. Hey! Time Shift reprint with Time Spiral Remastered! Nice! Regardless, with this effect, if you know that there's a creature on the bottom of the library, you can put it into play. But you know the best card to combo with this guy? Soldevi Digger. No, wait, Epitaph Golem. That's the one I want! If you can put a creature you want from your graveyard (and you're playing in , of course you can put creatures into your own graveyard), then from there to the bottom of your library to reliably put it into play? Well, that's worth the effort, don't you think? I do!

Now that I've explained what Tucking is and is not, let's talk about why it's different than discard and why you shouldn't equate the two.

First is that... well, let me make it simple.

Cards in your Graveyard are easier and more reliably pulled into your hand or right into play than out of your deck. Anyone who has seen a proper deck that goes all in on recursion knows exactly what I'm talking about, and is probably nodding along at this self evident truth. A truth so self-evident that Wizards makes sure to keep at least one dedicated cheap Graveyard hate card in Standard at all times. Right now, it's Tormod's Crypt, but I expect something else to come along to replace it with rotation. But preventing someone from searching their library? That's a huge line that Wizards doesn't like crossing, and when they do, it's usually to the line of cards like Aven Mindcensor, which limits what you can search, rather than saying 'no' outright.

Thus, tucking becomes a more viable, albeit short-term method of removal than simply making it the graveyard. Exile would be better, as getting stuff back from there is actually difficult. But Tucking does have a place in the game, that's for sure.

It's a punisher and a tax, a threat removal to set it up for alternatives later, or just to delay and buy time. Tucking is something that works in your benefit as well as against the opponent, making a viable option that keeps coming back, rather than, say, Fateseal vis-a-vis Scry. I like it - in small doses naturally - and when I see it in a set, I know that it serves a purpose and has a use. Unlike some other card that leave me scratching my head going "Why?"

Join me next week when I try to get to the subject I talked about last week! Or at least I'll try. Sometimes a subject just gets the bug in my mind and I can't put it away for later, like, you know, tucking it! Oh look at this comedian. ;)

Until then please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!

This article is a follow-up to Pattern Recognition #186 - Planar Chaos The next article in this series is Pattern Recognition #188 - Set Design

DreadKhan says... #1

I don't think I've ever used Primal Command to just make something 'go away' that way. Lots of mana for the effect, but a funny trick to have up my sleeve.

Tucking is pretty nasty I find, and I've got an abiding interest in finding a way to make the land tuck of Plow Under relevant in Legacy, as it should be a brutal, game ending play for 5 mana, in a color that can hit that turn 3 reliably.

March 18, 2021 11:29 a.m.

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