Pattern Recognition #280 - Yarr, What Do I See?

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


4 May 2023


Good day everyone! My name is berryjon, and I welcome you all to Pattern Recognition, TappedOut's longest running article series. I am something of an Old Fogey and a definite Smart Ass, and I have been around the block quite a few times. My experience is quite broad and deep, and so I use this series to try and bring some of that to you. Be it deck design, card construction, mechanics or in-universe characters and the history of the game. Or whatever happens to catch my attention each week. Which happens far more often than I care to admit. Please, feel free to talk about my subject matter in the comments at the bottom of the page, add suggestions or just plain correct me.

So, no, as the title of the article says, we are doing something pirate related, but not actually Pirates. I'm saving that for when I do my inevitable Pirates vs Ninjas theme decks. No, today, I'm going to talk about Treasure. Yarr.

Talk like a Pirate day is in September. You'll have to wait.

Anyways, Treasures. So, Treasures are a token (with 5 exceptions) that you tap and sacrifice to produce one mana of any colour. And wow there's a lot to go with that, so let's start by backing up a little.

Gold tokens were created for the Theros Block, and were used most (in)famously on the King Midas analogue in the set, King Macar, the Gold-Cursed. This card, and a few others like it, produced Gold tokens. These were tokens that you could sacrifice to add one mana of any colour to your mana pool, and that was that.

Gold was pretty well received as an idea, though it was limited to 8 cards across , and , with the focus on for flavor reasons. However, this card type quickly ran into a larger problem in larger formats. Namely, with the Improvise Mechanic of Kaladesh and Aether Revolt. This mechanic allowed players to tap artifacts in lieu of regular mana producing sources to pay for their costs. This was very much the Convoke mechanic, but for artifacts and not creatures and was designed for a set with that in mind.

However, fast forward little later, and while Gold was in play before Improvise was a thing, Wizards recognized that one of their future sets would create a problem. In fact, it was the block right after Kaladesh was Amonkhet, but right after that, and would occupy a place in Standard with it, was Ixalan. This set had Pirates as a major tribe in it, and it had been decided that as a theme, this tribe would focus on gaining wealth, Gold tokens as it were.

However, Wizards realized this would be bad as they were going to put a lot of Gold into the Ixalan block and this would be a problem with Improvise as you could tap a Gold token for an improvise cost, but then sacrifice the token on the same turn to pay for a spell with the regular man. This ability to 'double dip' was seen as a problem just waiting to happen, so Wizards reframed Gold as something else to avoid just this problem. Treasure was created, and did the exact same thing as Gold did, but with one slight twist. It had to be tapped to produce the mana when it was sacrificed. This prevented exploits with Improvise, and kept the basic functionality intact.

Treasures were an instant hit. With 25 cards across the two sets, they were focused on the colours of and the Pirates full of Greed and Larceny. And if you said that Pirates found Treasure? No one would bat an eye.

Treasures, were, to put it lightly, the smash hit of the set. I mean, I was really hoping for some implicit awesomeness of "Conquistador Vampires" vs "Aztec Dinosaurs" and I was... well, let's just say it was my major inspiration for the Solie set I'm building slowly across this series. I wanted to explore the themes of exploration just a little more.

But back to Treasures. They were a smash hit, and Wizards knew it, so they decided to put it into future sets to see how it would work. While the next set - Dominaria - was already decided, there was room to include Treasure soon after, with Smothering Tithe in Ravnica Allegiance. This was also the first Treasure maker, and the point where Wizards admitted that Treasures had moved into Deciduous in terms of relevancy and immediacy. Which is to say that it would be, moving forward, a known and viable took for every set that may need it for whatever reason.

Moving forward, solidified their control over Treasures with cards like Rapacious Dragon, and Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge. There was a lot of flavor involved with this, as Dragons were seen as natural collectors of all sorts of Treasure. kept in second place, while overtook in terms of Treasure making thanks to New Capenna and Forgotten Realms.

In fact, Forgotten Realms actually started to add cards that cared if mana from a Treasure was spent on it, including my perennial Commander favorite, Kalain, Reclusive Painter. I'll get to them later.

However, by this point, we had reached a different sort of problem with Treasures. Namely, that we had been given too much of a good thing. There was a lot of treasure generation in each set, and it very quickly reached a certain critical mass where it seemed like every deck made treasure almost incidentally, and this did very bad things to the mana curve of the game, as cards became less and less expensive to actually cast as time went on.

So Wizards slammed the brakes on Treasure, making several sets in a row that didn't make the tokens or interacted with them in any way to help slow things down in the Standard format, and to cool it off in larger formats where people liked to try new things. In addition, before this, in New Capenna, Treasures started to be made while already tapped, such as with Gala Greeters in order to avoid incidental mana-positive interactions. You would have to wait a turn to use that mana source.

And this is where we are. Treasure is coming back, but more restrained. There are more limits to it right now, but it's here to stay.

Which is a good thing.

So, let's actually talk about them.

Treasure - and Gold - started out as a way to experiment with a way to reincorporate one of Magic's old mechanics for its primary colours, and bring it back into the game with modern design methodology. To be more specific, these cards tapped into the long disused notion that those two colours, unlike , could create temporary mana for use, and not permanent ones. Cards like Dark Ritual, a classic card, or Seething Song, a no less classic, but still quite powerful card in its own right. Enough that the latter is Banned in Modern.

But with these two cards as examples, the issue was one of it being too temporary. The mana went away at the end of the phase, and you may or not be able to use it properly depending on what your opponents did. Also, never assume your opponents are going to cooperate with your plan. That's a bad plan. But back to the subject at hand, what Gold, and later Treasure did, was allow you to 'store' this excess and temporary mana for use later in the turn, or in a different turn entirely. And this worked, as sacrificing for a temporary advantage was perfectly in colour for both of them.

got Treasures thanks to their association with Pirates, but while it was there for a while, it faded away as took over.

Even 's foray into Treasure was framed through literal taxation, forcing players to pay into the tithe, or you gain a treasure in the process. It worked! It also massively accelerated the game , especially in Commander.

But is now the second most active Treasure maker, having displaced and it has caught up to quite deliberately. You see, , for all its weaknesses, really needed the mana acceleration inherent to Treasures in order to cast their big beefy creatures.

I wish I was joking. gets major Treasure creation now, from Bootleggers' Stash, Jewel Thief, Old Gnawbone, Prizefight, Prosperous Innkeeper, and Tireless Provisioner, this colour obviously needed more mana. Why? Because mana production has always been their domain, and Treasure is mana. That it was temporary, and artifact based in storage meant nothing, as Treasures meant mana, meant that has to muscle in on it, displacing in the process. At least kept is as it keeps anything it can just throw away for an advantage, like with Impulse drawing. , despite having sacrifice as part of its core identity, didn't seem to need it as much.

Which leaves out in the cold. But then again, they have other ways of gaining advantage, and should be playing their mana bases a little closer to home, and not be spending frivously.

In fact, I mentioned my favourite Treasure deck earlier, so why not show it off, and in action?

Kalain, Treasure Painter

Commander / EDH berryjon


And at the time I made the deck, I was the third person to have this exact idea for a name. Also, and most importantly, this is my Arena Historic Brawl deck, which makes it Commander Legal as well! No Alchemy here, just pure Cardboard Crack!

Anyways, this deck operates by creating Treasure tokens, and then by spending them ruthlessly. There are 28 creatures in the deck, but that's not the end of it. The primary win conditions in the deck, in order of usefulness, is usually Marionette Master in #1, as this creature can get much larger with the Treasures spent by Kalain, which means that any remaining Treasures will hit much harder when they are sacrificed for mana.

In second, Torment of Hailfire. Get all the Mana, and then throw that baby down in the late game for 15 or more, and watch your opponent(s) burn. It's fun! Thirdly, is probably going to be a surprise to people as it's not actually Revel in Riches. It's actually Shatterskull Charger. Casting this creature on Turn 3 with a single Treasure and Kalain means that it's a 5/4 with Haste and Trample, and because it has a +1/+1 counter on it, it won't go back to your hand at the end of the turn. In the mid to late game, if you pay the whole cost - including the Kicker - that's creature becomes a 10/9 with Trample and Haste. In 25 life Brawl? That's stupendously lethal, and hilariously ahead of the curve in terms of mana and body size. It's very lethal and can draw a lot of hate before going down, paving the way for other victory options.

It's fun midrange deck with plenty of options to close out the game, from artifact based drain, to beatdowns, to a single huge spell. I love it, and I break it out in paper on occasion as my comfort deck.

Treasure works because it's a temporary multiplier on your mana base, and because of that, you can explode out for a single huge hit before falling back to normal, or even behind as you have to consider the cost of the cards you spent to get to that point as well. Which could put you back even further.

It's a risk, but one well worth taking. And honestly, if you find yourself with a card that makes a Treasure and has some other effect you want? Well, why not get what you want and have a spare mana in the future? Treasure is here to stay, and I do like it.

Join me next week when I talk about something else. What, I don't know yet, but I'm always open for suggestions.

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 #279 - Sorceries and Instants No More! The next article in this series is Pattern Recognition #281 - Order Matters

Please login to comment