Strictly Eternal 101 – Cartman and the Probe

Howdy everybody!  It’s Joe again with another installment of Oh My God, You Killed Kenny!: An Introspective Documentary.  Well, not really.  We’re talking about Legacy again, and we’re rambling a bit this time, because that’s what I like to do.

Let’s get to the thick of it, shall we?

Gitaxian Probe

Let me get started by putting it out there: I think Phyrexian Mana is just about the worst, most possibly overly broken mechanic that has ever been created.  I don’t think Dredge, Storm, or even Affinity compare to the absurdity of Phyrexian Mana. It’s that much of a mistake.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like and I understand the presence of Surgical Extraction.  Does that mean I like the fact that it’s a mechanic my opponent can essentially cast for free?  Not so much.  To me, the fairest card that exists with Phyrexian Mana is Dismember because at least you have to pay 4 life and 1 mana to use it.

But the biggest offender with this mechanic?  Gitaxian Probe.  Banned in Modern, completely legal in Legacy, Gitaxian Probe is one of those cards I’ve come to actually despise seeing in the format.  So many decks can run Probe to great effect, because there tends to be zero downside to playing the card in the first place.  Decks like Storm, Belcher, fast combo like Omni-Tell; all get a huge boost from being able to play Probe for free. Their decks effectively start at 56 cards.

There’s no downside to playing Gitaxian Probe.  It’s free information and card draw for 2 life.  They get to look at your hand, and for decks that play Cabal Therapy they get to ez mode you for no investment whatsoever.  Add insult to injury if there’s a Young Pyromancer in play.

Gitaxian Probe ended up getting banned in Modern because of this exact same reason: having access to free information is just too good.  It made infect an absurdly good deck because it could Probe first before seeing if it was safe to go for a kill, and what they needed to play around.

In Legacy it allows decks like Ruby Storm (a deck I hate with a burning passion) and other silly dumb decks to thrive and prosper. At the top of the Tier pile is ANT (Ad Nauseam Tendrils).

I would be perfectly okay seeing what would happen to Legacy if Wizards finally decided to axe Gitaxian Probe from the format, due to the same reasoning that led to its banning in Modern.  Free information is free information, and Probe allows you to get free information with little investment in a format that plays Swords to Plowshares a bit.

Consider this.  Instead of banning something like Deathrite Shaman, let’s get rid of Probe and see how the format feels.  I’d gather that we’d see a bit more creativity in decks that play cards like Cabal Therapy, due to having to have the tools in place to beat it.  This is a card that is RESTRICTED in Vintage because it would definitely be too good there.  Now granted, that’s not a great argument, because Brainstorm is also restricted in Vintage, but the point still stands.

I can hear the crowd now.  If we consider banning another one mana Phyrexian spell, what about Surgical Extraction?  My feelings on that card are mixed, and probably meant for a future article (where I talk about how bad people are when it comes to that card… I’m not kidding by any stretch of the imagination) but I am not sure how the format would look without it.  People would probably run Faerie Macabre more, I would assume.  (More people should run Faerie Macabre.  It’s a sweet card)

With Probe gone, combo decks would have to work a little harder. They wouldn’t get off scot free vs fair decks that can only interact via discard and the like.  Whether this would slow down combo as being a bigger portion of the format only time would tell.

Wrapping Up

That’s all the time I’ve got this week.  I’m gonna do some further games with some more sweet sweet Legacy decklists, and I’ll always take requests if there’s something specific you want to see.  Just hit me up on Twitter or Discord, and chat at me.

See you kids later on Saved by the Bell: New Phyrexia!

– Joseph Dyer

Joseph is an avid player of eternal Magic formats, including Vintage and Legacy.  As a Nic Fit player who will tell anyone who will listen about his deck, Joe spends his time analyzing and playing on Magic Online and various online platforms, while prepping for competitive events.  To follow more from Joe, check out his Twitter!

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