Mana Crypt- Why did it take so long to catch on?
So I was just talking to a friend today and we were reminiscing about the early days of Tolarian Academy (not pleasant of course for anyone playing at the time), but for some reason early versions of the deck didn't include Mana Crypt, even though it was a 95+% turn 1 kill deck and seemingly would have been improved.
It got me to thinking, so I went through some old decklists from the late 90s and couldn't find any that featured Mana Crypt. The only one I could find was a speed-kill Atog deck (Vise, Atog, Factories, Crypts, Bolts, Psi Blast), but even that only had three crypts.
I'm pretty sure it was legal at the time (when was it printed?), but wasn't restricted until 10/99, 9 months after Academy (1/99).
This card seems like a no-brainer for at least the MirrorU decks of the time, as I am pretty sure the meta at the time of Saga was mostly Zoo-Necro-Mirror-WW, Burn.
Anyone have insight as to why Crypt was such a slow burn?
My only guess is that mono-red kept it in check for that long. Back then, the first deck you tested against was 4-turn mono red. You had to have a sligh plan.
Well for one, currently Mana Crypt is only played in PO and Shops for the most part. A lot of decks have nothing to do with 2 colorless mana. And for a long time, Stax players would sometimes lose to their own Mana Crypt.
You can also look at old school where mana bases consist of City of Brass and people play Black Vise and Ivory Tower. The life loss is significant especially if it’s not helping you to cast Counterspell.
It seems much better in the premodern era but I can’t speak as to why it wasn’t played.
Part of the reason crypt was so slow to catch on is the lack of threats in early mtg. In most of the formats where where crypt was legal at least in the early days there were few to no good ways to quickly close games and so the crypt was actually detrimental. That 3 damage flip may not seem like much to a storm or PO player today who can kill on turn 2 or 3 but back in early magic it was not uncommon for games to go 20/30 turns and in a case like that 1.5 damage per turn would really add up. This was compounded by the fact that the most aggressive decks who could end games fast frequently did not spend enough colorless mana to justify a rock like crypt especially when it would/could loose you the mirror. The decks who could best use it with expensive spells like wrath or fact or fiction or recall(not the ancestral one) were the ones who made games the longest and least wanted to deal with the drawback. The issue was less about how good the card was and more about no deck really existing that could take great advantage of it’s strengths while also not caring to heavily about the downside.
The best old decks that could utilize mana crypt back in the day were shops, I think. Juggies, Su-Chi, Trike...workshop + mana crypt meant a stream of 4/4 or 5/3 threats from turn 1 forward.
Mana crypt was printed around late 1995 I think, I can’t remember if it was legal or not, but there were plenty of decks that could use it.
MirrorU decks could have considered 1-2, as they often needed to damage themselves for the mirror kill.
Some zoo decks ran ernham, serendibs, and serras, so they could have considered it.
Mono-artifact was pretty rare, at least in the tournaments I went to, but it might have worked well.
As I mentioned before, I did see it in some pretty fast Atog decks (cursed scroll, vice, bolts, factories, etc), but that wasn’t till 1996?
Academy decks were extremely fast and likely would have preferred some extra mana.
Tinker and Welder were popular decks, albeit much later.
I’m not saying it was optimal, but maybe just overlooked because people evaluated cards differently then?
I think if we replayed Vintage these days (free plug: http://www.themanadrain.com/topic/2795/vintage-redux-a-new-format-for-your-consideration) we would find that it was way more playable than we thought.
Originally Mana Crypts bolt ability "turned off" when the card was tapped. I remember people using them on Jayemdae Tomes and Disrupting Scepters during their upkeep to take advantage of the Mana while not taking damage.
Mirror decks at least those that are along the lines of the lists I have seen floating around really don't want crypt. They do a lot of self damage so they need to be able to control it or else they die. You want to be able to library to 4 and not worry about crypt killing you in 2 turns. You want to go to 1 off cities of brass and not worry about upkeep death. Self damage has synergy with self damage and mirror universe when you can control it get the good rewards and not risk unnecessary self termination.