Stronghold: second set of the Rath cycle. It is defined by powerful cards like Awakening, Mox Diamond, Crystalline Sliver, Wall of Blossoms, Megrim, Sliver Queen, Ensnaring Bridge, Hermit Druid, and the infamous Dream Halls (one of the most broken cards ever printed). Oft forgotten are other, less impacting, but perhaps more interesting cards.
They don’t affect the tournament scene like the cards listed above. But they aren’t crap rares either. They are powerful enough to make for interesting casual decks. An excellent example of such a card: Pursuit of Knowledge.
If you would draw a card, you may put a study counter on Pursuit of Knowledge instead.
Remove three study counters from Pursuit of Knowledge, sacrifice Pursuit of Knowledge: draw seven cards.
Draw seven cards. SEVEN cards. That is a powerful effect. It’s in the same department as more celebrated “draw 7” spells like Timetwister, Time Spiral, Wheel of Fortune, Windfall, Memory Jar, Temporal Cascade, and Diminishing Returns. But Pursuit of Knowledge has no potentially annoying drawbacks like removing cards from the game or messing with your graveyard. And it, unlike these other cards, doesn’t do anything for your opponent. You, and only you, draw cards as a result of Pursuit of Knowledge.
While such factors, that last one in particular, would normally be danger signs, Pursuit of Knowledge is not broken. The other “draw 7” spells I’ve mentioned are all tournament worthy. In fact, as of the writing of this article, Timetwister, Time Spiral, Wheel of Fortune, Windfall, and Memory Jar are all restricted in Vintage and banned in 1.5 (the format which has not yet received its new name). And the brokenness doesn’t end there…
Timetwister is one of the original “power nine” cards and is one of the most powerful and monetarily costly cards in Magic.
Time Spiral has been restricted or banned in any constructed format where it would have been legal, despite costing twice as much as Timetwister.
Wheel of Fortune is considered by many to be the best red card in the game, and that list includes such potent red spells as Goblin Welder and Lightning Bolt.
Memory Jar’s incredible power led not only to its restriction in Vintage, but also to the restriction of Tinker (I am not saying Tinker would be unrestricted today if Jar had not been printed, but the Jar was pretty much the only card Tinkered for in Vintage up until the printing of Darksteel Colossus).
However, despite being in the company of such heavy hitters, Pursuit of Knowledge wallows in obscurity. It is not considered broken. In fact, it’s a very balanced and well-designed card. It is limited by the following factors:
1. It is white.
2. It costs four mana.
3. It requires the skipping of three card draws.
At first glance, whiteness might not be considered such a problem, but it is actually very limiting. If Pursuit of Knowledge were blue, it would probably see much more use, since the cards that make it better are almost all blue (for more on the issue of blue, see the CPA’s Train).
The mana cost is, in my opinion either very well thought out or very coincidental. At three mana, Pursuit would cost the same as other “draw 7” spells like Wheel of Fortune. It would be too easy to play for a massive burst of cards early on (and consider if it were both blue and three mana!). At three, a City of Traitors and another land could cast it. At four it takes one more land. On the other hand, five mana would be so expensive that Pursuit of Knowledge would see use far too rarely.
Finally, the most important factor in making Pursuit a balanced enchantment: it requires the skipping of card draws. Skipping three card draws to get seven more is really bad for tempo. Since you skipped three card draws to begin with, it’s netting you three cards by itself, replacing both itself and the three cards that were not drawn earlier.
There are a few options for how Pursuit of Knowledge could be used…
The first, and simplest, is to trade tempo for card advantage outright. This means you get four cards for four mana, not a bad deal, but it also means that you lose card draws over your next two turns, which is terrible…
The second way to use Pursuit of Knowledge is with card drawing spells. Something like Concentrate is an example of this. It turns drawing three cards into drawing seven cards, which is good. Still, both Pursuit and Concentrate cost four mana, which is not particularly appetizing…
The third way is probably the least common. Pursuit of Knowledge can be used as a mechanism to prevent a decking in strange combo-based decks that draws tons of cards. It works better for this purpose than most cards often used to prevent decking, since Pursuit of Knowledge actually skips the draws for free. It additionally doubles as card drawing when needed. The problem with this method is that such decks tend to be awkward combo decks that, when improved, have no need for such a card…
The fourth way to utilize Pursuit is easily the best. Cards that would draw cards as well as having a drawback are much more useful with Pursuit’s ability. The card that many readers may already be thinking of at this point is…
Draw three cards, then put any two cards from your hand on top of your library in any order.
Brainstorm is ordinarily U for being able to draw three cards, but then putting two cards back on top of the library. It is most often utilized with library shufflers like the Flooded Strand in order to remove the disadvantage of slowing oneself down. But with Pursuit of Knowledge in play, Brainstorm is a single blue mana for seven cards.
[Orgg's Note: Brainstorm is also considered to be the best modern-day 'one blue to draw a card' style spell since it 'digs' three cards into your library; most spells with that effect only allow you to dig two cards deep. This will help you ~FIND~ the Pursuit of Knowlege.]
Another fun card is Sylvan Library:
At the beginning of your draw step, you may draw two cards. If you do, choose two cards in your hand drawn this turn. For each of those cards, pay 4 life or put the card on top of your library.
Sylvan Library costs more and requires waiting until your next turn. But Brainstorm needs an empty hand (or a library shuffler) in order to be optimal. Sylvan Library can also be reused with each new Pursuit of Knowledge, which is the fun part.
Other possible cards to use with Pursuit include Sift, Catalog, Frantic Search, Attunement, Lat-Nam’s Legacy, Teferi’s Puzzle Box, Careful Study, Night’s Whisper, Standstill, Tolarian Winds, Winds of Change, and the incredible Mystic Remora.
[Orgg's Note: A small warning: if a card tells you to 'draw ~number of cards~ then discard ~number of cards~' and you skip drawing the cards, you are still required to discard the named amount of cards from your hand if possible; only Sylvan Library does not work like this.]
Be creative, and have fun with my favorite white enchantment.