Magic The Gathering Has Officially Gone Too Far With Treasure Tokens
We're currently slap-bang in the middle of Magic The Gathering's preview season for its upcoming mafia-themed set, Streets of New Capenna. With dozens of cards being announced every day for a whole week, it's sometimes difficult to keep up with everything going on.
One card, however, threw the entire MTG community into disarray within minutes of it being announced on MTG’s official Korean Facebook page. We don't know the official, translated name yet, but the closest Google Translate has given me is "Smuggler's Stash", so let's go with that. Smuggler's Stash has proven that Magic has well and truly gone off the deep end with how it treats one of its most powerful commodities – Treasure tokens – and needs a major emergency course correction. Treasures have finally jumped the shark, and it could spell disaster for a number of formats.
Debuting in 2017's Ixalan, Treasure tokens are an artifact token (alongside the likes of Gold, Clue, Food, and Blood tokens) that can be tapped and sacrificed to produce one mana of any colour. They're fantastic for a number of reasons: they can help smooth the colours of your deck and cast spells with colours you don't currently have access to, they can stick around for as long as you need them in a way tapped and floating mana can't, and their artifact typing helps with mechanics like improvise and affinity.
Now we've got Smuggler's Stash. A green artifact that costs five generic and one green, it allows you to tap your lands to produce a Treasure token. All your lands, every single turn, can produce a Treasure token that sticks around for as long as you need it. This is potentially the single-most potent Treasure production tool we've ever had, and it's just exacerbating the problems with Treasures that have been bubbling under the surface for years.
While some players love Treasure tokens, many have been worried about one specific thing about them: they're incredibly easy to produce, and Wizards of the Coast seems fine with pushing that trend even further. Even in Standard, which more rigorously tries to keep its balance in check than eternal formats like Modern or Pioneer, we've got Treasure-printing powerhouses like Goldspan Dragon, Hoarding Ogre, Storm-Kiln Artist, and, of course, Smuggler's Stash.
Treasures speed up games. By having so much disposable mana available, formats like Commander have become faster and more reliant on them, which muscles out the slower decks that made it what it is today. If someone else is running away with a dozen Treasures, and you're sitting with just three lands, the game is already decided. You just need to look at some of Commander's most popular cards to see Treasures' warping effect on it: Dockside Extortionist, Smothering Tithe, Brass's Bounty, Ragavan, and Pitiless Plunderer all see a large amount of play.
The third problem is that Wizards saw Treasures' success in Ixalan and decided to give virtually every kind of deck access to them. In their debut in Ixalan, Treasures were nearly exclusively a black, blue, and red thing. In fact, the first white Treasure-producing card wasn't until Ravnica Allegiance's Smothering Tithe, and mono-green didn't get it until Modern Horizons 2 just last year. Since then, the floodgates have opened, and green has had unfettered access to Treasures thanks to cards like Fae Offering, Old Gnawbone, Prosperous Innkeeper, and Gala Greeters.
It makes zero sense for green to have access to Treasures. Thematically, green is the colour of natural progress and hates anything artificial – so why is it suddenly littering the place with Treasures? Mechanically, it's the colour of ramp, or getting more than one extra mana each turn. Green can more effectively get access to mana sources than any other colour and giving it extra access to Treasures is accelerating the already-powerful colour way too far.
The final problem with Treasures is the lack of 'hate' against them – ‘hate’ being a term to describe cards that single out certain colours, strategies, or card types and negatively affects them. You have cards like Collector Ouphe, which turns off the activated abilities of all artifacts, or Culling Ritual which destroys all permanents with mana value two or less, but they're generic abilities that affect lots of other things. There is virtually nothing that specifically hates on Treasures, and certainly not at the frequency or rarity needed to hold back the impact they're having on Magic.
Speaking specifically about Smuggler's Stash, it's hard not to break this. In the early stages of the game, you'll be tapping every land just to get a few extra Treasures, and later on you'll easily be throwing out 20 or 30 of them every turn. Just one Doubling Season, Seedborn Muse, Goldspan Dragon, or Academy Manufactor can send this thing into the stratosphere. God knows how people use it to get easy wins with cards like Revel in Riches or Fathom Fleet Swordjack. While it's a bit gauche to describe a freshly announced card as ‘broken’, I can't see any other way to describe Smuggler's Stash. This is the Great Henge of New Capenna, and not in a good way.
While Wizards always has its ear close to the ground as far as balance goes, it feels as though Treasures have been a major blind spot. What started as a nice, thematic way to give colours bad at ramping some extra mana in a set all about pirates and hunting for a hidden city of gold has turned into possibly the most warping currency Magic has ever had. We need not just fewer Treasure cards, but also a tightening on which colours have access to it, and cards that specifically punish players for making a buttload of them and rushing ahead of the rest of the table. But, unfortunately, we're likely a few years away from that at least thanks to Magic's two-years-ahead development schedule, and so, for now, we're in the era where Smuggler's Stash is the hottest new kill-on-sight card everybody has to deal with.
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