Hello everybody my name is Briger and welcome to another article where I rave about value more than a Yorion player. Today, I would like to discuss the concept of two-for-one or “241s” as the cool kids sometimes refer to it.
Twice the fun, half the input
So what is a two-for-one to start with? A two-for-one is generally described as getting two cards or two cards worth of value from a single card. I like to categorize the two different ones as obvious two-for-ones and un-intuitive two-for-ones. A good example of an obvious two-for-one is Divination — this is a single card that lets you get two cards from it, and you have two more resources for the price of one card. Another type of two-for-one that is the somewhat non-intuitive type is your Ravenous Chupacabra type cards. These cards get you two cards worth of value by dealing with something of your opponents while progressing your game plan.
All in All what does this have to do with Pioneer? Well, this format is built around your powerful one-for-ones that stop your opponent from doing their game plan. These one-for-ones include but are not limited to Fatal Push, Thoughtseize, March of Otherworldly Light, and Play With Fire. These cards all do one thing no matter how versatile they are you are still only getting one card’s worth of value from these cards. So, what breaks this parody that is created by trading this one card for another? Well, two-for-ones of course. These cards are the powerhouses that power pioneer decks. I dare you to find a half-decent pioneer deck that doesn’t employ some form of two-for-one that powers the deck. Good examples from the top tier lists in pioneer are Kolaghan's Command, Treasure Cruise, Light up the Stage, Storm the Festival, and Bonecrusher Giant. The format is also built out of a lot of un-intuitive two-for-ones, cards like Graveyard Trespasser, The Wandering Emperor, and Brutal Cathar. “How” these are two-for-ones can be a bit nebulous but I’m here to break them down. Graveyard Trespasser is often a two-for-one when your opponent needs to kill it. They usually need to spend two cards to kill it because of its Ward ability. The Wandering Emperor, like many planeswalkers, has the potential to get you two cards worth of value and The Wanderer especially gets that value if played right because it is much more likely to get at least two activations than most planeswalkers because of its unique flash ability. Even so, if you activate The Wanderer once and your opponent responds with a removal spell you still have gotten a two-for-one because you got value from the walker and your opponent has fewer cards in hand! Finally, Brutal Cathar is a good example of a two-for-one that can trick people into thinking it’s a one-for-one. The card does have the potential to be a one for one, but when it resolves, it removes an opposing creature and gets you a creature, putting your opponent down on cards and getting an advantage in the match.
So, if two-for-ones are so powerful why do they not all see play in pioneer? That’s where the evaluation of the two-for-one portion comes in. So what makes a strong two-for-one? In pioneer, I think there are three questions you must ask yourself before playing a card.
#1 Mana efficiency — Is this card I’m playing more effective mana-wise than other options?
A good example of this is Divination vs Comparative Analysis. One is always more mana efficient than the other, so you would rather have divination in your deck in almost every situation.
#2 Relevance in the Format and Value — What’s better apples to apples?
One thing that can influence a two-for-one can be the amount of relevance and value of the card. For example, Kolaghan’s Command sees a lot more play in Pioneer because it is in more relevant colors than Witherbloom Command— it’s two-mana counterpart. Kolaghan’s Command also sees more play because it has more relevant effects than the Witherbloom Command in the current Pioneer meta.
#3 Timing Effects — Are instants better than sorceries?
The final factor that should affect how you choose your two-for-ones is timing. While not all two-for-ones need to be at instant-speed to be powerful (see recently banned Expressive Iteration), being able to cast them at instant-speed helps to make them much more powerful as it lets you either respond to your opponent or get your value. A good example of this is the difference between Pirates’ Pillage, and Big Score. They are the same card except one is an instant and one is a sorcery. One is extremely good and is played in decks while the other is “okay” and sees little to no play. Needless to say, it’s the instant-speed card that gets all the attention. Timing can be a huge factor when seeing how good a card is so always put more stock in instant-speed cards than not.
So how can one predict the next big two-for-one that will be printed into Pioneer? Well, it’s almost impossible to tell the future, but if a person looks at a card that has been spoiled and uses critical thinking to compare its effect, converted mana cost, and timing vs. cards that have been previously made — then the hypothetical person can probably make an informed decision on how well this card might do. Especially if it excels in one or more ways compared to older versions of similar cards.
Anyways, thanks for reading my ramblings and have a great day!