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I have been working with Meandeck Tendrils lately. In the linked article, Stephen Menendian indicated that while the decklist was tournament legal (at the time), it was not possible to play it in a tournament, as:

The primary reason it's unviable is because you have to compress all of the numerous decisions of a typical Vintage game into the space of one turn - and do that in a reasonable amount of time."

Can someone explain this reasoning? I am unfamiliar with tournament timing rules, and don't even know where to begin to understand his claim. Note, in case it's important, the card list for his deck is below.

Clarification:

This paragraph is added after many comments were made on the original question. I'm not so interested in a detailed analysis of this deck per se (My version of this deck differs considerably from Stephan's). I'm interested in why would a deck that's a 66% first turn kill be slow to play? That said, Stephan's decklist is hard to play. My best guess, is that his deck takes at least 5 hard decisions on average, (8 worst case) to play through it's various lines of play. That is just goldfish play, I have no experience playing against Force Of Will, or other disrupters. So, it appears Stephan's argument is,

You just can't play this deck enough to automatically know how to make all those hard decisions. Moreover, those hard decisions take a lot of time, and you will be too slow for a real tournament.

I can buy that. The dude has experience (as pointed out in the answers or comments below). I have none. If I'm missing something about tournament rules, and how slow play works in tournament rules, I'd like to know it. The answers below do an excellent job of capturing that.

1 Bayou
1 Polluted Delta
1 Tropical Island
1 Black Lotus
4 Chromatic Sphere
1 Chrome Mox
4 Darkwater Egg
1 Lion's Eye Diamond
1 Lotus Petal
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring
1 Ancestral Recall
4 Brainstorm
4 Cabal Ritual
4 Dark Ritual
1 Demonic Consultation
4 Repeal
4 Spoils of the Vault
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Imperial Seal
4 Land Grant
3 Night's Whisper
4 Tendrils of Agony
1 Yawgmoth's Will
  • John, it appears there's some confusion about your core question here - I know we discussed in comments and found that you were mostly asking about why time was an issue (as you say in the body, "unfamiliar with tournament timing rules"), but some people have gotten the impression you're asking why this specific deck isn't as viable, and that answers should instead analyze why this particular deck would cause problems. Would you like to edit your question a bit, especially the title, to clarify? – Cascabel Jan 26 '15 at 23:50
  • @Jefromi is, as usual, misquoting me. I never had the impression that you cared about why this specific deck is unviable. I only pointed out to him that if he is going to claim that a deck is prone to Slow Play, he needs to back that claim up. – Rainbolt Jan 27 '15 at 0:00
  • The primary reason the deck is potentially unviable is issues with round time and possibly Slow Play, so I certainly need to mention that in my answer. But everyone here (the OP included) understood that this deck was difficult to play and could be slow to play; there's not really any need to get into analysis or attempt to prove that, just to mention that those are Bad Things in a tournament, which the OP didn't know. – Cascabel Jan 27 '15 at 0:05
  • @Jefromi "and possibly Slow Play" Decks don't cause Slow Play. Players cause Slow Play. – Rainbolt Jan 27 '15 at 0:12
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    Jerfromi. Individual of infinite patience. I am in awe. – John Jan 27 '15 at 17:26
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Effectively, you need to be able to win two games (possibly after losing one!) in 50 minutes, and give your opponent their fair share of that time too, so if a deck is difficult and time consuming enough to play, you may simply run out of time, and not be able to win matches. And you may never even reach the time limit - if a judge thinks you're playing slowly enough to cause problems, they will step in and force you to speed up or lose. If on the other hand you play fast enough to avoid all this, you'll make too many mistakes, and lose anyway.

All these things are potential issues since as Menendian says in the article, a lot of the decisions you have to make are difficult, and the deck is difficult to play fast enough without making mistakes. (Of course, it's also possible that you can play it fast and well even though he couldn't - feel free to try to prove him wrong!)


In tournaments, the time limit is typically 50 minutes per round. (Officially, the minimum time limit allowed is 40 minutes but 50 minutes is the recommended time for constructed tournaments). In each round you're playing a best of three match. If someone hasn't won two games by the end of time, the current turn is finished, then five more turns of play are allowed (i.e. three for one player and two for the other); if the game isn't over by then, that game is a draw. If that was the third game (reasonably likely, it's been 50 minutes), each player has won one of the first two games, so the match is a draw as well. So if a deck is slow to play, you'll likely end up with a lot of draws.

In order to help make sure that people actually finish their matches, the tournament rules disallow "Slow Play". It's normally something where a judge will simply give a caution, letting a player know they need to speed up, but if it continues to happen it can lead to more significant penalties. You can't just sit there thinking forever; you'll eventually get a game/match loss.

The point at which you're playing too slowly is up to the judges' discretion, though. This article by a couple of judges goes into some detail about the way they personally think about it, though it's explicitly not official policy. The key thing to notice is that it's largely based on what speed of play is necessary in order to finish games within the allotted time. So while for many decisions 15-30 seconds is about as much time as you can reasonably take, if you're to the point where clearly you'll either win or lose within a minute once you decide, you might get some leeway. Bottom line, though, it's possible you won't actually get to the point of running out of time in the round: a judge may step in sooner and force you to either decide (making your decisions more error-prone) or lose.

There's another problem on top of this: combo decks tend to have long turns, so those few extra turns at the end of the game can drag on for much longer than with other decks. There's only a small amount of buffer time between rounds, so the two players in the extra long match will end up delaying the next round, upsetting the schedule for the entire tournament. Wizards actually banned Second Sunrise from Modern in order to stop a combo deck from causing these kinds of delays. That doesn't exactly mean the deck was unplayable (in fact people were doing reasonably well with it), but at the same time, you don't exactly want to be messing up tournaments for others.

As for this specific deck, I can't personally tell exactly how difficult and slow it is to play, but it certainly looks hard. There are an awful lot of decisions, and getting any of them wrong could totally derail you, so you'd have to take your time and get it all right under pressure. I would tend to trust the opinion of the experienced player who wrote that article and assume he's right that it's simply too hard to play within the available time. On the other hand, perhaps with enough skill (or enough practice) you could get fast enough.

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I think that he meant that if you play the deck at a reasonable pace, you're likely going to make too many fatal mistakes for it to be worth it.

Storm decks are infamously hard to execute because you have to think through a 10 layer or deeper decision tree before you even begin to execute it.

The reason the author brought up the time limit, is probably because of how long it will take you to make each decision correctly.

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