Apparently I’ve been doing BadMagicPlayer.com for a year now, and boy, does time fly. What started off as a joke and something to waste time has grown into…well, a slightly larger joke and more of a time waster.
Anyhow, I’m super stoked about Gatecrash and its potential smashing impact on all the formats. But no format will be ravaged more by Gatecrash than SilverBlack Standard. I’ve taken a bit of a break from playing the weekly Saturday evening Magic Online SBS tournaments mostly because of one card’s dominance: Lingering Souls.
Currently, SilverBlack Standard is a format with no real wrath effects and there are few practical ways to deal with an Esper Spirit deck’s ability to make 4-6 spirits incredibly fast and then play one Intangible Virtue or Phantom General for good game. There are plenty of ways to deal with the pumpers, so those aren’t really the issue. Intangible Virtue and Favorable Winds can be disenchanted or countered, and there are plenty of removal and burn cards available to take down Phantom General and Drogskol Captain without a problem. But focusing on the buffers leaves a huge number of flying spirits still on the table that ultimately beat you senseless without any real way to keep them in check. As a result, the card was recently banned for the “official” events online, but there was no indication whether it would stay banned after more sets release.
Enter Gatecrash, a set that brings us enough spirit hosers to let us consider the reintroduction of the token-generator back into the wild.
Gatecrash gives SilverBlack Standard players several avenues to deal with the spirit menace without having to dedicate significant deck space. First up is Gruul Charm.
Gruul Charm gives werewolf tribal decks a chance to see some play, as well as giving something for the ramp-stompy-stompy and general green-based aggro decks to shore up the spirit fight. The middle mode is unplayable in SilverBlack, but there are enough flying-creature options for non Spirit-based decks that will create maindeck value from Charm. A few examples that come to mind are Vampire Nighthawk, Delver of Secrets, and Seraph of Dawn (granted you need a little extra something to outright kill Seraph with Charm but sometimes mode one will be a winning choice when you are able to just swing through it).
Next, we have something for the blue players: Ætherize.
While somewhat costly at 4 mana, Ætherize has the potential to be the blowout card that turns the tide against Lingering Souls. This card lets you play countermagic like Syncopate to stop the pump cards, while letting Lingering Souls and Midnight Haunting resolve, then wait for all of those spirits to come across the table and boom…no more spirits. On the other hand, this card could be used to make spirit decks stronger against their mirrors, but more answers for other deck archetypes are still good. Ætherize has maindeck value too, since you’ll wrath away those Call of the Conclave tokens (not to mention all the 3/3 frog lizard tokens you’ll be giving your opponent thanks to the new Pongify) and buy yourself more time to stabilize. I like to think of this card as SilverBlack Standard’s Cyclonic Rift.
While not as value-filled in the maindeck as the previous cards, Illness in the Ranks gives black a solid and permanent way to deal with those pesky spirits, as well as any other tokens on the board.
While this card has obvious implications on Modern (Splinter Twin combo what now?), Illness in the Ranks is a complete hoser for Lingering Souls. Basically the SilverBlack version of Curse of Death’s Hold, this card matches Intangible Virtue one-for-one, and has the potential to completely shut down a spirits player’s ability to win (especially since black decks have access to fantastic removal to eliminate any non-token aggressors). Illness is a monoblack player’s dream, especially with Smog Elemental helping out in the long game. But by costing only 1 measly black mana, it can fit into many multi-colored strategies.
Hey red deck players, I’ve got something awesome for you to drool over!
It’s another 4-mana token killer! Point Homing Lightning at one “Spirit” token and you’ll hit all of them for a solid 4 damage, no matter whether they came from Lingering Souls, Midnight Haunting, Doomed Traveler, or any other spirit generator. Four damage is likely to kill anything that matters in the format, so Homing Lightning has excellent maindeck value. It provides Rakdos-style aggressive decks some long-game ability, while allowing the more midrange decks to catch up after a fast start by a Selesnya tokens or Spirits player.
While Lingering Souls may be annoying and generally overpowered in a limited format like SilverBlack Standard, these four cards from Gatecrash certainly would reduce its capabilities without requiring other archetypes to waste deck space on dedicated spirit hate. Almost all the cards above have main deck value against other possible play strategies, so there is little fear of dead cards. Nonetheless, it might be better for the format to keep Lingering Souls banned simply to ensure continued innovation and diversity of deck ideas and increase card usage. Considering the fact that we’ll have five more Gate lands, our color choices will be expanded, and having to play certain cards like those above to beat one particular deck could restrain deck design a little bit. (not to mention Selesnya players don’t really gain any hate cards, but I think it already had the best shot against spirits pre-Gatecrash)
Anywho, if you haven’t tried SilverBlack Standard yet on MTGO, I highly encourage you to check it out. And if you live in the Ypsilanti, Michigan, area, I’ll be trying to get SilverBlack Standard going in paper style with a fun tournament or two in the next weeks after Gatecrash comes out!
Good luck at the Prereleases!