Some people hate fun. Whether they’re the dickhead boss that refuses employees nap time and Rock Band in the break room, or are simply an avid fan of TV’s Gotham, having a good time simply doesn’t appeal to some people. The same is often said for those who run a lot of counterspells in EDH.
I’m here to tell you that our dissipate and dissolve-loving brothers and sisters are simply misunderstood. They love fun – in fact, they have a lot of it – they just happen to have it at the personal expense of others.
So as the classic loser-saying goes, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” In other words, I’m going to show you how to get back at your counter loving friends by having your own counter-based fun and not letting them play magic. They’ve held you down long enough, the time is now to strike back and we’ll definitely be fighting fire with fire. So to start off, let’s take a quick look at 5 commanders who absolutely adore counterspells in their 99.
[card]Talrand, Sky Summoner[/card]
Talrand falls into the category, “Get MORE from your counterspells!” There are tons of Talrand decks out there stacked to the gills with counters in order to stop your opponents’ plans dead in their tracks and churn out a bunch of drakes. Once you’ve got a million flying Drizzy’s out there it’s pretty much over for the Meek Mills of the world, aka: whoever you’re about to full-on steamroll.
[card]Dralnu, Lich Lord[/card]
Dralnu seems like a dangerous commander to run if you’re not building around his drawback ability, but let’s be honest how many damage-based spells are we really seeing flying around our EDH games? Some for sure, but not enough to have me worried about basically running a slower yet repeatable [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] as my general. Dralnu gives your old counterspells flashback and if there’s one thing that opponents hate only slightly less than the counterspells they don’t know about, it’s the ones they can clearly see coming.
[card]Roon of the Hidden Realm[/card]
There are 3 reasons why Roon loves counterspells. 1) It’s easy (and to your benefit) to leave mana up in order to activate his ability/counter a spell. 2) [card]Archaeomancer[/card] and finally, 3) [card]Mnemonic Wall[/card]. With either of these guys in play and with Roon at the helm, recurring your counterspells is so easy it’s basically a joke – a terrible, cruel joke that everyone hates while you laugh so hard you’ll swear you’re your own dad watching old episodes of Three’s Company.
[card]Grand Arbiter Augustin IV[/card]
What is more annoying than having your must-have, 7 mana bomb/win condition countered? Having your must-have, 7 mana bomb/win condition that you payed 8 mana for, countered by a UU [card]Cancel[/card]. Also is there anything worse than having a guy named Augustin counter your spell? I can just picture the smug look on his stupid weird powdered face.
[card]Ephara, God of the Polis[/card]
Ephara cares so little about her opponents spells, she just spends all day pouring a jug of space water on some building. Why does she seem to care so little when her opponent is casting a huge spell? Maybe it’s because her posters and floating hat and that jug of space water are secretly hiding her favourite thing in the world: a million counterspells.
However you choose to activate Ephara’s ability and draw cards, you’re leaving mana open on your opponents turns and while you may prefer to use it on your creatures in order to draw, you might as well jam a healthy number of counters (or even creatures that counter) to keep your opponents from disrupting your carefully laid plans, which may or may not include pouring a starry liquid on someone’s house.
The 5 commanders listed above make great use of counterspells in a format where focusing on countering spells isn’t necessarily a solid winning strategy on it’s own. However, for this article I’ll focus in on Ephara because her’s is a strategy not built around counterspells, but one that fits them seamlessly and beneficially into her gameplan.
Before we get to the deck, a word of warning about running more than a few counterspells: people can get salty when their spells get countered. I touched on this earlier, but sometimes a harsh counter-based control strategy can be a bit much to bring to a casual EDH game. Especially if the game contains any players new to the format. Of course you can build this deck 75 percent and I believe that I have, but depending on the number of counters you include, your 75 percent may seem more like an 80 or 85 percent deck. Be aware, people like playing magic. That being said, if you can’t take the UU heat, get out of the Magic kitchen, right? Unless the Magic kitchen is a restaurant you’re at, in which case, by all means finish your meal and pay your bill before getting out.
Let’s start out with building the strategy that will actually win us the game. This includes making sure we trigger Ephara’s ability on our opponents turns by having creatures enter the battlefield at instant speed. Instead of focusing on just one of the ways we can do this, I like to employ all three, mostly because it’s just more fun but also a little variance never hurt anyone. We’ve got a few flash creatures like [card]Jeskai Barracade[/card] and [card]Deputy of Aquittals[/card] so we can bounce and recast these same flash creatures and I’ve included. One of the pricier cards in the deck, [card]Vedalken Orrery[/card] also turns the flash strategy on for every other spell you cast, so that seems half decent right?
We’ve also added a few instant speed token producers like [card]Mimic Vat[/card] and [card]Sacred Mesa[/card]. Mimic Vat has the upside of producing big, real creatures with ETB abilities but the downside of only working once per turn, while the Mesa can activate on each of your opponents’ turns (for 1W) but only producing 1/1s. Both are excellent ways to get creatures out and draw cards, which is what we need to do to win.
Finally we’ve gone ahead and included some ways to repeatably blink creatures in and out of the battlefield. [card]Mistmeadow Witch[/card], [card]Nephalia Smuggler[/card] and [/card]Brago, King Eternal[/card] are all excellent ways to achieve this, and the idea gets even better when we include some great ETB creatures like [card]Clone[/card], [card]Angel of Serenity[/card] and [card]Frost Titan[/card].
Finally let’s discuss the reason for all these words you’re looking at: counter magic. You know the ones I’m talking about, [card]Counterspell[/card], [card]Swan Song[/card], [card]Dissipate[/card] – no surprises here, these are staple counterspells that are in a ton of EDH decks. The counters that really shine in this deck however, are the ones where we not only stop our opponents, but steal whatever it was they were trying to play. Hopefully we get some creatures but really whatever they got, we’ll take. [card]Spelljack[/card] and [card]Kheru Spellsnatcher[/card] allow you to take any spell that was countered this way while [card]Gather Specimens[/card] doesn’t technically counter spells, but instead lets you swipe away a creature that was about to enter the battlefield for your opponents. This has the added ability of stopping cheat into play effects while giving you whatever monster they were about to get. Make no mistake, his card is one of your win conditions. [card]Guile[/card] is also a serious force to be reckoned with in this deck, turning all your regular counterspells into Spelljacks and also occasionally sonic booming your enemies to death and then combing his weird hair when you win.
Sounds like we’ve gone through our counterspells category right? Wrong – we’re not just adding counters or counters that steal, we’ve got counters that are flash creatures ([card]Draining Whelk[/card]), we’ve got counters that untap your lands ([card]Rewind[/card]) we’ve got ways to counter your opponents activated abilities ([card]Voidmage Husher[/card] and [card]Azorius Guildmage[/card]). The only thing we’re missing here is a card that says Counter Target Spell, Win the Game, and sometimes Spelljack does just say that.
You may be thinking, counters are all well and good, but they’re one time use and in a game with multiple players, they are often card disadvantage. Well, ignoring the fact that Ephara will draw us a million cards (especially if you get [card]Saltskitter[/card] out) any way to recur those counterspells really helps us get multple uses out of them. Hey remember when I mentioned we’ll blink creatures in and out of play? Sounds like [card]Archaeomancer[/card] and [card]Mnemonic Wall[/card] might be good with that strategy – and by “might be good,” I mean “are the best cards in the deck and your opponents will wish you were literally dead when they see them.” Think of Spelljacking your opponents Ulamog then flashing in Archaeomancer with Vedalken Orrery before the end step to potentially do it all again next turn. That’s not even magical Christmas land, you dont really need the Orrery, maybe you have a [card]Conjurer’s Closet[/card] instead? Either way, your friends will likely call you Than Shwe (Military Junta leader of Myanmar) because that’s how oppressive you’ll be.
When you recur and play a ton of counterspells, your opponents make the saddest faces while you are having a full-on classic laugh, and that’s what EDH is all about isn’t it? (See what I meant by the “your friends will hate you” speech?) Play decks like these with caution and perhaps sparingly, but don’t let your opponents frowning faces deter you forever. EDH is still a game where someone has to win and if winning is how you have fun, no reasonable person is going to be upset with you for pulling out Ephara and her jug of counterspells once in a while.