Dark Ritual Banned: How Will We Cope?

For those of you who don’t know {laughter}, and have been banned in Extended. Normally, this would mean just about as much to me as the going price for chicken feed in Afghanistan, but I know it’ll affect a lot of people out there, so I thought I’d give my two cents. Two cents I…

For those of you who don’t know {laughter}, Dark Ritual and Mana Vault have been banned in Extended. Normally, this would mean just about as much to me as the going price for chicken feed in Afghanistan, but I know it’ll affect a lot of people out there, so I thought I’d give my two cents. Two cents I have, and two cents I’ll give: not a cent more! And, each of my two opinions is worth one cent, so that works out well. My first penny’s worth of an opinion is about the vague, probably-only-affects-me opinion and the other is my opinion on its actual toll on REAL players. This should be fun.

(By the way, all pennies can be mailed to:
1313 Labatomee Ln.
Palindromemordnilap, VA 66366)

As many of you know, there were five "one for three" spells printed in Alpha, one for each color. Each was for one mana and had a triple effect, each appropriate to its color:

Dark Ritual – BBB for B. Appropriate for the color of quick death for sacrifice.
Lightning Bolt – three damage for R. Appropriate for the color of fire and burn.
Ancestral Recall – three cards for U. Appropriate for the color of knowledge.
Giant Growth – +3/+3 for G. Appropriate for the color of fat creatures.
Healing Salve – three points of protection for W. Appropriate for the color of life.

Now, I think this was a pretty neat idea. Though some were OBVIOUSLY better than others (*cough-ancestral-cough*), they were all interesting and color appropriate. (I’ve written that word so many times, it’s inappropriate for one work of writing … ARGH!) Now, let’s look at the history of these cards.

Ancestral restricted very early on, became part of the Power Nine and jumped in prices (it was also rare, while the others were common). Lightning Bolt, Dark Ritual, and Giant Growth immediately became staples of those colors. Healing Salve … well, I think that that’s is more used as a Latin greeting than a Magic card. Then, Lightning Bolt left Standard and, a couple years later, Extended. Now, Dark Ritual has left Extended. In Extended, we’re now left with Giant Growth and Healing Salve. We have that plus Ritual in Standard.

Now, Lightning Bolt left the sets because it simply wasn’t reprinted. If R&D thinks that Dark Ritual is strong enough that it needs to be BANNED in Extended, perhaps they won’t reprint it later, so Standard will lose its benefits. If they don’t reprint Ritual, they might do the same with Giant Growth {gasp}. What will that leave us with? Healing Salve. While we’re banning things, we might as well let that rotate out of Standard.

So, now that I’ve put words in R&D’s mouth and actions in its history-to-be, let’s see what we have left. In the beginning, we had three interesting cards that reflected the color strengths very well. Now (by now, I mean the future I’ve created for this example), all of those old cards have rotated out. That means that we have a fresh new "generation" of Magic cards. Even though this hasn’t really happened yet, I think that it’s happened with other cards and with Magic as a whole.

In the "good ole’ days," there were lots of powerful, staple, well used cards such as Royal Assassin, Time Walk, and Juzam Djinn. Now, we have Rathi Assassin, Time Warp, and Phyrexian Negator, more "balanced" (unless you’re Omeed, and then you’d rather have the Negator) versions of the older cards. On a whole, the game of Magic is taking on this revolutionary flavor.

Now, there are other staples of each color that reflects the color’s specialties as well. They’re not as similar as the "three-for-one"s, but they’re very well-known.

Black has Dark Banishing (and its ilk).
Red has Shock.
Blue has Counterspell.
Green has Rancor (or Giant Growth, but I’m trying to get away from the T-F-O’s).
White has Disenchant.

These cards are found in most decks of the appropriate color. Now, with Nemesis, we’ve found an interesting thing: the Seals. The Seals are enchantment forms of these "staple" cards, effectively giving you the ability to have eight of each effect in your deck. They are:

Dark Banishing = Seal of Doom
Shock = Seal of Fire
Unsummon (it’s not Counterspell; I know. Give me time) = Seal of Removal
Giant Growth = Seal of Strength
Disenchant = Seal of Cleansing

In addition to giving these staple abilities, the Seals have great artwork and awesome quotes. As for the Counterspells, I’m rather pleased with two spellshapers from Nemesis, Stronghold Biologist and Stronghold Machinist. I mean, Ertai was great, and these guys cost half as much, even IF they only counter half the possible spells apiece. Though you might be countering Bone Shredders with the Biologist and Shocks with the Machinist, these creatures are still pretty nifty, and I might even find room for them in my permission deck. (Yeah, I know they’re permanents. Get over it.)

So, in conclusion of this one-cent opinion, I guess all I’m really trying to point out is the evolution of Magic. Whether or not it’s a good thing or not is a topic for another article.

Now, for my other cent’s-worth…

Now that Dark Ritual is gone in Extended, black has lost its speed, right? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Black’s still going to have Skirges, Negators, and shadow-guys (since we’re talking about Extended). It’ll still have cheap creatures and good spells, but what can replace Ritual?

Answer: Nothing.

However, we might have to make due with what we have. There are a few spells that might do something similar to Dark Ritual. We have to remember that Dark Ritual was banned because it was TOO fast and helped combo decks TOO much. The following "replacements" will never be able to do that (we all hope!), but they can still perform a Ritual-esque effect in non-combo decks.

One of my friends, when we were talking about the banning, mentioned Bubbling Muck. At first I laughed, but now that I think about it, it’s not so horrible. For those of you who don’t know, Bubbling Muck is the black High Tide. With Dark Ritual, one swamp made BBB; however, with this spell, ALL swamps make BB. That’s nothing to sneeze at. This could even be better than Dark Ritual {ducking rotten vegetables} in the mid- to late-game and especially effective in a deck with not many nonbasic lands that wins with Corrupts and Drain Lives. (That’s half-Necro!)

Along with Bubbling Muck, you could use Rain of Filth for that last kick. Rain of Filth says, "B. Each land you control gains "Sacrifice: Add B to your pool" until end of turn." That’s also a good spell in the mid- to late-game when you need that final UMPH to win.

Culling the Weak says "B, Sacrifice a creature: add BBBB to your mana pool." Imagine: First turn: Swamp, Sarcomancy. Second turn: Swamp, Dauthi Horror, attack for 2. Third turn: Culling the Weak, sacrificing the Zombie token, HATRED, attack for 18. Third turn win with NO DARK RITUAL! I’m not an Extended player, but third turn’s pretty fast, isn’t it?

Finally, I probably shouldn’t mention it, but I will. Bog Witch costs 2B, and it makes every card in your hand a Dark Ritual. Once again, definitely NOT a combo card, but still useful in the late game.

I think of all these cards, Culling the Weak seems the best. Bubbling Muck needs too many swamps, but as long as you have a creature out (Academy Rector, anyone?), it’s mighty-fine. Hmm… Culling the Weak and Academy Rector. That’s two Phyrexian Towers in one… How bad can that be? Have I stumbled upon something monumental? Probably not. But, at least it’s not a bad idea.

Well, there you have it. Random Player #095436 speaks his mind about the Dark Ritual banning. Hope you’ve gotten your two cents worth!

Daniel Crane
[email protected]