Sullivan Library – Shadowmoor’s Shusher: Wakefield’s New Favorite Card

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Friday, April 18th – Tomorrow morning, Magic players worldwide finally get their hands on the new cards from Shadowmoor… and one card in particular is causing waves in the anti-Blue rank and file. Today, Adrian Sullivan investigates the little Grizzly Bear that may just turn this game on its head…

There is little that is more fun than running around doing chores. Well, okay, maybe there are quite a few things out there that are more fun than doing chores, but regardless, sometimes you have to go do them. It’s like poring over old spoilers again and again for the right card; it isn’t exactly fun rehashing the old card lists, but once you’ve done it, it sets you up to have more fun later. Epicurus would approve…

This weekend, I was running around Madison taking care of a little of this, and a little of that, when I stopped by my favorite local game store, Netherworld Games. It’s right downtown, with the bazillion students from the University and colleges nearby. I needed some Magic cards, and I wanted to jaw about a bit with co-owner, Jim Hustad. He asked me about the new set a bit, not really knowing too much about it.

“And what about that counterspell Goblin?”

I knew what he was talking about. He was talking about Vexing Shusher.

“Well, if it’s accurate as spoiled online, wow. That card is something else. It’s going to make everything change.”

“Oh, it’s real. It’s on that poster on my window.”

I actually couldn’t believe it. I actually did walk to his window and look at the card. Jim laughed at me for not believing him, but honestly, it was a card I expected to come out very differently. Somehow, I imagined it being a 2/1 and having a 1{RG}: activation cost. Or maybe that it wouldn’t be uncounterable. But yeah, it is just as it has been spoiled:

Vexing Shusher — {RG}{RG}
Creature — Goblin Shaman (R)
Vexing Shusher can’t be counter by spells or abilities.
{RG}: Target spell can’t be countered by spells of abilities.

The value of this card cannot be understated.

We currently live in Faerieland. Oberon and Titiana and Puck hold sway right now. Richard Feldman wisely noted that Faeries represent the first true aggro-control deck at the top of the metagame since Blue/Green Madness. One of the more aggravating things about Faeries is the power of Flash. While a few of the Faeries don’t have Flash, the keyword is etched on a great many of them. This gives Faeries an extra edge over very nearly every aggro-control deck in history, in that it can actually lay out even its threat at an inopportune time. At least Madness had the courtesy of actually tapping its mana on its own turn if it wanted to drop a threat. Faeries snub their noses at such silly conventions. With Cryptic Command, Rune Snag, and the Stutterer, one of the big problems for any deck trying to fight Faeries is that you might not have any time to force it through. The relevant answers are in short supply, it is entirely possible you might not have enough of them to throw against Bitterblossoms and Scions and Cliques backed by countermagic.

This is the major boon of the Shusher.

The Shusher demands an answer from any deck that is going to be running counterspells to maintain some semblance of control. The big problem for these decks is that Shusher does not effectively add one (or more) mana to the cost of cards that are being played. For those spells that they want to resolve, the casting cost is exactly the same. Only if the control deck decides that they want to turn each of their counterspell effects into Force Spike is the Shusher taxing its own mana.

What is the control deck going to do? Knowing that there is a potential for a Shusher, they can either ramp up their elimination abilities or they can start countering less potentially consequential cards before a Shusher gets out to ruin all of the fun. These are not particularly exciting options.

In some ways this can be compared to how Gaddock Teeg impacted Dredge. Where Teeg takes out all of the end-game winning abilities of Dredge (and some other ones to boot), the Vexing Shusher takes out the basic strategic element that makes a counterspell playing deck worth playing. While this would make Teeg a more clear hoser to the Dredge deck, it does bear noting that a Faerie deck without counterspells is a deck rife for picking into little itty bitty bits.

For the Vexing Shusher deck itself, this means that there is no longer any fear that the more expensive spells are going to be easily stopped. Cloudthresher, long a bane to Faerie decks, suffers under its prohibitive casting cost. It’s entirely possible for even a Spellstutter Sprite to take down a hard-cast Cloudthresher.

If your expensive spells are going to resolve, what reasonable Red/Green spells does this make more appealing? Here’s my short list:

Bogardan Hellkite
Bust (of Boom/Bust fame)
Greater Gargadon
Platinum Angel
Scourge of Kher Ridges
Shivan Hellkite
Verdant Force
Wild Pair

Some of these cards are cards that I almost wouldn’t even consider marginal, otherwise. But knowing that, given mana, you’ll be able to get it out… Now that’s pretty exciting stuff.

Of these, the card that seems to be the most exciting, in many ways, is Wild Pair. We’ve already seen Wild Pair in either main decks, or from the board, do some pretty effective things. Take this deck:

Andrè Coimbra — Wild Pair, 2nd Place — Grand Prix: Florence

4 Avalanche Riders
4 Bogardan Hellkite
4 Grinning Ignus
3 Radha, Heir to Keld
4 Wall of Roots
1 Primal Forcemage
4 Coalition Relic
2 Dragonstorm
4 Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
4 Search for Tomorrow
4 Wild Pair
2 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
7 Mountain
7 Forest
1 Fungal Reaches
1 Pendelhaven

Clearly, a deck like this would have to step up to be translated from Time Spiral Block Constructed into Standard, but it is absolutely something that is doable.

Note a few of the mana features to his deck. Grinning Ignus isn’t just a crazy combo in conjunction with Wild Pair. It is also a way to ramp up to a large amount of mana in some particular turn. That, combined with Wall of Roots, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, Search for Tomorrow, and Coalition Relic makes for a deck that really is capable of casting some very expensive spells. Whatever your poison, the Vexing Shusher, unchecked, can make it happen.

When you’re a deck facing a Shusher with a ton of mana, your options become limited. You can hang back with your multitude of Force Spike proxies, or you can act. The Faerie deck is less curtailed than a traditional control deck (if such a deck can exist) or a Merfolk deck because of Flash, but it still is more likely to have decided to cast a spell rather than sit back. This makes the Big Spell even more reasonable.

Perhaps less situational, though, is the Little Spell.

If we look at the build that I arrived at with my Ponza deck from last week, there really are no “big” spells that the Vexing Shusher would be helping to make happen. Akroma, Angel of Fury takes care of herself if a counterspell is coming round. On the other hand, you can play the reverse of the old strategy of anti-counterspell strategy, and lead with your power spell, content that the Vexing Shusher will protect you. Then, you can follow up with your more marginal spell.

Imagine this alternate version of that Ponza deck:

4 Fulminator Mage
4 Avalanche Riders
4 Sulfurous Blast
4 Incinerate
4 Mogg Fanatic
3 Vexing Shusher
2 Akroma, Angel of Fury
3 Disintegrate
4 Siege-Gang Commander
3 Mind Stone
10 Snow-Covered Mountain
3 Ghitu Encampment
4 Mutavault
2 Zoetic Cavern
2 Fungal Reaches
1 Pendelhaven
1 Kher Keep
2 Keldon Megaliths

This is not a build that I’ve spent any time playtesting. I just modified the deck to include the thought that maybe I’d want to be playing with some Shushers.

The late-game potential of a Siege-Gang Commander or a Disintegrate is easy to temper against counters with a Shusher. Again, assuming that you have a live one out, you can have the kind of mana available that means that you’ll be casting it with mana open. Here, their counters might just be cast to keep you off of the mana you’ll need to activate the Siege-Gang, but you’ve solved the problem that Siege-Gang has always had: what if they counter your spell. Unless you have a holy ton of mana, you probably just got Time Walked. Disintegrate is made even more potent with the inclusion of just some storage lands. Going all in (except for Shusher activation) is all the easier if you know that you can expect the spell to resolve.

Now, of course, he isn’t a holy grail. Shusher does little to nothing special against a deck that isn’t running counterspell effects. You might notice, though, that in Standard, this leaves you with only Elves (and its variants) and Burn as the likely candidates for an opponent. Even here, you still have a 2/2 for two. Sligh decks have been beating down with far worse Grizzly Bears than a vanilla 2/2 for two for a long time, and this will be no different. The fact remains, we do live in Faerieland, and this guy is one of those things that is likely to take things into a different space.

This weekend is pre-release time, and it looks as though he will likely be given out en masse. I have a feeling that this is in response to all of those Timmy and Johnny’s out there who got sick of counterspells. Wizards nixed cards like Stasis and Winter Orb because they made it so that Timmy and Johnny didn’t get to play. They largely hurt land destruction for much the same reason. Timmy and Johnny are a huge part of the game. They are the part of the game that goes, “Gah! That stupid BLUE MAGE! I hate counters! Lame!”

I try to imagine what Jamie Wakefield would say if he was still actively playing. In my head, I imagine him writing tournament reports, laughing at his Blue opponents. “And what are you going to do about this? And this?” Massive Vigors would be resolving, and he’d merrily mark away their life totals, bashing, bashing, bashing.

The big thing that is going to have to happen for the counterspell decks, I think, is that they are going to have to be prepared for an opponent that might just hate them. There will be a Jamie Wakefield who will decide to main deck 4 Vexing Shusher and then toss in the new pseudo-Pyroblast to boot for the sideboard. The new Pyro is no Pyro, it can only hit Blue Instants, but it is still overload. Creature elimination is going to have to be a must, especially if you can expect that Shusher is just an enabler for other cards that you’re probably going to want to be packing. Yuuta Takahashi’s 4 Nameless Inversion are probably not going to cut it. His board includes 4 Deathmark and 2 Razormane Masticore. This will undoubtedly help, but it should also probably be considered the barest potential answer to the Shusher.

I know that I’m probably going to pick up a set of them this weekend, if I get the chance. Who knows? Maybe I won’t be playing them at Hollywood, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if I did. And I’m sure that someone I know will want to borrow four of them.

Initially, I entitled this column, “Spare Us the Shusher”. For some reason, I always hum the melody of the old Echo & the Bunnymen song “The Cutter” substituting Shusher for Cutter. With this music popping through my head as I write this and think about prereleasing, I thought it might be fun to share my Top 5 songs this week (courtesy of my Last.FM account) at the close of this article, much like so many of the kids are doing these days.

See you this weekend!

Adrian Sullivan

1) The National — Slow Show
2) Violent Femmes — Blister in the Sun
3) Tears for Fears — Mad World
4) Tegan and Sara — Walk With a Ghost
5) Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down — Feet Asleep