The Aether Spellbomb Dilemma: Regress!

It would seem to many of you that I like a challenge. Almost without fail, my card valuations go against conventional wisdom. I assure you I do not take on these cards as a chore. I don’t do it because I lost the coin flip. I don’t do it to make a scene. I do it because I am of the firm belief that I am right. Usually, I am.

It would seem to many of you that I like a challenge. Almost without fail, my card valuations go against conventional wisdom. I assure you I do not take on these cards as a chore. I don’t do it because I lost the coin flip. I don’t do it to make a scene. I do it because I am of the firm belief that I am right. Usually, I am.

In the very first dilemma, I pointed out that Elvish Warrior was head and shoulders above Krosan Tusker. I pointed out that Screeching Buzzard was better than Swat, and at the time it was, even though the creature heavy nature of Legions eventually stitched that. The other ones are debatable (as are these, I suppose) but the point is that my outside the box thinking is helpful whether I am right or not.

This week Mike and I present you with a double feature. We easily could have done this with White again, since he so horrendously undervalues Blinding Beam, but to tell the truth I didn’t think of it at the time. (For the record, Jeff Cunningham thought I had Beam too low.)

First, I will tackle the debate of Regress versus Aether Spellbomb. I agree with Mike on one thing, I don’t think there is a dilemma here either. Regress is a game-winning spell as well as a tempo card, and Spellbomb is pretty good. Regressing Equipment in mid-combat can often be enough to swing a game in your favor. When you are racing, bouncing a creature after he is equipped can be such a huge tempo swing, that your opponent may not be able to recover. I even won a game by Regressing an Icy Manipulator during his endstep. You can’t catch people in a double-block with Spellbomb in play, but Regress can make that situation devastating.

What makes this card so important is the surprise value. Spellbomb is quite easy to play around. Sure, it is annoying, but annoying does not a good card make. The simple fact is Spellbomb is that less versatile and only one less mana. It isn’t a surprise, and it can’t bounce non-creatures. Yes, Spellbomb costs less, you can spread the cost over two turns, and sure it cycles in a pinch, but give me a break – Spellbomb isn’t half the card Regress is.

Against Green (which is the best color in the set by far), Spellbomb isn’t even all that good. In particular, you can’t target Tel-Jilad Archers or Tel-Jilad Chosen. Archers are a huge deal for the Blue mage. Additionally, there is no way to lull your opponent into a false sense of security with the Bomb. A lot of times when you have Regress in hand, your opponent will attack for the loss and not even know it. The fact of the matter is there is no competition here: Regress is way better.

Now onto the real dilemma. Annul looked to be an all-star when the spoiler came out. However, Terror also looked to be crap. The simple fact is, even given the fact that this is the artifact set, there are certain undeniable truths in Limited: Creature kill is good. Situational counters are not. Now both of these rules loosen a little in this set, and Annul is far from a bad card, but reactive situational cards are still not that hot. Sure you can almost always pop a Myr or something, but I don’t want anti-Myr tech clogging my draft deck. I usually play Annul, but I am also not afraid to cut it.

Wizard Replica, on the other hand, is worth drafting relatively high whether or not you even have Blue mana in your deck. Creatures are at a premium, and you can do a lot worse than a 1/3 flier for three. It is a lot better than any off-color morph you will find. I am pretty sure I would take him over Annul even if his only rules text were”Flying” – but he has more than that, so let’s analyze it.

Myrs are the talk of Mirrodin Limited, and why shouldn’t they be? All of a sudden, every color has access to mana acceleration. If you play a turn 2 Myr, Wizard Replica becomes so much more dangerous. Casting him on turn 3 now means you have mana available to counter immediately as well. This is a major setback, as most of the bombs in this format cost between three and five mana. Since his ability doesn’t require tapping, attacking with your evasion creature is quite possible while setting your opponent’s development back two turns. Replica is significantly better against Green, as Fangren Hunter and Tel-Jilad Archers must be contained.

Annul, on the other hand, is one of those cards that there is seemingly no good time to cast. I always look at it in my hand and wind up countering some irrelevant piece of garbage. I tried saving it for big stuff, but I always wound up tapping out, and then they would pounce. The later game bombs like Tetravus and Alter of Shadows will be slowed by Replica enough to make it nearly as effective as Annul.

A good rule of thumb in this block: If the choice seems close, and it is between a creature and a non-creature, go for the creature.

Here is my pick order. It’s not as radically different from Mike’s as White was, but different none the less:

1. Neurok Spy

The pros all agree this is the best common, and who am I to argue with the pros. Heck, I used to be one. Aside from that, I do feel this little bugger is quite powerful. From turn 4 on he will be attacking for at least two, and with equipment he quickly becomes unwieldy. There isn’t a common you should be taking over him.

2. Somber Hoverguard

Almost a Neurok Spy, but not quite. As Mike said, even cast with no discount this guy would be solid, but the fact of the matter is you rarely pay more than five for him. Hoverguard is slightly easier to stop then Spy and a little slower, but a powerful card nonetheless. Be careful with signals, this guy comes in a common run with the Spy. If the rest of the pack is weak, you may find yourself with a Blue drafter to your right. Bad for you, worse for him.

3. Regress

Wizard Replica

Cobalt Golem

I have this guy higher than Mike. I think Mike hasn’t quite adjusted to the creature light nature or this format. While this guy seems unexciting on paper, sometimes a guy like this will be in the upper fifty percentile of creatures in your deck.

6. Aether Spellbomb


Silver Myr

I rank Myrs lower than most of my friends. To tell the truth, I am not taking full advantage of the mana acceleration in every color. For me, over half the times I drop these guys on turn 2 they attack for one on turn 3. I am not saying these guys aren’t good and aren’t worth taking – often I find myself picking them early in later packs. That being said, I think there is a lot of hype about the one for each color thing when the color that benefits most from them is still Green.

9. Thoughtcast

There are a lot of misconceptions about this format. Sure, it is slower than any draft format since Masques, but people seem to undervalue tempo. When tempo is undervalued, card drawing becomes overvalued. As card drawing goes, this is not a bad card, but all the card drawing is overvalued. Tim Aten ranked the Vedalken Archmage first among Blue cards. I don’t even like this card. I thought I was about to read some joke about a maroon who took it over Neurok Spy, but as it turns out Tim was serious. I have nothing but love and respect for Tim, but card drawing is just not that hot in this format.

10. Seat of the Synod

Hoverguard makes this land the best of the artifact lands. Thoughtcast making the cut as often as it does also makes this nice. In Blue/Black it is possible this card is even higher. You know what it does, but at the end of the day it is a land that taps for a Blue mana, so it is really tough to take it very high.

11. Neurok Familiar

In an Equipment-heavy deck, a 1/1 flier is pretty good. On top of that, he is card drawing about 30-40% of the time with no additional cost. He is much-maligned, but I could see him moving up this list as I play more.

12. Wanderguard Sentry

Nick Eisel made a really good point about this guy. It is my general draft strategy to draft as few artifacts as possible (more on this in the Green Dilemma). While that is rarely my strategy when I am Blue, it still guides my choices pretty frequently, because I am a big fan of stranding kill in my opponent’s hands.

We had a saying about Jamie Parke back in the day: If Jamie’s opponent cast Wandering Eye, he couldn’t lose. Jamie analyzed every play so well that with perfect information and proper development, he would win every time. The point here is the information given by this creature is more valuable than many players realize.

13. Lumengrid Warden

This guy is two cards in one. He is an Aquamoeba plus Stupefying Touch!

Okay, I’m joking. In truth this guy is not as bad as he seems. I am not advocating playing him, but in an Equipment-heavy deck, you could do worse. Maybe.

14. Inertia Bubble

Man alive, did I think this card was good when I first saw it! I also thought Annul was good and Terror was bad, but all this stems back to the original problem of people being blinded by”the Artifact Set” hype. Many of your problem artifacts are Equipment. This doesn’t do diddly poo against them.

15. Disarm

There are decks you side this in against, but not many. Equipment is so popular that in a draft, no deck seems to wind up with more than two good pieces. It doesn’t permanently deal with them, it can be a nice combat trick, but you will find yourself siding it in Sealed far more often than Draft, if you bother siding it in at all.

16. Override

I usually don’t have much to say about cards this far down. I mentioned in my discussion about Annul that I don’t like situational reactive cards. While decks exist that can exploit Override, it will usually wind up getting cut for more proactive synergistic cards.

17. Dream’s Grip

Hi, I’m Dream’s Grip.

So that is all I got. It was nice to be able to take the easy side of a debate for once. You’ll get ’em next time, Mike!


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