The Aether Spellbomb Dilemma: Spellbomb!

Each week Ken and I discuss our pick orders with one another before we write these articles. For Blue, our lists diverged by a good deal. Once again, we only included on-color artifacts and Blue cards in the list, and the two biggest disagreements we had were Aether Spellbomb versus Regress and Annul versus Wizard Replica.

White’s dilemma had Ken and I debating two similar white cards: Skyhunter Cub and Leonin Den-Guard. They are both solid creatures that are super with Equipment. I was pleased to see that StarCityGames’ readers agreed with my opinion in a three to one margin that Skyhunter Cub is the better card. This week, we swing over to the next color on the wheel: Blue.

Each week Ken and I discuss our pick orders with one another before we write these articles. For Blue, our lists diverged by a good deal. Once again, we only included on-color artifacts and Blue cards in the list, and the two biggest disagreements we had were Aether Spellbomb versus Regress and Annul versus Wizard Replica. Here is my list.

1. Neurok Spy

2. Somber Hoverguard

3. Annul

4. Wizard Replica

5. Silver Myr

6. Aether Spellbomb

7. Cobalt Golem

8. Seat of the Synod

9. Regress

10. Thoughtcast

11. Inertia Bubble

12. Lumengrid Warden

13. Wanderguard Sentry

14. Neurok Familiar

15. Override

16. Disarm

17. Dream’s Grip

Everyone that I have talked to agrees that Neurok Spy is the best Blue common in Mirrodin. In a set filled with artifacts, the Spy comes across unblocked every turn of the game. With all of the great offensive equipment and the Spy’s efficient casting cost, he is clearly the best Blue common.

Somber Hoverguard would be playable as a 3/2 flier for 5U, so it is really nice that the Hoverguard has Affinity. Each reduction in casting cost that the Hoverguard receives makes it a better and better deal. The Hoverguard can generate some fearsome tempo advantage. Dropping out a Hoverguard in the midgame for just one or two mana and casting another card the same turn will often put you too far ahead of your opponent for them to recover.

With every new format the value of tempo changes dramatically. In Onslaught Block, pulling ahead of your opponent in morph creatures would often single-handedly determine the game. In Invasion, a card like Repulse was so spectacular because it was an awesome utility card that simultaneously generated tempo. One way games in Mirrodin limited are quickly decided is when one player fires out a turn 2 Myr followed up with fast four-, five-, and six-drops. That leads me to our first dilemma.

Annul is a bargain at just one mana. While it doesn’t match the artifact removal of Green and Red, Annul still offers Blue a solid option for dealing with artifacts in the artifact block. If you are going first it, is very nice to wipe the smile off your opponent’s face when he plays down a Bonesplitter or Leonin Scimitar. Going second, Annul is even more valuable. It stops any early Myr or Talisman, along with stopping all of the equipment that your opponent might play out on the second turn.

Just like Force Spike causes your opponent to play differently in Constructed, anytime you have one mana available and Annul in your deck, your opponent will be forced to reconsider exactly how they want to play.

In fact, there is so little permission in Mirrodin that having a one-mana counter will often catch your opponent off-guard. Also, no matter how much pressure your opponent applies, it is virtually impossible for them to force you to tap completely out. Shutting down a Duplicant or a Soul Foundry wins games. Annul can do that one hundred percent of the time. Blue has good bounce in Aether Spellbomb and Crystal Shard, both of which can combine with Annul to permanently stop a strong artifact threat.

The Wizard Replica is a fine creature, but I just don’t feel that he is as strong as Annul. I like that he works great with Equipment, that he flies, and that he can be used as spot permission. He is definitely the fourth best Blue common, but he doesn’t have a lot of power by himself. In the early game he can seriously disrupt your opponent’s plays, but as the game progresses he weakens quickly.

When examining Blue with the other colors, Annul works great with White and Black. With Green the fact that the Replica is a flier, combined with Green’s already strong artifact removal makes Replica the better choice. Red has solid creature and artifact removal, but Annul still makes a nice addition to Red decks. It is so hard to acquire Red artifact removal that Annul fills the demand nicely. Rarely will you see Shatter or Detonate beyond the first pick of the pack. Goblin Replica is an excellent creature, but he’s is often too expensive to use in a timely manner. Also, Red already has a number of good three- and four-drops which make the Wizard Replica less useful. Annul is solid removal that is cheap enough to be used aggressively, but remains powerful into the late game, and most importantly – it throws off your opponent’s tempo.

Next on my list I have Silver Myr. I really like the Myr in combination with Affinity. He works great with Somber Hoverguard, Myr Enforcer, Frogmite, and Thoughtcast. Drafting an Affinity deck allows for a lot of really explosive draws, and Silver Myr is the enabler that starts things off.

Honestly, I feel the second dilemma for this week isn’t even a dilemma at all. I have Aether Spellbomb listed sixth on my list while Regress doesn’t appear until ninth. Dilemmas like this one make me happy to be facing off against Ken. Once again, I was shocked to hear how much Ken liked Regress. I find it to be a fine sideboard card and a good answer to Tel-Jilad Archers, but not even close to Aether Spellbomb in terms of value.

For starters, Aether Spellbomb only costs one colorless mana to cast, meaning you can always throw it out there on the first turn. Casting the Spellbomb early on effectively reduces the whole usage cost of it to a single Blue mana. Even at 1U, Aether Spellbomb is still a bargain to use.

The cycling aspect of Aether Spellbomb really makes it a solid card. Too often a utility card rots dead in my hand. Aether Spellbomb never suffers from this fate. If the Spellbomb isn’t going to help you, then just toss it in for a new card. Also, I have been talking about the advantages of Affinity and Aether Spellbomb fits right into this theme. It sits out there, letting all of your Myr Enforcers and Somber Hoverguards come out for one less mana.

There isn’t enough combat in Mirrodin Limited to make Regress’s surprise value worthwhile. Both cards punish Equipment, but the Spellbomb can change how your opponent will play. When the Spellbomb is sitting on the table, your opponent will be forced to evaluate what it could do to them in every situation.

Nate Heiss ran a Sealed Deck tournament last weekend in the basement of Hobart House. During the Swiss rounds I was watching a game between Mike Patnik and Aaron Vanderbeek. Patnik was on the play but was stopped cold when Beek played out a turn 1 Aether Spellbomb.

Why? Patnik’s hand contained only one more land and a Myr. Glimmervoid wasn’t looking so good against the bounce of Aether Spellbomb. Worse yet, the Aether Spellbomb remained on the table long after it completely shut down Patnik’s game.

Making your opponent suffer is good fun. Aether Spellbomb can make your opponent suffer! It is cheaper, more effective than Regress, and breaking up the mana investment in its usage allows the Spellbomb to be a constant weapon on your side of the table.

I liked Skyhunter Cub because it offered significantly more power for the additional mana cost. Neither Wizard Replica nor Regress are more powerful than the alternatives. Aether Spellbomb is clearly better than Regress. Annul stops your opponent’s bombs. They are both efficient and effective.

Thanks for reading. I am looking forward to the results of this week’s vote.

Mike Turian

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Team CMU-Togit