The Kitchen Table #213 – Finding Silklash Spiders

Read Abe Sargent every Thursday... at StarCityGames.com!
Welcome back to the series dedicated to the realm of the casual. I’m the DJ of the only radio station to spin your tunes on a weekly basis, so let’s get started. Today, I want to peer more closely at an old premise of mine: the Silklash Spider.

Welcome back to the series dedicated to the realm of the casual. I’m the DJ of the only radio station to spin your tunes on a weekly basis, so let’s get started.

Actually, before we begin, let’s cut into the tape. Last Friday I got my laptop back, so yay! I have six articles stored on its hard drive already written:

Unearthed Arcana, the sequel to the Magic: RPG as promised in previous columns.

My Five Color Proposal to revamp the format and trim the hedges. This will be my official proposal to the Five Color Ruling Council.

Compendium entry on Chameleon Magic, with only gold cards allowed.

Compendium entry on a format for my own creation called Booster Decks.

An article on some Magic Online formats that you can play around the kitchen table, including formats like “PPS.”

An article on how to use Magic Forge for your own casual Magic nights.

That’s a lot of articles already written and in the pipeline. There’s just one problem.

My laptop came back sans hard drive. Apparently, my laptop was having HD issues, and a new HD as installed without the previous one’s data. Now, I intend to call them back and see if I can find my old hard drive and send it off to a specialist, but in the mean time, that means all six article are lost-o (along with a lot of other stuff as well).

I don’t know that I want to rewrite all of those articles — it’s a bit like redoing a long mission in an RPG with no save points when you die near the end of the mission and the only thing that killed you was a bug in the game that you can avoid this time now that you know it is there. You don’t want to redo all of your work when it wasn’t your fault you lost it.

I need to redo the Unearthed Arcana article and the Five Color article. Of the others, don’t expect anything unless I somehow miraculously recover my hard drive and then my data. Anyway, let’s move on to today. Today.

Today, I want to peer more closely at an old premise of mine. Back in October of 2005, I wrote my second article on the Best Player Syndrome. In that article, I created a concept that I want to use again today: The Silklash Spider.

I realized the Best Player Syndrome while continuing to observe my playgroup over time, and I pulled the collected actions of various players into my theory regarding the best player at the table. Then I followed my BPS article with that second entry that gave people advice for how to play if you are the best player at your table.

I pointed out that no card was as good as Silklash Spider. Let’s go over the Silklash Spider theory.

Silklash Spider does several things very well. If you were to ask me what the top ten cards in multiplayer are, I’d have to mention Silklash Spider, because it’s that good. Congregate, Soul Warden/Essence Warden, Commander Eesha, and the Spider would all make my list.

The first thing the Silklash Spider does it is blocks Akroma. There are exactly two creatures in the game of Magic that a casual table needs to be prepared for in any multiplayer game: Darksteel Colossus and Akroma the Elder. Your decks need answers to these two threats. Some answers, like Swords to Plowshares, work on both. Others, like Wing Snare or Dust to Dust, only work on one. Silklash Spider will block Akroma the First for as long as you may care to do so, which means Akroma will swing at an opponent, not at you.

While the blocking of Akroma is nice, note that the Silklash Spider also blocks every single commonly played flyer and survives, except for those that have firebreathing or pro-Green. With the exception of flyers like Avatar of Fury and Shivan Dragon, there is no commonly played flyer that can kill Silklash Spider in combat. Flyers like Commander Eesha and Iridescent Angel get by it, sure, but that is a risk that all defensive creatures take.

The spider is also gold at blocking on the ground. Every commonly played ground creature up to a casting cost of six will be stopped by a Silklash Spider. (At six mana, you begin to find Silvos and Child of Gaea type creatures). Thus, for five mana you get a creature that can really block a lot of creatures more expensive that itself.

What really makes Silklash Spider sing is its ability to reliably and continually sweep the board. It can sweep both Akromas from the sky and bring down those dragons that might kill it. Then it can do it again and again.

That’s what makes the Spider so good. It is not just a great creature for blocking, it also can reliably and repeatably sweep the skies.

I originally came up with the Silklash Spider as a way for best players to defend themselves, but they work for every deck and every player. Even a combo deck can use some Silklash Spiders.

In order to qualify as a Silklash Spider, a card must:

Have an ability

In order for this ability to count it must meet some criteria.

a). It must be repeatable. A Silklash Spider has a repeatable Hurricane-ish effect
which adds to its power. For a card to be considered a Silklash Spider, it must have a repeatable effect in a similar manner. This can require a creature tapping, that’s fine. Repeatable over turns is perfectly acceptable.

b). It must be pertinent. A Llanowar Elves tap ability is repeatable, but not pertinent to the table. On the other hand, Arcanis’s tap ability to draw three cards is very pertinent.

c). The cost for the ability must be easily paid. Silklash Spider’s ability simply costs mana, but a card like Goblin Bombardment requires a creature sacrificed. Although it might make the cut based on the first two requirements, it does not make the cut, here. On the other hand, Arcanis makes the cut here as well.

Contribute to your defense

A true Silklash Spider must have the ability to contribute well to keeping you alive. These are the cards that will save you time and again at the kitchen table. Even if Altar of Dementia made it through the first requirement (and it fails on point C listed above) it would fail here, because it does not keep you alive.

I am going to score some cards to show you how I rank Silklash Spider candidates. Each card will be ranked on three scales:

Ability — This shows how strong the ability is. Remember, to even qualify, the card has to have an easily repeatable and pertinent ability. Other cards don’t even get scored. How good the ability is compared to cost scores here.

Defense — How good the defense of the card also comes into play here. Some cards are better at saving you than others, and that is reflected in this score.

Tilt — This demonstrates other factors, which can include additional abilities the card might have, the casting cost of the card, how often the card is seen as a threat, can you also win with it, etc.

Let’s score Silklash Spider to see how the system will work:

Ability — 5. Silklash Spider kills multiple creatures at the table, and typically kills the best creatures people play.
Defense — 5. It blocks and survives almost everything. Very few creatures in the entire game of Magic are better at defense.

Tilt — 5. With a cheap casting cost, the Spider is better than average. It is also not seen as a threat and often evades removal in a similar way to how Commander Eesha evades targeted removal. It also sends people elsewhere at other opponents, thus reducing their life total while you sit quietly behind your Spider.

Thus, Silklash Spider scores a perfect 15. I don’t know of another card that would score this way. Note that other cards we look at will never be as good at being a Silklash Spider as the Spider itself.

Also note a very important thing: the value of cards change based on the deck in which they are played. If Goblin Bombardment is in a deck where the fuel for it is bountiful, then it meets the final criteria of having an easily paid cost and becomes a minor Silklash Spider. Lots of cards can be Silklash Spiders under the right circumstances.

Alright, let’s take a look at some Spiders, and some wannabes.

Avatar of Woe

Ability — 4. Although it can kill a creature outright, it requires the Avatar of Woe to tap, which removes it s ability as a blocker.
Defense — 1. In fact, having an Avatar of Woe out may force an opponent to bull rush you before their creatures can be killed. However, a 6/5 body is nothing to sneeze at. At least it scores here (if it got a zero, it wouldn’t be here at all)
Tilt — 3. With a casting cost often of two mana, it gets one point here. It is also a winning condition, which gets it another point. However, it never hides from removal and it doesn’t send creatures elsewhere like the Spider does, it simply kills them outright.

Total score — 8.

Visara the Dreadful

Ability – 4. See Avatar of Woe above.
Defense — 2. Despite having the same weaknesees as the Avatar of Woe, this critter flies, making it a much better blocker.
Tilt — 2. It’s never playable for two mana, and it can be stopped by any number of flyers from winning the game. It has the other weaknesses as its compadre above.

Total score — 8.

Arcanis the Omnipotent

Ability — 5. Ancestral Recall every turn by tapping? That’s money right there.
Defense — 0. Thus Arcanis is not considered a Silklash Spider but a wannabe. A 3/4 body for six mana might keep you from being Bolted, but in no way does it play defense. Often you don’t even block small creature for fear they will be Giant Growthed or joined with a Shock. Despite a mammoth ability, Arcanis is simply not a Spider.
Tilt — 2 — With an extra ability to self bounce, there is some value here.

Total Score — 7. Poser.

Mageta the Lion

Ability — 5. Another great ability. Wrath on a stick.
Defense — 0. Like Arcanis, he is an overcosted creature in terms of power and toughness, and he never blocks.
Tilt — 1. His activation cost requires double discard and he is always targeted. On the other hand, he can tap and swing after he goes off, allowing him to be a winning condition.

Total Score — 6. Poser.

Staff of Domination

Ability — 4. Drawing, untapping, tapping, and gaining life. I score one point for each, because none of these are that great on their own.
Defense — 2. Tapping down one or two attackers is a great way of playing defense. You can only do this against one or two players at a table.
Tilt — 3. Its reusability is high, but it can guzzle mana like a pig in heat. It also doesn’t send creatures elsewhere, it locks them down. It can untap to give you a blocker, and that threat is often pretty good.

Total Score — 9.

Tradewind Rider

Ability — 4. Reuseable bounce is pretty good.
Defense — 1. Although a 1.4 flyer can block some creatures, it comes down a bit late for most of it.
Tilt — 2. Not requiring even mana is good for the Rider, but tapping three creatures is rough, especially if you have to protect yourself from multiple attacks.

Total Score — 7.

Nullmage Shepherd

Ability — 3. I like Disenchanting as much as the next guy.
Defense — 1. Just like Tradewind above, a 2/4 body is fine on defense, but it comes down a bit late. Without flying it is not as great a blocker but the extra power keeps the weenies away from fear they will die.
Tilt — 2. It taps four creatures, not three, although it can be used more than once a turn if you have eight untapped creatures in play, which isn’t that likely.

Total Score — 6.


Ability — 4. Tapping down lands and artifacts as well as creatures is nice.
Defense — 2. Tapping down multiple attackers is also nice. It has the same problem as the Staff in that it I difficult to stop several committed attackers.
Tilt — 3. It taps better than Staff of Domination but doesn’t have the extra abilities. This is the first card we are looking at that just has one ability, but that ability is good for defense and meets the other requirements.

Total Score — 9

Glare of Subdual

Ability — 2. Tapping creatures is okay.
Defense — 2. As above
Tilt — 2. As above, but no ability to lock down lands or artifacts reduces its value.

Total Score — 6.

Kor Haven

Ability — 2. Keeping away any attacker, even Iridescent Angel, is great.
Defense — 3. It’s also very defensive.
Tilt — 2. It sends attackers elsewhere to other opponents. This is only one of two lands that I consider Silklash Spiders. The other is a bit worse…

Total Score — 7.

Maze of Ith

Ability — 2. See above.
Defense — 3. See above.
Tilt — 1. It untaps the creature, leaving it as a blocker. It also does not remove the creature from combat, so abilities like Ninjitsu will still work.

Total Score — 6.


Ability — 3. I like killing creatures, although it’s a bit too mana hungry to kill too many.
Defense — 4. Nothing like a 4/4 regenerator for just four colorless mana to keep the opponent off the table.
Tilt — 1. Discarding a card is just too tough to do for long, but for the time you have Masticore out, you can use and reuse its ability and love the 4/4 regenerator. It can swing, but is not often out long enough to do so.

Total Score — 8.

Meloku the Clouded Mirror

Ability — 2. Making creatures would normally be higher, but the cost of bouncing a land is pretty nasty. It barely qualifies.
Defense — 5. It’s a 2/4 flyer along with making a ton of 1/1 flyers. That makes it an amazing creature on defense.
Tilt — 1. The reusability factor is low because of the land bounce.

Total Score — 8.


Ability — 0. Who cares about tapping and growing and flying and stuff?
Defense — 4. Great at stopping normal stuff, but weak when compared to shutting down cards like Akroma.
Tilt — 1. This is just a poser with its weak abilities.

Total Score — 5. Poser.

Azorius Guildmage

Ability — 3. Tapping and countering activated abilities. The countering abilities makes it one better than Glare of Subdual, which just tapped creatures.
Defense — 2. Its 2/2 body for just two very easy mana does have value in the early game on defense, plus it taps down creatures.
Tilt — 1. It’s not as reusable as the Glare of Subdual which probably gets activated more often. It doesn’t have all of the other abilities that Staff of Domination is loaded with. However, for two mana, this is the single best Silklash Spider available.

Total Score — 6.

Helm of Possession

Ability — 4. Who doesn’t like the taking of creatures?
Defense — 1. It depends on what you take, but the best this can do is steal one creature during combat.
Tilt — 2. Stealing creatures is hot, but sacking a creature to do it means there are only so many goes in the bidet.

Total Score — 7.

Karn, Silver Golem

Ability — 0. Turning artifacts into creatures is jank.
Defense — 3. A 0/8 blocker is nothing to sneeze at.
Tilt — 0. This would be a Silklash Spider in the right deck, and is an excellent example of how some cards could be Silklash Spiders under certain circumstances.

Total Score — 3. Poser.

Chandra Nalaar

Ability — 2. The first ability is nothing, but the second two are hot.
Defense — 1. It can burn down a creature before it attacks. If it builds up and goes off, say, “Hello Santa!” Also, it takes the occasional attack away from you for being a planeswalker.
Tilt — 2. This is the best of the planswalkers at being a Silklash Spider. Let’s take a look at the other one.

Total Score — 5.

Garruk Wildspeaker

Ability — 1. Untapping two lands is nice but is not worthy of Silklashness. Overrun is solid and making 3/3s is alright. Combined, I’d say there is just enough to put this over the edge.
Defense — 1. It makes blockers, and has the planeswalker ability to be a target and soak up some attackers.
Tilt — 1. Barely a Silklash Spider, maybe at this low a point cost, we just say no.

Total Score — 3.


Ability — 3. I like stealing creatures, but this does it in a backwards way.
Defense — 2. 4/5 body isn’t that bad, but it comes down too late for defense.
Tilt — 2. It’s a bit too mana hungry for real abuse. On the other hand, it is a legitimate winning condition unlike the Spider.

Total Score — 7.

Adarkar Valkyrie

Ability — 2. Brining back dead creatures is handy.
Defense — 4. A 4/5 flyer for six is pretty good on defense.
Tilt — 0. Vigilance is nice, no question. However, this does not have the reusability that it needs to truly be a Spider. There are many turns where you are unable to use its ability, and you don’t often want to be forced to do so. If the Silklash Spider can’t use its ability because there is nothing in the skies, you are happy, and it did its job, but not so here. It was close, but ultimately, I feel this is no Silklash Spider.

Total Score — 6. Poser.

Scourge of Kher Ridges

Ability — 5. There’s nothing wrong with taking out small ground creatures or large flyers on a regular basis, and both abilities can be used again and again as long as you have mana. In fact, the ability to clean off the ground in addition to the air makes this a very powerful bad boy.
Defense — 4. A 6.6 flyer stops a lot, but it rolls over to the lords of the sky like Akromas. Akroma the Major will be immune from its burn and kill it in combat. It costs eight mana, so it doesn’t drop early.
Tilt -2. As mentioned above, the 8 mana is a problem that keeps this from being the new Silklash Spider. Still, for what it does, this is one sexy card. It is also our highest scoring card after the Spider itself.

Total Score — 11.

Bringer of the Blue Dawn

Ability — 3. Drawing two cards a turn is very repeatable and very good. Drawing three cards a turn is a 5, drawing one is a 1.
Defense — 2. It’s a 5/5 creature often for five mana, and that makes this good on defense. However, you aren’t guaranteed to have it on the fifth turn, even in decks that try to have all five colors by then.
Tilt — 2. Not a bad card by any means, but the ability’s once a turn trigger at a certain time prevents abuse in many ways. Trample brings it up to a 2.

Total Score — 7. I’ll save you the individual entries for the other Bringers and give you their total scores:

Black Dawn: 7
Red Dawn: 6
Green Dawn: 4. Poser, ability not good enough.
White Dawn: 4. Poser, ability not good enough.

Selesnya Guildmage

Ability — 1. Making a 1/1 creature once a turn wouldn’t get you here, and pumping your creatures wouldn’t either. On the other hand, both are reusable, so it barely charts.
Defense — 1. Being a 2/2 early has value in the first turns.
Tilt — 0. None of the other Guildmagi come close like Azorius Guildmage does. The abilities are limited or too mana heavy for what they do.

Total Score — 2. Poser.

Mother of Runes

Ability — 2. Giving a creature protection for a color of your choice is pretty useful.
Defense — 2. The Mother of Runes can block any major creature, or may any blocker live through combat. She can only do it once per turn, however.
Tilt — 3. If any one-drop in the game of Magic is a Silklash Spider, it’s the Mother of Runes. She also protects your creatures from targeted removal and causes negative enchantments to fall off.

Total Score — 7.

Possessed Centaur

Ability — 2. Destroying a Green creature is useful at the Kitchen Table, where Green is arguably the most common color played.
Defense — 0. Although it is a 4/4 for four mana with threshold, it has not other abilities to keep it alive or to protect it, and then that relies on threshold, which is not all of the time.
Tilt — 1. Not a Silklash Spider, but good try.

Total Score — 3. Poser. Now Possessed Aven, on the other hand, would get a score of 4 and not be a poser (it gets defense of 1 for flying, ability of 1 because Blue creatures aren’t as big of a deal, tilt of two for being a 4/4 flyer that can swing for game).

Jaya Ballard, Task Mage

Ability — 3. The repeatable Red Elemental Blast is not much, but it’s enough to get a point. The other two abilities also get a point each.
Defense — 1. Although she can burn down a creature, you never want to block with her.
Tilt — 0. Discarding cards and only using one ability each turn is not enough to keep her as a Silklash Spider.

Total Score — 4. Poser.

Eight-and-a-Half Tails

Ability — 2. See Mother of Runes above.
Defense — 2. Its several abilities work in concert to protect your flock from attackers. That takes mana, but it is repeatable.
Tilt — 2. This ain’t no Mother, because of the mana concerns, but he is pretty good.

Total Score — 6. This puts him even with Azorius Guildmage as the best Silklash Spiders for two mana.


Ability — 5. Shocking every person or creature and doing it over and over again is nuts.
Defense — 4. He defeats attackers with his ability and his 4/5 body.
Tilt — 0. The ability isn’t repeatable enough to be a Spider. This is another case where if the circumstances change, this guy’s value becomes a Silklash. Put him in a 400-card deck, and his Tilt jumps to 5 and he’s just one point below Silklash itself.

Total Score — 9. Poser.

Eternal Dragon

Ability — 1. Recurring and landcycling is enough to get it a point.
Defense — 3. 5/5 flyers are solid, but I’d like more size or a lower casting cost.
Tilt — 0. This card almost cheats. I never said that a card had to be good on defense and have a repeatable pertinent ability at the same time, since this card needs to be in play for defense but in your hand or yard for its abilities. Therefore, although it tries to find a technicality and exploit it, I caught it here in the tilt section.

Total Score — 4. Poser.


Ability — 0. It pumps, whoop-de-doo.
Defense — 4. No one wants to attack into a ‘Tog early.
Tilt — 2. Nice try Mr. Teeth. Pumping yourself isn’t barely relevant, but it wins you games.

Total Score — 6. Poser.

Verdant Force

Ability — 3. Making 1/1 creatures as often as he does is pretty handy. Just making a 1/1 like Luminous Angel would not make the cut. Here you get them so often, he’s pretty good.
Defense — 3. He has a nice sized body himself, but costs a bit to play. The saprolings are good for chumping. However, he watches as creatures sail overhead.
Tilt — 2. Without any ability like trample, he just sort of attacks in the general direction of people, but is easily stopped by creatures like Commander Eesha and Cho-Manno. However, his horde can get through and that’s worth a point right there.

Total Score — 8.

Arashi, the Sky Asunder

Ability — 3. Less powerful than Silklash Spider’s ability to hit all flyers, but it’s not bad.
Defense 2 — A 5/5 creature for five mana guaranteed is going to stop some ground creatures in their tracks.
Tilt — 3. The channel ability is nice, but not spectacular. It’s a beat that can win you the game.

Total Score — 8.

Jiwari, the Earth Aflame

Ability – 3. Sure you can kill ground stuff, but that’s not that great.
Defense — 0. I don’t like 3/3 creatures for five mana on defense. That’s not good defense, and he has n ability to contribute to defense other than his minor, ground based Blaze which doesn’t even stop attackers.
Tilt — 2. Nice three Red mana in your channel ability.

Total score — 5. Poser.

Kumano, Master Yamabushi

Ability — 3. See also: Masticore.
Defense — 1. As a 4/4 for five man, it scares a few people, and it can hit multiple attackers with its flame.
Tilt — 4. I love the extra ability to remove dead creatures it kills from the game. That’s highly useful. Use before a Wrath or other removal spell to get those cards removed as well. This is also a pretty solid winning condition. It is mana hungry, so beware.

Total Score — 7.


Ability – 2. Although its ability is much more powerful than Adarkar Valkyrie’s, it only triggers once, at the end of your turn, instead of when you have need.
Defense — 4. A 6/6 for six mana is simply tough to swing through.
Tilt — 0. I really like Gleancrawler, and I play it in my decks, but it’s no Silklash Spider. The trigger only happens once and can easily be worked around by opponents. As such, this is more of a poser than Adarkar Valkyrie.

Total Score — 6. Poser.

Now I have reviewed 35 cards… mostly creatures, but with a few lands, enchantments, artifacts and planeswalkers sprinkled in there. As you can see, some cards are Silklash Spiders, but barely. Other cards might be good cards, but are not Silklash Spider.

Again, why does this matter? Silklash Spider is so good because it keeps you alive. If you play a Wrath of God, it’s only a matter of time before everybody has creatures again and some might be upset that you destroyed their creatures. Ideally, you want them to see your cards, and then ignore you and go somewhere else. Silklash Spider is ideal at keeping your opponent’s at bay while also clearing up a lot of the chaff in the skies.

Since the Spider is so good, it’s vital to see what else is good enough to make the grade.

Are there other Silklash Spider cards out there? I’m sure there are. Of the ones investigated above, what are the closest cards to being Spiders themselves?

Silklash Spider — 15
Scourge of Kher Ridges — 11
Opposition — 9
Staff of Domination — 9
Masticore, Meloku, Avatar of Woe, Visara, Arashi, Verdant Force — 8
Kumano, Bringer of the Blue Dawn, Black Dawn, Mother of Runes, Kor Haven, Tradewind Rider, Helm of Possession, Memnarch, – 7

You can see some heavy hitters of casual or tournament Magic in there, like Avatar of Woe, Masticore, and Meloku. You also see the arguably underplayed Scourge of Kher Ridges taking the prize at the most Silklash Spider-esque f the cards in the game of Magic.

With that, let’s bring the article to a close. I hope that you enjoyed this look at cards for your kitchen table. Emphasize the Silklash Spiders in your decks, and you’ll find yourself staying alive and winning more regularly. Good luck!

Until later,

Abe Sargent

P.S. — Next week I will have our contest winners here in print for you. I got a rash of submissions at or near the deadline, so I have a large number of decks to sort through, but it’s all done and ready to go.