Hello folks! Please allow me to welcome you to another entry in this most casual-tastic of columns. I am the sometimes humble but never boring Abe Sargent, bringing a column straight from the Casual heartland to your computer on a weekly basis.
A few times in the past, I’ve highlighted various cards with a detailed look at each. I have spent articles on cards like Portcullis, Cloudstone Curio and Mages’ Contest. Today I want to spend some time investigating just a small number of cards, and then discussing deck building strategies for my choices.
It’s no surprise to see me laud Equilibrium in my column. It is a cornerstone of one of my enduring decks, Equinaut. However, today I am going to talk about other uses and tricks of the card, although there may be some principles from Equinaut that I will use here.
Equilibrium appears to be a classic example of an underused card. It has so many uses and it is so powerful, yet I rarely see it getting play. Let’s talk about that.
In multiplayer, permanently taking care of opposing creatures can both annoy the person and result in card disadvantage. Rend Flesh may be ideal at taking out that Shivan Dragon, but the player may now hold a grudge. Additionally, playing a lot of pinpoint removal is a one track train to card disadvantage station, because you are already getting outdrawn by bunches.
Seal of Doom is a great rattlesnake card, because someone with a Shivan Dragon, deciding who to attack, sees the Seal, and decides to go elsewhere. The Seal of Doom acts as a deterrent. However, because it is a one-shot card, it never provides you with much in the way of card advantage. Additionally, a lot of players will push through it. That single Seal of Doom may not mean much against a weenie deck or a player with three Serra Angels out.
However, Equilibrium is much better. It does not promise permanent death to your creatures unless they are tokens. Instead, it merely provides delay and wasted time. If the Shivan Dragon player looks at you, now he may go elsewhere, not because he fears the death of his Dragon, but because he doesn’t want to waste his combat or turn. This is especially true in multiplayer, where it may take a while for the owner to get a chance to attack again. Attacking with a big ol’ dragon is fun! No one wants to get their creature bounced.
The beauty of Equilibrium is that it does not kill the creature, so it is not a nasty deterrent, but it works. Another beauty is that is does not use up a card. It’s not Seal of Removal. Every creature becomes an Unsummon too, so all you need are creatures in order to get value from Equilibrium.
In fact, considering all of this, Equilibrium makes for a powerful inclusion in any multiplayer deck, even without considering combos or synergies. I’d advise any Blue player with creatures to consider trying out Equilibrium as a nice Propaganda type effect that doesn’t piss people off.
There are a few points to make about Equilibrium. Its trigger goes on the stack when the creature is played, not when it comes into play. That means you can never bounce the creature you just played. You could not play a Cephalid Sage and then bounce it back with its own Equilibrium trigger.
However, that makes it really good against countermagic. Barring something like a Stifle, you will be able to bounce a creature, even through counters.
The best way to use and abuse Equilibrium may be with flash creatures. Dropping a Crookclaw Transmuter is a great way to get a bounce effect as an instant. Feel free to flash it out and bounce an attacker. The flash ability was already valuable as a spider, pouncing from your hand onto the table to block and kill an attacker. Now you can combine it with the rattlesnake of Equilibrium to bounce another attacker, and create a powerful defense.
Bouncing a creature does have a lot of value. You can bounce something with an aura on it to get some card advantage. Bounce a creature after its echo or upkeep was paid in order to get tempo on a player. These are all great ways to bounce defensively, bouncing attackers and utility creatures your opponent has.
However, you can also bounce aggressively. You can remove blockers. Playing a Ball Lightning AND bouncing that Wall of Ice is golden. Playing a Skizzik AND returning that Wall of Blossom is grand. Bouncing that defender in order to get Phage through, well that’s just magical.
You can also bounce your own creatures. One way to use this is to abuse 187 creatures like Nekrataal or Ghitu Slinger. Play a creature with a nice CIP effect, then play another creature, bounce it, and keep going. In a deck loaded with some key 187 creatures, you can get a lot of distance with Equilibrium.
The obvious Blue card to combine it with is Shrieking Drake. When this cheap 1/1 flyer for U comes into play, you have to return a creature you control to your hand. Play it with Equilibrium for a powerful effect.
At sorcery speed, you can bounce every creature in play for U1, and you can do it as many times as you have mana available. You can easily sweep the board of opposing creatures each and every turn. From there, it is easy to win.
Another great synergy with Equilibrium is Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. Not only does Teferi have flash, so you can play him and bounce something, but all of your creatures gain flash, and work very well with the Equilibrium. Now you can Shrieking Drake + Equilibrium at the end of your opponent’s turn, tapping all of your mana, without fear of removal, then bounce every opposing creature you desire until you run out of creatures or mana. Then untap and take your turn, swinging with Teferi for three damage through a rather empty battlefield.
The beauty of this is that you have all of these cards in color, and Teferi doesn’t cost that much to buy these days. There’s no excuse not to have a playset of him plus Equilibrium.
As you can see, there is a lot going on under the hood of Equilibrium. What other cards do I want to talk about today?
I want to take a second and thank WoTC for a moment. In The Kitchen Table #212, I was writing an article that included Aurification in a deck. I pointed out that the Oracle wording at the time removed the ability for Aurification to turn things into walls, it just was errata’ed to give them defender.
However, at some point in time, WotC decided to change Oracle to reflect the card better. Now it still gives the creature defender but it makes them a wall as well. This makes the card much better and better reflects what the card actually did. Although I am confident that the change never came about because of my article, I still wanted to thank them here. Thanks!
Let’s discuss Aurification, shall we? In all of Magic, there are only a handful of Creature Shut Down cards available to us.
The first was in Alpha: Island Sanctuary. It shut down all attackers unless they had flying or islandwalk, but it had a high price for its activation. It got little tournament play outside of combo-ing with Howling Mine.
However, legends gave us the two most powerful Creature Shut Down cards of all time. The Abyss and Moat were powerful tools against creature decks and ruled the tournament circuit for a long time. Moat was better than Island Sanctuary because it stopped islandwalk too, and did not require a cost to use. The Abyss was powerful, but could be built around. Vintage was dominated for a long time by these two cards, and creatures had to get around both in order to be truly viable (which is one reason Morphling ruled Vintage for years and years).
Since then, there have been a few Creature Shut Down cards, but most have had significant restrictions. No Mercy kills them after they attack, but they get a hit in. Teferi’s Moat only stops one color of creature from attacking and requires you to be playing two colors yourself. Powerstone Minefield only cares about creatures with a small butt.
Aurification is similar to those cards in that it shuts down most creatures. However, at first it may seem rather weak compared to cards like No Mercy. It’s not though, trust me. Let’s take a look under the hood.
Firstly, Aurification keeps the creature in play. This may seem obvious, but it has subtle benefits for the right deck. In my article #212, I combined Aurification with Oath of Druids. Because the Aurification did not kill the creature, it was still in play for purposes of the Oath. This is one powerful interaction. It also shuts down creatures and decks that want to put their creatures in the graveyard, or that don’t mind if I do. Reanimation can lose its beaters and Genesis sits on the sidelines.
Of course, if the creatures are still out, they can block, which is not a good thing if I want to try and attack through them. It’s important to know your weaknesses ahead of time.
There are also some corner cases where Aurification will not stop an attacker. For example, Walking Wall can still attack you after being activated. Other examples include Wall of Wonder and Mistform Wall. It is important to know these side cases exist.
Where Aurification shines is at the multiplayer table. I’ve already spent time talking about how players choose whom to attack. Seal of Doom might send an attacker elsewhere, but it might not. Equilibrium provides a greater disincentive to attack, but it’s still not great. No Mercy goes too far. It is so threatening that people will take it out and then take you out.
Aurification sits happily between Equilibrium and No Mercy. The player keeps their creature, and they can lose their wall status any time by taking out the Aurification. It’s not a major thorn, but it is a significant inconvenience. Players are almost always going to choose to attack elsewhere, because they’d rather not bother with having a lovely Akroma Wall or a Darksteel Colossus Wall. Therefore, Aurification is one of the most powerful Go Elsewhere permanents you can have in play before it or you become Public Enemy #1.
The result is a powerful enchantment that does not change the game, but can alter it a bit.
Before I leave you, take a look at some combos with Aurification. Word of Blasting is an instant that buries a wall and deals damage to the player. The player of Silvos is about to take six and lose their creature. It’s a great surprise to kill any creature, dodge regeneration, and deal some damage all for two mana at instant speed.
For another way to abuse it look at Dwarven Demolition Team. Tap and kill a wall. You should have a lot of walls out to use and abuse DDT. There are other cards that could work, like Engineered Plague or Extinction. You can really abuse Aurification under the right conditions.
Aurification is a powerful card, with just enough weaknesses to keep it under the radar, but with a powerful suite of abilities and synergies designed for abuse by you.
How about another card for today?
Say hello to one of the classics of all time, this little goodie from Antiquities. Before we begin, note that the Coffin currently is going for $7.50 played here at SCG. That’s a great deal for a card so old and essential.
The Coffin is awesome. It can do so many things well. We need to take a serious look at this card at the table. Before we do, however, remember that it was recently errata’ed to change its ability. For years its Oracle entry read that it phased out the creature. However, that was changed back to RFG’ing the creature. Now let’s peer closely to see what we can see.
First of all, there are very few creatures that are protected from a Tawnos’s Coffin. Pristine Angel, creatures with shroud, and a few protection from artifacts cards that no one plays, and that’s it. You can put anything from an Iridescent Angel to either Akroma in the Coffin to take care of it for a bit. Then just don’t untap the Coffin, and leave the creature in there.
It becomes a semi-permanent answer to creatures you need answers for. It also doesn’t really bother people as much, because if they pop the Coffin, the creature comes back, so it feels a bit like a Faceless Butcher or an Oubliette. This is a less threatening way to handle a creature than a Swords to Plowshares.
If you Swords a creature, the owner could get upset and seek vengeance. You also cannot use a Swords against as many targets as the Coffin, plus once it is used, it is gone. You can untap the Coffin to return the creature you Coffined and then go after something else.
In fact, I prefer to untap a Coffin every time if I can. Once I’ve proved that I can and will Coffin a creature that comes my way, that’s usually enough to force someone to attack elsewhere. That way, I can save the Coffin for other uses.
Another valuable use is to tap a creature. At the end of someone’s turn, Coffin their creature, then untap it, and the creature comes back into play tapped. It may be an awkward way of doing it, but you can basically use it as an expensive Icy Manipulator if you want, so you can get value out of it.
I love to Coffin my own creatures. If someone targets one of your creatures with removal, or if a Wrath of God is coming, just toss it in the Coffin. You’ll even get the creature back with all counters and auras still attached, unlike other RFG and return later cards like Momentary Blink.
Not only is this good to do to save your own creatures from opposing removal, but you can build around it. At the end of someone’s turn, put your Exalted Angel in the Coffin. Then keep the Angel in the Coffin a turn and use your own Wrath of God to sweep the board, bringing back your Angel shortly. If you have the mana, you can do both on the same turn, but note you cannot immediately attack with your Angel since it is tapped.
Because the Coffin removes a creature from the game now, you can trigger leaves play or CIP abilities on creatures. This makes it a great adjunct to decks that use a lot of 187 creatures, just like Equilibrium. Feel free to Coffin a Bone Shredder or an Avalanche Riders. Cards like Floodgate and Aven Riftwatcher and Deadwood Treefolk and Slithermuse are great to toss under a Coffin too. I particularly like Slithermuse, because you can draw a bunch of cards off it, then keep bringing it back, playing some cards, and putting it back under.
The Coffin works with so many cards because it is a great card itself. There are a lot of things you can do with it, and it adds a lot of power to your table.
And that concludes today’s article. I hope that you enjoyed this trek through a few more cards that I think you might benefit from taking a closer look at. I’ll see you next week!