The Long And Winding Road – Mental Misstep Hysteria

Thursday, April 28 – The mass hysteria over Mental Misstep has flooded Matt’s Facebook wall, and he wants to set things straight. He outlines exactly which decks will and won’t use the new counterspell that has everyone in an uproar.


EXTRA, EXTRA, read all about it!

Mental Misstep Hysteria sweeps the nation! Legacy format to never be the same! Wizards releases new card made of space-age polymers
and Tang, infused with the DNA of Ramses II, Alexander the Great, and Joe Montana! Every Legacy deck to begin “4 Mental
Misstep and 56 other, less exciting cards” forever more!

In other news, Red Sox fans way too excited about a team that is still below .500!

Mental Misstep – Legacy

People are going bonkers* over Mental Misstep. I don’t ever remember a card generating this type of hysteria in the four years since I started
playing Magic again. My Facebook News Feed has been full of nonsense for days.

I get excited about cards too, but when I read people saying things like “Every non-combo deck wants this!” or “It’s good
every single time, always!” or “Mental Misstep is bigger than Jesus!” I just cringe. Are we having an internet-wide
hyperbole contest?

Mental Misstep is a great card that will have a huge impact on the format, but take a deep breath, and relax. I’m relatively certain the
“colorless” aspect of Mental Misstep is being overstated; this doesn’t take away from the fact that Mental Misstep is a fantastic
card, but we should keep expectations in check.

Let’s take a look at the major decks and see which ones are likely to use this card.

Mental Misstep – Tribal Decks

Do Tribal decks want Mental Misstep? Elves doesn’t want it; Goblins doesn’t want it. Both decks are way too reliant on specific cards or
Tribal types to make this card work.

It’s probably worth noting, however, that Mental Misstep is very strong against both Elves and Goblins, but probably more so against Goblins. Why? Even
though the Elves deck has a million one-mana creatures, the one-drops in Goblins are critical to the deck’s development. Without Goblin Lackey
and Aether Vial, Goblins is forced to play fair for a much longer period of turns. Two or three turns constitute an eternity of time in Legacy. Is
Mental Misstep great against Elves? Sure, it counters Glimpse of Nature and most of the engine parts, but most of today’s Elves decks are playing
through Daze, Thoughtseize, Duress, Counterbalance, Force of Will, and so on already. They’re built to have backup plans that give them
resistance to Mental Misstep, including cards like Green Sun’s Zenith, Genesis Wave, Summoner’s Pact, Living Wish, and Regal Force. On the
other hand, Goblins banks on using Vial and Lackey to dodge many of those cards and to cheat down land counts.

When I play Elves, I assume that one or two of my initial one-drops aren’t going to make it, whereas Goblins often will need to mull to hands
with Vial or Lackey. A Mental Misstep on one of those cards is just huge, so with that said, I can understand why people might think that Goblins wants
to use Misstep itself; in Magical Christmas Land, you can play Goblin Lackey, Mental Misstep their Mental Misstep or one-drop (like Swords to
Plowshares or Wild Nacatl), and connect with Lackey to win easily! I’m just not sure I can see that happening in the real world with any
regularity, and instead you’ll be flipping Misstep with Ringleader and otherwise having it sit dead in your hand in the midgame when one more
Goblin could put you over the top.

What about Merfolk? That one I can see, for sure; in fact, this will be a big boost for Merfolk. I expect it to be universally adopted. It’s a
counter that’s effective against combo, like Spell Pierce, but perhaps it’s even better—in that it’s a hard counter that hits
annoying combo stuff like Orim’s Chant, Thoughtseize/Spell Pierce, and Xantid Swarm, beyond the obvious applications like Dark Ritual, and one
you can play for free and isn’t conditional like Daze. It also hits Aether Vial against other Vial decks and should be fantastic against Zoo; you
also want it to protect your Vial against their Misstep, and Cursecatcher may catch some people who are playing loose with their new “free”
counter. I’d assume that Merfolk players are going to play three or four copies of Mental Misstep, in the main. It may also give Merfolk a leg up
against the other Tribal decks.

When you’re planning gauntlet testing for GP Providence, Merfolk with Mental Misstep should be high on your list. Get familiar with how the matchups
change due to this card.

Mental Misstep – Aggro

Outside of the Tribal decks, the major beatdown decks of Legacy are Affinity, Zoo, and Burn.

Does Affinity want Mental Misstep? No, I can’t imagine that it would; what are you countering on one? Vial? Top? Most one-drops don’t
matter to Affinity; Counterbalance/Top doesn’t matter that much to Affinity, and there are probably better cards to play purely designed to beat
combo. Even if you did want this card, what are you going to cut? The few non-artifact cards in an Affinity list have to be spectacular. Are you
cutting Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas? Thoughtcast? Galvanic Blast? I can’t imagine Affinity playing this; even more interesting, Affinity is pretty
good against decks that are playing Mental Misstep. Most of its one-drops aren’t critical. It only has a few of them anyway, and Affinity tends
to do well against the format’s Tribal and control decks. Food for thought.

(Similarly, other hyper-linear decks like Lands, Enchantress, or Stax have no room for this type of card. It isn’t a land; it isn’t an
enchantment; and Stax exists to play Chalice on one. I kid, but not really.)

And what about Zoo? I’m inclined to say no, but I’m sure some folks will try it anyway. What are you going to cut for it? Burn? How are you
going to feel those games when your opponent is at three life, and you’re trying to pull a burn spell and pull Misstep instead? Just because your
deck has more than twenty one-drops doesn’t mean you need to protect them with Misstep. Zoo is a deck where someone shocking themselves can
really be relevant. Again, it isn’t as though Zoo decks aren’t used to having creatures get countered or otherwise murdered. Most of the
cards in Counterbalance decks are good against Zoo; at least this one involves loss of life. Is it reasonable to sideboard Mental Misstep in Zoo?
Possibly, but I’m still not convinced.

There is some historical evidence of conditional counters seeing play in Zoo decks, such as Mana Tithe in Extended Zoo, and certainly Mental Misstep
can hit Engineered Explosives on one, Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, and all other various annoyances that cost one mana; the fact that it’s free
and stops opposing Missteps is not irrelevant. I just don’t think that’s good enough, nor do I think Misstep’s power against combo is
enough that you’d want to play it over other current options like Mindbreak Trap, Gaddock Teeg, and so on, in the sideboard, and similarly those
matchups aren’t prevalent enough to push Misstep into the main.

Misstep your Misstep when you’re playing Zoo doesn’t really get me all that excited, to be honest, because at the end of the day, most
decks are playing better cards than Zoo. That’s just how it is. You’re playing Zoo because you can deploy enough threats quickly enough, at
various costs, that you believe you can punch through against a large percentage of the format. Mental Misstep is great if you’re doing something
fundamentally better than your opponent, but that’s not really Zoo’s purpose.

Think about it this way: how many Zoo hands can you keep in the dark if they contain two Mental Missteps? How much pressure is that hand going to
apply? Sure, your combo matchup is going to be better, but the field as a whole should be significantly better against combo, so your deck should be
geared towards being those decks.

Probably Zoo’s best hope is that blue decks packing Mental Misstep slow down the format; Green Sun’s Zenith is then a potent card, not only
against Mental Misstep but against the Counterbalance engine as well.

Burn? If you put Mental Misstep in your Burn deck, you’re doing it wrong.

Mental Misstep – Combo

Do Storm combo decks—TES, ANT—want Mental Misstep? I can’t believe that they would, no. Admittedly, a free counter for Top in the
Counter/Top matchup is cute, but it sure is underpowered compared to the rest of the deck, and it goes dead if you don’t have it in your opening
hand. Honestly, most one-drops that aren’t Top don’t matter. Aren’t these decks supposed to beat Vial, Lackey, or Wild Nacatl as
opening plays?

High Tide may be a different story, in that it lacks cards like Thoughtseize, Duress, and Orim’s Chant. Using Mental Misstep to counter an
opposing Misstep in a deck like High Tide makes sense; High Tide doesn’t use its own life as a resource, and it could make good use of the card,
plus it can shuffle it away. I’m just not sure what cards are expendable; I’ll leave that to the Hatfields. If I were a High Tide player, I
think I would have some concern about the impending influx of players picking up blue decks specifically to play Mental Misstep.

Does Dredge want Mental Misstep? That seems highly unlikely to me, even in the sideboard. If there were a specific hate card that was universally
adopted, and that card cost one mana, then maybe, but that isn’t the case right now. Like Affinity, Burn, or Elves, Dredge is far too linear to
make room for Mental Misstep. The deck is also relatively prone to mulligans as-is, and a hand with two Mental Missteps is going to be garbage in this

Mental Misstep’s existence is definitely an annoyance for Dredge because the engine parts it is trying to resolve generally all cost one mana.
How, exactly, do you get around this? You can play Unmask out of the board, but probably, you just practice your draw/discard plan and play a lot of

What else are you going to do, play Lion’s Eye Diamond and Tolarian Winds?

Mental Misstep – Other Non-Blue Decks

The majority of other non-blue decks are based in the world of Junk or some version of Death and Taxes, or hybrids of these approaches.

Does Junk want Mental Misstep? I have a hard time seeing that, at least not maindeck, although perhaps there are some matchups or field compositions
where a Junk (or other base B/W or G/W) deck might want to play a free counter, especially games on the draw. Some Junk decks already thread the needle
in terms of using life as a resource—between fetches, Thoughtseize, Dark Confidant, and taking some damage early against aggro or Tribal decks.
If there’s a non-blue deck that uses Mental Misstep, I do think it will probably come from the Junk or Death and Taxes category.

If folks are still playing G/W-based “aggro” decks like Green and Taxes, I could see Mental Misstep being used to some capacity, as these
decks lack the disruption that black offers in Duress and Thoughtseize and are far more vulnerable to combo; however, these decks have no way to
shuffle away Mental Misstep in the late game or if they accumulate too many copies, so that is a concern.

Mental MisstepCounterbalance/Top Decks

The easy part is that yes, these decks all want to play Mental Misstep, and yes, it is awesome, and yes, Legacy is going to be different if only
because control decks in the format just got a very potent card for their arsenal.

It’s a huge weapon against Aether Vial, Goblin Lackey, Steppe Lynx, Wild Nacatl, Dark Ritual, and even hits stuff like Breakthrough, Careful
Study, Putrid Imp, Heritage Druid, Glimpse of Nature, Exploration, Manabond, Goblin Welder, Grindstone, Voltaic Key, Enlightened Tutor, Brainstorm, Red
Elemental Blast/Pyroblast, and on and on. Now, I’ve never been much of a fan of Daze, although I respect it as a card, and I think this card is
way better in most Counter/Top decks than Daze could ever hope to be. However, it also gives blue decks some incentive to play it in the future, as
Daze is a way to resolve your first-turn play through an opposing Misstep. Potentially, at least. Oh, the mind games this card will cause.

Let’s say you play Island, Sensei’s Divining Top on turn 1 against an opponent who played a blue fetch. If your opponent has Mental
Misstep, are they going to cast it with mana, or with two life? Is it worth paying two life to play around Daze, or to keep up mana for an end-step
Brainstorm? Probably.

What if you’re playing a Thresh deck with Stifle? Then if an opponent uses a fetch, and you Stifle, you can protect your Stifle from their
Misstep with Daze and keep your own Misstep to counter Top or Brainstorm. A deck like Dreadstill can make excellent use of Mental Misstep, as it can
protect a resolved Dreadnought, yet an opposing blue deck will find it much easier to counter Stifle now that Misstep exists.

The point is that blue control decks just got an additional layer of skill intensity, which is very cool. They also just got flat-out better. The
ability to protect Counterbalance from Duress or Thoughtseize should put that engine back on the map in a big way.

Mental Misstep – Blue Non-Control Decks

Do Bant decks want Mental Misstep? I would assume so, yes. It hits Vial and aggressive one-drops, it protects Natural Order or whatever other
“bomb” your Bant deck has from Duress and Thoughtseize, and it disrupts Sensei’s Divining Top. Also, some decks will get blown out by
a free counter on their turn-one Ponder or Brainstorm.

What about the Threshold decks? I’d tend to think that tempo decks, like Canadian or Next Level Thresh, would play this for many of the same
reasons. If you look at AJ Sacher’s NO Bant list, it runs three Spell Pierces. While Spell Pierce is better at helping you resolve Natural Order,
Mental Misstep helps you avoid damage in the early game against aggro decks, is quite possibly better against combo decks, and disrupts the Counter/Top
engine. I’m pretty sure that NO Bant would want three or four Mental Missteps.

How about Reanimator? I could definitely see a Reanimator deck playing Mental Misstep, for a few reasons. One, Reanimator actually is a deck
that would like to Misstep your Misstep. Reanimator actually had a pretty decent combo matchup before, and this would only make it better. Two, using
Misstep on Aether Vial against Tribal decks is huge, since it lets you lock them out with Iona, Shield of Emeria. Three, Misstep can protect creatures
from Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares. For all the good things Mental Misstep does, it is definitely a concern to potential Reanimator pilots,
since Misstep counters Entomb, Reanimate, Careful Study, Brainstorm, Thoughtseize

Legacy – Mental Misstep Summary

I think that Mental Misstep is a great card for blue decks in the format, especially Merfolk and Counterbalance/Top, and one that will see play mostly
in decks that are already blue. I would be surprised to see a non-blue deck with Mental Misstep in the Top 8 of Grand Prix Providence. My gut feeling
is that the “colorless” aspect has been overstated. I do think we’ll see four decks playing Misstep in the Top 8 of the GP, as the
card is very good and gives players incentive to move back to base-blue control strategies.

Obviously, this is the internet, and you’ll see plenty of opinions that are the opposite. Hopefully I’ve made it clear that I don’t think
Mental Misstep is a weak card; it’s exceptionally strong in decks that want that type of effect. The list of cards that it counters is enormous and
cuts across archetypes. Legacy, as a format, is built for speed, or at least, it was built for speed, which is partially why
Counterbalance/Top was such a strong archetype. While I think people are overstating things a bit when they picture aggro decks universally adopting
this to beat Missteps from control opponents, I still think the card is going to see a ton of play and be very good in a specific set of decks, notably
decks which high-caliber players tend to enjoy playing and which are good against combo.

Listing examples of updated NO Bant and Merfolk decks isn’t that hard, as you’re probably swapping out Spell Pierce for Mental Misstep, and
I’ll leave Merfolk to Alex and NO Bant to AJ, or whoever else is more qualified. In U/W/r Thopters, I’d probably try something like this,
off the top of my head:

Another option is to just play some version of Stax, like the U/B SuperStax I wrote about a little while ago, since that deck has zero one-drops in the
entire deck and also plays Chalice of the Void, so you can doubly hate on people playing Misstep.

Mental Misstep – Vintage

I’m also excited about this card in Vintage; I have a few decks that have been crunched for blue cards, and this one fills a specific role very
well. It hits a huge chunk of the format, adds another crucial layer of protection against opposing openers with Ancestral Recall, Fastbond, or other
brokenness, and does a great job protecting some of my favorite cards, like Oath of Druids.

I think both Oath and Reanimator strategies would love to use this card. With Oath, it powers you past Spell Pierce, protects your Oath from
Thoughtseize/Duress when on the draw, and protects a resolved Oath of Druids from Nature’s Claim and Chain of Vapor.

In a Reanimator deck, it does all those same things but also counters annoying hate cards like Relic of Progenitus and Nihil Spellbomb, which can be

Here are some key cards in Vintage you can hit with Mental Misstep:

Vampiric Tutor
Mystical Tutor
Dark Ritual
Spell Pierce
Ancestral Recall
Nature’s Claim
Chain of Vapor
Red Elemental Blast
Voltaic Key
Sensei’s Divining Top
Noble Hierarch
Sol Ring
Mystic Remora
Mana Vault

Essentially, any base-blue deck in the format has plenty of targets for Mental Misstep. Here is a list of the quantity of Mental Misstep targets in a
few decks from the Vintage Q1 Metagame Report:

Vintage Control: 14
Turbo Tezz: 17
Remora Control: 11
Gush Control (Europe): 12
Gush Storm (Europe): 11
Minus Six: 10
Elephant Oath: 12
Noble Fish: 12
Painter’s Servant: 12

As you can see, most of the blue decks in the format have plenty of targets. Essentially, you’d only regret having Misstep against Workshop decks
and against Dredge, pre-board.

It’s also quite strong against Dredge post-board, as it protects your Leyline of the Void or Yixlid Jailer against most commonly played answers:
Chain of Vapor, Nature’s Claim, Firestorm, and Darkblast. And, it does this even when you’re tapped out. This fact is actually a really big
deal; one of the common failures of a Leyline of the Void sideboard is that you’ll win game two, but game three, you have to lead out with an
exposed Leyline of the Void with only Force of Will to protect it. Now, Mental Misstep can also protect Leyline from Chain of Vapor and Nature’s
Claim. That’s a huge, matchup-changing type of change.

Whether the card takes hold in the format is another question, but it’s enough to make me want to consider Oath decks again because Oath gets
another very cool toy: Beast Within.

In Oath, this card just seems fantastic. It’s a way to trigger an Oath activation without Forbidden Orchard and one that conveniently does stuff
like destroy Trygon Predator, Jace TMS, Time Vault, Bazaar of Baghdad, Meddling Mage, Qasali Pridemage, opposing Orchards in the Oath mirror, and so
on. I’d maybe try something like this, again off the top of my head:

More than Misstep

Another thing somewhat lost in the Mental Misstep hype is the fact that this is a pretty awesome set that looks to be deep, with playables across
formats. Briefly, a couple other cards highly relevant to the Vintage format:

Surgical Extraction

Let me go on record and say that I really don’t like Extirpate very much; generally speaking, it’s a card I never play in my 75.

Surgical Extraction strikes me as considerably better because it requires no mana, and any deck can play it. I’d much rather get this effect for no
mana than have it be uncounterable because at no mana (and, effectively, colorless), this card is much better against Dredge and available to decks
that need the effect but don’t play black.

For example, this would make a reasonable sideboard card for Zoo and other aggro decks.

You can bring it in against Dredge, obviously, and other graveyard decks like Reanimator. But, you can also bring it in against decks using Ill-Gotten
Gains; if they set up an IGG loop, you can disrupt it pretty easily with Surgical Extraction if your opponent isn’t careful. You can bring it in
against Intuition decks or Welder decks, like Painter’s Stone, and you can bring it in against anything using Vengevine. Because it doesn’t
sit in play, it’s less obvious—and harder to play around—than something like Tormod’s Crypt while being far more versatile
against non-graveyard decks.

Similarly, in Vintage, this card lets you do nasty things like lead with Duress or Thoughtseize against Gush or Oath decks, take the Gush or Oath, and
then gut the opposing deck’s engine with an immediate Surgical Extraction, while still being better against Dredge than Extirpate on account of
effectively having no mana cost.

Phyrexian Metamorph

This is a pretty spicy card in Vintage, for Mishra’s Workshop decks in particular. Sculpting Steel already sees some play, and this is a better
card most of the time. Think about all the things it can do, like be a first-turn answer to Tinker into Blightsteel Colossus, or Trygon Predator (which
it can block all day long), in addition to otherwise being much like Sculpting Steel. You can also use it to legend rule Oath creatures like Emrakul.
This is a versatile card, and a tricky one, and a great Goblin Welder target as well.

I’m running long, so I’ll save a number of cards for next time out, and there are many more worthy of significant discussion. This set is
likely to have a profound effect on both Grand Prix Providence and the next Bazaar of Moxen! In fact, the Bazaar of Moxen results may be a great
indicator for what to expect at GP Providence

Matt Elias
[email protected]
Voltron00x on SCG, TMD, and The Source

*Random footnote: does anyone else remember Bonkers candy, the one with the commercials that had giant pieces of fruit or chocolate drop onto
people’s heads? I find it really disconcerting to ponder the seemingly random memories that manage to hang on for twenty-five-plus years in the
darkened recesses of my mind, and yet I’ll forget where I left my iPod yesterday.