You CAN Play Type I #129: Revisiting Counter Magic

A while ago I said that countermagic is a key component of Type I. Since that time, Wizards has seen fit to add more and more spells that counters things. As always, the Type I environment is changing, and it is obvious that the need for counters changes with it. One of Stephen Menendian’s recent StarCity forum discussion pieces has been on the utility of Stifle. That’s a valid recognition of one facet of the Counterspell problem that I want to examine today.

A while ago I said that countermagic is a key component of Type I. Since that time, Wizards has seen fit to add more and more spells that counters things. As always, the Type I environment is changing, and it is obvious that the need for counters changes with it.

One of Stephen Menendian recent StarCity forum discussion pieces has been on the utility of Stifle. That’s a valid recognition of one facet of the Counterspell problem. We’ll look into more, but first, a digression.

A Digression…Sort Of

I was checking my weekly e-mail from Rosewater when I spied a curious e-mail address in my inbox. It was”RickyG” at… well. I shouldn’t tell you what it was at, because I do not want to disclose his personal information here on the Internet. Anyway, here is part of the body of that e-mail, just edited a bit for content.

—–Original Message—–

From: RickyG

Sent: Friday, March 26, 2004 3:22 PM

To: Oscar

Subject: Re: My Concerns

Just wanted to let you know that I am glad that you wrote to me about your Type One issues, and I’ll look into it. I…really like…your…articles…please…write more.

-Richard Garfield

It’s my first official e-mail from The Man Himself! I have to admit that I was pretty excited about the whole thing. It was not the only e-mail that I received last week, here’s another (again, edited briefly for content.)

—–Original Message—–

From: The Knut

Sent: Monday, March 22, 2002 10:19 AM

To: Oscar

Subject: Write About Something Else

I think that…Type One…is the…best…Magic…game…thanks…!

Ted Knutson

I always love it when my editor writes me positive e-mails. Thanks Ted! That reminds me, once I got a letter from The Ferrett (may he rest in peace). Here’s that e-mail:

—–Original Message—–

From: The Ferrett

Sent: Wednesday, October 21, 2002 1:14 AM

To: Oscar

Subject: Writing

You spend way too much effort on the details, chief. A little more forest and a lot less trees. Sometimes I think that you are a better writer than the guy who wrote my DVD Player’s Instruction Manual.

The Ferrett.

The Ferrett took the time out of his day to tell me that he thought that I was a better writer then some professional, published person he had read. So thoughtful.

Well, that’s enough e-mails and reminiscing for one article, let’s get back to our regularly scheduled article, already in progress.

The Cards

Now we need to take a look at some high impact counterspells. We’ll go in alphabetical order.

Arcane Denial

Anyone caught playing with Arcane Denial had better be playing some silly format instead of Type One. Send them to the multiplayer table in the back where the kids play. The adult table does not allow stuff like this.


Is it not funny that the original Counterspell has largely been obsolete in a Type One environment when it was too troublesome to keep in the main set? You’ll rarely see Counterspell in any deck outside of straight Blue. Mana Leak is almost as good, and splashable. Mana Drain and Force of Will have long been better. Maybe Misdirection has been better as well.


I really like to look at my next four cards and rearrange them. Solid.


If I am going to play a four mana Counterspell, I’d rather run Last Word or Discombobulate, because then I could play a foil counter. That would be the only reason to run such a clunky counter main deck, because you want your deck to look pretty.


Occasionally sees use in more casual settings or in metagames where removing a spell from the game is highly beneficial. Other than that, Forbid is the counter of choice for the UU1 spot.


Desertion was being experimented with by Cunning Wish fans. However, taking an artifact or creature proved to be too limited. See Spelljack below.

Ertai’s Meddling

The Meddling is slowly moving up the charts as a Type One counter. Since so many spells currently being played are highly situational. Delaying the spell for as little as one turn essentially makes the spell useless. That makes the Meddling a counter for 1U. You also have the option of Meddling a spell for longer, if you want. A spell that is Meddled is removed from the game, essentially preventing it from coming back.


A really great card against creature decks, worthless against some Type One control decks. Because you get to draw a card off Exclude, and because Exclude only has one Blue in it’s cost, it’s really strong against creature decks. It’s quickly moving up the list of potential Cunning Wish targets.


A fine card for Blue-based decks, Forbid is usually the three-mana spell of choice. If you are going to play one, then play Forbid.

Force of Will

This is the card that turns boring Type One into exciting Type Fun! Counter something when tapped out, watch your spell get stopped when you thought you had your opponent taken care of – it’s a blast.

Last Word

A great card to bluff people with if you Cunning Wish for it. An unwieldy and expensive counter to run naturally. That’s the basic rundown of Last Word.

Mana Drain

This old standard has been somewhat antiquated by the use of Decree of Justice as a winning condition. As it is uncounterable by normal measures, you sit there with a silly Mana Drain in your hand. However, there is a situation where Mana Drain is better now. Allow me to demonstrate.

A Game Log (Again):

Here is a game log from a recent game I played online. Let me show you the log, it should give you more information.

02:16:07 – — SteveorJay says: ”I will take you down, and not in the good way!”

02:16:07 – — Rakso says: ”Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war || http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bdominia/files/ControlBible.zip”

02:16:10 – SteveorJay says:’play’

02:16:30 – Rakso drew 7 cards.

02:17:58 – SteveorJay drew 7 cards.

02:17:59 – Rakso says:’keep’

02:18:06 – It is now turn 1.

02:18:09 – SteveorJay plays Island.

02:18:13 – Swamp is tapped.

02:18:15 – Dead Dread plays Sol Ring.

With some quick mana acceleration, I need to respond in kind. Gotta keep up with the Joneses, or, in this case, with the Steves and Jays. (I crack myself up sometimes.)

02:18:34 – It is now turn 2.

02:18:37 – Rakso draws a card.

02:18:39 – Rakso plays Underground Sea.

02:18:41 – Rakso plays Mox Ruby.

02:18:41 – Mox Ruby is tapped.

02:18:43 – Rakso plays Sol Ring.

02:18:46 – Rakso plays Black Lotus

02:18:51 – Rakso plays Black Lotus

02:19:02 – SteveorJay says: ‘hey, what r u trying 2 pull!!!!!’

Whoops. Thought I had edited that out. How about I just skip to the good stuff?

02:20:58 – It is now turn 14.

02:21:00 – Rakso draws a card.

02:21:14 – SteveorJay changes his name to ‘OscarisaCheater’

SteveorJay was rather rude to change his nick to an unfortunate appellation. Anyway, here comes the trick. Ready?

02:21:20 – It is now turn 15.

02:21:26 – OscarisaCheater draws a card.

02:21:28 – OscarisaCheater plays Island.

02:21:37 – OscarisaCheater says:’hmmm..gotta gofer’

02:21:44 – Sol Ring is tapped.

02:21:47 – Swamp is tapped.

02:21:47 – Island is tapped.

02:21:48 – Mox Sapphire is tapped.

02:21:49 – Underground Sea is tapped.

02:21:51 – Mox Jet is tapped.

02:21:54 – Underground Sea is tapped.

02:21:55 – Island is tapped.

He tapped his lands in a very odd order. Anyway, I have him here:

02:21:59 – OscarisaCheater plays Briangeyser

02:22:06 – OscarisaCheater says: ‘seven cards to me’

02:22:09 – Rakso plays Mana Drain.

02:22:19 – Rakso says: ‘Nine mana next turn.’

02:22:47 – OscarisaCheater says:”gulp.’

Now I have nine mana coming. I can show you a new way to use Mana Drain – ready?

02:23:11 – It is now turn 16.

02:23:14 – Rakso draws a card.

02:23:17 – Rakso says: ‘nine mana.’

02:23:20 – OscarisaCheater says:’whatever’

02:23:22 – Mox Pearl is tapped.

02:23:31 – Rakso plays Decree of Justice

02:23:34 – Rakso draws a card.

02:23:45- Rakso plays Wilkinson Warrior 1/1.

02:23:46 – Rakso plays Wilkinson Warrior 1/1.

02:23:48- Rakso plays Wilkinson Warrior 1/1.

02:23:49 – Rakso plays Wilkinson Warrior 1/1.

02:23:51- Rakso plays Wilkinson Warrior 1/1.

02:23:52 – Rakso plays Wilkinson Warrior 1/1.

02:23:52- Rakso plays Wilkinson Warrior 1/1.

02:23:58 – OscarisaCheater says:’i concede’

See how powerful a Mana Drain can be with a Decree of Justice? I am sure that I am the very first person to combine Mana Drain and Decree of Justice. You could even make Angel tokens if your opponent has something like a Moat out!

More Counters:

Well, I digress again. Let’s talk more about counters:

Mana Leak

The Leak is a solid counter for the early game but can sometimes clutter up one’s hand. A nice spell to pitch to Misdirection or Force of Will.


Because it cycles after it becomes a dead card, you might think that Miscalculation is a better card than Mana Leak. You’d be wrong. It counters a lot less, making it very worthless.


Misdirection used to be played heavily, but players slowly de-emphasized cards that target. Gone is Stroke of Genius or Braingeyser, hello Skeletal Scrying and Fact or Fiction. Misdirection is still occasionally played and occasionally useful, but its use has declined, and the card’s uses have lessened. Decent Cunning Wish target, however.

Mystic Snake

It’s not just a counter spell, it’s a winning condition! Unfortunately, Mystic Snake is the other counter that you can’t Wish for (Well, with a Cunning Wish of course. Death Wish and Living Wish will grab you that Snake!) Don’t knock the damage that the Snake deals, every point counts.


I am really starting to change my mind on Prohibit. I received an e-mail on the subject from Pat Chapin. Here is the body of that e-mail.

—–Original Message—–

From: Patty C

Sent: Sunday, March 17, 2003 9:49 PM

To: Oscar

Subject: Prohibit

I initially dismissed Prohibit as a lousy counter, but now, I have come to my senses. With so many cards in Type One having a low cost, you can use Prohibit as a counter that only costs one blue. Think of all the things that Prohibit counters – Moxen, Balance, Ancestral , Mana Drain, a Force of Will when it’s alternate cost is paid, Swords, Burning Wish, Land Tax and Myr Enforcer with affinity. That’s pretty potent stuff!

Patty C

Of course, Pat is right. Prohibit does counter an awful lot of spells running around in the environment. I can’t wait to counter a Force of Will with it!

Red Elemental Blast

I run Beta versions even though Pyroblast is strictly better because they are pretty.


Rethink is not as good in Type One as it is in Extended, where it is a bit of a powerhouse. Cards in Type One are simply too cheap for this to be much of anything.


Spelljack is another highly subtle card, which is just swingly enough to prove to be good. Never play a six mana instant main deck, instead use it as a powerful Cunning Wish target for the late game. Spelljacking anything from an Ancestral Recall to a Mana Drain can be really beneficial.


Stifle is seeing more and more play. It goes well with the mana denial of Miners and Wastelands when you Stifle someone’s fetchland. Stifle is your only way of stopping a cycled Decree. You can Stifle a card that sacrifices for an effect other than a fetchland, such as, say, a Wasteland or Strip Mine. It is occasionally useful to stop a Masticore’s regeneration or a crucial, mana-light activation of a Morphling. I am slowly believing that Stifle is more of a Cunning Wish target, but you never know.

Teferi’s Response

The Response of the Teferied One has been in Type One for a while and had its day. The original OSE deck included Teferi’s Response as a trick card to protect its Mishra’s Factories from Strip Mines, Lightning Bolts, and such. Not a bad card when it works, its limited nature makes it a much better Wish target. I remember it being on the list of OSE during my Beyond Dominia days, R.I.P.


Undermine is such a sexy card. Not only do you get to counter a great spell, but you bolt them for the pleasure. Good against Worship players. We all know that dealing damage is better than gaining life, so Undermine is uber better than that silly Absorb.


Vex is worse than Arcane Denial. Do not play it. If you do, you had better be playing Sealed, because otherwise it is pretty lame.

I hope that you have enjoyed this jaunt through available countermagic. You should now be more enlightened when it comes to considering what spells you play that counter things. Good luck in your games!

Oscar Tan (e-mail: Rakso at StarCityGames.com)

rakso on #BDChat on EFNet

Paragon of Vintage

Founder, Philippines S&M Society

University of the Philippines, College of Law

Forum Administrator, Star City Games

Featured Writer, Star City Games

Author of the Control Player’s Bible

Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (R.I.P.)

Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance