Courting The Counterspell: A Commander Magic Flirtation

Chase Carroll is giving up aggro in Commander to give control a try! But there are hundreds of counterspells on Magic Tinder. Which ones are worth a swipe right?

Summary Dismissal
Summary Dismissal, illustrated by Igor Kieryluk

Toying with new archetypes is kind of like dating. We all have our types. Some of us like tempo decks; others like more midrangey strategies. Me? I like aggro. It’s fast, hot, and honestly a bit dumb. We all have our types, right?

Well, sometimes our perceived types aren’t always good for us. Game loss after game loss, heartbreak after heartbreak, eventually we start to question: is this really good for me? This made me think about trying something new. I’m an aggro lover, I hate control, but what if I tried it out? After all, control is good on paper. It’s not a bad strategy. Some people love this strategy; others even settle down with it and commit. So could I be that kind of player? Could I try something new and commit to control? 

Courting counterspells has been an incredibly difficult task. How can you court something you don’t normally feel drawn to? Well, my lovely friend EK helped reframe things for me. I love removal but hate countermagic. He told me to try to think of countermagic as removal on the stack. Suddenly control felt a little bit more like my type. I could start envisioning a future where countermagic and I were happy. But which of these 478 bachelors would end up being my perfect match? Can I look past the faces of the strategy that have turned my stomach and find a spell that fits me?

Access Denied

Access Denied

The quickest way into my heart is getting gifts. I like to be impressed, flattered even, and Access Denied does exactly that. Sure, this bachelor looks a bit rough at first glance, but there really is something there. Its mana value leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s the payoff that makes me wanna come back for a second date.

Access Denied counters any spell, and in return gives you Thopter tokens equal to the countered spell’s mana value. Originally, I was opposed to this particular counterspell. Why would I want to pay so much mana just to counter a spell? Why pay five when I could cast a free spell like Force of Will or Fierce Guardianship? It’s all about the reframing. Not only is it a counterspell, it’s a token generator. This might make you want to hold out on using Access Denied, but I can assure you that even if you cast it on a commander, you will net a fair amount of flying blockers. A counterspell that gives gifts? Say less.

Narset’s Reversal

Narset's Reversal

Bachelor #2 comes in the form of a much cheaper package. It’s Narset’s Reversal. I’ve had a couple of run-ins with this particular counterspell, always in the deck of another player. We see each other in passing frequently. A right spell, wrong time kind of card. Heck, it was even my promo in my preview kit for War of the Spark. But I stupidly gave it up for another shiny, dumb piece of cardboard.

When I finally returned to this spell, I had matured quite a bit. We met in a game of DanDan and I immediately realized why this card was so special. It sees a spell that you want, says no, no, that’s mine, and immediately snatches it up. It’s rather aggressive for a counterspell, which is why I find it so alluring. Sure, the person can cast the spell you bounced to their hand again, possibly in the same turn, but who cares? This spell sees what it wants and takes it. That makes it a worthy contender in this weird counterspell courtship. 

Overwhelming Intellect

Overwhelming Intellect

Much like Access Denied, Overwhelming Intellect is one of those spells that has a tough exterior but a soft side. It, too, has a very high mana value but has a very nice payoff. Where Access Denied gives you Thopter tokens, Overwhelming Intellect draws you cards equal to the countered spell’s mana value.

When faced with both spells in a love triangle sort of situation, I have to say that the choice would be rather easy. Access Denied was a mere fling. Overwhelming Intellect is a bit more relationship material. To be honest, I like to categorize these sorts of counterspells as high-maintenance. Sure, you have to put a lot into it to make it work, but the payoff is more than worth it.

Spell Swindle

Spell Swindle

We’ve covered card draw and token generation, but what about mana? Spell Swindle is another unconventional counterspell that puts the fuddy-duddies of Negate and Arcane Denial to shame. This spell came out back before Treasures took Counterspell by storm and throttled it into submission.

If this counterspell and I were out to dinner, it would bribe the hostess to get us a better table. This counterspell screams rich and luxurious to me. Of course, it’s expensive, but so are the other finer things in life, like caviar or dual lands. Money makes the world go round, after all. 

Summary Dismissal

Summary Dismissal

Last, we have the counterspell that likes to play hard to get: Summary Dismissal. Summary Dismissal is the kind of spell that prefers clear boundaries. It hates a messy stack, and boy, can the stack get messy in Commander. In response, in response, in response, shut up! Exile all other spells and counter all abilities. Summary Dismissal wants the last word in an argument, which may seem like a red flag in the long term but can be nice in the interim. Sometimes a Magic player wants a card to take charge, and very rarely do we find that.

What makes this bachelor truly stand out from the others on this list is that it gets around cards that say, “This spell can’t be countered.” While they aren’t countered, those spells are exiled instead. Summary Dismissal finds ways to get around hurdles you thought were impossible. When faced with an awkward situation at a party, this card makes up an excuse for you to both flee and decompress. Out of all the counterspells on this list, this one is a knight in shining armor. 

Something Blue

I don’t normally flirt with countermagic. After all, it’s not really my type. But sometimes you come across an unconventional spell that destroys all your preconceived notions about the archetype. All this time, I’ve been looking at the Counterspells and Negates while ignoring the unconventional counterspells. They’re the diamonds in the rough, the ones that people ignore in favor of more attractive spells. Sure, you could run a Force of Will or a Force of Negation, but where’s the fun? Where’s the chase? Where’s the struggle? I mean, that’s what courtship is all about, right? Try something new and see if it sticks. As deckbuilders, we need to explore and try out themes and strategies that push us out of our comfort zones. Happy countering, deckbuilders.