Missing: Cyclonic Rift.
Have you seen Cyclonic Rift lately? And no, I don’t mean in the recent batch of Commander Masters previews. I mean in your pods, your friends’ decks, your decks, the decks you see on YouTube. Have you seen Cyclonic Rift? Well, lately, I haven’t. I know that this is definitely subjective and from my limited point of view, but I haven’t seen a Cyclonic Rift pop up in a deck in a hot minute. Whenever I brew blue decks, I don’t even reach for the card anymore.
Cyclonic Rift has gone missing…so why? Why are we seeing it in fewer and fewer decks? Does Cyclonic Rift have a place in 2023?
Where Did Cyclonic Go?
Obviously this isn’t going to be a straight-up yes or no question. My playgroup and meta are very unconventional and vastly different from those of the average Magic player. However, I wanted to see if I was an outlier, so I took to Twitter to gauge the community’s perspective. Was it just me, or was Cyclonic Rift fading into the background?
Over 123 people commented on my post and gave me some pretty helpful insight into their own metas and playgroups. Many people stated it was one of the best battlefield wipes ever printed, which isn’t incorrect. Some said it was powerful and fun; others said it was toxic and that they hated it. I got a handful of people saying they put it in every blue deck they can; however, I got twice as many people saying that they don’t run it or haven’t seen it played in a while. So why?
Power, Price, or Regulation?
Well, I have a few theories as to why we are seeing less and less of this infamous blue bounce spell. My first theory revolves around power level.
There is no doubt about how powerful Cyclonic Rift is. It can change the tide of a game at its most critical point, robbing someone else of the win or handing it to you. Very rarely do we see a single-target Rift (at least from my playgroups). Many of the responses I received stated that they only run the card in cEDH or high-powered pods. To them, the card feels more at home in powerful, high-stakes environments. I can’t say I disagree. The only deck I have a Rift in is my The Locust God deck, which runs cards like Wheel of Fortune and Mana Vault. It isn’t exactly a kind deck, and Cyclonic Rift helps push it to a stronger place with smoother victories.
The next theory focuses on price. When gauging people on their opinions about Cyclonic Rift, its cost came up frequently. Cyclonic Rift is definitely not a cheap card. Even with its most recent reprint, it sits around $30. It should be apparent to say that not everyone has $30 to throw around on a singular piece of cardboard. Even with a new reprint incoming, it is difficult for people to snag a copy for their decks. There are, of course, budget options such as Aetherize, Aetherspouts, and Evacuation, though these are obviously less powerful than Cyclonic Rift. All in all, cost being a barrier for players to run this card doesn’t surprise me in the least.
Lastly, we have regulation. Commander is a casual format. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a powerful format; rather, it means it takes aspects into consideration that competitive formats don’t. Commander is, at its heart, a social format and focuses on the wellbeing and enjoyment of its players. Because of this, the rules of the format are flexible and can vary depending on your playgroup’s adherence to them.
Cyclonic Rift is one of commander’s most infamous cards, and public discussions of its banning have followed it closely over the years. With this bring discussions of it being a toxic card, a card that creates imbalance in pods and feels-bad moments. Most battlefield wipes get rid of everything, but this “wipe” bounces everything but your battlefield. In response to my community post, people called it scummy, a crutch, and toxic. Others called it boring, easy, and uninteresting. The card has developed such a bad reputation within the community that a handful of players have opted out of running it to create a healthy gameplay environment. They self-regulate their usage of the card.
Does Cyclonic Rift Have a Place in 2023?
This is a question I’ve grappled with a bit on a number of cards. When I deckbuild on stream, sometimes chat will say,”Nah, don’t run that. It doesn’t feel very 2023.” I find this phrase to be fascinating. Magic, of course, has grown and evolved over the years into the game we know now. 2023 looks very different from 1993.
However, the evolution of Commander feels different, at least to me. Power creep is almost impossible to ignore. We can track this through data surrounding archetypes and commanders (thank you, EDHREC), and yet, with a card as infamous as Cyclonic Rift, we should be seeing it crop up more in powerful decks that run blue. It’s EDHREC’s fifteenth-saltiest card and is seen in over 4143,05 decks. That is a high number that cannot be ignored.
So, does it have a place in 2023? I think every card has a home in a deck, no matter what year it is or how old the card is. While I have noticed a decline in the usage of Cyclonic Rift, I do think it has its place.
Have you seen Cyclonic Rift lately? Is it in your pod, in your meta, readily available at your LGS? I’m curious to know if this decline is something that has solely popped up in the creator space or if it is more widespread than I initially thought. Happy bouncing, deckbuilders!