Monday, 9 July 2012
Top 10 List: Blue Counterspells
Edit: I have updated this article to a better fresher longer list! It can be found here
This list was pretty easy compared to the many I plan to do (I really love lists). Counterspells all do very much the same sort of thing and are basically all in the same colour which makes assessing them easier. The top burn spells list will be similarly easy to do. I specifically did just blue couterspells to avoid having to discuss why Force Spike in white has its differences to the original blue version and hence gets a different placing. This is my list, which the keen person could have put together themselves from the ratings I gave each in my reviews. I shall then briefly try to justify the relative positions of my choices.
9. Mental Misstep
8. Spell Pierce
6. Force Spike
4. Arcane Denial
3. Cryptic Command
2. Mana Drain
1. Force of Will
I personally think Mana Drain is more broken, abusable and unfair than Force of Will however it only gets the number two spot as it is a weaker counterspell (just a much more powerful accelerator). Mana Drain can counter something big and let you drop your hand for the unreasonable win but it can also just be Actual Counterspell, and should you be playing real mans magic it can be worse than that by burning you. Force of Will lets you tap out and gives you a huge sense of security, it is hard to play around and easy to satisfy the reasonable pitch cost. Force of Will is exactly what you want from a counterspell where as mana drain is just a good counterspell with added bonuses.
I may have marked Mana Drain down for going above and beyond what you require a counterspell to do however Cryptic Command is marked up for this behaviour as it is hugely flexible and does many of the things you want in the kinds of deck that run countermagic. Cryptic is the most expensive counterspell in my top ten by double but is the complete control package and well worth the mana. Arcane Denial is probably the most controversial choice in my list with being so high. I would just be repeating myself from the review I gave Arcane Denial to explain all the strengths of this card so in a nutshell, hard counter for 1U with personal cantrip or the ability to turn it on one of your own spells for decent card quality and advantage.
No one will argue that Remand deserves a high position although a few might quibble about it trumping Actual Counterspell. Counterspells that cost 1U and draw you a card are incredible disruption for control decks and allow them to get to the mid and late game so much better than those that trade one for one and cost UU. Remand is closer to Time Walk than it is to counterspell in many regards as it doesn't directly answer a card but it does put you much further ahead than you were. Most early counterspells are god because they buy you time in the early game and scale well into the late game, not because you need to stop the specific cards they make early very often.
Force Spike over Actual Counterspell may also get some funny looks but in a format as fast as the cube half the cost for a good chance at the same effect is massive. Even the threat of Force Spike is enough to give you an advantage. It doesn't scale as well as the hard counters but it is golden in the early turns and can still be valuable later.
Actual Counterspell is the benchmark for comparing other counterspells with. It is cheap and consistent and a very solid card. I don't build that many heavy counter decks preferring to use 4 or 5 tops in my control decks, of which not all will be hard or dedicated counterspells. As such I don't often have room for a solid but otherwise lacking in synergy and utility counterspell and find I play it very little and this may bias me against it a little.
Spell Pierce is fantastic, it hits most of what Force Spike does and is almost impossible until the very late game to avoid it being a hard counter like Negate. It is a bit harder to know when you can get away with playing a counterspell that can't hit all spells and so Force Spike does see more play than this despite this being far more powerful in certain decks and more so against certain decks. Although it is basically never dead against anything against the creature heavy decks it will sit around in your hand and may need using on a suboptimal target. Mental Misstep is an even more extreme card in this vein of cards moving away from Force Spike. It is a hard counter as well as having a very reasonable alternate cost which you get at the price of it being very selective as to what it can counter. Almost every deck has one drops but it is difficult to assess how damaging they can be against your deck. Most games are decided early and more than I would like are still decided by the coin flip for starting player. Mental Misstep is an enormous early tempo shifting card as well as one of the few cards that really helps to undo the drawbacks of going second. This makes up for it being the most situational counterspell in the top 10 as well as one of the worst scaling ones.
Daze manages to get the last spot on the list and is one of the scariest cards to play against. In many ways the pitch payment can be more costly than Force of Will's, certainly in the early game where effectively losing a land drop is enormous. In the late game where this can be to your advantage (say if you have a loot effect) the power of Daze has become very low and unlikely to stop much. With Force of Will however people can see the damage it has caused you in exiling a card where as against Daze it just feels like you have been hit by a super sneaky Force Spike. It is almost impossible to play around Daze and not put yourself too far behind which is possible to do against a Force Spike. Despite this people will still kill themselves against a Daze you never drew or just go savagely on tilt when they do run into it. Pitch counterspells are great, so are cheap counterspells and this can be both and so doesn't need to be the best at either to still be a great card.
just now but might well extend this list to every cube playable counterspell at a later date. I should like to give an honourable mention to Miscalculation which I have never had in my cube having not picked up a copy which is pretty unforgivable. I am not a Mana Leak lover and would happily trade the slightly better scaling of Leak compared to Miscalculation for the cycling. I want hard counters for late game answers and so had I tested Miscalculation it may well have earned a slot by being a powerful early counterspell that is never dead late game.