Altar of Dementia
June 27, 2019
Commander [EDH]: 4.00
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
It’s incredible to think that this was once considered a relatively “innocent” card. Back in 1997, there weren’t very many ways to go infinite with it: technically Breeding Pit and Bad Moon gives you infinite milling with it, but it also takes an approximately infinite number of turns. There are videos out there of people testing Modern decks involving Altar of Dementia alongside Bridge from Below from Future Sight and Hogaak from Modern Horizons (a set also known as Back to the Future Sight). I think some of those videos should be age-restricted, because they certainly involve graphic gameplay and adult themes. Even without combos, the ability to mill someone or yourself basically on demand is something an awful lot of decks want. I once had an Ire of Kaminari deck, and if I’d owned any Altars of Dementia at the time, I might well have added creatures so that I could jam them in there. Sometimes there is such a thing as a free lunch – don’t underestimate it.
Altar of Dementia is a classic Magic card in many senses; it dates all the way back to Tempest (with the same artwork for its three printings: Tempest, Conspiracy, and Modern Horizons), and the effect pairs well with a lot of potentially-degenerate effects. Like using infinite Squirrels to mill out your opponents, to name a thing. As a zero-mana repeatable sacrifice outlet, there are a stupid number of things Altar of Dementia can pair up with to make your opponents sad. Anything that comes back repeatedly out of graveyards, or things that produce large number of tokens, are a plus, as are things with death triggers. It’s absurdly cheap with legit upside, it’s slightly less-killable than the likes of Viscera Seer (though that has upsides of its own), and it offers you things to make your opponents beg for madness. It makes its Modern debut, and I expect people to try and make it work.
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