Living End – Time Spiral Remastered
Date Reviewed: March 8, 2021
Commander [EDH]: 3.00
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Living End is an odd sort of card, as it’s either eminently fair or completely ridiculous (see James’ explanation below for the full details of the combo!). Few people will blame you for using its suspend cost in a multiplayer setting, where you’re basically giving the entire table advance warning that massive acts of tomb-breaking are coming and to get ready accordingly. In other cases, it shows up occasionally in Legacy and Modern as a hilarious, powerful, and slightly fragile tournament deck. It’s a card that’s easy to miss, easy to overlook because of its weirdness, yet a lot of fun in the right (wrong?) hands.
Back in Time Spiral, there was a cycle of spells with no casting cost that had to be suspended first, to emulate powerful spells from the game’s history.
Living End is a reference to Tempest‘s Living Death, which brings back the souls of the dead at the expense of the living. Four mana lets this spell cast in three turns, which gives people time to prepare…or just kill you before then. Still, a delayed board wipe can be a good deterrent if you can set up for reaping the benefits, even if it gives your opponents time to do so…
…but that’s not why this card sees healthy amounts of play in Modern and Legacy. It sees play for what you might call “less fair” reasons.
No casting cost means that Living End has a mana cost of zero. Which means, in turn, that effects like As Foretold, Electrodominance, and cascade spells can cast this if they’re able to cast zero-mana spells off of it. Living End quickly found a home in its eponymous deck, using a series of expensive creatures with cheap cycling abilities (like Monstrous Carabid and Street Wraith, to give examples) to load up the graveyard before casting Violent Outburst or Shardless Agent (in Legacy); since the one spell with a lower converted mana cost in the deck than the cascade spell is Living End, you would resolve Living End (sometimes at instant speed!) and get off to the races. Electrodominance and As Foretold offer ways to cast this from your hand for free, and so the “downside” of Living End is completely ignored this way.
With all that said, Living End is a graveyard-based card and is thus vulnerable to graveyard hate. It will still wipe the board nicely, but if your creatures can’t come back, all you’re doing is clearing the board. And the crux of the deck is hitting critical mass with high-costed creatures that rely on being brought back after being cycled; Living End is notorious for doing extremely well in game 1, but being forced to play very differently when graveyard hate comes in for subsequent games.
In sum, Living End is a cute homage to a famous card that turned into the centerpiece of a powerful deck across several formats. That sounds about right, to be honest.
Constructed: 4.5 (Living End is an all-or-nothing deck, but it can be brutal in the hands of a skilled pilot; that said, Living End has to go in a deck suited to its unique talents)
Limited: 2 (neither Time Spiral nor its remaster were well-suited to make this work)
Multiplayer: 3.25 (Living Death is powerful, and while this is usually weaker, it’s still strong)
Commander: 3 (what makes Living End a deck is harder to pull off without redundancy; it can be done, but most people will prefer more reliable avenues to attack their opponents)
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