– Planar Chaos
January 11, 2018
Commander [EDH]: 2.63
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
I’m torn as to whether I think they should put counterspells in more colors. On the one hand, people (including some of Wizards of the Coast’s own) say that counterspells are on average disliked, and having more of them around would make for more bad feelings. On the other hand, while there may be a lot of counterspell concepts that work in blue, there are a few that feel even better outside of blue. It’s hard, for example, to suggest Dash Hopes and Molten Influence don’t feel black and red, respectively, and it’s hard to suggest that Mana Tithe doesn’t feel white. It might be the flavor text pushing me that way, but it’s really an extension of the kind of taxing effects we see on Thalia or Glowrider, and it’s an occasionally powerful tempo tool. There are few things as good as using it to save your Kithkin deck from a timely Wrath of God, especially for all the times over the years that white decks have had to play around and knuckle under powerful spells.
I know that the color pie is valuable and beneficial in a lot of ways, but I really think they should make more exceptions for individual cards that make sense, like Mana Tithe. What’s the point of making so many different cards if they’re all going to be the same as each other?
Planar Chaos was a wacky set that remixed the sacred color pie. Among red bounce spells and black wraths we received a white counter spell. This style of taxing counter spell makes me wonder if we’ll see a white Mana Leak.
This card is great the first few turns but it quickly falls off. The low cost of one white means that you can easily stack multiples onto an opponents spell. Heck, your opponent’s reaction when a white deck counters their spell is almost worth it. My biggest problem with this card is that it is not Judge’s Familiar. You get the same ability on a 1/1 flier that is easier to cast.
Interesting fact: Force Spike, the “original” version of this card, is not Modern-legal, having last been printed in 7th Edition. Were it Modern-legal, I’m unsure as to if it would see play, since the likes of Stubborn Denial, Spell Pierce, Spell Snare, and Remand make up the counterspell suite of controlling decks more often than not. And even in Azorius-colored control decks, they often eschew Mana Tithe, since it falls off a cliff in usefulness very quickly (and decks are ready to react to taxing counterspells).
However, Mana Tithe does have a home in white decks, offering a second axis along which to hold opponents back. While people often expect countermagic in blue, they don’t expect to face a Mana Tithe practically ever, and they’ll be willing to tap out without fear of getting punished. Its strength comes from being unexpected, and for that reason Mana Tithe is paradoxically strongest when it sees the least play, as people won’t expect to have that white deck counter their spells.
As a fun fact, white is the secondary color in counterspells, though it’s been a long time since it’s gotten one (the last one, I believe, was Lapse of Certainty in Conflux), and they’re usually only taxing effects. But it’s an interesting design space to look at, and we could see more in the distant future.
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