Rift Bolt – Double Masters
Date Reviewed: August 12, 2022
Commander [EDH]: 3.25
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
I was around for Rift Bolt’s release in Time Spiral and its subsequent over-performance in Standard and Extended. When people just read it on the website or in the player’s guide, a whole turn looked like a big tradeoff for a one-mana three-damage red spell – by the time it resolved, there might not be a suitable creature to target, or the opponent might have advanced to a point where it was no longer advantageous. And part of what makes Lightning Bolt good is the way you can use it in response to beneficial spells. Indeed, I remember someone complaining about M10 bringing the original back to Standard because it basically “obsoleted” Rift Bolt (though they expressed it in a much less polite way than I just did).
But both of these assessments turned out to be much too conservative (and this seems to be a pattern among some players). Even if you just point it at the opponent with a seeming lack of finesse, it generates pressure which you can back up with a carefully constructed deck. It has also aged extremely well, playing excellently in storm decks, Spinerock Knoll decks, Kiln Fiend decks, and Strixhaven: School of Mages decks. I’d go so far as to say that it does certain jobs even better than Lightning Bolt can, and it has a surprising amount of nuance and interesting quirks in how it plays.
Commander [EDH]: 3/5
How many one-mana, three-damage spells does a red deck need? The answer is usually “yes”, and Rift Bolt is right at home in the deck after Lightning Bolt and Lava Spike get in there. Maybe Shard Volley also fits into the calculus, but that’s a different bit of calculus anyways, so here we are!
Of course, Rift Bolt technically costs three mana, and it’s not stone-cold unplayable at that rate, but in at least 90% of cases, you’ll wait the turn to let this come out at the start of your next turn. It even has interactions with things like storm and prowess, giving those decks another way to tick up their counters, and the threat of a Rift Bolt coming out of suspension the next turn can deter decks with must-protect permanents from wanting to commit too hard. It’s a nifty little spell that both paid tribute to Lightning Bolt and played perfectly alongside its forebear, and it can add a bit of subtlety to a gameplan that often likes to just smash with prejudice.
Constructed: 4 (it’s Lightning Bolts 9 through 12 in most decks running it, and that’s really all you can ask for)
Limited: 4.75 (it’s not flashy, but it is common, and it is three damage to the face)
Commander [EDH]: 3.5
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