Sickening Shoal – Betrayers of Kamigawa
Date Reviewed: April 14, 2022
Commander [EDH]: 3.50
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Sickening Shoal is objectively a good card, or at least as close to objective as it’s possible to get in a game like Magic. Creatures are usually ubiquitous, so removal is necessary, and when it doesn’t cost mana it’s even better. The layers to it, though, may not be apparent at first reading. In the right kind of theme deck, it’s sometimes relevant that it has the Arcane subtype. For example, there was a rogue Standard deck from 2005 and 2006 which used it alongside Tallowisp to search for auras that acted like removal spells or had other beneficial effects. (Though in hindsight, I think it might have been powered more by Dark Confidant than by most of its other cards, like most of the Orzhov decks of that era!) You don’t have to get that niche, though – I don’t mean to underrate things like scalability and getting around indestructibility, both of which have become more relevant as the years have gone by.
Commander [EDH]: 3/5
The cycle of Shoals from Betrayers of Kamigawa are all fairly unique. They’re all X spells with an alternate casting cost, and they’re also Arcane spells that can be cast for zero mana…which is occasionally useful in Splice shenanigans, though more a curiosity than anything else. And most of the five have actually seen play over the years; I believe the white one, Shining Shoal, is the least-seen of the five; but seeing as how one (Blazing Shoal) is banned in Modern and they all pop up on occasion, that’s not so bad.
Sickening Shoal probably sees the most play of any of the five these days; Nourishing Shoal was confined to Griselbrand Reanimator strategies, while Disrupting Shoal has largely been usurped by Force of Negation. There’s no real constraints to Sickening Shoal: if you’re in black, it’s a “free” removal spell if you have the card to give up, and black isn’t so bad at having spare cards in its hand. It can even be played fairly in a pinch, but most people won’t need to cast this for the full mana cost.
In all, it’s not a phenomenal removal spell, but it’s a cheap one in terms of opportunity cost, and it can catch people off-guard. Not bad at all, and a fun little curio to pull off a bamboozle or two with.
Constructed: 3.25 (not going to be your first choice in removal, but it’s pretty solid)
Limited: 4 (removal is nice in Limited, and this kills anything with mana to spare)
Commander [EDH]: 4
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