My name's Jake FitzSimons, and I'll show you how to stop : the best combo piece in all of Commander. Paired with either or , nothing comes close to 's speed, efficiency, or resilience to interaction. Simply cast , respond to the enter-the-battlefield trigger by exiling your entire library and the game is won. Or lost. It depends which side of the Oracle you're sitting on.
But if you're getting sick of Jesper Ejsing's wonderful art being the last thing you see before shuffling up and starting a new game of cEDH, read on, because while might be unreasonably hard to interact with, it's not impossible. You don't need me to list every blue counterspell, and I'm not going to.
I'm here to look at lesser known solutions. Solutions that run from the conventional (effects, stax effects) to the cunning ( , ) to the cute (taking advantage of an ), but at the end of the day, they all work. Let's get into it!
This guide is written under the presumption you're playing competitively. Beyond any specific card, the best way to stopis a rule zero discussion. Playing it outside cEDH is just bad manners anyway.
has fallen from... grace, no longer the staple it was in cEDH metas of yesteryear. Unless is paired with , it's a purely defensive card, something most decks have no interest in. But as far as defensive spells go, it's almost unparalleled at stopping .
Courtesy of Split Second, there's just about nothing1 the player can do to stop you. More than stopping the win, it will all but ensure a loss as your opponent will still be left without library. If you want to read more about why sees less play these days, read this from cEDH expert Nicholas Hammond.
Rule of Law & co.
best reasons to be playing white in the first place. They slow down fast mana, neuter tutors, and turn combos into nonbos. is no exception. While a cheeky opponent could cast in the end step before their turn and leave a single card in the library and then play after drawing, it's unlikely. A single counter will spell death, making the risk sky high.and its cousins are among the
In practice, as long asor a similar piece is on the field, the player will be forced to find removal first.
Controlling anwon't help you stop combos unless you happen to draw into interaction. That's not news to anybody. But it's not your that matters. It's theirs.
is one of the best card advantage engines in all of cEDH; not quite or , but close enough to show up in nearly every list with access to it. Yet unlike its blue counterparts, 's trigger is not a may. An unpaid-for noncreature will force the owner to draw, and what happens when someone draws with an empty library? They lose.
This won't come up every game, but it happens more often than you'd think and it's easy to miss. There's also terribly little that theplayer can do about it. As long as you wait until the or has resolved to trigger the , you've forced a loss.
The best thing about this interaction is that any player can make it happen. You don't need to be a blue deck, you just need access to an instant. Even a colorless deck2 could do it!
Shorikai polymorph decks. As long as it's in play, is a 1/1 without a single ability to speak of.is one of the most universally crippling cards cEDH has access to, but it's only recently found a home in / and
Unfortunately,is like performing surgery with a chainsaw instead of a scalpel, so unless your deck can operate almost completely creatureless (as the above decks do), you're going to an awful lot of damage to everyone in the room, yourself included.
Hushbringer & co.
Without an enter-the-battlefield trigger,is just a 1/3 with great art. This is true of plenty of great cEDH creatures; being the next biggest, but rounded out with the likes of , , , and among others. Of course, like the effects, this is a double-edged sword. As these effects are symmetrical, you can't be running your own important enter-the-battlefield triggers.
But if you can pay that deckbuilding price, these anti-ETB effects can be crippling. They're as vulnerable to removal as any other permanents, but being permanents with persistent effects, they're preemptive. There's something nice about dealing with your problems before they become problems instead of holding up interaction. Yes, I knowisn't a white card, but it doesn't deserve its own section either.
What if it was... BLUE!is no more or less than a blue . If you're already in the market for a one-spell-a-turn stax effect and you happen to have blue, is just as good for stopping . Next.
works just the same as effects. While it's symmetrical, it's also temporary, meaning a deck relying on its own ETB abilities can safely play it. The fact it cantrips is a cherry on top, but the sheer versatility of is what makes it so good, well beyond stopping . If you understand why vanilla creatures aren't played in cEDH, you can understand why is powerful.
Being an enchantment,is also lucky enough to skate by some conventional protection spells. While noncreature counters, like and , are as good as ever, , and are useless. It's also one of the only blue answers that doesn't care about .
falls into the same category as : a weakness, but only if you have the resources to exploit it. Connive is not a may trigger, and any two spells will work. A creature with flash will help, and so will an . As long as you've left up mana, it's shouldn't be hard to turn a into a loss. In the event you have two instants available and one is a counter, it will sometimes prove correct not to counter their win attempt.
Instead, wait until their library is empty, cast your miscellaneous instant, and counter it yourself. Never mind what they have in their hand, they'll deck themselves and no amount of counter magic will save them.
stops much the same way as does. As long as there's already one nonlegendary creature on the battlefield, you don't have anything to worry about. Just point and shoot. Being two mana and a blue card, is not much better at stopping than a traditional counterspell, so it's not worth running exclusively for dealing with the Mermaid.
But it can be worth running for its general utility, particularly if you're planning on exploiting your own enter-the-battlefield effects. Like every card ever printed between August 1993 and the time of writing,is very good with , but there's more to it. One of my favorite uses is shutting down a commander by turning it into the worst creature on the battlefield, a far worse sentence than a simple counterspell.
Stifle & co.
It's impossible to talk aboutsolutions without acknowledging trigger counters. They are very good at doing exactly what they advertise: they will stop triggered abilities. That's just what makes white's effects so powerful, but all three suffer for being blue.
First, the good points.is up there with in terms of resilience. The tools to combat it don't exist in cEDH. Naturally it hits and a host of relevant ETBs as well. itself is only one mana, among the cheaper spells on this list. has the greatest utility of the bunch, capable of taking out commanders alongside the triggered and activated.
Unfortunately, even in a format defined byand , and its ilk are outclassed by more generic solutions. and are no better at answering a combo than or even the humble , but the latter two are much better in countless situations besides. can't stop a quite as well as , but its live against almost every spell you'll see in a game of cEDH.
and friends are an ongoing point of discussion in the cEDH community. With every broken ETB effect comes a chorus of "is good yet?". In the wider context of cEDH, I'd say the answer is still a no. But for specifically stopping ? The very thing you, dear reader, are searching for? Choose violence. away.
When I talked about cute cards before, this is what I meant. Removal spells are useless againstbecause its ability is an ETB, and even a devotion of zero is fine if there are no cards in the library. But what if that removal put a card back in the library? Enter .
While this will fall flat if theplayer has more blue permanents in play, this is no sure thing. Multicolor decks will often lean heavily on blue, but those blue cards are more likely to be instants and sorceries than actual permanents. Using to stop a win isn't going to come up often, but you can't get much cuter than this. Removal that actually stops does exist! Speaking of which...
the Spanish Inquisition of answers. As long as you've got two mana available and there's a creature to target, you can stop . isn't the best black removal in cEDH - outclassed by , , and - but this additional utility can carry it over the line and into your deck.is
Whileis as easy to counter as any other instant/sorcery solution to , but the real benefit is just how unexpected it is. Black isn't exactly known for its instant-speed interaction and nobody assumes open black mana can stop their win.
Nobody plays around black counter magic. Two-mana counterspells are already terribly rare in cEDH3, and it'll be a cold day in Kerral Keep before a blue cEDH deck considers . But that's what happens when you're primary in stack interaction. Everyone else has to make do.
You won't findoutside of mono-black or especially desperate non-blue two-color decks, but a counterspell is a counterspell. If you're absolutely desperate to stop and creature effects that black removal won't help against, you can do worse than .
Usingto ruin someone else's gameplan rather than advance your own is almost always the wrong decision. It sounds obvious, but you should prioritise winning over making one other player lose. Sure, it's funny to pull a out of the player's deck so they're dead in the water, but the real winner from this play is the other two opponents. I digress. Still, if you know there's no other way to stop an impending , will do the trick. If they've already got see if you can pull the other combo card from their deck, or if you can produce the right mana, a counter.
Pyroblast, Red Elemental Blast, Tibalt's Trickery
Answers don't get much more simple than this. Produce red mana, point the red spell toward the blue one, then pray that your opponent doesn't have counters of their own. I bring up these non-blue counterspells and not cards likeor because, while those work, they're simply too clunky in the majority of situations.
With blue the most played color in cEDH,and should be in most red decks to begin with, but is yes, trickier. The 1,2,3 mill can backfire every now and then again, but it's a lot better than letting a combo resolve. It's best avoided outside of low-color red decks.
The best of the Modern Horizons 2 Elementals for cEDH,handily answers not just , but , albeit in different ways. While relies on a healthy graveyard with cards to escape and cards for fuel, relies on a very unhealthy library: an empty one.
Providing thehas more cards in their graveyard than devotion (including the Oracle itself) on board, no game-winning trigger will happen. has a number of advantages over even counterspells for handling . Coming from a green deck, it's usually unexpected. At zero mana, it's almost impossible to see coming. And crucially, being a creature spell, it's exceedingly difficult to counter.
While cEDH is awash with counters of all shapes and sizes ranging from zero to five mana, very few of them effectively answer creatures. Of the 14 most played counterspells4, just four of them will stop a creature. Even if the player has sandbagged a few counters, odds are good they can't answer .
doesn't really work, but it can, and I've seen it happen. Like , can place a card back in the library of the player. Unfortunately, that's just a single card, and has a devotion of two, but if they don't happen to have any other blue pips on the field and you can pair with a removal spell, you can stop the win. Looking for rare collaboration opportunities and once in a blue moon lines like this will improve your skill and a player and make for memorable games.
This sort of play works a lot better with cards like, , and that can place three cards back in the library, but they're otherwise niche outside of select lists using them for their own combos.
Kenrith, the Returned King
A shining example of Studio X's "make as many five-color commanders that do everything you could possibly want a commander to do" phase from a few years ago, it's easy to forget that's draw ability is an unbound one. There's no shortage of good commanders that draw cards (one of the most important things for a cEDH commander to have), but is one of the few that targets a player.
The only thing you'll need to do is hold up... four mana. That's a lot, but like all the previous activated abilities, it's difficult to interact with.
Kraum, Ludevic's Opus
works just like and before it, as it isn't a may trigger. Moreso than the other two, relegated to the 99, decks with in the command zone are likely to cast it sooner rather than later. In any but the quickest of games, the potential card advantage is simply too good to pass up.
But that potential is your opportunity. As long as you've got two instants, theplayer has a big problem.
Selvala, Explorer Returned
You're unlikely to be playingin cEDH unless she happens to be your commander, so this isn't an especially useful trick, but it is a cool one. As above, cards that force opponents to draw are very good at turning Thoracle wins into Thoracle losses. is no exception, but has a special advantage: hers is a mana ability. As a mana ability, you can activate whenever you have priority and your opponent is never given an opportunity to respond to it. A niche commander, but a powerful solution.
Forced draws are rare in Magic, rarer still attached to lands.functions as a rattlesnake, lying in wait and warning the player that any attempt to win can be thwarted with three forced draws. Just wait until your opponent's library is empty and crack your for a certain loss.
While Threshold can vary in reliability,is possibly the finest answer to currently available in cEDH. As an untapped mana source that produces blue, it's immediately playable in its own right. As a land, it's extremely hard to remove. You won't find any s or s at your local cEDH table. And as an activated ability, not even will stop it.
Not to mention drawing and discarding three is a useful last ditch effort to have hiding in your manabase, as well as a great source of extra fuel for. If you're in blue and you've exhausted the counters you want to run, see if you can make room for .
Geier Reach Sanitarum & Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
and the can be evaluated alongside each other, both of them wannabes. While they lack the Threshold precondition, needing to pay two mana is an unfortunate price hike. Moreover, only producing colorless mana is a crippling downside in a format so insistent on perfect mana.
While it becomes even more mana-intensive, both cards receive a boost in a deck with access to, but their overall utility is low. Giving every opponent a draw or loot respectively is fine in casual, an enormous liability in cEDH. There are a few exceptions with 's case, decks that want forced discard: , and .
Stopping the Unstoppable
Like it or loathe it,is the best combo there is. While the RC have an eye on it, I'd guess a ban is unlikely. It's rare outside of cEDH, just about everybody knows what it does and near as I understand, it's not causing problems for casual players.
So on the one hand, if you can't beat them or ban them, join them. If you've got access to black and blue, you should be playinganyway, but if you want to go the extra mile you can run or and try winning over the top of your opponent.
But you can beat them. You can mull accordingly, you can collaborate with your opponents, you can identify forced draws, and every single color can bluff relevant interaction.
As always, I can't cover anything, so let me know what I've missed. What's the most impressive answer to @Jake_FitzSimons.you've ever seen? How do you feel about it's place in cEDH? Comment below or reach out to me on twitter
- Megamorphing a morphed is the only way I know of to counter a spell with Split Second. As interesting as it is irrelevant.
- Please don't try to make colorless happen in cEDH. Or at least, go in with low expectations.
- Mana Drain and Delay are the two most common. itself is totally absent, but that's an article for another week.
- According to the cEDH staples list, taking data from the cEDH database, the top blue counterspells are as follows: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .