This entry is part 13 of 13 in the series (Vexing) Devil's Advocate

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By Dodo Bird Commander writer Josh Jurgensen

Hi there – I’m sure by the time you’re reading this that you’re probably exhausted from a long weekend of playing in prereleases of what appears to be one of the best sets for Commander in recent memory. I built myself a short list of cards I needed from it for my stable of decks – and it was 20 cards long. I haven’t had 20 new cards go in decks since I got back into magic for Commander in 2010.

 

 

I’m also a tremendous fan of Planechase Commander and I have a have a few new custom planes I’ve cooked up this week. I keep a complete set of planes with my decks to bring to each game.

 

 

 

I’ve played enough games to have taken out a few of the planes that inspire stale gamestates and occasionally replace them with custom creations I cook up – or that I source from friends in my various groups. Keeping the Planechase deck balanced with the right amount of variety and fun is definitely harder than it seems – but it definitely yields some of the most memorable games I’ve ever experienced. I could go on like this all day – I’d love to talk more about it sometime if anyone’s interested. Have you had good experiences with Planechase Commander? Maybe there’s a way I can share a few custom cards (and some in the works) some time.

 

Spotlight: Ertai’s Meddling

Speaking of planes, I’d like to take us to Magic’s second plane this week – Rath. We’re going back to Tempest Block for one of my favorite instants in the game: Ertai’s Meddling. It’s sort of a counter but not. It sort of suspends cards – but doesn’t. It’s almost guaranteed to get your entire game to grind to a halt the first time you play it if your group is unfamiliar with it – there’s so many things weird about this card, it definitely has my vote as “the platypus of Magic”.

 

 

I played 6+ player multiplayer regularly during Tempest – and paid virtually no attention to this card then (no one else did either). In a deck it can serve three functions:

  1. As a soft counterspell
  2. As a way to delay a gamewinning spell in the hopes that it’s owner gets killed off before it resolves.
  3. As a way to delay your own card to go off on your next turn
  4. As a way to interact with an uncounterable spell.

It’s definitely a card you need to look at the errata for when you play it–so let’s go ahead and take a look at that.

 

Analysis

Let’s contemplate at this cunning blue instant.

Card Name: Ertai’s Meddling
Mana Cost: XU
Converted Mana Cost: 1
Types: Instant
Card Text:
X can’t be 0.
Target spell’s controller exiles it with X delay counters on it.
At the beginning of each of that player’s upkeeps, if that card is exiled, remove a delay counter from it. If the card has no delay counters on it, he or she puts it onto the stack as a copy of the original spell.

So there’s a whole wall of text for notes that accompanies this card – and if you want to better understand how this thing is really used, I recommend checking them out in the technical section.

Yeah, so this card pretty much just suspends something? So what? What’s the big deal about that? Well it doesn’t technically suspend anything – it technically doesn’t counter anything either – so if you’re the kind of person that likes to use the word “technically” a lot, then this card might be for you. So without any further delay, let’s talk about why this card could become your ‘counter’ of choice.

 

Applications

counterspellCounterspell – Ertai’s Meddling temporarily exiles spells from the stack. If your opponent dies or the gamestate changes sufficiently before the spell is returned to the stack and resolves, then it’s as good as countered. Furthermore – as stated earlier – it exiles from the stack. This means the players in your playgroup that think the tired Boseiju into entwined Tooth and Nail is a lock for game are in for a surprise next time you have this ready for them. I’ve found that letting x= 2 to 4 in mid to late game is often just as good as a counterspell. Using this as a “counterspell” is how this winds up functioning for me the majority of the time.

KezzCarrot – Using the previous example of an entwined Tooth and Nail, Meddling can be used to persuade the rest of the table to take this player out before the card resolves. When the rest of the table acknowledges that there’s a card that will end the game (or drastically change it) when it resolves, you stand a very good chance of being able to entice everyone else to take up your cause. I’ve found that I can’t usually rely on this as a primary use of the card – you need to get it in hand when their spell is on the stack, making this aspect more of a bonus than a primary reason.

Next Level Timing Device – One of my favorite and most popular decks is an Izzet Spellslinger deck. It uses this card to great effect – and when I’m capable of it, it’s definitely an option. You could theoretically use an effect (Quicken, Leyline) to cast a Wheel of Fortune type effect during an opponent’s end step right before your turn and suspend it for 1 with your own Ertai’s Meddling to give you a draw-7 and fresh pile of untapped lands to use this upcoming turn.

redirectSilver Bullet for the Uncounterable – If you’re the kind of person that loves running an answer for everything that they can fetch for at instant speed – if this isn’t already in your arsenal, it certainly could be. Because this exiles the spell from the stack, you’ll be able to interact with uncounterable cards in a way that a card like Delay can’t. Being able to interact with uncounterable effects definitely makes this card hugely useful as a game-saver – the only drawback again is that you need to have it in hand when you need it.

 

 

 

Technical

Here are the notes as they accompany the card’s errata’ed text:

Notes:

10/4/2004: Note that a delayed spell that targets another spell will be countered when it resolves since it will find that its target is no longer on the stack.

10/4/2004: A targeted spell which is delayed will still succeed even if its target has phased out and back in again.

10/4/2004: Ertai’s Meddling can’t be cast through any way that doesn’t pay its mana cost. This is because the X in the Meddling’s mana cost can’t be 0, but effects that allow spells to be cast without paying their mana costs set X to 0.

10/4/2004: If a copy of a spell (one that has no card representing it) is affected by Ertai’s Meddling, the spell ceases to exist when exiled. It will not gain counters and will not be put back on the stack.

10/4/2004: Once it is put back on the stack, it is a “new” spell again and can be countered or even targeted by another Ertai’s Meddling.

10/4/2004: If Ertai’s Meddling is used to copy a spell being cast face down due to Morph ability, the spell will create a face up, 2/2, colorless, nameless creature with no text. This may be a little counter-intuitive, because you might expect the card to enter the battlefield face down like it would have when originally cast, but Ertai’s Meddling copies only the original spell and not the entire card the spell represented.

4/1/2008: This now exiles the spell as part of Ertai’s Meddling’s resolution, instead of waiting for the targeted spell to start resolving.

1/22/2011: If the spell was cast using flashback, Ertai’s Meddling will still exile it with delay counters on it. When the card is returned to the stack, it still “remembers” the flashback cost was originally paid. It’ll be exiled when it resolves or otherwise leaves the stack.

4/15/2013: If Ertai’s Meddling is used to copy an arcane spell that had effects spliced onto it, it will create a spell with all of those effects. That spell’s controller will not be able to splice additional effects onto the spell, since they did not re-cast the spell and instead simply put it back onto the stack.

4/15/2013: Ertai’s Meddling has the spell’s controller put the spell back onto the stack; it does not have its controller cast the spell again. Anything that triggers off of casting spells, such as Contemplation , won’t trigger. Simillarly, effects that count spells that are cast (like Rule of Law) or prevent spells from being cast (like Iona, Shield of Emeria) won’t count or affect the copy that is put onto the stack since the copy wasn’t cast.

This card sets up a multi-part delayed trigger. If you are new to some of the uncommon rules interactions of the game, ensure you fully understand this card before you use it. If you are pretty solid with some of the weirder rules, you might want to remember to look up these if a question arises during play.

 

Dealing with it

misdirectionThis card is an instant – it can be counterspelled from the stack like nearly any other card. Additionally, you could cast Fork, Twincast or any similar card on Ertai’s Meddling and have it be effectively countered.

If you’ve fallen victim of having one of your haymaker spells delayed by this – and getting killed because the table didn’t want it to resolve – then you’ve likely not forgotten this spell since then.

If you know that one or more opponents play with it in their deck and are likely to deploy it against you, use appropriate caution.

 

Financial

Here’s the good part – this card is available all over for less than a buck. You can likely find in in various dollar – or even quarter boxes at shops in your area. There’s hardly any downside to picking up one of these to try out in a deck or two.

 

End Step

Often, I like to play with cards that have more than one purpose in a deck. Hopefully you’ll have the chance to be able try this out and add a little old-school spice to your next game. I want to put it out to the audience at this point. What have been some of your favorite parts of this series so far? What could we focus more on or do better to make this better for you?

 

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