This entry is part 3 of 10 in the series Technology

UL AVATAR BLACK

By Aaron D., AKA Uncle Landdrops

 

Although we are players with different ideologies, the one thing Grandpa Growth and I have always been 100% in agreement on is that winning at every level of Magic can change in an instant, because of Instants – and in most of those instances, it’s because of spot removal.

 

Several months ago, I likened Magic to a game of Poker, explaining how reading someone’s hand could help guide you to playing your spells more effectively, thereby being able to generate Tempo, my favorite strategic angle in the game of Magic. It is the time-value of our cards, not just their printed function, that make them good or bad, and even in the Commander context (perhaps the most common multiplayer format), it’s important to not only play these cards, but play enough copies so that they can be found and cast at the right time.

 

To talk Tempo, we’re going to discuss what might be one of my favorite cards, Deglamer (AKA Unravel the Aether), as I share some stories to build a case for not just underrated and “out of work” removal spells everywhere, but also for learning how to be more timely and precise with them in any given game.

 

ORIGINS OF THE GOD-KILLER

 


In speculating between Theros and Born of the Gods, anyone who spent a third as much time as I do thinking about this format saw all of the indestructible gods and probably thought the same thing:

 

AKA Where are the answers, Wizards?

 


Much like eating a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (there’s no wrong way, in case you didn’t know), there are many different approaches to viewing a set in full spoiler mode. Most people, I’m guessing, are basic. They look at the cards in whatever WUBRG (pronounced “Wooberg”) or WUBRG-esque order they can get their hands on. Perhaps this is how we all start out, until we develop our weirdness, depending on what we like, and what formats we play. Mark, for example, jumps down to Mono-Brown (Artifacts) to peruse the new rocks and basically anything that wants charge counters. Though he’s had many different criteria over the years, back when we were looking at spoilers, Grandpa Growth liked to filter out all but the Pauper Cube playables.



And as much as I’d like to tell you Lands are where I go first, that’s not really the truth. Instants are my jam, followed by fixing. I do so for two reasons: 1) it gauges the speed of the set, and 2) finding the removal spells helps to determine the power of the Control decks in the set, helping me to figure out which style of play I should emphasize in Limited environments. So when I finally got to see the full spoilers for Born of the Gods, I got not only the answer to my question about the lack of answers, but I also got one of the best answers I could’ve hoped for – a functional Deglamer reprint!

 

Now, for anyone who isn’t a Lorwyn-lover or a long-time podcast listener (because yeah, CommanderCast was Deglamer-ing before Deglamer was cool), I know it’s probably not the card that got anyone else’s juices flowing. Being a fan of the show, though, I’d been playing Deglamer for about a year when Born of the Gods came out, and that card started a bit of a “remova-lution” in my local playgroup. Nothing is more satisfying than shuffling Purphoros, God of the Forge(#PreTuckRule) back into an opponent’s deck, while a Myr Battlesphere is sitting on the stack, or saying, “Sayonara!” to a Sword of Feast and Famine, or (my absolute favorite) making your opponent put their Blightsteel Colossus or Darksteel Forge back into their Fightin’ 99.

 

I’m sure you’re saying something now like, “Well, Landdrops, you’re overlooking one thing. What if they play a bunch of tutors?”



Yes. In our crazy format where the Rules Committee is trying to discourage tutelage, nothing can stop a player from searching for whatever they want every turn.



However, the same thing could be said if the Sword, or whatever nuisance card we’re talking about, ended up in the graveyard. Our opponent could be savvy and prepare for getting it out of the graveyard, too (My Common/Uncommon Uril deck has to think next level this way). We aren’t making the assumption that we’ve gotten it out of the way, or that we’ve gotten it out of the way for good – the idea is that we are doing just enough to generate another opportunity or two in order to win. If our opponent has to tap mana to tutor, and tap more mana to play and possibly Equip the card in question, we’ve slowed them down by at least a turn in terms of mana resources, maybe more.

 

Ultimately, because I’m a pretty okay writer, and have chosen a hypothetical question that would lead us right back into our topic, the reason that Deglamer is good is because of Tempo.

 

DEGLAMER VS. THE OTHER LEADING BRAND

 

So where does Deglamer rank in the noncreature-killing kingdom? Personally, I think it’s just about dead even with Krosan Grip, the fastest spell in the west. But if we only had one spot left in our deck, which one do we choose?



My answer won’t surprise you, but the thought process might help get the discussion rolling as to why I think it has a place in the format.



For starters, Deglamer has a functional reprint. I know they are competing for one spot in the deck right now, but let’s be real – I’ve never seen a single Green deck that intentionally played Cultivate without Kodama’s Reach, and that trend won’t get bucked here (barring some serious deck tweaks or a hipster that refuses to buy cards post-Alara block, because Magic is “more popular now”). Green loves extra utility, especially answers, and in the realm of cheap disruption, this is some of the best on the market. Like Salt & Pepper, Salt-N-Pepa, and Cultivate & Kodama’s Reach, Deglamer and Unravel the Aether are a pair you can purchase at whatever gettin’ place you prefer for half the cost of Krosan Grip.  

 

What could I say in this caption that this picture doesn’t already say?

 

 

Without its twin, the evaluation is a little different. We have Control decks to consider, and certain metagame choices to make. Krosan Grip, for example, is always going to be better against Necropotence, Sensei’s Divining Top, Sharuum the Hegemon combos, and (mostly) Control decks that are over-reliant on these cards for advantage. Although it would have a hard time dealing with these threats, Deglamer can’t get any less Instant in terms of speed, so we still have some common ground. Much like Grip, Deglamer is going to efficiently disrupt a range of other good cards that need quick answers, like Steel Hellkite, Phyrexian Arena, Swords, and other key Equipment. Of course, this is in addition to the big Combo noncreature decks that like Indestructible/Shroud, and the ever-prevalent Theros Pantheon.

 

So, for those of you playing against some mixed version of all of these powerful cards, Grip and Deglamer are still in a dead heat. Let’s break the tie.

 

Examining these two with regards to Tempo, Split-Second gives Grip an overwhelming amount of power. Inherently, this mechanic allows Grip to dictate the order of the stack, making it not only a reliable card, but also one that actually dictates the Tempo at which spells can be played when it is cast.  

 

Of course, we all know this – the economics of Grip relative to other non-creature removal is just insane. So insane in fact, that without reliable tutelage, Krosan Grip is going to be tough to draw consistently, much less when it’s needed (and even less, in my experience, in Mono-Green), ironically making it not only a more expensive spell, but also making it less of a Tempo card.

 

Although it doesn’t dictate its own tempo to the game, Deglamer is a cheaper spell on every level that plays better without other cards to rely on (reprint excluded). As a result, I think the best argument for playing Deglamer over Krosan Grip is more opportunity cost than metagame choice. While Grip is reliable, it wants to be used on our opponent’s best threat, whereas Deglamer or Unravel has more of the flexibility and castability of Naturalize. Being able to have a card that can shut down cards with such a high variance with such a low opportunity cost makes Deglamer a “superior” card in any marginal game with higher variance.

 

CONCLUSION

 

As an active member of the online Commander community on social media and TappedOut, I find the lack of Deglamer and Unravel to be somewhat alarming. My theory for this is that most players in Green feel that the available substitutes are better, i.e. Acidic Slime,  Indrik Stomphowler, and even something new like Caustic Caterpillar are cards that also represent damage, ergo playing into Green’s natural sensibilities, and ultimately being more viable in these decks.

 

So, as someone who loves Deglamer and Unravel, is this the whole story? Have you ever considered Deglamer? If you cut it, why? If you play it and this isn’t confusing, lemme know too!

 

I’d love to know in the comments below!  
-UL

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