Return to Ravnica is right around the corner and as usual, LSV will be bringing you his full set review, complete with Limited and Constructed evaluations, and enough puns to start a small country with. But, in the meantime, spoiler season is in full swing and the mothership is dropping rare after mythic of gold card goodness. Well, today I am going to start with one of my favorites so far: Epic Experiment.
So right out of the gates we seek to find a comparison model for new cards, so we can have a good bar set on power level. This effect is unique, but there are a couple of similar ideas. The first obvious card that stands out is Genesis Wave. This is essentially the exact same effect as Genesis Wave, only for instants and sorceries rather than permanents. This has a few crucial implications.
The first is that unlike with Genesis Wave, you cannot devote 57 cards in your deck to be targets for this effect. Genesis Wave could include only 3 copies of the namesake card and then every other card in the deck would be a permanent and eligible for hitting play. With Epic Experiment, we need mana sources to cast the card, so right away we are reducing the number of viable hits in a Standard deck to around 50% at best. Lands and other copies of Epic Experiment are always whiffs.
The second implication is that the impact from Epic Experiment is immediate. With Genesis Wave, you would hit a bunch of lands, some medium creatures, and then probably some Titans. The Titan effects, and any other enters play effects, would trigger—but outside of that value, you usually had to pass the turn before you could win. This leaves you open to your opponent sweeping the board, or maybe winning themselves. With Epic Experiment, you are casting a bunch of instants and sorceries. This means that built correctly, your advantage, and hopefully your victory, happen right away.
The other comparison to make would be to Mind’s Desire. I will tell you right now that this is not as powerful as Mind’s Desire, period. But the comparison is still valid due to the similarity in effect. Despite Mind’s Desire scaling off of spells played, and Epic Experiment only needing a single additional mana per revealed card, Mind’s Desire is actually the less restricted of the two.
For starters, Mind’s Desire can hit literally any card and get to play it for free. Sure, lands have diminishing returns, but outside of that the card has a much higher hit ratio. Again, in a best case scenario, you are hoping Epic Experiment has a 50/50 shot to hit live cards. (focusing on this for Standard and maybe Modern, but Eternal formats obviously change any of that perspective).
But going even further than that, Mind’s Desire always sells you a dream. Even in the most desperate of times, you can cast a Mind’s Desire for a single copy and hope to flip over another Mind’s Desire. That one will cascade into another and another, winning you the game from nowhere. Epic Experiment has a linear output for the most part—you can’t chain experiments—and the stacking effect storm creates that mana input just cannot achieve.
So, where is this most likely to find a home? Good question, and one that I don’t think comes with a definitive answer but we can move in the right direction at least. The first place I want to go is the world where this is maximized. That means no permanents other than lands and accelerants. This means we have to find a combination of instants and sorceries that win the game. On the one hand, you might want to find some big epic spell that wins the game by itself nearly, like Cruel Ultimatum.
The issue with that direction is that you are always spending more mana than the spell itself and are just using Epic Experiment as a sort of tutor. We really want to find a Genesis Wave type of stack to where we can put out a bunch of things and win through their combined efforts. This will make our top decks prior to the casting of EE that much better, and more reasonable at keeping us in the game. Imagine that instead of drawing Lotus Cobra and [card jace, the mind sculptor]Jace[/card] in your Genesis Wave deck, you were stuck drawing [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card] and [card ulamog, the infinite gyre]Ulamog[/card]. Sure, they win the game a higher percentage of the time, but they make for a poor deck overall.
My initial reaction then, is to use this as a finisher in some sort of burn deck. Blue/red screams counter burn traditionally, but counterspells are not very good with Epic Experiment, as it is a sorcery. If, however, you managed to pack all draw spells and burn spells into a deck, you might actually be getting somewhere. Those burn spells allow you to survive the early game, setting up for Epic Experiment, and then transition into your win condition once you cast it.
Normally, a burn deck throwing all of its removal at creatures early sounds like a bad idea, as there is rarely card advantage to get you back into the game. With Epic Experiment though, you can reasonably get away with 5-10 damage from your extra burn spells and then you rely on the big X spell to finish them off. You’re either going to hit lands, draw spells, or burn spells, which all translate into the same thing outside of those pesky mana sources.
There is a serious concern about whether or not U/R has enough direct damage in the format to actually set up lethal Epic Experiments, but I think we can get there. Without looking into RTR spoilers, we have the following medium- to high-quality burn spells in the format:
Some of those are a stretch of course, but the goal is to hit a critical mass of burn spells, so some of those become perfectly fine. We unfortunately do not get access to one of the better burn spells in the format in Bonfire of the Damned, as it just has no synergy with Epic Experiment. Unlike Bonfire though, at least Devil’s Play gets tutored up and dumped into the graveyard, which is fine considering the card is a good draw on it’s own. Once Return to Ravnica gets introduced into the mix, this strategy might have enough tier 1 or 1.5 burn spells to actually become viable.