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Unexpectedly Absent may not be better than a large number of cards in every situation, but often in Legacy being the second best in a dozen different situations can be better than the best in just one. -Sam Stoddard
My first thought when I saw this card was that it was a white [card]Submerge[/card] that could hit permanents. In a format full of fetchlands, Submerge has consistently blown out countless green mages, and it is the most efficient removal spell in the format. And between hitting a turn one [card]Dryad Arbor[/card] or a late-game [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card], the card is always great. Of course, Absent’s cost is more prohibitive, and it gets better as the game goes on and mana becomes freer.
[card]Temporal Spring[/card] saw a little play in RUG, but people eventually realized that was a mistake and cut it. For a mana less, instant speed, and some versatility, Absent is more playable even if it doesn’t pitch to [card force of will]Force[/card].
Out of a combo deck, Absent is worse than [card]Abrupt Decay[/card]. While the X makes it hard for [card]Counterbalance[/card] to counter, that’s not the same thing as uncounterable, and the X also makes it weak to [card]Gaddock Teeg[/card].
Against combo it’s a little more interesting, but not much. If your opponent messes up his sequencing, you could nab the odd [card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card]. If he needs to cantrip post-[card]Omniscience[/card] you could make him fizzle. Usually both of those decks will just kill you, though.
The strength, then, is that we have a creature removal card that has applications against other permanents. Here’s a short list of things that I would love to Submerge:
Jace, the mind sculptor
It’s not often that [card]Memory Lapse[/card] is better than [card]Counterspell[/card], but sometimes a card is better earlier. In those cases, denying your opponent a live draw step is awesome. Cards that develop mana, like [card]Chrome Mox[/card] and [card]Aether Vial[/card], become particularly terrible draws. Imagine if [card]Squadron Hawk[/card] was playable.
One of the problems with Unexpectedly Absent is that WW is a difficult cost to manage. Two of the decks that can cast it, Maverick and Death and Taxes, also play [card thalia, guardian of thraben]Thalia[/card]. I’m guessing that Stoneblade wants it, especially since it’s one of the best cards to [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] ever. One of the downsides to Submerge was that, as an alternate cost card, Snapping it back wasn’t doable. Well, now it’s possible to make an opponent cast the same threat eight turns in a row. Heck, if it’s post-board against a green deck, we can do it twelve turns in a row.
I remember a game of Modern I played a while back. I was piloting Teachings Control against my roommate playing Tron. At one point, he had fifteen mana and [card]Eye of Ugin[/card], enough to tutor up [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card] and play it the next turn. His eyes were bright—he smelled blood.
But he never got to play it. Every turn he tutored, and every turn I’d hit him with an [card]Esper Charm[/card] (hardcast or Snapped back) by chaining all my [card]Mystical Teachings[/card] together. On the very last turn before I ran out of Charms, I managed to end the game with 2/1 beats. My roommate, who had felt the rush of victory when he first tutored up Emrakul, looked like he wanted to quit Tron, quit Modern, quit Magic. He didn’t just want to flip the table, he wanted to drive to IKEA and flip every table in stock.
Snapcastering Absent will create many of those moments. I’m the type of player that relishes in that pain, that frustration. I don’t care if it happens to me so long as I get to do it to someone else.
Speaking of pain and frustration, Miracles probably wants this card, though it doesn’t pitch to Force like [card]Detention Sphere[/card] does. I can’t wait to put my own permanent on top of my library to counter a key spell. Heck, just saving Counterbalance from an [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] should win the odd game or two.
The best shell for Unexpectedly Absent probably involves black. Then the opponent empties their hand to play around discard, running into the new white instant. If your deck can reliably make people hellbent, denying them live draws gains a ton of value.
4 Marsh Flats
2 Verdant Catacombs
2 Arid Mesa
2 Isolated Chapel
2 Mirran Crusader
2 Tidehollow Sculler
4 Deathrite Shaman
2 Hero of Bladehold
4 Dark Confidant
3 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Chrome Mox
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Liliana of the Veil
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
4 Lingering Souls
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Cabal Therapy
2 Unexpectedly Absent[/deck]
Absent takes over the [card]Oblivion Ring[/card]/[card]Vindicate[/card] slot as a more versatile, instant-speed answer to problem permanents. Aside from that, this a relatively unchanged version of my list that Josh Hendricks Top 8’d with in St. Louis. More recently, Jeffrey Moseley updated it for a 9th place finish in Atlanta. Overall, I think it’s a reasonable choice for the current metagame. [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card] doesn’t die to [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], and [card]Mirran Crusader[/card] can beat an entire BUG deck by itself.
Casting Absent on your [card]Tidehollow Sculler[/card] in response to the comes-into-play trigger will exile a card permanently.
Resetting [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] to grab another piece of equipment will win games.
You can save a [card]Batterskull[/card] with only two mana and Stoneforge Mystic in play. If you’re stuck on four, an upkeep Absent can let you draw the ‘Skull and get it back into play, which is less risky than hoping to draw the land and faster than waiting a turn. Sometimes, you have to exchange cards for tempo. Think of it as casting a game-saving [card]Force of Will[/card].
“What are you thinking about? I only have one creature.”
“I’m deciding whether to go left or right.”
What does this card do that [card]Control Magic[/card], [card]Threads of Disloyalty[/card], and [card]Sower of Temptation[/card] don’t?
For starters, it can’t be killed to get the creature back, which has always been the downside to playing this type of effect. Unfortunately, that by itself isn’t worth four mana these days. Also, the opportunity cost of playing few to no creatures worth exchanging is huge.
The exciting thing is that it doesn’t target.
Order of Succession can take a [card thrun, the last troll]Thrun[/card], a [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card], a [card]Progenitus[/card], or an [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card].
Of the cards mentioned, Geist of Saint Traft is the most commonly played, but blue has a new Thrun-like threat that people are going to be testing out.
Which brings us to our next card:
If you steal your opponent’s Nemesis with Order of Succession, they’re going to have a surprisingly easy time dealing with it.
In two-player Magic, Nemesis has the Progenitus “protection from everything” ability, only it carries an [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/card] and dies to your own [card]Pyroclasm[/card].
As with any blue card, it pitches to [card]Force of Will[/card]. That plus the lower cost, no need for regen mana, and unblockability make it better than Thrun. Unlike Thrun, it can’t regenerate through [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] and dies to [card]Engineered Plague[/card] or [card]Golgari Charm[/card], but these are minor notes on an overall superior card.
The creature type is relevant, and I’m not talking about the free [card]Cloak and Dagger[/card] equips. Merfolk doesn’t have many slots open these days, but it needs the resilience. Without a [card]Silvergill Adept[/card] draw, it’s hard to fight through a pile of removal.
[card]Kira, Great Glass Spinner[/card] lost value when Abrupt Decay got printed, essentially giving every BG deck a pile of [card]Combust[/card]s. Kira is still good against RUG, specifically, but that’s not good enough. Nemesis fills Kira’s role and more since it’s Jitte-friendly.
It’ll see play elsewhere, too. UR Delver already has a curve that goes up to 3, since [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] is essentially in the three slot, and an unblockable, unkillable 3/1 that pitches to Force fits the deck’s plan.
Heck, even RUG has dabbled with 3-drops in the past including Snapcaster and the odd [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] out of the board. If this card is positioned well enough it might be worth adding another land to all the tempo decks to fit a few in. As a 3-drop, it’s especially nice to come down after [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card].
The one weakness to Nemesis is that it’s a super slow clock against all the turn two decks like Storm and Reanimator. If there are a lot of those decks floating around, it’ll be more of a sideboard card.
Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?
This card will probably do nothing. Three mana for a 2/2 and a 1/1 is super underpowered.
On the other hand, there’s a small chance it’ll do something. At one point, [card]Verdant Force[/card] was one of the best creatures in the game. “At each upkeep” is way better than a one-time deal. Without other interactions, Ophiomancer just holds off ‘Goyf.
Now let’s consider the interactions. Flashing back [card]Cabal Therapy[/card] and still playing defense is pretty good, and getting closer to being worth the 3-mana investment. When we add a permanent sacrifice outlet like [card]Goblin Bombardment[/card] or [card]Carrion Feeder[/card] we start to see real worth, especially with beneficial triggers like [card]Blood Artist[/card]. I know I mention Sam Black’s Zombie deck every time a sweet new black card is spoiled, but it’s hard to ignore the synergy.
This card reminds me of [card]Sickening Dreams[/card], a two-mana sweeper that Reanimator used to play when tribal decks were more popular. Not every deck will be able to pay life willy-nilly, but it still has applications in Legacy. You could jam it with a large [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] already in play, clearing the opponent’s board and pushing through damage. Some decks will want it as a cheaper, more painful [card]Damnation[/card], but the card is at its most powerful as a [card]Plague Wind[/card].
The cost hints at where it’ll see play. 2B involves a lot of colorless mana, ideal for a sol land deck. Unfortunately, that’s too much life to be paying with [card]Ancient Tomb[/card], and I won’t be running this in Tezzeret. Still, needing a single black makes it very castable off of a splash, and this card could show up in places you wouldn’t expect.
At the very least, it’ll replace [card]Virtue’s Ruin[/card] as a [card]Burning Wish[/card] target for some combo decks. More exciting is that it could revitalize the Team America archetype. Before, the deck used clunky sweepers like [card]Engineered Explosives[/card] and [card]Pernicious Deed[/card]. Those cards ate tempo, but for a much needed effect. Now, with Team America fallen off the face of the earth, we’re given an elegant answer to this problem.
As [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] gained popularity, there were fewer and fewer reasons to stick to the [card]Tombstalker[/card] plan, but Toxic Deluge might be a new reason. It attacks Shardless BUG’s ability to develop the board with efficient value creatures. Team America has a natural strength against fast combo, too, and Storm is a major player in the current field.
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Polluted Delta
2 Tropical Island
4 Underground Sea
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Force of Will
3 Spell Pierce
2 Toxic Deluge
2 Abrupt Decay[/deck]
This is my inexpert build, but it shows how Deluge fits in the shell. One strength of the card is that it removes the need to answer a turn one Deathrite Shaman. Instead, you can run your usual plan of [card]Stifle[/card], [card wasteland]Waste[/card], [card]Thoughtseize[/card] before clearing the board of whatever threats they managed to stick. Ideally, you’ll have time to cast a fatty. Anyone who has played RUG or Affinity knows the joy of sweeping the opponent’s board with a [card]Rough // Tumble[/card] or [card]Whipflare[/card] and leaving your own perfectly intact. The tempo swing is enormous, and this is exactly the sort of deck to take advantage of it.
One problem with Deluge in the main is that it doesn’t help build a turn three Tombstalker. The life loss between [card]Dismember[/card], [card]Thoughtseize[/card], and all the fetchlands looks intimidating, but we used to run [card]Snuff Out[/card]. If you succeed in destroying the opponent’s game plan, your life total doesn’t matter.
Note that if a sorcery will make your ‘Goyf a 2/3, it’s safe to Deluge for 2, as the ‘Goyf will grow before the game checks for lethal damage. A common line might be to turn one instant, turn two Tarmogoyf, and turn three Deluge. The fact that it can kill larger creatures like opposing ‘Goyfs or [card]Batterskull[/card], as well as only costing a single black mana, makes it much stronger than [card]Infest[/card].
If your opponent Show and Tells in an Emrakul, you can kill it by paying 15, and that’s awesome.
Boil spinoffs still occasionally show up in the odd sideboard, especially as [card]Burning Wish[/card] targets. This one is particularly good for [card]Veteran Explorer[/card] decks that might otherwise have trouble dealing with manlands. No more than a sideboard card, but a pretty good one. There aren’t many Legacy decks that play more than 1-2 basics, and some don’t play any.
A few people were talking about this card with [card]Wasteland[/card], and while that’s more immediate than [card]Life from the Loam[/card] it’s also way less powerful. Being able to grab opposing Wastes is cute.
I could be wrong, especially since I’ve never played the card before, but my instincts say it’s unplayable, even if it is the best [card]Rampant Growth[/card] of all time. The fact that it targets, making it weak to Deathrite Shaman, is particularly bad.
A cute option for [card]Academy Rector[/card] brews, especially Nic Fit since you’ll eventually get to eight mana.
I want to get a foreign version of this wall of text for the troll value.
“What’s that do?”
“Oh, it just taps for a colorless.”