The History of Disallow

Ah, Disallow.

For those who haven’t seen, Disallow was one of the handful of cards from Aether Revolt that managed to sneak out a week or so ago. It has been one of my favorite cards spoiled from the set (of about 10 or so thus far) and looks to be a strong offering, surpassing the somewhat ubiquitous Void Shatter—it’s just an extremely solid counterspell. If you caught my appearance on Magic TV the other week, you might remember him saying something like, “it’s a 3-mana counterspell, which is all I could ever want!” It’s hilarious that that’s where we are now. 3-mana counterspells are pretty much the standard, and Disallow is one of the best we’ve seen in some time.

But it’s not the first time we’ve seen abilities like this. Stifle was the first time we saw a card that countered both activated and triggered abilities, and it has been a hit ever since it first appeared in Scourge. From being able to counter losing the game from one of your Pacts to denying your opponent the ability to search their library from a fetchland, Stifle does a lot. A mana cost of just 1 was also a pretty big boon to the card, making sure you were still able to deploy your threats while you denied your opponent the use of their own abilities.

Voidslime appeared in Dissension and was highly acclaimed when spoiled, despite seeing minimal tournament play. I think Voidslime’s downfall came about from its prohibitive casting cost. 3 colored mana across 2 colors that don’t always mix well can be a death knell for a potential staple.

Nevertheless, Voidslime still saw use when the need arose, and the abilities were no less powerful than when they were printed on Stifle. On the contrary, adding a hard counter to the card made it infinitely better. But as we know, in Magic, it isn’t solely the abilities that define a card. The mana cost, the types of mana—all of this is relevant. While Voidslime had more functionality than Stifle, the two cards were quite different in practice.

The next card seemed to go back to its Stifle roots when it was released. I’m pretty sure Trickbind from Time Spiral saw the least play of the 3 cards I’ve discussed thus far, but it still found some use. Trickbind found a way to distinguish itself by not only adding the split second ability to Stifle, but also by adding the interdict clause, prohibiting the use of the ability again this turn. Considering that Time Spiral was the nostalgia block, this made sense from a flavor perspective, despite how rarely important the effect actually ended up being. Additionally, split second typically made whatever it was attached to uncounterable, which was just fine.

And finally—Disallow. Unless your opponent is playing a card that allows them to counter a mono-colored spell, this should always be a strictly better Voidslime, and I know it’s going to see play for a good long while. While I’m not sure it will make it into the larger formats like Modern, this card is a definite 4-of in Standard control decks, as it only has to compete with cards like Spell Shrivel, Scatter to the Winds, and Void Shatter, the last of which is the most popular. While exiling can sometimes be huge, especially with delirium, the extra options on Disallow are really going to put it over the top.

While most of the time you’re going to be flat-out countering a spell with this, sometimes it will be more useful to counter Emrakul, the Promised End’s ability rather than the creature herself. Similarly, being able to counter the activation of an Aetherworks Marvel is huge. Let them waste that 6 energy in the process. You can also counter crucial planeswalker abilities or the crewing of Vehicles. Sure, when it comes to Eldrazi, Summary Dismissal is going to be better much of the time, but the versatility and cost of Disallow cannot be denied. I would definitely expect to see this card en masse come Aether Revolt.

With a game that’s been around for that long, there are often only so many things you can do with the cards themselves. Sorceries, instants, creatures, artifacts—these are some of the handful of things we can manipulate. So the fact that I can look at a card like Disallow, knowing all of the cards and iterations that came before it that may have influenced it in numerous different Magic environments and eras, and still get excited and think, “wow—this is great,” is refreshing. Is this as good as Counterspell? Not likely. Is there going to be someone in the comments who tells us that all counterspells are terrible now? Maybe. But that doesn’t negate the quality of the card or the lineage that came before it.


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