Mana Denial – Why is it important?

Disruption is a major element of magic. Whether it’s counterspells, discard, or land destruction, it’s all about stopping your opponent doing what s/he wants. The disruption which tends to get people all worked up is land destruction. You can still topdeck through discard, and counterspells have been given up as a vital tool for blue based control, but land destruction remains the common enemy.

The reason for this is because it means you can literally do nothing. If everything in your hand costs 3 or 4, and you’re on one or two land, you have to just sit and wait. If you’ve got no creatures, your turn will literally consist of ‘draw, check land, no, go’, which isn’t hugely fun to against, and certainly not too fun to play as. After all, when did you last proclaim ‘Yes! mana screw!’ ?

An advantage of running a lot of mana denial is that it keeps control decks honest, and stops people running three, four and five colour decks so easily. I mean, there are a lot of times when I’ll be running a BX deck, and I’ll pick vindicate and run it off a dual or a single plains or something. Now, what happens when they blow up my single plains/dual? I can’t play my vindicate anymore, which means a)it’s a dead card, and b) there’s the virtual advantage of my opponent keeping whatever I was going to blow up.

There’s some mana disruption in all colours, which makes it a pretty universal tactic:

White

  • Armageddon/ravages of war
  • catastrophe
  • balance
  • scepter of dominance (soft)

As you can pretty clearly see, white has got mass LD down to a fine art. Armageddon is a staple in almost every cube, and balance is one of the most powerful cards ever printed.

Blue

  • Boomerang (soft)
  • Capsize (soft)
  • Upheaval (soft)
  • Cryptic Command (soft)

Blue has the weakest mana denial suite, since it’s so expensive and none of it is hard.  It might be noteworthy here that there might be some link to blue sucking as an aggro colour (in general) and blues lack of LD. Coincidence? Probably.

Black

  • Sinkhole
  • Braids, Cabal Minion (soft)
  • Nether Void
  • Rain of Tears
  • Rancid Earth
  • Icequake
  • Befoul
  • Choking Sands

Oh sinkhole, how sweet you are. Two mana LD is ridiculous, and if you can pull it off turn 1 on the draw on your opponents 1 land, that’s pretty orgasmic. Braids can pretty much have an entire archetype built around her, but her utility as LD is formidable. If you can drop braids, then use point removal on all their creatures (or wrath, then braids), then they’re left saccing lands left and right, which in turn means they won’t be able to cast their creatures, so they have to sac more lands. Nether Void is a free mana leak on every card  cast. It’s the black armageddon, and if it didn’t cost an arm, a leg and 3 fingers, I’m sure it’d be around a lot more in cubes.

Red

  • Molten Rain
  • Aftershock
  • Stone Rain
  • Pillage
  • Wildfire
  • Avalanche Riders
  • Goblin Ruinblaster
  • Ravenous Baboons

Red is king of LD, and for good reason. Getting a critical mass of LD in your red decks can really flip games around. LD is reds main path for keeping opponents in the early stages of the game, and it really really excels at it. Red underperforming in your cube? Add more LD. Having looked over my cube at this point, I can say my cube lacks LD.

Green

  • Plow Under
  • Primal Command
  • Ice Storm
  • Acidic Slime
  • Woodfall Primus
  • Terastodon
  • Creeping Mold
  • Mwonvuli acid moss
  • Winters Grasp
  • Thermokarst

Green hasn’t got a ubiquitous LD strategy like red, but a lot of green sections actually contain of lot of LD without realising it. The problem with it is, is that it all costs too much to be able to keep your opponent in stage one of the game without goldfish levels of ramp. In recent years though, getting Noble Hierarch has made this a little easier, and getting Joraga Treespeaker has meant that turn 3 , 5 mana doesn’t look ridiculous anymore. I think there’s a lot of potential in green mana denial at the moment, and it’s only just coming out.

Colourless

  • Strip Mine
  • Wasteland
  • Icy Manipulator
  • Ring of Gix
  • Smokestack
  • Winter Orb
  • Sundering Titan
  • Rishadan Port
  • Dust Bowl
  • Tanglewire

Plenty of cards here are iconic for cube in my playgroup. Strip Mine and Winter Orb are cards to be feared and respected. Wasteland and Dustbowl are look almost friendly compared to some of these cards. A turn 3 Tanglewire can literally end the game for you, if it’s following a one and two drop. Heck, in some games, it’s a time walk for 3 colourless mana.

Multicolour

There are three multicolour LD cards, two which are ubiquitous in cubes, and one which sees almost no play. One of the former is Vindicate. Whilst probably one of the best cards in cube, it’s often a perfectly fine play to screw your opponent with Vindicate. I could write for hours about the awesomeness of Vindicate, but just go get it, play it, and then keep playing with it. The latter option is Fulminator Mage. The weird thing about this card is that a good few people are on record saying ‘I’d play this if it were 1RR’ . That’s right. They’d run it if it were strictly worse, but not as is. To some this makes perfect sense – it’s a RB card, it’s not better than other RB cards, so it doesn’t make the cut. But to some, it makes no sense, and think that if you think it’s good enough to go in red, put it in red and screw people who run it in black. For the record, I wouldn’t play it at 1RR, but I would play it at either cost if it could hit basics.(nb, the second ubiquitous card was Ajani V)

Mana Denial – Unfair, or no?

A lot of groups label mana denial , and specifially mass mana denial (aka, armageddon) , as ‘unfun’. LD can be frustrating as a strategy (to play against) , because it’s aim, at it’s core, is to stop your opponent playing their cards. What’re you doing if you’re not playing cards? You’re sitting there watching your opponent masturbate with magic cards. In this respect, playing against mana denial is like playing against combo. You just have to sit there and wait it out, and you might lose in that time. How frustrating is it to lose to an elite vanguard turn 6 when you’ve got wraths and point removal in hand? Very. It’s this frustration which makes people drop mass LD and some LD in general, because cube is about fun, and being frustrated is not fun. How do you get around this? Don’t get worked up over losing a game of magic to LD. It’s a strategy, and if you’re really getting hugely frustrated by a game, maybe this game isn’t right for you.

I’ll simply leave you with this:

In my opinion, “unfun” effects are really just effects a player doesn’t understand how to use or how to beat. i’d rather understand (and play with others who understand) how to use and beat powerful effects than simplify the cube so no one has to.”  – QuiteQuieter

As always, thanks for reading,

Sexy.

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