Commander Spotlight: Aetherspouts

History is made from the collective exploits of all the people who have come before us, their contributions adding to the totality of human civilization. From inventions and breakthroughs, to despots and atrocities, to those simply trying to get by, history has the inherent capacity to tell the tale of so many who toiled and triumphed of ages long past.

Capacity, however, doesn’t mean we actually do it.

The most common (and understandable) reason is that it would take far too long to impart past events if we looked through the lens of every participant large and small. So we prioritize. We pick and choose which people and places to teach ourselves and teach to others, giving higher status to those whose contributions to the given topic are deemed at a higher level of importance than those around them.

It’s why when people are learning about the American Revolution in Boston, for example, kids across the country hear about Paul Revere or Sam and John Adams, but few (if any) ever hear the name George Robert Twelves Hewes. Hewes was a cobbler and outspoken participant in the independence movement and Boston Tea Party who not only lived to almost 100 years old, but who also was directly involved in an incident with a British loyalist that led the latter to be tarred and feathered – a rather big deal at the time.

That is the tradeoff to being selective.

As a result, history from afar can be highly subjective, with a narrative that is written by those in power or, as the oft-repeated statement says, by the victors. (Which, when combined ultimately means history is skewered by and towards a focus on white men, but I digress.)

Aggregating across time, this causes us to elevate names in history to almost legendary status compared to those around them, and yet of those names we deem important we often mostly use them as mere footnotes of history. It’s great to know the names of important figures, from Aristotle and Alexander the Great, to Martin Luther and Leonardo Da Vinci, to George Washington and Mark Twain, but even then, without the context of the time in which they lived and the reasons their statuses have become so vaunted, they’re effectively just names on a page so someone can memorize them for a test.

It’s also easy to forget that the vast majority of those very famous and influential people only thrived because they were products of their time. This is why we get the old adage that you wouldn’t expect to be able to drop Napoleon into WWII and ask him to command a WWII tank brigade. It likely would go poorly, since all of his expertise would be based on the rules of combat during his era.

As it happens, the same is true for the game of Magic. While the fundamentals of the game haven’t changed all that drastically over time, the cards and tactics from an earlier time writ large aren’t guaranteed to reward you in the same way they once did.

Put another way: you can’t expect a Magic player with a Tempest-era arsenal to easily compete in a Tarkir-era world.

Cards (and their relative power level) have evolved a long way over time. What once was an easy solution to a problem may not be as effective as it once was. Try Terroring an indestructible creature or doing direct damage to Kozilek, Butcher of Truth.

Blue runs into a similar, albeit smaller problem. Although it still has its two primary defense mechanisms with counters and bounce spells, bouncing a permanent doesn’t have the same guaranteed setback to an opponent it once did. For years, Boomerang and its ilk have been a mainstay of Blue decks, as players have relied on them to temporarily offset problematic creatures. Yet with the drastic increase in creatures with Enter the Battlefield triggers, bouncing an opponent’s creature now has an increased chance of indirectly helping your opponent. Bounce spells once guaranteed a one-sided advantage. Now, sometimes bouncing creatures could merely cause you to break even.

As a Blue mage, the last thing you’d want with a mana-intensive Distortion Wake or Evacuation is to have your opponent benefit from recasting their creatures. Luckily, there’s good news on this front. Blue has seen some armament upgrades of its own in recent years, and we’re about to look at a next-generation mass bounce spell.

Today we have: Aetherspouts


Name: Aetherspouts

Edition: Magic 2015

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Combat Control / Creature Bounce

Highlights: When used properly, Aetherspouts is a devastating defensive card, potentially crippling not only your opponent’s army but their card draws as well. Unlike it’s slightly cheaper cousin Aetherize, though, Aetherspouts takes creature bouncing to the next level by forcing the affected creatures into the library instead of your opponent’s hands to be quickly cast again. In a Commander game, this can force some hard decisions upon your opponent.

For starters, one shouldn’t underestimate the power of topdecking a card. Topdecking is a two-fold setback to your enemy, causing them to lose their next draw in addition to the creature they had on the battlefield.

In truth, this effect isn’t new or unique to Blue: it’s been around as far back as Tempest’s Time Ebb or Mirage’s Ether Well, with more recent iterations including Aethertow, Repel, and Spin into Myth. The difference is that, until this point, all of those cards only affected a single creature. Aetherspouts throws a dispersal net on all attacking creatures, acting as both a massive bounce spell and means of disrupting an opponent’s draws for quite some time the more of the affected creatures they want to keep. For each creature they wish to hold on to, they’ll have one less new card to draw, and if they choose to put the creature on the bottom the deck instead, you’ve essentially exiled it from play.

This also says nothing about how effective it is at wiping away token armies or how you can use it politically by casting it on attacking creatures in a combat you aren’t involved in.

Admittedly, Aetherspouts is a rather expensive response card in the early to mid stages of the game, so it can be a bit of a dead draw early on. At five mana, casting Aetherspouts often means forgoing doing other things on your turn in anticipation casting it. That said, this is less on an issue in the later stages of the game and five mana is easily worth the cost of investment since the alternative often means being trampled underfoot by a horde of your opponent’s creatures.

In many ways Aetherspouts is a more situational, more focused Evacuation, and this more directed reaction card can help you avoid incurring the ire of multiple opponents in a Commander game. Blue’s ability to bounce permanents and / or topdeck cards has largely existed on a one-for-one basis, and for many years that’s been quite adequate. Until now. In an era with more focus on Commander games (or multiplayer in general), as well as the proliferation of creatures with ETB effects, it was only a matter of time before Blue took one of its signature tools of war from the 19th to 21st century. And it’s new piece of warfare technology is a doozy.

Let the new arms race continue.

Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.

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