Spoiler Spotlight – Chained to the Rocks

Let’s talk about [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card]. This card is amazing! I love it.

[draft]chained to the rocks[/draft]

The first time I saw it, I had to keep re-reading it looking for the drawback. It’s there, but it isn’t as bad as I thought. So this card is good, but I think it’s home is in Modern, oddly enough. Compare it to a card like [card]Path to Exile[/card].

[draft]Path to Exile[/draft]

1) [card]Chained to the Rocks[/card] demands that you control a [card]Mountain[/card].

2) Chained to the Rocks or the rock it enchants can be destroyed, returning the creature to play.

3) [card]Path to Exile[/card] is an instant.

4) Path to Exile grants the opponent a [card]Rampant Growth[/card] while Chained to the Rocks does not.

I think points 3 and 4 of that critique greatly outweigh parts 1 and 2. I’ve always hated that Path to Exile presents such a difficult decision on turn 2. If your opponent casts a [card]Dark Confidant[/card] on turn two, what do you do with that Path? All options are pretty poor, since if you just Path it they can untap into [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] or two spells that they otherwise couldn’t have cast, and if you pass the turn you’re allowing them to draw a card.

It is important to note that Path to Exile also can be targeted by [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], so a deck like UWR control that doesn’t mind giving the opponent a land so much, and does not want to concern itself with having a Mountain, and would like to use it with Snapcaster Mage. So the places where Chained to the Rocks is better than Path to Exile are few, but they do exist, and when you can discover where they are you now have an awesome removal spell that people might not expect.

The fact that Chained to the Rocks must be cast at sorcery speed is unfortunate in a few instances, like against [card]Splinter Twin[/card]. It isn’t totally useless, since you can still catch them at random times and remove the [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card], but the most common use will be to exile [card]Spellskite[/card], which is fine. Path is also quite a bit better when dealing with the Melira Pod combo or lands like [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card] and [card]Treetop Village[/card].

Despite its many shortcomings, I still think it’s a great card. You can slam it early in the game and remove [card]Dark Confidant[/card], [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], or [card]Wall of Roots[/card] while retaining the exile utility against [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] and [card]Kitchen Finks[/card]. I also like it a ton with [card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card]. Previously you used to have to put Thalia and Path in your deck at the same time and just admit that they were going to suck when drawn together.

As long as you control a Mountain and aren’t playing against a deck that destroys your lands or removes enchantments, Chained to the Rocks is a better card than Path to Exile.

If I were to play with it, my deck would look like this:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Steppe Lynx
2 Grim Lavamancer
1 Scavenging Ooze
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Chained to the Rocks
4 Tribal Flames
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Blood Crypt
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
1 Godless Shrine
1 Plains
1 Mountain
4 Arid Mesa
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Marsh Flats
3 Stony Silence
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Torpor Orb
4 Molten Rain
2 Domri Rade
2 Path to Exile[/deck]

Zoo is near and dear to my heart, and I think Chained to the Rocks is a perfect addition. Honestly, you could take any red aggressive deck that has Path to Exile in it and just make this simple swap. I think it would be totally fine to take a [card domri rade]Domri[/card] Naya deck and jam some Chained to the Rocks in there.

As I described, there are two major drawbacks to this card, and if people are destroying your enchantments or lands then there can be some serious splash damage from sideboard cards.

[draft]Fulminator Mage[/draft] [card]Fulminator Mage[/card] comes to mind, but as long as you are mindful of it, you can just choose to Chain those [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s to your basic Mountain and there shouldn’t be much trouble.

[draft]Abrupt Decay
Maelstrom Pulse[/draft] [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] and [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card] are two dangerous cards that can give you fits when trying to play with Chained to the Rocks. It’s hard to tell which one of these is scarier, because the Maelstrom Pulse can destroy multiple of this enchantment whereas Abrupt Decay can destroy one of them inside combat to produce a surprise blocking Tarmogoyf. Both of these situations are disastrous, which is annoying since both effects are easy to maindeck.

It is possible for Chained to the Rocks to be bad against a red/green Tron deck as well. You want it primarily to remove [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card], and it is amazing when it does. I would not sideboard it out against them, since sometimes [card karn liberated]Karn[/card] isn’t good enough and often [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] is their plan A. Still, it is important to be very careful since some builds of Tron run a [card]Ghost Quarter[/card] which can be searched up at a moment’s notice with [card]Expedition Map[/card] or [card]Sylvan Scrying[/card] to destroy those Rocks and free the Wurmcoil. It can get swept away by an [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] also, which admittedly is a very hard card to beat anyway.

Despite these drawbacks, I do still firmly believe that Chained to the Rocks a great card and should see play in Modern. I think it’s significantly better than Path to Exile in decks that want that type of effect, while Path to Exile is kind of an awful card that I’ve been forced to play because of [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] and [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]. When you’re trying to win the game with a [card]Steppe Lynx[/card], it isn’t usually in your best interest to grant your opponent a 0-casting-cost [card]Rampant Growth[/card]. Chain his monster to the rocks instead.

Owen Turtenwald
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