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Unsubstantiated Hype

This card has been getting a lot of hype from what I’ve seen on social media, so I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about it and what I think the impact will be on Constructed Magic.

Before I do that, I want to talk about how awesome the flavor text on this card is. I really love it when one character is willing to dagger another in the flavor text, and Liliana’s sarcastic punchline was a perfect dig at Jace. Seriously, whoever wrote that flavor text did a fantastic job. I love it way more than the card itself.

Which I don’t love at all, actually. So maybe that’s not the best endorsement for the flavor text, but whatever. I think Unsubstantiate is overhyped. A lot of people are comparing the card to Remand, and while it does bear some similarities to Remand, it’s definitely not in the same league. The reason Remand was a good card was because it drew a card.

Drawing a card was the really important aspect of that exchange. It meant that Remand left you even on cards, but ahead on tempo. That card drawn would push combo decks closer to finding the pieces that they needed to assemble their combo. It would ensure that tempo decks had the requisite gas they needed to keep up the pressure. Remand also pushed you ahead in counter fights, allowing you to rebuy your own spell and draw a card, putting you way ahead of the opponent in the exchange.

Even then, Remand wasn’t always good. Remand was frequently sided out, and in many situations basically just an expensive cantrip. Remand also was only really great in decks that could apply pressure, either by the threat of assembling a combo, or by literal, actual pressure like Delver of Secrets. Control decks often had a hard time getting their full money’s worth out of Remand.

Unsubstantiate is way worse. I think in most cases it is just going to basically be Disperse, which has been legal for a while and has seen almost no play, except to bounce Demonic Pact (and now you can just hand them a cat and the Pact at the same time). Decks in Standard rarely play the tempo game well enough to use a card that is just raw card disadvantage. The most frequent situation I see happening with this card is that you return a spell back to your opponent’s hand, they cast it the next turn, and you’re still in the same bind you were before.

I’ve also seen people discussing how good this card is against Abrupt Decay. I guess we can agree to disagree on that one. What I’m expecting to happen is that your opponent taps 2 mana to cast Abrupt Decay. You find that to be a repulsive claim and make sure they know it’s unsubstantiated, sending the Abrupt Decay back to their sweaty hand. Then they substantiate the claim by tapping 2 more mana and sending Abrupt Decay right back at target permanent with a converted mana cost of 3 or less. You bin your card and you both move on with your lives. “Target player loses two mana” isn’t exactly a powerhouse.

The card is good against Supreme Verdict, though. I will give it that.

Verdict: Good against Verdict, not so good elsewhere.

Emrakul’s getting coal from me for the holidays. What a monstrous act. Tree of Redemption was an awesome card, with some of the best art I’ve ever seen on a Magic card, and to have such a pure reflection of all that is good and holy be twisted and reversed into something dark is devastating.

One of the awesome things about Tree of Redemption is that if you had a way to put +1/+1 counters on it, you would actually slowly gain life by using it every turn. Tree of Redemption plus Gavony Township was a special little combo that I loved in Block Constructed. You’d have a giant blocker that they couldn’t really swing through, and you’d gain a few points of life a turn until you could turn the corner and finish them off. Tree of Redemption brings up a lot of nostalgia for some great times I had playing Magic. Tree of Perdition defiles that nostalgia and spits in my face.

Maybe they’ll print Gavony Brownship in this set, a land that activates to put -1/-1 counters across the board. Then you can start the combo with Tree of Perdition and drain them out one half of a point at a time. If that’s the case, then I can get on board.

I’ve seen some wildly different takes on this card. I’m going to give my own take, and then I’m going to pretend I never gave this take months from now when I’m proven horribly wrong, acting instead like I was correct all along on the card. After all, that’s what I hear spoiler season is all about.

Personally, I think this card is mediocre. It has a very high ceiling. Maybe people can find some nice combos to use with it that are consistent and not bad. It just seems very inconsistent to me and frequently going to be the kind of card that rots in hand when they kill off all of your creatures.

Most comparisons I’m seeing are to cards like Chord of Calling, Birthing Pod, Natural Order, and Green Sun’s Zenith. I think it pales in comparison to all of them. Those cards all had very high power levels and were far less reliant on other cards to make them good.

Birthing Pod sat in play and was reusable. This is like a one-time use Birthing Pod. Green Sun’s Zenith and Chord of Calling were both usable without requiring specific creatures in play to get the right amount of value, and Natural Order let you turn Llanowar Elves into Craterhoof Behemoth or Progenitus. This card lets you turn that Elf into a Kitchen Finks. Ouphe. Not quite the same impact.

I’m seeing hypotheticals about turning a Gurmag Angler into a Griselbrand or turning an Allosaurus Rider into big papa G-brand. While those both sound pretty awesome, what does this mystical deck look like? You’re playing Gurmag Angler but also casting a 1GG sorcery that requires you to sacrifice a creature? Sounds like a tough sell to me.

If I’m trying to put Griselbrand into play as early as possible, I’m probably just better served casting Faithless Looting and Goryo’s Vengeance. That sounds like a far more consistent way to cheat the Grisfather into play, and that deck hasn’t exactly been smashing events.

The issue I see with a card like this in Standard is that the 1GG cost is prohibitive, and the removal spells are so powerful and the threats so similarly powered that it’s hard to imagine this really dominating a game. You can turn your 5-drop into Dragonlord Atarka, but they both die to Declaration in Stone, Ruinous Path, or Stasis Snare, and Dragonlord Atarka might not even be that much of an upgrade on your 5-drop anyway. You can turn Matter Reshaper into Reality Smasher, but what kind of deck can support a 1GG sorcery and also play these Eldrazi? What happens if you don’t have the Reshaper? Are you going to turn a Thought-Knot Seer into a Endbringer? Even pulling off this combo means you’ve spent a card to put Reality Smasher into play one turn earlier. I’m not sure that’s good enough.

If it sees play anywhere, I’m expecting it to be in Modern and either be some sort of Protean Hulk combo deck or some sort of Chord of Calling style deck where you can search up a Kiki-Jiki, or Archangel of Thune and Spike Feeder, or the Kitchen Finks/Murderous Redcap combo. Even then I’m skeptical, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Baneslayer Angel’s little sister. I think this card is quite good. We live in a world dominated by combat steps, and this creature dominates the combat step. Lifelink is a very useful ability in this day and age, and flying is extremely relevant in the current metagame. I expect this card to see play.

I think it’s interesting that Gisela got smaller from her predecessor and Bruna got a lot bigger, but I guess that’s how it goes. I’m not sure how good Bruna will be, but I can imagine wanting to play one Bruna if I’m playing Gisela, just so you can assemble the dream.

Personally, I’m a little sad they went with Brisela. I was hoping they’d go with Brunela, if only so this tweet would have been prophetic.

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