Breaking Spell Queller

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
7/14/2016 11:01:00 AM
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I'm going to cut straight to the chase.

I can't believe how powerful Spell Queller is. Looking at the Eldritch Moon spoilers, Spell Queller stands out as perhaps the most busted card in the set. It is the kind of card where you read it and it floors you: does it have to have flying? And be a 2/3 creature? And only cost three mana?

The most obvious archetype that clearly wants four copies of Spell Queller is W/U Spirits. Here is the pre-Eldritch Moon list that Brennan DeCandio has helped popularize:

W/U Aggro by Brennan DeCandio
Finished 3rd - 4th Place at 2016 SCG Open Standard - Orlando - 6/18
Main Deck
Sideboard
1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
3 Archangel Avacyn
3 Bygone Bishop
4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
3 Hanweir Militia Captain
4 Knight of the White Orchid
4 Rattlechains
3 Reflector Mage
4 Thraben Inspector
Creatures [29]
3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Planeswalkers [3]
2 Ojutai's Command
3 Stasis Snare
Spells [5]
2 Meandering River
12 Plains (283)
4 Port Town
4 Prairie Stream
1 Westvale Abbey
Lands [23]
Deck Total [60]


1 Archangel Avacyn
3 Archangel of Tithes
2 Declaration in Stone
1 Felidar Cub
3 Negate
1 Ojutai's Command
1 Reflector Mage
2 Secure the Wastes
1 Stratus Dancer
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!

This deck is kind of a hodgepodge of different creatures, not a dedicated Spirits deck. Moving forward, expect for Spell Queller to take the place of some of the non-Spirits here.

Rattlechains is a card that is significantly better now that it has more Spirits to protect. Being able to protect Spell Queller in particular is nice, as preventing the opponent from getting their exiled spell back is pretty important. Some of the creatures, like Rattlechains and Archangel Avacyn, already have flash, and now an additional flash creature is being added to that mix. Flash threats are difficult to play around, especially when the opponent is representing a number of different ones.

The way DeCandio built the deck, there are a few synergistic creatures, but overall the deck is trying to do too much. Going in the direction of a W/U Flash deck is one route, and going the other way and making it a dedicated Spirits deck is another direction.

W/U Spirits by Seth Manfield
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Bygone Bishop
4 Mausoleum Wanderer
4 Nebelgast Herald
2 Niblis of Frost
4 Rattlechains
4 Selfless Spirit
4 Spell Queller
Creatures [26]
2 Clash of Wills
3 Essence Flux
1 Ojutai's Command
2 Stasis Snare
2 Unsubstantiate
Spells [10]
7 Island (286)
2 Meandering River
7 Plains (283)
4 Port Town
4 Prairie Stream
Lands [24]
Deck Total [60]







Click for full deck stats & notes!

This is just about as dedicated a Spirits deck as possible. There is some consideration for playing good non-Spirits, like Reflector Mage, but that would take away from the overall concept of overloading on Spirits. It just so happens that the Spirits here are all reasonable rates, so the mana curve is pretty low. For this reason there are only 24 lands, though it still could be correct to add one more land.

The manabase is perfect, as the vast majority of the time you will have access to both of your colors. Not only are we playing Port Town and Prairie Stream, but there are also a couple of Meandering Rivers.

There are more Spirit synergies than just Rattlechains. The only one-drop in the deck is Mausoleum Wanderer, and it is quite good. It's at its best when you're curving out, and even nibbling at your opponent's life total for one damage isn't too bad. There will be some opportunities to pump him up once, or in rare situations twice, up to a 3/3. The only downside to Mausoleum Wanderer is that it incentivizes playing creatures during your turn to help get in more damage, and that means not getting to take full advantage of the flash creatures in some spots.

There will be times when you will need to think about if the advantages of main-phasing a flash threat outweigh waiting until the opponents' turn to cast it. Nebelgast Herald is another synergistic Spirit that's a bit under the radar. This card is going to be great when trying to race the opponent and will prevent any opposing flyers from blocking. Or you can flash it in and use it defensively to stop your opponent from attacking. I expect it to be used defensively more often, but if the opponent does try to flash in something like Archangel Avacyn during your turn, this can stop the big angel from blocking.

There is a lot of redundancy here; generally, a two-power flyer for two mana is a pretty good rate, especially with another effect tacked on. For example, Selfless Spirit is good to start with, but the fact that it can also save a Spell Queller or Niblis of Frost is nice. If an opponent has mass removal like Radiant Flames, Selfless Spirit becomes even more important, but expect to sacrifice it in order to save one of your more important creatures the majority of the time.

As far as the noncreature spells are concerned there aren't all that many of them, hence only two copies of Niblis of Frost. The focal point here is having a bunch of Spirits, but that doesn't mean the support cards are unimportant. Unsubstantiate is such a versatile card that it should see a reasonable amount of play.

There isn't that much actual removal outside the two Stasis Snares, as generally you can tap down, bounce, or counter opposing creatures. Essence Flux is something opponents won't see coming, and this is the perfect deck for it. Saving a creature from opposing removal with Essence Flux is optimal, but alternatively simply blinking a guy, giving it a counter, and then getting the trigger when it comes back into play is pretty nice.

W/U Spirits deck has a ton of new tools, and Spell Queller helps increase the power level here. Earlier I mentioned that there is also a different direction you can go that operates at instant speed more with less emphasis on the Spirit theme.

W/U Flash by Seth Manfield
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Archangel Avacyn
4 Dimensional Infiltrator
2 Elder Deep-Fiend
4 Rattlechains
4 Reflector Mage
4 Spell Queller
Creatures [22]
4 Clash of Wills
3 Declaration in Stone
2 Ojutai's Command
2 Secure the Wastes
2 Stasis Snare
Spells [13]
6 Island (286)
3 Meandering River
6 Plains (283)
4 Port Town
4 Prairie Stream
2 Westvale Abbey
Lands [25]
Deck Total [60]







Click for full deck stats & notes!

There aren't as many creatures as the version playing more Spirits — this is more of a control deck. Elder Deep-Fiend is a card I am pretty excited about, and acts as an enabler for Archangel Avacyn in order to flip it. It works best when casting Reflector Mage on turn three, so as to have Elder Deep-Fiend available on turn four.

This deck is similar to the blue/red decks that also play the flash fliers like Rattlechains and Dimensional Infiltrator alongside countermagic. Since this deck isn't going to come out of the gates as quickly as some of the other decks in the format, there is a need for spot removal like Declaration in Stone. The card choices here may not seem as straightforward when compared to the Spirits list because the deck's not confined to only one creature type.

Bant Company variants will almost certainly attempt to play Spell Queller, and for good reason. I don't want to talk about throwing Spell Queller into a deck that is already a well-established three color deck, so instead, let's talk Esper.

One of the biggest vulnerabilities Spell Queller has is opposing removal. When it dies the opponent will always get to cast their card you originally exiled right?

There is actually one direction to go that makes casting a removal spell targeting Spell Queller a lot less effective.

Processors are the best way to make it so cards exiled with Spell Queller, or enchantment removal like Stasis Snare don't ever return to the opponent. This is my Esper Processors list:

Esper Processors by Seth Manfield
Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Blight Herder
1 Oblivion Sower
4 Spell Queller
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
4 Wasteland Strangler
Creatures [14]
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Sorin, Grim Nemesis
Planeswalkers [3]
1 Anguished Unmaking
2 Declaration in Stone
3 Horribly Awry
1 Painful Truths
1 Quarantine Field
2 Silkwrap
2 Stasis Snare
3 Transgress the Mind
2 Void Shatter
Spells [17]
4 Evolving Wilds
5 Island (286)
3 Plains (283)
4 Prairie Stream
4 Shambling Vent
4 Sunken Hollow
2 Swamp (289)
Lands [26]
Deck Total [60]







Click for full deck stats & notes!

Even though in its current configuration there is only one card here from Eldritch Moon — Spell Queller — it enables the entire deck in a way that makes it unable to exist without it. This is certainly a control deck, and one that is capable of turning Spell Queller into a full blown Counterspell, while still having the Spell Queller in play to attack the opponent. Anytime you are able to live the dream with this deck and Spell Queller an opposing spell, untap and then play either a Wasteland Stranger or Blight Herder, it becomes extremely difficult for the opponent to mount a comeback.

It is necessary to make exile effects a priority, but there are actually a ton of them that are very much Standard playable, so it isn't really a huge cost. This deck is consistently able to process cards when casting Wasteland Strangler or Blight Herder in exchange for playing so many forms of removal, counters, and discard that will exile opposing cards. The numbers here are a bit wonky, and can be played around with a bit, but it is important to be able to have the right mix of interaction and win conditions.

We have access to a wide variety of removal, and Blight Herder is a fantastic finisher. While it is possible to win with a smaller threat, a Planeswalker, or even Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, Blight Herder is the primary win condition. The reason is that the Eldrazi Scions can be leveraged as attackers, even in situations where the Blight Herder itself is dealt with. Out of the three brews featuring Spell Queller, this is the one that revolves the most around it. While W/U Spirits was a deck before the existence of Spell Queller, this type of control deck is primarily unexplored territory.

Each of these lists feels like a fantastic home for Spell Queller. Expect early on for the straight W/U Spirits lists to be the most popular home for Spell Queller, but when you see blue and white lands on the opposite side of the table this is a card that you need to constantly be aware of. The way Standard is being played is moving towards more and more flash creatures, and it will keep players constantly on their toes. I'm looking forward to getting in more games, as all of these lists are preliminary ideas, looking toward Pro Tour Eldritch Moon.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield




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