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By: jay85, Jay Nelson
Apr 09 2015 12:00pm
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Modern can be a ruthless format. You can test all day long against Affinity, Junk, and Amulet of Vigor, just to play in a Daily event and lose to American Control and Tron.

This is a diverse format with many people trying to do very different things in order to win. Your deck of choice will only be able to handle a certain number of the opposition. It can be a huge task trying to tweak your sideboard week after week, attempting to keep up with the metagame.

But there are some cards that are so versatile in what they do and can be used against a wide range of decks that they warrant an inclusion in numerous builds, and I think this particular card deserves the spotlight the most. The card is colorless so it can be played in any deck, its converted mana cost is 2 so it fits right in there with most of the other popular cards of the format, it has a sizeable toughness so it can efficiently block most creatures, and it produces some sort of interaction against a lot of the unfair decks.                                            

Spellskite                                                                            

That’s right. It’s no surprise to many of us why Spellskite is so good. Some players run this guy in their main and even more save a slot or two in their sideboard for this little fella. I’m not here though to brag about how great Spellskite is. I think most people who play Modern regularly already know he is an awesome inclusion in most any build.

Instead, I want to go over some of the strategies and interactions Spellskite can accomplish in a match. I’ve played with and against Spellskite plenty of times, and I've seen players misuse the card so frequently that I think it is a good idea to go over exactly what Spellskite can and cannot do.

 

Lightning Bolt Abrupt Decay Path to Exile

Let me first get the obvious out of the way. Spellskite is great to use as a sponge, soaking up removal intended for your other creatures that you probably want to live more than you want Spellskite to. Splinter Twin comes to mind immediately, which is why when I play the deck I always opt for at least a single copy in the main and another in the side.

Getting two-for-one when playing Splinter Twin can happen frequently and it mostly occurs when you are trying to attach Splinter Twin to your Deceiver Exarch or Pestermite. Having a Spellskite on the battlefield before trying to combo off is a nice security blanket. But the creature is also just as good against you. Spellskite is the main reason why most Splinter Twin decks run Flame Slash, Twisted Image, or both in the main. That 0/4 Artifact is really that good against the deck that it warrants you to run mainboard hate against it.

 

Keep in mind though that Spellskite cannot redirect the more narrow removal spells that see some sort of play in Modern. Cards like Ultimate Price, Combust, and Go for the Throat are excellent to bring in against Splinter Twin. If you can’t run Combust then your best options for your sideboard would be the other removal mentioned; or an even BETTER option is to save those coveted sideboard slots and just run Spellskite.

 

Sword of Feast and Famine Daybreak Coronet Apostle's Blessing

When people misplay with Spellskite it usually has something to do with these cards (or cards similar to those).

Opponents’ Equipment activations cannot be redirected to your Spellskite since Equip specifically states, "Equip to a creature you control," so save yourself the mana or the two life and don’t try to steal your opponent’s Batterskull.

For most decks playing against Bogles, your best answer is Spellskite. It literally shuts down your opponent from doing pretty much anything until they remove it from the battlefield. With that said, the one enchantment in the deck that Spellskite can’t deal with is Daybreak Coronet. The enchantment specifically states you may only attach it to a creature already enchanted by an Aura. So of course if you are given the chance to redirect their Hyena Umbra and then they try to resolve Daybreak Coronet later on, you can effectively redirect it to Spellskite, but don’t count on your opponent ever giving you that opportunity.

When it comes to decks that are attempting to do their own thing and win fast (decks like Burn, Bogles, or Infect) your Spellskite will prove itself to be an all-star. But with that said, Infect does have a good answer for it, and that answer would have to be Apostle's Blessing. Not only can Spellskite NOT redirect it because it states, “An artifact or creature you control,” but it also gives their Glistener Elf protection from artifacts which prevents you from even chump-blocking it. I’ve fallen for this trap before, trying to redirect Apostle's Blessing only to have wasted 2 life for nothing (luckily for me your life total is not very relevant against a deck like Infect, but it was still embarrassing none-the-less).

 

Forked Bolt Electrolyze

Often times players will usually screw up and use Spellskite’s ability against spells that have multiple targets. If your opponent has chosen multiple targets for their Electrolyze and if one of those targets is Spellskite, then you cannot redirect anything to it. Basically, if Spellskite is already a target then you can't make it both targets for that spell.

 

Rift Bolt Shard Volley

Spellskite can prove useful against Burn decks, as well. Save for a few spells, Burn usually deals damage in increments of three. So even if you have to pay the life to activate Spellskite, and it can survive for any decent length of time, you could potentially prevent a significant amount of damage to your face. And even if Spellskite is destroyed after redirecting just one spell, such as a Rift Bolt, you've still prevented one point of damage. Against Burn this could end up being huge for you later on in the game.


Does Spellskite single-handedly beat Burn? The answer is sadly no. But can it buy you enough time to stabilize? Yes, it can. A Spellskite on the battlefield needs to be dealt with or else you will be turning their Lightning Bolts into Pillar of Flames, and over the course of a game you could be preventing 7+ damage. Against this type of deck every point of damage prevented is like gaining one life. Most of the time destroying Spellskite requires the red mage to two-for-one-himself, and when Burn can't afford to be wasting its precious spells on anything other than you, every spell being spent dealing with Spellskite your odds of winning increases.

All I'm doing here is trying to prove that a lot of times playing against Burn is a gamble in itself. For many decks it can even feel like a lost cause from the very beginning, and for those decks it may not seem right to bring in Spellskite against Burn when there are better options out there. Cards like Dragon's Claw, Kor Firewalker, and Leyline of Sanctity spring to mind. I'm not saying you shouldn't have these in your sideboard because you should, but what I am trying to get at is those cards are pretty narrow solutions to only one or two types of decks whereas Spellskite can handle a wider variety of strategies. Modern is too wide open to be filling your sideboard up with narrow answers. You need something that can be used against a plethora of decks. Sure, Spellskite is not the best against Burn, but if you are thinking about what to cut from your sideboard so you can squeeze in that Rest for the Weary, the card not to replace is Spellskite.

 

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

There are even some interesting outs Spellskite can accomplish that many players don’t see during the moment of an intense game. One such occasion is when playing against the deck Scapeshift.

Let’s say you have Spellskite out and your opponent casts Scapeshift. She stacks all the Valakut triggers and then passes priority. At this time you can redirect all those triggers to your Spellskite. Even if you pay the two life for each activation you can still live to keep fighting. For those of you who may be confused by this play I’ll try to break it down a little better. Without Spellskite Valakut will deal 18 damage with six Mountains (3x6=18). But paying life to activate Spellskite you will only take a total of 12 damage (2x6=12). The Spellskite will be destroyed after the first two triggers resolve but after that the rest of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle’s triggers will fizzle because by the time they resolve there will be no legal targets for them. 

It’s surprising how many people don’t see the play when it’s right in front of them, but hey, that’s Magic: The Gathering for ya, and I guarantee you everyone who has played the game long enough will have made errors like this at some point. 

 

Timely Reinforcements Pulse of the Fields

Unless you are perfect and have never tried to redirect a spell or ability that Spellskite can’t actually redirect to itself, then you know that Spellskite can target anything on the stack regardless if it is actually a legal target. If someone casts Lava Spike you can activate Spellskite in response targeting that spell, but Spellskite’s ability will ultimately fizzle and the original target will remain unchanged. But did you know that sometimes it may actually be the correct play to do something like that?

Take for instance Timely Reinforcements. If you have more life than your opponent and you don’t want him to gain that six life off it because you have him dead next turn, you can pay the life targeting Timely Reinforcements with Spellskite until your life total is less, thus effectively countering the life he would have gained. It is a narrow situation but what I want you to take away from this is to always be thinking about your options during a game. What could seem wrong 99% of the time may, for once in your life, actually be the right call to make.

 

Conclusion:

I would like to leave you with some popular cards that see play in Modern that Spellskite either can or cannot be used for. My aim here is not to name every single card. Modern’s card pool is much too vast for that. My goal is to show off some cards for you to study and learn why Spellskite can redirect those but not the others. Some of these may seem obvious to you, but maybe some of them aren't. If you have anything to add that you think is worth noting, please share it with us!

Spells or abilities Spellskite CANNOT redirect:

The Rack Skullcrack Ultimate Price Combust Kiki-jiki, Mirror Breaker

Spells or abilities Spellskite CAN redirect:

(Note: The only ability on Arcbound Ravager that can successfully be redirected is the last part of its Modular ability when it dies.)

Arcbound Ravager Slayers' Stronghold Sower of Temptation Pestermite Doom Blade 

4 Comments

$25 by mindlesslemming at Thu, 04/09/2015 - 12:30
mindlesslemming's picture

yep! that's why its ~$25!

I've tried replying to those by jay85 at Fri, 04/10/2015 - 22:17
jay85's picture

I've tried replying to those using Facebook but for some reason my replies will not show. I don't why? But anyways, David Porzio, Valakut's triggers only need a legal target in order to put them on the stack. They do not need a legal target upon resolution. When the triggers resolve and their target is no longer on the battlefield or has been given hexproof, etc. then those triggers will be countered because of no legal target. It is not a bug. Nothing in Magic says a spell or ability has to have a legal target in order to resolve.

@David Porzio: I think the by Procrastination at Sat, 04/11/2015 - 11:29
Procrastination's picture
5

@David Porzio: I think the confusion is because there is a difference between Spellskite's ability to redirect the target of a spell or ability and actual damage redirection. The ability of Valakut is what is being redirected; the damage happens has a the result of the ability. Spellskite can only change targets; it never redirects damage. (Your question to the judge would apply to a card like Shining Shoal.)

A nice idea for an article. There are a lot of cards in Modern that offer flexible options that could inspire more articles like this!

A counter-Skite technique for those looking to fight against Skite. While Skite's ability is on the stack, if you remove it before the ability resolves, the original target will be retained. So for a deck like Burn or Zoo, getting them to pay 2 life and then throwing out a Smash To Smithereens or a Path nets you a free "Shock".

That counter-skite play is a by jay85 at Sat, 04/11/2015 - 16:00
jay85's picture

That counter-skite play is a pretty good one. Thanks for the tip. I like it!