Answers… you have to have some…
Well, I call it “Utility”, as do many other Magic players.
There’s a basic question asked every time a player plays a spell in a game of Magic: Can you deal with this?
Usually the answer is dependent on the way your deck is built. Sure we all want to be able to have fun, but if we can’t deal with something put out by our opponent, and we can’t outrun them, we might as well extend the hand, congratulate them on a good game, and begin the next one. Hopefully you can sideboard, if you’re playing with one, some answers to that particular problem that cost you the game. If not, grab another deck.
Longtime players, both casual and tournament, can recall something that made it into play and made them wish WOTC had never made the card. A few problem children you may remember are Stasis, Kismet, Autumn Willow, Ali from Cairo, Tradewind Rider, Necropotence, most of the Urza’s Block cards, Island Sanctuary, Cadaverous Bloom, Intruder Alarm, Masticore, City of Solitude – always nice against blue players, and more recently an overwhelming number of different enchantments and creatures.
What made these cards so strong is that in your building of the perfect combo-deck, you didn’t have any room for something to deal with them. So that’s why you must now begin building a deck with all this in mind to start with. There are a lot of newer cards that are powerful. How can you play against them and still win? Simple, plan to play against them. Even when designing an all green beat-down deck you can plan for a little obstacle and have a way to plow through it.
Following are some examples of cards from different colors and how easy it is for them to act as an answer to a problem you’re facing:
Green, Chain of Acid is perfect for green. Can they target it back at your non-creature permanents, sure, but then you’d always end up the one better off, because you could hit them again. Destroy anything that’s not a creature, for four mana. Two things green can quickly produce: Creatures and Mana. Think about it. Any Enchantment, Land, or Artifact sitting there daring you to beat it is now beaten. As for creatures – you have Answers inherent in green: Genesis, for creature control decks, Krosan tusker, land and draw advantage doesn’t get any better, Seedborn Muse allows you to do as much as you want every turn, and believe it or not, Kamahl, Fist of Krosa. If someone wants to play Wrath of God – just turn all their lands into creatures, same for Mutilate, Earthquake, and Evacuation. I promise – they won’t do much for long without their lands.
White is another wonderful color for Utility cards. Best of all just came out in Onslaught – Akroma’s Vengeance. Anyone here remember a Nevinyrral’s Disk? This may not be as cheap, but it has an edge over the old disk. It can’t be Disenchanted, Naturalized, Shattered, Kill Switched, Null Rodded, or anything that can stop it from untapping, or using it’s activated ability. Even better – if you don’t need it you can cycle it! It’s a draw and not a wasted card. I don’t see how the disk compares unless it’s the actual “artifact” characteristic. As for others: Vengeful Dreams, perfect ambush card, Wrath of God and Armageddon, the old standbys, CoPs, mean, mean tech there, and now Sigil of New Dawn, which dares your opponents to kill your creatures. White even got more removal for creatures and graveyards in Astral Slide and Morningtide. And White even gets a little dirty with something called Solitary Confinement.
Red has recently taken a step in a different direction. More Damage and a “Double-Strike” creature move red into a more powerful category. Cards such as Temporary Insanity, a 2 for 1 card, “Punisher” cards, and now Goblins have come out blazing trails. Goblin Sharpshooter is strong on it’s own, mix it with a Gratuitous violence and enjoy your trip through the killing fields. Boil, Devastation, Desolation Giant, Jokulhaups, and Wake of Destruction are all extremely strong. Radiate has tinkered more blue in red than ever, Skullscorh shares in Black’s discard passion, and Obliterate is an Akroma’s Vengeance, red’s style of course.
Blue – well I think Blue stinks… All I need to say about Blue is that it stinks…
Black, well, it’s come a long way. Besides minimal land destruction, more graveyard manipulation, and discarding, black is a creature color. Its strengths are speed and manipulation. Mutilate, Haunting Echoes, Mind Sludge, Dark Banishing, and Chainer’s Edict have broken through the market and made it into the World’s best decks. Demonic Tutor, Dark Ritual and Vampiric Tutor let Black go get exactly what it needs to win. Necropotence and Yawgmoth’s Bargain have no equal in draw advantage. The graveyard control it has makes threshold decks beg for mercy. Gravestorm and Planar Void are perfect examples of cards that bane a graveyard. The new Zombie tribal effects will be noteworthy to plan against in the coming M:TG seasons. All said, Black’s only true weakness is enchantments. It has a hard time dealing with them.
Answers, or Utility, are extremely important to have in a deck. My personal advice would be to run at least 8 utility spells in every deck. Who knows, they may stop you from having to stare at a Stasis, or your opponent, for longer than necessary. And for guys, unless she looks extremely beautiful, that could be a torturous thing to go through.