Friday, November 29, 2013

Crypt Incursion

Anyone who complains that Wizards of the Coast doesn't print powerful Commons anymore hasn't taken a good look at Crypt Incursion.

The first effect of this card is pretty typical stuff for a Black Common. Black typically has the means to interact with the Graveyard, particularly to return creatures to hand from there, and thus it makes good design sense to have an answer to that particular ability. Interestingly enough, the ability to remove multiple cards from a Graveyard has fallen from favor with the design team. One has to look all the way back to Scars of Mirrodin block to find such an ability - namely, Nihil Spellbomb.

So while the first effect is good, the second effect is potentially back-breaking. I was curious about what similar effects existed in the past, so I did a quick Gatherer search. In the past, cards that could gain a variable amount of life equal to some resource have (with 1 exception) been either White or Green, with the most common such spell using creatures on the battlefield as this resource. Gnaw to the Bone is the most recent example, providing a similar effect without exiling the creatures. On the one hand, it uses a 2x multiplier instead of 3x. But on the other hand, it does have Flashback, allowing it to be cast twice.

Based on that research, this effect is not so far outside the boundaries of what is normally acceptable power-level at Common. However, the fact that Black gets access to such a large amount of Life seems to be a mistake. Sure, Black certainly gets access to lifegain, in the form of removal spells, drain-effects or the like. Black even gets the ability to gain a variable amount of Life. But this has always been tied to the number of Swamps in play, or more recently, the amount of Black mana symbols in play. And even then, such effects have been pushed back to Uncommon as of late - such as Corrupt.

Here's my main issue. Given its access to the best removal, Black lends itself well to Control archetypes. Such archetypes intrinsically play more powerful cards, but take longer to gain access to these effects. Thus the simplest way to beat them is to play an Aggro archetype, denying your opponent the time to take control of the game. But when Black has access to large amounts of Lifegain, this strategy is significantly weakened. And when this happens, you end up with a deck like Dimir Mill, which is well on its way to dominating the current Standard Pauper metagame. If you're interested in why I think this card has made this deck so overpowered, you can find some discussion here.

For this reason, I believe this card would have been better as a multicolor Golgari Common, with a casting cost of 1BlackGreen or even 2BlackGreen. Given its dual effect and power-level, such a casting cost would be more in line with what this card can do. Alternatively, one could also simply drop the variable lifegain, changing the card so that the caster simply gains 3 Life.

What do you think of my analysis? Am I overreacting? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading


  1. Interesting thoughts about a powerful card. You found some pretty key, hidden information about it. The fact that Crypt gains 3x life per quantifiable condition is pretty key, along with the color pie considerations. We can say for a fact now that nothing like Crypt Incursion has ever existed in Standard Pauper. That's a good reason to keep an eye on it.

  2. Yeah surely one of the best black commons printed for years. Has a slot in whatever blind Metagame. Dispel / Negate ruin it it actual std pauper meta. Cheers !!
    Fact that it's backed up by counter in mill list is the worst part. Aggro still has wayys on the play though. How lucky can aggro be ??

  3. nice read. keep the articles coming.