Dangerous Propositions: Seething Song
The Modern ban list is a maximum security prison with 33 inmates, some of which pose a serious threat to the meta. But now that Big Jace has been released, anything can happen. Let's review each of those offenders to see if they're eligible for parole. This time we talk of red's biggest mana ritual.
Seething Song was banned in Modern in January 2013, which means it was legal in the format for less than two of the almost seven years of its life. And I, for one, am still livid about it, because my thesis is that it was the wrong scapegoat. Here's why.
The only reason Seething Song was banned to begin with was that Storm needed a further spanking. Banning the best, cheapest diggers in Ponder and Preordain didn't stop it, so it was decided to attack its mana production. Rite of Flame was already gone, and that was one obvious target, since the first Rite of Flame you cast is good, the second is Dark Ritual, the third and the fourth are insane. And, of course, Storm would cast them all while going off, then cast them again in reverse order through Past in Flames.
What was left in the format by that point, as far as red rituals go, was this trio:
At the time, Erik Lauer justified the choice this way:
"Looking at the results of games, turn-three wins are frequent for Storm, contrary to the DCI's stated goals for the format. The DCI looked for a card that was very important to the turn-three wins but not one of the cards that make this deck unique. We decided Seething Song is the best choice. Even with no other mana acceleration, one can cast Seething Song on turn three and it gives a net acceleration of +2 mana. While there are other options for fast mana, none appear as efficient and reliable on turn three as Seething Song."
Sure, Seething Song nets you +2 mana, just like Dark Ritual. Except there's a big difference between doing it on turn one and doing it on turn three. Such difference wouldn't concern Storm, of course, but let's focus for a moment on the projected idea of trying not to hit "one of the cards that make this deck unique." I'm not sure I follow this line of reasoning. Aren't the cards that make the deck unique most likely also the cards that make it too powerful? And I believe this directly conflicts with another of DCI's stated goals: while persecuting big offenders, try not to remove from the format cards that are used by other, smaller archetypes, chiefly cards without which those archetypes can't function anymore. I posit Seething Song was one of those cards, yet nobody noticed, because the archetype that got destroyed as collateral damage was quite unassuming.
Small-Time Big Red
I happened to play that archetype at the time. It was a Big Red kind of build with Koth of the Hammer as a centerpiece and Seething Song to accelerate into one of these bad boys on turn three.
There's a reason you never heard of it. It wasn't very consistent. Sure, one of those hasty flyers on turn three makes for a beating, but it takes just one removal to turn it into a two-for-one, against a deck that didn't traffic in card advantage much, if at all. But it was fun and took people by surprise. In the end I went with the Demigod as the main beater, because it's still five damage on turn three with a Song, but it's also able to recur its previous copies, if the opponent didn't exile them; and even if the latest copy is countered, the older ones still come back, which is something most people don't realize until it's too late. At its heyday, the deck would look like this (of course, today there would be a set of Chandra, Torch of Defiance in there):
Hammertime, circa Fall 2012
|24Lands||15Creatures and Planeswalkers||21Other Spells|
|20Mountain||4Demigod of Revenge||2Arc Trail|
|4Arid Mesa||4Inferno Titan||4Devil's Play|
|1Chandra, the Firebrand||2Mizzium Mortars|
|2Karn Liberated||2Red Sun's Zenith|
|4Koth of the Hammer||4Slagstorm|
|4Blood Moon||3Ghostfire||2Shattering Spree|
Once the Song was gone, the deck folded. There was simply no way to replace that degree of acceleration, either on turn three or later, to help cast a Karn Liberated or a Devil's Play from the graveyard for lethal. I relentlessly tried to make it work in other ways, to no avail. I tried Generator Servant. I tried Infernal Plunge on something like Goblin Arsonist or Perilous Myr. Heck, I even tried Braid of Fire with flashers like Bogardan Hellkite, instants like Comet Storm, and Akroma, Angel of Fury's morph activation. It just went from goofy to disastrous. There was no fixing it, sadly. It was gone.
A Song of Fire and Fire
So here we are in 2018, with a Song-less format where the other red Rituals still run rampant. Because they do, make no mistake. Looking back at Lauer's statement, turn-three wins may not be as frequent for Storm as they used to be, but the deck is certainly not foreign to them. A build like this, I would say, is absolutely capable of winning on turn three often enough:
Baral Storm, June 2018
|1Mountain||4Baral, Chief of Compliance||4Desperate Ritual|
|2Island||2Goblin Electromancer||4Gifts Ungiven|
|4Spirebluff Canal||1Noxious Revival|
|2Past in Flames|
|4Sleight of Hand|
|1Abrade||1Echoing Truth||1Empty the Warrens|
|1Gigadrowse||3Lightning Bolt||4Pieces of the Puzzle|
|2Pyromancer Ascension||1Shattering Spree||1Wipe Away|
Should Seething Song be unbanned, the current Storm archetype would almost certainly give it its old slots back. Therefore, a switch would be needed, quite naturally. My dangerous proposition is, then: what if Seething Song was reintroduced into the meta but one of the other Rituals was nixed? I don't think Storm would be better because of it. If anything, it would be slightly worse, because it would exchange a faster spell that you can cast off Manamorphose with a slower one that you can't. And I know for a fact there would be decks that would salute Seething Song's return with a smile, decks that currently don't exist (anymore), and most importantly, decks that wouldn't pose any serious threat to the meta, while on the contrary enriching it, opening the road for the inclusion of unseen midrange wonders like Demigod of Revenge. No current major archetype would be reinforced by Seething Song, including Storm, provided one of the other Rituals was gone. Sure, you could chain the remaining Ritual into Seething Song to cast a scary threat on turn two, but it doesn't sound like a good idea, since it would just be a three-for-one waiting to happen. There would need to be some indestructible hexproof monored fattie to justify such a move, and something like that will never exist.
All in all, I long for the time when midrange monored decks will be able to go from three mana to five once again, and once again a song for mana will be heard through these wretched halls.
Dangerous Propositions Archive
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