While you may be wondering if Dauthi Voidwalker is playable enough, some people have called it the best card in the set! Let's break it down to see why that might be the case.
Cost—quite prohibitive. Not a lot of strategies are able to produce two black mana by turn two. We're looking for decks that are mostly black. By that token, Mono-Black, Black-Red Midrange, Boomer/Shadow Jund, Stoneblade, Rogues, Yawgmoth, and The Rock are the archetypes that can try to fit it in. Proper control decks would have a tough time doing so, especially as most run Archmage's Charm whose cost is super difficult to pull off already. It narrows down the range quite significantly, so regardless of how good the card is, we'll have to see if the decks supporting it are also playable.
Shadow—interesting choice of ability, but practically speaking it means "can't block" and "can't be blocked." It's nice to have evasion on a 3/2 body. With just 2 toughness it would have a hard time profitably blocking or attacking into blockers. I really like this design. In addition, being unblockable incentivizes the player to attack and potentially not use the activated ability. Creates interesting tension and actual choices.
If a card would be put into an opponent's graveyard from anywhere, instead exile it with a void counter on it.—basically Leyline of the Void on a stick. On the one hand, it's worse as it does not come down on turn zero and is easier to remove. However, what makes it super annoying for graveyard strategies (I'm looking at you, Dredge) is that it's easily maindeckable. I've also mentioned that you can kill it, but many linear graveyard decks don't have creature removal main, so that may not be much of a downside at all. While it impacts Living End and Dredge heavily, it inflicts collateral damage on a lot more decks. Dauthi Voidwalker stops modular triggers, so Hardened Scales and Affinity can't use Arcbound Ravager properly. It's an inconvenience Snapcaster Mage and Tarmogoyf decks will want to deal with. It mildly annoys decks running cards such as Lava Dart or Bedlam Reveler. It hits all the Lurrus of the Dream-Den decks, virtually turning off the companion. Finally, it shuts off Ovalchase Daredevil, Feasting Troll King, Emry, Lurker of the Loch, and Cauldron Familiar from the new Food decks as well as various Vengevine shenanigans.
Tap, Sacrifice Dauthi Voidwalker: Choose an exiled card an opponent owns with a void counter on it. You may play it this turn without paying its mana cost.—So basically, if the Dauthi has been around for a turn, you can trade it in for one card it exiled, at no extra cost. Most people still can't believe that this ability lets you cast a spell for free. Why? You can summon Voidwalker, then on turn three use Thoughtseize to take their Primeval Titan, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, or Jace, the Mind Sculptor and just play it. If you pull this small combo off, you're getting a huge advantage. And both cards are reasonable on their own. Now, that's the ceiling of the ability. The floor is … also relatively good, provided the Dauthi lives long enough for you to activate it at all. I've had games were it exiled my Archmage's Charm and my Jund opponent now always had the option to draw two or cast a free counterspell—unbelievably annoying. Even if I wanted to remove it via Fatal Push, they'd still draw two in response.
Combined you get an aggressively slanted, unblockable Leyline of the Void that has the potential to play your opponents' cards, regardless of their mana cost. Pretty good, right? Oh, very good indeed. It's certainly an A tier card.
How can you utilize it in practice, though? Let's look at a couple of examples from recent Magic Online Challenges. Both of the following lists appeared in multiple Top 32s.
If you pay close attention to one more aspect of the card, you'll see that its type is Dauthi Rogue. So clearly it will synergize with the Rogues strategy that has been fringe playable in the format for some time, right? Yes and no. A lot of people really love flash tempo strategies and Faeries is their favorite unplayable pet deck. Rogues has been quite close to being competitive and fulfilling the dream and now we get a new powerful Rogue … which exiles the graveyard? It's quite surprising as the whole theme around the tribe is to put eight cards into your opponent's graveyard to unlock various bonuses: usually that includes a discounted Into the Story, getting a hard counter/removal in Drown in the Loch, and even here we have to consider the stat boosts on Thieves' Guild Enforcer and Soaring Thought-Thief. Yet we run four copies of a card that explicitly prevents the opponent's graveyard from filling up.
Let me put a big thick bolded but here. This mill approach in a way actually synergizes with the Dauthi as you mill over cards and quickly get a sizeable selection from which to cast one. If you expect the meta to be full of combo, graveyard strategies, or ramp, it's perfectly reasonable to push for that plan. You get to exile key combo pieces, trump graveyard decks completely, and cast a big fatty from ramp decks. In addition, you can pop Dauthi, cast whatever rare or mythic you've exiled, and then continue milling as normal. Also—you won't always have it early. It is not unreasonable to be in a situation when you've milled your opponent a bunch, topdeck Dauthi, and use its ability later, keeping the graveyard intact.
This strategy abuses our Voidwalker in an interesting way, adding an astounding angle to a deck that already is a fan favorite. We will see where the shell goes from here, but it's already placed in the Top 32 of two consecutive Modern Challenges, piloted by the same player. Something's cooking.
The inclusion of Dauthi Voidwalker in Esper Blade is a curious one as, on the surface, it does not synergize much with the overall strategy. Tough it's fair to say that it works well with discard spells in general. You can always go turn two Dauthi, turn three discard into the thing you've made the opponent exile. What it does to this strategy specifically is that it provides another powerful two-drop, which the deck lacked. If you draw both, you get to choose and they are better in different scenarios. For example, you don't really want Dauthi against aggressive red decks. On the other hand, an early Voidwalker is better than Stoneforge Mystic against any number of combo decks. If you're up against Titan and have Thoughtseize in hand, it's probably better to play the Voidwalker and try to spike a Primeval Titan with the discard spell. Getting rid of your opponent's main threat while getting a threat of your own plus the ability to hold up Counterspell still … You've basically secured a win on turn three.
It's an additional angle of attack that nicely fits the curve of the deck. It wouldn't work as well in an actual control deck as those don't want to play too many creatures or discard spells. Here, though, you're putting pressure on your opponent anyway, so a sorcery-speed threat that's also able to carry Equipment past all blockers is looking quite good.
Dauthi Voidwalker is going to be a Modern all-star. It's powerful, it's versatile, it's a maindeckable piece of graveyard hate. I do expect to see it more and more often. But I am not afraid, I've got my Fatal Pushes ready. As always, hold my hand and let's pass the turn together. Cheers!
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