Forgotten Heroes: Power Sink

Sancho is back with another forgotten hero of Magic – Power Sink! Take a journey with him as he walks you through the mysterious interrupt card type. Everyone's seen it, but few understand what it means. Sancho has the answer here!

Wait a second! The typical exclamation of a blue mage used to be not about waiting a minute, but about waiting a second – or some might even say a split second. This was back in a previous millennium when the world was young, and the Magic was still strong. This was back in the days of a long-lost type of cards, the interrupt.

Many things can be factored in, when trying to pinpoint why I stopped playing Magic around the turn of the century. Friends getting older, everyone establishing themselves with jobs and families and the inevitable drifting apart with each chance meeting being about that we should all meet up like in the good old days. Also, the game changed. While banding definitely made for more interesting games than flanking (one of the last abilities I had to learn about in my first life as a Magic player) and while mana burn would be missed, since I actually did make decks with Power Surge, one final straw that made my interest in the game decline even faster was the removal of an entire card type!

Chaoslace Lifelace Purelace
While the elimination of the interrupt card type affected some cards a lot, nobody probably cares that the cycle of laces (that you risked pulling as your rare from Alpha and until 4th Edition) are now instants that you will never play instead of interrupts you never played.

20 years later, players who weren't even born when interrupts so abruptly got the boot from Wizards may think that this is no big deal. These green and quite possibly actual green mages (due to the recent pushing of that color) may say: After all, weren't interrupts just some cryptic instants that came with a load of rules baggage without offering much in the way of game play? And any mage blue for the past (and possibly actually blue due to the past power of that color) will answer with a resounding NO!

Game Interrupted

The ability to literally interrupt game flow made a huge difference, and without doubt, the card that lost most when interrupts were errata'ed to instants was Power Sink. Power Sink, also known as The Man with the Yellow Fingers in my playgroup was one of my favorite cards trailing right behind Stasis and used in so many more decks than the sweet enchantment (which by the way also has not seen print since 5th Edition which was the last core set to feature interrupts). While the classic Counterspell of course did have its merits and many of my decks had a playset of them, Power Sink was even more used, since it only required one blue mana to cast and therefore was easier to hold mana up for in a two- or three-colored deck.

While it is a blue counterspell with X in the casting cost and it does have an edge above Power Sink because it exiles spells it counters, Syncopate loses a lot of power in some circumstances by not forcing your opponent to tap out and empty their mana pool.

As anyone who has played the weak heir of Power Sink Syncopate knows, there are downsides to playing a counter requiring you to keep up enough mana to tap out your opponent, but even as an instant Power Sink has an upside over Syncopate – at least for a Stasis-lover: It forces your opponent to tap out instead of giving them the choice to keep their mana up and let the targeted spell be countered. Now imagine how Power Sink used to work when it was an interrupt.

You Sunk My Power Sink

The opponent has finally gathered enough mana to do away with my Stasis because I for some reason have failed to seal the hard lock with a Kismet and perhaps they even have twice the mana of the chosen removal spell up and to copies of said removal spell in their hand. For this example let's just go old-school and say that they have four untapped lands of which two are Plains and two copies of Disenchant in their hand. They tap a Plains and another land to cast one of the Disenchants, and in response I cast a Power Sink with X=3. Unless they have another counter spell in their hand (if I tapped all out to cast my Power Sink, they could Power Sink my Power Sink with X=1) their spell is countered, and all their lands are tapped, and their mana pool is emptied leaving them with an uncastable Disenchant in their hand. So was the power of Power Sink in the days of interrupts.

Interrupts Sancho 1
Now we are talking! Stasis and a Powersink. Tap out your opponent and keep them tapped. This is where Power Sink still shines even if not as brightly as in the days of interrupts.

Today, of course, with the kid friendly rules of Magic, they could just tap their remaining Plains and other land in response to my Power Sink and put their second Disenchant on the stack above my Power Sink and destroy my enchantment.

The much famed Counterspell would in the above example not have made for a much different outcome under the new rules, but as demonstrated Power Sink lost a lot, even if in some cases its more celebrated cousin did also lose some power with the rules change. Seeing one of my favorite spells removed from the game was a hard hit, and it was such a change to Magic, that I did not really feel like playing since I at that time felt that it would involve scrapping most of my decks and find a completely new identity as a Magic player.

Screw You Guys I'm Going Home

It may sound dramatic to some but imagine the feeling some people have when their favorite card is banned from a single format and then multiply it up to encompass all formats and affect several of your cards – actually all the cards within a card type. It also just felt like too much of a mess to me as if today all artifacts suddenly became enchantments. There were just too many questions for me to bother to find answers, since I anyways did not play as much Magic at that time as I had used to, and I just packed the cards away with decks still tuned for the day Wizards would wise up and reinstate the interrupt card type.

Of course, it did not happen, and in the end, I guess I came crawling back for just one more fix of that sweet cardboard crack and got hooked again despite with my old staple counterspell being a shadow of its former glory. It did take some getting used to and even with the rules changes I must admit that I have not discovered a better counter for a Stasis deck than Power Sink. I think that Power Sink and a couple of other counter spells should be errata'ed to get split second because, c'mon, that would just be so sweet and some cards should be allowed to shine.

Fixed Power Sink
A crude mockup of the writer's pipe dream of a forgotten hero restored to its former glory plus some.

A Less Than Royal Flush

Power Sink was printed with five different illustrations and its final printing as an interrupt was in Urza's Saga after which two version were released as instants which were 6th Edition and in the Beatdown Box Set. Of the five illustrations "The man with the yellow fingers" by Richard Thomas will always be the one I think of, when my thoughts drift to this forgotten hero, and that image also seem referenced in Jeff Miracola's illustration for the Tempest version. But I must also admit, when you see me play a Power Sink it will more often be featuring Mark Pool's illustration from the Ice Age with what must be a referral to an old plumbing joke from Duelist Magazine about a toilet really being a "Power Sink".

Power Sink (Ice Age) Power Sink (Mirage) Power Sink (Tempest) Power Sink (Urza's Saga)
Of the four illustrations for the card following Richard Thomas' original, the Tempest version is most true to the man with the yellow fingers, but all lavatorial snickering aside Mark Poole's vortex flushing away the five basic land types remains the coolest in my opinion.

Well enough said of jokes from the time of Beavis and Butthead, I think it is time for me to leave the word to you and any comments you may have about the card type interrupt and, in particular, Power Sink. Also feel free to share your old war stories involving the card and perhaps what made you leave Magic if you ever went away and what changes you found it hardest to adjust to upon your return. Newer players are of course also welcome to leave their remarks about old geezers always droning on about how everything was better back in the days when interrupt was a card type and a planeswalker meant a Magic player and not a card found in every War of the Spark pack.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.


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helldanno(2019-03-20 23:03)

I started playing Magic shortly after Uraz's Destiny was released, so i knew the Interrupt type existed but always thought it did the same as an Instant. It was interesting to hear that I was wrong.
This reminds me of the time when "damage from stack" was removed from the game. I thought Magic would be completely different and I was very sure changes like that would destroy the game in the long term. Well, it reduced the complexity but the game is still great :)

Krapulax(2019-03-20 20:52)

Power Sink was much stronger when it was an interrupt. For new players, interrupts were spells that resolved faster than instants (you could only respond to an interrupt with another interrupt), almost like a split second spell.