Dangerous Propositions: Hypergenesis
The Modern ban list is a maximum security prison with 33 inmates, some of which pose a potentially 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 the ultimate green cheater.
The first appearance of the suspend mechanic in Time Spiral was accompanied by a cycle of rare spells that copied the effects of a famous card from Magic's past and couldn't be played through regular casting. A few of them were immediately appealing, because you can certainly find some use even for a delayed Black Lotus or Ancestral Recall. A couple of them, though, didn't seem particularly well-devised. These two suspend cards in question had other things in common, both being the only ones not inspired by a card from Alpha, as well as embodying a different way to drop creatures onto the battlefield from one of the other two main zones of the game: the hand and the graveyard, respectively.
What stopped Hypergenesis and Living End from being really exciting at the time of their first release is the fact that their effects didn't seem very well-suited for the suspend mechanic played as written. After all, announcing you're going to cast Eureka or Living Death three turns in advance gives the opponent all the time in the world to prepare, which is bound to result in diminishing returns. No, both Eureka and Living Death are cards that require the element of surprise (this is true of Balance and Restore Balance as well. But how could you attain such a thing in these cases? You can't cast them right away, they're part of a cycle of cards purposely printed without a casting cost. Manipulate the time counters with stuff like Timecrafting or Jhoira's Timebug? C'mon, that's just awkward. And that's exactly how Hypergenesis and Living End would feel... for another three years. Then they'll suddenly become extremely scary.
Of the twelve cascade or cascade-inducing cards that are currently legal in Modern (out of 17 in total), only three costs less than four mana; in fact, they all cost exactly three mana, as no cascade spell has ever been printed so far with an smaller casting cost. Why is this important? Because cascade reveals cards from the top of the library until it gets to something with a casting cost strictly less than the spell that triggered the cascade routine. So, sure, cascade is able to cast those suspend cards without a casting cost right away, as those cards count as having a CMC equal to zero, therefore the cascade rules fully apply to them. However, to make sure to cast a specific zero-CMC spell with cascade, you have to remove from your deck all intervening casting costs between the cascade spell and its intended target. Therefore, the less the cascade spell costs, the more control you have on what its trigger will end up casting. Using three-mana cascade spells like Demonic Dread and Violent Outburst (Ardent Plea is usually disregarded on the grounds that it doesn't share a color with the other two) forces you to restrain from including in your deck anything with a CMC of one and two, which is not ideal but it's feasible. Cascade spells with a higher casting cost may do something more relevant than preventing a block or slightly boosting your team, but they're also going to eliminate more and more classes of costs from your deck, at least if you want your zero-cost, otherwise unplayable spell to be a sure-fire go. Plus, of course, the faster you launch the process, the better your deck performs. And this is true of Hypergenesis even more than in Living End's case.
Birth vs. Resurrection
Modern banned Hypergenesis since the get-go, yet never had a problem with Living End. The reason is pretty simple: in order to be an endgame, rather than just a sweeper, Living End requires you to fill your graveyard with creatures; Modern doesn't have Legacy's efficient cards to that goal, like Buried Alive or Entomb (and the latter would interfere with the cascade spells anyway), so a Living End deck has to rely on creatures that self-discard, mostly through cycling. These can make for good enough finishers, and in fact Living End is still a popular combo archetype, but it's far from generating exceedingly broken board status on turn three. Hypergenesis, instead... well, it targets your hand, and to get scary stuff in your hand, you just have to put them in your deck. As the notes to the original Modern ban list explain, you can get to degenerate plays such as casting the cascade spell that brings about Hypergenesis as early as turn one with the help of some combination of Simian Spirit Guide and Gemstone Caverns. The end result of Hypergenesis is dropping Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Progenitus and Urabrask the Hidden onto the battlefield.
Hypergenesis, SCG Charlotte, September 2015
|1Forest||4Elvish Spirit Guide||3Hypergenesis|
|1Island||4Shardless Agent||4Show and Tell|
|4Misty Rainforest||4Simian Spirit Guide||4Violent Outburst|
|1Mountain||4Griselbrand||4Force of Will|
|1Taiga||4Emrakul, the Aeons Torn||4Omniscience|
|4Dismember||1Intuition||4Leyline of Sanctity|
|2Mindbreak Trap||2Sneak Attack||2Ashen Rider|
So, there's really not much to say here. Hypergenesis is, for all intents and purposes, a better Eureka; by digging for it via Violent Outburst, you end up casting it for one fewer mana than its blueprint predecessor and, most importantly, at instant speed. Admittedly, it's not a very frequent strategy in the very competitive world of Legacy, but it simply would be way too overpowered for Modern. Dropping a hasty Emrakul in one of the first three turns is not what the format is for. So, the verdict is: Hypergenesis is just not cut out to be a Modern card.
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