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My favourite counterspells of all time

The other day a member of LilianaMarket bought the 3 counters in the image from my MTG collection (a copy of Counterspell from Tempest, Arcane Denial from Alliances and Disallow from Aether Revolt). Lately I’ve been playing Standard and Draft, and couldn’t help but feel nostalgic about casting some of these amazing counters. I thought I’d pay tribute to them and review my favourite counterspells of all time, stating the set whose artwork I like the most… Here we go.

1/ Force of Will (Alliances)

I used to play very aggressive decks. Back in the days, I still recall how I once cast Hatred into Dauthi Slayer, paying 18 life in turn 3, using Dark Ritual; my opponent was tapped out – what could go wrong, right? The only problem was that this dude was on some mono blue & artifacts deck and that Force of Will was Type 2 legal. He just countered my Hatred and the game was basically over. That’s how good Force of Will is. Aggressive decks had to take their chances and wait to see whether a spell would resolve even when a blue player had no access to mana.

Force of Will allows you to counter that exact thing that is going to stop you from winning the game. In the situation described above, discarding a card and paying 1 life meant nothing for my opponent. Besides, the artwork is amazing. Probably the best uncommon that has ever been printed IMO.

2/ Counterspell (Tempest)

I love its simplicity: “Counter target spell”. No additional casting costs other than 2 blue lands, no complications. A simple, efficient, extremely powerful Magic card.

By the way, rumours say that it’s going to be reprinted in Modern Horizons 🙂

3/ Mana Leak (Stronghold)

One colourless mana and one blue. Suddenly, any deck with access to blue had a really strong counter available. Okay, the spell’s ‘caster’ can pay an additional 3 mana, but that is a lot to pay in the early game.

I love the flavour text too: “The fatal flaw in every plan is the assumption that you know more than your enemy – Volrath”.

4/ Cryptic Command (Lorwyn)

A hard counter for 4 mana doesn’t sound great. But a counterspell AND something else is really sweet. A must have in any control deck in Modern.

5/ Mana Drain (Legends)

A doped version of Counterspell. You first trash their plans, and then increase your mana pool (thanks!!) to develop your own. Evil.

6/ Desertion (Visions)

5 mana is a high enough casting cost, though very worth it if you get to steal a juicy artifact or creature on the spot! The flavour test is great: “First the insult, then the injury”.

7/ Negate (Rivals of Ixalan)

You can’t counter creatures with it, fine. But you can counter anything else! A Nexus of Fate before they go infinite; a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria; a very annoying Ixalan’s Biding… You name it, there are so many targets for Negate these days!

8/ Memory Lapse (Mirage)

Pure Tempo Magic. Generally you’d only consider countering something that is an actual, scary thread. However, with Memory Lapse you’d also counter almost irrelevant cards, just so they draw them again, just to slow your opponent down. Beautiful Magic card.

9/ Disallow (Aether Revolt)

I used to love its versatility in Standard. Granted, you’d only counter activated or triggered abilities when things were looking pretty bad, perhaps when you were going to lose the game regardless. Nevertheless, Disallow gave you that extra peace of mind; if you couldn’t deal with that Chandra, Torch of Defiance, you could still Disallow it’s ultimate, at least to buy you some more time…

10/ Absorb (Invasion)

Mono red burn has always been good, pretty much in any format. The fact that there is an Azorius specific counterspell that is effectively a double counter against it -the actual target spell AND some Lightning Bolt– seems insanely good to me!

What are your favourite counterspells in the history of Magic: The Gathering? Am I missing any obvious one?

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