A new set is always a time for celebration. New mythical creatures come in Constructed formats, new mechanics have to be learnt, and a whole new (Limited) universe has to be mastered. With a new set comes a new theme, a new flavour, a new style for the artistic rendition of the cards. New sets, especially the ones marking a new rotation, indicate the end of a cycle, the end of a Standard format we came to love, hate, and had to come to grips with. Theros and its Greek style divinities are going to be gone, migrating for good in the harsh and super-efficient world of Modern, where many cards that used to be playable in Constructed will not be able to compete with the established powerhouses of the format.
Part-festival, part-mourning, the new set will bring change and excitement. New strategies are possible, some archetypes that were missing pieces will rise; others which lose important pieces will perish. With the Eldrazi coming back to Zendikar, we can expect, as we know already, humongous monsters and very expensive threats. Some players will try “ramping” to get to cast absurdly huge and pricy fiends, and you may, as well, suffer the wrath of the Eldrazi. Have no fears, my friend, as Wizards, thanks to their far-sighted benevolence, provided in the Battle for Zendikar some weapons of choice to fight back. I have the honour, bestowed upon me by Kar Yung Tom, Manadeprived CEO and social media prodigy, to be the one who will introduce you to this preview card.
For the ones that had the patience not to scroll down in a hurry, overwhelmed by their curiosity and a desire for instant self-gratification, I will reward you for your patience with the preview card, the answer to some of the problems you will encounter in the new Standard, and something that could also see play in the unforgiving world of modern.
First of all, this is not a radically new spell as such, but a quasi-functional reprint of Sowing Salt with a less taxing mana cost (3R instead of 2RR) sporting the Battle for Zendikar keyword devoid. Sowing Salt has been played during Standard with the Kamigawa cycle and Crumble to Dust should see a fair amount of sideboard presence in the new Standard. Obviously not the kind of cards you want to side in versus very aggressive strategies like red deck wins or white weenies, it could be a solution to certain threats, like ramp decks and the new cycle of manlands.
At the time of writing, three other spoiled lands are worth siding in Crumble to Dust, namely the Shambling Vent, Lumbering Falls and Shrine of the Forsaken Gods. Exiling the latter is especially rewarding, giving you additional time and information against ramp decks. “No Eldrazi for you, my friend!” Seeing an opponent’s hand and library is useful, more so in a new format where you are not always sure what is really going on from your opponent’s side. Sometimes you may even get card advantage, making your opponent discard a second one. People will still play three-color decks so you will in time color screw them, and it is so much fun to attack someone who cannot cast most of their hand. Mana screwing your opponent and playing your own spells could be compared to the great joy of kicking someone already lying on the floor, with impunity, knowing that if they would get up you would be the one having a bad time, but then you tied up their shoelaces and so they just stay there wriggling around. Obviously, I am not into that kind of thing, but some of my readers could be, so for their pleasure I am offering them this evocative metaphor.
Getting rid permanently of a type of manland can also make life harder for decks with few win conditions. In a format with Delve and Den Protector, exiling a card has more upsides than only destroying it. “Never again!” could you whisper in your opponent’s ear when you play Crumble to Dust. “Never again!”
As an added bonus, with cards like Ulamog’s Nullifier, you can make sure your opponent has exiled cards, so you can benefit from its full potential. Plenty of other synergies are bound to be found in a format where exiling is the new hip thing to do.
What about Modern then? Is it playable? Well, it can be a side tech versus Scapeshift, but especially versus Tron. In a lot of decks like Jund or the different flavors of Grixis, you would in general prefer Fulminator Mage, as you can bring it back with Kolaghan’s Command for extra pleasure. Fulminator Mage is useful in a wider range of match-ups and so you could play 3 or 4 in the board and still be happy about it. Crumble to Dust has a more limited application, so 1 or 2 would probably be the right number. Blood Moon is also in contention for that precious sideboard slot and could be preferred over Crumble to Dust, as it makes life harder for the same match-ups, Tron and Scapeshift, and can win games on the spot against careless opponents. Another option for the same sideboard slot is Molten Rain, better in aggressive strategies, costing one less and dealing 2 damage, which is very relevant.
However, having said that, in UW control splash R, or in the Tron mirror match, Crumble to Dust could be the best tool in the shed. One single red mana makes it easier to cast than two, especially in these two decks that can struggle to get two red sources. You are playing for a longer and grindier game, so making sure you have the mana advantage is fundamental. Also, imagine you cast Crumble a second time with Snapcaster Mage, how insane would that be. In the Tron mirror, you could be the only one achieving Tron status, watching with unconcealed pity your opponent trying to cast Emrakul with lands that only give one mana each. The fact that you can pick it up with Ancient Stirring is just the cherry on the cake. In a Tron heavy metagame, or just a week after a Tron deck wins a premium event, Crumble to Dust could be your best friend.
At last, make sure to keep in mind that, in Battle for Zendikar Limited, Crumble to Dust could also be helpful versus occasional manlands or opponents that are greedy enough to play three colors. Knowing the entire content of their decks is also very useful as you can play accordingly, making sure not to fall for some nasty combat tricks or follow the wrong plan. Once you know the entire content of an opponent’s deck in Limited, you can play around what they have, and not as usual, around what common tricks are in the format.
Have fun on pre-release weekend, where beginners, noobs, casual and competitive players all meet for a celebration of the joy of being alive and playing Magic. As for myself, I will be playing at Face to Face Montreal on Sunday and I hope, if we play together, that I can crumble you to dust.