Since Tempest block was rotated out of the Standard environment and Standard lost Forbid from Exodus, which followed shortly after Dissipate from Mirage had departed, there has been a lack of solid countermagic in Standard. In particular, there haven't been any true counterspells that cost three mana. Naturally, there was still Counterspell, which counters a spell for only two blue mana, but there was a gap between the two and four casting cost counters. Mercadian Masques and Prophecy brought us Thwart and Foil, two different four casting cost counterspells that could be cast using alternative casting costs. Both Thwart and Foil are a bit expensive, however, if you intend to use the actual casting cost and the alternative costs are fairly Island intensive. Thwart requires a player to return three Islands to his or her hand while Foil requires the discard of an Island and another card. While these counters might excel in a mono-blue deck, they aren't at their peak in multi-color decks. Still, a number of counterspells like Daze and Rethink have tried to fill the gaps, but there is something to be said for using cards that say "counter target spell" instead of "counter target spell unless its caster does such and such."
Dave DeLaney says (from the Invasion FAQ):
Absorb, a new bit of countermagic from Invasion, has been introduced and may solve some of those problems. At two blue and one white mana, Absorb is a reasonably efficient counterspell that as a side effect, causes the caster to gain 3 life. In some loose sense, it is a combination of Healing Salve, a staple of the color white which costs one white mana, and Counterspell, a staple of blue which counters a spell for only two blue mana. Traditionally, countermagic isn't amazing versus quick beatdown decks like Red Weenie and Stompy, as those decks can often cast spells before the control deck can muster up enough mana to counter anything. If anything, the blue decks tend to counter a spell after there is already a horde of weenies on the board, which doesn't really solve the problem. This new counterspell, Absorb, seems to shine in just that situation. The opponent is attacking you with their weenies and then they try to cast an additional creature or a Tangle Wire or a burn spell like Seal of Fire and you have the mana up to counter it. If that counterspell is an Absorb, it will not only stop the potential threat, but the extra 3 life that it provides will most likely buy you extra time to find an answer to the creatures on the board. Absorb not only gives control decks using blue and white a solid counterspell, but it provides those decks with a new tool against aggressive weenie and burn decks. Beatdown decks beware.
Because Absorb is a multi-colored card, requiring both blue and white mana in order to cast, it will be useful in only a limited number of decks. Still, it helps one of the most popular blue color combinations, blue/white, as before it had only Counterspell, some situational countermagic like Daze, and expensive countermagic like Thwart and Foil that it could rarely pay the alternative casting for. Now, Blue/White Control has an additional cheap counterspell that can provide important life gaining against aggressive decks. In combination with Adarkar Wastes, the blue and white painland from the basic set, and Coastal Tower, the new blue and white dual land from Invasion, it seems likely that Blue/White control will be able to find the mana that it needs to cast this new spell and any other blue or white spell that it wants to cast.
As far as its use in Limited, it will most likely have little impact on Sealed Deck and Draft because its a rare and it will show up only infrequently. However, when Absorb does appear and there is a blue/white drafter or a Sealed Deck with strong blue and white cards, Absorb will undoubtably be selected and used. Countermagic is often useful in Limited environments to stop that potentially devastating card that the opponent might have, such as Thrashing Wumpus or Volcanic Winds from Mercadian Masques. We won't know what the power cards of Invasion are until the pre-release, but there will undoubtably be plenty of spells worth countering with Absorb. Not only is it useful as countermagic, but the life gain of Absorb can often throw off the math, allowing the caster to win a damage race that it might not have been able to, otherwise.
Just how much impact Absorb will have on Constructed remains to be seen. It will certainly find a good home in any Blue/White control deck. Will it help propel Blue/White control to its former glory as one of the top deck archetypes? We'll have to wait and see what else Invasion brings before we can determine that. Still, if the new dual lands from Invasion and these powerful multi-color cards are any indication, two color decks, in particular ones using allied colors like Blue and White, will be strengthened by Invasion and will give the mono-color decks of the current Standard environment a run for their money. Look for Absorb to be at the forefront of most Blue/White strategies.
To find out more about Invasion cards and Prerelease events, click here.
Tomorrow: Mike Flores explores his Opt-ions.
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