Welcome back, gamers! I’ve been talking to many of our modern players about the viability of one of Ravnica Allegiance’s newest cards, ‘Skewer the Critics’ and I’ve been hearing some very divisive discussion about whether or not this is a good card. Those who hype up the card have been doing so almost fanatically, touting it as ‘Bolt number X-Y’ and concocting some abhorrent type of ‘16Bolt’ modern deck. The other side say that Skewer is nothing special and takes too much to enable for it to be effective. I thought I’d write a little bit about what I see on both sides and maybe offer some food for thought on this little red spell.
Skewer the Critics is rather innocuous at first. It’s a simple 3 damage burn spell for one red and two other. Nothing strange about that. What sets it apart is its keyword ability, ‘Spectacle’. It has a Spectacle cost of one Red mana, which brings it right into Lightning Bolt territory. For those who don’t know, Lightning Bolt is one of the strongest cards in the game, even going so far as to be voted the best card in Magic in an online poll on Reddit. Let that sink in. Lightning Bolt, by the popular vote, beat out ‘Black Lotus’ and ‘Ancestral Recall’. The card is seriously powerful, and for good reason. Lightning Bolt sees play in Legacy, Modern, and was a powerhouse in its time in Standard. People can’t get enough of it. Skewer the Critics does a good job of masquerading as the big bad bolt, but it requires some additional input from the player to make it shine.
That being said, the question is whether Skewer the Critics can hold up. On paper, it’s not as good as many other options. Players have access to ‘Shard Volley’, ‘Rift Bolt’, and ‘Lava Spike’, all of which are easy one-mana-three-damage spells. Add into that the two mana effects of ‘Lightning Strike’, ‘Searing Blaze’ and ‘Skullcrack’ and you’re already almost halfway to a complete deck. Having so many one-time-use spells can wear a deck thin, as you also need lands in order to play them. A hand of two lands and five spells only goes so far in the realm of direct damage, and you can bet that your opponent won’t be sitting by and letting you beat face.
When compared to some of the other options listed above however, Skewer the Critics has some notable differences. The biggest one is when compared to ‘Searing Blaze’, another card that has a conditional three damage clause on it. Searing blaze requires a land to enter on your turn in order for it to do the three damage, and the last thing a burn deck wants to see is a land drop past turn two or three. Skewer lets you do what your deck wants to do best, and (pardon my phrasing) gets turned on from getting exactly that. Cast any of your other damage spells before it and you now have additional copies of Lightning Bolt in your hand and ready to go. Throw in some creatures, incidental ping damage like ‘Curse of the Pierced Heart’ or ‘Fanatical Firebrand’ and it’s easy to see the argument for Critics being an amazing card no matter what format you play.
So with all this being said, what do you think, readers? Are you convinced that Skewer the Critics will be a powerhouse, or are you still unconvinced? Feel free to come on in store and discuss with either myself or your fellow gamers. We would all love to hear your point of view and thoughts behind it.