Spirits are a tribe in Standard looking for just a few extra cards to become a major force. We've gotten a good start with Spirits:
Plus some synergistic support cards that reinforce the theme or work well with Spirit traits:
But we still have some gaps. We need either a payoff for playing a bunch of Spirits or a critical mass of good effects. Spirits in Standard offer us:
- Air force—Lots of cheap fliers taking to the air. Evasion is good, and there are many affordable creatures to get free hits. Add some pump spells and you can overwhelm from the skies.
- Flash—It's easy for Spirits to be cast at instant speed. Flash for creatures is always great because it gives you options. You can dodge removal, or play it in the same deck with counterspells without losing tempo. With flash, you don't have to decide to tap out or hold open mana for countermagic. Do both!
- Small payoffs—Many Spirits give you minor bonuses for casting other cards (Spirits or no). Blessed Spirits rewards you for playing Stasis Snare and other enchantments, while Bygone Bishop generates Clues as you cast more small creatures. Get enough of these effects on the board and they can really add up.
Even with these great attributes, it feels like the Spirit tribe is just on the cusp of being really competitive, like it might just be one card away. What if I told you that Spirits could be getting that card?
Excited? That's great, but I'm going to have to quell your excitement...
Spell Queller fits into the Spirit themes of flash and flying, but it also brings a strong ability with it. It effectively counters any spell that the opponent casts that costs 4 mana or less, which includes most of the good spot removal (and even some mass removal) and some powerful early-game plays. Its timing and ability play into other Spirit powers perfectly.
A not-unreasonable sequence of play could see you cast Erdwal Illuminator, followed by Bygone Bishop, and then you are ready for the Queller! Spell Queller counters your opponent's main-phase play, netting you two Clues in the process. After that, Essence Flux or Rattlechains's hexproof-granting ability protects the Spell Queller. The Essence Flux will allow you to switch which spell you are stopping with the Queller. Swap that early creature you stopped for a more powerful card your opponent plays later! You can go deeper with "re-Quelling" spells by using Spectral Shepherd.
If you're looking to play Spirits, now is your time! But what I like most about the Spell Queller is how well it interacts with other cards. You get so much from the card, and it's even more powerful when it is played along cards outside its tribe.
Spell Queller is all about tempo. At its core, you get a flying attacker and a delaying effect. Your opponent casts a spell and you defer it until she plays a second card to kill your Queller.
But even when it comes back, is that card your opponent tried to cast still relevant? Early-game spells don't always have as much impact in the later portion of the game, which Spell Queller exploits. Keep that spell on ice for a while and even when the spell comes back, you've far outpaced the opponent in board state or life totals.
Same thing with Reflector Mage. Swallowing your opponent's tempo play and getting a 2/3 flier out of the deal feels great. Casting Reflector Mage to bounce a creature, then eating that spell with Spell Queller when it can get cast again, seems like an immense amount of tempo without a lot of additional investment. But Reflector Mage hitting your Queller feels bad. They get the spell back, and the Queller has to sit out for a few turns. Queller's biggest weakness is its inability to touch spells once they've hit the battlefield, so bouncing it with the Mage can turn your potential tempo gain into a loss.
Spell Queller can be both vulnerable and strong against either of these cards, but it seems like its best place in the format would be in a deck with them.
Over and Under
Spell Queller is no doubt a strong card, but it has some definite weaknesses. It can only interact with spells on the stack, so anything that hits the battlefield evades the Queller's influence. Make no mistake—Spell Queller was meant to get ahead and stay there.
Tempo cards like the Queller are at their most powerful when opponents are utilizing all their mana for a single strong spell. When your opponent spends all four of their mana to cast Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, spending three to exile it forces them to waste the whole turn.
But when the opponent casts two spells that turn, the Spirit loses power. Decks that cast multiple spells in the early turns run under Spell Queller.
You can also run over the Spell Queller. You know what its text is against the following spells?
Against any spell with converted mana cost 5 or higher, the Spell Queller's text is mostly blank. Survive the early onslaught and you can go big enough to turn the Spell Queller into a "vanilla" Spirit (but it will still have flash, which is never a bad thing).
Getting into the Spirit
Spell Queller creates incredible tempo in the early and middle parts of a game. I'm looking forward to seeing its synergy with established tempo cards, but I'm actually even more excited to see how it can complete its tribe or establish a completely new archetype like white-blue fliers in Standard.
You can try out Spell Queller—along with the rest of the cards in the set—at the Eldritch Moon Prelease, coming to a store near you on July 16 and 17!