Okay, the basics.
I have always had a deep respect for the six-mana Wrath of God: Akroma's Vengeance; the occasional Austere Command; and even Final Judgment in the era of Kamigawa Dragons, with their ferocious triggers when hitting the graveyard. I am down with blowing up the world for two more mana than we might typically pay. Sometimes a guy just has his reasons.
And Terminus does offer something that a regular Day of Judgment—even a regular Wrath of God—doesn't. It is truly the end of the line for most creatures. Does the opponent have a regenerating Troll? Sorry. How about a supposedly indestructible Colossus? Either, or, and both... to the bottom of the deck with you!
Terminus | Art by Jaimes Paick
If you don't yet realize why Terminus has (generally speaking) a more powerful creature-sweeping ability than an analogue that basically destroys or more complicatedly buries creatures in play, just remember that we are currently playing with a flashback set. The graveyard is often not the end, and many mages are comfortable using their graveyards as extensions of their hand sizes. Cards like Unburial Rites give you immediate access to creatures in your graveyard and can be cast from your graveyard at a discount! Plus, it's not like you are shuffling your creatures randomly into your deck (only to draw them up again if you are a little lucky)... you are putting them all the way on the bottom. There will be no topdecking—not of one of these, at least—unless something special happens first. Terminus, as far as I can tell, really is the end of the line for most creatures, as the bottom of the library is the least controllable zone for most masters.
The problem is, the slightly overcosted Wrath-ish effect? We have seen its likes before, and it was slightly less overcosted back when:
This is Top Decks!
This card has to be more, much more, than just an overcosted Day of Judgment that can also take down Thrun, the Last Troll! Otherwise... what are the chances it would get previewed here? (As if that miracle border with no miracle cost in the initial click-me-Kate fooled anyone...)
Before we look at the true Terminus, let me ask you a question:
How much mana do you think is fair for a miraculous (and slightly more powerful) Wrath of God effect?
It's kind of tricky.
You need its miracle cost to be less than a regular Day of Judgment or people will rarely play it in Constructed. Few will even consider it at . Why not play the less interesting, but predictably boring, original version? Me? I might have thought two mana. Put it at Pyroclasm cost for a much more profound creature sweeping effect?
My first reaction was "Wow (you know, like I just said)! That is really broken! What if I just flip it over on the second turn..."
What if I do do that?
Is sweeping the board on turn two really such a "broken" possibility?
Look at how clever R&D is here: They put a truly jaw dropping miracle price tag on an otherwise perfectly serviceable card... and it isn't "too good" at all. What am I really doing if I play one on the second turn? What am I really going to kill here? One Champion of the Parish, Delver of Secrets, or Birds of Paradise? Well, when you put it that way, it seems like I will probably be happy to mise and pay my . Good, sure, but not really too good for what I am actually getting out of my Terminus; the cost and the speed of the second-turn miraculous topdeck actually limit how devastating it can be!
Of course, you are going to get some nice two-for-ones, especially early on in the age of Avacyn Restored. They go Delver of Secrets, you go Evolving Wilds. They Ponder into a second Delver, tap out, and are loving life... while you—with a great deal of foresight, apparently—break your land for a Plains. Zing! Miracle your Terminus; win the game with a story for the grandkids.
Probably once players get bitten by a Terminus or two they will think about how many creatures they waltz in—especially in the early turns. But as good as the situation I just described might be, is it really that much more astounding than the average Whip Flare?
You know what? Much of the time—especially those games that my opponent doesn't have a one-drop, or any creature at all (but also the times that I just don't care about my opponent's one creature)—you are going to draw your Terminus just fine, but decline the miracle option and just save it for a rainy day.
Here is where Terminus really shines:
Remember how I opened this preview article? Talking about it as a six-mana spell, and reminding everyone how we were happy to have Akroma's Vengeance at six a couple of years back?
Terminus is the kind of miracle card you don't really mind paying retail for! Not much, anyway.
Everyone was talking about Temporal Mastery last week (and with good reason). That card is supposed to be a conversation starter, and there are some pretty good reasons why it was spoiled as the lead-off, in Mark's column. But you know what? When you don't miracle Temporal Mastery, it is a clunky, seven-mana Time Warp. Sometimes a seven-mana Time Warp is going to win the game for you; other times a two-mana Time Warp is going to be a functional Explore (but still get a lot more grumbles out of your opponent). A six-mana Terminus, though? Still pretty good. Per Hallowed Burial, would be the "perfect" retail for this card, so we have to be fine soaking up the extra mana in cost to make up for the sometimes-miracle-ness of it.
So yeah, when you topdeck Terminus under pressure—when you really and desperately needed a Wrath of God effect anyway—it is going to be even more dramatic. And sometimes, the miracle-ness of the card is going to let you slip it under a Mana Leak when paying the full price wouldn't.
Yeah, there are going to be some grumbles. And when you talk out the game with your opponent after the fact, who shows you the iconic conditional counterspell in hand, you will be essentially forced to nod your head at your good fortune.
But that's what the card is supposed to do. It is supposed to generate excitement; and when it gets you out of jail, it is supposed to do so in a more memorable way than a regular old topdecked Wrath of Godversion 12.0. All of that, down to and including a miracle cost that lets you use it essentially as point removal on the second turn (but point removal that can sometimes hit an Invisible Stalker!), is what all together make Terminus a pretty well-balanced—but still very exciting and useful—Magic card.
But what's a Magic card—even a great looking Magic card—without a home?
At this point, I can think of two!
I think it is pretty clear from the above that Terminus is the kind of card you can play in any deck where you would otherwise play a Day of Judgment... UW Control decks, removal-centered or flexibly reanimating Esper colors, and others. Provided you can hit your first you can miracle if need be, and the assumption is that you can hit by the time you hit six. I don't know if you play these over Day of Judgment, or a mix, but my guess is some decks will play about six copies and maybe side up to all eight.
In addition, Terminus is probably the kind of card you would really want in a deck that plays lots and lots of miracles. I have a sneaking suspicion that "Miracles and Card Drawing" is going to be a real thing. Your opening hands are probably going to be kind of clunky (you won't be able to get any early action out of the Temporal Masteries or Thunderous Wraths in your starting sevens) but, on balance, your midgame topdecks might just be pretty exciting.
It will be an interesting experiment, I think. Can you extend the game in such a way that you can get massive mana advantage by drawing nothing but undercosted miracle effects?
How about one of these:
You have already drawn your card for the turn, so you don't have a lot of incentive to put any miracles immediately on top. You happily give yourself the Island, arranging like this:
- Temporal Mastery
So you rip the Island and play it; pass.
The first card you've drawn on your opponent's turn is (no surprise here) ye olde Terminus.
You miracle it for and set your opponent to shaking a fist at you like a grumpy old man and you are a playful (if mischievous) tyke who just put a baseball through the old man's back window.
Maybe you did it during your opponent's attack and made a better-than-Wrath of God play for the cost of a Holy Day. Yeah, you'd probably be pretty steamed too. Your opponent has nothing else and passes.
Now for your next trick... you topdeck Temporal Mastery. Did I mention "Zing?" Again, no surprises here. If your poor opponent was fuming over your miraculous Terminus, think about how upset your opponent is going to be at your set-up Time Walk!
At the end of the day, it seems to me that this "end of the line" can, perhaps somewhat uniquely among the various miracles, find a home in more than one spot. It's one of many miracles that gain value all together by their critical mass of potential undercosted-ness, and—by virtue of its reasonable cost when not unreasonably cheap—a regular old redundant Wrath.