Damnation Is Back Baby! Or Maybe It’s Baby Damnation, Whatever…

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In the wake of Magic the Gathering’s Modern Masters 2015 release, many fans of the collectible card game were clamoring for reprints of some of the games most powerful cards. While serum visions remains a Modern staple without a reprint, functional or otherwise, the ever popular black board wipe Damnation is getting something even better. If you’re unfamiliar with the fundamentals of Magic’s design, suffice it to say that the game revolves around the idea of the color wheel; each card is representative of a specific color of mana, which each represent a specific gameplay philosophy. White is the color of the army, of justice and honor. Red is the color of passion, swiftness and recklessness. Green is all about growth and evolution. Blue is the color of insight, invention and being downright broken. This leaves Black as the color that gets things done. Black doesn’t muck around worrying about what’s right or wrong and will do anything to get its way.

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Damnation, while incredibly popular, was printed as part of a cycle of cards that were ‘timeshifted’, meaning that they were from another universe. These timeshifted cards purposefully went against the philosophies of the color wheel, resulting in cards that were very similar to other cards with effects that didn’t match their color identity. Damnation is one of those timeshifted cards, as it is an exact copy of white’s Wrath of God, except that it costs two black mana and two colorless, instead of two white mana and two colorless. Damnation is not a bad card, but reprinting it could be detrimental to Magic overall, as breaking the color wheel goes against the essence of how Magic is played.

Instead of simply reprinting Damnation, Wizards has decided to print an alternative that fits black’s color identity, while also giving its own set of advantages over the original black board wipe. Languish is a black sorcery that costs two black mana and two colorless {2BB} at rare that says “All creatures gets -4/-4 until end of turn.”

Damnation and Languish have the same mana cost, but one destroys all creatures and denies regeneration, while the other gives all creatures -4 power and -4 toughness until the end of the turn. At first glance, the latter sounds much weaker, as it leaves creatures with toughness greater than four on the battlefield, but there are some key differences between the “destroy” effect and the effect of giving creatures negative toughness. For example, Damnation destroys creatures and stops them from regenerating, but a creature with negative toughness dies even if it is indestructible.

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Languish may not be a catch-all board wipe, but neither is Damnation. It kills every creature with four or less toughness, even if they’re indestructible, which is something that Damnation simply can’t do. In fact, Languish leaving creatures with five or more toughness on the battlefield could be considered a good thing, especially for decks that are running big, beefy creatures like Siege Rhino or Silumgar, the Drifting Death. A well crafted deck could take full advantage of Languish to clear the board while leaving their best creatures in play for a devastating attack.

Normally, I’d be against the changing of famous Magic cards, but the transition from Damnation to Languish is a buff in my eyes. It requires a little more strategy in terms of deck building and is actually better than Damnation in some ways, leading to more interesting Magic. If this sets the standard for how Wizards approaches quasi-reprints of staple cards, then I’m looking forward to what they come up with for Serum Visions and its ilk. What do you think about Languish? Would you prefer that they reprinted Damnation instead? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @pandamanana.

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