Hey Commander fans! We’re knee deep in spoiler season for Zendikar Rising, and what better way to celebrate spoilers than a Commander Staple that is all about Spoiling.
Sudden Spoiling and a handful of other Split Second cards were introduced in Time Spiral. While some of them occasionally see play in Constructed formats, Commander is where Split Second has found a welcome home. Now I could totally have written this post about Krosan Grip, which is probably more of a Staple than Sudden Spoiling, and also shows off the power of Split Second…
…But Krosan Grip is pretty straightforward. Your tactical use of the card is mostly threat assessment, or just casting it on the Sensei’s Divining Top at the earliest opportunity. As a side note, an opponent who gets to spin around with the Top for a few turns will probably win the game. Amid all the powerful text on the card is ‘Tap: draw a card, plus strategic upside.’ The kind of card advantage the Top provides is almost unparalleled, not even counting synergies with Bolas’ Citadel, topdeck cards in general, shuffle effects, and artifact cast/ETB payoffs. Long story short? Kill the Top if you can.
Sudden Spoiling is considerably less straightforward, but has a much vaster range of use than Krosan Grip. They and the other Split Second cards can be an incredible force for disruption if used properly, including against some of the nastiest strategies going.
The major strength of Sudden Spoiling specifically is how it deals with finishers, ie. cards that will win the game if left unchecked. There are a lot of ‘finishers’ in Commander that are creatures. They tend to break down into two categories, and those are combat vs non-combat finishes. Combat finisher creatures can be represented by Craterhoof Behemoth, which is likely to create an alpha strike out of whatever miscellaneous creatures you have laying around, providing you have a few. It’s an easy win that takes little strategy, thought, creativity, or skill. Naturally, it’s very popular, as there are plenty of ways to pull Craterhoof from your deck directly into play long before actually accumulating 8 mana to hardcast it.
The other kind can be represented by two creatures, Niv-Mizzet, Parun, who has an engine-style ability that can either snowball or be part of a semi-combo…
…And Laboratory Maniac, who lets you win without interacting with the rest of the human race at all. Thassa’s Oracle is probably better, and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries is a planeswalker, but they all do basically the same thing.
These cards are tough to interact with, because their ability to win the game is strong and can be protected, mostly by responsive cards like instants, and instant-speed abilities. This is where Sudden Spoiling comes in. In response to the Craterhoof player going to combat, it fizzles the alpha nicely, and if the deck was all-in on the Hoof and the strike, might hand you a free win. Against Niv, you have to get priority, but once you do, the Niv player’s typical response of casting a handful of instants and such to get tons of value of out Niv whether it dies or not goes away. Against Lab Man, timing is critical, but you can totally find a window where there is a draw trigger on the stack with Lab Man in play and an empty library. Sudden Spoiling in this situation straight out wins you the game.
The Split Second aspect of the card prevents the kinds of responses that players usually pack to keep their powerful stuff around.It makes sure the effect it creates resolves uninterrupted, including by counterspell. But a Split Second card is not a counterspell. It’s important to note that once a Split Second card resolves, it leaves the stack and so does the Split Second effect. If the Craterhoof player, for example, is able to blink their hoof once Sudden Spoiling has resolved, you’re back to square one.
Sudden Spoiling has a ton of versatility beyond just hosing finishers. It’s a great Fog effect, nullifying combat if need be, or making it totally one-sided. It’s pseudo-removal, as you can use it to wipe out an entire attacking force that’s been blocked with 2 power chumps, or just get rid of the one or few that matter most. You can also use it get rid of pesky abilities on creatures, most notably indestructible. That’s a great response to a destruction or even damage-based boardwipe. It stops things like flying, unblockable, ninjitsu shenanigans, mutate bonuses, and all sorts of little details that can be a major tempo swing if timed right. Sometimes your opponents are relying on the extra card draw from that creature, or that attack getting through, or some non-game-winning play that sets up the win a few turns later. It’s nice to spoil those for them, because sometimes being derailed from your plan is like a stun effect that might last the rest of the game.
Where Sudden Spoiling is less valuable is games where you have three opponents with their targets firmly on you. If you’re trying to zoom out to an early win, or ultimately control everything the table does, it might not be the best choice, compared to boardwipes and flexible, single-target removal. But even then, I’d give it a look. It’s important to note also that Sudden Spoiling does not shut off abilities granted by Auras, Equipment or counters, both +1/+1s and the newer keyword counters from Ikoria. Some decks will shrug the card off like it didn’t even happen, so be prepared.
In some cases, Sudden Spoiling might be a meta choice. If you’re always facing down the Lab Man deck, or the indestructible creature deck, this will help you turn that tide, and give your opponents something to think about. Make sure, however, that your disruption isn’t just one turn with no follow-up. If they can just win on the following turn by the same method, it’s just a speed bump.
Price-wise, Sudden Spoiling is in the $2-3 range on TCGPlayer. I think it’s safe to say you could find it for under $5 where you are, which might mean ordering it from a website. It has 3 printings, including in both Commander 2013 and 2014, but those are starting to be a long time ago, and it’s unknown if this card is on the 2020 radar. Complex abilities like Split Second can be tricky for newer players to grok, though Krosan Grip is in Commander 20. None of the current Split Second cards have major chase status or are lynchpins of a tournament-winning strategy, so it’s tough to figure out if/when the group and specifically Sudden Spoiling will get a reprint. Is it needed, anyway? Time will tell.
How long is it before Zendikar spoilers end, and we’re already looking forward to the next set? Spoiler season can seem so sudden at times. Zendikar brings a pair of Commander precons to the party, and the set after it is Commander Legends. We’re likely to get a massive inundation of powerful creatures in those sets, likely with nasty abilities like flying, indestructible, banding, and tapping to do stuff. Players will pull all sorts of strategies from those cards, but if they’re based around a creature, they can probably be disrupted by Sudden Spoiling. The best thing this card does is hone your timing, making it arguably more effective with each subsequent play. What could be better than a great card that makes you a better player? Sounds like a Staple to me.
Thanks for reading, Commander peeps! And those who play with smaller piles, too! Have a great labour day, keep safe and healthy, be kind, and do the things you love. What you do with love matters. Your life matters. Black Lives Matter!