Is there any material advantage to giving
Grave Pact flash? Not that long ago (like a
matter of days), I would probably have said no.
But it occurs to me that Grave Pact is better as
a deterrent. "Don't use Hex on a bunch of my
creatures. Just don't." Dictate of Erebos is
like the card-game equivalent of Wei Shen
blocking a punch and using the guy's momentum to
hurl him through a fourth-floor window. "In
response to Hex, everyone else sacrifice six
creatures too. Have a nice day." In other words,
they're not actually the same card, and one is
as terrifying as the other. Considering Grave
Pact's venerable history, that's the highest
compliment I can give this card.
And the way the Dictates give every color,
including non-blue ones, something insane to do
on their opponent's turn? Awesome.
Today's card of the day is Dictate of Erebos
which is a five mana Black enchantment with
Flash that has each opponent sacrifice a
creature whenever a creature you control dies.
This is a powerful effect made even stronger by
having Flash to use in response to removal,
though it can also be used aggressively with
suicide Black attacking or sacrifice strategies.
Overall the cost is too high for the usual
formats, but this will be popular in Multiplayer
and Commander where it can really make an impact
with support that works well independently.
In Limited this comes out in the middle
stages of most games, but even one trigger is
worth most of the five mana and can make a big
difference depending on the field. With Flash to
allow ideal timing there's no drawback and
minimal risk of not getting some removal and it
is an automatic inclusion when running Black in
Sealed. In Booster this is a strong first pick
as a form of removal that at worst should be a
one for one and at best puts your opponent on
the defense in a psychological chess match.
You probably play some amount of creatures in
your deck. And, spoiler alert, some of those
creatures are probably going to die. How would
you like each of those creatures to say, "If I
go down, I'm taking you with me!"
Dictate of Erebos is a card that's kinda good
on its own, though I don't think I'd say great.
However, if you work to put it in a deck
specialized around it, it suddenly becomes
incredible. That's because a card like this
really wants to be in a deck designed around the
effect, at least partially.
If you just throw it into any regular deck,
here's what might happen. You pay 5 mana, cast
it, it enters the field, and then... nothing
happens. That's because Dictate of Erebos
doesn't do anything right away. It doesn't
change the state of the board, it doesn't give
you anything or take away anything your opponent
has. Something of yours has to die first. So
you've just spent 5 mana with the hope of a
future return on your investment. Your opponent
will, of course, sacrifice his weakest and least
useful creature whenever this goes off, assuming
he's got more than one to choose from. So is 5
mana worth it to get rid of a Llanowar Elves?
Might be worth it to get their Savageborn Hydra.
But ideally you want to get more than one use
out of this to get your mana's worth.
So how do you use this card to its best
advantage? Well, a few ways. A big way is to
have some kind of effect where you can sacrifice
your own creatures. There are lots of ways to do
this and get some kind of cool benefit from it.
Barrage of Expendables, Gnawing Zombie, Gobbling
Ooze, Scourge of Skola Vale, Tymaret, the Murder
King, Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, and that's just
some of what's in Standard right now. Modern or
casual players would have a world of even better
options. And then there's what to sacrifice.
Sure, you could sacrifice any old creature...
but what about one with a "when this creature
dies" ability? Anything from Solemn Simulacrum
to Ashen Rider to many, many other creatures you
Now what you have is you sacrifice a creature
with an ability, and get that bonus. Your
creature dies, and that triggers its own abiltiy,
and you get that bonus. And finally, your
opponent pays the price for you getting two cool
effects by sacrificing a creature. That's much
better! ...But how can we improve it even more?
Why, by making it repeatable! This is where
things like token generators, cards like
Bloodghast, or even the mighty Athreos, God of
Passage shine even more. You wipe out your
opponent's board, and the cost you pay isn't
really a heavy cost at all. Talk about stacking
things in your favour.
So now that we've talked about how to best
use Dictate of Erebos, I suppose I should get
around to actually reviewing it. Is it any good?
Well the problem is when it works, it REALLY
works as we've just discussed. But it requires a
lot of effort to set up everything just right.
You have to cast the card for 5 mana, which does
nothing right away. You have to have creatures
out, although having said creatures die is no
longer and issue after you've played Dictate of
Erebos. Your opponent has to have creatures out
but not enough to win and kill you next turn.
It's requires specific circumstances,
fortunately though those circumstances are
pretty common. All that other stuff about
sacrifice mechanics and such are just bonuses to
help the card. But remember that Dictate of
Erebos also has flash. If your opponent attacks
and you can only block and watch your creatures
die, you can surprise him by wiping his board
Overall Dictate of Erebos is a good card,
perhaps a bit slow and combo-y. If you put it in
the right combo-style deck it becomes crazy
good, if you just throw it in any old deck and
hope for the best it'll still be KINDA good.
Casual players will really enjoy all the fun and
crazy creations they can invent with this card,
while limited will appreciate it due to their
creature-heavy format. Even multiplayer will
love it, because EACH opponent sacrifices, so
now nobody will want to kill your dudes. It's a
little slow for constructed, so I wouldn't
expect to see too much of it, but maybe in the
right deck it could still see some play.
There's no doubt that this effect is very
powerful. Any deck that can sacrifice its own
creatures for benefit can use this to clean off
the opposing side of the table in a hurry. Or,
if you aren't sacrificing things, it turns all
of your chump blocks into kill effects, making
an opponent think twice before attacking into
what seems to be an otherwise advantageous
attack. This even makes an opposing kill spell
more difficult, because it essentially hits one
of their creatures too.
There are some cases when this will NOT be
useful. If you have no creatures on the
battlefield, this is NOT what you want to draw.
It becomes a 5 mana spell that does absolutely
nothing for you. Make sure you have a lot of
creatures in your deck if you're going to use
this. Also, if your opponent has no creatures,
this does nothing. Some might argue that it's
not very useful if your opponent has a horde of
creatures and can simply sacrifice some little
1/1 token. While this is true, if your opponent
has a horde of creatures, the game was probably
lost a long time ago.
How often will the flash ability be relevant?
Fairly often, I'd say. You can wait for the
right moment when playing it would result in the
surprise death of a number of opposing
creatures. Then, in future games, once they know
you have the Dictate, any time you leave 5 mana
open, they're going to be wary of you flashing
it in - whether you really have it or not.
But the 5 mana...that's the issue. Is the effect
powerful enough and consistent enough to warrant
the cost? Sometimes. If youre deck is built
around using the effect, it's possibly worth the
cost, but be ready to sideboard it out if your
opponent isn't playing a lot of creatures.
In other formats, this gets a little better.
Limited is all about creatures, so things are
going to die a lot. The Dictate will be a
worthwhile part of your deck. In multiplayer,
EACH opponent sacrifices a creature, so that
makes it much more valuable.
Dictate of Erebos
All the "dictates" seem to be old standard
beloved enchantments that have been given Flash.
This one is a re-imaging of Grave Pact. The
Flash helps, because you can respond to an
opponent killing your creatures or play it
during a combat that didn't go as well for you
as you'd hoped. That said, if you're leaving
five mana up because you're worried one of your
creatures might eat it next turn, it's not
really a trick then. At best, you might be able
to turn a rout into a board wipe, which would be
ideal if your opponent has a few powerful
creatures and you have several unimpressive ones
that can chump block. At worst, you're holding
five mana open waiting for that dream scenario,
but because it never comes, you're just tricking
yourself into not casting anything. Take my
advice-- if you don't get a good chance to play
this on an opponent's turn, just play it on
their end step instead of letting the mana go to
waste. Grave Pact was good enough that it didn't
need instant speed to be playable, and this will
be too even if you can't use it like a
counter-trick that doesn't actually stop your
creature from dying.