Another week, another set of booster packs! Today saw another round of duplicates including Mesmerizing Benthid and Sauroform Hybrid plus some new cards in the form of Archway Angel and Basilica Bell-Haunt. All of these merit a discussion but I’m going to talk about an instant which I found my first copy of:

Essence Capture

Essence Capture is a BlueBlue instant that counters a target creature spell; when you do this, you get to put a +1/+1 counter on a creature. If you were paying attention over the weekend you’ll notice that I used 4 copies of this in my Ruse of an Ooze deck as a defensive way to provide extra tokens for Simic Ascendancy.

There are currently 3 other “counter target creature spell” instants in Standard Magic:

  • Essence Scatter 1 Generic ManaBlue: A straight up counter at common rarity1 with no extras.
  • Hornswoggle 2 Generic ManaBlue: Counters a creature and gives you a Treasure2 artifact.
  • Bone to Ash 2 Generic ManaBlueBlue: Counters a creature and gives you card draw3.

My first thought when seeing Essence Capture was that it was good but not ideal for casting due to the BlueBlue requirement; making it 1 Generic ManaBlue would make it much easier. The cost makes sense though when you look at Essence Scatter, a common card with no bonuses for the same CMC. As the rarity isn’t that much higher, it stands to reason that it would have to be either 2 Generic ManaBlue or BlueBlue and I feel the right choice has been made here.

So why am I talking about this card rather than something more interesting like Mesmerizing Benthid? It’s mainly because +1/+1 counters are so important in the current meta. Consider the Simic; their guild ability — adapt — is built around adding counters and usually that activates some additional bonus. For example:

  • Benthic Biomancer Blue: Draws a card whenever a counter is placed on it.
  • Incubation Druid 1 Generic ManaGreen: Gives you 3 mana when Tap rather than 1 mana if it has a counter.
  • Sharktocrab 2 Generic ManaGreenBlue: Whenever a counter is placed on it then it can tap a target creature for two turns.
  • Scuttlegator 4 Generic ManaGreen/BlueGreen/Blue: Loses it’s “Defender” status if it has a counter.

All of those creatures can use adapt to give themselves counters but those costs can be quite high; being able to add a big bonus to a creature whilst countering an opponents is an incredibly powerful move especially if you place the counter on Incubation Druid effectively making the spell free4.

In short, if you are playing with the Simic guild then there is a very good chance that this is the counter spell for you. It would be nice if there was something similar for a bit more mana that counters all spells (rather than just creatures) but this should still see some good play in most Simic decks.

  1. The others, including Essence Capture, are all at uncommon rarity. ↩︎

  2. Which, as you may be aware, is designed to be sacrificed to give you one mana of any colour. ↩︎

  3. This would be good in my milling deck↩︎

  4. Imagine it is turn 3 and you have two islands, one forest, and the druid in play; opponent tries to bring in a creature and you counter it putting the +1/+1 on the druid. You’ve tapped your two islands to do the counter but you now have 4 mana available to bring in something with flash like Dreamcaller Siren or Frilled Mystic (which is perfect if they have mana left to cast something else). ↩︎

This post is part of a weekday series where I open up a booster pack and pick a card to discuss. Whilst these are often the best cards from the set, I'll often pick one that is a bit niche or one that has cool artwork or flavour text. If there's a particular card you want me to take a look at, get in touch or join my Discord community.