A mixed bag today including a fourth copy of Persistent Petitioners, a Gatebreaker Ram, and the ever interesting Frilled Mystic which I’ll definitely talk about soon. Today though I want to look at a card that gave me a chance to do some research…
Font of Agonies is a enchantment that lets you place a blood counter on it for each point of life you pay. When you have four of those counters, you can pay to remove them and destroy a target creature.
It’s always interesting when a card gets a new way of looking at resources; I think Mark Rosewater said it best in a recent article about making Ravnica Allegiance:
One of the ongoing challenges of Magic design is finding new resources to exploit. Font of Agonies takes a novel approach to this problem. What if the resource you’re seeking is the paying of a different resource? This will allow you to chain payments into one another. As someone who is constantly looking for new resources, I’m always tickled when I see creative ways other designers solve this problem.
With that said, what the heck are you supposed to do with this card? Paying life is not necessarily something you want to be doing very often and the fact you need to pay to cast this, then 4 life to get your counters, and then another to destroy a creature seems… well, odd. Consider that you could just use a Cast Down or Walk the Plank to destroy a creature in most situations and this doesn’t seem great. Severed Strands also deserves a look-in if you have a creature spare to sacrifice. As you are effectively paying 3 mana for the first kill, you could even argue that Murder is comparable. There is a little bit of nuance to consider here; Font of Agonies can be played on turn 1 and activated on turn 2 and it does let you destroy any creature1 at instant speed in a way which can’t be countered2. That does elevate its usefulness but at what cost?
It turns out that there aren’t a great many cards that allow you to pay life:
- 10 lands that are available in the current Ravnica block such as Blood Crypt and Steam Vents. They are dual lands that come in tapped unless you choose to pay 2 life and nearly always command prices above £103.
- 3 creatures that let you freely pay life for some bonus such as Doom Whisperer letting you pay 2 life to surveil 2 or Adanto Vanguard letting you pay 4 life to gain indestructible4.
- Arguel’s Blood Fast // Temple of Aclazotz which requires you to pay both 2 life and to draw a card.
- 2 creatures that must tap; Underrealm Lich (4 life to gain indestructible) and Vona, Butcher of Magan (7 life to destroy a nonland permanent).
I have personally made use of the life paying with Doom Whisperer in order to surveil and buff a Dimir Spybug; paying 4 life to perform two surveils, give a +2/+2 to the bug, and give me the ability to destroy a creature is quite appealing although I’m still not particularly sanguine about this card. If I didn’t have to pay an extra 5 I’d be much happier; similarly, if the ability was to exile rather than destroy so it could deal with Rekindling Phoenix then that would make it much more useful.
Let me know in the comments if you have a particular use in mind for this card. Don’t forget that you could have multiple copies of this in play so that paying 4 life gives you 8 blood counters (or even 12 or 16); that suddenly becomes a much cheaper way of wiping big threats from the board.
All right, it can’t hit creatures with hexproof. ↩︎
I generally prefer something like Dragonskull Summit to Blood Crypt but I can see the advantage that paying 2 life on turn 1 in order to get your dual land confers, especially if your opening hand is all dual lands! ↩︎
There is no benefit in paying 8 life to gain indestructible twice but that would let you activate the font twice; there is no limit to the activations beyond your own life total. ↩︎
Haven’t I paid enough with my blood?!? ↩︎
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.