It’s only a day until we’re going to find out more about the upcoming set due for release in September1 but for now there are still plenty of Core Set 2020 Boosters to open. Today I’m going to be talking about “graveyard hate” thanks to this little gem:

Grafdigger's Cage

Grafdigger’s Cage is a 1 Generic Mana rare artifact with two static abilities:

  • Creature cards can’t enter the battlefield from graveyards or libraries
  • Players can’t cast cards in graveyards or libraries

This is what is known as “graveyard hate”, a way to stop your opponent from using cards directly from their graveyard. There are many reasons in the current meta why you might want, or be able, to cast cards directly from your graveyard. For example, Arclight Phoenix can be returned from the graveyard if you cast three or more instants in your turn; Brought Back can fetch two cards that were put in the graveyard this turn back to the battlefield; Gravedigger can bring a dead creature onto the battlefield with it.

Grafdigger’s Cage stops all of these interactions but it falls short of other better options. Firstly, this only stops creature cards from entering from a graveyard; it doesn’t stop abilities like undergrowth2. Secondly, it only stops items that can be cast; lands are not cast and so a card like Fall of the Thran or Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar is still effective. Finally, whilst jump-start cards such as Chemister’s Insight can’t be cast when this is in play, it’s fairly trivial to remove with something like Smelt and then those cards are available again.

To do proper graveyard hate, you need to permanently remove items from the graveyard. Fortunately that is rather easy with the following cards:

  • Phyrexian Scriptures: A saga that eventually exiles all cards from all opponent’s graveyards
  • Remorseful Cleric: A creature you can sacrifice to exile all cards in a target player’s graveyard3
  • Sentinel Totem: Tap and exile the totem to exile all cards from all graveyards (including your own)
  • Ashiok, Dream Render: My personal favourite, mill target player for 4 cards then exile all opponent’s graveyards4

Each of these is far more effective at graveyard hate as they prevent phoenixes from returning, get rid of all jump-start cards, reduce the casting cost of undergrowth to 0, and they prevent any lands being bought back or counting towards a creature like Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar. There is also no way to get cards back from exile. Whilst Grafdigger’s Cage is effective graveyard hate, it is relatively low level as should be expected from something that costs 1 Generic Mana.

Fortunately, it doesn’t only stop graveyard interactions but library interactions5 as well. There are plenty of cards that allow for playing cards directly from the library such as:

  • Bolas’s Citadel: An artifact that lets you play the top card of your library at any time using life instead of mana
  • Mystic Forge: An artifact that lets you play the top card of your library so long as it’s an artifact or a colourless nonland card
  • Prime Speaker Vannifar: A creature that uses the library to trade up from a sacrificed creature to one that is slightly bigger

Grafdigger’s Cage is probably good enough to use in a limited environment if you’re up against an artifact deck running Mystic Forge and is very effective against dealing with those annoying Bolas’s Citadel decks. In terms of library searching, Ashiok, Dream Render is once again the better card as it has a static ability preventing that thus stopping Prime Speaker Vannifar in her tracks.

In short, Grafdigger’s Cage has it’s uses but there are probably better cards that can achieve what you want in a better way. On the flip side, this only costs 1 Generic Mana and can be used in any deck so it is often something you’ll want to keep on hand for use in a sideboard just in case you end up facing a graveyard heavy opponent. You might also get lucky with it on Arena and find your opponent misplays due to forgetting about the static effect but it likely isn’t competitive enough for regular play, especially not in best-of-one matches.

  1. Codenamed “Archery”. ↩︎

  2. For example, Rhizome Lurcher↩︎

  3. I make use of this in my mill deck↩︎

  4. If your planeswalker doesn’t suffer any damage, you can activate this five times as well! ↩︎

  5. It’s important to note that, whilst Grafdigger’s Cage can stop players from casting cards from their library, it doesn’t stop Light Up the Stage and friends that exile cards from your library which you can then play. ↩︎

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.