Commander Focus: Rating Blue-less Counterspells, Pt.1

When you sit down to play a game of Magic: The Gathering, what’s your favorite part? Casting big creature spells? Using powerful damaging abilities to wipe out the table in one fell swoop? Slowly chipping away at your foes by sacrificing your own pawns?

Well, if you answered yes to any of those, you are WRONG. The best part of Magic is getting to make sure your friends don’t even get to cast their spells as you laugh maniacally and twiddle your villain-mustache (fluffy white cat not required). Board control has always been a central part of Magic, but counterspells have always been part of the identity of Blue’s section of the color pie. Why should they get to have all the fun?

Today, we’re going to go through some of the counterspells throughout Magic’s history, but specifically only the ones that don’t include Blue in any of their costs. We also have a few other stipulations on which cards we’ll include:

  • I’m going to avoid most counter effects that are tied to a creature. We’re going to primarily look at cards that can feasibly fill a similar role as a true counterspell. In a multiplayer format, these cards tend to act more as a deterrent than as a trade piece. If the creature has Flash and has the counter on an enter the battlefield effect, I will include it for the sake of it being usable as a practical counter.
  • Devoid cards that have blue in their casting cost will also be excluded, even though they technically are colorless.
  • There is one (1) adventure-based counterspell. I will include this, because in theory you don’t need to cast the creature side, therefore it can basically be used just like an instant.

Just as a quick reminder of how we’ll rate cards, we go with the good old fashioned tier list scaling:

S: The only reason you wouldn’t include this is personal choice, other synergy, or budget.

A: Always a solid choice, can’t go wrong taking up a slot.

B: Generally a good pick, can work well in most decks or very well in others with synergy.

C: Good in niche situations, but might be outclassed by other picks.

D: Generally outclassed by other picks. Only playable in extreme niches or if you just like the card/it fits your deck’s theme.

With that out of the way, let’s crack into some spells.

Artifact Blast

We’re starting off with a solid, straightforward tech piece. Red is no stranger to having easy access to destroying every rock in existence from high-orbit, but the utility of using a counter effect is denying any effects that would occur on entering the battlefield. A lot of artifacts rely heavily on these sort of effects, with things from the humble Meteor Golem to the brutal Noxious Gearhulk being expensive nothing-sinks if shut down. Definitely a meta-call on if this is more valuable than mass artifact destruction, but for one mana it isn’t bad to keep on hand, especially if you’re in some type of spellslinger deck that lacks Blue.

Rating: C, but if you have a lot of Artifact decks in your local meta it can be a nice surprise.

Avoid Fate

Early in the days of Commander, I would have this rated much higher. The issue now is that a lot of removal tends to be focused on board wipes, and even targeted effects can be negated by things like Heroic Intervention, of which there are many similar cards in existence now. Green protection has come a long way, and I think this one’s mostly outclassed now.

Rating: D


This one is one of the more slept-on picks on this list in my opinion. Like many of these, it depends on the reliance of powerful activated abilities in your meta, but being tied to a cantrip effect makes this have so much more power and flexibility. It’s not a card you have to hang on to and use at the perfect moment – it’s just a great way to swing the tempo of a game in your favor by blocking off a big activation from Commanders like Shorikai, Genesis Engine or Go-Shintai of Life’s Origin. Commanders like Lathril, Blade of the Elves can get surprised and absolutely hosed by this too if they tap out at a bad time.

Rating: C. As much as I genuinely adore this card, it is still dependent on the decks at the table, but when it shines it can be a really nice piece.


Speaking of cantrips, this falls into a similar category as above, but I rate this one highly due to it’s unique wording. “Counter target instant spell IF IT’S BLUE.” This means you can cast the card targeting any instant, even if it’s not blue, and still draw the card on the next upkeep. This is huge, since it means this isn’t a completely dead card if there isn’t Blue at the table and essentially has “Cycling” since it can just piggyback off any instant cast to draw a card at worst. At best, it’s an easy and cheap way to stuff a big draw spell or another Counterspell at the table.

Rating: B, and is notably valuable in Mono-Red decks which lack a lot of protection that other colors can gain.

Dash Hopes

Interestingly, this card ends up being more of a burn spell/”group” slug card than a true counterspell. What this is useful for is forcing a shitty decision on a player trying to cast a spell: take a big smack to the face, or lose your spell. The key here is that you need a deck that makes that bit of damage to be actually threatening enough that the player reasonably might have to take the counter option, since 5 health to cast a spell is a tax most players will just pay. Rakdos, Lord of Riots, Mogis, God of Slaughter, and other decks that will beat down and grind out the table will be able to leverage this the best, since 5 life can mean a hell of a lot more if you’re getting your teeth kicked in every turn by all of the other effects these decks pack.

Rating: C, although it’s quite nice in the very niche setting it could be used in.

Dawn Charm

Charms have seriously gotten more useful over time, because this one isn’t my favorite. While it is cheap, all of the effects are blown out of the water by other cards so much so that the flexibility isn’t quite worth it in my opinion. While it can counter quite a few impactful spells, I don’t think it will ever be able to compete with just running the better protection suites in White that can cover multiple of these at once.

Rating: C, I’d rank it D, but it’s hard to deny that being flexible protection at a cheap cost still has a use. Also just dusts Storm decks, so that’s handy.

Emerald Dragon

Remember when I mentioned Adventures? This is that one adventure that’s taking the cake here, and holy hell is that a niche counterspell. Yes, it can be really handy for Artifact and Enchantment decks, but god at that point you might be best just jamming other removal rather than needing to counter a trigger for 3 mana. This could be really dead in some matches, and while it’s flexible with a body tied to it, a 6 mana 4/4 flier is only alright. It can smack down Planeswalker ultimates, so that can be useful at times. It’s not my favorite, but mostly because I think green has access to much better removal for Artifacts and Enchantments, and if Planeswalkers are a problem and you’re running a Dragon deck…you might have bigger issues if your fliers can’t kill Planeswalkers reliably and you have no other answer.

Rating: D


That’s all for part one, but we still have quite a few more to review. Stay tuned for Part 2 where we cover the best of the rest!

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