November 1, 2020

Spectral Chaos in Spooky Season

The turn of the season from summer into fall has always been a time I looked forward to. But in this topsy-turvy 2020 with its interminably long and hot summer, I needed fall. But most of all, I needed Spooky Season.

Halloween has long inaugurated fall. It’s generally the first full on COLD day of the year where we get to go outside and enjoy the crisp leaves and sharp air. But this year, everything is different. Life and lung are threatened outside of our doors. Typical of 2020, this Halloween even featured a blue moon. Who knows what chaos awaits us as we enter the Dark Half of the year?

Happy Samhain!

I guess I do. A bit.

Because we here at Music City received a special gift from RagingRiver of the NY Sisters of the Flame. After a time of hiatus, we bring you a new spoiler for Spectral Chaos.

Simple disclaimer stuff is required. Spectral Chaos is an art project. We received these cards as a gift and they are not for sale. This is a realization of Barry Reich’s original set design purely for the enjoyment of the card design.

When we received the pack, we had a webcam chat to get the club’s real-time reactions to the cards. And so that’s what we’re sharing below. Our initial reactions, thoughts on playability, and opinions on brokenness are captured for posterity as-it-happened. Starting with the commons and going to the ultra rares, here is the newest spoiler for Spectral Chaos:

Basic Lands:

The first two cards are ones we’ve seen before. Included in our pack was a Plains and an Island in arts previously spoiled.

New spoiler or now, seeing them in person is otherworldly. The art is beautiful and the colors and finish on the cards are crisp and clean. If I can get a stack of these basics, they’d definitely wind up in some Middle School decks (owing to the big mana symbol in the text box).

On to the new cards. In order of their appearance in the pack, from common to rarest:

Tempest:

First card out was pretty nice! A 3-mana green instant that deals with Auras is more playable than one might suspect. While Old School doesn’t feature Naturalize, Green has to be content with blanket enchantment removal. Tempest is costed the same as Tranquility, but you get the added bonus of having a Hurricane effect. This deals with flying weenies rather well–at instant speed, again.

We think it would be a reasonable inclusion in some sideboards.

Wailing Banshee:

Wailing Banshee is next. A 2/2 for 2-mana is on the curve. RB isn’t really a drawback. And when it dies, it does a Pestilence. More weenie sweeping hate. Do you know how many good sacrifice outlets there are in Old School? Diamond Valley. Ashnod’s Altar. Fallen Angel. Lord of the Pit… This is quite playable.

Caterpillar/Moth:

Look familiar? If you cracked a bunch of Visions or Mercadian Masques packs back in the day, you’ll recognize the design of Giant Caterpillar (as mentioned in the Chaos History text).

Now… a 3/3 for 4 is pretty Green, if you catch my meaning. But it’s the transform ability that takes it to a new level. The design is incredibly cool, and something we would ultimately see in later sets. In terms of playability, this is borderline. It’s probably good in limited, but I can’t see it being included in any of my decks. In terms of nostalgia and creative design, this thing is great.

Punishment:

Too many words. Counter that.

Actually, this is pretty cool. For one, the art selection is phenomenal. The colors really work well with the spectral border. But reading the card, this winds up being The Rack, but for colors instead of cards in hand. The genesis of Invasion Block can really be seen in this card’s design.

As for where this fits in Old School… You want an Enchantress/Blood Moon deck? This is your win-con.

Bog:

The enemy dual cycle in Spectral Chaos is just too cool. It winds up adding a 5th dual land to your mana base, making mana just that much more smooth. And with black decks requiring lots of double-black, that’s a welcome inclusion.

Pulling a dual land in a pack is always fun, and this is easily a satisfying pull. Our group also had a lot of fun re-reading the phrase “if you control no Bog” for how entertaining it sounded to say out loud.

Frumious Bandersnatch:

Magic wouldn’t be Magic without classic literature references. This Jabberwocky beast was a pleasure to see. For one, a 1/1 for 2-mana with an ability is on the curve. But the ability it has is almost as good as Deathtouch. 5 damage to anything it meets in combat is enough to scare away most any blocker or shun any attack. This card is also immune to First Strike. It can be pumped with a Pendelhaven. Bandersnatch would 100% go in my mono green deck. This is a limited bomb and is more powerful than it looks.

Wall of Death:

Pestilence has no better friend than the Wall of Death. This is a 4-of in any deck running Pestilence. Each B you pay now becomes 2 damage with the Wall. This is such a cool card. Sure, it can be bolted, but the flavor and synergy here is undeniable.

Shift:

I love Blue/Green. I love weenie aggro. I love Berserking an Unstable Mutation-ed Scryb Sprite. Thinking of the possibilities with Shift send you into a complicated place, though. This isn’t an instant like Transmutation. This is an enchantment. It stays. Your Serendibs are now in Bolt range, but swing for 4. Brass Man is a 3/1. But what does a Berserk do to them?

Aggro players: it’s time to brush up on Rule 613.1g Layer 7 and Rule 613.4c and d. Berserking will double your creature’s toughness with Shift in play. Sorry to burst your bubble. Combo players: learn these rules too so you can mess with the aggro player in Round 7 that’s already done too much math on the day.

This card is Chains of Mephistopheles for drunkards that want to turn dudes sideways.

Green Damping Field:

Repeatable color hosed Forcefield. This is great! For a weenie deck in white, this is a great card because you want to keep open mana and not waste it on a Circle of Protection. Obviously, with COPs, some are more useful than others. I’d imagine the same is true here, but who knows what colors get a boost with what else is in Spectral Chaos.

Red-White Antimana:

Stop.

We need to have a talk about this.

Free mana is always bad. Not mana acceleration like Dark Ritual or Sol Ring. I mean FREE mana. Moxen are strictly better than basic lands. Black Lotus is insane. This CYCLE OF ENEMY CARDS is truly off the charts on power level. In the realm of MTG mana should not come for free. It is simply too powerful to create a balanced and healthy play environment.

This card–each of these 5 enemy colored cards–is too good to remain unrestricted. Why? Normal dual lands, plus the new enemy colored duals. That’s a lot of Plains and Mountains available.

Turn 2, you tap both your Plateaus for mana to cast a Fireball. Now you drop an Antimana and your T2 Fireball for 1 is actually a Fireball for 5 (RR off the Plateaus, which are tapped. Then an extra W for EACH Plateau, and an extra R for EACH Plateau).

Six mana on Turn 2. Serra Angel. Shivan Dragon.

Are we in different colors? Blue-Red Antimana gives you Blood Moon AND Serendib on Turn 2 off a pair of Volcanic Islands. The Black antimanas makes Lich so much easier to cast. Is there a Stasis on the other side of the table? It doesn’t matter. The card doesn’t cost mana to cast in order to net you mana.

Free mana is always bad.

Now… to hammer home this point, there was another card spoiled in Spectral Chaos a while back that pairs too well with our Red-White Antimana. That card is Solar Flare (which has no right to cost 3-mana):

Turn 1. Plateau. Go.

Turn 2. Plateau. Tap both Plateaus for mana. Play Red-White Antimana. You have 6 mana in your mana pool. Use 3 to cast Solar Flare. You draw 11 cards. You have 15 cards in your hand and 3 mana floating. And you probably drew more Antimanas, because what fool would run fewer than 4?

Solar Flare isn’t going to be the problem. Antimana will.

Now, obviously, we thought of the interactions this card would have in an Old School format that included Spectral Chaos. In limited, would it be that good? There are still enemy duals, so probably.

Say it with me: Free mana is always bad.

Somehow, this wasn’t the final card in the pack. There were still two more. If they’re anything like this one, this pack will turn out to be the best pack of Spectral Chaos yet spoiled.

Animate Lands:

I don’t play Modern or anything really past Scourge. The other, smarter members of MCOS informed me that animating lands is a blue-red ability. So that’s cool! This card immediately jumped out to me as being incredibly cool.

Blue/Red Burn decks have more reach now to go wide, rather than rely on a single Efreet. And in my favorite color combination–RUG–it gets nutty. Add Fastbond for as many creatures as you want. Add Concordant Crossroads to pay that Fastbond damage off. Add SHIFT, FROM ABOVE to make all your lands meaner.

Animate Lands is an incredibly cool card that synergizes in fun ways to other cards in this set.

Still not as broken as antimana.

Total Recall:

The first reaction on our chat when I revealed this card was a beat of silence followed by “…oh my God.”

Draw your graveyard. That’s getting your Regrowth and Ancestral Recall back. Your Timetwister. All your Bolts or Counterspells. This goes in a Twiddle-Vault deck. This is insane.

In a just world (which we do NOT live in) this card would get removed from the game rather than going into your graveyard. Somehow, Yawgmoth’s Will is a fixed version of this card.

Two words: Black Vise.

Another word: Antimana.

Yet another piece that enables the broken nonsense of a blue or black Antimana card–which you should have already cast in the game (because there’s four in your deck) and will now get to cast again.


This pack was insane. It was an absolute treat to receive this and help spoil the incredibly cool things in Spectral Chaos. The set is sure to be full of flavorful, powerful, and creative designs that would add an entirely new dimension to Old School.

But I think we can all agree: after opening this pack, the rallying cry behind Spectral Chaos should be…

Free mana is bad. Restrict Antimana.

If you get the opportunity to spoil a pack of Spectral Chaos and open a pack with an Antimana card in it, send it to me. I need them to attempt mad science…

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