Hey there, worshippers and worshippettes! The god-pharaoh has arrived, and in this edition of Under the Hood, we’re going to look into his fiery Aftermath!
Aftermath is a very special kind of mechanic. It’s unique and not unique; not unique in that it’s functionally similar (not identical though, as it restricts regular casting) to Flashback. It’s unique though, in that it allows a spell a second life – As something different!
We first saw Aftermath incredibly recently, with Amonkhet (in fact, Dusk // Dawn was one of the first cards we had seen from the entire set). When it was spoiled it was incredibly polarizing; particularly the orientation of the card, but that’s a story for another day. The side of an Aftermath split card without the mechanic is the only side of the card that can be cast while in your hand. Once it’s in the graveyard (via casting, milling or discarding), it can be recast again for the Aftermath side’s cost, with the Aftermath effect. These are sometimes vaguely synergistic with the first half, but not always (Cut // Ribbons being a prime example in my mind). As for the janky naming convention, in a departure from the preaccepted norm of the cards being split by ‘And’ (for example, Fire // Ice, or Rise // Fall), the cards were split by ‘to’. While it seems weird at the outset, it allowed a lot more flexibility in the pairings that we’re available to use (Wizards have already made a LOT of split card pairings, and I personally felt cards like Breaking // Entering were pushing it last time we saw split cards). Nevertheless, I’ve been quite fond of Aftermath, and it’s unparalleled flexibility is admirable from the last remaining trickles of spoilers as I write this (even now I find myself growing warmer to Farm // Market and Claim // Fame), and something about them feels inherently abusable; particularly in the hand of standard, but extending to EDH (while still legal in standard, I’ve been hit by more Combustible Gearhulks in EDH, and that card seems ripe to benefit from these). But, what about viability at the moment?
Standard is beginning to settle from the upheaval that was brought about from the most recent visit from the banhammer, so it is difficult to nail down the long-term viability of Aftermath in the current standard environment (though the coming year will be interesting for them I hope); however, there is an undertone of Aftermath running through decks, often in the form of one-ofs in flex spots to fill it with two cards at once. First card that needs mentioning is Cut // Ribbons. Seeing a fair amount of use in one or two of in RBx aggro decks, this card fills two important niches. Cut fills an important early game role of strong removal (a slightly overcosted Flame Slash, in fact), which is important for the aggro deck’s goal to vie for board control in the early game; it removes blockers, finishes off walls, and makes life generally uncomfortable for the player trying to fend the aggro player off – the only thing it misses is late game reach… until you read Ribbons. A potent finisher spell in the late game, Ribbons forms the role of reach quite effectively. Once it hits the yard, Ribbons presents a ticking time bomb that threatens lethal if the game goes too long or life totals go too low; in the current aggressive/midrange metas we’ve had in recent times, this is incredibly pertinent. The other intriguing inclusion in lists at the moment is Never // Return. Flexible removal, this spell serves as a valuable way to grind put value in the slower GBx midrange decks in the meta! Never begins strong with a sorcery speed answer to creatures and planeswalkers alike. It’s no Hero’s Downfall or Dreadbore, but at least the upside of Return is bigger than the optional upside we see on recent hole filler Ruinous Path. When flashed back, Return offers to fill a function that has been woefully lacking from standard for a while; grave hate. While we got a load of new grave hating toys in Hour of Devastation, Return represents one of the answers to Scrapheap Scrounger or Grim Flayer (RIP Emrakul, the Promised End, you died for our sins) with the lowest opportunity cost – and it even provides a body when flashed back too. Quite the extensive utility slot!
In other formats though, as much as I wish I could say so, Aftermath is sparse on the ground. Necessities in the flex spots of decks in modern or legacy are already filled with hard silver bullets like Blood Moon or Chalice of the Void, and almost any niche that could be filled by the quirky split cards are all but filled for cheaper. I was moderately hopeful for aftermath when the modern deck featuring Brain in a Jar and Beck // Call surfaced and wrecked face (RIP Bird Brain), but the rules managers in their wisdom stomped that our in short order. It was all for the best, I suppose.
Implications in EDH
Surely there’s a place for aftermath in EDH, Unmistakable?
Well, you’re not wrong. Looking through the Aftermath offerings to our favourite format, on the face of it there are a few spells whose flexibility might trump their cost; Insult // Injury for example may be good enough for Heartless Hidetsugu or other burn decks (Neheb, the Eternal may be interested in this, too).
If any deck wants more than one of these, it’s almost certainly spellslinger decks that copy spells for value: these could include Riku of Two Reflections or Melek, Izzet Paragon. Spellslingers that cheat out big spells too, such as Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge or Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder, may also like cheating on some of the steeper yet powerful spells.
Mechanical All Stars
While a lot of the spells seem underwhelming, some of these spells reek value through either 1) the flexibility of their uses, or 2) the synergy between the two abilities. Because of this, choosing all stars was a lot easier than I had previously thought!
My first choice is ex-standard all star Commit // Memory. While the first half is a tad on the expensive side (I believe it makes up for it by being an instant speed Time ebb with optional Memory Lapse attached), what blows me away is the second half, Memory. While this is both a worse Time Spiral (a $40 card as of writing), or a more expensive Time Reversal, the fact that it is simply stapled onto a piece of removal for a reasonable cost (unfortunately – I can feel Timetwister spinning in its grave) is pretty great for decks that want it. The synergy between the two is also very nice, as it upgrades the Commit to much more long term removal option by forcing a deck shuffle from the table, losing that pesky spell deeper in the offending library! While 10 mana does seem steep, the instant portion of Commit means you can split up the investment between turns, as well.
The theme of over the top split cards continues into Hour of devastation; allow me to introduce Reason // Believe! The first half is pretty bad; 1 mana to do more or less nothing is pretty bad by commander standards (compare to Ponder or Brainstorm), but in the early game Reason is fair enough to make sure you’re not flooding out and to set yourself up for some (hopefully) sweet early turns. Believe, however, piques my interest much moreso. For 5 mana we have the option to cantrip (pretty damn awful), or cheat a creature into play. Yep. You heard me. Free beef. I’ve seen enough Through the breaches (though from the hand and top of library are vastly different, Believe allows the creature to stick around for more than one swing) to know that cheating out a fatty for a flat fee is pretty damn good. While this comes with naturally more difficult hoops to jump through by being on top of the library, this can be helped by cards like Sensei’s Divining Top, Garruk’s Horde, or Soothsaying to guarantee value. Speaking of top deck manipulation though, How about that internal synergy with Reason? The reasonable overall cost on this card allows for easy casting of both sides sequentially, allowing it to create a fairly beefy threat for a potential discount from nowhere. Not too shabby, I think you’ll agree.
For my final piece of cool Aftermath tech, I’d like to put forward Rags // Riches (why does blue get all the fun stuff?). The first half pretty nice as a board wipe slaughter for little guys (I try not to think of this as a worse Drown in sorrow, more a better Rising Miasma), and that’s fine and functional for controlling the boardstate early – to – mid game. What stands out to me is Riches. While a very steep cost manawise (easily the highest cmc half of Aftermath cards), it can net you a lot of value when timed right. Your opponents may get the choice (Blatant Thievery this is not), but if timed when the only creatures alive are huge and valuable (like after a board wipe that clears little guys, like Rags?), then this could pretty easily tie the game up in a nice little bow for you. Huge fan of this card, it definitely deserves a look.
So, you want to use Aftermath in commander? Step this way!
Building with aftermath in mind is a dilemma situation. The colours of Aftermath are evenly spread, so which way do you want to go to get the most out of them?
The first commander I went for is Riku of Two Reflections. Being in 3 colours reduces his options for aftermath cards are limited – but I feel he’d more than make up for it through his latent value grinding ability. Activating his ability on each cast of your aftermath cards gives you effectively 4 cards in 1 slot, allowing you to get an obscene amount of value out of each one; this can in turn lead to a ridiculous amount of card advantage gained (doubling an Insult // Injury twice seems steep at 9 mana, but it seems REALLY satisfying to use one card to deal with 2 creatures and deal 16 damage to players!).
In 4 colours, I’d actually recommend dropping the green in favour of WUBR, probably under Vial Smasher the Fierce partnered with Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker. While alright for fixing, the wider options of split cards get pretty bad apart from the UG pairs (Spring // Mind and all star Reason // Live) – most of them apart from that seemed stapled to mediocre combat tricks (looking at you, Appeal // Authority) that would be best as a single slot in a more synergistic build. For 4 colour you still get a lot of fun, as well as a couple of bodies for the combat tricks that did get through (like Onward // Victory) as well as maintaining full access to the UR spellslinging suite.
As for my personal favourite? Until we get a proper 5c spellslinger commander I’m loving Child of Alara at the helm. He gets full access to the Aftermath suite, the keyword brings pleasing synergy with his unpredictable, destructive nature as a card, AND gives you a decent body to use the full suite of combat tricks on with a decent rattlesnake while you’re sorting your mana out. Pretty huge home run, if you ask me.
What’s that? You want a deck example? Go on then. Introducing:
This was a pretty fun deck to brew up, I’ll be honest. It’s a 5 colour spellslinger brew featuring all 25 (!) Aftermath cards. Due to the nature of Aftermath cards being cheap on the front end, a lot of them are very castable while you’re finding your mana, allowing a small amount of interaction to occur while you’re praying nobody is hitting you. I went Child of Alara for all the reasons above – he’s a decent rattlesnake effect that carries combat tricks well, he enables maximum jank with all of the Aftermath cards, and is a flavour win for a devastation mechanic.
For the ramp and fixing I chose to go for a mix between rocks and dorks for a couple reasons: 1) they’re quick to set up, 2) leaning on 2 types of acceleration makes it more difficult to be shut out by hate pieces like Cursed totem or Stony Silence, and 3) the critical mass of dorks in this deck give nice acceleration uses for Claim // Fame or the latter half of Dusk // Dawn if your dudes get picked off early.
The main purpose of the deck is to provide a flexible and unpredictable way to fish up the Reset/Reiterate/Lightning bolt combo online (wherein you copy reset infinitely to generate infinite mana, then infinitely copy Lightning Bolt to deal with infinite players). The reiterate provides an extra utility use of being able to copy your split cards for value, but it is mostly a combo piece. This combo is also entirely why Firemind’s Foresight is present, as a 1 card way to set up the pieces.
When doing aftermath/split cards in general, I knew I wanted to abuse the new rule that counts split cards as a combined mana cost when anywhere but on the stack. As such, there is a small clash subtheme, where the high frequency of artificially expensive cards allow you to win clashes and grind value out of cards like Research the Deep or Recross the Paths. It also sets up neat combo opportunities with a damage doubler and Combustible Gearhulk.
One last card I’m super excited about in a build like this is Mizzix’s Mastery. When overloaded, you are allowed to cast either side of every aftermath card in the yard, allowing it to act as an Epic experiment for which you always have a quantifiable outcome! For some of the hilariously overcosted sides of these split cards (looking at you, Rags // Riches), this is the best way to cheat them out.
That just about covers it for aftermath guys! If you made it to the end thank you so much for reading. If you’re hungry for more, be sure to like us on Facebook or our shiny new Instagram page! I’ll be back soon with more, but for now, Unmistakable out.