Into the Scrapheap? – Episode 3 (Vapor Snag)

In today’s episode we examine another new version of a spell that originated in Alpha. New Phyrexia’s Vapor Snag is the latest in a long line of spells that “bounce” permanents back to a hand:

There have been a lot of varieties of this type of spell, with the bounce sometimes being tacked onto something else, and the target ‘bouncing’ around from just a creature to any permanent. I want to focus here on only the most strict comparisons, though, and start with the mother of all bounce spells:

Unsummon (Alpha) U
Return target creature to its owner’s hand.

Vapor Snag would appear on the surface to be a strict upgrade, adding a point of damage to the exact same spell, but it’s important to remember that sometimes we want to bounce our own creatures. So, there are times when you would wish to have a simple Unsummon, but unless you have a specific plan to bounce your own dudes, you might just be willing to take the one point of damage in those few instances when it becomes necessary to bounce your own guy. I would definitely start with Vapor Snag in mind if an Unsummon is what you need, then adjust accordingly. I definitely like the thought of bouncing a guy that was stolen from me (with a Mind Control or Mark of Mutiny, say), getting him back and dealing a point of damage to the thief 🙂

Flooded Shoreline (Visions) UU
UU, Return two Islands you control to their owner’s hand: Return target creature to its owner’s hand.

Except for the fact that the effect is repeatable, and maybe there’s some weird reason that you want to bounce and replay an island (maybe in a Landfall deck?), why would you play this? 4 mana for a 1 mana spell that sets you back at least one land just seems bad. It would take a very specific combo to ever make me want to play this.

Man-o’-War (Visions) 2U
Creature — Jellyfish (2/2)
When Man-o’-War enters the battlefield, return target creature to its owner’s hand.

Here, in the same set as Flooded Shoreline, we get the bounce spell attached to a creature. I know this dude has enabled a few combos in its day (I’ve had to play against some of them), and it’s reasonably costed: 2 mana for a 2/2 blue bear plus one more for the Unsummon. Just about right it seems.

Equilibrium (Exodus) 1UU
Whenever you cast a creature spell, you may pay 1. If you do, return target creature to its owner’s hand.

I definitely like this enchantment better than Flooded Shoreline. This makes every creature you play into a Man-o’-War. This begs to be combined with something that does damage to your opponent every time a creature enters the battlefield and some 0-drop like a Memnite or Ornithopter (Leyline of Vitality and Angelic Chorus could gain you a bit of life, and Carnival of Souls seems to be able to create an infinite loop that would kill you :-(, and Electropotence is too expensive . . . ah, found it: Pandemonium! Hey, it was in the same set… wonder if anyone ever did something with these two back in the days of Exodus? Well, I guess there wasn’t any Memnite back then, and this combo is probably too slow for the Legacy format. Oh well. . . a part-time Johnny can dream :-))

Sigil of Sleep (Urza’s Destiny) U
Enchantment — Aura
Whenever enchanted creature deals damage to a player, return target creature that player controls to its owner’s hand.

Auras are so fragile, and you only get to bounce stuff if you do damage. This was probably limited fodder back in its day.

Snap (Urza’s Legacy)  1U
Return target creature to its owner’s hand. Untap up to two lands.

A free bounce spell! Of course, you have to have the two mana initially, so this doesn’t quite render Unsummon obsolete, but it’s close. OK, it’s like those factory rebates – you have to pay upfront and then wait for them to mail you your check. But again, I’d have to think pretty hard before choosing Unsummon over this.

Withdraw (Prophecy) UU
Return target creature to its owner’s hand. Then return another target creature to its owner’s hand unless its controller pays 1.

Here’s another upgrade. It would be even better if the second U was a kicker cost instead of built in. As it is, there are times when that second creature is your own or not there at all (meaning you can’t actually cast this). Still, if you are using Unsummon to clear the way for your attackers, there are definitely going to be times when this is preferred.

Seal of Removal (Nemesis) U
Sacrifice Seal of Removal: Return target creature to its owner’s hand.

The seal cycle in Nemesis was interesting, but essentially inferior to the originals. Basically, you have the same spell and same cost as Unsummon, but now it sits there on the table making it easier for your opponent to play around it. They could even force you to use it by trying to Disenchant it. I guess there’s a little card advantage in that situation, and there are times when you can use an extra mana on one turn to play this down and have it on another turn when you don’t have the mana available. So, it’s not useless, but still I would consider this a slight step down from the original.

Repulse (Invasion) 2U
Return target creature to its owner’s hand.
Draw a card.

2 mana for a cantrip? What a rip-off! I guess if you’re really desperate for that extra card, you’d be happy to pay it, but when designing a deck, I can’t see how this would be preferable unless you really just want to thin your deck, and nowadays there are better and cheaper blue cantrip cards. Take a pass.

Angelic Shield (Invasion) WU
Creatures you control get +0/+1.
Sacrifice Angelic Shield: Return target creature to its owner’s hand.

I suppose you play this for the W ability more than the U ability, but there’s only a few creatures that really need the boost to their toughness (I use Leyline of Vitality with my Protean Hydra, but that’s green not white). I guess the cool thing about Magic is that a card that looks pretty lame becomes perfect in just the right deck. I just can’t think right now what that deck would be for this card.

Crosis’s Charm (Planeshift) UBR
Choose one — Return target permanent to its owner’s hand; or destroy target nonblack creature, and it can’t be regenerated; or destroy target artifact.

I like all the various charms just because you get more than 1 card’s worth of action in only 1 card in your deck. If you choose the bounce ability, you are paying 3 mana for it, but you do get to bounce any permanent instead of just a creature. I guess you have to be willing to overpay for the flexibility.

Jilt (Apocalypse) 1U
Kicker 1R (You may pay an additional 1R as you cast this spell.)
Return target creature to its owner’s hand. If Jilt was kicked, it deals 2 damage to another target creature.

I do like the Kicker mechanic, especially when it’s reasonably costed. This one is a bit like the charm, though: Want an Unsummon? You will have to overpay for it, but we’ll give you some further options. Want to add a Shock to that Unsummon? You’ll have to overpay for both. But it all comes at the cost of only 1 card slot in your deck. Probably not worth it in most cases. I think I smell some limited fodder here…

Echo Tracer (Legions) 2U
Creature — Human Wizard (2/2)
Morph 2Blue (You may cast this face down as a 2/2 creature for 3. Turn it face up any time for its morph cost.)
When Echo Tracer is turned face up, return target creature to its owner’s hand.

A really expensive Man-o’-War!! You either overpay for a blue bear (3 mana) or really overpay for a Man-o’-War (6 mana!!!) I’d like to see how this is a good deal anywhere.

Consuming Vortex (Champions of Kamigawa) 1U
Instant — Arcane
Return target creature to its owner’s hand.
Splice onto Arcane 3U (As you cast an Arcane spell, you may reveal this card from your hand and pay its splice cost. If you do, add this card’s effects to that spell.)

I wasn’t playing during Kamigawa block, and I really don’t get this ‘Splice onto Arcane’ thing. The basic spell is already twice as much as the original, but to splice it, you’ll pay quadruple the cost! Does the ‘Splice onto Arcane’ help you get around a Counterspell? That’s all I can figure, and I don’t think that’s worth paying 400% for anything!

Æther Spellbomb (Mirrodin) 1 (1)
U, Sacrifice Æther Spellbomb: Return target creature to its owner’s hand.
1, Sacrifice Æther Spellbomb: Draw a card.

This seems like a combination of the Seal of Removal and Repulse, except you only get one or the other effect. Unless you need Artifacts, for Metalcraft or something, I can’t see why you would play this. They definitely improved the spellbombs in Scars of Mirrodin by allowing you both effects instead of one or the other.

Crystal Shard (Mirrodin) 3
3, Tap or U, Tap: Return target creature to its owner’s hand unless its controller pays 1.

Oh man. For 4 mana (or 6!) you get a situational Unsummon. This is worse than Consuming Vortex. I really expect spells to get better over time, especially if they are going to cost more.

Snapback (Time Spiral) 1U
You may exile a blue card from your hand rather than pay Snapback’s mana cost.
Return target creature to its owner’s hand.

This was a fun reference to the old Snap card, but they really needed to cost this at U not 1U. The only reason for the 1U cost in the original was that it was going to be free, so there’s no reason to overcost this Unsummon, since the cost of a card is pretty steep just to make a creature disappear for a turn (I mean, with Force of Will, you get to fully counter the spell, permanently).

Cryptic Command (Lorwyn) 1UUU
Choose two — Counter target spell; or return target permanent to its owner’s hand; or tap all creatures your opponents control; or draw a card.

Once again, we’re going to overpay in order to have options. I could see this in an EDH deck, where you want to squeeze some extra utility out of a singleton and where mana is probably more readily available in larger quantities. Did this see constructed play in its day? I guess it does bounce any permanent not just creatures.

Banishing Knack (Eventide) U
Until end of turn, target creature gains “Tap: Return target nonland permanent to its owner’s hand.”

This does allow you to bounce any permanent, and for one mana, but at the cost of tapping one of your creatures. I’m thinking there are better options, unless you’re facing a planeswalker about to go ultimate, I suppose. There’s always some possible situation for these cards, but you can’t build a deck based on narrow possibilities.

Call to Heel (Shards of Alara) 1U
Return target creature to its owner’s hand. Its controller draws a card.

Here’s the 1 mana cantrip I was talking about, although you do have to bounce your own dude to get it. You’d never want to play this if you planned on bouncing your opponent’s dudes though; why pay double and give them a card? This is a limited use card ready for use on some ETB guy in your deck, I guess. Seems a little pricey to me.

Arm with Æther (New Phyrexia) 2U
Until end of turn, creatures you control gain “Whenever this creature deals damage to an opponent, you may return target creature that player controls to its owner’s hand.”

Here’s a Sigil of Sleep that only lasts one turn and costs 3 mana. Generally you want to bounce their dudes before you attack, not afterwards. And since this is a sorcery, they know you’re going to be bouncing them if they don’t block, so why would you even play this in limited? Too iffy… especially since this is in the same set as Vapor Snag.

Here are a few honorable mentions in the land of bounce:

Symbol of Unsummoning (Portal)

Remove (Portal Second Age)

Champion’s Victory (Portal Three Kingdoms)

Barrin, Master Wizard (Urza’s Saga)

Neurok Replica (Scars of Mirrodin)

Razorfin Abolisher (Eventide)

Jace, the Mind Sculptor (Worldwake) – the Planeswalker with some built-in bounce!

Æther Adept (M11)

Lumengrid Drake (Scars of Mirrodin)

Kiri-Onna (Saviors of Kamigawa)

Waterfront Bouncer (Mercadian Masques)

Escape Routes (Planeshift)

Sunscape/Nightscape Master (Invasion)


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