Is Black Vise really that powerful?

Written by Ron Saikowski, January 13, 2018

Getting online yesterday morning, I found this question posed to the Old School community... "How likely is it that Black Vise will be restricted?" In context, the person was looking for opinions on its power level and wanted some input before making a purchase. In my mind, the real question is, "Is Black Vise even that powerful that it needs to be considered for restriction in the first place?"

If we back up slightly, the concept of banning cards in the Old School community is one that (as far I understand it) is done on an "as-needed" basis you could say. Should a card suddenly find itself creating an unbalanced meta, it draws attention and is looked at bit more closely to see what if anything should be done. This does not happen often.

With nearly 25 plus years of playing the same cards, all the tricks and combos have been seen, tried, exploited and played out. For a card to suddenly create an imbalance that needs to be addressed by banning is quite out of the ordinary I believe. The case has been made for other cards like City in a Bottle and the discussion often brings up some strong opinions on the matter.

Everything ranging from ban nothing to ban it all and every variation in between. The beauty is that the discussion happens in the first place allowing folks to express their thoughts on the matter in a civilized way. Most of the time. We can be an unruly lot on occasion.

So let's take a look at one of my favorite cards out there. The Vise.

As it was mentioned in the Facebook comments, for one colorless mana you have the potential to inflict a considerable amount of damage to your opponent. True, but this is not guaranteed. Black Vise is not the same as direct damage. A few things need to be in place for this card to really shine. She works, but not always on her own.

Ideally you'd like to be able to play this on your opening turn while going first on top of that. Right out the gate your opponent suffers damage and will most likely suffer again on their second turn unless they've got a great hand and can either destroy the vise or dump enough cards fast enough to get under its effect. Here's the thing though... after a few turns, most players have control over the number of cards in their hand and can control how many they hold onto at any given time.

Add to that...getting one of these into play on the first turn means you'll probably want to run more than one to get the best chance of drawing it in your opening hand and now you've quickly wandered into the aspect of forming your deck around this once card since it's taking up multiple spots.

It's been my experience playing a Vise that my opponent quickly adjusts their pace and can get under the effect of the Vise in short order. They don't even have to waste any type of countermeasure or removal spell on it. They simply work around it and it's not that big of a problem.

Now playing a Vise with other cards that make it hard for your opponent to get their cards out helps considerably. Things like land destruction, a Winter Orb or even a Stasis do this. If your opponent can't play their cards, they suffer damage from the Vise. But again, the Vise isn't working on its own, you need to pair it up with other cards for it to really be effective.

I like Black Vise. I used to run two of them with a Copy Artifact that I'd often use to make a third when needed. In addition, a few Strip Mines and an Armageddon or two and you have the potential to cause some problems for your opponent. Didn't hurt that I played Stasis as well.

All that being said, if I drew a Vise later on in the game (and by that I mean anything after the first few turns), it was nothing but a dead card for me. That's a lesson it's taken me a long time to learn... dead cards contribute to game losses. Like Library of Alexandria, both it and Black Vise are great when played in the very beginning of the game, but only the Library is still helpful as a later on draw since it provides a colorless mana and can still be used even if you're well under seven cards in your hand.

I'm sure my opponent could see the disappointment on my face when I drew a Vise late game. More often than not, I found myself wishing I'd drawn something else at that point. Anything else really. Most of the time I just held onto it until an opportunity to discard it came along.
I don't run a Vise anymore opting for the guaranteed direct damage route these days. Lightning Bolts and Fireballs. They give me a bit more flexibility and I'm not disappointed when I draw one of them later on in the game, but that's for another discussion.

I don't think Black Vise needs to be restricted. I don't think it even needs to be considered honestly. It's like any other card out there in the Old School pool... you either account for it in your deckbuilding or you suffer the consequences of not doing so.

It's no different for anything else out there.

Related: Making the case for banning City in a Bottle.

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IMAGE: WotC Black Vise artwork. Cards from WotC.
KEYWORDS: Old School Magic, banning