Monday, January 24, 2011

Sweeping Up: Cerebral Eruption

Today's Card: Cerebral Eruption.

I covered this card back when Scars of Mirrodin was coming out. At the time, I gave the card about 10 thumbs up.

Why? Because on the surface it has the appearance of a board-sweeping bomb like Wrath of God or Mutilate, only confined to your poor opponent's board. Your stuff stays in-tact, ready to lead the slaughtering that very same turn.

A very mana efficient card when compared against, say, Flame Wave at 7 mana (4 of it colored!).

But the efficiency is obviously a result of its unpredictability. At first glance I thought it would be the perfect EDH card, just because the mana curve is so high. But there are not just high cards.

There are some very low-cost cards in those decks as well. They are the glue that holds everything else together. As necessary as say a Sol Ring is, the card is anathema to my precious Cerebral Eruption.

What are the chances this spell is going to do good things?

Let's look at the down n' dirty numbers. I can't quiz any of my friends, because their decks are all top secret. But I do have access to my decks, so let's say I'm playing against a clone of myself. Evil Isaac. Created in a one-in-a-million transporter accident. None of the mercy or compassion, but all of the magic cards. Terrifying.

Evil Isaac's Deck X

7 cards at 1 mana cost
15 cards at 2 mana cost
14 cards at 3 mana cost
14 cards at 4 mana cost
6 cards at 5 mana cost
7 cards at 6 mana cost
1 each at 7, 8 and 10 cost
33 land (0 mana cost, gives you a "redo" for Cerebral Eruption)

33.3% chance that I'll find a land and put Cerebral Eruption back in my hand
30.3% chance I'll find a card with a mana cost 4 or greater (which I would be pleased with)
36.4% chance I'll get a card with mana cost 3 or below (which I would be merely "satisfied" with)

Evil Isaac's Deck Y

1 card at 0 mana cost (yikes!)
12 cards at 1 mana cost
10 cards at 2 mana cost
16 cards at 2 mana cost
4 cards at 4 mana cost
12 cards at 5 mana cost
3 cards at 6 mana cost
4 cards at 7 mana cost
37 land (redo!)

37.4% chance that I'll find a land and put Cerebral Eruption back in my hand

23.2% chance I'll find a card with a mana cost 4 or greater (pleased)
38.4% chance I'll get a card with mana cost 3 or below (satisfied)
1% chance I'll find a zero mana cost card, in which case Cerebral Eruption will go the graveyard while I weep salty tears into my shirtsleeve. Because while Evil Isaac has none of my compassion, he does possess ALL my leadership and courage…that's just the way transporter accidents work.

So after laying it all out, the numbers don't look that good. I mean…how happy would you be if you cast a spell and 33% percent of time your opponent got a free Remand?

I wouldn't be happy. But let's look at it from a "glass half full" perspective.

If you were on the RECEIVING end of card that 33% percent of the time gave you a free Remand, would you still use a Counterspell in your hand?

Honestly? Probably. No one likes to hear the noise when its coming for their own critters, especially with something as asymmetrical as Cerebral Eruption. They are going to do everything in their power to get rid of it.

Okay, that didn't work.

What else might skew the results in your favor?

How about tutors that put cards on the top of your deck, like Vampiric Tutor? You could burn them with the card they tutored. Same goes for recursion like Volrath's Stronghold. Unfortunately, Cerebral Eruption is Sorcery speed, making it easy for them to dodge by using these abilities at the time they were going to use them anyway…during your end step.

I think with Cerebral Eruption you just have to hope for the best. 

The one thing it has going is one-sidedness. You don't need an army of creatures waiting in your hand like with a Damnation. You don't piss off the entire board by killing their creatures as well. Cerebral Eruption is budget dynamite, aimed squarely at the threat or group of threats bothering you the most. You just have to hope it goes off.

It's sticking in my deck for now, but it better behave. And there are definitely some things to consider before you make the plunge.

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