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In the Margins – Shatter
Currently, there are 367 decks in the EDHREC database running Shatter and not a single one of them should have it as part of the 99.
Welcome back to In the Margins, a periodic column where I give you a chance to push your glasses up the bridge of your nose, adjust your fedora, and furiously type a response beginning with, “Well, actually . . .”
As usual, let’s get any caveats out of the way early. Yes, there are plenty of reasons to run Shatter, the first and foremost of which is simply that is the OG artifact removal spell. The Biggie to Abrade’s Drake. The Dr. Pepper to Ancient Grudge’s Mr. Pibb. The Debbie Gibson to Fury Charm’s Taylor Swift. Nostalgia is a reason to run a card I’ll never argue against, and wrecking someone’s Paradox Engine with a Beta Shatter is Tom Ford-level style points.
Shatter has appeared in twenty-five different sets, as recently as Rivals of Ixalan in early 2018, so people probably have copies lying around that have no other use. Even though most of the options I’ll list below are sub-dollar, people sometimes just jam their draft chaff into a deck because they don’t think to seek out an alternative.
Lastly it’s possible you were raised in a cave since around 1995 and aren’t aware better cards were printed in the interim. If that’s the case, I’m certainly not going to fault you for running Shatter either; you’ve got a lot on your plate besides marginal updates in your Commander deck. Wait until you find out who is President.
I’m also not going to get into whether or not you should be running a Shatter-esque card in the first place. Targeted removal does technically set you back a card, while leaving other players in the pod ahead of you and the artifact’s owner in terms of available resources. Sometimes a thing’s gotta get got though, and it is worth that trade to blow up that Metalworker or The Immortal Sun. Plus, running Liquidmetal Coating and extra artifact removal is a legit way to solve otherwise unsolvable problems in red. An inelegant solution beats no solution at all at the end of the day.
So you’re running Shatter. That’s where you’re at. Let’s take a look at how you can not be there anymore, shall we?
Love and hope and sex and dreams are still surviving on the street. Look at me, I’m in tatters.
Abrade is a recent Standard all-star and sees eternal play as well. It’s just a better Shatter, full stop. It’s a modal Shatter with the option to just flat-out kill four of the top ten most popular commanders of all time on EDHREC, namely Kaalia of the Vast, Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant and Derevi, Emperial Tactician. It also bolts out eight of the top ten most frequently played creatures and thirteen of the top twenty.
The most popular mono-red commander on EDHREC is Krenko, Mob Boss, and not by a small margin; he’s got almost 500 decks on fellow goblin Daretti, Scrap Savant. Yet 40 Krenko decks are running Shatter, and only 17 feature Abrade. It’s not like this is due to the Precon Effect or anything either; Krenko decks are entirely brews, as he hasn’t appeared in any precon lists. Nor has Shatter for that matter. So, you 40 Krenko players? Swap in an Abrade. Don’t make me call your mom.
Fury Charm, like Abrade before it, is a modal spell, allowing you to choose between casting Shatter, giving a creature +1/+1 and trample, and removing two time counters from a permanent or suspended card. I’m not sure how giving a creature a minor buff and trample is a useful combat trick, but having that choice is better than not having it. As for the third ability, Wheel of Fate is in 5,677 decks on EDHREC, and being able to cast twice as soon is also better than not having that option. Even if you only do those things once in a 1,000 games, why not have the option where there’s nothing negative to the flexibility?
One recent addition to the commander pantheon is Neheb, the Eternal. This Zombie bull has an ability that revolves around adding red mana to your pool for each life your opponents have lost this turn. There’s a lot of ways to make your opponents lose life, but punching through with commander damage when someone thinks they’re chump blocking with a 1/1 means a Fury Charm nets you an extra 4 mana. That’s maybe not revolutionary, but it makes Fury Charm into a Pyretic Ritual, and you get that option with zero downside over Shatter. Of the three Neheb decks running Shatter, none are running Abrade.
Shattering Pulse is Shatter with Buyback. I mean, worst case, you cast it and it’s a Shatter. Best case, you cast it and it’s a Shatter that goes back to your hand for three added colorless mana. I’m genuinely shocked to see this is only in 1,513 decks. It’s no Constant Mists, but that’s still excellent value with no down side, and that makes it better than Shatter all the way all the day.
Friends are so alarming, my lover’s never charming, life’s just a cocktail party.
Smash to Smithereens destroys the thing you want destroyed and bolts the artifact’s controller for three damage to the grill. I mean, that’s better than casting Shatter and not smacking someone for 7.5% of their life total, right? The two clauses are separate, too, so you can target a Darksteel Forge and still get the damage through even when the artifact doesn’t blow up. I’m not sure that’s ever going to matter much, but I’ve seen Sign in Blood used as a kill spell more than once, so anything is possible. Having options is better than not.
Some commanders can take extra advantage of this, too. Melek, Izzet Paragon can cast cards from the top of your library and copy them. This means a Shatter on top of your deck can blow up two targets. A Smash to Smithereens? You can blow up two artifacts for AND dome somebody for six, yet we’ve got ten Melek decks running Shatter and not Smash to Smithereens.
Smelt is a cheaper Shatter, and cheaper is better. That’s why when I was single I always took my girlfriend to Arby’s for our first date. Five roast beefs for five dollars, son. Let them know up front that you’re sensible about your finances. I didn’t manage to get married until I was twenty-seven, but I’m not sure that’s relevant here. You know what is relevant here? Smelt is just a better card, and that’s that. It’s like if, instead of Lighting Bolt becoming Lightning Strike, the opposite happened.
So that’s five options in just mono-red alone, all at instant, all at the same casting cost, or cheaper in the case of Smelt. What’s that you say? You’re running Shatter in a deck that isn’t mono-color? That… doesn’t seem like a great idea. At all. Even if you have a minty Beta copy or are recently escaped from that cave we talked about before, that’s not a great play. Why? Well, here’s a few reasons in card form.
And look at me, I’m in tatters, yeah I’ve been battered, what does it matter?
Ancient Grudge is the easiest to evaluate because it literally costs exactly the same as Shatter to cast, except it also can be cast again for a single green mana. It’s basically a Shatter in the hand and Oxidize in the yard, vs Shatter, which is a Shatter in the hand and that’s it.
The downside here is the color rules of commander specify that you can only run Ancient Grudge in a green deck, making it slightly less flexible than Shatter for what decks it goes in, but being able to use it to hit a second target is so valuable it’s become a sideboard card in eternal formats.
Artifact Mutation has two separate clauses, like Smash to Smithereens before it. In this case, it both destroys the artifact and also creates X 1/1 green Saproling creature tokens, where X is the artifact’s converted mana cost. Blow up their thing and get your own things? That’s great. You can even cast it on a thing that can’t be destroyed and you’ll still get the tokens. That can matter when staring at a Darksteel Forge with your own Shared Animosity and Fires of Yavimaya in play, an actual game situation that has happened to me.
Commanders like Omath, Locus of Rage or Rith the Awakener often have additional token support in the deck in the form of Doubling Season or Cathars’ Crusade and can really take advantage of Artifact Mutation. It’s so good that it’s more of a token generator that happens to Shatter than it is a Shatter that happens to make tokens.
Destructive Revelry, like the two previous cards, can only be ran in decks also featuring green, but it costs the same as Shatter in terms of CMC, can also hit enchantments, and Shock’s the controller of the permanent.
Uh-huh, this town’s full of money grabbers, go ahead, bite the Big Apple, don’t mind the maggots.
Rakdos Charm is one of the best cards in the Return to Ravnica charm cycle. It’s a Shatter at the same CMC, though it costs a black mana instead of a generic mana. In a two-color Rakdos deck, the amount of times that generic mana matters is negligible, particularly when you also get two other modes: a Bojuka Bog at instant speed, or forcing each creature deal a point of damage to their controller. Honestly, Shatter may be the worst mode on the card. The ability to exile a graveyard in response to a Living Death or Reanimate can be game-changing, and against token decks, the damage mode can sometimes just straight up kill somebody or several somebodies.
Shattering Blow, on the other hand, actually has an easier casting cost than Shatter. If you’re in a deck with red and white, you gain the flexibility to cast it for whichever of the two colors. On top of that, it exiles the artifact, meaning it can deal with things like Blightsteel Colossus, avoids graveyard triggers like Grave Pact or Wurmcoil Engine, and makes recursion radically more difficult.
Wear //Tear is a Shatter that also lets you also cast it for one white mana to instead destroy an enchantment, or to do both to destroy one of each. That’s a lot of versatility in a little package, provided you’re playing Boros.
My brain’s been battered, splattered all over Manhattan
If you’re still running Shatter, odds are one of these options will work a little better for you, and over time, a bunch of little betters adds up to a lot better. There are just too many other options to keep running Shatter for any reason beyond nostalgia. If you’ve got an argument for it, though, I’d love to hear it. Leave a comment below and make your case, or just leave a compliment about my steely gaze, broad shoulders, and authorial voice reminiscent of a way hotter Kerouac.
Until next time, I’m Dana and I’ll see you In the Margins.
Lathliss, Fire with Fire