Looking at a Random Card: Deathgrip

(What am I doing here? Read here!)

To get this feature off, I’m starting out with posting entries at high frequency. Don’t expect me to keep that up indefinitely, though!

Deathgrip is one of the original color hosers from alpha, mirrored in Lifeforce. Both saw the light of high level constructed play in the game’s earliest days, and no doubt many casual players around the world used them to get a stranglehold on their opponents (I know, because I sold them to such players, when I was working in a hobby store).

Let me get the positive thing about this card out of the way: It can be a useful sideboard option in a constructed environment, allowing you to strengthen your deck against a broad, but not too broad range of strategies. Having to combat each specific strategy you may encounter with specific cards (as is ususally the case in an extremely fast, combo-heavy environment) decides matches and even your performance during whole tournaments during the deckbuilding process, measuring your ability of predicting the metagame AND your luck to actually play against  a segment of the metagame corresponding to what you predicted (correcctly or not) much more than your playing skill. Broadly useful sideboard options do a lot of good in any constructed environment!

That said, this card is as badly designed as they come! Yes, a color hoser card can be expected to be strong against that color (that being the whole point), but it should certainly not be as punishing as saying: “Look what I drew! Good Game!” The fun in Magic comes from PLAYING this game, and any card which just takes your ability to participate away ends that fun. There have been matches played on pro level where a Deathgrip on one side of the table and a Lifeforce on the other side had been dropped on the players’ respective second turns, and I don’t think I need to tell you how excruciating the resulting non-play between those decks for the rest of those matches had been!

Iona, Shield of Emeria costs nine mana, and that is STILL no excuse for printing such an unfun effect which effectively ends many games without putting the opponent out of his misery. And even if an opponent is only crippled halfway, being able to cast spells from his secondary color, playing against this single card will give him an experience as bad as facing a full-blown land destruction deck.

Taking options away from a player so massively that their ability to participate in a game is largely undone is probably the worst thing a card can do. Deciding games randomly for you if your opponent happens to be affected by a certain hosing effect, while being useless most of the time, might be the second worst thing. Deathgrip delivers on both these aspects. Having quite good flavor doesn’t do a darn thing to save this card from an F, and it is upgraded from F to F+ only because its availability in certain constructed environments might constitute the lesser of two evils if some decks have no other way of winning certain matchups.

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One Comment on “Looking at a Random Card: Deathgrip”


  1. After reviewing the grades I gave to other cards and thinking more about which characteristics should lead to which grades, I corrected this card’s grade from an E- to an F+, realizing that I overvalued the upgrading effect I mentioned.


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