Wizards R&D has been pumping out crazy shit to divest us all of our hard earned dollars for over 20 years now. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “There is a card to do almost anything in Magic. If there isn’t a card to do it, there is a combination of cards to achieve the effect.” This had led to some fantastically well-built sets and some hideously designed mistakes like uncle Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It has also led to some very curious cards from Magic’s history. Today I would like to talk about an effect which can only be directly achieved with two cards. Without further ado, let’s introduce the stars of tonight’s show: Divine Intervention and Celestial Convergence.
[editor’s note – this ode to nobody ever winning is a tome – we’ve split it up into two parts. Part one is a technical discussion. Part two, running next Monday night, gets into the nitty gritty of Kaka’s deck list to pop Interventions like a Swiss madman.
Whiskey Bottle Open, What’s the Deal Cecil?
These two cards are unique. There is no other card like either of them. Out of the tens of thousands of Magic cards that have been printed, these are the only two that explicitly end the game in a draw. I don’t mean a draw due to an involuntary infinite loop that neither player has a way to stop; I mean these two cards have the text “the game ends in a draw”. There are no winners, there are no losers. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am, fat lady brought the whole damn choir, it’s all over red rover, pick up your stuff and lets play a new game.
Thinking about this for a second. I suspect you are all wondering why I am talking about this. Isn’t having a game end like that in a draw a total fun suck? No one wins, no one loses, game just shuts down. Doesn’t that feel like the last two hours has been just reduced to a waste of precious gaming time?
My personal opinion is “no”.
Let us look at this another way: the game has dragged on for two hours. Back and forth swings with people threatening to end the game have been thwarted at the last minute. Suddenly someone slams down a hard lock game finisher and ends it all there. Doesn’t that sometimes feel like a fun suck ending? Sure, it was some sad finisher that won them the game, but didn’t you have an awesome time with the swinging threats left, right, and centre? Of course you did, and that is in my humble opinion what I think counts most: that journey through awesome plays, the stresses of counter play and pathing your deck options, trying to read your opponent, and the play of the game. Sometimes having a winner is a fun suck because someone eventually had to win that game. What about if the game ended in a draw?
Weapons of War – The Cardboard
As mentioned there are two bits of cardboard in Magic’s illustrious history that have this ability to draw the game: Celestial Convergence and Divine Intervention. I’d like to talk about how these cards work in detail, because as we all know, the structure of the wording on a Magic card can make all the functional difference.
This puppy is an interesting cup of tea. Let’s start by looking at how Convergence works. Celestial Convergence has two abilities. First, it enters the battlefield with seven omen counters (Take note people. Unique counter type sources are always good things to be aware of for future printings). This is not an “enters the battlefield trigger.” It’s like Clone; it simply comes into play with the counters on it.
The second ability on Convergence triggers only on its controller’s Upkeep step. This does two things: first, an omen counter is removed from Celestial Convergence. Next, it checks to see how many counters remain. If no counters remain, the game state is checked and the game ended as follows: either the player with the highest life total wins, or if two or more players are tied for the highest total, the game ends in a draw.
As you, dear reader, can see, this card both takes a while to reduce itself to zero omen counters, and then is conducts a test with conditions that are very difficult to meet if the game is to end in a draw. In the time those omen counters take to come off, the game may well end, the controller of Convergence may be removed from the game, or life totals could have changed beyond the victory or draw state a player wants. In other words, you have to do some fancy dancing to kick out the (draw) jams.
Moving along let’s look at our other compadre, senor Divine Intervention.
Divine Intervention is a cool kitten – it has three, yup count them, three fantastic abilities. Like Convergence, Intervention’s first ability put it into play with two Intervention counters. Again this is not an “enters the battlefield trigger,” so no Stifle, Trickbind, Voidslime or any of their ilk. I’d also like to point out for anyone who read my Magosi article from a while that Intervention counters are also a unique counter type.
Intervention’s second ability, like Convergence’s, triggers on Upkeep. That trigger removes a counter. Totally Stifleable (that’s a word right?)
Third, and most importantly, removing the final counter from Divine Intervention puts a triggered ability goes on the stack. When this ability resolves the game IS a draw. There are no conditional checks of the game state. Providing the controller of Divine Intervention was the controller of the thing that removed the final counter, that ability goes on the stack, and once that resolves, game over….
Is it a Gun Fight or is it a Knife Fight?
Before moving to talking synergy, I’d like to talk about the pros and cons of these two pieces of cardboard. I prefer Divine Intervention, simply because I can guarantee a draw once it resolves if I can rip the counters off. Convergence is an awesome secondary number, and is half the converted mana cost of Divine Intervention at 2WW as opposed to 6WW. However, it requires a second layer of manipulation of the game state, life totals. Life totals change a lot in the early turns before you are able to land Convergence successfully, so you need to do a whole lot more than just defend your card and manipulate the counters on it to achieve a draw with Convergence. Divine Intervention is a lot simpler; get it in play and rip the counters off it.
The one advantage that Celestial Convergence offers is how goes off. Convergence simply tries to remove a counter and then if the counters are at zero, it tries to end the game. So if a card like Time Stop tries to spoil your fun, you know it will just happen again during your next upkeep. Divine Intervention is a different kettle of fish – its third ability is ONLY triggered anytime the controller removes the last counter. But it only triggers once and only if that last counter is removed by the controller. So it is possible to have that last counter sniped away—if someone else was running Clockspinning of all things, for example. So it does have that small liability.
Thanks for tuning in for part one. Next week I’ll take you further down the rabbit hole with a look at tech and tricks based on my decklists.