I had planned to write a deck tech article on Standard Golgari Cats, but then Wizards announced the ban of Cauldron Familiar. So much for that! Until Historic gets Collected Company—fingers crossed—the archetype lacks legs in the format. The combination of Familiar, Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse, Feline Sovereign, and Lurrus of the Dream-Den with a smattering of Village Rites and removal has potential, so I hope to revisit the deck in the future.

Post ban, I was lacking for a topic for discussion—until it hit me like a bolt from the blue in the middle of an Uro-Typhoon mirror match. I’ve been running two copies of Sublime Epiphany in the sideboard; now that Teferi, Time Raveler is gone, expensive instants get better again. Sublime Epiphany matches up well against Uro—counter the trigger or counter the Uro, copy a Shark token, draw a card, bounce an opponent’s Shark is a blowout—and can be used to counter your own “sacrifice Uro unless it escaped” trigger once you hit nine mana. No other card has brought me more joy this summer than the mega-Command, and no card has given me more (even if delusional) confidence in the possibility that I can turn this one around if I can just hit six mana. In its subtle way, it lives up to its name.

At its root, our English word “epiphany” simply means “a revelation.” But it comes from the Greek “epiphaneia,” which is closer to a manifestation of a god. It’s not simply a self-contained realization, but an almost external infusion of truth from another source. You aren’t realizing something, but having something revealed to you; it has a physical component that’s more visceral than a simple mental connection. This can translate to having the perfect tool for any situation in one package—with epiphanies, sometimes you don’t know what’s important until you’re backed into a corner. In Magic, “epiphany” generally means “card advantage,” with cards like Artificer’s Epiphany and Epiphany at the Drownyard suggesting acquisition of knowledge at a cost. Sublime Epiphany, meanwhile, like many modular spells before it, is pure value with no drawback.

We can trace the history of modal spells back to the start of the game, with Healing Salve in Alpha. It’s a weak card, but it still offered a choice and planted a seed for future designs. In 1996 and ‘97, Mirage Block introduced two “charm” cyclesp; each offered extremely minor effects—Chaos Charm, for example, either dealt one damage to a creature (mildly useful), gave a creature haste (potentially useful in the late game), or destroyed a Wall (completely useless in 2020, slightly more useful in the primordial age of Magic). None of these effects is worth a card by itself, but the flexibility of having three effects, no matter how minor, on a single card meant that several of the Charms saw Standard play.

Charms later returned in Planeshift at BCD costs, and that model continued in Shards of Alara and Khans of Tarkir. There are now several cycles of Charms in monocolors, a Guild Charm for each color pair, and at least one cycle for each shard/wedge. Boros Charm has probably the best Constructed pedigree—it’s a staple in Burn—but the Charms printed since 2008 all see a smattering of play in Commander and occasionally in other formats. Funeral Charm (and its blue mirror Piracy Charm) offer rare Instant-speed discard (Esper Charm does too), while the removal spell mode can take out Dark Confidant or Young Pyromancer in a pinch.

But the real progenitor of Sublime Epiphany—the catalyst for the revelation—came in Lorwyn, with the Command cycle. Like Charms, these offered different modes, but the combination of choosing two options and a ramp up in power of those options ensured they saw considerable play. Profane Command ended games in Limited, while Austere Command has been a workhorse for fifteen years in Commander and casual matches. Cryptic Command had—and continues to have—the most success in Modern, where it can be Snapcast back or stacked with Mystic Sanctuary. Sublime Epiphany takes the “choose two” model of the Commands and ramps it up to “pick any number,” giving the card thirty-one total combinations of effects. Most of those are discountable—you’ll never be happy paying six mana for a Stifle effect by itself—but getting at least three of the effects is well worth the mana.

Let’s break the card down fully. Its closest analogues add up as follows:

Stifle (U) + Cancel (1UU) + [(Cackling Counterpart/2 (1UU)) + (Whispers of the Muse – Buyback) (U)] + Disperse (1U)=

By this formula, you’d expect this card to cost 2UUUUUUU, but we’re getting it for the rock-bottom price of 4UU. Even better, we pick from this smorgasbord on a single card, and in most cases is all-but-guaranteed to be at least a two-for-one. In Commander, it can bounce your own Torrential Gearhulk for a deluge of card advantage; in Standard, it can copy a 7/7 Shark or give you another chump blocker to defend your Teferi, Master of Time. The beauty of the Epiphany, like all modular cards before it, is that it may not be everything you want at all times, but it’s something you want in a given moment.

That mana cost is both fair for the wealth of effects and a step up from Cryptic Command and Mystic Confluence. Cryptic Command is exceptional, but it feels very much like a souped-up charm. Dismiss at 1UUU is fine, pseudo-Sleep with a cantrip is situationally life-saving, but it’s the flexibility to mix and match makes it a top-tier card that has, at various times, defined metagames. Sublime Epiphany has yet to truly prove itself as a Constructed contender, although the security I feel when I draw it on turn five suggests that there’s a chance it lands closer to Cryptic Command than Fever Charm.

My hope is that, much like the -ling cycle, Sublime Epiphany is the first in a cycle of Epiphanies. Sublime Epiphany, like Cryptic Command or Mystic Confluence before it, is meant to embody Blue as a color; unlike the Commands or Confluences, there’s no Epiphany for each other color. I hope to see the other colors receive an Epiphany, but I’m glad Wizards led with Blue—Sublime Epiphany feels supremely Blue, as a late-game instant that crushes your opponent’s dreams. It, along with Kaya’s Guile, is a creative twist on modal cards—even thirty years later, there’s still life left in the Charm/Command model. It makes sense: in all things, keep your options open. You never know what kind of revelation will come if you’re receptive.

A lifelong resident of the Carolinas and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Rob has played Magic since he picked a Darkling Stalker up off the soccer field at summer camp. He works for nonprofits as an educational strategies developer and, in his off-hours, enjoys writing fiction, playing games, and exploring new beers.

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