With Modern Horizons being essentially Future Sight 2.0, it got me thinking about the original Future Sight. The set had some unique mixtures of keywords and played in design space that wasn’t necessarily ever going to be played with again. Today’s card, Gibbering Descent, is a card that could’ve easily been designed in Modern Horizons.
Six mana for an upkeep discard effect is quite an underwhelming cost-to-effect ratio. Luckily we can cast the Descent with Madness for just four mana and could potentially have the added benefit of being empty-handed to skip our upkeep entirely. Why would we want to do that? Well we wouldn’t have to lose 1 life and discard a card, for starters. But as you’ll see soon, there’s some pretty fun stuff we can do when skipping our upkeep. Let’s focus on that first ability before we get too far ahead of ourselves.
The first thing you might do when building around Gibbering Descent would be to pick out cards that like it when players are discarding cards. Waste Not, Megrim, Archfiend of Ifnir, Bloodchief Ascension, Shrieking Affliction, [c]Faith of the Devoted, and Nath of the Gilt-Leaf are just a few examples of benefitting during either your opponent’s upkeep or your own. Gibbering Descent is often seen in decks where they’re wanting to keep you off of cards as much as possible, so it can easily slot into any deck that runs black with a discard focus. While that’s entirely plausible, and more than likely sufficient, I think we should focus on the Hellbent ability.
When I think about skipping my upkeep, I start to wonder what benefits I can gain from not having it. The first thing to come to mind is Echo. Echo makes you pay either the casting cost or some other cost for a creature (or a select few artifacts) the upkeep after it came into play. If we’re skipping our upkeep, we don’t have to worry about this cost.
The thing about Echo is that it was stapled onto creatures who more than likely were worth more than the initial cost. Lightning Dragon is a 4/4 flier with Firebreathing for two and two red. It has an Echo cost equal to its casting cost. This is obviously not some crazy revelation, as casting a Lightning Dragon for just four mana is pretty okay. And as we look through Echo cards, it becomes obvious that this isn’t anything insane. After all, we’re basically running a less consistent Thick-Skinned Goblin.
Fading was an ability that had a number associated with it. After X upkeeps, that card would be sacrificed. Obviously we don’t have to worry about this if we’re skipping our upkeep. Similar to Echo, however, we’re essentially just playing under-costed cards with no downside. I won’t complain about Skyshroud Behemoth sticking around longer than two turns, but I feel we can do so much more.
This brings us to Cumulative Upkeep cards. Instead of having to pay a singular cost the turn after we play something, Cumulative Upkeep was, well, Cumulative. Shocking, I know. Every upkeep the permanent would gain an age counter, and then you’d have to pay the cost for every counter which was more often than not, just generic mana. If you couldn’t pay, you had to sacrifice your permanent. Some cards got clever with this, like Hibernation’s End or Herald of Leshrac. These we wouldn’t want to skip as they’re pretty beneficial. So what hilarious things can we do? Well…
Glacial Chasm is a really neat card. You lose 2 life as the Cumulative Upkeep cost, cannot attack, and gain the benefit of reducing all damage to you to 0. While that might sound potentially dangerous, if we’re skipping our upkeep we won’t be paying increasing amounts of life or taking damage. Sounds like a great card to hide behind while your Descent and Megrim effects kill your opponents. It might seem like a good idea to throw in a few Wheel of Fortune effects for good measure but that will cause you to lose your Hellbent if you don’t have a way to get rid of the cards you draw off of the effect.
Rotting Regisaur doesn’t have much of a downside, all things considered. Eventually you’ll be out of cards in hand and then you just have a 7/6. It naturally pairs with Gibbering Descent. On the other hand, Phyrexian Soulgorger is an 8/8 for just three mana. If you can skip that Cumulative Upkeep, then you’re getting some serious bang for your buck.
If you want your friends to hate you, you can run Mystic Remora. If you really want them to hate you, you can run it alongside Gibbering Descent and be Hellbent.
Outside of those specific examples, you’re once again only really making under-costed cards have no downside. That can make for some fun plays, including but not limited to: Sustaining Spirit, Sheltering Ancient, and Inner Sanctum. Cumulative Upkeep has more room for creative expression than Echo does in regards to what we’re attempting.
Skipping our upkeep isn’t only beneficial unless you have Echo, Fading, or Cumulative Upkeep cards; there are some other really fun cards to play around with and avoid some pretty taxing upkeep costs.
Eldrazi Monument‘s upkeep cost isn’t too hard to pay, but wouldn’t you just like to avoid it entirely? I sure would. If you’re opponent’s are passing around Jinxed Idol you can give a hearty chuckle if it’s ever passed your way. Many demons, like Lord of the Pit, turn into demons with no downside, which is an odd statement to write.
Solitary Confinement and Gibbering Descent are quite the pairing. I believe they were a Legacy combo at one point in time, and still could be. After all, Confinement enables the Descent since it has Madness and will speed up your clock of getting empty-handed for Hellbent. Once you’re empty-handed, Solitary Confinement isn’t leaving the battlefield. Throw in Greater Auramancy and you’ve got quite the lock.
Who Needs a Hand?
Gibbering Descent is a weird one, all things considered. I would suspect nothing less from Future Sight, though. While I’ve only cracked the surface on what is truly possible with the ability of skipping your upkeep, I think you will definitely find that some fun is waiting with the Descent.
I hope you enjoyed this round of Gemstone Mining and have become inspired to ditch one of your phases at your next game night. Either way, happy brewing!