No one needs to sell me on why Xantid Swarm is a terrific Magic: The Gathering card. Trust me, I get it, I've been playing the card since 2006 and back then it was in my main deck! But with the metagame being as aggressive as it is, I don't believe our bug friend is very good at the moment.
Reasons Xantid Swarm is a great card
- Shuts of selective counterspells (Spell Pierce, Flusterstorm, Pyroblast, Stifle, etc).
- Counterspells drawn afterwards are dead cards.
- Spells hidden with Sensei's Divining Top or Brainstorm cannot be accessed to stop your combo.
- Can be put into play off of Show and Tell or Exhume to make games uncomfortable for the opponent.
- Playing Xantid Swarm "saves" you a mana on the combo turn where other spells want/need to be cast that turn.
- It's often a high-impact card on the game state.
- Can be used to flashback Cabal Therapy in a pinch.
- You get to say, "Cover you in Bees!"
Reasons Xantid Swarm isn't well positioned
- It's a well known fact that we're siding it in.
- Doesn't stop Counterbalance.
- Against Omnitell lists, we could just lose after casting it.
- It dies to a lot of the same hate that our Empty the Warrens tokens would, making it less effective.
- Creates awkward mana situations by forcing us to search for a Bayou in match-ups where we need to be fast.
- Traditionally not very good against Delver of Secrets variants. The reason being is that it stretches your mana against Wasteland and possibly Stifle on top of likely dying to a damage spell.
- Grixis Delver is one of the most popular decks and fights against storm on two axes - both counterspells and discard (Cabal Therapy). This is actually the same reason we stopped playing Silence (counterspells and permanents), it was ineffective at protecting us during our combo.
- We're no longer getting a "free" turn against Show and Tell variants. We just lose the game on the spot.
- Reanimator and other Griselbrand decks have vanished.
- Lightning Bolt decks are very popular at the moment while Swords to Plowshares are down. Xantid Swarm is traditionally much better against Swords to Plowshares decks as they're more likely to side out their removal. Where Lightning Bolt always has the application of making Ad Nauseam worse.
- Some Omnishow decks are actually bringing in Lightning Bolt or Pyroclasm!
Around three to four months ago I tested Pyroblast over Xantid Swarm. The thought process behind it was fairly sound.
- Can be cast off an on-color permanent mana source.
- Pyroblast can easily be cast in the combo turn off of Rite of Flame mana, similar to discard spells and Dark Ritual.
- Can be used to play around Sensei's Divining Top if set up correctly.
- Pyroblast can answer Counterbalance, Meddling Mage, Vendilion Clique, Delver of Secrets, Show and Tell along with a variety of other things including Dig Through Time.
- Extremely versatile meaning that it can come in for more match-ups.
In testing, the card was fine but it was very low impact – especially when I noticed a Flusterstorm in their hand. The awkward interaction with Lion's Eye Diamond did happen once or twice but not nearly as often as people make the issue out to be. As a sideboard slot, it just felt a little underwhelming which is why I switched back to Xantid Swarm. There was nothing wrong, per se, but it wasn't what I was looking for.
In last Sunday's Legacy PIQ at the SCG: New Jersey Invitational in my first round against "All Spells" I found myself thinking that siding in Bayou over Empty the Warrens was a little weak and was wishing I had a sideboard discard spell. The same could've been said for the Omnishow match-ups that weekend (Although, I was bringing in Xantid Swarm, I would've rather of had more discard). Discard spells like the previously attempted Pyroblast are just a lot more versatile than Xantid Swarm while being easy to cast, especially off of our basic Swamp! Having the ability to actively disrupt our opponents in this metagame holds a lot more value than it has in the past. This made me consider these changes:
While I'm sure that I would like more discard, what I'm not sure about is the configuration. A concern I have is that Duress cannot be sided in against decks like Death & Taxes, although, not costing life to cast shouldn't be overlooked. Thoughtseize is great because it can be sided in during creature match-ups. One thing that I am sure about is that I do not want Inquisition of Kozilek, not being able to hit Force of Will, Dig Through Time, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Gurmag Angler and/or Batterskull is a liability. I'll admit, I feel somewhat foolish playing a sideboard full of singleton Burning Wish targets. That said, a lot of them are actually sided in for some match-ups.
Feel free to share your thoughts on this as I am interested, I'm not sold on anything just yet. As always, keep storming!