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Magic Memories: Nether Void


The Tentacled One
Perhaps this one doesn't strictly fall under the category of "memories." Or perhaps it does? One of the two, probably...

No really, I can start off with two important points.
  1. I love Nether Void. I think it's one of the coolest cards in the game.
  2. I have very little experience actually playing with or against Nether Void.
These days, the concept of "Reserved List Legends rare" is enough to let savvy players know what's up. In this particular case, Nether Void is currently hovering around $700. That's for one card. So yeah, pretty exorbitant. As far as most players are concerned, the card might as well not exist. That wasn't always the case, but I vividly remember that the high price tag (a fraction of what we see these days), used to always make the card seem just out of reach to me. Throughout the early and mid 2000's, I had dreams of running a Nether Void deck, but Nether Void was just out of my price range. I did pick up a couple of Italian copies of the card, but by that point, it was kind of too late: my regular Magic-playing friends had either moved away or quit the game. I'd been toying with the idea of Nether Void in a monoblack control deck for competitive Legacy gameplay, but by 2007 or so, I'd given up on that too.
While it still has obvious power, there's not really a niche anywhere I can think of for a truly dedicated Nether Void deck. The card just isn't that good anymore. In EDH, or even possibly in Legacy, it could still be a decent kind of cornercase utility spell. Not good in every matchup and no longer a build-around card, but still a reasonable tool.


The Tentacled One
When I started this thread, I had this vivid notion that "one of my friends used to have a Nether Void deck years ago and it was awesome." But then when I tried to remember the details, I drew a blank. I knew I'd seen the card mentioned by seasoned players when I was relatively new, and I'd even seen it in action at some point. I'd certainly seen it in decklists. But to me and my circle of friends it was generally one of those fabled, inaccessible cards from the days of yore. It was like Moat or The Abyss or Bazaar of Baghdad. Cool maybe, but out of reach anyway. Then again, by the mid-00's some of my friends had built up much nicer collections than I had. I was convinced that someone I knew used real Nether Void cards in a real deck in our playgroup. But I just couldn't remember.

So I texted Al0ysiusHWWW and asked if he remembered. His reply was something like, "Yeah. It was meeeee!"

Well, that explains where I picked up that Italian copy of Nether Void! He only ever had one or two copies, I think, not a full playset. But the card is an enchant world, so two can be a good number for a 60-card deck. And now that I know it was him, it seems so obvious. We talked about the card a lot in 2004, especially just after Legacy became a format. He did some calculations for a kind of cost/benefit analysis of running Dark Ritual and Nether Void in the same deck. Dark Ritual can put Nether Void onto the battlefield faster, but once Nether Void is out, Dark Ritual becomes a dead card. Notably, his favorite deck at the time was his monoblack MaskNought deck. And back then Illusionary Mask circumvented Nether Void. That's right: back then putting creatures onto the battlefield with Illusionary Mask was an activated ability (the card's Oracle text has changed completely multiple times over the years). Al0ysiusHWWW was able to drop Hypnotic Specters and Phyrexian Dreadnoughts with Illusionary Mask, and he only had to pay what the cards costed. This is no longer true and Illusionary Mask is no longer quite as potent as it was in the mid-00's. I think it was changed back to casting the creatures as spells in 2009.


The Tentacled One
I had no idea I was going to go down the rabbithole of Illusionary Mask when I started this thread, but then, that sort of exploration is half the fun of these threads anyway. At this time, I do not know of a good resource for capturing logs of all Oracle text changes to Magic cards. If anyone knows of such a resource, please tell me! I've found some sites that archive more recent changes, but for cards like Illusionary Mask and Time Vault, the progression of functional changes goes back into the mists of time. I don't have comprehensive information, but I'll try to break down what I remember and what I was able to find...

When I was new, Illusionary Mask was virtually unplayed and functioned very strangely. I've heard it compared to Unglued cards. The official ruling was that the creature you summoned with Mask was itself in all aspects, but was hidden from your opponent. So if your opponent tried to cast Terror on your face-down Hypnotic Specter, you were supposed to say, "Nope, you can't do that." There was even a ruling issued that if you used Clone on your opponent's Mask-hidden creature, your opponent was obliged to inform you of what happened as though your Clone was his/her creature and even that you could try to tap your Clone to activate an ability and then your opponent would have to inform you if anything happened! Yikes. It wasn't really a tournament-worthy card that I could remember and fortunately, most casual players didn't own or didn't use it anyway.

After the "Morph" mechanic was created, inspired by Illusionary Mask and Camouflage, the rules had to incorporate a structure for face-down creatures, and that meant Illusionary Mask had to be reworded to function differently. This resulted in a series of errata to Illusionary Mask, but the general form they took was to change it to function as an activated ability that put a creature facedown onto the battlefield without casting it, like Aether Vial. Relevant to Nether Void, this meant that you could use Illusionary Mask to play your creatures all day long and never get the penalty from Nether Void because you weren't casting spells for Nether Void to counter in the first place. More importantly for tournament play in that era, you could cast Standstill and then use Illusionary Mask to get your own creatures out, forcing your opponent to either let you take over the board to break the Standstill. But the most prominent aspect of this change was that Illusionary Mask now worked with Phyrexian Dreadnought. Back then the Dreadnought had an extremely harsh erratum. Instead of functioning as printed on the card, Phyrexian Dreadnought was given an ability that triggered if it would enter the battlefield from anywhere. This technology is still used on Mox Diamond and on some lands from Alliances and Weatherlight. The change to Illusionary Mask meant that it could turn Phyrexian Dreadnought into an uncounterable 12/12 trampler for 1 mana. And in 2003, this combo was extremely potent. The resulting "MaskNought" decks became powerhouses in Vintage and in Type 1.5/Legacy.

But it gets better! One version of the Illusionary Mask Oracle text, in some effort to clean up rules interactions and streamline the card, gave the face-down creatures counters and established that they had an activated ability to allow the player to turn them face-up, forgoing any stuff about them dealing damage, receiving damage, or becoming tapped. The Oracle text on Illusionary Mask instead stipulated that the creatures were 0/1 with and stayed that way until their controller chose to turn them face-up. That has some implications for combat. Al0ysiusHWWW had Hypnotic Specter in his monoblack MaskNought deck. He could pay 3 and use Mask to deploy a face-down creature, then do it again, then attack with both. Opponents had no way, when declaring blockers, to know which creature was Hypnotic Specter and which one was Phyrexian Dreadnought. He'd play mindgames with them and frequently get them to guess wrong or to make other errors out of fear of potentially guessing wrong.

But it gets even better than that! This same deck also, at that time, used Phyrexian Negator.

In most games, he'd turn the Negator face-up and beat people to death with it. But sometimes opponents would stack blockers on it thinking that it was a Dreadnought in disguise. Then instead of being forced to turn it face-up and to sacrifice permanents to Negator's ability, under the Oracle text on Illusionary Mask, he could just let it die as a 0/1 face-down creature. I seem to remember that this was the case, although I forget exactly when it worked and when it stopped working.

Circling back to Nether Void, though, the key aspect of monoblack MaskNought deck was that they were powerfully disruptive while also putting deadly creatures on the field. I think it was the first archetype I saw referred to as aggro-control-combo. The aim was to hamper the capability of opponents to mount defenses with efficient disruptive elements like Duress, Unmask, Hymn to Tourach, and Sinkhole. Meanwhile, you could just two-shot them with Phyrexian Dreadnought (combo) or overwhelm them with Hypnotic Specter and Phyrexian Negator (aggro). Al0ysiusHWWW fell in love with monoblack MaskNought in late 2003 and envisioned it as his masterpiece, the deck he'd keep around even after he'd quite the game and then sometimes break out to play if he had friends who wanted to play some casual Magic. Didn't really work out that way: he renewed his interest in the game and went on to become an enthusiastic participant in Mirrodin Block Constructed, then joined me in trying to build decks for the new Type 1.5 format (which became Legacy). But he didn't abandon MaskNought right away and he made some changes to it in 2004 and 2005. Including Nether Void, a card we'd both really liked for a while. I forget the details, but I'm sure that I'm the one who got him into Nether Void. I build test decks with it on Apprentice and talked about building a dedicated Nether Void deck for Legacy, but I didn't own any copies of the card and it was too expensive for me at the time.

However, it was a fun card for monoblack MaskNought. With Illusionary Mask out, it created a huge barrier and opponents almost never survived once Nether Void resolved. The Oracle text on Illusionary Mask would change again, and in 2009 it would get readjusted in an attempt to reflect the printed text, the meaning of facedown creatures with the advent of the "Morph" mechanic, and the M10 rules updates. Illusionary Mask no longer circumvents countermagic, and that was the death-knell for MaskNought decks in Vintage. It also means, sadly, that the card is a nonbo with Nether Void.

When Al0ysiusHWWW reminded me of his use of Nether Void in MaskNought, I briefly got excited about the idea of bringing the old concept back somehow, perhaps building a controlling EDH deck with both Illusionary Mask and Nether Void. It took a minute for me to remember why Illusionary Mask fell into disuse. Part of me is sad that this cool stuff got taken out of the game. Another part of me is content with the fact that at least Illusionary Mask's text somewhat matches its Oracle text now instead of the mess we had in the mid-00's.


The Tentacled One
Speaking of cards that don't work as well with Nether Void anymore due to rules changes, there's a far more important card than Illusionary Mask.

I've already written about this in the Memories thread for Dark Ritual, but the card has been printed with three different card types. Originally it was an interrupt. Then with the rules changes to the game for Mirage and Fifth Edition, it was made a mana source. Then the Sixth Edition rules changes got rid of both of those card types and Dark Ritual became an instant. Old players seem to remember interrupts pretty well because the distinction between interrupts and instants was so overwhelmingly important prior to the Sixth Edition rules changes. But the "mana source" card type was only around for a few years (1996 to 1999) and isn't so memorable. Dark Ritual and handful of other cards were, at that time, a kind of super-interrupt class of cards. This wasn't arbitrary. The game started out with rules that were not technically robust. Richard Garfield originally thought he was making a casual tabletop game and if Magic had stayed that way, the rules wouldn't need to be able to account for every possible cornercase interaction. The tournament scene necessitated comprehensive rules, and WotC was trying to move toward a more robust system. So by 1996 the updates had codified systems that were already in place, but they needed to address some issues. Activated abilities of permanents were set on speed tiers corresponding to spells (sorcery, instant, interrupt), and allowing interrupts to respond to activations of mana-producing permanents would cause major issues, so a new tier was created above interrupt, something that couldn't be interrupted. This lives on in the current rules with term "mana ability." But back then, mana-producing spells also qualified. No responding to it. A mana source just happened, before anyone or anything could do anything to stop it. As a strange side effect of this rules fix, it became the case that Dark Ritual could not be countered.

For Nether Void, this had two consequences.
  1. A Nether Void deck could use Dark Ritual to help pay for another spell under Nether Void. Previously, Dark Ritual was a dead draw under Nether Void because it would just get countered or it would cost more mana than it provided.
  2. An opposing black deck could use Dark Ritual to provide mana for getting a spell past Nether Void.
An upside and a downside, but the upside definitely outweighed the downside. However, I do not want to overstate the severity of this. Yes, it sucks to topdeck a Dark Ritual once you have Nether Void on the battlefield. But keep in mind that Nether Void decks were already successful well before this rules change and they continued to be successful after it was changed back and Dark Ritual became an instant. The uncounterability of Dark Ritual was never what made or broke Nether Void historically. I can say that much because it is a historical fact. But answering whythat was the case turns out to be tricky. Some Nether Void lists didn't use Dark Ritual at all. Most did continue to use it. A case could be made that Dark Ritual's acceleration was so valuable in the early game that it was simply still worth it to run a full playset even if it became a dead card later. Alternatively, one might argue that Nether Void was so good that a deck based around it could be built not to need Dark Ritual, and that maybe it should have been. Nether Void did eventually fall by the wayside in the tournament scene, and it's possible that the awkwardness of Dark Ritual under Nether Void contributed to that, even if Nether Void decks continued to flourish and grow for years after the rules change. But one might also contend that new printings sped up the rest of the field and made the traditional Nether Void deck untenable, and that isntant-speed Dark Ritual wasn't going to change this one way or another. I don't know if I could convincingly argue for any of those positions, and perhaps they're all right in their own way, depending on emphasis and perspective.

In my own analysis at the time, I came down on the side of not running Dark Ritual in a Nether Void deck. I believed that it was not worth it to run a potentially dead card. Dark Ritual was my favorite card and I thought it belonged in pretty much any black-heavy deck, but Nether Void was the exception to the rule. I think I might have even expressed that here at the CPA. It was all so long ago. I suspect that I was wrong. I won't be emphatic about an about-face on this subject as it is, like I said, tricky. After all, some of the old Nether Void decks with no Dark Ritual did well in tournaments. Deckbuilding is complicated. There's no perfect rule for what works and what doesn't. But I do have a kind of Magic Theory explanation for why Dark Ritual can be worthwhile despite the drawback. It's not just the acceleration. That's the reason to consider the card in a deck in the first place. But there's also a mitigating factor when it comes to the drawback, and it's part of why I love Nether Void so much...

I'm drawn to decks that do extreme things. Storm combo is a favorite of mine and it has the distinction of getting some of the most dangerous topdecks. When it comes to topdecking, variance can be a killer. Legacy has long been dominated by decks full of cantrips that mitigate topdecking, smoothing that dreaded variance (Brainstorm, Ponder, and Preordain). Those decks beat the competition because they increase their chances of topdecking the cards they need, rather than the ones that won't help them. And in some formats, a fast combo deck like a ritual-fueled Storm deck is the exemplar topdecker, simply having the best cards to draw into. It's why symmetrical card-drawing can work so well in such a deck, something I termed "Timetwister theory." You make both players draw cards and your opponent might get lands, might get creatures, might get utility spells to use later, and just might get a counterspell to stop you from winning the game. But you might draw into the card that kills your opponent outright. Your opponent cares more about you drawing cards than you care about your opponent drawing cards because your topdecks are all, "This might be the end of the game." Oh, it might not be! There's that too. No deck in Magic gets to dodge variance entirely (excepting the infamous all-Islands deck). But in some environments, a fast combo deck just gets the best chances at winning the game off topdecks, far moreso than the competition, and I find that appealing.

But it's also possible to go all the way to the other end of the spectrum. Decks with Nether Void tend toward that. You attempt to deploy the contents of your opening hand to slow the game way down. With a soft lock on your opponent, you don't really care very much which order you draw your cards in as long as you can keep ahead with mana denial and grind out a better position on the board. Your topdecks are bad, but you don't care. Some of them might as well be trash. Dark Ritual? Can't use that anymore. A second Nether Void? Nope, don't need it. A land? Fine, but it's not doing anything yet. A land destruction spell? Cool, set the opponent back some more. A creature? Eh, maybe try to play it at some point. A prison deck along the lines of traditional Nether Void decks doesn't minimize the variance associated with topdecks. It takes an alternative approach and tries to create a setup in which you don't care that your topdecks are bad. Grind your opponent to a halt and then kill with something (Juzam Djinn was the popular choice for a long time, although it's virtually obsolete these days). Sure, you might be mostly drawing cards you can't use, but if your opponent can't use the cards s/he is drawing anyway, then it doesn't matter.


Well-known member
I have had a Nether Void for a long time but it has sit in a binder for years now. It made it into one deck, essentially a Green-Black version of ErhnamGeddon, but with Nether Void filling the Armageddon spot. I enjoyed the idea but that deck was cursed. In defiance of all the laws of probability, it was mana flooded, every game. So it eventually had to be retired, and Nether Void has been retired ever since. I have a Queen Marchesa Commander deck that has a lot of prison elements that I suppose it could go in but its also so valuable now that I'm kind of hesitant to put it in anything.


The Tentacled One
Early this morning on the train to work, something jogged my memory. I have no way of being 100% sure of this, but I think that Nether Void was the card that first brought me to the CPA. I was interested in Nether Void decks and came across this article, probably in early 2003. Back in 2001 Oscar Tan aka Rakso published archives at the CPA of some old (or rather, not-yet-that-old at the time) content from the defunct "Beyond Dominia" website (a semi-popular Magic site from the 1990's that evolved into the first site with a dedicated focus on the Type I format).

I do remember finding that article because it was a valuable resource in my deckbuilding efforts at the time. Was it what first led me to the CPA? I can't really be sure. I stumbled across the site multiple times back then while looking for other deckbuilding resources. I lurked for a while and wanted to join the forums, but wasn't able to because, and I can't help squirming when I recall this, I was using the internet on my parents' computer with a dial-up connection with AOL as the browser on a machine with Windows 98. :eek::eek::eek:

So I kept lurking and then eventually talked to Ed Sullivan on AIM and he set me up with an account here. But before all of that, I think the very first time I visited the site was while looking up how to build a Nether Void deck.


The Tentacled One
Not all of the cards I've picked for Magic Memories threads have been involved in tournament formats. But if they were, and especially for cards that were once of particular importance in tournaments, I usually try to summarize their history. In the case of Nether Void, the archived article provided by Rakso pretty much does the job for me. Nether Void was a staple in the "O'Brien School" of Magic, but new printings caused it to fall out of that role. In the late 90's and early 00's, Nether Void was used in black-heavy mana denial decks alongside Sinkhole, Strip Mine, Icequake, and Mishra's Factory. That archetype didn't really get much in the way of new tools, while the competition kept getting faster. Even today, as a casual player looking into potentially constructing primarily black prison-like decks, it's striking how old all of the good cards are. It seems that WotC doesn't want black to get lockdown elements anymore, and that Nether Void is a relic of a bygone era.

By the time I was working on Nether Void builds, it seemed like the main reason they hadn't died out was that adding green kind of breathed life into the archetype. Black/green Nether Void decks did get some new tools. Foremost among them was Pernicious Deed.

Dedicated Nether Void decks faded away, but as with many things, the surrounding circumstances were complicated and it wouldn't be fair to pin the disappearance of Nether Void on any one thing. So off the top of my head, here are some...
  1. Nether Void thrived as a deck that had a solid matchup against older versions of Keeper. It had a mediocre matchup against aggro decks, but could compete with them post-board. But the early 00's were an eventful time for Type 1 Magic. Keeper evolved and so did the fast decks. Nether Void couldn't keep up.
  2. Workshop-based decks could deploy more lockdown elements more quickly, and Stax overtook Nether Void as the strongest prison deck.
  3. Control decks were able to use The Abyss to kill Nether Void. It's easy to forget how punishing the constraints on "world enchantment" cards can be. If Nether Void had been a regular (global) enchantment, it would probably have lasted a lot longer as a tournament staple.
  4. Combo decks became too fast and resilient for Nether Void to handle.
  5. LandStill supplanted Nether Void as the best Mishra's Factory deck.


The Tentacled One

Although older combos seemed more definitive, the advent of the set Nemesis in 2000 would create the greatest prison combo of all time...

By themselves, the two cards are temporary, but the ease with which they can be rushed out (both are artifacts) and the way they cut off resources while also setting the board up so that the opponent will be at a disadvantage once Tangle Wire fades away is deceptively potent. Powered by Mishra's Workshop, "Stax" decks would go on to become the strongest prison decks in Vintage for many years. In recent years, lock pieces have been restricted and fast artifact creature beatdown has gotten better, so Stax has itself been supplanted by artifact aggro with a splash of card like Sphere of Resistance. In some ways, the principle remains the same as what Nether Void decks did. Instead of Nether Void, these decks use Sphere of Resistance, Thorn of Amethyst (restricted), Lodestone Golem (restricted), Trinisphere (restricted), Chalice of the Void (restricted), Strip Mine (restricted), and Wasteland to keep opponents from being able to cast anything before dying to attacks by efficient creatures. Ravager Shops is not really a prison deck: in most games it plays one disruptive card, maybe two, while beating the opponent down in the first few turns of the game. But it's good enough at what it does that there's not really a better option for a prison deck. Sean O'Brien, namesake of Nether Void's "O'Brien School" of Magic, has been known to still play Stax even after almost everyone else jumped ship to Ravager Shops. While it might seem fair to call Stax the spiritual successor to Nether Void, that attribution would be specious for the current generation of Workshop decks.

At four mana and with precious little in the way of support, Nether Void essentially disappeared from Type 1 in the early 00's. It was awkwardly poised to compete in the less popular Type 1.5, with few advantages over the weaker versions of Welder Stax/MUD available in that format. Survival decks, Goblins decks, and Dragon combo decks could generally race under Nether Void, especially on the play. Nether Void was good against the rest of the format, but it looks like that wouldn't have been enough, in the long run.

And then the big format shift happened, with Type 1.5 being replaced by what would become Legacy. Goblin Ringleader was gone. Mishra's Workshop was gone. Bazaar of Baghad, Entomb, and Worldgorger Dragon were all gone. Illusionary Mask was gone. Skullclamp was gone. It was clear that most of the competition had lost so much that Nether Void was in a better position than ever for this new format...


The Tentacled One
I remember that when Legacy was new, there was some general sense with a lot of people (myself included) that Nether Void was going to be a big deal in the new format. In hindsight, the idea seems a bit silly. I think I see how we got the wrong idea, though...

When Legacy was first shaking up in late 2004, there were a lot of ports of old Extended decks. And I mean a lot. The nickname "Overextended" caught on pretty quickly. Pretty much anything you could name that had once worked well in Extended was being tried by someone out there in the world. Now, your typical Extended deck wasn't really prepared to deal with Nether Void. So on the surface, that meant a lot of good matchups for a Nether Void deck, especially with Trinisphere. But in reality, Nether Void in Legacy had the same problems that it did in the old Type 1.5. Too many decks could get deadly threats underneath it right away. Pox proved to be the most versatile black control deck, and Nether Void fell into disuse. Pox already had Crucible of Worlds before the format split, and then it gained Life from the Loam, Tombstalker, Phyrexian Totem, and, most importantly, Smallpox.


The Tentacled One
I noted the Nether Void vs. Pox dichotomy in my previous post, but I don't think that I explained it very well. The printing of Smallpox in 2006 really changed the way most monoblack control decks worked, but let's not gloss over the dozen or so years before that...

There's a bit of historical nuance that I almost never see people bring up, other than the times I've talked about it here. In the early years of Magic, monoblack decks tended to be aggressive, spewing efficient attackers with Dark Ritual and outpacing the opposition. Threats like Black Knight and Erg Raiders are unremarkable by today's standards, but they got the job done. Nether Void was probably the first real black control deck, and others would follow. In the 90's the word "monoblack" generally denoted an aggro deck, and the exact composition of such a deck depended on the format being played. New printings opened up new possibilities and building an all-black control deck became possible. And then building an all-black combo deck became possible too. For most of the 90's, the colloquial usage of "monoblack" was in reference to some form of aggro, and for control decks, it was common to specify the distinction with "monoblack control" also known as "MBC." I've noticed that this nuance has become lost to history with the bizarre quirk that players too new to remember that bit of semantic oddity will sometimes refer to all-blue control as "MUC" because they've seen monoblack control abbreviated as "MBC." It probably can't be helped, although to my reading it's clumsy and annoying. Curiously, I've never seen anyone ever call a white control deck "MWC."

Most monoblack control decks have some signature card used to gain the upper hand in their games. Here are some of the ones that have been popular...

There are other perfectly reasonable decks using none of those cards. In casual play, there are tons of options. But for MBC tournament decks, by the early 2000's, there were two major schools of thought and other options were perhaps fringe choices. For convenience, I'll call those two diverging approaches "Nether Void" and "Pox" because those were the signature cards. But there wasn't just one Nether Void deck or just one Pox deck. For both approaches it became common to splash a second color, and the mixture of different black cards, artifacts, and lands could also vary a lot within each approach. But it's a good dividing line anyway because the two approaches held considerable overlap in card choice while behaving very differently.
  • Nether Void decks attempted to use discard spells early and then, before opponents could recover, to follow up with targeted land destruction, a threatening board presence, and Nether Void. The idea was to cripple the opponent early and then use mana denial through the combination of land destruction and Nether Void to make sure that the opponent can't recover before being finished off by attackers that could otherwise have been fended off. They weren't the fastest decks and Nether Void didn't end games on the spot. But because they took steps to prevent opponents from interacting at all, they did tend to finish opponents off pretty quickly if they managed to execute their gameplan.
  • Pox decks attempted to disrupt resources and to trade cards in a way that built up incremental advantage. They played a grindy control game. Sinkhole and Strip Mine weren't used to lock opponents out, but to set opponents up for Pox. Blue control decks tried to gain card advantage by drawing extra cards. In the heyday of Pox, black control decks gained card advantage by making sure that opponents lost more cards than they did. Pox decks took their time killing opponents.
The Nether Void primer that Rakso archived at the CPA put it this way...
Matt D'Avanzo said:
The Nether Void player MUST understand that they are not playing Necro or Pox, despite sharing many of the same cards. In those decks landkill slows down the opponent long enough for Hymn and other discard to be more effective. In Nether Void, it is the reverse: discard is there to clear the way for landkill. If you don't mess up their mana base your key card, the Void, is useless. Likewise, Sinkhole is great when the opponent has 3 lands in play or less, but if he has 6 by the time you get one through it's a negligible effect.
I bring all of this up because both archetypes use a lot of the same cards. Dark Ritual, Hymn to Tourach, Sinkhole, Wasteland, Mishra's Factory, etc. Most Pox decks used spells to directly kill creatures and most Nether Void decks didn't bother with much creature removal, but the rest of the deck might be mostly overlap. It's not just the use of Nether Void or the use of Pox that separates them. They use their cards in a different order to accomplish different purposes, and while the cards they did not share in common were the impetus for that, it's important to understand why they were different. This is also informative when it comes to their strengths and weaknesses. Nether Void decks were built to nullify attempts by opponents to stop them, to take back control. The goal was to not let the opponent have a chance to fight back. Lock them out with Nether Void, then shut them down before they can recover. This meant that they were vulnerable against those opponents that could go lower than they could. Pox decks were built to take over games by attrition, using discard, creature removal, and land destruction to put opponents on the wrong end of Pox. They were vulnerable against opponents with artifact-heavy decks because black has no good cards to destroy artifacts.

In my previous post, I explained how Pox decks gained new tools while Nether Void decks kind of fell by the wayside. One reason I've taken some time to show the differences between them is that Nether Void is a common inclusion in today's Legacy "Pox" decks, while the card Pox is rarely employed in such decks. That's a pretty strange circumstance and to understand how we got to such a place, we need to comprehend what came before. The shift started with Smallpox, but it took a while.
It seems easy to see why Pox wouldn't have been a good fit for traditional Nether Void decks. It doesn't fit with the goal of racing to lock the opponent out of the game. But what might be less clear is the notion of Nether Void as an inclusion in traditional Pox decks. As I've already alluded to, Nether Void shows up in Legacy "Pox" decks, although those decks no longer tend to use any copies of Pox at all. The question that comes to mind is, "Why not back then?" Well, Pox decks evolved away from their traditional model, for one thing. But I'm not convinced that is the best answer...


The Tentacled One
I've played with Pox a lot more than I've played with Nether Void (it helped that because Pox was in Ice Age I was able to pick up copies of the card easily). I'll probably start a Memories thread for Pox at some point. The traditional Pox deck, which I emulated with my own casual decks on multiple occasions, began life as a monoblack control deck in Extended in the late 1990's. In case I do start a thread for Pox, I don't want to go into too much detail here. Pox decks in the late 1990's and early 2000's operated on the principle that Pox is a powerful, devastating card and focused on breaking the symmetry along four axes: life, cards in hand, creatures, and lands.

The earliest Pox lists I've found all used Steel Golem as the only creature because it was, for the time, efficient. Steel Golem could block small creatures and could present a threat, forcing opponents to either drop multiple attackers to get around it or to deploy a bigger creature, which usually meant having more mana. And then Pox would blow up Steel Golem while taking more of the opponent's stuff. Later Pox decks used Abyssal Gatekeeper, Nether Spirit, and other creatures that worked well alongside Pox. Some Pox lists (including most of mine) had no maindeck creatures, but relied instead on cards that could become creatures, such as Chimeric Idol and Mishra's Factory. The details varied, but the idea was to demonstrate enough of a threat that you forced your opponent to respond, then punished your opponent for responding. While Pox could grind out games, it was slow and could be beaten by faster decks. Type 1.5 had a lot of those. In the first few years of Legacy, Pox did not do very well. And then along came Smallpox.

Pox is a tricky card to play because of the high impact and the fact that it rounds up on four different things for each player to determine its effect. Smallpox hits all four of the same things, but at the same increment for each time you cast it. Being a two-drop makes it much faster and offers some deceptive acceleration for a Pox deck. While the original Pox may be more powerful, the speed, flexibility, and reliability of Smallpox made it more consistent. By 2008, most "Pox" decks were using a playset of Smallpox and had cut the count of "Big Pox" down to 1 or 2 copies. It was also around this time that some of these decks added 1 or 2 copies of Nether Void.


The Tentacled One
Legacy Pox decks have been on a gradual decline since 2013 or 2014 and were never hugely successful anyway, although they did see some success. These days, they almost always run 0 copies of the actual card Pox. The strategy has shifted from putting the opponent on the wrong end of rounding up for Pox to a kind of attrition control with Smallpox and Liliana of the Veil. Nether Void is strong in this archetype because slowing the opponent down synergizes with this kind of proactive control approach. For a Legacy "Pox" deck, a typical play under Nether Void is to topdeck Smallpox, pay five mana to cast it, replay your land from your graveyard with Crucible of Worlds, and make your opponent discard another card with Liliana of the Veil's +1.

It's fun. But as with other monoblack approaches, it's falling by the wayside with how efficient and consistent U/x decks have become. It's tough to slow your opponent down with Nether Void when your opponent is chaining cantrips from turn 1 in order to find the perfect answer. Even so, the deck does put up some nice performances. Aside from the severity of the competition in Legacy, this type of deck has two major issues...
  1. It is a difficult deck to pilot. Knowing when to take risks and when not, how to sequence your disruptive elements, and which of your own cards to sacrifice or discard can be a challenge.
  2. Fully decked-out with extra copies of some Legends rares, this is the most expensive Legacy deck ever. It's not unusual for a Legacy Pox deck to run Nether Void, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, The Abyss, or Chains of Mephistopheles. I've even seen people put all four cards in the same deck. It's not common and may not even be optimal. And such a deck would never want full playsets of those cards anyway. The Abyss and Nether Void can't occupy the battlefield at the same time or be used in multiples on the battlefield anyway. But 1 or 2 copies of those cards is reasonable for what a Pox deck might be trying to do. Most people don't have such extravagant collections.


The Tentacled One
In Legacy, Pox decks evolved from being built around the namesake card to using it as a secondary tool and lategame bomb against control decks, with Smallpox taking on the role that "Big Pox" had previously filled. Then Liliana of the Veil superceded Pox as a devastating 3-drop. Liliana is more flexible and far more potent overtime. The deck could be called "Liliana Control" or something, but it had an established history as "Pox" and the name stuck. While Nether Void was once considered a separate deck, it's now an excellent tool in the new "Pox" archetype. Especially when powered out early with Dark Ritual or dropped on the turn immediately following Trinisphere or Liliana of the Veil...

Legacy is full of decks that play low mana curves. "Pox" decks are set up to punish opponents for that and put them on the wrong end of Nether Void. Sure, your play for the turn might just be a single Sinkhole or Smallpox, but your opponent is held back and those hyperefficient 1-drops all cost more. Under both Nether Void and Trinisphere, a typical 1-drop costs 6 mana total (2 additional mana to cast the spell under Trinisphere and another 3 mana to prevent Nether Void from counting it). Earlier, I mentioned how Nether Void fell out of favor compared to the cheaper, more flexible, and more numerous artifact-based taxing cards. But Trinisphere is a special case. It's one of the harshest taxing artifacts, and its ability isn't configured to work alongside most of the others. Sphere of Resistance + Trinisphere is partially redundant. Perhaps not a "nonbo" but not especially good. Because Trinisphere modifies cost and Nether Void counters spells unless mana is paid, the two can never be redundant. You get both effects. And once it's set up, your opponent is usually in big trouble. Other Legacy decks aren't set up to be paying 6 mana for every spell.


The Tentacled One
While Nether Void is a bomb in Legacy, it's held back by being a world enchantment. Actually, that feature holds it back in multiple ways...
  • You can't put multiple copies of Nether Void on the battlefield. So you can add that 3-mana check to everyone's spells, but there's no way to double up on it.
  • It's a dead draw in multiples. Decks based around Liliana of the Veil and Smallpox capitalize on the fact that you can empty both players' hands and go into topdeck mode, where your deck outperforms your opponent's deck. An extra Nether Void is a dead draw and you can't even save it for if the first one gets hit by enchantment removal.
  • It can't exist alongside The Abyss. Ideally, to better choke off both spellcasting and creatures on the board, you'd want both enchantments. It's possible to make the best of this by grinding down the opponent's hand under Nether Void, then switching to The Abyss once your opponent has built up enough mana production to play around it. But sometimes you'll draw them in the wrong order to draw both in your opening hand.
  • Your opponent can kill Nether Void with another world enchantment. This has almost no relevance in competitive Legacy, where world enchantments are extremely rare inclusions. It could come up in the mirror match (another monoblack deck could blow up your Nether Void by casting The Abyss.
Those drawbacks mean the card isn't suitable for running as a full playset. And given the nature of the archetype, that means you essentially can't rely on ever drawing the card in a given game. A bold deckbuilder might add two copies of Nether Void to a Legacy Pox list. The more common number is just one. You don't specifically need it to execute your gameplan and you never want to see multiple copies. But it can be a surprise bomb in some games. Philosophically, this might seem like a strange concept. When it comes to Magic Theory, most of us are used to wanting consistent decks where possible. Even in highlander formats, deckbuilders often try to use similar cards and to use tutors to make sure that the deck can execute its gameplan. For most of the past decade, monoblack decks in Legacy have embraced a more obscure school of thought. They devote ten or so slots in their decks to a hodgepodge of powerful cards that hobble the explosiveness of opponents. The conventional wisdom would be to find the two or three best card for the job and use multiple copies of them. And most Legacy decks do operate on that principle. But monoblack "Pox" doesn't. Cards like Nether Void, The Abyss, Chains of Mephistopheles, Crucible of Worlds, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, Trinisphere, Ratchet Bomb, Nether Spirit, Ensnaring Bridge, Phyrexian Totem, Bontu's Last Reckoning, Bitterblossom, Toxic Deluge, and Beseech the Queen show up in these decks at just one copy each, and occasionally a deck will run two copies of one of them. It might not be feasible to run playsets of them and this means you don't know which ones will show up in gameplay. But you'll draw a couple of them and they're highly likely to make life difficult for your opponent.
These decks tend to run a core suite of staples: Dark Ritual, Hymn to Tourach, Sinkhole, Smallpox, Mishra's Factory, Wasteland, and Liliana of the Veil. And then there's some variation in the selection and quantity of some other staple cards, including Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, Innocent Blood, and Cursed Scroll. Beyond that, most of the deckbuilding slots go to one-offs. So you don't know which ones you'll see, but you know that any of them work well with your overall gameplan that your core suite of full playsets will implement. This archetype could be described as using a deckbuilding philosophy of making about half of the deck behave as a consistent package of cards that drive the game toward attrition and another third (roughly) of the deck acting as a manabase, with the remainder behaving like a highlander deck. I can't think of another format where a successful archetype took on such a form. Searchable toolbox decks will use a lot of one-offs, but that's not what this is. It's different. It's a mixture of consistency and inconsistency. The cards included in multiples are the ones you want to see a lot of. The singletons (and sometimes the cards that the deck runs two of) are generally cards that wouldn't be strong choice as full playsets, but ones that excel when thrown into the deck's general gameplan.

In other words, you're always trying to disrupt the opponent with Hymn to Tourach, Sinkhole, setting up Liliana of the Veil, then punishing them with Smallpox, wearing them down. But alongside that, you need something else, and you don't know what it'll be. It might be Crucible of Worlds with Wasteland. It might be Nether Spirit after Toxic Deluge wipes their board. It might be that a simple Mishra's Factory beats them down while The Abyss and Liliana of the Veil keep the path clear of blockers. Playing like a highlander deck in an environment where you don't have to might seem like silly and unnecessary weakness. But it happens to be the case that many of these cards are so powerful they're worth using, but don't work well in multiples.

I'm no expert on this archetype. I played with it briefly and I'm considering putting a deck together again. And while I'm biased, in my own assessment, Nether Void is one of the strongest plays available to this archetype, a Legacy deck that is uniquely positioned to exploit the first great mana-taxing card in Magic's history.


The Tentacled One
I think I've sketched out the role of Nether Void in current Legacy Pox decks. Along the way, I described how the archetype known as "Pox" evolved away from using the namesake card entirely. And I contrasted the more traditional Pox archetype, the one that actually used a full playset of Pox, with the traditional Nether Void archetype. I've probably made it clear that the Smallpox-based "Pox" decks in Legacy are so different from traditional Pox decks. But reviewing all of this, I find a hint of an implication that because the traditional Nether Void deck and the traditional Pox deck were distinct archetypes and they weren't used together in tournament decks until the Smallpox-based deck emerged, that Pox wasn't suitable for the traditional Nether Void archetype and Nether Void wasn't suitable for the traditional Pox archetype. But my suspicion is that it's a bit more complex. I couldn't describe the history of those decks without noting that they were entirely distinct. As far as I know, that's true. To the best of my knowledge, Nether Void and Pox never appeared together in any tournament decks until after the Legacy Pox archetype shifted away from "Big Pox" and became a Smallpox-based deck.

To the first point, I do believe that Pox was unsuitable for the traditional Nether Void deck. The gameplan for old Nether Void decks was to either slide win conditions in underneath Nether Void or to deploy them even despite Nether Void, while keeping the opponent from being able to overcome Nether Void. The traditional creatures for this were Juzam Djinn (because it was unusually big and efficient for the 1990's), Hypnotic Specter (because it was cheap and random discard could hit the cards that opponents were hoping to rely on), and Mishra's Factory (because it could be played through Nether Void). This archetype used its own lands to cast spells to stay ahead, and used its own creatures to beat the opponent down before the opponent could overcome Nether Void. Pox would be antithetical to that.

But as for the second point, I've come to suspect that ruling out Nether Void in the traditional Pox deck was probably an oversight. Contradicting established deckbuilding wisdom is something I only do with considerable trepidation, but I've done it before in these Memories threads and I'll probably do it again. I may be a casual scrub, but I also have the benefit of hindsight. Looking back...
  • Nether Void was the older deck. It predated the existence of Pox. When Pox came out, it wasn't deemed a suitable card for Nether Void decks at the time. I contend that this was correct.
  • The Pox deck originated in the Extended format. Nether Void was never legal in Extended. So the archetype was initially shaped in an environment where Nether Void wasn't even an option.
  • There was a philosophy in the late 1990's that Pox decks shouldn't use any 4-drops because they'd be too expensive cast when the Pox player was casting Pox so often.
  • When Pox was incorporated into Type 1, it continued to use the tools and philosophy that made it successful in Extended. This highlighted the difference between it and the Nether Void deck.
  • Type 1.5 didn't have a sufficiently robust deck-brewing community to really explore the possibilities with these cards.
The subtle detail that really matters here is that even before Legacy became a format, Pox deck were already violating the conventional wisdom of "no spells bigger than 3-drops." The Extended Pox decks finally started running playsets of Mox Diamond in 2001 (whereas they should have been doing so as soon as the card came out). The Type 1 Pox lists were dabbling in bigger plays like The Abyss.
This might be more topical in a Memories thread for Pox, but we're already here, so I might as well say that I think the Pox archetype was the victim of some fuzzy logic in Magic Theory. The way that the archetype played, using cards that constricted mana for both players, it was prohibitive to run spells with higher mana costs. This wasn't a new idea: decks based around Balance had a similar consideration. When you're killing your own lands in order to disrupt your opponent, you can't rely on the same curve as most decks. A deck using Balance or Pox (or Smallpox, for that matter) can pretty easily rest assured that 1-drops will be reliably castable and that 2-drops shouldn't be a problem either. But 3-drops require some consideration with regard to timing and resource usage. A 4-drop would require even more consideration and it's probably the case that there just weren't any viable 4-drops in the Extended environment when the Pox archetype was originally conceived. And this led to a fallacious deckbuilding rule, the notion that because Pox costs 3 mana and does a bunch of 1/3 things it must be the case that 4 is a bad number and doesn't work with Pox. A cute bit of Magic Theory there, but it's wrong. There's nothing about Pox that precludes 4-drops. Turn 3 Pox is a cornercase play anyway and the deck is so grindy that it recovers above 3 mana all the time. Later Pox lists in Type 1 and, to a greater extent, in Legacy would show that 4-drops were fine in small doses and some Pox lists even used 5-drop spells. The rule shouldn't be "3 is good, 4 is bad." Rather, a deck that attacks the opponent's manabase at the expense of its own faces more severe constraints and the scaling of mana costs is harsher across the board. So yes, a 5-drop is questionable at best and a 4-drop is prohibitively expensive, but actually, the gulf between a 2-drop and a 3-drop is also quite severe. The ubiquitous availability of Dark Ritual softened the blow on 3-drops a bit, which may have contributed to the notion that 3 was a magic number for Pox decks. But part of the reason that Smallpox was so amazing in these decks was that it only costed 2 mana. I wouldn't go so far as to say that traditional Pox decks in the late 90's and early 00's were necessarily running too many 3-drops: options that fit into the theme at the time were limited anyway (only so many spells get to be Sinkhole or Hymn to Tourach). But they might have been.
More importantly, if a Pox deck was going to run a 4-drop back then, what should it have been? Keeping in mind that these were mana denial decks, I think the ideal candidate might have been Nether Void. Easily playable with Dark Ritual and eminently compatible with mana-producing artifacts. It would have been a backbreaking play if deployed prior to the first Pox, and it would be something strong to build toward before the second Pox otherwise. Extra copies would be fodder to pitch to Pox, interacting well with the targeted land destruction plan and with Cursed Scroll. The combination of Pox and Nether Void would slow most opponent down so much that if they didn't win before those cards hit the board, they'd be in a very, very bad spot. For the same reason that Nether Void is potent in the Smallpox/Liliana version of monoblack control, it would have been a bomb in the traditional Pox list, although some deckbuilding changes would have been needed. I strongly suspect that this would have worked. It's a missed opportunity and the time for such a deck is probably long gone. We'll never know for sure if it would have worked. Even if I put in the work of devising a decklist, there's no way to be sure how it would have played out in some historical environment. All I can say is that Nether Void is a strong card in the Poxless Legacy "Pox" archetype with Smallpox and Liliana of the Veil. While Pox is essentially nonexistent in that deck, it was once used alongside Nether Void. Such decks usually only used 1 copy of Pox and 1 or 2 copies of Nether Void, so it's not a true test of how well they'd play together in higher numbers. But I contend that it would have worked.


The Tentacled One
As cool as monoblack control is in Legacy, it hasn't been a top contender in tournaments and it has struggled to adapt as the environment has become increasingly fast, efficient, and consistent. I sort of suspect that Nether Void as a tournament card has hit a dead-end. It's not viable in Vintage and not available in other sanctioned formats aside from Legacy. There may come a day when it's just no longer a Legacy playable. But not just yet.

I've attributed some of the challenges to the nature of the card as a world enchantment. An unfortunate coincidence, as I don't believe that the designers of Legends really had the foresight to deliberately constrain the card. Back then the "enchant world" thing seemed to be all about flavor. It's essentially irrelevant for most of the other cards. I suppose it also weakens In the Eye of Chaos and Storm World, but none of the other world enchantments from Legends would stack even if they could show up in multiples. But perhaps Nether Void as a regular enchantment would have seemed too good in the 90's. It wouldn't be too strong by today's standards, but Nether Void was once a real powerhouse. A far bigger factor than the weakness of being a world enchantment is that it's such an oddball effect. Legends was full of weird stuff that didn't really get explored in later sets. And they seem to have pretty firmly resolved that the Nether Void effect is completely outside of black's contributions to the color pie. Nether Void is the grandfather of prison decks, but black is now one of the worst colors to provide tools for a prison archetype.

So, what does the future hold for Nether Void? Notably, it's still quite strong in unofficial Old School formats. But that's practically the same as saying that it used to be strong in the 90's. Still, that option is a thing, even if it's arguably not much of a niche. As a powerful and unique card, it has plenty of potential for 60-card constructed casual play, but a $700+ card doesn't normally get much consideration with that crowd, and rightfully so. But maybe a few old-timers who already own the card would be inclined to throw it into some casual deck (probably with a bunch of other old cards, for flavor). If I get more opportunity to do some fun 60-card casual decks I'll have to remember that. After all, if I don't use the card for that purpose, who will? Melkor?

What else? Well, I did use Nether Void in a Canadian Highlander deck! For about a day. Uh, it didn't go well. Nether Void wasn't the problem, in that case. But the deck itself just wasn't performing well and I scrapped it for parts shortly after the one day I played it (didn't help that it lost every single game).


The Tentacled One
Most of the time when Nether Void was used in Magic's history, it followed the general model of "Blow up their lands with Sinkhole and Icequake and stuff so that they can't get enough mana to cast their spells, while beating them to death with something." It's simple and, compared to later decks, somewhat crude. Nether Void isn't the best prison card. It might not even be a particularly good one anymore. But it got there first. Stasis already existed, but to actually use Stasis successfully requires more setup, so Stasis decks were built more along the lines of traditional reactive blue control. Nether Void is the grandfather of proactive control, of stopping people from getting to do anything before they even try. The next closest archetype I can think of from the early days would probably be Ehrnamgeddon, but even that was slower and more about finding an opening to blow the opponent out. Ehrnamgeddon was focused on value, on resource usage. Kind of like Balance or Pox, really. And I've said that I think the card Nether Void is fine for that. But the Nether Void deck was different. You didn't lull your opponent into committing resources to the board and then rely on X-for-1 trades to punish the opponent. Instead you locked your opponent out of the game as quickly as you possibly could. And over time, if Nether Void stopped being a sufficiently potent build-around for this to work, it was replaced by stuff like Trinistax.

I've gone on for quite a while, considering how simple of a card this is. But it's got a special place in history and it's a special card to me for sentimental reasons. I've now covered just about all of the ground that there is to cover except for EDH...


The Tentacled One
Lately, I've been heavily involved in EDH deckbuilding and gameplay. It's kind of been ramping up and I'm having a lot of fun with the format. As I noted in some other recent thread somewhere, I don't want to turn into one of those people who basically quit the rest of Magic and become exclusively EDH players. I can see the temptation for it, but I think it's a shame. 60-card constructed with the traditional 4-card rule is what I still view as the default, the lifeblood of the game. Highlander formats are fun too, but they should not replace the default. And I feel like I'm not really doing my part to bolster that conviction. I'm planning to do better, but that's a topic for another thread.

There's a huge gulf between having up to 4 copies of a card in a 60-card deck and having only 1 copy of a card in a 100-card deck. And that change applies not just to one card by itself, in a vacuum, but to the cards that work alongside it. There are deck concepts that, apart from any viability considerations in various 60-card constructed formats, aren't even possible in highlander formats. Nether Void isn't the most extreme example of an approach that gets ruined in a highlander setting. Something like Squadron Hawk takes a bigger hit. But you can't use the traditional 90's Nether Void deck in a highlander format. It won't work.

In Canadian Highlander, I tried out a Pox-like deck that included Nether Void, but I was dissatisfied with the result. Unfortunately I do not have my list. At the time I built the deck, I was considering it an early draft and wanted to get some practice in, refine it, then post my decklist on TappedOut. But my black control deck with a green splash was so utterly trounced at every turn in testing that I kind of gave up on it, and the deck had so many cards that were useful for other decks that I quickly scrapped it for parts, and that was that. I don't think that black control is unworkable in Canadian Highlander and although Nether Void is no staple in that format, I'd have been inclined to explore the idea further. It was just bad timing.

In any highlander format, the challenge with trying to make Nether Void useful is that you can't easily fall back on redundancy. There aren't really any other cards like Nether Void. And the cards that make Nether Void good are also limited to single copies.

Hm, when I put it that way, it seems less subtle than it probably is. Nether Void might be a traditional build-around card, but so are other cards that are amazing in highlander formats. Survival of the Fittest is a traditional build-around card, namesake of multiple archetypes and generally seen as a 4-of in 60-card constructed decks. But it's also great in highlander formats because the same deck that has SotF will also run Fauna Shaman, Green Sun's Zenith, Birthing Pod, Worldly Tutor, Chord of Calling, Eladamri's Call, etc. Paradoxically, the fact that there are a bunch of worse versions of Survival of the Fittest is good for the playability of Survival of the Fittest because you can reliably get some version of the effect, even if you don't draw into the card itself. The simple circumstance that WotC decided Nether Void didn't fit the color pie would go on to become a huge detriment to the card in highlander formats. Consider this fake card I made up just now...

Better Void
Whenever a player casts a spell, counter it unless that player pays 3.

If that were a real card, it might make Nether Void obsolete in Legacy (there's the potential that it could become such a strong build-around that a Nether Void or two would get thrown as somewhat worse copies five and six of the card). But in EDH, you'd run both of them together and double your chances of getting the effect. Up to a certain point, the more cards in the general category of "black cards that make people pay mana not to get their spells countered" there are, the better Nether Void would be in highlander formats, even if it was inferior to all of those other cards. It's not intuitively obvious that having multiple cards that do a job better makes a card itself more viable in deckbuilding, but that's how this often plays out. Redundancy is just that important. For a highlander playable, it's better to be relatively mediocre at achieving an effect you can reliably pull off than the all-star paragon of achieving an effect that can't be found elsewhere.

Now, it's not all bad news for Nether Void in highlander formats. Despite everything I've said, the card is powerful. A 3-mana penalty is substantial and while opponents can eventually overcome it, Nether Void is an obstacle for just about anyone. A lot of old cards that were once powerhouses haven't aged well. And costing 3B in a world of cheap, efficient threats and answers isn't ideal (which is why no one ever runs it in Vintage anymore). But like I said, the card is powerful.

With my enthusiasm for Nether Void, I've been looking to run it in EDH. It seems that the most popular niche for it is unique to the commander aspect of the format...

At first glance, Mishra looks like a rather bad commander. You can't run multiple copies of your artifacts, so the ability has no value on its own. But Mishra effectively breaks the symmetry of Nether Void for your artifacts. Cast Sol Ring, stack Nether Void's trigger on top of Mishra's trigger, let Nether Void counter Sol Ring, then use Mishra's ability to put Sol Ring from your graveyard onto the battlefield. Your opponents all get slowed down by Nether Void and you had the foresight to pack your deck with lots of artifacts. Nether Void is just one card that Mishra's ability interacts with...