With all of the damage that some decks can dole out, Deflecting Palm can serve as a valuable secret weapon. As good as this card can be, though, it never took off in Standard as a regular sideboard card. While it seems like it would be good against the monster that Atarka Red became in Standard, it was considered too narrow to keep in the board.
Despite missing its chance to make an impact in Standard, Deflecting Palm is definitely useful enough to hold onto. In fact, Deflecting Palm is a one or two-of in most Modern Naya Burn and Boros Burn sideboards. It’s good in a lot of match-ups, and even in those that it ordinarily isn’t, two or three points of damage swung the other way can mean the difference between a loss and a out-of-nowhere victory.
Why is Deflecting Palm Good in Modern?
One of the main reasons Deflecting Palm is a one-of in many Modern sideboards is that it helps Burn decks find the last few points of damage that can sometimes be elusive. What matchups is it best against?
The coolest thing about Deflecting Palm is that it does not actually target a source of damage. This means it can get around hexproof, such as creatures targeted by Vines of Vastwood. It also means that a deck like Bogles which lives on hexproof creatures such as Gladecover Scout and Slippery Bogle isn’t protected from Deflecting Palm. So this is a perfect counter to a pumped up Bogle, too. It also can’t be stopped by the popular Spellskite, since Deflecting Palm never targets.
Another matchup that comes to mind is Infect. Even though the damage is no longer infect once Deflecting Palm redirects it, all you have to do is wait until your opponent uses a great many pump spells on one creature in a bid for the win. It’s usually going to be in the neighborhood of 10 damage you’re throwing back at your opponent’s face. If you’re playing a Burn deck, that’s usually going to be enough to win the game outright. Infect likes to win quick. Even if Deflecting Palm doesn’t win the game right there and then, it’s made the Infect player expend enough resources that they may not be able to reload before the rest of your burn spells finish them off.
Another great use for Deflecting Palm is against the massive Eldrazi. Even Emrakul, the Aeons Torn can’t stop 15 damage from being redirected to its controller’s face, even with protection from colored spells. You’re only choosing a source of damage - not actually targeting the creature. If you play Deflecting Palm in response to Emrakul’s annihilator trigger, it’s usually good game for you - as 15 damage is a lot for any opponent to take. Against a Kozilek or Ulamog, it’s pretty much a win for you, too.
Because it doesn’t target, any protection that a creature might have from colored spells doesn’t matter. This includes popular creatures like Etched Champion in Affinity. It’s also to good to have in the deck in case you’re going up against a huge Arcbound Ravager, so playing against Affinity is a good time to bring it in.
Also, Deflecting Palm nerfs opposing creatures with lifelink. Because the damage becomes prevented first, the lifelink no longer applies when the damage is then re-dealt by the effect of the Palm. It’s really good in the corner cases where you may be staring down a Serra Ascendant or massive Bogle with Daybreak Coronet attached. Also, if you have a Soulfire Grand Master in play, you benefit from getting the lifelink from any damage it causes.
What’s Deflecting Palm NOT So Good Against?
People will ask if Deflecting Palm is good against cards like Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle or Grapeshot on a regular basis. The way that Deflecting Palm is worded, it only affects the next time a source of your choice would deal damage. Because Valakut has so many triggers and Grapeshot has Storm (meaning you actually copy the spell) you only get to stop one instance of damage.
That being said, Deflecting Palm can be good against Scapeshift if your opponent wouldn’t have enough triggers to win the game if you can prevent 3 of the damage. Similarly against Grapeshot and Storm decks, you can stop 1 of the damage. Sometimes your opponent will have just enough for “exact-sies.” You can really ruin someone’s day by dropping this on them. Is it the best card to side in against Scapeshift and Storm? Probably not.
Another common question is if Deflecting Palm is good against Lightning Storm, a win condition of the Ad Nauseam Combo deck. In a vacuum, yes, Deflecting Palm would throw the Lightning Storm right back at your opponent. But Angel’s Grace can put that down in a hurry. Still, the alternate way to go below 0 life, Phyrexian Unlife, would likely turn a lot of that damage into infect. So it’s not the worst card to have in reserve against that deck, especially if you’re sure Lightning Storm is their win condition.
Another thing that Deflecting Palm isn’t so good against is double strike - something that Boros Charm gives creatures all the time in Modern. It only stops one half of the damage, whether it’s the first strike or regular damage. Speaking of Boros Charm, Deflecting Palm is pretty good against that card’s 4 damage to the face mode - but you need to watch for Skullcrack, which is an extremely popular card in Modern, especially in Burn mirror matches.
Future Value of Deflecting Palm
With the bannings of Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom in Modern, two of the decks that Deflecting Palm wasn’t too good against are no longer in play. Deflecting Palm was useless against the essentially infinite number of Deceiver Exarch tokens with haste that Splinter Twin could make. Amulet Bloom decks had Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion to give Primeval Titan double strike, and Pact of Negation usually stopped it in its tracks The decks that have replaced Bloom are either Scapeshift or Red/Green decks that use Kessig Wolf Run’s pump ability to win the game with the Titan. Deflecting Palm has no problem throwing Wolf Run’s damage back.
Even before the bannings and major metagame shifts, Deflecting Palm had a 5x foil multiplier when it comes to price - with non-foils at about 50 cents vs $2.50 for foils. Modern sideboard cards have a funny way of driving up foil prices. Naya Burn and similar decks are so popular that even one or two foil copies coming off the market still goes a long way in price growth. By May of 2017, non-foil Deflecting Palm is around $1.50 and foils are pushing $6 as they begin to disappear from the internet.
While I wouldn't recommend hoarding every Deflecting Palm you can find, keeping a few in your collection is a good move. While it’s not good against every deck, if you’re already throwing a lot of burn spells around, you never know when you might need those last few points of damage to win the game.