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Card of the Week – Darkness

Fog - LEA - Banner

Darkness is a black fog, that was originally printed all the way back in Legends. A fog is a spell that prevents all combat damage this turn. It gets it’s name from the card Fog which has been a part of the game since Alpha. Just like Withering Boon it is a card that is completely unexpected. This is because it is not something that black can traditionally do.

Darkness - Legends printing
It even has a quote from Shakespeare

Darkness has been received an errata it now reads “Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn”. The oracle text can be found here.

Why should you run it?

Just like the original Fog, Darkness only costs a single mana but this time it is Black. If you have ever played magic against someone like me, you know just how devastating the combat step can be. Furthermore combat is an important step for most Boros and Gruul decks, and essential for infect decks. When you are building a Commander deck you want to make sure that you have interaction or answers. Additionally you want to make sure that you can answer a range of different problems, including combat.

Darkness can buy you a turn if your opponent has an overwhelming board state. Or it can cause a massive blowout to your opponent if they have used pumpspells or other combat tricks. It can also be used as a political tool, you can save an opponent in exchange for a later favour.

Suggested Commanders

The downsides to running Darkness are minimal, and you only need to leave a single mana open to cast it. This means that it can go in just about any deck that is running black. For example: K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth; Yawgmoth, Thran Physician or Kaalia of the Vast. It is also good in Thantis, the Warweaver decks as you can get the +1/+1 counters and avoid the combat damage.

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Card of the Week – Reap and Sow

Reap and Sow -DST-Banner

Reap and Sow is a modal sorcery that gives you the option to grow or to destroy. One of the reasons Commander is such a popular format is the Social Contract. Due to the social contract Land destruction is not often seen in commander pods. However, there are different types of land destruction. Firstly there is mass land destruction, including the classic Armageddon. Secondly there is targeted land destruction such as Stone Rain. Because Land destruction is often seen as taboo, targeted Land destruction is underplayed. Despite the fact it should be a more regular feature in commander decks, making Reap and Sow the Card of the Week.

Reap and Sow - DST
Grow or Destroy… why not both?

The oracle text can be found here.

Why you should be running it?

Reap and Sow is a Sorcery for 3G(reen) that gives you a choice to tutor for a land onto the battlefield or to destroy target land. Lands are a very important part of a commander game, as anyone who has ever been mana screwed will tell you. But with the huge card selection available in EDH there are also some very powerful lands. For example Rouges Passage or a Maze of Ith can control the flow of a game. Then there are the lands like Gaea’s Cradle or the fixed Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun that can provide insane amounts of mana. These are the lands that are ripe for destruction.

Earlier I said “tutor” for land on to the battlefield and not ramp. This is because the MV of the card is too high to be considered ramp in my opinion. For further information on Ramp in commander please see this article. Reap and Sow can go find any land and put it onto the battlefield. Just as it is useful to get rid of powerful lands it can also be used to go get your Cavern of Souls or Mystifying Maze. This land also also enters the battlefield untapped allowing you to use it immediately.

If you have enough mana you can cast it for it’s entwine cost which is 4GG(reen) allowing you to cast both sides.

Suggested Commanders

Reap and Sow can go is just about any deck that is running Green. It is at it’s best when the deck runs a suite of utility lands that it can go and find. For example if you are running a Golgari Commander you can go get Urborg, Yavimaya, or Cabal Coffers. Additionally it is good in Landfall decks such as Golos, or any of the Onmaths. You can go get lands that can either fix your mana such as Crystal Quarry. Or you go get bounce and repeatedly get landfall triggers. If you are lucky enough to own a Gaea’s cradle it can put it untapped directly onto the battlefield

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Card of the Week – Graceful Reprieve

Graceful Reprieve -MM3-Banner

Graceful Reprieve is a White Instant that doesn’t feel like a White card. Whether it is your commander or another combo piece their are certain creatures you want to stay on the battlefield. This Instant is a great way to protect your Commander, and is the Card of the Week.

Graceful Reprieve - MM3 Printing
Death is just temporary

The oracle text can be found here.

Commanders are magnets for removal spells, and many decks run ways to protect them such as Swiftfoot Boots. Graceful Reprieve is an Instant that that returns a creature to the battlefield when it dies. This is an ability that is more commonly found on Black spells, making this all the more useful. White utilises creatures which means there is an high chance that you will have a target.

At 1W(hite) this spell can generate you large amounts of value. For example if you are running Roon of the Hidden Realm it can save a creature and trigger their ETB. It’s low MV means that it is easy to hold up mana to cast and it synergies with Sunforger. In addition unlike other protection it can save any Creature on your board as opposed to an equipment.

Conversely the only downside is that if you are running a Voltron deck it will not re-equip the Equipment. However, it will save it from having to go back to the Command Zone. Overall if there are creatures that you would like to save and you are running White you should consider Graceful Reprieve.

Decks that would benefit from Graceful Reprieve should check out previous Card of the Week Gift of Immortality.

Suggested Commanders

The best commander for Graceful Reprieve is Feather, the Redeemed as you can use it continuously. It is also suited to commanders that draw a lot of hate such as Atraxa, Preators’ Voice, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV or Omnath, Locus of Creation. Additionally it works well with Voltron and Aggro strategies, as it helps reduce the Commander Tax.

It also compliments Aristocrat themes as you can cast it on a creature, Sacrifice it, and then it will return to the battlefield. This means that it can be used in Teysa Karlov decks to get death triggers and keep the creature.

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Card of the Week – Meltdown

Meltdown-USG-Cropped

Meltdown is a sorcery that was printed back in Urza’s Saga and is a perfect answer to troublesome artifacts. Although it hasn’t been printed in over 20 years, it would still be a fine addition to any commander deck. Recommended by fellow Librarian Liam the piece of interaction is the card of the week.

Meltdown - Urza's Saga Printing
Such destruction for so little mana

One of the recent trends in commander is not just the need for more interaction, but efficient interaction. Meltdown is an artifact destroying sorcery that scales with the game. For X and a Red mana, you can destroy each artifact whose Mana Value is X or less. This means that it is closer to a board wipe for artifacts than targeted removal. The potential upside for this card is huge, for a small mana investment you can hit a multitude of artifacts. Casting it where x is equal to 2 would hit multiple mana rocks including sol ring, talismans or signets. Significantly it can be used to slow down decks with access to fast mana.

If you are playing at higher power-levels you can cast it where x is equal to zero and hit, Mana Crypt, treasure tokens, Lion’s Eye Diamond or a mox. Additionally casting it just for the red mana and increase the storm count with additional upside.

On the other hand, Meltdown also hits your own artifacts. Therefore you will have to consider what value you play x as when you cast it. It’s largest downside is that is a sorcery and not an instant. Overall Meltdown is a highly flexible card that would fit in most commander decks running Red. An excellent piece of interaction that can be cast at a low MV, and you can read more about why that is important here.

Suggested Commanders

Meltdown is at it’s best in a deck that is looking to cast as many spells as possible. For example it could be mana neutral in Birgi, God of Storytelling, or provide a Prowess trigger in Elsha of the Infinite. Furthermore it work well in Gruul aggro decks as they are unlikely to be dependant on mana rocks for ramp. Finally it can be combined with Darkseel Forge and Mycosynth Lattice to decimate your opponents.

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Card of the Week – Nighthaze

Nighthaze-ROE-Cropped

Nighthaze is cantrip for a single black mana, and comes recommended by my fellow Librarian Coatsy. A cantrip is a spell that has the line of text “Draw a card” after another effect. Cantrips are highly flexible cards and this one is no exception making it the Card of the Week.

Nighthaze - ROE printing
At worst you draw a card

The potential upside you can get from the single black mana this sorcery costs, can be game ending. Swampwalk is a keyword ability that makes the creature unblockable, as long as the defending player controls a Swamp. Additional information on Landwalk can be found here. This means that casting it on one of your Creatures will allow you to swing for certain damage. You can use this if you are playing Infect or just have a big creature, Nighthaze will allow it to attack for lethal. It has further utility when dealing with Planeswalkers, because Landwalk works on them as well.

The obvious downside is that your opponent needs to control a Swamp for this to be at its most effective. However, this is mitigated by Black’s popularity as a colour. Out of the current 20 top commanders 16 of them contain Black. The real downside is that it has to target a creature to resolve. Although it does not need to be a creature you control. If you just want to cast it as a cantrip and ignore the Swampwalk aspect, cast it on an opponents Creature there is very little downside. So at worst you spent 1 mana to draw a card.

Nighthaze would be a good addition to any deck running black that is looking to deal combat damage. Whether you are looking to punch through with a swole Rat from Marrow-Gnawer or just looking to let Skithiryx smash face.

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Card of the Week – Instill Energy

Instill Energy - Cropped Image

Instill Energy is a card that was originally printed back in Alpha and arguably it still hasn’t received a full errata. Nevertheless it is still a highly useful card and is the card of the week.

Instill Energy - Alpha printing
Who doesn’t like untappers?

An enchantment aura for a single green mana that enchants a creature. Not necessarily a create you control. It allows the enchanted creature to attack as though it has hate. Additionally it allows the creature to untap one additional time during your turn, the full errata can be found here.

A large number of creature’s activated abilities requites the creature to tap as part of the cost. An untapper such as Instill Energy allows you to activate that ability a second time each turn. This allows you to either generate a large amount of value or Alter the board state to propel you ahead in the game. Enchanting Selvala, Priest of Titiania or even a Birds of Paradise will give you access to a lot of mana. Whereas Yisan or Vannifar would allow you to tutor for two creatures to the battlefield.

Additionally it allows the creature to attack as though it had haste. This is the more underrated aspect of Instill Energy but is very useful. If you are playing a beat-down deck it can enable your big creature to attack immediately. It can also act as pseudo vigilance, as you can attack with the creature and then untap it afterwards.

It can also be used in a political tool as it doesn’t need to enchant a creature you control. The only downsides are that is only provides attacking and not tapping haste, and you must untap the creature on your turn.

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Card of the Week – Withering Boon

There are five colours in Magic, and each of them has their own strengths and weaknesses. They also have certain aspects of the game that they are the strongest in. For example, Green is the colour of ramp, and Blue is the colour of counterspells. Or is it?

Withering Boon is fast becoming a pet card of mine because the only thing your opponent expects less than a hard counterspell in black is the Spanish Inquisition. Which is what makes it the card of the week.

Mirage printing 
Instant 
As an additional cost to cast this spell, pay 3 life.
Counter target creature spell.
Nobody will see it coming

Withering Boon is an Interrupt for 1B and 3 life that counters a summon spell. Back in 1996 when it received its only printing to date this made sense. However, it has since received an errata and the oracle text can be found here on Gatherer. It is now an Instant that counters a creature spell, essentially it is a black Essence Scatter.

Counterspells are always worth running as they allow you to deal with a problematic card before it even hits the battlefield. You can spend 2 mana to counter a spell that cost your opponent any amount of mana. Paying 3 life is hardly a downside, life is a resource and you start with 40 of it in commander.

The downside of the Spanish Inquisition… I mean Withering Boon is that it can only counter creature spells. In commander this is less of an issue as at least one deck at the table will be running creatures. Additionally the the vast majority of decks run a creature as the commander.

Withering Boon is a highly flexible card that can go in almost any deck that is running black and not running blue. It is worth running if for no other reason than the look on your opponent’s face because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

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Card of the Week – Blood Pet

Blood Pet - Cropped

The card of the week is Blood Pet, a ritual on a stick. Rituals are a one time effect that will add mana to your mana pool. This can help you get your commander out early. Or you can have an explosive early turn that your opponents just won’t be able to catch-up to.

Blood Pet - Tempest Printing
It’s a creature, it’s a ritual, it’s a Thrull

Blood Pet has several advantages going for it including its creature type and it can be activated at instant speed. Being a creature allows you to store mana into Blood Pet on one turn and redeem it on another. In addition Black has a number of ways of recurring creatures. In addition having an activated ability that gets around summoning sickness and can be done at instant speed makes this very flexible. You can cast it, and immediately sacrifice it to get a death or sacrifice trigger.

As both a ritual and a creature it is rather unimpressive. Creatures are not only the easiest permanent type to deal with its stat line of 1/1 means it won’t be surviving combat. As a ritual you only get back the mana that you put in.

The downsides of this Thrull are outweighed by its Advantages, and ultimately its flexibility.

Blood Pet is most effective in Aristocrat themed decks including; Tessa Karlov; Meren of Clan Nel Toth; Korvold, Fae-Cursed King or Mazirek, Kraul Deth Priest. As well as being an an effective ritual in any deck that runs Black.

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Card of the Week – Hibernation’s End

The card of the week is Hibernation’s End a tutor that has Cumulative upkeep.

Cumulative Upkeep is seen as a bad mechanic, and is often enough to stop a card from seeing play. Thanks to Mystic Remora Cumulative upkeep is at least a well understood mechanic unlike Rampage, Soulshift or Cipher. The reason Cumulative Upkeep is seen as a negative is that in addition to the initial Mana Value (MV) there is an increasing tax you have to pay each turn to keep the card around. You can read more about how Cumulative upkeep works here.

Image of card Hibernation's End, Coldsnap printing.
Tutor straight onto the battlefield

Hibernation’s End is an Enchantment for 4G that has cumulative upkeep of 1. Whenever you pay the upkeep you can search your library for a creature card whose MV is equal to the upkeep cost and put that creature into play. This means that the turn after you cast it you can tutor for a 1 MV creature to play, the following turn a 2 MV creature. This allows you to tutor for the best creature in your deck whose MV is equal to the upkeep cost. Unlike other cards with Cumulative upkeep this means that the upkeep cost is not “wasted” but directly contributes to your board state.

However, an MV of 5 is quite steep and means that you will not be able to consistently get it out early. In addition it will need to survive a full turn rotation before it starts to become effective. It can also be restrictive as the creature’s MV must equal the upkeep cost paid.

It synergies really well with Braids of Fire, another card with Cumulative upkeep.

Hibernation’s End is a flexible card that works best in creature heavy decks. It is as it most powerful in toolbox decks that tutor specific creatures for specific situations. For example in a Yarok, the Desecrated enter the battlefield (ETB) deck. As well as being useful in elf tribal decks such as Lathril, Blade of the Elves; Ezuri, Renegade Leader or Marwyn, the Nurturer.

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Card of the Week – Insight

Commander is a game of resource management, and to gain an advantage you need more resources. Notably this includes card draw. As the more cards you are drawing the more likely you are to hit a land drop, find a creature or an answer. This week’s card of the week is Insight.

Tempest printing of Insight
Who doesn’t like drawing cards?

Insight has been updated to read “Whenever an opponent casts a green spell, you draw a card.”. Full information can be found on gatherer.

Insight in an Enchantment for 2U that draws you a card whenever can opponent casts a Green spell. The major downside is that it only triggers on Green spells which is only 1/5th of the colour pie, without counting colourless spells. However, Green is a very common colour in commander featuring in 8/10 of the current 10 most popular commanders. This means it is highly likely that there will be at least one opponent running Green at the table.

A draw engine is a card or cards that will allow you to draw cards over multiple turns. This means that the longer Insight is on the battlefield the more value it will generate for you. In addition your opponents cannot pay additional mana to deny your draw.

Insight is at its most effective in the early game when decks are looking to ramp, which is a predominantly done through Green spells. However, it can be just as effective in the mid to late game especially if there is a Green deck. It would be a solid addition to any deck that runs Blue, and wants to draw cards.