For a non-tournament player, I have only a slightly more than passing interest in what each of the four primary formats are up to. Even then, my focus usually only pertains to banned & restricted card announcements, how new supplemental cards (such as those in Commander sets) may affect the older formats, and why it is that some cards in newer sets are dirt cheap to acquire while others require a blood sacrifice to the goat god Pan just to see one in person. I couldn’t care less who wins the latest professional Magic tournament, and I’d be lucky to name more than three or four people from the Magic Hall of Fame. I’m aware of some of the popular deck archetypes and how most high-end styles use cookie-cutter netdecks of one another, but I’ll never claim to be an expert on which Tron variant is better, nor will I ever have a real opinion on whether I’d rather go Storm, Delver, Eggs, or Zoo if I had to play Legacy. Yet for those of us in the Magic community who eschew the competitive scene, the level of attention I give to the Big Four of Tournamenting – Standard, Modern, Legacy, and Vintage – is still far more than most of the casual Magic crowed.
To the end, it was quite hard to ignore the fact that as of this week Eternal Masters will be released. Continuing in the same vein as the previous two Modern Masters sets, Wizards crafted a drafting-capable set designed to circumvent the normal block releases as a means of getting important cards reprinted as a means of keeping the format viable. Due to the more limited nature of this set and the fact that most stores are already selling the set well above the already pricey MSRP of $10 per back / $240 per box, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to report on an internal review of how the set drafts. I was able to pull that off with Modern Masters 2015, but its lackluster cost-to-benefit ratio was such a big turnoff for my play group that it’s unlikely I’d even be able to even at the barely-reasonable MSRP price.
Plus, when you factor in that Eldritch Moon and Conspiracy 2 are due out this summer also, trying to cram in drafting a set that’s designed first and foremost to reprint expensive and sought after older cards is likely just too much for most casual players to invest in beyond a vanity pack purchase or two. Admittedly they aren’t the audience for this set anyway, but that’s another story.
Still, I have to admit that it has been exciting seeing many old cards that I remember so fondly being reprinted in this Not-An-Anthology anthology set. The vast majority of Eternal Masters is a nostalgia trip for old players like myself, and I’m happy many will see renewed life with a reprinting, regardless of the impetus behind why. So much of the set predates the Modern format that it’s hard not to be drawn in by its allure.
In celebration of that fact, this week takes a look at one such pre-Eighth Edition creature that didn’t make it into Eternal Masters – although given one of the set’s archetypes is Enchantments, a case certainly could have been made even if it wouldn’t be all that powerful in the Legacy / Vintage circuit.
Commander on the other hand…
Today we have: Aura Thief
Name: Aura Thief
Edition: Urza’s Destiny
Focus: Control Magic
Highlights: Aura Thief can be heavily advantageous in Commander metas where players run a fair amount of potent Enchantments, as its death allows you to permanently steal all of them. In a format where powerful and expensive permanents aren’t that rare, this humble 2/2 Flier can singlehandedly tip the state of the board in your favor, giving you access to the table’s field of Enchantments while hampering your opponent’s power base at the same time.
All he has to do is die.
Of course, your enemies likely won’t want that to happen, making this cheap creature a particularly interesting political tool. For those with something to lose, Aura Thief is both a useful blocker and deterrent. For those who would like to shake the board up, it makes for an easy catalyst for doing so. Aura Thief is more advantageous in the middle to later stages of the game for maximum effect, but at four mana, the worst case scenario with this card is you get a cheap Flier out of the deal.
In a bit of cruel irony, however, the one thing Aura Thief’s effect doesn’t do is move Auras. While you do gain control of any Auras on the battlefield, its control change doesn’t relocate them onto other creatures. That said, although it may not be useful to take control of something with a static effect like Flight, gaining power over cards like Freed From The Real and Pemmin’s Aura is worthwhile, if even just to nullify their abilities.
For such a small creature, Aura Thief can put some EDH players on the defensive, so be prepared for occasional provocations due to its use. More often, though, this unassuming card has a tendency to sit unnoticed until its timely death; only then is its true nature felt.
Ultimately, much like many cards from this era, Aura Thief is a good example of a card that hasn’t gotten less useful just because it’s gotten a little older. And it’s not one you’ll have to fight with tourney players over.
Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.
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Do you have a particular Commander card to suggest for us to shine a future Spotlight on? You can send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org