Back during the early days of Magic, a host of rules existed that would never be attempted today. Among those was the batch system. Long before The Stack, there existed a convoluted process of resolving the order of cards. This included the Interrupt card type, which pretty much said that whatever was happening in the game paused until an interrupt resolved, and the only thing that could be done in response was another interrupt. For those who didn’t have the luxury of seeing this in action, you can still get the feel of this via the Split Second ability during the Time Spiral block.
So if you think having your stuff countered now is painful, this period would have been down right traumatic.
Other game aspects have been far more stable, such as the game’s turn structure. While certain parts of the turn process have altered slightly over two decades, the 12 steps of a game turn have been pretty consistent.
For the most part of most games, players progress through each phase of their turn without ever taking them fully into account. This shortcutting not only makes the game flow faster, but it’s encouraged, since the vast majority of what happens during a player’s turn does so needing to understand the minutiae of every single step. Not to mention, of those twelve steps, only in 9 1/2 of them can a player even do anything anyway.
For most of us, it’s only important to know that you untap your stuff and draw a card to start your turn, and you get a phase before and after attacking in which to play lands and cast spells. That’s about it.
However, for players who liked to be unorthodox or wanted to use the rules of the game to their strategic advantage, there used to be a much higher percentage of cards of cards that would be beneficial before their opponent ever drew a card on their turn.
Indeed, there appears to be an unwritten and subtle desire on the part of the designers to slowly remove the importance of the upkeep step’s relevance entirely – largely in the name of reducing board complexity. But between the idea of upkeep costs and triggered abilities, that hardly used to be the case. The upkeep step once played a larger role in the management of a game than it does today, even if just slightly. Beyond cards that required a payment be made (think cards like Force of Nature), the upkeep step is also the short window before your opponent gets into the main part of their turn where you can do something to them preemptively.
This aspect of the upkeep phase hasn’t changed. Alas, for those who like trickery, the percentage of cards that can truly benefit from being used pre-draw has dwindled significantly. The desire to streamline wrinkle-prone areas of gameplay is one main factor behind this, but another is that such cards demand the player be familiar enough with the intricacies of the rules to be played with maximum efficiency. It’s one of those cases where the more familiar you are with the law, the better you are at using it to your benefit.
Cards that can take advantage of the upkeep window may be small, but when wielded correctly, they can be incredibly disrupting to an opponent’s plans – and they’re generally not something that can be easily remedied. As it happens, this week’s pick looks at one such card.
Today we have: Aurelia’s Fury
Name: Aurelia’s Fury
Rarity: Mythic Rare
Focus: Board Control / Spot Removal / Combat Control / Control Magic
Highlights: Aurelia’s Fury isn’t a true modular card, but it proves just as useful as one. While it was popular in highly aggressive decks when it was released, time has shown it to be just as valuable to stall someone or lock down their options. It may not seem as such, but this flavorful X spell can be useful no less than four different ways.
For starters, Aurelia’s Fury is an instant-speed Rolling Thunder, letting you distribute damage as you see fit at almost any time. Classic 1-for-1 damage spells in and of themselves aren’t that noteworthy, but this card has the advantage of allowing you to spot remove a problematic creature or smack a player at any time. (And bonus points when you do both.)
To that same end, you can use this angel’s wrath to tap your opponent’s creatures before they attack. So long as a creature receives damage from this card, you effectively have a Red / White card that offers a distinctly Blue combat trick – preventing the creature from attacking in the first place while still causing them to tap.
Less obvious and more potent with Aurelia’s Fury, though, is the raw potential the card provides when used during your opponent’s upkeep. When done correctly, not only is your opponent and / or their creature taking damage, but it locks them in to a Silence effect for noncreature spells. Unless they are playing a highly creature-based deck – something not a ton of Commander decks do – this can wreck a player’s entire turn. At best, it creates a de facto ‘target player skips their turn’ effect. At worst, it forces your opponent’s hand, dictating that if they are going to cast an instant or use an affected creature’s ability, they must do so before they even draw their card for the turn.
All of these effects are great for the lesser-touted reactionary side of Aurelia’s Fury, but of course, the aggressive side of this card is still very much present too. That is, you always have the option of pinging each opponent for a single damage on your turn and set up a Grand Abolisher situation, where you remove your opponent’s ability to have spell-based responses to anything you’re about to unleash upon them. For just a few mana and the right timing, Aurelia’s Fury still has the potential to blast open a window of opportunity for you to pivot into a win.
Whether you this card for it offensive capabilities or not, this card’s potential is often overlooked. It is the ideal kind of EDH card. It fluctuates with the player’s need, ranging from benevolent protection to overt aggression. It only seems fitting that the spell of a Boros angel, a creature of both righteousness and fervor, would provide both options in a single card.
And if you happen to use the enforcement of law to your advantage, it’s easy to believe even Aurelia herself would be impressed.
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