As formats go, Commander is known for being particularly flashy. Not flashy in the same way as competitive tournament decks, with full art promos and more Japanese writing than an anime import, but rather in the way the deck behaves. Sur,e many players like to trick out their Commander decks in similar ways, but in this setting the thing that stands out most are the cards contained within it.
Put another way, when you’re playing an elimination match against a single opponent, you want a deck that is highly tuned to play the same way every time. This means a strict 60 cards, plenty of duplicates, and making sure it’s as streamlined for efficiency as you can get. In this style of Magic gameplay, if you’re going more than 6-10 rounds – less in Eternal settings – something likely has gone completely wrong. Speed and repetitiveness are key. There’s very little incentive for playing expensive creatures or spells except in very small doses, and usually as the win condition at that.
Part of Commander’s continuing appeal is because it encourages just the opposite. With twice as much life, multiple opponents, and a far more unpredictable 100 card deck to wield, games of Commander don’t even get started until round six or so, much less end at that point (again, unless something has gone completely wrong). Whether used affectionately or derisively, multiplayer gaming, and EDH in particular, is sometimes referred to as ‘Battlecruiser’ Magic. The term is a reference to the classic PC strategy game StarCraft, in which some players as the human faction would forgo investing in early game units and a chance at quick victory in favor playing defense as to have the necessary time and resources to build an expensive fleet of the faction’s final unit: the Battlecruiser. Battlecruisers in the right quantities were devastatingly effective, but the amount of effort necessary to reach that point was deemed by the more hyper-aggressive style players to be an inefficient waste of time and energy. Why expend that much effort, after all, when a series of lightning strikes had a far quicker – and more likely – chance of winning.
The term started to make circulation in the Magic world more regularly after Wizards themselves started using the term during the first appearance of the Eldrazi, when explaining to the masses that their appearance was an attempt to cultivate a slower format with a focus on building up resources to cast massive Eldrazi creatures instead of the normal speed-based approach. It was met with mixed response from the tournament scene itself, but for casual players it felt like their preferred way to play was being recognized. Casual multiplayer Magic, and especially Commander, have always fostered the “Timmy” style gameplay of being able to play big and costly cards. Part of this is because of the intrinsic fun that these expensive-but-rewarding cards provide. It makes for an exciting experience. Part of it’s also because Commander is a slower format, making such cards far more viable. In EDH, having a bunch of 6+ cost cards isn’t the frantic liability against your mana curve it is in other places – it’s the standard.
Of course, that doesn’t mean a Commander deck is only comprised of Inkwell Leviathans and Storm Herds. It simply wouldn’t work. As anyone who has built a deck will attest, you also have to populate it with the less than flashy substrate. It’s sort of like constructing a fancy new building: you can include lots of nice wide lobbies, six pools, and a chandelier King Kong could hang from, but to support all that you also need the infrastructure to support it. In Magic terms that means a bunch of land, as well as your normal allotment of cards that fetch or generate mana, draw cards, remove specific problems from the board, enable your deck to function mechanically or thematically, or stopping your opponent from doing any of the above.
And, as most can also attest, the amount of room you have to include all those things runs out very quickly.
These unsung parts of a Commander deck rarely get fanfare, but their inclusion – including helping you fend off your opponents – are no less important than those Battlecruiser cards themselves. To that end, this week we take a quick peek at one such card that can often be overlooked. At least, until it hits the table.
Today we have: Bojuka Bog
Name: Bojuka Bog
Edition: Worldwake / Commander 2012-2014
Focus: Graveyard Exile
Highlights: When most people contemplate which nonbasic lands to add to their deck, there’s usually the normal concerns such as how many to include overall, how they will help you generate the mana you need, and the various effects they may generate. Most of the time the focus falls to higher rarity lands which are either there for mana fixing or because they have some kind of useful activated (read: repeatable) ability. Bojuka Bog makes for a good exception as a land worth including that does neither of those things.
Lands with triggered abilities like Bojuka Bog are usually placed on a lower tier than other nonbasic lands because of a combination of their effect only going off once and, with the exception of all but a dozen cards, those lands coming in tapped. Therefore, to offset not being usable for mana right away, their triggered effects have to be worth the tradeoff in a multiplayer Magic setting. And, frankly, most of them are not.
Bojuka Bog, on the other hand, is well worth the offset, which is likely why the card was reprinted in three successive Commander sets. Bojuka Bog is rather unassuming at first glance, but its simple effect often has a resoounding impact in many EDH games. Exiling someone’s graveyard can be innocuous to some, but there are plenty of occasions where doing so can be down right devastating to a deck. From reaniminating creatures, to Flashback spells, to Dredge effects, to simply retrieving cards from your graveyard for casting again, a well-time Bog can stop all of it. Sure, it only targets one person once, but if timed right, it can easily shake up a game. The fact that this minor spell-like effects comes on a land is also a nice bonus, since that means its effect is that much harder to prevent. While an opponent can react to the trigger, more often than not the Bog will get them in the end.
On top of that, Bojuka Bog most of the time can easily justify being included over a standard Swamp, meaning that it can easily fit into most decks running Black with little issue, making it highly versatile regardless of what your deck is doing otherwise.
The only area where it can struggle is timing that one-shot effect to justify its inclusion. Although this card can cause potential power shifts at the table in the middle to late stages of the game, it can be anticlimactic or even frustrating if you get this land too early. In those cases you either have to choose between playing it for minimal effect to ensure you have needed mana, or hold on to it and risk falling behind. Still, this is usually a minor issue.
Is Bojuka Bog very flashy? No. What bog is, really? So it’s not going to be the kind of card that makes people sit up and take notice, nor will it give you the same feeling as casting your favorite Battlecruiser spell. But it still has the capability of being highly memorable in its own right. Just ask anyone who has been on the receiving end of it. They may not recall which giant demon you had out that game, but odds are they’ll remember being Bojuka Bogged.
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