Of all the variation that multiplayer Magic has compared to regular two-player face-offs, the most notable feature is the length of time it takes to play. It’s no secret that Magic duels can be over in mere minutes, especially on the highly competitive level. Among the most hardcore players some matches are so one-sided or so fierce that they could start and finish between TV commercial breaks. The average session is a bit longer, but unless you build a deck to purposely slow the game down, two-player bouts don’t usually take more than about 20-25 minutes.
By contrast, most games of Commander don’t even start percolating with anything noteworthy until that point. With more players and a format markedly slower by design, most playthroughs take a couple hours to reach a viable conclusion. Yet the cause of this is more than just having extra chairs at the table and decks not based around heavily aggressive strategies. Indeed, part of the reason it takes so darn long is because of how much time goes into finding an attack of opportunity.
Table politics in multiplayer games are huge. It’s what causes fierce rivals to form alliances to stop someone from running away with the game and why so many board wipes exist as a form of hitting the reset button on the game state. More people at the table ensures that attacking or spending resources on only one player can easily make you more vulnerable to the capricious whims of another in response. It’s why so often you see many people sit and try to build up their board rather than dive wildly into the fray, as an unprovoked and half-formed strategy more often than not will hurt your position at the table rather than raise it. It’s for this reason why so many people bide their time until they feel they can (or must) make a real power move.
Every Commander game is like a PG-version of Game of Thrones, where the status quo may keep you at the table, but you’ll eventually need to get your hands dirty to get ahead. Sometimes this will be casting a huge threat that everyone else has to deal with or using a wide-sweeping combo to take out more than one person at a time. Until that moment, though, most multiplayer games are about waiting for the right window to strike and doing whatever you can in the meantime to avoid getting into a cage match fight with one other person while everyone else watches like hungry sharks.
There are times, however, when that other person totally deserves your wrath. Everyone’s had those moments where you just want to throw strategy to the wind due to the actions of an opponent. In those cases, where you’re going to break the stalemate and just make them suffer, it helps to have the right tools. Tools like this week’s Aura.
Today we have: Curse of Bloodletting
Name: Curse of Bloodletting
Edition: Dark Ascension
Focus: Damage Dealing
Highlights: Curse of Bloodletting is not a complicated card. Its effect is quite transparent, enchanting a single player and stating that any damage they would take will be doubled – regardless of where the damage is coming from. This is a one-sided Furnace of Rath for about the same cost, but it’s no less potent. There are many times in games when someone will do something to irritate you or are generating way too much threat to be left alone. In those cases, it’s highly useful to pull out card like this to make them think twice about their actions.
Never let it be said that revenge isn’t a powerful motivator.
While the card ensures that you’re bound to make a guaranteed enemy by casting it on another player, it’ll still be advantageous to use if timed right. Whether it’s in retaliation to a slight or a preemptive strike against someone becoming difficult for the table to handle, Curse of Bloodletting generates both a mechanical and psychological effect on players when it hits the table. For the targeted player, their life total was just effectively halved. For everyone else, said player just became open season for damage dealing.
Because of this (with the exception of the affected player) Curse of Bloodletting is often more useful on the battlefield compared to cards like the aforementioned Furnace, Dictate of the Twin Gods, or Gratuitous Violence. Blanket damage doubling has a tendency to make people collectively nervous, especially if the person casting it has explosive spells or a powerful army behind them. Such cards often leads to players turning their attention to the enchantment at best, or you at worst, which serves to have the opposite effect as what you’re attempting to use them for. Curse of Bloodletting on the other hand, while only singularly focused, doesn’t share that fate. Your marked opponent may hate it, but the rest of the table will either leave it alone – or will take full advantage of the effect.
Yes, Curse of Bloodletting is quite useful to make someone either fall in line with the status quo, or a means of having them check out of the game altogether. If used as a vendetta tool, it’ll make your job of destroying them that much easier. If it’s used to take out the game’s current Big Bad, it’s a low-risk means of getting the table to break the status quo long enough to wade into the fight.
If nothing else, it’ll certainly shake up the table – which Commander games need to do now and then anyhow. So it’s win-win, really.
Except for the cursed player. But they probably deserved it.
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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