It’s amazing to think that a game can continue to innovate after 20 years of constant play. Sure, there are games that have been around for decades (and even centuries), but to be a game that evolves and changes the way that veteran CCGs like Magic and L5R do takes a lot of time and effort. The designers have to continually try new things and occasionally tinker with aspects of the game.
That latter part can be bittersweet. On the one hand, tinkering with the way the game works in ever-so-slight mannerisms can be incredibly popular. From a Magic perspective, think of things like cycling, equipment, or planeswalkers as cards. On the other hand, whether to avoid complexity creep, or to find the design space for these new latest and greatest toys, older concepts and mechanics can downplayed or even eliminated.
In my many many years I’ve seen overhauls I loved (like going from the batch system to the stack), ones I hated (like the new card frames or the not-so-subtle insistence in recent years that people play with creatures more than in the past), and plenty of changes I’ve been indifferent to. I’ve seen the game make rapid leaps forward, and yes, even a few steps back at times. Making the sort of changes Magic does every single year (let alone over two decades), is no easy task, and I think most players objectively would say the same.
Yet I, like many in my situation, can’t help but sometimes be nostalgic even in the face of some of the great things the game is doing. I adored the Future Sight block because I was its audience. Some of my favorite mechanics haven’t been seen in many years. Generally, I accept that change is ever-present with a CCG, because being consistent means to invite failure. Still, sometimes I wish that some of the older evergreen mechanics weren’t weakened. I dislike how they have to run through the filter of whether or not they can be handled in Standard and Modern in order to even be considered, because a lot of times the answer is no. Specifically, I speak of regeneration, prevention, and protection.
Now, regeneration I give R&D full credit for trying to make relevant again by stripping board wipes and direct damage of unnecessary regen hosing, but it’s not quite there yet. Prevention could (and may) be an entire article on its own, but suffice it to say that when they go and tell you they’re downplaying it because it’s confusing – which is odd since most of us old timers, even as young teens, could figure out how it worked – I don’t get my hopes up.
As for protection? Well, the powers that be play with protection like a kid plays with a vegetable they don’t want to eat. They know it’s useful, warranted, and players benefit from it, but they resist anyhow because it can be confusing to some even with the handy dandy DEBT acronym. I get that part: protection is shroud, unblockable, and damage prevention all rolled together. Nevertheless, granting “protection of ___” is always a handy tool to have in the toolbox, especially in multiplayer situations, and it should be given its proper space in sets. It’s a welcome sight to see a reprint of Akroma’s Memorial, but whether or not they try to revisit protection with any regularity going forward remains to be seen.
Protection against a color is a fantastic feature to grant, but usually you’re limited to the color(s) printed on the creature or Aura itself, or you have to chase a certain set of equipment swords. Getting to choose a color though, and having that effect last through the end of the turn? Now you’re talking.
Today we have: Flickering Ward
Name: Flickering Ward
Focus: Creature Protection
Highlights: Earlier sets played around with protection a lot more than they do now, and the logic was that it was simply part of the game you had to prepare for. Hexproof would be the best modern-day equivalent. Protection grants the abilities to not be blocked, not take damage, and not be targetable by whatever color/type source it’s shielding from. In short, it makes them neigh-invulnerable against X. Being able to give your creature protection from Black when going up against a nasty Black Commander deck not only lets you stave off it being Murder ed – it also lets you be able to glide right through their hordes of undead and smack the player with impunity. Protection is very useful – if you have the right colors.
See, once upon a time, there were individual core set cards called wards. Green Ward, Black Ward, etc. While useful, it made a player guess the colors they’d be going up against. Mirage then came out with Ward of Lights, allowing players to choose the color, as well as have a pseudo-flash effect. In Tempest, they went in the other direction with Flickering Ward by not only allowing a player to select the color, but allowing them to retrieve the Aura and recast it. All for about as economical a cost as you can ask for.
Also, yes, Pentarch Ward was the callback to these early ones. It also happens to serve as a decent alternative choice if all you want is the option of choosing the color.
That said, the chance to recast Flickering Ward is almost as useful as protection itself. In addition to the obvious – letting you move the Ward to a creature you wish to protect more or one that’s going to be able to do more damage – being able to move the Ward around can help do away with other Auras you don’t want out, as they’ll fall off a creature they no longer can enchant. Did someone steal your Commander with Corrupted Conscience? Give it prot Blue and get it back. Don’t like that Blanchwood Armor on a big trample creature? Prot Green.
Protection of colors is tool that may not see as much use as it used to, but proper use shows it can still be relevant. And potent. Just ask Progenitus.
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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