Back in Guildpact, something was added to the game that hadn’t been seen before or since. First regarded as R&D filling a new territory check box, and then a bit later as a novelty, these cards have continued to be talked about years after the set has come and gone.
We speak of course, about the Nephiliim. Nephilim were the first – and only – cycle of four-colored creatures that have graced the game. From a design perspective, this rarity sort of makes sense. Each color in the game has a very unique style, and the more colors that gets added to a card, the more difficult it becomes to create something truly representative of them. Three color arrangements are complicated enough to manage, and while four is a simple a logical extension, the actual pathways you can take to design such a card are very limited. Ultimately you can either invest a lot of time meticulously crafting a card possessing the right combination of overlapping effects using core color attributes, or you design a card that punishes the color that it’s lacking.
Personally, I think the latter is more fitting, but Wizards has been downplaying such color hate for years now. So they instead opted to go with the amalgamated approach. Sort of.
In reality, they pulled their punches with the Nephilim experiment. Indeed, most of the abilities don’t honorably portray all the colors they’re embodying. Where is the Black influence of Witch-Maw Nephilim, for example, or Red in Glint-Eye Nephilim? For a number of years after their creation, the Nephilm didn’t get much fanfare, because most people didn’t think that their abilities were worth the effort to generate four colors of mana to cast them. That said, curiosity in them continues to linger, less because of their usefulness as cards and more because of their unique status. Of course, the rise of EDH only adds to the conversation. Questions of why the Nephilim weren’t legendary and when will they do more four-colored [preferably legendary] creatures are still routinely bandied about.
And four-color Commander options would certainly be welcomed. While the format does have a lot of two-color legends and a modest-but-fair number of three-color legends at its disposal, some players wish to experiment further. Unfortunately, the only current way to have a four-color EDH deck is to choose a five-color legend and forgo one its colors (possibly even removing the ability to cast it at all) – or have your gaming group house rule it so that Nephilim.
If the house rule vote fails, going the five color route isn’t an easy task either: there are only 19 WUBRG cards in the game. All of them exist either for thematic reasons (Progenitus, Last Stand, etc.) or because they are the representation of a creature type that spans all five colors (such as the royal couple Reaper King and Sliver Queen). Should a player wish to go beyond the commonplace three-color Commander deck, options are fairly limited. Of those 19 cards, only 11 are legendary creatures, and of those 11, most focus on a specific tribe.
Still, regardless of the choice one makes when going with a WUBRG Commander, the fact is that they’re willingly taking on the challenge to balance the needs of five colors in a format that can often be difficult with just two or three. So, to honor that arduous quest, it’s only fitting that we highlight one such possible tool at their disposal.
Today we have: Genju of the Realm
Name: Genju of the Realm
Edition: Betrayers of Kamigawa
Focus: Creature Advantage
Highlights: When the Genju Auras were running around, Genju of the Spires received the most attention due to its speed and effectiveness. By contrast, while it was hard to ignore a giant frog-like Spirit on paper, the five color commitment made it unplayable for most.
In a WUBRG Commander deck, though, Froggy can be quite advantageous. For a a mere five mana, you are receiving a hefty 8/12 creature with Trample. So long as the player can generate the five mana necessary to cast it, the Genju can make a very efficient creature on the battlefield to assist in the middle stages of the game while they are likely building towards their other goals.
What’s more, like many animated lands, the Genju are tricky to contend with outside of combat. They don’t die easily to creature board wipes, and its size makes damage-based spot removal difficult. Additionally, should the animated Genju land actually be destroyed, the Aura returns to your hand and can be cast again. Unlike the monocolor Genju, this one can enchant any land. This can be very useful in later stages of the game when creatures may be a commodity and land is in abundance.
And lastly, at the very least, it is a nice flavorful inclusion to the efforts of a WUBRG Commander. If you’re investing in five colors, you might as well do it with a bit of flair.
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