Commander Spotlight: Helldozer

Magic may be a great game for player counts from two to twenty, but that doesn’t inherently mean that everyone is going to walk away from any given session feeling the same way. Part of that is because the vast majority of the time you win by being the last person standing. More prescient, though, is the double-edged sword that is the bevy of possibilities available to players to accomplish said victory. That is, while Magic has a 20+ year card catalog offering deep deckbuilding options and a wide array of play styles, everyone is going to approach the Highlander-like prerogative to survive quite differently.

Some people are keen on trying to control as much of the game flow as possible. Other people specialize on causing as much chaos as possible instead. Many enjoy lightning-fast aggro decks, while just as many adore lumbering decks shouldering giant, hulking creatures. Stealing. Donating. Direct Damage. Token combat. Deck milling. And so on. If you can conjure up some kind of deck idea in Magic, there is a way of building it.

Because of the freedom and flexibility afforded to the players, not every mechanic or deck concept is going to be equally enjoyed by everyone at the table. Nor should it, really. Part of the fun is trying new approaches and tailoring decks to reflect your own characteristics, but your personal preferences for a specific tactic may not line up with everyone else. Some traits and abilities can rankle people, for a variety of reasons. This includes two of the traditionally most disliked deck archetypes in the casual realm: Infect and land destruction.

In both cases, how someone will react to their use varies extensively, from those that simply wish to avoid it all costs to those who merely see such abilities as another tool in the arsenal. For most, individual cards with those abilities don’t illicit nearly the lasting level of rancor as decks that revolve around them. This is especially true in Commander, where overly aggressive antics are (and should be) discouraged. Of course, in the end your individual metas will ultimately determine what is or isn’t taboo for general use, and it’ll be your choice to abide by that…or not.

To that end, this week expressly goes down the land destruction rabbit hole by looking at a creature that hardly needs a deck around it to be useful. Today we have: Helldozer


Name: Helldozer

Edition: Ravnica / Planechase

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Land Destruction

Highlights: A particularly defining trait for most Commander decks is nonbasic land. For one, Commander decks are already unwieldy 100 card stacks, and having access to the right mana is essential. Most decks in the format are at least two colors, if not more, and nonbasic lands allow for essential mana fixing. Moreover, the singleton nature practically begs for offbeat nonbasic lands to be used. The slower pacing allows us to pull out particularly fun or useful lands that may otherwise be passed over in non-casual formats.

Where else but in multiplayer casual settings will you regularly see Springjack Pasture or Mystifying Maze hit the table? Running nonbasic lands in Commander is a common practice because they’re efficient while also being fun, and that isn’t changing anytime soon.

Of course, part of the nonbasic land fun is because many of them have useful and repeatable abilities that are much harder to remove from the battlefield than artifacts or enchantments. Except when they run into bruisers like Helldozer here. Aside from being a heavy hitter on the ground in its own right – helping it survive longer on the battlefield – this creature’s real threat comes from its singular tap ability.

Helldozer in many ways is the resurrected version of an old school casual Magic favorite, Demonic Hordes, although the latter is still quite flavorful. This zombie bears the same hallmarks as its predecessor, including the heavy Black cost – with good reason. Except that they shifted its upkeep cost to the activation itself. Land destruction is a powerful tool, and it’s often overly dangerous when it’s repeatable. Part of the problem with Demonic Hordes was how easy it became to abuse and wipe out your opponent’s entire mana base if unchecked. Helldozer’s activation cost curtails that somewhat.

The tradeoff to this, however, is that this giant land eater’s ability specifically wants you to blow up nonbasic lands, letting you untap it to attack, block, or if you have the mana, use its ability again. Any land is fair game with Helldozer, but nonbasics are the figurative cherry on top, making it incredibly effective at spot land removal. Whether you use it to only get rid of problematic lands of your opponents or to start eating into their mana pool is up to you.

A word of warning, though. As with most land destruction, just the mere intimidation factor of Helldozer being on the battlefield will likely draw hate in your direction, and you can guarantee it’ll be a common target for people to try to get rid of quickly. So be prepared for a little political backlash when you start taking out cherished lands of your opposition. Choose your targets wisely.

Or not. That’s totally your call. That is the point, after all.

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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