Of the many facets within Magic, the idea of denial is a prevalent one. While the most blatant instance of this is countering an opponent’s spell, denial on a strategic level is both more far-reaching and more common than most players even consider at first glance. Much of this mindset is built into the fabric of the game so much that we often don’t even think about it as we’re playing the game. At its core, the act of preventing your opponent from doing something advantageous isn’t just a feel-good moment of spite: it’s also a calculated tactical move that can keep options open or even potentially give you the upper hand. Any time you can make an opponent waste resources creates windows of opportunity, and this goes to the heart of that strategy.
Counterspell may be an easy example, but lowercase ‘d’ denial is hardly rare. This can include all manner of preventative gameplay, including:
- Using a Fog-like card after someone decides to use an Overrun effect.
- Bouncing a creature your opponent tries to Confiscate.
- Giving a permanent protection/hexproof/shroud to fizzle a spell targeting it.
- Emptying an opponent’s graveyard, especially if it’s being relied upon.
- Most forms of forcing someone to discard cards.
As it so happens, one denial angle that has become increasingly useful in Commander over the last few years is the idea of preemptive self-sacrifice. This tactic is especially useful in situations where you want to ensure that whatever your opponent is attempting they aren’t going to get the full effect.
Of course, this only works if you have access to a quick and easy sacrifice ability. Which, conveniently, is what brings us here this week.
Today we have: High Market
Name: High Market
Edition: Mercadian Masques / FTV: Realms / Commander 2015
Focus: Creature Sacrifice / Life Gain
Highlights: High Market is a nonbasic land that allows for myriad possibilities from such a simple line of text. The hallmark behind this card is that it allows you to simply tap and sacrifice a creature to gain 1 life. Originally billed as a fixed version of Diamond Valley, High Market has been well received since its debut in Masques as a reliable way to both gain life and sacrifice creatures for some intended effect.
The lifegain side of it is particularly useful if you have access to a continual supply of expendable creatures, allowing you to slowly gain life through chomping on token creatures (presumably as some kind of sustenance…try not to think about it). Similarly, this bazaar is quite efficient with many decks and strategies that revolve around wanting to sacrifice creatures. With no activation cost, High Market is incredibly versatile for an unassuming effect, but with the right assets besides it, it can fuel some particularly potent abilities.
Moreover, having such a repeatable way of gaining life and / or sac creatures on a land makes it particularly stable to keep around and it can slide into any EDH deck where it’s needed. That said, although it isn’t scary by itself, it can make for an occasional target for land destruction if you start abusing it. So…don’t do that.
Yet High Market also stands out as an incredibly useful land in Commander simply by denying your opponent from affecting a creature in a manner you’d rather not see happen. With the rise in exile effects in EDH, for instance, this card ensures that your most precious creature ends up in the graveyard instead of on the receiving end of an exile-based spot removal or board wipe. Alternatively, it allows you to avoid unfortunate situations where your opponent turns your own creature against you. Path to Exile? Sacrificed. Target of a Phthisis? Sacrificed. Target of a Control Magic? Sacrificed. And so on.
It’s a subtle use of High Market, true, but exile is about as permanent as it gets nowadays and so using it in response to something negatively impacting your board leaves the door open to recoup that creature to be used again. At its best, High Market keeps a bad situation from being even worse.
And hey, if nothing else, a smug self-sacrificial spite shot to deny your opponent’s ambitions can be worth it on that fact alone.
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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