The further we civilians get from an actual battlefield, the more we tend to rely on gloried fictional accounts or simplified versions of very tenuous situations. Most historical accounts are by the lay person treated more like mere lines from a book than events lived through, and even those who study the past often fail to conceptualize past events within their full context. The entertainment side of the equation is even worse, from movies and TV shows to games. For instance, on the more fanciful level, most video games focus on small-scale skirmishes over grand-scale engagements, be it futuristic landscapes like Halo, the fictionalized past like Dynasty Warriors, or the glossed over nature of urban combat in something like Call of Duty.
The reality is that battles are often unpredictable and chaotic affairs no matter how well one prepares for it.
That said, your odds definitely improve when the person leading the effort is adept at being able to juggle multiple areas at once while also being able to adjust when those carefully laid plans go completely sideways. To do that, you want a battlefield tactician at the helm.
A soldier can be an efficient fighter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re their combat skills lead them to successfully command an army. Nor does it mean that an adept longbow archer, a cunning cavalry commander, or an industrious cannoneer would do any better. While each person may be the best at their respective job, having someone at the front who can assemble all of those disparate pieces together into a dynamic and working system isn’t just ideal – it’s necessary.
Which, when you get down to it, is precisely what Magic players do every single game.
Magic is a game where luck and skill intertwine, and where the person who can pull off the best moves (or at least make the fewest mistakes) will usually be the winner. Sometimes the best course of action is to strike your opponent hard and fast. Other times it’s more ideal to put out towering, unstoppable obstacles and overwhelm them by sheer size or numbers. Then there are those who weave all of their various assets together and defeat you in a single stroke before you even know what’s going on. In Magic, those are thanks to combo moves.
Combos and deck synergy are a huge portion of any exciting game of Magic. Most decks use them, and it’s wise to always have a few such tricks up your sleeve for when the time is right. Yet some players bank on combo maneuvering way more than the normal player. They thrive on the idea of biding their time until they can launch their Bond villain style superweapon.
This is particularly egregious in Commander. Commander has larger decks (which allow for more diverse combo potential), a slower tempo (giving you the necessary time to build up), and multiple opponents (providing the means to devote less time and effort to defensive measures and more on your goals at hand), allowing it to be more widespread than other formats.
Combos in and of themselves aren’t inherently a bad thing. Combos are fun, and they’re a central part of the game. I’m a fan. You’re probably a fan. Exploring the near-infinite possibilities of card interactions is a sublimely appealing trait of the game to most players. They are – and should be – a welcomed part of the game. And Commander is a perfect canvas to let them flourish.
The problem is, particularly in Commander, when players can’t help but abuse that freedom. Whether it’s another infinite life/creature/damage/mana/turn combo or someone’s deck relying almost exclusively on pulling off the same trick time after time to enable an instant win, the prospect of facing a combo-heavy EDH deck can wane pretty quickly.
Think about it: how many times have you been playing with friends only to watch one of them casually pull off a move to win the game? How many times is it the same move with the same deck? If it’s more than a few, it won’t take long before playing against that deck – or that person – can get old.
There are ways to mitigate these situations, however. See, one disadvantage of playing the same deck with the same people regularly is that you get to know what the deck is capable of. In combo decks particularly, that means which cards are necessary for their Power Level 9000 move to go off. You know the tricks. So if you pull the right pin, it’s possible you can disable their primary weapon in a single move. All you need is the right tool to do it.
Which, as it happens, we’ve had such a card for a long, long, long time.
Today we have: Jester’s Cap
Name: Jester’s Cap
Edition: Ice Age / Fifth Edition / Ninth Edition / FTV: Relics
Focus: Card Extraction
Highlights: Jester’s Cap was once considered a powerhouse card for its ability to cripple decks, going to far to even being used in numerous tournament decks at the time. It (plus Grinning Totem) also gave rise to the small but powerful series of extraction cards that have arisen over the years. Ironically, those are also the only two artifacts with this ability. While every color has a couple cards that do this in specific cases, the bulk of these cards tend to either be Blue or Black.
Jester’s Cap is a bit slow by today’s standards in the dueling world, but it’s still highly advantageous in Commander. Aside from its innate ability, the fact that Jester’s Cap is colorless makes it incredibly versatile since it can be put in nearly any deck, granting you the ability to focus your fire against one person.
For some, the idea of paying six mana to remove a mere three colors from one opponent’s deck in EDH may not seem the most efficient, but the effect in action is almost always well worth the cost. Whether it’s stopping a problematic piece of combo artillery, negating a card granting a huge tempo swing, or simply removing cards that your current deck has no way of stopping, you can slow or even stop whoever the most problematic deck is at the table at that time. At best, this removes a game-ending move long before it happens. At worst, it eliminates three of someone’s most dangerous threats to you in a single move. Either way, it’s a win.
Moreover, using extraction-style exile effects makes for a better meta-game alternative in many cases than tailoring decks or running hate cards specifically to counteract a single person or deck. If only so it doesn’t seem like you’re picking on someone unnecessarily.
Is Jester’s Cap going to help win you lots of games? No. But what it offers instead is the means of not losing to specific threat…again, It takes that player’s three most problematic cards off the table, giving you slightly better chances in turn.
Which may be all you need in the end, really. As history has often shown us, even the most minor changes can have drastic consequences when the battle actually begins.
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