No one ever says they want less bonuses.
Whether it’s going the extra mile on a book report, squeezing in just one more stop during your vacation, or ordering dessert after a decent meal, people love adding the proverbial cherry on top to pretty much any experience they can. It’s that notion whereby you’re already comfortable with the emotional response from your activity, but taking that one extra gesture, that one additional step, makes the entire thing that much sweeter.
This also applies to the emotional response from playing Magic cards that provide an effect beyond the base reason you’re using the card in the first place. Facets of strategy and deck utilization aside, the biggest reason that players enjoy cards with cantrips (drawing a replacement card after casting it) or mechanics such as Kicker, is that you’re getting an added reward on top of whatever you’re already trying to pull off. It’s not that you can’t use the card without that bonus effect and still not have it be effective. Rather, it’s that, well, who doesn’t want to get two or more things for the price of one?
The game’s designers clearly recognize this, as the game has increased all-upside mechanics such as Undying while decreasing / eliminating downside mechanics like Echo. The former excites the average player; the latter annoys them. Even a cursory look at cards of the last few years will make it easy to spot individual cards and whole mechanics built around giving you something straightforward as its primary effect but allowing you to benefit from casting it too, be it in the form of life, cards, tokens, and so on.
Kicker was one of the first fleshed-out mechanics to dive into value-added cards and the dopamine-inducing pleasure they provide when used to their highest potential. And although some of the game’s earlier attempts at the mechanic were somewhat spotty in their efficiency, a number of them are still worth talking about, both for their usefulness and that whole Pavlovian response thing.
So, naturally, this week’s pick is one of those cards.
Today we have: Jilt
Focus: Creature Bounce / Direct Damage
Highlights: Jilt is an incredibly simple card to grasp, requiring very little explanation as to its intended purpose. It was one of the game’s earlier examples of streamlined Kicker usefulness, even if it’s effecting stapling Shock and Unsummon together. It was a clear precursor similar styled control cards such as Into the Roil, albeit with a little more punch.
The base use of Jilt is a rudimentary creature bounce, which, although nothing highly creative, is still incredibly useful in multiplayer games like Commander. It’s one of those effects that you don’t think much about until you need it and don’t have it. So while it may not be all that flashy, its low casting cost and stalwart nature prevent this creature bounce from becoming completely obsoleted.
That said, the irony is that when Jilt was first printed many players didn’t like paying two whole mana for a creature bounce when Unsummon was a mere one. Back when Boomerang was still floating around in abundance, many Blue players didn’t like trading down from targeting a permanent to “just” a creature in exchange for damage dealing. And honestly, in games where tempo mattered, you couldn’t really blame them.
In longer settings, however, such as EDH, being able to get two effects on a card for the price of one is well worth considering – in addition to making it easier to splash in decks of its color identity. Jilt’s kicker states that for an additional two mana, you can pick off any creature on the board of power two or less. That doesn’t sound like much, but the more you play EDH, the less surprised you’ll be with how often there’s some fragile utility creature floating around just ready to be picked off.
Thus, in one instant-speed casting you can potentially bounce one creature and kill another, all for just four mana. It’s not guaranteed to be perfect in every situation, but this storyline-infused card is far more versatile than people give it credit for. Especially for a common.
Plus, there’s nothing saying you have to use the kicker if you don’t want to. It’s just that – a bonus.
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.
You can discuss this article over on our social media!
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