If you’ve followed this series long enough, dear reader, you’ll have picked up on a number of topics that recur from time to time. Call them biases, preferences, or simply the mere tangent-laden ramblings of a Magic player who has spent 20 some odd years around kitchen tables putting way too much thought into the game. And I reflect on another one of those here today.
Like any other player, I have opinions. Some of them coincide with the average player of current day or the current logic of the game’s designers, while others are me sitting in my rocking chair griping about those golden years when Magic was still Magic. Why in my day we had useful damage prevention…
I’ve been involved with the game for a very long time. Few subjects in my life have I spent the amount of man-hours focusing on as this game simply from the sheer number of years it’s been present as a hobby to me. It’s impact on my tenure not only as a gamer, but as a person, can’t be understated. It’s made me many friends I otherwise wouldn’t have had over the years, allowed me to be more creative, honed my tactical thinking, satiated my desire to collect, and really fostered my personal knack for game development.
Heck, my best man mentioned it his speech at my wedding.
So…yeah, Magic is a thing, even though I’ve never had any interest in the tournament scene for which the game gets most of its aplomb. Instead I sit, after all these years, quite comfortably talking for – and about – casual Magic. Because, honestly, there are thirty people writing about tournament Magic for every one whose focus is strictly on the multiplayer side of the game – ironically the game’s largest demographic.
One such recurring thing is the makeup of creatures themselves. As I’ve mentioned numerous times in the past, the current ideology from Wizards is that creatures in the game, especially those at common, are better served focusing on Enter The Battlefield triggers instead of having activated abilities. The logic goes that having lots of activated abilities on creatures makes for a more complicated and slower board state, thereby making the game worse off. Thus, there has been a radical shift towards a much higher proportion of ETB triggers and a likewise reduction in activated abilities. In general the idea seems fine, and WotC certainly seems to capitalize on such decisions by pointing out that the game has never been more popular. That whole correlation/causation argument aside, the reality is that the number of virtual vanilla creatures – what I call ‘spells with legs’ – have been on the rise for quite some time. Meanwhile, useful activated abilities on creatures (meaning a worthwhile ability at a reasonable activation cost) have been on the decline.
That is, at least at common and uncommon. Above that, things haven’t changed nearly as drastically. Which is why this shift hasn’t been highly noticed by the multiplayer (and especially Commander) crowds. Multiplayer decks tend to be larger, not beholden to the Rule of Four, and ideally look for the most efficient or interesting cards they can to combat having multiple opponents. So the fact that there are less activated creatures lower down the scale doesn’t get on the radar of many unless they also play Limited.
Quite the opposite really. Multiplayer is the one area of the game where creatures containing activated abilities still thrive in high numbers, mostly because of the high percentage of rares and mythics multiplayer decks typically run. Put another way: creatures with activated abilities are still a big enough threat in multiplayer for people to be concerned with them, especially if that ability is on the Commander itself.
This, of course, also gives you the leeway to put responses to such problematic creatures into your deck. For some colors, it’s simple spot removal. Others, however, don’t have that luxury. But there still are options. Options like this week’s card.
Today we have: Krasis Incubation
Name: Krasis Incubation
Edition: Dragon’s Maze
Highlights: On the surface, Krasis Incubation is a slightly more expensive multicolored version of Arrest, and that assertion at first wouldn’t be wrong. Both White and Blue have long had access to pacification-style Auras, though Green has also had stints at the idea over the years as well – most recently with Arachnus Web). Many of these cards prevent the creature from attacking or blocking, but only a dozen or so cards like Krasis Incubation are effective enough to also affect creatures who never have any intention of attacking or blocking in the first place.
The ability to stifle a creature whose main purpose is using its activated abilities is what makes cards like the Incubation so advantageous. For decks that can’t rely on simply killing the creature, it’s often very difficult to stop a well defended creature with a potent activated ability from going off without resorting to wide-scale effects or massive commitments to stop it. This is doubly true if it’s someone’s Commander.
Almost all of these Auras range from 2-4 mana, so Krasis is well within the acceptable curve. In exchange for the higher-end cost is a twofold benefit. For one, unlike some of Blue or Green’s other lower-costed versions (i.e. the web or Ice Cage), there is no situational destruction rider, making it more robust in a multiplayer setting. In fact, Krasis Incubation goes so far as to be reusable, meaning that if the creature would leave the battlefield (or a bigger target comes around), you can pay a mere 3 mana to return it to your hand. In the later stages of the game this is highly economical, and it allows you the flexibility that other pacification cards often don’t, even if you may leave a beneficial parting gift in some cases in the form of a slight buff.
Secondly, in typical Simic fashion, Krasis Incubation has the potential to be used either defensively or offensively. Most of these cards, from Encrust to Prison Term, the only application is to lock something away. While the major focus of this card is still undeniably to stifle someone else’s problematic creature, this card also gives you the ability to boost – albeit expensively – the size of one of your creatures or that of an ally. In the right settings though, especially if mana is available, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a second use. Any card with more than a single purpose in EDH can be highly useful in those oddly situational settings.
No, Krasis Incubation isn’t the flashiest card around, but it does its job particularly well in colors that aren’t known for efficiently and reliably stopping single creatures from getting out of hand. Such cards give you the option to permanently lock down a single creature without affecting the entire board and making some new enemies in the process. Plus, even in the era of triggered creatures, this fairly recent card is a nice reminder that creature activations – in multiplayer at least – are still something one has to watch out for.
And for a curmudgeonly veteran played like me, I’m all for it.
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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