No matter how long you’ve been playing Magic, be it six weeks or ten years, every player has mechanics they love and ones they can’t stand. For every person gushing about Overload or Buyback or Ninjitsu, there’s someone out there bemoaning the use of Infect or Annihilate or Storm.
In isolation, that’s perfectly fine. Magic is a wide ranging game that goes out of its way to cater to myriad styles and formats, and while this doesn’t mean that everything made in every set will cater to your preferences, it’s practically inevitable you’ll find cards and concepts that resonate precisely with how you want to play.
And statistically at this point, at least one of those favored mechanics will involve +1/+1 counters.
It’s no secret that Wizards’ designers loves mechanics that revolve around +1/+1 counters, even with the exception of the recent Amonket block. The choice to do so is deliberate, and the reasons are pretty simple: such mechanics are easy to design around, developers like the synergy between sets, and players like using them.
What’s more, they’ve more or less stated that they never intend to have a Standard situation where +1/+1 or -1/-1 counters don’t play some kind of role, even though they don’t want to have those two coexisting – hence why there’s all of one +1/+1 based mechanic in all of Kaladesh and Innistrad blocks leading up to the return of Bolas. But even then it’s rare for a set to forgo routine use of such counters. They are perpetually en vogue design-wise.
The problem for established players who crave diversity, however, is that it very easily can get frustrating to watch the limited number of mechanic slots per set routinely taken up by mechanics that feel like derivatives of one another or that could easily have achieved the same effect without utilizing +1/+1 counters at all (such as Awaken).
How different is Bolster from Support, really, or Fabricate from Graft? Aren’t Renown and Bloodthirst essentially two sides of the same coin? And come on: Undying is literally an inverted Persist.
In the past, this conflagration of abilities has reached such troublesome heights that you felt like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas when he’s complaining about all the Noise Noise Noise Noise Noise! Just replace ‘noise’ with ‘counters’.
The last couple blocks have been a nice reprieve from this tendency, but that only raises the likelihood that the pendulum is due to swing back again soon and return us to the +1/+1 status quo.
Compounding this +1 counter fatigue is that when it comes to casual play; the fact that every similarly-behaving mechanic is just added to the list of deckbuilding options reinforces the feeling that Magic can be a little over-reliant at times on +1/+1 counters. And Commander is no exception.
So, with that in mind, this week’s pick is a fantastic way to combat the proliferation of perpetual plus one counters.
Today we have: Kulrath Knight
Name: Kulrath Knight
Focus: Anti-Counters / Board Control
Highlights: Kulrath Knight is the kind of creature whose usefulness is largely self-explanatory. Reflecting the era at which it was created, this winged knight was designed with the intent of punishing your opponents for standing in the way of your wither-based hordes by preventing your opponent’s creatures from being able to attack or block after gaining -1/-1 counters. And while it certainly accomplished that goal, it can sometimes be overlooked that this restriction wasn’t just limited to one kind of counter, thereby giving it even more longevity in the casual realm.
Indeed, Kulrath Knight goes way beyond stopping creatures with +1/+1 or -1/+1 counters from being able to attack or block: it affects all counters. If an opponent’s creature has any counters on it for any reason, the Knight pacifies them all in one fell swoop. This can be devastatingly effective, either to prevent that opponent from being able to attack you, or to completely leave that person open to attack from anyone at the table. With this creature at the vanguard, a well-timed attack could be potentially game-ending.
As such, the biggest limitation to Kulrath Night ultimately is its vulnerability. Depending on how reliant your opponents are on counter-based creatures and / or your ability to manipulate them to that end, Kulrath Knight has the potential to become a major threat magnet at the table. Some players may not care that this 3/3 flier is on the board, but for others it could single-handedly nullify their entire army. So you’ll want to either time the casting of it to be the most effective, or find a way to protect it from being easily picked off.
Still, since Magic will likely continue to make creatures with counters on them until the end of time, it’s always nice to have an equally timeless answer. And this five mana creature will easily do.
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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