Keeping things on the battlefield has always been the desirable thing. This truism hasn’t changed since the beginning. And having creatures stick around when someone tries to destroy them? Well, that causes a two-fold effect. First, it’s incredibly advantageous to hold on to your assets when your opponent spends valuable cards and resources attempting – and failing – to get rid of them. Secondly, it’s incredibly satisfying to completely deny them their attempt.
Counterspells aside, the first decade or so of Magic mostly accomplished this through the use of the Regeneration mechanic. Regeneration says that the creature sticks around when it’s be destroyed, and it proved to be quite effective. When it came to stopping targeted destruction, Regeneration could not be beat.
From the beginning, though, most of the best board wipe effects made special exceptions to ensure that Regeneration could not circumvent mass killings. Modern board wipes no longer have the ‘can’t be regenerated’ rider (see Wrath of God vs Day of Judgment), but paradoxically this switch to Regeneration-friendly sweepers has also seen the game produce far fewer creatures with Regeneration than it used to.
There are a number of reasons to account for this, but the most pressing one has been the rise of another mechanic that cuts into its territory – Indestructible. It’s been mentioned before, but there is an argument that since Indestructible is capable of being used on any permanent type, comes in any color, and doesn’t require an activation cost, that it is just a superior mechanic.
It’s sort of impressive that what is actually a sparsely-used mechanic can have such a widespread impact on design mentality. Indestructible first hit the scene in 2004 with Darksteel, and to date the term only appears on 69 cards. (Two of which appear on pre-Mirrodin cards via errata.) However, what’s interesting to note is that it hasn’t appeared evenly:
In fact, with three exceptions, only a handful of Indestructible cards have appeared each year. 2004 debuted the mechanic in Darksteel artifacts and Champion of Kamigawa’s Myojin. However, people felt that it was too difficult to deal with. Wizards seemed to agree, and they backed off significantly until they could properly address it. When we saw a comeback in 2010 due to the Scars of Mirrodin set, the landscape had altered.
What had changed in the intervening time? The rise of exile effects. In what amounts to the game’s slow but inevitable power creep, the dynamic of Regeneration vs “can’t be regenerated” has upgraded to Indestructible vs exile. And while 2013 has seen the highest numbers of Indestructible cards since its creation (in no small part due to the Theros gods), 2013 has also given us a powerful board wipe answer to it.
Today we have: Merciless Eviction
Name: Merciless Eviction
Focus: Board Wipe
Highlights: As much as the colors have opposing ideologies, both Black and White are really good at destroying things. What one color has difficulties with removing, the other makes up for it. There are very few cards that can straight up destroy or exile a permanent, and those that do tend to be either expensive artifacts or Black/White cards. (Mono green has a trio, but they are all considered outside of the color pie – yes, even though one of them is from New Phyrexia.)
Nevertheless, Merciless Eviction allows the player some amazing versatility. It creates a board exile for creatures in that very False Prophet / Final Judgment sort of way, but where it may have been overlooked on the Constructed scene, it provides loads of situational power in Commander-style gameplay. Such a card can be used at any time it’s warranted, and rarely will it go to waste. Instead of shutting down a creature threat, for example, it equally provides an answer to someone running an Aura deck, or someone with a number of pesky artifacts on the loose, or perhaps an enemy with a well-protected planeswalker.
Board wipe cards don’t have a lot of subtext to them, and Merciless Eviction is no exception. This is the type of card you’re likely to see in most Commander settings, and they don’t require a lot of deep explanation. However, one shouldn’t dismiss the card due to its cost. The six mana cost to exile an entire permanent type is easily worth the investment. Therefore, the real question isn’t whether or not you’d use the card, but when. And on whom.
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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