Much like many other constructed formats, a defining aspect of Commander is its consistency. It allows you to leave your kitchen table and play with complete strangers under the same recognized structure. There aren’t frequent radical rules changes or constant banlist modifications, and although as a casual format EDH permits you to make any number of house rules you see fit, in common settings everyone has a baseline with which to work. A consistent format structure is easier to learn, helpful to stay on top of, and healthy in that people are more willing to stick with it.
Of course, that doesn’t mean change doesn’t – or shouldn’t – happen. Now and then, shakeups do occur. Sometimes those changes significantly impact the status quo of the format. This happens with Modern, for instance, when specific cards are banned from use. The recent bannings of Summer Bloom and Splinter Twin are two examples of small but notable tweaks to the format’s rules, removing degenerate combo decks from dominating a sizable percentage of tournament appearances. An even more more seismic change would be something like the Magic rules changes that came with M10.
Other times you get rules changes that seem like they should be significant to the format but turn out to be fairly minor. For Magic overall, the loss of mana burn is one such example. It’s removal certainly made cards more or less powerful, and it did have an impact on certain strategies. The idea still has its fans (I’m more in the middle over its removal), but its disappearance has ultimately not had any lasting impact on the game.
The same will likely prove true with the removal of Commander’s ‘Rule 4’ restriction on mana generation. This is the rule that previously said if your deck tried to generate mana outside of its color identity, you’d get colorless mana instead. As of the latest update, this rule has been eliminated, mostly due to the creation of Eldrazi that require colorless mana to be cast. While thematically fitting, Rule 4 as it had existed would have made it far too easy for some decks to gain colorless mana for spells and abilities. So, rather than make some convoluted rule change to accommodate this, the Rules Committee opted instead to let it go. Birds of Paradise and Sen Triplets can now rejoice, true, but this announcement generally received a big shrug from most players.
That said, there is another Commander rule removal which a vocal minority of the player base openly wish for (as well as R&D’s Mark Rosewater…although he doesn’t even play Commander). This is the removal of color identity restrictions on which cards you can have in the deck.
For the record, I am not one of those people.
It’s true that this restriction is also imposed mostly for flavor reasons, and it’s also true that, mechanically speaking, a multicolor Red/White Gold card such as Deflecting Palm is different than a hybrid card like Waves of Aggression. Yet part of Commander’s format appeal is that you can’t simply use everything you want in your deck. These restrictions, however artificial, are what helps set the format apart as a distinctly different style of play.
It’s also what ensures you won’t run aground of a Birthing Pod in a non-Green deck. In this format, just as a devoided Eldrazi doesn’t mean it can hop right in a Karn deck, Phyrexian mana cards are relegated to their actual colors. While, yes, this makes them far more restrictive than standard multiplayer games, it hardly means they aren’t worth using. To highlight this fact, we’re going to look at one of them right…now.
Today we have: Noxious Revival
Name: Noxious Revival
Edition: New Phyrexia
Focus: Card Recursion
Highlights: At its core, Noxious Revival is a continuation of a long line of Green card retrieval going all the way back to Alpha’s Regrowth. Although Black can get creatures back, and Blue can sometimes recover spells, only Green has access to recovering any card in the graveyard, making it incredibly useful with the ever-shifting necessities of Commander game politics. There were a number of years where unrestricted graveyard retrieval was considered too open-ended for Green, it has since been reasserted as a tool in that color’s arsenal. This is an incredibly potent resource for Green, especially for a format prone to lots of board wipes and spot removal. Recursion cards such as Noxious Revival allow the player to regain access to cards that may have been used up by being cast, lost by removal, or even those they may have missed due to things like milling.
Traditionally though, these cards are speed-limited. In exchange for this typeless freedom, most of the time the ability is limited to Sorceries or creature triggers. Noxious Revival is an exception, allowing you cast the card at almost any point in the game, such as before your turn or some draw effect, giving you access to the graveyard card of your choice. The tradeoff is that it goes to the top of your deck instead of your hand. In this sense, however, you are trading new potential options in a card draw for a known quantity. While there are times when this isn’t necessarily ideal for tempo or utility reasons, if the answer to your problem is staring at you from the graveyard, there is no faster way of getting it back. This is especially pertinent since, thanks to a single Phyrexian mana cost, it can be cast for no mana, meaning you can regain your card to your deck even if completely tapped out.
What’s more, Noxious offers a second, more nefarious purpose, which helps it be seen as something beyond a Phyrexianized-Reclaim. That is, unlike Reclaim, which only affects you, Noxious Revival can be played on anyone. This card allows you to toss a minor or even useless card on top of someone’s deck, nullifying their next draw. In late stages of Commander, when it’s not uncommon for players to be fishing for specific answers, preventing someone from topdecking a useful response could make the difference between surviving another round or becoming compleated yourself. It’ll also come as a complete surprise in many cases, as it’s only one of two Instant-speed cards in the game that can do this to another player (the other being Misinformation), and it’s the only one whose purpose can be used for good or ill.
Yes, while the latest Commander changes still thankfully don’t permit you to use Noxious Revival outside of Green decks, it’s still a handy little card that, when used right, can be quite versatile. Plus, we’re able to enjoy its flavor without having to see every Commander deck ever run a Phyrexian Metamorph.
Look, we’re just saying, keeping a leash on the Phrexians is probably a good idea. Bad things happen otherwise…
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