There’s an often misquoted (and equally misattributed) line by George Santayana that goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Aside from a well-known rebuttal from Kurt Vonnegut, most people take some stock in what the line alludes to: if an individual or group fails to learn from the lessons of the past, they won’t have the wherewithal to avoid making the same mistakes.
Usually this logic applies to failures, such as wars, government actions, the abuse of power, failed enterprises, and so on. There are occasions, however, where successful events can still end up in the same boat.
Take the Sundance Film Festival. An annual film gala in Utah, it was created in the late 1970’s to showcase independent and regional films and filmmakers outside of the shadow of Hollywood. While it started off austere, it didn’t take long to catch the attention of the mainstream film apparatus as they came to scout out hit independent movies and up-and-coming talent. (Sundance ultimately gave rise to the works of many film personalities we know today such as Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith.)
As the number of success stories grew over the years, so did interest in the festival. Sundance ballooned so much in 30 years that by the mid 2000’s, it became just as inundated with celebrities, paparazzi and other Hollywood trappings as any other major film festival. Sundance is grappling with an identity crisis, for while mainstream interest in the festival has given it prominence, it also has raised costs, and there’s a view by many perennial attendees that the initial focus – independent film – is being diluted. Sundance in a lot of ways has become a victim of its own success.
It’s still far too early to say for sure, but a lot of the indicators of such a thing eventually happening to Commander are also present. Contrary to various group’s views of the game, Magic is not played in one sweeping ubiquitous way, and Commander, just like any subgenre within the game, is not the focal point by any stretch. That said, with the exception of the Modern tournament format, Commander has seen the largest spike in players over the last couple years. Between the overall appeal of the style, annual Commander-themed product being made, and more cards being designed specifically for multiplyer gaming, it’s certainly on a monumental rise.
Whether the continued trajectory is sustainable, though, is another matter. Because Commander as a style allows everything except for a few dozen cards, players have taken to scouring the game’s entire library for obscure and interesting cards. Normally this is a fantastic aspect, as it gives players room to be creative, whimsical, and nostalgic. But as is often the case when things reach a certain level of success, capitalist tendencies have come into play.
Commander is a fabulous format, but it’s still small enough not to make significant dents in the market by itself. No popularity spike alone could have caused my three-color Fog general Angus Mackenzie to shoot from a $15 card to a $90 one in a matter of weeks unless other forces were at work. Much like Hollywood entities taking advantage of Sundance over the years, entities in the Magic world over the last couple years who shall remain nameless (SCG) bought up a lot of the older high profile cards. Many pre-Modern cards in 2013 rose substantially because of such factors, making pre-Modern cards behave similar to Modern-era (and tournament legal) cards.
This is not good form, nor is it good for EDH. Lest we forget, Commander is supposed to be casual. It’s not that casual players won’t spend money. Rather, it’s just that they don’t want to feel like they’re losing games because of older & cost-prohibitive cards. One of the criteria for the Commander banned list actually is if the card is prohibitively expensive…in theory.
As I stated from the very first Monday Magic article, however, I’m not in the business of advocating the over-hyped and expensive cards. Instead, I want to offer alternatives to them, so that the average player – the player on a budget or one who doesn’t like spending lots on one card – can still have viable options in the game. One such example is Maze of Ith. I’ve spoken about it before too, providing one alternative to using it. And here is another.
Today we have: Prahv, Spires of Order
Name: Prahv, Spires of Order
Focus: Damage Prevention
Highlights: Whereas Mystifying Maze is great at stopping an opponent’s creature, it does have some drawbacks of its own. For one, the creature is essentially being ‘flickered’. With the prevalence of Enter The Battlefield triggers nowadays, preventing the creature from doing damage could still ultimately be detrimental if the trigger is especially potent.
Prahv ignores that limitation. In fact, it ignores most limitations. Unlike the Maze cards, Prahv is not restricted to attacking creatures. Instead, it allows you to negate any one damage source at all. And it doesn’t target. Good old fashioned damage prevention. That alone should catch some attention. Prahv is equally capable of stopping a giant Comet Storm, or a giant hexproof creature like Uril.
That said, Prahv is also suited as a late-game card more than its contemporaries. At a respectable six mana activation, it’s no freebie. However, this is one such ability that a player would gladly have the longer an EDH game goes on for. It may seem costly at first glance, but short of being swarmed by a token army, this is a reliably reusable ability if you have the mana for it. And being able to prevent any damage source, on a land, is easily worth the cost.
Lastly, speaking of cost, this one won’t break you. In fact, you probably can afford it with the change currently if your pocket. Compared to Maze of Ith, it’s about 99% cheaper. Really.
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