With eyes soon turning towards the release of Dominaria, celebrating Magic: the Gathering’s 25 year anniversary and a return to the plane that started it all, 2018 is going to be a year where you’re bound to see a lot of commentary on the evolution of the game during its lengthy lifespan. And rightfully so. As with so many topics, one of the best ways to truly understand and discuss the state of something in the current day is to study its history and see where it came from.
Among the many avenues routinely covered is looking at Magic’s gradual-yet-persistent power creep – the fact that the overall power level of cards has progressively gotten better and better over the years as the game has expanded and matured. Although there are a litany of specific examples among older cards that are undeniably powerful even by today’s standards, you don’t need to do a deep dive into the game’s extensive backstory to see a huge difference in the potency of the average Mirage card with that of Kaladesh.
Of course, despite the steady drumbeat of progress pounding away in general, that doesn’t mean that everything in the game changed at the same pace. Some card effects took years to be supplanted whereas others were seemingly revolutionized overnight.
One such subset of cards that tended to evolve slowly was Green’s ability to get creatures onto the battlefield without paying for them. Green has always been aligned with token generation and land fetch, but the ability to shortcut the process and put a creature card directly onto the battlefield has been a fairly rare occurrence over the years – likely due to its efficiency in aggro decks and overall potential for abuse. In fact, several of the earliest examples of this ability (Lure of Prey, Natural Order, Call of the Wild, Elvish Piper, etc.) were around for so long before other iterations arrived that they became the baseline of comparison.
Most of these iterations simply allowed a player to drop the creature into play from their hand. What set Call of the Wild apart from the rest, however, was that it not only provided you with a repeatable effect, but it also didn’t limit you to having the creature card in your hand. So long as you had the mana, Call of the Wild had the potential to throw creatures directly into the fray, and as a result was used extensively for exactly that purpose. In more recent years other more competitive options have taken its place in terms of popularity and power level, but it was a much lauded card for a reason.
Still, time marches on, and new options have been added to this subset of cards, opening up new opportunities and strategies to consider. Cards including this week’s pick.
Today we have: See the Unwritten
Name: See the Unwritten
Edition: Khans of Tarkir
Rarity: Mythic Rare
Focus: Free Casting
Highlights: Just like its many older brethren, See the Unwritten performs a single task: allowing you to circumvent the whole pesky process of casting a creature by letting you put one directly from your library onto the battlefield. And in most circumstances, it’ll probably allow you to do it twice – something that should hardly be overlooked when deciding whether to slot it in your deck.
For six mana, See the Unwritten may seem slightly costly given that you’re only allowed to look through the top eight cards of your deck. Yet in most Commander decks – especially Green ones – you likely aren’t going to have to dig very far down to find a worthwhile creature to drop onto the battlefield. What’s more, when compared to Call of the Wild’s eight mana investment (between casting and activating), six actually turns out to be quite the discount. Sure, there is no guarantee that you’re going to land a game-changing creature in your search, but in the cases where you don’t find something super advantageous, well, things probably weren’t going to be going well for you over those next eight rounds anyhow…
Plus, the fact that it’s not an effect from a creature or enchantment means you don’t have to constantly worry about it being blown up before you can even make use of it.
See the Unwritten provides two additional bonuses should choose to utilize it. The first one is overt, coming in the form of the Ferocious keyword. So long as you have another creature on the battlefield of power 4 or higher – something ridiculously easy to pull off in Green – you’ll be able to choose up to two creatures in your library reveal instead of just one. It’s not a requirement to make See the Unwritten worthwhile, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that you should be able to pull it off more often than not.
The second bonus is more meta level, in that even for a mythic rare See the Unwritten is a highly economical pick for a Commander card over some of its predecessors, coming in at a fraction of the price of cards like Tooth and Nail, Defense of the Heart, and the aforementioned Natural Order. Given that See the Unwritten provides about 70% of the same payoff for about 10% of the price tag, it makes an excellent cost efficient choice.
By the nature of its abilities, See the Unwritten is emblematic of the constant nature of change in Magic. In a way though, it’s also a great example of one thing that has remained constant in the game after all these years: not everyone wants to spend a fortune just to play around the kitchen table. And with this card, you certainly won’t have to.
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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