When you’ve been around Magic long enough to see dozens of sets come and go (or you’re a drafting type), how you look at a set changes over time. You’re still able to stare at a completed list of cards and appreciate the mechanics, the flavor, the storyline, and all of the other little things that Wizards injects into each new release. Yet while some see the entire spoiler for what it is and others hone in on the very visible / powerful / soon-to-be-expensive cards, your eyes gravitate to the unsung hero cards instead. These are the cards that can (and often do) get overlooked until well past a set’s release and only really flourish when used in the thick of battle.
It’s not that those pretty and powerful rares are bad. Rather, it’s obvious those cards are good. Part of the fun and excitement of exploring a set – especially after you’ve seen so many come and go – is finding those diamonds in the rough.
Hidden set gems are one of my favorite aspects of trying out new sets, and it really has been since the days when Shivan Dragon was still a highly sought after card. Diabolic Edict, Hull Breach, Vines of Vastwood, even Rhystic Study itself are all just a tiny fraction of card examples that didn’t get much initial attention when they came out but went on to have quite a bit of usefulness.
Personally, I love hidden gems. For one, I appreciate cards that serve a worthwhile purpose without costing much money. More importantly, though, is that I like the workhorses of a set. I enjoy the cards that are deceptively efficient and fly under the radar. In trying to discover which ones fit that criteria, it keeps new sets fresh and interesting to me. It also allows cards to serve as having a larger purpose than simply being filler for mythics and tournament staples.
Some sets may only have a small handful of these cards, while other sets are so packed with delicious casual player goodness that it’s very easy to miss one worthwhile card while inspecting another. The Shadowmoor / Eventide mini block was one such era. With so many hybrid and multicolor cards to focus on, I am still able to mine that set for new things to use. Still, I still have my personal favorites. And I’m sharing one of them with you now.
Today we have: Snakeform
Focus: Creature Manipulation / Card Draw
Highlights: Commander games are nothing if not shows of big spells and big creatures. Snakeform has the knack for being able to bring low just about any creature on the battlefield. Someone drop down a Blightsteel Colossus or bring their army to 11 with an Avacyn, Angel of Hope? Snakeform has you covered.
Snakeform is as versatile as it is timely. For starters, it’s an Instant. This gives you the power to react at just about any given time when something may go awry. Snakeform can be used in combat to swing the advantage the way you want, or it can be used to undermine some crazy combo about to go off. And at a mere three mana, it’s easy to sit on the card until it’s needed.
Secondly, it makes good use of polymorph effects. Green and Blue generally don’t have access to effects that destroy or exile creatures, as it’s not really part of their color philosophies. However, it can manipulate creatures into situations that will easily get themselves killed, and Snakeform certainly helps with that. There is nothing more unfortunate for a giant trampler or winged avenger than to be reduced to a tiny snake that will get stepped on by almost anything. Sometimes a Snakeformed creature will revert back to its normal form afterwards, but the vast majority of the time, you’re going to use it in such a way that it will die.
Granted, Snakeform does have limitations. It can’t deal with the creature if they’re untargetable for some reason, and it’ll have no effect on +1/+1 counters or other effects that may buff them. It’s also more singularly based (unlike it’s older cousin Sudden Spoiling or its newer cousin Polymorphist’s Jest). That said, the fact that it’s also a cantrip easily makes up for this. For just three mana, not only can you shock something down to a range that’s generally killable with ease, but you are also drawing a replacement card on top of it. And that often creates a nice tempo swing in your favor.
Snakeform was a great hidden gem during Eventide, and it’s still a card that people often don’t usually see coming in a Commander game. Probably because they no longer can see over the table.
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