In multiplayer games, timing is everything. Whereas in duels sitting back on your heels often leads to losing your advantage, the ever-changing dynamics of a table full of players isn’t quite as simple. For instance, although it may sound counterintuitive, sometimes the best move really can be to simply do nothing.
Say your turn consists of simply drawing a card and maybe playing a land. All of a sudden, other players have to start pondering what your intentions may be. Are you waiting for an opportune moment to cast the right spell that will cause a power shift in your favor, or are you playing defensively, looking to consolidate your position on the board? Or as is often the case, perhaps Lady Luck is not on your side, and you truly are unable to do anything useful.
Then there is the political side of it. If, for example, two players are battling it out for board control and you have no immediate stake in the matter, your decision to not cast a potent spell or powerful creature while they build towards the apex of their struggle means that their attention will remain squarely focused on one another. If you take some kind of noteworthy action, they – or another player also on the sidelines – could turn their attention to you instead.
In this sense, your decision to do nothing is still a tactical one.
Because your opponents can only guess what your situation may be that moment, you’re left with some leeway as to how your inaction pans out. However, this should be done carefully, as it’s a nuanced ability that is incredibly dependent on who else is sitting at your table. While taking no action on your turn may award you time or political tact, it’s almost never inferred that you’re playing from a position of strength (with heavy Blue mages often being the major exception). Some people will see your not doing anything as a sense of weakness and will be unable to resist the urge to strike, while others will temporarily dismiss you as not the major threat and will focus elsewhere.
If your deck is one that prefers to fly under the radar, attacking from a position of hidden rather than overt strength, you’ll want tools to help you both on offense and on defense. These decks are more subtle; you likely aren’t going to be sabre rattling all that often. As with most Commander games, your relative position will shift quite often, and unless you have the right tools to handle the changing winds occasionally blowing in your direction, you could be out of the fight in short order.
Therefore, in honor of decks that revolve around feigned deference, let’s look at one such card.
Today we have: Vault of the Archangel
Name: Vault of the Archangel
Edition: Dark Ascension
Focus: Creature Buffing / Life Gain
Highlights: For a long time, Wizards was hesitant on giving lands powerful reusable abilities, and have long abandoned the idea (with one recent exception) of lands providing abilities but don’t tap for mana. When utility lands have occasionally done them over the years, their abilities mostly involved sacrificing the lands, are Enter the Battlefield triggers, or were deemed minor activated abilities. That been changing of late, with the cycle of utility lands seen in the Innistrad block being the most visual example.
While all 10 of these utility lands have viable use to some degree or another (yes, even you Stensia Bloodhall), Vault of the Archangel is one of the two most popular of the list – the other being Kessig Wolf Run. Yet while Kessig is a great card in its own right, its ability is primarily only useful on offense. The Vault is advantageous while on offense or defense, ensuring that any creature meeting yours in combat will die a painful death and giving you life off of the encounter. Indeed, once on the board the Vault is a good deterrent towards being attacked or for attempting to cripple someone else when you’re swinging at them. The lifegain aspect helps in either circumstance too, as it’ll either pad you life total or help you get back to manageable levels if you’re low.
This card only works as well as the army you have, though. By itself it won’t do all that much. Moreover, like many activated land abilities, it isn’t cheap. Using the Vault effectively costs five mana, which can be a lot to keep open. However, it’s worth the investment. Vault of the Archangel can be incredibly powerful when timed right, and the mana requirement is well worth it.
What’s more, because it’s on a land, it’s easily repeatable and is safer than being on an enchantment or artifact. That said, Vault of the Archangel paints a gigantic target on itself while out, and if your gaming meta happens to throw around nonbasic land hate (as is often common in Commander), be aware that it may not last the whole game. You’ll want to use it as part of your arsenal rather than relying solely on it, as it’s powerful enough that players who aren’t you won’t want it around.
Still, if you happen to have a turn where all you do is play a land, Vault of the Archangel is one you won’t mind dropping.
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.
You can discuss this article over on our social media!
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