Commander’s Spotlight: Breathstealer’s Crypt


As a casual player who almost exclusively plays with multiple opponents, I rarely adhered to the 60 card rule. While that makes sense from a competitive standpoint, I rarely found it a useful trait when staring down multiple enemies. Plus, as I’ve always been someone who enjoyed the variety of cards Magic offers, I found it hard over it the years to stick with putting four of one card in, four of another, and so on. When there are so many interesting cards that do similar things, it’s always been a challenge strictly picking one playset of cards in when I had better access to (and a more rewarding sensation from) multiple similar cards instead.

The plight of the casual player, as it were. When you’re not chasing wins, it’s not uncommon to just use what you have or can easily get. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The end result in my case was that I can probably count on one hand the number of regularly used decks I had that were exactly 60. With multiple opponents, an ever-changing board state, and plenty of card variety, my deck builds were – and continue to be – anything but a standard mold. My normal multiplayer decks tended to fluctuate between 80 and 100 cards, with looks and behaviors not all that drastically different than your typical EDH fare. The same could be said of many of my gaming group (which is why, coincidentally, it was not hard for us to adopt EDH so quickly).

There were, however, a handful of decks that went well over 100 cards, with varying degrees of usefulness. Of those, one of my less successful builds was a Black / Blue deck with a two-pronged focus. The first was your standard discard fare, forcing everyone to discard cards as quickly as possible and allowing me to take advantage of certain cards where I benefited from that, such as Avatar of Will and Ensnaring Bridge. The second was to ensure that my opponents had no cards in their graveyard either, which made use of cards like Leyline of the VoidNezumi Shortfang, Web of Inertia, and Haunting Echoes. As one of my earliest B/U decks, I had effectively thrown together two ideas that this color pair philosophically does well into a single deck.

The long term result was that the deck was inherently incongruous with itself. There were plenty of times where one facet of the deck worked against the other, which created awkward or ineffective situations. While the deck’s two engines did their respective jobs well, it took me longer than I care to admit to finally accept that it wasn’t smartest mechanical pairing I’d ever done.

In the end I shelved the deck, and around the time of EDH becoming the de facto format of choice for our game groups I then decided to split the deck into two, with the intention of fleshig each one out independently.

That task is still on the to-do list. But I digress.

Still, for as flawed as this early Blue / Black deck had been, I learned some valuable things. I learned more about deck synergy, about how potent a Dimir-esque deck can be if done correctly, and above all, how much I continue to enjoy most of the cards in that deck to this day. The sum of the parts may not have panned out in the long run, but there were so many interesting cards in that deck I still recall fondly and have continued to try to find new homes for over time.

That, as it happens, includes this week’s card.

Today we have: Breathstealer’s Crypt

Breathstealer's Crypt

Name: Breathstealer’s Crypt

Edition: Visions

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Milling / Life Loss

Highlights: As cards go, Blue / Black doesn’t really do enchantments. To this day there are only 13 enchantments for this color pairing. Of those, five are Auras and one is a God, leaving a mere seven global enchantments in all of Magic. So Breathstealer’s Crypt is in small company to begin with. But not only is it arguably the best enchantment for its color pairing, it’s one of the more potent enchantments in the game, period.

Breathstealer’s Crypt provides a twofold effect. First, it provides a classic Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t scenario. That is, for each creature card someone draws, they have to either pay three life to keep it or discard it. Three life at a time isn’t as painful in Commander as it is in a normal game, but its incremental effect isn’t exactly harmless either. At three life a whack just to draw creatures, it can certainly add up – especially if someone is running a creature-heavy deck.

The second thing is that it forces everyone to reveal every card they draw, thereby giving every player public information about what everyone else is drawing. Every secret is laid bare. This simple ability can have drastic ramifications in Commander games, especially for players who pride themselves on having a lot of defensive cards at the ready. By knowing what everyone is drawing, it offers up a whole new slate of tactical decision-making options while disrupting the normal pattern flow.

The combined effect of these is incredibly powerful, especially given that it’s on an enchantment for just four mana, and thus ensuring that it can manifest at any stage of the game.

Regardless of when it appears, however, its one weakness is that it’s not likely to make many friends. Though Breathstealer’s Crypt affects you as well, the cumulative traits of complete card reveals, life loss, and discarding, all without having to lift a finger, won’t deflate the ire this card invites. That said, while it may not have a long shelf life it’s still well worth the inclusion. With the exception of certain deck archetypes that focus more on spells or token creatures, this little card has the ability to disrupt more than a few decks rather effortlessly. And painfully.

Which, of course, is what a good Blue / Black deck is all about. Regardless of how you approach it.

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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