History is a fascinating subject, if only because it’s not just a field of study. It’s also because it’s our collective backstory. Our origins. Our chronicle. It is a detailed account of all those who came before us, from their triumphant achievements, to their monumental failures, to their quiet daily lives in between. There is something to be learned in all of it, serving both as a guide to understanding how we’ve reached our own current point in time and as a lesson roadmap – if we choose to listen – on how to proceed into the future. How is the invention of television tied into World War II? Why do we call Wednesday “Wednesday”? Why is unchecked populism on the rise across the world in recent years? History can illuminate all of this and much, much more. If we choose to learn, that is.
I have always been a fan of history. When I was young I had a poster of all the US presidents and a trivia book of their lives. My favorite school field trips were always to historical sites and events – thankfully something New England is chock full of. My two childhood icons were the very real Benjamin Franklin and the (admittedly fictional) Indiana Jones. One side of my family traces its US origins to the Industrial Revolution; the other side’s roots are tied to the very nascent of colonial settlement. In college I attained a Bachelors Degree in History, and briefly even considered it for a vocation.
Yes, history is pretty awesome, especially if taught in a way that doesn’t make it stuffy and boring and nothing but names and dates that you have no attachment to and won’t remember. But any student of the past also needs to be mindful that it is precisely that: in the past. Exploring the past is useful and often essential to understanding the present and shaping the future. You can remember history, celebrate it, learn from it even. But one must always be careful of not fixating on it to the detriment of your time in the here and now. History is important as a vehicle for insight, but time itself doesn’t go in reverse.
History is where my head was at when sitting down to write this week’s piece, because it’s a rather notable milestone for this series. For today marks the 250th card showcased on the Commander Spotlight segment. In a game with over 19,000 unique cards and a lengthy and vaunted 25 year history in its own right, 250 individual cards is but a drop in the bucket. However, in the context of this series, 250 is kind huge. That’s 250 solo card articles, 250 weeks worth of writing, culminating in close to 300,000 words. That’s long enough for several novels…or at least one Wheel of Time prologue. In other words, a lot of time spent writing about Magic: the Gathering.
During this series I’ve also shifted focus on occasion to write about Top 10 EDH cards of certain sets, on What Not To Do in Commander, and on how I personally go about crafting an EDH deck. The vast majority of these articles, though, is picking out one card from the game’s past that isn’t ubiquitous to every deck, is affordable to obtain, and may be easily overlooked, and then writing about it. Just like I set out to do in the very first Spotlight, Krosan Grip, over 6 years ago.
It’s certainly been a fun exercise, giving me an excuse to search through the database for older cards, simultaneously bringing back memories from earlier Magic days to share and giving them new life in a format that has come to almost exclusively define my Magic-playing experiences over the last few years. It’s also been a nice feather in the cap that many of the cards mentioned in this series went on to be subsequently printed in official Commander decks. Coincidence? Absolutely. But a nice validation all the same.
For the 250th card, I wanted to celebrate, and I wanted a card to fit that flavor. As it turns out, however, Magic doesn’t really do a ton of the whole “positive emotion” thing. So it took a little digging. Eventually I stumbled upon this week’s pick and immediately realized it was the card I wanted. It was too perfect. Not only did it fit the normal card criteria, but it solidified the whole history angle as well. It’s from an beloved time in Magic’s past, it was personally nostalgic, and it was also a Green card – the same color as the one starting this whole thing.
So let’s get to it. But also, be sure to look after the card section, because I’m also celebrating this milestone by giving back to this series’ readership with a little giveaway!
Today we have: Midsummer Revel
Name: Midsummer Revel
Edition: Urza’s Saga
Focus: Creature Generation
Highlights: While multiplayer Magic hardly started with the Commander format, it was never a guarantee in multiplayer casual games whether that person’s deck was designed with multiplayer in mind or if they merely were using a ‘normal’ deck in a multiplayer capacity. Although certain deck archetypes tend to fare rather poorly with multiple opponents, most decks can hold their own well enough.
The more you tended to focus on multiplayer gameplay, though, the more likely it was that you included cards that worked better with more opponents or in longer games. In my case, Midsummer Revel was in my first ever deck constructed specifically with multiplayer in mind. It was a Black / Green deck whose entire premise was based around cards getting stronger the more opponents I had on the one side while being able to outlast them on the other. And it worked.
Like all 10 of the Urza block ‘verse’ enchantments Midsummer Revel is not a fast card. Harking back to an earlier era, the verse enchantments required one thing above all: patience. Yet about half of them were worth the payoff it you could keep them around long enough (especially in the days when counter manipulation wasn’t a thing). Midsummer Revel is an enchantment that adds a counter to it at the beginning of your upkeep. Then, for a single Green mana, it can be sacrificed to create X 3/3 creatures, equal to the number of counters on it.
This slow roll approach of course meant that outside of multiplayer games, they weren’t particularly adored. And it’s easy to understand why. In the case of the Revel, it costs 5 mana to cast, and then requires arguably at least to full rounds to justify the mana investment. They can also easily be disrupted by certain mass board wipes. To many players, this made them both too slow and too fragile. After all, why would you want to put out an enchantment that did nothing for several rounds and risked being picked off before it could be useful – especially if you could cast another card that had a similar effect?
It’s not a baseless criticism. Such powderkeg style cards are indeed much more effective in the early and middle stages of a game compared to late, as you have time to charge them up.
That being said, because these cards aren’t all that useful when the first come out, they generally are seen as poor targets for spending precious spot removal cards on compared to other more dangerous options, making them less of a target.
Moreover, as was mentioned just in last week’s article, there is also something to be said about having a card on the table serving as a deterrent. Because Midsummer can be sacrificed for a single mana, so long as you don’t completely tap out every turn, it’s very easy to ensure you’ll get the payout from the card if someone tries to use spot removal on it. And the longer it’s allowed to stay on the board, the more dangerous this revelry becomes. Granted, this increases the likelihood someone will want to destroy it – or anything else of yours for that matter. The problem is that, table politics being what they are, the logical assumption is that those 3/3 creatures will be headed in the direction of whomever is responsible for that provocation. Which in turn can decrease your desire to remove it yourself.
Thus, if your board is properly defended otherwise, Midsummer Revel can find a useful existence in Commander decks as both a creature storage counter and a deterrent from you being targeted while simultaneously increasing in potency the longer it stays around.
In other words, Midsummer Revel is a bit of a paradox, albeit one that can definitely work for your advantage. It can sit unassuming and then suddenly become an army of 3/3 creatures that can be used for retribution, a quick defense, or a late-stage offensive push. So long as you’re willing to invest the time – something EDH often has an abundance of – this party is well worth the invite.
Speaking of celebration, in light of it being this series’ 250th card, we’re offering up a fitting $25 store credit to TCGPlayer.com as a way of saying thanks for reading over these last 6+ years. It’s quite appreciated. Enter below, if that’s your sort of thing. (Which I’m going to go out on a limb and say it is.)
You can discuss this article over on our social media!