Some aspects of Magic: the Gathering have to seemingly be repeated over and over again every few months. Whether this is because of the continual influx of new players looking to expand their gaming knowledge or a recurring cycle of misunderstanding about the more complicated attributes of the game, there are a handful of topics that have to be reinforced to the player base on a nearly constant basis.
One of the most predominant areas where this occurs is with color mechanics. Specifically, their respective strengths and weaknesses. While each color has been affirmed time and again to be equally powerful to one another, that’s often mistook to mean that every color is going to play the same way. And despite assurances by many people – including numerous times in this series over the years – it’s something that (typically newer) players have a hard time grasping.
Yes, whichever color you choose to play will be powerful, but they are not all-powerful. No color singlehandedly has a response to every strategy and tactic your opponent may throw at you. Some colors can do things more efficiently than others; some even have abilities that no other color has access to. This is all by design. Yet although those individual deficiencies can sometimes be annoying, the overall existence of weaknesses is not a negative to the game.
One of these more notable color weaknesses is Black’s inability to remove artifacts or enchantments. It is adept at making you discard cards before they ever reach the battlefield, and it is the king at creature removal, but taking out artifacts and enchantments in play is simply not something it’s capable of doing beyond killing the player controlling them.
That said, just because a color can’t get rid of artifacts doesn’t mean it can’t punish you for having them.
At least in theory.
In truth, this has been a relatively untapped vein of card design, leaving Black with only a handful of cards over the years to that effect. To help illustrate this line of thought, this week we highlight one of those illustrious few.
Today we have: Artificer’s Hex
Name: Artificer’s Hex
Edition: Magic 2014
Focus: Creature Destruction / Equipment Determent
Highlights: Artificer’s Hex on first inspection looks to merely be the type of situational card that would have been useful for Limited and then quickly forgotten. It wasn’t even considered useful for Standard at its release given that M14 was the time of Return to Ravnica guilds and the enchantment-heavy Theros. Yet while admittedly situational, in longer games like Commander where you have a notable gap in artifact interaction, this unassuming Aura is potentially worth looking at.
First, let’s lead with the obvious caveat to this card: Artificer’s Hex is not going to allow you to destroy your opponent’s equipment. But for a single Black mana, it is going to do the next best thing, which is to serve as a deterrent for your opponent using it.
The main effect of this Hex is that if the equipment is currently attached to a creature at the beginning of your turn, that creature will die. This forces your opponent into three possible choices.
Their first is that they can choose to stop using it for fear of losing creatures. This potentially nullifies their most desirable or most powerful equipment on the battlefield until they spend resources to remove the enchantment.
Their second choice for them to, well, not care. Nothing with the Hex stops them from using the equipment, and if they’re willing to let their own creatures die, that’s still technically an advantage, as you’re benefiting from de facto creature removal.
However, chances are your opponent isn’t going to willingly sacrifice their creatures unless they truly are expendable. If those creatures are powerful or expensive to cast, they’ll likely want to keep them around longer. Which leads to the third options: them utilizing the equipment on one creature, and then moving it onto another by spending valuable extra mana. They’re still losing a creature, it just won’t be their most dangerous one.
Ergo, at its least effective, you’re able to destroy the most menial of your opponent’s creature each round. At best, you’re preventing them from using whichever annoying equipment you want them to be punished for having on the battlefield. All for one mana.
If anything, it’s one real limitation is that you’re only be able to use it on a single piece of equipment. But given the abundance of them in most Commander games, it shouldn’t be hard finding a handy target.
And for this particular color, it’s one of the most effective artifact-related cards you have available.
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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