There are worse things than having your possessions destroyed. Sometimes, losing your platoon of space marines or having your horde of gold pillaged by Vikings is far less catastrophic in the long run than a far more insidious tactic – negating the ability to recover from it afterwards. Which makes sense when you think about it logically. Obliterating a battlefield of creatures can usually be recovered from given enough time or resources. Dismantling one’s means of procuring and distributing those resources, on the other hand, can be far more effective.
If your opponent is capable of churning out armies of robots, the best move in the long term is often to focus on taking out the factory rather than the latest brigade of killbots. And if you can’t tackle said fortress directly, then the next best thing is to find a way of constricting the resources needed to use it.
If you’ve played any military scenario game or real-time strategy computer game, you’ve probably already seen this maneuver in action.
In fact, chances are you’ve done it without really given it much thought. Go after the supply lines.
Shockingly, the same mentality can also apply to games of Magic. After all, Magic essentially is a classic unit-driven war game where only one side can emerge victorious. The only real difference is that bayonets, cavalry, and food is replaced with fanciful spells, fictional creatures, and the ever-flowing source of mana.
Thus, no matter how many cards you make someone discard or how many board wipes you cast, as long as your opponents have the mana still available, they still have the relatively easy means of bouncing back. Constrict that access, and suddenly there’s less of a guarantee.
However, there are only a handful of ways one can go after one’s mana base, each with an increasing level of gameplay repercussions with respect to casual gaming etiquette. The first approach is to take out mana-producing permanents someone has lying around. These are typically considered fair game targets within the normal eff and flow of multiplayer politics. On the other hand, the most severe (albeit effective) tactic is to destroy the land itself. Yet most casual players don’t take kindly to mass / systematic land destruction, to a point where it’s usually considered something of a faux pas to leverage.
A viable alternative to that is, then is to find ways of locking up that land without actually getting rid of it permanently, either through effects such as temporarily tap downs, or, as in the case of this week’s pick, forcing players to commit that mana to keeping other parts of their infrastructure intact.
Today we have: Aura Flux
Name: Aura Flux
Edition: Urza’s Legacy
Focus: Enchantment Taxing
Highlights: Aura Flux is part of a long line of ‘tax’ cards, dating all the way back to the game’s beginning. Some cards come with a built-in upkeep cost to keep around (i.e. Lord of the Pit, or Force of Nature), but taxing emerged as an occasional ability Blue and White gained that forces players to pay extra mana to prevent something else from getting picked off. In the case of Aura Flux, it’s the destruction of their enchantments.
Modeled after several similar Blue enchantments of its time, Aura Flux is an incredibly straightforward card. While on the battlefield, it forces an upkeep cost of 2 mana on all other enchantments, while conveniently exempting itself. If a player doesn’t want to – or can’t afford to – pay, then they must sacrifice their enchantment, creating a de facto form of enchantment removal in Blue.
For enchantment decks this card will be absolutely crippling for sure, but even just having a couple enchantments on the board will cause investing in keeping those cards around to add up quickly.
The reason that this kind of approach is going to pass muster whereas land destruction doesn’t is that you don’t have direct control over which enchantments live and which will hit the graveyard. Instead, it forces the individual player to make that painful choice themselves. Will they save their permanents or become less mana efficient? And how long will that decision last?
This, of course leads to the card’s major tradeoff, in that most players will likely be willing to pay 2-4 mana to keep their most potent enchantments on the board. If they have more than a handful though, or if it comes out early enough in the game where someone’s mana base isn’t that substantial yet, and Aura Flux can be devastatingly effective. Especially for a three mana common. Just be mindful that the fact it also affects you may not be enough to prevent it from being targeted for its own removal when able.
Still, such tax cards are a win-win for you, even if they aren’t necessarily going to be beloved by those on the receiving end. The best case scenario with Aura Flux is that the player sacrifices their enchantments to remain competitive. The worst case scenario is that Aura Flux eats up your opponent’s valuable mana, making them less able to cast spells with the same frequency or at the higher costs that they’d otherwise be able to.
And at the very least, it will reiterate another age old historical truth: no one likes paying taxes.
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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