Commander Spotlight: Awe Strike

Every few years, a quiet little subcommittee for the Olympics planning group considers which sports get to be included in the Games. While the modern Olympics has grown considerably since its revival, realistically there’s only so much time, space, and money to allocate. As much as the collective ego of IOC would like to think otherwise, there simply isn’t the capacity to include everything people may want to see. Because of this, new events periodically get added and others removed.

Once upon a time Polo, Croquet, and Lacrosse were Olympic level events, and it wasn’t that long ago that events like BMX biking, Taekwondo, Badminton were added. Golf is being brought back to the Olympics after a 100 year haitus, while Cricket continues to languish despite being followed by over a billion people. In 2020, you’ll be seeing people try to medal for the new sports of Karate, Skateboarding, and Surfing. And so on.

Part of what can be frustrating to follow with regards to the IOC’s decisions is that they have a very strict definition of what they consider to be a ‘sport’ versus an ‘event’. They aren’t alone, however; the distinction over what distinguishes a sport from a game from an event is often far more complex and subjective than people think.

Is Chess a sport? It undoubtedly requires skill, practice, and is codified by a strict set of rules by an international governing body. Yet people have been trying to submit that one to the Olympics for decades with no effect. Are those who participate in e-sports like Madden or League of Legends athletes in the same sense as a hockey player? It’s certainly almost as competitive. Can a game of mental fortitude even be a sport without a physical component?

Yeah, it’s a little trickier than it seems.

Few would argue that competitive Magic is a sport. Like poker, it’s assuredly a game where proficiency at it requires playing a ton, anticipating your opponent, and accepting that there’s an inescapable luck component to the outcome.

That all said, Magic does share a few elements with most major sports out there. Chief among those is the notion that for everything that happens during the playthrough, the outcome is ultimately decided by a mere handful of moments. Maybe it’s a creature you choose not to block or a spell you didn’t counter. Maybe your opponent didn’t leave enough mana open to stop you or they misread your board in an all-out swing. Just a handful of moments determine whether you’ll walk away the victor or the victim.

That isn’t necessarily a negative. In fact, those powerful moments are part of the excitement of the game. Stack wars, massive combat, unexpected responses – these are what keeps Magic intriguing game after game, let alone year after year. The minute a game of Magic stops being unpredictable, it starts being boring.

Thus, we as players live for those turning point moments. And multiplayer Magic has no shortage of them. Commander in particular is known for new and unexpected twists every single setting, which is part of what makes it so fun. Thanks to the unpredictable nature of Commander, even a seemingly innocuous card can become a game-changer in the right situation. Which brings us to this week’s pick.

Today we have: Awe Strike


Name: Awe Strike

Edition: Mirrodin

Rarity: Common

Focus: Damage Prevention / Life Gain

Highlights: Awe Strike is part of a long series of White cards that both prevent damage and give you life at the same time, providing a significant tactical swing in your favor if used properly. There have been many, many variations on this idea since Reverse Damage first appeared in Alpha, with each one offering its own take on the idea.

This little number appeared in Mirrodin, and has continued to impress ever since with the potential for the huge advantage it can offer despite such a small footprint. That is, once it’s demonstrated to them. Most people don’t normally expect to see one mana commons do anything particularly flashy. For every Lightning Bolt, Unsummon, or Fog, there’s myriad one-drops that are utterly forgettable. Awe Strike seems to exist somewhere in the middle: treated as an often undervalued card by players until someone sees it in action.

Because of it’s mana cost, Awe Strike makes for an excellent defensive card to sit on until it’s needed. In EDH, where big and scary creatures abound, Awe Strike has the potential to not only prevent a single creature from putting some serious hurt on you, but you also gain that amount instead, holding true to the traditional mold of the double advantage. Even in cases where it’s a much more mundane situation, staving off an attack by even a moderate sized creature is still quite worth the cost of investment.

Beyond cost efficiency though, Awe Strike is special for two reasons. First, unlike the classic Reverse Damage style template, this card prevents damage by a creature regardless of who they may be running at. There may be times, for instance, when keeping an opponent alive is worthwhile or necessary; this allows you to do so while also gaining life from your…let’s go with altruism.

Second (and more interestingly), Awe Strike doesn’t just prevent combat damage by a creature – it prevents all damage. Granted, this typically only comes up when facing Green creatures (due to its new arsenal of Fight and Fight-adjacent abilities), or Red (for its traditional assortment of damage dealing creatures). Yet watch the reaction when you Awe Strike someone’s Heartless Hidetsugu activation or in response to them killing off a Ryusei, the Falling Star with 20 creatures on the board. Not only will you stop them from trying to blow up everyone’s stuff, but you could easily gain 100+ life in the process. All for a one mana.

Like all such cards, it is limited to more of a defensive capability. Moreover, it won’t necessarily pack the same shield as traditional White Fogs against a whole army of creatures. Still, trading that wide net for life gain and being able to parry noncombat damage is definitely worth considering in EDH settings.

Yes, Magic may be only a game, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have the tools to be a winner, especially when you outperform your opponents.

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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