Commander Spotlight: Batwing Brume

When it comes to board games, the concept of age is often nebulous and far more subjective than most generally realize. It may be easy to research when a game was published, but beyond basic facts, how gamers address those titles in terms of age isn’t always clear, especially as many forces in the industry are pushing the creation and consumption cycles of board gaming ever closer to the rapid-fire timetables you see in places like video games and consumer gadgetry.

What exactly is an ‘older’ game? To some, that terms means a decades-old game from their childhood. To others in the New Hotness crowd, an older game tends to constitute anything published more than a year or two back. While the latter case may make sense among people trying to sell said titles or those whose ambitions are to always be part of the 24-hour cable news style of content creation, but in general, thinking in such short terms sets a terribly skewed perception both about the speed and degree to which even enfranchised gamers learn about, purchase, and play games. Unlike current events or the latest cell phone, games by and large don’t become less relevant just because they’ve been out a few years. Their quality and gameplay value don’t degrade simply because they’ve been on a shelf for a while.

It’s not like if you pull out something from 2010 that suddenly a rule won’t work anymore because a year or two has passed. So why treat them that way?

Plus, the whole mindset gets even more ridiculous when you start comparing it to games that actually do have some age to them. Catan has been around for over 20 years. Risk came out in 1957. Monopoly (as The Landlord’s Game) was first made in 1903. And yet even they pale in comparison to the great gaming progenitors. Chess as we know it appeared during the middle of the Renaissance – some 500 years ago. And Go, the classic abstract game of stones? Its birthday is somewhere around 2,o00 years before that.

Those are old games. Something from 2012 is not.

That being said, in spite of its continued new releases, Magic also falls into the ‘older’ game category without much argument, especially as it inches closer to its 25th anniversary. Yet because of how often it introduces new products, mechanics, and flavors, Wizards does a marvelous job not making it feel like it’s a game older than a lot of its player base.

At least, in all cases but one: Magic is the Chess of the strategy card game world.

Magic’s one real flaw is that it’s hard to escape how much player experience factors into your chances of winning. Unlike the aforementioned Go, which provides handicap rules to make up for discrepancies in expertise, Chess and Magic provide a distinct advantage to those who have played longer, are more aware of the rules, and know how to exploit players’ weaknesses. This doesn’t make them bad games, but it does make the barrier to entry much higher if you’re always playing against other people above your skill level.

The saving grace for Magic at least is, ironically, luck. Luck of the draw in Magic is the great equalizer, giving anyone a shot at winning even when there’s a huge discrepancy between players’ skill levels. The hard core Magic players may lament the game having too much randomness, but for an up-and-coming player who’s outmatched and often outgunned, sometimes it’s the silver bullet they need to pull off the occasional surprise win against a more experienced opponent.

Moreover, when those moments happen, they tend to stick with you. Not only is it an affirmation of your growth as a player, but by besting someone with far more practice than you, it makes the win that much sweeter.

I’ve seen my share of these moments over the years – on both sides of the table. The reaction when that player realizes they’ve won by their own merit is an indelible part of what makes the game so appealing, and one of the many reasons it continues to endure.

To that end, this week’s card celebrates one such moment in time.

Today we have: Batwing Brume

Batwing Brume

Name: Batwing Brume

Edition: Eventide / Archenemy

Rarity: Uncommon

Focus: Combat Control / Life Loss

Highlights: Batwing Brume saw a fair amount of use when it first debuted in the Shadormoor block, and it’s continued to enjoy a steady reputation ever since. It has a knack for being a very evocative card with a lasting memory: both among those who have used it and those who have had it used on them.

Batwing Brume is not a very complicated card, providing two distinct effects that pair well together. On the one hand is its protection effect. By paying White mana as part of its casting cost, Batwing Brume functions as your standard Fog / Holy Day / Angelsong effect, blunting a single attack. Such cards aren’t usually very flashy, especially in EDH, but they are incredibly useful to stave off a large-scale attack that could kill or seriously harm yourself (or another player if table politics warrant it). This type of card alone makes it worth consideration, as it’s almost never a wasted card.

On the other hand is its life loss effect by paying Black mana, which offers a much bigger surprise to someone launching a massive creature volley than a simple Fog effect. Losing one life per attacking creature won’t be that drastic if they’re only sending a handful of creatures into combat, but taking any damage simply for attacking with their creatures is a useful trait. The fact that it’s life loss versus damage makes it all the more lethal, as it leaves little recourse to stop if used correctly.

If, however, they are swarming with an large army, such as with a bunch of tokens, then Batwing Brume can easily turn into a two-mana insta-kill card – which is what transpired in my story of the novice player’s surprise win. When their opponent went in for the kill with a massive token army, she surprised him with Batwing Brume, turning a near guaranteed loss into a win and catching her more experienced opponent off guard in the process.

The two sides of the card can be used individually, but given its lost casting cost, it’s almost always used in tandem, making for an incredibly potent one-two punch for very little mana. It’s the perfect type of Black/White card: keeping you from harm while simultaneously punishing your enemy in the process.

Coincidentally, two things these colors have been doing since the very beginning of this age old game.

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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