Welcome back to week four of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It has been 58 days since my last summoning, and as this number inches ever so much higher with each passing day, I nevertheless understand the luxury scenario that puts me in. My group’s inability to game in-person is because of the very real societial need to keep our distances for just a while longer, and while inconvenient, if not being able to play games is one of my top concerns, then my lot is certainly among the more fortunate. And I don’t take that for granted.
That said, it does make it bit harder to get all jazzed up about Magic right now. It’s just a teeny bit difficlt to get all amped up over a topic you can’t actively participate in, and I’ve never been one who wanting to gush online about every card reveal during spoiler season.
As has been mentioned the last few weeks, this has made this article just a teeny, tiny bit more of a challenge to do with its normal parameters.
Instead, until the day comes when I can once again sling spells and summon creatures to my heart’s content, I’ve opted for a more low-key approach. Rather than selecting cards each week that offer up some kind of statement on life, the universe, and everything – or at least the game itself – for the time being the selections are more personal in nature than they may otherwise be. These are cards that I have wanted to use in a deck or twelve for quite some time but for a multitide of reasons (though space usually being the biggest culprit), they have yet to actually get into one of my decks.
I feel a little bad at times, because in many cases this not-so-short list of cards are brought up for consideration every time a new deck is made or significantly overhauled. Except that doesn’t happen all that often. It has been over a year, for instance, since I last made a new deck, and so the opportunities to fulfill the desire to use such cards has not been particularly ample. Which only serves to compound the problem over time. After all: it’s not like the game’s card catalog is getting any smaller, and even if they may have some sort of personal or sentimental attachment to them, they’ll still have to contend with all the new cards that are vying for the same card slot since the last attempt.
I’m pretty sure if you mapped this conundrum out in mathematical terms it’d just end up being a giant sad emoji.
But hey, it’s not for lack of trying. And this week’s card pick got further than most.
Back in 2015, I did a series called Assembling the Dragon Engine, where I chronicled the creation of a new deck over a 10 week span. Each week demonstrated both the highs and lows of my personal deck building process, which can be best summed up as “methodical, thoughtful, and slow”. And among the dozens and dozens of cards considered at the time, this particular card made it more than halfway through the process before inevitably being cut from the running. Given the nature of the deck, larger creatures were actually at a disadvantage, and as such the only reason it was cut at all was because it was making way for a handful of others that were even more heavy-hitting than it or were required to make the deck actually function. Even now I recall how difficult a choice it was to make.
Today we have: Boros Battleshaper
Name: Boros Battleshaper
Edition: Dragon’s Maze
Focus: Combat Control
Highlights: When the second Ravnica block came to a close, nearly every guild was heavily bolstered by new mechanics, new abilities, and a host of powerful new cards to augment their tactics. The Selesnya got more token creation. The Rakdos got even more unhinged. And the Boros became even more dangerous with lightning-fast aggro strategies. Which explains why when it was released, Boros Battleshaper was received with rather lukewarm praise by its own guild.
It’s not hard to grasp why. In a guild that is all about precision and speed, most Boros decks didn’t have room for an expensive 7-mana creature, regardless of whether it was useful or not. Just like the original Boros angels of the original block, the Battleshaper was a splashy creature with some cool abilities, but odds were if you were in a situation where you’d need to rely on it, things probably were going poorly already. Despite its attractive combat-focused ability, the Battleshaper was simply too slow for tpyical Boros Blitzkrieg decks.
This of course had little impact with respect to its efficacy in Commander, where it quickly saw a second life.
Although seven mana for any creature is not a cheap investment, the Battleshaper offers up a notable ability that’s hard to resist in a multiplayer setting. The wording is a little wonky, but in short, it states that during each combat (regardless of whether you’re partaking or not), you can dictate that up to one specific creature must attack or block, and up to one other creature can’t attack or block. So long as they’re targetable, you are effectively mandating how two creatures on the battlefield must behave in combat each turn. This can be incredibly effective, for instance, at preventing a dangerous creature from attacking on someone’s turn, ensuring that an opponent can’t block with a specific creature to ensure they take damage, or even force someone’s small but useful creature to go on the attack against its will in the hopes of it getting picked off. Sometimes a combination of all three. Yes, depending on its usage, the Battleshaper has the ability to engender some tacit good will from other players at the table – or make a steadfast enemy due to your table manipulation.
Which is pretty fitting for a Red / White card, really.
And if its unique combination of effects wasn’t enough, this combat specialist doesn’t go down easily without a fight himself. At a respectable 5/5, it is capable of holding its own against similar midsized creatures while not being in danger of being dispatched by small amounts of damage like you often get with similar styled cards.
In other words, despite it not being universally loved by the Boros themselves, this is a highly formiddable card that’s worthy of any EDH deck desiring some creative combat manipulation.
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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