Commander Spotlight: Cascading Cataracts

Welcome back to week fifty-seven of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It’s been 436 days since my last summoning.

While the larger world context around such a now-prolific game-playing drought continue to show improvement in the country week over week (thankfully), things on the more micro level are completely unchanged since we last spoke. Another week has gone by and, alas, no Magic event has transpired…yet. I’m still optimistic that it will happen soon, though the odds of my original assessment that it would happen by the end of May are starting to drop. As of this writing there are just two weekends left in the month, and I know for a fact that it isn’t happening during the first. Fingers crossed for the long weekend here in the US giving us a chance. Normally that would work against trying to plan something, but the last 14 months have not been remotely normal. We shall see!

In the meantime, we’re going to keep this week’s brief…erm…brief.

As such, per usual instead of discussing Magic-related topics or a discussion point about the card in question, we carry on (hopefully just a few more times) by looking at Magic cards I’ve personally wanted to put into an EDH deck for some time but haven’t for one reason or another. The reason this week’s pick hasn’t made the leap into an actual deck is a rather mundane one: I don’t have a deck at present that could particularly make use of it – yet.

Today we have: Cascading Cataracts

Name: Cascading Cataracts

Edition: Amonkhet

Rarity:  Rare

Focus: Mana Filtering

Highlights: At some point in every Magic player’s tenure they inevitably at least consider, if not outright attempt, to create the ubiquitous 5-color ‘WUBRG’ deck. It’s not a new idea by any stretch; Magic players have been tinkering with the idea of going all Captain Planet with decks as long as the game has been around. In time the game itself even started creating 5-color cards, starting with the one-of-a-kind promo 1996 World Champion and more broadly with the now-iconic Sliver Queen. Though it’s rarely intended to be tournament grade due to its reliance on needing mana of every color to be effective, going in on all five colors has long had appeal in the casual Magic crowd. It’s almost a rite of passage.

I am no exception to that fact. In my time with the game I have actually made four. The first was a sliver deck for a friend at the time who really wanted to make such a deck work but had a hard time deciding how to build it. So he asked me to using his collection. The end result worked fine for our kitchen table style games – though his later attempt to try using it at a pick-up Extended tournament at a local store did not go well. I did try to warn him.

My own decks have been a little more varied. My second WUBRG was originally conceived solely as a Sunburst / charge counter deck, as was common in the era of Fifth Dawn. However, that quickly expanded to include all five Bringers, Legacy Weapon, and the original Kamigawa Honden enchantments, all bolstered by  Paradox Haze. On paper it’s admittedly a bit of a hodgepodge, but you know what? The dang thing worked. It ended up being one of my preferred multiplayer decks for quite some time.

Technically the third was an evolution on that idea some years later. Prior to Superfriends becoming a mainstream archetype, I too created a Proliferate-planeswalker deck, bolstered by certain cards that benefitted from a bevy of counters. And I say technically in that while the deck was almost exclusively a tricolor U/G/W deck, I did splash in a single Chandra and Liliana each, meaning I needed the ability to generate those colors. This gives it a distinction from a much older reanimation deck (one I ended up shelving for some time for being actually too aggressive) I didn’t include here which contained creatures from all five colors but wasn’t able to cast most of them directly.

The final one came not long before the EDH takeover of multiplayer gaming, which was, essentially, a five-color dragon deck. Sure, it had a couple of my hallmark style tweaks, but it was mostly a just dragon deck. Rawr.

Regardless of the makeup or style, in nearly all WUBRG cases the make-or-break part of its usefulness is its ability to generate mana of the needed colors. Whether it’s involving lots of land fetch, permanents able to generate multiple colors of mana such as non-basic lands, or the ability of cards to convert one type of mana into another, having access to the necessary colors is paramount. Otherwise, you’ll just be doing a lot of sitting, discarding, fuming, and dying. Probably in that order.

One of my all-time favorite cards I’ve used to that end was the Odyssey era Crystal Quarry, which essentially says that for six land (5 mana plus itself), you were able to channel one mana of every color to fuel your intentions. While it’s slightly less efficient than producing said mana by 5 different lands, having the ability to generate all five colors regardless of what else you have on the board was incredibly useful on many, many occasions.

On the other hand, the Quarry did have two small problems. The first is that the card was only worth using in decks needing all five colors – which amounts to a tiny amount of decks overall. The second is that when it did show its potential – often with scary consequences for your opponent – it made a neigh irresistible target for spot land removal.

Despite having a name that sounds more like a serious medical condition than a Magic card (yay homonyms!), Cascading Cataracts is the next-gen iteration of the Quarry. And it happens to solve both of the Quarry’s shortcomings. For one, this land is innately Indestructible, making it far more difficult to remove from the battlefield, giving you some breathing room to expand your multicolor antics. Second is that the Cataracts make for a more versatile card, letting you choose the combination of the five mana to add. Not only can this be helpful for generating the exact colors you need for that moment, it also means that it can work in decks not using five colors. In fact, though you’ll get the best use out of it in decks of 3-5 colors, Cataracts can aid you in a dual-colored deck that may be particularly color-cost heavy.

But otherwise, yeah. That’s it. That’s all it does. Insert mana of one kind, get mana out of another. Simple, straightforward, and an easy land choice for many Commander decks out there. Pretty easy and obvious choice in many cases, which is why its price is slowly creeping towards the upper end of budget level.

Rest assured, though I don’t have a use immediately, this is an easy choice for my next deck that can make proper use of it – whether that ends up being a brand new idea or retrofitting the ol’ hodgepodge deck back into service…

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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