Welcome back to week twenty-eight of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It has a deflating 233 days since my last summoning. It’s the gaming equivalent of being stranded thirsty on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean: what you desire is all around you at any given time, but any attempts at getting what you want will ultimately only make things worse.
Back when the pandemic started in earnest in March & April, and being in one of the more afflicted areas, it was harrowing to watch what certain regions went through. Then it looked like we, as so many other countries had done, also seemingly started making progress towards containing it. For a brief period, it genuinely looked promising. Then the summer came and those hopes were quickly dashed as it jumped from one region to the next as a significant percentage of the populace flouted and defied both science and common sense. Then that too seemed to plateau for a time.
Now, the trajectory climbs once again, with caseloads more than twice what they were at the worst periods in the spring.
In this moment it’s never been more evident that the lifeboat upon which so many of us sit, isolated and parched for a sense of rhythm, of normalcy, of returning to well-worn routines, will not be reaching salvation anytime soon. It is a case of pure madness, with the captain continuously tossing emergency supplies overboard professing they are unnecessary, as rescue will happen any moment. Half sit in abject shock, while the other half eagerly comply, swept up in a cult-like worship of his words and actions – all while lapping up that delicious, delicious seawater.
If there has ever been a more apt time for a new captain, I haven’t heard of one.
Change never comes easy, but at least the opportunity is finally at our feet. This week heralds the US Presidential Election, with the ability to right this ship and get it turned around. Doing so will require copious effort from many disparate groups and factions coming together. Fighting for an ideal – or at least objective reality – creates a spirit of common cause, and it’s incredibly moving when you get down to it. For all the bluster and messaging, the act of pooling efforts together towards a shared goal and rousing even the common man to join in is inspirational. It’s moving. And it’s powerful.
As per the case with most of 2020, this week’s COVID-based pick is a Magic card that I’ve personally wanted to put into an EDH deck for quite some time but haven’t for one reason or another. However, as it happens I have one that I find particularly thematic for the moment. Because not only is it particularly fitting, but if used correctly it’s a great way to disrupt your opposition.
And damn it, I’m tired of languishing adrift and rudderless. It’s time for a new captain.
Today we have: Coalition Flag
Name: Coalition Flag
Focus: Effect Targeting
Highlights: Long before Spellskite was running around wreaking havoc with spell and ability targeting redirects in multiplayer games, there were the Flagbearers. Sadly only a trio of such cards were made, but even with such a short existence they made an incredibly memorable mark on the game. As anyone who has played with or against them will attest, Flagbearer activity in a Magic game is simultaneously amusing and frustrating – often at the same time. Not necessarily because it’s incredibly powerful (or even long-lasting), but because it either slows down aggressive spell targeting, or worse, poses such an unassuming presence that it’s so easy to forget about until the worst possible moment.
Each Flagbearer card works the exact same way. They all state that if an opponent casts a spell or activates an ability that can target a Flagbearer creature, one of the targets must be a Flagbearer. And while the other two Flagbearer cards are basic creatures, Coalition Flag is a one mana Aura that turns any creature of yours into one. This added versatility of choosing your own Flagbearer type allows you to decide whether you’d be best off putting it on an expendable creature that you don’t particularly care about, a more potent creature that is more likely to survive the slings and arrows your opponents may toss about, or one that can take advantage of spells that an opponent would rather not cast upon it.
It also helps that you are not bound by the same restriction. It is your coalition after all; you can still do what you want.
Initially, players in multiplayer games are quite adept at remembering that a Flagbearer exists on the battlefield and will tune their spell choices accordingly. From a strategic standpoint this means that your opponents have to curate which cards they can use at the moment for fear of accidentally giving you a useful Aura they’d rather keep for themselves or wasting a key spot removal card on something much more meaningful. It also forces players to be slightly more cautious in combat, as many combat-focused tricks (whether on offense or defense) require some form of targeting. While it’s hardly a catch-all effect, especially as the game has evolved to provide more non-targeted response cards in the modern era, the amount of disruption this unassuming little card can foster is almost always more than you initially think. Even getting your opponents to pull their punches for a brief period can be highly advantageous.
Unassuming is also one of its best traits, realistically, because the longer a game like Commander goes, and the more cluttered a board state becomes, it gets very easy to forget a creature Aura half-hidden across the table. I have lost track of the number of times two players got into some kind of scuffle and one of them in the heat of a pitched moment completely forgots that the Flagbearer exists – only to have their spell or ability be completely shunted away from them. At best, it’s an embarrassing moment. At worst, it could completely unravel a player’s response to what another player is attempting to do.
Whether its detente or disruption you seek, you can’t go wrong with a Flagbearer in White. I’ve seen Flagbearers completely change the trajectory of whole turns, and even if their existence is short-lived, they’re almost always a decent return on investment. With Coalition Flag, doubly so. Unlike many of the other COVID-era card picks, this is at least a card that I know will end up in a future deck, as the idea already exists. I just need to have the imperative of regular gaming sessions to finally put it together.
Plus, I’m such a sucker for a good coalition story. Which, at this moment in time, I feel is all the more appropriate.
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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