Commander Spotlight: Crackling Doom

Today is brought to you by the card Fervent Charge, an inexpensive tricolor enchantment from the Invasion block. Yet what makes the card pertinent has little to do with what the card does and more about what it personally stands for.

Indirectly we’ve heard about Fervent Charge here before in a previous column, wherein I talked about appeasing a friend who wanted to check out a Legacy tournament by entering with his 90 card Sliver deck. And this Mardu-colored (I guess? Are we actually going with Tarkir names for the wedges?) card from Apocalypse was part of that deck. For those familiar with competitive tournaments, they’ll know that using the deck in its entirety was a bad idea, let alone a four-cost enchantment of three different colors that only helped your attacking creatures.

Weeks prior to this desire to pay good money to get stomped on, though, my friend inquired with our regular play group about finding ways to make a leaner but ineffective Sliver deck more potent in a multiplayer environment. He happened to have the only Sliver lord in existence at the time – the now hard to find Sliver Queen – but beyond that the deck had a hard time staying in the game. Like so many other Magic circles, he put the request out there to his friends for suggestions on what could be done to make it more effective, and our teenage collective went to work offering ideas and lending cards for him to test out.

Using a novel approach, rather than sit and agonize over which cards to put in or not, he threw just about any recommendation we had on hand or readily available from our local game store into the pot, and then he tested it relentlessly to weed out which things worked from which didn’t. Stuff like Rhystic Study and Mirari’s Wake became permanent additions while Tek and Allied Strategies didn’t make it past a few playthroughs. Among the litany of possible card suggestions I rattled off, Fervent Charge was one that made it into the deck, even though he was reluctant at first. I was so confidant in some of my suggestions, however, that I lent several of my own cards to the deck for testing. The rationale was that if he didn’t like them, I’d take them back, and if he did, we’d arrange a trade.

As slightly unorthodox as we felt it was, his relentless playtesting experiments did help separate the wheat from the chaff over a month or so, and the result was a bulkier but decently effective multiplayer Sliver deck. Thus, although the iteration of the deck that saw itself slaughtered at that Legacy tournament was 90 cards – not an insane size for casual multiplayer – it was the trimmed down version of his experiment from when he initially added in everything but the kitchen sink. And I am happy to report that all of my included ideas, including Fervent Charge, made the final cut as of the last time I saw the deck.

Which was about two months after said tournament.

Alas, autumn came, and a combination of me attending college and getting a job made it practically impossible for regular hangouts anymore. Priorities shifted, relationships changed, and we lost touch. Life: it happens.

Coincidentally, it was also the last time I saw my Fervent Charge or other physical contributions to the deck, as I never did organize a trade for them.

Such is but one of the innumerable stories that Magic players carry with them. Like many other CCGs, the nature of trading Magic cards makes it very easy for us to attach memories and emotions to individual cards. These events make up part of our experience with the game, more so than simply whether they help us win a game or make our deck better.

The longer you stick around the game, the more tales you build up. Among the many dozens I have, I could tell you the story of why to this day Throne of Bone is still one of my absolute favorite card names, or why the time I found a random Braingeyser on the floor of my middle school mattered at all, or the time I accidentally threw out a Morphling. Today, however, was the tale of Fervent Charge.

I eventually replaced my copy of the card years later, partially as a nostalgia factor, but also because I particularly enjoyed the fact that, at the time, it was the only Black-Red-White card in existence. As of mid 2015, that number has only risen to a mere twelve, and eight of those came in Khans of Tarkir.

Of those twelve, Fervent Charge will always have a bittersweet memory to it, but it’s hardly my favorite card of this wedge color. That title is reserved for this week’s selection.

Today we have: Crackling Doom

Crackling Doom

Name: Crackling Doom

Edition: Khans of Tarkir

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Direct Damage / Spot Removal

Highlights: Appreciation for colors aside, Crackling Doom is a particularly well put-together card that can easily fly under the radar of many. For three mana, this spell has the potential to make for some rather effective swings in the board state in your favor. Between its cheap cost and one-sided effect, Crackling Doom is fast enough for dueling but is potentially even more devastating on a multiplayer stage.

That said, Crackling Doom is a decent appropriation of its three disparate colors. On the Red side, Crackling Doom is an efficient direct damage spell. There is no shortage of three CMC spells that do 2-4 damage (Sizzle, Slagstorm, Flame Rift, etc.), but most are Sorcery speed and damage all players. Sure, Volcanic Fallout is a like-minded Instant, but it also hits everyone equally. Crackling Doom is an uncommonly-templated mass damage spell in that it only hurts opponents. In fact, the only card that has a more efficient one-sided damage spread for its cost is Atarka’s Command.

Black’s contribution is equally noticeable with it’s Innocent Blood-esque removal. Well, if Innocent Blood was on steroids. Crackling Doom forces your opponent to sacrifice their largest creature as opposed to a token or some disposable cannon fodder. Chances are losing their biggest creature is going to hurt, even if it isn’t the most dangerous creature they may have on the battlefield. Plus, it shouldn’t be overlooked that the player is being forced to sacrifice it. In many Commander metas, for instance, Indestructible creatures can run around in droves, and this simple card can potentially remove such a problematic creature.

Admittedly, the White part of Crackling Doom is more subtle than the other colors, but it is what arguably makes the card stand out the most: the card’s effects don’t affect you. Only your opponents will take damage and lose creatures, whereas you remain untouched. What’s more, it has White’s useful trait of being versatile whether you’re on the offensive or defensive, making it a worthy Commander card. Whether you use this to stop another player from getting out of hand or to remove your biggest potential blockers when you launch an assault on your enemies is up to you.

Either way, you will create thunder in your walk. That is the card’s only real catch: it’s very likely that you may draw some aggro from using it, especially if you hamstring several players at once in doing so. So time it well, and make sure it’s worth the potential hate.

Will Crackling Doom lend itself to becoming an emotionally-relevant card for a player out there? Statistically speaking, it’s bound to happen, and I’d personally love to hear the story some day. It’s unlikely I’ll be that person, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for that eventual tale. On the other hand, if you want a crazy story about how I lost my Shahrazad for 10 years only to get it back again…

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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