As formats go, Commander has no shortage of options when it comes to cleverness or creativity. With hundreds of Commanders to choose from and thousands of cards for your deck, the possibilities for unique and interesting deck ideas is nearly boundless. Which goes to the heart of why casual Magic is so entertaining. The game has reached a critical mass of card variety that odds are if you can come with some sort of wonky deck mechanic or theme, you can at least attempt it. It may not always win, or even very efficient, but it should be possible.
In fact, there’s only two obstacles to the prospect of endless EDH potential. The first is, paradoxically, card pool itself. With as cards many cards there in existence, they are still a finite thing. So there certainly can be times when the idea you have doesn’t quite have the type or volume of cards needed to pull it off in an EDH setting. Case in point: I tried doing a Sensei Golden-Tail deck once, and the sad reality was that there just weren’t enough viable Bushido creatures to make it work.
The other obstacle are the players themselves. Ultimately, when you get to the core of it, most Magic players are kind of lazy when it comes to being creative.
That isn’t inherently an issue with the players insomuch as it is with the game. Magic, for all its excellent ideas and evolution over time, still has the same fundamental goal it always did: to win. In this game you don’t get extra points for winning with style, and there’s no auxiliary prize for being overly clever. Magic is about making sure you are the last person standing, whether you’re facing one opponent or ten. We as players attach all sorts of extraneous layers to the game, such as the how we experience it, why we play certain styles over others, and which themes and mechanics resonate the most. Magic’s rules care for none of this. It only cares when one person stands triumphantly atop the corpses of its enemies.
The logic dictates then that being the most powerful, most efficient, and most expedient person at your table is the ideal – or even only – way to play. This is particularly evident among the more aggressive-minded individuals and tournament-minded players, but the notion is evident in all formats and at all skill levels. Winning doesn’t necessarily have to be you primary motivation (and many don’t), but at its most base form, the game emphasizes that it should be.
Because of that, we get lazy. We get lazy because it’s hard to resist the game’s lilting battle cadence. Therefore, when we build our decks there’s always that pushed desire to load them up with the absolute best cards we can get our hands on and to construct decks using the most formulaic way possible to maximize your odds.
Think how many times you’ve heard someone tell you what the ideal number of lands your deck should have for the umpteenth time.
Commander is not immune to this either. Between the constant nonsensical prattle that decks should always have ‘staple’ cards and occasional articles about the exact proportions your EDH should have, it’s almost surprising at this point that we haven’t started seeing EDH archetype decks the same way you do in Modern or Legacy. Make sure you have X mana rocks. Don’t forget to include at least a marginal amount of spot removal / board wipe / recursion / land fetch / card draw. Playing Green? Then you must absolutely include these four cards. And so on.
To this contingent, mentioning that your Commander deck doesn’t have a Sol Ring is the equivalent of saying you baked a cake without eggs. Sure, it’s possible, but to them, it’s never quite as good. Truth is, if we all stuck to that formula, not only would EDH be far more homogeneous, it would be far less fun, as it would strip out the potential for anything that isn’t top tier scary. Even with 60ish nonland card slots, your options shrink exponentially if you adhere to what ‘must’ be in a deck.
We’re all guilty of this to some degree when deck building; balancing the need for efficacy with fun is a universal challenge all Commander players must contend with. This is why so many Commander decks are chock full of rares and other delicious card goodness, from scary creatures, to combo-enabling artifacts, to highly potent spells. You want to win, but you want to have some fun doing it, and as a result, the Commander scene is routinely full of decks with all manner of nasty cards you have to deal with. Sometimes that means coming up with ways to counteracting or protecting yourself from your opponent’s threats. And sometimes it means using their own assets against them, as is the case with this week’s card.
Today we have: Curse of Echoes
Name: Curse of Echoes
Edition: Dark Ascension
Focus: Spell Copying / Spell Manipulation
Highlights: Curse of Echoes is an admittedly strange Aura, as unlike many curses it doesn’t immediately cause a negative effect to the player while on the board. Rather, its effect is more subtle and pernicious, with the potential to completely alter the way the affected person even plays the game. It’s not uncommon to find spell-heavy Commander decks, and if you’re not prepared for them, they can be highly problematic.
Curse of Echoes is one such answer to those decks. By single-handedly negating the advantage of their carefully chosen spells – and even turning them against them – this can be a major headache for the unlucky recipient.
Curse of Echoes is effectively a one-sided Hive Mind, but this actually works to its benefit. The inherent problem with Hive Mind is that unless you’re aiming to simply cause chaos or perform highly unfun combo wins, all it usually does on the battlefield is antagonize everyone equally and pull all sorts of table hate towards you. By limiting the effect to a single person, however, you can leverage this powerful effect much more effectively.
That said, the impetus behind who you choose and why will vary. You may desire to curse the player who has a tendency for casting big, splashy spells throughout the course of the game, or you may prefer to throw it against the person who has a knack of having spell responses at the most untimely moments. In either case, two things will undoubtedly happen. First, this will force your enemy to either chance giving the same benefits of their spell to each person, or to not cast the spell in the first place. Second, no matter which way your opponent goes, it will generate some hate from that player – and likely just that player. Indeed, it’s entirely possible that it could have the opposite effect with your other opponents. So choose carefully.
Some may balk at the spell’s cost given that by itself the enchantment doesn’t generate any immediate benefit. While the curve of its effects will likely vary from playthrough to playthrough, the card is indeed somewhat circumstantial. If used correctly, though, it can be well worth its five mana investment, as there’s no shortage of desirable instants and sorceries in Commander games. Even getting just a couple copies of useful cards is well worth the investment.
Most of all, Curse of Echoes is not a card most players are going to see coming. It’s the type of card that would never grace many decks if all we ever focused on were top echelon cards. Luckily, as the bastion of casual formats, Commander games exist on more than just a single axis of how broken you can make your deck. Instead, cards like Curse of Echoes are a reminder that as a casual format, any card is capable of being played if you really want to and that variety of option is one of the reasons it remains such a beloved game style.
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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