How well can you anticipate another player?
If you’ve ever played poker, it’s likely a question you’ve come across in one form or another. Whether it’s knowing your challenger’s particular style of play or if they have some sort of tell, poker is as much about playing the odds as it is about playing the other contestants. Many professional poker players go so far as to say gauging your opponent is even more critical than what’s dealt to you. And they’re probably right…for poker anyway.
Magic, for all of its professional trappings of tournaments, media coverage, and cash payouts, is not poker. However, there are a lot of similarities between the two games with regards to how you respond to the other participants. The more familiar you are with the other players, the more you can plan calculated responses.
Indeed, one of the hallmark traits a Magic player develops over time is the ability to respond to what other players are going to do . The more you play, the more important it becomes to weigh what you want to do against what you think another player next move will be. This is especially true in multiplayer games, as with each additional seat at the table, it’s more likely that something will happen that you’d like to respond to. The vast majority of the time, this means leaving mana open.
It’s one thing to have unspent mana because you can’t – or don’t want to – cast something at that moment, but as you get more accustomed to the game, you learn the benefits of sitting on spells until you need them. Since the game’s beginnings, long have players passed on the opportunity to drop out a worthwhile permanent to instead save mana for well-timed Fogs, Terrors, and Lightning Bolts.
However, no display of this was more iconic than the classic two untapped Islands. The bane of many players’ existence, two untapped Blue mana meant that someone could be sitting on the dreaded Counterspell. Whether interpreted as a guaranteed response or well-timed bluff, simply having that land open was enough to give players pause.
And it still does.
Commander sees an even great frequency of sitting on cards simply because of its unpredictable nature. With so many variables in an EDH game, it’s good to be prepared should you be required to act. Naturally, it’s far easier to make decisions when a player is completed tapped out since, with rare circumstances, it means they can’t cast a spell in response to your actions, but that’s often not the case.
The early days of Magic had means to force your opponent’s hand in this regard, however, and in a great bit of coincidence, it also happens to have been a two-mana Blue card. It’s also this week’s pick.
Today we have: Drain Power
Name: Drain Power
Edition: Alpha through Fifth Edition
Focus: Mana Acceleration
Highlights: While Drain Power itself may not single-handedly win you games, it certainly helps the cause. Its single major detraction is that it only affects one player, so in Commander games with multiple opponents it may not always be the linchpin card you need. That said, there are two things it does so well that it certainly makes up for this restriction.
First, it throws your target off balance. No one likes being completely tapped out in general, as it presents an aura of vulnerability. Drain Power forces that vulnerability to happen by making them either use whatever spells or abilities they were hoping to sit on or accept having all of their mana stolen. Much like Silence and similar cards, Drain power disrupts your opponent’s plans, which is always advantageous. Sure, they can still cast whatever they had up their sleeve, but its far better to spring a trap instead of walking into it.
Second, Drain Power effectively amounts to Blue mana acceleration. Aside from High Tide, Blue has almost no in-color means to ramp mana. A well-timed use of Drain Power could generate a substantial amount of it, especially in late-game situations. Yet in reality, any time you can get more mana back than it costs to cast this spell is already a win for this color.
Combined, its effect is one of insult to injury. Not only will it usually net you mana, but it simultaneously strips it from your opponent and stops them from using whatever machinations they had planned on their terms. And you get all of this for a phenomenally affordable two mana investment.
Now, what about that doesn’t sound like a good bet to you?
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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