Commander Spotlight: Etherwrought Page

Welcome back to week fifty-six of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It’s been 429 days since my last summoning.

Like several numerical reportings that have come before this one, 429 isn’t exactly all that interesting of a number. Aside from a generic HTTP code about overburdened servers or 429 being a particularly troubling year for Rome as the Western Empire endured its tumultuous final decades, 429 is only helpful if you ever needed to cite a random number due to its lack of bearing any real significance. If anything, 429 could be renown for its insignificance. It’s total lack of interesting factoids or symbolism whatsoever. It is an isolated, unremarkable, unimportant number one simply finds on their way from one numeral to the next.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s kind of the week we have here.

For this series’ purposes, this past week could easily have been cut and pasted from the one preceding it. Thanks to the continued efforts of people’s resilience and the ongoing efforts to vaccinate as much of the population willing and able to do so, the prospects in these parts of returning to play some in-person Magic have never been higher. Alas, it has not happened quite yet. Amusingly, trying to schedule something has become a sticking point – mostly a result of gaming needing to compete with the understandably pent-up desire to do All The Things now that many are able to finally do so after more than a year of, well, not. Plus, though the desire and interest is there among some of our meta, not everyone in the group is fully onboard or comfortable with the idea yet, so we’re still working at partial capacity planning wise. Such reticence is not an indictment or criticism – everyone is going to have different levels of what they’re ok with (or not) in the coming weeks. However, it does explain why from an EDH perspective here we’re in a bit of a holding pattern.

The pandemic has made nearly all timeline-based projections ridiculously, often laughably inept. Still, I’m very optimistic that we will be able to hit that numerical reset counter before the present month is over. Until that happens though, the wait continues.

With that in mind, per usual instead of discussing Magic-related topics or a larger point around the card being showcased, we carry on 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. And this time it’s about an unremarkable card. While this week’s card isn’t going to singlehandedly win you the game, it certainly can’t hurt your chances either.

Today we have: Etherwrought Page

Name: Etherwrought Page

Edition: Alara Reborn

Rarity:  Uncommon

Focus: Life Gain / Life Loss / Deck Manipulation

Highlights: For most Commander players, the format exists to facilitate a combination of two blocs of cards: those that require ample time or mana in order to be effective – lending to the credo of Commander being all about Battlecruiser Magic with its capability to enlist massive creatures and spells – and those cards which are interesting enough to perpetually be on the cusp of getting slotted but are invariably superseded by another choice. Etherwrought Page is very much in that latter camp.

While it’s understandable that the Page doesn’t make too many headlines compared to the bevy of shiny rares and mythics in the format, it’s not that the Page is a poor or ineffective card. If anything, it mostly had the misfortune of existing during an embarrassment of riches. The Alara block was especially well-enjoyed because of its focus on tricolored Magic shard factions. Of those, one of the most popular was the artifact-focused Esper. Part of its high appeal was because Esper was artifact-focused, which is always a fan-favorite. Part of it was also because Esper was chock full of particularly notable and useful cards – many of which easily find homes in Magic decks to this day.

(As an aside, don’t use Esper’s Magister Sphinx in EDH. Just…don’t. No, it’s not banned, but it’s unfun, easily abusable, doesn’t win you any fans at the table, and you’re not nearly as clever using it as you think you are. Just skip it and save everyone the headache.)

Yes, Esper had quite a few useful cards to make use of. So much so that Etherwrought Page was often either an afterthought or not thought about at all. In time, that lack of attention also allowed this handy utility artifact to drift into forgotten territory. Which just happens to be perfect for the Commander setting.

For four mana, Etherwrought Page is an artifact with a modal upkeep trigger. It states that during your upkeep you can choose between one of three options that turn. Although each is modest individually, it is the combination of having potential access to all three where the card makes its usefulness known.

Two of the triggers deal with life: either letting you gain 2 life or making everyone else lose 1. While gaining 2 life a round is fairly benign, it can be helpful in a pinch to regain some lost ground. On the other hand, slowly siphoning away life 1 at a time from your opponents can add up over time. Most players aren’t going to worry about 1 life here and there, rarely making the Page a target, but if Etherwrought Page gets on the battlefield early enough, or stays around long enough, suddenly something like 5 rounds can start showing a notable dent in life totals.

The third and final option is, in effect, Think Tank – a card one could make a Commander case for in its own right. Unlike Scrying, which lets you look at the top card of your library and opt to put it on the bottom of your deck, this trigger states that you can look at the top of your library and either put it back or put it in your graveyard. This difference in function almost always gives some players pause – why would you want to mill yourself??? – but in practical EDH terms whether you’re sending a card to the bottom of your deck or your graveyard is largely the same. Only the emotional response is different. Plus, depending on your deck makeup, having a card in the graveyard may actually be advantageous – say, for recursion or Flashback style effects. Even if the life trigger options don’t wow you, being able to manipulate the top of your deck every round adds some control to what your next card draw will be. In later stages of the game when you’re digging for a proper response or finishing card and peek at an unwanted land, I guarantee you won’t care which zone it ends up in so long as you don’t have to draw it.

Ultimately, the biggest drawback to this artifact, aside from its tricolor cost, is that it’s not a first tier card pick for Commander. It instead very much falls into the second tier support card status: effective, functional, and deceptively useful, but admittedly lacks that wow factor. In other words, the largest hurdle is deciding to actually use it in the first place.

Still, if you’re looking forward in your Commander-based exploits towards some new ideas and experiences, may I present one worthwhile Page worth turning?

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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