Chances are, if you were born before 1990 you’re likely aware of the late 80’s show MacGyver. Its main character was a brilliant everyman special agent who regularly had to improvise his way out of difficult and dangerous situations with the scant resources available around him. Think James Bond meets the local hardware store clerk.
Rather than relying on physical strength or superior weaponry, MacGyver’s advantage was the application of his intellect across an incredibly varied set of circumstances. Whereas James Bond always happened to have the right gadgets for his situation (also known as a plot device), MacGyver’s arsenal consisted of a pocket knife, duct tape, some matches, and whatever he could find. That was sort of the show’s shtick. Because it’s impossible to carry around the perfect answer to every situation imaginable, MacGyver had to leverage his knowledge and a few utility tools to address one gauntlet after another over its 7 seasons.
In Magic, and especially in Commander, the same logic applies. Unless you are playing against one person who uses the same deck every time, you need to expect the unexpected. No two group games will ever unfold in precisely the same manner. Everything from your card draws to which other decks are present, to table politics, to each player’s temperament has an effect. Part of that is what makes the singleton nature of the Commander format so entertaining. Will you be able to successfully overcome random chance to get/use the card you want, or will someone just throw a wrench into the whole thing to thwart you?
Therefore, unless you’re a min/max player, you should follow MacGyver and his Swiss army knife approach. Having a deck with a handful of utility cards not only proves useful, they can help you save the day and secure a win. The more prongs these utility cards have, such as various charms in existence, the more worthy they are as one of your precious 99 slots. However, there are plenty of other situational cards that provide merit merely with the right timing. A well-placed bounce, buff or removal card can make all the difference between victory and defeat. As can creature stealing. Especially creature stealing in…White?
Today we have: Evangelize
Edition: Time Spiral
Focus: Control Magic
Highlights: Evangelize, like many Time Spiral cards, is an homage to an earlier time in Magic. In this case, it’s a throwback to Preacher from The Dark. Preacher’s ability, depicting a creature being enticed by the words of the speaker, revolved around A) Preacher remaining tapped, and B) the 1/1 remaining alive. In Commander, neither are terribly advantageous. What’s more, Preacher is far more difficult to get ahold of nowadays.
Instead, Evangelize allows the same ability in spell form, and it goes one step further in providing a Buyback cost. Some could balk at the nine-cost to use the buyback, but in many late-game Commander situations, it’s pretty feasible. Still, even at a one-time use, it’s worth the five mana.
That’s not to say that Evangelize, as one of those cards in the Swiss army knife, doesn’t come with limitations. For starters, some may prefer Jabari’s Influence over this as that is an Instant. Jabari is merely another situational card though: it can’t affect Black or Artifact creatures (which can be prohibitive in a format with lots of multicolored black cards), and the creature has to actually attack you to work. By contrast, Evangelize’s restriction is that the creature chosen is at the opponent’s whim, meaning that if they have a throwaway creature to hand you, it’s far less effective. However, if they only have one creature on the board, say after a board wipe or combat, then it is yours for the taking.
Secondly, Evangelize is also a bit weird mechanically: it can affect players who have hexproof/shroud since it doesn’t target them, but it can’t target hexproof/shrouded creatures they control. It’s a little wonky, but that too can be spun into an advantage if you need to get through someone who is shielded.
Evangelize is a great example of a card that saw little use during the Time Spiral block in any sort of Constructed setting, being too unpredictable for tournaments, but it finds a home in the Commander setting quite nicely. Any time you have the chance at stealing another player’s Commander / powerful board advantage creature permanently and unconditionally is usually worth a look. Unless everyone is playing token decks, with multiple players on the board chances are at some point someone will fall susceptible to the Preacher man and see the light. It’s like duct tape, only shinier.
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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