Welcome back to week ten of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It has been 114 days since my last summoning, to which I actually had to start doing the math on recently to keep accurate. While a number of weeks back I could remember precise details about my last outing, who it was with, the decks played, and so on, at this point – in this climate – I’ve now reached a point where I mostly just remember the date. Mostly. The minute details which made it memorable have been superseded, suppressed, or replaced by other more pressing matters that have claimed my time and focus. Yet even with all that obfuscation, my continued lament isn’t over the specific session itself, but instead my inability to see people and play a game that has been such a staple part of my tabletop experience over many years.
The reasons that have curtailed our ability to congregate are transparent and don’t really need to be expanded upon. We all know that the pandemic stinks for so many different reasons, and although social interaction is an important part of our daily lives, writing about not being able to play my slightly tweaked Ramses Overdark deck is pretty trivial to say the least.
Of course, that also means that I haven’t been paying rapt attention to the game as much as I normally do. Ikoria largely came and went for me. I didn’t even know M21 was already spoiled. I found out about Wizard of the Coast’s decision to ban images of its most problematic cart art not from my curated tabletop news feeds but accidentally – via Twitter of all places.
As a result, I haven’t been doing my more topical articles. Instead, I’ve been spending the last ten weeks highlighting cards that I’ve personally wanted to put into an EDH deck but haven’t had the opportunity to yet for one reason or another, rather than my normal curation approach.
And for this week, I want to talk about a relatively new card with a very old-school (and contentious) tactic.
Today we have: Fall of the Thran
Name: Fall of the Thran
Focus: Land Destruction
Highlights: Look, I get it: mass land destruction is not a particularly beloved mechanic, especially in longer settings like Commander. Depending on the pacing, the number of players, and the deck styles themselves, it can easily take a half hour or longer before your deck even has the requisite mana to start doing anything meaningful. Longer still to start pulling off flashier moves. Commander has a reputation for ‘Battlecruiser Magic’, which is only possible once you’ve accumulated the resources needed to pull it off. And so it can be incredibly, incredibly demoralizing for someone to come along and upend all of that with a single card.
Unless it’s followed by immediately knocking people out of the game, most of the time all a mass land destruction card gets is a lot of grumbling and eye rolls.
The one exception to those reactions, however, is usually the person who is furthest back in mana generation. After all, it’s one thing to be the person sitting with 10 land and can play your deck however you’d like. It’s another to be the person still at 5 simply trying to keep up, let along trying to stop them. For the person worst off, land destruction is a divisive but effective approach to evening the playing field.
I’ve written about this conundrum before while professing that my personal all-time favorite card to even the scales in this manner – bringing parity back to a multiplayer game if someone is starting to massively out-produce everyone – is Balance. Buuuuut it’s banned for being, well, unbalanced. Which I don’t dispute. It’s way too cost efficient for its effect. But my adoration of Balance is less with it being super cheap to use and more about how worthwhile it can be to keep the game competitive and fun without having someone sitting there anguishing over just being able to play their deck. Which is why I’ve recommended the slightly more fair Balancing Act – though it targets all permanents, not just land and creatures.
Fall of the Thran is in that same vein, with a couple key differences. In this case, it is a six mana saga enchantment that, upon entering the battlefield, destroys all lands. Super simple, super punishing. Unlike Balancing Act, in which players could opt to keep something out other than land, Fall of the Thran offers no such wiggle room. Unless you have alternate mana generation, this Armageddon-style throwback instantly hits pause on everyone’s mana base.
Pause being the key word.
Because while one can make the argument for just destroying all land and being done with it, it’s typically not the ideal option for anyone. Which is why this card is so intriguing. For it states that over your next two turns, every player puts two land back onto the battlefield. Which means that although the initial effect is debilitating to say the least, over the course of 2.5 turns the practical result will be that everyone only sacrifices down to four land while briefly taking the tempo of the game down a notch, which is much more palatable (if still probably frustrating).
Moreover, despite being an enchantment, it’s very likely that once on the battlefield people will leave it alone to run its course. For one, they may not be able to do anything to it. But few would want to actually stop it from getting those lands back – giving it an interesting self-preservation layer.
Is Fall of the Thran going to be universally loved? No. Cards like this usually aren’t. Yet this flavorful iteration of bringing people down to a lowest common denominator is potent without being arbitrarily punitive…
…unless you’re the person sitting there with the most land. But since that’s almost never me, I somehow don’t feel bad about it.
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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