Welcome back to week twenty-seven of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It has been a truly disheartening 226 days since my last summoning on so many levels. On the macro level wherein we are all afflicted by the pandemic, its ensuing economic hardship, and the general social unrest coinciding with the first two. On the personal level where maintaining even the most modest of content output due to those aforementioned reasons (and more) has been a significant challenge and frustration. And on the interpersonal level, where we, like many people, have had their entire social lives abruptly brought to a halt. For tabletop gamers this ends up being a double whammy between the loss of seeing friends coupled with the inability to partake in one of your primary hobbies.
While we here at the CR have admittedly fared better than some in all this and have fully kept perspective with respect to what amounts to griping about games while others are coping with far more important matters, it still hasn’t been easy. I now have a nearly 1 year old daughter, but it’s not lost on me that thanks to the massive mess we’re all wading through, some of my gaming friends – people I’ve known for more than 15 years – have never met her.
Personal relationships are more than having someone on the other side of the table to move cards and cubes around with. Those relationships are more important and far more valuable. It’s not Magic itself that’s missed in these circumstances, though I certainly do enjoy the tactical decision-making and unexpected nonsense that comes from a well-executed game of Commander. It’s the others who make that experience worthwhile.
The games are just a vehicle for shared experience. It’s always about the people involved. That is what makes this Magic-related drought so vexing.
And yet here we are. A public health crisis that is in no better shape – indeed arguably worse now in many respects – than six months ago. Ensuring that, at least for the time being, we’re still focusing on The Magic Games That Weren’t. Which means, as has become the new standard, this week’s COVID-based pick is a marvelous card that I’ve personally wanted to put into an EDH deck for quite some time but haven’t for one reason or another.
Though I have come exceedingly close.
Today we have: Fracturing Gust
Name: Fracturing Gust
Edition: Shadowmoor / FTV: Annihilation
Focus: Board Wipe
Highlights: Board wipes are ubiquitous with the identity of Commander. They are up there for most as deck auto-includes alongside a bevy of nonbasic lands and the absolute preponderance of Sol Rings running around such that most assume a deck isn’t complete without one (a stance I do not personally take). Board wipes come in a variety of forms, be it complete annihilation of all permanents or a specific subset of them, though creature-based wipes make up the majority. Which is generally why those that focus their ire on other permanent types often get some form of splashy attention. Fracturing Gust is no exception. Of all the cards mentioned in this Covid-era sub-series, Fracturing Gust is as close as it comes to being in a deck of mine without actually making it. On my very first EDH deck build it had the unfortunate fate of being, in fact, the 101st card.
Its final cut had less to do with the appeal of this multifaceted and highly advantageous card and more with the fact that the average card cost in the deck was already fairly expensive due to the creatures involved and I needed to offset that somehow. Therefore a number of midrange costed non-creature cards ended up getting removed, including this terrifying workhorse of a board wipe.
This is, admittedly, the one and only real drawback to Fracturing Gust, minor as it might be: despite being a Green / White card with high casting flexibility due to its ample hybrid cost, like most board wipes it is not particularly cheap. As most board wipes exist in the 4-6 mana range this is completely on curve at five, so it’s far from prohibitive. In fact, when you factor in that Fracturing Gust is only five mana at Instant speed, it can actually be argued that it’s slightly above curve. Yet because most people want to be able to use this reflexively – whether purely as a surprise defensive move, waiting until the most opportune moment to disrupt an opponent, or simply to keep options open by avoiding casting it on your own turn – it means needing five mana to float at any given time. Even in Commander games, keeping five mana constantly in reserve isn’t always the most ideal except in the later stages of the game.
Again, this is peak nitpicking and its few hesitations are generally more psychological than strategic. For regardless of when and how you cast it, Fracturing Gust can absolutely level the battlefield and benefit you in the process (presumably as long as you don’t needlessly blow up a lot of your own stuff at the same time). A straightforward card that’s a mix of life gain and an Instant-speed Purify, Fracturing Gust destroys all Artifacts and Enchantments on the board, then gives you 2 life per permanent destroyed. After a period of steady buildup, Fracturing Gust can be quite nasty to contend with, taking out all manner of mana rocks, equipment, and versatile Enchantments while boosting your life total at the same time. Even a modest use of Fracturing Gust will generally net you 10 or more life while de-cluttering the board and depriving people of useful tools. At its worst Fracturing Gust, like most board wipes, can be an annoying nuisance that rears its head to re-balance the board state. At its best, it can be positively crippling to an opponent’s power base – especially if they’re running specific deck archetypes that rely heavily on these card types. All of which makes it really hard to say no to such a simple yet powerful tool in the toolbox.
The good news on this front, such as it can be had, is that it does seem incredibly likely it will find a home in my next deck. It only took a half dozen years to get there.
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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