Commander Spotlight: Gaea’s Embrace

If you were to try to distill an entire color’s modus operandi down into a scant few cards, you’ll find out it can be a challenge. As the game has continued to improve, refine, and ultimately expand over it’s 20 years, colors have evolved and changed. Sometimes things a color used to be able to do aren’t supported anymore, and they are retired completely or shifted elsewhere. (I still believe in you, Tim.) At other times, a color is given a new plaything as part of its repertoire. This would be something like Fight in Green or the small-but-significant shift of Black’s “siphon” ability from doing damage (Corrupt) to life loss (Blood Artist).

You aren’t going to find a card that contains all of color’s major attributes. There is no card in Black that has ‘life’, ‘discard’, ‘graveyard’, and ‘destroy” at the same time. Even something as blatantly simple and iconic as Lightning Bolt doesn’t show everything Red is capable of. What Lightning Bolt is, however, is a fantastic example of something quintessential to its color. Now, if you throw in something like Goblin Ruinblaster and Hoard-Smelter Dragon, you do get that much closer to displaying an entire color philosophy in less cards than a starting hand.

It makes for a good exercise in illustrating exactly what makes up the essence of the color, and it’s possible to do this with all of the colors. And we’re going to look at one of those quintessentially Green cards.

Today we have: Gaea’s Embrace

Gaea's Embrace

Name: Gaea’s Embrace

Edition: Urza’s Saga

Rarity: Uncommon

Focus: Creature Buffing

Highlights: Gaea’s Embrace is still one of the Greenest of Green cards going. It manages to encapsulate in one card almost the entirety of the color’s creature-based spectrum. Green takes pride in using its most valuable asset – being attuned with the natural world – in order to secure victory. Gaea’s Embrace, quite intentionally, is the embodiment of that pursuit.

Gaea’s Embrace turns a manageable creature into a powerful threat, or makes an already scary creature all that much more potent. Often, simply adding Trample to your best creature in Commander is enough to make other players take it seriously. A 20/20 creature is one thing. A 20/20 Trample is another.

And yet this card also gives a buff on top of it. Adding +3/+3 to someone’s pet face-stomper in games that see a lot of such creatures may not make anyone hop out of their chairs, but it can help turn another creature you have into an additional threat for them to worry about. An innocuous 4/4 automatically becomes a 7/7 Trample, and that’s nothing to scoff at.

What’s more, Gaea’s Embrace also provides Regeneration for a mere one mana. There hasn’t been a board wipe with the “can’t be Regenerated” clause since the Shards of Alara block, so Regeneration can – and should – see some increased use. In a format rife with board wipes, giving your spiny, hulking behemoth a means to survive one is incredibly handy. You know, for the payback. (Or do it yourself to clear the brush away for a powerful attack the following turn.)

Now, some people argue that Regeneration has seen its final days in the sun. After all, they say, Indestructible is very similar to Regeneration, but it doesn’t require an activation cost and the creature doesn’t get tapped. Consider Regenerate versus Withstand Death the argument goes – why wouldn’t you prefer the latter?

Flavor, for one. On a more substantive note, in multiplayer games it has a more abstract benefit: it’s far more accepted. It’s not wholly logical, but in general, players are more comfortable of Regeneration on a creature than Indestrutible. Regeneration costs you mana; even if the cost is marginal, it still requires that you do something  to use it. Indestructible just says no to destruction efforts. Plus, Indestructible can board wipe and then attack. Indestructible conveys the feeling that it can’t be touched. Indestructible puts players slightly more on edge just because of what the name implies. And that draws attention. Regeneration doesn’t have that effect.

Yes, even on your giant stompy creature of destruction.

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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