No matter how experienced a player is or how long they’ve been playing, it’s inevitable that Magic players develop fondness for specific card types and disdain for others. This could be something straightforward like a named mechanic, but often it can just be some kind of effect or style that really doesn’t gel with that player’s preferences and sensibilities.
For example, I particularly enjoy modal spells like charms, as they provide tactical options depending on the circumstances, and like many players, I also particularly enjoy cantrip cards (those that let you draw a replacement card after casting it).
On the other end of the spectrum are a number of pet peeve card styles that particularly bother me, including card abilities that arbitrarily limit their use to sorcery speed for reasons that aren’t self-evident, and many modern creatures who only exist as a vehicle for some enter the battlefield ability instead of just being a spell with the same effect.
That said, few card subsets I find more vexing and have held a longer-lasting distaste for (nearly since the game’s beginnings) than poorly conceived direct damage spells that only target creatures. As someone who started off playing Red, and like many old timers and have been spoiled by the beauty that is Lightning Bolt, it takes a lot of effort for a creature-only damage spell to impress. Unfortunately, for every Shivan Meteor or Spitting Earth that comes along, there’s a cavalcade that range from mediocre to down right unplayable.
Thankfully we aren’t going to talk at length about those.
Instead, let’s look at another decent creature remover that often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. We owe it that at least.
Today we have: Ground Assault
Name: Ground Assault
Edition: Gatecrash / Modern Masters 2017
Focus: Creature Spot Removal
Highlights: From the outside, Ground Assault appears to be another run of the mill uncommon, just one of the innumerable cards in a set that may get some attention during a draft but are otherwise discarded for higher profile and more powerful cards during typical deck building. And, admittedly, Ground Assault isn’t very flashy. However, what it lacks in pizzazz it makes up for with good ol’ pragmatism.
Ground Assault is an excellent example of a multicolor card overcoming the restrictions of its individual colors. Green, for instance, is fully capable of destroying most permanent types…except for creatures. In its color pie philosophy, Green should be removing creatures via combat, not spells. Red, by contrast, seems to get an endless bevy of nameless and forgettable direct damage spells targeting creatures, but all but the best of them either deal low amounts of damage or tend to be severely overcosted for their effects. Which is why such cards are typically overlooked or dismissed.
By blending both of those ideas together, Ground Assault conquers both color limitations while offering up a cost effective and potentially explosive removal card. The only real negative is that it can only be used at sorcery speed, but it’s well worth that tradeoff.
For just two mana, Ground Assault allows you to deal damage to a creature equal to the number of lands you control. Which in EDH can be quite high depending on how long the game goes. Heck, even during the early stages of normal game, getting 4-5 damage is justifiably useful given its casting cost. As the game progresses, though, Ground Assault can easily be dishing out 10+ damage to a single creature, providing a potent spot removal in two colors that often have difficulty handling creatures once they pass a certain size.
And did we mention it only costs two mana? Because that really can’t be overstated given its overall efficacy.
Because, for nothing else we might as use the good creature-centric damage spells when they come along. We all know it certainly isn’t often enough…
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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Do you have a particular Commander card to suggest for us to shine a future Spotlight on? You can send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org