Commander Spotlight: Hallowed Moonlight

Superstition has been a mainstay of the human condition since before civilization as we know it existed. From the very moments we were able to think at a higher level than our primate ancestors, humans have continually sought to explain the world around them through whatever means made the most sense. Some of these assumptions were based around simple empirical observations that may or may not have had any correlation whatsoever. Whether they were logical, practical, or based at all in reality was secondary to the desire to divine order from the inherent chaos swirling about. It’s why over the years we’ve developed litany of superstitions based around luck, old folk sayings, or supernatural happenings. To those experiencing such events, superstitious beliefs provided a means of understanding the world, even if you wound up with sayings and notions that defy all fact and reason.

Last week, we had such a confluence of events where you couldn’t help but trip over superstitions being bandied about. From behavior over the time changes, to a full moon, to the first Friday the 13th of 2020 – coupled with an ever spiraling health crisis – one single week had enough material to evoke plenty of sayings and inferences. In the past, many would even attribute these overlapping events to be nothing short of an ill omen coming to fruition. Some probably still will.

Even if you don’t buy into such coincidences as portents of things to come, the events surrounding the last week certainly were enough to put people off their usual behaviors, from lack of sleep to genuine concern for one’s health and safety. And while that’s not the fault of some mystical properties around the moon, tides, or time of year, it doesn’t discount the fact that it felt like a dark cloud had moved in and settled over our collective heads.

In the Magic realm, such looming anxiety and dread is common motif in the lands of Innistrad, the gothic horror plane. There, not only must humans contend with real world vampires, werewolves, and all manner of things that go bump in the night, but they must also do so in an environment where an attack could come at literally any time. The denizens of that plane must be continually vigilant, lest what light they possess amongst them go out and the very real darkness surrounding their world rapaciously consume them.

It’s not exactly the sort of plane you want to buy a summer home.

Magic by its nature isn’t all that lighthearted – despite some attempts by designers and artists to do so over the years. This is a game of survival, of combat and warfare. Of being the last one standing. Magic is an arcane-fueled fistfight. All of which lends itself to the reasoning behind why so many of the stories told are ones of great conflict and strife. It’s the only way the lore of the story works. Stories need antagonists, and for a game of this caliber, those antagonists need to be more Bond villain and less Team Rocket.

Still, that doesn’t mean that the worlds of Magic are devoid of hope. After all, if you have no hope, then there is nothing to fight for. Nothing to save, nothing to protect. If all hope is gone, then there is nothing left to lose. Which, given the current circumstances of late, this week seemed like an opportune time for a reminder of that, by way of this week’s card.

Today we have: Hallowed Moonlight

Name: Hallowed Moonlight

Edition: Magic Origins

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Board Control

Highlights: In many stories, particularly involving werewolves, moonlight purports to hold special properties. On Innistrad, that is a fact of life. Yet just a full moon may call to the lycanthropes in its midst, so too can such light act as a lantern in the darkness and cleanser of the lurking shadows. Hallowed Moonlight depicts the latter.

In terms of its effect, Hallowed Moonlight was seen once before in creature form with the Commander 2014 card Containment Priest. Containment Priest was an incredibly popular card, not only for Commander players but for many Legacy players as well. Which explains why its price shot through the roof until its reprint in Ultimate Masters.

In both cases, this two mana card states that if a creature would enter the battlefield by any means other than casting it, the creature would be exiled instead. It effectively nullifies nearly every way of cheating or dropping a creature into play, be it graveyard reanimation, flicker effects, and so on. This is particularly effective at stopping players who use cheap and effective means of either putting out a large number of creatures or a handful of devastating larger creatures to contend with. With both common EDH maneuvers, having a quick and affordable answer is quite useful.

In the case of Hallowed Moonlight, it’s an incredibly efficient surprise cast for its mana investment. In most instances, this effectively serves as a de facto creature counter spell in White. What’s more, the card contains a cantrip, meaning that it lets you immediately draw a replacement option. When timed right, it can completely turn the tide of the game by preventing someone else from attempting to do the same thing. It is incredibly potent, even if it is slightly situational.

Hallowed Moonlight does differ in three key areas from Containment Priest, however. The first is that it is a one-time spell, unlike the Priest generating a continuous barrier so long as it’s on the battlefield. The natural inclination for many is to go with the Priest since you gain a 2/2 creature and an ongoing effect, but that also means that players who rely on alternate means of creature procurement will be adamant at getting rid of it – or you – to accomplish that, making it a rather big target on such a small frame.

Secondly, Hallowed Moonlight actually casts a wider net than its pious predecessor in that it can stop token generation. This can be huge at preventing a massive token spell from resolving – in and of itself also a popular EDH move. It may not have the same flair as Containment Priest, but the light provided here is even more versatile.

Finally, there is the aforementioned drawback of both it and the Priest: its situational use. If everyone is playing above board and not trying to sneak something onto the battlefield, the Priest can be rather ineffective to sit on. But it’s also rarely worth Flashing in a 2/2 creature just for the heck of it in a Commander game. On the other hand, should it become necessary to do so, Hallowed Moonlight can be cast at any time for any reason just to draw a replacement card, essentially allowing you to cycle it for the chance at something more useful. As a result, this card is the one that truly provides extra versatility when your back is against the wall.

Really, having a ray of light shine through just when things seem darkest is a nice reminder to keep hope alive even when all else seems at a loss. And there’s nothing superstitious in having hope.

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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