There is a reason there are so many Magic variants. Part of this is because game is so malleable and lends itself well to coming up with different ways to play. (Heck, we here even made one many years back whose idea behaves a little like Planechase cards.) But the larger and more pertinent factor is that of desired expectation. Even from an official perspective, Magic has had multiple formats to choose from pretty much since the beginning. While the game may have started principally as One v One duels (and remains true), multiplayer gameplay evolved almost immediately upon release, and sanctioned tournament formats appeared within the first 12-18 months. Since then, the number of formats and gameplay styles has ballooned into the dozens, created both from an enthusiastic fanbase and from Wizards itself.
Like a journey of self-exploration, once someone learns the basics of the game and decides to stick with it, inevitably you start trying to find a format that is best suited for you. Maybe that will be the competitive circuit. Maybe it will be kitchen table dueling as Richard Garfield envisioned. And maybe it will be one of the many, many casual iterations out there such as pauper, cube, horde, or Archenemy.
Or, you know, Commander.
Indeed, Commander may have become the multiplayer format of choice by many nowadays, but even despite its popularity, just like every other format it’s not universally beloved. There are plenty of Magic players out there who don’t care for it at all, or only play grudgingly because that’s what their group is into. No format is universally adored by the entire player base, and that’s perfectly fine! So long as you enjoy the central tenants of the game, there is likely a format that provides the style and flavor that you are seeking. It’s just a matter of finding it.
When it comes to Commander detractors, the four most common complaints I hear about it are: the deck building constraints, the abundance of table politics, degenerate gameplay, and perhaps most of all, the length of any given game. Yet two of these facets (the deck constraints and table politics) are part of the format by design. The third – easily abused decks – is more of a meta group issue where players stray too far from the fun and casual side of Commander.
As for the time component, that’s less of a feature of EDH and more of a byproduct of it being a multiplayer casual format with each person starting with 40 life. It takes a little time to go on the offensive while simultaneously ensuring you aren’t left completely defenseless. Players don’t go down easy. Stalemates and board wipes are common. Comebacks are frequent. In that sense, Commander games can sometimes be like bowling: set your pins up, watch them get knocked down, and then set them up again. While this can be enjoyable, it can also get tiring sometimes, even for stalwart fans.
If that is a concern, though, there certainly are cards that help accelerate Commander games. You just have to be willing to use them. Cards like this week’s pick.
Today we have: Horn of Greed
Name: Horn of Greed
Edition: Stronghold / Conspiracy: Take the Crown
Focus: Card Draw
Highlights: Horn of Greed is part of a group of ‘group hug’ cards, wherein by its nature either everyone is able to use it or everyone benefits from it. Magic has actually has a fair share of such cards over the years, going all the way back to Alpha’s Howling Mine. However, by and large, these cards are often passed over for others that are more focused on helping you and you alone. After all, why would you want to play a card that benefits everyone? What is the point if the card you’re going to spend time and mana casting isn’t going to give you some kind of advantage?
The thing is, although some group hug cards really are there for flavor benefit, most of them can provide an advantage – if used correctly.
That is, while cards like Horn of Greed do have the capability of aiding everyone, that aid isn’t necessarily equal. Often, one side will benefit more from it. The trick is trying to be on the right side.
In the case of Horn of Greed, for just three mana it provides everyone who plays a land a card draw advantage. At the most benevolent, this can ensure players who have gotten mana stuck and have fallen behind others land-wise have a way of propelling themselves back into the game. At its most egalitarian, it also accelerates Commander games in general, as every land drop effectively becomes a free draw. As such, this universally usable artifact can be put into a deck merely to speed things up.
The flip side, of course, is that Horn of Greed can also make for a rich get richer situation, which is where the advantage comes in. If someone (ideally you) is already ahead in terms of land fetch or card draw, this card can actually make things even more disparate. If you are that person already sitting with a nice engine lead, this would make it even more advantageous for you. If you aren’t, then yes, there is the potential to actually make it worse for you.
On the other, other hand, if the lead player runs into a series of bad draws while their opponents keeps drawing into land, there is the possibility of closing the gap. Which can be good or bad depending on where you’re sitting at any given moment. From a tactical perspective, Horn of Greed can help or hurt solely based on luck of the draw. Hence why some players often opt to avoid such cards. But with no risk comes no reward. Especially for one with the word ‘greed’ in its name.
Commander games are nothing if not constant pendulum swings, and not only does this fit right in with that mentality, it can help move things along at any stage of the game.
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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