Commander Spotlight: Jinxed Choker

The rapid progress of technology today is, quite literally, awe-inspiring. Beyond simply living in an era where whole new paradigms on how to perform various duties at work and at home are regularly being rolled out, the sheer volume and speed at which we’re seeing it happen is almost scary. When people say that it’s hard to keep up with technology, we’re at a point where it’s no longer (entirely) hyperbolic.

And the rate is only speeding up.

Consider these:

  • It’s been determined that until the 20th century, the sum of all human knowledge doubled every 100 years. By 1950 that number was down to 25 years. As of 2014, that number is 13 months. Much of this is in almost incomprehensible levels of metadata being generated, sure, but in many fields such as science, technology, medicine, and engineering, changes really can move that quickly. For someone in college, this means by the time they finish at least some of what they learned their freshman year is already outdated.
  • We now generate the same amount information as the collective human knowledge from the dawn of our species through the early 2000’s every two days.
  • You likely carry around a device that can access that information almost anywhere at any time. It’s that same device you use to play Angry Birds and post those awful duck-faced selfies to Instagram with.

It’s almost crazy to think of the ever forward progress of technology in practical terms at this point. It’s spellbinding and exciting to many, but it can also be quite overwhelming. Things change so quickly that it’s hard to keep up even if you’re at the forefront of it, let alone the average person. And sometimes, the reference points we use to anchor ourselves to those technologies can get lost in the shuffle. It’s sort of why you can make jokes about programming the VCR while your kids don’t know what a VCR is.

As it happens, I belong to the last generation who actually grew up at least in part without the Internet being an everyday part of living. I recall a time when people didn’t know what AOL was, not because it’s been long rendered obsolete, but because it hadn’t come out yet. I remember using physical encyclopedias to look things up and the very first time I ever saw a TV ad with a website URL.

I also sometimes reflect on that era of my childhood where we weren’t interconnected with everyone 100% of the time. These references to my past aren’t for waxing nostalgia though, or a form of retro pride. Rather, this time period simply was, much like the time period of now simply is. The Wheel of Time turns…

One aspect of this not-completely-digital age of growing up was the sheer amount of time my siblings and cousins spent outside over the years. We created all sorts of ways to entertain ourselves, from recording made-up skits to general neighborhood adventuring. We also spent a lot of time playing classic outdoor games with other neighborhood youths.

From Hide and Seek to Freeze Tag, Mother May I to Red Light, dodge ball to Red Rover, if you name it, chance are at one point we played it.

We even went so far as to create our own game – one that’s still talked about fondly amongst family – being a mix of Four Square, Tennis, and Volleyball.

One game that didn’t see much play over the years without a really good reason, though, was Hot Potato. For one, when being active outdoors, the idea of standing in a circle for an exercise in player elimination has a bit of a short shelf life. Plus, really, the only time it is particularly fun is if you’re one of the group finalists. Only then was it tense, exciting, and unpredictable, which is, after all, the game’s appeal. The rest of the time, however, you sort of waited for it to be over. And what 10 year old ever wants to just stand around?

In some ways, playing outdoor children’s games is a fairly accurate way to describe much of my formative childhood years. These games were engaging, entertaining, sometimes rigorous, and it was a classic example of we now refer to as being unplugged.

As we grow up, we move on to more complex forms of entertainment (generally), and simple kids games mostly lose their appeal.


Sometimes though, in just the right settings, when conditions are ideal, a very basic game from our past can resurface and become entertaining once more. As it happens, that is what we’re going to do this week. We’re going to reinvigorate the appeal of Hot Potato.

Today we have: Jinxed Choker

Jinxed Choker

Name: Jinxed Choker

Edition: Mirrodin

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Damage Dealing

Highlights: Some cards slotted in multiplayer decks are chosen for their utility in a variety of circumstances, their effectiveness at doing their intended job, the potency of the card, or the flavor as it pertains to the rest of the deck. Then there are cards chosen simply to throw a wrench into the system to see what happens, either as a deliberate attempt to disrupt the status quo, or to simply watch the world burn.

Jinxed Choker is one such card.

Jinxed Choker is the Magic equivalent of Hot Potato by adding up charge counters and sending it to any player of your choice. The appeal with this card is threefold. First, it creates an amusing amount of table politics at the end of your turn, where you’re forced to add a counter and hand it off. There are advantages of kicking it to a player who may be on their last legs, for example, letting them die and taking the artifact with them, or you can give it to the person with the best board advantage to peck at them for damage. It’s also especially fun to see it passed around in turn order, ensuring everyone gets dinged.

None of this is a guarantee, but that unpredictability is part of the card’s ability to add some chaos and levity to often highly programmed Commander decks. The Jinxed Choker is unforgiving and capricious, however, as are many players, so you’ll want to take note that it’s very likely on more than one occasion that you’ll get this artifact handed right back to you.

Second, the Jinxed Choker can be useful as a means of minor mana control. Although this artifact always puts a charge counter on it before it’s given away, those on the receiving end have two opportunities to either add or remove additional counters to it, either at the end of the turn they received it or during their upkeep in response to the damage trigger. Thus, it’s often seen where where the recipient will spend mana to remove counters, while the one doing the donating wants to add them. Each activation costs three mana, though, so until the later stages of a Commander game, having a ton of free-floating mana at the end of your turn or during your upkeep (while not having impact your turn) isn’t terribly common. Therefore, to avoid taking damage (or to guarantee someone else does) Jinxed Choker can be a surprise and unexpected ‘tax’ card.

Lastly, as an artifact costing three mana, it can squeeze into any deck slot and has the potential to be used at any point during the game. If it comes out early, you have to contend with the tax effect. Yet emerging in later stages isn’t really an issue either, as it can be ramped up via its activation ability rather quickly. For colors not known for dishing out damage outside of combat or spells (such as White or Blue), this can be an unexpected surprise to your enemies.

Ultimately, Jinxed Chocker won’t help you win games directly, but it certainly can bring a little bit randomness to the situation. With its ability to hand out – and receive – damage via the whim of the players, it makes for some interesting table debates over who should be the one holding on to it when the music stops.

Plus, unlike the kids game, when someone gets eliminated with this hot potato, it means you actually did your job.

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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