Commander Spotlight: Journey to Eternity

Like most tabletop gaming, Magic – at least my preferential version of it anyway – is very much a social enterprise. Not only does it serve as a worthwhile excuse to get together and play with others whose company you enjoy, but gaming serves a number of ancillary purposes as well. It can help you hone strategies, test theories, serve as a form of thematic escapism, and even work as mental exercises, stretching those important little grey cells.

The thing is, unless you’re into Arena or MTGO (which I’m admittedly not), playing Magic in person sort of requires, you know, other people. And right now with the current state of the global pandemic we’re all wrestling with, that makes playing quite difficult. Doubly so if you’re trying to wrangle together enough for a decent game of Commander. Which pretty much means that until we get through this ordeal, our Magic-related escapades (like so many other things) are largely on hold.

Because of that, it also stymies both my ability and desire to talk about various Magic-related matters here. It’s one thing to have a cohesive point to convey or story to tell here on Monday Magic, and it’s another entirely simply to just go through the motions for the sake of putting out an article.

So for the next few weeks, I’ve decided that rather than have a grand statement to make or insight to share, I’m instead going to take this opportunity to highlight a few (relatively new) cards that I’ve personally been wanting to put into a deck but haven’t been able to do for one reason or another. And we’re going to start off with one card subset that seems to be very, shall we say, split, amongst the casual Magic community.

Today we have: Journey to Eternity

Name: Journey to Eternity / Atzal, Cave of Eternity

Edition: Rivals of Ixalan

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Creature Recursion

Highlights: Magic has created numerous iterations of what you can do with physical cards over the years. Invasion saw the first use of having two cards on a single piece of cardboard. Kamigawa had cards that rotated 180 degrees. Hell, a few early cards like the infamous Chaos Orb even had you toss the card in the air like a coin. So the idea of dual-sided cards is not that much of a stretch. In fact, the idea itself turns out to be even older than their first appearances in Innistrad. And flavor-wise they do an excellent job conveying a sense of, well, transformation, where the state of the card’s essence has actually been altered.

However, what started off simply as werewolves and other afflicted souls has since been expanded. And some of the most interesting new implementations come from the Ixalan block, evoking the story’s aspects of exploration and adventure with a multi-faction race to a lost city.

Journey to Eternity isn’t the most powerful of the Ixlan transform cards, but it is still quite useful all the same. And it particularly stands out because of how comparatively easy it is to flip to its more useful side.

Which is admittedly also Journey’s other notable feature: unlike most transform cards it doesn’t actually do anything in its normal state, and the fact that it is completely innocuous on the battlefield in the meantime usually means your opponents aren’t going to waste enchantment removal on it. Instead, for three mana Journey to Eternity sits attached to one of your creatures until it dies. Which can be accomplished pretty easily one way or another. Then it returns to the battlefield as a a useful utility land.

In reality Journey to Eternity isn’t an Aura turning into a land insomuch as a land needing a little mana investment and the right trigger in order to be used.

As Atzal, Cave of Eternity, its basic ability allows you tap for mana per usual. But for effectively six mana, it also provides an activated ability that allows you to return a creature from your graveyard directly to the battlefield once per round. In Commander games particularly, where board wipes are common and games can run quite a while, being able to return useful creatures over and over is incredibly advantageous. The fact that this ability also sits on a land, making it much harder to stop, only adds to its appeal.

Still, the hardest aspect of using any dual-faced cards is getting the players themselves to buy into it. While the casual audience is generally more receptive to using them in general, the threshold of acceptability varies wildly – especially when you’re already carting around a sleeved 100 card deck. For some, transform cards simply aren’t worth the hassle at all. Others prefer to only use them if they know the deck will contain a handful at a time, as only using a single one in the deck can often make too much of a temptation to swap out for something with less maintenance. However, if you’re up for that tiny hurdle, many transform cards such as this one can be well worth the effort.

Ultimately the reason Journey to Eternity hasn’t made it into one of my decks yet isn’t the transform nature but the even simpler fact that at present I don’t have a Commander deck using these colors. I was speccing one out a few months but it got put on the back burner.

Perhaps it’s time I change that…

In the meantime, stay safe out there everyone!

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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