For all of its complicated rules, nearly unlimited card interactions, and ever-increasing card pool to choose from, the game of Magic has maintained its remarkably simple premise since the beginning: kill your opponent by any means necessary. While the tools for that have changed and evolved over these many years, every new player is quickly instilled with the understanding that only one person makes it out alive.
Of course, when it comes to accomplishing that, the devil is in the details.
Almost every iteration of how a player can win or lose the game was established within the first two years of the game’s existence. The one notable exception is the creation of conditional cards that can win you the game by meeting their criteria (i.e. Test of Endurance or Chance Encounter), starting with the iconic Coalition Victory during the Invasion set. Furthermore, although the collective strength of the cards used to deliver fatal blows to your enemy have edged upwards over time and the number of ways to accomplish such victories have become even more creative and varied throughout the years, Magic’s general mission has always been a firm fixture in the mind of any player’s ultimate goal.
As it’s been mentioned in the past, though, the tactics one uses to remain the last person standing get far more complex the more opponents you have. In addition to some cards simply not being as effective as others and the inclusion of needing to take political maneuvering into account atop everything else mechanically, multiplayer Magic can be too much for some. Others, on the other hand, revel in the extra nuance and opportunity that a political game has to offer. In some ways, the more players Magic has the more it transitions away from a concise but highly tactical affair (not unlike a super-complicated version of card-based Chess) and more into a more typical hobby style card game with a whole truckload of rules baggage.
Part of the trick with multiplayer games – Commander or not – is to properly leverage the politics at your table. Since everyone is ultimately going to have different thoughts on how to best go about this, part of the learning curve is to read the various conditions at any given time. Some players, for example, want to make as few waves as possible, opting to remain unobtrusive. Are they doing it because they need to buy time until the time is right to make their master stroke, or are they significantly weaker than those around them and are simply trying not to draw attention to their relative weakness? Doing so may keep you alive longer, but if you focus too much on yourself, it’s possible for a player to combo into a win because no one else bothered to stop them.
Others will try to subtly manipulate the board around them, poking and prodding other players with in-game spells and abilities or out-of-game politics via mild coercion to manipulate the scene more in their favor.
Still other players take on the role instead of the classic aggressor, pushing buttons and forcing people’s hands, often as a way of keeping everyone from playing too defensively and not engage with one another till the big cannons come online later in the game. Being overt has its advantages as well, but often if a player plays too aggressive too fast it can backfire on them too.
Therefore, most people have a tendency, depending on the player size and type of deck, to use a political style somewhere between complete isolationist and total aggro machine. As it happens, this week’s pick is closer to the latter than the former.
Today we have: Keldon Twilight
Name: Keldon Twilight
Focus: Creature Control / Creature Removal
Highlights: If there’s one thing Black & Red both do particularly well, it’s kill things. Fittingly, the intersection of these two colors also tends to create some unique cards to the same end. Usually this is a spell-based pairing that generates notable cards, but not in this case. It’s not the most frequent thing for Black & Red to rely on enchantments, but when it does, the results are often as useful as they are devastating. Of those, Keldon Twilight is arguably one of the most useful political cards of the (albeit small) group.
The reason Keldon Twilight works so well in a Commander setting is because it’s a way for these colors to exert their particular skillset on the table without immediately worrying or antagonizing other players the way that several other Black and / or Red card can. Rather than cutting into your opponent’s inner deck workings the way that cards like Everlasting Torment or Grave Pact can, Keldon Twilight is slightly less direct.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s less effective.
Instead, Keldon Twilight accomplishes two things for a lean three mana. First, it forces players into combat the moment it’s put out – which thanks to its cheap mana cost can be at almost any point in the game. It dictates that if players want to keep their precious creatures alive, some other creature has to make an attack every turn or risk being destroyed. Which creature(s) and whom you wish to attack are entirely up to you, but this nuanced approach can be particularly effective against those points in the game where the creatures on the board are more utility-based than combat or defensive bat. Yet while it is possible that some players will run at you simply because you are the one forcing them to attack in the first place, Keldon Twilight isn’t so dictatorial that it will guarantee that level of hate from all sides – especially if players have a way of generating disposable creatures.
Second, it forces a slightly more up-tempo movement for the game, alleviating potential bottlenecks that can happen if everyone sits back for too long waiting for a perfect window of opportunity that may never come. Keldon Twilight provides this Rakdos-loving color pair access to a decisively political card that is both flavorful and effective at moving the game along. Naturally, not every deck is going to like being forced to attack, but it’s also unassuming enough as a card that for many decks its effect isn’t immediately going to be something that has to be immediately removed. This allows it to stick around and continue to affect the game for a while.
Plus, since it won’t affect all decks equally, it won’t get that same knee-jerk reaction similar style cards elicit from players.
Yes, Black / Red isn’t the most diplomatic color scheme going, but with Keldon Twilight even they have the capability to leave their mark on table politics while simultaneously help move the game along. Depending on which style of Magic your Commander group prefers, this could be a mild card that slightly affects everyone, or a game-changing nuisance that won’t win you a lot of table allies.
There’s only one way to find out for sure: test it on your victims, er, friends. It is the Rakdos way after all.
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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