Commander Spotlight: Kudzu

By modern board gaming standards, Magic is somewhat ‘old’. It came about in the mid 90s, at a time when the US was only just beginning to experience a resurgence in gaming as a hobby. It was around this time when CCGs exploded and a little game called Catan introduced the Americas to this concept of a ‘Euro’ game – a board game that revolved around more than thematics or pure luck. Gaming has certainly evolved a lot in the last 25 years, especially on the design side, but games in general – most anyway – have a very timeless quality to them. So long as the rules continue to make sense, you can pick up a game decades after it came out and play it with the same level of enjoyment as when the very first copies rolled off the printing presses.

Which says nothing of classic games like Backgammon or Go, which humans have been playing and being enthused by for millennia.

Like a well written book, a highly valued game can age without necessarily becoming obsoleted by something that follows it, contrary to the Cult of the New mentality that tends to permeate gaming like a plague. Sometimes it’s perfectly alright to look back at ‘older’ games and continue to enjoy them for what they are.

As it happens, this week’s card pick does just that. And it too has to deal with some plague-like tendencies. Just perhaps not the way you’d expect.

Today we have: Kudzu

Name: Kudzu

Edition: Alpha through Revised

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Land Destruction

Highlights: Chances are you haven’t seen Kudzu hit your table all that often, due in large part to the combined facts that it hasn’t been made since Revised, when it was rotated out, and it hasn’t been eligible to be reprinted since the Urza block thanks to its unfortunate inclusion on Wizard’s Reserved List – a lengthy, storied, and controversial part of Magic’s history where a young and still financially unproven company promised irate game store owners never to again reprint certain cards in order to keep them selling their product. Kudzu was one of many cards caught up in that transaction, not because it was especially powerful or sought after, but merely because of its rarity.

It’s not that it was a particularly egregious color pie violation either, as every color to some degree or another has had access to land removal at one point or another, and Green is no different. If anything, by today’s design philosophies, Green is second only to Red. So, ironically, despite it not being printed for over 20 years, it theoretically could fit right in with today’s modern Magic setting.

Which is good, because that’s pretty much what Kudzu is all about: continuing to exist.

For three mana, this insidious Aura enchants any land on the battlefield that you wish, essentially giving that land a death sentence. This is particularly useful against an opponent with an obviously useful or dangerous nonbasic land on the battlefield (or a basic if you want to be especially mean in the case where they are rather hard up on one particular one). With Kudzu, it states that whenever the land becomes tapped – for any reason – that land is destroyed. This could be for mana, but Kudzu will also trigger on any effect that would tap a land. Period. (In fact, it was in this latter case when the card was most used during its original run.) In a Commander setting, however, its most beneficial purpose is less in forcing the land to be destroyed and more that it’s locking out a particular land from being used and forcing its owner to choose whether they want to use it anyway one more time. At worst Kudzu is a deterrent, and at best, it is a delayed removal card.

What makes the card so memorable, however, is that Kudzu is full of reciprocity. That is, like a spreading leafy disease, Kudzu lives up to its namesake by being particularly hard to get rid should it consume the enchanted land. If that happens, the owner of the destroyed land must then attach it to another land on the battlefield instead. This can be any land, such as another worrisome land from yet another player, or as is oft to happen, a land of Kudzu’s original caster. In that way, so long as it exists on the battlefield it will continue to strangle one land or consume it and move on to another.

Kudzu isn’t the most dangerous land destruction card in existence, even in Green, but it is one of the most flavorful and memorable. Some players may balk at the fact that it’s an Aura versus a spell, or that it affects a single land, but sometimes the table politics and psychological impact of a card just patiently sitting and waiting to destroy something on your battlefield can be even more useful than taking out the land itself. It could nudge that player to act out or edge them towards a particular action. And even if they hand it back to you, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from sacrificing one of your own lands to send it elsewhere again. If you have a land advantage (something this color is adept at), there is the possibility for some real entertainment in passing some Kudzu around from one player to the next without going down the rabbit hole of drastically crippling someone with a more mass land destruction option.

Yes, like a good older game, Kudzu may have been around for a long time, it’s hard to get rid of entirely.

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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