Commander Spotlight: Maelstrom Nexus

Welcome back to week twenty-two of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It has been an arduous 198 days since my last summoning, which I have to confess doesn’t quite have the same resonance as 200 days would. I almost considered delaying posting it for two days just so I could ruminate over the significance and implications that a 200 day Magic-related dry spell means to me from social, mental, and creative standpoints, but I decided against it for two reasons. First, these days this article series is arguably the only consistently scheduled content here at the CR due to the pandemic, and to arbitrarily shift its publication simply to recognize a dark milestone didn’t seem worth the deviation in the schedule.

Second, and more relevant, is that the extra two days don’t really change anything. It doesn’t take a fancy number to convey a message that’s as painful as it is concise: it sucks.

Despite not being a big tournament or hyper competitive player, Magic has been a mainstay of my tabletop gaming habits on at least a semi-recurring basis for 25 years. To say it’s weird to not see friends on a bi-weekly basis is an understatement, let alone our play group not really all that interested in talking deck ideas, new set releases, or pretty much any other tangential Magic-related matter. It’s a sad circumstance that no one is happy about, big round number or no.

Is it trivial to dwell on such a number? Absolutely. Doubly so when you factor in the breakneck pace at which 2020 appears to be fraying the majority of what we consider normal behavior – most of which takes a much higher priority than which Commander deck is presently collecting the most dust. And I keep that perspective fully in mind.

As a result, because I haven’t really been able to dive into topical card choices as I normally would for this series, per usual I’ve instead been taking things more informal by highlighting cards that I’ve personally wanted to put into an EDH deck but haven’t for one reason or another.

This week’s card is a little relevant, however, in that it’s only recently been eligible to talk about for our purposes here. Despite both being a card I’ve wanted to personally use and one which I’d considered championing in the past, it wasn’t a viable option because for a long time its market value was above the $5 threshold I try to hold to. Thankfully with a long-awaited reprint in the recent Double Masters set, it’s suddenly budget-friendly. So here we go!

Today we have: Maelstrom Nexus

Name: Maelstrom Nexus

Edition: Alara Reborn / Double Masters

Rarity: Mythic Rare

Focus: Free Casting

Highlights: Of all the aspects people remember about the Alara block, the Cascade mechanic may be one of the most endearing, in part because it’s a mechanic that excites both casual and competitive players alike. In dueling, Cascade is an up-tempo mechanic that allows you to quickly establish a dangerous presence on the board and to press that advantage. And people did, fueled initially by Bloodbraid Elf and later by Shardless Agent. In these settings, Cascade was treated almost like a fairer version of Storm in that it wasn’t foolproof and could be disrupted, but when properly utilized, it created a force multiplier effect with minimal effort. Ironically though, Maelstrom Nexus was often too slow for such use due to its WUBRG nature.

At the other end of the spectrum, casual players adored Cascade because, well, any time you can get an extra free spell cast – particularly in multiplayer – is an advantage all its own. Typically though, the focus for casuals was for splashier outcomes by utilizing more expensive creatures to dovetail into more midrange cards. This is why, for instance, Enigma Sphinx saw a fair amount of usage at first, followed in time by Etherium-Horn Sorcerer and Maelstrom Wanderer, the latter of which quickly vaulted in demand. Naturally, the notion of having this happen every time you cast a spell is incredibly alluring to the casual crowd, but similar to their competitive cousins, the Nexus wasn’t super easy to leverage since it requires five colors. It found a staple-like home with specific deck archetypes and those who chose to simply run five colors, which is how it ended up just out of the aforementioned price range, but it never reached silly demand levels.

Still, even with that five color requirement – it’s only real drawback (though a sizable one for most) – as one of those filthy casuals, I have to admit Maelstrom Nexus is hard to overlook.

Overall, this five mana enchantment is pretty straightforward. Once on the battlefield, it states that the first spell you cast each turn has Cascade. This means that upon casting the spell – regardless of whether it’s countered or otherwise interrupted – you reveal cards from the top of your library until you find another nonland card of a lower casting cost and may cast it for free.

Simple in nature, this has huge implications in larger games such as Commander, as the more expensive the card you cast initially, the more choices you have with a secondary free spell as a de facto kicker. Chaining a 6-7 mana spell into a potent 5 mana one, for instance, is a highly effective return on investment. Some balk slightly at the fact that you have little control over which card you Cascade into and can occasionally run into one you’d prefer not to cast at that moment, effectively ‘wasting’ the effect, but honestly most players are going to tell you that most of the time, it’s a no-brainer to take that risk. And so long as you can keep it on the battlefield, it generally shouldn’t disappoint.

Though I have admired the card for years, I haven’t yet been able to find a home for Nexus myself even after all this time. Recently, however, I have come up with a deck idea that I’m mulling over that would finally be able to make use of Maelstrom Nexus.

So here’s hoping it won’t take another 198 days to get that idea off the ground.

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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