Commander Spotlight: Mind Whip

It’s all about the stories. Among the multitude of reasons people play Magic, whether it’s the challenge of facing opponents, the open-ended nature to deckbuilding, the (sometimes uneven) storytelling and characters, or the basic enjoyment of sitting around with friends at a table, Magic’s best unifying trait as a game is the ability to foster stories.

Most of the time these stories are short-lived and won’t go down into the annals of the even remotely important moments in your life. Occasionally though, now and then, you experience a game that resonates with you. These are the ones that stand out vividly, be it positive or negative, and it’s those stories that – hopefully – keep us coming back to the game time and again. From absurd and ridiculous deck builds, to highly unusual game situations, to massive game-changing turns of events based on nearly improbable odds, nearly every Magic player has a handful of such tales to tell.

That includes myself, whose Magic tenure has spanned over two decades. I’ve had more than my share over the thousands of games played, which include but are hardly limited to:

  • A 1 vs 1 game where I ended up casting Shahrazad no less than three times (and haven’t used it since).
  • A 4+ hour six-player game that dragged on so long thanks to my Humility deck that no one ever wanted to face it again.
  • The time I brought a friend’s five color Sliver deck to a Legacy tournament just to see what would happen.
  • Watching someone rage quit a multiplayer game over a turn three Dash Hopes.
  • An EDH game where I spent the vast majority of a two hour game at less than 5 life but managed to come back and win.

That’s just those which immediately come to mind.

Games tell stories, and as one with a modular and ever-changing tapestry, it’s more than an understatement that no Magic game ever unfolds in exactly the same way. (Multiplayer games especially so.) The result is that customizable card games like Magic are similar to RPGs: even though the pieces are largely the same from session to session, every experience is unique to you and unable to be replicated.

It doesn’t have to be memorable because of what happens in the game, either. Perhaps you recall the very first game you played with a friend – or the very last. Maybe the game stands out because of the circumstances going on in your life at the time, or solely for the pure nostalgia of time gone by. These kinds of stories are just as prevalent to why we enjoy the game as how we pulled off some Heart of The Cards maneuver to win against improbable odds.

Some of my more nostalgic game memories exist in the halcyon days of Magic, before the game really started to become the refined engine we know it to be today. This was the time of Ice Age, Mirage, and Tempest, each of which were eagerly pored over and incorporated into decks as quickly as possible. Because the Magic library wasn’t nearly as voluminous as it is now, every new card was at least briefly considered for use – at least in the casual realms.

One such tale involves my step-brother’s first real Magic deck, which relied heavily on Swampwalk and vampires to run his creatures at people, including cards like Evil PresenceLeshrac’s RiteBaron Sengir, and Pox.  It was a lumbering Black deck, not particularly fast or cheap, but once it got going it was pretty scary to face in a duel. I probably won as many games as I lost to it, but to this day I recall how much I enjoyed seeing the deck in action and if I could defeat it.

Also included in the deck was an Aura that I always hated dealing with, as its very existence forced me to make a painful decision about my resources every single turn. It was particularly frustrating, as it’s one of those cards that either way, you still lose. I still remember the card’s effect vividly.

And so, in honor of the story it holds, we’ve revived it here as this week’s pick.

Today we have: Mind Whip

Mind Whip

Name: Mind Whip

Edition: Ice Age

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Damage Dealing / Board Control

Highlights: Similar in nature to other cards that force you to choose the lesser of two evils, Mind Whip is the kind of Aura you never want to actually contend with on your turn. While it won’t single-handedly win you the game, Mind Whip enables a pesky, persistent form of taxation upon your enemy’s creature simply for it being on the battlefield.

Mind Whip was originally sold as a beefed up version of the old Alpha card Paralyze, albeit with a slightly higher casting cost. Both cards force players to pay mana to maintain normal use of the enchanted creature. Paralyze, however, only forces you to pay extra mana to untap it; Mind Whip forces you to pay mana to keep it from becoming tapped. It’s an important distinction to make, especially when used against creatures with activation costs or factoring in blocking decisions.

What makes it particularly useful is the damage rider it attaches to the penalty of not paying the mana cost each upkeep. Rather than just being faced with ‘pay three mana or tap this creature’, if you fail to invest in your creature’s well-being you’re also pinged for 2 damage, adding insult to injury. This ensures that no matter which choice the player makes, they’re still paying. At four mana, this Aura can be rather effective at creating a soft lock against someone during the early stages of a game – or if mana is hard to come by.

There are, however, a couple limitations in EDH that make it slightly less potent in the later stages of the game. Firstly, it’s entirely possibly that players flush with mana will simply opt to pay the upkeep cost to avoid taking damage and / or to keep their creature usable. To some, they’ll see this as a card that merely forces one person into a slightly painful but not game-breaking mana sink. They may likewise opt to take the 2 damage over sacrificing mana efficiency, which, while painful over multiple turns, is not as drastic in an EDH setting.

Secondly, Mind Whip is only effective against one opponent. On the one hand, this is useful when focusing your ire against a single player, which helps to avoid antagonizing everyone equally. On the other hand, the fact that it does only affect one player could be seen as limiting to some players. Still, for those who prefer more surgical table politics, it’s a useful tool to utilize.

Mind Whip certainly has bestowed upon me a handful of memorable Magic stories in the past. The question becomes: will it create any for you in the future?

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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