Commander Spotlight: Mnemonic Betrayal

Welcome back to week eightteen of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It has been a staggering 170 days since my last summoning, which, if my math is correct, officially makes it the longest dry spell of playing at least a one-off game for me since the Kamigawa block.

Not that it was Kamigawa block’s fault. Despite insinuations from some mutual friends that the Kamigawa block was simply trying to cannibalize interest from Legend of the Five Rings players after selling the company off just a couple years prior to the the block’s release, that was not the reason for my extensive MTG lull at the time.

Mind you, that belief about capitalizing on the interest of its own former product to create a competing one was not as far-fetched or entirely unfounded as it may seem. Wizards of the Coast actually went on a buying spree in the late 90s, buying up the rights to numerous games and/or the companies that produced them. As a result, Wizards indeed owned the rights to the L5R CCG (but not the RPG) from 1997-2001, acquired almost as a byproduct as part of a larger deal over attaining the rights to Dungeons & Dragons. However, despite releasing several sets during that time frame, the company never seemed to know exactly what it wanted to do with the game. This manifested more fully when in 1999 WotC was bought by Hasbro and in 2000 the parent company decreed L5R be sold off – in the end back to its original owners at Alderac Entertainment Group. And given how far ahead set design is from release, the timeline does seem to back up that Kamigawa was likely started around or just after the time of this sale. Which is, at best, a mighty coincidence.

All of this is a long-winded way of pointing out that the main reason for the large gap in playing was much more mundane: life was in flux for many of our play groups at the time and it just wasn’t as big of a priority.

Much can be said of our current predicament. With the many things that currently ail us, whether directly in the form of mandated separation or indirectly in terms of the plethora of emotions surrounding the state of, well, everything, gaming just isn’t something that’s happening right now.

I’m optimistic at least in these parts it will be sooner rather than later, but until that point, both my game groups and this series are in a bit of a holding pattern. Which is why, just as has been the case over the last few months, this week we continue the process of highlighting cards that I’ve personally wanted to put into an EDH deck but haven’t for one reason or another, rather than via my normal card curation approach.

At least in this card’s case, part of that reason is that it’s new…ish.

Today we have: Mnemonic Betrayal

Name: Mnemonic Betrayal

Edition: Guilds of Ravnica

Rarity: Mythic Rare

Focus: Card Recursion

Highlights: I have mentioned several times before that one of my particular penchants in the game is to leverage an opponent’s resources against them. Whether it’s stealing cards, copying cards, or punishing them for utilizing certain cards, the idea of flipping someone’s well-orchestrated deck from becoming an asset into a liability amuses me. Luckily, I’m not alone, as the game has numerous cards in existence that capitalize on these very ideas. One of the more recent ones to appear is Mnemonic Betrayal in the game’s most recent return to Ravnica.

Despite the wall of text, Mnemonic Betrayal is actually a pretty straightforward card. It states that for three mana, you exile everyone’s graveyards for the turn. Until the end of that turn, you may cast any of those exiled cards using mana as if it were any color. That’s…pretty much it, really. Essentially, all of your opponent’s graveyard cards have Flashback for the turn and you have free reign to fish out whatever you’d like.

Some may balk slightly at the card, as outside of a concerted Mill theme, the card has two main obstacles. The first is that your options are inextricably tied to the size of those graveyards. The larger the graveyard, the more choices you have. The second is that because you still have to pay to cast these spells, what you can cast that turn is essentially X-3, with X being how much mana you have available. This could be one expensive creature, or a handful of smaller resource or removal spells, or a couple midrange utility cards. Being able to freely sift through your opponent’s card pools is particularly handy, but without ample mana at the ready, it’s not like you’ll be casting a ton. So those choices have to be worth it. Plus, because Mnemonic Betrayal self-exiles upon resolution, the spell itself is a one-shot effect.

Because of all this, the card is primarily best used either in the later stages of the game for fuller effect, or in the middle stages to cast a particular card in a pinch at a premium.

In reality though, the biggest strike made against Mnemonic Betrayal is the fact that it is essentially a reverse Yawgmoth’s Will, one of the game’s more famously abused combo deck cards. Because you can’t leverage your own graveyard and set up those potentially game-ending moves with it by comparison, many seem to shrug off Mnemonic Betrayal because of the fact that it’s far more difficult to abuse. Which just seems silly and more than a little unfair.

That all being said, the potential upside the card provides can be extensive. For one, it opens up an entirely new slate of cards to choose from besides those in your own hand. For another, you’d be surprised how often a deck’s own cards can be particularly dangerous if used against it. And since every EDH game is wildly different, so too will your choices be each time you use it.

Yes, Mnemonic seems quite primed for Commander games, providing the means to substantially shift the table state in your favor without, you know, breaking the game. And that seems easily worth checking out.

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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