Commander Spotlight: Nacatl War-Pride

Welcome back to week sixty-three of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It’s been 485 days since my last summoning.

In the two weeks since we were last here, many things have changed and very little has changed. While this little koan may sound obtuse and border on the non sequitur on the matter, the truth is that it is a rather apt description of the current state of our Magic-going affairs around these parts.

On the one hand, we have reached a point where the overwhelming number of our Magic group is comfortable with the idea of physically interacting with and being around one another. All or nearly all of the groups are fully vaccinated, and with the recent celebratory but unintentional milestone date of July 4th, even the lingering reluctance some had of the previous month has largely abated.

I should stress again that the largest and most important reason for this isn’t bravado or dismissal of the circumstances. The pandemic still exists, and certain pockets of the country are starting to see numbers start rising again. Here in New England, however, that is not the case. In every one of the six states in our region the number of 18+ people who have gotten at least one dose of the COVID vaccine is at least 74%, with more than half the region north of 80%. Full vaccination rates aren’t far behind, with the poorest performing of the six coming in at around 67%. The horror.

In other words, around here we have reached the purported numerical threshold for herd immunity; much of the Northeast is close to the same. As with anything in a pandemic there are no guarantees and it’s still wise to be cautious when needed. Yet people writ large here feel comfortable safely doing things again, and that’s reflected not only on a macro level but also here among our Magic cadre.

On the other hand, we still have yet to actually arrange time some some Commander, a draft, or any Magic-related activities. The reason for that, coincidentally, is tied into the new reality: because it’s generally safe to do things again here, people are out doing them. It’s no surprise that this summer will be incredibly busy for a lot of us as we all collectivity reconnect with one another and attempt to make up for lost time. The byproduct is that everyone has suddenly gone from having no plans whatsoever to being booked weeks out at a time. (In fairness I am just as guilty of this as the rest.) All of which has made things rather challenging scheduling-wise. At this point it’s just a matter of circling a date and working from there…which we simply haven’t succeeded at.

We will. There is quite a bit of interest in drafting the Forgotten Realms set if we can manage it. But even a night of EDH would be more than sufficient at this point to satiate the planeswalker urge to meet up and knock each other senseless. Soon. But not yet.

In the meantime, per usual, instead of discussing Magic-related topics or a talking point about the card in question, we carry on by looking at Magic cards I’ve personally wanted to put into an EDH deck for some time but haven’t for one reason or another. And in all my thinking about partaking in some exciting and wholesome multiplayer free-for-alls, my mind kept drifting back to one particular card that’s yet to make the jump to a Commander deck.

Today we have: Nacatl War-Pride

Name: Nacatl War-Pride

Edition: Future Sight

Rarity:  Uncommon

Focus: Token Generation

Highlights: Future Sight was such a trippy set. In a lot of ways there had never been a set like it, and another set wouldn’t come along again that captured the same essence until, perhaps, Modern Horizons. Future Sight offered alternate card templates, experimental mechanics, mechanical mashups on the same cards, and a host of flavorful callbacks and “what ifs” to consider – all tied together in a cohesive set. As set designs go it was ambitious, complex, and hard to get right. While some newer players at the time had some difficulty wrapping their heads around everything the set offered, established players adored the bevy of new card material to toy with, from the flashiest rares to some surprisingly potent commons.

In the middle of this lay Nacatl War-Pride: a seemingly benign but actually quite dangerous creature to take into combat.

The War-Pride’s use both then and now has been steady though somehow still underrated. Partially because outside of the alternate frame it’s not a particularly flashy card – especially for a Green creature – and partially because its true potential is not always obvious unless you’re familiar with some nuanced aspects of multiplayer rules.

In our Magic meta, the War-Pride actually saw extensive use from the outset. While I personally had a pair of them in a Green / While cat tribal deck, a friend made ample use of them in one of those quintessential Green decks that doesn’t really need a theme besides “be big and stompy”. Which is precisely what it did. It was versatile enough to be able to handle multiplayer gaming, robust enough to offer numerous angles of gameplay, and aggressive enough to be dangerous. All in all, a decent multiplayer deck, especially in a pre-EDH world.

The Nacatl War-Pride stood out in it in part because of what it does, and in part because he put ample effort into buffing and protecting the “real” version so as to enable repeated use. Which was wise; aside from its cost, the danger of it being a one-shot attacker is arguably the card’s greatest weakness. If you can protect it, however, the rewards are plentiful.

At its most basic, Nacatl War-Pride is a 3/3 creature for six mana, which is generally not ideal. In addition, its first ability is a Lure-like requirement stating that when it attacks it must be blocked by a single creature if able. By itself, these facts aren’t all that exciting. Only with the inclusion of its second ability does the War-Pride flip from a seemingly mediocre creature to a potentially lethal attacker.

That second ability states that whenever it attacks, you generate X copies of it equal to the number of creatures the player you’re attacking has. Those copies of Nacatl War-Pride immediately enter the battlefield tapped and attacking, and should they survive combat, are exiled at the end of turn. Although this idea of ‘tapped and attacking’ didn’t originate with the War-Pride, it was still a relatively new mechanism at the time, which further added to its unique feel. More importantly, as the copies themselves are identical, this means that they also must be blocked by exactly one creature if able – essentially setting up an entire wave of creatures that must either be forced blocked or will otherwise get through and deal damage to your opponent. This mandate has real potential to kill off smaller creatures on the battlefield and possibly disrupt your opponent’s plans at that point in the game…all for the simple act of attacking.

This alone could be enough to be worthwhile in a Commander deck. But understanding a key facet of multiplayer game rules elevates it even further. It can also be a fun rule to use strategically, as I expounded upon during the construction of my Alesha, Who Smiles at Death deck. Which is this: the number of copies of Nacatl War-Pride you gain depends on the opponent you attack with the original card version. These tokens immediately enter combat upon creation and go on the attack. Upon doing so, however, you must declare which opponent you’re attacking each of them with. In a normal duel this is immaterial as there is only one choice. However, in multiplayer settings, these created tokens can, in fact, attack any opponent – not just your initial target. With certain exceptions (i.e. Kaalia of the Vast, Seraphic Greatsword), most “tapped and attacking” token making cards have this feature.

In practical terms this allows you to tactically spread your temporary army around if you so choose. You could, for instance, attack the opponent with the most creatures to generate the most copies, and then lob all the copies at your true target, such as the person with the strongest board state at the moment – or the one who is currently the most defenseless. An army of semi-vanilla 3/3 creatures can still do a heap of damage after all. You could also spread them around equally similar to the Myriad mechanic. Or copies can be sent towards a nuisance planeswalker on the board. Or any combination thereof. With enough expendable troops at your disposal, Nacatl War-Pride has ample ability to muck with the board state, cause serious damage, and allow you to be as heavy-handed or surgical in your direction of those attacks as you see fit. Suddenly that six mana seems like a pretty quaint investment.

And, assuming you can keep it alive, its an explosion of fearsome felines fully capable of repeated raking of your opponent’s defenses. Because apparently even back then the future meant “has Commander written all over it”.

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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