Welcome back to week twenty-six of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It has been a seemingly endless 226 days since my last summoning. And it’s dumb.
That’s all I have to say on that fact this week. It’s dumb.
The entire circumstances it around it are dumb.
The fact that we are in an environment that could have been brought under control months ago but haven’t because of ineffective decision-making and selfish, ignorant people is dumb.
That the entire experience of in-person activities, including something as mundane as tabletop gaming has largely been brought to a halt because of a situation that could have been controlled – but wasn’t – is dumb.
And that far more serious repercussions of lost wages, lost jobs, lost time, and lost lives have happened on a nation-wide scale is an abject and largely unnecessary human tragedy of historical proportions, putting the triviality of such griping into repeated perspective.
But damn it, I would very much like get back to the trivial. Like the absolute fiasco of the Walking Dead card set or the sustainability of the current product release schedule. Magic-related triviality. Dumb things.
In that spirit, let’s just jump right into this week’s COVID-based pick, which is yet another card that I’ve personally wanted to put into an EDH deck for a very long time but haven’t for one reason or another. It is also a little dumb.
But at least in this case, it’s in a good way.
Today we have: Nightcreep
Focus: Board Control
Highlights: When it comes to a color’s ability to manipulate, obstruct, prevent, or stymie the current board state and the other players at the table, the community collectively refers to this as ‘control’. While the absolute lion’s share of this is tied up with Blue – largely because so much of its identity is wrapped up in those concepts – every color is capable of some manner of it. From combat effects, to removal cards, to straight up changing the parameters of how the game is even played, board control is an integral part of Magic strategy. After all, the most you’re able to orchestrate circumstances in your favor, the better your odds are of winning. And though Black is primarily known for creature destruction, graveyard manipulation, and discard effects as its primary control tools, every now and then it’s allowed to stretch its reach a bit. Nightcreep is a strange and incredibly overlooked contribution to that end by effectively giving you a soft control lock for a single turn.
Originally debuted during Dissension, Nightcreep didn’t quite much of a splash for two reasons. The first is that its ‘everything is Black’ motif didn’t quite line up tactically with any of the Ravnican guild strategies at the time, making it a slightly orphaned card in a block hyper-focused on guild identity. The second is that, outwardly, it mostly comes across as a flavorful-if-temporary means of mana fixing in multicolor decks, which to some would seem a waste of a card slot when it would simply be easier to tweak the deck for better mana balance. At best, some other people looked at Nightcreep and declared its best usage would be in a Swampwalk-based strategy, immediately marking it as a highly niche card option. So it mostly went ignored.
Which is a shame, really.
For two mana, Nightcreep performs two type-changing effects for the turn it is cast. The first, and where most people immediately tune out, is that it turns every creature on the battlefield Black. Although there are undoubtedly circumstances where color-based effects can be quite potent, you usually have to be the one to fabricate them. Therefore from a versatility perspective this part of the card isn’t all that important, and it’s not the focus here either.
Indeed, it is the second half of the card that makes it worthwhile. For while Swampwalk fans were on the right track, the ability to turn all lands on the battlefield into swamps for a turn for the purposes of attacking with a bunch of Swampwalk creatures was way too narrowly focused. Because, effectively, Nightcreep is a combination of Grand Abolisher and Silence in Black. If used correctly, you can shut down all of your opponents’ ability to cast or activate the majority of their cards for a single turn. In a color that no one would expect that from. For two mana.
Timed correctly, Nightcreep can be game-changing – or even game-ending for an opponent.
By turning all lands into Swamps for a turn, you are completely hamstringing any of your opponents from being able to respond to your actions. Well, mostly, anyway. Nightcreep isn’t quite as effective if someone else is also playing a monoblack or a primarily Black deck, or if they have a lot of mana rocks capable of generating specific colors, but that color-specific weakness is sort of endemic to color-based effects. And hey, no card in Commander is foolproof.
Generally speaking though, if used at the outset of your turn it makes it incredibly difficult for your enemies to respond to anything you do on that turn, giving you free reign to cast a devastating spell, set off a specific combo, or go on a dangerous creature offensive. Cast it early and this forces your opponents to either preemptively spend prevention cards (life gain, Fogs, etc.) in guessing what you’re about to do, or to force a counterspell from your someone for fear of the table being locked out of any future responses. Which in turn gets those cards out of the way for other actions. It’s a win-win really. Either it’s used at a pivotal turn in the game to ensure you can pull off what you need to, or you just made your opponents waste important reaction cards on Nightcreep – versus the actually dangerous cards in your hand.
Nightcreep works in reverse too, thanks to its arguably biggest trait of being an Instant. That is, if cast during another player’s upkeep, it nearly makes it impossible for them to be able to advance their own agenda that turn. In a close game, this essentially serves as both a deterrent and as a highly useful tactic at preventing a That Player from making their own game-changing move when people may be ill-prepared for it.
So, a cost-effective, easy to obtain, highly overlooked card that no one will see coming and which provides not only offensive but defensive shield potential? That sounds like a worthwhile Commander card if I’ve ever heard of one.
And it’s way, way, way more fair than Contamination. Which is certainly dumb.
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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