There is a grand force always at work in the game of Magic. Beyond the deck construction, close calls, and one-sided roflstomps lies an ever moving tide. Past the myriad of planes visited and the worlds explored inside and out by lovers of mechanics, storylines and artistry alike exists a continuous ebb and flow to the game’s lifeblood.
To stay still is death for a CCG, and it is partly for this reason why the game continues to excite and entice players new and old. Magic continuously shifts its attention around. It takes players to new planes and brings us back to others – although some [Dominaria] not as quickly as we’d like. It focuses sets in part to tournament players, casual players, and drafters all at the same time – although not always equally. And cards themselves continue to go up and down in power level – although the overall power scale of the game has indeed risen on average over the years. Yet all of this movement keeps the game invigorated with new ideas, new strategies, and new problems to overcome.
This ebb and flow happens within multiplayer games too, especially in Commander. One player’s stock goes up as another’s go down, and your fate can literally change at the flip of a coin. Sometimes one player just has such a dominant position that it can be hard to dislodge them.
When that happens, I like to ensure that the tide keeps moving. Sometimes even if I am the one on top.
To that end, I am unabashedly a fan of disrupting board control, be it through direct means such as Wrath of God and the like, or indirect means like shifting or upending the relative power state. This forces the player(s) in the lead to (in theory) invest more resources to regain their dominance, or it creates enough of a power vacuum for someone else to take their place. While this can prolong games of EDH at times, it also keeps them more dynamic and more entertaining. When everyone rolls their eyes at yet another Jhoira of the Ghitu deck getting quickly out of hand, upsetting the apple cart suddenly doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.
There are hundreds of ways to accomplish this, of course, but only a fraction of them can simultaneously even the playing field and cause massive upheaval at the same time. So here’s is one such classic example.
Today we have: Noetic Scales
Name: Noetic Scales
Edition: Urza’s Saga
Focus: Creature Removal
Highlights: Noetic Scales is the type of artifact that can easily throw Commander games into unknown territory – though that largely depends on how it is used. Even by itself, however, the card can be pretty disruptive at any phase of the game. If it shows up in the early game, for instance, you’re still likely to have a decent sized hand, and this deals with creatures that scale quickly or are cheated into play through other means. In later stages, where you’re likely to have far fewer cards lying around, this has the potential to keep all but the smallest creatures running around the battlefield. The fact that it is n artifact and can work in any deck also makes for a huge advantage.
Just like many aforementioned areas of the game, though, the usefulness of Noetic Scales has also changed over the years. As deceptively effective as the card is, it was actually even more potent prior to a few years ago. That is, while the card itself hasn’t differed since the days of Urza & Co., the design of today’s creatures has shifted to be heavily “virtual vanilla” cards at lower rarities. (These are cards that have some sort of Enter the Battlefield trigger but are essentially vanilla creatures after that.) R&D is convinced that this style of creature is less confusing and more fun than creatures with activated abilities, and it would seem that little is going to change their minds anytime soon.
Thus, there are far more creatures to encounter with Enter the Battlefield abilities now than during the days of Urza block, and they are almost impossible to avoid in Commander games. Ergo, Noetic Scales can occasionally work against you by giving your opponent the opportunity to bounce and possibly recast cards like Angel of Despair, Regal Force, or any of the Primordials. That said, the pros of keeping large beatstick creatures usually far outweigh the occasional trigger going against you. Not to mention, making your opponent recast creatures continuously creates a big tempo shift in your favor.
Whether you use this card to wipe away your opponent’s blockers as you swarm with your token army, or you simply want to go all One With Nothing and ensure no creature will stick around the table long, Noetic Scales enables you to create some waves of your own.
Just be aware that not everyone likes getting splashed with this kind of tidal change, and this card can become an easy target.
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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