Commander Spotlight: Noxious Field

Welcome back to week nine of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It has been 107 days since my last summoning, which…I think you know by know kind of sucks. For anyone who has been directly or indirectly affected by the pandemic (which is practically everybody at this point), the disruption to social lives has been one of the harder things to grapple with.

For some, socializing with friends is the main way they interact with the outside world, and not having that interactivity can lead to negative consequences. For others, boredom becomes the main problem once the novelty of baking has worn off and all their minor house projects have been completed.

For the most extreme among us, the collective cabin fever has boiled over into angry and armed (because America) protests against lockdowns, resulting in more than a few jibes about risking the health of yourself and others because you need to get your hair done.

Frankly, there’s far too many socioeconomic and psychological factors at play to unpack all of the complexities of how people writ large have reacted to a once-in-a-century health emergency in a brief article about Magic cards. Suffice it to say, though far from the most important facets of everyday life disrupted by this disease, not being able to interact with the people you enjoy having in your life does have a sustained impact on one’s mental health.

Until the point comes where that is rectified, I have been using this series over the last couple months to highlight cards that I’ve personally always wanted to put into an EDH deck but to this point never haven’t for one reason or another, rather than my normal curation approach. And for this week, I went with a card that simply loves to hide in plain sight.

Today we have: Noxious Field

Name: Noxious Field

Edition: Prophecy

Rarity: Uncommon

Focus: Damage Dealing

Highlights: In all fairness, Noxious Field is unlike many of the recent weeks’ wish fulfillment cards in that I actually have utilized it in a casual multiplayer deck before – just not in Commander. So I am already acutely aware of what this seemingly minor card is (and is not) capable of. However, given those facts, it has long been one I’ve wanted to make the leap over simply because of its toolbox potential, slightly situational as it may be.

At the time of its creation Noxious Field was another card in a long line of mass board damage cards Black was known for, going all the way back to Pestilence. Yet for many people at the time it seemed pretty underpowered compared to its cousins. In this case, Noxious Field is land aura for three mana that lets you tap the land to do 1 damage to each creature and player. Given that Pestilence only cost one more mana to cast and it and its ilk weren’t all that rare to find at this period in time thanks to mild variations and numerous set reprints, this particular iteration didn’t see a ton of fanfare outside of drafting. And for those looking for the most competitive edge, that logic wasn’t all that wrong. If you’re going to have a card dealing widespread damage, why opt for something that only does a single point?

When you open the table up to multiple opponents, however, the answer is: more than you’d think. With more targets to focus on and a slower pacing, its potential ROI in Commander goes up significantly as a starvation tactic. That is, though it may be just a single point of damage, being able to repeatedly use it simply by tapping the land has the ability to keep the board clear of tokens and other small creatures that are often used to fuel larger ambitions, as well as potentially alter the outcomes of combat you may or may not be involved in. For certain deck styles this can be crippling.

It also has numerous secondary upsides compared to its more potent siblings. For one, it doesn’t have self-destructive mechanism – either in the case of having to sacrifice it under certain conditions or it being in creature form killing itself off. Second, unlike nearly all of such cards, it doesn’t require Black mana to use, making it much easier to splash into multicolor decks. Third, it is a simple way to mildly accelerate the game given that every player takes the 1 damage. Commander life totals may be higher, but even single points of damage at at time add up.

Perhaps most useful of all, though, is thanks to its aura status, Noxious Field is incredibly easy to overlook on a crowded board. It is not uncommon – especially in the heat of the moment – to forget it even exists. All of which works heavily in your favor.

Is Noxious Field going to win you games by itself? Hardly. But it is a handy little card that can often be more troublesome to your opponents than they may initially think. I personally love cards that people continually underestimate, which is why I’m hoping to find an EDH home for this one sooner rather than later.

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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