Commander Spotlight: Null Brooch

Time and again we run into arguments over what specific colors can and can’t have access to. Like clockwork, the Magic community goes through a cyclical, repetitive conversation every few months over what, precisely, is within each color’s toolbox of abilities. The reasons for this are myriad but predominantly fall into two categories.

The first and most common of these is simple player attrition. New players begin playing Magic every single day, and these novices haven’t had the time and experience to fully absorb the lengthy nuances of each color. There is a lot to comprehend and get used to just to playing the game on a foundational level, let alone on a design philosophy level.

Second, the color pie is not absolute; the ideas making up the color pie are not set in stone. Overall color benefits have changed and evolved with the game over time, leading to individual effects and abilities gaining a home in one color or dropping out of another. Yet in a rather paradoxical fashion, players who are around long enough to see such changes happen, such as the loss of ‘pingers’ from Blue’s arsenal or Fog effects from White’s, actually have tendencies to assume that a color should theoretically have any effects bestowed upon it recently, as well as those it may have had access to 15 years ago, while at the exact same time also operate under the mentality that color abilities fluctuate much more than they do.

It’s this weird reluctance from established players to acknowledge that a color’s designs do (and will) change over time, combined with the naivety of newcomers, that inevitably leads to the repetitive cycle of questioning over what each color can – and can’t – get away with.

At its most benign this process is simply one set of players educating another about such matters.

At its more vexing end, you always end up with a contingent of players who draw the conclusion from this perpetual confusion that, essentially, every color should be able to do everything. Which simply isn’t something you actually want in the game, despite the occasional protestations to the contrary.

Each color in Magic is unique, and although they may all be balanced in relation to one another, that doesn’t mean they all behave the same. Nor should they. Without different strengths and weaknesses, there would simply be no reason to play different colors for anything other than flavor reasons.

Which is why we inevitably hear questions such as these every few months:

  • Why is it that Black is the only color to get discard cards?
  • Why is it that Blue is the only color to get counter spells?
  • Why is it that Green gets the most efficient large creatures?
  • Why is it that Red is the only color that gets direct damage?
  • Why is it that White is the best at both small armies and fliers?

Yet even as these questions are routinely asked and answered, one of these is heard far more than the rest. Which is, of course, why no other color besides Blue gets counterspells.

It never, ever, ever seems to go away.

Mostly because, well, some people don’t like the answer that it just does. Blue is the color of control. Counters are a form of control. Blue gets counters.

Now that being said, there have been on rare occasions a smattering of other counter cards sprinkled throughout the game over the years that aren’t Blue. Most of these card are older and / or highly restricted as to their usefulness, with White having the biggest concentration at a whopping half dozen or so.

But did you know there also exists a relatively unrestricted colorless counterspell – one you can reuse multiple times? Not only is this true: it’s this week’s card pick.

Today we have: Null Brooch

Name: Null Brooch

Edition: Exodus

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Counter Magic

Highlights: Unlike most nonblue counter options over the years, Null Brooch has remained a surprising enigma among them. For one, it’s been surprisingly underappreciated for a very, very long time despite not exactly being that obscure of a card. Moreover, this artifact-based counter (a rarity in its own right) comes with a fairly open-ended means of countering specific spells with only one actual hoop to jump through in order to be effective. It just happens to be a scary one for many players.

At four mana Null Brooch is an artifact that once on the board allows you to then pay two mana to activate and counter any noncreature spell. Not Aura spells or Red spells or spells targeting a permanent you control. Any noncreature spell is fair game. Which means that for a paltry six mana investment you have the means of adding a counterspell option to any nonblue deck you want. Six mana may seem like a lot compared to Blue’s arsenal of comparatively efficient counter options, and in most two player duels that is arguably true. In multiplayer settings like Commander, however, given that your alternative most of the time is going to be, well, nothing, six mana is well worth the cost.

The major reason Null Brooch tends to scare players off obviously isn’t the mana cost though. It’s the fact that in addition to the mana activation, Null Brooch requires that a player also discard their entire hand. In a lot of situations this can be out right crippling, and to most players it’s certainly not worth making such a dire move. Yet two important factors are generally overlooked in that decision-making process. First, no one is arguing that Null Brooch should be used on trivial spells. But if your opponent casts a potentially game ending card…discarding your hand to prevent that is a worthwhile sacrifice. In those circumstances stopping one player from setting off some ultimate move may even buy you political favor with other players on the board.

Second, people often forget that a zero card hand is still a hand. So if you do end up using it and are left topdecking for a while afterwards, subsequent activations becomes way less painful.

And hey, if nothing else, you can pride yourself on being able to say you were able to cast a counterspell without having to rely on Blue to do so. That alone is worthy of some bragging rights.

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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