Commander Spotlight: Pain Magnification

When it comes to getting your point across, there are benefits to being succinct and direct. Its message is concise, it’s easily conveyed, and above all, it usually increases the odds someone is going to actually pay attention to it. Especially when it comes to the internet, a bastion of the short and sweet. Echoing sound byte culture, the internet has embraced short form writing as its preferred method of conveyance so much that its most popular platforms are measured in characters and anything over 500 words is considered an essay. The internet, where we invented the term tl;dr to convey the fact that we wouldn’t bother to reading something we considered too verbose.

Putting aside the arguments of whether internet culture has encouraged or exploited short attention spans, the fact remains that, at least online, most people ingest information in short, simple bursts. And while longer, well-articulated articles are out there, they often aren’t as attention-grabbing or headline-making enough for the same widespread appeal.

Way, way more people are going to read a Game of Thrones Listicle than the most recent New York Times feature piece. You may not like that fact, but it also doesn’t stop it from being true. If you want to reach the masses, you must be able to tread in brevity.

(Clearly this is a lesson I have yet to take to heart.)

Being brisk isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. There are innumerable occasions where you don’t need the 15 minute story and the 30 second cliff notes will do just fine. If you can convey the same message in a fraction of the time without losing context or depth, then it’s all the more prudent to do so. It’s more expedient, and it’s more likely your intended audience will see it.

Of course, that’s also assuming your message even had any hidden depth to begin with. Sometimes a message is so to the point that there’s no need for a diatribe. A text that you’re running late or a post that you enjoyed the latest movie you saw doesn’t need a thesis page to back it up. Recapping an episode of a TV show usually doesn’t require deep analytical thought. And sometimes a hand-scrawled note can convey the same gravitas as a full-page spread.

In the world of Magic, this fact is especially handy when dealing with the Rakdos. This Ravnican guild doesn’t do deep or verbose. They very much live in the moment, partially because of their various indulgences, and partially because they may not live to see the next sunrise. To them, getting to the point quickly isn’t merely a preference: it’s a way of life. Today we revel, for tomorrow we die. Everything about the Rakdos illustrates this fact well, including the cards themselves. Cards, as it happens, such as this week’s pick.

Today we have: Pain Magnification

Name: Pain Magnification

Edition: Dissension

Rarity: Uncommon

Focus: Card Discard

Highlights: Like most things Rakdos, Pain Magnification doesn’t need a lengthy explanation as to its purpose or to its usefulness. The entire card consists of a single sentence, largely unambiguous, and isn’t beholden to any one deck archetype. So long as you’re playing the correct colors, it can fit in any deck – if you’re willing to embrace the risks and rewards it offers.

For a cheap 3 mana, Pain Magnification is an enchantment that adds insult to injury whenever your opponents get hurt. It states that whenever an opponent takes three or more damage in a single instance, they must then also discard a card. This means, for instance, that most direct damage spells would now come with a discard rider, as would any unblocked creature of power 3 or greater – something Commander conveniently has in abundance. With Pain Magnification, one round of combat has the potential to not only dish out a moderate amount of damage, but it could force them to discard their entire hand in the process. It’s a potentially crippling prospect, and one that requires no investment on your part after it hits the battlefield.

Moreover, Pain Magnification’s effect is not just limited to your damage. In Commander, any time one opponent hurts another, this card will trigger as well. This can be particularly useful in situations where one player is becoming particularly problematic, or if you simply want to encourage people to go on the offense. And to top it all off, because the card doesn’t generate any innate threat on its own, it has a tendency of quietly sitting on the board, with the potential to be annoying but not so annoying as to be worth wasting spot removal on.


The inevitable Rakdos tradeoff here is that the enchantment only hurts your enemies. While objectively this is a good thing, making sure you can’t accidentally self-immolate yourself, it can also be tricky from a table politics perspective. Depending on your group, some players won’t like the sense that they are being played and may attack or target you anyway, even if they don’t get the discard bonus for doing so. Just be mindful that in some circles, this card could encourage people to attack you just as much as anyone else. As such, it may be a fun toy, but like most things Rakdos, don’t rely on it as an effective form of determent or defense.

Which, really, is all the more fitting. For though the Rakdos may get to the point quickly, that’s mostly because they don’t have the attention span to worry about unintended consequences.

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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