Commander Spotlight: Powerstone Minefield

Once you start down the road of any game that boasts deck customization as one of its central features, it can be pretty easy to get swept up in the fervor that is exploring new card and deck ideas. After all, part of the fun to these styles of games is the sheer volume of variety that they offer. Seeing new cards, testing new deck concepts – these are the cornerstones of what get players interested and keep them coming back time and again.

For the most part, the gratification one gets from spending the time and effort of deck customization comes in two ways. The first is building a new deck from scratch based on cards you’ve just acquired. These could be from a new release or simply a pile of cards you got from someone else. (Because, hey, they’re both new to you.) In either case, you use these cards to construct a new deck to play with, seeing how it will fare in whatever fight you’re gearing up for, be it a draft deck, Constructed deck, or simply a casual deck to play with at the kitchen table. All are equally rewarding from the perspective of crafting a new deck to play with.

And, for the most part, this is the part that most Magic-related content out there focuses on.

“What you need to build a new Dimir deck! Here’s how to build the latest zombie tribal powerhouse! Explore these ten artifact-based decks!”

Whether casual or competitive, most articles and videos focus (naturally) on throwing out fully formed decks for you to check out and copy. It makes sense that the vast majority of content is done this way because a) building new decks is a lot of fun, b) it fosters fun and innovation, and perhaps most importantly c) it doesn’t require any input from others to generate that content.

People want to talk about new deck builds, discuss their implications, and reflect how they play within that player’s play group and / or their respective formats. So it makes sense that most content caters to that enthusiasm.

However, conjuring up a new deck only captures half of a game customization experience. After all, in most cases you already have a deck. You may already even have a variation of a deck being talked about. And when new cards come into your orbit, the first inclination isn’t to rip your beloved deck apart and start anew. No, most of the time you simply wish to augment your deck by adding or swapping cards. This is the second half of what gets people excited with customization, though far less content effort is spent on it. To most players, modifying decks can actually be equally if not more enjoyable than creating a new deck from scratch because it’s still just as fun and innovative as starting over but it doesn’t require the same degree of time investment. Moreover, there’s a highly overlooked sense of achievement in taking a deck idea you already have and improving upon it. Not unlike getting a new piece of equipment in a video game MMO, taking something that already works and making it incrementally better (or taking something that doesn’t work and making it functional) are often just as exciting as a brand new concept straight off the drawing board.

Alas, finding places online that focus on this side of customization are typically relegated to forums and discussion threads more than flashy article pieces.

This week we’re going to do something with the latter. Partially because I’m stubborn like that, and partially because it’s relevant to this week’s card pick.

See, once upon a time I had a White deck whose main focus was effectively to punish creatures for being in combat. The thing was, it was never as effective as I wanted it to be, but I was determined not to splash in Black as I already had a Black / White deck board cleaning deck centered around Humility that was already doing something similar and didn’t want to rehash the same idea. Instead, this deck wanted to making attacking and blocking dangerous for you while relatively harmless for me.

One of the cards used to that end was the artifact Caltrops, which while useful given the limited pool of cards I was restricted to at the time, I never found all that useful. I knew it needed to be swapped out for something better but wasn’t sure what form that would take. Then Apocalypse came around, and I had found my answer. It required me to modify the deck from monowhite into a Red / White hybrid, but with those changes – and this week’s card pick – it made the deck function much closer to what I had envisioned.

Today we have: Powerstone Minefield

Name: Powerstone Minefield

Edition: Apocalypse

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Damage Dealing / Combat Control

Highlights: Requiring little explanation as to its forthright nature, Powerstone Minefield is one of those cards whose effects capably speak for themselves. Unlike many worthwhile multiplayer cards in which there are sometimes hoops to jump through or timing considerations to be made, there are plenty of others whose value is fairly self-evident. Powerstone Minefield is part of the latter group. With this enchantment there is no secret trick to unlocking its potential, as the card spells it out fairly clearly: if you engage in combat, you’re going to take damage.

At just four mana, Powerstone Minefield can easily generate damage payouts well beyond its modest investment. It states that whenever a creature attacks or blocks, it takes 2 damage. This serves a dual purpose of essentially nullifying small token armies from being able to attack and serves to soften up larger creatures, making combat assignments much more nuanced than they would be otherwise. Suddenly attacking or blocking with a 5/5 creature means that even 3 damage to it is now lethal.

This adds an extra layer of contemplating when deciding which creatures to attack or block with – or whom to attack at all – especially in a multiplayer setting like Commander. This can be utilized to temper more aggressive decks, for instance, giving you time to build up your own deck’s engine or defenses, or it may simply be a different means of breaking up creature-based logjams that can happen on the battlefield. In either case, Powerstone Minefield has the ability to bring low many small to moderate sized creatures. Two damage doesn’t seem like a lot at first, but you’d be surprised how often that can make the difference between a creature surviving or not, even in EDH.

Attacking with wild abandon is still an option of course, but having the Minefield out definitely makes the prospect of that more painful.

The one catch to Powerstone Minefield, as some have stated in the card’s past, is that in and of itself it doesn’t actively “do” anything. While it can serve as a great deterrent against creatures attacking or blocking, it doesn’t force them to either. If you simply choose not to engage in combat, or don’t have much in the way of creatures to care about, then it doesn’t really harm you. (Some have also remarked that it ironically also punishes  Red / White aggro decks, making it a bit counter-intuitive in those builds, and ok, fair.) Yet EDH has ample space for passive effects such as this, more so than most other formats, and this card should fit right in to the maelstrom with ease.

If you have a deck that would like to manipulate combat somewhat to your own ends, this Minefield can certainly help. The question then becomes: what do you swap out for it?

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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