Commander Spotlight: Precognition

Welcome back to week fifty-nine of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It’s been 450 days since my last summoning.

And…welp. I was wrong.

For those who peruse this series on a regular basis are aware, over the preceding few weeks I’d been making a claim that there was a good chance my Magic group’s long, long, long pandemic-infused drought would be coming to an end by the close of May. That did not happen.

Apparently my prediction, which I thought was both reasonable and achievable, ended up being a bit too boldly optimistic.

On the one hand, I am glad that though this interim period drags on, it hasn’t continued to directly be a result of the pandemic. Numbers across the country are steadily continuing to drop, and bit by bit things are starting to feel more normal. The vast majority of people in our lives, let alone gaming spheres more specifically, are now all vaccinated, and periodic in-person gaming has resumed in recent weeks as a result. So there was an understandable presumption that a Magic session would be part of it.

Alas, there has been no Commander…yet. But the reasoning for that is indeed mostly a scheduling matter at this point. Unsurprisingly, the summer of 2021 is going to be incredibly busy for people as many of us collectively make up for lost time by stacking as much activity into our free time as possible. My cohorts are no exception to this – nor am I. But there is a strange comfort knowing that the current playing troubles have reverted to what has always been a gaming-related logistics issue: working around everyone’s schedules to make something happen.

At any rate, it’s clearly evident I am really, really bad a the psychic game. My prognostication prowess is pretty patently pitiful. Do not come to me for your next tarot reading. The crystal ball is on the fritz.

However, this inability to correctly provide predictions also means that we are in another status quo holding period, with nothing much having changed since the last check-in from a couple weeks back. As such, we’re also going to keep things brief this week.

It also means, per usual, instead of discussing Magic-related topics or a discussion point about the card in question, we carry on by looking at Magic cards I’ve personally wanted to put into an EDH deck for some time but haven’t for one reason or another. This week’s card is an old favorite that I used in a non-EDH deck many years back – one which I’d love to find a new home for at some point. It’s also far too on point.

Today we have: Precognition

Name: Precognition

Edition: Tempest

Rarity:  Rare

Focus: Library Manipulation

Highlights: When it comes to manipulating someone’s library the vast majority of cards, abilities, and effects in the game revolve around doing it to yourself. Whether it’s tutoring, Scrying, looting, rummaging, or a host of similar variations, Magic provides you with quite a few ways to play around with the cards in or on top of your deck. This is completely understandable, as it serves two purposes. First, it offers a strategic avenue for players to consider when designing decks, allowing you to alter or fish for specific cards and therefore reduce the game’s inherent luck-based draws in favor of something more predictable. Second, Wizards over the years has very much pursued a ‘hands off my stuff’ approach to card design, effectively trying to minimize how often you actually touch someone else’s cards for a number of reasons.

Precognition does the opposite on both fronts.

On the surface, the Tempest-era Precognition can be a slightly hard sell to some Commander players. For one, it is a moderately-costed five mana just to put onto the battlefield, and its effect only triggers once per round during your upkeep. Moreover, this enchantment’s effect is very much targeted at one opponent rather than all of your enemies, which could seemingly limit its scope of efficacy. However, if you can get past that, what you’ll have is a deceptively useful means of hampering whichever opponent is the biggest board threat to you at the moment.

Simple in execution, Precognition states that during your upkeep you choose an opponent and look at the top card of their library. You then decide whether they get to keep it, putting it back on top of their library to draw next turn, or banish it to the bottom of the deck instead, possibly not to be seen again that game. While such a singular move seems like it would be a bit slow-acting, over the course of several rounds it can have a drastic impact on any deck that doesn’t typically draw lots of extra cards. By letting you look at their next card and choose whether or not they get to hold on to it, Precognition allows you to slow down their efforts in the game, either by leaving them with lands or inconsequential cards, or by ensuring that they don’t get to draw that next massive board wipe, giant creature, or combo piece that could affect you negatively. By being able to select the opponent each upkeep, it also allows you to shift your focus if someone else starts becoming more problematic.

At the same time, the fact that it only goes after one opponent at a time cuts both ways: yes it is less potent against many opponents in an EDH setting, but it also means that its odds of becoming a target are equally pretty low. In a format where dangerous permanents are aplenty, Precognition’s self-preservation rests on the reality that its threat potential is only relevant if you’re consistently on the receiving end of it.

Will Precognition help you at tamping down a player’s draws and keep someone from getting out of hand too quickly? Absolutely. Will the time and / or tactical advantages it provides through that lead to a decisive win on your part? I cannot say; I’ve already stated I’m not the best at telling the future.

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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