If you’re like most Magic players, at some point you’ll dabble with the making your own cards. It’s a pretty standard thing for players to do as you get more exposed to the game. Whether it’s meant to be an exercise in refined card design or mere wishful thinking for cards you’d love to see the light of day, creating Magic cards is one thing most players have in common. Part of it is because the game is incredibly open-ended when it comes to its vast design potential, and part of it is because, well, it’s fun.
Maybe your idea is goofy, or caters to an inside joke, or explores a wholly unseen angle of the game. Chances are the card is overpowered or underdeveloped, or just plain bad. But that’s ok. Although Magic is in the capable hands of a couple dozen designers at Wizards of the Coast, it doesn’t mean that they have a lock on the possibilities of our collective imagination.
I’m no stranger to this myself. I’ve spoken in the past how I used to sit around some of my grade school classes whipping up all manner of card ideas only a 13 year-old would think was good or how I put together a series of Vanguard cards that reflected my friend’s gaming patterns. I don’t experiment with it nearly as much as I used to, but I know firsthand the appeal of making up your own cards, even accepting that nothing will ever come of them.
One of the highlights of any fan-made card, though, is when official Magic cards come out that are either identical or run parallel to something you came up with. When a real Magic card looks like something you have done, it really feels as if you did something right creatively.
For me, one such moment came during a balmy late summer day in 1997 while sitting around a drive-in movie theater (yes, our region still has one or two of those). During those years it wasn’t uncommon for us to do activities with my extended family since my siblings, cousins, and I are all in roughly the same age range, and so three carloads of us were collectively parked together waiting for the sun to set before the movie double-features began.
Since we got there super early – as the adults seemed wont to do – we had plenty of time to kill. To do that, my cousin and I roamed the grounds and decided to come up with “Super” versions of Magic abilites that would feel like upgraded versions of some of the existing abilities in the game. These included examples such as:
- Super Fear: Named after the card Fear (before it was keyworded), the creature could only be blocked by Black or Artifact creatures like normal Fear, but any creature that did block it died and couldn’t be regenerated.
- Super Web: You could call it Super Reach now I suppose, but this too was before Reach was keyworded, hence the reference to the card Web. Super Web worked such that anytime a creature with it blocked a creature with Flying it dealt double damage to it.
- Super Flanking: I don’t recall the details of this one exactly, but if memory serves it was essentially just Flanking but with some kind of Lure-type effect where you could force a creature to block it when attacking.
Easily the most memorable of these, however, was one we called Super Trample. And what we came up with was…what’s now affectionately known by players as super trample. To the letter. Super trample is the unofficial term for cards like Thorn Elemental and Rhox, where the creature could still damage the player even if blocked. It seemed simple and straightforward, and as a couple young teens, we were happy with the idea.
So you can only imagine how we felt the following year when the game introduced four cards with super trample between Portal Second Age and the Urza Block. We were, shall we say, super excited.
From that point forward I’ve always had a special affinity for the super trample ability, rare as though it may be. I even used several of them in various multiplayer decks over the years, often to highly useful effect.
The one limitation with the ability, ultimately, is that it’s been limited to less than 10 creatures in total. All of that changed, however, when we ventured forth to the plane of Ravnica. It is that card that brings us here this week.
Today we have: Predatory Focus
Name: Predatory Focus
Focus: Damage Dealing / Combat Control
Highlights: Almost every card with super trample has been Green, with the sole exception being one of the game’s first few examples in the form of Outmaneuver in Urza’s Saga. Outmaneuver introduced the idea of selective super trample capabilities, but its X cost and limitation to Red usually meant it wasn’t as effective as it could be in the color known for big stompy creatures. Predatory Focus fixes both of those issues, with an effect that feels very, very Green.
Predatory Focus is incredibly easy to understand: for five mana, you ensure that the entirety of your army, short of some kind of Fog or spot removal effect, will hit your opponent for full damage. Predatory Focus works equally well whether you are attacking with a small handful of gigantic creatures of an armada of tokens about to swarm. Whichever way you prefer to maximize creature-based damage output, this card has you covered.
Moreover, because it is a spell, it’s not as blatantly obvious that such an alpha strike may be coming. The closest card to Predatory focus is its Commander 2014 descendant Siege Behemoth, which gives your creatures the super trample effect every time you attack with it. However, between its potential to swing games by using it repeatedly and the creature’s native hexproof, Siege Behemoth is the type of card that can put the entire table on edge against you before you even attack. The spell verison, by contrast, you neither see coming nor have as much time to react to, making sure it gives the greatest punch with the least amount of retribution.
As with any Overrun-style card, it does have a pair of limitations. For one, the card is entirely dependent on having an army to attack with; this card cannot help you by itself. Second, as with any super trample creature, you have to be mindful that even though you will be able to (ideally) deliver lethal blows to your opponent, their blockers will still get to damage your creatures. Bear that in mind that there will be casualties.
Nonetheless, Predatory Focus us precisely the kind of Green utility card creature-based Commander decks can use, as sometimes the biggest problem – especially in games where everyone has built up defenses – isn’t you having an army but rather being able to circumvent theirs. And being able to do so is quite super indeed.
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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