Commander Spotlight: Pulse of the Tangle

Welcome back to week twenty-nine of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It has a seemingly unbelievable 240 days since my last summoning. But a lot of things are seemingly unbelievable in our current timeline, including not adhering to the most baseline preventative measures of the pandemic itself and, here in the US, the widescale cognitive dissonance occurring from many in our country upon the outcome of the election that was called a couple days ago.

Regardless of how strong one’s footing is (or is not) to objective reality, a pervasive and highly contagious disease continues to run rampant across the globe – though no where has it been as devastating as here at home. Between willful ignorance, abysmal planning, unnecessary politicization, and inadequate resources, what should have been a collective effort to curtail it has been piecemeal at best and completely ineffectual at worst. The US is currently on yet another upswing as its spread runs unabated through communities and the death toll steadily climbs towards a positively crushing 250,000 fatalities. Which to anyone sound of mind, and with a shred of empathy towards those afflicted, should be entirely unacceptable.

Yet here we are, on a backslide, with states have to reimpose restrictions. With now cresting the 10 million confirmed case mark in the US alone, that means 1 in every 33 people has caught it – ignoring the fact that it’s probably an undercount. 1 in 33. Statistically speaking, at this point nearly everybody now knows someone who may have caught it. Whether that’s a family member, a coworker, a friend of a friend, or someone in a local business, COVID is very much a real problem and one we all have to help combat. Simply ignoring or pretending it isn’t a problem solves nothing. Continuing to be reckless in your actions out of pure selfishness only makes it worse. While many, many people are being at least moderately responsible, those that don’t only continue to exacerbate an unfolding human tragedy that simply didn’t need to be this way.

If this sounds angry, it’s because I am. I too would like to return to a normal routine. I too would like to frequent restaurants, travel, and go to large events. I too would like to stop hearing daily news reports about it. I too would like to stop seeing people, whether it’s those in charge who are supposed to be managing this crisis or those among us who simply refuse to accept basic facts, only making the problem worse. I too would like to see the numbers going down. Because it’s not just a statistic. Every number on that tally sheet is a person suffering, or a person dying. And each number means whole families affected by those outcomes.

I want normalcy again.

I want to see friends and family again in person.

I want to, of all the most mundane, pointless, first world centric things to focus on in these times – be able to sit at a table and regularly play games again.

I want to. But at the moment, I can’t.

And so, the impasse continues. As such, the COVID-based article segments continue, wherein rather than focus on Magic related news (Commander Legends perhaps??), or the normal curation list of Commander-friendly cards worth considering writ large, the focus continues to be on specific Magic cards that I’ve personally wanted to put into an EDH deck for quite some time but haven’t for one reason or another.

In the case of this week’s pick, it’s all about making the best of the situation you have before you.

Today we have: Pulse of the Tangle

Name: Pulse of the Tangle

Edition: Darkesteel

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Token Generation

Highlights: As a personal gripe, I find it often somewhat frustrating how few card cycles present five cards that are universally liked and appreciated, even taking into account their different applications and formats. The Pulse cycle from Darksteel is no exception. The Red and White Pulses were the most widely played overall, though both the Black and Green Pulses saw a fair amount of use as well, especially in Limited settings. The Blue Pulse, on the other hand was largely a disappointment. Which is a shame, because any card that allows you to cast them more than once is a highly prized resource, regardless of the Magic style you play, and to have one fall completely flat is a tragedy unto its own. Thankfully though Pulse of the Grid is not our topic. We are here to focus on Pulse of the Tangle and its creature generating goodness.

Like every card in the cycle, Pulse of the Tangle is a three mana spell that provides you with an effect and a conditional rider that allows you to return the card to your hand if you meet it. Here, Pulse of the Tangle generates a vanilla 3/3 Beast token. In and of itself a 3/3 for three mana isn’t all that noteworthy by today’s Magic standards, let alone for Commander. However, as is the case with all of the Pulses, it is the rider that makes its usefulness stand out: Pulse of the Tangle stipulates that if after gaining that new moderately sized 3/3 creature an opponent has more creatures than you, the card goes back to your hand.

This bounceback effect is highly useful on two fronts. First is the obvious linguistic advantage in stating that so long as any opponent has more creatures than you, you get it back. Unlike the Red and Black Pulses, which only base the return effect on the opponent you target, Pulse of the Tangle simply looks around at the board and says if someone has a larger menagerie you can hold on to it to use again.

Second, and tied into the first, is that being able to cast this card situationally on repeat in a Commander game is quite handy. Even for something as basic as a 3/3 token. It’s not uncommon, for instance, for an opponent to toss down a small army of token creatures or generally find a way of quickly raising an army on their side of the board. In doing so, Pulse of the Tangle helps you slightly offset those gains. Moreover, as the number of creatures players have rise and fall over the course of the game, a sequence of well-timed casts of Pulse of the Tangle can net you extra 3/3 tokens for minimal effort. In effect, for every notable combat, spot removal, board wipe, or player ramp-up of creature output that occurs, there is the potential for Pulse of the Tangle to let you benefit too.

Is it the most explosive token-generating card around? No. But it’s one of the few that allows you to repeatedly generate decent sized token creatures without immediately inviting table threat. Plus, because it’s not coming from a card on the battlefield, it’s not easily something that can be disrupted.

Pulse of the Tangle has been on my short list for quite a while. And I’m positive it’s only a matter of time before it winds up in a deck. It made a decent running for space the last Green-capable Commander deck that was assembled but didn’t quite make the final cut – though through not fault of its own.

We’ll get there eventually. Just like we’ll get back to the gaming table eventually.

In the meantime, watch out for stray 3/3 Beasts appearing out of nowhere. And wear a damn mask.

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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