As both Magic: the Gathering and the Commander format itself gets progressively more popular, so to is the indelible drive to make the game ever more powerful and complex as a means of keeping the player base happy. While the game’s designers themselves have long had to reign themselves in (mostly) over the years at stopping power creep – the trend towards more potent and advantageous cards compared to those in the past – players themselves often have no such desire for restraint. Many, especially the most competitive among us, have this understandable desire to create the best, most explosive deck they can in order to win. After all, the logic goes, if such cards exists, why would you intentionally make your deck anything less than the most efficient possible?
It’s a very win at all costs mentality, aided by the game’s inherent philosophy that there are always potentially better cards out there to upgrade to.
Yet this min-maxing focus of deck building is hardly limited to Constructed formats. If anything, in most cases those players are at least restricted to a specific pool of cards to work from, and while they may still seek out the best of what they can, it’s still a small sample size compared to the overall game catalog. Casual players, on the other hand, have no such limitations. The only things typically stopping a more casual player from tricking out their deck with the best cards possible are a) availability of said cards, b) how much they’re willing to spend, and c) how devoted they are to the game. It’s not that casual players won’t spend money for cards. Rather, it’s that, generally, they’re more willing to go for five $2 cards than one $10 card.
Commander players, though, will most certainly choose the latter. Between the larger deck size, the singleton card restriction, and the desire to do whatever is possible to decrease card variance among their 100 card builds, Commander players, especially those who desire to make the format more competitive, often can’t resist the urge to make the baddest, most demonstrative deck possible.
Having good cards in your EDH deck isn’t a bad thing. That is all part of the game. However, not every single card needs to be some broken $20+ combo piece. Sometimes it’s perfectly fine putting in cards that are merely flavorful. Or amusing. Or have some kind of personal significance. For instance, in every one of my EDH decks I include at least one card that is there solely because I’ve always wanted to put it in a deck. Although I still try to ensure it makes sense to the deck on some level, its inclusion is there as a perpetual reminder that you can use cards for tactical usefulness as well as for fun. Which, at the end of the day, is what the game is all about. No one wants to sit opposite you while you play your deck at the rest of the table every single time you sit down.
The point is, it’s perfectly fine to use cards that aren’t going to singlehandedly win you the game if you think you’ll have fun using them. Which brings us to this week’s card pick.
Today we have: Quenchable Fire
Name: Quenchable Fire
Focus: Direct Damage
Highlights: Quenchable Fire was a popular card in Conflux, particularly in Limited and faster Constructed Red decks, in part because it made for an easy 6 damage to an opponent for four mana if they didn’t have any means of generating Blue in response. A callback style card to the earlier days of the game with a delayed trigger, Quenchable Fire was used fairly regularly and to decent effect, even seeing some tournament use given how easily it could hammer at a player’s 20 point life total. It was a memorable card from an otherwise unmemorable set. But it never really made a robust transition to EDH in the years since.
As you’d expect, Quenchable Fire is highly straightforward, being a Red direct damage card. Upon casting, it deals 3 damage to an opponent. If that player is unable to create a Blue mana before your next turn, that player takes an additional 3 damage, making it a fairly economic damage card given its cost.
Yet many are reluctant to use such a card in Commander, either because it’s not Instant speed direct damage, it only targets players and planeswalkers, or the fact that its Blue mana symbol in the text makes it a Red/Blue card by EDH rules, which can limit the number of decks it appears in. This was compounded somewhat in 2016 when the Rules Committee eliminated the color generation rule, leading many to believe that Quenchable was even less potent. (Previously, cards that can generate any color mana would turn into colorless if you chose a color outside your color identity, but with the rise of colorless mana card costs, this restriction was removed partially to eliminate that loophole.)
However, Quenchable still works just as fine in Commander now as it did before. After all, you still have to get your opponent to zero, and 6 damage is not an insignificant amount for a cheap cost. Moreover, Quenchable Fire creates an amusing Sword of Damocles situation, wherein your unfortunate target has 3 damage hanging over their head that they can prevent if only they can generate just a single Blue mana. Unless they are playing Blue or happen to have an ‘any color’ color generating card – which aren’t as common in EDH as you’d think – they’re going to get hit for another 3 damage with little they can do about it. This briefly raises the tension at the table and creates a heightened sense of urgency for that player. At best it’s a quick way of dealing damage, augmented by the fact that you get to watch your opponent squirm as they’re unable to stop being further damaged, and at worst it may provoke your opponent into taking an action when they may not want to out of the emotional desire to do something as a means of justifying taking another 3 damage to the head. Either way, it should be a bit of fun to watch.
Sure, Quenchable Fire isn’t the most dangerous Red damage spell out there, but for a common not named Lightning Bolt, it still has the ability to shake things up.
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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