Part of the reason Magic continues to keep players excited and interested is how it intersperses both small mechanical innovations and rich, ever-changing flavor. This is all in spite of the game offering the same core mechanics that it did when the summer was full of Sabotage and Hakuna Matata being sung, everyone kept telling Forrest to run, no one had yet heard of Chandler Bing, and the world was only beginning to learn what the internet was capable of thanks to a brand new browser called Netscape.
It was a good year.
For roughly the first decade of the game’s existence, nearly all of the card-based gameplay was set on the plane of Dominaria. Billed as a large world and a nexus point in the multiverse, Dominaria was both the primary focus of the game’s first major storyline of Urza Vs Yawgmoth, as well as the game’s inherent meeting spot for planeswalkers. It was the game’s home base, inviting you on the one hand to familiar territory while opening up new continents to explore on the other.
When WotC wrapped up the Urza/Yawgmoth story in Apocalypse, they spent two more blocks exploring the fallout of that war on the yet-unseen land of Otaria before taking it an opportunity to start exploring other planes in more detail. This took us to the metal world of Mirrodin, back in time to the spirit-focused world of Kamigawa, and the Totally-Not-Coruscant city world of Ravnica, all before circling back to Dominaria once more. There they gave the old setting one more kick in the ribs before nuking the godlike power of the planeswalkers and setting off again for even more fantastical planes.
And we haven’t been back there since.
Mechanics entice players into experimenting and building new decks, but those only do so much without an emotional attachment surrounding that infrastructure. People love dredge for its power capabilities, for instance, but it also resonates because of how well it represents the turning your assets into refuse and then recycling them. For many players it’s the characters and the worlds depicted that keep them coming back more than the prospect of a new variation on how to use +1/+1 counters. Inevitably, for one reason or another, we as players get attached to those places. Whether it’s the guilds of Ravnica, the duality of Lorwyn, the gothic horror of Innistrad, or adventuring through a pre-Eldrazi Zendikar, Wizards has created such a diverse panoply of planes that it’s pretty explicable why almost all of us can point to a specific plane or two and say “those are my favorites”.
For me, however, that continues to be the original home of Magic. Call it stubbornness or nostalgia, but with Dominaria I felt like their invested time created a comprehensive and varied world. Dominaria isn’t as crisp or tightly packaged as other worlds, largely because it wasn’t done in the Star Wars style of having each setting be its own plane. Rather, it was more organically grown. You feel the progression, as if the world was moving and evolving even if you weren’t looking straight at it. That it had regions that didn’t interact with one another and didn’t fit nicely into the same vantage point. This more scattershot approach never left the plane feeling stuck in time or summed up by a single focus or dominant culture. It felt more…real. You saw the clash between Urza and Mishra in Antiquities and the repercussions to the world in the sets that followed. It’s been battered, invaded, and scarred, and some places fared better than others.
Unlike the modern philosophy of worldbuilding, Dominaria drew people like me in because its people weren’t homogeneous, its cultures were widely disparate from one another. As great as the game’s cards and products have gotten nowadays, Dominaria by far remains my favorite plane. Maybe it’s because it is a little more rough around the edges – albeit in a good way. The irony in all that, of course, is that the last set to showcase it properly was called Future Sight…which is now just shy of 10 years old.
To that end, this week we’re going to look at a purely Dominiarian card by a race of creatures native only to that plane – the Kavu. Primarily a combat-centric creature type, most of their cards weren’t known for being particularly clever. As is always the case though, there are always exceptions.
Today we have: Radiant Kavu
Name: Radiant Kavu
Focus: Damage Prevention
Highlights: Radiant Kavu is an odd creature: an amalgamation of three colors whose purpose is spiting the other two. Still, that was sort of card design du jour during the Planeshift set. Planeshift had numerous cards that cared about colors of other cards around it, and this card fits the mold to the letter.
Unfortunately, because of the set’s relatively mid-range reward for its multicolored cards, much of the set’s gold cards didn’t weather the test of time well. As such, Radiant Kavu is the kind of card that was largely forgotten. Yet in a more expansive format like Commander – where utility cards are a premium – Radiant Kavu should not be dismissed outright. It should be embraced.
No, Radiant Kavu isn’t the type of card that will single-handedly win you the game. Although it only costs three mana to cast, it requires three different colors to do so, making it a somewhat dicey early to midgame challenge to get a 3/3 body. Moreover, because its Fog ability is limited to Black and Blue creatures, at best this critter stops only 33% of all combat damage.
That said, Radiant Kavu, like many color-centric card abilities, can be incredibly useful in the right situations. Some players balk at using cards that may not be beneficial 100% of the time, but this creature does better than many. For one, it’s often highly overlooked that its activated ability doesn’t require tapping, which means it’s both usable the round it hits the battlefield and that its effect is repeatable. This latter point can be especially useful in Commander games for political purposes. Perhaps you want to keep another player alive, or you merely want to stop someone from doing damage to better themselves. This Kavu can make that happen, even if the biology behind it is a bit weird.
What’s more, even though you may only be able to stop Black and Blue creatures with it, thanks to the multiplayer nature of EDH, odds are you will see at least one of the two cards represented in more games than not. It’s a situational card, yes, but it’s one with a bit of chaotic charm and a propensity to be undervalued.
The fact that it comes from Dominaria is mostly just a bonus.
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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Do you have a particular Commander card to suggest for us to shine a future Spotlight on? You can send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org