Commander Spotlight: Radiate

Welcome back to week thirty-four of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It is now a milestone-setting 275 days since my last summoning, though as it was alluded to last week that doesn’t really come as a surprise. At the current rate of transmissions out in the wild right now, the most realistic outcome here will be to watch that gap number continue to climb throughout much of the next couple months. I have little hope of getting even a middling game of EDH in prior to that time, based purely on the circumstances at which many of us find ourselves. As I neither play Magic online, nor do I live with someone else who embraces the game, like many I remain relegated to the sidelines when it comes to participating in a game I’ve been doing at least sporadically – if not weekly – for more than two decades. Our current situation reflects my second longest game-playing drought in my extensive tenure and will take the top record if nothing changes by late January (and I don’t predict it will).

Still, as much as I miss the unique experience of tactical decision-making and the exuberant unpredictability of a good multiplayer session, the game takes a back seat to missing the people involved. And that’s a harder pill to swallow.

While there is now light at the end of the tunnel – today’s posting should coincide with the first vaccine deliveries and deployments here in the US – we’re still a ways off before its disbursement has spread throughout the population in enough quantities where most of us lay folk will consider it safe enough for genial, everyday gatherings. We’re getting there, but it’ll take time. Until then, we all must persevere.

The same goes for this series. Acting as a sort of anchor of stability, it has proven useful to continue its weekly appearances despite the lack of substantive gaming behind it, even if its focus and narrative have shifted slightly. Therefore, this series’ COVID-based focus continues, where rather than dive into something involving a Magic-centered topic with a Commander card at the center, I carry on by sharing 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. And this week’s somewhat fitting choice has been one I’ve wanted to use for a long time.

Today we have: Radiate

Name: Radiate

Edition: Torment

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Spell Copying

Highlights: Radiate is a bit of a strange card, in that it’s particularly known for two reasons. The first is its actual focus: creating multiple copies of a particular spell, either to take advantage of the original spell’s effects…or merely to cause collateral damage. The second, and arguably what more Magic players will be familiar with, are the myriad offshoot mechanics and effects that this card helped propagate. Whether it was original Ravnican themed mechanic Radiance, the Izzet-focused Overload mechanic, or the handful of memorable creatures that were heavily influenced by its design such as Ink-Treader Nephilim, Precursor Golem, or Mirrorwing Dragon, it’s safe to say that more people have encountered its spiritual descendants in action than Radiate itself.

I remember seeing Radiate for the first time back in 2002 and instantly recognizing the kinds of amusing shenanigans it could create in a multiplayer game. Radiate was my kind of Red card: a wonky, powerful card that embodied the color’s appreciation for a bit of table-warping chaos while still being refined enough to maintain strategic purpose. I distinctly recall opening a pack to reveal a foil version and immediately wondering which deck I could toss it into to make the most use. At the time there were more than a few decks I had with Red in them that could benefit, but I was indecisive on where it should end up.

Then, as often happens with such things, indecisiveness led to indecision.

Radiate never made it into any of them and instead sat on the sidelines, patiently waiting. Alas, time marched on, new cards came out, and its place in a deck became all the more competitive. Even in the EDH era, where the format provides the ample circumstances to help the card flourish even more, I still haven’t been able to find a home for it yet. However, at least in this case it’s been a simple matter of opportunity as very few Commander decks of mine at present use Red – and it was at least under definite consideration each time I tinkered with one that did.

The reason for this dogged determination to see it used is partially out of stubbornness at this point, but also because, well, Radiate is an excellent Commander card.

At five mana, Radiate is a midsized Instant card, though some tend to balk at its cost as prohibitive, and they aren’t entirely wrong. Because Radiate is almost a purely reactionary card, it can be costly in the early to mid stages of the game to be sitting on enough open mana to cast it in response to whatever may come up. Indeed, these two factors intertwined were the cards’s biggest hindrances to being used by traditional decks. In the later stages of an EDH game, however, both of these concerns become minute once mana sources become more plentiful (even for Red) and advantageous moments of opportunity become more frequent.

For all its text, Radiate is a fairly simple card. Radiate is cast in response to another Instant or Sorcery being played and states that if that spell only has a single target to create as many copies of that spell as valid targets there are. This could be used, for instance if someone tries to remove one of your creatures from the battlefield, forcing nearly any other creature to befall the same fate as the original target. Or it could be used in combat to boost the size or potency of the creatures involved – regardless of whether or not that combat otherwise affects you. Or it could be used to keep the table state equal by ensuring that if one player is hit with, say, direct damage or life gain, every player is benefited or punished equally.

Not all spells specify a target, but Commander games have no shortage of those that do. Which means Radiate likewise has no shortage of options to choose from – if timed right. Whether you want to use it to be egalitarian or spiteful, calculated or chaotic, Radiate can play to your particular impulses while creating memorable (and potentially game-altering) moments. All it needs is to be given the chance.

Now I’m still waiting for that chance myself, but that certainly doesn’t mean you have to!

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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