Commander Spotlight: Repudiate / Replicate

Welcome back to week forty-two of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It’s been 331 days since my last summoning, and contrary to the potential the significance displayed, I find it highly improbable that this week will reveal anything to us about the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. I would say that it’s a virtual impossibility, but I fear being that sure about the unsure will only get me whisked off to some far-flung corner of the galaxy or briefly turned into a panda (again).

That’s physics for you.

At any rate, we’re now into February and inching closer to several milestones. On the more dire side, as of writing this piece the number of COVID losses in the US has reached a truly disheartening 450,000 people. It feels like we’ve reached such numerical thresholds that few of us are fully comprehending the full weight of in the moment, and that only with the hindsight of history will we truly grapple with such numbers signify. The future will wrestle with that knowledge not only with respect to the harrowing global impact on human lives and livelihoods it entailed, but also just how much of it was preventable if not for incredibly inept leadership by those in charge, a massive promulgation of misinformation about the disease, and a deeply-ingrained culturally-driven sense of entitlement at being asked to do anything you don’t want to do.

On the other hand, all signs are pointing to the fact that the case numbers are indeed cresting and have started to fall once again. Whether that will bear out to merely be us getting through the spike in cases because of the holidays (see above) or the first evidence that mass vaccinations are starting to work remain to be seen. Perhaps both. In any case, the trend line is moving once more in the desired direction, and it is a welcomed development all the same. The resulting feeling is a bifurcated one: accepting that things for many, many people are Not Great while at the same time acknowledging that things (albeit much slower than we’d all like) are starting to improve. Like so many things in life, there is a sense of duality to it. And it’s perfectly naturally to feel mixed about that.

In a very strange way of arriving at it, thinking about such dualities did bring me around to a Magic-related tie-in for this week, even if gaming-related matters are a bit less important right now by comparison. As with most of this series’ COVID-based period of Gamus Interruptus, we’ve mostly showed off Magic cards I’ve wanted to put into an EDH deck for some time but haven’t for one reason or another, rather than basing the article around a Magic-based subject that ties into a Commander card. However, thinking about being of two minds about something did eventually get me thinking about the game’s split cards – two different spells printed on a single card. They’re advantageous in that they only take up a single card slot and provide you with two distinctly different strategic options, even if you (usually) only get to use one side or the other in the end.

Today we have: Repudiate / Replicate

Name: Repudiate / Replicate

Edition: Ravnica Allegiance

Rarity:  Rare

Focus: Counter Magic / Creature Copying

Highlights: When split cards were first introduced during the Invasion block, even those which were a bit underpowered were met with praise initially, if for nothing else than the novelty of trying something new. Moreover, while something like Fire / Ice allowed you do use them in monocolored decks, their chief advantage was being multicolor in nature. What they did most though was prove that the idea worked and players liked them, setting the stage for a series of returns – each time with more varied and powerful spells at the ready.

Planar Chaos briefly brought the idea back (as a nostalgia set is wont to do) with a few monocolored split cards that made you choose between two different related effects. A few years later, during the Return to Ravnica block, split cards took on yet another iteration. In this case it was two different multicolored cards of different color pairings with useful individual effects but which synergized with one another. Thanks to the Fuse ability, it gave you the option to cast both sides at the same time as a single tricolored spell…if you had the mana.

After a split card/Flashback hybrid spin-off showed up in the Amonkhet block, in which the original two different monocolored spells idea resurfaced but which one side could only be cast from the graveyard, split cards returned once more during the third Ravnica block. In their most recent incarnation, these split cards inexplicably did something that still hadn’t been done before: multicolored cards where both sides are the same two colors. This proved incredibly desirable for many players, not only because it made it much easier to include in Ravnican-style guild-centric decks, but being produced firmly in the era of EDH-dominated casual play made them much easier to add to Commander decks as well.

Split cards have incredible potential in Commander games because of their innate two-for-one nature. Because Commander has a finite deck size, every slot is cherished. Every choice agonized over. Any time you can squeeze just a tad more use out of one of those slots, be it in versatility, potency, or flavor – or any combination thereof – it’s usually at worth considering. And Repudiate / Replicate is no different.

On one side is Repudiate, a two-mana instant that when cast, allows you to counter a triggered or activated ability. Some tend to look at Repudiate and chalk it up to being a slightly more expensive Stifle, whereas others see it as a slightly cheaper Disallow or Voidslime without the ability to also counter a spell. While spell counters are always desirable in multiplayer games, as anyone who has used a Stifle or equivalent before can attest being able to interrupt a potentially game-changing trigger or activation on an opponent’s side of the board can be huge at stopping someone in their tracks (if only briefly). Of course, as Stifle has illustrated many, many times over the years, it’s also a handy way of negating a potential downside trigger on one of your own permanents entering the battlefield.

On the other side is Replicate, which is a three-mana sorcery with creature copying potential. As is the case with most cheap (less than 4 mana) creature copying spells, Replicate is limited only to copying creatures you control, but in EDH games where duplicating practically any of your creatures is a huge upside this is not that much of a limiting setback. Plus, its low casting cost ensures a quick ability to duplicate more expensive creatures quickly, such as after a board wipe or when trying to press an advantage.

Each side of this card makes a solid case for itself in a Commander deck, even if the min-maxers out there will quickly point out that there are some similar individual cards that may be a hair more powerful. Yet they would be remiss to ignore the combination factor here; trading a fraction of power from each effect in order to have both on a single card slot is well more than worth such a tradeoff. Combined, Repudiate/Replicate offers a variety of tactical options depending on how it’s utilized, be it offensively or defensively. It also provides the means for you to make that determination for yourself which will be more helpful during the ever-changing circumstances of a Commander game.

Yes, there is a duality to cards such as these. But unlike matters outside the game, in this case both choices are an upside. And we all could use more of that these days.

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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