Commander Spotlight: Righteous Aura

Among the many ways you can gauge the longevity of a Magic player, one of the more subtle ones is to listen to the types of cards they reference when they wax nostalgic for when they got started.

If you’re talking about some of your early decks and they start on about their beloved Naya deck, it’s possible they began around Alara. If you get into a discussion about Magic lore and names like Urza, Yawgmoth, and the Weatherlight are recurring mentions, odds are pretty high it was pre-Invasion. And if you’re on about stories from back when you played Magic in school and the topic includes mentions of ante cards, the game’s ‘demon ban’, or the power of a little card called Necropotence, you can be sure that you’re talking to someone who started playing before many Magic players were even born. Whether it’s allusions to lore, mechanics, artwork, or a dozen other clues, if you can get someone to reminisce about their Magic heyday, it doesn’t take much detective work to pinpoint the era in which they started.

Someone who’s never heard of mana burn? They’re going to be relatively new to the game. Whereas someone who remembers when Force of Nature was THE scariest creature to hit the battlefield has been around the arcane block a few times.

Try as I might to occasionally not remind myself of this fact, I’m very much in that latter camp, having started with Antiquities. This has been reiterated and expounded upon at length in numerous articles over the years – it’s hardly been a secret – but even if it isn’t overly mentioned, I too can easily date myself when referencing some of my fondest aspects of the game. Among this includes numerous anecdotes, storyline elements lost to time, a not-immediate dismissal of Fallen Empires, and an adoration for several game mechanics that Wizards has unfortunately – though understandably – been chipping away at as each year passes.

I still enjoy the idea of Regenerate even though Indestructible has effectively replaced it. I still find Landwalk, Protection, and even some color hosing to be highly efficient tools in a deck’s arsenal. And while it’s certainly far from super powerful and has long been on the decline favor-wise outside of Fog variants, I do wistfully still cling to the time when damage prevention & redirection were a more commonly seen tool in the mechanical shed.

For the most part, outside of Fogs, there hasn’t been a highly memorable P&R card since we strangely got a trio of them over a six month period in late 2014 with Comeuppance, Deflecting Palm, and Channel Harm. But that’s hardly the norm nowadays.

Long gone are the days when players had to worry about Circles of Protection showing up (though I do run one in a Commander deck) and whose presence in collections were so ubiquitous that they were often considered throwaway cards. Cards that were so prevalent and printed so many times that even though they’ve been out of print for over a decade, all but the limited edition copies still don’t have any market value.

Yet they aren’t likely to be reprinted anytime soon because, ironically enough, Wizards deems them too powerful.

Still, because Magic’s catalog is eternal, such cards are just as useful today as they’ve ever been. To that end, this week’s card pick is very much part of that original damage prevention family. However, for our purposes it’s a bit more versatile than your standard CoP…

Today we have: Righteous Aura

Name: Righteous Aura

Edition: Visions / Mercadian Masques

Rarity: Uncommon

Focus: Damage Prevention

Highlights: For many years, Righteous Aura was sort of a black sheep in the enchantment prevention family. With numerous iterations of CoPs running around, along with the Urza block’s Rune of Protection cycle, and later, the more flexible Story Circle, Righteous Aura found it to be a hard sell for many players to opt for over its contemporary brethren – especially given that with 20 life you could only risk using it a handful of times. Because of this, it rarely got a ton of use in casual play and for many, fell out of recollection entirely over the years.

It’s time we correct that.

In the Commander format, the usefulness of Righteous Aura isn’t just resurrected, but in many ways is superior to its predecessors thanks to two two key factors:

  1. Its versatility among decks
  2. Its ability to be used regularly without unduly endangering yourself further

This cheap, two mana enchantment has a single activated ability that states that by paying one White mana and 2 life, the next time a source tries to do damage to you, it’s prevented. In traditional games, this was less advantageous given that each activation cost you 10% of your overall life total. This meant that it was more of an emergency cord pull as needed rather than a complete shield – the logic being that if you needed to lean on it frequently to prevent midrange damage, you were probably in bigger trouble anyway. In Commander, not only can you activate it more times before worrying about redlining yourself, but with the battlecruiser nature of the format encouraging higher damage output from more potent spells and larger creatures, even using it on average sized attacks is well worth the tradeoff.

Additionally, just like all prevention abilities, Righteous Aura helps mitigate all manner of damage-related worries as well. Even though you are still paying life in its activation, the prevention ‘shield’ created negates all manner of effects, from Commander damage to Lifelink and other combat damage triggers. And unlike its past counterparts, neither the type or color of the source matters: Righteous Aura can address it all.

This fact, coupled with its low casting and activation costs, makes it a much more desirable card in an EDH deck than it may seem on the surface. It’s biggest limitation, however, is that with a White activation cost, you are likely limited to decks that can reliably provide White mana.

Well, that, and once players realize how efficient it is at protecting you, it’ll likely tick up a bit in your meta as a target for removal.

Which, perhaps fittingly, finally puts Righteous Aura on the same defensive level as its classical peers. Even if it only took a decade or two to get there.

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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