Commander Spotlight: Sins of the Past

As with any established franchise, the longer it remains around, the more robust it becomes as a subject. Beyond merely the people who participate in it first-hand, any tenured topic will eventually blossom into all sorts of secondary fields of interest.

Take something like a sports team. While initially the most interested parties are those who actively want to play the game itself, a successful franchise can quickly involve many, many others. From coaches and sports casters, athletic companies and statisticians, sellers and collectors of paraphernalia, and general fans of the sport itself – just to name a few – a sport can become much more than simply the activity itself in short order.

And there are, of course, the stories.

The longer anything sticks around, it begins to pick up stories as those within its orbit come across it in some way. Maybe that sport provided a memorable outing to a stadium, or the time you realized you went to school with some future Hall of Famer. Perhaps it served as a mechanism to bond with family members or as a unifying force in the community. All of these and more are possible, each offering different avenues that tie you to that central topic despite never being at the center of it all.

Understandably, Magic too has all sorts of stories surrounding it, from eventful tournaments, to minor scandals, to corporate upheaval. The early years of Magic alone are enough to write an entire book about. Things like the summer that Necropotence broke the tourney scene. Or the period of time where the game bowed to outside cultural pressures targeting tabletop gaming and removed all manner of demonic imagery, naming, and even the creature type itself for a few years. Or the numerous stories that have sprung up (some real, some fictitious) around a handful of cards in the possession of individuals like Richard Garfield where only a single copy of each have ever been made.

In many of these cases, usually stemming either from rumor, sensationalism, or admitting to plain old mistakes, Wizards has come forward after the fact and confessed that sometimes events pertaining to the creation and proliferation of the game have not always gone according to plan.

It happens. To stick with the sports references, no one bats 1000.

The most common example of things going awry are when a card comes along that is so powerful that it has the potential to simply break the game – or at least the format it was intended for. Wizards has been much better in recent years in its development process to curtail the prospect of ‘broken’ cards, and when one does manage to escape that process, they are much more transparent in making swift, corrective steps to fix it.

That wasn’t always the case, however. For a long time a number of cards were considered powerful, even worthy of banning in numerous formats. But the company, for myriad reasons, was reluctant to simply admit they had make a glaring mistake with its creation at the time.

Still, it’s better late than never, and it can go a long way to simply admit when missteps were made even after the fact. It’s another thing entirely to put that mea culpa into a card form. But with this week’s card, that’s exactly what happened.

Today we have: Sins of the Past

Name: Sins of the Past

Edition: Ravnica

Rarity: Rare

Focus: spell Recursion

Highlights: Despite only offering an association with a wink and a nod, most people accept that Sins of the Past is a metagame reference to Yawgmoth’s Will, one of the most powerful cards in the game – although no one really thought it would be at the time. It has caused such headaches over the years that it’s gone on to be a banned card in the Legacy format and restricted in Vintage. Yawgmoth’s Will effectively gives every card in your graveyard Flashback for the turn for a mere three mana, which is incredibly dangerous in combo decks. As even this card’s name implies, Sins of the Past recognizes the havoc that it has caused over the years.

Sins of the Past continues with that same idea, but on a much more grounded level and with some obvious changes. For one, Sins costs a more modest six mana instead, ensuring it’s not as much of an auto-include in a combo player’s arsenal. Moreover, rather than letting you cast anything from your graveyard, Sins of the card limits your options strictly to Instants and Sorceries, making it much harder to abuse, even in EDH.

On the other hand, Sins of the Past provides two things its spiritual predecessor does not.

The first is that, as trade-off for its casting cost and one spell limitation, this card allows you to cast the targeted card for free. Effectively, that six mana you pay isn’t just for this card but for both. As such, the instinct is to use it on the most potent, costly card in your graveyard – and you would not be wrong for choosing to do so. Getting off a massively powerful spell once can be a huge strategic shift. Being able to replicate it a second time – at a potentially lower casting cost – can be game-changing. Yet in the later stages of the game it’s also possible a well-timed recasting of a cheaper spell may be just as advantageous. It’s a tactic that should not be dismissed.

Secondly, there is the much, much, much more practical matter of the card’s monetary cost. Because although Commander is one of the few structured formats where Yawgmoth’s Will is not banned, it also happens to be a card that goes for around $70 on average (largely due to being on the Reserved List). Which is far beyond what most Commander players could or should be paying to augment their deck. By contrast, Sins of the Past can usually be found for around the cost of a postage stamp.

It turns out the past can be painful in more ways than one. Including the wallet.

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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