Commander Spotlight: Sprouting Vines

Whenever a new set comes out, the first aspects about it are dissected at length by the community. We want to know more story background about the new plane we’re visiting, or the conditions of an old plane we’re headed back to. We’re insistent on diving into the mechanics of that set to see what new twists on the game the designers are feeding us this time. We are insistent to see the new marquee planeswalker cards that set will feature. And we’re incessant about wanting to know all of this long before the set is even released. For there are few Magic players who can resist the lure and lore of new game material.

Then the individual cards themselves start getting spoiled and interests split depending on your respective camps.

While Limited players will be curious about the makeup of the set writ large, other players may only care about which new cards will boost their current Standard, Modern, or (if they’re especially lucky) Legacy deck. And now that multiplayer cards have become a staple of set design makeup, Commander players are likewise on the lookout for EDH gems sprinkled throughout the set – be it new legendary creatures, powerful late game spells, or useful utility cards.

Though cards and mechanics that suit the various formats need not be mutually exclusive, they often are. The Dredge mechanic, for instance, started off as an omni-mechanic that was used by nearly everyone when it first came out. Over time, however, its use has mostly been adopted by the tournament community for its aggressive graveyard management synergy.

Similarly, the same thing happened with Storm, an incredibly powerful mechanic that, when used at its highest potential, has warped entire formats with its presence. Storm was thought of rather innocently when it first came out back in Scourge as a fun build-around-me mechanic that encourages taking advantage of having as many spells cast in a single turn as possible. The initial implications of this seemed innocuous but possessed high potential if you honed a deck around the concept.

Yes, even Wizards wasn’t aware exactly how broken some of the Storm cards would become. But it doesn’t take long traipsing through a Legacy, Vintage, or Modern setting before finding someone running a deck centered around Tendrils of Agony, Grapeshot, Empty the Warrens, or Brain Freeze. They are now ubiquitous with tournament formats and synonymous with the kinds of decks that people tend to play at you rather than with you. Storm became so problematic, in fact, that R&D actually came out and said that you’ll likely never see it again in a Standard-legal set.

However, it’s not Storm per se that’s the problem insomuch as the effects that were being copied over and over again. Deal Damage. Lose life. Mill cards. Indeed, the biggest trouble-makers for the mechanic are all cards that have lasting proactive effects. We know this because proactive Storm cards only made up about half of the original lot, and yet we rarely hear about the other half – reactive or defensive cards that can be highly useful in their own right but strangely don’t go and upend the game when used.

This week’s card pick is one such Storm card, and a personal favorite of mine for multiplayer Magic:

Today we have: Sprouting Vines

Name: Sprouting Vines

Edition: Scourge / Commander 2013

Rarity: Common

Focus: Land Fetch

Highlights: When it comes to land fetch cards, nearly all fall into one of two groups: those which add the land to your hand and those that add the land directly to the battlefield. Most players prefer the latter if given the option. After all, why waste a hand slot or land drop for the turn if you don’t have to? To balance this fact out, fetch cards that add them to your hand tend to either cost less to cast or provide some additional benefit.

Sprouting Vines is all about benefits.

Given its primary effect, Sprouting Vines is an incredibly basic card to use, stating that for three mana you are able to search your library for any basic land and add it into your hand. As an Instant this can be done at nearly point on anyone’s turn.

It’s about as simple as land fetch comes, really.

That said, because the most popular three mana land fetch cards people use tend to (either partially or situationally) add said land directly to the battlefield, Sprouting Vines needs a reason for you to consider the ‘less potent’ option. That’s where Storm comes in.

Like all Storm spells, this one states that you create a copy of Sprouting Vines for every card before it that has been cast that turn. Which means the efficacy of this card is all about timing. And it’s not that hard to figure out. For instance, in the earlier stages of the game, casting Sprouting Vines on someone else’s turn when they’ve cast literally anything guarantees you’ll be able to fetch for two lands. A turn when they cast two things, or someone else casts a card in response to theirs, guarantees you three. And in most cases getting 2-3 lands off of a single Sprouting Vines is more than enough to fill your hand and set yourself up with land for several subsequent turns.

All for just three mana.

Moreover, Sprouting Vines is equally useful in the later parts of EDH games with its potential for you to gain an entire hand’s worth of lands (or more) from a particularly active turn. This can be highly advantageous if you are behind mana-wise compared to your opponents. But if you aren’t particularly hurting for land at that point, grabbing 4+ basic lands out of your deck, even if you don’t keep them, is also a useful way to thin your deck out a bit and increase your odds of drawing a more useful card each turn.

Yes, Sprouting Vines is essentially one of those win-win cards that is able to help you at all points in the game with minimal effort and a range of efficacy that goes from decent to amazing. Like any good Storm card does.

This one just doesn’t happen to potentially break the game in the process.

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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