Humans have an innate desire for pattern completion. From our earliest days of survival to the epitome of first world issues, we as a species have developed and held on to the skill of recognizing patterns. Over the centuries it has served us well as a survival instinct, and we’ve developed a deep-seated reward mechanism in our brain for piecing together and parsing out patterns we see.
Put another way: we humans are really good at seeing patterns and we like doing it.
However, this trait cuts both ways, because while we’re able to find patterns from information available to us, we at times also assume patterns exist in places where one never existed in the first place. This happens across many avenues of our lives, including in the gaming world.
Magic: the Gathering includes many card cycles when it creates new sets. It’s been doing this since Alpha, with examples like the Laces, and the ‘lucky charm‘ artifacts that let you gain life. Beyond being an elegant design tool, the idea of card sets within sets resonates with players. We find them fun, be it because of flavor or power level. Over 20+ years we’ve seen no shortage of memorable card cycles, from Alpha’s Moxen to Shadow Over Innistrad’s Shadow Lands. We’d be surprised nowadays if blocks didn’t contain card cycles at this point. Leylines. Titans. Ascensions. And so on.
Did you remember that Force of Will was part of a cycle?
Yes, Magic and its players love card cycles. Most are found at the same set and rarity, but there are plenty of others. Some cycles scale vertically along a Common-Uncommon-Rare path. Other cycles are powerful rare cards spread out over an entire block rather than a single set.
Honestly, when you think about it, it almost shouldn’t be a surprise players assume card cycles exists even when there never intended to be one.
One such famous example of this is the Tower cycle. The original Mirrodin set had four Towers, each with a different ability that many attributed to a color based on their respective ability. Yet no such Tower existed for Red. Players assumed this was an incomplete cycle of cards even though design never intended for them to be one in the first place. Catering to our love of cycle completion, however, when they returned to Mirrodin they rectified it by printing Tower of Calamities. The same went for the famous Mirrodin enemy-colored Swords: originally two, players wanted to see them ‘complete’ the cycle, which was also done. Many have since moved on to to the next extrapolated pattern they hope to see finished, such as the Morphing/Torchling/Thornling shapeshifter cycle.
Of course, for every player nod like Tower of Calamities, there are plenty of imagined incomplete cycles that likely will never be finished, let alone rewarded. This has included ridiculous notions such as hoping to see an easily abusable Red-based legendary land from the Urza Block era to go with Tolarian Academy, Gaea’s Cradle, Serra’s Sanctum, and Phyrexian Tower, or more recently, hoping to see a non-tribal Red tournament creature to finish the absurd “broken two-drop creature cycle” as to round out Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf, Stoneforge Mystic, and Snapcaster Mage.
Because that’s exactly what R&D wants to do – intentionally create a broken card.
Yes, players love trying to find patterns in what they see, whether real or imagined, and it’s always funny to see how people extrapolate perceived gaps in the world around them.
That being said, there is a very real cycle here at Monday Magic that I wish to remedy. To date, every two-color pair and every three-color wedge/shard has had at least a single card showcased on this weekly column. Every single arrangement that is, except for one. This was one pattern that is reel and I do feel needs to be rectified, which directly leads us to this week’s pick.
Today we have: Temur Ascendancy
Name: Temur Ascendancy
Edition: Khans of Tarkir
Focus: Creature Buffing / Card Draw
Highlights: Having your creatures have haste is useful in any game of Magic, Commander or otherwise. Haste affords you the freedom to use creature abilities right away, as well as gives you the option of attacking – or not – with any creatures you cast that turn. It gives you more strategic options to act or react as necessary. Yes, haste is almost never not a good idea.
But why one would advocate for a tri-color Fervor over the numerous other haste-enabling cards out there that are easier to cast? Well…we’re not. Haste in this case is more of a bonus. This card’s true worth actually lies more with its second ability.
Although Temur Ascendancy doesn’t utilize the ability word, the latter half of this cheap enchantment ties into the tribe’s Ferocious ability, which is some ability based around creatures of power 4 or greater. In this case, whenever you put out such a creature you’re able to draw a card, effectively making it a one-sided Kavu Lair. This is a very powerful card drawing engine if used correctly, especially in a color scheme that has no shortage of large creatures. What’s more, you benefit from its effect regardless of whether you’re casting the creature, dropping one onto the battlefield, or conjuring up an army of tokens. In a creature-based deck, Temur Ascendency helps create a self-sustaining system where you will potentially draw even more creatures to cast anew. Multicolor EDH decks are often looking for useful ways to smooth out potential mana problems or ways of speeding up a deck, and this little card certainly helps do the trick on both fronts.
And yet, Temur Ascendancy’s power is often too subtle at first for players to be concerned with it. For a card with this much one-sided advantage, it has a surprising knack of not generating much threat on the board by itself. That can change depending on your style of play and what creatures you start putting on the table, but that’s not the enchantment’s fault.
Temur Ascendancy isn’t the most prolific Commander card out there, but would you really expect one from the heavily nature-based Khans tribe led by a bear-punching warrior? Still, beneath its simplistic abilities lies a highly versatile draw engine for those looking to unleash an army in short order. It’s cheap to cast and effective at any stage of the game, making it an easy addition for any creature-centric deck in its colors.
Plus, it helps complete a cycle here. So it’s a win-win all around.
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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Do you have a particular Commander card to suggest for us to shine a future Spotlight on? You can send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org