Commander Spotlight: Thieves’ Auction

Chances are you frequent The Cardboard Republic for more than these brief Monday forays into the world of Magic: the Gathering. Actually, chances are you probably frequent the site in spite of this series. We aren’t a Magic-centric website by any stretch, but we like to acknowledge all the same that it does have a place within the larger tabletop gaming pantheon. Sure, it may be that awkward older sibling who paradoxically has a vibrant social life while also struggling to relate to the rest of the family in a very City Mouse meets Country Mouse sort of way, but it’s family all the same. And so here we are.

Still, if you’re familiar with our little corner of the web, you’ve probably seen us talk about our player archetype philosophy. Using these six archetypes allows us to look at a game through a prism of who it will be favorable to and who is best to sit that game out, rather than strictly deciding if a game is good or bad based on personal tastes. Everyone plays games differently, including Magic, and just because a game may not strike your fancy doesn’t mean that it’s bad for someone else. In reality, most people fall into at least two different camps (although I’m often just a straight-up Tactician), and if you don’t know what your own gaming archetype is, we coincidentally enough happen to have a quick little quiz right on our home page.

Wizards of the Coast has similar player profiles that have become pretty endemic to the game’s identity, in the form of Timmy, Johnny, and Spike (and slightly less so with Melvin and Vorthos). These player types were used by the Magic design team for years as an internal way to designate the different ways someone is motivated to play Magic and what keeps their continued interest in it, but they’ve long since become part of public discourse as well. In a nutshell:

  • Timmys are the Magic players who like the feeling of big creatures and big plays throughout the game, fueled in large part by the emotional experience of simply playing.
  • Johnnys are the game’s combo players who enjoy using interesting or complex decks as a way of expressing themselves through those efforts.
  • Spikes are the game’s tournament-minded players. Their primary interest in the game is the thrill of competing, and their desire to win is their top priority.

Of course, just like our player profiles, not everyone typically falls into a single category here either.

The question was thus raised: how exactly does Wizard’s trio overlap and interact with our six? As it turns out, while two of the three are more or less interchangeable, the third is a little more nuanced. So, just like we dove into breaking down the gamer archetypes for tabletop RPGs and in our more formal review of Magic: the Gathering, we thought it would be interesting to do a quick recap on how the archetypes play the game. So here goes:


Architects: The civ-builders of the group, Architects in Magic will try to do as little to upset the apple cart as possible, opting to largely play defensively as they build up their assets. Only when they have amassed an insurmountable force will they make a move on another player or three. Architects don’t want to poke and prod for small amounts of damage with an opponent. Instead, they want to annihilate them in one fell swoop, biding their time until they can.


Tacticians: Using Magic parlance, Tacticians are the game’s Johnnys. Tacticians love assembling their deck’s latest infernal engine or surprise maneuver, and their enjoyment most in Magic is being able to pull it off. Their combo pieces and deck synergy isn’t just a means of an expression: it’s a means to an end. This group is fully willing to trade short-term losses to their opponents into long-term gains, preferably with the enemies not seeing their grand reveal coming and are thereby unable to stop it.


Socializers: This group is not generally favorable to Magic due to its highly complex rules system, and in many formats, takes more time than they prefer. They also prefer formats that have multiple players, which is a bit of a cruel irony. If they were to play with regularity, Socializers would seek short casual Timmy-like games where they would be able to interact with their opponents without worrying about highly aggressive or far more skilled opposition.


Strikers: Another direct profile transition, Strikers and Spikes are effectively one and the same. Strikers thrive on direct player conflict, and their primary motivation in Magic is to win, plain and simple. From organized tournaments to games of Commander, this bunch will attack anytime they find it advantageous to their position. With little room for style or inefficiency, it’s victory or defeat.

ImmersionsmallImmersionists: These folk are mostly concerned with the idea of exploring the world they’re gaming in or roleplaying the setting in front of them. In something like a draft in Magic, that’s possible, but as casual Magic takes elements from the entire 22 years of the game, the story becomes heavily diluted, leaving many on the fence with the game. Truthfully, Immersionists match up better with Wizard’s lesser-known Vorthos camp than any of the Players Three.


Daredevils: Finally are the Daredevils, a group that is sort of a mix of Timmy and Johnny…if they lived in Gotham. Daredevils aren’t necessarily going to play Magic to win, though they’ll gladly take it if it happens. These are the players who will attempt a harebrained scheme to disrupt the board or pull off some crazy move simply because they can; anything else is a bonus. It’s not that they don’t have a method to their madness. Rather, it’s just that they don’t put as much planning into it or emphasis on outcomes as other groups.

From a card design angle, Wizards takes into account their player profiles, and over the years there have been thousands of cards catering to the Timmys, Johnnys, and Spikes of the world. From our perspective, Magic clearly has something to offer five of the six archetypes, with cards of varying degrees that cater to each preference. However, there are the fewest cards for the Daredevils amongst us, in part because the nature of such cards are to cause upheaval.

Still, sometimes shaking things up are what the table needs most. So that’s what we’re going to show off here.

Today we have: Thieves’ Auction

Thieves' Auction

Name: Thieves’ Auction

Edition: Mercadian Masques / 8th Edition

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Board Control / Board Disruption

Highlights: Red has a long history of being the color of chaos cards, and Thieves’ Auction is just another iteration of that premise. The game doesn’t produce too many cards like this or Goblin Game or Warp World, as they’re only really favored by players who intentionally want to cause havoc.

Sometimes, though, a lengthy, bogged down game of Commander requires it. EDH games can be incredibly dense affairs, with everyone spending copious effort building up their arsenals and arming their defenses. Occasionally, players reach such a stalemate that board wipes are a welcomed way to clean the slate. Aside from using it to simply throw a car-sized wrench into the game, Thieves’ Auction occupies that same territory. This card possesses a powerful – albeit unique – set of advantages when used.

For starters, Thieves’ Auction is a creative Red answer to tokens. Since this card exiles all permanents before returning them, tokens will cease to be an issue. This has the same effect as mass damage, but it also catches any that won’t take damage or whose size has gotten larger than you can Magmaquake into slag. In the same vein, this also temporarily removes issues of indestructible or otherwise untargetable permanents. Most impacting of all, however, is that this is one way Red can address the issue of a particularly dangerous enchantment under someone’s control, either by allowing you to grab it first or letting it go to another player where it will be less problematic.

Indeed, this market restructuring card doesn’t just reset the board cleanly like with White wrath effects. Instead, it forces players to shift the game’s power structure around at their choosing. Every creature, every land, everything will be returned to the battlefield upon the resolution. Beyond letting players take advantage of various Enter The Battlefield Triggers, this gives those with weak board position a means of evening the scales by giving them useful assets while reducing the overall number of permanents from  those in the lead. It’s sort of a Robin Hood effect, if Robin Hood was written by Lewis Carroll.

The one caveat to Thieves’ Auction (we are talking robbery after all) is that since all returning permanents come back tapped, you as the caster will likely be the last to untap all of your stuff. So don’t be surprised if you invite a bit of retribution by casting it. Thieves’ Auction doesn’t often make a ton of friends with combo players losing key pieces or aggressive players losing momentum. On the other hand, though, if one player is being particularly troublesome, this could be seen as a great equalizing effect, and you could gain as much praise as scorn depending how things pan out.

But that’s the sort of gamble you have to take. Plus, it’s still less random than Scrambleverse.

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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