Commander Spotlight: Ugin’s Nexus

Welcome back to week forty-four of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It’s been 345 days since my last summoning, and…I got nothing. All I can do while staring at that number is continually be reminded that 345 days is rapidly becoming 365 days in just three week’s time. It’s the same sort of feeling you get when you watch a software update or installation and it flies through only to pause forever at 99%, mocking you as you sit there, staring, completely at its mercy for if and when it will ever actually finish.

The only difference here is that the stakes are a lot higher for a lot of people. And there’s absolutely no evidence that our collective plight will conveniently end at the arbitrary one year mark since my friends and I last played a completely unrelated card game. Despite mounting evidence that things continue to be marching along in the right direction with steadily declining new cases and continued ramp-up of vaccine deployment, the end of forced separation from one another is still a ways off yet. There’s a growing sense that we’re getting there (finally), but realistically, it’ll be a few months yet before most people are comfortable resuming any semblance of their former lives. Ourselves included.

Although this forced interim between gaming marches on, it hasn’t been completely devoid of Magic-related activity on my end. While enthusiasm for new sets and general interest paying attention to ongoings in the game’s general zeitgeist are on a continual wane, it has allowed me to funnel some of that energy into game-adjacent activities. For instance, I recently have started sorting and organizing my collection for the first time in about 5 years, finally incorporated everything I’ve accumulated in that time into a more organized solution than “endless stacks precariously sitting atop storage shelves which periodically lure the cats to them like cardboard catnip whenever I go near them”. It’s also allowed me to complete a long-unfinished new Commander deck and tinker with some of my ones.

Most of them, anyway.

Because my instinct with deck construction is to get it close to how I want up front, I spend an extensive amount of time assembling an EDH deck (at least compared to most people). The upside to this is that when they finally hit the table they usually work the way I envisioned them. The downside is that the more successful the deck is, the more wary I am of messing with it. For instance, my Melek, Izzet Paragon deck has never functioned as well as I wanted it to (which is to say flashy but not overpowering), and it’s allowed me to do a complete overhaul since its creation some 5 years ago. A lot of new material for such a deck has come out since it was first made, and it’s allowed me to rebuild it with some new tricks in mind.

On the other hand, I am incredibly cautious when it comes to making any alterations to arguably my favorite deck, Karn, Silver Golem – aside from non-basic lands. Luckily its colorless nature ensures that very few new cards qualify to begin with, but even if they do, changing out individual cards is exceedingly rare because it works perfectly fine as-is. Everything in the deck has a purpose, and adding something new means removing something else. The fear of disrupting that is palpable, which is why I don’t believe there’s been a non-land change to it since M19.

Of course, that’s not to say there isn’t a shortlist of potential swaps that I muse over from time to time. I just am loathe to pull the trigger in that case. And it’s one of those cards that bring us here this week.

As with most of this series’ COVID-based period, I’ve mostly showed off Magic cards I’ve wanted to put into an EDH deck for some time but haven’t for one reason or another. This week’s pick is very much part of that tradition. It’s a card that has a tendency of being overlooked for appearing too situational. But as with many things Commander, sometimes a card’s primary intended function isn’t what makes it useful in this format.

Today we have: Ugin’s Nexus

Name: Ugin’s Nexus

Edition: Khans of Tarkir

Rarity:  Mythic Rare

Focus: Extra Turns

Highlights: As with most tactics-heavy games, playing Magic isn’t solely about understanding the rules and executing a proper strategy. It’s also about leaning when to be proactive with your moves,  pressing your board position and making offensive decisions, and when to be reactive, shoring up various defenses and contingencies for when – not if – the tables suddenly shift. And while it’s certainly true that you can’t plan for every possibility, it’s prudent to plan for those with high probability. Namely, board wipes.

And as I’ve written about before, sometimes it comes in handy to have a dead man’s switch for such occasions.

Technically speaking, Ugin’s Nexus offers up two effects which can be beneficial in a Commander setting, but its innate value comes from the latter one. The first effect on this five mana artifact states that if someone tries to take an extra turn, they simply…don’t. It’s a pretty powerful negation of players taking extra turns, but such cards are (in most metas anyway) quite uncommon. Moreover, players who frequent extra turn cards typically fall into two camps. The first are those who use them for one-and-done extra turns (think Savor the Moment or Timestream Navigator), be it to press their chances at knocking off players, speed up their re/building efforts, or simply because they can. The second are the players who are practically incapable of not abusing such cards and taking lots of turns in a row. (Pick a cEDH player, for instance.) In reality, the Nexus is designed to stop this second group more than the first. However, such players are already a subset of a subset of EDH users, and it wouldn’t make it all that worthwhile to slot in a deck solely for those daffy few. Plus, such players would probably find ways around it anyway.

Instead, Ugin’s Nexus is suggested here solely for its second ability, in which it just begs to be destroyed. It states that if it goes to the graveyard from the battlefield, it self-exiles and you immediately get an extra turn, essentially making it a passive Time Warp just waiting to go off. While some players may be hesitant to use a card that conceivably only benefits you from a death trigger, I would argue that it, in fact, does do something: serving as a deterrent to most Commander games in which massive board wipes are often tossed around with wild abandon. With Ugin’s Nexus on the battlefield, players must contend with a conundrum: is clearing the board worth the prospect of them giving you an extra turn? If so, then the card’s trigger pays for itself. If not, then just by its existence it has delayed their actions and had them settle for a detente, at least temporarily. Suddenly their decision isn’t necessarily as binary and further enriches the table politics at play. This provides a helpful defensive shield which buys you time to further shore up your resources and plan your next move accordingly.

Even if that move would be to go all all Space Invaders and intentionally blow it up yourself for a proactive back-to-back turn assault of your own.

Plus, the best part to Ugin’s Nexus is that between this behavior and its colorless nature, it can literally find a home in any potential deck. It may not make it into the deck I originally considered it for, but that shouldn’t stop you from considering it for one of yours.

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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