Commander Spotlight: Uncle Istvan

When you pick a card for a Commander deck, you’re making a deliberate choice to include that card in the deck for a reason. Unlike other casual decks, where players are more prone to put in cards more quirky or esoteric than you’d probably see otherwise, Commander is a little more discriminating (if just a tad). Because Commander is the only format that has a set deck size (sorry to burst that bubble to all those non-Constructed 60-carders out there), a lot of thought can go into your selections. The fewer colors you use and the larger collection you have, the more difficult it can be to whittle down your options.

Most of the time you’re likely to add a card that gives you some kind of useful bonus, be it removal, board wipe, life gain, card draw, and so on. Other times they are cards that pair well with your Commander’s abilities.

Though sacrilege to some, it’s also alright to put a card in a Commander deck strictly for flavor purposes. Commander, just like any other casual deck, will not fall apart if you forgo a slightly more powerful card in favor of something that you will enjoy drawing for one reason or another. Flavor for many people is a legitimate factor when making card selections. Should Monday Magic only look at cards strictly for functional reasons? Clearly the answer there is no, and often the attempt is made to try to include cards that may possess some entertaining flavor purposes. To date though, we have not made a suggestion where flavor is the principle reason. So this week, we’re doing precisely that.

I’ve decided to call a family reunion. My Mad Auntie is already here, and I’d like to introduce you to her other half…

Today we have: Uncle Istvan

Uncle Istvan

Name: Uncle Istvan

Edition: The Dark / Fourth Edition / Time Spiral Timeshifted

Rarity: Uncommon

Focus: Damage Prevention

Highlights: Why focus on a card that is essentially a less useful Cho-Manno, Revolutionary, Commander Eesha, or Beloved Chaplain? Well, for starters, those cards are all White. White is expected to have such creatures on occasion, as they are the color of protection and damage prevention. Very few cards in Black have that sort of damage shield. How few? Actually, Uncle Istvan is the only one. That’s pretty crazy.

Granted, he existed at a time when the color pie was more like a paint swirl, so there’s a lot of old cards with out-of-the-norm abilities by today’s standards. And yet, it sort of makes Uncle Istvan all the more endearing. Indeed, his flavor is augmented by his uncharacteristic traits. Here is an isolated, unhinged, axe-wielding loner who literally is undeterred by the creatures he meets. His ability isn’t that of righteousness or divine blessing as it is in White, but rather that of a man who is so cuckoo that he defies any living entity in his encounters. Not only does it make sense mechanically that he’d be a deserving recipient for a Pariah’s Shield, it works even more so on a thematic level.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the card, and Commander decks can benefit from workhorse-type creatures. Admittedly, there are plenty of other potent 4-CMC black creatures a player can choose from for their Commander deck, but few offer the sheer quirky amusement factor that Uncle Istvan has offered players for  just shy of 20 years. That said, if flavor isn’t enough, it is evident that he has practical uses as well. He make a great defender against non-flying, non-trampling creatures. He laughs at wither and infect. And his ability to utilize the fight mechanic works on multiple levels.

Whether you ultimately include him in your Commander deck depends on if you feel you can justify his services in your deck, true, but there’s a good chance that not only could his unique skillset be useful in a Black Commander deck – it could be memorable to boot. The game may have aged, the players may have grown, but Uncle Istvan still sits, always waiting for an invitation to the party.

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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