Commander Spotlight: Unscythe, Killer of Kings

Magic: the Gathering is a very polished product. Everything about it is meticulously crafted and molded to generate the most appeal possible for whomever the product is aimed at. It’s designed to catch your attention in different ways because, obviously, the intent is for you to buy it.

The fact that Magic is modeled after an internal formula to maximize this effect shouldn’t really be a surprise. The goal of any product is to sell as much of it as you can to maximize profit. And you don’t get to be 25 years old selling anything, let alone trading cards, unless you’re doing something right.

Admittedly this unseen formula undoubtedly changes over time to suit the needs of the set or product, as well as slightly taking into account the changing demands of the consumer base it’s catering to. It’s not as if it’s codified on a blackboard at Wizards somewhere that’s going to always guarantee everything will be a hit.

In the case of Dominaria, the formula essentially banks on two major ingredients for its selling point: massive noses of nostalgia and big splashy cards. The nostalgia factor for this set is huge and shouldn’t be discounted. All you have to do is look at the sheer volume of stuff in pop culture being reinvented or resurrected from the 1980’s, for instance, to realize the draw nostalgia has to a wide audience. Dominaria isn’t just the first set to visit the home plane of Magic in nearly a decade, but it’s being done on the game’s 25th anniversary, is chock full of throwback card flavor and references, and is full of characters (or descendants thereof) whom many have come to have emotional attachments to. That alone was going to create a heavy player draw. When you factor in the ‘historic’ mechanic that’s essentially doubling down on the whole notion, well, it’s no accident. They knew full well what they were tapping into, and they did so deliberately.

That nostalgia was then coupled against many big, splashy new cards in the set, which included things like sagas, legendary sorceries, and dozens of legendary creatures to play with (across multiple rarities no less), infusing the set with such a potent combination of material that Dominaria was already hailed as a success by the time of the prereleases. And if you read between the lines, it’s pretty obvious the powers that be knew this was going to be the case from the start.

Sometimes that’s quite alright. Nostalgia can be fun to use now and then to attract interest. It only becomes a problem when you start using it for revisionist purposes, or worse, when you start using it as a crutch to make your product work.

So, in celebration of Dominiaria, this week’s pick is very much along the same lines, offering up a card that’s splashy, full of flavor, and tries to live up to its legendary status.

Today we have: Unscythe, Killer of Kings

Name: Unscythe, Killer of Kings

Edition: Alara Reborn

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Spot Removal / Token Generation

Highlights: Unscythe is a strange card in many respects. When it debuted during the Alara block it was a deemed such powerful card that all but the most aggressive tournament-focused Grixis players would have gladly put it into their deck. The further the game moved away from the Alara block though, the more this card fell out of memory. Part of this likely stemmed from its limited use, as Unscythe requires three colors to cast, and part of it is that it struggled to gain a lasting legendary resonance since it never popped up as a huge storyline component. Still, neither of those detract from it being one heck of a powerful equipment.

Although a tricolor card, Unscythe is part of the rare colored artifacts subset, as well as the even rarer subset of being only one of two legendary colored equipment cards in the game besides Godsend. Most of the attention to that end is focused on its four mana casting cost, requiring Black, Blue, and Red mana to cast. This limitation is arguably it’s only real drawback, however, as what often gets overlooked in the process is that it only takes two mana to equip – which is usually a better indicator of an equipment’s status overall. While its colors does limit it to 3+ color decks, those that do utilize it won’t be disappointed.

Once equipped to a creature, it starts off by providing a sizable buff of +3/+3 and First Strike, making even lowly token creatures possible problems on the battlefield. That alone is handy. Yet its second ability is even scarier in that any creature damaged by the equipped creature is exiled, while also generating a 2/2 token for you. This can aid in dealing with indestructible creatures and create massive power swings during combat in general (whether on offense or defense) as the equipped creature only needs to deal a single damage to exile it from the game. The fact that you also get a token out of it – say as a replacement creature if your equipped one dies – is an unholy cherry on top.

Also…nothing says the damage has to be combat based. Unscythe merely says damage, which opens up all sorts of creature-based damage options viable, especially since that’s a trait two of the three required colors for this equipment share. So, pingers have at it.

Yes, Unscythe may not be one of the most notable legendary cards in existence, but Commander games, like nostalgia in general, can be all the more rewarding by pulling out long forgotten cards to be played with once again. And this one is well worth the consideration.

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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