Commander Spotlight: Upwelling

Welcome back to week twelve of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It has been 128 days since my last summoning, which if nothing else serves as a somber reminder that the everyday social activities of most people to congregate with friends has taken a steep decline. While the CR HQ is in one of the few areas of the country where numbers have been consistently going down (or at least not going up), and there’s a sizable chance that in the coming weeks we may finally get a chance to try, there is still the need for an abundance of caution.

It is 2020 after all; for all we know two weeks from now the deer population will rebel and start hunting us instead.

Still, there has been enough trending in the right direction where my MTG meta have started dipping our toes back into Magic-related activities and conversation, such as discussing deck ideas or picking up some new set packs. To which I’ve found it personally refreshing. It’s allowed us to ease back in to the game while still acknowledging that it feels…strange…to do so. In light of all the major events affecting us writ large, spending mental and emotional capital on a game still doesn’t quite sit right with everyone, and that’s more than understandable.

So although there is some stirring of activity, we’re still nowhere near the normal level of operation that has fueled this series over the last many years. As a result, I’m still not quite capable of returning to more topical articles yet. Instead, I’ve been spending the last couple months highlighting cards that I’ve personally wanted to put into an EDH deck but haven’t had the opportunity to yet for one reason or another, rather than via my normal curation approach.

And for this week, it’s all about speed.

Today we have: Upwelling

Name: Upwelling

Edition: Scourge / 10th Edition

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Mana Generation

Highlights: Of all the notable aspects to Commander games, one of the most impacting from a practical standpoint is the time it takes to play. Unlike normal Magic duels – some of which can be over in minutes – Commander combines multiplayer casual Magic with higher life totals, making for games that consistently take a couple hours to play. This is a feature of the format, not a bug, as it affords people the time, mana, and means to play cards and deck ideas they normally wouldn’t be able to. Commander games have lull periods where everyone bides their time and chaotic moments of upheaval as someone wipes the board or sweeps across the battlefield looking to eliminate an opponent. It’s unpredictable. It’s exciting. But it takes time.

For some people the idea of a multi-hour investment on a single Magic bout sounds lands somewhere between impractical and physically painful. Some of those people will simply opt out, citing EDH as not their thing – which is perfectly acceptable! Others, however, may seek to change the rules of the game. One of those ways is to kick up the game’s tempo by using cards that increase land drops, mana production, or flopping cards directly onto the battlefield far earlier than they’d normally appear.

Upwelling is one of those cards. For four mana, this enchantment states, quite simply, that players don’t lose mana between turns (or even in the steps between turns), giving everyone access to a permanent bank of mana that they can add to or remove at their desire. Generate mana during combat? You can keep it till afterwards. Don’t have anything you care to cast this turn? You now can store that mana before your next turn rolls around. Have an excess of mana as a result of some effect and don’t want it to go to waste? Go ahead and save it for later.

Green has long had permanents that rewarded every player with extra mana (Eladamri’s Vineyard, Vernal Bloom, etc.), with the subtext that although you’re giving an opponent free mana, the speed advantage is still probably yours. Upwelling is both a continuation and a deviation from that: it’s not giving you extra mana, but it is letting you float any mana you already had access to.

The tactical intent here is clearly that you would drop this when you have the best mana engine going and can still be the person most benefiting from Even Moar Mana! But in Commander, that isn’t necessarily going to be the case. That is, sure, you may be able to cast a bigger creature more quickly than the others at the table, but it also gives that other player who’s had mana problems the ability to sacrifice a turn, save up, and drop something out to help them catch up. Which helps keep the game moving.

And yes, it also does let people start pulling out their big guns much earlier in the process, singlehandedly speeding up the tempo of the game. At least until someone inevitably blows it up because they’re not reaping the rewards as much as everyone else. Still, just having Upwelling out for a few rounds can put players in a better place, shave off a few rounds of buildup or escalation, and likely even trim the play time a bit on the back end.

Admittedly, Upwelling is not a card I’d personally choose to run most of the time as I’m a Magic miser and don’t generally like rewarding my opponents with free stuff if I can help it. Yet this card’s ability to alter the flow of a game has always intrigued me. And I do like cards that upend the normal flow of the game if it keeps people off balance just a little. Upwelling is capable of doing that simply by existing.

Now if it could only help speed up my deck building acumen…

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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