Welcome back to week – ooph – forty of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It’s been 317 days since my last summoning, a number that I have stared at for more than a few minutes trying to fully grapple with. Maybe it has to do with that number reflecting more than 10 months without seeing some people I’d come to socialize with at least on a monthly, if not biweekly, basis. Maybe it’s serving itself up as an indictment of the current circumstances at which we all find ourselves and the ever bubbling pains and frustrations the pandemic represents. Maybe it’s just that it’s a prime number and feels oddly peculiar sitting there on the page.
I’d love it to solely be the latter most one, but I have a hunch it’s probably a combination of all of those factors – and then some.
Still, it’s always darkest before the dawn. A couple weeks ago I spoke of the need to persevere in the face of a now-mutating virus causing havoc, hampered logistics issues in the vaccine rollout, and the continual fallout of the disease affecting nearly every facet of daily activities. That has not changed. If we stay resilient, we can come through it – hopefully sooner rather than later – allowing us to get back to all those leisurely things we’d all taken for granted. Several major domestic changes have occurred here in the US in the last two weeks that should help with these efforts – so here’s hoping we’ve finally reached the tipping point.
Because this has left the gaming table quiet for some months, this COVID-based series interim has had most of the Commander cards showcased be those which I’ve personally wanted to put into an EDH deck for quite some time but haven’t for one reason or another, rather than using it to expound on a particularly Magic-centered topic. With the decks silenced for the time being, it’s also allowed me to focus on more mundane aspects of being a Magic player, such as sorting cards and through doing so rekindling oneself with the game’s myriad stories. Indeed, Magic’s lengthy and at time confounding lore is nearly as old just as the game itself, with its second expansion, Antiquities, showing off the first unique set-based storyline. That will be 27 years ago this March. Antiquities summarized the famous tale of the Brothers War between the two great artificers Urza and Mishra, not only setting in motion a decade long story arc between Urza and the Phyrexian menace led by Yawgmoth, but also providing much needed relief to the game’s designers that it actually could craft compelling tales through the cards themselves.
Antiquities and the Brothers War stand out personally for three reasons. The first is because the first cards I ever opened were a Revised starter deck and an Antiquities booster pack. So…nostalgia. The second was that even back then I had a weird fixation on the fact that Mishra’s Factory had four different seasonally illustrated versions, but it would take several years into playing before I ever actually saw all of them in person. The third, and most relevant here today, is the fact it set in motion my adoration for Urza, the brilliant, vain, complex, and flawed savior of Dominaria, of which many exciting stories branched off and were able to stand on their own while stile tying into the larger narrative. As prerevisionist era stories go, Urza’s beginnings is easily is the one I was most transfixed by.
A decent runner-up though easily has to be the planeswalker Taysir, a character with a fantastic background, unique story, and compelling evolution who at least rivaled Urza in both raw power and irrational behavior. Unfortunately, Taysir (much like much of the Mox Beacon / Planeswalker War storyline), never really was given proper game treatment, which is down right criminal.
The bronze medal story fixation, and what brings us here today, was the tale of the Elder Dragons. We all know of Nicol Bolas in today’s era, a megalomaniac planeswalker with a mean streak a mile wide, but before he ascended, Bolas was one of many dragons to fight in the Elder Dragon War, a series of draconic conflicts across multiple planes that lasted several thousand years and ended (at least on Dominaria) with only a handful of the most powerful dragons surviving. Five of these, Bolas included, were represented originally in Legends but got new card treatment in M19 (though poor Piru was once again excluded). M19 also served to help flesh out some of the backstory behind the Elder Dragon War itself, as although the narrative origins of it are 25 years old, the tale has only really been explained in bits and pieces over many, many years.
But hey, 5 massive dragons were enough early on to invite extensive interest from the player based, including yours truly.
Today we have: Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire
Name: Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire
Edition: Magic 2019
Rarity: Mythic Rare
Focus: Board Manipulation
Highlights: Of the original 5 Elder Dragons, Vaevictis stood out for a number of reasons, including being the only one not a direct sibling of one another and the one who instigated the initial conflict on Dominaria between his forces and Nicol Bolas’s. Even in his original incarnation Vaevictis was known for being aggressive, brutish, and quite dangerous on the battlefield. Whereas the original Vaevictis Asmadi depicted this via multiple instances of Firebreathing, this revamped version better reflects the character’s willingness for scorched-earth tactics. Which if you’re willing to embrace can be quite entertaining in Commander.
This version of Vaevictis may be marginally smaller (and marginally cheaper), but in many ways it’s even more dangerous. For six mana, spread over three colors, you gain a 6/6 Flyer – which is pretty on curve for multicolored or mythic dragons these days. That fact alone makes it dangerous on the battlefield to contend with. But what makes this dragon in particular worthy of the EDH scene is its attack trigger, although it operates as a double-edged sword.
Vaevictis states that when he attacks, you get to choose a single permanent for each player and that player must sacrifice it. Utility artifacts, well-guarded planeswalkers, pesky Indestructible creatures? None of them are a match for this flying death machine. When you attack, you simply point at your targets and they are destroyed. This can be monumentally advantageous in Commander settings to reshape a stagnant table state or to deal with a problematic player in some way, regardless of which player you’re attacking.
Plus, you know, that player also has to deal with a rather sizable dragon coming at them.
There are tradeoffs to being able to sweep away permanents at will, however, and for some players it may be enough to opt out. First, the trigger is mandatory; you cannot pick and choose which players are affected. Vaevictis can allow you to play table politics by taking out less impacting permanents from some and more powerful ones from others, but you still have to destroy something of even those not facing your wrath. Second, and tied to the first, is the simple reality that this also affects you. Every time you attack you will be forced to sacrifice something in the process. So fodder is absolutely necessary to properly benefit from its use. Doubly so if you plan on using it in the Commander slot itself.
Finally, like many permanent-removal effects in Red’s sphere, there is the chance for possible replacement. In this case, after sacrificing their cards everyone reveals the top card of their library and puts any permanent they reveal onto the battlefield. This is admittedly a gamble, as it’s supposed to be. So, yes, although it is potent for removing problematic cards from the board, there is always a chance you may end up replacing it with something even worse. On the other hand, the odds are possibly even better that the replacement card – if they get one at all – is far less worrysome. Short of library manipulation, the only real way to know for sure is to attack and find out.
And it sure seems like a fun way to find out.
While some Commander players may not want to embrace the unpredictability that Vaevictis Asmadi offers, one has to remember that the Elder Dragon Highlander format got its name from these original five because they served the heads of decks that embraced a more laid-back, more flavorful format that is just as fine with powerful as it is with whimsical. And in that mindset Vaevictis Asmadi seems like perfect addition to the roster.
Plus, using it is guaranteed to create some new stories of your own in the process.
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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