Commander Spotlight: Vanish into Memory

Not every Magic card is destined to be super complex, unique, or even all that interesting. Based on the volume of cards that Magic releases every year, the game would rapidly destabilize in its appeal to casual and non-rotating Eternal formats if every new set came out with completely new cards that not only superseded the worthiness of those that came before them but obsoleted them entirely. That is, if every new card were strictly better than those that preceded them, then there’d be no need for the older option. This degree of power creep would eventually lead to much less design space for future cards, create a permanent arms race in a game that already strains to keep a ‘Pay to Win’ ethos at bay, and would cripple the secondary market.

So, yeah, as much as players may always crave the newer and better version of every card, the whole concept is a prime example where it’s better to not give someone exactly what they want.

The tradeoff, of course, is that players must contend with cards that simply aren’t going to entice them. Sometimes this is because it was designed for a different play style or format than that player focuses on. Many commons, for instance, are developed specifically with drafting or Standard in mind, including costs, power level, and whether they even are better than a parallel card from the past (and in many cases they aren’t). Others explicitly crafted for the kitchen table audience over the tourney player. There is no way that every card is guaranteed to be exciting, because, frankly, that’s not its purpose. Which is why so often you’ll see new cards that do almost the exact same thing as those from the past, albeit with some kind of minor tweak.

Commons may be the best example of this, but it’s also incredibly evident in the realm of dual-color card pairings. At least, depending on the color pairings.

From a creativity standpoint, not every two-color matchup is created equal. Blue / Green cards, as an example, showcase a wide spectrum of unique and creative ideas that routinely explore new territory. Red / White cards, by contrast, so overwhelmingly focus on attacking, combat, and variations to that end, that when one does come along outside of those parameters (i.e. Depala, Pilot Exemplar), people take notice.

Another pairing that suffers heavily from this are Blue / White cards. The go-to color of defensive maneuvers and control decks, most Blue / White cards have a tendency to blend together because of how many utilize the same effects. Nearly half of all noncreature cards in Blue / White involve drawing cards, gaining life, or tapping or untapping permanents in some way. Nearly half.

That said, while these cards comparatively aren’t as creative as some other color pairs, it’s not that these effects are bad or unwanted. They just tend to struggle for their own identity sometimes. To that end, for this week’s card pick we shook this overlapping tree of defensiveness and grabbed one that came loose.

Today we have: Vanish into Memory

Name: Vanish into Memory

Edition: Coldsnap / Venser vs Koth / Modern Masters 2017

Rarity: Uncommon

Focus: Creature Flickering / Card Draw

Highlights: Vanish into Memory is one of those strange cards from Coldsnap that found a following upon its release but whose merit has risen slowly over the years as more people have been exposed to it through two subsequent printings. Although it very much fits into the Blue / White mold by way of flickering creatures and drawing cards, it does so in a way that can serve multiple purposes, making it far more beneficial than it first appears.

At its most basic, Vanish into Memory is a four mana flicker spell with a twist. In this case, rather than the creature returning instantly, or at the end of turn, this card behaves much more like Phasing in that the affected creature doesn’t return until your next upkeep. Because of this, there are numerous tactical applications in mutliplayer games like Commander, such as protecting a creature from removal, nullifying combat damage, or temporarily imprisoning a problematic creature from the board for upwards of an entire turn. This could also open up the ability for you – or even multiple players – to go on the offensive against an opponent without worrying about their biggest threat. And in both cases, using it in the right way can make for a handy political tool under the right circumstances.

Likewise, as with most flickering spells, it also affords you (or another player) the means of reusing a potent Enter the Battlefield trigger.

But wait, there’s more!

What makes Vanish into Memory the most unique is its card draw rider, wherein when the creature is exiled you draw cards equal to that creature’s power. Depending on the size of the creature, this can be a substantial amount of card draw for four mana, especially at instant speed.

The second half of this, however, is where most people tend to focus their reluctance to consider the card, because when the creature returns to the battlefield, you have to discard cards equal to its toughness. So, yes, in cases where a creature has a higher toughness than power, they aren’t ideal targets since it’ll amount to be a net loss of cards. Ideally you’d rather use it on a creature where the reverse is true, or if said creature was larger upon exile due to auras or equipment, making for a net positive.

Yet in EDH games with large decks of cards to mine, one shouldn’t discount the advantage of basic looting (drawing and discarding the same amount), as it allows you to cycle through your deck and optimize the cards in your hand. You may not be gaining more cards, but you’re either gaining a better hand, or at least are whittling your way through weak card pockets.

Vanish into Memory isn’t going to leap off the table for its unique effects, especially in these two colors (I’ve honesty lost track the number of times I’ve confused it with Reviving Vapors), but there’s also something to be said about consistency. With this color duo, you often know what you’re going to get. Though Vanish into Memory provides a little room for some extra surprise flourishes along the way.

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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