Let’s talk Sol Ring.
Since the very beginning of Magic, Sol Ring has been one of the most cost efficient and beneficial mana generators. Period. It makes more mana than it costs, it can go into literally any deck, and there are few cards more pleasing to see in an opening hand than that shining circular artifact. Whether casual multiplayer or kitchen table dueling, Sol Ring has been a champion workhorse of mana efficiency for decades – if you could get your hands on it that is.
Yes, it was apparent even in the early days of Magic that Sol Ring was probably too good to keep around, both in terms of design diversity and power level implications.
And it was uncommon no less; it’d probably be a mythic rare today.
Even now there are few cards that can consistently and repeatedly pump out mana for a net gain without some sort of engine behind it. Ergo, to avoid an arms race of overpowered artifacts, Sol Ring disappeared from rotation after Revised. Still, it’s always been a favorite, and even though it fell further and further out of print, that never stopped people from appreciating just how powerful of a card it is. I myself used to go around trading for them and buying them up if the price was worth it to me, illustrated by the fact that I’m one card short of having a score of Revised edition Sol Rings – most of which have seen decks at some point. So, to say that I am a fan of this versatile and rewarding artifact is a bit of an understatement.
Yet it may come as a surprise when I say that Sol Ring is not the best Commander card around.
When Wizards started printing unique EDH decks under the new ‘Commander’ title, one of the most surprising things was reprinting Sol Rings in each of them – a trend that has continued through Commander 2015. Predicated on the fact that many EDH players used them prior to these new products anyway, Sol Ring has since become almost a guaranteed card in pre-made Commander decks. In turn, this has reinforced the ideology of decks “needing” staple cards in general, and with Sol Ring, doubly so.
While most Commander decks can make easy use of a Sol Ring for its impeccable mana ramp (that’s not in dispute), no card is an absolute necessity for Commander. This bears reiterating from time to time. Whether for sake of diversity, theme, space, or a host of other reasons, it shouldn’t been seen as a construction mistake simply because a Sol Ring isn’t in your deck. Nor should anyone bear ridicule should that be true.
Part of the reason to push back on this, aside from the danger of EDH homogeneity, is that Sol Ring is not the be-all-end-all for Commander decks. Part of that is its fragility. It’s often an easy target of artifact spot removal, and the prevalence of board wipes in Commander has ensured the death of countless Sol Rings by this point.
Additionally, its potency is tied to when in the game you draw it. Although it makes a powerful mana burst in the early to middle stages of a game when players are ratcheting up their arsenals, topdecking a late-game Sol Ring is about as useful as a basic land. A Sol Ring’s usefulness in EDH exists on a curve that drops off significantly the longer a game goes on. There’s no disputing that a Sol Ring is good – great even – but it does mean we can tone the rhetoric down of it being a must-have at all times.
Likewise, there are plenty of Magic cards whose purpose runs along the exact opposite trajectory. These are considered finisher-style cards, where their cost and effectiveness is nonexistent at first but the longer the game goes and the more resources you can invest into it, the harder they punch. These finishers are just as useful in most Commander games as an early Sol ring, and in many cases, even more so. To that end, this week we look at one such card.
Today we have: Villainous Wealth
Name: Villainous Wealth
Edition: Khans of Tarkir
Focus: Free Casting
Highlights: Some heavy-hitting spells are fairly one sided, if not expensive. The game is chock full of examples such as Insurrection, Plague Wind, and Cyclonic Rift. These are known commodities, and they’ll do exactly the same thing whether it’s on turn 7 or turn 22. Others, like this tricolored gem, only get scarier the more time and mana you use to fuel them.
When used correctly, Villainous Wealth serves two useful purposes at the same time. First, there is the very practical effect of exiling the next X cards from an opponent’s deck. This not only thins a player’s future options to use against you, but the cards are removed from the game rather than simply milled, which can be huge in EDH.
Far more devastating, though, is that when Villainous Wealth goes off, you’ll be able to cast any number of the exiled spells. In a creative use of adding insult to injury, the more mana you pump into the value of X you not only increase the number of potential cards to steal from your opponent, you also increase the likelihood of grabbing cards of consequence. Villainous Wealth will allow you to cast any spell if X is high enough, from big creatures to nasty enchantments – and everything in between. Admittedly, you won’t be able to predict what you’ll get with this card, but the more you can invest into being greedy, the better your payout odds will be.
Plus, there’s nothing more frustrating to many than having their own assets used against them. During a late game push, this card has the capability of doing that in earnest.
The catch, of course, is that aside from antagonizing someone directly, it’s also a case where it requires a significant mana investment to be effective. To cast anything of a converted cost of six or less will require at least nine mana to set off, for instance, and in an EDH setting, having X be any less than three would be a wasted spell the vast majority of the time. As such, Villainous Wealth is not the kind of card you want to see in your hand early on.
Instead, its true potential is unleashed the longer the game progresses. It’s a little more random than other finishers, sure, but it’s also one most won’t see coming. Most of the time, though, stealing from your rich enemies to feed your poor board position will be rewarding as long as you’re willing to commit the time and mana towards it.
And hey, it gives you something to use that late-game Sol Ring for too.
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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Do you have a particular Commander card to suggest for us to shine a future Spotlight on? You can send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org