Commander Spotlight: Wild Evocation

Welcome back to week four of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It has been 72 days since my last summoning. That makes for a full 2.5 months, though each week has become a month unto itself. Which in turn means that time has become completely relative, with us humble citizens now unstuck in time.

But, hey, if this is the first stage towards becoming a Time Lord, I’ll consider it a silver lining.

This extended intercession has also raised a couple other, perhaps more relevant notions beyond my desire to do timey-wimey things. The first is that for some Magic players, it is not lost on me that going a few months between games isn’t all that uncommon and that not being able to play in person at present isn’t that much of a change or challenge for them. Which is more than fair. Still, for those who prefer to do their card flopping in the physical realm (as opposed to Magic Arena MTGO), these times can be a frustrating disruption to an activity you enjoy. That said, the percentage of overall Magic players who were consistently playing one or more times a week is not incredibly high to begin with compared to the overall pool of players that exist. So I understand my privileged position, and I realize that my weekly games were more an aberration than the standard fare. As such, missing out is more of a luxury loss than anything else.

The second thing that comes to mind is that with events such as the coronavirus disrupting normal gaming activities, coupled with how it is impacting important facets of everyday life, being deeply involved in the Magic scene for many has taken a back seat. And one has to wonder how many of those people simply won’t pick it up again. After all, the busier and crazier life gets, the less time one has for a game that revolves around making customized decks. Ironically, some may have a lot of free time at the moment while being stuck at home, but once life starts to have a sense of normalcy again, there’s no guarantee they will maintain that amount of leisure time to devote to the game. If you are, consider yourself rather lucky.

Coincidentally enough, luck is what brings me here today.

In keeping with this interlude focus on Magic cards I’ve always wanted to put into an EDH deck but haven’t been able to as of yet, this week’s card is all about a truism with the game. That is, there are two types of Magic players: those who try to minimize the influence of luck, and those who embrace it.

There are far, far, far more players in the first category. The extreme end of that are min-max power gamers and tournament players who seek to wring every dollop of chance out of the game they can, but even the more modest Magic players of this faction generally prefer to not have the entirety of their game dictated by mere chance.

Then you have the other group, who are all about embracing the whirlwind.

And, I have to admit, from time to time, that prospect can definitely be quite fun – if you’re willing.

Today we have: Wild Evocation

Name: Wild Evocation

Edition: Magic 2011

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Free Casting

Highlights: For a number of years, particularly in core sets, Magic went through a period of creating powerful Red cards that embraced the color’s more chaotic side. These were cards that took the inherent random elements and spun them out as cards that influenced the games in direct and often varying ways. Among this lot of cards game Wild Evocation, an enchantment that basically takes the idea of cultivated casting and throws it out the window.

Which is, as if it wasn’t already obvious, the entire point.

For a six mana enchantment, most Magic players expect a card that brings with it some kind of notable table impact. Wild Evocation certainly does that – and then some. It states that at beginning of each player’s upkeep, they reveal a card at random. If it’s a land, it’s dropped onto the battlefield. Otherwise, the player casts it for free. There are no restrictions here in terms of the card’s timing, casting cost, or even its usefulness. This could mean anything from a mild utility spell all the way through massively powerful creatures, board wipes, and planeswalkers. Anything and everything is fair game when the card is revealed, leading to outcomes that are anything but simple to predict.

Could there be a case where you get a completely inconsequential artifact while your opponents drop out some of the scariest permanents in their deck? Absolutely. Though the opposite is equally true. No one will know for certain. That unknown anticipation is the card’s intrinsic appeal. Yet from a ‘strategic’ perspective, Wild Evocation also tosses a wrench into the machinations of those who enjoy somewhat predictable EDH games with somewhat predictable EDH decks by potentially disrupting the board state and the focuses of its players every single round. While many players won’t like the idea that the card’s effect has the very real potential to work against them, it also has the means of creating some highly dynamic, unforeseen moments in Commander games. This luck-based outcome can be particularly fun if the game has reached a specific detente or stalemate and is a novel way of shaking things up.

Moreover, none of this is optional. The revealed card doesn’t give you the option: if you are able to cast it, you must. No saving it for later. No discarding it with no effect. It is cast, no matter the outcome.

Wild Evocation is a great card for those who like the idea of challenging the status quo or keeping their opponents just slightly off guard. Or those who simply like the idea of throwing the dice just to see what happens. Too many Magic stories about randomness are about getting mana screwed or someone topdecking a card at the right moment. This card is more about adding some levity or ridiculousness to the formula instead, which is sorely missed in a game that it (or its players) sometimes takes just a tad too seriously.

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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