I'm sinking into my chair, shoulders slumped, trying to avoid looking at the battlefield. All eight of my lands are tapped. My hand is empty. I have a sickening feeling that none of my creatures are going to survive until my next turn.
Across the table from me, my opponent is going off. "Let's see, I cast Serum Visions, scry both cards to the top, draw two off this Divination, kill both your Demons, exile my graveyard to lower the delve cost on Dig Through Time..."
My opponent is playing Magic, and I am not. It is one of the worst feelings in the world.
The creature I am previewing today will not stand for this sort of behavior. If there are spells being cast, he will demand a piece of the action. And if you live in his city, you have to play by his rules. World, meet Kambal, Consul of Allocation:
Whoa. If you dabble in Cube or Legacy, you might recognize this ability as something like a reverse Tendrils of Agony. While that card rewards you for playing as many spells as you can in a single turn, Kambal, Consul of Allocation demands a steep fee for every noncreature spell cast by one of your opponents. Want to play a whole bunch of spells? You'd better have the cash—uh, I mean life—to back them up.
Not only is Kambal incredibly powerful, his flavor is spot on. Not sure what a consul is? Well, if you're a Magic Story junkie like me, you might remember the Consulate from "Fire Logic," Chandra Nalaar's origin story. All of the Aether in Ghirapur is under Consulate control, and they are the ones who decide who has access to it...and at what price.
This is important, because Aether powers almost everything on Kaladesh. Without it, neither magic nor technology can function. The Consulate spent so much time and energy chasing down Chandra because her ability to summon fire without Aether threatened to disrupt the Consulate's tight control on Kaladesh's economy.
As the Consul of Allocation, Kambal is one of the most powerful figures in the city of Ghirapur. There are other members of the Consulate as well, all of whom have roughly equal authority in governing the city. But in issues of Aether distribution, Kambal's word is law. If you want Aether, you have to go through him—and he's not about to let you have it for free.
Astute color pie scholars are probably waiting for the other shoe to drop after having noticed the black mana symbol in Kambal's cost. After all, government resource allocation sounds like a dream job for anyone who is purely white-aligned.
They're right to be skeptical about Kambal's integrity—not only does he control the legal distribution of Aether in Ghirapur, his hands are all over the black market as well. He dines with Aether siphoners, and Aetherborn crime lords visit him at his estate. He's dedicated to upholding the law...just not at the expense of his own power and control.
Kambal's flavor text does a great job of illustrating the kind of man he is. He does not concern himself with who his "friends" are—if you're willing to owe him a favor in exchange for your Aether, it doesn't matter if you deal on the white or black market. It's hard to do anything involving Aether without getting Kambal involved, which is just how he likes it.
Whenever Kambal, Consul of Allocation hits the battlefield, his insistence on having a piece of every Aether-related transaction will bear itself out as the mechanics of the game unfold. For best results, drop Kambal early in a massive multiplayer game. Your allocation fee will annoy people, certainly, but by the time people start to realize just how much you've been profiting off their actions, it might be too late for them to stop you.
What sort of deck might Kambal thrive in? Well, he probably won't ever meet a member of the Ravnican Orzhova, but I suspect he would appreciate their extort mechanic. Profit // Loss is another fun card from that block that feels like it fits Kambal's flavor. I would also be tempted to stick him in a deck with Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer in order to see which brand of extortion worked best.
Lastly, I want to take a moment to appreciate Vincent Proce's stunning artwork. The illustrator of everyone's favorite bucket Island on Zendikar, he's been on a bit of a roll lately. I especially loved his work on Hanweir Battlements, Hanweir Garrison, and Hanweir, the Writhing Township in Eldritch Moon.
Casting a shadow over Kambal's face was an unorthodox design choice, but it really pays off here. Any beginning illustrator can tell you that your subject's face is likely to be the most important part of whatever piece of art you're working on, and as such it should be clear and well lit. In this case, however, hiding Kambal's face in shadow gives him an incredibly sinister air. Even though he's depicted in a position of authority, his costume elegant and his posture confident, that shadow belies an inner darkness—perhaps representative of his control over the black market.
I also love the little pink circles around Kambal's eyes. Not only do they make him look eternally tired, like he spends 20 hours a day doing business with all sorts of unsavory characters, but they highlight his intense and malevolent glare. I love art that makes me want to lean in for a better look, and this piece certainly qualifies.
So. are you sick of sitting around and watching your opponents play Magic without giving you a piece of the action? Give Kambal a try. Trust me—it's good to be the Consul of Allocation.