Doubling Down

Posted in Command Tower on January 7, 2016

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Making mana is a fundamental part of Magic. While we've come a long way from the first booster packs running an Island in the rare slot (lands really are that important!), it hasn't been a flat road. There've been some complications along the way.

Mirari's Wake | Art by David Martin

Mana Flare also slotted in as a rare in Magic's first boosters, and its ability was a simple doubling effect—everybody's lands tap for an extra mana. It wasn't harmless: coming down on your own turn meant it often boosted your opponent first, leaving you to play catch-up on every turn thereafter. Heartbeat of Spring shifted the ability into green's portion of the color pie, though Mirari's Wake was the first to do it asymmetrically.

Asymmetry is a notable angle to effects. If powerful benefits are yours exclusively, or potent detriments are just for your opponents, the effect is something to consider. Mana Flare's downside was giving your opponents a lift along the way. It's what set Mirari's Wake so far apart; not only was it an exclusive mana bonus for you, it tacked on an additional bonus for you on top of that.

Dictate of Karametra tried to solve the Mana Flare problem by letting you bring it down just before your turn started, giving you the tempo lead on doubling up your mana—and the option to blow it up before passing the turn. However, reaching the heights of Mirari's Wake has been a challenge for everything short of Mana Reflection—which literally doubles the mana you receive from every source you have on the battlefield.

Zendikar Resurgent certainly gives it a shot.

Another Chip in the Pile

Mirari's Wake is double the dose of goodness, and Zendikar Resurgent is the same. It's an asymmetrical pair of bonuses, and both are outstanding:

  • Doubling mana from lands has been gravy for a long time. Any time you can make it happen for just yourself is something to consider.
  • Drawing a card for each creature spell you cast approaches Mirari's Wake in terms of utility. Having more mana means casting more creatures, which means drawing more cards—it's a chain that fits together well.

When you play Zendikar Resurgent, opponents will react accordingly, digging through their hand and even deck to find a way to blow it up. Like Mirari's Wake, if somebody can answer the enchantment, they will. It's just too powerful to ignore.

But the times they don't find anything, you get to do amazing things when you untap.

At the top of that list are creatures like Great Whale and Palinchron, which will fuel casting a flurry of things by doubling mana and drawing a card when you cast it. (Palinchron lends itself to many powerful combos. Zendikar Resurgent is just one more—and something opponents will dislike just as much as the other ways to take advantage of it!) But beyond that, there are several more creatures that pivot things in interesting (read: looping) ways:

Looping creatures in and out of play to draw a hand overflowing with cards is something your opponents will not take lightly, so tread carefully if you plan to go wild with maximizing everything Zendikar Resurgent can do.

The other approach to handling Zendikar Resurgent is the same as how I handle putting Mirari's Wake into one of my decks: treat it as a bonus that smooths things out if it sticks but isn't in a deck built to pivot combos off of it. It doesn't make the enchantment any less scary to everyone sitting across from you, but it does mean your plans will work even if Zendikar Resurgent isn't around.

One of my favorite commanders of all time is Rhys the Redeemed, and I've been updating his deck throughout recent releases. Zendikar Resurgent fits right into the deck:

Stybs's Rhys the Redeemed

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COMMANDER: Rhys the Redeemed
99 Cards

The way the newest pieces of the deck fall into place is a delight. Battle for Zendikar's Blighted Steppe turns into enough life to weather powerful attacks, while Commander (2015 Edition)'s Command Beacon and Verdant Confluence ease the mana issues of playing Rhys the Redeemed early and often. Now, Oath of the Gatewatch gives us Zendikar Resurgent to fuel out big mana plays and potentially draw a few extra cards along the way.

The number of victories secured off the back of an end-of-turn Secure the Wastes keeps growing. Bigger, earlier X spells will only improve things.

Cashing In

Of course, that's the real attraction of effects like Zendikar Resurgent: untapping with a battlefield that you can pour your mana into. While I don't expect Zendikar Resurgent to dominate in Standard or explode in a Modern deck at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, I do expect to play it and upend an entire game of Commander.

We wouldn't have it any other way.

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