Kolaghan's Command Spotlight: "What's The Play?"

Posted in GRAND PRIX COPENHAGEN 2015 on June 20, 2015

By Frank Karsten

Kolaghan's Command is one of Modern's new standout cards. For example, Pierre Dagen, who is running the instant in his Jund deck, called it: "As good as Cryptic Command." That is high praise, but he wasn't alone in his fondness of the card, as many Jund and Grixis players have shown up with Kolaghan's Command in their deck this weekend.

The beauty of the card is that it has a plethora of modes that allow you to set up a favorable two-for-one trade. For example, you can burn their creature and have them discard a card. Or you can return Snapcaster Mage and destroy their Amulet of Vigor. And how about getting rid of both Cranial Plating and Steel Overseer with just one card? The list goes on. There are so many modes, in fact, that I constructed a puzzle with the card.

In the following scenario, you're in the middle of a game with your Jund deck against your opponent's Affinity deck. You've missed a land drop early on and your opponent's evasive creatures have already beaten you down to 10 life, so things are not going well. What's more, at the end of one of your previous turns, your opponent telegraphed Galvanic Blast by tapping and untapping mana, which threatens to put your life total even lower. (For the purpose of this scenario, you may assume that you know they have the burn spell in hand.)

It's your first main phase, and the question is: What's the play? In particular, is there a way to avoid losing to a topdecked Cranial Plating, Arcbound Ravager, or Galvanic Blast on the next turn?

Before scrolling down, think about this situation for a bit to figure out what you would do here.

With a print-out of this game state in hand, I sat down at a table with a group of players who have over a 1,000 Pro Points between them: Hall of Famer Ben Stark, Hall of Famer William "Huey" Jensen, No. 10 Jacob Wilson, and 22-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Martin Jůza. Their brains immediately tried to find the optimal line.

Wilson, Jensen, Jůza, and Stark faced Kolaghan's Command at the spell-slinging tables on Friday more than once.

Huey was the first to offer a solution. "You can definitely play such that you beat everything but Galvanic Blast. You tap Blood Crypt to cast Inquisition of Kozilek to force Galvanic Blast out of their hand, destroy your own Blood Crypt with Fulminator Mage, play Blackcleave Cliffs, and pass the turn. Then, you play Kolaghan's Command during their draw step and make them discard. So even if they draw Arcbound Ravager or Cranial Plating, they have to discard it before they get a chance to play it."

A decent solution, and one that uses excellent timing.

The others agreed or offered slightly different solutions as well, such as attacking for 8 and passing the turn with Fulminator Mage and Kolaghan's Command up so you can respond to any potential Arcbound Ravager or Cranial Plating shenanigans during their attack step which, if sequenced correctly, could also work. But none of the pro players could figure out a way to win in case there was another Galvanic Blast lurking on top of the opponent's deck.

That is, until Jacob Wilson asked "Wait, is there a way to kill them this turn?" Suddenly, the team sprang into action, and it didn't take long for them to find the correct answer.

  1. Tap Blood Crypt and play Inquisition of Kozilek targeting yourself, discarding Liliana of the Veil.

  2. Destroy your own Blood Crypt with Fulminator Mage and play an untapped Blackcleave Cliffs.

  3. Cast Kolaghan's Command shooting your opponent for 2 damage and forcing yourself to discard Outpost Siege.

  4. Your opponent is now at 14 life, and your Tarmogoyfs have grown to 7 power.

  5. Attack for the win.

This solution features a little-seen mode of Kolaghan's Command. Forcing yourself to discard is not going to be the correct play in most of the games. But sometimes it is, and that's what makes Magic so awesome!