This Card Was Condemned… Is it Still Useful?

Newer EDH players you may not remember a time when you didn’t always have access to your commander. There was a day when a deck could be significantly hampered by putting your opponent’s commander in their library. It could shut off an opponent’s deck. When you built your deck, if it focused on your commander’s ability, then  you ran multiple cards that were similar to the ability. Decks included cards that could fetch him from your deck if he was tucked. Often there would also be a backup plan as well. Also there was a chance you would choose your commander not to build a deck around, but instead to give access to the colors you wanted to play. It also gave Oloro players an advantage. They could safely gain two life from the command zone and not worry about tuck cards. That all changed in 2015.

A Rules Change

In 2015, the rules committee changed the rules on how commander zone change worked. Now whenever the commander changed any zone you could replace the effect and place them in your command zone instead. Today it’s accepted. Back then it was quite controversial. Brainstorm Brewery voiced an opinion of many who did not like the change rather eloquently. Along with this change, the strategy of tucking a commander died. A popular white card, Condemn, also died. 

This change will have a pretty big impact on the format (not to mention the price of several cards) and its justly getting a lot of attention from the community. Most of the feedback is negative, and rightly so. The reasons the committee gave for the change are embarrassingly bad, poorly argued, and inconsistently applied. And as a game developer myself, this reeks to me of the kind of bad game design I witness studios make when they try to simplify a game for new players, but end up going about it all the wrong ways.

Jason Rice, Brainstorm Brewery

Condemn is Condemned

At the time Condemn was a feared card. It was a one mana shut down a deck sort of card. It was best utilized on a commander, but it could tuck any attacking creature. As time progressed, without the additional ability of shutting down a troublesome commander, the additional restriction of targeting an attacking creature reduced it’s utility and the amount of decks that played it. The card went from an almost auto include to where it now, according to EDHREC, only sees play in two percent of decks that contain white.

The card is useful. But it has to be the correct meta to make an impact. Commander pods that are mostly combo will create an environment  where the card is unplayable. A meta that has a healthy amount of attacking the card still has significant utility. In some cases it saves your life. 

Where to use Condemn

In a swarm deck it’s impactful application is reduced. If you are about to die and your opponent budgeted just enough damage to kill you, then losing the highest power creature could save your life. In any combat focused deck, it also shuts down creatures with pesky attack triggers. They attack and then you tuck it. 

Condemn still has its uses on commanders despite being not as nearly as effective as it once was. It really is no different from a Swords to Plowshares with some additional restrictions when it comes to commanders. Your opponent will move their commander to the command zone and they will have to pay two additional mana in order to cast them again.  One of the ways to attack a voltron deck is just to remove the commander over and over again until its cost becomes prohibitive to cast. You can also use Condemn as a political tool. “If I save your life what will you do for me?” 

It also can keep a Najeela, the Blade Blossom deck from winning. Early in the process, a Najeela deck has few warriors on the battlefield, your opponent often will attack with Najeela to make more warrior tokens. Even if Najeela is relocated to the command zone, it shuts down infinite attack phases for that turn. This gives the table one turn to come up with an answer for the deck and it’s infinite combat steps.

Summing it Up

Condemn sees little play anymore compared to what it used to. Still in the right meta and the right situation it can be a powerhouse card. Not every deck wants it anymore. When you are building your white deck, consider these factors. Then decidie if Condemn is a addition for the deck. You may be adding a long forgotten gem.  

References: It’s Time to Tuck The Rules Committee

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