Sometimes you need rules and banned lists to promote a certain style of play. Sometimes, you only need a card.
If you want a card that has Ken Nagle written all over it, look no further than Stranglehold. Ken contacted me about the idea behind this card way, way
back in the design process, with a ‘what do you think?’ although it was just a very broad question about the type of abilities on the card.
I gave him some ideas then, and I’ll tell you what I think of the card now in its final version.
When it comes to playability, I think it could be cheaper (I guess you could make that argument about nearly any card, though) in order to see a great
deal of play. That said, I’ll likely play it, although that might be tempered by the penalty for extra turns in the Armada League, since not many
folks aren’t playing extra turns cards. It’s a card that keeps a great number of your opponents’ shenanigans in check, shutting down things
like Survival of the Fittest, Congregation at Dawn, all the tutors, and less importantly, fetchlands.
Playability aside, I want to use the card as an opportunity to talk about philosophy. I would prefer the card say “players” instead of
“your opponent.” As it is, it still leaves you free to tutor and Time Walk at will, which leads me to believe it will get played a little
differently than it might have originally been intended. It’s not Mindlock Orb. It’s going to get used as an “I can, you
I’ll concede the point that tutoring makes your deck better. Repeatability, consistency, and cohesion make your deck perform the same every
time—extremely important in competitive Magic. Far more efficient, far less interesting.
And completely contrary to the idea of Embracing the Chaos.
Tutors bring order, no doubt. Especially when I’m looking to have fun, the randomness of living off the top is very attractive to me because it
brings a new experience to every game. Without tutors, you can go several games without seeing a particular card. When you do, it’s like opening
a cool Christmas present. With tutors, it’s all socks.
That consistency is what makes, for example, my Intet deck very good and one of my least favorite to play. I really like toolbox-type decks, but being
able to summon up tools as answers also leads to being able to summon up things as threats. Don’t worry—no one is considering sending away
tutors in the format. It’s just that philosophically I find a more random game much more enjoyable. I honestly have more fun activating Djinn of
Wishes blindly than I do when I know what’s on top.
Back to Stranglehold itself, I think I’ll put it in that “reasonable protection” category along with cards like Null Rod, Ensnaring
Bridge, Cursed Totem, and Damping Matrix. It’s mostly a “single-card strategy” card, but there are a number of other cards that go
with it, and certainly categories of cards that it stops.
Boldwyr Heavyweights: Now, it’s just an 8/8 for four.
What’s not immediately apparent from the first ability is that your opponents can’t search ANY library, to include yours. That
takes Acquire, Bribery, Knowledge Exploitation, and Praetor’s Grasp off the table, to name some cards that are rather popular in the format, not
to mention Earwig Squad, Eternal Dominion, Grinning Totem, Life’s Finale, and Hide / Seek.
It means you (and your opponents, unless it’s you doing it) aren’t vulnerable to Bitter Ordeal, Denying Wind, Extract, Jester’s Cap,
Neverending Torment, Nightmare Incursion, Quiet Speculation, Sadistic Sacrament, or Supreme Inquisitor.
It sure stops Arcum Dagsson cold, which I’m never going to be sad about, as well as nuking Thada Adel, Acquisitor and Rootwater Thief. It also
stops Sphinx Ambassador, which is less desirable. Who doesn’t love the guessing game?
All in all, Stranglehold is a pretty straightforward card. It stops your opponents from doing a number of things that opponents like to do without
completely locking them down. They can still draw cards, cast spells, and battle, meaning they can still play, which is kind of my preferred
state of affairs.
Like I did Monday, I’m going to preview another piece of art, but this time I’m going to whet your appetite further. The card this art
belongs to will be previewed in its entirety on Friday at http://mtgcommander.net/. Enjoy!