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Evasive Maneuvers — The Power of 2 (or Less!)
A True Two-Fer!
Greetings sleuths, saboteurs, and skulkers! Welcome to another installment of Evasive Maneuvers, where we examine keywords and strategies that help get our creatures through during combat.
We’re ditching the rulebook on this one and breaking a bit outside of tradition, where we’ll be looking at conditional evasion, particularly as it relates to the power value of 2 (e.g. a 2/2).
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Dude, that’s not even a keyword.” Fair ’nuff — you caught me. But as I hope to convince you down below, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) seems to be leaning on this form of evasion more and more despite not having a keyword for it. To ignore it would be to put our heads in the proverbial sand, and no one wants to see ole’when they pop out.
So without further ado, let’s dive into the power of two!
Good Things Come in Pairs
While a 2-power creature (e.g.) can threaten 10% (2/20*100) of an opponent’s life total in one-versus-one player formats (e.g. Modern, Standard), the same only threatens 5% (2/40*100) of one opponent’s life total, or 1.67% (2/120*100) of all three opponent’s life totals in Commander. But that’s not to say that chip damage isn’t important. For one, get your chip-ins! Forty life points is a hefty cushion to leverage with advantages like , , , or , so never discredit the impact your Ursus arctos horribilis can have!
Second, the scalability of 2-power creatures in Commander may seem underwhelming, but we can’t be so easily duped. Many a seasoned Commander player has seen the power with which, , or can muster forces, assemble combos, and force interaction all with creatures power 2 or less.
As it turns out, conditional evasion for creatures with power 2 or less has been around since nearly Magic‘s inception.(1994) and (1995) were some of the early cards to enable this, followed by a number of red cards including (1996), (1997), and (1997).
This was followed by some random blue cards here and there that granted similar effects, such as(2002), (2004), and (2006) before returning back to a red-centric printing of cards like (2015), (2015), (2010), (2018), (2019), (2020), and the best of ’em all: (2020).
There’s a good ~60 cards or so that care about creatures with power 2 or less, but only about half of those really deal with power 2 in an evasive manner. Interestingly, about 16 of those grant evasion to smaller creatures like the cards listed above.
What about the rest, you may ask? Well, let’s just say they are technically evasive, but not entirely great…
“We Really Need a Two Here…”
A golfer sweating in their slacks for going double bogey on the last hole hears their caddy nervously whisper: “Uh, we really need a two here on this hole.” Aiming for less, it turns out, isn’t always easy.
Which brings us to the other side to this “power of 2” evasion equation. While we just saw that there are quite a few cards that grant evasion to creatures with power 2 or less, there exists a small number (n = 17) of other cards that are evasive against creatures with power 2 or less.
Whereas the cards above are predominately red, these are predominately green (82%), such as your, , or s, followed by colorless (17%), such as your , , or . These creatures huddle around ~4 power (mean = 4.35, median = 4, mode = 4) and essentially negate the effectiveness of chump blocking, where small indispensable 1/1s or even 2/2s will throw themselves in harm’s way as blockers to prevent incoming damage.
Building around this strategy isn’t entirely easy, though, as it can be tricky to modulate what your opponents’ blockers are. Looking at the top 100 creatures and commanders on EDHREC, we see they tend cluster to the following power values:
While yourmay get by most of the popular creatures, it might run into trouble against most commanders. Further, commanders are a bit harder to really pin down, since your or isn’t likely staying small in power for long. With commander damage being something unique to our format, I think plenty of commanders out there may have a misleading base power and toughness, so don’t get your hopes too high about your getting through.
Sure, if you can get yourto trigger, or perhaps cast or resolve the pip-intensive then your -variant will become unblockable. But at the end of the day, that’s a lot of set-up just to get in with your .
Until there’s possibly more support for this, I think there are just better options (e.g. Trample).
Two for Tuesdays
Let’s double back to our earlier look at building around creatures with power 2 or less in an evasive manner. Since we’re all about the number 2 this installment, I think we’d be doing a disservice if we didn’t run Partner commanders. For this list, we’ll look to none other thanPartnered with
Like many Partner combinations, you want to focus on one Partner more than the other. We’ll be leaning heavily intohere and using primarily as a value piece. Yes, is typically a commander whose power you want to beef up, as more power translates into more Saprolings, but, for our purposes, we’re just fine leaving her as she is, as we are more interested in going wide than tall, and she’ll be evasive with our , and synergize with many of our other power 2 or less payoffs. Even just a steady stream of two Saprolings every combat will do us just fine.
What we really care about is thatpseudo-Skulk ability. As we’ve seen with having or , having evasion in the command zone to bring out at a moment’s notice can be particularly potent, which raises the question: just who is he granting evasion to? Who are ‘the bears’, so to speak?
We’re sporting a large creature package (33) with nearly every single one having power 2 or less. Since we have comparatively weaker creatures, we can lean into some parity-breaking effects like, as well as include a hatebears subtheme (e.g. ) to slow down our opponents.
Sidar and Tana: Ruby TWOsdays
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Actually, the Best Things Come in Pairs!
Which brings us to one card I’ve been trying to get to work for a long time, and I think this is the perfect deck for it:
benefits you by letting you tutor out creatures if they match the total power and toughness values of the creature you just cast. Similar to -style builds, this card shines brightest when your deck is constructed in a deliberate and specific way to leverage the toolbox potential of chaining creatures together. Seeing play in 2,964 decks (1% inclusion rate), we see it crop up predominately in tribal builds, like (437 decks, 27.08%), (46 decks, 15.70%), and (128 decks, 10.52%).
While we aren’t doing a tribal build, our emphasis on power 2 or less means that most of our creatures can search out one another. Here’s a list of potential pairings forin our build. In essence, casting any creature within that category can go fetch out another from the same category:
Wild Pair pairs
Overall, I like howlends a toolboxy sub-theme to an otherwise aggressive deck. We can cast a and grab our if we need draw, or maybe if we need to slow down our opponents. Or maybe create even more complex chains like casting , which can tutor for a number of juicy targets, and then can fetch out with the trigger. won’t trigger again, since it wasn’t cast from our hand, but it will search up another creature due to its ability being an enter-the-battlefield trigger. For 3 mana, we get two bodies on the battlefield and another two in our hand!
Adieu to the Deux
That wraps up our look at the power of 2 (or less!) in Commander, particularly as it relates to evasion. At first glance, creatures with power that can remove only 1.67% of your cumulative opponents’ life total may seem lackluster, but they can have some neat triggers, effects, and synergies that make them punch above their weight class.
What do y’all think? Are you intrigued by this non-keyworded form of evasion? Do you like that it’s predominately found in red? Do you play a deck with a power restriction (e.g.) and find it enjoyable? Sound off in the comments below!