The Toolbox - Shadowspear

(Shadowspear | Art by Yeong-Hao Han)

Isperia? More like I-Spear-Ya!

Welcome back to The Toolbox! Here, we take a look at underplayed cards and evaluate where they ought to see more play. Today we’re taking a look at an underrated card from Theros Beyond Death: Shadowspear!

A clear comparison to Shadowspear is the card Loxodon Warhammer, though without the power boost. There's a lot more to it than just that, however, as it has a Bonds of Mortality stapled to it, and a version of it that specifies 'permanents' instead of just 'creatures'. Even that description doesn't do it justice, though. There's a lot more that Shadowspear has to offer, because it's a colorless, proactive answer to hexproof and indestructible.

I know people will say it's too soon to call this card underplayed when it was only printed a little over a month ago. However, when I look through the card's most-played commanders, I feel like the Spear has not yet found its proper home. Take a look:

They all come from the same set! This tends to happen on EDHREC: when cards are released, players frequently play them with the other cards they opened at the same time. Dalakos, Crafter of Wonders is totally justifiable, an auto-include for the Izzet deck with obvious Equipment synergies, not to mention colors that can tutor out cheap Equipment with things like Trinket Mage.

However, Polukranos, Unchained and good boy Kunoros, Hound of Athreos are a lot weirder. They aren't bad with Shadowspear by any means - in fact, the argument that I'm making is that the Spear should see play in more decks, not less - but these commanders don't really give a good sense of the Equipment's breadth of power. Shadowspear is insane for one mana, but there are so few decks running it that should. This card is efficient, can be aggressive, and interacts well on an axis that few decks fight on. There are so many applications for Shadowspear, so let's get into it!

Mono-Green Voltron

I know, I know, this sounds crazy, but hear me out. Gargos, Vicious Watcher is not only a great Hydra Tribal commander, but it's also a great option for those that want to add a bit of spice to their Voltron decks!

Why should this beefy Hydra run an Equipment that doesn't even trigger him, you may ask?

To me Gargos is one of the most interesting mono-green commanders because of the ability to play him in a variety of ways such as Hydra Tribal, Voltron, or even Enchantress, as covered in the Monomania series which can be found here. The one thing that they all have in common is utilizing Gargos' ability to fight creatures to stall out the game and swing in for damage. The problem with that plan in Commander is that hexproof and indestructible are abundant and very problematic for this strategy. While Shadowspear may not trigger Gargos, it can easily disrupt these abilities to fight through the opponents' creatures.

So Gargos can fight creatures, is a beefy 8/7, and has vigilance, but the one thing he seems to lack is the ability to trample over chump blockers. Once again, Shadowspear has you covered by not only giving Gargos lifelink and trample but making him an 9/8, as well! While Gargos may not have the blue or white tutors in Trinket Mage or Enlightened Tutor, I think that the impact the Spear can have with a commander such as Gargos, Vicious Watcher or even Polukranos, Unchained is absolutely invaluable.

In comparing the play rates of a couple other Theros Beyond Death cards, Ironscale Hydra is in almost 50% of decks and Hydra's Growth hits almost 60% of decks, but Shadowspear doesn't even show up on the EDHREC page! Don't believe me? Take a look at the page and the decklist to see.

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Let Me Sing You The Song of My People

That's right, it's Firesong and Sunspeaker!

When Firesong was spoiled, so many people were excited for a Boros commander that wasn't based around combat, but the hype seems to have died down, even as this commander has received some new toys. I think Spear is one of these tools. While making Firesong a beefy 5/7 with trample and lifelink is great, there's a lot more to it than that. An indestructible threat on the board makes Star of Extinction, Chain Reaction a lot less relevant, which is a major problem for a deck that runs these removal spells at 71% and 64% popularity, respectively. Spear provides an opportunity to combat that problematic indestructibility. Spear also offers lifelink to a commander that's great at blocking, and if you cast a white spell that gains life, Firesong will deal damage, which will gain you life again from their lifelink!

An argument could be made for a small Equipment package with Stoneforge Mystic, Steelshaper's Gift, and Open the Armory to find Shadowspear when you need it. Even if you don't need the ability or the lifelink, you can find Sunforger, which this deck should definitely be running, anyway! Just take a look at the decklist to see what I mean; there's so much space to innovate with Firesong!

Burn it Down

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Commander (1)
Creatures (11)
Instants (15)
Sorceries (16)
Artifacts (15)
Enchantments (5)
Planeswalkers (1)
Lands (36)

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Volrath's Spear

Last article it was Volrath's Helm; this time it's his spear! Volrath, the Shapestealer made waves when he was spoiled, and for good reason: he's a more powerful Experiment Kraj that also gives access to black. This deck is so sweet, and I know several other writers have also taken a liking to him, such as the amazing DM Cross of Replacement Commanders (you can find his take on Volrath here).

Volrath is, indeed, Mr. Steal-Yo'-Shape, which is why I was so excited to talk about him in this article. Volrath wants to steal the shape of opposing creatures, which can be problematic with permanents like Swiftfoot Boots running about. A simple Shadowspear means you'll never have to worry about hexproof targets again!

This is also where the non-disruptive text of Spear actually comes into play. On his own, Volrath is pretty beefy as a 7/5, but he doesn't have any static way to push through damage without help from other creatures. Shadowspear makes Volrath an 8/6 and gives him lifelink and trample, to not only push through damage, but also to gain some life in case there's an aggressive deck at the table. While it may seem low-impact, it does have a very high ceiling to interact with the opponents on multiple axes. While looking at EDHREC as a whole would be more reflective of the total power Volrath could have, you'll have to settle for just the decklist!

Mr Steal-Yo'-Shape

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Commander (1)
Creatures (28)
Instants (9)
Sorceries (10)
Artifacts (9)
Enchantments (6)
Planeswalkers (1)
Lands (36)

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Until Next Time

Thank you all for your continued support of the series! I hope that you all enjoyed reading this installment, and I hope that you’ve found a new home for Shadowspear. Do you think these commanders pair well with Shadowspear? Do you think I’m overestimating this card, or do you agree it’s highly underrated even with how recently it was printed? What other cards are you hoping to see get their place in the limelight? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

Elijah is a mildly obsessive EDH player from Georgia. He started playing during Battle for Zendikar with Green/Black Eldrazi Aristocrats and still pays tribute to the plane with his Omnath, Locus of Rage storm brew. He is always excited to innovate and try new things in Magic and Life. Elijah is currently a full time student looking to go into Computer Engineering but also has a bit of an artistic streak.