Capture of Jingzhou – Portal Three Kingdoms
Date Reviewed: August 31, 2023
Commander [EDH]: 4.25
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
If you’re looking at Magic from the point of view of things like the MTG Multiverse Project – and why wouldn’t you? It’s interesting – then Portal: Three Kingdoms is in a curious place. It’s literally an adaptation of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms in Magic form, almost like a proto-Tales of Middle-earth, yet it was also considered a canon multiverse set at various times in Magic’s history. It’s not Earth, but it may be a plane that resembles Earth to an implausible degree (think the planet in the classic Star Trek episode “The Omega Glory”). I’d like to submit that maybe it’s Shenmeng (the Plane of Mountains and Seas), where Jiang Yanggu and Mu Yanling come from. While it seems easy to lump them together because they both have ancient Chinese inspirations, it’s well established that other mainline Magic planes can have things that were originally explicit references to Earth cultures (cf. Eldraine).
As far as its mechanics go, Capture of Jingzhou is more or less Time Warp, and if it weren’t a Romance of the Three Kingdoms reference we’d probably be calling it an obvious Commander plant. But you may as well use it regardless – it’s slightly safer than Time Warp as opponents can’t piggyback on your spell by copying it, if you care about that sort of thing. And as James very astutely points out, it’s a unique name and so gets around cards like Meddling Mage, and a lot of people will forget that it exists because they’ve never even seen one!
Commander [EDH]: 4
I love that some of the comparatively unknown cards from Portal: Three Kingdoms are getting attention in Commander sets – not just because they deserve to be known in themselves, but also because more people should have the chance to decide if they want to become a second-century warlord.
Capture of Jingzhou is a fairly “infamous” card at this point. Hailing from the Portal Three Kingdoms set, a set that offered a starter product that drew heavily from Chinese mythology and lore, it’s effectively a reskinned Temporal Manipulation, which is in turn a slightly tweaked Time Warp. Five mana for an extra unconditional turn became the standard around Tempest, until they soured a fair bit on letting them happen for even that low a price point, and so Capture of Jingzhou became the effective third uniquely named Time Warp variant. But the scarcity of Capture of Jingzhou in particular became a massive sticking point; Portal Three Kingdoms cards are notoriously hard to track down as a result of the set’s then-unpopularity and its limited distribution, and this card enjoyed a $500 price tag at one point!
Capture of Jingzhou isn’t a particularly flashy or fancy spell, which is maybe a weird thing to say about a spell to take an extra turn, but it does what you need it to: a second round of triggers and attacks, a second round of degenerate play, and a second round of making opponents regret playing against you (ideally). Since it’s a unique name, it matters for formats like Commander in giving you an additional Time Warp to play with, and both it and Temporal Manipulation have the upside of not targeting (which is mostly minor, but it can matter often enough to be worth pointing out). Besides that, it really just becomes an additional extra turn spell to abuse, and that’s all some decks really need, and while it’s generally a poor play from behind, you may well find what you need to prolong your existence with just one more turn. The Commander Masters reprint should help this become more readily obtainable, which is always a lovely thing.
Constructed: 3 (extra turn spells aren’t much of a force in Legacy, but I could see a world where Time Warp and its ilk show up, and I’d generally rather have this and Temporal Manipulation if given a choice)
Limited: 3.5 (they won’t win you games on their own, but this may well tip the scales)
Commander [EDH]: 4.5 (Turns.dec is notoriously loathed at more casual tables, but higher-power tables will love having a third Time Warp)
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