Intruder Alarm – Stronghold
Date Reviewed: October 12, 2023
Commander [EDH]: 4.0
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
It seems like I keep referring to things as one-card combos, so we shouldn’t overlook the more-or-less-opposite: a card that manages to be both a clear combo card and also open to numerous such combos. That’s partly because it’s from that older style of design where it’s nominally symmetrical, yet actually very exploitable – there are some recent card designs I’ve had issues with, but it’s generally better for it to be more apparent why cards are good. It took a while for Intruder Alarm to catch on after its initial release, but when it did, it became one of the most feared cards in casual Magic. In whatever format or context it appears, it is capable of taking over or ending a game on the spot, not to mention making you a target in multiplayer settings and/or your playgroup in general. It works surprisingly well with red – consider Krenko – but all sorts of tap abilities can benefit from it, and now that Shorikai, Genesis Engine exists, you can go infinite in a deck that telegraphs it much less than usual.
Commander [EDH]: 4
Intruder Alarm is one of those cards that looks far less dangerous than it actually is, but it’s proven to be the backbone of many degenerate loops for 25 years. There are a lot of lines that are specifically enabled by this card’s mass untap effect, and the first part (the untap blocking) actually comes up far less than you might think. The simplest avenue is using self-bouncing or self-blinking creatures paired with a lot of mana-producing friends to create complete chaos, but there are a lot of lines you might be able to set up to break a game like cheap wicker furniture if you are so inclined.
Intruder Alarm is not generically powerful, though. Its main downside is that it is symmetrical: one creature comes in, everyone snaps to attention and goes “omg”, and this can be problematic based on how an opponent’s board looks. That said, this is not meant to be played fairly, and a well-placed Intruder Alarm can end games as soon as it comes down. Play with care, but be very vigilant when you’re staring one down, because it can only mean horrible things.
Constructed: 2 (Intruder Alarm combos are way too slow for Modern and Legacy)
Limited: 3 (a bit of a double-edged sword: good against creature-light decks, but most Limited decks won’t be)
Commander [EDH]: 4 (if you’re playing this, make sure you can capitalize on it immediately, because you won’t get another chance)
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