Polluted Bonds – Shadowmoor
Date Reviewed: October 5, 2023
Commander [EDH]: 4.38
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
It seems awfully convenient that Polluted Bonds first appeared only one set after the first printing of Scapeshift – and, at first, awfully careless that they made it cost more than Scapeshift. But to be fair, the latter didn’t really take off until later on, and the super-fast form of it you may be familiar with did not exist during Shadowmoor‘s time in Standard, nor even in casual play. Late-game ramp was always a thing in casual settings, and it really took off when Commander became popular, as the amount of ramp you need to overpower three opponents is even greater. Additionally, the format in general soon evolved into one centered on big plays and often the late game. And that’s the short version of why you often see the original version of this card going for over $20. In fact, even if you don’t have a specific friend or Commander group whose super-ramp deck you need to hose, it’s sometimes a decent casual card. Most people tend to reflexively play lands they draw in the late game, and this very effectively punishes them for doing so, especially if you have additional sources of damage they need to be wary of.
Commander [EDH]: 4.5
Unlike other land punishing effects like Zo-Zu, the Punisher, Polluted Bonds is entirely asymmetrical and an interesting way to turn one of green’s preferred strategies (obscene land ramp) against it. It’s definitely a spell that excels at death by a thousand cuts, so to speak: since most turns involve a land play of some kind, a bleed of 2 life can add up over time, especially hitting fetch lands where it counts. The effect is subtly powerful and a good way to amass incremental advantage over a game.
Costing five mana, though, is an issue, especially five mana for a spell that relies on your opponents (usually) doing Things to do anything. Five mana is especially fraught in Constructed, as this is not a spell that wins games on its own when it comes out, and there are plenty of spells that win you the game in that slot more reliably. It is a very popular and vicious Commander and casual card, because those decks can play a long game, but I do not believe Polluted Bonds has made any splashes since Shadowmoor rotated out.
Limited: 3 (Limited tends to be slow and grindy, and this can be the place for it to shine)
Commander [EDH]: 4.25
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