Spike, Tournament Grinder
November 27, 2017
Commander [EDH]: 4.38
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
As James discusses below, I’m also going to skip the Constructed ratings for this week’s cards, because we’re talking about Unstable. And when we talk about silver-bordered cards, I’m going to put aside the conventional concerns of Magic as much as possible, in the interest of exploring things you won’t see anywhere else – and, yes, having fun!
I really enjoy all three of the player archetype cards, and I like how they play subtly differently in ways that fit with the characteristics of the player type they represent. They’re all setup cards, but Timmy is about big flashy events that surprise the opponent, Johnny is about crafting a specific game state, and Spike is, fittingly, about strategy. She asks that you balance risk and reward, find the right balance of paying mana versus life, and wish judiciously for what you require. Either that, or play her alongside Phyrexian Unlife or Rules Lawyer and put the entire contents of From the Vault: Exiled into your hand at once. The possible interactions enabled by that are myriad and spectacular, and as soon as I get my head around the possibility of putting Gifts Ungiven in your sideboard, I’m going to start planning!
The trinity is now complete. My favorite thing about Spike is the return of Phyrexian mana, because of course Spike would have Phyrexian mana. The only catch to her ability is that you still need to cast the card you choose, so your decisions in Limited will fluctuate depending on your mana base. Fortunately there are a lot of banned artifacts to choose from. Spike has enough power to pilot a Smuggler’s Copter after all. In Commander you can Channel – Emrakul (both versions) as early as turn 3. I think this card is a flavor home run, as she rewards other Spikes for having powerful cards in their collection and she is “ban worthy” herself.
Here is a helpful link to all the cards she can tutor for.
Advance note: all reviews for Unstable will exclude grades for Constructed formats. It makes no sense to give grades for a format they are not legal for, right? I will still give Commander grades, since “Un-Commander” is a justifiable thing to do.
After 19 years, the Johnny/Timmy/Spike cycle from the Un-sets has been completed, and Spike, Tournament Grinder is the perfect capstone. She continues the trend set by the other two: a four-mana 1/1 with a four mana activated ability, but where she goes from there…well, the effect speaks for itself.
Just to clarify, you can pay 2 mana and 12 life to immediately add a card to your hand that fits the requirement (banned or restricted in some manner of Constructed format). The list is surprisingly long and includes some interesting names, but that length is her versatility. You could, of course, play her more “fairly” (four mana for each ability), but then you wouldn’t be a Spike, would you? Go big or go home, and she encourages just that: pay a lot of life to unlock true power.
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