Vedalken Shackles – Fifth Dawn
Date Reviewed: January 7, 2021
Commander [EDH]: 4.25
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
The Mirrodin block’s theme was artifacts in the same sense that Antiquities did it: they were everywhere, everyone was always talking about them in the few places where they weren’t, and they did things that made everyone stop and take notice, either via their unusual nature or simply their power level. I know it sounds odd to describe something being unusual when we’re talking about a Control Magic variant, but Vedalken Shackles is technically reusable and switchable. Sure, you have to give back the creature you stole earlier, but you can’t do that with aura versions without adding a whole other card to the interaction. Back in Mirrodin Standard, people mostly had to play the Shackles in decks with lots of basic Islands, but now, it’s part of formats that have fetchlands and dual lands with land types. Since the kinds of things that can deal with it are generally susceptible to cards like Inquisition of Kozilek, yes, that situation is exactly as powerful as it sounds.
Vedalken Shackles is an artifact that has managed a lot of notoriety since Fifth Dawn unleashed it upon the world, and it might be among the most miserable Limited cards to plat against. Five mana (split up over two turns) lets you take any creature, so long as they’re weak enough when you attempt to shackle them. Note an important feature: Vedalken Shackles only checks power versus the number of Islands you control during the heist attempt, so temporary power drops can get a power low enough for you to freely take. And it even doesn’t need to be temporary; you can only take one creature at a time, but you can opt to leave the Shackles tapped to keep a creature for longer (which opens up answers with Twiddle-like effects). It’s tied to a lot of Islands being in play to function…but control decks, the decks this annoying artifact most is at home in, tend to be heavily centered in blue to begin with.
Vedalken Shackles is definitely an all-star in a control shell, as it’s good at taking creatures and turning them against your opponent. It’s not the fastest artifact to get up and running, but it’s had periods of being absolutely obnoxious in its various formats (including Modern today, which does like its creatures), and it’s a potent weapon for the blue mage who likes to use their opponent’s things to help themselves in doing Nothing.
Constructed: 3.5 (it’s limited in use these days, but it sees fringe play in Modern control shells)
Casual: 4.75 (your friends will hate you)
Limited: 5 (let’s just say it’s been upshifted to mythic in Modern Masters for reasons of Limited play; Shackles is extremely hard to beat in Limited if you build around it)
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