Vesuvan Doppelganger – Alpha
Date Reviewed: October 27, 2022
Commander [EDH]: 3.13
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
You know that meme about “Godzilla had a stroke trying to read this and fricking died”? It’s one of my favorites, and though it’s often applied to new cards with abilities that need to be explained from first principles, it would have been used as early as 1993 if it had been around. Once you do read it, though, the Doppelganger actually offers some surprisingly strong abilities, some of which remain unusual even now. The main one is the ability to change which creature it’s copying, because that removes one line of defense against cloning effects (the “play something better” one). It had, and still has, the potential to really frustrate opponents, but the wrinkle is that it doesn’t let you copy the new creature’s comes-into-play abilities, which is a much bigger thing in modern Magic than in Alpha.
Still, back before there were formats as we know them now, that was enough for it to get some play; even in the early days of Type 1 (what would become Vintage), you saw it occasionally. It’s now far slower and more expensive than anything it’d want to copy in the eternal formats, but it’s another card that really shines in the Swedish or Eternal Central Old School formats, and obviously in veteran players’ hearts.
Vesuvan Doppelganger helps illustrate an interesting element of design from Alpha’s era that you might not notice unless you play for a long time with cards from then. A few big creatures, notably Force of Nature and Lord of the Pit, come with seemingly crippling upkeep costs. This might have been intended to give them an advantage against cards like this one: your opponent won’t be so tempted to copy your 8/8 trampler if doing so will literally kill them. You, by contrast, can presumably take the upkeep cost into account when making your deck.
Limited: 4 (caveat: I’ve never drafted Fourth Edition, but being whatever is the best creature on the table at the moment is pretty good)
Commander [EDH]: 3
An ever-changing sort of clone, Vesuvan Doppelganger is able to keep changing its form, so long as there’s a form worth being copied. Keeping its own color all the way through is an interesting wrinkle that may or may not be relevant, but for the most part, this is a pretty by-the-numbers cloning effect with a slight overpay. I would call this more cute than good, but sometimes you might have a use for another copy that can keep changing its face.
Constructed: 1.25 (costing 5 mana for a Clone has rarely worked out)
Commander [EDH]: 3.25
We would love more volunteers to help us with our Magic the Gathering Card of the Day reviews. If you want to share your ideas on cards with other fans, feel free to drop us an email. We’d be happy to link back to your blog / YouTube Channel / etc. 😉