1x neue Mechanik, bitte! (… und zurück?)

Marcel Schottkowski

Hello dear Zauberhand Family,

Markus from Zauberhand here. Although I have withdrawn from the operational business at Zauberhand, I would still very much like to contribute from time to time and provide you with exciting blog posts. I will also continue to brainstorm cool new features for upcoming Zauberhand editions with Marcel and offer him my advice. But now, on to today's blog post topic:

With the introduction of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths (available in Paper Magic since May 15, 2020), Wizards of the Coast has brought a completely new mechanic into the game, requiring rule adjustments for ALL formats. Of course, I'm talking about the "Companion" mechanic.


First of all: Yes, it represents a certain minimal restriction to build your deck according to given rules to allow the player to choose a specific card as their companion! For many decks that already almost 100% followed these rules, it was easy to just draw from the vast card pool and swap out only a few cards. Then, you could place the companion next to your deck before the game and inform your opponent that this is the chosen companion for this game.

To be honest, it was somewhat foreseeable that very soon even in Eternal formats (such as Vintage and Legacy), companion decks would ruthlessly outshine other established versions of respective decks. Because: Having a virtual 8th card in hand is incredibly strong! This means, in other words, starting the game with 14.28% more options in hand! Even that is actually an understatement, because you know exactly that this 8th card is always a specific one, while you can only expect a certain cross-section of your starting deck from your remaining 7 cards (even if you play 4-card sets of most cards).

At that time, it was (still) the case that you could cast companions for the mana costs printed at the top right of the respective companion from a special zone, which is virtually in exile (the companion zone).

The Commander/EDH Rules Committee reacted long before Ikoria was available in stores and banned a card within 24 hours of its spoiler release for all Commander variants:

Logical, because the companion restriction of "Lutri, the Spellchaser" is not a restriction in EDH at all, since the nature of this singleton format is that you can only have each non-basic land card in your deck at most once. Consequently, EVERY Commander deck that contains red and blue would have gotten an 8th card virtually for free with Lutri. Lutri would have very likely reached a card value of around 30-40 € within a few days.

After all these events, it was hardly surprising that only a few weeks after the release of Ikoria, something had to be done about the apparently somewhat too strong companion mechanic. Fortunately, for WotC, it was not an option to simply ban all companions in all formats. Instead, they chose another way to weaken companions slightly:

For {3} – 3 generic mana – you can now add a companion from the companion zone to your hand as an additional card during each of your main phases:

"702.138a (...) Once during the game, any time you have priority and the stack is empty, but only during a main phase of your turn, you may pay {3} and put that card into your hand. This is a special action that doesn’t use the stack."

This companion card is now part of the hand, like any other hand card, and can therefore also be removed from there by the opponent with hand disruption spells like Thoughtseize, Despise, Unmask, or Surgical Extraction, which the previous companion rules did not allow, as the companion was cast directly from the companion zone.

It will now be interesting to see whether this change will lead to the "new" companion mechanic no longer being effective enough to be used in various formats, or whether it will still remain a huge advantage to get a very specific (now no longer virtual) 8th card in hand.

We are very curious to see what the future holds...!

And a little secret tip for all who have read this far: I personally think it is not so unlikely that "Lutri, the Spellchaser" could soon be unbanned in all Commander formats due to the changes. Of course, the effect is still incredibly strong, but for effectively 6 mana now, it is not nearly as strong as for the original converted mana cost of 3. I have already grabbed a lot of Lutris cheaply, for well under 1 € each, and could imagine that an unbanning could lead to prices beyond 10 € (each)!

In this sense:
Stay strong, stay healthy, and see you soon,

Markus from the Zauberhand team

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