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Cryptic Commander: The Reptilian Conspiracy


Despite the name, this entry of Cryptic Commander is not going to be about how reptilians have infiltrated our government and rule over us from the shadows. No, that would be too easy . . . 

Instead, today’s entry of Cryptic Commander takes a look at another type of herpetological monarch.

Regal Behemoth

Behold! The most majestic of beasts . . . erm, lizards! Gifted to us by the tragically under-opened Conspiracy: Take the Crown, Regal Behemoth is a gem hidden among a pile of very good cards for Commander. So, what specifically draws my attention to Regal Behemoth? There are a couple of things that make this beefy, Green lizard stick out. First, and most important, Regal Behemoth brings the Monarch ability into play and that is something I really want to talk about. Second, it has the sweet, sweet effect of doubling our mana without making our opponents hate us forever. We can’t talk about the second reason without talking about the first, due to the monarch-specific rider attached to it, so let’s take a moment to talk about the Monarch mechanic.

Skyline Despot
Queen Marchesa
Keeper of Keys

I’ve been more and more impressed by the way Monarch plays in Commander. Many of the Monarch creatures are sizable threats on their own, and they always replace themselves if they resolve. This isn’t what makes Monarch so interesting, though. One of the things I’ve found happens often in games of Commander is people just don’t get aggressive until victory is all but assured. You end up with people building up armies, either to have things spiral out of control from there or repeatedly be brought to heel by board wipes. That kind of stuff happens in Commander, it just does. Monarch presents an interesting wrinkle to this normal pattern of play. If someone brings the crown into play, suddenly people are a lot more willing to get aggressive early on. Monarch creates an interesting dynamic in which poking in for a couple points of damage becomes much more desirable as the crown is passed around the table for an extra card here or there. Games become more interactive as players don’t want the current Monarch to continue gaining advantage from their crown. A source of free card advantage is definitely something to pay attention to, especially in the case of Regal Behemoth.

Mana Reflection
Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger

Regal Behemoth basically reads, 4gg for a 5/5 Trample that draws you a card and refunds you a bit of the mana you used to cast it. Assume you had eight lands in play when you cast the Behemoth; You now have four mana instead of two thanks to the Behemoth’s loyalty to the crown. Play out another creature or hold up some interaction in case someone tries to kill the lizard or take the crown. Seems like a pretty decent average case scenario to me. The Behemoth replaces itself and sets you up nicely for your future turns if no one can break through and steal the crown. Doubling your mana is a powerful effect, yet it feels very fair on the back of this colorful 5/5 Trample. Why is that?

Well, for one thing, it is much easier to disrupt than some of the other methods of mana doubling. Mana Reflection and the like are less easy to remove from the battlefield than a simple creature, so the Behemoth comes off as less threatening. Another thing that strikes me as important is the fact Regal Behemoth doesn’t punish your opponents or make it so they can’t play the game. I’m looking at you Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger. Seriously, Vorinclex is not good people and it makes me sad every time it hits the table. That’s an entire other Cryptic Commander, but I digress . . .  Regal Behemoth doesn’t make me sad when I see it. In fact, it presents me with an opportunity. The Behemoth only gives you extra mana when you have both it and the crown. If you lose one, the mana stops flowing. Most often, this will be the crown, as people are wont to fight over the crown for the extra card anyway. However, there are some scenarios in which I can imagine stealing the Behemoth for a chance to take the crown later and profit.

You see what I mean, right? The political dynamic that a card like Regal Behemoth can introduce to the table is so interesting from a gameplay perspective. Somebody steals the crown after the Behemoth hits the table, you steal it back and cast a big spell, then somebody else gains control of the Behemoth with a plan to steal the crown and go for their own big play. You get interaction. You get interesting board states in which armies aren’t just staring at each other, waiting for an opportunity to attack for the win. I can imagine some pretty fun stories will come out of playing Regal Behemoth and other Monarch cards in the future. So, what do you think of Regal Behemoth? Does Monarch inject a much needed dose of politics and interaction into Commander games, or is the Monarchy not all it’s cracked up to be? Do lizard people walk among us and rule from on high?

Ignore that last one, you didn’t see anything.

This has been another entry of Cryptic Commander! I hope you enjoyed it, and please continue the conversation about Monarch and mana doubling. There are definitely some interesting conversations to be had about their place in Commander. Thank you for reading!

Robert Burrows

@ironmanphoenix on Twitter

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