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Cryptic Commander: One Giant Leap


Looking through my list of topics to talk about in this little column of mine, I have a mighty need to continue the Green train. There are some really interesting cards in Green that seem to get overlooked for more ‘powerful’ options, and that just doesn’t seem right to me. Sure, Tooth and Nail is an objectively more powerful card than See the Unwritten. So what? I should not play See the Unwritten because I can entwine Tooth and Nail for an Avenger of Zendikar and Craterhoof Behemoth to win the game on the spot? That’s so boring. I like Hoofin’ my opponents out just as much as the next Commander player, but seriously. Gotta move on to greener pastures. Let’s try something new already. In a similar vein, I think Survival of the Fittest is an amazing Magic card. Being able to pitch a creature, something Green likes to do in its spare time, to tutor for whatever creature you want is a good ability. I have an idea, though. How about we try something a little less conventional, huh?

Evolutionary Leap

There! That’s what I’m talking about! If this is your first time seeing this wonderful 2-drop enchantment, let me introduce you to Evolutionary Leap! Now, it would be a little disingenuous to directly compare Evolutionary Leap to the Survival of the Fittest . . . but I’m going to do it anyway because there are some interesting parallels.

  1. Both have a CMC (Converted Mana Cost) of 1g
  2. Both have an activated ability that costs one g to activate
  3. Both provide you with a replacement for getting rid of a creature

This is where the similarities end, however. Let’s talk differences, shall we? Survival of the Fittest asks that you have a creature card in hand to discard if you want to search your library for a creature card and put it into your hand. For those who don’t know, this card does some very dirty things. There are many creatures that like being in your graveyard, and trading those for any creature in your deck is beyond valuable for graveyard-based strategies in Commander. I had a Meren of Clan Nel Toth deck that loved to chain Survival of the Fittest activations to fill the graveyard for a powerful Living Death. Discarding a creature with Dredge gets your graveyard engine revving. Getting Genesis in your yard for value as the game goes on is gravy. There are a lot of powerful things you can do with Survival, no doubt. However, that doesn’t mean we should count out the seemingly innocuous Evolutionary Leap.

Living Death
Golgari Grave-Troll

Where Survival of the Fittest wants you to discard creatures for value, Evolutionary Leap would prefer you play your creatures out. Requiring that you sacrifice a creature to activate it’s ability, the Leap scratches a very different deck-building itch. Commanders like Meren love to sacrifice things for value, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, friend. Let’s start small and work our way up. Imagine sacrificing a Yavimaya Elder to the Leap. You get to go search for two basic lands to put in your hand, and you get to replace the Elder with a new creature. Sure, you don’t get to control what creature you get (unless you play stuff like Worldly Tutor or Sensei's Divining Top), but whatever you sacrifice to the Leap will find a replacement. That’s some value right there. Now imagine this scenario. You have an Awakening Zone in play, generating an Eldrazi Spawn Token at the beginning of each of your upkeeps. Imagine paying a single Green mana to turn that free token into a real card. You starting to pick up what I’m putting down? Imagine someone decides to wrath the board because things are just getting out of control and something has to be done about it. You, you smart cookie, left open some Green mana so you could sacrifice your creatures and get new ones to replace them. What would have ordinarily been a bad bad situation for you is now an opportunity for you to regroup and get back on the table before anyone else.

Yavimaya Elder
Awakening Zone
Worldly Tutor

I could go on and on about the applications for this card. Yes, this card is no Survival of the Fittest. It doesn’t let you increase the consistency of your game plan and give you control over what you draw. And you know what? That’s totally fine. It does a lot of things that Survival doesn’t. It gives you a sacrifice outlet, an often underrated thing in Commander. It lets you take advantage of recursive token producers to create real card advantage. It’s a value engine and opens up some new and interesting possibilities for your board state. Those are all things that Survival doesn’t really do. Where Survival of the Fittest most often fits into a very proactive strategy, Evolutionary Leap gives you flexibility and a backup plan. Oh boy. That’s a topic I’m itching to get into in later installments of Cryptic Commander, let me tell you.

But, I think I’ve said enough to get the conversation started about Evolutionary Leap. So, what do you think about the Leap? Over performer or a bit of a dud? Does it give you any sweet ideas about how to build your next deck or how you might slot it in to your current ones? Talk to me about it, and talk to each other!

Until next time!

Robert Burrows

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