Ambush Viper | Innistrad
17, Apr, 24

New 1/1 Snake Divides The Commander Community!

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Article at a Glance

One of the best parts about being a Magic player is getting involved in the discussions around new cards. Tower Winder is the kind of card MTG preview seasons were made for, generating more buzz than the majority of cards from even the main set. It may just be a 1/1 Snake on the surface, but look deeper and you’ll find a card with the potential to turn Commander on its head.

Naturally, that notion has players both nervous and excited, resulting in some truly heated discussions online. It goes beyond just being a controversial card, however, to being a kind of problem child during the design stage too. All in all, Tower Winder has one of the most fascinating stories in all of Thunder Junction, and today I’m going to sit down by the fire and tell it. Slip off your snakeskin boots, get comfy, and listen.

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The Card Itself

Tower Winder | Outlaws of Thunder Junction Commander

Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s take a look at the little critter responsible for all this ruckus. Tower Winder is a 1/1 Snake with Reach and Deathtouch for one and a green. Solid stats, solid start. The juice here lies in the Winder’s enters the battlefield trigger, however.

When Tower Winder enters play, it lets you search your library and/or graveyard for Command Tower and add it to your hand. We’ve seen effects that tutor up specific cards in the past, and they tend to be on the weaker side. Think Bogbrew Witch or Grand Master of Flowers, for example.

Tower Winder is a different kettle of snakes entirely. Past tutors like this have put flavor over function, grabbing cards that fit thematically but weren’t really playable. Command Tower, on the other hand, is one of the most-played cards in Commander. According to EDHRec, it’s actually played in around 73% of all decks in the format.

This is a staggering figure, but not a surprising one. After all, the card offers perfect mana fixing in any deck with two or more colors, which is most of the format. Being able to grab it at will with Tower Winder, then, is an excellent deal. To say nothing of the value having a 1/1 Deathtouch as a deterrent can provide.

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The Design Debate

Command Tower | Outlaws of Thunder Junction Commander

Although they’re great for players, auto-include cards are something Magic’s designers try to avoid. considering Tower Winder grabs one of the most-played cards in Commander, there’s a very real chance that the card ends up falling into that category. For this reason, the card was the subject of much spirited debate throughout its design process.

In a recent episode of Good Morning Magic, Principal Designer Gavin Verhey went over some design stories about the cards in the Outlaws of Thunder Junction Commander decks. Tower Winder, unsurprisingly, got one of its very own.

“This is one of the most hotly-debated cards, not only internally but also externally it seems, in the whole product.” Said Verhey discussing Tower Winder. “There was so much discussion around this card. Is this an appropriate card to print? Is this going to show up in every Commander deck? Will nobody want to put this in their decks?”

According to Verhey, multiple iterations of the card, including a one-mana version and one where you had to sacrifice the Winder a la Sakura-Tribe Elder were considered before the team landed on the final design we see today.

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Commander Controversy

Intimidation Camapign | Outlaws of Thunder Junction | Art by Svetlin Velinov

At the end of his Tower Winder MTG story, Gavin Verhey noted that “In the real world right now, people are having the exact same debate that we were having as we were working internally on this card.” This much is clear if you’ve spent any time on Reddit lately, where discussions on Tower Winder are everywhere.

Some have welcomed their new Snake overlord, noting that they’ll be adding it to all of their green decks in the future. Others have taken the opposite stance, likening it to a ‘Garnet’ from Yu-Gi-Oh! That is to say, a card that does little to nothing when drawn out of order with its intended synergy pieces. There are entire Youtube videos slamming the card, and entire comment threads defending it. It really is the wild west out there.

Ultimately, Tower Winder’s polarizing nature is unlikely to persist long after its release. As Verhey notes in his video, he expects the card to land “Somewhere in the middle” of the discussions that have been raging about it so far. After due consideration, this honestly seems like the most likely outcome.

It may be a nice consistency booster, especially for decks with 3+ colors, but that’s as far as it goes. Tower Winder isn’t an MTG card that can end games on its own, or enable any kind of wacky combo. It’s just a solid bit of fixing that’s getting a lot of points for name dropping an icon like Command Tower.

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The Ripple Effect

Thrumming Stone | Coldsnap | Art by Rob Alexander

It may not be a problem power level-wise, but some players are looking beyond such concerns in their evaluation of Tower Winder. As mentioned above, auto-includes are a net negative, both for the price points of cards and for the variety of decks in the Commander format. The more cards that you just ‘have’ to play exist, the less interesting the deck building, and game playing, process will be.

Cards like Tower Winder have the effect of essentially taking up two slots in your deck. If you play it, you have to play Command Tower as well. If another card that specifically synergizes with Command Tower is printed, suddenly that’s a three-card package, not just one auto-include. Chains like this can have a knock-on effect on deck building that rapidly shrinks the possibility space of any given deck.

Tower Winder is an MTG card that’s likely to be extremely popular in Commander. It won’t hit Command Tower’s 73%, but it has a very real chance of coming close, which is as exciting as it is scary. Once Wizards sees how well-received it’s been, they may start considering similar designs. Other cards that tutor iconic cards, or interact with them in powerful ways.

As any Yu-Gi-Oh! fan will tell you, interactions with specific named cards can be a bit of headache, both for players and designers. Tower Winder may be a fun design, but for the health of the game I hope it isn’t a sign of things to come. Of course, if you have other thoughts on the great snake debate, feel free to share them in the comments below!

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