dodo

By Dodo Bird Commander writer Josh Jurgensen

Howdy, readers! If your summer has been anything like mine has been, it’s flown by far too quickly. We had a bunch of great gems come our way in Origins and that’s a problem – because now I need to make seemingly-impossible cuts to my decks.  To add to the frustration, we’ve just got our first sneak peek into Battle for Zendikar – and I’m worried that it might completely upend my beloved Karn deck. Speaking of artifact-y goodness, I got an underutilized, overlooked classic for us to talk about this week:

 

SFE 4 title

 

Spotlight – Helm of Possession

Playing from late unlimited, we early adopters had to wade through a ton of less-than stellar sets of cards that didn’t seem that great – but back then there was such a small cardpool at the time that we didn’t have much context to really know how bad a few of those stinkers were. But I felt like that changed when I played in the Tempest prerelease. Suddenly, my card pool was flooded with these great cards that seemed a massive departure from previous expansions. I remember Helm of Possession has been one of my favorites since I first laid my eyes on it. Similar to my first subject, Tawnos’ Coffin – the helm is a multi-tool that can be used in multiple situations. This card has been around since ’97 if I recall correctly – and EDH is sadly it’s last opportunity to really shine. Let’s see if it deserves a spot in your 99.

 

helm

 

Analysis

Card Name: Helm of Possession

Mana Cost: 4

Types: Artifact

Card Text:  You may choose not to untap Helm of Possession during your untap step

2,Tap, Sacrifice a creature: Gain control of target creature for as long as you control Helm of Possession and Helm of Possession remains tapped.

 

When this first came out, there weren’t many options for repeatable creature theft – but there weren’t many options for token generation either. Times have changed and creature recursion and token generation is a good deal easier than it once was. The primary drawback with this card is that you’re not going to want to sacrifice any of your good creatures to this – so how can we make this work for us despite that drawback? Let’s take a look:

 

Applications

Creature Removal – Removal is a bit of a stretch, but I’m going to keep it in here – because you can use this to rob them of access to an Eldrazi Titan or their Prophet of Kruphix. Sometimes taking the threat from them is better than removing it – right? Having an instant speed sac outlet alongside this makes it unlikely that they’ll ever actually get their creature back – no matter what they do to the helm. As an addendum to its uses for removal, I’ll remind you that you can always steal someone else’s creature to have as an emergency blocker when you get attacked – killing both creatures if you’re lucky.

Attack Deterrent – Tacking on to the above, if you’re brandishing this rattlesnake and have shown that you’re not afraid to use it – then odds are that you could find yourself getting attacked less and less. In my own experience, if this doesn’t get removed quickly it can definitely make you an undesirable attack target. If potentially swinging into their own Avacyn doesn’t change an attacker’s mind, little else probably will.

2equal

Some players are more equal than others.

Equalizer – Outside of combat, you’ll find that there’s quite a few solid applications for the helm in many of your favorite decks – and I find my most frequent use is ensuring I have the best creature on the board – or perhaps that someone else *doesn’t*. I’ve got a personal issue with Prophet of Kruphix – primarily because many of the people in the various playgroups that I play in that play one don’t make an effort to play their extra turns as efficiently as possible. It typically adds a lot of time spent durdling when the game would otherwise be getting quite tense. I’ve used this a few times to keep the Prophet away from its owner (and either sac it or keep it but not use it) and the table seemed to appreciate it. But let’s look again at the previous Avacyn example – stealing a card like this in response to a boardwipe could go a long way towards victory. I think its clever plays like this that are what can make a card stand out as an MVP in some builds.

Sacrifice Outlet – Let’s consider for a moment that perhaps this isn’t a creature-stealing artifact that you have to lose one of your own to activate – and instead, let’s consider it a sacrifice outlet with a very attractive upside. Sure, it taps when you activate it – but you’re not going to let that stop you, right? If we’re not considering infinite combos, oftentimes one activation might be enough. Maybe you consider just leaving it untapped to use on a player when they try to ice one of your creatures with spot removal – just sacrifice the one that was going to die anyway and grab whatever else you like. Just remember to always trade up.

Commander Commandeer-er – Perhaps the scariest or most dramatic use of this gem is as a way to yoink opponent’s commanders right out from under them. Depending on what commanders are out and the state of the game, playing and activating this might win you the game right there.

 

3seedborn

 

When the helm gets destroyed, it’s out of fear that the player won’t have access to their commander when they most need it – so use this sparingly.  

 

Technical

The mechanics of this card are pretty straightforward. There’s not any errata or rules clarifications on it that I could find – but it’s worth pointing out that you can’t try to let this untap and use the same creature you stole as a sacrifice to activate it again.

 

4ringthing

 

To my knowledge, (IANAJ) you can’t chain your thefts together – so you’ll have to play fair in that regard. Also – be careful of using this a card in concert with Seedborn Muse – things likely won’t work out well with both in play on your side at the same time.

 

Dealing with it

The obvious solution is targeted artifact removal – and if you want to be truly devious about it, you can wait until they need the creature most – or when they attack you with the stolen creature (because it returns to its owner as a state-based effect). Secondarily, if you find yourself out of removal of the spot and mass varieties, just hold off on playing creatures you don’t want to get stolen and let some other chump’s junk get taken.

 

Financial

This thing’s around $3 when I last checked. EDH is the only format this is really feasible in and as you’ve suspected, it doesn’t get played very often in there. Yet. It could slot into any deck – unlike it’s more flashy nephew, Vedalken Shackles. With a price point of around 3$ – and a frequent inhabitant of many shops $1 boxes, you don’t have to worry about having to shell out too much for this – and it can definitely spice up any budget brew you’re working on.

 

Alternatives

As I just mentioned, Vedalken Shackles is the closest predecessor I can recall – but if you’re looking for similar effects, here are a few cards that are mechanically related:

Beguiler of Wills, Callous Oppressor, Dragonlord Silumgar, Captivating Vampire, Conquering Manticore, Merieke Ri Berit, Old Man of the Sea, Preacher, Roil Elemental, Rubinia Soulsinger and Yasova Dragonclaw.

 

End Step

Evaluate if you might be able to use this card – Do you have a green deck that could use some more creature control ? Are you looking for something useful to do with all of those tokens you generate in your mono black or mono white ? Do your opponents always seem to get the best creatures at the worst time ? Or are you just interested in schooling your pals with a neat piece of Magic history ?

Give it a shot – what do you have to lose (other than the creature you sacrifice, obviously)?

 

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