How many games of Commander have you lost to combat damage?
No, really. Take a moment to think about it. How many times have you been knocked out of a game of Commander by combat damage? Unless your meta is strictly high-powered combo decks, I’d wager the answer is “a lot.”
So why don’t we do something about it?
What’s up, friends? Welcome back to Cardsphere. Today we’re talking about a card that doesn’t get played enough in Commander. It’s as old as the game itself, having appeared in the Alpha set, and has been reprinted over two dozen times. It’s as efficient as they come, with only a one-mana cost, but its ability to save your butt in a game is beyond measure. I’m talking about
Fog’s effect is simple: you prevent all combat damage the turn you play it.
Craterhoof Behemoth dropped? Don’t worry about it. Suited up
Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh coming at you for lethal commander damage? No problem. The fact is, for just one mana, you can keep yourself in the game for another turn. And think about how many times you’ve thought to yourself, “If only I had one more turn.”
According to EDHREC, the original Fog appears in just over 21k decks. This number may sound like a lot, but you have to take into account that this represents only 2% of all eligible decks (eligible decks have green in their color identity). Granted, 2% of decks isn’t actually terrible. But for what Fog does, it should be a lot higher.
So why don’t we play it more?
Don’t You Fog-get About Me
Look, I get it. Fog isn’t exactly a sexy card. It doesn’t win you the game, it doesn’t advance your board state, and it doesn’t answer any threats. It only stops you from losing. But isn’t that exactly what
Teferi’s Protection does? And TP is played in an astonishing 21% of eligible decks. Yes, TP is a way better version of Fog, I will absolutely concede that point. But it also costs two more mana, and about 20 more dollars.
Heroic Intervention is in 29% of eligible decks, and it only protects your stuff. That doesn’t do much good if you have an army of attackers coming at you for lethal, and yet it’s in over 270k decks. It seems to me that protecting ourselves should be nearly as important as protecting our stuff. Or are we just that materialistic (yes, this is sarcasm. I fully understand the merits of Heroic Intervention)?
Fog certainly has its weaknesses. It’s a dead card against combos, alternate win-cons, or non-combat damage. But these things are all true for Heroic Intervention as well. And, like a board wipe, Fog is sometimes only good for making the game longer. Yet we still run board wipes in every deck, don’t we?
So all of this is to say, Fog has the same weaknesses as several more popular cards, yet, for some reason, is played less. Let’s fix that.
It doesn’t have to specifically be Fog you play; there are plenty of variants we can use. Green and white are, by far, the best colors for cards with the same or similar effects. Green’s Fog inventory is a mile long, including such gems as
Dawnstrider, and the potentially free-to-cast
Obscuring Haze. White has some excellent variants with
Holy Day (going all the way back to Legends),
Angelsong (one of my faves, since it's never a dead card),
Selfless Squire, and the great
Comeuppance. Even black got in on the fun the one time with the recently reprinted
But what if you’re not in green and white? I’ve got you covered (mostly). While black only had the one legitimate Fog effect, it has had other cards with similar effects. One that I play all the time is
Sudden Spoiling. While it doesn’t actually prevent damage, it does remove the creatures’ power. There is a drawback here in that creatures with +1/+1 counters will still do damage, but there’s still a lot of versatility in this spell. First, it has Split Second, which means it can’t be countered and nothing can be done in response to it. And second, it removes all abilities from those creatures. This can be incredibly useful even in non-combat situations, since it’s frequently creature abilities that are bringing us down.
We’re not done with black! I’ve got one more really fun card for you, and that’s
Stunning Reversal. Again, we’re not preventing damage, but we are preventing death… at least for a turn. Opponents won’t see this coming, and the cards you get to draw from it are going to really help you dig for answers. While your life total will be precarious, the stories you can tell if you win the game at one life will last for years (it’s honestly my favorite way to win).
Let’s see what blue has to offer. While we won’t see any Fog-effects in blue, that doesn’t mean we can’t prevent some combat. My go-tos are usually
Aetherspouts. They’re more costly than Fog, but certainly deal with the threats more long-term.
Similar to Sudden Spoiling, we’ve got
Polymorphist’s Jest. The drawback here is that they still retain the one power, but in most cases that will be a hell of a lot better than what they were (unless it’s a token army). And last for blue we have
Illusionist’s Gambit. This not only prevents the combat damage coming your way, but also redirects it to someone else, which puts you in an even better position.
For multi-colored, we’ve got the OG,
Angus Mackenzie. There’s also relative newcomer
Inkshield, which, while expensive to cast, will easily set you up for the win on your next turn.
Batwing Brume makes them wish they didn’t try to mess with you. And there’s the long-forgotten
Energy Arc, which can have multiple uses beyond its Fog effect.
Sadly it’s slim pickin’s for red.
Glacial Crevasses is useless unless you happen to be playing snow. Ditto for the colorless
Sunstone. Colorless does have a couple other options, with
Glacial Chasm and the over-costed
Many cards with Fog effects are well suited for inclusion in popular deck themes. For instance,
Druid’s Deliverance are all fantastic for token decks.
Inspire Awe can be a one-sided Fog in an enchantment/aura deck.
Jaheira’s Respite is powerful in Landfall decks. You can sacrifice
Kami of False Hope in your aristocrats deck. Or use
Riot Control in your lifegain decks. And there are even some creature types with their own Fog effects, with
Moonmist for werewolves and
Repel the Abominable for humans.
All right, by now I’m sure you get the point; Fog can save your life. But let’s not forget about its other important use: politics. Fog can be cast at instant speed, which means that you can use it to prevent damage during any turn, even one when you’re not being attacked. Sometimes a player at the table is gearing up to stomp everyone down, and you need allies. There will be times when it’s in your best interest to save an opponent from demise in order to, not only curry their favor, but also enlist that player to help you to defeat the player who’s running the table. So offer them a Fog in these trying times, and start wheeling and dealing.
You can even take this a huge leap further and build a whole deck around Fog, like my friend Lenny did with his
Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice “Turbofog” deck. You can check out his write-up on the deck over on EDHREC.
The Fog Clears
Okay, friends. I don’t know if I’ve convinced any of you to play more Fog effects, but I sure as hell tried. I play a lot of the cards that I mentioned in this article, and I try to run at least one in every deck. I can tell you from experience that I’ve never once regretted having these effects in my deck. If you’re a non-believer, or have never considered playing Fogs, I hope you’ll at least give them a try.
Find me on Twitter and tell me about your experiences with Fog. Or tell me why I’m wrong (politely)! You can also find me making budget Commander content with the Scrap Trawlers over on Twitch and YouTube. And make sure to catch me here every couple of weeks sharing my thoughts and insights into the Commander format.
Until next time, take care. And play lots of games!