Looking at a Random Card: Copy Enchantment
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Copy Enchantment: My first entry in 2012! My last two entries, Horn of Deafening and Crowd Favorites, got considerably less attention than usual, probably because of the holidays and the fact that PlanetMTG didn’t link to them, so if you missed them, go check them out!
Blue could copy creatures (Clone) and artifacts (Copy Artifact) from the very beginning of the game, so it seems odd that it took WotC so long to design this card. Maybe it was the rules confusion the other copy cards caused which kept them from doing the obvious thing, but at the time Ravnica came along, these issues were considered solved for a long time.
It is interesting to see how much more prevalent artifacts are than enchantments in Magic. Of course, this is in large part due to artifacts being colorless (well, the large majority of them) and thus useful in almost every deck concept, but also because they have from the start been used heavily as alternate mana sources, thus finding their way into many manabases of decks which might otherwise not have cared for artifacts. Also, the original concept of artifacts obviously included giving basic effects (damage-dealing, removal, card draw, discard etc…) to all colors, although mostly in quite a clumsy way. Additionally, starting with Juggernaut, there was a tradition of (in contemporary design practice) undercosted artifact creatures justified by their double vulnerability to creature removal and artifact removal. Because of this already very broad scope of artifacts, they lent themselves much better to being an overarching theme of an expansion or block than enchantments. Other reasons for that were, once again, their lack of color, at the same time helping to insert them in a large number of strategies and giving an environment an unique feel, and the fact that “artifactness” is a flavor translated much easier into identifiable concepts. (You can see how hard it is to build an environment around enchantments with Urza block, which was supposed to be about enchantments in the first place, but almost no one noticed, since the enchantment-based mechanics were largely overshadowed by powerful other cards.) Those sets and blocks then gave even more staples to all kinds of decks, like the spellbombs and the artifact lands. Finally, it shouldn’t go unsaid that equipment, the artifact variant of auras, was simply due to its different, improved rules, inherently much more attractive than its enchanting counterpart.
Considering all this, it seems strange that Wizards – obviously to be on the safe side – decided to make Copy Enchantment cost a mana more than Copy Artifact. (Then again, 3 mana was what Sculpting Steel costed, although this was possibly due to it requiring no colored mana.) Where Copy Artifact had once been a staple in constructed decks (and is still used, although less frequently, in eternal formats), and Sculpting Steel saw play, but wasn’t exactly environment-changing, Copy Artifact never really took off. I believe the fundamental difference is that Copy Artifact would usually get played in decks where it could reliably and efficiently copy mana-producing artifacts (especially stuff like Mana Vault, but even a lowly artifact land wasn’t a bad deal) and its other uses were largely a bonus, while Copy Artifact was less of a synergy and more of a combo card – you really needed an already attractive enchantment on the board to make it worthwhile, and its 3-mana-cost meant that copying Wild Growth and the like wasn’t especially attractive.
I think maybe Copy Artifact was designed at a time when WotC were already aware that the artifact lands from Mirrodin were problematic, but had not yet resolved to avoid this kind of lands in the future. In this case, if enchantment lands were still considered a possibility, it makes sense that they would opt for the safe choice with this card’s mana cost. Who knows, when one day a real enchantment-themed environment comes around, this decision might pay off, even without enchantment lands.
As it stands, Copy Enchantment is a slight disappointment in the constructed area – it would be nice if an effect that basic and intuitive (rules issues notwithstanding) would see more play. It’s still efficient enough that a deck interested in its function may use it, though, so it gets a few points (whatever that means in the context of my evaluation) for its constructed applications.
Considering limited, this card is great, almost perfect! A clone effect for enchantments just belongs in any environment with a strong enchantment theme, and costing it one mana cheaper than Clone really makes sense, considering that creatures will still be the most-used card type (okay, not counting lands) in any limited environment, meaning that enchantments will not only be around less frequently, but also tend to cost less – you are much more likely to include a creature for 5 or 6 mana in your draft deck than an enchantment with that cost, since a creature usually gives you an immediate, reliable impact on the board, and most enchantments do not. So, if Copy Artifact is less reliable than Clone and, on average, copying cheaper cards, shaving one mana off really makes sense. I just feel that copy effects should be more deeply blue and not splashable – just as I would prefer Clone at 2UU, I would cost Copy Enchantment at 1UU for that reason. I do not consider it a boon for decks centered in another color with a strong enchantment theme, but part of Blue’s approach towards that theme.
This simple, elegant and yet intriguing design barely misses a grade in the A-area, because it has a number of aspects which are just not quite perfect: It’s just a little too unexciting in constructed, it should not be splashable in limited, it is not useful in too many limited environments, and it is bound to spawn difficult rules questions. A single one of these small issues – nay, imperfections – would still allow for an A-, but altogether they keep Copy Enchantment in B territory, on a still very respectable B+.