Commander Staples – Harmonize

Hey Commander enthusiasts! Today I’m tuning in to a card that is a bit of an anomaly among format Staples. Many Staples are defined by being either a fantastic ‘rate’ or even ‘fantastically above rate.’ That means they’re cheaper to cast/use/keep around than the effect they produce, often by a large margin. Ancestral Recall, which draws 3 cards at instant speed for the simple investment of one blue mana (U) is an example of a rate that is too good for almost all games of magic. Hence it is banned in nearly all formats where it would be legal.

The same card at sorcery speed for 4 mana might seem terrible by comparison, but that’s basically what today’s Staple card is. Context is everything.

Harmonize is from an alternate reality, apparently. It was printed in Magic’s 2007 Planar Chaos expansion, as part of a subset of ‘Timeshifted’ cards. These were functional reprints of previous cards, but shifted across colours. In the context of Magic design, colour pie, etc., Harmonize and the other Timeshifted cards could have existed in this reality, but didn’t. …But then did when the set was printed. Alternate realities are confusing. I’m pretty sure this one is still this reality, just different framing for the cards. Do you recall what card was Timeshifted to compose Harmonize? Concentrate hard and you might get it….

Indeed Harmonize is the green Concentrate, a simple, humble spell not known for Staplehood. There are simply ‘better’ blue draw spells. Plus dozens of useful effects with card draw stapled on. Similarly, there are ‘better’ green draw spells than Harmonize, but while the other greens are sometimes at instant speed, and offer the potential to draw staggering amounts of cards under the right circumstances, that’s the issue: they are conditional. They often depend on things like number of creatures in play, or power of a single creature. If you’ve got a swinging band of 1/1 elves, a card like Rishkar’s Expertise is a bit of a fizzle, no matter how big and swinging your band is.

Harmonize is a Staple because of its simplicity and consistency. It offers a steady rate of draw at a reasonable price. It’s the same whether you have a million 1/1 elf drummers, or a 100/100 baloth soloist, or no creatures at all. In Commander, one of green’s inherent weaknesses, especially mono-green, is fizzling after a board wipe takes out all your creatures. That’s when you need some card-draw to refill the orchestra pit, and having it depend on creatures who are no longer with the band isn’t the way to go.

Something else that helps Harmonize be a Staple is that green decks often have extra mana kicking around. What holds some draw spells back is that you have to take a whole turn off to cast them, meaning you can’t immediately starting casting what you drew. In green, this is less of an issue, and Harmonize can be the first play of a bigger turn more easily than the same spell might be in another colour. There has been some debate as to whether this burst-style card draw is better than the smaller turn-by-turn draw of something like Phyrexian Arena or even Into the Wilds. Card advantage is so valuable that it’s more about getting what you need when you need it. Knowing what your deck would benefit from most is in large part a matter of playing it and finding out how opponents react. Don’t be surprised if you end up with a little of both. Or a lot of both.

Harmonize isn’t a spicy play. It does what its name implies and fits in nicely with the overall symphony. And it’s never a mean play. You can’t cast it on an opponent with an empty library. Finding ways to stretch it are difficult, and may only really amount to finding ways to cast it at instant speed. In mono-green, Emergence Zone and Vedalken Orrery can give Harmonize flash, and don’t forget about Mosswort Bridge as well. Beyond that, dipping into blue for Leyline of Anticipation or Alchemist’s Refuge are fine choices. Teferi, Time Raveler and Hypersonic Dragon can get the job done in multicolour. It’s tough to imagine building a strategy around casting Harmonize at instant speed, however. It’s just nice if you can swing it.

Why not play Harmonize? Well if your deck’s harmony is already so tight that stepping on any of that beautiful synergy would ruin it, Harmonize might be one backup singer too many. If your Commander provides a similar burst of card draw, like Prime Speaker Zegana does, than maybe Harmonize’s slot is better spent on a haymaker card. If you’re in a few colours, and two green pips is tough, or there are a lot of ‘better’ or comparable options available, like maybe Concentrate, who knows? But in mono-green, Harmonize deserves a good look. And if you ignore it, and go on to fizzle a few times, look again.

Harmonize is printed regularly, as an uncommon. If this meant Commander sets only, that would be mostly meaningless, as there’s only usually a single copy of any given card in the precons, regardless of rarity. But Harmonize has been in Modern and Eternal Masters as well, upping the supply of foils and making the rarity mean something in terms of available cards. Even with the alternate framing and a couple of different artworks to choose from, Harmonize is easy to find in all forms for around $1. That’s music to my ears. Foils are $2-5, with the Timeshifted version as the most expensive. This is an easy card to get, and that’s great note to hit.

In summation, Harmonize sets the tone for good things to come. As a consistent burst of cards, it steps out from the chorus of conditional green card draw to shine on your stage the way you expect every time. Whether it’s a refill after a boardwipe, some gas in the middle of a big turn, or the first play of a game winning sequence, Harmonize gives green and other card-draw challenged colours a steady presence you can rely on. One that will almost never hit a sour note. Encore, Staple! Thanks for reading!

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