Commander Staples – Lightning Greaves

Hey hey Commander players! Today I’m covering the card I consider to be the single most important card in the whole entire format. Spoiler alert, it’s not Sol Ring, or basic Island, or even Command Tower. Well, the spoiler alerts were in the title, and the picture, and this card picture immediately below. You bet your boots.

Lightning Greaves is, in my humble opinion, THE MOST IMPORTANT CARD IN COMMANDER. Bold intended. Yep, more than Sol Ring. Why? Well, there are tiers of Commander competitiveness. First off, you can put money in, load up on powerful tutors, lands, redundancy and play a handful of very nasty choices to threaten wins on turns 0-3. After that, it’s a downward sloping scale of how much of a budget people have, how hard they’re willing to go, and you’d think, power of Commander. But power of Commander is a small series of top tiers, then a gigantic pile of question marks that require context, comparisons, and extreme enabling to work at all.

That’s where Lightning Greaves steps in. There are literally thousands of Commanders that would be significantly less playable without this card. Anything that requires an attack step, or taps for an effect, or has a small body, or is a known target, or is too high in CMC to cast more than a couple of times per game. Y’know, all the fun stuff. With Lightning Greaves, and to some degree, Swiftfoot Boots, these Commanders go from affectionate love letters to jank and nostalgia, to legit engines. Because they don’t just die immediately, or on any of the three opponent turns you’ll have to sit through if you didn’t have a free-equip haste outlet. And that’s just Commanders.

Lightning Greaves works for all the creatures except for the few with weird protection effects, and it goes in any deck. The CMC is a massive bonus, too, and it’s no small thing that it can be cast on turn one off of a Sol Ring. Similarly, the 0-cost equip is unparalleled in utility. You can use it to give haste to a series of creatures with tap abilities, or even to form some sort of combo around milling yourself. Yikes.

Lightning Greaves even helps make non-creature stuff better. Think about a card like Worship.

As long as you can generate a dork, Worship is live. Generate that dork with something like Castle Ardenvale, which allows for a dork every turn or so, and you’re in really good shape. Because as soon as that dork hits the field, Lightning Greaves covers it up unless your opponents have a boardwipe or an instant speed response. And if they do, you make another dork next turn. Having to use a high-impact spell like Wrath of God to deal with a single creature wearing Lightning Greaves is a scenario that the card can and will present to opponents. Voltron, infect creatures, Commander damage, etc. demand answers too, and if Lightning Greaves shuts off targeted removal, those answers need to be as broad as possible.

Back in the early days of Magic, before the internet, players could really only read about cards and such by buying magazines like The Duelist and Scrye. There were also handbooks, and game clubs and other players, but the 24/7 format-solving, combo-finding multiverse wasn’t was it is now. I vividly remember reading a list of ‘combos’ in one of those old publications. It included ‘Library of Alexandria plus Ivory Tower’ as one of them. No kidding. Another was ‘Spectral Cloak plus Ali from Cairo.’ It’s entirely possible it was written by MaRo.

Spectral Cloak was the first instance of what became shroud, one of the abilities granted by Lightning Greaves. It was complicated rules-wise, and as you can see on the card above, offers no clarity as to what happens to stuff like auras that are already on the card. This was in contrast with another card in the same set, Anti-Magic Aura, which very clearly destroyed them. It was easy to make a case for either side, and what happened if you enchanted a cloaked creature while it was tapped? Did the enchantment fall off on untap? Did this make Serra Angel unbeatable? Rulings were made quickly, but if you didn’t buy magazines or guide books, and you only had the cards and yours and your friends’ opinions, there was confusion.

We get to fast forward to the golden age of Oracle text, but the rules of Shroud have always been a bit of an issue for people. I have seen many, many players equip Lightning Greaves on their creature, then equip something else to it. That mostly isn’t going to matter, because if you do it reverse order, it’s fine. But you can’t equip a shrouded creature. You can’t target it. Here’s some useful rules. I see people do it all the time, however, and I forget about it too, because hexproof is also a thing, behaves mostly like shroud, and is probably more abundant at this point. So keep your eyes open when opponents are using Lightning Greaves. You might even find a window of response you didn’t think you had.

Proper shroud interaction extends to yourself as well, and presents a few scenarios and decks that don’t want Lightning Greaves because of shroud. I play a Xenagos deck that wants to target creatures at the beginning of combat. The greaves make that impossible. Any deck that wants you to target your creatures at instant speed, or during specific game phases may not want this card, but overall, it’s hard to pass it up. Even decks that have few or no creatures may want this just for their Commander.

Lightning Greaves was first printed as an uncommon in Mirrodin. It’s done pretty well for itself since, with eleven subsequent printings, and now presence in Mystery Boosters. Again, as an uncommon. This is extremely important to the cost of this card, as it means there could be an uncommon-level of supply introduced to the marketplace. Currently, the Greaves cost anywhere from $6-10 or more, depending on printing. They’ve been ‘uncommons’ in Commander precons that are as much in supply as Mythics in those sets. Mystery Boosters stand to lower that price considerably… for now, and for a short time. For a comparison, Thran Dynamo, another $10 card that was reprinted recently as an uncommon in a Masters Set has recovered a lot of that value. That’s a Masters set, but Mystery Boosters are a mystery. Whatever happens, there should be cheaper copies going forward, but don’t be surprised if demand doesn’t eat them up quickly and bring the price back up. If you want fancy boots, pack foils from Mirrodin are $25 or so, the FNM promo is around $20, and the Masterpiece Series foil is probably around $80-100. Try not to scuff them.

In summation, they sometimes say the footwear makes the person. Who are they? Who cares, in this case they’re right. If you think of Commanders as people. But the footwear in question is cheap to cast, easy to use, and makes those Commanders fast and protected from much harm. From the fragile to the robust, the slow to the already-hasty, the all-in-voltron to the grand delegator, these boots are a one-size fits all. Some of those decks just wouldn’t be tall enough to ride without ’em. Stand tall in this Staple! Thanks for reading!

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