Lightning Rod Creatures and Commander
When you talk about a lightning rod in Magic the Gathering, you're usually talking about some creature that immediately attracts the attention of the nearest removal spell without question when played.
A Lightning rod is a kill-on-sight creature that must be dealt with or else it'll quickly take over the game. Opponents scramble to remove these creatures, and will often upset their entire game plan to try and deal with this threat, whether it's actually threatening to that player or not. A good example of a non-creature lightning rod for example is just about every Planeswalker ever printed (Sorry, Tibalt). When someone sees a Planeswalker they immediately go into kill mode. It MUST die.
To a certain extent these players are right. Left alone, a Planeswalker may have a game altering powerful ultimate that will no doubt help their player win, but a lot of times players will make unnecessary sacrifices to stop them. This is part of the appeal of the lightning rod.
Lightning rods also tend to be creatures that have some repeatable ability whether it be activated or triggered that makes them a consistent threat and not just something that hits when they're cast or enter the battlefield. Basically something you really want to stick around. This is part of the downside of the lightning rod.
Now of course there are hundreds of creatures in Magic that must be dealt with when you see them, almost every commander, for example, is worthy of this distinction simply because of the synergy possibilities that exist with the 99 other cards in their deck. But commanders have a way of dodging the lightning rod mantle mostly due to their resiliency granted by the Command Zone.
So take away the mantle of commander and let's talk about some creatures that I've honestly hardly ever seen do their thing because they are always, always, *always* killed before they get a chance to. Is this a downside? Can it be used to our advantage? You be the judge.
Mikaeus, the Lunarch
It's easy to see how Mikaeus, the Lunarch is a magnet for removal spells. It's a card you can play early in the game, it keeps getting bigger and eventually makes everything else you control bigger. Also, if drawn later in the game, it's as big as the amount of mana you can spend on it. He's good at every turn in the game and in token or counter decks he's insane. Mikaeus is a one creature engine that has to be dealt with. I think the main reason it has the reputation for being removed every time I've ever seen it is that when you're a creature this good that can be played on turn two, odds are you're going to get the first removal spell someone draws aimed at your mug.
I've dreamed of using Admonition Angel's ability and it's a dream I really think people should be less afraid of. Sure, exiling creatures is scary, but everyone seems to ignore the fact that when the angel dies they all go back to the battlefield.
I don't need to tell you about Consecrated Sphinx. Consecrated Sphinx is great, it's always discussed when people bring up possible bannings and it's an expensive card for a reason. It also eats an incredible amount of removal spells, but usually not before at least drawing two or four cards for you. So as far as lightning rods go, this one gets you the most return for your mana's worth. (It's sort of why it's so great)
Definitely the most difficult lightning rod to deal with but I suspect that is simply because people aren't entirely sure of the way the Soulbond ability works. So here, for anyone who is unaware is how you kill a Deadeye Navigator:
- Either wait for or force an activation of the soulbond ability on either creature.
- Have instant speed removal
- When the Soulbond ability trigger goes on the stack, use instant speed removal to kill Deadeye Navigator.
It's not as hard as it looks but it is certainly more difficult than your run of the mill creature - but then again, so is anything with Hexproof, but let's not get into that.
Dark Impostor is a card I have honestly never seen use its ability. This, however, isn't just due to it being removed all the time, but because it's hard to find a place to use the 6 mana ability. I image it will be fun once someone manages to get it off! Please let me know if that ever happens.
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
From one Mikaeus to another, the black Mikaeus requires some more mana but gives you a pretty serious boost by making your creatures a true nightmare to deal with and bringing the ability to simply end the game with an infinite combo.
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Much like Deadeye Navigator, Kiki-Jiki has an added ability making it tough to take him out when it matters. Kiki-Jiki having haste means that unless your instant speed removal and the mana required are up, Kiki Jiki will get to do his thing. Much like Mikaeus, KJ also has the ability to go infinite with a lot of creatures, and in that case you need to be ready with a lightning bolt for this ever-dangerous rod.
When you print one of the most powerful enchantments of all time on a creature, everyone will always note that the biggest downside to this is that the creature is more easily removed. No other creature proves this point more clearly and effectively than Fauna Shaman. Every Fauna Shaman I have ever played has definitely been killed before my next turn, thus I have never been able to activate this ability. What is it like? Is it good? I bet it's good.
Master of the Wild Hunt
While not exactly a game breaking ability, this Wolf master is definitely a creature people like to get rid of. My guess is that besides the removal potential he has, this card carries with it a certain inevitability that players tend to fear. Making a 2/2 every turn isn't a lot really, but the ability to get a 2/2 and kill something means inevitably the game will be overrun with wolves.
The ability on Consuming Aberration is great one for reanimator decks, but I somehow doubt it would be quite the same lightning rod if it were a static 5/5. The ability is the real all-star and the fact that this creature gets absolutely massive with little to no effort is the real reason it gets killed with frequency. Sometimes you just have to kill the beef.
A clone that makes more clones falls under the same sort of inevitability that Master of the Wild Hunt, except this can make a lot of Master of the Wild Hunts instead of just wolves. Yikes. Removed early and often, I don't believe I've ever seen this guy make more than one of whatever he's become.
Lightning rods, removal magnets, must-kill-creatures, whatever you want to call them, their strengths are their power level, and they can cause your opponents to make moves they weren't prepared for. Sometimes those moves will end up costing them more than your one powerful creature, and that's the real value of these creatures - even after they've been killed, they can open the door for you to roll out your plan B in the clear.
If for some reason your opponents left any of these creatures alive and you actually get to untap with them or do their thing, well, I feel bad for the guy holding onto the Swords waiting for something worse. Of course, there is certainly something to be said for flying under the radar, but usually the sheer power level of these creatures is more than enough to overcome the fact that your opponents will do anything they can to stop them.
Did I forget any lightning rod creatures? Let me know in the comments or on twitter! @andyhullbone is me and you can contact me anytime!