Playing lands is one of the most important parts of playing Magic the Gathering. The artifact card Ankh of Mishra punishes players just for playing them. It’s a card that was first printed in Magic’s very first release, Alpha, but has seen numerous reprints: Revised, 4th Edition, 5th Edition, and 6th Edition. The latter two printings featured new artwork.
The Ankh doesn’t see competitive play any more. But, years ago, it was a very strong card in decks that didn’t need to play a lot of land to get the work done. As a 2 mana artifact, it could fit into a wide variety of strategies. Another popular deck that it found a home in was land destruction decks that utilized Stone Rain, the classic three-mana (2 generic, one Red) land destruction spell, and Dingus Egg , to further punish players when their lands were destroyed. It would then use cheap burn spells such as Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning to finish opponents off.
This card could also be a sideboard option. In decks like White Weenie, it could be a valuable tool, as you wouldn’t play it until you knew you wouldn’t be playing too many more lands. If you you knew your opponent needed their precious land-drops in order to win, the Ankh would become White Weenie’s best friend, as for them to stay on curve, they’re hurting themselves to do so.
Nowadays, Ankh of Mishra just doesn’t find a home in general Constructed formats. But, in Commander, the Ankh has still found a home in the unpopular Zo-Zu the Punisher deck, as well as in Heartless Hidetsugu and Purphoros, God of the Forge deck lists.
Zo-Zu the Punisher himself is a creature version of the Ankh. Punishing players for playing land is a rather frowned upon strategy in the Commander format, but it’s one that does exist and it can win. Zo-Zu’s deck basically is a land destruction build that just tries to burn its opponents to death before burning itself to death. The Ankh of Mishra simply doubles Zo-Zu’s own ability, while the classic Dingus Egg pings a player for 2 each time one of his or her lands is destroyed. It basically causes opponents to simply never play lands again. It’s not a fun deck to play against.
Heartless Hidetsugu lives up to his name. His deck is built around keeping the board clear and consistently burning everyone. It doesn’t run many creatures, but those that it does are going to deliver even more pain. The Ankh of Mishra can serve as a way to finish off opponents at low life by making even their land drops hurt. The Commander of the deck allows you to finish off players even more quickly. It’s a nasty deck, and while the Ankh isn’t a huge part of it, it does play a part.
Purphoros, God of the Forge is a bit different in that he deals damage whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, but he doesn’t burn you, as well. His deck actually plays Zo-Zu the Punisher andAnkh of Mishra to add some extra damage. The rest of the deck is based around playing a lot of Goblin tokens through various means, making sure you’re bringing in plenty of triggers for Purphoros’ ability. The burn from playing land drops just makes the deck’s job a bit easier.
Ankh of Mishra is an interesting card that can definitely aid in some really mean burn strategies. It’s definitely not a fun card to play against, and it’s tricky even to play with as it punishes you for playing land, as well, so the timing of playing it is crucial. In a format like Commander, where every land drop is even more crucial than in other Constructed formats, the Ankh becomes quite a powerful card.
As other formats have increased the power level on the lower end of the curve, the Ankh simply is too slow a card to be effective anymore. But, in the much more drawn-out Commander format, it’s still a valuable weapon for the red Commander’s arsenal; that is, as long as you don’t mind people hating you.