EDH IMHO: The Legend of Zap Rowsdower

Welcome to EDH: IMHO, a weekly article about my love and experience with Commander.

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“I’m Rowsdower. Zap Rowsdower.”

…and with that, I met one of the most ridiculous fictional characters I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so inspired by something so stupid.

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Zap Rowsdower, whose name I use here, as well as on Discord, is the standout character in the Canadian indie classic(?) The Final Sacrifice. It SHOULD have won best picture in 1990, but for some reason the academy went with the safe choice Dances with Wolves. Curse you Kevin Costner…you beautiful, incredible man.

The Final Sacrifice is best known for its mock-up on the now-legendary science-fiction movie riff show, Mystery Science Theatre 3000. The Final Sacrifice is my very favorite episode, because Zap Rowsdower is the physical manifestation of the sound my laughter.

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Rowsdower is an overweight, mulleted, blonde behemoth of a man who ambles his drunk haunches into the plot of the movie, a beer can hanging from his pickup truck rear view mirror like some kind of Billy Joel custom air freshener from hell. He epitomizes the blue-collar tough man with a heart of gold that dominated sci-fi and action movies as the eighties became the nineties. It is his very exhibition of the trope, in both his successes and failures, that makes him so perfectly immaculate.

I love Zap Rowsdower with all of my heart.

And I love Elder Dragon Highlander.

I never really got into standard, or any other kind of competitive magic. From the first time I cast a Volcanic Hammer (the Zap Rowsdower of removal if there ever was one) magic was something I did with my friends. You guys who play formal magic with strangers, I salute you! It just wasn’t my thing.

Playing casually with friends, I sleeved up normal 60-card decks. I had a vague idea of what was good and what wasn’t, and I was aware of the world of competitive magic. But anything I read about competitive magic just ended up being applied to how I played with my friends. As a result, most of the magic norms (especially back in 2007) shaped my playing style. Most notable was how this affected the converted mana cost of most of my spells.

Five mana spells were a luxury. Six mana; a treasure. Seven; practically folklore.

So into my ‘spare card’ box went big spell after big spell. Cards that looked fun, but were just not conceivably playable. Into the box went Experiment Kraj, Pelakka Wurm, and Blatant Thievery.

A friend of mine had begged me to play EDH for the longest time. He always said to me “You love casual…you would love commander.” For some reason, the idea of 100-card decks just sounded annoying, and the idea of singleton simply unacceptable. I must have been one of the only strictly- casual magic players in the world who just had to have that sweet redundancy.

When Commander 2011 first came out, I noticed the Devour for Power deck had a lot of pieces I needed for my 60-card decks. I decided to buy it on the day it was released. There was just one problem. The shop where I bought it required that you played one game with it, out of box.

“Great,” I though, “Let’s get this over with so I can go home and brew.”

And then…I played.

Hours later, I was rushing home to immediately starting destroying every 60-card deck I had. I threw open the lid of my spare cards box and suddenly realized I had a lot of 6+ converted mana cost cards to re-read.

The cards I always thought were bulky and wasteful were suddenly worth something. Diamonds in the clunky, overweight, garbage can of discarded rares I had lying around.

Even as I describe those cards, I find every adjective also applies to my ironic hero, Zap Rowsdower.

He’s clunky. He’s overweight. He’s garbage.

And he’s glorious.

Ever really stop and wonder why Chuck Norris facts became a thing?

This feeling right here. That’s why.

What makes Zap Rowsdower perfect is how much he, and the heroes he unintentionally parodied, became discarded as the nineties rolled through to the new millennium. Zap Rowsdower was John McClane with a mullet. He was Stone Cold Steve Austin with a Canadian accent. He was pretty much every Nicolas Cage character before everyone realized what a parody of himself Nicolas Cage already was.

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And what MST3K  did with Zap Rowsdower, I did with magic cards that I just thought I’d never play. Out from the attic comes an old relic, reminiscent of a time when we wanted a hero who was just enough of a schmuck like us that we thought we could be something great.

“If that weird loser is somehow a hero….then I must be a hero, too!

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That’s why I love commander. It’s not just a love letter to magic’s past, and it’s not just using something that is useless in every other format. It’s the idea that an outdated, lackluster trope of a time gone by still actually matters, for some unexplained reason.

Is that just nostalgia? Sure, that’s part of it, but it’s more than that. It’s memories so special that even a unexceptional imitation reminds us of what is great about the game. Or movies. Or anything we remember with fondness.

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“And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.”

I love Zap Rowsdower. And I love Elder Dragon Highlander. My hope for EDH: IMHO is that it will be a place where I share what I love about commander.

I’ll talk about my philosophy. I’ll explain why I prefer some cards over others. The first series of articles I will discuss is a general guide to all things ramp, in regards to commander. As much as that just sounds like nuts and bolts, my hope is for this to much more than that.

Because for me, Commander is  so much more than that. EDH is an introspective, reflective format. You’re not just tuning a deck: you’re tuning an experience. You’re searching for a vibe; you’re creating an environment. When you build a commander deck, you forge a story. When you replace a card, you shape the perfect occasion. That’s what I love about commander, and what I hope I’ll be able to share with you every week, here on EDH: IMHO.

I’ve been, and continue to be, Akabane Rowsdower. Thanks for reading!

AkabaneRowsdower is an avidly casual player of Commander. He loves movies, Japanese pro wrestling, and Sphinx Ambassador. Every week, he uses EDH IMHO to share his rambling philosophy regarding the format he loves.

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