Another spoiler week has come and gone, and with it, another slate of awesome card! Anything in here you are looking to play? Anything in here that you are really excited by?
After spending some time with the full spoiler, I wanted to give you my choice for the best new cards from Commander 2018, as well as a few ways to use them at our kitchen tables.
10. Enchanter's Bane
Who says Red can't answer enchantments? Apparently not Wizards of the Coast, at least, not anymore. To be fair, punisher mechanics that force your foe to choose something, with one of them doing damage, has been a part of Red in the past. Red doesn't have a three-mana Wrath of God either, but it has Breaking Point. Red doesn't have a three-mana card drawing effect that draws three cards, but it does have Browbeat. Red doesn't mill cards, but it does have Book Burning. Red doesn't have Hymn to Tourach effects, but it does have Skullscorch. You get the idea. Welcome to our kitchen table, oh Red Answer (sort of) for Enchantments.
9. Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
As I mentioned in last week's article, we needed a Ninja commander badly. Thanks Wizards! Commander Ninjutsu is an interesting take on the ability. Note that it avoids casting your Commander, so it won't be countered or subject to a Commander tax. However, it requires an unblocked critter to do so, so there is no guarantee that your opponent will let one through early if they can stop it. Yuriko's ability is really good and the ability to drop her is so cheap. She just drips card drawing all over the board. Ninja for the Win-ja!
8. Ever-Watching Threshold
I like this as a useful Rhystic Study effect that your opponents can't opt out of. Want to swing at me? Want to attack one of my friends like Jace or Tamiyo? Then I'm drawing a card! The card draw is (mostly) subtle because your foes will choose when you do so. Note that you draw the card on attack, so you can draw into an answer such as a Fog effect, bounce spell, or something similar if you want to stop the attack!
7. Magus of Balance
Magus of Balance is the one of the few Magus's of a card that is banned in Commander. That's how nasty and powerful Balance is. This is toned down as it's a 2/2 for 2 mana that can be killed by removal and it require five mana to use. That whittles down the Balance, as the ability to cut people to few lands was a powerful part of its effect, and a five mana Balance isn't as scary. But it's still Balance. Toss it out, swing and block and do creature stuff, and your Balance threatens people. If anyone overcommits then Balance brings them back down. And unlike Nevinyrral's Disk, you can't answer it by sitting there and building up your hand for a post-Disk smash or your mana base. Anyone who hoards cards will be punished as well. If the Magus is the only creature you control after you cast it, then you could slow things down prohibitively. Although note that planeswalkers, artifacts, and enchantments are fair. Only dorks, lands, and your cards in hand are vulnerable. You can use this well.
6. Estrid, the Masked
I like what Estrid is trying to do here. It's hard to do something that has been done multiple times before, do an enchantment-matters theme. How do you do it without something generic like, “Make a token creature with X/X where X is the number of enchantments you control” or “Gain life equal to the number of enchantments you control,” or “Return target enchantment from the graveyard to the battlefield,” and such. This is different, and I respect that. Estrid can create auras that can enchant something, protect it from removal, and then untap with her +2. That's not bad. I think there is a good amount of potential here from great cards to untap to great auras to toss into your deck.
5. Treasure Nabber
One of the unfortunate truisms of today is that mana in Commander has changed. People push various Sol Ring effects that hurt them, such as Mana Crypt and Ancient Tomb. And with the proliferation of Mana Vault, Grim Monolith and more, this is a great way to tell folks that you want to play that game too! I want to tap your artifacts for mana as well, thanks!
Now Treasure Nabber can be a fun card all on its own, and it's fine. But you could add in some sacrifice effects to sacrifice the stolen artifact to.
How about Makeshift Munitions? Opponents would see that coming, so they wouldn't tap their artifacts for mana at all. Which may not be a bad thing, frankly. You could cast this with the mana you stole, and then sacrifice them in one go. You could use temporary one-shot effects like Morbid Curiosity.
You could also go nasty with Time Sieve . . .
But I actually prefer something more comical. Something more classic. Something more fun!
That's right . . . Bazaar Trader! You can tap it to give away one of your cute artifacts to someone permanently. Now you can steal the Sol Ring that you got from Steve, use's it's mana, and then give it to Jamie permanently. That's fun!
However, Bazaar Trader can also be used to target yourself . . . Why would you want to do that? Because the last control changing effect now works, so the artifact won't go back to the person from whom you took it at the end of the turn. And that's a Red way to support No Givesies Backsies!
4. Lord Windgrace
This is my favorite of the new walkers. Welcome back Lord Windgrace! While Lord Windgrace at first seems limited to just a land-matters deck, when you dig into the cards more you'll see more synergy here that landfall enabler or something. Just like a ‘walker that likes creatures, every deck needs and wants lands out. The overwhelming majority of decks will have their board position increased by having more lands on the battlefield. Everyone runs stuff like Cultivate or Kodama's Reach for their builds. Windgrace's land-matters mechanics are quite strong. His first to discard and draw is like many other Red walkers. If you don't discard a land that's fine, you can still discard something else and keep on digging and churning your deck and graveyard. And if you do happen to have a land in your hand you want to discard, then Lord Windgrace will reward you with two cards for your trouble. Card advantage matters. Then you can also return two to the battlefield from your graveyard, and as you are churning through your deck discarding them, drawing two cards a pop, you'll easily have enough few to toss two onto the battlefield for free. Lord Windgrace works wonderfully with himself. If you just activate his +2 twice, and then his -3 once, every three turns, then you have discarded two lands, drawn four cards, and put two lands onto the battlefield without taking a land drop. That feels pretty powerful to me, right?
Welcome back my Urborg friend, welcome back!
Let's do a flavor aside for a moment:
I feel like three of the four new planeswalker leaders were missed opportunities. I loved Lord Windgrace, and getting an opportunity to get a character we already knew and liked in card form to lead a deck was great. But why another version of Saheeli Rai? And if we were getting another version of a ‘walker we already had, why not Dack Fayden? There are other artifact-loving ‘walkers we could have chosen that aren't in print, and at least not in those colors (such as Urza). And that's why Estrid and Aminatou feel like weird choices to me. Why not grab someone that already existed?
Want a leader for an enchantment deck who is an unprinted ‘walker? What about Serra? Her card, Serra's Sanctum seems to imply some connection with enchantments. Or maybe her husband Feroz, who believes that summoning creatures against their will is immoral, but is powerful enough to take out some of the most powerful planeswalkers, such as Taysir.
Want someone who can have the same mechanics and the same colors as Aminatou? Why not print one of the Nine Titans who journeyed with Urza, much like Lord Windgrace, against the Phyrexians to destroy their home plane? Commodore Guff would have made complete sense as someone who has lived so long that he knows almost everything and can outplan Urza. (He also has a secret library full of hidden knowledge that plays into the flavor of this card as well).
This was a missed opportunity to grab more ‘walkers out there that aren't going to get printed anywhere else. We're not going to see a Commodore Guff anywhere else! Why waste a perfect opportunity here?
3. Whiptongue Hydra
I have regularly extolled the power of Whirlwind in the modern Commander metagame as well as multiplayer generally. It's in my Underused Hall of Fame. Here's a Whirlwind on a stick that plays a lot better. Once you get the flyers off the path, you have an engorged Hydra that can likely be something huge. Lots of leaders and decks run either most or all flying, such as Kaalia of the Vast decks. Take advantage of this weakness to smash them and then have a huge guy for your troubles. The benefit though is that if the board position isn't right, when you can just drop the Hydra and you can still get a 4/4 dork, without being forced to hold it in your hand, so it's always useful.
2. Heavenly Blademaster
Is it just me or do Equipment enablers like these seem to be getting better and better?
For example, here are some of the earliest:
Auriok Steelshaper was a generic 1/1 for 2 mana on its own, and if it was equipped, only Soldiers and Knights would get a bonus, and it was just +1/+1. Later in the same block, the expensive Raksha would give +2/+2 and double strike, but just to Cats. You would still have to invest the mana in equipping the seven-mana Raksha after it arrived on the battlefield. Even later, these bonuses would be tied to a tribe, like Armament Master:
But now you get a nasty 3/6 flying, double strike body who puts all equipment on her for free when she arrives on the battlefield and pumps your entire team for each one on her. That's just nasty. Oh, and she gets that for auras as well.
1. Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle
I like how a lot of the newly printed cards here do something new, especially from a Commander. Arixmethes is fun as a cool land you can cast for four-mana that taps for a Simic Growth Chamber amount of mana. This is a great way to pump and make her work. It's a new take on an old archetype that's from tales and legends:
The giant creature so big it's an Island! And like those from Legends, it begins as a isle that does not move or seem to be anything else. It slumbers. But cast enough crap, and you'll wake it up from the slumber of the deep to an enraged 12/12 Ray Harryhausen monstrosity. It works well, and it creates a new archetype that tries to cast it and then turn it into a powerful creature as soon as possible. And normal cards that care about counters look to add them with things like populate and Doubling Season, and this heads somewhere else. How fast can you take them off? How reliably? It's a two-hit Commander kill, it's got some power and some game. I think it's quite strong!
(In reality, my number 1 is Xantcha, and Arixmethes is #2, but I've talked about her tons with two full articles dedicated to her, so instead, I give you my #2 here and then move everything down one spot.)
And there we are; thanks for reading! What did you think of my list? Where did I go wrong? And what are you most excited for?