I hope your day is going well! Ready for Throne of Eldraine? I hope so! If not, these next few weeks are (hopefully) going to change your mind.
I've gotten a chance to play around with some Commander 2019 after its release, and I've got to say that I've been finding it a little....
And there are a few hits too, but the rest of the set feels pretty "meh," to me.
I talked about Greven, Predator Captain three weeks ago, and about how he was arguably too powerful, as he turns one of the costs of the game, losing life, into powerful pumping effect that lets you win quickly with Commander damage. I showed a goldfish way to win on turn three, as a quick example.
I do think that people need to see how consistent and nasty the deck plays to get a sense of it. I was playing against someone at a local game store who pushed into cards hard like Hatred, Tainted Strike, Ancient Tomb, big cheap beaters like Phyrexian Soulgorger, and more like I suggested. He hadn't seen my article, it was just a case of parallel design. He added in things I didn't consider too. (Ad Nauseam, the life-cycling Street Wraith, Dismember).
Greven killed an entire table once on the 5th turn, and that was likely a little on the slower side.
I don't think Greven has gotten the respect he should have from a lot of EDH writers.
Here are two quick examples:
Once you see how fast, and nasty he is, and reliable he is, I think you'll see his unadultered power.
Meanwhile, K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth is also doing something that's unfair too. You can cast anything that has Black mana for mana at all, just a little life. The fact that the player has 40 life to invest is key to his power.
You can also drop K'rrik on the 2nd turn with a Sol Ring, Mana Vault or Mana Crypt, which is well before folks will have mana for countering spells or much for killing him. Since you can now dig seven cards on each mulligan and then put some on the bottom, your chance of getting one (or something similar like Dark Ritual) is increased. He's no later than the 4th turn on the slowest typical draw. Just a Mana Vault will leave you five mana, so you can cast a Demonic Tutor for one colorless mana and two life for the best card to break him and win. He's also nasty with the now-only-five mana Vilis, Broker of Blood, who turns all of that life lost for Phyrexian Mana into cards drawn.
He breaks the game by giving you access to either free, or mega-cheap stuff that will win you the game very quickly, such as Doomsday or many other effects. You can Tutor for them very quickly. You have a lot of redundancy between various effects as well.
Once again, Wizards had made bad leaders. They take things that are obviously abusive and then give them to you. I would not be surprised to be K'rrik banned quickly, as he's gotten the early press. I also wouldn't be surprised to see action on Greven if takes off and takes over, as his power clearly warrants. I also wouldn't be surprised to see nothing done for either, either, due to the fact that banning something is typically the last thing you want to do for a casual format like this.
However, once you get past the Spike-ry of those two cards, there's not much in here to recommend. Not even for tables that play fair.
I mean there are a few solid bodies and effects here and there, like the latest iteration of these three popular characters. For some reason, Gerrard is now Red, (As someone who engaged with the Weatherlight saga outside of the cards in places like books? I never felt that at all.) Chainer is now Red too, and that does make sense to me. Tahngarth adding Green? Yup! I'm in. And these are solid cards, and there are a few more here and there.
But for the most part, the newly printed stuff plays and feels pretty ...Meh. They are "okay."
Here's an example:
This is Pramikon, Sky Rampart. Now it's cool because it's the first legendary Wall (that doesn't have changeling or is named Mistform Ultimus). That's cool! But you know what? It's just a generic Wall. It doesn't give Wall decks or builders any ability to link to. It doesn't have any unusual power/toughness or abilities.
Why not give a Wall Lord ability for each of its colors? Something like:
Each Wall you control gets flying, first strike, and prowess.
That's fun. (You could substitute "Wall matters" for "defender matters" if you wanted). There's nothing here. Do you think having a Mystic Barrier on a stick is going to give us something new and exciting? I doubt it.
And there feels like a lot of Pramikons here.
These are two examples. A six-mana populate tool is fine. It's all right. But it's not something that's going to get any callbacks. Wall of Stolen Identity is fun as Clone, and it'll tap your target until it leaves but the creature remains, and any effects remain with it. Meanwhile, your Wall can't attack, it has defender, so you can't pressure anything. There are many Clone effects that already exist that are much better than Wall of Stolen Identity. Again, it's not a bad card...but why would you typically want to play it?
Ghired's Belligerence is another effect. Outside of a heavy token build, it's not that great. If it exiled the dorks in addition to populating? If it gave you the ability to hit planeswalkers too? Or players? But the fact that it's so limited, I don't even think you'd run it in every token Red build. I don't see a Boros Aggro Go Wide deck wanting this, and this is supposedly a tool for token builds.
You also have a big 10/10 that can kill another dork on arrival, and maybe another if you are willing to lose it. That's not bad! But without any abilities? For nine mana?
If I am going to have a dumb 10/10 vanilla dork, I'd rather spend just five mana for it, or spend a little less than the Apex Altisaur for a more reliable destruction-effect and card advantage. It doesn't add much to the Green canon. It's just too unpredictable...
...speaking of which, Voice of Many is pretty weak too. I can't imagine people keeping it in their deck for long. You need to have the widest of decks to think this is going to be reliable. Green has a lot of creature-based card drawing, like this. I'd rather run effects like Shamanic Revelation that are more reliable, or will draw me more cards. It's not very strong during a lot of board situations, and it may never be more reliable than a four-mana Elvish Visionary.
It feels like the sort of card you hold onto, wanting to maximize its value, but never cast because there's always something better. Like Plagiarize or Shadow of Doubt or Fight to the Death. You save them for the best possible situation, but then never really get the full value for them.
Most of this set feels like that to me. A few hits, a pair of spike-y cards that feel overly pushed, and then a whole lot of, "Meh."
And that's not normal for me. I'm super excited about Throne of Eldraine. I think there are many great cards in Modern Horizons, War of the Spark, and Core Set 2020 that have slipped under a whole lot of radars. I love this game! I love its cards! I love its sets!
Why not this one?
But here's my proof that it's affected me.
Each time we have a new set of cards, I write a few articles where I build decks that were inspired by said set of cards. From Commander decks to sixty cards and more, I regularly build a number of articles around the new cards.
Here are the recent sets for whom I have dedicated an entire deck-list articles written deck-lists:
Commander 2019 - 1 article
Core 2020 - 2 articles thus far
Modern Horizons - 2 articles
War of the Spark - 4 articles
Ravnica Allegiance - 4 articles
For comparison of other Commander sets:
Commander 2018 - 4
Commander 2017 - 3
Commander 2016 - 5
Just in case you think that my Commander-inspired deck articles are fewer than other sets.
Trying to find inspiration for decks from C19, I have stared at the spoiler of Commander 2019 for more than an hour
Did you feel the same way? Am I wrong? Let me know!