New cards are awesome! New cards designed for casual play (which often have a major impact on Eternal sets) are awesomer! The new Commander product has just arrived from the shelves, and it looks quite nicely done! (I love the amount of Portal Three Kingdoms product that was reprinted.)
Because they were designed for a Commander product, they are innately good for multiplayer. Despite the fact that there are just fifty-one new cards in the set, they have a high average quality, and a lot are going to be hits for years to come.
But what are the best cards from the set? What are the Top 10 Cards from the set? Before we move to that list, let’s look at a few cards that just missed my cut and wound up with an Honorable Mention.
True-Name Nemesis – Was this the latest Unhinged card? People have expounded on its value in two-player formats because it is basically a small Progenitus against one player. It’s already receiving press for Legacy. In multiplayer, its value drops since it’s just a Progenitus against one-of-many against the field. It can be used to protect against the worst beaters on the field or to sneak by the best defense for a few hits. But it still has a one-sided nature that makes it play unevenly. As such, it slips out of my Top 10 and just hits here in the Honorable Mention section.
Honorable Mention #2 - Prossh, Skyraider of Kher – The Commander decks have pushed legendary creatures that increase in power the more they are killed and replayed. While that’s nice for Commander specifically, most of them lack true strength in multiplayer or casual formats. That’s not true for this guy. Play him, and you’ll spit out six 0/1 Kobolds in addition to a 5/5 flyer who can do his best Fallen Angel impersonation. Just sacrifice a creature (for no mana), and his power pumps by 1. You can use the tokens as manaless fuel for his firebreathing or for a variety of other uses. Frankly, I’d prefer him if you removed the mana trick and just had an enters-the-battlefield trigger of making six Kobolds when he hit play—that way, you could do fun things, such as Flicker it or bounce and replay it or kill it and reanimate it. That keeps it down on my list since its value increases so specifically in one format to the cost of others. But don’t ignore the value of this guy in a sixty-card format.
Tempt with Reflections – I think the temping offer cycle blows the pants off the previous cycle of rare cards from the first batch of Commander decks. I love their power, and, more importantly, I love that your opponents control just how broken each card will be for you. So, if the first player takes a token and gives you another and the player after that does so, if the third player chooses to, people might become upset at him for giving you another token. By giving him a choice to keep it on the low side, you reduce the bad feelings it can create. Two other Tempt cards will chart, and the two noncharting ones would still be in my Top 20 from the set.
Let’s look in at the Top 10 Cards!
#10 – Oloro, Ageless Ascetic – If you set aside the 2-life-from-the-command-zone trick this guy can offer, you still have a great creature. Paying 6 mana for a 4/5 with abilities gives you some red-zone potential. Then, you gain 2 life every upkeep for free. Slowly, over time, that is going to really matter. Then, add in the other ability: When you gain life, you can pay a colorless mana to draw a card and shoot each opponent for a life. Not only can you use that trigger on Oloro’s life-gain, but you have a lot of potential for life-gain in your Esper colors. Just consider cards such as Death Grasp and Solemn Offering. He downright loves extort.
Roon of the Hidden Realm – I adore Roon from this set for a lot of reasons. First of all, he is equally at home in Commander as in other multiplayer decks, rocking his vigilance and trample—his vigilample. There is no worrying about a drop off in quality. You can rock this 4/4 guy with an easy 2-mana tap ability that will Flicker a creature for a bit until the end step. That gives you an incredible bit of ability built into this guy. All of the established Flicker tricks are in here, and they are repeatable (plus, you can attack and then use the ability later). You can Flicker a blocker or an attacker. You can Flicker to protect one of your folks from removal. You can Flicker to use an enters-the-battlefield trigger. You can Flicker to trigger other abilities (such as leaves-the-battlefield ones). Roon taps into this potent vein of Flicker madness. Make him a Soldier or a Monk or something, and Roon could have been in Avacyn Restored. Get your Bant on!
#8 – Sudden Demise – There are a lot of fun X spells that are running around and can sweep up a large number of opposing dorks. This card can sweep up a lot of guys, just as long as you choose the right color. From sweeping up token creatures (which it usually will) to blasting one player’s battlefield, you can do some serious damage with this removal spell. I love it, and it should play quite nicely, giving red a nice bit of card advantage and flexibility.
Nekusar, the Mindrazer – Who doesn’t want to see two of his favorite cards combined? A classic multiplayer combination of cards has been Howling Mine and Underworld Dreams. Magic has a long history of printing cards that put combos on one creature. For example, you used to have a Lure effect dropped onto a Basilisk-style creature (such as Lure and Thicket Basilisk). So, they printed Stone-Tongue Basilisk. This guy fits perfectly into a deck that features cards such as Wheel and Deal, Wheel of Fortune, Windfall, Memory Jar, Reforge the Soul and Whispering Madness, alongside a variety of other fun cards as well, or go in a lot of other directions. It’s a powerhouse of fun!
#6 – Illusionist's Gambit – There are a smash-ton of things I enjoy about this card. First of all, it gives us what could honestly be called the first blue Fog. (Sure, you could argue that about cards like Turnabout or Reins of Power, but this is actually a Fog-like ability). That alone gives it some serious cred. Then, add in the fact that the person attacking you gets his or her creatures back, untapped, and can attack again. He or she won’t lose the attack step—so he or she is not upset at being open. Sure, you are forcing the person to attack someone else with the same creatures that came your way, and that could mess up folks’ life totals and creature count, but the attacker does get to do something. That’s a lot of value. Also, note there is a side case here in a large multiplayer game. This does not remove from combat creatures that are just attacking you. So, if Betty is attacking Bob, you can cast this, pull the creatures out of combat, and make her attack someone who is not you. For example, perhaps Bob, in the declare blockers step, already tapped and used his Maze of Ith or Kor Haven or tapped out to cast AEtherize or the like. Now you can pull them out of combat and give Betty another shot to attack through his defense. Knowing these sorts of corner cases can help squeeze out the power from your cards.
What made the cut for the Top 5?
Tempt with Discovery – I like gaining lands. I consider this to be the Tempt card most likely to have everyone at the table agree to trigger it. Most likely, at a four-person table, this grabs you four lands and everyone else one. I know that I would want one land enough to give you one additional land almost always. Exceptions might include someone assembling the Urzatron lands or collecting a bunch of Loci.
#4 – Unexpectedly Absent – This card gives any deck a great degree of flexibility in multiplayer. Note that it is massively better than cards like Griptide. Just two white mana, at instant speed, bounces any nonland to the top of a deck. That’s a nice way to have bounce without losing card advantage. (Since the player misses a draw.) It enables you to do typical bounce tricks (such as prepare for a counterspell or hurt Auras, counters, and such). You can also use it to tuck one of your own cards prior to removal if you are really hurting. Don’t forget that tucking a card into the library gives you ways of slowing it down—there are several ways you can shuffle an opponent’s library. Plus, in Commander, tucking a commander is always a nice way to deal with it semi-permanently. This card gives you needed flexibility and power.
Bane of Progress – Even if you have a few enchantments and artifacts, this is an amazing creature. It comes into play and smashes everything artificial. Plus, it’s really big and strong for just an investment of 6 mana. There are a lot of decks that will keel over to a mass removal of artifacts, so this gives you a way to play the deadly Creeping Corrosion without having to have it be a blank against decks that are light on the rocks. It also has improved value in the post-Theros world; more enchantments are being played. It will blast folks and sit at a nice level of power, swinging with aplomb. Don’t forget to reanimate it (or cheat it out—which green is good at doing) if you have the need!
#2 – Tempt with Immortality – By far, this is my favorite temping offer card. It’s 1 mana more than a Zombify. (But it’s on par with cards like Rise from the Grave.) Play it, and bring back your best card. Then, people have to decide if it was just a Zombify or if they are going to improve your own board position by helping theirs. You’ll continue to grab your best stuff right onto the battlefield as they choose to reanimate something too. No matter what happens, the spell is worth playing. I think the best places for these Tempt cards is the first person to make a choice. I can easily reanimate one of my dudes, and I barely help the player of the card at all. But the person sitting in one of the last seats has to make a difficult decision. This spell is starting to become backbreaking—do you take one for the team and not reanimate something in order to keep the player down? Or do you give him or her one more creature? It’s a tough card. Those sorts of cards are great in multiplayer.
And what card clocked in at number one?
Restore – There have been a lot of great utility cards printed down the ages. From reanimation to removal of creatures, artifacts, enchantment, and lands to card-drawing, land-fetching and counterspelling. But we have never, in the history of Magic, had a utility card that does this before. A cheap spell that will bring back a land from any graveyard right into play is amazing. With a 2-mana cost, this will probably have an immediate impact in tournament play as I grab that fetch land or Wasteland. But even outside of there, this is a powerful tool for any number of decks. Lands are dying in multiplayer quite frequently. You can grab one from anybody and bring it right into play. This is the sort of utility card that will spike in value considerably, so you might want to pick them up now. However, be prepared—this is also the sort of card that could and will be reprinted later (just as Baleful Strix and Scavenging Ooze have been).
And that brings us to the end of our looksee at some of the newest cards to be printed. There’s more where that came from, so let’s move onward to the next article.
See you next week,