On Tuesday night of last week, there were some minor shakeups to the Banned List. No, I’m not talking about Legacy/Modern/Extended (Do people still play that?), but to Commander. (Side rant: I’ve been writing “Commander,” because that’s what the new name of the format is called, but it’s still the same format. Yes, I still call it EDH—and Generals—but I’ve adopted the new slang. Of course, I still mention “Type 2,” and I “summon creatures,” so there’s that. I get why some people think that the format has sold out because of the Commander products, but that’s just silly. EDH/Commander is growing, and we’re all reaping the benefits.)
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant (as a Commander)
One was highly interactive while one was highly noninteractive. I’ve seen Erayo flip on turn one or two before and shut everyone else out of the game—especially in multiplayer. That is dumb, and the only way in which that Commander would be used. It’s not like people play that card as a Commander “fairly,” because that’s the whole point of the card—to lock everyone else out.
As for Shahrazad, I was always confused about why this card was given the exception of being allowed. When players get into a multiplayer game, they know that there is going to be some amount of time playing it; you don’t play Commander on your five-minute smoke break. But having this card being legal in the format means you’re just extending it for everyone. It’s like in baseball—I don’t mind the long games, but if you allow the managers to appeal every call, the game would drag on and go for five hours.
And when people Fork or Twincast Shahrazad to create two mini-games of Magic, they’re just trolling. Everyone gets their kicks one way or another, but this causes some serious issues. They’re just hoping to have everyone concede and make it a 2-mana 20-damage spell. That’s against the spirit of the format.
This was banned because it was two-card combo with Auriok Salvagers to create “infinite” mana and damage to all players (with Disciple of the Vault). With the Animate Dead/Worldgorger Dragon combo having been floating around for months now without taking over, it might be time to see if this combo will fly. Of course, this will now see play in Sharuum decks and make another “infinite” combo in that deck. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it back on the Banned List sometime. If you’re so curious about picking one up (before Legacy breaks it in a Storm deck again), CoolStuffInc.com has them for $43.
Let’s get to the new stuff.
As always, I firmly believe that almost any card can see play in Commander. I’m sure this won’t be the only review you read (and honestly, you shouldn’t read just mine, anyway. I read plenty of other reviews from people I respect), but I’ll only touch on cards that will see more play than the others.
I’m more interested in the mechanics that Wizards used in this set (that’s the designer in me). Since we’ll be seeing these concepts throughout the next year, why don’t we see what works and what doesn’t?
I touched on this a few weeks back. I keep recommending to players who ask my opinion about them to treat DFCs like tokens. Put the checklist card in your deck (maybe even get it altered to display just the name of the card), and keep the DFC to the side. When you play it, just substitute the checklist card with the DFC; it will keep you from taking out the card from the sleeve and flipping it over.
But how does it work with Commander? For the most part, I found this new territory kind of exciting, but almost lacking in its current approach. When creating a mechanic for the first time, you have to stick with the most basic cards so that players will understand the concept. This is great for duels, where you’ve got one opponent and he’s at 20 life. For the DFCs that don’t really do anything but get bigger, I would tend to ignore them in a format like Commander. There are a few that I feel have a use this is format.
Pumping out 4/4 flying creatures is nothing to sneeze at. Clearly good in a Vampire-themed deck, but it could’ve been done without it being a DFC (though this is not the article for that). Repeatable token-generators are always good, especially those that are also lords.
A creature that has the Orcish Oriflamme ability? Awesome. That gives +3/+0 and has Trample? Even better. This card screams that it wants to be in a token deck, so you might as well give it that chance. This has just enough oomph as a power-booster that I would recommend at least trying it out.
It’s the Night side of this card that I’m more excited about. Because this has a Red mana symbol, it can only be placed in decks with Green and Red—sorry. I love the new Fight keyword, as it gives Green a way to remove creatures. But if you pair this guy with a card like Rite of Passage, in a few turns, you can remove almost any creature from the board.
Ah, the planeswalker I think people prefer for this format. And, because his color identity is Black on the night side of the card, you can only put him in B/G decks. But what a powerhouse he’ll be. There’s the Fight ability again, but more often than not, you’ll transform him when you do it. Then, that’s where the awesome abilities come in. Tutoring for a creature to put into your hand (and sacrificing a token) is quite good; not Natural Order–good, but still really playable, because it can be repeatable. Then there’s the new Overrun variant, which, in a Commander game, will end up finishing all players through natural attrition if you construct your deck properly.
I’m more excited about the other sets, which will have more DFCs, because we’ll get more powerful or interesting cards to mess around with.
Along with Buyback, this is one of the more powerful mechanics for instants and sorceries in Commander. Being able to repeat your spells can create huge card advantage. This is the third block we’ve seen the ability in (Odyssey, then Time Spiral), and it looks like these are more balanced than before. Don’t be scared away by the higher Flashback cost, as you’ll be able to use them later in the game.
A very interesting Wrath variant. If you have a large creature, you love this card; with tokens—not so much. This will take more skill to properly cast, so heads up. This would be mildly worthwhile if it didn’t have Flashback, but with the ability to cast it later in the game, it can be the spell that swings things your way.
The downside to this card is that it can only copy creatures you control (no killing an opponent’s Commander). At 3, it’s one of the cheaper cloning options in the format. I don’t have to explain that copying cards is good, do I? (Hint: It’s good.) Oh, and it’s an instant. Hooray, combat tricks!
As good as advertised. Amazing with Riptide Laboratory. It will be abused with everything. Get ready to get sick of this guy and love him at the same time. Foils will be worth their weight in gold because it will be used in every format it’s legal in.
Entering the battlefield tapped slows it down a little bit, but there’re still plenty of things that you can do with thirteen 2/2 Zombies. Warstorm Surge deals 26 damage, Carnival of Souls gives you enough mana to flash it back, Death Match kills any number of creatures, Dire Undercurrents will empty someone’s hand, Day of the Dragons turns them into 5/5 Dragons, and so on and so forth. It’s a big enough number of creatures to make a difference.
Again, I’m excited for the next two sets to see what they bring.
Fact: Creatures die in Commander. Whether they get Wrathed away or sacrificed, or just Doom Bladed, creatures always seem to find their way into the graveyard. Morbid looks to exploit that, but sadly, I only see two cards to get a consistent use out of this mechanic.
It doesn’t have to be your creature, but any creature at all. Making players sacrifice creatures is easy enough to do in Black. In fact, killing creatures is something that Black does very well. Again, token-generators are good in this format, especially those that make 5/5 flying tokens.
See what I mean about Black killing creatures? Basically, this guy says, “If a guy dies this turn, I’m killing your Commander. Better give it Hexproof.” Oh, and it’s a 6/6 flyer for 6. I hear that’s good.
Again, Morbid’s going to grow throughout the block, and I want something a little more than what’s being offered. This mechanic can quickly become pretty powerful.
Like Morbid, there aren’t enough options to choose from at the moment. Curses only affect one player, so naturally they’re going to be worse when it comes to a multiplayer format. But the one that’s good is really good.
You know how sometimes players don’t want to attack a certain opponent who you believe is a threat (or want perceived as a threat)? This Curse fixes that problem. By making your opponents’ creatures larger for doing so, you’re dangling a huge carrot in their faces to incentivize them to attack said player. That’s the beauty of this card—it’s not just your creatures that get pumped, but everyone’s who attacks him. This is a very nice political card.
At the moment, there’re not enough reasons to fill your decks up with Curses. Again, I’m sure we’ll see this become more useful as the block continues.
Legends make the format go. Here’s what we’ve got for this set.
This was the preview card in From the Vault: Legends. I haven’t played him or against him yet, but I imagine him to be too slow to be powerful in this type of format. I see it better as non-Commander in the Ghave, Guru of Spores deck with Doubling Season. He obviously wants to be paired with Proliferate, but he wants to be paired with something else as well. Anything else I can think of can be better used by other cards.
The 4/4 flying Angel token is a nice touch when he attacks, but you’re going to be building a W/B control/combo deck that involves Steel of the Godhead and counterspell backup. I’ve been thinking about the same thing, too, but I fear that I’ll get too bored with it after a few games. It’s cute for a few games, but I’m sure the other players in your playgroup will come to hate it after a little while. He’s good.
Trick has already talked about this since Grimgrin was his preview card here on GatheringMagic. He’ll just keep getting bigger the more you sacrifice other creatures. But to really abuse him, you need to find a tap ability that will do something. Something like Opposition, or Hermetic Study/Psionic Gift. If only Presence of Gond was Black, right?
I covered her a few weeks ago. This looks to be the most consistently fun Commander in the set.
Other Notable Cards
Just some quick thoughts about other higher-profile Commander cards.
Beautiful art, but this card raises a question that I’ll talk about in a future article. But if you don’t want to abuse Ashes of the Fallen, here are some Spirit cards you can abuse instead: Celestial Kirin, Eternal Dragon, Ghost-Lit Redeemer, Kami of Ancient Law, Kami of False Hope, Karmic Guide, Yosei, the Morning Star. Yes, most of these are from Kamigawa block; what a surprise, huh?
This makes two tokens when it dies, which means that you’ll be up one creature. Again—potential combo card.
Anything that creates small tokens makes this into a huge card-advantage card. I bet the foil of this look amazing.
Karn decks beware, as this turns off all your mana. This is harder to get rid of (enchantments are “better” in Commander) and will negate that Sol Ring on turn one.
One of my favorite cards in the set. This is basically Flashback for creatures. At 6 mana, it’s great to have late-game after everyone has Wrathed the board away several times. Start packing more graveyard hate.
Deck-builders are trying to abuse him in Legacy and Modern. The ultimate Johnny card. Yeah, go ahead and Tunnel Vision yourself now.
The body of 4/4 is interesting, as it takes more to get rid of this creature than the usual Lightning Bolt. But a free way to loot through your deck when creatures die is quite powerful. When someone Wraths, remember that you can do that for each creature, so abuse it.
Phyrexian Arena on a body—I would recommend that you keep targeting yourself. But that’s what makes this card so fun: You can use this as a political card to make friends.
A Morbid enabler—this will be a fun guy to play with. Usually, sacrificing a creature is free in the decks that want to abuse effects like this, so the 1 mana is a little off-putting, but gaining the life with the toughness is the cherry on top. A creature will almost always have 1 toughness, so it fits perfectly into the Grave Pact/token deck you’ve been working on. It’s more powerful than a first glance would convey.
Yes, you need two Zombies to make this work, but it will continue to make Zombies for you for free. Not quite Bitterblossom, but if you play the attrition game and just hold out, this will take over for you. Plus, I love the art on this.
With no pump-ups, it deals 6 damage to each creature the damaged player controls. It kills Titans and almost anything else mid-sized. This is what Mordant Dragon wishes it was.
For 1 mana, you wipe an opponent’s table of his tokens; not much can survive 13 damage. I’ve been a huge fan of Chain Reaction, and this is from the same mold.
This will prevent people from Wrathing when you have so much on the table. It can, and will, kill players out of nowhere.
I prefer Beast Within because it’s an instant and it can hit creatures, but this is still pretty good. You are within your rights to run both.
This is the card aggressive decks want. Just keep pumping out creatures so your opponents have to keep killing them. Then, throw this down, attach Swiftfoot Boots, and swing for the win.
The “fixed” Doubling Season is good, but not as good as the Ravnica enchantment. This allows it to see print alongside planeswalkers and not be broken, but it’s far less abusable. Doesn’t mean it won’t see play, because it totally will, but this is what we’ll get for a while, until something else comes along. I get what they’re trying to do with the art, but I’m not a fan of it.
Liliana 1.0’s first ultimate is a fantastic ability in multiplayer. Try it out, see how you like it, proliferate the fun out of it. I want to see one altered like from the movie The Evil Dead.
An Equipment that will be very fun to see in play. Great against the opponent who decided to Trench Gorger his deck, but it’s an exercise in how much land he pulled out. I’m really ready to try this one out.
I haven’t been a fan of the M10 Duals in Commander, because most of the time, either they will enter the battlefield tapped or you’re trying too hard to make them enter the battlefield untapped. I feel that there are better tapped lands you can play. But that’s not the case with these. Only Clifftop Retreat and Woodland Cemetery have had similar cards printed (the two tribal lands from Lorwyn), so there are practically no enemy dual lands that enter the battlefield tapped like this. This is huge for Commander, and I’m glad that we’re finally seeing these in print.
This is why Doubling Season is so good.
All in all, I’m excited to play with this set and see what additions I’ll be making to my decks. I’m loving the flavor of this set, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this block brings with the horror themes. I’m sure I might have missed one or two cards that you’re looking forward to, so throw them down in the comments below.
Oh, and for those of you who are wondering, here’s my Top 10 list of cards from this set for Commander (in no order):