Last week, we started the review of Innistrad’s impact on the Commander format, and this week we are going to follow up by discussing specific cards. Over the last month, we extensively covered the four potential Commanders among the set’s Legendary creatures and the possibility of new and deeper tribal themes. Mark Rosewater, Magic head-honcho, noted that Innistrad not only covered a horror theme, but also really focused on Werewolves. Other sets have featured a litany of Vampires, Zombies, and Spirits, but throughout Magic’s history, there have been only three Werewolf cards. Innistrad’s contribution to Magic is the exploration and deepening of a Werewolf tribe. However, Commander players are going to have to wait on the card or multiple cards that will allow us to develop really solid Werewolf tribal decks. We still need a Werewolf Legend.
While the following cards might not fill my Werewolf Legend desires, they will offer us some distractions until we see the Legend’s printing. There are some pretty slick cards for Commander players in this set, and folks should enjoy trying out the new goods. We will walk through highlights of the cards in the set and note those that will have a particular impact on our casual, Constructed format.
Collect This and Foil That
While I will list some top picks, I think it might be relevant to note that double-faced foil cards are more interesting, and they might be a long-term selection for cards that will garner casual attention. The mechanic is cool, and the art on some of these cards is enough to give them additional appeal. Pick these up when you can. I have a feeling that there is some real potential here.
Angel of Flight Alabaster & Angelic Overseer – There are a ton of players and collectors who love foil Angel cards. She is cheap now and can be valuable later. Check out the relatively unplayed Angelic Destiny for an example of the financial strength of solid Angel cards.
Divine Reckoning – The Flashback on this card makes it more playable in Commander. The single creature you save might be your Commander, and wiping out opposing forces while you are way behind is attractive to many players. This is a solid addition to the mass-removal options in .
Mentor of the Meek – This could be a card-advantage engine in Weenie decks that might give them resilience and a chance to make rush a more viable strategy in Commander. I like this guy alongside either version of Elspeth.
Paraselene – Fracturing Gust is a great card in Commander, and having an answer for enchantments in our format is one of the most underplayed, undervalued directions to take your deck. I like this pick, and I will foil it.
Stony Silence – That is the sound that artifact players will make when they look down at their boards of Sensei’s Divining Tops, Sol Rings, and unequipped Equipment. Good stuff. This card should be an early pickup! Grab it before it catches fire. Standard players will like to battle Birthing Pod, while Legacy players will battle everything else with this card.
Back from the Brink – I like this card and believe it will be a cheaper pickup. This card seems destined for a slower format and has a place in Commander. It gives each creature you play a second life. If you are Blue and Green, you can use Parallel Lives and Doubling Season to go crazy! Foil it.
Cackling Counterpart – There are already entire “clone your stuff” decks. This will be a solid addition. It even comes back for an encore.
Curse of the Bloody Tome – If you are dedicated mill, you might throw this Curse on your opponent; if you are a clever type, you might drop a foil copy on yourself. Combos to be discovered soon!
Dissipate – If you did not snag a copy of the DCI foil promo, you can bring this format staple home in foil from a fresh Innistrad pack. I have always loved the way this card plays in Commander. When your opponent sets up a loop, you can exile an important piece.
Forbidden Alchemy – While this card will see a lot more play in Standard Constructed, you might like to rock it in the same decks that appreciate Mystical Teachings and card advantage. This deck can set up plans for graveyard recursion and reanimation, and it will usually let combo decks dig through their hundred-card piles.
Grasp of Phantoms – I am always looking for ways to put an opposing player’s Commander into his deck. Here is a way. Pair this with shuffle effects for the best outcomes.
Laboratory Maniac – Who will be the first to try out this new win condition? I think we have an interesting card that should receive the foil treatment!
Ludevic's Test Subject – This is a release-day foil. You should play and get one. He seems destined for casual formats.
Memory's Journey – I like this card as a way to prevent reanimation from opposing players, to return key cards from the graveyard, and occasionally to target my own deck before a critical search. It has Flashback, but will only find a place in decks with Green and Blue.
Mirror-Mad Phantasm – If you want to mill yourself, Commander offers a very unique use for this card. I guess some Constructed players might rock a single copy, but Commander Dredge decks will love this Spirit.
Rooftop Storm – This card was made for us. Foil it, and use to it to cheat in a giant army of the undead.
Snapcaster Mage – You have already heard how good this guy is, and I will confirm. He will try your budget, but he might be a format staple.
Army of the Damned – Yes! A perfect card for Commander that should keep both Zombie-lovers and others entertained for years to come. I want a couple of foil copies of this card. This might be one of the best Commander cards in the set! Pair with Braids, Cabal Minion for additional potency.
Heartless Summoning – This could be crazy in our format. Cheap, large creatures are almost always an advantage, and this will contribute to a silly opening with Sol Ring. I like it in both Standard, to pump out Myr Superion, and Commander, to pump out everything else.
Unburial Rites – This card will shape Standard and should garner some second looks for Commander. There are some great fatties that you will want to bring back to life. This card secures value, and it might especially shine in a deck championed by Karador, Ghost Chieftain.
Charmbreaker Devils – This card is cute, but it could be a slant on a card-advantage engine for Red if you keep him alive.
Instigator Gang – The Transform condition on Werewolves will be easier to satisfy in large multiplayer games. Someone is sure to make a political venture by letting you transform your Werewolves in exchange for no future wolf maulings. This guy is solid with a big army and brings on the aggro!
Past in Flames – This is one of the most exciting cards in the set for Commander players. I see this card as a more expensive version of Yawgmoth’s Will. Red can use some spice, and this card is spicy. I hope it will be a hot one. Foil it out when you can.
Rage Thrower – This is like a dialed-down version of Vicious Shadows. At times, it can be worse (when an opponent has a full hand), while other times, it can be better for the Red player. Overall, this kind of card can end somebody’s game when the board is full and players start slinging mass removal. This is a sleeper giant that will awaken in Commander.
Boneyard Wurm – This guy is like a smaller, easier-to-cast Lord of Extinction. I like this type of card in multiplayer games, and I encourage you to give him a run in the late game. He could be a 2-cost 20/20! Foil ’em and stock up. It checks only your graveyard, but it can be pretty sweet if you are milling yourself, playing a large number of creatures, and looking to play very large 2-drops. It is a Wurm and fits into the rarely used mono-Green Wurm tribal decks.
Creeping Renaissance – This is one of the best Green cards for Commander in the set. It will fit into mono-Green decks, and it will give an explosive creature-based deck like Elves some resilience to board-wipes. I like the flexibility of choosing different permanent types. Commander is a great format for an Enchantress deck, and this card might supplement Replenish effects, allowing to you bring back each enchantment. The applications are broad. Creeping Renaissance is a multiple-for-one and has Flashback. I would hunt for this card in foil!
Essence of the Wild – Are all of the best Commander cards in this set Green? Essence of the Wild is going to fit into a huge number of strategies in Commander. The most abusive, and perhaps obvious, is a token-generating deck. Can you imagine a Bitterblossom that dumps 6/6 creatures onto the battlefield each turn? Elspeth Tirel will give you 18 power and toughness with her three tokens. Conqueror’s Pledge becomes silly, as do most of the other mass-token-makers like Storm Herd. Foil this card, and pair it nicely with White or Black for some abusive, fun times.
Garruk Relentless / Garruk, the Veil-Cursed – Planeswalkers are awesome, and I am sure that folks will throw Garruk into Commander decks. Once you have transformed him, you have access to a better version of Worldly Tutor and a creature-based win condition. Double-faced cards look best in foil.
Gutter Grime – This card will help the nasty players who are working on filling out an Ooze tribal deck. Do those players exist? In any case, this enchantment seems fun and casual. You get a little payback as the first few creatures die off. As you proliferate or lose more of your army, the rewards increase.
Kessig Cagebreakers – This card seems like good value once he makes an attack. However, he will typically turn you into a target. Consider giving him Haste and pairing him with cards that check for creatures entering the battlefield. He might be an all-star with Coat of Arms or a life-gaining machine with Soul Warden.
Mayor of Avabruck – The promo should make for a cool card in Standard Constructed. In Commander, he will fit into eventual Human and Werewolf decks and might help you build a board in most decks if you can keep him transformed and alive.
Moldgraf Monstrosity – At 7 mana, this guy might only find a home in Commander. That is some great news, though. I love bringing back creatures from the graveyard to the battlefield. The randomness keeps the card slightly less playable than other spells that let you target a specific creature, but he is still cool. This 8/8 should be a cheap one to foil, and Trample is always the best part of giant Insects.
Parallel Lives – Continuing the dominance of fantastic Green Innistrad cards, we find Parallel Lives. This card has been acclaimed as a small Doubling Season. After doing some testing, it falls short of its predecessor because of a lack of interaction with most planeswalkers. However, in decks that make tokens, this will be an auto-include. I already landed four foil copies. I suggest you pick a couple up for the day when you need to pump out sicko tokens with your Phyrexian Processor.
Splinterfright – This guy is already part of a big combo and might be the kind of card that Commander players like. He can get big and has Trample, but I am unsure if casual players will tolerate self-mill. Milling your own deck in Commander is awesome, but players seem to hate dumping a Sol Ring or Demonic Tutor into the drink. If you have perspective and love to abuse these kinds of cards, Splinterfright might be a perfect choice for your next Dredge deck.
Tree of Redemption – I am sure that this guy will see some play. He is very interesting, and I could see someone using him for big-time life-gain with odd cards like Slagwurm Armor. Throw this guy in your Doran builds, and go to town.
Creepy Doll – Not only is this a sweet Jonathan Coulton song, but its namesake makes for a cool little card. The Indestructible ability gives Creepy Doll a reason to be played. Ground assaults will be impaired, and players might not like the coin-flip chance of losing their creatures. Creepy Doll will swallow you whole!
Ghoulcaller's Bell – This common might play a lot better than it looks. Its interaction with Sensei’s Divining Top is hilarious, and mill players might like filling up their opponents’ yards or targeting themselves for graveyard hijinks. Pair this card with Mesmeric Orb and teach players about true loss.
Grimoire of the Dead – This book must have been ripped right out of Liliana Vess’s ultimate’s hands. I think this card is pretty exciting for Commander and should fit into decks looking for a graveborn insurrection. The opposing players’ creatures will betray them even in death. This would be one hot foil and might be something paired nicely with Proliferate and/or cards that untap artifacts like Tezzeret the Seeker.
Trepanation Blade – This card might work for folks looking to mill opposing players while still playing some creatures. I am not a huge fan but it has a place in certain themes.
Let us know the cards that you have tried or are looking forward to trying out from Innistrad. The first wave of the set sold out quickly, and players are chomping at the proverbial bit to play with this set. Take some time to try out the new cards, and share your tech in our forums. Thanks for reading.