Last week likely would have been a good time to do my set review but I was so excited to build an Intruder Alarm/Opposition deck that I skipped it. And can you blame me? Now that the dust has cleared and all of our opponents creatures are tapped and ours are untapped, let’s look to the rest of the set for spicy tech, underappreciated gems and emerging staples. Remember, this is a set review for 75% decks, so I might commit the unforgiveable sin of mentioning a card that your pubstomping meta wouldn’t play. If that happens, try and remind yourself that sometimes 75% decks might run cards you might not. It’s not because the decks are bad, they’re just different. Also, let’s remember that this ethos has lived long enough to see itself vindicated. With that in mind, I encourage you to argue with me in the comments section of this article. Let’s look at some magical cards, shall we?
Baffling End — This has a few potential advantages over a card like Journey to Nowhere (3,400 decks on EDHREC) if you can sac the enchantment. Their creature never comes back so getting rid of the enchantment means you can give a different player a token, giving you some political options. Ertai, the Corrupted and Atogatog come to mind for potential homes. This is basically a Doom Blade that can gift someone else a token and that’s pretty cool. It only hits small creatures, but the small ones usually have good abilities. This is narrow but worth at least talking about.
Bishop of Binding — I play Phyrexian Ingester, and while this is less fun with blink effects, it’s much cheaper and blinking this means you can pick a new target. Having a low power and toughness outside of combat doesn’t seem like an enormous downside but it’s relevant, but saving mana and having access to this in White is non-trivial. If you play Ingester or Luminate Primordial, give this a look.
Famished Paladin — I haven’t seen anyone not trying to combo this with Resplendent Mentor give this much of a look, but you should know that combo exists and you should know that if someone summons Famished Paladin, be prepared to take a quadrillion damage from an Aetherflux Reservoir if you don’t do something.
Paladin of Atonement — This is slow to grow, but maybe not as slow as you think since it says “each upkeep” and not “your upkeep.” Can you think of ways to lose life each turn? You can if you’re greedy enough.
Radiant Destiny — Some people think this is not good enough to get played in decks that have access to better anthems. Then I go on EDHREC and see that 1,850 decks have Glorious Anthem in them and think this is at least better than that a lot of the time. This gets a look.
Slaughter the Strong — I’m positive you can find a way to build around this. Keeping 4 power total for them can mean one creature and for you it could be a few Kor and all of your equipment. Maybe it’s one creature you plan to load up with equipment, or maybe you just keep Stonehewer Giant, summon your commander(s) (Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder and Akiri, Line-Slinger for LIFE) and load them up to go ham on an empty board. Maybe you just pay like $1 for a 3 mana Wrath of God that you can play around and try it and maybe it works. I think this is worth a look.
Zetalpa, Primal Dawn — I ignored most of the dinosaurs because I think there are good ones in White but they’re mostly relegated to dino decks. I like Altisaur (I mean, I WOULD) and I like Trapjaw Tyrant but those are not likely to see play outside of a dino deck. Zetalpa, however, is a beast and I would jam this in Doran and Odric yesterday. It’s also sort of formidable as a Voltron commander. You’re all-in on an expensive creature, but 21 damage is easy to come by with double strike and this even has vigilance. It protec, it attac, it attac again. If your 75% meta is getting all battlecruiser, bring a bigger battlecruiser.
Crafty Cutpurse — I liked this a lot at first but the more I think about it, the less I think it’s worth it. If you really wanted to blow out token decks, you would probably be playing the more versatile Gather Specimens. Roughly 1,000 decks on EDHREC contain Gather Specimens, and I don’t have much confidence in a weaker version. But this is cheaper, attached to a body so it can be blinked, and is fun. Don’t you want to have fun? Cards like this make me wish Commander had sideboards.
Induced Amnesia — Remember Ertai, the Corrupted? Maybe he wants a 1-sided Memory Jar. Could Zur the Enchanter figure out a way to get rid of this card? Seal of Cleansing, maybe? Because Zur can grab both of those cards? Too durdly? Possibly. Imagine this as another wheel in Nekusar, the Mindrazer, though. You can fill your hand with land in Kefnet the Mindful or Meloku the Clouded Mirror and swap it for lots of gas (you could do that with other wheels, I know that) and there is real combo potential, here. If you can get rid of enchantments easily, I think you give this a try.
Kumena's Awakening — This is an odd card. Most Howling Mines are played to force your opponents to draw, but with as easy as it is to turn on City’s Blessing, does Blue have room for a Phyrexian Arena in its decks? Maybe not, given we have Rhystic Study, but maybe so. Group hug decks like cards like this and it may be worth looking at a personal Howling Mine outside of the decks that are trying to ding people with Nekusar and play cards like Dictate of Kruphix. This is a very different card but it may be good enough.
Nezahal, Primal Tide — I like it. I don’t “I’m building this” like it, but I bet a non-zero number of people build around this. You have the potential to draw a lot of cards with this and they have no one but themselves to blame for it.
Release to the Wind — This has a lot of utility. Paying the mana cost is a little bit annoying so it’s not strictly better than blink cards you play already, but being able to keep the creature exiled and recast it whenever you want, or force them to pay for something again (or pay a lot for a big creature they cheated into play) makes this worth playing around with. It’s not quite Cloudshift, but it has so many uses that it’s better a lot of the time.
Timestream Navigator — Mimic Vat and Progenitor Mimic exist. In a world where that’s true, this card starts to look pretty appealing. Getting City’s Blessing is trivial in Commander and if you can copy, search for or just get one use out of this, I think it’s easier to use than Sage of Hours and Wanderwine Prophets. I don’t like Laboratory Maniac decks, but if you have it and Timestream Navigator in play and you can cast Tunnel Vision, guess what happens on your extra turn?
Dead Man's Chest — I like this card. I like this card a lot. It’s narrow, but narrow isn’t a reason not to think about where you want a card. Gonti, Lord of Luxury is quickly becoming one of my favorite decks to play and this does Gonti stuff even in non-Gonti decks. This steals their cards — what’s not to love?
Mastermind's Acquisition — I have a love/hate relationship with tutors. I think four mana is about right, and don’t come down too hard on people playing Diabolic Tutor if it doesn’t make the deck play too linearly. This is a better version of that card, provided your playgroup is cool with you searching your binder and deckbox. I like the idea of this being a cool toolbox card that can get some obscure, narrow card to deal with a situation, but as EDH has no sideboard, you’re at the mercy of your playgroup. That said, worst case scenario, this is a Diabolic Tutor and that’s perfectly fine.
Oathsworn Vampire — I am sure there are combos to be discovered with this card. I like Suture Priest an awful lot, and with altars to sac creatures to, you could loop this for a lot of life and Grave Pact triggers, for example. I think this has a lot of potential and it’s easier to trigger than Bloodghast in the right deck, though you’ll need to cough up the mana to keep the good times rolling. Keep an eye on shenanigans with this guy, a creature that enables the sorts of loops I like enabled.
Pitiless Plunderer — I can similarly see combos with this creature. March of the Machines to stall the game out unless you have something like Purphoros in play? This is getting silly. I can’t figure out where I want to jam this, I just want someone to break this so I can laugh. Or maybe you just amass a ton of treasure for saccing things like Sakura-Tribe Elder and you win with Revel in Riches like a real pirate. Either way, I see potential here. Then again, I’m still waiting for Scrap Trawler to break out.
Ravenous Chupacabra — This is fun to blink and it doesn’t discriminate against color or creature type the way Nekrataal might. I wouldn’t run this out naked as a four mana Terror, but I might like to blink this. “Hey Jason?” I can feel you asking “Which blink deck has access to Black?” and that makes me want to point out that lots of decks with access to Black have access to either Deadeye Navigator or Eldrazi Displacer or both, and my Gonti deck has built in tricks like Nim Deathmantle and Erratic Portal. Is this better than Noxious Gearhulk in those scenarios? Nah. But the 2,200 or so decks on EDHREC currently jamming Nekrataal might want to give this a looksie. (Look-see? Look see? Apparently it’s look-see)
Tetzimoc, Primal Death — I can see this in the 99 or at the helm and either way, this card is annoying. There is no such thing as spare mana when he’s lurking in hand. He’s not going to lurk in hand very easily if he’s your commander, but you could combine this with the other cards in Magic’s history that put Prey counters on creatures. Annnnnnnnd there aren’t any. Welp, I guess you’re stuck putting this in the 99 unless you want to do the awkward dance of putting this out and bouncing it to your hand — a maneuver that seems worth it, actually. This is strong and can murder quite a few creatures and keep your opponents from dumping their hands, letting you get ahead on board. This might also make everyone target you. Have fun!
Tomb Robber — Rummaging for 1 mana a pop may seem pretty bad in a format with cards like Phyrexian Arena and Painful Truths, but growing a creature while you fill your yard with lands you don’t need, creatures you want to reanimate or spells that can be cast later and drawing some extra lands all the while could be good. I liked this a ton in Limited, and anything that’s a monster in Limited at least deserves a look. This is one of the better discard outlets available and smooth draws win games.
Twilight Prophet — City’s Blessing is pretty easy to come by in Commander and you’re going to really dome people while this is out. This is a must-deal-with creature and I bet this sees quite a bit of play.
Blood Sun — I figured you might want me to address this. I don’t like it.
Brass's Bounty — Red gets a (weaker, admittedly, but, come on) Boundless Realms. Spend the mana or just Revel in those Riches until your win the game. This doesn’t give you repeated use like a land would, but getting a bunch of treasure is non-trivial and Red doesn’t have many cards like this. It does, however, have ways to copy spells.
Dire Fleet Daredevil — What if Snapcaster Mage and Mindclaw Shaman had a human-looking baby? It would be worth playing, that’s what. How 75% is it to snipe a spell right out of their yard? 100% 75%, that’s how.
Etali, Primal Storm — This is a total beating. We cast their spells and ours and we do it every time this attacks? I am in love, and I know Mayael players are, too. This is one of my favorite cards in the set.
Enter the Unknown — This gets worse every time I look at it, but if you’re playing a lands deck, any spell that lets you play extra lands and peek to try and find more is worth a look. Just remember this is really bad turn one most of the time since you can’t play it until there is a target.
Path of Discovery — This seems a bit narrow and I don’t know if you want to invest in a four mana enchantment that’s mostly good if you’re playing a lot of creatures and I don’t know if you have room for this and Lifecrafter's Bestiary, but I think Sidisi players are backflipping already.
Tendershoot Dryad — “Each Upkeep”
Wayward Swordtooth — I don’t care if this never attack or blocks, this is an effect a lot of my decks can use.
World Shaper — This is pretty potent and I can see this dumping quite a bit of land onto your side. I like this a lot.
Azor, the Lawbringer — Seems fine either at the helm of the deck or in a Brago/Roon build. This can be a poor man’s Consecrated Sphinx but it can also lock them down and gain you life you sorely need. I think this is quite good.
Elenda, the Dusk Rose — A vampire that doesn’t force me to play it with other Vampires in a format where there are 4 or 5 players’ worth of creatures dying every turn? Sign me up!
Zacama, Primal Calamity — Great Googily Moogily. This sure is a card. With a ton of relevant abilities and a lot of combo potential, I expect this to be built around early, often and in a lot of different ways. This answers the question “What if Great Whale were a Naya Planeswalker?”
Hadana's Climb — I like this. It’s narrow given its color identity, but sometimes you just want to get there with a creature and this helps. It’s no Kessig Wolf Run but this puts counters on creatures in Simic and then turns into a Fireball. I am about this, especially with cards like Herald of Secret Streams running around.
Journey to Eternity — I’m reminded of Pattern of Rebirth and how easy that is to trigger and I love the idea of grinding them out with creatures that never seem to stay dead. This is a great card in a world where Sakura-Tribe Elder is an EDH staple.
Path of Mettle — What I like about this card is that although the Red ability gets outscaled in the transition from 20 life to 40 life, the White ability doesn’t. This is easy to flip, and it’s nasty when it does. This could see play in any number of Boros decks, all of which are basically the same.
Profane Procession — This is my favorite of the 5 in this set. Pick your 3 carefully, but with lots of players to choose from, it shouldn’t be that hard. This removes creatures for a while then steals them? How 75% is that? So good.
Storm the Vault — I don’t think this is very exciting now given its relegation to what, two decks? I think Dominaria will give us the Artifact commander players have been clamoring for and in that case, this could be a good pickup as this likely gets pretty affordable until then.
Azor's Gateway — This is easier to flip in Commander where you have weird mana costs that 60 card decks usually don’t, but I also think that with the amount of artifact removal running around, you’re kind of dumb to risk this. The potential for a land that taps for 40 mana, though . . .
Golden Guardian — This was so much better in Limited than I had imagined it would be, I think it might warrant a look in Commander. Probably not, but this is colorless removal that turns into a decent land and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
The Immortal Sun — This may be the single Commanderiest card ever printed. Do you have room for both this and Caged Sun? Eh, I don’t know. Can a lot of decks benefit from this? Absolutely. If you run Staff of Nin like almost 11,000 people are per EDHREC, congrats, you got an upgrade.
Arch of Orazca — This probably begins its life as a bulk rare and ends its life as a $2 or $3 card that is tough to reprint. It’s a lot of mana to draw a card, but drawing cards wins games, and if you’re leaving mana up between turns, you will be glad you have this.
I like this set a ton and there are some very cool 75% cards in the set. If I had to rank my Top 5 most 75% cards in terms of how well they encapsulate what we’re trying to do based on our deck-building ethos rather than their raw power, I’d say;
That’s it for this week! This was a long one but that’s only because the set was so full of goodies. I think everyone has 3 or 4 cards to try out no matter which commanders they run and that’s exciting. Join me next week where I’ll likely be brewing with a Dinosaur and having a great time doing it. Until next time!