Spate in the Highlands by Peter Graham (1868). Hostile Minotaur by Joe Slucher.
I had planned to find inspiration for another decklist in one of the remaining legendary creatures in Guilds of Ravnica that I haven't yet written about. I genuinely tried, but the Boros legendary creatures just didn't fill me with hope for their place in the format. Niv-Mizzet, Parun isn't different enough from his past incarnations, though he might make for a fun Izzet storm deck. Etrata, the Silencer seems to me like the kind of deck that will never really work and has basically one way to be built. Trostani Discordant just isn't that interesting to me. That doesn't mean other CSI writers haven't thought of great ways to build decks for these three forgotten heroes, but I'm moving on to other topics.
As I looked for a topic to be excited about, I could think of no better topic than the 10 cards I'm most excited about getting my hands on in Guilds of Ravnica. These are either cards I'm eager to slot into decks I run or they are cards that might inspire me to build entirely new decks. They aren't ranked in any particular order, but I'll explain my reasoning in each case.
It's hard to put these cards in my Top 10 because their usefulness is too specific and there are too many of them. I've been trying to find a deck to successfully run a Maze's End wincon in and this set has a handful of cards that will help with that project.
New ways to tutor up Gates are a wonderful addition to Maze's end decks. Glaive of the Guildpact is also worth including, as any deck running Maze's End is going to need more ways to try to be relevant at the table. Even if we get stuck at 7 or 8 Gates, Glaive feels like a fantastic piece of equipment to play.
The new Gate, Gateway Plaza, may not be a "good" land, but it's fantastic to have another Gate available to us. Commander is a singleton format, so having eleven options when we try to assemble our ten Gates is going to be very helpful. I'm probably not going to bother to run the last Gate-oriented card, Gatekeeper Gargoyle, but if he were a little cheaper I might have been tempted to include it.
My Maze's End deck used to be built around Najeela, the Blade-Blossom, but I've pulled that wincon out and reworked Najeela to be a deck focused on Mono-Red goblin warriors. I recently assembled an O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami list that runs as a Selesnya Fogs & Boardwipes deck with a Maze's End backup plan. I haven't even had the chance to play it yet, and I suspect it will only have a chance at the most casual of tables. That's why I'm excited about Wizards putting out more Gate-oriented cards.
10. Pause for Reflection
What's better than a cheap Fog?
A free Fog.
Pause for Reflection is an instant that costs but has convoke. That means that you can tap your creatures to pay for the mana costs of the spell. This "Fog" spell will prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn. The original Fog cost , but if you use your creatures to pay for this spell it will essentially cost you nothing.
With Pause for Reflection, you can tap your mana and rocks for whatever spells or abilities you want to pay for and simply make sure to leave three creatures available to pay for your Fog. You'll have the dudes and at least one will be Green.
It's worth noting that Convoke doesn't care about summoning sickness, so you can safely build your board, leave no open mana and let that Dragons deck across the table swing at you for their alpha strike. No problem. Tap some dudes, prevent combat damage and hope to kill them on the crack-back. Easy peasy.
The other big deal about Pause for Reflection is how good it and other convoke spells will be in decks with creatures that have vigilance. You'll be able to tap out AND swing out and still have that fog in your back pocket. You might need to save a Green or a keep a Green creature back if it doesn't have vigilance, but it's still pretty sweet.
9. Price of Fame
What's the most annoying kind of creature to need to get rid of in Commander?
Hexproof commanders - and this kill spell isn't going to help with the hexproof part, it IS going to help us get rid of a legendary creature. I have it on good authority that all commanders are legendary and the vast majority of them are creatures that don't natively have hexproof.
Price of Fame costs and will let you destroy target creature. I should have mentioned that the other super annoying type of commander is the kind that's natively indestructible. Fortunately, they are also quite rare.
This spell costs 2 less if it targets a legendary creature, so it's a kill spell that costs and will let you destroy the vast majority of commanders you'll have to deal with. If you need to kill a non-Legendary creature you can simply pay the extra 2, making it much more flexible than the 2 CMC Hero's Demise, which only targets legendary creatures.
On its own this card might not seem like that big a deal, but there's another part worth mentioning. Price of Fame has Surveil 2. That means you get to look at the top 2 cards of your library and put them into the graveyard.
What color is probably the most likely to want cards in your graveyard?
This card isn't a wincon, but it's good in enough ways that I'm tempted to call it great, and I'm definitely glad to have it on this list. I've got a Muldrotha, the Gravetide deck that will be happy to run Price of Fame, and if I build Lazav, the Multifarious it will probably go into that as well.
Card draw is something I used to neglect. It's not sexy. It's not splashy. It's just the single most important thing to put into every single one of your decks.
This sorcery costs and will let you draw cards equal to the number of creatures you control. You also gain that much life and your creatures get +1/+1 until end of turn.
While this card's colors will slightly limit its usefulness, it will definitely find a place in Naya (), Bant (), and Sultai () tokens decks that are looking for card draw beyond the usual suspects like Shamanic Revelation. It costs more, but also brings more to the party.
Camaraderie is going to find a place in my Tana, the Bloodsower / Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa list. I usually rely on instant-speed pump but my army is usually just 1/1 saprolings so Sidar Kondo will still let them get in unblocked.
7. Beast Whisperer
What's better than a creature that DOESN'T let you draw a card every time you cast a creature spell?
This guy here.
Enchantress is a thing. You play cards that let you draw cards when you cast enchantments. Beast Whisperer is like an enchantress but for creatures, letting you draw a card every time you cast a creature spell. If that doesn't blow your mind... well, it should. It's pretty great.
Beast Whisperer is an Elf Druid - two tribes that can put together some serious tribal decks. This card just made both of these tribes better and they were both already strong. They both want to cast lots of creature spells, and their creature spells are generally pretty cheap so the chance you'll pull into a card you can cast is fairly good.
This card isn't likely to win a game on its own, but if it stays on the board it could go a long way toward drawing into what you need to get that win. I'm going to put it into my Marwyn, the Nurturer deck. It's already strong and this will make it stronger.
I expect Beast Whisperer to become a staple for years to come in Green decks that run lots of low cost creatures.
6. Mausoleum Secrets
When you're building a combo deck that's already running Vampiric Tutor, Demonic Tutor, and Diabolic Tutor and you really want to keep costs low while maximizing your ability to tutor up a wincon, there are only so many options available. Thanks to Guilds of Ravnica, there is now one more.
This instant lets you search your library for a Black card with converted mana cost less than or equal to the number of creature cards in your graveyard. The card goes to your hand, so we get to use it right away.
While the requirement to have cards in your graveyard may seem like an issue, lots of Black decks are used to filling up their own graveyard.
Are you in Black and Green? Play Sakura-Tribe Elder, sacrifice it and for 2 mana you can go get Vampiric Tutor so you can start getting the pieces for that Rube Goldberg device your deck wants to assemble. You're unlikely to be able to grab an 6-drop lke Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, but it isn't completely unheard of for a Black deck to have six creatures in the yard.
If I build Lazav, the Multifarious, this is definitely going in, and I may put copies into a number of other decks including Muldrotha, the Gravetide and Xantcha, Sleeper Agent. Combo decks love consistency and speed, and 2 CMC tutors give you both if you can load up your graveyard even a little, Mausoleum Secrets will be well worth running.
5. Underrealm Lich
This next card is a love letter to Commander decks that want to load up their graveyards. Every time you draw a card, you get to filter cards into the bin. If you're smart and built your deck with lots of ways to draw cards, you're going to love this next pick.
This Zombie Elf Shaman lets you look at the top three cards every time you would draw a card and then put one into your hand and the rest into your graveyard. Underrealm Lich isn't going to give you any additional card draw, but it will let you filter cards into your graveyard in a slow and controlled way. You can also pay 4 life to give Underrealm Lich indestructible until end of turn and then tap it - essentially using the old "Regenerate" mechanic.
One of the big risks of graveyard decks is when you put a dramatic number of cards into your graveyard all at once. If you use Traumatize to put half your library into your graveyard or you use Tunnel Vision and get an even bigger amount of self-mill, you'll instantly be a target for any player with Bojuka Bog in their hand. That amount of self-mill in a deck that can benefit from it will feel fantastic but it also puts a huge target on your back. The advantage of an Underrealm Lich effect is that you can trickle cards in and not draw immediate graveyard hate from your opponents.
Is Underrealm Lich the Graveyard equivalent of Consecrated Sphinx? Of course not, but it' is a fantastic add for graveyard decks in and it's going into a few of my decks. Again, Muldrotha will love it, and if I'm mentioning my Muldrotha list a lot in today's column it's probably because I just reworked it to run both Hermit Druid and Flash Hulk combos. I'm eager to see how fast and consistent the deck can get.
4. Omnispell Adept
My list is starting to get to some really fun cards. From here on out, we're not looking at free Fogs. These next cards will power out wincons and have big impacts on the game.
This Human Wizard costs and has a decent body, weighing in at 3 power and 4 toughness. You'll do well to keep your Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves handy because you'll want to both protect her and give her haste. For she can tap and let you cast an instant or sorcery from your hand without paying its mana cost.
With Paradox Engine and Lightning Greaves on the field, along with enough mana rocks to pay, simply play Omnispell Adept, equip Greaves, tap your rocks and this lady to cast Enter the Infinite, draw your deck and storm off.
Maybe that's a pretty "magical Christmasland" scenario, but I can think of lots of instants and sorceries that will make for fun, crazy boardstates even if you don't win on the spot. I've long been a fan of Storm Herd but rarely have the right situation to run it in a deck and feel like it's a good choice. In a deck built around cheating big spells onto the stack, Storm Herd will fit right in, along with lots of other big-mana, big-impact spells.
The only other thing worth noting is that Omnispell Adept will (and should) draw an enormous amount of hate. You're in Blue, so you should be able to protect it, but once you've clobbered a few tables on the back of her ability, she's probably going to spend more time in the graveyard than she does on the battlefield.
3. Divine Visitation
This next card is the kind of spell that, like Cathars' Crusade, will have to be answered if it's being run in the right deck.
This enchantment will make any creature token created under your control into a 4/4 White Angel creature token with flying and vigilance. It would be nuts if it just gave them flying, but giving them flying and vigilance pretty much hands you the game at a lot of tables.
This card doesn't go in every tokens deck. As an example, Najeela, the Blade-Blossom really cares that you attack with warriors. You could run it, but you'd lose out on all those juicy warrior attack step triggers.
Fortunately, there are lots and lots of token commanders who don't care about what tribe they're watching over. Ghave, Guru of Spores, Marath, Will of the Wild and Rhys the Redeemed are all prime candidates for some Divine Visitation action. I might even run this in my Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa / Tana, the Bloodsower partners deck, as it has issues dealing with opponents that run a lot of flyers.
2. Thousand-Year Storm
What's better than a card that's practically a wincon in certain types of decks?
How about a card that on its own makes me want to build my first ever Storm deck?
This enchantment is a storm deck in a bottle.
Every time you cast an instant or sorcery, you copy it for every other instant or sorcery you've cast before it this turn. You may choose new targets for the copies. As I said, it turns a normal deck into a storm deck.
I have a Ramos, Dragon Engine list that's built around giving Ramos infect and hitting him with Chandra's Ignition. Normally I need to get Ramos up to a high enough power, but with Thousand-Year Storm on the battlefield it opens up all kinds of possibilities. Every spell I cast will help to power up Ramos, and as I get him big enough and pull counters off I make more mana and can power through more castings of spells. As long as I occasionally flicker Ramos to reset him, I should be able to draw into a tutor or two and pull out my wincon much more easily than the old, convoluted - but wildly entertaining - way I used to do it.
1. Mnemonic Betrayal
Earlier this year the EDH League I run at NexGen comics in Pelham, New Hampshire (USA) saw a local judge jump into the fray and set new records for points in a day and points in a month. I only played against him in one game that month and, to my credit, I stole two kills from him before he won the pod, but it was an impressive lesson in playing Commander. His high point totals were largely (but not exclusively) earned with his Sidisi, Brood Tyrant deck on the back of big mana and the sorcery Villainous Wealth.
Playing your opponents' spells can be a very powerful strategy. This next card won't do that for free, but it's still got me dreaming of best-case scenarios, out of control stacks and crazy boardstates.
I can see having an awful lot of fun setting up a a Dimir deck to produce infinite mana, mill my opponents and then exile and cast all the spells in all of your opponents' graveyards.
If I were to pursue this particular wincon I'd consider using Oona, Queen of the Fae. Making infinite mana with Oona usually just wins you the game, though, so there's an argument that she'd be the wrong pick for this kind of strategy. Some folks feel like its poor sportsmanship to have a win available and to just mess around instead of closing out the game.
My old Lazav, DImir Mastermind deck is probably a better fit. The deck already wants to mill my opponents and while the deck isn't built to make big mana, but it's still not a bad fit. It's a pity that it exiles itself, but I understand not wanting to make it the sort of spell you can just get back out of the graveyard.
I ignored all of the legendary creatures, as I had already written about them in recent weeks and didn't want to rehash why some of them look to be great new cards. I'm particularly interested in Lazav, the Multifarious, though if I cracked a booster with Emmara I'd probably be tempted to build a casual tokens deck around her too.
I also should note that I left out the planeswalkers. I'm not a fan of that Vraska, Golgari Queen emblem. My casual side hates seeing anyone out of the game super early. They feel a little too cheap for my tastes. In general I don't find myself drawn to play planeswalkers very often. That probably isn't to my credit, but it's the truth. I run a few Planeswalkers in a my decks but rarely get excited about a new one.
Have I sold you on any of these new cards? Are there Guilds of Ravnica cards I didn't include that are high on your personal favorites? Are you astonished that I didn't include Assassin's Trophy?
I'd love to hear what you think about Guilds of Ravnica.
What cards did I miss in my list and why would you put them in your personal Top 10?
That's all I've got for you today. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!