The Andes of Ecuador by Frederic Edwin Church (1855).
Vorosh, the Hunter by Mark Zug.
It's not even December and I feel like I've written a column centered around a decklist nearly every week this year. Fortunately, I really do enjoy brainstorming new builds and throwing together decklists. With the recent announcement that next year is going to have more Commander-focused products than ever before, I've decided to write up a "wishlist" of all the awesome stuff I'd like to see Wizards print in 2020.
I'm going to write this up in the form of a top 10 list. It's a good way to keep from going on forever (as I do) and will give me enough room to see if I can hit on some things that both I and the EDH community would love to get their hands on.
Some of these ideas might seem obvious, insightful or merely whimsical. As in deck-building, where I rarely try to make sure every card is the perfect and most optimal choice, I'm comfortable having a little fun with today's column, even if you might not see eye to eye with me on some of my choices.
10. Four-Color Lands
We have five color lands. We have three color lands. We obviously have two and one color lands. We have filter lands. We have utility lands. We have "man" lands. We have a lot of interesting and different types of lands in Magic.
Why don't we have four color lands?
The 2016 Commander precon decks were themed around 4/c commanders but they somehow failed to include the most obvious thing in the world - a land that can tap for any of four colors.
They could have it enter tapped (as they do) unless you met some arbitrary and interesting criteria. Maybe it has to be your first land. Maybe you have to have four opponents. Maybe you have to control a Nephilim. I'm sure they'd make it fairly restrictive, but that doesn't mean a 4/c land wouldn't be well received and would fill a void they should have filled three years ago.
I've built a lot of five color decks in the past few years and I've done a lot of different things with these decks' mana bases. I've built these decks with a heavy slant toward a single color. I've built these decks with all 10 signets. I've also built these decks with a single color almost completely left out of the mix. All of these five color decks would love to have lands that could tap for four colors.
9. Knights Riding Cats
Wizards of the Coast has done a lot of interesting things with cats over the years. We've got lots of cards with what are essentially house cats on them. We've got big cats like Savannah Lions. We've even got Leonin, which are humanoid big cats.
While I love my Leonin, those aren't my favorite cats.
I've got a lifelong fascination with Knights and when I saw my first Knight on a Magic card riding a Lion, I was entranced. I don't think I could see Wizards making a precon deck themed around Knights riding Big Cats, but a few more awesome and beautiful cards in that theme would be amazing.
A five color or even a four color () Legendary Knight could head up this deck and include the colors to run Rafiq of the Many, Aryel, Knight of Windgrace, and all the other older Lion-riding members of the Magic Chivalry. A new set of four color decks might be even the perfect place to print those long-awaited four color lands.
8. An Answer to Cyclonic Rift
I'm here to tell you that these aren't good enough.
The most powerful color in Magic has the most powerful spell in Magic and a lot of players are tired of the fact that outside of Blue they have few good answers for it. A group I once played in used to joke that it wasn't a game of Commander until someone overloaded a Cyclonic Rift.
My answer feels a little obvious, and could be done in a variety of ways. I'm thinking of roots.
No, not those Roots.
You could have an aura that "roots" a creature to the field, preventing the enchanted creature from being exiled, flickered or bounced. You could also have a player enchantment that makes all of that player's creatures be similarly "rooted" to the battlefield. It would make sense to have this effect only work on non-flying creatures, but you wouldn't want to have them tapped down or unable to attack. That would remove its usefulness as a way to protect your own creatures.
Maybe roots would be a flavor fail, as it's probably much easier to attack if you're not "rooted to the field".
How about just having a canopy overhead that would keep you from being able to get bounced back to hand? Dense Canopy is already taken, and alongside Bower Passage actually represent a really good match of form and function in card design. The more I work through this idea, the more I feel for the hard working folks who design Magic cards. Getting it right always seems easy but the devil's in the details.
Whatever it would be called, such an effect would protect you from having your board exiled, but could also be used on an opponent to prevent them from using a combo like Food Chain, which relies upon using that pesky enchantment to exile a creature that can be cast from exile.
I'm thinking this would be in Green, as being rooted to the field feels like a very earthy-crunchy, nature-oriented effect. In a Simic deck that does mean it would combine with Evacuation to make a second Cyclonic Rift. While that would be an unfortunate side-effect of my clever plan, I think it would still be worth it. There are a lot of Commander players who would be incredibly grateful to have one more way to try to cope with the annoying, omnipresent, and arguably unfair Cyclonic Rift.
7. Another way to pull from exile
One of the best ways to permanently get rid of a problem is to exile it.
With the amount of recursion good deck-builders put into their decks, exile is also a key way to put a game-ending combo piece out of reach. That's great, but don't we need more than one way to pull cards back from exile?
There is a card in Green that can pull cards back from exile. In Battle for Zendikar there were types of Eldrazi that could pull opponents' cards back from exile, but their usefulness in Commander is limited at best.
When there is a thing players like to do in Magic that they can only do with one card out of the 12,000+ cards printed in the history of the game, it's easy to see how adding another way would make sense. Bringing a card back from exile can be game-ending if that card is a combo piece, but only if a lot of other things line up just right.
If this ability is indeed so powerful that it should be a one (or two) in twelve thousand kind of card, I would have it be set up like Pact of Negation or even Final Fortune, where you lose the game if your "hail mary" play doesn't wind up working.
6. A Rakshasa Precon Deck
Did I mention that I'm a cat person?
I liked the 2016 Cats precon though for some reason I didn't wind up playing it much. I broke that precon deck apart and played an Arahbo, Roar of the Wild deck and a Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith deck occasionally, but didn't fall in love with either one.
I think my biggest problem with the 2016 precon was that it was in Selesnya () colors and didn't include some of my favorite cat cards.
Rakshasa are Cat Demons and some of my earliest experiments with building casual kitchen table decks revolved around trying to make Rakshasa Vizier work. It kinda worked but only in a casual and completely uncompetitive kind of way. The cold hard truth was that I just adored the artwork Nils Hamm created for this Khans of Tarkir Rare and I wanted to make the card work because I loved the art. I wasn't playing any real format yet and was only vaguely aware that Rakshasa Deathdealer was in fact an effective card in Standard at the time.
I would love for that Rakshasa Vizier to grow up into a big, bad Sultai () legendary creature with a deck just stuffed full of interesting Demons, Cats and Cat Demons. Such a deck would probably have lots of interesting graveyard and exile interactions. Maybe that second Riftsweeper could even be a Cat Demon!
5. Amulet of Vigor (with legs)
Riftsweeper was a one-in-twelve-thousand kind of card and I think it makes sense to have another option available to Commander players. I haven't actually played Riftsweeper very often, but I've had plenty of games where I got to enjoy this wonderful little artifact.
Playing a bounce land and having it untap automatically because of Amulet of Vigor always feels good. Seeing an Authority of the Consuls, Urabrask the Hidden, Manglehorn, or Blind Obedience across the table and knowing your stuff will untap anyways feels great.
All of that pales in comparison to the feeling you get when you mill half or more of your library, cast Splendid Reclamation, return a dozen or more lands to the battlefield tapped and then untap them with Amulet of Vigor so you can do more stuff.
That feels amazing.
My knowledge of Magic is pretty good and I'm not aware of another card that does what Amulet of Vigor does. Amulet of Vigor clearly isn't the most broken card in Magic and I definitely think there's room in the game for a Magus of the Vigor. I wouldn't have it be a Magus, though.
I think there's only one possible choice for the creature type for the Amulet of Vigor with legs.
If you know me, you know I also love Myr. A Myr that allows you to untap permanents when they enter the battlefield would slide into that tribe alongside Shimmer Myr and all the other quirky little Myr creatures and would fit in perfectly with that Myr precon deck I've been patiently waiting for. More on that later...
4. Loxodon & Rhox Tribal Decks
Precons are a fun place for Wizards to stretch their creative muscles and make flavorful, casual Commander decks with fantastic characters and creatures. They don't all inspire a sense of wonder, but for some reason I was always really fond of the character design behind the Loxodon from Ravnica and the Rhox from Alara.
I love the classic Disney film Fantasia, and these humanoid Elephants and Rhinos look like they would fit right into the world we see a glimpse of in the Dance of the Hours sequence. That's the part with dancing hippos and crocodiles, and if you're not familiar with Fantasia do yourself a favor and track it down. Roon of the Hidden Realm was printed in the 2013 Commander precon set and fits in with the Loxodon and Rhox pretty well.
Separate decks would probably be an unrealistic scenario, but a deck that blended these characters together with other interesting creatures might work. My Knights riding Cats might not make sense, but some Leonin could join the party and fit right in.
Wizards could even debut new creatures that look like humanoid Hippos in a deck like this. To go with Loxodon and Rhox, maybe "Hyppox" could be the new tribe, led by a now-humanoid incarnation of Phelddagrif. I'm just making stuff up at this point, but I would love the flavor of a deck built around this theme.
3. Universal anti-combo tech
If you've played enough Commander you've lost your share of games against combo decks.
It rarely feels good, and if you're the kind of player who prefers casual decks and games won or lost on the battlefield you probably have a dislike for cheap and easy wincons. When an opponent wins because they happen to land a 2-card combo after you've spent the entire game trying to build up your army to win (or lose) "fairly", it can leave a bad taste in your mouth. There's a reason a lot of casual groups eschew combo.
I don't enjoy losing to combo decks any more than the next casual player, but I've learned to run removal, play my own combo wincons, and usually try to play the kind of game the table wants to play. We should all be running more removal and playing ways to interact with both the stack and the battlefield - regardless of what type of permanent we need to get rid of. We should also be running ways to deal with indestructible permanents along with stuff that has hexproof and shroud.
It would also be really nice if we had some way to turn an opponent's cheesy win into a cheesy loss.
"If a player would win the game this turn and no player has taken combat damage, that player loses the game instead."
This would probably be an instant. It might have split-second. It might cost a lot and it might even have that Final Fortune caveat that you lose the game on your next turn. It would be meant as a last resort and a way to take that player trying to win with Exquisite Blood / Sanguine Bond, Mikaeus the Unhallowed / Triskelion, Felidar Sovereign, Aetherflux Reservoir, Laboratory Maniac, or any of a number of other non-combat wincons and give them one more thing to worry about.
Admittedly this card as written above wouldn't stop a Najeela, the Blade-Blossom combo or a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker / Zealous Conscripts combat win, but it would be a step in the right direction. There will always be combo wincons and there will always be players (myself included) who try to find cheesy ways to close out games.
Fighting with removal over who can combo off first is its own uniquely fun style of play, but I think a universal anti-combo card that would help casual players deal with more competitive players would be well received.
The funny thing about this idea is that while it is well intentioned I'm already seeing ways to turn it into a weapon.
I would slot this card into Zedruu. With one opponent left I would play a card like Trespassing Souleater which lets you pay your life into its ability, cast this anti-combo card, pay all my life into it and my opponent would normally win the game. Because no combat damage was done they would instead lose and I would win. I've done dirty and strange things with Zedruu before, so this wouldn't be too weird for that deck.
Teferi's Protection was a great card that let players survive a turn that otherwise would have killed them. I don't know how Wizards would make a card like this work, but I think it would make for an interesting addition to the game.
It's also entirely possible that I should stay in my lane and not try to design Magic cards.
2. Complete the Bond Land Cycle
In the Battlebond cycle we were treated to a fantastic set of 2-color lands that enter the battlefield tapped unless you have two or more opponents.
If there's one thing Magic players hate, it's an unfinished cycle. Fortunately with more Commander products being printed in 2020 than ever before, it's the perfect time to print another five of these 2/c lands. I wouldn't entirely mind if we got the five shown above printed again too, but I'll take what I can get.
1. A 5/c Myr Legendary
Wizards of the Coast has shown a willingness to print ridiculous new Legendary creatures with a five color identity in Kenrith, the Returned King. For years I've yearned for a strong and synergistic Legendary creature that could head up a deck full of Myr. I've run Myr tribal with Karona, False God at the helm, but it always felt a little forced.
The Myr Legendary would have to be colorless, as pretty much all Myr have no colors in their casting cost. It would also have to have abilities with all five colors in their casting cost, not unlike a few of my favorite Commanders, so we could run all five Myr mana dorks.
These two legendary creatures can run all of our Myr mana dorks, but they really don't care about Myr. Neither has any real synergy with the tribe, so I'm still waiting patiently for the arrival of the Uber-Myr.
It would have to have abilities that are in all five colors and it would have to have abilities that care about Myr in some way. Beyond that, it would just have to be flavorful and awesome. I've got a small assortment of Arcbound creatures in my Rare binder, so synergy with Modular artifact creatures would be pretty cool, but a decent Legendary Myr would be enough to make me happy.
In coming weeks I may have some interesting decks to share with you. Our EDH League is going to be wrapping up our year in December. I've done well, winning a few months and having a lot of fun along the way. Each month we have a theme that players can focus their deck-building around, and if you play on theme you get extra points.
Our league's theme for December will be vanilla Legendary creatures. One of the guys really wants to see what players do with a completely blank slate of a commander. I'm leaning away from building around Isamaru, Hound of Konda and Yargle, Glutton of Urborg, but I may build some anti-Yargle tech into my deck. Nobody likes to get Yargled.
If you liked any of my ideas or have your own "wishlist" items you'd love to see Wizards print in 2020, I'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment below and maybe, just maybe, your wish will come true!
If nothing else, I should be back to writing up decklists in the coming weeks. That's all I've got for today. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week.