by Andrew Pemberton
Greetings and salutations, my fellow Planeswalkers. I realise it's been way too long since we had an update, so why not go with what everyone else is doing: For those who read Channel Fireball or Star City Games, both LSV and Pat Chapin are in the middle of doing set reviews. Now, I'm not one to step on other people's work, so instead of focusing on constructed and limited applications, I will be talking today about what cards you should be looking out for to take your deck to the next level.
Well, doesn't this kitty have claws! Relic-Warder is one of the cards that has been getting a lot of hype, particularly for the Eternal formats (Legacy and Vintage), in order to stop opposing AEther Vials and Counterbalances. However, we also get serious applications with this in Commander. Having an early answer for cards such as Luminarch Ascension can be a real boon, certainly in multiplayer, but also being able to remove more serious Enchantments and Artifacts later in the game means he never loses value. Of course, being a creature does hamper him slightly due to his inability to survive Wrath-style effects, but you do effectively shut down an effect for at least two turns, probably enough time to get around said threat another way. Of course, the major trick with this is one we can also use with Tidehollow Sculler: By stacking RW's Enters the Battlefield ability, then sacrificing him, say with a High Market, you get rid of the card PERMANENTLY. Definitely worth a look in for the predominantly white decks.
Now, I'm a sucker for a Wrath effect as much as the next guy, and believe me when I say this: There are better effects than this in the format. However, that's not to go against counting on this should you need to. This can certainly be a budget option should you need it, or just having the threat of having a creature when your opponents have nothing. Granted, it'd be pretty sick if you got a 6/6 or higher every time, and this does scale up quite nicely for multiplayer, but there will be times that you just need to get rid of a threat or two, and that's fine. Heck, you still get value out of your 2/2, I'm sure.
...and for those of you who liked the other side of Martial Coup, I present to you... the Itteh Bitteh Kitteh Committeh! For those of you using Raksha, Jareth or Kemba-based Cat Tribal, this is a fun option, but there's so many ways to abuse this card. At 4 or 5 mana, it functions as an instant speed fog effect, effectively nullifying your opponent's attacks for a turn if needed. At 6 Mana, you start getting value out of your spell in terms of Power:Mana Cost. At 7 or more, you start jumping the curve in terms of power. Token strategist such as Teysa, Orzhov Scion will love this card, as a means to activating abilities, or just swinging with a mass of furry feline fury! Oh yeah, one thing that's kinda crucial about this card? Yeah, it's an instant, meaning you can throw a furba- er, curve ball at your enemies by popping up with a ton of 2/2's at the end of your opponent's turn... and of course, letting you shuffle it back into your deck for even more value later on. All in all, a great card for White-loving Planeswalkers.
I really feel the need to make a Mass Effect reference, but I think I'll hold back on this occasion. Yes, this is Stroke of Genius 2.0, but with two major changes. Obviously, the more restrictive mana cost makes this a wee bit harder to cast in multicolour decks, but it shouldn't pose a great deal of issues, especially if you're running as much mana fixing as you should be. The other great detail is, like all the Zeniths, the shuffle ability. Paying XUUU instead of X2U does seem a little awkward, but again, the incremental gain is there. For example, wasting a Stroke for X=2 is usually a little poor, but with the shuffle, using it with Blue Sun's Zenith takes that poor play away: Giving you the option of potentially casting it later makes this Zenith a lot more versatile than it's Urza's Block cousin. Of course, the real value of this card probably starts at around the 7 mana mark, but hey, if you've ramped up and need a refill, then by all means do so!
Just... Hnng! This card screams 'Abuse me!'. Blue doesn't need another useless flying body, but that's not what we're interested in: Drawing two cards off of an opponent's draw step is pretty sweet, but this card just keeps on giving: Cycling, Skullclamp triggers, etc... every use gives you at least two cards back if you want them. Of course, the 'may' clause is ever-present in the text, so once you have attained the desired value, feel free to take your turn, use some cards, then let him refill your hand all over again. In a game at Sunday's pre-release, I managed to Bribery one out of a friend's deck, and managed to draw at least 10 cards before it was dealt with. Even the body can be relevant, blocking most flying threats
Now, I've not always been the biggest fan of Clone-style effects, but this one... I quite enjoy. You can't argue with Rite of Replication and Spitting Image in terms of power and utility, but this is a pretty cheap way of knocking out someones General. Even if not, copying something for value can be perfectly fine if your opponent has something worth copying. Heck, you can even copy your own creatures, so if you want double Blightsteel Colossus, here's another way to achieve it, I guess.
Thar she blows! Now this one is interesting. I see this as a blue Relic Crush, without the drawback of only targeting artifacts. Sure, it's only a bounce effect, but tagging two permanents at once gets you solid tempo gain in most cases, and it can even kill off your opponent's plans, for example, by bouncing a Mimic Vat in response to its own trigger. Heck, you can even just fog a little with it if you like. Nice applications, definitely one worth trying, whether budget-inclined or not.
Yep, that's a tutor all right. For those with Artifact-based strategies (I'm looking at you, Sharuum the Hegemon!), this card basically says 'Search your library for target bomb'. Whether its Mindslaver, Darksteel Forge, or Steel Hellkite, this ensures you get what you need, and unlike Trinket Mage in this format, it seems to get a lot more: Having that '1 or less' restriction lifted seems so much better for this format. It's all about the fatties, and this guy might just replace Trinket Mage in some cases, if not doing the inevitable of complimenting him.
Yep, that's another Zenith. This time, it's Black rocking the field with a reusable Wrath effect. This has already received widespread acclaim for its possibilities in Standard, but those possibilities also exist in Commander. Shrinking an army for cheap, or killing them for a little more, Black Sun's Zenith gives Black builds another Wrath to compliment Damnation and Mutilate. I'm glad to see that Wizards has posted a cycle with such broad applications, and it certainly speaks well for the future of Commander.
Wraths are usually better in Commander, but hey, this is one of the best pieces of spot removal I've seen in a while. Destroying everything that isn't an Artifact is pretty sick, especially if it's a threat you need rid of. Heck, if you're using a multicolour deck anyway, chances are you have separate Artifact removal anyway, unless you're in Blue. Two mana to sink a dude is good value, and with its widespread amount of targets, there will always be something to shoot.
Definitely another weenie killer, but one with benefits! Sure, the only things this thing will be likely shrinking are going to be Sakura-Tribe Elder, Eternal Witness and Solemn Simulacrum, but hey, if they want to pay 2 life to draw a card, or get a land, seems fine to me. Putting that extra cost on creatures makes it harder to make effective blocking decisions, as well as when to use those sacrificial effects. Not to mention, he fits Commander's remit of being big and beefy. A solid hit in my books, not only for the mini-wrath, but also for the life-taking effect.
More efficient spot removal. Not hitting creatures sucks a little, and Shatter might be a better option for your mana, but being able to destroy their Sol Ring or Mana Vault on turn 1 completely nullifies the tempo swing they would otherwise gain.
It looks more like some giant beetle thing than a Beast, but I guess Insect doesn't cut it for something that big either... Anyway, here we welcome one of my top Commander cards from the set. For those who are used to playing with Future Sight, this is kinda similar. In mono Red, you have limited options aside from burn, but in multicolour, you open the door to plenty of things... Ramp spells in Green, Draw in Blue, or removal in White. The day you get a Time Stretch off of this, however, is the day you'll forever be targeted in your Commander games, so be careful. Free stuff is always good stuff in EDH, and there's certainly worse things you can play for 5 mana.
Sure, Shatterstorm destroys every artifact for the same cost, but where's the fun in that? Exiling is such a powerful effect, and paying 4 to exile two of your opponent's artifacts is fair game, really. Having to have two targets is a little bit lame in single player, but multiplayer is where this guy really shines. You can screw one guy off of his combo, or be political and take one each from two guys. Either way, a good solid utility card to fill out your decks with.
Speaking of Shatterstorm, here's the Green variant we just got. Green could use a couple more wrath effects, even if they only serve the purpose of killing Artifacts and Enchantments. I'm a little iffy about this, as I'm not sure how good it is at the moment, but of course, it scales up the more artifacts your opponents have. I'd probably compliment this with All is Dust, just to be able to hit everything on the board over a couple of turns.
See that? Now THAT'S a Tutor! For one mana extra, you can find a creature in your library, and slap it right down onto the Battlefield. Sure, it has the same Primal Order-style drawback of needing to be a Green creature, but who cares? Slapping down Primeval Titans and Woodfall Primus' is so good. Not to mention, Gold cards with Green in their mana cost are fair game too, so if you want to pay out 6 Mana for your favourite WUBRG card, go ahead! Plus, like all the other Zeniths, that huffle ability comes in handly. Note that the power of the card only scales up if you have the creatures to make use of it, so make sure to build your decks properly!
For all those Phyrexians who wished Yawgmoth would whisper sweet nothings into your ear, now's your chance. This is certainly a Commander card, no buts about it. Steroid-infused Regrowth effects are always good - It's why they exile themselves after their use. Can you imagine a loop of Restock and this if they didn't Exile themselves? Crazy. Anyway, giving your spells another go around the table is nothing to scoff at, especially if you want another shot at casting your Time Stretch and Rite of Replication. The Reliquary Tower-style is an expected, but nonetheless crucial bonus, preventing you from losing the cards you just got back. Better yet, you can't lose your hand to a Strip Mine, unlike with Reliquary Tower. Solid, amazing, and every Green deck should pack one.
Sac Elder number two? I'm not sure if this is as useful as I think it is yet, but it's certainly worth a shot. Trading an extra point of power for not being able to sac it off manually is kinda iffy, but if you're packing Sacrificial effects such as High Market anyway, you can still claim the benefits from it, not to mention the ever-presence of Wraths in the set. Guys that replace themselves are always worth looking at, and the ramp can sometimes help. Definitely worth a look at, especially in decks such as Savra, Queen of the Golgari, where the sacrifices are used to your benefit.
A creature that kills any other creature in combat? Where do I sign! First Strike and Deathtouch are such good abilities, that when put together, give you pretty much the perfect package to deal with blocking creatures, sans the obvious Indestructible and Protection creatures. However, what is truly interesting is the second ability: getting back your used Artifacts is a sure-fire bet that you're gaining back value. Having Glissa out with an Executioner's Capsule basically means you can kill anything your opponent has, and just recur the Capsule straight away. A candidate for a Commander in her own right, or a solid addition to any BG strategy.
May as well start this section with the one card I expect to cause the most controversy. An old favourite turned compleat, Blightsteel Colossus has the capacity to kill any opponent in one shot. Now, we all know what happened to Emrakul, with the Ban-hammer floating over his head for the longest time before he eventually got taken away. I'm not so sure that this particular Colossus will stick around for too long. I mean, think about it: Rite of Replication means you WILL kill at least two or three players in one attack step, and even shenanigans like Tooth and Nail fetching this and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker can end games quickly. I'm glad both Red and White have ways to deal with this menace, and even Black can deal with it to an extent, but the fact that you need to do it in one turn is useless if you don't have the right cards at the right time.
Thinking of this guy from a community standpoint as well: Sure, he doesn't grant the extra turn that Emrakul provided, but he essentially will end the game in his next turn unless dealt with. You then have the problem of being political about who you swing at. There will always be a player that feels that he has been picked on, and I've seen groups almost lose players due to pressing home their advantage against one player in particular. Guys, I'm not sure the loss in players is worth the advantage you get out of this, so think carefully when deciding whether to pack this into your deck or not.
Players, pack your Path to Exile and other exile effects now, because you don't want to be caught with your pants down against this guy, especially if he's spreading an infection :p.
...and from one innuendo to another, here we have the Bonehoard! Now, I wasn't a huge fan of Living Weapon at the Pre-Release, but this guy seems pretty solid to me. He feels a little like an Empyrial Plate for your graveyard, giving you a boost based on how many Wraths your fellow players have used. I wouldn't be surprised at seeing this on a Voltron-style Commander in order to help deal 21 General damage, or even just augmenting an equipment strategy. Either way, you get a potentially monstrous creature for just 4 mana, and can make another creature into a monster for just 2 mana. A solid playable in any Equipment-based strategy.
...and speaking of Equipment-based strategies, check out this wicked set of armor. Probably a throwback to Shield of Kaldra way back in Darksteel, this offers the same abilities for 3 mana less overall. The ability to protect your General is pretty sweet, though you do lose out on being able to get that sweet Kaldra token :(. Joking aside, another very solid equipment that should see play in Commander.
Vedalken Orrery for Artifacts? Sounds sweet. Early game, you can drop surprise Artifacts on people, and late game, you can even drop the Myr at the end of turn, along with any busted Artifacts you want. It's a little bit cute, and of course a little more susceptible to removal, but come on, he's sparkly and does a mean job of scaring your opponent. Dropping a Master Transmuter at the end of your opponent's turn, only to transmute the Myr into a Colossus seems like GG's to me.
Two mana Artifact acceleration is usually pretty solid. From the Cameos, Signets and Talismans of old, we now get a card similar to Gemstone Mine in flavour, and pretty high in quality too. It can be used as another Signet in most decks, but decks that love abusing charge counters will love this. The ability to Proliferate this and Everflowing Chalice means you'll pretty much always have enough mana. Solid, definitely worth a slot in your Ramp set-up.
Ok, now I know 7 Mana for a Vindicate is a lot... heck, you can pay 11 Mana for Ulamog, and he gives you a 10/10 Indestructible body to boot! However, the applications I can see are with a sacrificial effect. Having, say, Goblin Welder swap this for something in your graveyard only for you to get it back is pretty nifty, albeit a little expensive, but we're used to expensive spells anyway. It might see play, it might not, but it deserves a shout, especially for those decks that want Artifacts that do crazy things.
As with all of the previous Swords, Feast and Famine is pretty solid. When evaluating cards like this, I tend to value the Bonuses and Protection abilities over the secondary, combat damage-based abilities. Now, +2/+2 is amazing for just 5 mana. A 2 mana equip costs means anything can carry the sword and use it effectively, and both Green and Black are popular colours in the format. The combat damage abilities do seem a little bit weak at first: making them discard a card can mean very little with such rampant card advantage floating around, but checking out the second ability... It gives you another Seedborn Muse, effectively. It gives you the chance to use your expensive spells for one more shot, or come up ahead on tempo by casting into multiple threats at once, effectively doubling your mana in the process. Sure, Sword of Fire and Ice is still the top slashing implement, but this guy is no slouch either.
...and thus ends my views on the new set for Commander! As always, don't just take my word for it - try the cards I haven't mentioned: you might find a busted combo with some older cards. The only way to find them is to play them and see!
As always, you can address any comments to the section below, Facebook, or hit me up on MSN at Mirage_Knight@hotmail.co.uk. Until then, happy Commanding!