Maybe it’s too early to say, but I’m going to say it anyway: this looks like the absolute best Commander product Wizards has ever released. Whether we’re talking about the Partner mechanic, the astounding number of new Legends, or the delicious mana bases, this year’s Commander has something for everyone. Let’s take a look.
When Wizards said they had a solution to the four color problem, they weren’t kidding. Partner will keep us all building new decks for years to come. Mixing and matching Commanders makes the game feel fresh, and it gives everyone so many more options for self-expression, one of the hallmarks of our format.
What’s more, I think Wizards did an excellent job balancing the mechanic. Think of all the broken combos that could’ve been printed on some of these cards. Seems like R&D was very careful not to make any of them too good, yet good enough when paired with another partner. Their collective power will at least match, if not surpass, many lone commanders.
Plus, I think Wizards made an excellent call by printing more enemy-colored commanders than allies. As the great and noble MaRo mentioned a few weeks ago, there just aren’t that many enemy color dudes out there. I’ve always found these color pairs more interesting than the allies, so I’m glad they’re getting a little more love.
For both new and experienced players, the number of potential new commanders in this set is staggering. I went through the ol’ card image gallery and counted them up. There are 36 legendary creatures in this set alone (38 if you count Daretti, who can also be your commander). To compare that with some past Commander releases, here’s a breakdown:
Commander 2016 – 37 potential commanders
Commander 2015 – 18 potential commanders
Commander 2014 – 16 potential commanders
Commander 2013 – 21 potential commanders
Commander 2011 – 28 potential commanders
Partner certainly contributed to those numbers, but there are plenty of high-power reprints in addition. Zedruu the Greathearted and Ghave, Guru of Spores, for example, are two outstanding commanders that haven’t seen printing in five years. The deck building options are almost limitless.
And then there are the four-color commanders, which seem very exciting. Though they’re going to be tough to cast (especially on-curve), players are rewarded with some very powerful abilities. Atraxa and Yidris look very strong in particular, and if the numbers on EDHREC are any indication, they’re going to stay at the top of Commander pop charts for a while.
With inclusions such as the Alara and Tarkir tri-lands, Murmuring Bosk, Grand Coliseum, Exotic Orchard, Forbidden Orchard, and more, players can actually get their commanders out in a reasonable time frame. What’s more, these lands help reinforce any multi-colored mana base, whether they’re two, three, four, or five colors.
And, perhaps best of all, this gets some older lands into the hands of newer players, which is awesome. The Otarian filter lands haven’t been around in forever, which I find exciting. This opens up a whole new spectrum of possibilities for a heck of a lot of casual players.
If these decks sound good to you, I hear there are still a few left in the ol’ Three Kings Loot store. Go check them out!
Rating Commander and other pre-built products is a little bit different than rating other Magic sets, to do one of these, there’s no need to look at the cards in terms of power relating to their draftability, just whether a card is good in its own set, its own format and other formats in general. Since this is a different way of grading cards than usual, it requires a different break-down:
0: Storm Crow: Why Wizards? Just why?
Before we dive into the cards, I want to take a second to review the pre-constructed decks themselves and talk about some of the concepts introduced by the sets as well. The decks themselves are actually pretty competent EDH/Commander decks as they are; just needing a few cards to push them over the edge to tournament victory. They are fun and interactive and can be a serious contender straight out of the box. As for the concepts introduced by the set, the first is the story implications that sets such as this can have on the game, whether it’s Nahiri’s role as the Lithomancer or Ob Nixilis’s human form. I think that following Fate Reforged, we can look forward to having these stories fleshed out. The other concept that was brought about from this set is that things besides creatures can become EDH commanders. Now, it might not be that far from Legendary Creatures to Planeswalkers, but this means that other card types might be able to become commanders in the future. I’m waiting on plain artifacts. I’m not going to be reviewing the whole set, just the cards that I found interesting or there was a lot of talk about.
Angel of the Dire Hour (2): This card is far too expensive for what it is… still, this card feels awesome to top deck on the turn that you are going to lose to your opponent’s aggro plan.
Containment Priest (3): This is an interesting card that has a real chance of breaking out of the format into Legacy at least if not all the way into Vintage. It fits the theme of Death and Taxes pretty well, and fights well against some decks in the formats, such as Sneak and Show, Dredge, and Oath. That being said, I’m not too sure the card will catch on, especially with cards like Grafdigger’s Cage already in print.
Creeperhulk (3): Sitting at 5 mana, I don’t know how much play this card will see outside of EDH, but still a fun card that does well when you’re running a ton of small creatures like Goblins or Elves, and the trample is the icing on the cake.
Daretti, Scrap Savant (3): If there are any long-time readers of my work out there, you’ll know that I absolutely love artifacts, so when I saw this card I knew that I just had to get it. His plus ability is a great combination of filtering and graveyard filling for his minus ability, allowing you to toss some of your most powerful cards to the yard to draw into even more power. His minus just does the job of Goblin Welder (also in the set), a powerful ability that I almost wish cost Daretti less to use. His emblem is the real cherry on top of the card, with the powerful ability to keep taking back all artifacts that went to the graveyard each turn. On paper, this seems like an awesome card, maybe even a format defining one, but in play, he’s too slow and hard to defend and typically gets knocked out the turn after you play him.
Dualcaster Mage (2): There has been a lot of talk about how powerful this card is, but I don’t see it. I would much rather have Reverberate or Fork over this card, but that’s just me. Overall, it feels like a more expensive form of these cards, but I digress. I don’t expect this card to find a home in Legacy or Vintage, but maybe some play in EDH.
Feldon of the Third Path (4): Acceptance, Despair and Refusal, those are the three paths in my opinion and it’s obvious that Feldon has chosen refusal as his way of coping with his woman’s death. The card is much more aggressively costed than its opponents, and lets you not only take back a copy of a creature in your graveyard, but gives it haste, makes it an artifact, and has you sacrifice it versus exile it at the end of turn. Altogether, the card allows for a lot of shenanigans especially in the deck that it sits in. While this card is pretty outstanding in commander, I’m not sure it will see play in Legacy or Vintage.
Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury (3): Out of all the planeswalker commanders in this set, I don’t know if I would call this the best planeswalker in the set, but I would definitely call her the most versatile. Acting as a solution to most of the problems you see in games. She has no abilities that scream bomb or game-ending, but all of her abilities feel like you’re getting value out of them, and in supporting a deck she is probably without equal. Her plus ability acts as creature horde/swarm, mana acceleration, and defense for her. Her minus ability deals with all of the artifacts and enchantments that you’re having trouble with, and her final is aggressively costed and gives you more resources in the form of card draw. Overall, this card probably isn’t good enough for Legacy or Vintage, but definitely a contender for solid commander material.
Ghoulcaller Gisa (3): This is one of the more powerful Alternate commanders in the set. I just don’t know why you would want to build up zombies in this way, if you were aiming for an agro strategy it’s terribly slow, and if you were doing things differently, I’m not really sure why I don’t want the big creature.
Jazal Goldmane (1): We’ve seen this ability before, it wasn’t impressive then, and it’s not now.
Lieutenant Cycle (2): These cards just feel lackluster and forced in EDH and even less impressive in a Legacy or Vintage deck. The idea of Lieutenant seems cool and it’s something that EDH needed a lot earlier, but these cards don’t do a very good job of showing off the ability.
Loreseeker’s Stone (2): Loreseeker’s Stone is almost a pretty good card, but a high mana cost combined with a tentatively bad effect makes the card hard to play in any format. With a mana cost as high as it is, it doesn’t help you solve mana delays, and with its ability it doesn’t really help decks that already draw a lot of cards. It’s just a card that wants to do a lot, but isn’t willing to dedicate itself to 1 path to get there.
Masterwork of Ingenuity (3): An interesting card that is aggressively costed at 1, but I can’t help but feel that it sits in your hands most games.
Nahiri, the Lithomancer (3): I just love the flavor of this card. When you first look at the card, most people who are fairly experienced respond with “Oh look, it’s Stoneforge Mystic as a planeswalker”, and that’s just what this card is. Her story is that she’s the founder of the Stoneforge Order, and has had some major effects on the story, especially the Zendikar storyline. Her plus ability gives her the ability to protect herself by generating a token and putting all of your equipment on it. Her minus ability lets you cheat equipment into play from your hand or graveyard, allowing you the ability to defend her defenders. Her final puts a powerful equipment into play that is indestructible, and gives its creature +5/+5 and double strike. Overall, while it’s a pretty cool card, there’s no deck in Legacy or Vintage that can really make use of her at a mana cost of 5, it’s just too slow. On the other side of things, this card isn’t that bad of a match for EDH, where it was designed for originally.
Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath (3): Ob Nixilis and his deck are uniquely positioned among the pre-constructed deck in that they get worse the fewer players that are in the game. His plus ability is a way to keep ahead of your opponents and while may not be all that good in 1-on-1, it can be a significant force in a 3 or 4 player game. His minus ability allows you to create a demon for some of your life, and feels very flavorful for black. His final creates a powerful emblem that lets you sacrifice creatures to gain life and cards. This card does feel a little heavy at 5 to be playable in Legacy or Vintage, but in a Commander game with multiple opponents this card feels pretty good and definitely playable.
Reef Worm (3): This is an efficient creature… in a few turns… if someone kills it… and its other forms… maybe it’s not so efficient, but it is a pretty cool combo with board wipes. Maybe someone will figure that out. Plus, it’s a pretty good blocker so that’s a plus.
Scrap Mastery (4): This card is flat-out awesome. If someone could figure out Living Death, then I don’t see why someone couldn’t figure this card out. It brings back all of the artifacts from the graveyard and puts them onto the battlefield, and puts all artifacts from the battlefield into the grave.
Song of the Dryads (3): Removal in green isn’t that big of a deal, and this card gives your opponent an extra land. Even though it caused a huge uproar, at least in the Magic circles I hang out in, it feels like a powered down black spell. I don’t expect it to make too many waves, but isn’t a bad addition to your green EDH decks.
Stitcher Geralf (2): I feel like this card is pretty much a glass cannon, a high propensity to completely blow out your opponent, but just as likely to completely wiff time after time. The card might almost be playable if the Zombie also had the abilities of those creatures as well, but as the card stands now, I don’t really think this card has a place in any format.
Teferi, Temporal Archmage (2): A very lukewarm card with abilities that also feel lukewarm especially for its mana cost. His plus ability is just peek, look at the top 2 cards put 1 in your hand and the other on the bottom. His minus ability is the best part of the card, he untaps 4 permanents, and his final allows you to play planeswalker abilities any time you could play instants, but overall I’d rather have Jace in any format where Teferi’s legal. As for him as a commander, I don’t really see why he’s a good choice so I’d probably just make a different choice.
Titania, Protector of Argoth (3): This card has already made its presence known in a few EDH decks. I have a friend that picked up the Green deck just for this card. The card fits well into decks that discard a lot of lands, such as Borborygmos EDH. The card doesn’t seem like much of a player for Legacy or Vintage, but I expect it to see play in EDH for a while.
Wave of Vitriol (3): While 7 mana is a steep cost, and I don’t expect this card to see play in Vintage or Legacy for this reason; this card is uniquely positioned to wreck whole decks in EDH. The card is targeted at those players that have picked up as many powerful lands as they can and can be ruining to a deck that traded up all of its basic lands for fancier ones.
Well of Ideas (2): This cards okay, but I’d still much rather have Howling Mine, and even that’s not run that much. More than the card itself, I like the ideas behind it and hope Wizards prints more like it.
Overall, the sets are pretty neat and if you’re looking to have fun playing some pre-constructed decks with a friend I would definitely consider picking these up. Besides that the decks are slightly over-costed and gives many players filler they don’t really need or already have (It’s sad to call Sol Ring filler). Pick them up if you want to play the decks with your friends or just buy the singles if you need the individual cards would be my suggestion on this set of cards.
By Daniel Clayton – the Will of the Floral Spuzzem
@DC4VP on Twitter