Hello and welcome to A Seat at the Table, the column where I pick a commander and talk about what I’d include in the 99. This round, a new card previewed by IGN for the upcoming The Lord of the Rings set from this summer – Gandalf the Grey!
I’d like to say off the bat that I don’t care about the The Lord of the Rings franchise, books, anything. I don’t know enough to contribute any Vorthos insight or flavour anything. But I will point out things that correspond to Magic: The Gathering information. So let’s take a look at the latest legend spoiled coming to us soon!
For 3UR, Gandalf the Grey is a 3/4 Legendary Creature – Avatar Wizard with a cool textbox that is pretty dope.
“Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell, choose one that hasn’t been chosen –
– You may tap or untap target permanent.
– Gandalf the Grey deals 3 damage to each opponent.
– Copy target instant or sorcery spell you control. You may choose new targets for the copy.
– Put Gandalf on top of its owner’s library.”
Wowza! Now that’s a commander! Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell you must choose either Psychic Puppetry, Sizzle, Increasing Vengeance, or Gandalf dips out.
Here are some things to remember:
- You can choose each mode only once per Gandalf. If you blink or flicker him, reanimate him, cast him again, put him into play in any way, that resets the count.
- This isn’t a “may” ability. You must choose one. This means if the last ability hasn’t been chosen yet, Gandalf is hitting the top of its owner’s library.
- His ability is not Magecraft and therefore does not trigger off of copied spells.
Let’s talk the 99!
Alright, let’s cut to the chase: we don’t want Gandalf to hit the top of your library. That means you want to reset Gandalf before you trigger the final available ability triggers. To get the full list of abilities, you’ll want to cast a blink spell as your third spell unless you have another way to reset it. If you cast Blur for example as your fourth spell, this will trigger Gandalf returning to your library which resolves before the spell can. Essence Flux is probably the best of the crew of cards, but Blur, Displace, Ghostly Flicker, Planar Incision, and Illusionist’s Stratagem are excellent inclusions to keep Gandalf going.
You can also reset Gandalf with an end step flicker with Thassa, Deep-Dwelling and Conjurer’s Closet. Just make sure you don’t cast four instants and sorceries! It’s also not a big deal because you can cast him again or if you want to use Future Sight, he can be waiting for you in the extended hand!
How do you just not worry about it altogether? There is an answer and you’re going to love it. It’s adorable. It’s Displacer Kitten. Every instant or sorcery you cast has the potential to reset Gandalf if you really need it to.
Stuff to Untap – Arcanis the Omnipotent / Magus of the Bazaar / Otherworld Atlas / Beguiler of Wills / Jace’s Archivist (Brallin Glint-Horn Buccaneer) / Vexing Puzzlebox
What about cool stuff to untap? Depends on what you want.
Mana? Lands in general, but specifically Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, are all great targets. Empowered Autogenerator keeps getting bigger and bigger. Glittering Stockpile does the same to cash in for a big payout. Nyx Lotus is Nykthos on a rock. Alena, Kessig Trapper needs creatures to enter, but is worth it for mana twiddles. Chromatic Orrery and Coveted Jewel are big mana with different upsides – Orrery can draw some cards by activating and Jewel can be blinked instead of Gandalf when Displacer Kitten is out. Galazeth Prismari turns all of your artifacts into mana rocks for instants and sorceries. Got a big amount of mana, Doubling Cube can make a ton more. And my favourite mana rock for this is Vexing Puzzlebox, which can tutor up an artifact to play.
Card draw is fun when you can untap Arcanis the Omnipotent, Temple Bell, Magus of the Bazaar, and Otherworld Atlas. Azami, Lady of Scrolls can tap itself and your commander, maybe other Wizards for cards. What about Galecaster Colossus who can tap Wizards to bounce creatures you don’t control. Take control of those creatures instead by tapping Beguiler of Wills.
My favourite is Jace’s Archivist. Cast a couple of spells, empty your hand, then Archivist for Windfall. Refill your hand. Maybe you have Glint-Horn Buccaneer and Brallin, Skyshark Rider. That’s a lot of damage. How about some more?
You’re going to want to deal some damage when you cast noncreature spells or instants/sorceries. Here’s a quick list of my favourites –
Trigger damage on cast: Electrostatic Field, Firebrand Archer, Exalted Flamer of Tzeentch, Pink Horror, Guttersnipe, Kessig Flamebreather, and Lambholt Raconteur.
Thermo-Alchemist and Chandra’s Incinerator are different but worth a look. Thermo-Alchemist untaps when you cast and instant or sorcery to activate, but can also be Gandalf’s target for untap. Incinerator takes all the noncombat damage you control dealt to opponents and does that much to a target creature or planeswalker, getting rid of problematic critters.
That’s a lot of damage, how about some more? Wait, did I say that already?
Here are cards that double damage or add damage. They’re self-explanatory, but this article’s getting long! Gratuitous Violence, Solphim, Mayhem Dominus, Insult // Injury, Goblin Goliath, Fiendish Duo, Furnace of Rath, Dictate of the Twin Gods, Mechanized Warfare, and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell.
Why not some extra triggers for casting but also copying those spells?
Zaffai, Thunder Conductor is a commander I love but here he can scry per spell or copy, but also sometimes give you a 4/4. Deekah, Fractal Theorist also makes tokens for you to swing or defend with. Veyran, Voice of Duality doubles triggers for casting and copying instants or sorceries. Storm-Kiln Artist is one of the best Magecraft abilities out there. It makes a Treasure every time. The second strongest is Archmage Emeritus, drawing you a card for every Magecraft trigger.
You should copy more spells like with Double Vision, Thousand-Year Storm, and Swarm Intelligence.
Level up Sorcerer Class to deal some damage and use those aforementioned tokens for mana. Use Sentinel Tower and Aetherflux Reservoir to dole out some more damage while using Hullbreaker Horror to control the stack and board.
You’re going to want to cast a lot of spells, you’ll need to make them cheaper. Wizards of Thay is an overlooked gem I find myself thinking about more and more. Rowan, Scholar of Sparks // Will, Scholar of Frost have some extra upside, but no matter what it will reduce spell slinging by 1. Primal Amulet // Primal Wellspring does the same before flipping to be a spell copying land. Mindsplice Apparatus, Jace’s Sanctum, Haughty Djinn, and Font of Magic all have their advantages, but ultimately will reduce your instants and sorceries to pips.
Bonus: Flashback and one mana spells!
Arcane Infusion, Faithless Looting, Artful Dodge, Devil’s Play, Flaring Pain, Galvanic Iteration, Increasing Vengeance, Mass Diminish, Otherworldly Gaze, Scour All Possibilities, Secrets of the Key, Think Twice, Strike it Rich, and Deep Analysis are all cheap and replayable from the graveyard! Cackling Counterpart, Echo of Eons, Ignite the Future, Memory Deluge, Mystic Retrieval, and of course Past In Flames are all solid inclusions.
That does it for this edition of A Seat at the Table! Let me know what other commanders you want me to cover in the next one!
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