For the Magic Origins set review, I’m going to do a variation on a theme of previous reviews. I’ll break down the cards by three new categories: Cards Somebody Might Try; Cards I Might Not Find Room for, But Other People Sure Will; and Cards I’m Definitely Putting Into Decks. The first contains those cards which have narrow uses, or I see a situation in which someone might try to get some mileage out of it. The cards in the second are things which I consider definitely playable but for some reason I won’t — perhaps I don’t like what they do, or they’re very good situationally but I don’t have a deck which creates that situation. The third is pretty obvious and assumes that other people will be doing the same. There might also be cards here which I’m definitely playing and other folks are less excited about, but I have the perfect place for them.
Remember that this is a review only for Commander. There are plenty cards which I won’t even talk about, even if they are bombs in Limited or might find a home in Standard, because they fall outside the scope of this review. I also won’t include any reprints (like Auramancer) unless I’m thoroughly excited about them (and there are a few).
Cards Somebody Might Try
Blessed Spirits: Art which has disturbed some people aside, there are Enchantress decks out there. Seems like they’ll give it a whirl.
Gideon’s Phalanx: The only reason it’s listed at all is that it’s an instant. The cost hampers playability — at seven mana, you really want something special. The Spell Mastery part might give it a little nudge, but not quite enough for me. Token and/or Knight theme decks might find a spot for it.
Murder Investigation: Wraths happen in Commander. Providing yourself with a little cheap rebound from them seems worth the thought.
Vryn Wingmare: Is there a Pegasus tribal deck out there? Even if not and there’s a creature-heavy deck — anything north of 40 creatures — this seems like your huckleberry.
Artificer’s Epiphany: Whether you’re playing it with artifacts so that you don’t have to discard or playing it in a reanimator deck that really wants to, it looks like something that might get a whirl.
Calculated Dismissal: A solid maybe because of the Spell Mastery. Control decks like to be a little more certain about their counterspells, but for the types of things in this format which you absolutely have to counter (like Genesis Wave), players will tap out for them a lot of the time anyway.
Disciple of the Ring: This is one of those cards which people are going to try to play with it, then realize they hate exiling their own stuff.
Sent to Sleep: It’s kind of useful without the Spell Mastery part, but downright cheap for what it does with it. I think there’s starting to be some kind of Frost Titan deck which sleeps everything in the making.
Sigiled Starfish: It’s a freaking starfish, for crying out loud.
Whirler Rogue: Somebody is going to build the All Thopters All The Time deck, I’m sure.
Eyeblight Massacre: Suddenly a dark Elf deck?
Gnarlroot Trapper: Yeah, okay, a dark Elf deck.
Necromantic Summons: They’ve been trying to make a reanimation spell at this mana cost for a while. I’m just going to wait until they get even better, although it makes me think I want to play more Tempt with Immortality.
Returned Centaur: Maybe in a Centaur tribal mill deck?
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh: The design is cool, the abilities are cool (if a little wanting in Commander), but you’re going to have to do lots of work in order to make her worthwhile.
Ghirapur Aether Grid: Someone is going to try the “create a zillion artifacts” deck, so I suspect this will be part of the engine.
Caustic Caterpillar: You’ll never lack for targets. Good targets.
Vine Snare: You know I keep evangelizing Fog in this format. There seems like a narrow set of circumstances in which you’d want this over Tangle or Spore Cloud. If you’re attacking with fatties, you’re not worried about the damage the small creatures deal; if you’re getting attacked with fatties, then this isn’t helping that much. I suppose it’s good if someone just cast Storm Herd — but Tangle is still going to help more.
Blazing Hellhound: It’s the cheapest sacrifice outlet that it’s free. I know it’ll be house in Limited; I imagine a corner-case use in Commander.
Possessed Skaab: In some kind of engine alongside Cloudstone Curio, there is room to make a lot of hay with Possessed Skaab. Then again, there are lots of creatures which are saucy with Cloudstone Curio.
Helm of the Gods: I can see the cheap casting and equip costs as a reason for someone even with a modest number of enchantments in a deck to give it a chance.
Meteorite: It’s cute, but probably a little expensive to be a popular mana rock.
Runed Servitor: For the hug decks?
Cards I Might Not Find Room For, But Other People Sure Will
Kytheon, Hero of Akros: Flip-walkers are brilliant design. This one definitely has a place in Standard. The only mode on Gideon, Battle-Forged that seems worthwhile is the +1, untapping a creature and making it indestructible.
Sigil of the Empty Throne: I’ve already seen it played. Perhaps the reprint will inspire more folks to explore the enchantress (or enchantment-heavy) decks.
Displacement Wave: This is a deceptive card. In the early game, you can change the tempo, but late-game it’s going to be bouncing all your good stuff too. The best use for it might be as a two-mana token-killer. As I’m going through updating my decks I’ll see if there’s a spot for it, but I’m not quite sure. Pretty sure that I’ll see someone else playing it within a game or two of folks getting their hands on cards.
Jace’s Sanctum: The cost might give some players pause, but it makes up that cost over time. The double-duty of making instants and sorceries cost less plus scrying when you cast them makes this one of those sneaky-good cards.
Psychic Rebuttal: My mind is stuck on blue, and the blue player tends to only target him or herself with other blue spells (like Time Stretch), so that’s not particularly good here. Obviously, the blowout is Mind Twist and variants. People smarter than I am will figure out how to use this one to great effect.
Thopter Spy Network: I don’t have anything that takes advantage of the card (which probably means one of my Do Over Project decks needs to address the need), but free stuff is free stuff. Sure, it’s no Edric, Spymaster of Trest, but it’s still solid.
Demonic Pact: Excellent design, so huge kudos to whomever had the idea for the card. I play enough sacrifice outlets to use it (Read the Runes seems like the right call), but the modes leave me a little ambivalent.
Erebos’s Titan: This might drop down to the other list if I can think of a way to leverage it. That might include some graveyard hate and putting things into my graveyard. We’ll see.
Languish: I suspect this will be very popular in Standard. In Commander, especially with a fair amount of indestructible floating around, it could make some waves. It’s not going to challenge Black Sun’s Zenith for a slot, but it will get played.
Abbot of Keral Keep: I suspect that I simply won’t have room for it but would like to find some. It’s simple, but it helps solve a problem red has always had — drawing cards.
Avaricious Dragon: Another one that we’re sure to see in Standard (and maybe even Modern burn decks), I’d have to change my Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund to a reanimation deck to play it. I’d think about it in something like Kresh to set up a giant Living Death, but the lack of control gives me some pause.
Pia and Kiran Nalaar: Lots folks are way more excited about this card than I am. It’s neat, but I don’t see it getting too much mileage in the format. I’ll be pleased if someone proves me wrong on this.
Thopter Engineer: Artifact creatures having haste is the subtly good part of this card. Sure, there are Thopters and it’s part of that Thopter deck, but suddenly Bosh, Iron Golem isn’t just chucking stuff at you, it’s also battling your dome.
Animist’s Awakening: Sure, if you’ve already played Rampant Growth and Cultivate, this makes your next turn a little silly, but I think better value is later in the game turning upcoming draws into more gas. I’m not sure the math actually supports playing the card, but I’m willing to be proven wrong. I’d rather the nonland cards go into the graveyard, like with Mulch. It would make for cooler reanimation strategies.
Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen: Here’s the commander for your Elf deck. Rashad Miller will be very happy.
Outland Colossus: Creatures with greater power and toughness than converted mana cost are always worth a look, but usually don’t get played if they don’t have something else. Outland Colossus has the blocking clause plus it will get enormous. Folks will find a spot for it.
The Great Aurora: This is the card which has generated the most excitement at my LGS, Armada Games, and I look forward to the random chaos when it gets played. I imagine Armada owner Michael Fortino will want to make a deck with both this and Warp World in it, with some Hive Mind thrown in for good measure. If it turns out that the card is that much fun, I’ll eventually have to find some room for it.
Reclusive Artificer: You know someone is making the deck. I’m just happy it has red in it so that it can’t go into the Sharuum decks.
Shaman of the Pack: I’m telling you, Dark Elf aggro is here.
Thunderclap Wyvern: Helps out your Dragons a little, although they don’t really need that much help. The obvious combo is with Archetype of Imagination. The thing about it having flash is that it changes the combat math.
Chief of the Foundry: There are cards in this set which pretty much start building a deck for you. This is one of them.
Hangarback Walker: And this is another.
Sword of the Animist: The next generation of Explorer’s Scope, it’s good for both the landfall decks (especially since it triggers on attacking and not merely when dealing damage) and if you simply want to thin lands out of the deck.
Cards I’m Definitely Putting Into Decks
Archangel of Tithes: This is super-value for the cost in any Angel or heavily-white deck. Once you give it vigilance, it’s always on. Angelic Skirmisher will get there, as will (sometimes) Angelic Field Marshal. The most obvious thing to pair it with is Heliod, God of the Sun.
Hallowed Moonlight: Holy blowouts! At the 1W cost, I might play it even if I had to discard a card. Making it a cantrip suddenly elevates it to one of the strongest cards in the set. It will make a powerful impact on the format. It’s not going to stop anyone from playing Genesis Wave or Living Death, but after it gets played a few times it’s going to stop them from getting windmilled. Note that Villainous Wealth, which folks think is just like Genesis Wave, actually lets you cast the cards without paying their mana costs — so Hallowed Moonlight won’t apply.
Hixus, Prison Warden: I have a Soldier deck, and this goes right in. I’m not normally a huge fan of having to take damage in order to get triggers (besides Darien, King of Kjeldor), but the combo of this and Hallowed Moonlight gets my blood going. And it just occurred to me that Hallowed Moonlight goes on Isochron Scepter.
Knight of the White Orchid: This is a card which is obviously already getting played. My listing it here is that it’s now easier to get in foil.
Starfield of Nyx: It might be worth it just for the first part, especially when you’re playing enchantment creatures. Even if you’re just enchantment-heavy, it’s going to pay dividends. There are so many enchantments on the Can’t Get Angry list that now you can both not get angry and still have your Greater Good back.
Tragic Arrogance: Holy moly! Nothing tragic about this card at all. Being able to sculpt the board to your desires is quite something. I imagine it could become an interesting political card as well, as players start bargaining for what they want to keep.
Day’s Undoing: I was going to be cheeky and put it in the previous section, but who am I kidding. I’m finding room for it somewhere, even if I’m not playing Vedalken Orrery or Leyline of Anticipation.
Harbinger of the Tides: I have a Merfolk deck, and even if I didn’t, I’d find room for this.
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy: Well, you can’t not play the most popular of all the Planeswalkers. He’s reasonably easy to transform. The +1 ability is unexciting. The -3 is strong but not overwhelming, and the emblem does more of what Jace does. Good, useful, not broken at all.
Talent of the Telepath: Talent of the Telepath is an immediate impact card, Spell Mastery or not. Spell Mastery just makes it that much better (I still can’t get over the relatively low mana cost). Suddenly, you’re going to be a little twitchier about sculpting the top of your library or just playing the big blowout cards — especially the extra turn ones. I think I’ll try to play it alongside Dualcaster Mage.
Willbreaker: I suspect this will be one of the chase cards of the set (for Commander). It will create some interesting rules interactions – control effects always do. It occurs to me that you can target something with Yasova Dragonclaw’s trigger, then not pay for it (which I figured out looking at Yasova hoping that I could target one of my own creatures — which I can’t). Obviously, the creature doesn’t untap or gain haste, but you don’t have to give it back at EOT. There are plenty of ways to abuse Willbreaker for little or no mana — just remember to have those sacrifice outlets for when Willbreaker gets killed.
Dark Dabbling: Doesn’t seem particularly dark at all. Should be called Awesome Dabbling. In my local environment, Day of Judgment and Austere Command are more common board sweepers than Wrath of God and Damnation, so I expect to get extra mileage out of it.
Infinite Obliteration: You know there’s that one creature an opponent is playing that you absolutely have to get rid of forever. Now it doesn’t matter where it is — it can’t escape you. Love this card.
Korthophed, Soul Hoarder: I love the old-school Demons which hurt you. Yes, this can kill you since it’s not a “may.” You just have to play your sacrifice outlets and be careful when someone has one of their own, like Phyrexian Altar or Altar of Dementia, because they can sacrifice a bunch of stuff to pay the cost of activation while holding priority and you won’t have time to get rid of Korthophed before all those triggers go on the stack. Repay in Kind or loads of lifegain are probably the way to play around with the card. How about with Eternity Vessel or Platinum Emperion?
Liliana, Heretical Healer: Oh, hello, Liliana. The things we will do together, the times we will have. The graveyards we will walk through, the creatures we will reanimate.
Priest of the Blood Rite: You know this is getting sacrificed and continually reanimated, right? Who cares about the two life, I have a swarm of 5/5 Demons. And it’s a Cleric, which makes me think more about a deck featuring Rotlung Reanimator (to which I own the original art).
Shadows of the Past: We play Viscera Seer for scry value, and this is scry that doesn’t cost us a creature. The second ability is okay, but at the 1B mana cost, I would still play the card without it.
Tainted Remedy: Get wrecked, Trostani. Now you have a choice with this and Erebos, God of the Dead. You can just have people not gain life, or you can hurt them for it. Obviously, playing them together is a nonbo.
Chandra’s Ignition: Sweet Cheetos! You better have some spot removal. If not, Hamletback Goliath or Lord of Extinction is just going to kill everyone. Alternate uses include making it an emergency board-sweeper that does some damage to everyone else. It’s the creature dealing the damage, not the spell, so if it has deathtouch or lifelink you’ll get lots of mileage out of it. Or if you want to be That Guy, kill everyone with Blightsteel Colossus.
Flameshadow Conjuring: For the low, low cost of R, get a copy of your giant creature. Too bad it’s exiled instead of sacrificed — although Stalking Vengeance really doesn’t need to get even better. Obvious combos are 1) other players’ faces and 2) sacrifice outlets like Greater Good.
Evolutionary Leap: It’s not quite Survival of the Fittest, but it’s super hot. It can create engines (with a little top of the library manipulation) or simply assist with recovery from a board wipe. Personally, I like it more than Survival because I can use the creatures on the battlefield (including tokens) instead of the ones in my hand to do stuff with. Elvish Visionary or Wall of Omens, which has already done its work, gets turned into something more dangerous. Plus, a foil version isn’t going to be $300.
Llanowar Empath: I played this card when it first came out, then put it aside for other things. I think I’m going to give it another whirl, particularly in Animar, Soul of Elements, which both has lots of creatures and can (theoretically) cast them cheaply.
Managorger Hydra: Without trample, I’d be way less likely to play it. With trample, I’m rushing to get on board.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer: I’d be pleased playing this card and never doing anything with it as a planeswalker except using the +1 ability. It’s not splashy, and it’s not going to win you the game by itself. It’s going to be the hitter in the two-hole who sets up your big bats. Quietly great.
Nissa’s Pilgrimage: The reason I’m putting this here is that when I make the Do Over decks, I’m not repeating cards. Some commanders will need different ramp spells.
Reclaim: We used to play this quite a bit in the olden days, and like many cards, it fell out of favor when cooler stuff came around. Then again, Lurking Predators wasn’t around back then. It makes eminent sense in decks with LP and any deck which draws extra cards — so basically nearly every green deck in the format.
Woodland Bellower: The nonlegendary clause makes it a little less awesome (so no Saffi Eriksdottir), but Eternal Witness or Yavimaya Elder sure costs three. How about Dauntless Escort? All you need to do is dream a little.
Zendikar Incarnate: Wilderness Elemental’s less-tramply cousin, Zendikar Incarnate will just keep getting bigger as the game goes on, and you have all the control in making that happen. You’re in green, so now your late-game ramp spells are a little less dead.
Alchemist’s Vial: Perfect type of card to go into my Glissa deck: it’s cheap and it does something I want it to do while drawing cards.
Alhammaret’s Archive: Another one which I’m definitely playing that other folks might not be as excited about, I simply love it. How about a combo with Horizon Chimera? Drogskol Reaver? It might drive me to also play Venser’s Journal.
Pyromancer’s Goggles: I’m not much for using internet slang, but LOL WHUT? I might re-jigger a deck just to get this in there or simply to have it for when I want to do something crazy with Wild Ricochet. “Why, yes, I would like to copy your Genesis Wave. Twice.”
That’s 63 cards which would have previously gone on the “Will Definitely Get Played” list, more than in any recent review, nearly a quarter more than both Dragons of Tarkir and Fate Reforged — two thoroughly exciting sets for Commander. I look forward to the exercise of finding the right spot for each of them (although some are obvious) and then, naturally, battling with them. While I don’t see any cards which will redefine how we play Commander, there are plenty give us even more of the great experiences we love — and will now love even a little more — about the format.
Decks Without Comment will return after Release week.
Check out our awesome Deck List Database for the last versions of all my decks:
AURELIA GOES TO WAR;
CHILDREN of a LESSER GOD;
DEMONS OF KAALIA;
EREBOS and the HALLS OF THE DEAD;
HELIOD, GOD OF ENCHANTMENTS;
DREAMING OF INTET;
FORGE OF PURPHOROS;
KARN, BEATDOWN GOLEM;
HALLOWEEN WITH KARADOR;
KARRTHUS, WHO RAINS FIRE FROM THE SKY;
KRESH INTO THE RED ZONE;
LAZAV, SHAPESHIFTING MASTERMIND;
ZOMBIES OF TRESSERHORN;
MELEK’S MOLTEN MIND GRIND;
MERIEKE’S ESPER CONTROL;
NATH of the VALUE LEAF;
NYLEA OF THE WOODLAND REALM;
OBZEDAT, GHOST KILLER;
PURPLE HIPPOS and MARO SORCERERS;
ZEGANA and a DICE BAG;
YOU DID THIS TO YOURSELF;
RURIC THAR AND HIS BEASTLY FIGHT CLUB;
THASSA, GOD OF MERFOLK;
THE ALTAR of THRAXIMUNDAR;
TROSTANI and HER ANGELS;
THE THREAT OF YASOVA;
If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987 and is just now getting started with a new saga called “The Lost Cities of Nevinor”), ask for an invitation to the Facebook group “Sheldon Menery Monday Night Gamers.”