PAX Commanderus

Sheldon Menery goes through all of the Khans of Tarkir news and reviews what impact the mechanics and the world will have on everyone’s favorite casual format!

Fetchlands and a few other sweet cards from the upcoming Khans of Tarkir were spoiled at PAX this past weekend. Already officially spoiled is a sweet new
Mardu legendary creature with an awesome name, Zurgo Helmsmasher. The spoilers have inspired me to talk about three things: the nature of fetchlands and if
they’re necessary to playing the format; the mechanics in the set and their impact for us; some early ideas for building Helmsmasher decks.


The short answer is no, they’re not required. In fact, they’re not required even for “good” decks. People obsess about manabases, which is reasonable,
since you want to cast all those cool spells you have in your hand. That fetchlands have value is irrefutable. You get the land you want or need-into play
untapped if you need-and you thin your deck by an additional card, giving you more of a chance to draw gas. Using them gives you a mathematical advantage
in the game. This mathematical advantage is extremely important in competitions, where you generate every advantage you can, no matter how tiny. No
argument. The thing that people ignore is just how much advantage they’re gaining (and let’s assume we’re not talking about landfall decks or some other
kind of “lands matter” deck, where the fetching has a purpose). The answer is very little. The numbers experts can tell us exactly, but that slice of
advantage you’re getting is very thin, so much so that you’re not actually going to see it be meaningful in enough games until you play lots of them with
the same exact deck. Sure, having a fetch in your opener means that you can sculpt your early mana exactly how you need it-but it’s important only if
you’re immediately casting spells using the land you fetch. Otherwise, Terramorphic Expanse is going to do nearly as good a job (yes, I’m aware that it
can’t get dual lands or shocklands).

I realized about a year ago that most of my decks didn’t care about the minute details of the manabase. You’ll notice in the neighborhood of twenty basic
lands in many of my decks. I had the colored mana that I needed to cast my stuff. Fetchlands weren’t significantly helping me do it more consistently. I
sold a fist full of them off because I thought the prices they were fetching (see what I did there?) was kind of crazy high and didn’t think it could be
maintained. I kept them in the one landfall deck I have, but honestly haven’t missed them in other decks. Even when their availability (in foil!) is
greater and cost is cheaper, I doubt I think too hard about adding them back in.

The TL;DR message here is that while I think fetchlands are pretty cool, I don’t think that everyone has to stress about running out to get them so that
they can play in the format. The good news is that they’ll now be available and affordable, so if you have a real jones for them you’ll be able to get them
without selling a kidney.

This discussion of fetchlands also brings up a discussion of how to fetch. In a multiplayer game, if you’re not going to fetch on your own turn, don’t wait
until the end of turn of the player on your right. You’re just wasting everyone’s time. We have a local rule about any kind of library search (and this
includes using Sensei’s Divining Top). You search on the turn of the player immediately after you, not the player immediately before you, and you reserve
the right to change your mind if the boardstate changes. It’s as simple as that. Yes, I understand that it’s strategically advantageous to wait until the
last possible minute (much of the time; sometimes it’s a wash). That’s why the extra clause is in there. You Top or Tutor now, then if something major
happens, you can get something different. We also rule that if you searched early and put something on top of your library and then get milled, that card
stays on top; you just mill what was below it. This isn’t too much to keep track of and it saves piles of time (especially if you’re not sure of what
you’re going to tutor for). Part of helping everyone to have fun is to keep the game going at a brisk pace. If I’m playing a deck with Land Tax in it, I’ll
ask if anyone is planning on blowing up my Land Tax before my next upkeep. If they stay no and I don’t have any draw abilities up, I’ll go get the three
basic lands. If I know the order of the top of my library, I’ll set that aside in case Land Tax does somehow get blown up, and just shuffle the lands back
into the random portion. Obviously, you can only do this with people you trust to not abuse or cheat it, but I suspect that the level of trust is already
there with local groups who play together all the time. Otherwise, why play with them?


Rules Manager Matt Tabak has already posted an article about
them, and you should read it. You should also follow him on all social media, because he’s awesome and funny. You should most definitely not troll him
about rules interactions with Celestial Dawn. Let’s take a look first at the returning mechanics and then the new ones.

Delve: I love the idea of Future Sight mechanics being realized in later sets. I’m still waiting to assemble a contraption though. Unless we also get more
cards that bring stuff back from exile, I don’t see the mechanic making a splash on Commander since we like our graveyards intact, thanks, so that we can
use them later.

It’s always Willbender. We see a fair amount of the mechanic already in Commander, and if the cards we get are good, then we’ll see it a little more. From
the officially-spoiled cards, Thousand Winds looks spicy, since you can combine it with Cryptic Command or any of a multitude of tappers and end up
sweeping the board of creatures which aren’t yours (but be careful if you’re using Opposition to do this). The coolest part of it all is the sweet morph
overlay. I’m a sucker for bling in my decks (which is strange, since I don’t bling out anything else in my life-I wear very little jewelry, and my car
looks just like it came from the factory), I love having the appropriate tokens, etc. I have one of those larger UltraPro padded boxes to carry decks in.
One slot is reserved for tokens-and I make sure that I carry the tokens that go with the decks which I’m taking for the week. The overlay will go right
into that slot.

I expect this mechanic to be super-important in KTK Limited. I expect it to have little to no significance in Commander. We might see a few of the outlast
cards played because of the ability they grant to creatures with +1/+1 counters on them since there are quite a few decks that love the counters, to
include popular commanders like Animar, Soul of Elements, and Kresh, the Bloodbraided, but without having earth-shattering activated abilities, I doubt we
see them much. The Sorcery speed activation will be a primary factor in keeping them on the sideline.

Prowess is another mechanic which I see making a huge impact on Limited but not so much for us. It just doesn’t do enough in a format where the combat math
is, shall we say, looser.

I’ll have to see a few more cards before I make a call on raid. We’ve seen spoiled the one that gives you Mardu’s RWB mana, but since that’s less than the
cost of the card that does it (which costs 3R), I don’t see infinite mana possibilities-although White is the color of blinking, so there’s that. I’m not
going to speculate on specific abilities they might attach to raid cards, but I can certainly see stapling on existing abilities (something like
Flametongue Kavu or Shriekmaw comes to mind). One that would inspire me to play raid would be something that grants additional combat steps.

We already have the five-power matters of Alara block, and this is four-power matters. It’s certainly easier to have, so I expect that the abilities aren’t
going to be quite as explosive as some of those can be. That said, I think this might be the mechanic that has the greatest impact on the format. Creatures
with four power are everywhere. If the abilities are better than Heir of the Wilds, and with the inclusion of instants and sorceries, I suspect they will
be, I fully expect to see some really cool ferocious cards.

Matt also makes a note about the new way modal spells and abilities will be printed on cards. He even uses the word “snazzy,” which you don’t get to hear
every day. I’ve been waiting for this kind of change for a long time. The easily-recognizable breakdown of the bulleted list is far superior to the
previous condensed form. It probably presented some typesetting challenges, but it’s a great upgrade for players. The card he uses to demonstrate it,
Sultai Charm, is going to get played in Commander. One-for-one spells are generally less useful in multiplayer formats than they are in 1v1. The
flexibility Sultai Charm brings mitigates some of the inherent disadvantage one-for-ones bring. Destroying a monocolored creature isn’t going to kill too
many commanders, but especially being able to kill black creatures AND artifact creatures, which has been historically difficult to do with black spells,
make it worth the one mana more than you’d pay for Go For the Throat. Tack on the choice of Disenchant and Catalog (as an instant), and you have quite a
nice card.

Zurgo Helmsmasher

We finally have an inexpensive Mardu colored commander that’s not Kaalia of the Vast, who evokes quite a bit of hatred among some players. Zurgo will
indeed smash some helms, and some faces as well. Even without seeing too many other Khans of Tarkir cards, a few ideas for building Zurgo decks spring to
mind. He must attack, and he’s indestructible on your turn, so those ideas will, for the most part, be aggressive.

Classic Voltron
: Use equipment to build Zurgo into a monster, maybe something that can one-shot someone with commander damage. Champion’s Helm seems like a perfect fit.
From here, you can go with your favorite flavors of equipment, from Argentum Armor to Tenza, Godo’s Maul (which gives him trample since he’s red). It’s
kind of a linear strategy but can frequently be loads of fun.

Zurgo Stoutarm
: A different kind of Voltron build, where you still pile equipment (and maybe enchantments) up on him, but you fire the damage right at faces with
Surestrike Trident. This obviously keeps you from attacking as well, unless you have something to give him vigilance or untap him (like Thousand-Year
Elixir). Thornbite Staff plus Basilisk Collar also seems like a bit of hilarity.

: This idea would have you killing with commander damage but without necessarily buffing up Zurgo. It would use the removal of Zurgo’s colors to keep
control of the battlefield. You can cast anything that deals damage to creatures on your own turn, such as Chain Reaction or Blasphemous Act, and since
Zurgo is indestructible, he lives through the fire, now free to crush. Just be wary of Wing Shards (a criminally underplayed card). Other weapons in your
arsenal include blinking Zurgo and playing a Wrath of God effect, simply playing “creatures can’t block” like with Bedlam, or the also
criminally-underplayed Order // Chaos.

Zurgo Creature-Killer:
How about taking the Thornbite Staff/Basilisk Collar (or anything that gives him deathtouch-but let’s be honest, Basilisk Collar is the clear winner
because it’s cheap and has TWO abilities) to the next level? Burning Anger from M15 fits the bill. Deatbringer Thoctar also has a place in such a deck, as
does Olivia Voldaren. Hopefully Khans will have some “moves +1/+1 counters around” stuff as well. Unfortunately, all the good Lure effects are in Green,
which isn’t in the deck’s color identity.

Just a quick look through the cards which have to this point been officially spoiled shows us that there are going to be some fine cards for Commander in
Khans of Tarkir. (I already know of folks working on ideas for the other already-spoiled potential commander Narset, Enlightened Master.) Keep an eye on
all the writers here on Star City Games. You never know who will pop up with one of the spoilers.

For those of you who have been following the Monday Night Gamers, I’ll tell you that we’re wrapping up the Awakening Almuric Saga just a few hours
after I send in these pages. Afterward, we’ll be going on hiatus through the fall semester because I’m taking a fiction writing class that only meets on
Monday night. It’s with an instructor who I have heard is outstanding, and as much as I love the campaign, school comes first. We’ll be back after the
first of the year with a new saga with new characters, The Lost Cities of Nevinor. Thanks for your interest and support up to this point, and
we’ll see you in January (with some updates between now and then about character creation and saga setup).

Interestingly enough, this article started as a write-up of me changing Oros, the Avenger into Kaalia of the Vast. About a paragraph in, I realized that I
had already written it six months ago. It still seems reasonable that this week’s Deck Without Comment is the new version, Demons of Kaalia.

Demons of Kaalia
Sheldon Menery
Test deck on 01-08-2014

If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987), ask for an invitation to the Facebook
group “Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”

Here is the latest database version of all my decks: