As we look forward to all the Magic and mystery of the coming year, I thought it would be great to look back on some of the great things we received in 2015. It was a year of excellent sets for the format, with plenty of cards which worked their way right into both our decks and our hearts. As I started taking notes on what was released in the last year, it wasn’t my intention for there to be ten cards each of the five different sets, but that’s kind of how it worked out—except Magic Origins was simply too spicy to be limited to just ten. We’ll say that I picked 54 cards because I turned 54 in 2015. Seems as good an answer as anything else. Combing the year’s cards also paid some dividends for my Ezuri deck in our Commander 2015 League: While they didn’t make the big list, Inspiring Call and Profaner of the Dead came up as new cards which I think I’ll be adding in the near future.
Speaking of adding things, I’d like to share with you one of the early pictures of the new house we’re building and should be closing on at the end of February. Of course, I wouldn’t just be sharing with you pictures of a kitchen or living room, but something relevant to you, my fellow nerds. This is a first view of what I hope will be one of the most awesome game rooms ever:
The shot is from near the top of the steps (which are to the right), standing right in the middle of where the custom RPG pit will be (low, comfortable reclining chairs in a circle). On the left wall, between the windows, is where the big-screen TV will hang; we already have four theater seats to go in front of it. The space beyond that will hold a game table centered on the far window; eventually, it may be one of those big, custom game tables from hell, but they’re super-expensive. My desk will go back in the right-hand corner. That spot will eventually become a wet bar (the builders wanted way too many dollars to do it, so we just had them do a rough-in for the time being) and I’ll move my desk to the other side of the room. That door on the right is into the full bathroom. It’s just under 800 square feet (about 87 square meters) of space. I’ll keep posting pictures as we have more progress. I hope that once we get it opened up, many of you will come to visit (and play with some of these cool cards).
For your convenience, I separated out the cards by set and alphabetized them.
(Released January 23)
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death: Alesha makes the list for both being a saucy card and her positive social impact as Magic’s first transgender character. The message of inclusion has been strong in Magic, and I hope we as a community continue to pave the way in the future. As we do, Alesha will continue to reanimate Karmic Guide with the best of them.
Archfiend of Depravity: Opponents can get out of hand sometimes with their creatures. Archfiend keeps them in line without completely wrecking them. Just be on the lookout for Sigarda, Host of Herons.
Brutal Hordechief: I would play Brutal Hordechief with the first ability alone, especially since I like attacking with large armies. The second ability takes the card to another level, making your opponents do your combat bidding.
Ghastly Conscription: I included this because some of the local players disagreed with me on how good it would be. Chris Kruse, one of the locals who agreed with me, has been showing them the error of their ways better than I could have. The card’s a winner.
Shaman of the Great Hunt: Confession time: I have a Temur problem. That probably puts me in pretty good company.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang: I’ll admit to being a little cool on Tasigur when it came out because I’m lukewarm on delve in the format. Tasigur has seen quite a bit of play locally, and I’m willing to concede that it’s pretty good.
Torrent Elemental: One of the issues in Commander can be big creature logjams. You wait for the big Overrun or Overwhelming Stampede to help you push through. Torrent Elemental clears the way turn and turn again.
Whisperwood Elemental: Given the short lifespan of creatures in some environments, I’m surprised that Whisperwood Elemental hasn’t seen even more play. Like Inspiring Call and Profaner of the Dead, it’s also made the list of cards which are likely to find their way into my Ezuri deck (especially since a number of the early picks have been board-sweepers).
Yasova Dragonclaw: Like I said, a Temur problem. In the trim, this is a card which can create interesting boardstates without being broken or oppressive. It certainly goes down as my favorite new commander of the year. With packing up stuff to move, I left out only a limited number of decks to play over the next three months or so. Yasova is one of them.
Dragons of Tarkir
Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit: Even if Anafenza hadn’t shaped the way we play locally, it would make the year’s best list solely for the game in which Anthony, one of the shop regulars, piloted it in a five-player game—against four Karador, Ghost Chieftain decks.
Clone Legion: This is in the running for 2015’s “Card Which Screams ‘Commander!’ the Loudest Award.” It’s an expensive (mana-wise) dollar rare that creates epic boardstates. It’s exactly the type of card the format loves.
Dragon Tempest: You don’t need Dragons to make Dragon Tempest worthwhile (although they’re going to maximize your beatings, as Dragons do), you just need Archetype of Imagination. Or a flying commander.
Dragonlord Silumgar: There’s certainly an argument to put all Dragonlords on this list, but Silumgar is the one which I see the most frequently, and for good reason. Stealing a planeswalker one tick from its ultimate is just too good.
Dragonlord’s Prerogative: Like you, I enjoy drawing cards. I imagine that, like me, you also like having Dragons in your hand. It seems like everyone wins.
Foul-Tongue Shriek: One of the things which prevents people from attacking with a large army is fear of the crack back from someone else. Attack with a large enough army, and Foul-Tongue Shriek will keep that from being a problem.
Profound Journey: Stuff gets destroyed in this format and you want to bring it back. Or maybe you want to build up to another emblem off of your Elspeth, Knight-Errant. Either way, Profound Journey will do double work for you. Quadruple if one of those things is Eternal Witness.
Shaman of Forgotten Ways: This card isn’t listed for what it did this year, but for what it didn’t do. When it was spoiled, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over whether it should be pre-emptively banned (since it’s kind of like Biorhythm). First, if we didn’t emergency ban Griselbrand, I doubt it’s ever going to happen for something else. Second, the card simply either takes too much mana, too much time, or too much setup to broken. It really was nothing to panic over.
Sidisi, Undead Vizier: I’m not normally all that high on tutors, but since this one comes with a cost, I see it as nicely balanced. Of course, when what you sacrifice is Lord of Extinction and you have Stalking Vengeance on the battlefield, things get dicey. Plus, it’s a Zombie Naga, which makes it unique.
Alhammaret’s Archive: It’s simple, and it’s good. Gain twice the life, draw twice the cards (except the first one on your draw step). For only one more mana than Rhox Faithmender—not to mention that because it’s not a creature it’s likely to stay around longer—you get even more effect. Combine with Well of Lost Dreams for life gaining and card drawing math you’ll need a calculator to deal with.
Chandra’s Ignition: Sure, since it’s targeted, it’ll occasionally get countered by spot removal. When it doesn’t, you’ll get giant rewards. The creature deals the damage, so if it has lifelink, you gain life equal to its power times the number of creatures on the battlefield. With deathtouch, you can wipe out armies.
Dark Dabbling: One of the few commons to make the list, Dark Dabbling is straightforward and effective. Spell mastery is a fine mechanic, and given the number of turns and spells which get played in a normal Commander game, you’re likely to have it turned on for a good portion of it. There are enough board wipes which allow you to regenerate—such as Austere Command and all damage effects, like Blasphemous Act—for Dark Dabbling to be worthwhile.
Day’s Undoing: In decks like my You Did This to Yourself, you’re not casting too much on your own turn anyway. A three-mana hand-filler is outstanding. You can also use the spell to get around any awkward “you must attack” problems. It’s a card which requires some thought to play, but is well worth the effort.
Elemental Bond: Drawing cards for doing the things you’re already doing—like playing good creatures—is like it being Christmas every day. We all love Garruk’s Packleader. Imagine how much we’d love it if it didn’t die to Wrath of God.
Evolutionary Leap: One of the most talked-about cards of the year, it’s most frequently compared to Survival of the Fittest—against which nearly any card has trouble measuring up. Nonetheless, it’s a way to turn creatures about to die into suitable replacements. It obviously has value in putting creatures into the graveyard if you want them there, or turning tokens into something better. It occurs to me I might want to put this in my Yasova Dragonclaw deck.
Hallowed Moonlight: A two-mana cantrip which will blow out someone? High value. This is probably a good time to point out that Tooth and Nail isn’t optional (there’s no “may”), “up to two” means they can choose 0. Still, it’s probably worth it. The card is obviously better against things which put tokens onto the battlefield, such as Storm Herd and this list’s own Clone Legion. Very rarely is Hallowed Moonlight a dead draw.
Kothophed, Soul Hoarder: I like Demons that can hurt you. They have that feel we got from Magic in its earliest days. Sure, Demons will do good things for you, but the potential downsides always loom. Since you’re already playing black, you probably have sacrifice outlets anyway, meaning you can get rid of Kothophed before it gets too dangerous. Of course, you can always just play Repay in Kind.
Liliana, Heretical Healer: There are any number of planeswalkers which are very good, but you’re not really that frightened of their ultimate. The transformed version of this, Liliana, Defiant Necromancer, is scary beyond belief. I guess that goes right with the backstory. The only way to deal with the emblem once the player gets it is to kill them, which is kind of difficult when they have all your creatures.
Tainted Remedy: Sure, there are some cheesy combos with it, but lifegain can get out of hand sometimes. I have no problem with shutting it down (although Erebos, God the Dead is probably the better choice there). Rampant lifegain is somewhat mitigated by the presence of commander damage, but there are some commanders who aren’t likely to deal 21 over the course of the game (like Adun Oakenshield or even Karador, Ghost Chieftain).
The Great Aurora: The Great Green Reset Button has limiting factors. First, it costs nine. Second, it exiles itself. Some folks have argued that it’s a little too much like Upheaval in that the caster gets to float mana and do additional things (especially since the lands enter the battlefield untapped), but that analogy breaks down because the opponents also get to float mana and have untapped lands. It’s strong, but not broken.
Willbreaker: Oh, Willbreaker, the days we have already seen together. I got great mileage out of it while spell-slinging at Grand Prix Atlanta and expect even more tomfoolery with it in future times. I’d just warn you to be careful with Cauldron of Souls. It might not turn out how you hope. I swear I’m going to put Sea Kings’ Blessing into a deck with this card. I’ll do it.
Battle for Zendikar
Catacomb Sifter: You’ll have noticed by now that cards don’t necessarily have to be splashy to make my list. This one is simply solid and lets you have plenty of library control.
Hedron Archive: Perfect. This is a nearly perfect card. It helps get you running and then when you’re firing on all cylinders, replaces itself plus one. It’s not going to win games on its own, but it’s sure going to help you along.
Kiora, Master Of The Depths: Untapping a creature seems like such a simple thing. When that creature is something like Arcanis the Omnipotent, it’s something special. And how can you not love something that creates Octopi?
Omnath, Locus of Rage: Sometimes, you want a commander that does convoluted things. Sometimes, you just want to rage. This Omnath will help you there. Some would argue that it’s a little too straightforward and leads to the same kind of games over and over. It’s on this list because, to some extent, it will set the pace in the games in which it is played. It’s deliciously savage without being too oppressive.
Sire of Stagnation: There’s something to be said for a card which offers an incentive for your opponents to not play additional lands. It costs enough that it doesn’t come out too early, which is a nice balancing factor. You don’t even need to do things which give your opponents lands. They’ll play enough on their own.
Smothering Abomination: What’s not to love about drawing cards for sacrificing creatures? You can draw an extra card with Greater Good. In fact, the card you draw off of Smothering Abomination comes before the cards you draw from Bene Supremo (that’s Greater Good in Italian, an infinitely better name), meaning you have an extra one to choose from with the cards you’ll pitch.
Ugin’s Insight: Even though it’s a sorcery, getting to pick from the top X cards of your library is worth it not being an Instant. Even if your highest converted mana cost permanent gets nuked in response, you’ll still draw three, making it a low risk, higher reward card.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger: Just like on Zendikar, when Ulamog shows up in your game, things get ugly. What makes this card dangerous is it doesn’t have the graveyard trigger clause its cousin does, meaning that it can be binned and then reanimated. It’s why you have to have both graveyard hate and exile effects at your command.
Zulaport Cutthroat: Blood Artist-type effects are right up my alley. I like creating situations where either my creatures kill you or you get killed for killing my creatures. In the case of Zulaport Cutthroat, you take everyone else with you.
Arachnogenesis: There are only two words you need to know: Spider and Fog. Note that you can Fog any combat, you only get Spiders for the creatures attacking you. Kudos to the Commander 2015 design and/or development teams. I will heart forever Spider Fog.
Blade of Selves: This finally hit play in one of our Commander 2015 League games. Even in the Boros deck, which doesn’t have too much that’s particularly scary to copy, everyone got a little panicky. Fortunately, someone had artifact removal, and that was that.
Command Beacon: Even if you only use it once in a game, it’s always worth it. Another clever piece of design for the team. Here’s hoping it’s a 2017 Judge foil.
Corpse Augur: Someone is going to have the right number creatures in their graveyard for you. Just be careful to make sure no one can dump their library into their graveyard as an instant.
Ezuri’s Predation: You have both Beasts and fighting. Combine with one of the other cards on the list, Elemental Bond, for some serious card draw.
Illusory Ambusher: This card makes the list because it generated perhaps the most epic play of the year, when I attacked Commander 2015 League member Michael Fortino with it and a bunch of other stuff for lethal damage. Unfortunately for me, he blocked it with everything he had—which was more power than I had cards left in my graveyard. It was a hard lesson learned, but a mistake I will not repeat.
Mirror Match: Should be called Blowout Match—although you have to remember that it won’t copy effects like Overrun or counters. You will, however, get triggers, such as the one on Craterhoof Behemoth.
Mystic Confluence: I was rather ambivalent about the other Confluences, but this one is straight up the bomb due to its superior flexibility. It’s another that I want to see in foil sometime soon.
Pathbreaker Ibex: It’s a Goat, you see. A tramply, tramply battle Goat. It’s also the only green Goat in Magic. Now all we need is a legendary one.
As you can see by this list, 2015 was a fantastic year for the format. We got cards we wanted, cards we needed, and cards we never even dreamed of. Here’s hoping to getting more of the same in 2016.
This week’s Deck Without Comment is my favorite deck of the year, The Threat of Yasova.
- 1 Erhnam Djinn
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
- 1 Avalanche Riders
- 1 Wood Elves
- 1 Keiga, the Tide Star
- 1 Memnarch
- 1 Yavimaya Elder
- 1 Nullmage Advocate
- 1 Coiling Oracle
- 1 Sower of Temptation
- 1 Woodfall Primus
- 1 Dominus of Fealty
- 1 Hellkite Charger
- 1 Oracle of Mul Daya
- 1 Roil Elemental
- 1 Conquering Manticore
- 1 Nin, the Pain Artist
- 1 Riku of Two Reflections
- 1 Zealous Conscripts
- 1 Maelstrom Wanderer
- 1 Rubblehulk
- 1 Molten Primordial
- 1 Djinn of Infinite Deceits
- 1 Forgestoker Dragon
- 1 Xenagos, God of Revels
- 1 Jeering Instigator
- 1 Shaman of the Great Hunt
- 1 Willbreaker
- 1 Goblin Bombardment
- 1 Read the Runes
- 1 Sword of Light and Shadow
- 1 Sword of Fire and Ice
- 1 Savage Beating
- 1 Grab the Reins
- 1 Fling
- 1 Explosive Vegetation
- 1 Aggravated Assault
- 1 Nature's Lore
- 1 Greater Good
- 1 Shivan Harvest
- 1 Mnemonic Nexus
- 1 Perilous Forays
- 1 Perilous Research
- 1 Garruk Wildspeaker
- 1 Carnage Altar
- 1 Bear Umbra
- 1 Momentous Fall
- 1 World at War
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 Praetor's Counsel
- 1 Birthing Pod
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Conjurer's Closet
- 1 Ranger's Path
- 1 Cyclonic Rift
- 1 Bow of Nylea
- 1 Life's Legacy
- 1 Volcanic Offering
- 1 Turn Against
- 1 Aethersnatch
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’s Monday Night Gamers.”