Wahoo! Mirrodin Besieged is almost upon us and, as usual, I’m as super-stoked as I am whenever any new Magic set is released. My favorite Magic
set ever continues to be “the latest set.” While I do have a few brand new Standard brews featuring some of the new cards, I’m not
going to talk about them here yet to make sure that there aren’t any RTFC moments that overexcitement tends to bring. Today, I want to talk about
MBS’s impact on Commander, and yes I’ve got something to say about the Blightsteel Colossus debate!
Before I get to it, I wanted to give a shout-out to a new blog that’s gone up dedicated to multiplayer and casual Magic called Muse Vessel, put together by three guys who got to know each other through the StarCityGames.com Talent
Search. I have corresponded quite a bit with Brandon Isleib (Seedborn Muse) via email and during the Johnny Fever Project, and he’s a smart and
creative deckbuilder. I like what they’ve cooked up so far, so check ’em out!
The first thing fans of Commander check for in each new set are the new legends we can build decks around. Interestingly, there are only two in MBS,
and both are green!
I predict Glissa is going to be a popular commander. Not only is black and green a very strong color combination in the format, but Glissa herself is
obviously a high-quality, efficient creature pushed for Constructed with a triggered ability that’s especially tempting to build around in
Commander—start with Executioner’s Capsule, Engineered Explosives, and Ratchet Bomb and go from there. Her static abilities are a lethal
combination that makes her nearly impossible to profitably block, so if your opponent doesn’t have a steady stream of chump blockers to throw in
front of her, she’s liable to “get in there” a lot more easily than other generals. Sure, three points of commander damage means
she’s going to take seven hits to kill a player… but we can surely find ways to pump her power now can’t we?
Another high-quality, efficient creature pushed for Constructed, I suspect Thrun will be more popular in the 99-card side of the deck as opposed to the
commander. Yeah, he can’t be countered, and yeah he can’t be targeted, and yeah he can regenerate… but he doesn’t really do anything cool as compared to other green legends available. Of course, if you’re just building a green good-stuff Commander deck
chock full of your favorite cards, Thrun isn’t a terrible choice by any means; he’s just not something you’d build your deck around
to use and abuse.
By the time this column goes up, the Blightsteel Colossus debate that started on Twitter between Rosewater and Chapin and then got ignited by Geordie
Tait may have very well died down, but what the heck—here are my thoughts. Flavor-wise, I get what it’s here for, a major plot point to
viscerally demonstrate that things look particularly bad for the Mirrans because the villains look nearly unstoppable.
On a side note, I think it might have been even more interesting if maybe Darksteel Colossus showed up as a reprint; after all, the indestructible
artifact creatures have interesting tension against infect creatures—sure, you can’t destroy them with damage, but they can eventually be
shrunk to death. So, if Darksteel dudes eventually get shrunk to nothingness when battling infect dudes, then why not make bring out the biggest dude?
Or maybe make a new indestructible monster that has the “can’t have counters placed on it” clause?
Play-wise, in Standard, it’s more or less another Eldrazi—an expensive Big Bad available to end games if you want to put forth the effort.
If you’re going to play the card (by ramping for instance), then the Eldrazi likely get the nod; if you’re cheating out—especially
with haste—BSC presents a strong choice. In older formats, it’s more or less the same thing, a cog of your game-winning combo machine.
What about Commander? I know there’s the concern that BSC swings and potentially kills in one hit, and there’s talk of needing to ban it
like Emrakul was banned.
My initial response is this: I’ve played poison in Commander, and it takes some serious work to pull it off. I’ve played Skithiryx as my
general; yes he’s scary, and yes I’ve killed people with him using poison counters, but there are far more egregious things you can do in
Commander than to play this BSC. Emrakul offended on multiple fronts: when played it from your hand, it represented an uncounterable Time Walk, an
effect that’s grossly unfair in multiplayer formats. When attacking, the annihilator ability represented devastation to a player’s board
position without actually killing him right away, like a cat breaking a mouse’s back and then playing with it for an hour or two before getting
around to putting it out of its misery. Complaints aside, you can’t argue that at least an unblocked hit from Blightsteel Colossus represents a
clean kill. Emrakul swings your way, you’re stuck at the table crippled and mostly a non-factor unless you get extremely lucky. BSC hits and at
least you get to run next door for a beer and a bite to eat before the next game.
BSC represents at best one player kill per attack step. There are plenty of creatures that can do the same, and while they’re scary and typically raise
concern when they hit the table, they aren’t unbalancing or unfun. They raise the stakes, get people worried, and change the political dynamics
of the table.
A last thought—one thing I liked about the Eldrazi is that they showed us just what a big, scary creature can look like if you’re willing
to pay that ridiculous amount of mana for it. I’ll add BSC to that camp—for twelve mana, this is the sort of monster you can get. Think
about some of the high-end creatures from the past—Autochthon Wurm and Draco didn’t exactly have you quaking in your boots, did they? Now
take a step back—Emrakul, Blightsteel Colossus—these are some big, bad, scary mothers… that any color deck can cast! So what
are we going to get the next time Wizards wants to make a big, scary monster with colored mana? Typically, you get more for colored mana than you do
with colorless, right? I for one can’t wait to see what sort of epic beast 9GGGG* might give us!
First off, this guy is adorable, and I imagine the artist will be making quite a few mods of this in the coming years. Auriok Windwalker is a handy
card that’s often quite useful in equipment-centric decks, especially for expensive equip costs or instant-speed shenanigans. Throw in ways to untap
(Thousand-Year Elixir for instance), and you can have real fun.
If you haven’t played with some of the new proliferate cards, you ought to give them a try—they tend to be extremely useful for numerous
types of counters. Core Prowler makes for a decent chump blocker with benefits, effectively shrinking the attacker by -3/-3 and adding counters to
This nutty card is going to thrill some players and drive some players nuts. While it resembles Eye of the Storm, I actually think it’s a much
more manageable card in multiplayer. The key to really abusing this thing is to have plenty of cheap instants and perhaps a way to manipulate the top
of your own library.
At first blush, this looks a lot like Minion Reflector but for artifacts instead of creatures. However, take another look—these copies stick
around! If an artifact is worth playing in your deck to begin with, another copy is sure to be welcome if you’ve got an extra two mana lying
around. Equipment, Sol Ring… Sensei’s Divining Top? Nooooooo….!!!
A colorless Maro that pings everyone when you draw a card? Yeah, I can smell the Johnnies going to work on this one! Start with Memory Jar; add a dash
Keep an eye on me I shimmer on horizons
I shimmer on horizons
A shimmer on horizons
A shimmer in your eyes, son
A shimmer in your eye
I mainly wanted to quote from a song by one of my favorite bands… that came out while most of you were probably small children. Still, anyone
happen to know it? Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?
The card itself is sure to see play in any artifact-heavy deck, since anyone who’s played Vedalken Orrery knows just how wonderful it feels to
not be constrained by your main phase for casting certain spells.
It ain’t all that fancy, and it won’t win the game on its own… but I really dig this card. With some way to sacrifice it or blink it,
you’ve got a reusable Desert Twister, and that’s always going to be handy. Plus the artwork and the name are intriguing—who the heck
is Ish Sah with a spine that lies across the hills like that?! And who the heck ripped out his spine and tossed it across the hills like that?!
I’m pretty high on this card for Constructed and for Commander—giving you a reusable source of card advantage (hand destruction) plus some
serious mana advantage is an amazing combination of abilities. When thinking about this card, we really need to stress how good it’s going to be
to play it, equip it, attack, and (assuming you deal combat damage) then untap all your mana. Basically, you got to cast the Sword and equip it for
free! Is this Sword going to become a fixture in all Omnath Commander decks? Oh, you know it will!
As always, artifacts tend to be some of the most exciting new cards for Commander, since they’re easy to put into any deck, and this new Mirrodin block
is just stuffed to the gills with fun artifacts. Still, there are also a handful of colored Magic cards in Mirrodin Besieged that seem particularly
good for Commander decks. Below are those I think will quickly prove to be new staples of the format.
Strategies that produce hordes of token creatures are fairly popular in Commander, and this land will easily slot into those decks, making that swarm
of 1/1s doubly scary when they attack. Even outside of token decks, the incremental benefits can add up; remember how I mentioned it would take seven
hits for Glissa to kill someone with commander damage? Backed with Contested War Zone, you can shave a turn off. Finally, let’s not discount the
fact that you can use this to boost anyone’s attacking creatures, not just your own, which makes Warzone a nice little political card as icing on
Another global sweeper for those who want one, though keep in mind that “destroy” doesn’t necessarily sweep everyone into the
graveyard (see Thrun above). There are enough “cannot be regenerated” sweepers out there that tend to take precedent in
Commander—after all, if you want the board reset, you want the board reset, right? That’s why you see cards like Wrath of God and
Rout played over Day of Judgment.
On the flip side, there are plenty of global resets that do allow regeneration, and sometimes you might want to build your deck to take advantage of
that loophole by adding plenty of regeneration effects. Phyrexian Rebirth would fit perfectly into that mold. But let’s take a look at this card
from another angle. It’s not just a new spin on Kirtar’s Wrath, another six-mana sweeper that sometimes gave you two 1/1 flying Spirit
tokens. You’re basically getting a psuedo-Lhurgoyf gift-wrapped with your Day of Judgment, which is a pretty sweet and synergistic bargain if you
think about it. Just keep in mind that the X/X Horror token is only as big as the creatures that died to Phyrexian Rebirth.
Blue Sun’s Zenith
Stroke of Genius is always a handy card in slow, multiplayer formats, and while Blue Sun’s Zenith is more intensely blue, it’s also just
flat out better. If you’ve played Stroke of Genius in a singleton deck before, you often felt terrible the times you had to burn it off where X=1
or 2 just to dig for land drops, but with Blue Sun’s Zenith, there’s none of that tension—if you need a card or cards, just burn it
off, shuffle it back in, and it’ll be waiting for you when you get the mana for the big card infusion later in the game.
Speaking of big card infusion… this Sphinx is just crazy nuts. A lot of people are comparing it to Mind’s Eye, but personally I’m not
a big fan of Mind’s Eye—that artifact tends to slow you down and make you more concerned with conserving mana and drawing cards over, you
know, actually spending mana and playing cards. If you think about it, the effective mana cost of Mind’s Eye is six, since you rarely play it
without leaving at least one mana up to draw at least one card off it before it gets destroyed. Now, for six mana, you get a 4/6 flier and a
double-strength Mind’s Eye with no mana constraints on the benefits. It’s even a “may” effect so you don’t accidentally
deck yourself. This card is insane, and if you’re not playing a copy of this card in any blue Commander deck, you’re doing it wrong.
Personally, I’m much more fond of blue’s copying abilities rather than its stealing abilities, but you can’t deny how effective
stealing cards can be in Commander. Corrupted Conscience is one of the stronger Control Magic variants around—stealing an opposing creature and
giving it infect can be a huge two-for-one, making for a scary blocker and potentially a game-ending attacker eventually. Nice Kozilek you got there,
can I borrow it? Thanks! One thing I can’t wait to pull off one day—ditching this into the graveyard in response to the Open the Vaults
cast by the Uril, the Miststalker player and cackling evilly…
Trinket Mage is cute and all in Commander, fetching up your Sol Ring or your annoying Sensei’s Divining Top, but Treasure Mage is going to go get
all the great, higher-cost artifacts that make the big, splashy haymaker plays the format is all about!
Black Sun’s Zenith
If you’re annoyed at the jerk who loves to abuse Cauldron of Souls and persist – and I’m the first to admit to being just such a
jerk… loves me some persist! – Black Sun’s Zenith is here to rain -1/-1 counters on your parade. Even if you don’t have the
mana to kill everything threatening on the table, just being able to shrink everyone by -2/-2 or -3/-3 can really buy you lots of breathing room.
If one or more players at your table regularly break out their token decks, Massacre Wurm is the perfect tool for punishing them for it, especially if
they also run a lot of sacrificing effects. It’s also going to be sometimes effective to shrink a defender’s creatures before attacking
You know all those artifacts I talked about above? Expect to see a lot more artifacts popping up around your Commander table… and then get all
meta-medieval on their ass with this lead pipe and blowtorch red spell!
Red Sun’s Zenith
I talked about this card for Commander in the preview for it here on Star City…
Green Sun’s Zenith
You’re kidding me, right? This card is just nuts in any format, and I can’t wait to get my hands on eight copies. Yep, eight copies—a
playset for my Constructed tournament decks and then copies to slot into multiple green-based Commander decks. I’m not real big on tutor effects
for Commander—I consider them time-hogs and a violation of the principles of singleton—and I prefer raw card drawing or top-of-the-library
manipulation over tutors. That’s why you won’t see Survival of the Fittest in my Commander decks outside of the Spikier, more cutthroat
builds. I just might have to make an exception to my rule for this card though.
My point about proliferate (under Core Prowler above) stands here with Plaguemaw Beast—you’re going to be surprised how often proliferate
is going to be useful to you in Commander, so much so that cards with counters are going to catch your eye more often when combing through your
Commander stock. There are a lot of fun things you can do with the Beast—my first thought was combining it with Orochi Hatchery, and he’s
got to be a gimme for our new Thelon fungus decks, right?
While he’s not quite as good as Sakura-Tribe Elder, he’s close—a good chump blocker, mana fixer and accelerator, all in a nice
Before I wrap things up, I did want to touch on a couple cards that, while they may not be what I’d call “staples,” they’re no doubt
high-impact cards that you’ll very likely see at your Commander table.
While you can’t really make a Tezzeret deck, you can certainly make an artifact-heavy blue and black deck where Tezzeret feels right at home.
Don’t forget to add plenty of proliferate cards to help Tez’s loyalty!
My jaw literally dropped open in shock when I saw this card, and it humbled me. All too often I get upset because it seems that green gets the short
end of the stick when it comes to powerful cards, especially when it comes to non-creature spells. Praetor’s Counsel is stuffed to the gills with
power, and there’s no doubt that the spell is very, very green—it’s not going to be so easy to splash this card into a five-color
control deck. For Commander, this card is just sick—scooping up your entire graveyard and then gaining a free ReliquaryTower effect that never
goes away? Sign me up! Combine with Greater Good and Multani, Maro-Sorcerer just for starters…
I’m not yet totally stoked about this card for Constructed applications, but as someone pointed out on Twitter, just think about this card with
Scroll Rack (along with Sylvan Library and Sensei’s Divining Top). Um yeah—I’ll buy that! What about Congregation at Dawn? What about
I sure hope you all are able to get out to the Mirrodin Besieged Prerelease nearest you and start stocking up new cards for your Commander
decks. I’m not going to be working the Richmond Prerelease this year—Star City is fully staffed to the point where they don’t really
need local volunteers to help with administrative duties. It was kind of shocking when I thought about it… this will be the first time in about
eight years where I won’t be working a Prelease—that’s something like a 30-Prerelease streak! An end to an era personally, and
it’s left me feeling a little sad and nostalgic. I’ve got the kids this weekend, but I may try to swing by to say hello anyway and see what
sick cards people have cracked out of their faction packs. I know I at least want to stop by and see our esteemed new editor (and Limited Information columnist) Steve Sadin, who’ll be
manning the gunslinging table at the Richmond prerelease. Maybe I’ll see you there too?
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen), I check it often so feel free to send me
feedback, ideas, and random thoughts on Magic and life.
New to Commander?
If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
Commander Primer Part 1
(Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
Commander Primer Part 2
(Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
Commander Primer Part 3
(Power vs Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
My current Commander decks
(and links to decklists)
- Vorosh, the Hunter (proliferaTION)
- Uril, the Miststalker (my “more competitive” deck)