[Editor’s Note: Somehow Bennie’s expected excitement and joy over the new Commander Deck products got mixed in with the rants of
some cranky old curmudgeon…]
Man, these Commander decks have hit my Magical palette like crab cake jambalaya passing the lips of a starving man. Just tons of awesome stuff, great
brand new cards, and some fantastic reprints. Each preview card and tidbit of information gave me something more to get excited about. These decks are
so well put-together that I’m keeping three of them intact for whenever anyone wants to play some lower-power fun games of Commander. Did you
hear the Wizards guys on the Zombie Radio podcast? They did a live cast of a game playing these decks against each other, and it sounded like a lot of
fun! It was cool to see the various personalities of the Wizards guys coming through in their gameplay.
If you’re like me, the slow reveal of the contents of the new Commander product has been a constant barrage of wincing. The two key questions
that rotate through my mind with each passing bit of information is “why did they make that?” and “why didn’t they include
Zedruu The Awesome
I was certainly curious what a Legendary Creature – Minotaur Monk would be, and who knew he’d be such a loving, giving soul! There’s
even been a poem dedicated to his generous ways on Magic Lampoon…
It is the will of Zedruu that you should have … this Howling Mine.
I bequeath it to you.
While you possess it, it shall draw both of us extra cards.
I’m going to gain a life now.
It is the will of Zedruu that you should have … these Goblin Cadets.
May they serve you well. Although they flinch in battle, they occasionally reach through to an opponent.
I want you to have them.
I will be over here, drawing extra cards.
It gets even better from there…
We saw the art for this card a while ago. The fact that it turned out to actually be a pretty cool card does not excuse the gross Vorthos
negligence of drawing a Minotaur as a freakin’ goat. Minotaurs are supposed to have a bull’s head on a humanoid body, and there’s
a pretty big difference between a bull head and a goat head. A bull will gore your ass and stomp your entrails into the dust; a goat will chew on
cans and bleat. Yes, the Monk class suggests a less violent specimen of Minotaur, but that doesn’t change the fact that her mama and daddy
were bull-headed badasses. Even a Gandhi Minotaur would still look like he could rip you a new one.
Can I Ghave Some More Please?
I can’t wait to build a deck around Ghave, Guru of Spores! He’s such a fantastic build-around-me general that neatly bridges the gap
between all the awesome cards that deal in +1/+1 counters (Spikes, Allies, Graft, Amplify, Devour, Bloodthirst) and Saprolings (about 60 or so cards).
His sacrifice abilities are particularly handy in foiling tuck and exile effects.
Ghave, In Lieu Of Spores
Where’s the Beef? How about Where’s the Spores? +1/+1 counters are called “+1/+1 counters” dude. How dare someone make a
card with the title “Guru of Spores” and not actually do anything with spores? I mean, it’s not like spore counters don’t
exist—hello, plug “spore counter” into Gatherer, and nineteen cards come tumbling out. The only person happy about how Ghave
turned out was Thelon of Havenwood because his job as being the true Spore Man is apparently secure. This card should’ve been named Ghave, in
Lieu of Spores…
Some Great Commander Staples!
So many great reprints that people are going to love casting again, or maybe for the first time: Angel of Despair, Simic Sky Swallower, Prophetic Bolt,
Anger, Wild Ricochet, Insurrection, Chromeshell Crab, Reins of Power, Mulldrifter, Akroma’s Vengeance, Mother of Runes, Path to Exile,
Congregate, Storm Herd, Eternal Witness, Cultivate & Kodama’s Reach, Krosan Tusker, Yavimaya Elder, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Harmonize, Avatar of
Woe, Dark Hatchling, Doom Blade, Shriekmaw, Nezumi Graverobber, Living Death, Lightning Greaves, Sol Ring, Skullclamp, Fellwar Stone, Darksteel Ingot,
Dreamstone Hedron, Solemn Simulacrum, Oblivion Stone, and Bojuka Bog. You could buy two Commander decks and be pretty well stocked with staples enough
to build all sorts of beginning Commander decks outside of better mana-fixing lands.
Where’s My Doubling Season?
Seriously? You name a deck Counterpunch—an obvious play on doing fun things with “counters” on cards—and you don’t include the most sought after staple for any Commander deck that uses counters and tokens? A card that suffers from major supply
issues despite not being used at all in Legacy seemed like a slam-dunk choice for this product.
Some Awesome NEW Commander Staples!
Outside of all the great new Legends—which I’ll be talking about further in depth as I begin to build new Commander decks—we now have
fantastic new goodies like Chaos Warp, Spell Crumple, Martyr’s Bond, Hydra Omnivore, Scavenging Ooze, Tribute to the Wild,
Champion’s Helm, Scythe Specter, Stranglehold, Avatar of Slaughter, and of course Command Tower.
Celestial WTF Force?
Get it? It’s like Verdant Force, only it’s white, hahahahahahaha, get it? You gain life instead of Saprolings! Get it? Hahahahaha *slap*
Decent Color-Fixing Out Of The Box
Most Commander decks worth their salt have a fair number of rare lands printed over the years to fix mana, whether they’re the original dual lands or
Ravnica shocklands or various fetchlands. Unfortunately, these sorts of cards have maintained a ton of value in the secondary market, and including
these in the Commander decks would have undoubtedly caused supply issues due to speculators snapping them up for singles. Aaron Forsythe tweeted before
the release that this product was definitely n
ot going to seed a bunch of Legacy staples into the mix; it was going to focus like a laser beam to get people playing Commander, and avoiding
reprinting those rare mana-fixing lands helped nail that goal. Still, they did go ahead and reprint one of the very best color-fixing lands ever
printed—at a common no less—that was superbly designed to only be playable in the Commander format.
Now, outside of those rare mana-fixing lands that WotC avoided, I think they did a pretty good job making sure that people playing the three-color
decks out of the box would not suffer much from color-screw.
Rupture Spire is a staple in all my multicolor decks and is found in four of the Commander decks.
The Ravnica block bounce lands are a great way to cheat two lands into one card-slot (a bit of virtual card advantage that worked great in Ravnica
Limited), and they’re something even veteran Commander players use unless tempo is too important in their metagame.
The awesome Vivid lands are sprinkled throughout the decks, and not only do they play nice with the bounce lands to reset them, but they go great with
Reflecting Pool, a very affordable staple land you should definitely try to acquire for your Commander collection.
WotC also sprinkled in the awesome signets from Ravnica for additional color-fixing, putting three in four of the decks. We’ve also got the
amazing Darksteel Ingot in three of the decks, and for the decks playing green, there’s the awesome Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, Sakura-Tribe
Elder, Krosan Tusker, and Yavimaya Elder.
Speaking of mana, I think it’s interesting to take a look at the number of lands each deck contains. Wizards obviously didn’t just take a
stock number of lands—38 tends to be the number that many deckbuilders start with—and just fill in the remaining cards without worrying
about the mana-requirements of the deck. Take a look:
Heavenly Inferno: 38 lands
Mirror Mastery: 41 lands
Counterpunch: 39 lands
Political Puppets: 34 lands
Devour for Power: 40 lands
Without digging into each decklist and doing a detailed mana curve and mana analysis, the fact that each deck has different numbers of lands reassures
me that each deck’s requirements were adequately addressed by R&D when they were assembling these decks. I find it interesting that Political
Puppets has such a low land count and am curious to dig into the structure of that deck going forward.
Sol Ring Is Common, But Darksteel Ingot Isn’t?
While I can appreciate throwing Sol Rings to the Commander masses like sweets to the kiddies, I cannot forgive the grave oversight of only putting
Darksteel Ingot in three of the decks. While you can step back and generically say that Sol Ring goes in every deck, I think it’s pretty
clear that Darksteel Ingot goes in every multicolor deck. Hello—all five of these decks are multicolor! Acceleration is all fine and dandy,
but when you’re playing with three or more colors, reliable color-fixing is even more important. And no—Cultivate is a good card, but
it is not an acceptable substitute.
Some Really Fun Combos!
One thing I think is particularly cool is how many interesting little mini-combos the guys in R&D have layered into the decks with their card
choices. I imagine it’s going to be exciting for those new to the format to cast Storm Herd with Aura Shards on the table, or realize what fun it
is to have Dominus of Fealty and Brion Stoutarm in play, or the joy of casting Buried Alive to set up some crazy combination for The Mimeoplasm to take
advantage of… (such as perhaps Scythe Specter, Artisan of Kozilek, and Brawn).
How About The Kaalia + Cacodemon Nonbo?
How many times are Commander players all around the globe going to have to crush Commander newbie dreams when we explain that putting Cacodemon
into play with Kaalia doesn’t let you destroy all of your opponent’s creatures? Seriously, why are these two cards in the same deck?
Talk about a major letdown.
Wait… Is That New Art On Flametongue Kavu?
I thought all the reprints had previously used art until I saw FTK. It appears that moving from the coast into mountainous scrubland has burlied-up our
lizard friend, making him appear much more physically impressive than the previous art.
The Syphon Flesh Art… WTH?
If you look at the name Syphon Flesh in a vacuum, and look at the art—okay that makes sense. If you look at the name Syphon Flesh and look at
what the card does—okay that makes sense. But if you look at the name Syphon Flesh and look at the art and look at what the card does…
Unfortunately for me, the timing of this product release has been tough—I’m in the middle of packing for moving, which is happening this
weekend, and every spare moment I have is being spent hauling boxes around. I’ve got all these great new cards, and three intact decks, and no
time to play with them yet. But soon… soon… Which of these new cards have you had a good time playing with so far?
Some Random Amusements of the Week
My favorite all-time author Mary Doria Russell (The Sparrow) tweeted this amusing thought: “What dogs think we do when we leave them
at home: eat bacon and play with tennis balls, and it’s just NOT fair.” I don’t have dogs, but I have plenty of friends who do,
and this seems to be a truism…
- The last two episodes of Game of Thrones, Season 1—WOW. Just… WOW.
- Speaking of Zedruu, check out the awesome Inkwell Looter’s sweet Zedruu “You’re Welcome” counters to use to make sure your
graciously donated cards are returned to you at the end of the game.
- In the lead-up to the Banned & Restricted Announcement this Sunday, I kept hearing the
Twitterverse weeping, wailing, and gnashing their teeth about the brokenness of Stoneforge Mystic… with nary a peep about Jace, the Mind
Sculptor. Seriously? Stoneforge Mystic was the problem with Standard??? I suddenly had this strange premonition that somehow, someway,
diabolical Jace was going to survive the banhammer, with poor little Stoneforge Mystic getting thrown under the bus instead. In a moment of
inspiration, I tweeted: “The greatest trick Jace TMS ever pulled was convincing the world he wasn’t the problem. And like that, poof. Something
else is gone.” Brad Houston (herodotusjr) quickly invented the hashtag #theususaljacespects and people began to run with the idea:
@mrfridays: I’ve gone ultimate now. What could you possibly offer me?
@Mikelinnemann: You think you can ban Jace? You think a guy like that comes this close to getting caught, and sticks his head out?
@Mrfridays: +2, +2, +2, +2, +2, -12… Chandra was a hag.
@herodotusjr: It was Jace, Agent Kujan. I mean the Devil himself. How do you point burn at the Devil’s face? What if you miss?
@mrfridays: “Back when I was sealing fates in Guatemala…”
@herodotusjr: I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Jace TMS.
A quick MSPaint fun mockup by Timothy Mclaren of Jace the Keyser
Andre on GatheringMagic.com did a lineup homage
to The Usual Suspects…
Join me next week for an update to my Uril, the Miststalker deck, which competitive Magic grinder and former Virginia State Champ Chris Burroughs (and
Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author] podcast host) used to play Commander for the very first time and hear what he had to say about the experience!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
I’ve started a blog, it’s not Magic-related but you may find it fun to read and comment on. I update at least once a week so check on it often!
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):
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus: