For enfranchised players, it’s easy to overlook an onboarding/new player product like Jumpstart 2022. It’s made the for the newbies, after all, not us, right? Thinking this way would be an error, since there are 51 new, unique, Commander-legal cards in the set, thirteen of them legendary creatures. There are plenty of possibilities for updating your Commander decks, building something new, and maybe even finding someone to lead it. I’ll take a look at the best of them, listing my Top 10 likely to make impact in the format or which have just tickled my sense of humor. I’ll also mention my favorite reprint in each color.
There’s no particular cohesion to the Jumpstart 2022 boosters save for some creature type similarity; it’s not as heavy as the creature-type packs of previous years, going instead with some mechanical similarity, like blinking, scry, or going to school. What it does feature is a bunch of new art for some of the reprints, capturing an anime motif sure to grab the attention of players across the globe.
I wasn’t aware Blessed Sanctuary was a reprint, since its only previous incarnation was in the original Jumpstart. Preventing all noncombat damage dealt to us and creatures we control means Blasphemous Act, Acidic Soil, and Lightmine Field get blanked. Good stuff. Then, we also get a 2/2 Unicorn to come along with every nontoken creature that joins us.
Runner-Up: Restoration Angel
The cat’s out of the bag on whether Rhystic Study was a good card to infuse more of into the format. Once it’s here, it’s here, so reprinting it at least drives the price down (perhaps only of the reprints, which Ben Bleiweiss is going to have to explain to me someday) so that everyone who wants it can get their hands on it. I continue to reject the notion of the Commander staple’s necessity. Play the cards that bring you joy, not the ones which might be considered “objectively best.”
Runner-Up: Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Crypt Rats, a Visions classic, found a reprint in Seventh Edition and Modern Horizons, but has been mostly missing across the years. It will show the new players the synergy of giving it either deathtouch or lifelink for major upside.
Runner-Up: Massacre Wurm
With some new art from Kenta Ishikawa, everyone’s favorite Goblin Shaman is around and slightly more affordable. I think some of the other reprint versions of Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker will eventually settle below $10, at which point everyone will feel the joy of copying whatever they think is coolest, from classics like Zealous Conscripts to new favorites like Terror of the Peaks.
Runner-Up: Yidaro, Wandering Monster
Playing lands off the top of the library, as with Courser of Kruphix, offers us what I call effective card draw. Draw has a meaning in Magic; effective card draw puts extra cards into our hands (albeit sometimes just momentarily) without any of the same baggage. When faced with playing the land on top or the one in hand, the play is always to dig deeper into the deck, so we know what’s coming up next. Giving that knowledge to opponents is often good since it can delay them doing what they otherwise might have, offering us a time window into other action.
Runner-Up: Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma
The land found by Expedition Map comes into hand, not onto the battlefield, but we’re not limited to the kind of land we’re allowed to search for. Maze of Ith; Gaea’s Cradle; Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx; Cabal Coffers; whatever we want is right there and three mana away.
Hidden in the ability text of Treetop Village is the simple word trample. Many longtime players might even forget the joy that their animated Ape (important with some new cards, Kibo, Uktabi Prince for example) will bring when it tramples over for some damage anyway.
Moving on to the real reason we’re here, there are some fine choices in amongst the new cards in the set. It’s not a barn-burner or anything, but we also have to consider the intended audience. The deepest complexities can wait for full expansion sets.
10. Brazen Cannonade
Slamming creatures into combat for value now has even more upside, as if any of them dies, we deal two damage to each opponent with Brazen Cannonade. Remember that a creature is still attacking during the end of combat step, so sacrificing it to Goblin Bombardment or Altar of Dementia will still trigger Brazen Cannonade.
Then we get to the raid trigger, which bottles a card for us until the end of combat on our next turn. If it’s a land or creature we want this turn (and we have the mana for it), we can cast it now. If we don’t, or it’s a cool combat trick, we have a while to wait. And if it’s an instant that will have some impact during an opponent’s turn (even like a simple counterspell), there it is, ready for us. Brazen Cannonade provides it all.
9. Primeval Herald
We’ll get at least two triggers off Primeval Herald, which is a good rate for four mana—compare to Ranger’s Path or Skyshroud Claim. Sure, we don’t get them both at once, but for that we’re trading the potential of getting even more than one. It’s an Elf, so it plays into that creature type strategy. It has trample, so if we want to somehow buff it up with Sword of Hearth and Home or something, it becomes a force to be reckoned with. Sword of the Animist seems like a nice double-up on getting lands out of the library and right where we want them.
8. Isu the Abominable
Snow is back, jack! A deck full of snow permanents, led by Isu in Bant colors (note the addition of white and green in the text box), and we have the beginnings of something cool. Being able to play nearly our whole deck off the top of the library means we’ll be tearing through it at speed.
The inexpensive payment of a single mana for putting a +1/+1 counter on Isu means we can get some commander damage kill action going. Looking forward to spicy snow spells like Marit Lage’s Slumber, Rimefeather Owl, and Replicating Ring (Team Three Mana Value Rock!), and siblings Ohran Frostfang and Ohran Viper will keep my blood running cold. An Isu the Abominable deck might not get me to give up my Jorn, God of Winter deck, but it’s sure going to tempt me to play a number of the same cards.
7. Agrus Kos, Eternal Soldier
A Boros-aligned Spirit Soldier that could make its home in a Hofri Ghostforge deck, Agrus Kos, Eternal Soldier craves a deck with neat activated abilities and triggered ones which target. Target it with Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder’s triggered ability, and for just two mana, all your creatures get double strike and lifelink until end of turn. I also like the interaction with Thundering Raiju. Target Agrus Kos with the attack trigger and spend two, and you’ll be dealing damage to each opponent equal to the number of creatures you have, since they’ll all get a counter and qualify as modified.
To get wild, target Agrus Kos with Chaos Warp and turn all your creatures into something else. This card has loads of fun play built in. It can even go infinite with Soulbright Flamekin and Emiel the Blessed and only four mana, although we’d need to be in the three Naya colors. It goes something like this:
- Pay 2, activate Soulbright Flamekin targeting Agrus Kos.
- Agrus Kos triggers, so pay 1R/W to copy Soulbright Flamekin’s ability for each other creature we control.
- Resolve all Soulbright Flamekin abilities, giving all our creatures trample and generating eight red mana.
- Activate Emiel the Blessed, exiling Soulbright Flamekin and returning it to the battlefield.
- Repeat for infinite red mana, blinking, enters-the-battlefield triggers, and leaves-the-battlefield triggers.
6. Kenessos, Priest of Thassa
This one might be more of a sentimental favorite since dear friend, fellow RC member, and Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle designer Scott Larabee has a Sea Monsters deck, which I enjoy pulling out the Mirror Strike for. Decks featuring Krakens don’t often need a mana sink, but when they do, accept no substitutes.
5. Conductor of Cacophony
In the tradition of Pestilence creatures like Thrashing Wumpus and Pestilence Demon comes a new challenger, Conductor of Cacophony. We’ll need to do some more work and get the proliferate engines to fire so that it can keep running. My favorite thing about it is that, unlike those other two, Conductor of Cacophony doesn’t damage itself, meaning that as long as we can keep adding counters to it, we can keep wiping the battlefield clean. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: add Basilisk Collar and we won’t even need to drop that many counters on.
4. Pirated Copy
Riffing off the more sinister Evil Twin, Pirated Copy motivates us to have it copy something battle-worthy instead of a utility creature. Pirated Copy comes into its own when it or whatever it’s copied deals combat damage to a player: we draw a card. While we have plenty of things that let us draw when our own creatures deal combat damage to players, we don’t have too many things which let us draw when someone else’s creature connects. We’ll have to consider that whatever we’ve copied is going to more often than not come our direction, since it triggers on dealing combat damage to any player, but all that card draw deliciousness seems like a small price to pay.
3. Preston, the Vanisher
I’m never going to be able to see Preston without thinking about Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” but such is the price of coming from a certain generation. I’m also strongly considering the idea of creating an Azorius deck that contains Arcane Adaptation just to be able to get lots of miles from Preston.
There are two main reasons we’ll have our work cut out for us. One, there’s but a single white Illusion (that’s not a changeling)—Teyo’s Lightshield. Two, Preston’s trigger condition is narrow. It has to be a nontoken creature that wasn’t cast. Fortunately, the color combination offers us the blink mechanic as a fine starting point. The main downside is that blinking a legendary creature isn’t going to have the copy hang around that long. All that aside, I suspect there are plenty of deck brewers out there who are up to such a challenge. For myself, whether I slip Preston into an existing deck like Lavinia Blinks or the Rith Do Over or actually start from the ground up remains to be seen.
2. Kibo, Uktabi Prince
Come on, now. Banana tokens! Meme-worthiness aside, there’s quite a bit going on with Kibo. We’ve created a new mana-generating token to be sacrificed that’s not Treasure and is actually a cross between Treasure and Food. The part that folks are no doubt going to focus on most is the anti-Treasure tech of making our Apes and Monkeys ever-larger commensurate with the number of Treasures our opponents use. If they want to get out of hand, so can we. All that aside, I’d play Kibo simply for its final ability, forcing the defending player to sacrifice an artifact whenever Kibo attacks. I’ll certainly be happy to enjoy the other abilities, but wouldn’t actually call them required in order to get some mileage out of our newest favorite Monkey.
1. Rodolf Duskbringer
My kind of card in my kind of color identity, having Rodolf become indestructible is eye-rollingly trivial. We’ll build around gaining lots of life so that when we send this Vampire Angel into combat, it’s already beyond worry. Maybe we’ll cut it close with something like Reaper’s Talisman. We’ll slam some nice commander damage setting up that pulse-pounding end-of-turn trigger. We can even do some tricky work with one of my other favorite cards, Wall of Reverence. Rodolf’s end of turn ability is a reflexive trigger, meaning that we make the decision to pay the 1WB on resolution. We can stack it so that Rodolf’s ability goes on first, then Wall of Reverence. The latter resolves first, gaining potentially big life. When we decide to pay for Rodolf’s reflexive trigger (or not), we’ve already gained enough life to target something larger than we could have moments ago. Since Wall of Reverence targets when it goes on the stack, we can’t choose to gain life for the thing we’re reanimating, but that’s a pretty minor issue in the long run of making whatever we build with Rodolf work. It’s a little pricey to cast, but from the expressive art to the engaging abilities, it’s the card from the set that resonates with me the most.
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