Jumpstart is an entirely new way to get into playing Magic quickly. The short version is that you can buy ready-to-play themed boosters, shuffle two of them together, and get right to it once your friend has done the same. It’s some compelling liminal space between Limited and Constructed.
What new sets do, however, is introduce cards into Eternal formats, Commander being the largest and most popular. In a way, every set is a Commander set. While Jumpstart is primarily reprints, there are enough new cards to evaluate it as a whole for the format. There are few enough new cards in each color that I can comment on all of them in context of Commander. Then I’ll pick for each color three of my favorite reprints. For some of them (especially black), I could have easily chosen more.
This little pony haven does everything you want. It lets you not worry about big damage spells like Comet Storm hitting you or your creatures. Outside the box, you can set it up with cards like Powerstone Minefield or Lightmine Field, which will make attacking and blocking awkward for other players, but not for you. The triggered ability to give you a Unicorn for every nontoken creature will get your army ready for battles in no time.
Tappers that don’t lock down things permanently tend to not fare well in Commander. Brightmare’s lifegain ability will do a little double duty. In the obvious, it moves a blocker out of the way. Less straightforwardly, you can use the lifegain on something extremely large. That thing will have untapped by the time that player’s turn comes around (unless you somehow give Brightmare flash), but what you’ve done is mitigated that attack (save for, I suppose, commander damage). And if someone has something obscenely larger, like Lord of Extinction, you can gain quite a bit of life. Note that you don’t have to tap something that might hit you; you can point someone in the direction of a third player.
Our Unicorn leader blinks things, presumably in order to save them from evil. When they come back, Emiel makes them stronger if you pay either green or white mana. In your Unicorn tribal, they get even stronger. Nice design in capturing the flavor of what Unicorns do without making them sparkly and juvenile.
Four dogs, four mana. Seems simple if you want to go wide with that Pack Leader you opened up. Of course, I can only hear the card name in Mr. Burns’s voice.
Bird tribal gets a boost from Steel-Plume Marshal, but it’s not limited to just your Birds, it’s everything that flies. There’s every reason to want to jam it into your Angel deck or to make your Storm Herd Pegasuses even deadlier.
The easiest thing here is to have a nice equipment ready to put onto Stone Haven Pilgrim. Argentum Armor is a decent candidate.
Design teams have learned that putting counters which are going to stay around onto creatures is better than just giving them buffs until end of turn. These Dogs will turn your team in big Dogs pretty quickly.
In Commander, I suspect the primary use for Trusty Retriever will be playing fetch for the artifact or enchantment. Bonus style points if it’s Bone Flute or Sphinx-Bone Wand.
Blue has some nice ways to put instants and sorceries back in their hand. Now it’s the day to do artifacts as well.
I’ve already mentioned that I’m happy we finally got around to mill as a keyword. Bruvac doubles up on the fun. I see him more as one of the 99 instead of leading the deck, because if you’re milling, it feels like you also want some black to go along with it in order to use the things you’ve milled away. In a dedicated path just grinding out the library, you might be able to get away with mono blue. Note that this does not automatically deck someone with Traumatize. Traumatize isn’t milling in the keyword sense.
I already have a Pirate deck, and it’s going to have to find room for Corsair Captain. The Captain brings the promise of Treasure, clearly inspiring the rest of the Pirates to be better. Yo ho ho indeed.
A neat political and strategic tool somewhat in the vein of of Aminatou, the Fateshifter (and equally as awkward to play in webcam games), Inniaz, the Gale Force can throw quite a bit of chaos into a combat and then the rest of the game (since there’s no duration on the control change). Inniaz could be a fine addition to your Zedruu deck, getting more things that you own out there into the wild.
Unlike Laboratory Maniac, Ormos isn’t a win condition, it’s a don’t-lose condition. It could be an indirect win condition on an empty library by dealing out commander damage kills from replacing a bunch of draws. Even if the game isn’t in the balance, paying three and three cards to draw five seems like a winner. Add it to your reanimator decks for full hijinks.
The Jumpstart m.o. seems to be big splashy effects for big mana. Scholar of the Lost Trove picks up where Diluvian Primordial left off. Whether it’s a ramp spell or an extra turn card, you have plenty of possibilities. The addition of an artifact to the choice is significant since it doesn’t have the exile clause, even if the artifact would go to the graveyard that turn.
Kels does everything herself, providing both advantage when you sacrifice a creature and giving you the outlet to do it. Both abilities come with a cost, so you can’t really run away with things like you can with free sacrifice outlets (such as Phyrexian Altar or Goblin Bombardment), but the cost of one mana is hardly onerous. I like that the first sacrifice makes her indestructible, meaning you can keep her around in the face of a battlefield sweeper, at least turning whatever mana you have available for your other creatures into cards.
Nothing too complicated here, just a small flyer with a death trigger.
Perhaps the card that’s generated the most chatter so far, though it seems like the talk is more about an adorable Skeleton than it is the ability. There’s a fair bit more discard in Commander games than you might think, most of it players doing it to themselves in order to loot through their decks. Tinybones will certainly support a major discard strategy. With Myojin of Night’s Reach, you can strip everyone’s hands and then punish them for it (although at that point, the life loss is just hurrying up the inevitable).
One of the best cards in the set, Witch of the Moors, makes opponents sacrifice creatures if you’ve gained life during your turn—a pretty easy thing to do. That you also get to bring a card back from your graveyard puts this Witch into Sheoldred, Whispering One territory.
You unfortunately can’t untap Chained Brute via its own ability in order to block, but who’s blocking in red anyway?
Nicely self-limiting for the trade-off of not hitting your own stuff. You’re going to build around the card enough where it will normally deal the amount of damage that you routinely need. Like with many damage spells, combine with Soulfire Grand Master for big lifegain.
Lightning Phoenix becomes that thing you sacrifice in order to do other stuff, knowing that you’ll get It back. You really don’t care that it can’t block.
Another card for your Minotaur tribal!
Either slam it into combat or use it as an implement of sacrifice. The whole purpose of Living Lightning is to get back that instant or sorcery.
Not that Goblins needed any help, but they got it anyway with Muxus. Nearly every Goblin has a CMC of five or less. There are only seven others in the game that don’t qualify: Bog Hoodlum; Goblin Dynamo; Goblin Goliath; Goblin Marshal; Ignition Team; Ponyback Brigade; and Wort, the Raidmother. So you’ll hit two or three each time, and Muxus will get immense.
More Minotaur tribal, more excuse to play Didgeridoo. Win.
The real relevant ability is dealing damage to players or planeswalkers when Spiteful Prankster sees creatures die. You can play it alongside a Goblin deck and dare people to try to kill them (the answer is yes, because those Goblins are going to deal more than one each to you).
More creatures with pinging dies triggers. Check. Sentence you have to read a few times. Check. The second one is actually pretty easy to parse. You and whoever you attack draw one and then discard one at random. The ability can be nice when you know they’re holding something saucy. Or if you have Tinybones.
Most “can’t be countered” stuff in green says just creatures. This one says all green spells. Nice. Turning Elves into Dinosaurs can only mean fun and profit are just ahead.
Funny how when you take Doubling Season and don’t staple both abilities onto one card, everything is just fine. This one is nicely priced at 2G.
Two good but not broken combat abilities on one card make Neyith of the Dire Hunt strong but not too strong. Xenagos, God of Revels is kind of busted because you don’t have to pay anything for the ability (which even gives the creature haste). Neyith of the Dire Hunt makes you pay, but you get the additional benefit as well. Just remember that your creature is going to be taking damage twice (once from the fight, once from combat). All that card draw is a spicy sauce on an already-delicious dish.
Malignus into Towering Titan, right? And bring back Towering Titan with Reveillark. This card might get more play than you think. Also love the flavor that of sacrificing a creature with defender is basically the Giant picking up a Wall and swinging it. Nice.
I could have just said Oracle of Mul Daya x3. It’s been a long time coming.
There aren’t any new multicolored cards, but it’s nice to see Maelstrom Archangel get reprinted. It always felt like a card that should be legendary, and I’m not the only person to ever express the idea.
Artifact and Colorless
The only new artifact should at least have defender so Towering Titan could smash it into things.
- Herald’s Horn
- Phyrexian Tower (although much love for name and theme of Suspicious Bookcase)
I also want to give props to the Thriving lands (Thriving Bluff, Thriving Grove, Thriving Heath, Thriving Island, Thriving Moor), which take the Tainted Isle (and friends) idea and flip it over, making them slightly more flexible at the cost of entering the battlefield tapped. You don’t need a particular land type like with the Tainted lands; these are more like build-your-own duals. If you have more than one in a deck, you can adjust which color you name to your mana needs. All in all, very clever.
Jumpstart is more than just an excellent way to get new players into the game and playing right away. It’s an opportunity for designers to stretch their legs and not have to worry about the impact to Standard or Modern. Commander is robust enough to handle any cards that might be awkward for those formats, and we’re happy to be their proving ground.
Even if we have relatively minor concerns about the pace of products coming out in 2020, getting new stuff is always going to be met with excitement. Jumpstart strikes a great balance between a number of nice new cards and many of the reprints Commander players have been looking for, so I’m counting it as a complete win.
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