Hello again! I’m back with more Commander gossip for you and your playgroup. One thing I’ve noticed is that, no matter where I play or who I play with, decks frequently look the same. Lots of competitive players have the same cards left over from old Constructed decks, so you see previous Standard staples a lot. Many cards are considered Commander staples as well, and some players get much or all of their deck tech off the internet!
When I was at my parents’ house in Massachusetts this week, I mostly looked for apartments to rent for the coming year in Amherst. I did have a chance to go through some of my old things that are still here, and I found this:
Whoa! Awesome! I remember sitting in the back of my parents’ car on road trips reading through this, trying to memorize the cards, and writing decklists in a notebook. (Spoiler alert: If you ever find this notebook, the Minotaur deck with 4x Didgeridoo in it is a huge winner!)
Because I clearly have nothing better to do, I started flipping through for cards I’ve never seen in play in a Commander game, and I found quite a few gems. Of course, this quickly became a search through Gatherer as I ran out of Encyclopedia. (There’s a larger version of this book that was published later, but ironically, I only have that in California.) I thought I’d share my awesome technology with you over the course of this article and, most likely, one or two more. It depends how much I have to say about these crazy cards.
Now, I’ve heard two complaints about this type of article in the past, and I’d like to pre-emptively respond to those complaints:
1) These articles are just meant to sell cards!
Yes. So is every other article ever. Content gets you to the site. The site sells cards. I think that’s all I need to tell you. Plus, I’m betting we don’t have half these cards in stock, and I’m sure the ones we do don’t cost an arm and a leg. If they did, it would be because they’re already big hits!
2) I’ve seen card X in an article before!
I’d believe that. There are, unfortunately, only so many Magic cards, and there are even fewer good ones. I’d say, “great minds think alike,” but that would be a bit presumptuous, now wouldn’t it?
And of course, if you and your playgroup have already caught on to these cards, good work!
Let’s get started at the top of the alphabet, shall we?
There are a lot of powerful artifacts in Commander. There are decks that are predicated entirely around artifacts and cards that interact with them. Blowing those artifacts up is always great, but Magic players love one thing more than anything else: value. And what’s better value than blowing up artifacts? Stealing them! Aladdin isn’t some one-shot control effect. Aladdin will keep taking and taking until someone finally bothers to kill him. Of course, the owner will get their artifacts back when that happens, but hopefully you got far enough ahead while you had them.
How often do you get to cast world enchantments? Not enough, that’s for sure. There’s plenty to hate about this card, to be honest. The effect is symmetrical, and worse, the art is extremely creepy. If you have the right cards in your deck, though, you can break the symmetry of this effect, and that’s the best part of any card like this. Cards like Vedalken Orrery, Leyline of Anticipation, [card teferi, mage of zhalfir]Teferi[/card], Alchemist’s Refuge, and Winding Canyons will help you play “out of turn,” as it were. (Combine with Seedborn Muse for extra fun!) Provided you keep quiet on your turn, Arboria will do its creepy stuff to your opponents. Which I guess is good.
This card has two very obvious upsides:
1) It makes it very hard for your mono-green opponent to play creature spells.
2) It allows you to tell spooky ghost stories about your opponent’s Primeval Titan and how it’s cursed or whatever until they get frustrated and kill their own creature. Value!
Throw a Braid of Fire down to help pay for this effect, or ramp your mana some other way. You don’t want to be caught paying through the nose to keep this thing around.
Is someone’s creature about to die? Maybe because of something nefarious you did? Well, if that creature was important enough to kill, it has to be important enough to steal. It might not make sense that [card kozilek, butcher of truth]Kozilek[/card] will start working for you after you save his life, but since Magic lets us do it, let’s go for it. (Frankly, that guy should just eat you as soon as you play him. Flavor judge?) This card has an added bonus of being a Weatherlight Saga story card, so people like me can play it and then drone on about how Volrath wanted Starke dead for not coming to Rath with him, so he sent Maraxus, and… hey! Don’t close your browser! I’ll stop, I promise.
Most black card draw comes at a price to you, usually in the form of life or sacrifices. This one just means you have to have a friend. That friend either has to want you to draw cards so that you can take down an enemy, or has to want to draw cards him or herself and probably sacrifice creatures for personal gain. Whether this is worth spending a card on I’m not sure, but effects that let you collude in multiplayer are generally at least worth a look.
A card like this has to do something, right? Sneak Attack a creature out, then put it back on top of your library to Sneak out again once you draw it! (Bonus points if it has annihilator!) Put a creature on top of your library, then use Call of the Wild to put it right into play! Sacrifice a creature to Greater Good, then, in response to the ability, put it on top of your library, draw it, and replay it later! This card made me use my entire exclamation point allotment for the rest of the article, and as such, seems pretty real.
Here’s a card I haven’t thought about in years. If you’ve got some extra mana after you Wrath, or after someone else does, you can get ahead of everyone. Sure, three mana for a card is a little steep when compared to effects like Mind’s Eye, but this costs a single white mana AND has a creepy grandma on it. How many other cards have creepy grandmas? Sound off about them in the comments. I’ll start: Grandmother Sengir.
I have no recollection of seeing this card before today while doing research for this article series. I’m sure my fiancée will chide me for not remembering it, but her memory is, shockingly, more encyclopedic than mine. [/mosby] Regardless, this card will steal a creature that attacks you. If an opponent is attacking you with a creature, it’s probably a good one, and unless you’re plagued by something like a Shadowmage Infiltrator or Cold-Eyed Selkie, this is a good solution. No one will see this one coming, either… unless, of course, they also read this article, in which case, bad luck for you. (But good luck for me.)
Do you have friends who are judges? Do you want to frustrate them to no end and hear them shout about Sylvan Library and Brainstorm without actually playing either of those cards? Play this one, which barely works under the rules as it is. How do we know it’s the last card you drew? Well, you should keep it separate. But what if you just drew three cards all at once and shoved them into your hand, and the last one was Jandor’s Ring? Aaagh. Okay, so maybe this card isn’t any good, but it’s quite hilarious. (Other cards I considered to feature in this category: King Suleiman, who is not legendary because he comes from a time before legendary permanents; Firestorm Phoenix, which had to be given errata in order to make any sense; and Escaped Shapeshifter, which has interesting consequences when your opponent copies it with [card sakashima the impostor]Sakashima[/card].)
This seems like a reasonable way to build up a board presence and rebuild quickly. First, build up a critical mass of cards with Knowledge Vault. Don’t get too greedy—four is probably fine. Make sure you’re blasting the cards in your hand out as fast as possible so that you don’t get burned by an artifact destruction effect and waste time. Beware of Krosan Grip, as it’ll waste lots of your time. Barring that, though, you should be able to discard an empty or near-empty hand and gain quite a bit of value out of this one.
I was playing a game of Commander one-on-one against fellow judge John Carter at Pro Tour Honolulu 2009. Carter was playing his Karn, Silver Golem deck, and I was on [card momir vig, simic visionary]Momir Vig[/card]. Carter played Portcullis and seemed satisfied with himself, thinking my horde of little creatures unlikely to be able to get around his newly erected defenses. Little did Carter know that my deck was designed around creatures with enters-the-battlefield effects. Elvish Visionary, Mulldrifter, and a few other value creatures got caught behind bars before I played the Indrik Stomphowler I’d been holding, destroying Portcullis and releasing my many creatures to draw me more cards, destroy more permanents, and subsequently win me the game. So then I thought to myself, why not do this on purpose? Why not put this in my deck? The answer: well, I forgot about it the next day because this game occurred at around 2 AM. Seeing Portcullis on Gatherer reminded me of this whole escapade. Can you do something awesome and non-defensive with Portcullis? I bet you can.
It’s no Hermit Druid, but it gets rid of pesky lands you don’t need and finds you business. Recur it with something like Sun Titan for bonus card drawing. Plus you can always play Mono-Guide Combo, with Sacred Guide, Karmic Guide, and… uhh… Foothill Guide? Planar Guide? Okay, I got nothin’ else for that one, but the fact remains that with Sun Titan, Proclamation of Rebirth, or a similar effect, this card can be part of a cute little engine.
Check out the wording on Starke here. Does it remind you of any other 1CC legendary creature? Mangara of Corondor, perhaps? That’s right, you can blow up someone else’s stuff and blink/bounce/sacrifice Starke in order to keep him from defecting to the enemy. Karakas, Crystal Shard, Mistmeadow Witch, Momentary Blink—the list goes on and on. Sac him to Goblin Bombardment and Sun Titan him back. The impossible is possible at Zombocom… I mean, with Starke.
Pay mana, life, and a land to reanimate a creature. It sounds steep, price-wise, but it’s a repeatable reanimation effect, and that’s not something you see every day. Well, it is if you have an uncut sheet of Weatherlight hanging over your bed, but if you do, even I can’t help you.
This card is so obvious. I mean, it takes legendary creatures. And yet I never see anyone playing it. Is it some sort of availability issue, or do we have a problem with cost vs. effect? You can drop the legend during your untap step to go get a new one, which is a nice departure from enchantment-based control effects. Sure, it looks like Jeff Menges erased the back half of a centaur and left the front to make this guy, but he can’t be all bad, right? (Yes, I know what a satyr is. I also know what satire is. BOOM.)
Okay, that’s what I’ve got for this week. Join me next time as I write an article about my innovative Iridescent Drake/Altar of Dementia/False Demise combo deck and explain how it has something entirely tangential to do with whatever I’m going to talk about!