One of the more striking things about this art is that it looks like a group posed for a photo using a selfie stick. Once it’s seen, it cannot be unseen.

When Ojutai’s first got spoiled, my Facebook and Twitter feed simultaneously exploded. A lot of that is because Cryptic Command is one of the more iconic blue spells ever printed, and here we have another 4-mana blue instant Command-type card. Cryptic dominated a Standard format, was one of the best cards in Extended (RIP), and is currently one of the strongest 4-mana spells in Modern.

That said, Ojutai’s options are much more narrow than Cryptic’s. A creature of 2cc or less? Only countering creature spells? Gaining 4 life is great, but less powerful than tapping your opponent’s team. Ojutai’s casting cost is less restrictive, but that’s canceled out by having worse fixing. In Cryptic Command Standard people were jamming it alongside Cloudthresher!

It seems like most people fall into one of three camps:

  • “This card just a bad Cryptic Command.”
  • “A fixed Cryptic Command? That’s so sweet!”
  • “Can we talk about this card without comparing it to Cryptic Command?”

Personally, I’m more in the second camp. A card can be a “worse Cryptic” and still be very, very good.

Modern

Unfortunately, I don’t see this doing much in formats where it has to compete with actual Cryptic Command. Even in a deck that might value the reanimation effect, not being able to counter a spell is huge. Sure, you can reanimate a Snapcaster Mage and get value, but that costs approximately infinite mana and at that point you might as well play Sphinx’s Revelation.

Dark Confidant is a powerful card, but best earlier in the game.

Countering a Siege Rhino and recurring a ‘Goyf is a big swing, and being able to recur a sizeable body mid-combat (Restoration Angel-style) has the potential for some great blowouts.

In Modern, Phantasmal Image could copy opposing Siege Rhinos and the like, and even if you drew your situational counter too late you could still get parity that way. Such a deck could play Wall of Omens to increase the consistency of both Command and Image, and could even have a Sun Titan or two on the top end of the curve.

Spellskite is another interesting option.

Standard

Renewed Faith saw a ton of Standard play when it was around, and this is basically a sicko Renewed Faith. While most decks ran Faith to abuse the cycling mechanic, there were a few UW control decks that played it because cantripping with value is strong, and sometimes it was a necessary hardcast against aggressive red decks.

Speaking of red aggro decks, there are a decent number of them in the current format, and all of them have creatures to counter and some amount of burn to go to the face. My favorite part of Command in those matchups is that it trades favorably with Stoke the Flames. One of a control deck’s biggest fears is getting burned out after stabilizing the board.

As with Modern, I can’t think of many creatures worth recurring. In some matchups, Soulfire Grand Master has a target on his head, and getting him back would be strong.

The value two-drop that I’m excited about recurring is Satyr Wayfinder, and between the 1/1 body and hitting land drops and fueling delve it’s often going to be better than drawing a random card.

That idea led me to this rough list for Ojutai control:

Bant Control

Just like Gerard slapped some Wayfinders into UB control and spawned a new control archetype, so we’re doing here with UW. The mana is a bit worse without access to a triland, but our requirements are also less heavy, and we have the same 13 green sources to keep Wayfinder consistent.

Like Sultai, we have a decent suite of planeswalkers to close out the game. It’s important to run few enough that drawing them isn’t too clunky in the early game, but a high enough count to win through disruption or accidentally milling a few ‘walkers with Wayfinder.

There are a few downsides to this list. Banishing Light instead of Hero’s Downfall is a relevant downgrade, especially with Sultai Charm in the format. While Bile Blight and Last Breath are functionally similar against a turn-three Rabblemaster, Bile Blight is much better against tokens. Not having Thoughtseize in the control mirror is a disadvantage.

Playing this over other control options depends on other aspects of the deck, like how good Elspeth is in the current metagame and whether or not Ojutai’s Command is worth it. On paper, I’d assume this has a stronger game against red decks but a weaker matchup in the mirror, but it’s hard to say without testing.

Caleb Durward