I’m pretty excited about November 13th. For those of you who aren’t quite so deep in your calendars, that’s the release date of Commander 2015. For me, this is even more exciting than a regular set release. Sure, there are only 55 new cards to work with, but they’re designed with Commander in mind, which likely means a higher hit rate than we’d see in a traditional set release. Additionally, the preconstructed decks mean more players will hopefully be getting into Commander, and it also means I’ll get to write about taking those preconstructed decks and tuning them into more exciting versions of themselves. I think the new cards will make fantastic additions to many decks—at least, as long as they’re as cool as this preview card:
We’ve seen 6-mana wrath effects in black before, so let’s do a quick comparison. First of all, any wrath costing more than 4 mana needs to come with some type of upside for us. Extinguish All Hope destroys nonenchantment creatures, leaving you with your own creatures if you planned properly… and, arguably, if you’re playing with mostly suboptimal creatures. Life’s Finale does its best impression of Buried Alive for one of your opponents for free, which in most circles is not considered an upside
Deadly Tempest has cleared the bar set here by quite a large margin. It’s not the kind of card that has a deck built around it, but you can use it to great effect in the right deck and against the right decks. So, when is this good?
Commander has decks that want to “go wide”—a decent analogy to Standard is Atarka Red. The plan is to make a bunch of little creatures and run over your opponent irrespective of the number of blockers they might have, with cards like Beastmaster Ascension or Triumph of the Hordes sealing the deal once the army of Sand Warriors/Saprolings/Elves/Goblins gets big enough. Deadly Tempest punishes players for creating a critical mass of tokens with these Commanders.
Of course, there are quite a few token generators that get played for value outside of token decks simply because of how much power they can provide as single cards. Genesis Wave doesn’t make tokens, but it sure does put tons of creatures into play, so I’ve included it here. Deadly Tempest punishes players who use these cards. They’re powerful in the abstract, so they see a lot of play, but a card like Deadly Tempest can make your opponents regret using these extremely common tools.
Of course, we wouldn’t want to play Deadly Tempest in a Ghave deck, as we’d lose too much life ourselves. So, where does Deadly Tempest belong? Well, decks that want to go to battle with just a few haymaker-type threats at a time are ideal shells to slot Deadly Tempest into. My Thraximundar deck has quite a bit of trouble with decks that Deadly Tempest is rather good against, and the cost of 2 or 3 life doesn’t really matter to me if I can make an opponent lose 15 life in one go.
Off the top of my head, here are some cards that synergize well with Deadly Tempest:
• Tempt with Vengeance
• Alliance of Arms
• Liege of the Hollows
• Sylvan Offering
• Mogg Infestation (A 2-card, 11-mana combo, sure, but it may very well kill a player outright)
• Plague of Vermin (If you can trick someone into paying life for Rats and then blow them out with Deadly Tempest, that would be a pretty good story)
Quite a few of these make creatures for you as well, so you’d need some way of sacrificing those creatures before casting Deadly Tempest. Honestly, though, I don’t expect the combo of “give you lots of tokens, then Deadly Tempest” to come up much, as this card is really better in a reactive role rather than a proactive one.
Looking at this card with a wider lens, I think Deadly Tempest is a good answer to some of the board states I see in Commander. Two hours in, the remaining players have big armies, methods of recursion, and no way to do much to each other. What’s the solution? Well, maybe it’s Deadly Tempest. I’m not sure this card will do much to change how people play Commander and the thoughts and mindsets that lead to Commander games ending up this way with some level of frequency, but it takes cards like this to shake up games by making us play around them.