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Commander 2016 Preview: Magus of the Will

Those of you who have cast Yawgmoth’s Will in Commander decks know the groans that come from everyone else at the table as you pick through your graveyard and cast all your best stuff. Obviously, this type of effect tends to end the game in high-powered groups, but that’s generally not what I write about. I prefer the drawn-out social games, so I’ll be writing about Magus of the Will through that lens. With that in mind, here’s the headline:

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In casual games of Commander, Magus of the Will is better than Yawgmoth’s Will because it’s worse than Yawgmoth’s Will.

Yes, if you’re a competitive Commander player, this sounds insane, and that’s because it’s totally wrong in the context of your group. For those of us who prefer to play lower-powered games, however, I think this makes sense. Magus of the Will provides the same effect as Yawgmoth’s Will, and just like the original sorcery, it exiles itself. But it’s a creature with a tap ability, which means your opponents will usually get a full turn cycle to stop you from using it. If you give it haste somehow, you still have to pay 2B to activate it on top of its casting cost or the cost of whatever card you used to put it into play. This allows for a lot more counterplay, which is more fun in Commander because the whole table gets a greater chance to have some agency in the outcome of the game. As far as an upside… I guess your opponents can’t use spells like Commandeer to hijack your graveyard-related machinations, but that’s a pretty serious corner case.

In most casual Commander groups, this will be used not to combo out, but simply to bring back 1, 2, or 3 cards that the table already spent serious time and resources trying to destroy, especially if they’ve got ETB/dies effects or repeatable value opportunities. I’m talking about cards like Sheoldred, Kokusho, and Rune-Scarred Demon with big bodies and big effects, or even cards like Crypt Ghast and Coffin Queen that don’t make waves in combat but provide big benefits.

This is actually a really fun situation for a Commander game because it puts the Magus of the Will player in an “Archenemy” position. They’ve probably now got the strongest board position, which shifts the political dynamic of the table—will players form a temporary alliance against this player? Will someone ally with them and try to piggyback on their strength? Cards that cause dramatic shifts in the landscape of a game of Commander are, in my mind, the most exciting and impactful cards in the format, and Magus of the Will certainly delivers on that axis.

Of course, there are ways to get around the exile drawback, but that’s tough. Pull from Eternity will get your Magus back into the graveyard for some very thematically appropriate Phyrexian Reclamation or something similar, but that’s a lot of work. Mirror of Fate does the job too, but unless you’re on some crazy Leveler/Manipulate Fate/Selective Memory/Paradigm Shift deck, there are plenty of easier ways to get access to cards in your graveyard. (That deck sounds pretty fun, actually…)

I expect to see Magus of the Will in decks with Commanders like Xiahou Dun, Gisa and Geralf: Best Friends Edition, Meren, Tasigur, and other decks that that encourage the pilot to churn cards into and out of the graveyard over and over again. It’s not a hard-reset mega-Regrowth like Seasons Past or Praetor’s Counsel, but it’s a good card.

Oh, and one more thing: Yawgmoth’s Will doesn’t fit in an Isochron Scepter, but Magus of the Will fits in a Soul Foundry. Spitting Image, Followed Footsteps, and cards like them also apply. Have fun casting Yawgmoth’s Will over and over and over!

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