Hey folks! The new Commander 2014 set drops this Friday, and I’d like to use my time and yours to talk about the new cards. Let’s even call it a set review! The decks actually come out on MTGO on the 7th too, so even if you’re more of an online player, you’ll be able to enjoy these decks on day one. What are we waiting for? Let’s get to it!
Angel of the Dire Hour
Have you ever flashed in Sunblast Angel during combat using your Winding Canyons? This is a lot like that, except it’s one card and it exiles the attackers. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this card is bonkers. I know a lot of white players pack their decks full of wraths and end up spending a lot of time clearing everyone’s boards—including their own. This card is great if you find yourself wrathing defensively, especially against one particular player. Note that this card can actually be used to defend another player, which will definitely make an ally out of that player… and an enemy out of the aggressor! It’s also important to note that the card has some fairness built in—blinking this in and out will not yield a lot of value.
Angelic Field Marshal
So, as long as you control your commander, this is a 5/5 flying creature with Serra’s Blessing attached to it. Otherwise it’s just an airborne 3/3. Not a super impressive card, I’ll say, but it’s at least efficient as long as you have your management structure intact on board. I think this kind of card is much more likely to lead to blowouts than good situations—losing your commander midcombat is likely to lead to the death of the lieutenant here.
This is the kind of card I hear people complaining about—cards that were so clearly designed for multiplayer that they just end up being tools for collusion. In playgroups where things have gone a little sour, or in pickup games or on-demand Commander events, cards like this will usually be cast targeting a friend who joined the game along with the player casting this spell. Awkward. Obviously there are ways to break the symmetry of both halves of these effects—anthems, Doubling Season, and just plain having more creatures will do the job, along with cards like Purphoros—but honestly, won’t Midnight Haunting/Spectral Procession/Triplicate Spirits and so on do the job?
I thought Deflecting Palm was going to be a sweet blowout in Commander—imagine casting it when an opponent attacks with a really large Vorosh—and then I saw this card. While it hits creatures rather than their controllers, it can still stop a large X spell from killing you. It won’t save your creatures, but it will save your planeswalkers, which is appropriate given the new commanders available.
I heard someone yesterday in my local shop calling for the banning of Deadeye Navigator. While I think this is completely crazy, I also think this card is going to have an effect when cast by decks that want to play fair. It shuts off more than just Deadeye Navigator—reanimation effects, cards like Green Sun’s Zenith and Tooth and Nail, other blink effects, and so on are not going to look so good with this cleric hanging around making everyone into snow globes. (At least I think that’s what’s happening in the art.)
Deploy to the Front
This card is definitely a sweet one, though in the decks that want it it’s likely to be about as good as a single Rhys the Redeemed activation. (Second ability, that is.) If you have two token decks facing off, though, then a whole lot of soldiers will be falling through that weird hole in the sky. I assume planeswalkers have portal guns or something, because that orange border really makes me worried that Companion Cubes are going to start falling through there as well.
Fell the Mighty
The only thing better than a wrath is a wrath that you can control. You can set the bar for this Retribution of the Meek analog wherever you want provided there is a creature with the appropriate power in play. It doesn’t even have to be your creature! What worries me, though, is the word “target” on this card. If the creature you target ends up leaving the battlefield before this spell resolves, the mighty will stay mighty and you’ll be down a card. “Awkward” doesn’t begin to describe it.
If your opponents aren’t packing tons of graveyard hate (and let’s be honest—anyone who isn’t should be) then this will provide you with lots of flying spirit tokens! I honestly don’t have a great handle on how good this card will really be in practice—while people may not think popping a Relic when this dies would be a good idea, they might be singing a different tune when they’re being attacked by a pile of flying spirits. I’m not super high on this card, but I’ve been wrong before.
It’s no Mirror Entity, but Mirror Entity is completely nuts. If you want to play a very aggressive deck that bashes with lots of creatures, you could certainly choose a worse commander. Obviously getting wrathed is the bane of decks like that, but with Jazal in charge, all it takes is a quick token generation spell—even a Raise the Alarm will do, honestly—and you’re back in business.
Nahiri, the Lithomancer
Say hello to our first Commandwalker of this article. Planeswalkers are traditionally pretty bad in Commander since they die fairly quickly, but playing something like this over and over again means that the “planeswalker as fog” paradigm changes a little bit. Sure, your opponents can kill it, but it might just keep coming back! I like the equipment focus here, and I like that she can start at five loyalty. This card, and the other planeswalkers in this set, definitely create a “protect the commander” focus, as the ultimates tend to be pretty devastating. I can’t wait to get that Stoneforged Blade out on the battlefield—even on one of those Kor Soldiers it seems pretty strong.
Blue Hex costs one less mana and bounces nonland permanents. It’s very sad that this is a sorcery, but I get it—that’s fixable with a Leyline of Anticipation or Vedalken Orrery, though. Even as a sorcery, though, I think this card is fairly powerful. Bouncing a creature that has gotten large, a planeswalker commander that’s closing in on an ultimate, or artifacts and enchantments that are preventing you from attacking effectively are all things that bounce spells do well in Commander, and you can get six permanents out of the way for the turn with this lovely card.
Yet another entry in the Dread Cacodemon saga, Breaching Leviathan seems like it will go well in mono-blue decks that want to take advantage of cards like Caged Sun and similar that will allow players to generate lots of mana and creatures and then smash for the win. I definitely think that this belongs in decks featuring Lorthos, the Tidemaker as the headliner, but I wouldn’t mind searching it up in something like Momir Vig or another creature-heavy deck that wants to go big and alpha strike rather than taking the game by inches.
Well, this is a strange one, isn’t it? You might not even be giving yourself control of these creatures, but they will be blocking. You can use this to have flimsy but important creatures (cards like Momir Vig, Riku of Two Reflections, and similar) block and die, or you can grab creatures and use them to block. The creatures don’t gain haste, so even creatures with tap abilities aren’t safe from the blocking requirement—sweet!
I guess the difference between being alluring and dulcet is that the creature has to attack whoever you say it should. The flavor is a little weird, but the effect is cool. Morph seems pretty random on this card, but I guess you flip it up during beginning of combat and then force the biggest thing to attack someone that isn’t you. Both the attacking and defending players will probably want this creature dead quickly, so take care with how you use this card.
Yet another entry in the obvious collusion category, I see this card being cast on a combo player who needs some help going off. It’s no Trade Secrets, but it sure does seem unpleasant if two players are conspiring together in advance. At least untapping nonland permanents only makes it easier to break the symmetry, but I’m still not a huge fan of this card.
Everyone loves this card! It does get awkward if one of the tokens gets bounced, but otherwise I can see this being an awesome card to sacrifice to something like Birthing Pod. Even the tokens lend themselves to being sacrificed—Disciple of Bolas would like to have a word with the 6/6 Whale token, for example. Overall it’s a lot of work to get this 0/1 to become a 9/9, but the card is so cool that I just can’t imagine not playing it in something.
I’m glad this card doesn’t ask you to track the Zombie token as an X/Y and combine the power and toughness individually. Blue’s not great at creatures with power greater than their toughness by large margins, but that’s what everyone else’s deck is for! Of course, milling your opponents is often quite risky, so make sure you use cards like Undead Alchemist (or Sidisi if you’re willing to branch out past blue) to get an advantage. Casting spells out of your opponents’ graveyards with cards like Diluvian Primordial is a good idea as well.
Another Lieutenant, although I must say I like this one a bit better than the last. The biggest problem with non-trampling large creatures is that they’re going to get blocked, but drawing two cards is a pretty appetizing tradeoff for a chump-blocked 7/7. A hexproof commander will make this all the better—perhaps Lazav is in order? I do think the planeswalker commanders will make these Lieutenant creatures a little better, as they won’t be disappearing during combat quite as often.
Teferi, Temporal Archmage
We’ve discussed this card a bit in the past—in fact, I wrote about it from Hawaii—but I will say that Teferi looks just about as underwhelming now as he did then. At least he’s a card advantage engine, and he can definitely be a combo enabler with his untap ability as well. I honestly want to play him alongside other planeswalkers, which means really breaking the shell of the blue precon, but we’ll talk more about modifications to these decks soon.
Well of Ideas
So, cast this and bounce it? Yep, that seems right. Other than that, it’s at least a lopsided Howling Mine, which is all I’ve ever wanted from a Howling Mine. As long as you have only two opponents, this card provides you as many cards as it gives to the rest of the table, but it does cost you a card initially. I’d mostly rather cast Mulldrifter than this, but really, I’d rather cast Mulldrifter than most cards.
Demon of Wailing Agonies
Waaah, I don’t like the Lieutenant mechanic that much! Waaargh, I wish this was a better card. Graaaagh, at least it makes them sacrifice a creature, which is good against decks that rely on one big creature like Rafiq or The Mimeoplasm. Boo hoo hoo, I don’t have a lot more to say about this card, which is good because I’m out of agonized wailing noises.
I like this card quite a bit for a small enabler. Combine with cards like Grim Haruspex to generate more card advantage and enjoy the large Horror this card spits out later. Cards that want your creatures to die, like Kresh the Bloodbraided, will want this wizard (I guess butcher isn’t a creature type…) around for the long haul, whereas other decks might be more interested in a larger X/X sooner. There are some flavor issues with what I assume will be rampant shenanigans involving Reassembling Skeleton, but we can sweep those under the rug.
I assume that’s a magic shovel; otherwise she’d just have the zombies carry it. I’m excited to see Flesh Carver and/or the successive Horror token get sacrificed to Gisa, and in a pinch, she can always bifurcate a Zombie token. Endless Ranks of the Dead, meet your new best friend! Cards like Maalfeld Twins just got a lot more attractive as well. She can’t be the main event in a deck that uses Deadapult, but I’m sure there are decent ways around that. Perhaps Tymaret will require her night-shoveling services.
This one is much easier to break the symmetry on. Choose an opponent with no creatures and an empty graveyard—a situation a black deck can definitely engineer—and go directly to town. Where the good uses of the other cards in this cycle are probably more subtle, this card is a bit of a blunt instrument when used properly.
Despite being sniped by some unscrupulous internet denizen, we talked about this card already. (Side note: unofficial spoilers hurt writers like me and sites like us, and they’re even worse for less established … um, establishments. Please stay out of that game!)
I raise the dead, but I’m very picky about who I raise. I won’t reanimate just anyone, you know! After I kill all the creatures—which is really the first step to becoming an insane necromancer, because you need some materials to work with—I’ll take five minutes poking through everyone’s graveyard, hemming and hawing until I finally decide to reanimate what everyone else figured out was the best creature four minutes ago. Annoying quirks of reality aside, this card is quite good. It reminds me of Phyrexian Rebirth, except you get a real creature instead of just an X/X.
Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath
Did this guy get a haircut? Maybe a horncut? Maybe this is Ob Nixilis in the past, before he became a wingaling demon who hated shuffling. (I’m not really clear on the chronology of Ob Nixilis, honestly. Is Ob Nixilis, the Fallen the one who is shackled? I feel like he kind of got worse when the shackles came off.) Anyway, this is one of the planeswalker commanders I love the most. The -2 ability does an okay job of protecting Ob Nixilis early on, and once you get the emblem—which I assume is the equivalent of the player taking the Black Oath—Ob Nixilis doesn’t even need to stick around. The emblem is absolutely insane, but you don’t need me to tell you that.
Overseer of the Damned
This card follows in the footsteps of Dark Hatchling (er, maybe the wingflaps, since they’re flying) but loses the restrictions on what it can destroy. Reanimating or blinking this will obviously be a reasonable plan to abuse the first ability, but the second ability is really where the gold is. Any time a nontoken creature controlled by an opponent dies, you get a token—how can that be bad? I really wish Endless Ranks of the Dead was in the black precon.
It’s not just a zombie, it’s a craaaaaazy zombie! Who knows who it will attack? If you could control that, it might actually be a better card, but with that restriction holding it back like the straitjacket it’s wearing, the dream of getting someone with the Quietus Spike ability is probably as dead as this card. I wore a straitjacket as part of a high school play once, and let’s be real—anyone leaning that far forward in one of those is tipping over, and once you’ve fallen, you really can’t get up. Honestly, the best part of this card is that straitjackets are now Magic canon, which isn’t really a huge flavor gain in my mind.
Spoils of Blood
Another fairly obvious card. Cast it after a wrath. It’s an instant. There are ways to go infinite and make a really large Horror, which you can then hurl at an opponent for massive damage, but I am sure this card won’t be used for that quite as much. This is also likely to be one of those things that players hang onto forever, waiting for an opportunity to get extra value. It’s like really good consumables in video games—you hang onto them until the right moment, but that never happens and you beat the game with 51 elixirs in your inventory.
Wake the Dead
Okay, but the dead are going to sleep after combat, okay? Hopefully the creatures you’re reanimating have awesome ETB triggers or abilities, or this is just an “oh god please don’t put me in the graveyard with all of my creatures” kind of spell, which is not a ton of fun. Maybe it lets you alpha strike back next turn, but XBB for a fog effect isn’t my idea of excitement.
You might imagine this card would cause the two players who you’ve chosen to play Family Feud to beat up on each other mercilessly. In practice I’m pretty sure it will just make them want to kill you harder. It’s the danger of cards like this that look awesome—you cast them, but they don’t do anything and you just end up sinking into lava with Ewan MacGregor screaming at you, except this time, your opponents were the chosen ones, not you.
Daretti, Scrap Savant
I like that the +2 lets you modulate how many cards you want to rebuy on, and I like that the -2 isn’t worded like Goblin Welder, which rears its ugly text in this deck anyway. The emblem is hilarious—I know Josh Utter-Leyton said something about going crazy with Mishra’s Baubles on Magic TV, but we will have to content ourselves with simple one-ofs. Daretti will need a lot of protection, and I’m concerned that red decks won’t be able to provide that all the time, but we’ll see.
Is this like some weird red mage wedding ritual? You know, like that thing they do with the sand, except with lava? Anyways, lightning always strikes twice when this wacky wizard is around. Copying a counterspell is an obvious use case, but copying a removal spell or something that generates tokens, untaps permanents, or even deals tons of damage is the way we edge a little closer to achieving “the dream” with this card. Be careful about copying Deploy to the Front—your opponent might get more soldiers than you bargained for!
Feldon of the Third Path
Are you not familiar with Feldon’s storyline? Think Locke from Final Fantasy 6, except he’s a red mage—not the Final Fantasy kind, the Magic kind. If that doesn’t help, close the article, turn off your router, and play Final Fantasy 6. This article will be here when you finish.
That aside, this card looks incredibly fun. I look forward to seeing the ways in which it is broken or at least used hilariously once the set comes out, but I predict a lot of shenanigans in combination with Daretti. The creature cards Feldon copies don’t even get exiled, so Feldon can reanimate his favorite creature over and over again until he gets the result he wants. (He never will.)
The first time I read this, I thought it hit players. I was excited. Then I realized it just clears the board of creatures if you manage to go big enough with it. A conditional two-mana Plague Wind that deals damage and requires targeting is not going to be what I’m looking for most of the time, which is really unfortunate for this card, because it’s a cool effect.
Token decks are pretty popular in Commander, and this definitely makes that strategy dangerous, but this also can be used as an effect that wraths particular players and hits them a little bit, which I think is going to be the more common use of this card. Make sure to be careful, because this card hits you too!
Living Death for artifacts, you say? This is going to be a really hilarious card. I’m glad red is getting the artifact love, because we don’t need more Sharuum decks running around the universe. Obviously this is a card you want to package with Daretti and Welder, but I think this is a card that should be built around along with other cards that want to put artifacts in graveyards. There are plenty of artifacts that enter and draw cards and so on, but imagine using Kuldotha Forgemaster, getting something like Wurmcoil Engine with a nice effect on death, and then becoming the Scrapmaster! (Get Daretti’s emblem for extra juice, because of course planeswalker ultimates are easy to get.)
Probably my favorite lieutenant, this one has haste and burns something down whenever it attacks. Big dragons are a staple of Commander decks and have been ever since the olden days when it was called Elder Dragon Highlander, and I think Tyrant’s Familiar has a place at a table even if it doesn’t belong in the upper echelons of dragons.
Another collusion special, but this time, I think this is more conducive to at-the-table politicking rather than premeditated teaming up. Getting rid of some problematic lands—always a big deal in Commander—while knocking out some creatures in the meantime is a good deal, and they’re not even going to be your lands or creatures! For extra fun, loop in two opponents on this, not just one—maybe even let someone who got Stone Rained by another player using this spell destroy a creature, and watch the sparks fly!
More dragons! Everyone must attack, and Warmonger Hellkite will breathe fire for everyone who does. You’re not the one attacking? Doesn’t matter—breathe fire and cause havoc in combat. This is the kind of multiplayer-focused card I like—it’s one that doesn’t outright say “commander” on it, and it creates interesting situations regardless of how many players are still at the table.
It’s no Gigantomancer, but then again, it’s a 5/5 trampler on its own, and it grants trample as well. This goes well with creatures with counters already on them as well as other pump effects—remember, effects that set power and toughness always apply before effects that add or subtract it, regardless of the order in which those effects took place!
Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury
Apparently Llanowar’s Fury consists largely of making mana elves, drawing cards, and occasionally breaking stuff. (Freyalise, as is canonical, has an eyepatch—is she Llanowar’s Nick Fury?) Freyalise will sometimes be a weird Seal of Primordium, but I think she does her best when she’s doing her Regal Force impression—it’s nice that her +2 fuels that. She can make it to her -6 after only two turns of using her first ability, and hopefully you have some more green creatures in play by then.
If you’re full-on tribal and your opponents aren’t, this could be interesting, but I think this will often be a global Raise Dead. There are quite a few incidental tribal groupings in Commander, if not tribal synergies, so be careful when you play this. You get a 5/7 out of the deal, but you’ll probably be last to cast whatever you get back.
I can’t get enough of this hydra. As long as it doesn’t get exiled or bounced, you’ll get massive value out of it. Sure, sometimes it will get exiled or bounced, but make sure to have a sacrifice outlet and you’ll be drawing lots of cards and gaining lots of life no matter what people try to do. Mono-green is obviously known for its ability to make stupid amounts of mana, so you should be able to make quite a large hydra by the time you want to cast this.
If this survives a turn cycle, it will almost always enable you to kill an opponent. Give it haste, and well, let’s just say someone at the table isn’t going to like you very much. Thorn Elemental was always one of my favorite creatures as a young person, and a hexproof version that gives my other creatures the same ability is a dream come true, even with -0/-3.
Song of Dryads
I love this card. It’s borderline not quite green, as it is just a weird green Oblivion Ring, but the flavor is awesome and the effect is hilarious. Blightsteel Colossus? Blightsteel Forest. Feldon of the Third Path? Forest of the Third Path. Forest? Still a Forest, but now a Forest with a weird song going on. Play in a Yisan deck for maximum flavor.
Obvious candidate for Purphoros or Parallel Lives abuse. Don’t play this with Primal Vigor. X in the cost means you’re spending a lot of mana helping someone else who gets to attack with their creatures first, so you had better be breaking the symmetry or you’ll be regretting it later.
Yet another lieutenant that leads itself to a massive blowout if your commander dies in combat, Thunderfoot Baloth is likely to herald the end of the game for someone. Whether it’s an opponent or you depends on whether or not you can keep the chain of command intact. Green has so many big creatures available that trample is likely to make things very unpleasant for opponents.
Titania, Protector of Argoth
Well, I’m now terrified of the second ability on this. Strip Mine my Gaea’s Cradle, will you? Here comes a 5/3, triggering Where Ancients Tread or any number of Temur or Naya-related things. Titania/Armageddon/Warstorm Surge, anyone? I get the feeling that Titania players are going to be the ones destroying the lands, not their opponents…
Wave of Vitriol
It’s nice to have something that clears out nonbasics without feeling too mean, but five-color decks will be crying their eyes out when this gets cast because it looks just like your average Armageddon to them. Getting rid of artifacts and enchantments with weird Slime Jokulhaups seems like a sideline to the lands thing.
What a weird card—a green card that checks hand size. It definitely scales with your number of opponents. It also feels awkward alongside cards like Feed the Pack that are just so much better. I don’t love this card.
The “can’t be sacrificed” clause makes this card much safer—it allows you to pass a sufficiently large creature (or one that is indestructible) around the table and have it wreak havoc wherever your opponents (or pre-arranged teammates…) see fit. I think this card is hilarious, but I’m sure I’ll hate it when something enormous is being passed around the table in an attempt to beat the crap out of me.
Get the heck out, banners! A mana rock when you need it, a card when you don’t, and getting the card doesn’t even cost any more mana than the initial investment in the Sphere. I’m going to need quite a few of these…
Crown of Doom
It is the will of Zedruu that this gets hilariously passed around the table!
It might eventually come back to you—and make sure you never cast this without two more mana up, for the record, unless you like dying. It’s actually not great with Zedruu, because it will inevitably end up back in your hands. It can’t possibly come back to you unless everyone who has controlled it since you sent it off is dead (or unless someone else is feeling generous and has Donate-type effects.) What happens when the Crown’s controller dies is pretty weird—whoever has the most recent control effect on the Crown and is still alive gets it, so have fun keeping track!
The stones on the outside are fingers! How adorable. Even if this is the last card in your hand, you’re investing nine mana for the first three cards you draw, and beyond that it’s at least three more for the next Ancestral. If you accept Inspiration as the “rate” for cards at instant speed (2 mana = 1 card) then you start doing fine on the second activation as long as you’re hellbent, but will you ever actually get there?
Masterwork of Ingenuity
Cute, but it’s no Sculpting Steel. If you’re focused on equipment yourself, it could certainly be playable, but make sure you don’t get into the awkward situation where you don’t have anything to copy with this. I find it hilarious that this is an equipment as printed, meaning Stoneforge Mystic and other similar cards can find it. Don’t overlook that, as I think it’s what makes this card playable as opposed to terrible.
This card is sweet! It provides mana until you’re ready to fire it off. Mana rocks with other modes are awesome in Commander, and while ten mana to destroy something seems like a rough deal, remember that you got value out of the mana rock up until the point at which you hurled it at something. Good in decks that also want Brittle Effigy (important distinction—the Effigy exiles a creature, whereas this destroys a permanent) and also good in mono-colored decks that have trouble destroying particular types of permanents. What a coincidence that it would show up in a set of mono-colored decks!
I love this. Hexproof/shroud crap is the bane of fun in Commander, and now every deck can play this—a small price to pay, since it’s a land, so you don’t have to devote a whole slot to Glaring Spotlight. (Sure, this doesn’t fit in the theater theme deck like the Spotlight does, but that’s fine.)
What a weird card to print in this set. It’s nice to have a red land that gives creatures haste, though. I see this entering the battlefield tapped a lot, but that’s fine.
I love that this can be fired off on turn three to get some basics and facilitate a turn four 6-drop, and I love that it works even in decks of more than one color! I’d be happy to play this in a deck with two or even three colors, although three is probably pushing it given how I tend to build my mana bases. (I get pretty nonbasic a lot of the time.)
Okay! Over five thousand words later, that’s it! Next week I’ll have the decks in my hands (and in my e-internet hands, I guess) and that means only one thing: battle!