Hey yo. It’s been a while, but I’m back to talk some more about the Wonderful World of Commander. We’ve had a month now to play around with Mirrodin Besieged, and today we’re going to go over some of the stronger cards for the format from the new set. I’ve also included a few of the trap cards that, although they may be strong in 60-card or limited, really don’t cut it in Commander.
A couple of notes. I’ve left out the majority of the infect cards, because they annoy me. Also I’ve left out things like Go for the Throat and Creeping Corrosion, which just aren’t that interesting. With those provisos out of the way, let’s dive in!
WhiteBanishment Decree: It’s not horrible, but unlike Condemn or Hallowed Burial it could actually help your opponent if you cast it on their commander. It’s an instant, so if you can cast it in response to a dredge effect or a milling then you can do some serious hosing. A bit of a corner case, and an expensive one too. Frantic Salvage: This has potential. Big Tezz loves this card in your Sharuum decks, it can recur your Disks or your Armillary Spheres, and you get one of them right away. Someone with a more devious mind than I have will find some way to turn this into a disgusting rebuy engine for some sort of degenerate combo, but until then I’m calling it strong. Hero of Bladehold: If there isn’t a tribal soldier deck in Commander, there will be now. Catapult Master, Cenn’s Tactician, Aven Brigadier, Daru Warchief, Benalish Commander, Field Marshal, Captain of the Watch…you could go with Darien, King of Kjeldor as your commander or dip into red for Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran. Adding the Hero is a pretty nasty way to make some impressively large attackers while making your side of the board look rather crowded. Battle Cry is a decent mechanic in general for rush decks, but most of the smaller guys will be killed on sight. Only Loxodon Partisan in white is worth playing, apart from this. Leonin Relic-Warder: Journey to Nowhere for artifacts and enchantments? Gimme. There are so many enchantments and artifacts in the format that will completely shut games down, and this guy will take one of them out for at least a little while, maybe letting someone find an answer to it. You know, stuff like Debtors’ Knell, Aurification, Lethal Vapors or Smokestack. Mirran Crusader: This gal is a beating, plain and simple. She would look wonderful in any equipment deck, especially with a fetching cloak of Whispersilk and some trendy Greaves of Lightning. Hey, why not give her a Sword or two? Ginsu action for the win, with the ability to sneak past big green beasts and dodge black removal. Phyrexian Rebirth: A real “live the dream” card, the dream being casting this against some rush and/or token strategy opponents, netting yourself a very large Horror, to which you then give Lightning Greaves. Then you win. We all know (or should know) how powerful and essential Wrath effects are in Commander, and the cost of them is largely irrelevant. How often do you want to sweep the board on turn 4? The fact that you’re getting a creature that is likely 10/10 or bigger is more than worth an extra 2 mana. Victory’s Herald: When True Conviction (which has the exact same mana cost as this, by the way) hits the board in a Commander game, everyone else in the game does the Eye of Sauron effect on the poor sap who cast it as if he just donned the One Ring. Presuming it isn’t countered, stolen or met with an immediate Disenchant effect, the one who is truly convicted often ends up on the receiving end of a Rodney King-style beatdown. Victory’s Herald is not as powerful in terms of the bonuses it grants, but it IS a 4/4 beater and does grant evasion, which True Conviction doesn’t. It’s probably not as strong as the enchantment, but it will still probably make you a target. White Sun’s Zenith: This is just a beating. Anyone with a Rhys the Redeemed deck that isn’t adding one of these should probably bury their head in the sand and listen to their brain bake. Play this at the end of an opponent’s turn, untap and then copy them all. With Doubling Season out. Besides, saying “in your end step, instant pussies” is in and of itself a reason to play this.
BlueBlue Sun’s Zenith: Sure, why not? I hear drawing cards is good, and drawing X cards seems like it could be better. The triple blue is not inconsequential even in Commander so you definitely don’t want to run this in anything more than a two-colour deck. Fortunately, Niv Mizzet is two colours… Consecrated Sphinx: Wow. Just…wow. 4/6 flyer for 4UU is not a horrible deal, but that rules text…damn. The first card that came into my mind on seeing this was Vision Skeins, which in a 4-player game now reads “Each player draws two cards. You may draw up to 6 cards.” Your opponent drops a Mind’s Eye? GREAT! Phyrexian Arena? Woohoo? Note that it does NOT work with Necropotence, which does not actually draw you any cards. Still…who cares? One caveat though: you WILL be a target when you drop this. Oh, and don’t copy someone else’s. They draw two, you draw four, they draw 8.. Corrupted Conscience: Another card that will make you public enemy number 1. Stealing creatures is going to happen in Commander, especially when someone is playing blue. People play sac outlets specifically to avoid having a big nasty monster stolen. It’s part of the game and, in moderation, it’s all good. With that said, infect is currently a big talking point in Commander, as the poison counters required to kill you don’t double like the life does. Personally, I won’t play it in Commander and it irritates me when others do. That said, this card is strong and if your playgroup doesn’t mind it, go nuts. Cryptoplasm: I love this card. It copies the nastiest thing on the board until something nastier hits the board, then it copies that. All that for 3 mana? Bargain! Quicksilver Geyser: Magic is full of card advantage engines that are too expensive to see play in constructed 60-card Magic. Fortunately, we’re not talking about sixty-card (or 60cards), we’re talking about Commander. 5 mana to bounce two permanents (yeah, I had to read it twice too before I realised it wasn’t just creatures) is a good deal, and at instant speed it’s an even better deal. Don’t sleep on this. Treasure Mage: It’s starting to see some play in Standard, but in Commander where every card is a one-of, tutor effects are like gold dust (not Golddust , that would be freaky). Tutor effects that grab some of the most powerful cards in the game are even more valuable. Mindslaver, Wurmcoil Engine, Planar Portal, Akroma’s Memorial, Darksteel Colossus, Inkwell Leviathan…a whole host of Commander staples that you can go fetch. All this and a 2/2 body for only 2U!
BlackBlack Sun’s Zenith: It’s a Wrath for black. I hear Wrath effects are good in Commander. The good thing is that although it can be quite mana-intensive to kill some of the nastier stuff in the format, it still makes it smaller. It also hits stuff with shroud, protection from black, regeneration…you want this, Gruesome Encore: It’s Threaten for the graveyard! You want to run this; not only does it let you smack someone about with their own beastie, it also exiles it to prevent further reanimation shenanigans. An interesting clause is that the creature gets exiled regardless, and as a replacement effect at that, so someone killing it or bouncing it will not get them their creature back. What a great way to take care of Necrosavants and the like. Massacre Wurm: If I need to tell you why this is good, then you’re probably really new to Magic. It clears the board of weenies (except yours), leaves behind a 6/5 beater, and punishes your opponents for being kind enough to have creatures die. As with Blue Sun’s Zenith, the triple coloured mana in the casting cost does rather restrict the decks in which you’ll want to play this…but who cares? Vicious beatdown is vicious. Morbid Plunder: Creatures die a lot in Commander. I mean A LOT. Sometimes they get discarded or milled too. In fact it’s sometimes a better strategy to have key creatures in your graveyard than in your library, since it’s much easier to retrieve them from there. Like with this card. Morbid Plunder is built-in card advantage already, and unlike with Quicksilver Geyser above Morbid Plunder is reasonably priced anyway. The “up to” clause means that in a pinch you can cast this with only one target, though you will rarely want or need to. Sangromancer: What an awesome, awesome card to put in a Golgari deck with Vulturous Zombie and Massacre Wurm. GB already has an easy time nuking permanents, and having a 3/3 body that gains you life when that happens is a nice little plus. Of course if you play Nath as your general, you can gain more life while also making an Elf each turn. Seems good. Oooh, and then play Syphon Mind! Excuse me, I have to go build a deck… Spread the Sickness: I know this is meant to be used with infect, but in Commander it can be valuable in almost any deck. Ignore the proliferate clause for a second and read the first three words. Yup, no targeting restrictions. It’s 5 mana and a sorcery so it’s not a combat trick, but sometimes you just need to kill a black creature or an artifact. Now, the proliferate is just the cherry on the top. There’s a ton of stuff that distributes or produces counters these days that proliferating is rarely a bad thing.
RedGalvanoth: The words “without paying its mana cost” have historically meant bad things for tournament Magic. Little Galvy (that’s what I call him. He’s ma buddy) hasn’t found a home in a deck yet, but in Commander this could be a laugh and a half. Played in a control deck with lots of expensive instants and sorceries, you could be hitting gold each turn. Yeah it’s not a given, but you’re playing Sensei’s Divining Top anyway, right? Hellkite Igniter: Am I alone in having a home for this? I have recently built a Bosh deck that plays a bunch of dragons (Covetous, Hoard-Smelter, Hoarding) and some obvious critters like Atog. Igniter is going right into that deck and I won’t even bat an eyelid in doing so. It’s adding cards like this to decks like that that make me love Commander. Find 40 good artifacts, 20 good red spells and some land and play. Curves, metagames, opitmum draws and threat density be buggered, Into the Core: Return to Dust is very strong in Commander, because it will almost always have two targets. This isn’t as flexible, but artifacts are always on the board and you can play this at instant speed to still take out two targets. It also puts an end to Goblin Welder shenanigans. Red Sun’s Zenith: X burn is good in a format where you often have 10+ mana on the board. X burn that exiles annoying recursion creatures is also good. Combine the two and add in the fact that it recurs itself, and you have an auto-include for your red decks. I remember Disintegrate fondly, and a reusable one tickles my nostalgia bone. That’s what she said, right Debbie? Slagstorm: A great example of a constructed and limited staple that probably won’t have a major impact on Commander. 3 damage to each creature will hose rush strategies and will clear some room for the big boys to play, but if the big boys aren’t on your team then you’re in trouble. Three to each player will rarely be relevant. I was hoping this would do both if you had metalcraft, but no such luck.
GreenGreen Sun’s Zenith: Often used in Standard to fetch a Primeval Titan, it has a plethora of nasty targets in Commander. Apart from the aforemention PriTi (yeah he’s my homeboy too, so I get to call him that), there’s Verdant Force, Multani, Progenitus…green excels at bringing the beef, and this brings it for you. Plaguemaw Beast: A lot of decks are playing sacrifice effects right now because of all the Control Magic effects out there. Putting that effect on a 4/3 body with an ability that is actually relevant in a lot of cases is a heck of a lot better than something like Claws of Gix. I don’t get why you have to tap a 4/3, seems counter-productive, but you can’t win them all. Praetor’s Counsel: How many decks aren’t running a “no max hand size” effect these days? Reliquary Tower, Venser’s Journal and now this baby. The triple green makes it a little restrictive, but by the time you get to 8 mana you’ll have some goodies to put back in your hand for a second go-round. That becomes so much more valuable when you only have one copy of each spell to begin with. Thrun, the Last Troll: Can anyone see this being used as a general outside of troll decks? The reaction to Thrun reminds me of the reaction to Mirri, Cat Warrior when she was printed in Exodus: everyone salivated over all the abilities, then she never saw play. Thrun is good, no question. He’s not quite so good in Commander where things like Wrath of God, Diabolic Edict and others can still take him down, but he’s decent. That’s about it.
GoldGlissa, the Traitor: Yeah, I’m building around her. She kills anything, she recurs artifacts like crazy and she makes a kick-ass general. Has to be done really. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas: I want four of these as much as the next guy, but planeswalkers just aren’t as strong in Commander. You’re basically restricted to an Esper build with enough tutors to find Tezz and start going for the awesome. Now while that could well be a fun and powerful deck, it’s even more narrow than in 60-card.
ArtifactBlightsteel Colossus: I’m begging you all…don’t play this. I’m not in the camp that thinks this card was lazy design or that it should not have been made. In tournament Magic I think it has a place, but in the fun and casual format that is Commander this card should never hit the table I don’t buy all these lines about “Oh there are so many answers to it.” Sure there are, but with any other card you have at least a turn to find the answer if you have no blockers. In a format where Lightning Greaves are ubiquitous, you might not even get that. Leave it in competitive play. Bonehoard: Now that’s more like it. Most of the living weapons are expensive to equip, almost to the point of being unplayable. This equips for 2, and once it’s on there it makes a major difference. As you should already know, creatures die in Commander. A lot. Equipping for 2 to get +3/+3 would be a bargain, and anything above that is just icing. The fact that it comes with a hard-to-kill black creature makes even the 4cc (same as Lhurgoyf with no colour restrictions) a bargain. Darksteel Plate: I’m not 100% convinced on this one. Part of me feels like it’s too expensive to bother with, as it doesn’t actually give the creature any bonuses. Another, bigger part of me feels like that doesn’t matter, because Commander decks don’t normally care much about cost and this will keep a fragile general on the board. Kemba loves this. Ichor Wellspring: Although some people (*cough*Chapin*cough*) will tell you this card is first-pickable in limited, I prefer to be a bit more reserved. What I will tell you is that it’s strong in any deck that can sac it, and ridiculous in any deck that can recur it. Like the Glissa/Nath deck I spoke about above. Fun times! Knowledge Pool: Someone is going to play this in a game I’m in soon, and I won’t know whether to laugh or cry. I will probably do both. I love the sheer insanity this thing can cause. Of course the person playing it will be set up with low casting cost stuff to abuse this fully, and unless you can cast a Naturalize and another spell before anyone else gets to cast something, it’s going to stick around. Fun! Mirrorworks: I feel like this could be ridiculous. I have it in a couple of decks but haven’t cast it yet. Two of any artifact you cast sounds like it could be abused in a format where nobody gets to run two of anything, but time will tell. Myr Welder: Is this as good as Necrotic Ooze? Likely not. You can only steal one ability per turn, it’s not automatic and he can’t swing for 4. On the bright side he doesn’t die to Bolt, he exiles stuff instead of just copying it, and you won’t be tempted to swing in with him when you could be using a tap ability. I want to see if it will work, but my gut says that Ooze is better. Psychosis Crawler: In a RUB deck, with Underworld Dreams, Kederekt Parasite, Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and Consecrated Sphinx, you can make some serious mess. Especially with stuff like Prosperity, Vision Skeins, Wheel of Fortune, Molten Psyche…yeah, I need to go build another deck. Spine of Ish Sah: Like I said for Ichor Wellspring, this thing is strong in a vacuum but bonkers if you can sacrifice it. There’s not much it can’t kill, and the worst-case scenario is that you take out a land. Like Cabal Coffers. I hate that thing. Sword of Feast and Famine: Do I really need to talk about this? All the Swords are powerful in any format, and the ability to untap all your lands after smacking someone is pretty damn strong when you have a lot of them…like in most Commander games. Green and black are everywhere in the format too, so the protection is very relevant. Titan Forge: In most formats, this card is horrible. I mean you pay 3 to cast it, then pay 9 to charge it up, then NEXT TURN you get a huge dude. So 12 mana for a 9/9. No thanks. However in the slower games that Commander allows, it gets better. Especially in a deck with proliferate, Doubling Season and Energy Chamber…
Wow. That took a while.Hopefully you’ll get some use out of this, especially those of you looking to get into Commander. Evaluating cards in 100-card singleton formats can be challenging, and I’m still learning too. We all are, aren’t we?
Before we head to the close, check me out on The Avant Card Show. I had a blast recording with these guys, and it’s the best podcast not named The Eh Team anywhere online. Now, let’s move on!
Putting Me On Tilt
Normally, this is the part of the column where I talk about a card that I hate in Commander. Not today. No, today I’m going to talk about a type of player that puts me on tilt like crazy. This came up a couple of nights ago on MTGO, and the dude in question is lucky that the replay didn’t save, because I’d call him out by name.
In the first 5 turns, this guy had 15 mana out. He had already cast Damnation, had recurred Diabolic Tutor 4 times with Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed and was generally painting a nice big target on his face. Nevertheless, the other three players were trying to spread the attacks around in the early going. That didn’t stop this guy from whining like a little bitch every time someone targeted his creatures or attacked him. “Why are you guys attacking me all the time? That guy has 8 mana and Durdle Durdle Herp Derp out!” The more he whined, the more we attacked him. Why? Because nobody likes a whiny bitch.
Look, this is a political game. I agree that picking on a player is generally unfair and it ruins the fun for one of the players. However, when that player is ruining the fun for everyone else, it is totally justified. Besides, that’s not even what was happening here. My general rule is that anyone who sweeps my board or kills a key creature gets one crack-back attack or spell targeting. That all changes if I see Omnath, Uril, Time Stretch or Xiahou Dun, but in this case I was being cautious because I was in a shitty position and didn’t want to draw attention. Instead of trying to develop his board position and stop pissing people off, the guy Strip Mines one of the other players to take out his only source of green mana in a two-colour deck.
If you’re losing, if you’re going to lose…take the loss. Don’t scoop in the attack phase to take away someone’s attack and possible lifegain or triggers. Don’t rant and rave about how unfair it is that you died. Just die.
That’s all from me folks. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed running through Mirrodin Besieged, to the extent that I think I will go through some older sets and pick out some gems for Commander. As always you can get me on Twitter @lansdellicious on MTGO as CLSmooth or by email. Rock on!