While the new legendary creatures are definitely the biggest draw of any Commander release, each year sees a handful of new cards and mechanics introduced for use in Magic’s greatest format.
Of all the Commander expansions released so far, I would say that C15 offers up the coolest new cards.
I know that what I just said is a pretty bold statement. Past Commander expansions have introduced staples like [card]Chaos Warp[/card] and [card]Toxic Deluge[/card] – not to mention Legacy playables like [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] and [card]Containment Priest[/card]. However, in preparation for writing this article, I went through the complete set of Commander expansions and noted the important new cards they contributed to the format. My list of notables from C15 was longer than my lists from all of the other expansions combined.
Maybe I’m wrong and these new cards aren’t going to be as relevant as I am predicting, but as of right now, C15 seems like it is filled to the brim with goodies. Let’s take a look at some of my favourites:
[card]Arachnogenesis[/card] is a very cool card. The name is sweet, the effect is weird, and the tribe it helps is an under-appreciated fan favourite. Beyond the novelty, I think this card is worth a mention because of how powerful it is. It is obviously excellent in token decks, but it also pulls its weight against token decks.
Imagine a Ghave player using Squirrel Nest/Earthcraft to create ‘infinite’ tokens, swinging into you, and suddenly losing everything to your Fog of eight-legged critters. Not only are they not winning, they are probably losing as soon as your horde of arachnids can attack. This card also shuts down Kiki-Jiki and his besties [card]Zealous Conscripts[/card] and [card]Pestermite[/card].
Is this card worth including in your deck if the above-mentioned combos are not rampant in your playgroup? I think so. I can think of a whole host of situations where this card will be an effective play, and with a CMC of 3, [card]Arachnogenesis[/card] is not a very risky inclusion for the high payoff it can provide.
A new utility land has been a hallmark of the Commander releases since their inception. While [card]Opal Palace[/card] and Myriad Landscape have not achieved the relevance that [card]Command Tower[/card] – the first of their kind – has, [card]Command Beacon[/card] might have a chance.
It’s not an auto-include in multicoloured decks the way that Tower is, but Beacon isn’t a fixer – it’s an enabler. The printing of this land takes a previously unplayable Commander and suddenly makes him usable ([card]Haakon, Stromgald Scourge[/card] for those wondering). While he still isn’t a good Commander, there is an entire niche of the fanbase that jumped for joy when he became playable.
Phage the Untouchable, always a favourite for the unorthodox brewer, also benefits greatly from the Beacon, as do any Commanders that tend to have bulls-eyes painted on them over the course of the game. The Beacon will never be in as many decks as the Tower, but the decks it will be in will want it a lot more.
Clone is good enough that it sees play in tons of low-medium budget Commander decks. Since [card]Gigantoplasm[/card] is a strictly better Clone, it will likely see play in those same lists, and many besides.
The number of situations in which [card]Gigantoplasm[/card] is likely to exceed your expectations seems high. Imagine getting a copy of their [card]Divinity of Pride[/card], except you can manipulate your lifelink numbers a lot easier. Or getting a copy of their [card]Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon[/card] – only yours is a guaranteed KO. The ability to get your opponent’s card, only better, seems very strong and definitely worth a slot in many blue decks.
I really liked [card]Dread Summons[/card] the moment I saw it, and the couple of times I have seen it action confirm – at least for me – that it is a worthwhile card.
[card]Dread Summons[/card] scales nicely with the size and hour of the game. The more players that have joined and the more turns that have passed make it increasingly better. Having a full table of four can make casting it early a solid bet too. X = 3 can easily make 8 zombies in a four person game, and 16 power for 5 mana seems like a solid investment to me.
Summons seems like a powerful and flexible card, one that I would enjoy casting at any point in the game and would enjoying recurring again later even more.
Magus of the Wheel
[display]Magus of the Wheel[/display]
In C15 red has made out like a bandit. It seems like the supplemental products these days are doing their best to push red’s viability in larger-scale, casual formats. [card]Magus of the Wheel[/card] is probably one of the better new cards to be printed in this run of Commander; he is a second copy of red’s most powerful draw spell for those with higher budgets, and a first copy for those with lower ones.
Giving less-enfranchised players a chance to cast [card]Wheel of Fortune[/card] definitely wins a place in my heart for this guy.
Beyond what the Magus stands for, he is an excellent addition to decks like Feldon of the Third Path, Sedris the Traitor King, and Grenzo, Dungeon Warden – basically any deck that wants to fill its graveyard and hand at the same time. Being an efficient creature means that you sacrifice very little for the chance to include the Magus in your deck.
While I have no real interest in playing this card myself, I can promise it will be seen a lot around Commander tables in the months to come. A lot of decks currently running [card]Past in Flames[/card] will likely want this instead, and even more decks will want to run both.
This card is an explosive finisher for most spell-slinger strategies – which are decks that can sometimes have trouble combo-ing out multiple Commander players. With the help of Mastery, they can combo off once, and then do it again – only better.
I was skeptical of the Ibex when I first laid eyes on it. It seemed like an expensive 3/3 that would die to removal as soon as it hit the table. After playing against it, I can safely say that, yes, hitting it with removal is the right call, but if your opponent doesn’t have removal, they are probably screwed. In the games I have played/witnessed, if this doesn’t eat a [card]Path to Exile[/card] or [card]Terminate[/card], it is – at most – a two-turn clock.
The kind of pressure applied by the Ibex makes it a quality inclusion in my books. Plus, it’s a playable goat – and that is sweet as hell.
Shielded by Faith
[display]Shielded by Faith[/display]
I have always had a soft spot for cool auras, and [card]Shielded by Faith[/card] is one of the coolest. It seems to me like it would be an auto-include in most Voltron builds – especially the aura-centric ones.
Creatures like Uril and Bruna are powerful, but will frequently have to wait a turn before they can menace people with a one-hit kill. A turn of the table can often be enough to ensure that they never get the chance to attack. With the help of [card]Shielded by Faith[/card], they can receive some protection as soon as they hit the field. Having a little resilience for minimal effort is something that can make all the difference for a glass-cannon Commander.
[card]Eternal Witness[/card] is sweet. Political [card]Eternal Witness[/card] is sweeter. Political [card]Eternal Witness[/card] that is also a snake is sweetest of all.
Besides decks full of snakes, the lists that want this little guy the most are going to be the ones looking for redundancy in their Regrowth effects – which will most likely be obnoxious combo decks. While those boogeymen getting more toys to play with may induce groans, another playable snake is music to my ears.
[card]Skullwinder[/card] is also (arguably) a better fit for decks trying to stretch their mana further. With only a single green symbol in its casting cost, Snaketernal Witness will be easier to cast in games where your deck’s fixing ends up being weak.
Thief of Blood
[display]Thief of Blood[/display]
If there’s one thing this guy does well, it is wreck the Ezuri preconstructed deck right out of the box.
Against Swell the Host unaltered, expect [card]Thief of Blood[/card] to reach 30/30 kinds of heights. Against more tuned decks relying on +1/+1 counters, expect this thing to be even more of a beating. If you can cheat this into play at instant speed against an Animar list, you will ruin their day. Ghave’s ability to turn his +1/+1s in [card]Saproling[/card]s will make him harder to hit – but the opportunity with probably be there.
All-in-all, this little vampire is a solid utility creature that is worth a slot in any deck in which counters are a big part of the metagame. And in any [card]Alesha, Who Smiles at Death[/card] lists, it is an auto-include.
Blade of Selves and Myriad
[display]Blade of Selves[/display]
This year, the new mechanic for the Commander expansion was Myriad. The keyword appeared on a cycle of creatures – one for each colour – and was an attempt to make relatively “normal” creatures more powerful in Commander.
The mechanic is actually a really clean way of accomplishing a power upgrade for multiplayer without throwing the power balance of cards off for one-on-one games. It is a shame that the five creatures with Myriad are so unexciting. There are a few decks in which the likes of [card]Warchief Giant[/card] and [card]Caller of the Pack[/card] will shine (here’s looking at you, [card]Xenagos, God of Revels[/card]), but for the most part, the myriad cycle will likely be filler.
And then there is [card]Blade of Selves[/card].
In addition to slapping Myriad on five uncommon creatures, it was put on a piece of rare equipment – and this really got the hype train running at full-steam. Of all of the non-legendary cards in the new Commander set, [card]Blade of Selves[/card] has been receiving the most buzz, and it is easy to see why. Imagine attacking with a [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card] into three opponents? Just on the token copies alone, you are draining 32 life. [card]Massacre Wurm[/card] does some similar damage. Outside of black, you can divide up 15 [card]Bogardan Hellkite[/card] damage, or draw 6 [card]Mulldrifter[/card] cards – and these interactions are just the tip of the iceberg.
[card]Blade of Selves[/card] is hype for reasons similar to those surrounding the buzz of [card]Deadeye Navigator[/card]; all it takes to become a powerful combo is a creature with the text “enters the battlefield” on it.
The Confluence Cycle
Before we adjourn, we’re going to discuss my favourite new cards coming out of the new Commander decks: the confluence cycle. I love modal spells, and these are some of the best ones out there.
The flexibility provided by being able to choose any of the three options on the cards up to three times is incredible. Now, let’s assume you get to cast them more than once per game. Imagine the options! Imagine the power! Most Commander decks will come packing some sort of recursion, so casting your [card]Mystic Confluence[/card] at the end of an opponents turn for three cards, and then bringing it back as a counter/bounce control spell later is totally possible.
Each of these cards is a “build your own spell” that can be tailored to match the needs of whatever situation you find yourself in. The only risk inherent in playing with these is holding them for too long because you’re waiting for the exact right moment to cast them.
Wrapping It All Up
I would call C15 a huge success. It has provided multiple cool mechanics, given some ill-defined archetypes the perfect Commanders, and introduced some excellent and powerful new cards that will see play across a whole host of different decks.
It seems like Wizards gets better and better at Commander-centric design each time they try, and this gives me a lot of hope for C16 and beyond.