Return to Commander Island

Commander Guy here!

Wait a second! “Who is this author?!” I’ve introduced myself so nonchalantly and yet you haven’t seen my articles grace the front page of MTGCardMarket in a good long while.

The sad truth is that sometimes life gets the better of you. I’ve had to take a few months off due to family issues that have more or less monopolized my time and haven’t really been able to do anything Commander-related at all recently. I haven’t played any exciting matches; I haven’t built any cool new decks. I wouldn’t really have had much to write about if I was up for writing which, as I mentioned, I didn’t have time for.

Fortunately, the turmoil seems to be drawing to a close. This past week I slowly removed my atrophied decks from their neglected deck boxes and played a fun game with friends. It was nice to be back. And, as an added bonus, the fine folks over at MTGCardMarket were cool with me returning after my unanticipated hiatus. Thanks ya’ll.

And what a time to return! Today, I wanted to launch back into things with a review of, appropriately enough, the newest Commander-focused cards that are hitting the shelves in a few short days. Conspiracy 2: Revenge of Brago’s Ghost has a ton of EDH-inspired fare and so it seems like the perfect segue back into writing about Commander on the regular. What’s more, the entire spoiler was just released! Huzzah!

Instead of talking about each and every card, I’m just going to highlight the ones that I find particularly interesting and/or powerful. I won’t really bother with the inapplicable returning mechanics—the “draft portion matters” and conspiracy cards don’t really translate well to a non-limited environment. Maybe I’ll circle back around to them when the set finally drops and give my impressions on Conspiracy II as a stand alone draft format.

Council’s Dilemma

There’s a major difference when it comes to the way the voting mechanic works in Conspiracy II. Unlike the first-past-the-post method of Conspiracy numero uno, new voting-themed cards provide a benefit for each and every vote.

While I can appreciate the design space these cards tap into, I somewhat dislike how their power can vary wildly based on the number of players participating in a game of EDH. While my games tend to be capped at four players—anything longer and I tend to go a little crazy—these new Council’s Dilemma cards really exacerbate the issues with having a huge game. Oh well. I suppose the folks that enjoy those large games don’t care either way.

Expropriate is, by far, the most ridiculously powerful card I’ve seen in a good long while. At worst, it’s a Blatant Thievery plus Time Walk, two already extremely powerful abilities in EDH. Every once in a while though, you’ll get to steal some permanents and take multiple turns. How does anyone lose after casting this card? And this isn’t even getting into the broken scenarios that occur when you can manipulate votes with the few cards that allow that like Illusion of Choice or Ballot Broker.

I’m not even sure that this card takes a hit for its nine-mana casting cost. There are so many ways to ramp or cheat out spells in EDH that the number in the top right seems almost unimportant. Who knows, maybe I’m overly paranoid about these two abilities on the same card, but I foresee Expropriate becoming one of those cards that winds up in every Blue Commander deck moving forward. Heck, the card doesn’t even target the card it steals…

Sidenote: In what world would the caster ever vote for “money?” It doesn’t even trigger Heroic which was my first thought. Can anyone think of anything?

I’m somewhat underwhelmed by Selvala’s Stampede. Here’s why: this card is only good if you have a bunch of cards in hand and, more importantly, if you have permanents you want to put into play from it. If you top deck this card, prepare to have literally everyone except you to vote for “free.” Nice six-mana sorcery. In fact, unless you’ve got like 5 or more cards in hand, I wouldn’t be surprised to have everyone vote for “free” every time. The fear of what could jump out from the library is just too scary to vote otherwise and, more importantly, there are diminishing returns for each additional person that votes to let you put something from your hand into play. I could be wrong, but I see this card as not worth the mana.

Melee

Like the new take on Council’s Dilemma, Melee is a mechanic that gets better as the size of the play group increases. Unlike voting however, the impact here seems to be tempered a bit. With Melee, you’re always only getting a mere +1/+1 for your troubles and, on top of that, you actually have to jump through a hoop (i.e. attack more players) to reap that benefit. In a format where attacking multiple players simultaneously is asking for trouble for multiple reasons, I worry about running Melee cards in all but the most all-in decks.

While none of the non-Legendary cards really scream “Commander playable” to me, some of them do whisper it. Of these, Custodi Soulcaller seems like the most likely to see play. Everyone loves recurring creatures from their graveyard! That said, you’re relegated to bringing back a creature with a CMC of 3 or less most of the time which, frankly, is merely “ok” in EDH land. You also have to (a) attack at least 3 players to do that and (b) attack with your fragile 1/2 Soulcaller. Neither of these requirements is really that enticing in a game of Commander.

Goad

I won’t mince words. Goad seems like it could be an interesting multiplayer mechanic, but every single card printed with it seems downright boring (save Grenzo, which I’ll get to later). I am very surprised there wasn’t some sort of repeatable goad card like Bullwhip in the set. No one wants to pay 4 mana for a 4/2 with a one-time ETB effect in Commander.

Monarch

Of all the new mechanics, becoming the Monarch is by far my favorite. It’s so flavorful and is something that Magic hasn’t really seen before. Even without all the “if you are the monarch” bonuses, the mere fact that it gives you an extra card at the end of your turn is awesome as it means that any monarch-related card essentially also cantrips. I also appreciate that it seems like it will promote interaction, since any player that deals combat damage to the monarch gets to take the throne.

Sidenote: How on Earth does a company like Wizards of the Coast let a product go to print with such an obvious typo? Where’s the quality control!?

My favorite Monarch card is definitely Custodi Lich. It has an immediate impact, has the potential to deal with some troublesome creatures, doesn’t get the whole board mad at you (since it targets only a single player), and can trigger again should you ever lose the crown. Its stats aren’t amazing for a 5-drop, but we’re not really playing this card for its power and toughness now are we?

While the Lich is my personal favorite, Regal Behemoth seems like the objective “best.” Even if you lose the crown, the ability to reap a massive mana boost on subsequent turns means that you don’t really mind that much. What’s more, as a 5/5 trampler, it’s not terribly difficult for Regal Behemoth itself to retake the crown on even the next turn.

I’m not terribly high on the Monarch cards that trigger on your upkeep, e.g. Skyline Despot. Since the title of Monarch changes hands as a result of combat, it seems rather easy for a player to slip in an unblockable threat or otherwise steal the crown. I have a hard time believing these cards will trigger nearly often enough to justify them over other powerful Commander options.

Other

Please, please make more cards like this in the future Wizards! I’m not terribly confidant that Deadly Designs is actually a “good” card; regardless, it’s the exact type of interaction that some folks (read: me) really enjoy in multiplayer games. It can promote coordination between players just as easily as it can creature hilarious blowouts, even for the caster. I’m not sure where I would play Deadly Designs myself, but I’ll likely slot it into some of my more low-key EDH decks.

What a great multiplayer card! The 3/1 body is largely irrelevant, but if you’re playing Borderland Explorer, you’re likely going to be making friends. That said, if you’re playing for keeps, they are so many better options, most notably Sylvan Ranger, so I’m not actually sold on this guy as a universally playable card. Notably, it helps fuel graveyard shenanigans for decks like Meren.

I love this card. It’s literally the perfect multiplayer removal spell for a creature that doesn’t have an irksome ability that you need to stop. “Feel free to wreak havoc elsewhere. Go nuts.” While one-for-one removal isn’t really that great in Commander in generally, especially a two-drop, sorcery-speed one, any Enchantment-focus deck is going to love having this card.

I don’t think I need to go into great detail as to why this card is amazing.

This card isn’t for every red deck, but in those where it fits, it seems incredible. Anytime you can play artifact removal that has additional applications it gets a nod from me. “Kill your board, Shatterstorm, oh and for good measure, I’ll take an 8/8.” I plan on playing this card in multiple decks already.

As much noise as Sanctum Prelate is getting for Legacy, I’m not terribly confidant that it will be that great in Commander. What number are you going to name? There’s such a wide range of played spells in EDH that guessing correct seems downright impossible. It’s body is weak, it doesn’t net you a card, it doesn’t DO anything else other than maybe provide a minor inconvenience. Death and Taxes? Go ahead. Commander? I’ll pass.

Outside of a demon-themed deck, Archdemon of Paliano seems merely ok in Commander since it’s just an overstated minion. That said, in any non-draft format, be it EDH or Legacy, this guy is a 5/4 flyer for 4 with no drawback. That’s… really good. Remember when Juzam Djinn was the best creature in Magic? That’s not really applicable anymore, but you get my point.

I haven’t quite figured out how to best break Spy Kit, but man, this seems so much fun. It’s a shame that it doesn’t gain legendary names (for obvious reasons) because I wished it worked with Brothers Yamazaki.

Any tutor effect is always EDH playable, especially on a creature like Recruiter of the Guard. I see this guy going in all sorts of decks; for me, it slots into my Brago list waaaaay too well. The fact that he can fetch up Clones, which can fetch up more clone-type creatures, seems broken. A+

Legends

Last but not least, we’ve come to the highlight of any Commander set review: analyzing the Legends! Well… sort of.

Perhaps it’s a mistake, but I’m going to hold off on reviewing the potential Commanders of the set (along with the two new Planeswalkers as well). This article is getting too long as it is and I haven’t devoted as much time to thinking about potential ways to go about how each should be built. I want to devote some time to talking about each without overloading my first article back in a long while with too much stuff.

So, it’s with heavy heart that I take my leave for today. Join me next time for when I go into more detail about Conspiracy II: Electric Boogaloo.

-Commander Guy

Commander Guy

Commander Guy

Commander Guy prides himself on building interesting, powerful, or at the very least, original Commander decks on a more or less frequent basis. An otherwise agreeable fellow, his only flaw is his intense and all-consuming hatred for Sol Ring. If you play one, prepare to suffer his wrath.
Commander Guy

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Published:August 23, 2016

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