Planeswalkers as commanders

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With the release of Commander 2014, we now have ten new generals to play with in EDH, five of which are Planeswalkers. This fact shouldn’t have eluded anyone even remotely interested in the format, but it begs the question: why aren’t all Planeswalkers eligible to become commanders? They are certainly legendary enough, which suffices for creatures, they’re flavourful and they’re quite popular. In fact, many EDH groups are already playing with Planeswalkers as commanders, so why shouldn’t all? Why is the “[…]can be your commander” text needed on the cards?

I honestly believe there are several reasons for this matter. The most obvious one is the historical precedence legendary creatures has – but then again, the rule was changed from “Elder Dragons can be your general” to “any legendary creature can be your commander” – changing it again doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. On the other hand, the format has grown a lot since that particular rule was changed. Secondly, I think that Wizards of the Coast has too much respect for the format and its fans to just change a thing like that. The Commander 2014 products were designed together with the Commander rules committee, i.e. not employees of Wizards, meaning they already take in the fans’ opinions on the format a lot. To simply up and change something that fundamental to the format might be something Wizards is frankly scared to do.

That said, I’d love to see any Planeswalker legal as a commander. Theyjace,themindsculptor.hq‘re generally more durable than most creature commanders available, in som ways, simply because EDH is a format of sweepers and removal in all shapes and sizes. On the other hand, they can be attacked, and since the format is also quite heavy on creatures, they probably won’t live too long. Further, some Planeswalkers, most notably Jace, the Mind Sculptor tend to take over regular games of Magic if they hit a stalled or empty board, but since EDH is a multiplayer format at heart, many of these Planeswalkers become much more balanced. I know that some play the format heads-up, especially with the French Commander banlist, but to me, the format is supposed to be played with 3-5 players. Though on the other hand, cards like Tezzeret the Seeker or Liliana Vess comes with built-in tutoring, which is really powerful in the format, and a commander like Tezzeret might be very problematic. Even cards like Sorin Markov are hailed as really powerful in the format, and thus might be too oppressive as commanders.

The latest episode of Five Commanders deals with this issue, and I feel I’ve been hive-minded, since I started writing this draft before the episode went live. It has a lot of interesting takes on the subject at hand.

What do you think, dear reader? Is your group playing with Planeswalkers as commanders?

Ob Nixilis of the Awesome Power

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On Friday, I was again blessed with the opportunity to spend the evening with my old school friends, playing the game we all know and love, and we did most of it with the new Commander 2014 product. One of us didn’t make it, but that meant we were five, and the one who couldn’t make it was also the one who happened to be the one who owned the same deck as myself, the black one. It’s as if Ob Nixilis himself had taken care of that little issue.

obnixilisoftheblackoath.fullWe started off with playing a five-man pentagram game. I wrote about that variety in my post “Differentways to command“,  but the short version is “sit down in a pentagon, the ones opposite of you are your enemies, the ones next to you are your allies”. We were playing in classic WUBRG fashion, meaning I (black) was up against white and green, and my friends were red and blue. Everyone chose to play with the planeswalker commanders.

We played more games that evening, until very late, so I won’t be able to recall many specific details from the games, unfortunately. In the first game, however, Freyalise was the quickest one out of the gate, followed closely by Nahiri, who got ready to bring the beats with Strata Scythe and a double striker. Meanwhile, Teferi was doing a good job defending himself with Fog Bank, putting me in a pretty awkward position. I banded together with Daretti, however, and the two of us took down Nahiri to a more manageable size. The goblin pope even destroyed the Strata Scythe at one point, but Nahiri just brought it back with her -2. It was a bit of a tempo play, in any case.

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Indeed.

The game progressed quite slowly after the white menace had been taken care of and soon enough Freyalise ran out of cards to cast and started topdecking useless lands. The extra time allowed me to both recur Gray Merchant of Asphodel (“Gary”) to gain pretty insane amounts of life, and get Ob Nixilis’ emblem online, meaning I also drew a disgusting amount of cards. Nahiri was the first one to fall, after blows from both me and Daretti took her down a notch, and even if Teferi did his best to defend his enemy Freyalise while also trying to attack Daretti, I killed Freyalise through a combination of Ob Nixilis’ +2, some beats and Gary.

After a quick break for a food run, we played a free-for-all game with the same decks. This time, I was counting on getting eliminated quite quickly, and Nahiri was actually presenting lethal on the board at one point, but didn’t attack, for fear of being counter-attacked by the other players at the table. Teferi was doing mostly nothing but defending himself and I turned it around at 10 life, and started recurring Gary again. I ended up on 101 life, but we then scooped them up to Teferi, since we had played for way longer than expected, and we wanted to get a few regular EDH games in as well, and the hour was late.

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Pretty good even in EDH

We played a pentagram game where I was on Grand Arbiter Augustin IV and I was allied with Sigarda, Host of Herons (voltron) and Lazav, Dimir Mastermind (control). My enemies were Surrak Dragonclaw (aggro), Marath, Will of the Wild (aggro). Though I managed to tuck both of my enemies’ respective generals through Spell Crumple and Terminus, I got stuck on six mana with just a bunch of very expensive spells in hand. Meanwhile, both Surrak and Marath resolved a Xenagos, God of Revels each and brought the beats my way. Though my allies did some work to keep my head above the water, I died without much of a chance. What a bummer.

While the others finished the game, I didn’t pay much attention, I sleeved up Erebos for a final spin before we had to leave. The second game saw me allied with Surrak and Marath, against Lazav and Thraximundar (goodstuff-control). This game went a lot better, and after All is Dust (how I hate that card) removed my general twice, I drew about a million cards and started draining people. I set up Thraximundar for a kill from Surrak, and he spiked it without hesitating too much, dealing the final few points of damage with a Price of Progress for two (hah!) and the general himself swung in for exactly lethal. Lazav proved to be a formidable opponent as well, however, and it was in the end Lazav who won the game through a kicked Rite of Replication on my Gary, with a total of 16 devotion with the five copies, and five triggers for a grand total of 80 damage on each opponent. What a fun card!

I traded away my foil Polluted Delta for a whole stack of neat cards by the end of the evening, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Vesuva for Erebos, Blind Obedience and Serra Ascendant for Augustin!

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Daretti, pope of the church of synergies

I have to say that even though the game with Erebos was very enjoyable, I had the most fun playing the Commander 2014 decks that evening. They feel pretty even, before we started most of us agreed that the red deck seemed to be full of just awesome synergies, and that the blue one had a pretty amazing planeswalker, but in the end I feel that the black one is the strongest one in the bunch, as long as one can play diplomatically and count on a temporary alliance or two to get Ob Nixilis into the mid game or take care of the odd problematic enchantment. The green and white decks feel like the fastest one, and especially the green one can deal huge amounts of damage in just a few short turns, so it’s important to save some of the solution cards like Sudden Spoiling until the right moment. All in all, the decks do feel quite balanced, though the red one never got the whole Wurmcoil Engine recursion engine online.

Have you played with the Commander 2014 decks yet? What are your experiences? Leave a comment below!

Erebos Unveiled

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It was my intent to post this before I started talking about my Grand Arbiter Augustin IV deck, but my package with the new black Commander 2014 deck was delayed for some reason. I received my order after the weekend it was released, which is why I chose not to present the list, since I missed a few cards from that deck.

A few weeks ago, I discussed how I ended up with Erebos, in the post “Presenting…“. Today, I’m finally able to present my mark 1 list of Erebos, with some quite embarrassing omissions, but I’ll get to that later. A few things to note, as I constructed the deck:

exsanguinate.hq1) I didn’t want to play with Exsanguinate. The card is obviously very powerful and can swing games from nowhere, which is part of the problem. Assembling an arbitrary amount of mana and then just casting it and gaining like 60 life can sometimes just end the game right there. It’s too abrupt, it’s too easy and it’s too boring for my taste. What’s worse is that if you cast it and don’t just end the game right there, the fact that you resolved the spell will eliminate any opportunities for diplomatic play – a giant bull’s eye will be superimposed over Erebos’ head immediately. Playing the more fair versions, Drain Life, Consume Spirit, etc. is much less of an issue, since they simply don’t end the game immediately for the entire table in the same way as Exsanguinate.

2) I wanted to play into changes of the deck and evolve it over time, not just buy a bunch of the most popular black cards online and go from there. Thus, the list has some blatant omissions that will eventually be fixed, most notably Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Solemn Simulacrum, All is Dust, Vesuva, and Bloodchief Ascension.

3) The deck is intended for multiplayer play. It should be able to control the entire table when it comes to creatures quite easily, and it should pose some sort of a threat as well.

From these rules, I worked on a few different varieties of lists and I drafted a finished product with not only obvious inclusions like Crypt Ghast, Damnation, Cabal Coffers and so on, but also some cool cards that I wanted to try out in the format – i.e. Crypt Rats, Pestilence etc. The deck, in the end, chews through its own life quite quickly with Erebos himself doing most of the chugging, but also the two aforementioned cards, Phyrexian Reclamation, Read the Bones and friends, Promise of Power, and other typically black cards also put some hurt on the pilot. I was pleasantly surprised to find, in the middle of a game, that Gray Merchant of Asphodel reads “each opponent”  and not “target opponent”, meaning it gained me 21 life instead of the measly 7 I had expected. Life gain is quite important to the deck. My secret dream is to recur Gray Merchant of Asphodel with Phyrexian Reclamation, but it hasn’t come up yet.

An earlier draft of the deck played a lot of colorless mana rocks – Grim Monolith and Mana Vault alongside the obvious Sol Ring, but while Mana Vault enables a turn 2 Erebos, so does Sol Ring and I found out quickly that the deck is hungry for black mana, not really colourless mana. Grim Monolith and Mana Vault not untapping properly was an issue, which meant they both were cut after only a single game with the deck.

necromanticselection.fullFinally, on Monday afternoon, after a weekend of extra waiting while everybody else bought their decks in stores, I got my *pre-ordered* deck in the mail. I can’t wait to try some of the new cards, Myriad Landscape, and Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath himself, though I fear the latter might be one of the weaker planeswalkers in the new set. I even added Demon of Wailing Agonies, since Erebos is quite hard to remove, turning on Lieutenant shouldn’t be that hard, and a 6/6 flier for 5 that acts as removal has to be pretty decent. He is just a dumb beater, though, so he might not stick around. We’ll see. Finally, the card I am most excited about is Necromantic Selection, which is way at the top of the curve, but is essentially a mono-black Duneblast with the upside that it can grab a good creature your opponent’s control too. What was even better was that the deck contained a bunch of cards I was planning to eventually get, but just hadn’t had the time to trade for yet – Bloodgift Demon, Pontiff of Blight, Magus of the Coffers, Sudden Spoiling to name a few, and I’m okay with a couple of extra copies of Grave Titan lying around. Out of the three Commander releases, Commander 2014 seems to contain the best constructed decks by far, and they all seem quite good value. The red one might be the best pound-for-pound, but they ought to match well against each other.

With these new cards added to the mix, I’m ready to start tearing up tables at the LGC. The list, in its entirety: You’re the boss, Erebos on TappedOut.net.

What do you think of the deck? Aside some of the most obvious inclusions mentioned, are there any other cards I should add?

Also, I spent more time than ever linking cards in this post – do you, as a reader, appreciate that? It really breaks the flow of writing, and if nobody is clicking them (I get just a few from the stats), I won’t bother with it in the future.

Another Legacy playable?

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Commander 2014 is almost upon us, but there is one final card I wanted to discuss – a simple white hate bear:

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A “hate bear” is not just a deck in Modern, it’s really a nickname for any creature that’s cheap, usually two mana, small, usually a 2/2 (from Grizzly Bears), with some disruptive effect tacked on. Examples include Gaddock Teeg, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Phyrexian Revoker, and Qasali Pridemage, to name a few. These have a proven effect on the metagame – in Modern there exists a green-white deck centered around these powerful creatures, and in Legacy we have Death and Taxes which include Thalia as one of the cetrepieces in its prison-style game plan.

Commander 2014 brings Containment Priest to the table, and the effect is indeed quite good. It turns off all forms of reanimation, it turns off Show and Tell, as well as both Natural Order and Green Sun’s Zenith in Elves. It does, however, turn off Aether Vial as well, meaning it will likely not find a room in Death and Taxes. It also can’t be found through Green Sun’s Zenith, meaning that old Maverick won’t get a new hate bear either. I see no possible deck in Legacy right now that really wants the card, which means I don’t see this card as “Commander 2014’s True-Name Nemesis”, but who knows what the brewers might come up with?

What do you think of Containment Priest? Leave a comment!

Legacy playable in Commander 2014?

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For the longest time, it seemed as if Dualcaster Mage was going to be this year’s True-Name Nemesis, and Dualcaster Mage has the downside of costing double-red, making it almost strictly worse than Snapcaster Mage because it’s red and more situational. A shame, because I really like Dualcaster Mage and if it finds a home in Legacy, I’ll be happy. But then, this thing shows up in my feed:

masterwork of ingenuity

I’m not saying that this thing is the new True-Name Nemesis. It will easily see play in EDH decks that don’t even have many equipments of their own, since you can always copy someone’s Lightning Greaves, something often done with cards like Phyrexian Metamorph. Further, the format is home to a lot of great equipment like Sword of Fire and Ice and its cousins, or why not just copy a Batterskull?

The highest selling point for Masterwork of Ingenuity is that it can be tutored with Trinket Mage, who happens to go into just about every blue deck ever, because every blue deck plays with at least Sol Ring and Sensei’s Divining Top. If you’re already in blue and running that package, you might just as well add this thing too. It’s a bit narrow, but should be able to do good work.

I can even see this in Legacy, as a sideboard card against Batterskull and the like. It even has the upside of being much easier to return and re-cast than Batterskull, should something happen to a Germ token.

Daretti and Nahiri

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In today’s two most important Commander 2014 spoilers, we finish the set of commander planeswalkers with the red one and the white one. First up is Daretti, Scrap Savant:

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This guy is combo-tastic, just like Feldon, and also works with artifacts. The +2 is pretty good for getting the good stuff in your graveyard, and the -2 is obscene. If you ever wanted to play Goblin Welder as your commander, this is your chance. The emblem is also very powerful, but at -10, I can’t see him getting it in most games. The mana cost is also great, allowing for a manabase of lots of coloureless rocks (Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Grim Monolith et al). My only concern with this guy is – why the hell isn’t it Slobad? Did the Magic story really need two smart planeswalking goblins who plays well with artifacts? The only difference between the characters are their home planes – Slobad is from Mirrodin, and Daretti from Fiora. I guess the political theme of EDH goes together better with the plane from Conspiracy, but come on!

Next up is the girl who robbed Ob Nixilis of his wings, Nahiri:

Nahiri

A few things strike me as I gaze upon this card – first of all, since she’s called “the Lithomancer”, she might be the third planeswalker that trapped the Eldrazi on Zendikar along with Ugin and Sorin, or have some relation to that Lithomancer. This would tie Commander 2014’s “story” nicely together with Khans of Tarkir in a neat way. Secondly, her presence makes me hopeful that Stoneforge Mystic might be part of the white deck. Thirdly, she’s pretty powerful. The +2 is Elspeth, Knight-Errant‘s +1 on crack, the -2 will play nicely with all the expensive equipment in the format. The -10 is insane, like Daretti’s, but again, quite unlikely to come to fruition.

I think both of these commanders are pretty awesome in EDH, and I can even see Daretti making a spash in some odd Legacy deck. Do you agree? Leave a comment!

The new age of Snapcasting

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Mark Rosewater has stated on several occasions on his podcast, on his blog etc. that if he was to design Snapcaster Mage and fix it, he’d make it red, not blue. Snapcaster Mage came at a somewhat touchy time as well, being released in Innistrad, together with format nemesis Delver of Secret, and just after Legacy had experienced the mental misstep that was Mental Misstep. It’s easy to see why anyone not on the blue bandwagon (i.e. anyone trying hard to catch up with the best colour in Magic) would feel frustrated that blue time and again gets all the neat toys. As the old Magic comic UGmadness once stated, all colours gets ice cream, but blue gets one extra scoop of sticky chocolatey lovin’.

Colour issues aside, the effect Snapcaster Mage provides could very well be in red. In Commander 2014, we have a Mage who’s not really colourshifted Snapcaster Mage, but he does provide a lot of value and he’s very red. Check it out:

Dualcaster Mage

I imagine this will be more or less auto-include for any EDH deck that can handle the double-red requirement of casting him. Since he can copy any instant or sorcery spell on the stack, he can steal even your opponents’ spells, meaning he’ll have great utility in almost any EDH pod, even if your deck is somewhat lacking in the instant and sorcery department.

I’m even more excited about him in Legacy. Brainstorm, Treasure Cruise and Abrupt Decay are just three examples of spells that you can copy for great value, especially since you get a neat 2/2 body on top of it, useful for combating Planeswalkers in the format. Further, copying your opponent’s Force of Will allows you to target his Force of Will with your own, meaning that since your copy will be put on the stack after the original, it will resolve first and counter Force of Will before the original counters its target.

Dualcaster Mage is more than just “Fork on legs”, since it also comes with a body, meaning it is inherent card advantage. I like it a lot in both EDH and in Legacy, although I don’t like having to buy more cards from limited printings.

What do you think of Dualcaster Mage? Leave a comment below!

Feryalise!

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More Commander 2014 spoilers are coming in almost as we speak, and I’m F5’ing every spoiler site I can find with the force of a thousand suns. A card that showed up yesterday that I wanted to discuss today is Feryalise, Llanowar’s Fury. Take a look:

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The planeswalker commander from the green deck is indeed Feryalise, as predicted by several sources, among them the reader Grim Lavamancer in this comment. I never knew much about Feryalise’s story, other than that she is quoted on Pernicious Deed, but her story is quite different from the previous planeswalker I discussed, Ob Nixilis. She was one of Urza Planeswalker’s (yes that is the name he seems to go by) “Nine Titans” – nine planeswalkers who combatted Phyrexia during the Invasion block using actual titanic robots. It’s kind of like Gundam, only in the Magic universe.

Awesome cross-overs aside, I think Feryalise above is quite overwhelming for what she does when it comes to the first two abilities. Destroying an artifact or enchantment is very useful utility, especially when it’s tacked on a card that you always have access to, but it leaves her with but a single point of loyalty when you ship the turn, not really ideal. The +2 is also alright, and it combos well with her ultimate, but paying 3GG for a Planeswalker that will make a mana dork at least feels like a poor deal, even if she comes on turn three or four. It can block if something tries to attack her, though, which is nice.

The ultimate is all kinds of goodness in a green deck, however. It takes a couple of turns, but having card-draw, even slightly unreliable card-draw, on your commander is great, as is demonstrated by my matches with Damia, Sage of Stone.

What do you think of her, dear reader? Leave a comment below!

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

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This gem just showed up on my Facebook feed, and I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these for my Erebos deck, who’s crying out desperately for some lifegain!

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Long-time players of the game might recognize this character as Ob Nixilis the demon, seen in Zendikar and in M15 as Ob Nixilis, the Fallen and Ob Nixilis, the Unshackled respectively:

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Not much is known about Ob Nixilis as a character, but we do know that he was a Planeswalker who was turned into a Demon through the use of the Chain Veil (the same one Liliana uses in the story), and that he travelled to Zendikar to restore his previous human-state. There, he is defeated and bound to the plane by a character named Nahiri, and in the process, he loses his wings. The first printing of Ob Nixilis shows him in his last known state, as a wing-less demon tapped on Zendikar, seeking revenge. His second printing shows him in the state he arrived at Zendikar, as a demon with wings (and indeed, Flying), and the printing of him in Commander 2014 shows him in an even earlier state, as a human Planeswalker! The story of Ob Nixilis is revealed backwards, which is just fine by me, since the Planeswalkers of the Commander 2014 set is supposed to reveal Planeswalker cards of historic characters.

As far as the card goes, I will surely play it in Erebos, but with Erebos as commander and not Ob Nixilis. The abilities seem pretty decent to me, the emblem is awesome and the +2 will probably be getting the controller three or four life in most games. He seems solid enough and the art is very bad-ass. Creating a 5/5 demon is pretty underwhelming in the sweeper-tastic EDH format, but at least it can protect Ob Nixilis himself against one creature.

What do you think of Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath? Too weak? Too strong? Leave a comment!

Commander 2014 spoilers are finally here!

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After many moons of waiting, we finally have a couple more spoilers from the upcoming Commander 2014 release. These two were revealed over the weekend, and starting today, more spolers will be posted on Daily MTG! The first is a rather uninteresting creature with a pretty interesting ability:

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Angelic Field Marshal is a pretty effective beater pound-for-pound, if you have your commander in play. A 5/5 flying, vigilant Angel for only four mana is nothing to scoff at, even in EDH, since it will be a pretty good protector of the Planeswalker commander which will be included in each of these decks. Further, getting Lieutenant going will be easy in all decks that feature commanders that are inherently difficult to destroy, like the Theros gods for example. The preview article specifically states that the cycle is horizontal, suggesting just a single of these cards for each colour, but we’ll see what we get when the set is spoiled.

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The other card spoiled this weekend is Feldon of the Third Path, of Feldon’s Cane fame. Feldon is apparently a minot character in the Brother’s War novels, but even though not that much is known about him, what is know is that his wife died a premature death, and Feldon tried to bring her back with the way he excelled in – artifice. I didn’t know that, since I haven’t read the book, and until today I hadn’t read the short story based on Feldon either. The story is called “Loran’s Smile”, and even though the arcana article that’s linked to in the preview article above doesn’t work, I found the story on a weird Russian site here. The story is actually quite good, by Magic story standards. What I like about Feldon above is not only that his card quite perfectly conveys the story that he’s trying to bring someone (a female at least) back from the dead with the art, the flavour and the ability, but I also like how combo-tastic his ability is. His mana-cost is very low for a commander, which is also always nice, and his size is at least big enough to protect him from Pyroclasm and Drown in Sorrow.

What do you think about these spoilers? How excited are you about the new Commander 2014 set? Leave a comment!