My previous article tackled the new Mythics from Commander 2014. This time I explore the non-mythic cards from White, Blue, and Black. There are definitely lots of interesting and potentially great cards in this set, so let’s explore.
Angel of the Dire Hour
A big effect tacked onto a giant flier is hard to hate. The issue facing Angel of the Dire Hour is that it costs seven mana. Seven mana instants or flash creatures mean that you must keep a lot of mana up over the course of multiple turns to wait for the right opportunity to cast your spells. So every turn you wait to cast it, if you don’t have something to do, you are wasting mana. This can take a toll over the course of longer games, especially ones in which seven mana removals spells are normally cast. So while I doubt the Angel will be a big star, if you playgroup plays lots of big creatures then I would be cautious of someone holding up seven mana for a few turns. Pair with Rout, Sphinx’s Revelation, and Stroke of Genius so you can have some other huge spells to play if you are determined to run the Angel.
Angelic Field Marshall
The Lieutenant mechanic is an interesting twist as it paints an even bigger target on your Commander. The question for this Lieutenant ends up being to whether you would pay four mana for 5/5 flier that gives all your creatures vigilance? I can’t really see myself wanting a turbo charged Serra Angel so Angelic Field Marshall fails the test for me. If the achievement isn’t worth unlocking, why bother trying?
The Offering Cycle is interesting as it provides two good effects for you and for a player or players of your choice. You could have the same opponent get both effects or split it up. I normally don’t like these effects as political tools, but more for either exploiting greed (Tempt with Discovery) or teaming up on a mutual enemy (Hunted Horror). My issue is that I’m not sure how many of my decks want the life gain and token boost offered by Benevolent Offering as four mana is a decent investment. The deck that seems more likely to want Benevolent Offering could be Darien, King of Kjedor as you tend to lose a lot of life so recouping it is powerful. An interesting card, but probably too expensive to show much promise.
This feels like a real bait card. You just star at your opponent with a board full of Planeswalkers and say, “Hit me as hard as you can, I mean I have no defenses.” Then you play Comeuppance and wreck their plans. It’s definitely a card that feels good when it works. My problem is that a wise opponent will only be fooled once or twice and it will end up being an expensive card to hold up forever. It’s definitely intriguing, but I think I’d be most interested grabbing it off a Sunforger.
At first glance, Containment Priest doesn’t really feel like a card for Commander. There was even an article regarding its design and development on DailyMTG and how the Priest was intended to shake up the Legacy metagame. Hate Bears, two powered creatures with effects that annoy opponents like Meddling Mage and Leonin Arbiter, are usually not strong enough to make a dent in Commander. Smaller bodies just don’t stack up as well in a 40 Life multiplayer environment. Occasionally powerful enough options like Qasali Pridemage and Scavenging Ooze will leave their mark upon the format.
Containment Priest actually solves a lot of problems that people may not even know that they have. It shuts down Hermit Druid self-mill combo decks, it wrecks Reanimator, and puts a real dent in some of mono Green’s most powerful tutors like Green Sun’s Zenith and Tooth and Nail (they can still search, but I doubt they will wish to put anything onto the battlefield). The strongest effect that Containment Priest will probably have is to hate out some annoying generals. Mayael the Anima, Kaalia of the Vast and Norin the Wary are pretty terrible against Containment Priest. Derevi, Empyrial Tactician can’t use its ability to cheat around the Commander tax. Furthermore, Containment Priest has Flash so you can set up some “Gotcha!” moments where you waste an opponent’s spell or ability. I think the Priest will end up being a powerful option that is mostly metagame dependent; some metagames have more Genesis Waves and Kaalias than others but the Priest will usually be good.
Deploy to the Front
If it wasn’t a sorcery then it could be interesting. I find Deploy to the Front to be in the same class of cards as Storm Front. If you have a way to make use of the mass of tokens that you will be getting (think Goblin Bombardment or Blood Artist + Phyrexian Altar) then it could be useful.
Fell the Mighty
Board wipes that can be manipulated so only your stuff lives are always worth checking out. Fell the Mighty may just be awesome as you can target a small creature, wipe the board, and then equip it with some nasty equipment and swing away. However, Fell the Mighty does have a huge drawback as you must target a creature and then your board removal can be countered by having that creature leave play. An interesting way to avoid that being too costly is to target an opponent’s creature; either it goes away or everything else does. I would be remiss not to mention the apparent synergy that Fell the Mighty has with Doran, the Siege Tower. Fell is a sweet card and should be useful.
Sometimes the oddest cards in the Commander products are the small sized cards. It’s hard to tell whether they are gems for the format or plants for Legacy. Hallowed Priest is definitely one of those in between cards as it doesn’t really fit in either format. The promise of Hallowed Priest is that when it dies you get a bunch of tokes but that effect only gets powerful enough in the late game where three powered creature it typically irrelevant in Commander. Meanwhile, in Legacy the Priest is no competition for creatures like Tarmogoyf, Scavenging Ooze, Deathrite Shaman, and True-Name Nemesis. So the Priest is a puzzling card, but not one I’d look to solve in Commander.
I find Aether Gale to be an intriguing card. Six permanents is a lot to return at the same time and it can definitely shift the board state in your favor. Aether Gale is definite a card that shines in the middle stages of a game; in the later stages of a long game your opponents can quickly recast much of what you bounce and in the early game they probably don’t have much worth returning to their hands. While I think Aether Gale is a situational card compared to the universal powerhouse that is Cyclonic Rift, it probably has some chances to shine in more aggressive decks that aren’t chock full of evasion. I think Rafiq of the Many could be a strong home for Aether Gale as it likes gutting the opponents’ boards while preserving your own.
When a card forces you to pay its full mana cost to get the effect then that usually is an indicator of the power level you should be expecting. Breaching Leviathan is not worth all the hoops. Very rarely, would I advocate trying to cast nine mana (or higher) creatures the fair way and especially not in Blue, and especially when they aren’t as explosive or punishing as Kozilek, Butcher of Truth or Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. So while the Leviathan has a big splashy effect, it doesn’t take over a game or provide enough loop hopes to merit further exploration.
Domineering Will won’t be the most practical of cards, but it is a grade a mind trip. Using your opponents’ resources against one another can be a great way to make friends or enemies, so be cautious. As the card gains more function in the late game, I think it loses it’s luster as you could just be casting things like Evacuation and Cyclonic Rift instead.
Being able to aim a creature at a specific opponent is a strong ability but it has a heck of a cost. Not the mana cost or ability cost of Dulcent Sirens, but of political will. You will upset two people by turning them on one another.
This card has the potential to be disgusting. If your board was loaded up with artifact mana such as Thran Dynamo, Gilded Lotus, Basalt Monolith, and Sculpting Steel or Phyrexian Metamorph copies of those artifacts then you would be able to net some mana while drawing cards to fuel a big turn. Meanwhile, you can either make a friend by giving something cards or just try to give the least relevant player more tools knowing that you will gain much more than them. Forcing your opponents to draw isn’t even a strict downside if you can land something like Notion Thief or Consecrated Sphinx.
It’s the most dangerous of the Offering cycle and look forward to seeing it at its most broken.
Reef Worm is one of those cards that your either love or hate. I’m not a fan as the dreams of Parallel Lives, Doubling Season, and/or Populate effects just scream slow to me. It’s definitely a fun card and may end up having some strong synergies with things like Ashnod’s Altar and Nim Deathmantle (infinite mana!). I’m just not sure most, or any, blue decks are looking for what it offers.
The question I ask myself about Stormsurge Kraken is whether I would pay 3UU for a 7/7 hexproof creature that couldn’t be blocked? The answer is no. It still is vulnerable to the numerous amount of board wipes, doesn’t progress the normal game plans of mana ramping or drawing lots of cards, and gets killed eventually when someone wipes the board. Meanwhile, the Kraken makes me want to cast (or recast) my Commander and lessens the power of using effects like Evacuation. If you are trying to duke it out with your opponent then Stormsurge Kraken is a fine beater, but it’s much more difficult to win that way. It is neat that Blue gets a big hexproof guy at a reasonable mana cost, but there are so many other massive creatures that the Kraken won’t be a standout.
Well of Ideas
It’s going to take some testing to see whether Well of Ideas is an expensive pseudo Group Hug card or the love child of Consecrated Sphinx and Howling Mine. Drawing two cards when it enters play definitely helps as even if your opponent blows it up before your next turn you are then left with something for your trouble. That is one of the downsides of cards like Font of Mythos and Howling Mine. Well of Ideas also gives you massive incentives take extra turns with effects like Time Warp and Temporal Mastery. I’m sure the Well will be a popular card with the Nekusar
Demon of Wailing Agonies
By now you should have figured out that I’m not a fan of the Lieutenant ability. I don’t usually think the enhanced creature is strong enough to be worth the mana cost. Demon of the Wailing Agonies avoids this pitfall as I don’t plan on casting it in Kaalia of the Vast. As it is an ability that triggers on dealing combat damage, there is no missed trigger when putting it onto the battlefield with Kaalia. And spending five mana for a 6/6 flier is not the worst. While I don’t think the Demon will be showing up a lot, it can definitely work well with Kaalia.
An interesting taking on the growing creature, Flesh Carver will definitely have advocates based on it’s flavor and status as a sacrifice outlet. My problem with Flesh Carver is that it costs so much mana to grow it that it hardly seems worth it. If your game plan includes stuff like Grave Pact then Flesh Carver could fit in as it does interesting things with Reassembling Skeleton and Bloodghast. Sadly, the scale of Flesh Carver just feels more like a card for Cube than Commander.
I tried really hard to come up with a scenario where Infernal Offering would be a great option. I couldn’t. It has some interesting applications but there aren’t any competitive situations where it loops or is somehow better than things like Zombify. Now the bonus/drawback is relatively easy to control, but I’m still not sold that a tuned deck wants this effect.
Malicious Affliction is the Morbid love child of Doom Blade and Reckless Spite. While it won’t break new ground, Malicious Affliction will start to replace effects like Doom Blade and Terror effects in many decks. It’s a good card to have and the tension created by Morbid will make games more interesting.
Seven mana board wipes, regardless of strength, are usually frowned on by me. The competition against things like Devastation, Cyclonic Rift, and Rout is so fierce that Necromantic Selection has little chance to come out on top. If winning is your top priority then seven mana board wipes usually aren’t the best option. However, if you find yourself enjoying cards like Plague Wind and In Garruk’s Wake then it may just be right for you.
Overseer of the Damned
This is a card that makes me really torn. I normally don’t advocate larger creatures (six mana and up) unless they are ridiculous. I’m not sure how strong Overseer of the Damned is as the token effect seems hit or miss. Just being a 5/5 flying demon that nukes a creature will ensure Overseer of the Damned some play from Kaalia of the Vast junkies. It’s really nice that Kaalia has been getting more Demons to play with as they only enhance the synergy with Blood Speaker. I like Overseer and could see it cropping up in strategies like Sheoldred and Kaalia. I also think it could be worth using in the Reanimator/Flash shell that I previously wrote about.
Random attacks is not something I appreciate. I like to be able to control my game plan and map it out based upon assumptions on the reactions of my opponents. Raving Dead strips away that decision point. In return for giving up control and paying five mana, you get a combat trigger straight off of Quietius Spike. So while I’m sure Raving Dead has fans, I would advocate staying far away from this one.
Spoils of Blood
Spoils of Blood bores me. Some people see it as a way to get back after your opponent uses Wrath of God. I just think of all the Terminus and Hallowed Burials that I normally get hit with and shake my head. Then people suggest to use Spoils of Blood as a combo piece, to get a giant creature off a sacrifice loop. I ask to what end? A single giant creature is hardly going to win the game compared to something like Blood Artist. So while it is a one mana instant, the Spoils is too conditional to be aggressive enough to matter and too straightforward to be a combo card.
Wake the Dead
It’s a combat trick that can also be a combo piece. Just get enough solid creatures (think Deadeye Navigator, Great Whale type stuff) in your graveyard to set up a combo and then do it. The other route is to just bring back value creatures like Rune-Scarred Demon, Mnemonic Wall, and Kokusho, the Evening Star to cause massive advantage. Mnemonic Wall is great because it can let you loop this ability to many times. If you add Great Whale to Mnemonic Wallthen you could cast Wake the Dead during every opposing turn even if they aren’t attacking! Wake the Dead is an interesting card even if the possibilities are limited.
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