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Commander 2014 Review: Finishing Up!

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Casual Magic, Commander

In previous installments I went over the new Planeswalkers and Legends (Part One) and the rest of the new cards (Part Two). Now I’ll wrap up the set.

Bitter Feud
The idea behind this card is that you make it so two players have a Furnace of Rath effect for the other player. You don’t have to choose yourself, but if you want the benefit of it then you have to pay the price. Most of the time, I think Furnace of Rath or Dictate of the Twin Gods will serve you better, but if there are some decks in your metagame that can’t deal much physical damage then Bitter Feud could allow you to pick on them while not opening yourself up to gobs of damage. Overall the Feud falls flat but there are some very niche uses for it.

Dualcaster Mage
Dualcaster Mage has caused a good deal of buzz. Putting Reverberate on a creature does make some interesting combinations possible. You can cast a Dualcaster Mage in response to your own Heat Shimmer or Twinflame. Have the copy of the Heat Shimmer/Twinflame target your Dualcaster Mage and you can repeat that loop until you have more than enough creatures to attack for the win. Dualcaster Mage is also nifty in Commander as there are plenty of ways to set it up for multiple uses with cards like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Erratic Portal, and Mimic Vat. Dualcaster Mage seems like a solid card in a format where spells like Time Warp, Tooth and Nail, and Decree of Pain (the copy resolves first so you draw the cards and your opponent doesn’t) show up. I think Dualcaster Mage is going to have a long and popular future.

Impact Resonance
There are too many conditions on Impact Resonance to make it a great card. It does take out aggressive Commanders to some degree. Impact Resonance can hit a creature as strong as its power and that will kill many of the more aggressive generals like Doran, the Siege Tower and Rafiq of the Many. It also has the possibility of wiping out many smaller creatures. The problem is that you have to let a lot of damage happen to something while leaving up mana. This stunts your growth in early to mid-game. So Impact Resonance ends up playing like a late game removal spell that happens to cost only 2 mana rather than a quality removal spell in the vein of Doom Blade or Swords to Plowshares. I’d avoid it in unless you face a lot of early game aggression.

Incite Rebellion
Cards like Incite Rebellion offer a chance to turn a losing position into a better one. Is a token deck getting out of hand? Do your games just drag on until the board states are muddled to a deadlock? These are type of questions that Incite Rebellion can answer. The problem is that there are more question in games of Magic than these such as infinite combos and giant piles of lands or mana artifacts that Incite Rebellion doesn’t address that cards like Jokulhaups and Devastation can.

Scrap Mastery
This card is just begging to be broken. Living Death for Artifacts is a real way to underestimate the power of Scrap Mastery. Paired with cards like Memory Jar, Mindslaver, and other artifacts that consume themselves for their effects the Mastery can set up a massive amount of value while also causing your opponent to lose their board of artifact mana. The downside is that you can provide your opponents’ with an opportunity to bring back many of their own goodies from the graveyard to the battlefield. This is no real issue if you combine Scrap Master with stuff like Scrabbling Claws or Tormod’s Crypt. Scrap Mastery has a lot of potential as both a decent control card and a combo engine. I look forward to exploring it.

Tyrant’s Familiar
Offer any fan of Dragons a 7/7 haste for seven mana and the ability to throw 7 damage at a creature and they would snap at it. Add the rider that the Commander must be in play and you end up with fewer takers. Tyrant’s Familiar will be very polarizing. In decks like Zirilan of the Claw and Mayael the Anima I think that Tyrant’s Familiar will be a strong tool that can be searched up for value and will be more likely to be turned on. Kaalia of the Vast, that ever present herald of Demons and Dragons and Angels, will have less luck with the Familiar as if you put it straight onto the battlefield attacking then you miss the seven damage to a creature. That gives your opponents a notice to either remove Kaalia (most want to anyway) or the Familiar rather than attempt to build up their own forces. Outside of decks that specialize in larger creatures or Dragons, I think the familiar has a chance at finding a home in some decks. While the Lieutenant ability is a very real challenge, I think that being able to deal that 7 damage to a creature will end up being very relevant.

Volcanic Offering
Few cards have the opportunity for unleashing such a devastating blow against a single player. Assuming you can get the cooperation of an opponent (easy to do in games with 3 or 4 players), you can nuke two of their creatures and two of their lands at instant speed. It can be hard to come back from that. I think Volcanic Offering is going to best when there are a few players that your group doesn’t like and you want to frustrate them. While most of these political cards try to give benefits, it’s hard to not get the message that Volcanic Offering sends after a few tries. I see many a Maelstrom Wanderer player getting hit with all parts of Volcanic Offering.

Warmonger Hellkite
It’s frequently easy to discount a creature large creature with a marginal ability. For every Hellkite Tyrant we seem to get many almost there dragons like Siege Dragon or Moonveil Dragon. It’s easy to look at one of those and get excited until it doesn’t work out well when it comes time to use it in a game setting. So Warmonger Hellkite definitely has some optics to overcome as for the most part is a slightly more political Moonveil Dragon (extra colorless but you can pump your opponents creatures.) The really interesting ability is making everyone attack. This can clear out annoying blockers and make it difficult for your opponents to mount a good defense against your flying hordes. It could be a sweet trick out of a Zirilan of the Claw deck to force your opponent to make a bad attack. In more budget conscious builds of Kaalia of the Vast it could be a decent inclusion for clearing the way for threats like Master of Cruelties or Rakdos the Defiler. Warmonger Hellkite is an interesting card that will have some practical applications even if it doesn’t shape the metagame around it.

It’s a well costed and interesting card, but Creeper Hulk suffers from the usual issues of scale. Would you rather spend seven mana on playing and using Creeper Hulk or casting something like Karn Liberated or Avenger of Zendikar? The potential of Creeperhulk is limited as it does not fit into the upper tier of expensive threats, like Terastodon or Woodfall Primus, and is too costly to work in decks based around speed.

Grave Sifter
A tribal based reanimation spells is fine for the right cost. The problem is that tutors are usually better. I’d rather play Weird Harvest in an Elf list than Grave Sifter as the Harvest can ensure a quick combo kill while the Sifter will only help in attrition wars. Of course the Sifter needs some graveyard hate to help reach its maximum value as your opponents get to piggy back off it. Some abilities work well tacked onto a big body; this one does not.

Lifeblood Hydra
Giant creatures tend to either be incredible overwhelming or underperforming. Lifeblood Hydra skates in the middle of the two as it actually doesn’t reach its full potential until death. So while spending 7 mana for a 4/4 is pretty poor, a pseudo Blue Sun’s Zenith in Green is a welcome addition. The biggest drawback for the Hydra is that the reward is hidden on the back end and not many base Green decks have the ability to sacrifice creatures at will. That said, I look forward to seeing the Hydra in action and I’m sure it will do swell things with Rosheen Meanderer.

Siege Behemoth
A giant hexproof beast that makes all your creatures have Predatory Focus? Siege Behemoth is definitely annoying to deal with, but it will rarely win games for you that other strong cards wouldn’t win. Competing with Craterhoof Behemoth and Akroma’s Memorial is a good way to fade into the crowd and I believe that Siege Behemoth is on his way there.

Song of the Dryads
Song of the Dryads is a card that is gaining fans. Some people herald it as the Green Vindicate, but I think Oblivion Ring is a more apt comparison. It’s worth noting that you are also accelerating the opponent usually, but that is less of a concern if you are trying to combat big threats rather than mana screw the opponent (something Vindicate excelled at). Song of the Dryads is also a very potent, and potentially permanent, answer to a Commander. The Song will be a strong option for players to derail certain strategies (Animar, Soul of the Elements seems like a good target).

Thunderfoot Baloth
Six mana creatures have to be strong to gain attention in Commander. Would a 7/7 trample that gave all creatures you control +2/+2 and trample show up? It actually would (see Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite). The problem is that many of the decks that want this type of pump effect usually have better options that one tied to Lieutenant ability. Elesh Norn, Craterhoof Behemoth, and Ezuri, Renegade Leader are all examples of creatures with stronger yet comparable effects for various decks. So while the Baloth has some spunk, I don’t think it will be too common.

Wave of Vitriol
There is a large contingent of Commander players that like cards that offer compensation for being a dick. These are the people who advocate using From the Ashes instead of Ruination. I am not one of these players. If I want to be brutal then I want it to hurt. So for the seven mana you have to pump into Wave of Vitriol you could be casting Jokulhaups, Devastation, or something like Bane of Progress. While the card is unique and splashy, it doesn’t function as anything but an overpriced Purify.

Wolfcaller’s Howl
This is one of those cards that look interesting but has very few practical applications. Wolfcaller’s Howl is neither explosive nor oppressive enough to make it worthwhile. A single wolf per opponent that meets the condition, costing for mana, and having to wait until your upkeep all cause the Howl to fall short.

Assault Suit
It takes seven mana to get Assault Suit online. When you add in the cost of the creature that you are passing around, Assault Suit just requires too much mana to be an effective tool. The effect is interesting and definitely can fuel some gang up tactics, but it won’t be winning many games that other cards couldn’t win.

Crown of Doom
Cards that get passed around are rarely strong enough to stand up to the rigors of Commander. Limiting the passing to the controllers turn will make it much harder to pass and thus give it a lot more strength. Meanwhile, you can get a lot of people .

Commander’s Sphere
Paying three mana for multicolored mana sources seems to be where Wizards of the Coast is comfortable. Commander’s Sphere is a strong entry into a category already stacked with Coalition Relic, Chromatic Lantern, and Darksteel Ingot. Making colored mana is increasingly important as players try to assemble three and five color decks so that is a big upside considering the ability the Sphere has. The Sphere has an ability comparable to Mind Stone, a strong and popular card. While Commander’s Sphere won’t be replacing the Relic and Lantern, I could see it supplanting Darksteel Ingot for some players. I do like that that the Sphere has some combo implications (think Open the Vaults) and I look forward to exploring it.

Masterwork of Ingenuity
Copy effects tend to be hit or miss in Commander. Sculpting Steel, Copy Enchantment, Phyrexian Metamorph, and Copy Artifact are all-stars. So when a non-Blue copy effect shows up, it’s worth looking at. The issue with Masterwork is that there is not always a great amount of targets for you for you to choose from. You could copy someone’s Lightning Greaves, but maybe you need something more combative like a Sword of Fire and Ice at that moment. Sure you could copy Skullclamp, but maybe you don’t run many creatures with 1 toughness so it’s less effective. While it’s great to have options in Commander, it’s better to have more effective tools. I’d rather play search effects like Steelshaper’s Gift and Stoneforge Mystic to get what I want or more versatile copy effects like Sculpting Steel. There probably is a point in which you run enough equipment that you would want this effect (Godo, Bandit Warlord), but that won’t come up often. The upside that Masterwork of Ingenuity has is that you can search it out via Trinket Mage.

Unstable Obelisk
Sticking Spine of Ish Sah onto a mana artifact to makes things interesting. Mana artifacts are either for acceleration or color fixing. This Obelisk doesn’t do either well. While adding a single mana is not bad, when you compare it to Worn Powerstone or Basalt Monolith it’s not enough. The removal is where the card’s primary value comes from. Many single colored decks are starved for permanent answers to everything, especially lands and Planeswalkers. It’s a nifty card but it represents a total investment of 10 mana to destroy a permanent. The biggest problem for Unstable Obelisk is that it is competing with Karn Liberated and Spine of Ish Sah. There will be times where the recursive power the Spine is superior and most decks can appreciate extra mana. Sun Titan and the Obelisk will definitely be friends. So while Unstable Obelisk will see play and will be useful, Competitive players without budgetary limitations will have better options.

Arcane Lighthouse
Arcane Lighthouse is going to warp the format. One of the most common cards in the format is Lightning Greaves; its spiritual successor, Swiftfoot Boots, also sees plenty of play. There are many Legendary Creatures that are solid Commanders because they have Hexproof like Geist of Saint Traft and Uril, the Miststalker. This one land makes spot removal much more relevant as no longer will cards like Greaves be able to create situations where removal is “blanked.”

This card has the potential to ruin some metagames. It will make it so Mono Black decks have an easy to search out answer to problems like Geist of Saint Traft and Uril, the Miststalker for the rest of the game. No longer will Hexproof or Shroud protect you from some lockdown cards like Maze of Ith or Capsize. The biggest issue is that it only takes a single player controlling a Lighthouse for your plans to go sideways. One player activates the Lighthouse and another player takes the opportunity to use a Doom Blade on your loaded up Commander. Hexproof and Shroud were key abilities for the Commander format as they were ways to protect threats that every player wanted dead. So while some equipment like Lightning Greaves will still be great because of Haste and a cost of 0 to Equip, cards like Champion’s Helm will take a hit to playability.

Myriad Landscape
This card is the real deal. The easiest comparison to draw is with Krosan Verge. So what does Myriad Landscape have to offer? It is a mana producing land that, for a small cost, can turn into two basic lands of the same type. Colors outside of Green rarely have this type of mana acceleration so it will become an instant favorite. I can see a lot of Myriad Landscapes getting reused with cards like Sun Titan, Life from the Loam, and Crucible of Worlds as multiple activations won’t just provide extra mana but will help thin your deck.

And that’s it. Commander 2014 ends up being a great set. The Planeswalker Commanders have added a nice bit of variance without destabilizing the format. The other new Commanders have people brewing. And while some decks are harder to get, the release is pretty accessible on the whole. So it seems like Wizards continues to make the Commander experience easier and more approachable every year. Now if only they’d give Sol Ring a break from being in every deck because it’s dropped to $2 from $15 before the first Commander decks came out…

-Alex Tobriner
alextobriner at gmail dot com

You can contact me via email, the message board below, or on Facebook.

Author’s Note: Sorry for the delay in getting this finished. I was really sick for a week and then some and didn’t get it done. I’m over it and back to brewing.

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