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Commander (Possible) Spoiler: Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas


So our first Commander 2015 spoiler may have been "accidentally posted" today. It hasn’t been officially confirmed, so there’s a chance it’s a fake, but that won't stop me from jumping aboard the hype train and writing about it! Remember, this card could be a fake, so proceed with caution!

 

Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas

Disclaimer aside, here’s what we’ve got:

Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas 2RW
Legendary Creature – Giant Soldier
Double strike, Vigilance
Whenever you cast a creature spell with converted mana cost 5 or greater, you get an experience counter.
Kalemne gets +1/+1 for each experience counter you have.
3/3

My initial impression of this card is… lukewarm. Its power level is lower than I’d like, especially for the weakest color combination in Commander. However, there are a few notable things about this card that hint at what might come with the rest of the set. It’s that potential that has me VERY excited for Kalemne.

Let’s break Kalemne down piece by piece.

"Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas 2RW"

Wizards keeps up the Theros references with this badass fighter gal looking to stomp some noobs. Since Theros was at least a giant win flavor-wise, the Vorthos in me is pleased with this throwback.

In a vacuum, the 4-CMC is a good starting point as well. Four-CMC is middle of the road for commanders, maybe a little on the cheap end. That means you realistically get to cast your commander three or so times in a game.

"Legendary Creature – Giant Soldier"

These two creature subtypes are exciting! Soldiers have a significant amount of support in White, but the tribe still isn’t very good in Commander. Giants are a super cool tribe that got a taste of tribal support in Lorwyn but really want more. Look at Boldwyr Intimidator and tell me you aren’t excited for a true Giant tribal deck!

The rest of Kalemne’s text box leads me to believe we’ll see new Giants and/or Soldiers in this deck to flesh out the tribes.

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Giant tribal hype!

"Double strike, vigilance"

Both of these abilities are okay. I have an irrational love for double strike so I value it higher than I reasonably should, but I find getting double combat triggers off cards like Sword of Fire and Ice immensely satisfying.

Vigilance is less exciting to me. Kalemne may be a giant, but she’s not terribly large in Commander, aka Battlecruiser Magic. She’ll stop a decent amount of attacks, but heavy hitting creatures are still going to bash through her defense. Still, better than nothing.

“Whenever you cast a creature spell with converted mana cost 5 or greater…”

Many people in the community are going to complain how the trigger requires playing creatures of 5-CMC or greater. “Red-White doesn’t care about playing big creatures,” they’ll say, “Red-White is all about token weenies and swinging into combat! This is too different!”

I am the exact opposite. I LOVE how this trigger is set up and how it encourages us to play big, splashy creatures. I love it because it is different from the norm! Red-White sucks in Commander for a lot of reasons, but the biggest reason is it’s the least diverse color combination. You either go for a big token army and swing wide, or… er, actually, that’s all Red-White does. Yup. BORING! 

We already have more than enough “swing wide” Commanders – Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran, Anax and Cymede, Aurelia, the Warleader, Iroas, God of Victory, Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer, Tajic, Blade of the Legion… we’re good on that, thanks.

Let’s see Red-White branch out more! Let’s see them diversify into midrange and control options, stuff other than weenie armies! That’s EXACTLY what Wizards is pushing here with Kalemne, and I applaud them for it. Less “swing wide” stuff, more different/interesting stuff like Brion Stoutarm.

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“… you get an experience counter.”

We’ve already knew this set would have some “experience system.” Now we get a good look at how it plays out. You, the player, get an experience counter. It’s not tied to a permanent, like Kalemne herself, but works like an emblem in that it’s very hard to interact with. This means the counter doesn’t go away when Kalemne leaves the battlefield. That’s great!

While they’re normally hard to interact with, you still can interact with experience counters. For example, my understanding is that you can add counters with the Proliferate mechanic. Contagion Clasp and similar cards could be very spicy alongside experience counter generators.

I’m willing to bet we’ll see a lot more new cards that deal with experience counters; they won’t affect only the commanders themselves. These cards, like Kalemne, would be so-so in a void, but once you have some experience counters, they get much stronger. Imagine a card that exiles a creature for 3-mana, plus exiles an additional creature for every experience counter you have. Or a burn spell that does 3 + X damage, where X equals the number of experience counters you have. Stuff like that could be great fun!

I really like how the experience counter mechanic was designed. I like how you get the counter, so you don’t lose it once your permanent dies. I love how it encourages you to build your deck a certain way, and that way is atypical from your usual Red-White strategy. Good job, Wizards! (assuming this is real)

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“Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas gets +1/+1 for each experience counter you have.”

Oh. Well, uh, hmm.

Basically Kalemne deals two extra damage for each experience counter you have. That’s a faster commander-damage kill as you gather counters. Play four 5-CMC creatures with her on the field, and she can three-shot an opponent.

The problem here is that, while I applaud Wizards for pushing Red-White in a direction it hasn’t really been before, I would’ve expected the payoff to be more than +1/+1. You can’t really cast multiple 5+ CMC creatures per turn. You’ll probably cast Kalemne, then next turn cast a 5-CMC creature, then another the turn after. Since Kalemne has no protection, she’s likely going to die before she even survives two rounds. If you do give her protection and she survives and you’re casting 5+ CMC creatures per turn, you get her payoff. That’s a lot of hoops you’ve just jumped through. And all you get is a +1/+1 bonus? Lame.

As I said, it’s likely we’ll see new cards that care about experience counters. If that’s the case, Kalemne becomes more powerful due to the synergies she supports. By herself though, the benefit is underwhelming.

Still No Love For RW

I’ve been complaining for years now that Red-White needs more support in Commander. Red-White are the weakest colors and color pairing in the format. Not only does Red-White lack diversity in strategy, they are the worst colors for tutoring and card draw. I’ve been waiting a long time for Wizards to address these issues, and I was really hoping they’d take steps to help Red-White out in this set.

It seems we’ll finally get some diversity with this “Wade into Battle” deck, assuming it’s a slower deck that focuses on big creatures. Unfortunately, Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas kind of sucks as a card. I wish instead of being a dull double strike and vigilance gal who gets bigger, she’d do things that Red and White desperately need in multiplayer, like these cards:

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Can you imagine how awesome it would be if Kalemne acted like a legendary Prophetic Flamespeaker, "drawing" cards when she hits? Or maybe each time she hits she tutors up a card and discards at random, like Gamble? Those abilities would be flavorful, awesome, and help fill the gaps White-Red struggles with! Instead we get a vanilla dork that gets bigger. Boo.

Conclusion

I really like that Wizards (if Kalemne is official) is trying out a different path for Red-White, pushing high CMC creatures, and possibly giving more support to Giants. It’s a breath of fresh air for me. I also think the experience counter mechanic can be very fun, and I can’t wait to see how other cards interact with them.

The rest of Kalemne I don’t like. A 3/3 double strike vigilance creature just isn’t exciting, especially for a Commander product. Commanders should be big, flashy, exciting – just take a look at Kaalia of the Vast, Zedruu the Greathearted, and Omnath, Locus of Rage. They should grab your attention and make you excited to try them out. Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas does none of that for me.

I’m not saying new commanders must raise the power level bar. Overall, I’m super happy they’ve toned down the power level of these newer releases compared to some of the insanity from previous sets — I'm looking at you, Prossh, Skyraider of Keld

Commander 2014’s planeswalker decks were fantastic in my opinion, exploring new design space without going overboard. But that doesn’t mean commanders need to be bland. It's especially frustrating when the weakest color combination gets yet another stinker as their mascot. There's a chance we'll see some new card address Red-White's weaknesses in the 99, but the card on the front of the box does not raise my hopes.

Remember folks, this is not an official spoiler. It could be fake. If it's fake, it fooled me, and I got so excited I had to write something! Commander 2015 hype! Woooooo!

So what do you think of Kalemne? Share your thoughts with me on Kalemne in the comments below, or on twitter @BudgetCommander.


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