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Commander Review: Commander 2015 (Part 1)


Commander 2015 has been fully spoiled! Looking over the deck lists, I can say with confidence that these decks are some of the best designed precons Wizards has ever produced. Each year marks an improvement in deck playability, power level, and synergy. We’ve come a long way since the first Commander product, when decks like Political Puppets had such atrocious mana bases that they struggled to even cast their mediocre cards. If you’re looking for an entrance into the format, picking up any of these decks is a fine start.

On to the review! I’ll be looking at all the new cards and then rank my favorites at the bottom of the article.

 

White

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A powerful new political option that I welcome with open arms into the format. White has always struggled with card advantage and Dawnbreak Reclaimer offers a powerful recursion engine to help fill the void. The downside of giving your opponent back a creature is an upside, letting you temporarily team up with a foe to tackle a greater threat.

Group Hug and other Political-leaning decks will love this. If you’re not into helping out opponents, you’ll probably pass.

 

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Oblivion Ring is decent in Commander, though less powerful in other formats since most decks run some form of enchantment removal. Grasp of Fate scales for each opponent at the table, taking the Ring and turning it into something amazing. There’s a subtle political aspect that protects its downside too: while an opponent destroying the enchantment gets his permanent back, he also returns his opponent’s permanents back as well. That’s an extra deterrent Oblivion Ring doesn’t offer.

Grasp of Fate is a solid new removal spell and best overall White card in the set. While it’s not quite a staple since your opponents can usually get their permanents back eventually if they try, it’s still a fine choice for any White deck looking for more removal.

 

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A decent choice for decks that heavily rely on their Commander being on the battlefield. Voltron decks usually fall into this category. If I’m looking to protect my commander, I’d rather run things that don’t die to creature removal or board wipes, like Indestructibility or Gift of Immortality. If I’m already running those cards and I still need more commander insurance, then Bastion Protector is alright.

Voltron decks may run Bastion Protector if they need more protection. Other decks should probably pass on this.

 

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The Confluence cycle in this set is fantastic, without exception. Righteous Confluence has two great modes, making tokens and exiling enchantments. Gaining life is meh, but having the option is better than nothing.

Token decks will love this card. Token decks that also have a Lifegain subtheme have found a new staple: Trostani, Selesnya's Voice, anyone?

 

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I don't play vanilla creatures in Commander. I wouldn’t pay 5-mana for a 5/5 vigilance creature. Heck, I wouldn’t pay 4, 3, or 2 mana for a 5/5 vigilance creature. The monstrous ability is powerful, but the mana cost is far too much. There’s better alternatives for artifact and enchantment removal in White.  

Kalemne’s Captain is only playable in a Giant tribal deck and only begrudgingly so. She’s also anti-synergistic in the deck because White-Red Giants relies heavily on artifact ramp to cast expensive giants, and the Captain exiles all of your mana rocks. Oops? If it exiled all of your opponent's artifacts and enchantments, leaving yours alone, this card would actually be cool.

 

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Myriad is an interesting and incredibly powerful mechanic. In your typical 4-player Free-For-All (FFA) game, you’re getting two tokens each time you attack. Hitting for 12 damage in the air with vigilance is very good for 5-mana, but that’s not enough to excite me. What’s really exciting is the synergies you can abuse with these tokens. In a Sacrifice deck you can sacrifice those two tokens to fuel Teysa, Orzhov Scion, Shattergang Brothers, and so much more.

Sacrifice decks and Enter the Battlefield decks might enjoy Herald of the Host, along with the rest of the Myriad cards.

 

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Indestructibility with upside. Voltron decks are most likely to run this card, which limits the card's upside, but it’s nice to know you can cast this on a creature before your commander shows up on the battlefield.

Voltron decks will like this, along with “blow up the world” decks like Zurgo Helmsmasher.

 

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Land Tax, Tithe, and Gift of Estates are all better than Oreskos Explorer in a vacuum, and I rarely see anything but the enchantment being played. However, the major plus about our new kitty is that it’s a creature, opening it up to all kinds of synergy. Sacrifice decks, Blink decks, Graveyard decks — they all stand to benefit from the kitty. Even in the right setting, I don’t think that’s enough to make Oreskos Explorer as good as Land Tax, but it’s way cheaper to pick up and that’s always a plus.

 

Blue

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It’s a Clone with a minor upside. There are better clones, like the ever-popular Phyrexian Metamorph or Clever Impersonator. Personally I’m happy for more budget Clones to add to future articles.

 

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Commander is battlecruiser Magic. Our creatures, like everything else, are big. Tossing Illusory Ambusher in the way of a Sun Titan is good value. If you’ve got an empty board, sometimes you’ll even pick off a utility creature like Oracle of Mul Daya if the opponent isn’t careful.

The downside is that Illusory Ambusher doesn’t do well against creatures with evasion, such as flying or trample. Those situations will come up enough that I wouldn’t want to run this creature in just any Blue deck. The upside is that this card is abusable, especially in Blue / Red decks, where you can blow up the board and draw tons of cards in the process.

Blasphemous Act? Earthquake? Darksteel Plate? This card is full of potential.

 

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At first I thought this card was an over-costed Aetherize or Aetherspouts. Yeah, you can potentially kill some of the creatures you block, but 6 mana for situational removal spell is a lot to ask for. But this card has much more potential. First off, you’re getting token Clones of attacking creatures. If they have any enter the battlefield (ETB) triggers, you get them. Second, you can sacrifice the tokens for value. Imagine the silliness that could happen if you had Greater Good on the field.

Sacrifice decks may have a lot of fun with Mirror Match. It’s still a goofy card, but it can make for some glorious plays, and to me that’s what Commander is all about.

 

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Hello, Cryptic Command! Okay, not quite, but Mystic Confluence does a good impression of it at an easier casting cost. All modes are useful, and at worst it’s Jace’s Ingenuity, which I was already running in my Talrand, Sky Summoner deck.

This card is amazing and fits into most Blue decks. Control and Draw Go decks like Talrand, Sky Summoner will get the most use out of it.

 

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Mass Polymorph but better in most situations. Instant speed. Glorious! Great in response to a board wipe, where you exile your creatures before the board wipe resolves, then get a new army at the next end step. Fantastic. Can also turn tokens into serious threats.

Token decks will love this. Jalira, Master Polymorphist has a new staple. It’s no surprise that Ezuri, Claw of Progress is already running this card in the deck. They're the perfect fit.

 

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A new version of Spelljack, which is already one of my beloved pet cards and a terror in Commander games. Aethersnatch must play the spell immediately, instead of letting you choose when to play it like Spelljack. Notably, it lets you steal opposing commanders as they hit the board. That alone makes this card better in my book.

Control decks that are able to keep up 6 mana for these kinds of shenanigans are the best home for Aethersnatch. My Talrand, Sky Summoner deck keeps getting better!

 

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Snake tribal just got another boost, and drawing cards is awesome! Broodbirth Viper can draw three cards a turn, which is great in my books. You just need to give the creatures evasion.

As with all Myriad cards, Sacrifice decks will find the most use for it. Kaseto, Orochi Archmage was no doubt made for this card, giving the Viper much-needed evasion. Snake tribal is a thing! Hooray!

 

Black

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Making people discard cards is underrated in Commander. People should be running more hand disruption, especially with such a high prevalence of control and combo decks in the format. Banshee of the Dread Choir packs a punch and is a generally good creature by herself, but also benefits from being in Black, the primary color of Sacrifice decks that can get added value from the tokens.

As with all Myriad cards, Sacrifice decks will find the most use for it. 

 

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A cool enchantment that can swing for 5 in the air while avoiding sorcery-speed board wipes. That’s great in other formats, but not at all what I’m looking for in Commander. Again, vanilla fatties don’t interest me, even if they are hard to kill.

 

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A neat budget board wipe. I’d rather run the 3 mana Toxic Deluge, 4 mana Damnation, or 5 mana Crux of Fate, and if I’m paying more than that I’d rather spend it on Decree of Pain. However, many of the better board wipes cost significantly more money than this, and budget decks need board wipes too. This will do fine, roughly on par with Life's Finale depending on whether you want to punish token swarms or looking to reanimate things instead.

 

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Milling is generally a bad idea in Commander because of how popular graveyard recursion is. In most cases, milling your opponents is actually helping them. That said, Dread Summons is also self-mill, so you can at least benefit from that too, and it can potentially make a lot of Zombie tokens. Plus, if you have a way to generate infinite mana, Dread Summons can act as a win condition for your deck.

Zombie tribal decks, decks with infinite mana, and Mill decks will be interested in Dread Summons.

 

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I haven’t come across a Zombie creature I actually wanted to add to my Zombie tribal deck since Sidisi, Undead Vizier. Finally, Corpse Augur arrives as a worthy addition.

A great new addition in Zombie tribal decks that often self-mill to set up big ol’ Zombie Apocalypse turns. Also great in Mill decks in general. Lots of card draw!

 

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6/6 Flying Zombie Dragons is alright, big enough to attack and block well. It’s the rest of the text that has my interest though. This Dragon is a convenient sac outlet that can return to the battlefield pretty consistently in the right deck. I don’t know how it can be broken, but it’s certainly cool.

 

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Kills all planeswalkers, smacks down dozens of popular +1 / +1 counter commanders like Ezuri, Claw of Progress, Animar, Soul of Elements, Vorel of the Hull Clade, Ghave, Guru of Spores, and on and on… all while popping your Dark Depths.

Pretty much a weaker Aether Snap (doesn’t remove tokens) but far more abusable by being a creature. Solid card.

 

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Another solid Confluence. The only downer is that it gives creatures -2/-2 instead of something more substantial.  The card can’t kill much anything outside of mana dorks. The other two modes are straight card advantage though. You get a choice of something random off the top of your library or a controlled “draw” from your graveyard. At instant speed, it’s very nice.

Good in any Black deck. Yep, any Black deck. Run it!

 

Red

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Holy moly! This is the type of card the Izzet mad scientist in me dreams about. In most cases I’d say this is better than Past in Flames, aka fair Yawgmoth’s Will, which is oddly legal in this format, why?

This card is fantastic, but obviously works best in heavy instant / sorcery decks like Storm. Mizzix of the Izmagnus, Melek, Izzet Paragon, and Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge are wonderful homes for this.

 

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Yet another great Confluence. You can pick off mana dorks, ping opponents for Rakdos, Lord of Riots or whatever, and destroy artifacts. It’s always going to be useful and sometimes amazing. Great card at 4 mana.

Useful in every Red deck, but especially good in Rakdos, Lord of Riots and Purphoros, God of the Forge.

 

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You’re essentially paying 5 mana for Wheel of Fortune, and you better have a Haste-enabler or else you’re giving your opponents a chance to kill it with removal. So it’s significantly weaker than Wheel of Fortune, and less playable in a vacuum than Reforge the Soul. But the catch here is that Magus of the Wheel is a creature, so playing off creature synergies lets it truly shine.

Red decks without access to Green / Blue / Black are in dire need of better card advantage. If you can consistently give it Haste, the Magus is a solid card. Feldon of the Third Path, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Mimic Vat, and others are some of many ways to abuse this.

 

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So, pretty much a worse Mizzium Mortars except it can kill planeswalkers? That’s fine, I guess.

 

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This is an alright card. It could’ve been a great card, but Wizards made it cost a whopping 7 mana and for some odd reason it can’t play exiled lands. Ugh. I feel like this is a step backwards in Red’s slow crawl to Having Nice Things in Commander.

If you really need more card advantage in your Red deck, Dream Pillager is good enough (sadly). Dream Pillager gets good when you can get around its clunky mana cost with cheat effects like Zirilian of the Claw, Sneak Attack, Kaalia of the Vast, and Scion of the Ur-Dragon.

 

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 Rite of the Raging Storm is a unique and interesting card. It's a fine example of Commander-specific cards allowing design teams to release cool stuff that you won’t see in normal sets. By itself this enchantment has the ability to dish out ~20 damage to your opponents each turn in a typical 4-player game. It would’ve been better if the tokens MUST attack, but it’s likely that the controllers will oblige anyway.

Things get much cooler once you build around their inevitable deaths. Omnath, Locus of Rage gets to Lightning Bolt when your elemental dies. You can draw tons of cards off Skullclamp or Kothophed, Soul Hoarder. Vicious Shadows coupled with this ends the game in a hurry. There’s tons of cool stuff you can do, but be warned, your opponents can take advantage of such things as well.

Sacrifice decks will like this. Political decks like Gahiji, Honored One will have tons of fun with this too.

 

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Another solid Myriad card, this one’s all about damage. In a typical 4-player game, the Giant is 15 damage the turn you play it. All for only 5 mana. That’s good!

Like all other Myriad cards, this is great for Sacrifice decks or decks that care about more creatures entering play. Since it’s Red, it’s my duty to tell you that Purphoros, God of the Forge is going to murder the table even faster with Warchief Giant.

 

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Now this truly is a stinker, probably the worst card in the entire set. I wouldn’t pay 4 mana for a 5/5 flyer token, or 3, or even 2. So why is this card also conditional, in that I only get my underwhelming token once I take damage? What’s with the hoops? This is awful.

I hope I’m missing something here, some crazy synergy or combo, or maybe I’m reading the card wrong. Please let that be the case.

 

Top Picks

A lot of good cards so far. Nothing too absurd, though Mizzix's Mastery will undoubtedly lead to gloriously broken plays. I look forward to pulling it off. Not a lot of stinkers outside of two or three cards.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we dig into the really absurd stuff: Green, Multicolor, Artifacts, and Lands!


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