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Commander Review: Commander 2015 (Part 2)


Welcome back to Part 2 of the Commander 2015 review. In part one, we reviewed White, Blue, Black, and Red. Today we'll review the rest, which includes Green, Multi-Color, Artifacts and Lands. If you're interested in the financial aspect of the set, be sure to check out the Financial Review of Commander 2015.

Green

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A cute Fog effect that nets you some tokens. I’m not too excited by this, but the converted mana cost (CMC) is low enough that I’d consider running it in the right deck.

Tokens decks may enjoy this card. Gahiji, Honored One seems to be the best fit for Arachnogenesis if you play it like I do. Step 1: Give everyone tokens. Step 2: Pillowfort and force everyone to kill each other.

 

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It does nothing by itself, but devour a single creature and suddenly Bloodspore Thrinax becomes a serious engine. There’s a lot of decks built around +1/+1 counters and this lizard is an efficient way of getting those decks going.

+1/+1 decks like Skullbriar, the Walking Grave, Vorel of the Hull Clade, Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest, Ezuri, Claw of Progress, and others will enjoy this.

 

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In a typical 4-player free for all, Caller of the Pack is doing 24 damage with trample. That's a ton of damage! 7 mana is quite a lot, even for Commander, but this card is a strong choice in the right deck.

As with all Myriad cards, this card gets much better if you have ways to abuse the tokens entering the battlefield: Greater Good is the first card that comes to mind. Draw 16-24 cards? Yes please!

 

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Another big dumb beater, but this one has a very easy method of recursion. Commander is a format of fetchlands, so no doubt you'll have plenty of opportunities to return Centaur Vinecrasher back to your hand. It can be a slow but resilient value engine in certain decks.

Decks swimming in mana and are okay with slow card advantage engines may be interested in Centaur Vinecrasher. Lands decks, like Titania, Protector of Argoth are good homes. 

 

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To me this reads, "Pay 8 mana: destroy all your opponents' utility creatures and get a 4/4 token for each utility creature killed this way." Seedborn Muse, Weathered Wayfarer, Kaalia of the Vast, a whole bunch of stuff dies to this situational board wipe. The fatties remain on the board unphased. So no, it's not a Green Wrath of God, but it certainly has uses.

I really like the design of this card. It's pretty much Green's modus operandiSurvival of the Fittest. Only the strong survive. So much flavor.

Token decks will get the most use out of Ezuri's Predation. Cast this with Doubling Season on the field for fun times!

 

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One notable quirk about this Treefolk is that you can target an opponent with its ability, letting you ambush an attacking army even if they aren’t swinging at you. I like the political aspect of this card and the ability is fun, but 6 mana feels a bit much.  

 

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Let’s get the most important thing out of the way first: this creature is a badass GOAT! The Tribal Goat dream lives on! Whee!

Awesome creature subtype out of the way, Pathbreaker Ibex is Overwhelming Stampede on a stick, which makes it far better in my opinion. The goat does a fine job pumping weenie token armies, fattie armies, or anything in between.

Slam it down in your Xenagos, God of Revels deck to make all your fatties even bigger and give them trample. Run it in your Weenie deck as a budget Craterhoof Behemoth. Make five copies of it with Rite of Replication and swing with your six goats for 1170 damage. Make your giant weenie army into Pathbreaker Ibex clones with Mirrorweave and crash the Magic Online client.

Alright, new Budget Magic goal: build a deck around Pathbreaker Ibex and Mirrorweave. Let’s see if the client can handle it! (Editor's Note: I hope Seth reads this)

 

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A political version of Eternal Witness where you can “team up” with an opponent to take out the current archenemy at the table. Or you can just target an opponent with no cards in their graveyard, perhaps due to your Leyline of the Void. Skullwinder is solid either way!

Do note that Skullwinder is a snake, so yay tribal! Plus it’s got deathtouch so it’s a far better blocker than Eternal Witness. The trade-off is you can’t cash it in with Skullclamp.

 

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Another amazing Confluence. Every mode is useful and efficient. Mode 1 is pretty much the norm for that mana ratio, Mode 2 is Nature’s Spiral, and Mode 3 is Explosive Vegetation in terms of mana ratio to ramp. All great. Together in one card makes it amazing.

 

Multi-Color

 

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Enchantress gets some much-needed attention with Daxos the Returned. Most of our Enchantress decks focus on Voltron-esque commanders. Uril the Miststalker, Sigarda, Host of Herons, and Bruna, Light Alabaster come to mind. Zur the Enchanter isn’t necessarily a Voltron, but he usually is. He also comes with a reputation of being cutthroat and the automatic archenemy at the table, so it’s nice to see an Enchantress commander that doesn’t carry that stigma.

Daxos, and the colors he’s in, lends himself more to a Pillowfort type of Enchantment deck. Ghostly Prison and No Mercy protect you from attacks. Bitterblossom and Sigil of the Empty Throne makes creature fodder. Grave Pact and Karmic Justice punish others for messing with you. Daxos the Returned protects you with chump blockers early and acts as a win condition later in the game. You can also use all those token generators to play Smokestack if you don’t care about having friends.

Overall, I see this Zombie as a sweet Enchantress option. It's all the more exciting because Daxos is White-Black instead of the typical White-Green for Enchantress. My only criticism is the artwork, specifically Daxos’s “I just crapped my pants” expression.

 

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Lifegain decks have always been one of the most popular casual archetypes in Magic. Karlov of the Ghost Council is bound to be a hit amongst the crowd. At a mere two mana to cast, Karlov brings a lot to the table. He can exile pesky creatures or get huge enough to go Voltron. Never has Soul Warden and her sisters looked so good!

Karlov of the Ghost Council is easy to cast, has powerful abilities, and can play both Control and Voltron styles in the same deck. Combined with the access Black-White has to Lifegain staples, Karlov is an excellent leader for Lifegain decks. While he’s probably not powerful enough to unseat Oloro, Ageless Ascetic from his throne as King of Lifegain, at the very least he’ll be a strong addition to the 99.

 

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I’m a huge fanboy of Izzet, so Mizzix of the Izmagns is one of the cards I look forward to the most. Mizzix is a new commander of the Spellslinger deck for Blue-Red, competing with Melek, Izzet Paragon for leadership. Speaking from experience, while Melek is explosive and super fun if you get to untap with him, the Weird’s 6-CMC felt clunky and impractical. Melek often died before I got any value off of him. Mizzix’s cheaper cost, combined with her significant discounts on spells, makes it much more likely you’ll get some value off of her before she kicks the bucket.

Overall, I think Mizzix of the Izmagus is the strongest option for the Spellslinger archetype. I can’t wait to replace Melek with her.

 

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Mindmoil on a 6-CMC beatstick is probably not what I’m looking for in a commander. He costs too much, abd the ability is not a may affect. I want cards that win me the game in the command zone, like Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind. That Dragon can take these Winds of Change effects and turn them into kill conditions.

That said, Arjun, the Shifting Flame could be a fine card as part of the 99 in Niv-Mizzet decks, assuming you want a more expensive, easier to kill Mindmoil.

 

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Meren of Clan Nel Toth is a fantastic engine card, giving you value each turn. She is similar to Karador, Ghost Chieftain, getting something nice each turn. Picking up counters for her is trivial. Early on you’re picking up extra free Sakura-Tribe Elders and later on you move towards Woodfall Primus or whatever else your heart desires. She’s a great and balanced commander in my opinion. If you want to get mean with her, there’s always the option to go Stax and use the free creatures as fodder for your engine.

As an aside, I’m really digging these Shards of Alara throwbacks. The world was gorgeous. Each shard had eye-popping visuals and great design. I’m interested to see more of it post-Conflux. Return to Alara after Return to Innistrad and Return to Return to Ravnica, maybe?

 

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Oh boy, here it is. This is one badass shaman! Out of all the commanders, Mazirek is by far the easiest to trigger: whenever any player sacrifices any permanent, all your stuff gets +1/+1 counters. That’s insane. Mazirek hands out +1/+1 counters like crazy without even trying. Heck, you’ll be handing out multiple counters each turn just with the fetchlands people will be cracking. Imagine if you’re actually trying to sacrifice things!

I don’t know what broken things Mazirek enables. Worst case he upgrades your weenie army to 10/10’s. He plays nice with Persist creatures like Woodfall Primus, Devour creatures like Bloodspore Thrinax, and more. There has to be tons of stuff out there that he synergizes with.

I’d run him as a commander or part of the 99 in Skullbriar, the Walking Grave, Prossh, Skyraider of Kher, and much more.

 

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Probably the second most abusable commander in the set, Ezuri, Claw of Progress is a powerhouse commander for multiple deck archetypes. He can lead Elf tribal decks, turning armies of mana dorks (e.g. Elvish Mystic) into giant finishers. He plays nice with Token strategies, getting numerous counters off Hornet Queen, Spawn Writhe, and other efficient token producers. Love Infect? Turn those skinny Blighted Agents into 1-hit kills! What about +1/+1 counter synergies, like Chasm Stalker, Mycoloth, Hangarback Walker, Sage of Hours, and Master Biomancer? Heck, he even synergizes with Living Weapons like Batterskull because they come with Germ tokens!

There’s so much synergy here to play around with, more than I can even name. I expect to see a lot of Ezuris, but also a variety of strategies to them. Awesome!

 

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Snake Tribal hype! Kaseto is a deliberate bone thrown to casual Snake lovers, offering the tribe much-needed access to Blue. It’s still a tough call between him or Seshiro the Annointed, which is a stronger commander but doesn’t give Blue access. It comes down to how much you want to run Coiling Oracle, Mystic Snake, Lorescale Coatl, Patagia Viper, the new Broodbirth Viper, and all those delicious Blue spells. I think it’s worth it. Plus Kaseto is far from horrible himself, granting evasion, more damage, and even Voltron wins if you have enough mana to spend.

 

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Saving the worst two for last, Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas is a disappointing card. Of all the commanders with the experience counter mechanic, hers is by far the hardest to trigger simply because it’s the only one that forces you to cast 5+ CMC creatures to do so. You’re required to jump through the most difficult hoops for the blandest, weakest payoff. Not all your creatures, just her. Of all the decks from Commander 2015, the one focused on playing expensive fatties should use experience counters to give you a discount on casting them, like Mizzix of the Izmagus does. But no, she just hits a bit harder. Booooo! She’s a Voltron commander, but she doesn’t even do that job well because she can’t protect herself. See Sigarda, Host of Herons and Uril the Miststalker for Voltron commanders done right. Rafiq of the Many gets a pass because he’s in Blue, so he can protect himself with countermagic. Kalemne can’t. Swing and a miss.  

 

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If you were hoping for an interesting secondary commander for Boros, you’ll be disappointed. Anya, Merciless Angel is just as bland as Kalemne. As a Voltron commander, Anya is better than Kalemne because you don’t need to cast expensive creatures (something Voltron decks don’t want to do) to pump her. You just need to damage your foes, which is in line with your goal. She can also be Indestructible, a very important trait for Voltron commanders to have. She can get to be 7/7 easily enough, which means she can 3-shot people. In a typical 4-player game she can grow up to be 13/13.

She’s a decent Voltron general. Not the best, but pretty good. My gripe is that she’s boring. We already have plenty of Voltron options that do the same thing Anya does. This Angel doesn’t bring anything new to the table. No cool new deck archetypes. No support for underperforming archetypes. Nothing. Just big dumb Boros beater #2. Ugh.

 

Artifact

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Calling it now: this is going to be the most played card from the set.

Blade of Selves is a silly card. I'm not sure how it got through the development phase at that converted mana cost. It's far too low of a mana investment for such broken shenanigans. I've talked about the Myriad cards before and how they are really cool new additions to Sacrifice decks and decks that care about creatures entering the battlefield (e.g. Purphoros, God of the Forge). Blade of Selves is on an entirely different level. It's all about what popular creatures you can equip for a game-ending effect. Hint: the list is exhaustive.

Drain you opponents for lethal with Gray Merchant of Asphodel or Kokusho, the Evening Star. Tutor all the cards with Imperial Recruiter or Rune-Scarred Demon. Ramp with Solemn Simulacrum, get back all the things with Eternal Witness and Sun TitanVindicate 6+ times with Reaper King. Even the silly Pathbreaker Ibex goes off and swings for a billion damage when equipped. This card breaks everything it equips!

That said, I don't think Blade of Selves will be banned. Yes, it fits into pretty much every deck and yes, you're going to see this card everywhere. But I don't think this card is so format-warping that all games will devolve into a battle for control of this equipment. Commander is a format full of broken things. If crazy value cards like Consecrated Sphinx and Prophet of Kruphix are safe from the banhammer, so should this. 

 

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It's a more expensive Quietus Spike without deathtouch. I'm not a fan of the Spike and I didn't need a second, worse copy. I think this card's purpose is to show how truly insane Blade of Selves is. Both of these cards are in the same set and the designers felt they were about even. Yikes.

 

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The absurdly high casting cost of Sandstone Oracle makes it a horrible choice of card draw for most decks. But for decks that can reanimate artifacts easily but have issues drawing cards (i.e. Mono Red Artifacts) this could be a decent option. Daretti, Scrap Savant and Feldon of the Third Path immediately come to mind.

 

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I generally prefer Mind Stone, as I'd much rather have the option to cycle my excess mana away than keep more than seven cards in hand at a time. That said, I always welcome more mana rocks printed at 2 mana!

 

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How often will this card be preferable to Gilded Lotus? I'm not sure. I think I prefer the Lotus, but if you're casting a whole bunch of cards in a turn and can save 3+ mana from it, like Mizzix of the Izmagnus probably wants to do, I would recommend it.  

Lands

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Phage the Untouchable players rejoice! You have another way of playing your commander without killing yourselves. Command Beacon enables a previously unplayable commander, Haakon, Stromgald Scourge. Finally, Mono Black Knights can be a thing!

For the rest of us, Command Beacon is nice for decks that heavily rely on their commander being in play to function. I'm thinking specifically Voltron decks, but there are others. If your commander dies three or four times in a game, there may come a point where you simply cannot afford the tax to replay it from your command zone. Command Beacon comes to the rescue, letting you sidestep the commander tax by playing it from your hand.

 

Top 10 Commander 2015

10. Pathbreaker Ibex. This card is good, not ba-a-a-ad!
9. Corpse Augur. A ton of card draw stapled to a zombie creature.
8. Grasp of Fate. Amazing removal for multiplayer.
7. Synthetic Destiny. Turn your tokens into Jin-Gitaxis, Core Augur and friends, or cast in response to a board wipe and laugh.
6. Meren of Clan Nel Toth. The value train on this Graveyard commander keeps on chuggin'.
5. Mizzix's Mastery. It only fits in a specific niche deck, but when it's cast it will be GLORIOUS!
4. Mizzix of the Izmagnus. Cast spells, which lets you cast spells cheaper, which lets you cast even more spells and — oh, yes, I would like to cast an Overloaded Mizzix's Mastery for only RRR!
3. Ezuri, Claw of Progress. +1/+1 synergizes with so much in this format. You can build him numerous ways, but it will always be strong because he brings so much to the table.
2. Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest. Like Ezuri, this insect comes with a laundry list of synergies. He triggers off everything!
1. Blade of Selves. You're going to see it everywhere, I guarantee it!

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

 

Conclusion

Overall, Commander 2015 is the best Commander set ever released. The new cards are powerful, but, ignoring one glaring exception, they are powerful when played in a certain niche archetype. This theme is in contrast to cards that are universally good and jammed into everything. That's good design and should be applauded on Wizards's part. They're supporting deck archetypes that needed more love, like Spellslingers, Enchantress, even the oddball Snake Tribal! These new additions will bring more diversity to the format, which is my favorite part of Commander.

While this set is Wizards's best yet, it's not without faults. Blade of Selves is undercosted for the ridiculous things it does and will be jammed into every deck running creatures. I don't like that. It cuts down on diversity within decks, such as when slots are "reserved" for auto-includes like Sol Ring.

My biggest gripe, however, is Wizards's continued failure to address the problems of Red and White in Commander. The number one issue is a serious lack of good card draw. Wizards gives these colors a few scraps once in a while, but most of them are half-hearted attempts, Dream Pillager being the latest example of mediocrity. The White-Red combination has so many deficits that they are the most reliant on artifacts to fill in the gaps. That reliance is a risky proposition when White / Red / Green all have popular mass artifact removal staples. At the same time, Wizards has no issue pushing the power level of other colors (specifically Green) in Commander. They've blended more and more of the color pie in the process. Green picks up one of the best Commander removal spells with Song of the Dryads, but where's the love for Boros?

While all the preconstructed sets are fantastic in design and ready to play out of the box, the Boros deck seems to be the weakest and least interesting. That's not because it's Giant Tribal. I love that they went for Giant tribal, breaking the mold of Boros always being about Weenie Aggro, which we've seen a thousand times already. It's that the commanders are bland. There's no synergy to be excited about. They just hit things and poorly at that. Look at Mizzix of the Izmagnus, Ezuri, Claw of Progress, Meren of Clan Nel Toth: aren't they exciting? Their abilities get my mind racing. Then look at Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas. She gets +1/+1. Oh joy. "Uninspiring" sums up my opinion of her.

Sorry for going on a rant there. Make no mistake: Commander 2015 is amazing! If you're interested in playing Commander, buy this product. It's the best set they've ever released. I'd recommend swapping out the Boros commander for Gisela, Blade of Goldnight. She's even conveniently reprinted in the deck!


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