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Commander Review: Commander 2017 Part 1 (White, Blue, Black, Red)


Commander 2017 has been fully spoiled, so it's time again for another Commander review! Let's see what sweet cards Wizards created for us this year, and where they might see play:

 

WHITE

Alms Collector

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Alms Collector is a huge step down in power from Notion Thief, which is both good and bad in my opinion. What I like is it's not just a color-shifted Notion Thief, since while that card is very powerful and competitive, it's also very "feelbad" in more casual playgroups, especially when paired with Windfall cards and forces all your opponents to discard their entire hands while you draw everything you need. A less powerful, more "fair" version of Thief is welcome; even though it's best used in the same situation, it's certainly not as abusable.

My worry with this card, however, is it might be too much of a step down from Notion Thief to the point that it becomes more of a niche meta call that only some people will end up running. While you can jam Notion Thief in pretty much any deck and expect to get some value out of it, Alms Collector's trigger is much more restrictive as it only occurs when an opponent draws 2+ cards at once, so it doesn't count things like Phyrexian Arena or Rhystic Study. To get consistent use out of Alms Collector against any opponent, you're going to want to run the same tricks that makes Notion Thief such a pain in the ass -- the Wheel of Fortune cards -- but unlike Notion Thief, who has wheels in his colors (Windfall, Whispering Madness, and many more) and can slide into Wheel decks such as Nekusar, the Mindrazer, Alms Collector is unfortunately in White and therefore has no access to Wheel cards or any Wheel commanders.

So, where should you run Alms Collector? I'd say it's going to shine brightest at tables with opponents playing draw-heavy decks. If you regularly run into Nekusar, the Mindrazer, Prime Speaker Zegana, and other decks with big draw spells, Alms Collector will do serious work. Otherwise, I don't think the card is consistent enough to be worth running.

 

Balan, Wandering Knight

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Balan, Wandering Knight is the purrfect creature for Equipment decks. Double strike is a superb keyword because it gains double the value from your equipments; suddenly you're getting 4 damage from your Sword of Fire and Ice, drawing 2 cards, and Shocking two things! Balan's activated ability is also fantastic, allowing you to equip him at instant speed (use it to equip your Lightning Greaves in response to targeted removal, for example) and also have a mana discount on some of the more expensive equip costs (e.g. Argentum Armor). A ton of value for 4 cmc. Thumbs up!

Balan, Wandering Knight is a fine commander, but I feel he will do better as part of the 99 in other Equipment decks, such as Kemba, Kha Regent or Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer. There's also Tribal Cats of course.

 

Curse of Vitality

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Curse of Vitality is a step up from Commander 2013's Curse of the Forsaken. Attackers gain a consistent 2 life instead of 1 per attacking creature, but best of all you'll be gaining life when your opponents are attacking as well. That said, I still feel Curse of Vitality is overall a weak card that won't see much play, but it still is a decent inclusion in Lifegain decks that can take advantage of the trigger, such as Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, Karlov of the Ghost Council, and many more.

 

Fortune Few

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Fortunate Few would've really excited me if you, the caster, could've chosen a nonland permanent you control, while your opponents have to choose something they don't control. I loved the Offering cycle (e.g. Sylvan Offering) and Tempting Offer cycle (Tempt with Discovery) because despite giving your opponents options, you always come out ahead, and I feel Fortunate Few was a missed opporunity to make something great. As written, Fortunate Few is still an interesting soft board wipe that will lead to fun and memorable politics as each player makes their case why something of theirs should be spared, and I will love running it in future Commander Clash games for that exact reason, but if you care purely about raw power board wipes I'd recommend Hour of Revelation or other board wipes over this.

 

Kindred Boon

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Tribal decks are almost always creature-heavy decks. Creature strategies are often vulnerable to mass board wipes, which are plentiful in Commander. So it would make sense that Kindred Boon's ability to make all your tribal creatures indestructible can be very powerful. My only issue with the card is it requires a huge mana investment, 6 mana to make one creature indestructible, 8 mana for two, 10 for three, etc. You can spend that mana in manageable chunks of course, which can't be said about alternatives such as Avacyn, Angel of Hope, but it's still a lot. And all of it can be undone with a Disenchant removing the enchantment. 

Will Kindred Boon win games? Absolutely. Is it the best at what it does? Probably not. Despite requiring 8 mana upfront, I still prefer Avacyn, Angel of Hope for mass indestructible, and also Eldrazi Monument if I'm running a Tokens and/or Sacrifice strategy.

 

Scalelord Reckoner

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Unlike "swarm" tribes like Elves, for example, Dragons are all about playing high cmc creatures, usually one or two at a time. This means Tribal Dragon decks generally aren't as badly hurt by board wipes as some other tribes, since you won't usually have too many creatures on the board at any given time (unless you're about to flat-out win), but that does mean that your big, 8 mana Utvara Hellkites are vulnerable to 1 mana Swords to Plowshares trades. 

Luckily, Commander 2017 offers us a way to discourage such trades with Scalelord Reckoner, which acts as a rattlesnake to ward off any potential targeted removal against your dragons. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of a Karmic Justice so it's likely you won't be on the receiving end of any targeted removal with the Scalelord on the battlefield. Job well done!

 

Stalking Leonin

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Stalking Leonin is another fun rattlesnake card that heavily discourages anyone from attacking you for fear they might be the opponent you named. Unfortunately, Stalking Leonin is a creature, the permanent type with the shortest lifespan in Commander, so there's a good chance that it will die before actually exiling anything. In this regard I view it as a worse Soul Snare. However, it is a cat, so Cat Tribal is probably going to run it anyway because there's not a ton of options.

 

Teferi's Protection

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

After wading through so many uninteresting cards, Teferi's Protection is a breath of fresh air. It's a gorgeous card both in terms of mechanics and flavor. We get to see a huge moment in Magic's history, when the planeswalker Teferi (Teferi, Temporal Archmage) phases out an entire continent to save it from a Phyrexian invasion. And the card is super playable! It's the perfect response to so many things, from a lethal Comet Storm to saving your board from a Wrath of God.

Even better than protecting you from your opponent's stuff is what this beautiful card does with your cards! At three mana, you easily float mana, cast this, and then cast a board wipe, from Wrath of God to Armageddon! Or drop Felidar Sovereign / Test of Endurance and then cast Teferi's Protection so your opponents can't deal with it until your upkeep? The possibilities are endless! At the very least, you can always cast Teferi's Protection so you can safely go to the bathroom while the rest of the turn plays out! Teferi's Bathroom Break?

This card is insane, people! I can't wait to get my hands on it! Bravo, Wizards, bravo!

 

BLUE

Curse of Verbosity

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Curse of Verbosity is the strongest curse from the set's cycle without needing to build around. If playing Edric, Spymaster of Trest has taught me anything, it's that drawing cards is great, and your opponents will gladly attack the person you cursed if they can draw some cards too. Your opponents know they shouldn't attack that target, because you get to draw cards as well, but in the end Greed always wins and they'll do it anyway. So you get to draw tons of cards and beat up one poor target! All that for 3 mana? Sign me up!

Curse of Verbosity probably won't see much play, but I think it's excellent and people will realize that once they see it in action. I'm jamming it into my Edric deck, my 5C Enchantress deck, and pretty much any Blue deck with a Creature strategy will enjoy it as well.

 

Galecaster Colossus

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Galecaster Colossus is going to cause a lot of groans at Commander tables. 7 cmc is a lot for a creature that doesn't do much on its own, but with a couple other Wizards supporting it on the battlefield, you've got a mini-Cyclonic Rift every turn that will be super frustrating for your opponents to deal with, especially if you're protecting your board with Counterspells like the good Blue player you are. Eventually your opponents won't be able to stick anything on the board and you can slowly take them out at your leisure.

Galecaster Colossus is an appropriate finisher for a Wizards deck: your opponent's death is slow, inevitable, and very, very frustrating. Just how I like it! 

 

Kindred Discovery

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Kindred Discovery is insane card draw. Absolutely insane. In a Tribal deck, it's basically a better combination of Coastal Piracy and one half Dire Undercurrents, drawing you tons of cards just for putting creatures into play and turning them sideways. You can easily go infinite with this and The Locust God, and either win by drawing your entire library with Laboratory Maniac in play or just drawing into a way to remove Kindred Discovery from the battlefield and then swing with your huge army of locusts. Or in Talrand, Sky Summoner, all your spells make drakes, which draw you cards when they enter/attack, which lets you cast more spells, which makes more drakes ...

Kindred Discovery is bonkers. It's great played in a Tribal deck or in decks that produce tokens of the same creature type. Run it, love it.

 

Magus of the Mind

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Magus of the Mind is Mind's Desire in creature form, but this time you don't need to shuffle your giant library 10+ times between every card you exile. Generally decks that play Mind's Desire are Spellslinger decks that want to focus on instants and sorceries, which Magus is unfortunately not, but the neat thing with the Magus is that his activation costs only one mana, so you can cast him for a future turn so you'll have more mana to work with on the turn you decide to pop him. That's if the Magus survives until you're ready to pop him, of course.

Like most of the Magus cycle, the original card is superior, but it's nice to have a creature version.

 

Portal Mage

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Portal Mage is good multiplayer fun. Keep it in your pocket for when an opponent sends a big nasty thing your way and nudge it to a different opponent. Since it's a creature, you can re-use its ability easily by bouncing it (Riptide Laboratory) or blinking it (Momentary Blink) for another surprise. Is it a great card? Probably not, but it's good casual fun.

 

BLACK

Bloodline Necromancer

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Bloodline Necromancer has a small body for its cmc, but that triggered ability! Plopping a Wizard/Vampire from your graveyard directly into the battlefield is a powerful ETB trigger and one that is ripe for abuse. Marchesa, the Black Rose will absolutely love this, as will any decks that can keep repeating its triggered ability to get back wizards and vampires.

 

Boneyard Scourge

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Boneyard Scourge would be a sweet card in a Sacrifice deck, where you could abuse its cheap reanimation to continually sacrifice it for value to things like Disciple of Bolas. The problem is that Dragon Tribal decks generally don't do Sacrifice themes. It's okay in Dragon decks, but not spectacular, so it's in an awkward spot of being a (potentially) good card but without an archetype to call home.

 

Curse of Disturbance

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Curse of Disturbance is an alright inclusion in Zombie Tribal decks, where the zombie tokens being generated can be buffed from zombie lords and whatnot. For your opponents, well they get a 2/2 token that usually serves as a chump blocker, but they'll be wary of you getting a token as well, and if you're playing Zombie Tribal they definitely do not want to give you a zombie unless they're desperate for a blocker.

The end result is that Curse of Disturbance might end up benefiting the opponent you curse if you're playing Zombie Tribal, because your other opponents won't want to take the cursed target and give you free zombies. And in other archetypes, the tokens aren't a big benefit either way. Not a fan.

 

Kheru Mind-Eater

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I love the horrific variant of Vampire found in the plane of Tarkir and how starkly it constrasts to the usual vampires we see on other worlds. As for the card itself, Kheru Mind-Eater is a solid early attacker and is a cheap, repeatable 2-for-1 against your opponent, even if the card you get is always going to be the worst card in your opponent's hand. I would definitely recommend it for Vampire Tribal decks.

 

Kindred Dominance

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

In the right Tribal deck, Kindred Dominance is a 7 cmc Plague Wind, which I consider playable in Mono Black already, so a cheaper version is welcome! I suspect Kindred Dominance is most likely to show up in Vampire Tribal decks, but Zombie decks might also find success with it as well.

 

New Blood

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

In most cases, New Blood is a permanent Control Magic but you need to tap a Vampire to cast it. That's great, especially in multiplayer formats where you have ~3 opponent's worth of creatures to choose from. But things can get really silly when you change that creature into a vampire! First off, the converted creature takes advantage of any Vampire synergies in your deck, such as Captivating Vampire and Bloodline Keeper. But we can get more silly! If you steal Krenko, Mob Boss, he makes vampires equal to the number of vampires you control! Or steal Elvish Archdruid and it taps for mana equal to the number of vampires! Or Sliver Overlord to tutor for any vampire in your deck? Yeesh!

New Blood is an easy staple in Vampire Tribal decks.

 

Patron of the Vein

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

One part removal, one part graveyard hate, and a final part vampire lord, Patron of the Vein does some serious work for the Vampire Tribal archetype and is well worth its 6 cmc. This is a great top-end of any Vampire deck.

 

RED

Bloodsworn Steward

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Bloodsworn Steward is an incredibly mana-efficient way to buff your Commander while also being a 4/4 flyer for 4 cmc. Being a creature is its only downside, so if you want a reliable source of haste you're better off with a Lightning Greaves or even Fervor, but if you can take advantage of everything jam-packed into this card, Bloodsworn Steward is amazing value. He's a solid inclusion in Vampire Tribal decks, especially when you consider that some of the better Vampire cards have a habit of stealing creatures such as Olivia Voldaren and New Blood, so you can steal your opponent's commanders and they'll benefit from the Steward! Also commanders that take full advantage of increased size plus haste, such as Tana, the Bloodsower, are going to love this.

 

Crimson Honor Guard

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Similar to Bloodsworn Steward, Crimson Honor Guard packs a ton of value if you're using all parts of the card. A 4/5 trampler that is potentially dealing an additional 4 damage on each player's turn (possibly 20 total damage in a 4-player game!) for 5 mana is absurdly good. Of course, this damage output assumes that commanders aren't on the battlefield, and considering how readily accessible commanders are in the namesake format, it's more reasonable to assume that Crimson Honor Guard won't be pushing out its maximum damage potential each turn.

That said, I still think Crimson Honor Guard is a solid inclusion in a Vampire Tribal deck. It's a vampire so it benefits from those tribal synergies, but more interesting is that Vampires have powerful cards that can steal opposing commanders, most notably Olivia Voldaren, Captivating Vampire, and now New Blood. Stealing opposing commanders is a sweet way to make sure you're getting full value out of the Guard.

Crimson Honor Guard may also make a fine inclusion in other aggressive decks. For example, Mogis, God of Slaughter spends most of his time as an indestructible enchanment on the board, so you rarely will be burned by the Guard. Partner commanders such as Vial Smasher the Fierce are more likely to have one of the partners out at any given time, again making it easier to avoid getting burned.

 

Curse of Opulence

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

While Curse of Verbosity remains my favorite of the new curse cycle, Curse of Opulence may be my second favorite of the bunch. Everyone likes free mana and I can certainly see people attacking the cursed target so they can cast spells that they otherwise wouldn't have enough mana for, without worrying too much about the benefit that brings you. That's a fine benefit by itself, but things get a lot more interesting if your deck is built around artifacts, tokens, and/or sacrificing permanents. For example, in an Artifact deck, these gold tokens help turn on metalcraft (e.g. Dispatch), totally-not-metalcraft (e.g. Inventor's Fair), help with improvise (e.g. Whir of Invention), and many other neat synergies (e.g. Kuldotha Forgemaster).

Like all the curses, I expect Curse of Opulence to be overlooked and underplayed, despite being a pretty good card. It's a fine inclusion in Artifact decks such as Breya, Etherium Shaper.

 

Disrupt Decorum

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Sometimes Wrath of God isn't the answer to a crazy board state! Disrupt Decorum is another fun, casual card that I love seeing in these Commander sets. Like most political cards, people will undervalue and skip over Disrupt Decorum, but a mass goad spell on a board full of creatures is just magical. Played at the right time, you will indirectly be causing tons of damage to your opponents and/or killing many creatures. The bigger the board state, the more value Disrupt Decorum brings. It's not a replacement to a board wipe, mind you, but rather a different tool for a different situation.

Disrupt Decorum shines brightest in decks that can guarantee each opponent has creatures to fight with. In my budget Gahiji, Honored One article, and more recently budget Kynaios and Tiro, I talked about a Political Tokens deck that makes allies with opponents by giving them free armies(e.g. Sylvan Offering) and then encouraging them to kill each other. This card is a perfect fit for the archetype!

 

Izzet Chemister

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Izzet Chemister is a card with a ton of potential, but needs a ton of support to reach that potential. Played without support, it's a terrible card: spending 3 mana to cast a fragile creature, another mana to exile something, and then you need to wait at least another turn and pay 2 more mana and sacrifice it to cast a spell. 6 mana over two turns to cast a spell from your graveyard, and hopefully nobody kills it before you can pull it off.

Things get a lot more interesting if you have access to tons of mana and untap triggers. Paradox Engine and Jeskai Ascendancy are two methods that immediately stand out in my head. If you have a bunch of mana rocks plus Paradox Engine, or Jeskai Ascendancy and some mana dorks, you could easily cast a truckload of spells off Izzet Chemister in a single turn and probably win the game off a Storm card like Ignite Memories.

If your deck can use him as a combo piece, Izzet Chemister is sweet. If you can't provide the support he needs, however, I would avoid playing it.

 

Kindred Charge

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Kindred Charge is a powerful new finisher for a ton of decks. I can't think of a Tribal deck where this card wouldn't be good. For example, Goblin decks under Krenko, Mob Boss can produce a big board state, double it with Charge, and then keep the token Krenko copy to immediately tap him and then double your goblin army again. Any Red Tribal deck is going to do similar shenanigans. Purphoros, God of the Forge will love this.

 

Shifting Shadow

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Red gets a new Polymorph variant with Shifting Shadow. The card is slow, most cases you need to wait an entire turn before it does anything, and therefore there's a risk before the creature/enchantment is destroyed before you get any value from it, but in the right deck it can be worth the risk. Note that you destroy the creature, so if you attach Shifting Shadow to a creature with indestructible (Avacyn, Angel of Hope, for example), the creature will be "destroyed" but not be affected, and you'll still get another creature from your library. So in decks with many sources of indestructible, such as Archangel Avacyn, Shifting Shadow could be a cool repeatable way to cheat in creatures without any real downside. There are other potential homes for this card, such as creature-light decks that can sacrifice a random token to grab big finishers like Blightsteel Colossus. Or perhaps a Rakdos deck with a Sacrifice theme and destroying your own creatures is actually a benefit.

 

Territorial Hellkite

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Traditional Aggro strategies have a handicap in Commander because cards that do well against a single opponent with 20 life are a lot weaker when you have to defeat multiple opponents with 40 life. That's why the best Aggro decks in Commander either scale their damage based on how many opponents are at the table (Purphoros, God of the Forge) or skirt around the 40 life total such as Infect (Triumph of the Horde) or Voltron (Rafiq of the Many). 

It's interesting that Territorial Hellkite takes a different approach, offering a traditional beatdown option that works well in multiplayer. A 6/5 flying haste creature for 4 mana is ridiculously good value, but the "drawback" is that you can't choose who you hit and you can't hit the same opponent twice in a row. It's basically a superior version of Rohan of the Fomori. The random attack actually can work in your favor as you gain a political excuse of "hey, I didn't choose to hit you" so opponents will be less likely to seek retribution.

Territorial Hellkite does its job of traditional beatdown admirably. Any deck interested in that sort of play should consider it.

 

My Favorite Cards From Part 1

Alright, we've gone through the new White, Blue, Black, and Red cards from Commander 2017. These are my favorite cards from each color:

White. Without a doubt, Teferi's Protection is my favorite of the bunch. It's certainly in my top 3 favorite cards from the entire set.

Blue. Kindred Discovery offers an absurd amount of card draw in the right deck, so that gets my pick. Curse of Verbosity is a close second and I think it's going to be overlooked by many.

Black. Vampires got a ton of love in Black and the card I'm most excited for is New Blood. I can't wait to turn an opponent's Krenko, Mob Boss into a vampire, or any other tribal lord!

Red. Kindred Charge is going to win lots of games. There's so many ways you can take advantage of the tokens it produces. Curse of Opulence is a close second.

That's it for Part 1! Overall I think we got a solid haul, but the real meat of Commander 2017 is in the Multicolor cards, and that's coming up in Part 2! What do you think of my assessments? What cards are you most excited about? What cards will be going into your decks? Let me know in the comment section! Thanks for reading!

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