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Commander Review: Magic Origins (Part 1)


Spoiler season is over. We finally have the complete card list for Magic Origins.

Holy crap you guys! The list reads like a love letter to Commander. In fact, I'd say this is one of the best sets for Commander ever released. A bold claim, but read on and tell me what you think.

As usual, the following review is my personal opinion. I'm bound to have some differing views than you. The true beauty of these reviews is the discussion it brings out from our lively community. Every single time I've posted a review, I've been convinced of the value of at least one card that I overlooked. That's wonderful! So let's dive into the card pile and find the good stuff:

 

White

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Very interesting! We get a Propaganda and War Cadence effect both stapled on to an aggressively costed flyer. It's very cost-efficient if you look at the entire package. The trick is finding an appropriate deck that wants all these things — dedicated pillowfort decks that don't care about attacking will probably pass as cards like Ghostly Prison are superior pillowforts, and likewise there's better evasion cards for aggressive decks.

Hmm, if only there was a deck out there that liked attacking, draws a ton of hate so that it could use some defense, and has a thing for angels... oh, hi there, Kaalia of the Vast!

Yup, I think Kaalia players will have a fun time with this new angel. She gets even better if you have a way to give vigilance. Check out Budget Commander: Kaalia of the Vast.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A 1cmc planeswalker?! AWESOME! From a design point of view, this is seriously amazing and I'm excited to play this in standard (possibly modern?). In Commander, however, I'm not so sure.

I love the idea of 1cmc commanders and he looks easy enough to flip in White Weenie decks, but none of his abilities seem to translate well to multiplayer. I think he'd be great if equipment and auras didn't fall off Gideon when his 0 ability wears off at end of turn. Without that he'll struggle getting through the behemoth creatures played in Commander and his +2 and +1 abilities don't work well in this format either.

I'm skeptical that he will see play in Commander.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Instant speed armies are really good; I learned that firsthand when playtesting Darien and Gahiji. Have Cathars' Crusade out, make a bunch of tokens on the end step before your turn with Decree of Justice, swing for a billion. Good times.

Gideon's Phalanx is a new instant speed token maker. It's most comparable to White Sun's Zenith. Zenith has flexible casting, while Phalanx is fixed at 7cmc. Both make 2/2's, but Phalanx tokens have vigilance. My favorite part of the card though is its Spell Mastery, which has two practical purposes: 1) saving your creatures from a board wipe 2) ambushing an attack against you without losing any creatures. Spell Mastery is very easy for most Commander decks to have active, especially token decks that often produce tokens with instants/sorceries. This is VERY GOOD!

I will be adding this card to every white token deck I make. It's the real deal.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Commander is a format all about cheating creatures into play: reanimate them with Animate Dead effects, cheat them into play from your hand with Kaalia of the Vast or from your opponent's deck with Bribery, yoink them from your library with Tooth and Nail, blink them with Brago, King Eternal — the list goes on and on.

Because cheat effects are so common, I think this card is almost always going to get value for you. It costs 2 mana so it's easy to keep this card ready for the right situation, and it's a 2for1 because it draws a card. Heck, worst case this card cycles for 2 mana. There's very little downside to running this card, save for the universal Commander problem of "but what can I cut?!"

This card is fantastic just like Containment Priest is fantastic. Unlike Priest, I think this deck fits in pretty much any white deck because the effect is more controllable and it cycles. I wish I had a moustache, because I'd be twirling it when I run this in Roon of the Hidden Realm and cast Hallowed Midnight before exiling their creature with the Rhino. (That works, right?)

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Okay, it's not as good as Stoneforge Mystic, but it's currently $28 less and comparable if you want a tutor on a stick. Play Seeker, give it haste (Lightning Greaves, Swiftsteel Boots, etc.) and swing at an open opponent, voila! Shouldn't be too hard. This is an efficient equipment tutor in a color that doesn't get many tutors. 

I prefer Stonehewer Giant, Stoneforge Mystic, and Steelshaper's Gift over Relic Seeker, but if you're running an equipment deck I'd run all four, and if you don't want to cough up $30 for Stoneforge Mystic, this is a fine replacement.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

This is a cool engine, but I think the Opalescence effect hurts this card's playability more than it helps. I don't want my enchantment susceptible to creature removal and board wipes despite how awesome it would be to swing with Omniscience. That's a shame. The art is so friggin' cool though!

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

The most immediate card people compare this to is Cataclysm. That's an understandable comparison, but not a fair one. The two cards do entirely different things.

Cataclysm is a card you play to win the game. The big draw is the land destruction while simultaneously crippling the opponent's board position; they're left with little on the board and have been denied the ability to rebuild. You put Cataclysm in a deck that can play around the effect like Kaalia of the Vast where you can rebuild the board much faster than your opponents. 

Tragic Arrogance, on the other hand, is NOT a game ender: it's a fancy board wipe. It should be compared to other board wipes that hit multiple permanent types like Planar Cleansing or Austere Command. Keep in mind you choose which permanents of your opponents' to spare, which is really sweet.

I think once you realize Arrogance is a board wipe it becomes much better. It's hard to judge just how good it is without playtesting, but I'm hopeful that it will be a worthy inclusion.

 

Blue

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

WOW! WOWOWOWOW! Timetwister, you guys! Timetwister!!!!

Ahem. Okay, it's not quite Timetwister — it has some serious restrictions. If it's your turn, it ends the turn after you cast it. Your opponents get to play with their new cards before you get to. You can't combo off playing a dozen spells, floating tons of mana, drawing a new hand and keep going...

... unless you have ways to enable Flash, like Leyline of Anticipation and Vedalken Orrery, two already amazing Commander cards that just got way better with this. There's a reason for that price spike, folks: Commander will LOVE this card!

It's so good, you guys. It's so good. My body is ready for some Timetwister fun!

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Oh, mass creature bounce in Blue again, that's alright — wait a minute, nonland permanents? You had my curiousity, Displacement Wave, but now you have my attention.

Is this the second coming of Cyclonic Rift? No, but that's a good thing; one of those in the format is more than enough. This is more like a secondary Devastation Tide, which I feel is criminally underrated (probably because Rift is thumbing its nose at Tide). Tide can more efficiently wipe the entire board, but Wave has more flexibility. I'll stick with Tide in most cases, but if you're running a stompy deck then maybe want something that can bounce everything but your giant fatties.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I love cheap planeswalkers. 2cmc is exciting. Flipping this Jace is easy; Commander decks can get five cards in their graveyard quick, and if you have a Haste enabler (Lightning Greaves / Swiftsteel Boots) he can flip immediately. So that part is good. Unfortunately, the planeswalker version is... low impact. His +1 does little. His -3 is alright but there are much better flashback abilities available. His ultimate is a downright liability in Commander considering how prevalent graveyard recursion is in the format.

Maybe next time, Jace.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

That was quick; now here's a Jace card I can get behind! This card is a wonderful mashup of Arcane Melee and Eyes of the Watcher. The biggest fan of this card is undoubtedly Melek, Izzet Paragon. As a lover of Izzet and weirds, I am seriously pumped for this card. Spellslingers rejoice, Sanctum is AWESOME! See Budget Commander: Melek, Izzet Paragon.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Unless you have a reliable way to stack your opponent's deck, this card is too unreliable to be worth it. Not only do you have to hit a spell, but the spell needs to be useful to your immediate situation. But if there was a reliable way to stack decks that I don't know of, this card could be very fun.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Artifact is a super relevant subtype. Artifact decks are a real thing. This card is likely generating one artifact token and drawing you one card per turn. You use the token to fuel artifact shenanigans, draw you cards, and eat with Skullclamp to draw you even more cards. Nothing broken or insane, but very solid. I'm excited to use this in future artifact decks!

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

It costs five mana, doesn't do anything on its own, and is a fragile 2/3, yet you and I both know that this card is going to enable crazy table-flipping plays where you point to the entire board and say, "mine!" She combos with so many cards: Nin the Pain Artist, Marchesa, the Black Rose + Unspeakable Symbol, Cauldron of Souls, Blind Seer, Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius... fun times!

This definitely gets my seal of approval.

 

Black

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Without spell mastery, this is a worse Diabolic Tutor. With spell mastery, this is almost a Demonic Tutor. If you can quickly and consistently activate spell mastery — which I think most Commander decks can do — then this is really good. Dark Petition is an easy include to my mono-black control deck.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

In reanimator and/or self-mill decks, Graveblade Marauder can dish out serious damage. Marauder doesn't have the table-flipping effectiveness of Master of Cruelties nor efficiency of Guiltfeeder, but it's still interesting for certain niche decks.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I LOVE Harvester of Souls. This is very similar: demon, 6cmc, fat body, draws you cards when stuff dies. Kothophed counts all of your opponent's permanents instead of just creatures, but Harvester counts your own dying creatures and doesn't ping you. One hidden bonus of Kothophed is you draw cards from cracked fetchlands; the playgroups I play in run a LOT of fetchlands. 

I think Harvester is better in a Mono Black deck because black is limited in ways to destroy non-creatures and has many ways to get value out of your own creatures dying, but if you're in, say, black/green and packing lots of green's artifact/enchantment removal, Kothophed could be superior.

Or you can run both and make a super sweet Demon tribal deck. Come on, you know you want to!

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Alright, it's no Damnation; It's still a very respectable board wipe, however. Mutilate is most similar and usually superior because it will usually kill all creatures while Languish will leave the fatties on the table. But if you're playing a deck filled with fatties (coughDEMONTRIBALcoughcough) then it might be a good thing.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Another cheap planeswalker that is easy to flip, yay! She even comes with a token to defend herself with! Her planeswalker side is pretty good although niche. Her +2 is alright: you're in black, you'll discard things to reanimate later. Her -X is the real meat of the card and must be built around. If you aren't running a high concentration of low cmc creatures in your deck then you won't be getting much value out of this. Her ultimate is awesome.

In short, her playability really depends on the -X and how you build your deck. Got lots of cheap creatures to reanimate? She's good. Otherwise you're better off with something else.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

This card interests me greatly. By itself it's not a great card — a 5/5 flyer and a 2/2 for 5cmc is amazing in limited but doesn't translate well into multiplayer. But in Commander, black has tons of ways to sacrifice and reanimate, making the priest's ETB token generation highly abusable. The standard Ashnod's Altar + Nim Deathmantle works here as an infinite combo, but I think we can go deeper.

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

If you just want to deny your opponents from gaining life, I'd suggest Erebos, God of the Dead over this. But if you're running a zany deck where everyone at the table gains life then this card is a game winner. I don't know if such cards exist though.

 

Coming Soon: Red, Green, Multicolor, Artifact, Land

We'll cover the rest of Magic Origins in Part Two!


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