Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Commander 2013 Review: G/A&L

We have now arrived at the final installment of my Commander 2013 review. Today, we've got Green, and everything else - Artifacts and Lands. There aren't many in the "everything else" category, so it'll be a quick one today.

Kicking things off we've got one hell of a utility dork. Once in play he's painfully vanilla, but that doesn't really matter. As long as you aren't relying to heavily on Artifacts and Enchantments, this should be a must-run staple in virtually any G/x deck.

I initially thought the Red one might be the strongest of these Curses, but while it's probably the most utilitarian, this one is probably just the overall best. Awesome art too. Definitely be playing this one in Edric. Seems like a good Skullbriar inclusion as well.
Ugh. Eight mana for a french vanilla dude that might be huge, or he might be tiny. Seeing a land or two flip over with this guy will seriously sting. If it's not 8/8 at least, it's going to be disappointing, and even that is mediocre. Fine for janky Beast Tribal decks, but I don't foresee this becoming a big hit.
Hey, they made a fixed Dou...

Wait. Where are the words "you control"?

Yeah. It's a nerfed Doubling Season that costs the same as DS but sucks infinitely more. Terrible, except in two cases: Group Hug decks, or if you are the only person in your group that ever plays token decks.

And what's with the art? It looks like an unused Overrun variant, not a DS variant. Shouldn't it show TWO of every creature? This is the biggest failure of the set, and it feels like WotC is intentionally trolling us with this shit.
Well, this is new. Not sure it's actually good or not. Oh sure, it seems like it will be, and I can see a strong case for it to be. But I have this sneaking suspicion it's going to be much worse in most decks than people anticipate.

I'm certainly intrigued to see how this one plays out.
Jeez, does everything in this set cost 8 mana? I jest, but things do seem a little top-heavy. I can't get behind this one at all - unless I have Academy Rector shenanigans, but then again if I'm going that route there are obviously better end games.

But even through my bitter cynicism, I can easily concede that the prospect of churning out an endless stream of 5/5 Beasts will delight some folks enough, they'll find a way to make this work.
DING! DING! DING! We have a winner. This is by far the one Tempting Offer card where you're most likely to get at least one player to buy into the offer every time. Ironically it's probably the biggest trap of the cycle, too. Unlike the other cards, this one will almost always help you more than anyone else, but at the same time, there will almost always be that one person who's a bit behind and just can't refuse - then everyone else will be eager to jump in, not wanting to be left out. I definitely endorse this card, but don't be surprised if eventually your group catches on and just completely stops taking this offer.

Now this should be interesting. It's democratic, yet still gives the caster all the power. If the caster doesn't like the way the other player's vote, he can just sit on this forever. Or, it can just be a good way to even the odds across the board.

But at the same time, casting it when you're ahead won't get you very far - your opponents will all just chose to put their doom counters on your things.

Also you can "abstain" by choosing the Eye itself to receive your doom counter.

Also, doom counters. Neat!
Meh. I mean, I get the design, but I don't really like it. I want ramp that's less situational and more reliable. However, in some colors this will likely be a godsend anyway. I'm thinking Boros and Orzhov decks in particular will happily make use of this, but it's a particularly terrible late-game draw, so beware.

Whoa. That's a doozy of a Land. It's not as universal as Command Tower, obviously, but it's great for a LOT of Generals. Rafiq, Thraxi, Edric, Skullbriar... the list goes on. But some Legends won't particularly care, like Savra, Grand Arbiter, etc... but yeah, it's really good.

Well, that about wraps it up for the new cards. I'm not sure what's next - I don't want to review the decks themselves and start modifying and improving them until I've had time to play all of these decks out-of-the-box a few times. But I might do a thing on the reprints - we're getting some Three Kingdoms goodies, for one thing, which is great.

Anyway, we'll see what comes. In the mean time, enjoy!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Commander 2013 Review: B/R

This is part three of our review of the new cards in Commander 2013. Tonight we're covering Black and Red. Let's get started.

This is probably the best of the Force cycle and yet I still can't even summon up any interest in playing this, despite card-drawing being my favorite thing ever. You know what isn't my favorite thing? Spending 8 mana, and likely my whole turn, casting this, only to have it completely negated by a 1-mana white instant. For eight mana, I need to be guaranteed to get some value out of it before it eats removal.
Zombies will always be popular.
Seems kind of good. I'd play this in Savra for sure. I really wish this were smaller and more cost-efficient though. As-is it kinda feels pointless - if you actually get him working, the returning creatures portion seems almost worthless, because once this guy is online, he should finish the game in a few turns by himself.
This is another awkward design. It wants to punish the guy who's got the most creatures but swinging for 4 is not likely to really make much of a dent if the player is that far ahead. I don't like it, and I don't expect to see it much out in the wild.
If you can only have one at a time, what's the point? I really don't understand this card at all. For one thing it seems 100% printable in a regular expansion, and for another it's just terrible for EDH in particular. 
That mana cost sure makes me wince, but as much as Vicious Shadows gets played despite costing seven mana, this should see a similar amount of play. It certainly punishes the greedy drawer (me!), especially Consecrated Sphinx. But really, this is actually a much weaker card than Vicious Shadows, for a variety of reasons.
Easily my favorite of the Tempting Offer cycle, even if it is highly likely to just be a 5-mana Zombify most of the time. But again, if even ONE player is desperate or foolish enough to take the offer, you're probably coming out ahead anyway.
Holy cow! Now this is a sweeper. Sure it's likely to be a worse card than Damnation most of the time, but the scalability and the incredibly cheap casting cost seem likely to make this a format staple.

Seems playable. Gives Red a convenient way to dig for gas, even if it doesn't actually provide card advantage. Like the rest of this cycle, it's not going to be good everywhere, but it'll have it's uses.
I can't believe they managed to make a Ruination that was a completely fun-wrecking jerk of a card. 
This seems like a real boon to mono-Red players. Sure it gets less and less impressive the more colors your opponents are playing, but generally, there's always enough overlap that this should always easily net you a 4-for-1 at worst. Also REALLY good against tokens.
Seems pretty mediocre. You'd probably go ahead and play it in a Purphoros deck, but when it matters most you won't see any opponents willing to take the offer. 
Needs Trample badly. 
How annoying is this, huh? A ramp spell here, a tutor there... suddenly no more cards. Combine with Painful Quandary to be the dickiest dick.

Really this is probably just too obnoxious to play outside of obnoxious punisher decks. Also, it's a terrible late-game draw.

Kinda hard to tell with this one, but it seems like it SHOULD be a fairly common staple.
LOL, hot potato. The can't gain life clause makes it somewhat more applicable beyond the obvious Zedruu and Chaos decks. It's random in a way that's more fun than most random effects, mostly cause it's easy to resolve. And it's impact is significant enough to actually matter, but not so powerful as to cause undue stress. The only thing I don't like is that it hoses Oloro, my favorite of the new Legends.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Commander 2013 Review: W/U

Howdy folks. We're back for the second installment of my review of Commander 2013. We're still looking at individual cards. Last time we covered the new Legends. Today we'll be diving into the other new cards, covering White and Blue.

This is a bit clunky, but it's good. If you're not running a bunch of Artifact and Enchantments yourself, that is. It's also worth noting that it can exile itself, which means the first opponent you give it to after exiling something on your upkeep will likely just chose to have this exile itself out of annoyance. But by that time, you've already gotten a two-for-one out of it. However, if you have any decent targets yourself, you can definitely expect to see this turned against you rather quickly. Possible Zedruu staple, but most of those builds run lots of Artifacts and Enchantments themselves, so maybe not.

It would seem WotC is trying to tell us, "Hey! EDH players! Y'all ain't running enough graveyard hate!" At least I can't think of a better way to transmit this message and provide a solution at the same time than to put some GY hate on an Angel with gorgeous art.
Probably the weakest overall of the Curse cycle, but still has some applications. It certainly fits well enough in the Oloro deck. I definitely don't expect to see this become a staple of the format, but in the right deck it is fine.
Interesting... I'd happily play this, where White not already equipped with Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile, and more. Simply put, White doesn't have a problem dealing with creatures already, so this seems unnecessary. I'd play it in a G/W Enchantress deck, though, for sure. I'd like it a lot more if the Enchantment itself were also indestructible.
I really feel like this could have cost 4 and been fair. That said, I like the effect enough I can totally justify playing it at 5, so maybe it is the right cost after all. In the right deck, of course is the caveat we use a LOT in this format - which speaks to this format's greatness: almost any card can be good or at least passable in the right deck. I think this is a card that potentially has quite a number of "right decks".
For those unaware many Asian martial art styles focus on using your opponent's strength and/or momentum against them. Thus you let your opponent supply all of the energy of the attack, you merely redirect that energy back at them, using a minimal amount of your own strength. This card design brilliantly captures that flavor. Whether this card is actually good or not... well, realistically, no one will be stupid enough to attack into this, so I don't know. You don't just see a Kung Fu master and think "Oh, I should just run up and attack this guy!".
This has to be the worst of the Tempting Offer cycle. See, the way to evaluate the cards in this cycle is to ask yourself "Am I okay with playing this if I assume my opponents will NEVER chose to take the tempting offer?" So, for this one, if the text box JUST read: "Put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control." would you be happy playing this? At six mana, I'm betting you wouldn't be. 
Regular readers should know by now that I am very much not a fan of "tuck" effects, at least when used on people's Generals. I acknowledge that some Generals are a bit broken and tuck effects are reasonable protection against those Legends - but in the absence of overpowered Generals, the strategy of screwing people out of their Generals should be similarly absent. All of this to say, I actually like this card. It's all-purpose removal, at Instant speed, and yes you CAN target someone's General in response to their shuffle effect (such as a ramp spell), but it's so versatile I think most players can avoid using it in that way, unless the General in question really has it coming.

Again, this Curse isn't particularly strong, but it can be good in the right deck. I could see this in certain Rafiq, Edric or Zur builds, for example.  Tap down blockers, give your attacker pseudo-Vigilance, or untap your Sol Ring or Gaea's Cradle. Lots of options! But again, it just needs the right deck for those options to translate into useful abilities.
Well, that's unique... kinda terrible though. I'm definitely not expecting to see this in play once people are out of the "play the decks unmodified" phase.
Man, for some reason I was convinced this cost 7 or 8 mana. Thankfully I'm wrong. Unfortunately that non-combat restriction kills any motivation I had for playing this at any cost. But it's goofy, chaotic and highly political, so I can see this getting played.
Holy crap, this card is amazing. Anyone who thinks this is just a crappy four-mana "Fog" is either playing too much 1v1 or just can't read. This is definitely a card I will still be playing a year from now. "Oh, I'm sorry. You wanted to kill ME with that Avenger of Zendikar + Craterhoof Behemoth play? Nope. Pick someone else to kill. And no, you can't pick 'nobody'." God I'm going to love this.
Crap. Sure if you have no creatures, it could, randomly work out to be good for you. But it's way to iffy and random and unreliable for my tastes. Another good possible udpate for Zedruu decks, though. And of course "LOLRANDOM!" chaos players will love it.
Remember what I said? Would you play this without the Tempting Offer portion of the text? Well, since Cackling Counterpart exists and is a WHOLE lot better, I'm suspecting a lot of dissenting answers. But yet, I actually think this is playable. Or at least, it's worth testing out, to see if your opponents ever take the tempting offer, because really if even ONE opponent takes the bait you've basically gotten BOTH castings of Cackling Counterpart for only 4 mana. Not terrible.
Ugh, I can't decide which is the worst of the now-completed Force cycle. It's either this or the White one. Okay, it's the White one. Even in decks where Lifegain doesn't suck, the White Force sucks. But this one sucks so bad, the fact that it sucks LESS than the White one is like saying killing puppies is slightly less evil than killing kittens. 
I was hoping that, after the Scavenging Ooze debacle of '11, WotC would be smart enough to avoid including any more Legacy plants. But here we are, and here this is. Prepare to pay more than retail for whichever deck this is in, unless you go to Walmart or your LGS is actually cool.

Oh and this goes in pretty much every Edric deck.

That's all for now. Next up is Black and Red. Until then, Enjoy!

Commander 2013 Review: The Legends

Well, honored guests, the time has come. The full spoilers for the Commander 2013 decks have been released, and so it is time for me to finally talk about some of the new goodies we're getting this year.

Today we're going to start by examining the new Legendary Creatures. We didn't get a cycle of new 2-color Legends this time, like in 2011's decks. Which sucks a lot, but the allied color pairs aren't nearly as Legend-starved as the enemy pairs so it's forgivable.

So, what did we get for new three-color options? Let's take a look.

Here we see a good example of one of the benefits of doing supplemental products like the Commander decks. It allows Design to play around in areas that would likely be off-limits in a regular expansion. On the other hand, this kind of very targeted design can feel a bit too "on the nose". Command Tower was WotC getting this right. I'm not sure how I feel about this guy yet. That said, Bant Bird Tribal decks have a great new General, so it can't be all bad. He's not going to replace Rafiq or Jenara for most aggro decks; he's more "build around me", whether that means combo, control or Bird Tribal. Voltron seems viable too.
Another fairly wacky "build around me" General. I'd honestly be disappointed by the Bant offerings, but the truth is that it was probably extremely unlikely from the outset that they'd manage to print something good enough to sway me away from Rafiq, and I'm not sure they SHOULD have done so. Anyway, this guy would actually have been the perfect General for a very different approach to Rafiq that I had put together, but I ultimately abandoned that build. The point is, though, there definitely is a deck out there for Roon of the Hidden Realm.
I am going to call it right now: This guy will be around for a long while. He's a great alternative to all the current crop of commonly-played Esper Generals. There's a lot you can do with Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, but of course it's best to build around his abilities somewhat, as his P/T to CMC ratio is less than stellar (but not horrible). He definitely has the potential to be a format staple for a long time to come.
And here we have a  more traditional Esper Legend, in that she demands an Artifact-focused build. She's a fair replacement for Sharuum, but I can't really see her taking off. Her abilities are just kind of weak and durdle-y, and pretty easy to play around. She also has the horrible interaction with Mycosynth Lattice that Karn is already known for. Sadly, I expect that's what most players will do with her. I hope to be proven wrong.
Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge is a pretty fantastic design, and I like the way she makes use of the "Commander Tax" as a resource. Her abilities are pretty brutal, but she's going to be best when you can cast her many time, so mana is going to be an issue. Hopefully this will keep her in check, because she could be insanely strong otherwise. She kind of seems to be this set's Kaalia, but hopefully she'll prove to be a little more interesting and less linear than Mrs. Of The Vast.
Other than Oloro, I think Nekusar is the one new Legend I see most people getting excited about. I must admit, he is pretty much the PERFECT General for any Grixis Griefer deck. That said, it seems pretty likely the average Nekusar deck is going to be painfully homogenous: Forced Fruition, Underworld Dreams, Wheel of Fortune, etc, etc. This guy is the Mimeoplasm of the set: Starts off insanely popular, the format will be oversaturated for a bit and people will complain. He'll fall out of favor for a while, then quietly just take his place as an old, familiar staple.
This guy should be pretty fun, as long as you can keep him away from the Food Chain combos. Then again, even with infinite 0/1 Kobolds, you still need a way to actually win... but yeah. Dragons are awesome. Kobolds are awesome. Prossh should be good times. Not going to replace Karrthus as my Dragon General of choice. But he's definitely cool.
Finally, Jund gets an incredibly grindy, annoying Control general! I should love these guys, as I am a big fan of grindy, annoying Control. I just don't see anything here that  really sells that this deck will actually work. It seems like it'd just be a Savra deck + some red shit, but I think Savra already works better than this deck would.

My first instinctive reaction was "Oh, great, another Naya Tokens General", but then I realized Rith kinda sucks, and Hazezon Tamar is really expensive, so now I'm kinda pumped for this guy. Tokens are really popular, so I'm sure I'm not the only one. The built-in option for direct damage is the big selling point. Marath, Will of the Wild is one to watch. He looks unassuming at first, but could get out of hand if you aren't careful.
My first reaction was "Oh, great, another Naya Tokens General... that doesn't even make tokens."  And, that's still kinda where I'm at with this guy. However, he could easily just head up an Aggro deck, with a bit of built-in political protection. He certain encourages your opponents to fight amongst each other, like Edric does, but I don't think his "bait" is nearly as compelling as "drawing shit tons of cards". Time will tell if the Naya Political deck is a thing, but I'm not convinced just yet.

So those are all of our new Legendary Creatures. Some I like, some I don't. Some I think will be very popular, others... not so much. But all of them at least do something different from what we had before (to some extent), so I think all ten will get some love early on. Which of these new Generals do you think we'll still be playing (with or against) two years from now? Let me know your picks in the comments.

As for which of these I'll be using, neither of the Bant guys really makes sense in my Rafiq deck (though either one could easily have replaced him in my current Rafiq build, but I'm still to dissatisfied with that attempted brew to keep it around even for the sake of these new guys). So, I'll be giving them a pass. Esper remains one of the very few color combinations that I just can't find a good Commander for... I've tried "fair" builds for Sharuum and Zur, but neither of those really felt like a good fit for me, personally, so I'll be officially adopting Oloro as my Esper General for the foreseeable future. I'm pretty happy to have finally filled this gap.

Both of the new Grixis Legends appeal to me. I must confess a strong desire to build the exact same Nekusar deck that everyone else is planning... but I might just leave that to others, and try my hand at Jeleva. But she kinda steps on Wrexial's toes a bit. Neither of the two actually fits very well into my existing Grixis build with Thraximundar at the helm, so even to just include them in the 99 would require restructuring the deck. Not sure what to do here, as it's the one Shard where I really like BOTH of the new options, but I also like my current deck a lot, so... this is one to think about.

I like Prossh, but not really enough to dethrone Karrthus as high king of all dragons. But even though it wouldn't have the same interactions with Prossh not being a General, I think he still might be worth running in my Karrthus deck.

Meanwhile, I can't replace Rith with Marath fast enough. The build will have to be altered somewhat to accommodate Marath's relatively different approach - rather than armies of 1/1's I think focusing on making fewer but bigger tokens will be the way to go here. This allows for a Populate subtheme too, which will help differentiate the Naya Token deck from the Ghave deck a bit more. I'm very excited about this prospect and can't wait to start brewing.

Well, folks, that's all for today. The next two posts will cover the other 41 new cards included in these decks. Enjoy!