Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Commander 2014 Set Review

Good evening, dear readers. I am excited to share with you my thoughts on the new Commander decks about to be released later this week. There are lots of new cards to talk about, so this is probably going to be a multi-part post as are most of my set reviews, but I don't know yet how many posts it'll take to cover everything. For now though, I'm focusing solely on the newly-printed cards. I might talk about some of the higher profile reprints when I do the deck-by-deck posts.

Jumping right in, we'll start with White, sticking with the traditional WUBRGAL order.


As you should all know by now, the gimmick for this year's Commander release is a cycle of Planeswalkers you can use as your general/commander/whatever you call it.

This one is one of my favorites, simply because she fits so well into my Aurelia deck, which has a heavy Equipment theme, and needs the recursion and card advantage Nahiri can offer.

In general, though, I am a bit put off by Nahiri's ultra-niche focus, and she doesn't inspire a lot of creativity in the deckbuilding realm. She might be solid, but she doesn't make me want to run out and build Mono-White...

Compares favorably to Mirror Entity. For only one more mana, you get a much bigger body and First Strike, but his ability is situational. Sometimes it'll be much better than Mirror Entity, but a lot of times, I think, it'll be much worse. But, he's also a Legendary Cat Warrior and Ajani's murdered brother, so he's got that going for him as well.

Again, not something I want to rush to build a deck around, but he seems fine as a support card.

Seven mana is a lot to pay for a "catch up" card. Since this is terrible when you already have the most creatures, and best when you're lagging behind, I feel like there are just better things to do with your mana. But, all the same, this can potentially make a crap ton of dudes all at once, so it's not strictly unplayable. It just doesn't compare well to, say, Storm Herd.
See, now this is a card I can get behind. Hoses everything from Craterhoof Behemoth to Bonfire of the Damned to, well, just anything big and scary coming your way. 
Scalable sweepers are always potentially very good. Even the mere chance to make them mostly one-sided is compelling. I'm a huge fan of Toxic Deluge from last year's offering, and while I don't think this measures up to that high standard, I still think this is playable.

The real problem is, someone can counter this by spot-removing the creature you target, and that may wind up being a deal breaker for this card. I'm excited to try it out, but we'll see how it goes...
I really dig the new cycle of Lieutenant creatures, but this one is by far the least exciting. She just doesn't really do all that much, even for her bargain mana cost.

Probably not a terrible card, just terribly unexciting. It'll get tons of play in Angel Tribal decks, though.
Possible Legacy plant. Hoses so many cards - Living Death will be the first think most people think of, and that's definitely a big one. But also, Bribery, Dead Eye Navigator, Ghostway, Sneak Attack, Flash, Rise of the Dark Realms... the list goes on and on. She also shuts down "blink" decks like Roon.

I do like how she has both negative and positive interaction with Mistmeadow Witch - with her out, you can't use Witch on your own guys, but against enemy creatures, the Exile becomes permanent... not a bad tradeoff, I'd say.
I like dudes that leave behind some value after a sweeper or removal spell hits. This one takes a bit of setup and in mono-white at least, there aren't too many ways to engineer such setups, but he seems pretty cool nonetheless. Seems a lock for Karador or other Junk-colored Dredge decks.
 Now we're talking! This is like a Sunblast Angel hopped up on coke. It has flash, and it exiles? For only one more mana than Sunblast Angel? Yeah, I'm gonna love this card, right up until I walk into one.

Sure, passing with seven open isn't every deck's ideal scenario, but for defensive decks, I can't think of many options I'd rather have than this. Wow.
This is the first member of this year's political cycle. Last year it was Tempting Offer, and before that Join Forces - the problem with those abilities was that it required a certain level of cooperation from the other players. Groups that both embrace, and are good at, multi-player politics probably got some decent mileage out of those cards, but in my experience most of those cards were big duds. I think this cycle addresses and at least partially mitigates the issues with those previous attempts.


Seems fine. Sufficiently generic that it doesn't demand any particularly strategy. That -1 seems like it could be broken in the right deck, but there are lots of fair uses too. Enabling Inspired cards. Untapping lands so you can be proactive and still have countermagic/removal mana open.

This is certainly, at least, a unique and interesting effect for mono-Blue. But, to me, this feels more like a support card in, like, a Wrexial or Mimeoplasm deck or something like that. Lazav. Definitely Lazav material.

I'm just not sure what you'd do with this in mono-Blue...

I think this is our "Dread Cacodemon" of the set. It had potential, but the words "if you cast it from your hand" and "nonblue" are nerfs that, while sensible and understandable, are also major dealbreakers. In a Quest for Oola's Temple deck, this is just a vanilla 9/9. Probably in most cases, this is usually a vanilla 9/9. It could at least have Islandwalk or something.
Well, this kind of makes of for that last one. I already said I liked creatures that give you some sort of post-sweeper value. This just gets bigger and bigger the more it dies. I absolutely love this. 
Feels a tad overcosted, but there are some upsides here that offset that. Howling Mine effects have always been risky in multi-player formats. That this draws you two cards before anyone else can profit from it, and the fact that it draws you two cards to your opponents' one, go a long way to addressing both of the typical arguments against Howling Mine.

You can further break the symmetry by pairing this with Mind's Eye or, even better, Consecrated Sphinx. 
I don't really understand the Morph on this thing, but whatever, I dig it anyway. Sexy art, and a cool, unique effect for a low CMC. Plus this is a perfect card for a new deck idea I've been mulling over few weeks...
See, this is the one they should have led with for their spoiling of the Lieutenant mechanic. Sans your commander, this is just a 5/5 Hexproof, which is not exciting, but is certainly good. But get that commander into play and man, this thing takes off. A 7/7 hexproof will really tempt people to block, and then it rewards you if they do. If not, oh well, you get through for seven!
Again, this can bite you in the ass, as giving an opponent 3 cards for free is not usually a thing you want to do... but there's always that one guy who's been digging for lands and getting screwed, or sitting with a pile of lands in play, no cards in hand, and a miserable look on his face. I don't mind taking the risk to help that guy out of his rut, if it also puts me even further ahead!
OMG, what a crazy effect! I mean, the obvious use is to just borrow some blockers from an opponent when another opponent is attacking you, which is pretty good value already. But you can also GIVE blockers to someone else, if you really need to make an ally or something.
Meh. Bounce six seems good, but it's not an Instant, and it requires six targets before you can even cast it. I'd just rather play Cyclonic Rift, Evacuation or one of the many other big blue bounce spells. But it's cheap enough to attract some players, and will likely get used quite a bit anyway.


Well, the +2 is a little weak, but the -2 is much better. The emblem is worth building toward but not game-breaking. Overall I think this guy is pretty well balanced. But somehow I have trouble getting excited about him. I don't have any decks that really want him in the 99, and Black has no shortage of interesting/powerful generals, so he faces stiff competition.

Overall it feels like WotC is playing it ultra-safe with these 'walker-generals. One one hand, I think that's smart - getting one of these banned while the decks were still in print would be a disaster, and would likely keep them from repeating this experiment. But if they can prove that they can make Planeswalker commanders that don't break the format, they'll be free to do more later, and hopefully, push the envelope just a little more.

I think the main reason I don't like Geralf as general himself, is that I can't pair him up with his sister, Gisa. The interplay between their abilities is great design. Geralf makes one big zombie token, while Gisa turns that into a whole mess of smaller Zombies.

I also like how Gisa turns 5 power worth of something into 10 power worth of zombie. I definitely want a copy of Gisa for Savra.

 Oh, everything got blown up? One mana to get a head-start on rebuilding after a Wrath is pretty compelling. And that's not even taking into account what you can do in a dedicated sacrifice deck. Kresh and Savra decks should definitely be taking notice.

I also like the idea of casting a Phyrexian Rebirth and then following it up with this, getting two huge Horror tokens.

But, on the flip side, this is awfully niche and not likely to be a widely-played staple.
I really want to like this, but I have a feeling it'll be too clunky and slow to really be good. The best case scenario is, you have a ton of Coffers mana ready to go, and can just sac your whole team in response to a Wrath, getting a large token post-Wrath. Or, you could just skip all that work and play the previous card above...

An almost strictly better Duneblast that can be played in way more decks? Sure, sign me up. Oh, and it’s better than Duneblast because instead of killing everything except the best creature you already control, you kill everything except the best creature on the board, period, AND you get to take advantage of any ETBF effects that creature might have.

Another potential Savra card... I say potential because there is a LOT of strong competition at the top-end of the curve in that deck, so any card that costs more than 5 has to really earn it's spot. But this seems ridiculous along side a Grave Pact or a Dictate of Erebos.
Ah, what better follow up to a removal spell than another removal spell... oh wait make that two removal spells. At the same time, I'm not really sold on this for EDH, but I'd love it as a 4x in a 60-card MBC deck.

It can be good in the right deck, but we've seen better utility removal.
 Huh, that's a really odd and unexpected effect. Mass reanimation but can only be used defensively... unless you get creative. Combine with Warstorm Surge to get some offensive power out of those blockers, or just sac 'em to Greater Good for some massive draw. Lots of options, but just straight up ambushing an opponent's attack is good enough too.
Ugh, I really dislike this card. Combine the "attack a player at random" ability which I generally hate, with the "lose half their life" ability, which is fine when used judiciously - see Quietus Spike for instance - but putting them together is like the worst combination ever. I can just foresee lots of awkward, accidental dick-move situations with this guy, when he randomly screws over the person already lagging behind the rest of the table...
Another acceptable entry in the cycle. Base stats are unimpressive, but once the Lieutenant bonus kicks in, he's a lot more compelling. Not my favorite of the cycle, but still better than the Angel.
Ooh, me likely! I feel like this is the one where the apparent symmetry of the effect is the most controllable - i.e. you can cast this at a time when it will be very largely one-sided. I'm definitely excited to see this in action, but I can see where it might not live up to my expectations.

Well, I think that's all for tonight. Tomorrow night, we'll do the Green, Red, Artifact and Land, and that'll do it for the new cards. Enjoy!


  1. As a mikaeus zombie tribal player im really liking the black cards. Gisa and overseer are cool. The sweeper will get a slot. And waking dead with mikaeus is awesome. Throw in grave pact or vengeful dead for extra pain

    1. Oh, wow, Dead Mike really does break the holy hell out of Wake the Dead, doesn't he! Love it, thanks for that bit of tech!