Sunday, November 6, 2016

Commander 2016 Set Review: Green & The Rest

Welcome back, ladies and gents. Today we’re going to do a quick review of the green, multicolor and artifact cards of Commander 2016 (new stuff only). Let’s dispense with the long preamble and just jump right into it, shall we?


Benefactor’s Draught
I’ll be honest. I just flat don’t know what to make of this card. It does things. Whether those things are somethings or nothings, though, is unclear to me. It cantrips though so I guess that’s definitely in the something camp.  I don’t know – I just can’t wrap my head around what this card is supposed to do, let alone whether it’s likely to successfully do it or not.

Evolutionary Escalation
Well then... Marath, meet Escalation. Escalation, Marath. I mean, yeah putting counters on your opponents’ stuff is not something most decks want to be doing. But Marath, Ezuri 2.0, Ghave, probably a fair few others, will see this as a low-risk, high-reward card. Sure sometimes those counters will be used against you, but they could just as likely be used against your opponents too. I do appreciate how it’s worded: if you don’t have any creatures of your own to buff, you don’t have to buff anyone else’s. However, once you’ve chosen two legal targets, if someone kills your guy, the opponent’s guy still gets theirs. All in all, though for a measly two-mana, this is powerful in the right deck.

Primeval Protector
Splashy, but far from overpowered. Maybe even a little underpowered. I get why trample might have been a big ask, but could have at least had reach or something. But I like just about anything that puts +1/+1 counters on all your guys – I was STARVED for these effects back when I was running Anafenza. Add in the fact that you will at least occasionally just cast this dude for one or two mana and it seems quite fun indeed.

Seeds of Renewal
Yeesh. There was a time when I frequently wished WotC would print more Eternal Witness/Regrowth variants. I absolutely LOVE recursion! But now, I kinda wish they’d stop. Most of them just aren’t that good. I get why the ability is one they kinda want to keep in check, and some of the recent efforts have been quite good (Season’s Past, Greenwarden of Murasa), but even those are only so/so compared to E-Wit herself. Even some of the ones I do like, many other players criticize by comparing them to Praetor’s Council. Thing is,  I’m just not that impressed with Council, in my experiences with it. It’s just a hair to expensive, meaning you typically have to just tap out to cast it and can’t do much else that turn, if anything. But it’s a splashy and scary effect so you often paint a huge target on your head just by casting it. To me that’s not a good combination. Casting something like, say, Season’s Past often puts you pretty far ahead, just as much as Council would, really, but in a less “epic” way so you aren’t as likely to draw immediate hate… plus it’s cheap enough that you can likely at least leave up some removal in case you do make people nervous with it. So where does this one fit? Paying full retail for two Regrowths isn’t bad at all, but the exile clause, plus the fact that it gets more expensive later in the game as opponents fall makes it very unimpressive in my book. And it’s virtually unplayable garbage in a 1v1 setting, so there’s that, too.

Stonehoof Chieftain
Wow, holy crap. That’s a card! An 8/8 for eight, with trample and indestructible is already pretty nice, but not quite enough to start making Avacyn comparisons… but giving your whole attack force trample and indestructible is starting to get there. I don’t feel compelled to play this just anywhere, for instance in W/G where I already have actual Avacyn, but Stonebrow is just jumping for joy right now. I can also see it in Mayael or pretty much anything where you are likely to be able to cheat this out. Maelstrom Wanderer is super sad that he costs eight, though. Anyway, it’s big, Timmy jank, but any deck that likes to swing big and swing often should at least consider this guy.


Ancient Excavation
I actually really dig this reverse Tolarian Winds. Double your hand size, then keep the best 50%, discarding the chaff? Seems good for a 4-mana instant. Basic landcycling is just added value. Good card for decks with heavy graveyard synergies, but if you aren’t that interested in messing around in your ‘yard, you might be better off just running like a Deep Analysis or something.

Grave Upheaval
Not too sure I buy this one. Take basic Zombify as the baseline for this effect. Just adding R to the mana cost should be enough to justify giving the newly-risen creature haste, but say for argument that Haste is worth just a wee bit more than making a two-color Zombify still cost four mana. 3BR still feels too much, but maybe 2BR is too little. So maybe Haste makes it worth 2.5BR. So you round it up. Fine. But that’s saying adding Basic Landcycling is worth 1.5 mana, which I do not buy at all. No, this is a card I’d grudgingly play at 5, happily play at 4 even if it had to lose the cycling effect, but at 6 it’s just bad. Compare to Dack’s Duplicate for a similar effect. Clone and Zombify have very similar effects, and cost exactly the same. If adding Haste and Dethrone to a Clone is fine at 2UR, then I don’t see how adding Haste and Landcycling is needs a full two mana increase. Yeah, this just feels like an over-developed nerf of what could have been a really great card. I will just have to hold out hope that some future set has a 2RB Zombify with Haste, cause this ain’t doing the trick.

Migratory Route
Here’s one where the landcycling ability doesn’t feel like it caused an undue increase in the cost of the card, but at the same time the effect still feels overcosted. It’s a difference without distinction, I suppose, but I think this is the sort of card that would feel overcosted no matter what. I think the thing here isn’t that the MANA cost itself is really the problem, it’s just that very few decks would want to waste a slot on this effect. Obviously Bird Tribal would beg to differ, but outside of that, I just don’t see what role this card is supposed to play in any W/U deck that a different WU card couldn’t do better.

Sylvan Reclamation
This card I like. I do still wish it was just 2WG and dropped the landcycling effect. But I see Return to Dust getting a TON of play, not just in my own lists, so I think many of us will be willing to pay a small surcharge to get another effect like this, especially since it is still an Instant, and unlike Return to Dust, you can actually take advantage of this being an Instant and still get full value. Yep, definitely a fan of this one; even if it is slightly cumbersome at 5 mana, it is worth just biting the bullet and playing it anyway.

Treacherous Terrain
Um… I mean, we’re used to getting the occasional “Win the game” spells in the 8 to 10 mana rage, but usually they’re mythic rares. Worldfire, Omnicience, etc. It’s just weird seeing this at uncommon. And if you just jam it as soon as you hit 8 mana, it’s probably just “good”. Paying eight for somewhere in the vicinity of 20 damage isn’t going to be backbreaking but is a great damage/cost ratio nonetheless. But realistically, this is just a card you’re going to sandbag until it kills at least one player and likely severely weakens the others.  I suspect this card will eventually enter the class of cards occupied by Magister Sphinx and Sorin – highly divisive and problematic for some people, fair for others, while the rest of us just avoid it either way. Ramp players, beware!


Armory Automaton
I love equipment in EDH and so of course I’m into this guy. Now, I want to point out that this guy doesn’t gain you control of the equipment he steals so things like Sword of Feast and Famine won’t trigger for you, but rather the equipment’s rightful owner. You also can’t use the abilities of a stolen Jitte. For this reason I see him as most effective in a deck that is running lots of equipment itself. But if your meta is just rife with equipment all over the battlefield, this guy is still likely a good meta call.

                Yuck. I don’t like my cards to have a 50% change of doing nothing. Especially my answers/sweepers. If I’m tapping this at all it’s because I damn well NEED shit to die.

Conquerer’s Flail
Nice. That first ability isn’t super exciting but not bad in a 4 or 5 color deck. It’s aggressively costed, too, which is nice. But it’s that second ability that makes it a real winner. As a die-hard fan of Aetherize, Comeuppance, Rift, etc., I’m not super happy they printed this thing. But it’s undeniably a good card for helping aggressive decks not get blown out mid-combat by an Angel of the Dire Hour or the like. Sometimes you evaluate cards based on how excited you are to play it, sometimes you evaluate them based on how annoyed you are to see it played. This is a good example of the latter, for me.

Crystalline Crawler
I think the lackluster use of Converge in BFZ kinda ruined my first impression of this card. Not that Sunburst was a real winner either. Anyway, I just kind of took this card at face value and based on its most straightforward and obvious uses, I just kinda said “meh” and moved on.  But then someone on Reddit, I believe, mentioned Ezuri 2.0 and I was like “Oh… right…” That’s when I realized I had mistakenly read it as having to tap to make mana. In its most fair applications it’s still pretty mediocre. Why pay 4 for this piece of junk when you could be paying only 3 to get Chromatic Lantern, Coalition Relic, etc. But in any deck where you can dump massive amounts of counters on this at once, it has to be at least worthy of consideration, right?

Prismatic Geoscope
Not bad. In three-color decks, I’d still run Gilded Lotus over this 100% of the time. And in 4 or 5 color decks there’s still an argument to be made that Lotus is the more reliable of the two. But the risks are low if you build your mana base right, so I think the reward of this is high enough that I’d prefer it most of the time. Coming in tapped is a downer, but that’s easy enough to work around with artifacts anyway. Don’t see this becoming nearly the staple that Lotus is, but I’m probably going to want one for all five of my 4-color decks, at least.


Ash Barrens
                This is the only new land in C16, and it’s not terribly exciting. It fills a role, but outside of that niche, I can see myself playing this in exactly Gitrog Monster and nowhere else.


  1. Grave Upheaval- you may be missing the word a vs the word your. Getting a card from a graveyard is a bit stronger than just getting one from your graveyard. Think beacon of unrest instead of zombify.

    1. Ah, right you are. There's always that one card I misread, but compared to past gooofs, this one wasn't the biggest whiff...

      The difference isn't enough to make me like the card a lot more but it's certainly better than my initial analysis.