When Core 19 was spoiled a couple of summers ago, I wrote an extremely deep (12 pages!) dive on the set. I was looking to do what I’m doing now, putting reviews and such on a blog. This is a review of that review, and a bit of a post-mortem, now that Core 19 has rotated out into Eternal formats. My current comments on the cards and what I wrote are in greenish brown if I think the card is playable, red if I don’t, or if it’s just too narrow at present. Sets like this can have hidden gems, and now is the least expensive a lot of these cards will be. This is a long post, FYI.
Blanchwood Armor – Mono Green decks looking to win with commander damage could do a lot worse. Green is developing quite the suite of hexproof creatures, and stuff like this, which scales with the ramping you’re already doing, can make them huge threats.
Looks good for budget mono-green lists. You can probably find a cheap foil.
Colossal Majesty – Repeatable card draw is always amazing. This is sort of like the heavyweight class only of the Phyrexian Arena, but it can do plenty of work in decks that have big creatures around all the time. Since it only requires a single creature, it can be your commander, who you want to be untapping with anyway.
I’ve been running this in a Dinosaur deck. It’s okay. If it wasn’t on theme, I might cut it for something better. Good budget option still.
Druid of Horns – Aura decks are pretty uncommon in commander. There’s Krond, the Dawn-Clad, and not much else. Cards like this will slowly beef up the archetype, but it’s a real stretch.
It’s a major struggle for Auras. We’re going back to Theros, where they tried Bestow not so long ago. It’s not a stretch to see a pushed ‘Auras Matter’ commander. If it’s on a powerful, tough-to-interact-with body, like a God, auras could be big game. Or fun. Hopefully both.
Dryad Greenseeker – If you’re smart about it, this is a green 2-drop that reads Tap: draw a card. That seems good. The 1/3 body means it’s even a decent blocker.
I’ve run this in my Vaevictus Asmadi, the Dire deck since it was released, and it has always done well. It has even eaten targeted removal, which means someone else thought it was good, too.
Elvish Clancaller – 2 mana lords can be worth your while. A critical mass of elf-lords could even be a deck, maybe Silmarillion-themed or something. But yes, this does have an ability that probably can’t ever do anything but shuffle your library for 6 and a tap. Can you clone it, then tuck the original? Yes! But why!
Not much new to add here, though Kenrith, the Returned King does an awesome Aragorn impression, and you may want to stock up on Elf Lords.
Elvish Rejuvenator – This has some potential. It’s any land, not the usual forest, which might make up for only digging 5 cards deep. Decks that want to assemble the Gates might love this, and in general, having a land in the top 5 cards of a deck is a fairly good bet.
I also run this in Vaevictus Asmadi. It’s pretty good, and awesome with Panharmonicon. It doesn’t really get there when it comes to raw power, though. Wood Elves and such are just better when you have access to all the Forests. But this is solid and is a great green option, budget or no. There’s an FNM version out there, for bling purposes.
Gigantosaurus – As far as vanilla beaters go, dinosaurs are pretty fun. This guy shines in green devotion decks, and can turn on your Xenagos, Nylea or Karametra for you.
I have one and it sits in a box. As above, another Theros set is coming, and like Bestow, we may see Devotion again. This would work well for the new Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig.
Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma – Now here’s a great mono-green commander. Green does a lot of things well, and huge monsters is definitely one of green’s best features. Big beaters can be fun, but are sort of midrange in commander. Goreclaw drops the casting cost on the dreadnoughts enough to make them playable, and can also make the high-power cheap stuff even cheaper, acting as either the top or the bottom of the curve. She can then help them get in the red zone with the trample effect. Shroud creatures with high power, like Deadly Insect, could be awesome in Goreclaw, since the effect doesn’t target. Goreclaw could also wear the Assault Suit and buff your team on opponents’ turns for some janky reason. Lots and lots of potential here, even though this could be mistaken for a linear build.
I haven’t seen any Goreclaw decks. And I don’t know that she even registers that much as a legendary bear. I’m already beating a dead horse by saying ‘good budget card for green.’ I do play this in my Karametra deck, which has plenty of high-cost creatures. It’s a really good role-player, and a sort-of mana rock in a deck that would rather have creature spells than artifacts to play.
Hungering Hydra – Pretty great Hydra, if not flashy. Really efficient, and probably will do plenty of work in Daghatar, or Atraxa or anything that cares about counters. Pair it up with Blasphemous Act and a regeneration or indestructible effect and you’re off to the races.
I’ve seen this once or twice in Hydra tribal. It’s very good, but opponents, like myself, can have an easy time getting around damage-based payoffs.
Pelakka Wurm – This thing is dripping with value. Or something. Could be a good value beater for Xenagos or a rampy deck that cares about devotion. Doesn’t do enough for the cost.
Not much to add, except that lifegain can be a pretty decent strategy in Commander. While some finishers are arbitrary, others can only do so much damage once you figure out all the math. Craterhoof Behemoth and Torment of Hailfire are two big finishers that can have caps. 7 life might be enough.
Prodigious Growth – Oh the awesome power of Auras. There are a few ways of cheating splashy Auras into play, and this would be front and centre if not for Eldrazi Conscription. Casting this and committing 6 mana to a likely two-for-one is a big leap of faith. Maybe for 4 mana, and if the art was squirrel-based.
I do love the giant ant art. Can auras get there? I hope this isn’t in a future Core set.
Reclamation Sage – Good reprint. Solid card is solid.
Now’s a good time to look into foils, if that’s your thing.
Runic Armasaur – Wow. There’s a few dinosaurs that really impress, and this is one of them. 2/5 for 3 cmc with repeatable card draw attached? This could turn into the green Rhystic Study. Drawing every fetchland is the tip of the iceberg. Every Maze of Ith activation. Every Prodigal Sorceror activation!
This is NOT the green Rhystic Study. I’m not impressed by this. Yet. I’ve had this in play a few times and it hasn’t done much. Yet. I’m not really holding that against this card, though. Yet. It still provides a big butt for blocking in a dinosaur deck, and any incidental card draw in those decks is welcome. I may have that game where it’s the star, but if it draws one or fewer cards per game over the long term, it’s going to be replaced.
Scapeshift – This is a modern staple, and is priced accordingly. That often correlates to limited commander play, either because the effect scales poorly, or there is a cheaper option available outside Modern. This could be serious game for The Gitrog Monster or a landfall deck looking to go alpha, but it’s not the game-winner it is in Modern.
I have been killed by this a couple of times, sort of. The Lord Windgrace decks that ran this would have killed us with something regardless. Untap with 25 lands in play and you’re doing okay. They could probably have done it with miscellaneous triggers. This was just a clean way to end it. I think it’s a win-more, and narrow. Good, though.
Thorn Lieutenant – This guy is unlikely to draw the sort of removal that would make him a worthwhile token engine. He seems like a Limited sort of guy. Great tempo play.
Probably not even worth it for budget green. Cubes and such are another matter.
Vine Mare – Decks that want to send a hard to deal with creature into the red zone, such as Rafiq of the Many, or Xenagos, might like this guy. It’s bigger than many hexproof creatures, especially at the cost.
I’m playing this in my Xenagos build. It’s one of my most dangerous options. Tough to think of many other applications, though.
Vivien Reid – Solid +1, versatile -3, and a terrific emblem make Vivien a pretty good choice for a green planeswalker slot in any deck that wants one. All three abilities scale pretty well, and that usually means play. Add her to the greater pantheon of ‘Green Goodstuff.’
A lot of Planeswalkers have been marginalized by War of the Spark’s deluge of 3 and 4 CMC giants. There’s a ton of choice, and it’s a whole new level of efficiency. Players who own cards like this might play them, but it’s tough going forward. It’s even tougher in Superfriends builds, who want the creme-de-la-creme, or instant game-winners. I rarely play Planeswalkers, and would be unlikely to ever sleeve this up.
Vivien’s Invocation – 7 mana is a lot to pay for this spell. The fact that you can whiff on a creature is pretty scary, but if you connect on your Krosan Cloudscraper, you probably win the internet.
There are way better ways to win the internet. This card is just bad.
Vivien of the Arkbow – This is a less than good version of Vivien. I feel like it might have been a mistake to make the gap between the two Viviens this big. This doesn’t scale particularly well, costs more, and has a lesser ability at each level of loyalty. They can’t all be winners.
Some Planeswalker deck Planeswalkers have had some really cool abilities. I would love to know what the design criteria is. I feel like bad Planeswalkers do more harm to the game than good. Finding out that the cool card that headlined your purchase isn’t actually that good kinda sucks. Like whoever made it should have known better.
Aggressive Mammoth – All sorts of fun because it’s an 8/8 and an elephant. Six mana, green devotion, and trample for the team means it’s playable beyond being a big silly beater.
This might be my last chance to type ‘good budget option for green.’ Whew. Got there.
Skalla Wolf – Like the others in the cycle, this pulls you a card of a colour from the top five of your deck. If you’re looking to draw into something specific, this is risky, and it seems unlikely you’ll want this on turn 5 as opposed to turns 1-3. The 3/3 wolf body isn’t enough of a payoff, unfortunately.
Like Vivien’s Invocation above, this was killed by its own CMC. How does Wizards put free spells like Once Upon a Time in the same universe as dogs like this? Blink this and it’s immediately better, but straying into other colours make it less so. Bleh.
Alpine Moon – This is pretty narrow for a wide open format like Commander. It may get around a singular problem land for your deck, like your friend’s Maze of Ith or Gaea’s Cradle, but it’s more likely to leave opponents scratching their heads when they then tap the Maze for useful mana. I guess it’s there to further hose Tron in Modern, or make Moon tribal a thing.
This pops up in the odd Constructed sideboard, but until a major land bogeyman appears, we’re safe to leave this in the box.
Apex of Power – Is this spicy? It sure seems spicy. There’s no free cast here, though, just ten mana if you cast this from hand, and seven exiles if you cast it via cheating with Narset, or copy it, so be careful. In any case, I hope this isn’t the actual apex of power. It seems more like the apex of win-more Storm, which hardly needs help.
I have never seen or considered this for play. Bad for a card with this kind of name. There was talk of this being good for Jodah, Archmage Eternal decks, but planning on cost-cheating in a 5CMC deck gives you too many better options. The current evolution of cards like this can be seen in Fires of Invention and Irencrag Feat. One thing that holds red back is the limited (Ghirapur Orrery) ability to play multiple lands per turn, and this card has it built right in. Mono-red Commander options took a giant leap forward with Syr Carah and Torbran, so there might be a home for cards like this going forward in budget builds.
Banefire – Back again as the de facto red X damage spell that somehow snuck into a rare slot. Having only a single target sucks, but making sure it gets through can be huge, and it can always be copied. Solid, if unspectacular.
This just doesn’t make the Commander cut, uncounterable or not. 41 mana to kill one opponent without help? Not even with Channel. You can do better things with 41 mana. Where’s the point that cost effectiveness meets an actual life-total an opponent might have? Putting 10 mana into this deals 9. Is 9 a kill-shot on turn 10? Unlikely.
Dark-Dweller Oracle – It’s a goblin, if that matters. You can use this thing to essentially sacrifice a creature (goblin token) to draw a card. Having a scry outlet, or Sensei’s Divining Top on hand can turn your tokens into card advantage for you. It can also act as a rattlesnake effect when paired with a chump blocker. I’ll block your guy and turn my chump into a… red instant of some kind that matters in Commander. I’ll have Vedalken Orrery in play, that’s what I’ll do. Christmasland.
This card doesn’t suck. Being able to play a land off it is great. I think Grenzo and other Grenzo and other Goblin/token Commanders just don’t know this guy exists yet. Being a Dark-Dweller is specific, but we are returning to Zendikar soon. This might be sneaky valuable in a few years with one or two more good Gob Commanders. Look for foils, red token makers.
Dismissive Pyromancer – Super cheap repeatable rummage, plus a somewhat useful sac effect, and he’s a human wizard bear. Probably somebody’s ideal creature, and a probably some value in limited, especially if you can also grab some reanimation.
Too small, too tappy, doesn’t offer enough to Wizard tribal. Pass.
Doublecast – Pre-Fork is yet another way of doing Fork. People who got into Commander to play Firesong will love this, and it can be super fun for the chaos deck that wants to copy some random opponent’s topdeck as their next spell cast this turn, if they can somehow get it through the extremely confusing board state they’ve created.
Wizards prints a lot of ‘copy’ spells, and the more there are, the more their tiny differences will set them apart. Cards like Fires of Invention and Irencrag Feat work well with copy spells that can be cast before those ones, like Doublecast. Might be the best of the trope for you. Foil would be pretty.
Goblin Instigator – Dragon Fodder, but one of them is a non-token creature. This is actually pretty good. Copy him with Kiki-Jiki mirror breaker if you need more tokens for Krenko, Mob Boss, or something. Having a strategic alternative to Dragon Fodder wasn’t something the world needed, but it’s welcome indeed.
Krenko loves this, and some other token strategies might too. Good for budget and reanimation, so maybe Judith, the Scourge Diva? Goblins are Eternal, and so are their tokens. This is a good role player, and worth grabbing a foil if you have Krenko.
Goblin Motivator – Krenko probably wants this, too. Cheap and effective. Grenzo, Havoc Warden might get some work out of this guy. Haste on demand is actually really strong, the Motivator just doesn’t survive as well as Lightning Greaves.
It’s tough to be a 1/1 in Commander, especially one that provides a big effect. They get killed so easily. It’s usually better to do Swiftfoot Boots or Lightning Greaves as haste/protection. A Goblin Warrior that does haste is nothing to sneeze at, though.
Goblin Trashmaster – A goblin lord with an extremely useful effect, and a cost that hardly matters in the format. Great stuff here. How many times have you needed to blow up a bunch of artifacts, but it would also be great to leave your own? Every game? What about if you’re the goblin deck? Tuktuk Scrapper is great but hard to activate more than once. Plus, at instant speed, the Trashmaster’s sac ability can be the deterrent to board wipes the goblins sorely need.
This turned out to be just as excellent as I thought. I have run into this in Krenko decks, and run it myself in Changeling tribal. A must for any Goblin strategy. Non-foils should be fairly cheap, as this was in the Game Night supplement.
Guttersnipe – This guy is probably better outside goblin decks. Spellslinger Izzet decks seem like the best home, as the likelihood of this guy getting killed in an Earthquake or Inferno is higher in some red decks. Could be good in softer versions of Firesong and Sunspeaker, who want to kill slow with all white spells, and passive damage.
Guttersnipe has been around a while, so there’s no surprises here. There is a fun promo version:
Cards like this can sneak under the radar, and accrue value over the long term. It’s worth it to keep track of the various promos and when you can simply show up to your LGS and get one. Ramunap Excavator was an excellent free promo, and while Guttersnipe isn’t that level, it’s a cool card to have on hand.
Lathliss, Dragon Queen – This is a sort-of a ‘fixed’ Utvara Hellkite. It’s a solid choice for a commander or the 99, as it likely will do work but not draw too much hate for piling up stupid amounts of 6/6 tokens. There’s plenty of stuff in red that likes higher powered creatures ETBing, like Warstorm Surge, and Where Ancients Tread.
Lathliss’ greatest crime is being boring. But she also suffers from equally boring mono-red dragons. As that improves, so will she, and in the meantime, she’s a great dragon tribal inclusion.
Sarkhan, Fireblood – This guy might do a lot of work in the right shell. In commander, he’s dragons and tokens and reanimator for a low-low cost of 3 cmc. Red does flashback fairly well, too. Possible glue card, and might come down early enough to avoid being killed before you can use him a second time.
This is a cool roleplayer for dragon tribal, though being a walker (aka big target) and having RR in the cost isn’t great. Red dragons will like the ramp and the rummage, but multi-colour dragons will like both more, and might struggle to cast Sarkhan if they’re heavily green or 4+ colours. I’m cautiously optimistic at the future here. This is a fairly unique card.
Sarkhan’s Unsealing – This has great potential, although I was substantially less excited when I read the ‘cast’ part that would be so very broken if it were an ETB thing instead. Still, this goes into stuff that casts big stuff, and the cmc makes it worth a look. The Ur-Dragon, as a cost reducer for high-powered casts, seems like a good fit.
‘Cast’ really holds this back. It’s pretty tough to get this to trigger multiple times in a turn, as 4 damage isn’t always much of a sweeper. The effect is totally cool, though, and when it comes stapled to a legendary creature, then we’ll be talking.
Siegebreaker Giant – Decent for giant tribal, okay for warrior tribal, probably a house in limited.
This will probably be surpassed in Giant tribal, if it hasn’t been already. Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas might like this, but it’s kind of a win-more. I still like it as a card, but the power level isn’t really there for Commander.
Spit Flame – Now this is intriguing. Yes it’s 4 damage, only to a creature, but it can be returned via an ETB trigger from a dragon, even a token dragon. Play a dragon with the Dragon Queen out, get two dragons, cast this spell a couple of times with some stack manipulation… It seems like the kind of situation that plays out great in theory, until you realize you’d need 10 mana.
The design of this card far outweighs the impact. I hope that it inspires future exploration of tribal effects like this. Better ones.
Thud – Fling 2.0 or 0.75 maybe. The sacrifice is part of the cost, so you can be 2 for 1’ed if this gets countered. Still probably wins a few games. Fantastic spell to give a cost reduction to.
I have mixed feelings. I don’t know many decks that want to Fling anyone to death, so that narrows things. Sorcery speed means no responding to your big guy getting killed. The sac as part of the cost is dangerous, as above, but means you can copy it for the same amount of damage without a second sac. Narrow, but not without use.
Volley Veteran – This guy wants to be Krenko’s hit man, but the name really underwhelms, and he’ll only hit creatures. Competes with Gempalm Incinerator for the slot.
Doesn’t get there. Budget Goblin builds maybe.
Sarkhan, Dragonsoul – Even though we’ve seen the ultimate before, this is actually a pretty good card. The +2 is solid, and the -3 might be a difference maker. The only knock on this is the cmc, but you could do worse. Planeswalker deck purchasers will probably be happy with this one.
I still don’t hate this. Hitting each and all opposition for a damage can be really useful. Do that twice and then summon all the dragons? I wouldn’t say go out and grab one of these, but a budget dragon tribal list, or Sarkhan tribal, or some deliberate mix of the two could get a lot of use out of this.
Sarkhan’s Dragonfire – Chaining spells is a great idea, and a deck can certainly be set up to maximize the search ability, but 3 damage for 5 mana and whiff potential doesn’t make the cut.
Everything about this is really awkward, but once you copy it a few times, it gets a lot better. A possible home in red copy/burn decks, as the card advantage available in those decks is usually pretty rough.
Abnormal Endurance – Gonti, Lord of Luxury gets another surprise ETB trigger. It’s pretty narrow, but some decks really need this sort of thing to be their utility.
I run this in my Xantcha, Sleeper Agent deck as a way to not only keep Xantcha in play, but also to swap control of her. Spells like this have a lot of utility in ETB decks in black, as there are so few options.
Blood Divination – Drawing 3 cards is great, and 4 mana isn’t a steep price in black, but the sacrifice better be part of the value of this play or there are better options out there.
Ancient Craving and Ambition’s Cost are this minus the sacrifice with added life loss instead. Unless you have that dork ready, or that death trigger, this is too narrow. Maybe as an instant.
Bone Dragon – This seems like it would hurt a lot. I can get on board with recursion, but if you think about this as a delve spell, he’s 10BB to bring back and you can’t pay the last 3. For a 5/4 flyer? Maybe in some other format.
I want this to be good, but where? Skeleton tribal? I love the look, and Bone Dragons in general, but not enough to play this. I’m planning to convert my dragon goodstuff deck to dragon reanimator, and this is not even a consideration. Sad.
Death Baron – Awesome reprint! It helps Bone Dragon and the other well-meaning skeletons to have this guy around. One of the stronger zombie lords, and a slam dunk in most zombie decks.
Zombies are one of the most popular tribes ever. Skellys might get there one day. This is an amazing Lord for either. Get em while they’re cheap.
Epicure of Blood – While I didn’t need the 4/4 body or 5 cmc, this vampire is a welcome addition to gaindrain decks like Kambal, or Vampire decks that go wide with lifelinkers. Really solid card, even if it could have been an 0/1 for B. I guess it survives Lightning Bolt.
I don’t have a specific home for this, but I’ve built gaindrain decks before, and this would do just fine in those. Simple and effective, and likely cheap in foil.
Fell Specter – A really great, under the radar uncommon. A lot of cards in this set feel like the ‘evolution of’ a card from Alpha. This would be the evolved Hypnotic Specter. The discard isn’t repeatable, but you get it once, plus your Megrim, plus your 1/3 flyer body. He can’t chump so well, but Nath loves him anyway.
While the discard doesn’t scale super well, the lifeloss on discard can be pretty powerful. There are only so many cards that do this. Probably a good grab in foil going forward.
Fraying Omnipotence – Like to Death Cloud? Are your permanents expendable? Small Pox too small? Regular Pox too small? Thrilling Encore after Fraying Omnipotence seems topical, and will probably win you the game. Stax decks players rejoice, or click your mandibles, whatever it is you do to celebrate.
This is a niche card, and if you want it for your deck, I doubt you’ll have any problem getting one for a dollar or less, and the foil for not much more. This is one of the best or worst of these cards, because not killing lands is either a political move, or not worth the spell. What really keeps these cards from being playable is the opponents’ ability to choose what they keep. In that sense, they’re not an answer, they just another question to add to the stack.
Graveyard Marshall – His ability requires no tap, and his body is slightly bigger than bear, but this probably won’t be good enough to crack many zombie concepts.
I’m still a pass on this for Commander. For other formats, it could be okay. In Commander, I feel like you want to keep your zombies recurring, not exiled. Varina is an exception, but also the engine. This guy does a bad impression that’s not really needed.
Infectious Horror – This isn’t bad. Zombies aren’t known for piling up extra attack steps, so this is likely once per turn, but 2 off each opponent plus more if he connects is good reach. Chances are there’ll be someone without blockers, plus it triggers on attack, not damage, so if you need those last 2 points, a blocker won’t stop you.
Zombies get some lifedrain effects, like Gray Merchant of Asphodel, but more are sometimes welcome to break through board stalls. If you can leverage this guy’s death, sending him into combat might be savvy play. Terrific budget zombie.
Infernal Reckoning – An exile for Ulamog! Sounds like a holiday special. Seeya Ula, and Marit Lage, and Wurmcoil, and whatnot. Great for 60 card constructed, with their sideboards. It’s a little too narrow for Commander, though.
The times I want to exile a colourless creature most is when Kozilek hits the graveyard and shuffles it back in. Mostly because I’m trying to mill, but sometimes when someone would deck themselves otherwise, or just wants their yard back for value. This doesn’t address that. Commander has some juicy targets, like the Eldrazi, Wurmcoil Engine, etc, but having a card just to nuke them is a big-time meta call. Note that the worst of the Eldrazi, the Titans, usually have an ability that triggers on cast, so this won’t stop that either.
Isareth the Awakener – This seemed really cool at first, but I’m not sure what exactly the payoff would be. She’s super mana intensive, and needs to attack to reanimate, meaning no attacking with the corpse that turn. I’m also befuddled by the corpse counter. Why is it? It’s not connected to the exile effect, and it doesn’t affect the creature type. Is there something out there that wants creatures to have corpse counters on them? Is it unnecessary text in an already text heavy paragraph, like this?
Too much of Isareth crumbles in practice. The X cost is appropriate, but is super clunky. The best part of traditional reanimator is cheating on cost, and this doesn’t do that. The condition of attacking holds this back, too, deathtouch or no. I found out the point of the counter (reminder), but overall, I shrug. Demons? Hallowe’en creatures?
Liliana, Untouched by Death – Whoa no ultimate! This Liliana fills the curve with abilities that require zombies to have any function. Pretty narrow, but she’s helped a lot by the planeswalker legend rule change, allowing her to become flavourful redundancy. One of the big points in this Liliana’s favour is flexibility, because you know any of the abilities are accessible on the turn played.
To make this playable, I think you have to be working one of the abilities all the time, and ready to use the others as backup. The +1 or -3 are usable engines, though I feel like the -2 is likely too small. This doesn’t crack either of my Zombie concepts. It’s too general. I don’t feel like you’ll be disappointed, I just feel like you’ll gravitate towards more specialized, more powerful options.
Liliana’s Contract – Demon tribal for the win! What a card! This can be pretty exciting for any deck running Conspiracy, as a spicy wincon. Even better if you can get a bunch of political advisors on board, make them all demons, and drop the contract. The sneakier the way to win with this, the better. Oh and it draws 4 cards for 4 life in a 40 life format.
This is borderline playable even without the wincon. If you’re demons, this is probably a must-have. It’s a sneaky, janky way to win with Changelings, too. I’m not so crazy about alt-wincons, and this one seems either too easy, or too fragile for me. I still recommend it, and to look at foils. This might end up being expensive some day.
Nightmare’s Thirst – Lifegain decks might want this, but it’s so narrow, it’ll probably slip through your cracks. -X/-X effects are always worth looking at due to indestructibility, so this might do some work.
Lifegain can be pretty easy to come by. If you can reliably generate 5 life on any given turn, -5/-5 for B at instant speed is great. I’m sure there’s a deck that likes this a lot, especially at the price tag, but it’s super niche.
Open the Graves – Turning your zombies into other zombies is great fun, and justifies that huge pile of unique tokens you have sleeved up and ready. I’m excited to play this. Ghoulcaller Gisa and Gravecrawler want this around when they do their thing.
This ended up being merely okay. 5 mana for a couple of zombie tokens is usually how this works out. Sometimes none, with exile and graveyard hate being so strong in the format. I feel like this is less strong than it looks. Solid for budget decks, but not going to win many games. Token & Lord decks will like it if the tokens come in as 4/4s or better. It might be best in recursion decks that bring dorks like Sakura-Tribe Elder back over and over.
Phylactery Lich – At first glance, there seems to be a lot to like here. Huge body, cheap cost, indestructible. But that artifact clause is a killer. What black decks run a lot of artifacts while running a mana base that makes BBB a curve play, not a hand clog? Give me a pile of 1 drop black legendaries, Mox Amber and maybe.
I’m not convinced. I’ve cut this from a number of concepts. Evasion, card draw, lifedrain, etc are all higher priorities than a 5/5 beater that dies to Bane of Progress or Vandalblast. A shame, because I have several of these.
Plague Mare – The -1/-1 is opponents’ creatures only, and the cost is reasonable. This is potentially playable, although much more so in brawl.
This is one of the best horses for horse tribal. It’s a mini-sweeper stapled to an ETB effect, with a touch of evasion. That’s good for horses. I don’t know if there’s a My Little Pony character that equates to Plague Mare, but if there is, flavour win!
Stitcher’s Supplier – If you want to dump cards in your graveyard like crazy and you have sacrifice outlets as part of your plan, this guy is awesome. Muldrotha, Gisa and Geralf, Karador, Meren, and The Scarab God could all get a ton of value from this guy.
Hogaak also got a ton of value from this guy. Modern demand and such will probably keep foils out of reach, but this is pretty good for a lot of decks. Best card in the set?
Liliana, the Necromancer – The ultimate is really solid, but the other abilities are so lackluster. The +1 really needed to be a +2 for this to be good, in part because she’d survive the ultimate to do it again.
I agree 100% with my past self. That +1 is so low impact for a walker it hurts me.
Gravewaker – That is some expensive reanimation stapled to a large awkward bird spirit body.
I’m running this in spirit tribal, as I have a reanimation subtheme. It’s not the worst thing you can do with 6, then 7 mana. Instant speed helps a lot. Still super clunky and unlikely to survive the next evolution of my spirit deck.
Liliana’s Spoils – The one thing that could make these cards playable is low cmc. At 4, this is still too much, and not hitting all opponents, or being a random discard, makes this feel really weak.
If you’re all discard… hell, this doesn’t get there. It’s a sort of cantrip, but that makes it a sort of 2 for 1. A discard-all is a sort of 3 for 1. Sort of math. Skip it.
Departed Deckhand – A spirit pirate, not to be confused with pirate spirits, such as Grog. Admiral Beckett Brass likes unblockable pirates, so maybe there’s a place for this guy in her fleet.
This easily cracks the Beckett Brass lineup, but that’s not a tough thing. The pirate deck needs a pirate supplement or two. Currently the crew is pretty weak, but the occasional addition, like this, will get it there someday. If you love pirates, grab a foil. The sacrifice-on-target ability is less troublesome than with similar cards, as it’s only spells, not abilities. Huge difference. Spirit tribal probably can do a lot better than this, and with most of them having evasion in the form of flying, this is unlikely.
Djinn of Wishes – Great flavour! There have been some terrible cards based on the story of the Djinn in the Lamp. Aladdin’s Lamp is the prime example, at a totally playable 10 cmc. The Djinn of wishes undoes a lot of harm for half that. If you can reload the counters with proliferate, he’s a cheat machine. Card draw for 4 mana is officially a bad rate, but getting the drawn card cast for free is amazing. Melek, Izzet Paragon is the obvious choice for this bad boy, but I feel like it could go in a lot of decks.
The more they print cards that interact favourably with the top of your deck, the better this gets. Mystic Sanctuary, anyone? I play this in my wacky Counter Culture deck, as the Djinn makes use of a unique counter. It has been fun and powerful, and I really like it. Djinn support is decades overdue, so this could be amazing if that ever happens. I mentioned how great the flavour was, and now that we have a set like Eldraine that’s got some storytelling elements, doing Arabian Nights, or just Aladdin, is another way to use the Djinn. It’ll not only be good flavour in those decks, it should deliver as a magic card. Top marks.
Metamorphic Alteration – Shenanigans to be had. Turning your creature into something better is good, but having the flexibility to turn an opposing beast into something benign is better. One great way to keep an opposing commander in check is to turn it into a land with Song of the Dryads or Imprisoned in the Moon. This can turn it into a myr token, or whatever’s least threatening. You can even copy a base 0/0 hydra for a kill.
Since this copies what’s written on the card, it’s also an answer to the Darksteel Mutations and Song of the Dryadses of the world. Being an aura and costing 2 resources to copy another is a stretch, but 2 CMC is maybe worth it. Dedicated Clone concepts will like this, but if you can only grab a handful of blue copy cards, it’s Clever Impersonator, then a few others, then stuff like this. From a utility perspective, this is a lot of options, and they can scale with the table. Worth a look, just not sure where. Enchantment decks seem like a good start.
Mirror Image – While you can’t copy opposing creatures, the cost and number of coloured mana needed to cast this thing are great. No downside, either, so long as you want to copy your own stuff. Or the stuff you took with Marieke Ri Berit or Rubinia Soulsinger. Pair it up with a Threaten effect on an opposing commander for a big swing in power.
Like Metamorphic Alteration above, clone tribal will like this. This is also great for budget blue decks. Grab a foil. Solid card. I’ve never seen it played, but I bet it would do well in Merfolk or 5C allies, where a cheap copy is so welcome, and you almost always want it to be one of your own things anyway.
Mistcaller – Probably a staple for merfolk. Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca loves this guy, because his ability has nothing to do with him tapping to appease the Tyrant, yet still can be massively game altering. This is probably going to appear in other formats, too. Cheap to cast, and an awesome ability that lasts all turn, even if he’s killed early.
If I was playing any merfolk deck, I’d want to start with this. Exiling the reanimator, or the cost cheater, or even the Show and Tell player is big game. Being able to stick the threat on the battlefield as an instant speed rattlesnake they have to take out is great, but being able to stick him under Lightning Greaves against those decks can slow them down like crazy.
Mystic Archaeologist – This is actually a pretty good mana sink. Cheap body, human and wizard, 5 mana to draw 2 isn’t that bad. I don’t know if any of the wizard decks want this guy, but weenie decks like Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive, or Edric, Spymaster of Trest might appreciate him.
I haven’t seen a blue weenie deck in a long time. With the right commander, this guy could play a solid role. I don’t expect this to ever be expensive, so no rush to grab one.
Omniscience – Fun reprint! Cast all the spells. Try to Enter the Infinite First. Please win that turn.
This will probably be reprinted again, but if you need a cheap one, especially a foil, it’s not going to get much better than now.
One with the Machine – How many cards would this have to draw to make it good? 4? 5? More? 4 is totally doable with staples like Hedron Archive. Breya herself draws 4, so that’s a consideration. It is a sorcery, though. If you can hit 5 or more reliably, this is probably worth a look.
This card really illustrates the difference between instant and sorcery. As an instant, this would be great for artifact decks. As a sorcery, it’s not going to cut it. Blue decks want to hold up mana, generally, and draw cards with spells like this on an opponent’s endstep. If an artifact-based blue commander comes along that also grants flash to sorceries, this is going to be a player. Until then, not so much.
Patient Rebuilding – This is so durdly and milly that I love it. Mill decks want to mill, and every deck wants to draw cards. It’s not a ton of mill, but the payoff is pretty real. Fringe millers like Lazav, Dimir Mastermind and The Scarab God might get a lot of use out of this. Even if you whiff, you’re still milling for 3, and that’s what milling is all about.
This probably just gets there. I have 2 mill decks but I don’t have this card and never went out of my way to get it. It didn’t mill hard enough, really. I think it’s not the best mill card, and not the best draw card, but decks that want a bit of both will like it. I’m still totally willing to try it, too, if I get one somehow. Getting a card every turn would make it great, and the trigger can be copied. Drawing 3-5 off this would feel amazing, but will probably never happen.
Psychic Corrosion – Another exciting durdly mill card?! And this one is actually really good? Mill 2 each opponent on your draw? This is an instant mill deck staple, and is also fantastic in the fringe millers mentioned above, unless milling yourself is your main plan.
Chances are if you play mill on any level, you have this card. Now is a good time for foils, but it’s no secret. They’re probably already expensive. Thinking of milling in future? This is probably a reprint target but it’s a definite staple.
Sai, Master Thopterist – Awesome commander potential. Thopter tribal under Breya tends to get too complicated too quickly, and I think it’s that the 4 colours provide too many essentials that the deck can’t load up on flavour. Sai can do Mechanized Production and Efficient Construction, and all the thopter producing chumps in blue. Think of the tokens! Get your steampunk on and get some mini-thopters 3D printed. Are you not living in the 21st century?! Apparently this guy even has vintage applications!
I like thopters a lot, and have a thopter deck, and Sai is in the deck. For the purposes of that deck, I wish he was more of a create a thopter on ETB guy, but he’s still awesome. Foils aren’t cheap, and Sai might started creeping up in price. Non-foils aren’t likely to be too expensive, but you never know. Play in 60 card formats makes a difference.
Salvager of Secrets – Recursion for your spells is great. The cost is nothing new, as we’ve had Izzet Chronarch for a while. 5 cmc is a pretty reasonable price to pay for returning that counterspell, or Mass Polymorph, and you get a merfolk wizard for your troubles. Naban, Dean of Iteration and Inalla, Archmage Ritualist can get a lot of work out of this, and it’s a nice addition to the merfolk ranks.
If you have that merfolk or wizard tribal deck, this is worth a look. Solid if unspectacular. Foils are cheap.
Supreme Phantom – Spirit lords are few and far between. It’s tough to tell where to put this. Modern seems likely, but as spirit tribal grows, and Wizards prints tribal commanders, this could be a useful part of a deck somewhere.
As a tribal spirit lord, this isn’t much better than Favorable Winds. It’s great for Modern, but Commander can do better, and will, as more spirits are printed. I run this in spirit tribal and will probably take it out. Too low impact.
Switcheroo – Great fun, especially since you don’t need to control either creature. Gentle disruption decks, chaos decks, and Zedruu, the Greathearted decks might like this. It’s also a staple for folks who love to cast spells with wacky names they can say aloud over the battlefield. Switcheroo!
This was never expensive, and never will be. Take your time.
Tezzeret, Artifice Master – Like many previous Tezzerets before him, this seems extremely playable. Flying chump, scaling card draw and an ultimate that is splashy but unnecessary make this a real commander card. This would also be a stellar choice for a Brawl commander, or in any combination with Sai, Master Thopterist. Oh, and he’s not Jace, so no angsty trying to find himself while your opponents drop craterhoofs and Avacyns.
This is another walker that looks substantially less good after War of the Spark and all those 3 and 4 CMC options. I’m not sure I would play this in my thopter deck, even if I had a copy. 5 CMC and not making a thopter on ETB run into a lot of competition, even if I can sometimes draw a lot of cards. Good card overall, though, and worth it if you can get it cheap.
Windreader Sphinx – Expensive, but the Locust God has a Sphinx worthy of his deserts. Sphinx tribal can get behind this, too, as you’re likely to draw at least 1 extra card on your turn. You also may draw cards when your opponents’ flyers attack. This is a great example of what a commander 7 drop should be.
In terms of 7 drops, this is more what I want people to play with than what they actually will. Should be cheap.
Tezzeret, Cruel Machinist – This might be the strangest planeswalker deck planeswalker ever printed. We have Morph, Manifest and a couple of random other face down matters cards, but 5/5 artifacts? Wild! This needs to ultimate in a face-down matters deck after drawing tons of cards. Somebody needs to live this dream!
I have now played against this guy. The controller didn’t get to ult, but I’m glad it’s out there. What a weird card. I hope to see it in a morph deck at some point, because morph needs to be more fun.
Nexus of Fate – Narset, Enlightened Master is drooling. Is playing cards like this fun? I always hope the extra turn will be extra splashy, but it rarely is. Maybe the next big extra turn spell should just give you an extra untap, draw a card, and take a second combat if you’ve had one already. It’s all the elements of the extra turn without that pesky end step. Do all those abilities on one 5 mana card sound broken? If you’re in red, you can pay 6 to deal 7 damage to a creature instead.
I can’t recommend a card like this. It’s definitely powerful, but it sucks a lot to play against. If you must take all the turns, this is one of the best options out there. It’s foil-only, which is annoying, but there isn’t likely to be much demand beyond Commander turns takers.
Aether-Shield Artificer – Great for Depala, Pilot Exemplar, as she’s a dwarf in addition to boosting attacking artifact creatures like vehicles.
Depala got several new Dwarves in Eldraine, too. The deck still isn’t great, but if another set arrives with a lot of cool vehicle options, this might see some small demand. Very narrow at this point.
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants – Pretty solid. Reasonable cost, good enough +1, Sun Titan-esque -2, and every cat lover’s fondest wish of an emblem. 3 cats! The only thing better than 3 cats is 4 or more cats!
This continues to be an excellent all-around white goodstuff and cat goodstuff card. I’m not high on planeswalkers, but this will do work in a lot of decks. You can probably wait for it to drop in price a bit more, as planeswalkers have farther to fall and more sunk cost to overcome than most cards.
Ajani’s Last Stand – This seems more scaled for tempo, not Commander. Getting a single 4/4 flyer as a payoff isn’t superb, and it’s tough to hedge against discard. Commander has many better sources of 4/4 flyers with better synergy options.
This wasn’t scaled for tempo. Someday we might have a card like Xantcha that we can give to our opponents that forces us to discard for some insane payoff, but not today.
Ajani’s Pridemate – This is pretty solid for lifegain decks, and can get out of hand really fast. A lot of the cat token producers seem to produce lifelink cats, also, and it fits right into most of the wide, tall and equipment-wearing cat themes.
This actually falls well short of the bar for the various cat tribal builds I’ve seen. Still as a budget card with several printings, it’s easy to get for cat enthusiasts.
Ajani’s Welcome – This seems like a stretch. Given the choice between a card that gives me a life for each creature coming in under my control vs. my opponents’ control, I’ll pick the opponents almost every time. 3 players vs. 1 is the bottom line math. If you’re playing a token maker extraordinaire, you can gain lots of life, but for one additional mana, go Suture Priest, and marvel at the wealth of cards in the eternal pool. This could be a Brawl all star, however, as without commander damage, gaining all the life seems like a good strategy.
The W CMC keeps this a consideration for token makers on a budget, but this isn’t the cheapest card in the world right now, probably because of Standard demand. If Modern ever picks this up in a shell like Soul Sisters, it could get even more pricey. If you feel you absolutely need this, maybe look to trade for one first from a Standard player.
Cleansing Nova – Instant classic. Do I need to say more?
Foils may be at their cheapest right now. Although this is a card that could easily reappear, even outside of a core set, it’s worth noting that it’s just as likely to pop up in a commander supplement as anywhere else, which means no foils.
Gallant Cavalry – Fills out the knight deck. Two decent bodies for one card, and more relevant to the colour than a sorcery or instant would be.
The Knight deck got a lot of new toys, and many of the old ones will likely stay in the box. The new stuff is mostly budget, too, so this is even less likely to get sleeved up. You never know, though. If the goal is stacking up Knight bodies for Syr Gwyn equipment chains, this could be a player.
Herald of Faith – Live the dream! Assault Suit!
No. Not funny or good.
Hieromancer’s Cage – I don’t know if we needed another one of these sort of cards. But this one has a minotaur on it, and because of that, goes into the heavy barnyard-focused builds of Firesong and Sunspeaker, where every card must have a farm animal on it. It’s not just a deck, it’s a teaching tool.
Extremely cheap white removal. Enchantment decks might like this. Shouldn’t ever be expensive.
Isolate – Holy modern! Is this here to eat Death’s Shadows and Delvers? When all the 1 drop legendaries that will make Mox Amber good again for the first time are printed, this will send them back to the command zone for a turn.
This never panned out in Modern or Legacy. Is there a CMC that would make this good? It’s too narrow for Commander.
Lena, Selfless Champion – Lena gets it. She’s played Commander before. She knows that she can come back, but an army of tokens is surprisingly fragile. She’s a decent choice for mono-white knights or soldiers, and is probably great in Trostani and other token makers, or in a blink shell with Roon or Brago.
I haven’t seen Lena in play, but that may change. She’s a knight, after all. I expect lots of decks to try lots of knights, and there will be a build that likes this a lot. If you’re Mardu, Conspiracy can turn all those soldiers into knights. Lena makes the team indestructible (if their power is less than hers) which is actually a pretty useful tool for knights. 6 CMC is a lot, and knight colours are not mana colours. I doubt there will be enough demand to make this expensive.
Leonin Vanguard – Repeatable lifegain at a low cost for the cat deck and maybe even Zoo sideboards in modern, but still unlikely to make the cut. Actually, Zoo sideboards should always be one-ofs of especially dangerous or stinky creatures.
While it had a good run in Standard, this is too small for Commander.
Leonin Warleader – A great addition to cat tribal. Good rate, too, as a 4/4 for 4 cmc. The tokens aren’t available as an ETB effect, so that narrows the usage somewhat, but still does a lot of what cat tribal wants to do.
This might be good enough for cat tribal, though some of the builds I’ve seen would just leave this in the dust. I’m thinking of the cat tribal that just likes to make cats and have cat laffs. That might be the internet. This might be too small, too.
Mentor of the Meek – Great reprint, even though it sees a lot of printings. Card draw for white is always in great demand, and a lot of white decks love putting small creatures into play, especially tokens. This guy loves tokens. Rhys the Redeemed, Trostani, and other white green token makers want him, and any deck that casts Whitemane Lion for repeatable ETB or cast value, like Karametra, want him even more.
Awesome card, and a player in tons of decks, now and in future. There are a lot of printings, so no rush to grab this, although it’s been a while since there was a set foil.
Militia Bugler – A great addition for Alesha, who Smiles at Death. Great synergy.
This is a player in Modern humans sometimes, so foils aren’t super cheap. This is less good in a 100 card highlander deck than a 60 with 4 ofs anyway. Outside of Alesha, this isn’t a necessity, and you can let the Modern players have it.
Remorseful Cleric – A cheap spirit cleric that hoses a graveyard. This guy has a lot of utility across a wide range of decks. Alesha in particular gets a new addition to the toolbox to fight Meren and Muldrotha in the inevitable battle of trying to make mardu colours work in commander vs the obvious sultai goodstuff. Smile on, Alesha.
Unless you’re doing spirit tribal (and I am), I think you should go with Tormod’s Crypt if you need to allocate the non-land spot. I’m doing spirit tribal, and I feel like Bojuka Bog and Scavenger Grounds are enough, but if I’m way wrong, this is top of my list. Graveyard power and Modern demand may make this a bit expensive.
Resplendent Angel – Angel tribal will probably want this, as there are only so many token producers in the haloed skies. Decks that gain a lot of life might like this also, although that seems like a stretch for Kambal or Oloro. Firesong decks that run mostly earthquakes as their sweepers might like this a lot.
You have to get through a couple of hoops to get this going, but those are hoops an angel deck can fly through easily. There are all kinds of creative ways to gain 5 life on opposing turns, and this payoff is real. At 3 CMC, with a powerful mana sink, this card is simply great, especially for angel tribal. It’s not cheap, as a Standard-played mythic, but if you love angels, you will love this.
Revitalize – Firesong and Sunspeaker have a few options with these little cantrips. This is the cheapest so far at 2 mana, and is an instant.
Firesong and Sunspeaker fizzled. Renewed interest or a similar engine of sorts could make cards like this a thing again. But it’s a niche common, so not expensive.
Suncleanser – Oh wow. Wow, wow, wow. This guys wipes experience counters, energy, and poison. And keeps them away for as long as he’s on board. Now that only goes for opponents, and only for one, but what a hoser. Meren decks beware. The other ability, for creatures, is more than good enough, and this guy is 2 mana, and a 1/4?!! Unreal. I feel like Standard could use this guy a year ago.
I haven’t seen an experience counter deck since this was printed, but that means nothing. Those decks weren’t super exciting, and fairly linear. This guy is a great long-term pickup, and a good answer for Cubes that contain energy, poison, etc. While he’s a meta call, usually, you never know. The CMC and toughness make him easy to play and survivable.Hosing +1/+1 counter decks goes pretty wide. Currently cheap in foil.
Trusty Packbeast – 3 mana to bring your artifact back, plus a 2/3 beast body. Not terrible. Totally blinkable.
Really solid common roleplayer. I like this card a lot, though it’s not super-powerful. A terrific budget option for white equipment decks, vehicle decks, and such.
Valiant Knight – Knight tribal needs more redundancy, and here it is. Not going to break any games, but an anthem and a wincon in one are a pretty stellar combo for your round tablers.
Valiant Knight should have been reprinted in Core 20. Maybe Core 21. It’s too bad it’s not in the Brawl pool as a knight lord. Foils are starting to shoot up regardless. This is a solid knight deck addition, and double strike is no joke, especially with equipment. Get it cheap while you can.
Ajani, Wise Counsellor – Possible Commander applications, as all of the options are decent. The ultimate can turn your tiny 1/1 Commander into a game ender. Some of the planeswalker deck planeswalkers are okay, and this is one of them.
Going wide is cool, and this really goes wide. I feel like they could easily have made this 6 CMC, and I’m glad they didn’t. 5 CMC makes this better. All of the options scale well in Commander, especially the ult, which might add 40 or more counters to a creature. Some Ajanis add loyalty to others, so this fits Ajani tribal well. Decent.
Ajani’s Influence – It’s hard to imagine this being great. It’s just too much mana for a small effect that barely makes it card advantage.
Outside of Ajani tribal or cat tribal where EVERY CARD has Ajani or a cat on it, this is bad.
Serra’s Guardian – Vigilance is completely underrated, especially in a political format like Commander. This gives it to your entire board, not just your tribal angels, so the odd human token or whatever can attack without tapping like a boss. Probably not good enough.
Angel tribal can do a lot worse. Budget angel tribal especially. Give her lifelink, and that vigilance looks like a good way to gain 5 life on more than one turn with a Resplendent Angel in play.
Arcades, the Strategist – Love it. Walls need more tribal support, and this guy is not just a super-durdly excuse to play a bunch of extremely silly wall cards, he’s also a throwback to a time when walls were a sizable percentage of all creatures. Even though it’s unlikely we’ll see a powerhouse build, some of the old walls look like mad fun to sleeve up. Wall of Shards, for example, or Infested Roothold, or Ageless Sentinels, because the game needs more Bird Giants, which are of course nothing at all like Giant Birds. Or you can play Grozoth and bunch of other 9 drops, have a ready explanation for what a caltrop is, or have a specific set of +0/+1 counters for your Wall of Resistance. When I was a kid, I know I wanted to be able to play Sunweb (and Illusionary Wall, Thunder Wall, etc….) as an attacking force. Maybe load it up with Enchant Creature spells so that it’s at maximum facepalm status when my opponent casts terror on it or something. Tree of Redemption, Thing in the Ice, and Ludevic’s Test Subject are all defender cards, too. I’m sold. This deck seems awesome.
For a while, wall cards popped in value. Now we know better. The big payoff was some medium-sized attackers. I’m not saying the deck wasn’t fun to play, but it’s a casual build. A lot of the prices should have returned to earth by now, and archetype-defining cards like this are a good pickup. You never know when a fantastic wall or set of walls will renew interest in a card like this, and it might rise in price, or be something you want to play yourself. Watch for cheap copies.
Chromium, the Mutable – Pretty darn cool. I want to play this in dragon tribal but it seems like an interesting choice for a Commander, too. Voltron, maybe? Using the discard as an asset would be key. In dragon tribal with a subtheme of reanimator, a discard outlet is always welcome. I imagine it would be gorgeous in foil.
This did not get there. I have played with this more than a few times, and the 7/7 flying body was the most relevant part. I don’t know what would make it good. If it wasn’t an Elder Dragon, and didn’t have such a clearly-defined history in Magic, it could be a storytelling trope card for Eldraine, like an enchanted princess/dragon or something. Use your imagination. Don’t spend much.
Draconic Disciple – Some dorks for your dragons? This isn’t bad at all. The rates are terrible, but Commander is a format where 3 cmc mana rocks with some upside can find a home.
Budget Gruul decks can maybe use this, as sometimes you need a body to suit up more than an extra mana. It’s a reach.
Heroic Reinforcements – Finally some new tech for Boros soldier decks.
While this isn’t exciting, giving the whole team a boost and haste can be game-ending. Add in a pair of dorks and this does a lot in the right scenario. Fantastic for budget Boros decks.
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager – This seems like the two sides will compete for which will have the bigger target on it. Seems like fun to play, but it looks like it’ll die often. It’s nice to have another creature-to-planeswalker commander option, and not in a single colour. Counting Brawl, a lot of decks will be built around this guy. Maybe a big evil deck, where all the spells are villainous in flavour? All you really need is big mana for Flipping Bolas.
While this has never been cheap, it’s probably about as cheap as it’s going to get. Even though the big Bolas arc seems to be over, Nicol Bolas remains one of, if not the, central figures in Magic’s narrative. There is likely to be long standing demand for all Bolas cards, especially this one as it’s the ideal Bolas commander. I would not play this myself, as it combines discard, flippy cards and planeswalkers. Three things I generally try to avoid playing. But having played against it, I can’t deny that it’s very effective.
Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner – Another big old beatstick in dragon form. Not super interesting, but maybe you can do something with the hexproof-ness, like line up a one-shot kill in commander damage.
I overheard a youngster talk about his Palladia-Mors deck the other day, and it sounded like good fun with naya goodstuff. Commander began life as EDH, and the E and D are Elder Dragon. In that era, goodstuff was all we had. This hearkens back to a simpler time, and I hope you can find time to enjoy stuff like this, and not spend too much effort turning it into a super-efficient death machine. Don’t spend much money either.
Poison-Tip Archer – This guy will do some serious work. He has some tribal utility as an Elf, but any black green deck that either kills creatures, sacrifices creatures, or some combination of the two will want this. He will win games. And Reach and Deathtouch? Should be a snake! Fantastic card.
This is a fantastic card. Foils are still reasonable. Will probably be reprinted, but if you don’t have one and you play the colours, give it a look. Where’s the downside?
Regal Bloodlord – As many as 4 bat tokens each round of turns. Great for the vampire deck, the bat deck, the vampire/bat deck, the lifegain deck, and so many others. When do you not want a flying chump? This is one of the many exciting ‘each end step’ cards, so find ways to gain life every turn, and pair this up with any of the other similar engines, like Resplendent Angel, for great token profit! Some builds of Kambal would like this.
While there’s great potential for chumps here, this is more of a ‘fun’ card than anything else. We already have enough ways to gain a single life every turn, so this won’t improve much unless bat tribal becomes a thing. The right commander could make this into something, but at 5 CMC, it probably won’t win internets. I like it, but don’t know where you’d play it to best effectiveness.
Satyr Enchanter – Enchantment decks get some cheap (uncommon) redundancy. Not a game-breaker, but will help out those decks. Note the draw is on cast, not ETB, so this doesn’t work with something like Starfield of Nyx’s recursion ability.
I’ve seen this played a few times as part of the critical mass of card draw in enchantment decks. Foils aren’t too cheap. A solid role player. Worth having.
Skyrider Patrol – Ezuri, Claw of Progress probably wants this, and a repeatable buff plus evasion is pretty great. Rafiq of the Many too.
It would take a massive shoehorn to get this into any of the Simic decks I’ve seen in the past few years. The power level is just so high. Even budget builds have ready access to cheap Simic commanders like Momir Vig and Vorel of the Hull Clade, that go over the top of effects like this.
Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire – This guy is really interesting. Effects like these can be powerful, but mostly they’re chaotic. This one lets you choose a permanent for each player (including you) that then must be sacrificed. That part is pretty insane. Part two, where a replacement is topdecked unless it’s a spell, can backfire terribly, but you can definitely mitigate it. Lantern of Insight could be a big player, as could topdeck manipulation like Sylvan Library. Trade your goblin token for another big dragon and the opponents’ troublesome indestructible targets for what you know will be useless spells. Could be good. I bet this gets built a lot, as you can police a table with it and still be political champ, too. Great card.
I love this card, and run it as a Commander in a deck that’s entirely permanents. It’s fun and steals stuff, but Vae gets killed like crazy. I had to run all sorts of protection and haste outlets just to get a few attacks in per game. I built for the trigger, but it’s tough to pull off. Not sure if it’s realistic going forward, and if a new Commander emerges in the colours, I might just switch. If you can convince your meta to let Vae live a bit, this is great fun, but be prepared for a lot of hate. As a Jund coloured dragon, Vae slots nicely in most of the Dragon Commanders’ decks, and with a unique ability, adds a great element to those decks.
Amulet of Safekeeping – If you’re determined to pillowfort to the max, this is one of the last cards to make the cut. Fear of 1/1 tokens? No more. Tougher to Thoughtseize? Everything I want to be. This is probably not going to see play. Modern maybe?
Still narrow for Commander play unless it’s a meta thing. I’m pretty sure even Varchild and Phelddagrif want their tokens to have power. Hard to imagine a Commander that makes this good.
Arcane Encyclopedia – Jayemdae Tome, coming to a sad used booksale near you!
Yup, Jayemdae Tome is really bad. This is also bad. If you’re struggling to draw cards in any colour, there are better options for you. I’m 99.9% sure. Even the fact that it’s an artifact isn’t unique, and doesn’t give it an edge on other card draw.
Chaos Wand – This is definitely going to cause chaos. All kinds of decks want to steal opposing stuff and use it, so having that on an artifact is great. I expect to see this a lot, and often included in decks where it might not have synergy, but love a splashy effect.
I have seen this a lot, but mostly in my decks. I play this in my Vaevictus permanents deck as a way to cast spells. It’s super high variance, but a lot of fun. Stealing stuff from opponents is great, and better if it’s not so cutthroat, like Bribery. Foils aren’t super cheap, but non-foils are. Worth grabbing a copy in my opinion.
Crucible of Worlds – People actually use this to Strip Mine opponents into irrelevancy. It’s not the worst feelbad loss, but if your Mine-happy opponent refuses to do anything that resembles winning the game, and just wants to blow up all your lands, you’re probably having a bad time. As a legit 99er, this wants to be with the Gitrog Monster as it frogs hard, but would also be good for anything that loots a lot, or wheels, or self mills. Subthemes for decks involving Gates, Deserts, Land Creatures, welcome this, too, and you can simply use it to fetch or Evolving Wilds every turn. Pretty great reprint.
I don’t know when this will be printed again. It seems to hold a $25-30 price tag pretty steadily, and the Core 19 version looks like it’ll get there. It was cheaper during the set’s initial release. Eternal formats want this card, and Standard did not, so max saturation was the cheapest point. Grab this as cheap as you can if you want it. A lot of decks can use this if they play fetch lands. Look into Ramunap Excavator if this card is already out of your price range.
Desecrated Tomb – Awesome! I love engines (cards that have a repeatable effect that produces a token, draws a card, etc.) and this is a great new twist. Reanimation shells might like this as a nice little chump factory, and decks like Muldrotha can get a ton of value out of it.
In hindsight, I was a little over-excited for this card. It’s okay, and has some army-in-a-can potential, but it’s a weird hoop to jump through, with an equally weird, currently asynergistic payoff. Being able to cast creature spells from the graveyard at instant speed would help. Karador with a flash outlet? Grenzo, Dungeon Warden? Those decks can do more powerful things than make bats. This is either a future bomb, or a theme card for Vampires and Hallowe’en decks. Not a bad future, either way, but not something that’s worth rushing out to buy.
Diamond Mare – Lots of horses in this set. We’re getting closer and closer to being able to build My Little Pony theme decks. This guy in foil seems like a no-brainer for those decks. Do we have a commander yet? Get on it Wizards.
Still cheap in foil, and one of the few Horses that goes in any colour combination. I don’t know how big the crossover with MLP will be, but a lot of Magic is played on kitchen tables where rules are according to the house. We have 3 new ‘commanders’ and counting. Speculators might want to think about this.
Dragon’s Hoard – Is this a new mana rock with super fun, flavourful upside? Oh, why yes it is! A single changeling creature and this is almost a Commander’s Sphere. In a dragon deck, this might be an all-star. Doing dragons and proliferate for some unholy reason? Prossh, maybe, with doubling season? This is probably not powerful enough, but hey, it just might be. Ramos and the Ur-Dragon love this. Even non tribal decks that have a dragon as a commander could do a lot worse. The fact that there is no mana cost for the card draw is amazing.
I have drawn over a dozen cards with these. I have a couple in different decks. Any deck where the Commander is a dragon should consider this. One draw and it’s like a Commander’s Sphere you didn’t have to sac. Reliable dragons or changelings and this is just excellent. I’m super happy with mine.
Fountain of Renewal – A cheap turn 1 play for Daretti or Breya, but probably not much impact anywhere. Give me 1 life each upkeep, instead of just mine, and we’d have something.
Urza, Lord High Artificer might play this. It’s not super expensive in foil. If you need a reliable lifegain trigger, this is an alright option that can turn into a better card later. I can’t argue with that.
Magistrate’s Scepter – Pair with Vorel of the Hull Clade if you must, but this being reprinted will mean it’s not going to catch anybody by surprise much longer. Please have a win-con lined up when you take all the turns and don’t go through your deck looking for one like it’s the first time you’re seeing those cards. That’s very bad form unless you’ve legitimately borrowed the deck.
I hate extra turn cards. I used this once to take all the turns and it felt bad. I don’t recommend it. This is a reprint, so if you want this card, or a cheapish foil version, it’s readily available for next to nothing right now.
Meteor Golem – Expensive, but if you’re blinking your things regularly, seven mana is probably worth it. Brago and Roon seem like obvious homes for this.
I’ve seen this played quite a bit now. Either it gets blinked or copied or whatever. The CMC seldom seems to matter, and plenty of artifact decks can make or discount it easily. This is sort-of staple going forward. Glad to have it in the pool. It has a few printings, but Core 20 has the cheapest foils. They should rise, so grab one soon if you want one.
Sigiled Sword of Valeron – Great for knight tribal, and also for anything that wants creatures to ETB, like Purphoros, but is limited a single colour.
Hello suddenly relevant card! This gives the knight type and makes another Knight to boot. Plus other stuff! At 3 CMC, this is terrific for Knight tribal. Not sure I’d play it otherwise, but Knights might be the rage for a while, and this helps you out a lot.
Suspicious Bookcase – Big flavour win. Should come in every pack with the new Arcades Sabboth. Walls that enable unblockability are very special.
Wizards has made some really cool walls lately. Crashing Drawbridge springs to mind. This might win flavour points, especially in the right theme deck. Rogue’s Passage blows it away otherwise.
Tezzeret’s Gatebreaker – This will probably draw you a card unless you insist on building towards asynergy, but it probably doesn’t do enough unless you’re planning to win via alpha strike.
Blinking this might be worth it. Getting a blue or artifact card in a blink shell is potentially enough. I doubt it gets there though, and since it has a U on it, can’t be played across the colour spectrum like most artifacts.
Transmogrifying Wand – If you are the type of player who gets excited about giving their opponents 2/4 oxen, then I salute you. That’s sort of generous. There’s almost enough cards to play a strictly turning things into other things deck, and this is a cheap option, cost and activation-wise. The oxen are a lot better than facing down many creatures that need to be destroyed, and this might see real play as removal if you can keep the charge counters flowing.
This is an odd card, with some appeal. The sorcery speed activation and charge counters hold it back a lot. It would do well in theme decks built around Harry Potter, or Merlin, or very traditional wizards. As removal, it’s not bad, and doesn’t cost much. It’s just in a very deep pool with a lot of sharks. Fun card.
Detection Tower – Great piece of utility. This isn’t something that goes in a specific deck, so much as something that goes in decks that struggle against hexproof. If you run a lot of targeted removal or Threaten effects, or want to go to the face with spells or Aura Curses, this may be for you.
I recommend getting one of these. This is extremely useful, and while it’s a possible reprint, will slowly creep up in value until that happens. Foils are already getting there.
Reliquary Tower – Another great piece of utility. There aren’t many decks that include blue or green that don’t want this. Given that it’s a land, the opportunity cost is perfect. The fact that it’s an uncommon is tremendous.
Foils will never be cheap, and even the non-foils hold value well. This is one of the Commander essentials, and even if you only have one, is worth having.
Rupture Spire – An excellent budget mana-fixer. If your turn 2 is critical to your board state, and you need to make that big play or else it’s all doom and gloom, this card is not for you. If you spend 3 or 4 turns developing your board, and need fixed mana over raw speed, this is pretty good.
Always a great budget option for rainbow decks. Most rainbow lands are pushing $10 or more. This is well under a dollar and great to have in circulation.
The Stuff I Missed.
Some of this stuff is playable, others, less so. But each gets a little caption.
Overall, I think this set is mostly forgettable. Most of what’s here is of low power, and may be reprinted in a supplement, or future Core set. That being said, there are some workhorses at all rarities, some big-time standouts, some money cards, and some love for Knights and Horses. Knights paid off already. Some cards, like Scapeshift and Crucible of Worlds may be players in several formats, so now is a good time to grab them if you feel you’ll play them. Crucible is pretty good in Commander, too. Just don’t be mean with Strip Mine. A few of the more unique cards, like the Elder Dragons, may dodge a foil reprinting in future (by being in a Commander set) and the foils might be more valuable as a result. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, should hold value for a long, long time. Core 19 rotates with a mixed legacy, and few purchase targets. Maybe time will change that. Thanks for reading!