Friday, July 6, 2012

Magic 2013 Review

I'm always stoked about a new set.  Seems like AVR just came out!

Since I have more EDH decks than sense, I thought it would be fun to go over some of the highlights of M13 from a strictly Commander-based viewpoint.  I'm not going to go over all of the cards, because not all the cards will make it into decks.

I like to go color by color, in set number order.  Easier if you're following along.

Ajani, Caller of the Pride - As a planeswalker, he'll find a home in a lot of decks, but not always a good home.  His +1 ability boosts a single creature, as does his -3.  Note that his +1 doesn't need to have a creature in play to be used.  I think that since his ultimate makes a horde of tokens, that's the sort of deck that will use this best, or a deck that focuses on +1/+1 counters.  He's strong but not amazing.

Captain of the Watch - If you have a Soldier deck, you should have had this already.  If you didn't have such a deck, build it.  Quite amazing.

Crusader of Odric - This effect, of having size based on the number of creatures you have in play, has seen play in red (Keldon Warlord) and green (Scion of the Wild) and artifact (Beast of Burden).  So if you want to make a deck where that's relevant, fire away!  Generally a 'win more' card, because if he's big enough to matter, you've got enough creatures in play to do some work.  Doesn't have trample or evasion or anything, either.

Faith's Reward - It's really hard to leave up mana for a card like this.  Generally, you have a deck that wants to use all of your mana in one way or another.  IT IS WORTH THE WAIT.  Someone will do something and you will feel like a genius when you cast this at end of turn, then smash the face of the player who offended you so.  This is an upgrade over Twilight Sheperd (comes back to hand) and Second Sunrise (works for all players).  However, if someone taps out, floats all their mana, then goes Armageddon into Faith's Reward, you have my permission to be unpleasant.

Faith's Reward may be the best card in M13 for EDH though.

Healer of the Pride - Double the Soul Warden action, even if it's only for my own team?  Yes, please.

Intrepid Hero - This card is stupendously good.  So much of this format is dominated by huge creatures, and this little guy (who is relevant as a Soldier) can shut them down.  He tends to get dealt with, but what he does requires an answer, so there's nothing wrong with that.

Oblivion Ring - It's a universal answer.  Why wouldn't you play this in a white deck?

Odric, Master Tactician - All five of the new legends are good.  Let's get that out of the way.  They are good at different things, and could all function well as generals.  What Odric offers is total control of combat math--if you have barely lethal on your attack, then you have lethal.  This is a bit non-interactive in use, but still great fun and tremendously powerful.  Another Soldier for that tribe, too.

Planar Cleansing - A reprint, and a necessary one.  Sometimes, you just need to start over.

Rhox Faithmender - I have a lifelink deck, and I squealed in delight when I saw this card.  Another Boon Reflection? Sign me up!!

Serra Avatar - I'm a little bummed that I bought one of these a month ago for $10, but them's the breaks.  It's a great big creature that costs 7, so he needs a little help to hurt your opponent, unless you use Brion Stoutarm or the like to make someone very sad.

Sublime Archangel - I'm still on the fence about this card's applications in EDH.  As with Crusader of Osric, it rewards you for having a ton of creatures.  This card allows for your one attacker to have power and toughness boosted by the number of creatures you have in play.  However, that one attacker better have flying/trample/evasion/etc.  In a Bant deck, Bant Battlemage is such a win with the archangel.

Touch of the Eternal - For the third time, this is a strategy that is 'win more' with a swarm of tokens out...and still a very dangerous strategy even at that point.  Avoid this.

Archaeomancer - This is a functional reprint of Izzet Chronarch and a few other such cards (Anarchist, Scrivener, Mnemonic Wall, etc.) but it's the cheapest yet, meaning you can have redundant cards to get back your Time Stretch or Rite of Replication, etc.

Battle of Wits - You'll meet someone that plays this card in EDH.  They just want to measure your reactions.

Clone - This is the definition of a staple.  Very few blue decks should skip this card.

Courtly Provocateur - I can't wait to play with this card.  This will cause some annoyance around the table, but any time I get to force an opponent to attack or block, it's likely going to be far more fun for me than for them.  Give it a try and you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Encrust - Any card that turns off activated abilities is going to have a home in Commander.  We just play too many creatures that can do awesome things.  This is the best 'off switch' blue has had in a while, as there are no conditions to its use or destruction.

Essence Scatter - EDH players are spoiled for choice when it comes to counterspells.  Don't weigh yourself down with conditional ones.

Master of the Pearl Trident - Merfolk didn't really need another lord, but what the heck, the more the merrier.  Not as broken as Merrow Reejerey.

Jace's Phantasm - This is an easy card to put into most blue decks.  It's a safe bet that someone will get to ten in the yard at some point, and if you draw it early, start plinking away.

Jace, Memory Adept - I have a white/blue deck stuffed full of planeswalkers and proliferate, and I do not feel the need to put this card in that deck.  The abilities are just not good enough.  That 'mill 10' trick works great with the Phantasm, but really, filling someone's yard can be a bonus for them.

Omniscience - Here's the card that has brought about more discussion than any other in M13 for me.  I feel that it's far too good to have been printed at any mana cost.  In my Animar deck, I can chain together creatures for low or no mana cost.  If I add a draw piece (Soul of the Harvest, Primordial Sage) then the deck just destroys a table.  I think that Omniscience will get banned, but as I proved in my prediction for 6/20, I'm terrible at anticipating the Rules Committee's intentions.

Redirect - It's a rare game where this card won't be useful.  Nothing makes a blue player happier than taking some other blue player's Time Stretch.

Rewind - Unconditional counterspell, unquestionably useful.  At four mana, only Cryptic Command is outright better.  Dismiss is probably a touch better, depending on the situation.

Spelltwine - I hate cards that exile themselves, much less exiling other cool stuff from my graveyard.  Am I still going to play this?  Bet your bippy.

Sphinx of Uthuun - So glad to see this card come back.  It's a bulk rare, but this should be in most blue decks.  Some playgroups allow for group input, others love to watch the target squirm to make the 'correct' choices.

Stormtide Leviathan - There's a deck out there filled with islandwalk and Island Sanctuary...and this guy is amazing in any blue deck.

Switcheroo - The fun bit here is that you don't have to be one of the players exchanging control.  You'll likely be, but I like knowing that if I need to, I can give Brion Stoutarm to the mono-green player.

Talrand, Sky Summoner - Blue decks, in my experience, are running Azami, Teferi, or Arcum Dagsson as the general, and Talrand deserves consideration in that group.  Every draw spell, every bounce spell, every counterspell now comes with a 2/2 flyer.  He's not as combo-oriented as the other three, but he's powerful yet fair.  It's very easy for me to imagine Talrand decks getting out of hand, and he's good even if he's not the general of the deck.  His invocation is a winner too.

Tricks of the Trade - Bruna appreciates this greatly.

Void Stalker - The last card with this type of ability, Gomazoa, required that the creature be attacking, and that the Gomazoa block it.  So for losing the attacking/blocking bit, we have to pay some mana.  Seems fair, and an excellent EDH card, unless you're playing against someone who doesn't use the general too often, which is possible.

Blood Reckoning - This is not going to be a winner for you.  You'll either annoy someone who's only attacking you with a couple of big creatures, or you'll force the token deck to find an answer while they build a bigger and bigger army.  Which they will.

Diabolic Revelation - I thought that Increasing Ambition was the bee's knees in terms of strong tutoring cards.  Find one is good, find two is better, right?  Well, for the same mana needed to find those second two cards the Revelation can get you three.  And in terms of total mana spent, Ambition gets you three cards for 13 mana...Revelation gets you 8 cards.  A whole hand sculpted from your library! I think that this will not get much play in standard, but yeah, I'm all over the Revelation.  Amen!

Disciple of Bolas - I've resisted playing Greater Good or Cream of the Crop in my creature-based decks, but I love this guy.  He's not so good in a Doran, the Siege Tower deck, but cashing in any creature for more cards and more life is always a fun play.  How I wish he was a Zombie.

Liliana of the Dark Realms - This is intriguing to me.  How I wish she put the Swamp into play, but reliably making land drops is one of the best feelings in Commander.  The bit that people are harping on is that she can find dual lands/shocklands/Leechridden Swamp, becaue her ability does not say to find a basic.  She can't fetch up Urborg, though.  In my Zombie deck, I may play this alongside Liliana Vess. (I have a signed foil promo--what are you gonna do?)

Murder - In general, there are better one-shot kill spells.  Tragic Slip comes to mind.  That being said, I like the simplicity of this card, and if you're in need of removal, this isn't bad.  Creatures in EDH tend to have some resiliency, though, so this card may not be as good as you want it to be.

Mutilate - For one more mana than Murder, we get this.  And it is a BEAST.  Even if someone assembled the fabled Avacyn/Sigarda/Melira combo, thinking they are safe from everything...bang, all of those are dead if you have 8 swamps.  One of the best Wrath effects black can play, if you have the Swamps.

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis - A demon with Exalted and a variation of Thraximundar's sacrifice effect, I don't enjoy creatures that make you limit your combat options.  I don't think he is going into my Kaalia deck, because I want to attack with two or more creatures most of the time.  However, he's got good stats and a pretty good (if stifling) ability, so I expect him to see a lot of EDH play.

Phylactery Lich - A cute trick, but unless you play a lot of Darksteel artifacts, he's not usually worth it.  Most white decks have Return to Dust, blue will bounce it, etc.  Note that red can't wait for you to target an artifact with the 'put a counter on' ability--they have to Shatter all of your artifacts before the Lich resolves.

Public Execution - This is another cute card, but really, if you need to take down a token horde, black has better options.

Rise from the Grave - This is an awesome card if you didn't have one before.  Play it as often as you can bear to.

Vampire Nighthawk - It's hard to beat this card.  No one wants to trade a bigger creature with the 'Hawk, and he'll gain you plenty of life too.  He's not flashy in EDH, but he's very effective.  You're never unhappy about playing him, though he'll probably get cut for something more WOW!

Vampire Nocturnus - Full disclosure: Two years ago, when I got back into paper Magic, I was that guy who was forever convinced that Vampires was a better deck than Jund or the Mythic deck with Sovereigns of Lost Alara and Eldrazi Conscription.  It was super-powerful, consistent, and aggressive.  And it was not good enough.  I will always have a soft spot for declaring "Vampires are Awesome!" when the top card was black.  For Commander, he's a great fit in your Vampire Tribal deck.

Vile Rebirth - I like this card, though I really wish it was "Exile target card in a graveyard.  If it was a creature, put a 2/2 Zombie into play" so that it could be a more universal solution to graveyard recursive decks.  You might play this in an EDH deck, though in black you have Withered Wretch, Cemetery Reaper, and Nezumi Graverobber as reusable, if more expensive, options.

Wit's End - I like this card as well, but it tends to get cut from decks.  I like what it offers, but the price is normally too high. And even if you could cast it against the blue player with 30 cards in of those cards is going to be a counterspell.

Xathrid Gorgon - Love the flavor, love that it turns off abilities.  The counters and the effect stay on even if the Gorgon dies, which is handy.  Note that this doesn't kill a creature--it can still attack and block.  I'm probably going to play this in a deck or two.

Chandra, the Firebrand - Her second time around, and people are still going to be fixated on her -2 ability, because it's so much more powerful than her +1 or her ultimate.  Handy, but not insanely broken.

Chandra's Fury - A watered down Flame Wave for 2 less mana.  Token decks usually have an extra point or two of toughness, just in case.  Let's move on.

Cleaver Riot - As a finisher, this could be awesome.  I can see a red/green deck spending ten mana for this and Overrun or the like, so that every creature becomes insanely lethal.  There will be times where it just isn't good enough, though.

Dragon Hatchling - Dragon tribal decks are usually focused on mana ramping in the early turns, and this little guy would be the cheapest dragon except for another entry on this list.  He's got the firebreathing ability, and sometimes, that's all you want from your flyers.  If you're in the tribe, get him in there.  If not, then you won't.

Fervor - A classic that has needed reprinting.  Red now has this, Urabrask, and Anger for selfish haste.  Play it whenever you have creatures that want to attack. (seems redundant to say that, but not every deck is built that way)

Firewing Phoenix - Not hasty, 8 mana to go from graveyard to play.  That's just too much for me.

Goblin Battle Jester - This has potential.  It's not often that someone will have several big bad creatures to block with, so you can get the guy to do some work for you. I doubt it will be consistently good outside a Goblin tribal deck, though.

Hamletback Goliath - Now here's a reprint and a half.  All he needs is trample somehow, and you've got a powerhouse.  It counts tokens, it counts their creatures, it counts everything!  This card should get a lot of play in red decks.

Krenko, Mob Boss - First of all, kudos to Wizards for giving us a Boss besides the Steamflogger.  Krenko delivers on everything you could want from the Boss.  He doubles your swarm for the low price of Tap.  Compare to Skeletal Vampire for Bats, or Marrow-Gnawer for Rats, or even Weirding Shaman for Goblins.  Tap, Goblins.  Tap, MOAR GOBLINS.  Combine with Thousand-Year Elixir for super shenanigans.  Fantastic general choice for the tribe.

Magmaquake - Tired of Earthquake hurting your life total?  Wish it was an instant?  Congratulations!  A fine card for any red deck that wants to tidy up a cluttered board.

Mindclaw Shaman - Red has had these sorts of effects before, but they usually cost more and didn't have the recursion available to creatures.  I can't wait to play this card in just about every red deck.  Who do you pick?  Do they have something awesome?!

Reverberate - Not as good as Redirect above, but still pretty awesome.  Bonus points for copying Genesis Wave or Primal Surge, as your copy resolves first!

Slumbering Dragon - Oh my, a one drop to compete with Dragonmaster Outcast in the Dragon decks?  I like the flavor of this card, but there won't be a lot of consistency with the outcome.  Yes, it's fun with Dragon Blood, but that'll be 25 mana to get an 8/8 that can attack/block, and red decks can generally do better.  Even Kargan Dragonlord hits harder, faster, and for less.

Smelt - Hard to argue with spending a single mana to get this effect, but for two mana, white can exile that artifact.  I'd stay away or invest in repeatable effects (Viashino Heretic, Hoard-Smelter Dragon).

Thundermaw Hellkite - Awesome name, incredible stats, powerful effect, God help anyone if this gets stuck under a Mimic Vat.  Get lots of them, play lots of them.  I'm not sure where the price will be on this card, it's a mythic and it's good enough for Standard.

Turn to Slag - This was one of the easiest early picks in Scars of Mirrodin drafts, and unfortunately, a lot of good equipment grants protection of some sort to the creature wearing it.  I want to run this more, I really do, but it's just not going to be the blowout I want it to be.

Volcanic Geyser - Strictly worse than Comet Storm, still pretty awesome.  Sometimes you just need someone to take X to the face.

Worldfire - This is a card that some people will go insane for, because of the power and the trickiness.  Who can deal one point the fastest?  Most others will be a bit annoyed at having the game end this way, and not many people are a fan of 'get rid of everything' cards.

Acidic Slime - Useful and valuable.  Play this in most anything.  (is it better or worse than Indrik Stomphowler?)

Boundless Realms - This may come as a surprise to some people, but not every EDH deck has 30 basic lands.  My Adun deck has 9.  What I really love about this card is how much better it can be the longer you wait...but once someone can get 4 or more lands with this, I think they will go for it.

Elderscale Wurm - Perhaps the best Wurm since Pelakka, it's a creature that stops your life from going below 7.  Unlike Form of the Dragon, this doesn't lower your life when you play it. If you have a deck that support big green creatures, toss this guy in and have a blast.

Elvish Archdruid - If you have an Elf deck, you have this already.  If you're playing against it, kill it on sight.

Garruk's Packleader - An outright amazing card that should literally be in every green deck.  Only token decks can't easily abuse this, but if Beastmaster Ascension or Muraganda Petroglyphs are online, then things are about to get silly.

Garruk, Primal Hunter - Free 3/3 tokens, card draw, and a swarming ultimate.  What's not to love?

Mwonvuli Beast Tracker - Hard to spell but easy to use.  Sad to say that he'll often go find Primeval Titan.

Predatory Rampage - Not a candidate to replace Overrun or Overwhelming Stampede in the group of finishing spells green has.  Then again, with the 'must block' clause, you can use this with a little more craftiness, taking out problem creatures if needed.  I'd rather just Overrun and kill a couple of players, though.

Primordial Hydra - Poster child for big green creatures, it just keeps getting bigger and will get trample eventually.  Gets very sad if someone else has Intrepid Hero out.

Quirion Dryad - This might get to a very huge size if played early, but most of the time, I don't think this will be a good EDH card.

Rancor - This makes me excited to play Standard, but for Commander, it's merely very good.  It's cheap, powerful, re-useable, and if you have an Enchantress and some sacrifice outlet around, then you can draw a ton of cards.

Silklash Spider - This is another card that I'm surprised doesn't see more play, though it's not quite as powerful as Tornado Elemental.  Still, it can block nearly anything, and it can make a dragon/angel/Kaalia deck very very sad.

Thragtusk - A card that appears to have been printed to foil Vapor Snag, this is just value all over the place.  Not overwhelming in what it does, but consistently good, always relevant, and requires multiple answers.  Likely to find a home in most decks.

Yeva, Nature's Herald - Now this is an amazing card.  Green gets half of Teferi, only bigger and cheaper.  I'm certain that Yeva will make her way into most decks with green creatures, and as a general, she's outstanding.  Generals with flash are never to be trifled with, and if she's in play with open mana, be extremely cautious.  So good that I'm considering replacing Multani as the commander of my big green deck.

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker - Kills stuff dead, over and over again. Or steals it.  One of the best 'game over' ultimates around.  Very restrictive color costs--it's Grixis, 5-color or bust for him.  But if you're in those colors, you'll need to have a good reason not to play him in your 99.

Akroma's Memorial - There's really no reason to avoid playing this, no matter your colors.  It gives vigilance, flying, first strike, trample, haste, and two kinds of protection.  So whoever doesn't have untapped flying/reach creatures that are blue, white, or green will take damage from your creatures...who are presenting one huge flying wall of first strike, which is difficult to attack into.  This tends to end games quickly--either you kill everyone else, or they gang up and stomp on you.  Incredibly powerful.  I'm sad that this card is back, because it takes away layers of interaction and decisions.

Door to Nothingness - As my friend Jeff says, "Go home."  Worth a look in five-color decks, because it's just awesome to kick someone out the Door.

Elixir of Immortality - It used to be that Feldon's Cane was the best way to reload your deck...once.  Now we get to do it over and over!  Some decks are built to use this effect, others could care less.

Gilded Lotus - I'm very excited to see this card come back.  It's good in any color of deck, very good in three or more color decks.  It jumps you from five to eight mana, and that's a big, fast jump, a turn quicker than Dreamstone Hedron.  Play this often--you won't be disappointed.

The new Ring cycle - If you're in the colors, the counters are a nice bonus.  I think that the haste and the trample will get the most play, since it's equip and forget.  The activation cost on hexproof and regeneration is important, but since we already have Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots, I don't see these rings making a big splash in EDH.

Sands of Delirium - A different kind of X spell, but re-useable.  Just be careful about the decks that like having cards in the graveyard.

Staff of Nin - If this was 2 damage, I'd say it goes in every deck.  As it is...I don't see this getting used very often, aside from people like me with a Nin deck already.

Stuffy Doll - One of the biggest "Stay Away!" cards out there.  Combine with Propaganda and the like for real hair-pulling frustration from your opponents.

Tormod's Crypt - Hard to believe that this hadn't been reprinted in a while.  It's simple, cheap, and amazingly effective.  Some people prefer targeted solutions, one card at a time, but Crypt should be one of the last cards you cut from a deck--it's very likely that someone at your table will start recursion shenanigans.

The two-color lands from M10, M11, M12, and now M13 - I didn't think these would get printed again, but here we are.  They are good and they are cheap to own now--make sure you have all you need.

Hellion Crucible - It would be nice if adding a counter wasn't a tap ability, for instant recovery from wrath effects, but it's handy to have a land that generates a big, hasty creature.  Think of it as a spell, not a land, or your 36th land.  Another card inching us closer to the 99 lands EDH deck.

Reliquary Tower - I lost a $5 bet that this would be in this summer's From the Vault: Realms.  Well, it might still be there, but it's unlikely.  This is something that should be in 99% of EDH decks, because it's an effect that is useful on a regular basis and it costs you nothing.  It was a $4 uncommon printed two years ago, which should tell you how many EDH decks use this card.

Wow, that's a lot of reviews, and that was only the highlights!  I expect that not everyone will agree with me (I think Omniscience should get banned, it's just too powerful) but that's what the comment section is for.  See you next time!

1 comment:

  1. staff of nin is pretty solid just for being a phyrexian arena effect