Kalonian Twingrove is a Magic the Gathering card that was quite a bomb in Magic 2015 Draft and Sealed Deck back in its day. From the day it was released, it was clear that it had some upside in Commander with this card. It even saw some play in Standard!
Similar to other Treefolk cards like Dauntless Dourbark and Dungrove Elder, the Kalonian Twingrove has its power and toughness decided by the number of Forests you control. The difference is that every time it enters the battlefield, it makes a token of itself. Two creatures for 5G that can potentially both be extremely big is a strong card. The trouble is that it simply makes big tokens.
Unlike Dauntless Dourbark from Lorwyn, which costs 3G to play, it doesn't gain trample as long as you control another Treefolk. Armada Wurm is a mythic rare from Return to Ravnica that's a 5/5 Wurm that makes a copy of itself, but the Wurm has trample, and as does any tokens that it makes. Because Kalonian Twingrove doesn't have trample and doesn't have any sort of evasion, it and its token friend can be blocked by 1/1's all day.
Also, unlike Dungrove Elder from Magic 2012, the Twingrove doesn't have Hexproof. That inability to be targeted by opponent's spells and abilities made Dungrove Elder Standard playable in mono-green decks. Still,simply having two potentially really big creatures coming from one card is fairly solid.
Kalonian Twingrove may have not become a big name in the Standard scene at any point, but it did actually see play in some top decks. There was a 3rd place Mono-Green Standard Deck at PPTQ Milano which used 2 copies of Kalonian Twingrove. It also featured Chord of Calling and Nissa, Worldwaker. Another Top 8 Mono-Green Standard deck with Setessan Tactics and Hunter's Prowess also had 2 copies of Twingrove.
Where Kalonian Twingrove still shines best is in Commander, where enter the battlefield effects are abused early and often. There are plenty of other ways to reuse enter the battlefield effects in Commander, such as Conjurer's Closet, Skybind, and Panharmonicon. There's also token duplicating effects with the Populate mechanic and cards like Parallel Lives, Primal Vigor and Doubling Season.
Green is already a color with some ridiculous card in Commander. Paired with its other Treefolk friends in Doran, the Siege Tower and Sapling of Colfenor decks, the Kalonian Twingrove is a nice complement. Kalonian Twingrove also sees a good amount of play in Omnath, Locus of Mana and Nissa, Vastwood Seer Commander decks.
So how much is Kalonian Twingrove worth? Twingrove's price has never been higher than $1 and usually has stayed between $0.25 and $0.50 for most of its life. It's not one of those cards that should ever be worth a bunch of money, but it's definitely one worth having around. It's a bulk rare with some actual value.
There's a reason that cards such as Leyline of Sanctity, and to a lesser extent, Witchbane Orb are so good. Giving yourself hexproof shuts down a lot of strategies, as you can no longer be targeted by opponents' spells. Burn spells can no longer go to your face. It also stops players from redirecting burn damage to planeswalkers. Effects that force a target player to sacrifice something don't work. Really, having hexproof stops any effect that targets a player, including mill effects, and the dreaded Mindslaver in Modern Tron decks. That's why Leyline of Sanctity is a staple in the Modern format.
Obviously, the Leyline is better than the Witchbane Orb, as it can come into play for free if it's in your opening hand. The Orb is an artifact that costs 4 to cast, although it does have the upside of destroy any Curses in play (and Curse of Death's Hold has seen some Modern play.) But really, you're not going to spend a whole turn casting the Orb, are you?
Journey into Nyx offered an interesting alternative to the Leyline and Orb in the form of a 2/1 Human Soldier called Aegis of the Gods. Essentially, it's Leyline of Sanctity on a stick, and it costs only 2 mana to cast. That seems pretty efficient, doesn't it? The obvious use for this card would seem to be to stop Burn strategies. That is true. Leyline of Sanctity 's price is mostly as expensive as it is because it is side-boarded versus Red Deck Wins in Modern. Having an answer you can pay on turn 2 without having to rely on a copy of it in your opening hand sounds great, doesn't it?
There's also a similar card that used to see play in Legacy. It's a card originally printed in Onslaught called True Believer, but later reprinted in 10th Edition which made it legal in Modern. It's a 2/2 for WW instead of a 2/1 for 1W. But the major difference is that it gives you shroud, which means you can't even target yourself. This can actually prove to be a downside, since there are many cards that can benefit you by targeting yourself. So, in Aegis of the Gods VS True Believer, the Aegis wins overall.
There seemed to be plenty of good reasons to play Aegis of the Gods in Standard. But, besides the typical burn decks, it wasn't clear how good it would be in the Standard format of the day. One major rules question at the time was how Aegis of the Gods interacted with the powerful God, Athreos, God of Passage's ability. Gaining hexproof does in fact stop Athreos players from returning their own creatures to their hands. It would turn out to be a corner case, but still relevant.
Alternatively, giving yourself hexproof didn't stop the Tribute mechanic featured in Born of the Gods, since it didn't target. But that ability turned out to be rarely relevant in competitive play anyway. It also doesn't stop Extort, which was a major mechanic in Gatecrash, since that doesn't target, either. Basically, most the things that people wanted it to stop, having hexproof doesn't solve.
(Side note: There was also a question at the time about if Aegis of the Gods would be an issue for your teammate in the then quite popular Two-Headed Giant format. The good news is that even if you have hexproof, your teammate can still target you, since hexproof only affects opponents. So yes, Aegis of the Gods is good in Two-Headed Giant, for whoever still plays that format. It's fun and more people still should!)
All in all, Aegis of the Gods is a decent card with a very relevant ability. But it turned into more of a sideboard option, and not even in Standard. Competitively, the Aegis of the Gods has found permanent homes in the sideboards of Vintage decks, and not just Death and Taxes, white weenie, or Hatebear decks. So many Vintage decks win with effects that get shut off by you having hexproof.
Why does it work so well in Vintage and not in other 60-card formats? The main issue is how fragile a 2/1 really is. It's far too easy to remove in Modern or Legacy. But in Vintage, having to use a removal spell on him is going to be a lot more important than in any other format. Decks in Vintage are all about executing their game plan. Even if the Aegis just buys you a turn to "go off" it's done its job. Basically, in Vintage, it's at the very least a pest. Sometimes, you only need that one pest to give you the edge. Currently, the best deck that uses Aegis of the Gods is White Eldrazi.
In EDH / Commander, Aegis of the Gods sees a fair amount of play. Unsurprisingly, it's most used in Daxos the Returned decks, which uses every good low-cost Enchantment available. But it also sees play alongside Zur the Enchanter, who can tutor it straight from the deck into play, which is a pretty powerful move. It sees a smattering of play across a great many other decks, as well.
How much is Aegis of the Gods worth? As it's not a staple in any particular deck, Aegis of the Gods' price has been around $2 for quite some time. The Aegis's foil price, however is closer to $4. The foil is definitely a good investment if you plan on playing a copy in Vintage or Commander.
If you're looking for a budget alternative to Leyline of Sanctity, though, Aegis of the Gods is probably a bit too fragile to play in most formats. It's good in Vintage and Commander. But, if you're looking for a good answer to giving yourself hexproof in Modern or Legacy, I'd stick to the Leyline.
Many Magic the Gathering players were excited about the return of the planeswalker Ajani Goldmane on Kaladesh! Aether Revolt features not one, but two Ajani Planeswalkers. First, we'll take a look at Ajani, Valiant Protector, the Planeswalker deck exclusive. Then, we'll compare him to the expert level expansion incarnation, Ajani Unyielding! Both have the same mana cost and are Standard legal. So, it's Ajani, Valiant Protector VS Ajani Unyielding!
Ajani, Who Is Protecting Valiantly!
Ajani, Valiant Protector is a 6-mana planeswalker who starts with 4 loyalty. That seems a bit low, doesn't it? That's ok, because this Ajani has two ways and not just one to gain loyalty counters.
His +2 allows you to put two +1/+1 counters on up to one target creature. This isn't a bad ability at all, but it seems rather pedestrian on sch a highly-costed planeswalker, does it not?
The +1 ability is similar to Tezzeret, Master of Metal's in that he lets you reveal cards from the top of your deck until you reveal a particular card type. In Tezzeret's case, it was artifacts. In Ajani's case, it's a creature. The rest of the revealed cards go harmlessly to the bottom of your deck in a random order. That's a decent way to get some card advantage, but again, is it worth 6 mana?
The "ultimate" -11 ability lets you put X +1/+1 counters on a target creature, where X is your life total. That creature also gains trample, but only until end of turn. While this could be a game-winning swing, 11 counters is quite a high price to pay! It's reminiscent of the avatar ability of the original Ajani Goldmane, which gave you a token with power and toughness equal to your life total. This isn't nearly as good.
As a "kitchen table Magic" planeswalker, Valiant Protector comes up a bit short. He has decent abilities, but 6 mana is a lot to ask to be ticking up those two to get to the ultimate. He does sort of protect himself by boosting a creature. But otherwise, he may just draw you into a creature card or two before opponents take him out. I do think that there is going to be room for him in some Commander decks, though. As far as Standard playability? Not happening.
The card art is really nice, though.
Ajani Who Will Never Yield!
Ajani Unyielding also costs 6 mana to cast, and only has 4 loyalty. However, his abilities are far more powerful than his Planeswalker Deck counterpart's.
His +2 is worlds better than Valiant Protector's +1. While you're limited to the top three cards of your deck, you get to put all nonland permanent cards you reveal into your hand. Essentially, he can draw you three cards for 6 mana right away. That's fine with me. Even if you only get 1 or 2 cards out of this ability, it's well worth it.
Ajani Unyielding's -2 ability is literally Swords to Plowshares. You exile a target creature and its controller gains life equal to its power. You can even use this ability on one of your own creatures to keep yourself alive! (Such a pro play!) It's not exciting on a 6 mana planeswalker, but it's going to be relevant by the time you get this guy in play!
Ajani's ultimate costs -9 loyalty counters and is actually pretty insane. You put 5 +1/+1 coutners on each creature you control PLUS five loyalty counters on each other planeswalkers you control. While it takes a bit to get up to this ultimate, in a "superfriends" style deck based around planeswalkers, this is pretty devastating for your opponents. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar are going to have a field day with this sort of boost, especially as they create tokens themselves that get the boost!
It gets better for the Unyielding. Oath of Ajani will let you cast this guy a turn earlier! The Oath makes all of your planeswalker spells cost one less to cast, plus puts a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control when it enters the battlefield! This Ajani costing 5 mana instead of 6 makes a pretty big difference. A Green/White Planeswalker deck will be more than happy to top off its mana curve with a couple copies of this guy! Heck, this guy will be playable in Modern if you throw up enough counter-magic to protect him.
There doesn't really seem to be much contest here between the two Aether Revolt Ajani planeswalkers. Ajani Unyielding is so much more powerful than Ajani, Valiant Protector, and it's not even close. However, Valiant Protector has his fans and he'll be kicking around kitchen tables and creature-heavy Commander decks for years to come.
by Phoenix A. Desertsong, Staff Writer, Healer & Advocate
Here we are again: Planeswalker Deck promo planeswalkers versus the expansion set planeswalkers! This should be a fun VS series for every set going forward. Today, we have the two incarnations of Tezzeret featured in Aether Revolt: "Master of Metal" and "the Schemer." Let's put them side by side and see if either of these guys will have an impact on competitive MTG or just be a couple of fun cards to throw at each other.
The Master of Metal!
All metal band references aside (especially Metallica references), as a six-mana Planeswalker, Tezzeret, Master of Metal is a bit underwhelming. However, in raw power of his abilities, this Tezzeret isn't bad at all! Starting with 5 loyalty isn't bad, either, even for 6 mana (4UB).
First, his +1 one essentially draws you an artifact card. That's not a bad plus ability. Plus, the other cards you reveal just go back to the bottom. The other great thing about this Tezzeret's +1 ability is that it doesn't force you to select a card from a certain number of cards from the top of your deck. You can't actually "whiff" with this ability. While card selection is typically preferable, it feels bad to miss on a card advantage ability. So this is a good start for the Master of Metal.
The -3 ability makes me very happy. It reads "Target opponent loses life equal to the number of artifacts you control." You don't need to control a bunch of artifacts for this to take a huge bite out of your opponent's life total. In EDH, I could see this ability instantly taking out players. There are plenty of artifact decks that could use this ability to fantastic effect. In Standard, Modern, et al? It's not going to be worth casting him for on its own.
The -8 "ultimate" ability is extremely powerful. Not only do you gain control of all artifacts an opponent controls, but all of their creatures, too! Plus, it's not until end of turn. It's indefinitely! This is an even better ability to use in a grindy format like EDH. It takes some work to get to, but it can be a win condition! Who doesn't like potential win conditions?
So far, the Master of Metal looks pretty good. But 6 mana is a lot to ask in Standard. In a kitchen table setting, though, this guy is a boss! If you cast Mycosynth Lattice and turn everything into artifacts, it's particularly absurd! And since the Planeswalker deck exclusives are Standard-playable, who knows... he could sneak into some list sooner or later!
So here we are with the "real" Tezzeret of Aether Revolt, Tezzeret the Schemer! He's much more aggressively costed at 4 mana instead of 6 in the case of the Master of Metal. Like the Master, the Schemer starts with 5 loyalty counters. His abilities are considerably different, however.
His +1 ability is one that I actually really like. He creates an "Etherium" token, which you can tap and sacrifice to add one mana of any color to your mana pool. They're sort of like clue tokens, except they give you mana instead of drawing you cards. I think some people may be underrating this ability. Extra mana is always good, especially in Blue!
His -2 is reminiscent of an old Liliana planeswalker ability, except instead of caring about Swamps, it cares about the number of artifacts you control. You give a creature +X/-X until end of turn where X is the number of artifacts you have in play. This ability can be used both offensively and defensively, but I see it mostly being used for removal. That's not bad for a -2 ability on a planeswalker that starts at 5 loyalty, and it only gets better as the game goes along. The Etherium token synergy is pretty good, too!
The -7 "ultimate" ability grants you a pretty cute emblem. At the beginning of each combat on your turn, a target artifact you control becomes an artifact creature with base power and toughness 5/5. It's sort of like a free Ensoul Artifact every turn, except that it's permanent without the need for an Enchant Creature card attached to it. There is one important thing I must point out, though: the emblem's effect is not optional. Once you start combat, you must choose an eligible artifact to become a creature. While this won't always be a problem, there are cases in which an opponent could pick off one of your better artifacts with creature removal in response to this ability. I still think this is a pretty good ability, regardless.
The most obvious synergy to me for this emblem is with the Kaladesh vehicles. Turning your Smuggler's Copters into permanent 5/5 flyers is extremely scary, for example. (Sadly, Copter is now banned, but there are other good vehicles, of course!) And as one player has already said, with the Etherium Tokens, you're getting free Lotus Petals every turn, which is pretty good, too! People are already talking about how well he'll work in a Blue/Black Masterwork Colossus and Aetherworks Marvel decks. There's definitely a lot to like about this guy!
From a Standard standpoint, the Schemer looks more pushed for competitive play. But the Master of Metal just has so much raw potential that even at 6 mana, if he's protected and set up correctly, he could see a lot of play. He's going to be all over EDH, at least. Both of these Tezzerets were well designed, and while I know the Master of Metal was specifically designed for the kitchen table, he's actually a lot more aggressively costed than the Chandra and Nissa exclusive planeswalkers of Kaladesh.
I give both of these planeswalkers two thumbs up, but if I have to pick a winner, I have to choose the Schemer since he can fit into a lot of competitive strategies. Personally, though, I'll be looking to cast the Master of Metal more often. Or just both!
When Dictate of Kruphix was first released, it seemed clear that the ever popular Howling Mine effect was back in Standard. This time it took the form of a 3-mana Blue Enchantment with Flash! Dictate of Kruphix having Flash is actually pretty good, as you can draw an extra card before your opponent does. It also has 2 blue mana symbols in its casting cost which worked towards devotion in the ever popular Mono-Blue Devotion decks during its day in Standard.
So, both players get the extra card, right, just like with Howling Mine? Yes, that's true. But some players figured out you could get around that if you had Notion Thief in play! You'd be able to draw the extra card, but your opponent wouldn't, along with any other cards they'd draw outside of their draw step. Also, with Thassa, God of the Sea scrying for you each turn, your draws would likely be better more often. It seemed like Dictate of Kruphix would be a really good card advantage engine.
But as it turned out in Standard, there wasn't really a deck that could use Dictate of Kruphix effectively. Adrian Sullivan of Star City Games tried to build an Enchanted Prison/Turbo-Fog deck. That archetype never really panned out in that format. There was also a Maze's End Turbo-Fog list that tried it out. But that turned out to not go much of anywhere, either.
Some people would later try to build mill decks where forcing your opponents to draw extra cards would speed up your win condition. It would be paired with Jace's Erasure, which would make your opponent mill a card from the top of their deck each time you drew. It seemed like a good idea. But that sort of deck never really went anywhere.
So for the longest time, Dictate of Kruphix didn't really see much in the way of competitive play, not in Standard anyway.
However, Dictate of Kruphix would eventually find itself on the competitive scene, even if mostly on Magic Online. Some Modern lists running Time Warp and Temporal Mastery found a use for 4 copies of Dictate of Kruphix as a way to gain extra card advantage during the additional turns the deck would take. Since each copy of Dictate of Kruphix stacks and grants an extra card, you could draw 3 or 4 or even 5 cards each turn. This Modern Walks deck list and this top Grand Prix Charlotte Turns list proved to be pretty brutal control decks. Finally, Dictate of Kruphix found a home in competitive play. It didn't even need Notion Thief to make it good. It just had to be played alongside a bunch of extra turn spells.
Unsurprisingly, Dictate of Kruphix has found its way into plenty of Commander decks, too. First and foremost, Nekusar the Mindrazer loves to make everyone draw extra cards, especially since that Commander's ability hurts your opponents for each card they draw. But there are plenty of Commander decks that don't mind letting opponents draw extra cards, so the Dictate has plenty of homes in EDH decks, too.
When a full-art promo version was given to Journey Into Nyx Gameday winners, it's not surprising how excited players got about this card. While it didn't work out in competitive play at first, Dictate of Kruphix turned out to be a good, useful card.
While you may not expect a 5 mana Enchantment to see much Standard play, Dictate of Heliod definitely did. As a one-of in many mid-range decks, being able to give all of your creatures +2/+2 at instant speed proved extremely powerful. It's often a game-winning swing in power. This card can lead to some serious blow-outs, especially when its cast during combat.
When Dictate of Heliod was first released, a lot of Heroic deck builders wondered if this Enchantment would trigger Heroic abilities. Because Dictate of Heliod does not target, sadly, it did not. However, it didn't stop this card from seeing play even in some Heroic Aggro decks that sometimes just needed a slight boost to win the game. But it really was more of a mid-range card during its Standard lifetime. And while the effects of additional copies of Dictate of Heliod do stack, it never really made sense to run more than one copy in a 60-card deck.
Considering how good this card turned out to be in Standard, it's no surprise that it sees regular Commander play. Token-happy Commanders Rhys the Redeemed and Trostani, Selesnya's Voice adopted it quite quickly, although not to the degree that you might expect. It hasn't become a staple for any one Commander.
The Commander who has best adopted Dictate of Heliod is Daxos the Returned. The Enchantment-happy commander can spit out of a lot formidable tokens with his ability. Being an Enchantment, the Dictate gives you an experience counter when cast. This makes the tokens that Daxos creates much more powerful. The extra +2/+2 power and toughness boost is certainly helpful, too, but not quite so much to make it a staple in his decks.
Another Commander that has made good use of the Dictate is Iroas, God of Victory. The Journey into Nyx red and white God has seen fit to play Dictate of Heliod in about 25 percent of his lists. Since he gives creatures you control the ability to only be blocked by two or more creatures (known as Menace), giving your creatures a significant +2/+2 boost can be quite relevant. You can really blow out an opponent's blocking plan by bringing in the Dictate at Instant speed.
While Dictate of Heliod never became the Commander staple that some members of the EDH community predicted, it's still a great toolbox card. It's also a card with beautiful artwork, and that means foil copies could be a nice little investment. It's actually surprising that Dictate of Heliod's foil price was still little more than $1 even towards the end of 2016. This is a card that all Commander players should have in their deck building toolbox. It's an anthem that doubles as a combat trick. If you're running any White creature-heavy Commander decks, it's one to consider.
Anthem effects in Magic the Gathering are always cool. Who doesn't like making their creatures bigger? When they don't help opponents, they're even better. Theros gave us one of the better anthems out there, Spear of Heliod. It's become a Commander staple. While the Spear is probably a better anthem overall, Hall of Triumph is much more versatile in what decks it can be played. As an artifact, it's colorless, which helps it fit into more decks.
Hall of Triumph costs 3 colorless mana to cast. When it comes into play, you choose a color and creatures of that color you control gain +1/+1. Sadly, you can't choose colorless as an option for Hall of Triumph. Despite, colorless mana getting its own mana symbol in Oath of the Gatewatch, you still can't choose colorless as an option if you need to choose a color. It's pretty straightforward. While it's limited to a single color, there are plenty of mono-colored decks that could use an anthem effect, especially Red decks that wouldn't otherwise have one.
It seemed Hall of Triumph would become a mono-colored Commander staple. After seeing a bit of play in Standard, however, the only deck that widely adopted the Hall was Krenko, Mob Boss. Along with the Tribal anthem, Obelisk of Urd, suddenly Krenko's Goblins became more imposing. As an artifact, Hall of Triumph is still relatively underplayed considering the versatility of its effect. If you're running a one-color Tribal deck in Commander, you should definitely consider running a copy of Hall of Triumph.
Titans Eternal: The Story of The Legendary Eldrazi and their Effect on an Unsuspecting Commander Meta
By Shawn Leonardo, CommanDollar
When the Zendikar block first hit shelves, it was madness(as it usually is when new sets are released). This set, however, carried with it three immense legends that warped the game around them; Ulamog, Kozilek and Emrakul slammed down onto tables, demanding answers or they would decree annihilation. Emrakul was the mightiest of the three, with so much attached it was almost unstoppable on its own. Standard decks revolved around casting the mighty titan as early as possible, and other formats warped around the creature as well. Emrakul was quickly struck with the ban hammer for EDH/Commander, one of the few weapons to ever successfully damage it, and while both Ulamog and Kozilek rampaged as threatening commanders, all was well for a while.
Fast forward to fall of 2015. Battle for Zendikar was out, and I was eagerly buying packs like the rest of the community, eagerly hoping for an expidition land. What I received instead was this:
While I pulled a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar on the same day, it wasn't as appealing as this new monstrosity. Another player ran a Kozilek, Butcher of Truth commander deck, and the speed, ferocity, and sheer number of times he could cast a 10+ CMC commander in a single game were devastating, enough to the point that everyone knew to focus him quickly or become the target of utter annihilation themselves. So naturally I thought that, since I now had a Legendary Eldrazi of my own-my first and only, nonetheless-that it was time to even the odds. I went home that night and quickly assembled a shamble of a deck, with barely enough colorless producing lands to support it, and tested it the very next week, thinking myself unstoppable.
The deck never got off the ground. It was too slow on lands, mana rocks and the like, and ended up durdling, never accomplishing anything. I did not give up hope, however. I figured that the next set, Oath of the Gatewatch, would provide me with some support, and that this colorless deck would become my personal project-to build something mighty and terrible out of a deck that many at my local meta called a "gimmick".
After Oath was spoiled and released, it wasn't long before I got a hold of both Kozilek, the Great Distortion as well as some Wastes. I kept the new Ulamog (dubbed "Newlamog") as the commander for a while, until realizing how desperate the deck needed both ways to draw and counter, both of which the new Kozilek provided. I slowly built the deck up while maintaining a budget, aquiring only a few pieces through trade, lucky pulls from packs, or even trading in cards for store credit and buying a few pieces (including a FOIL Eye of Ugin, which at the time was only $8 [this was before the Modern format was warped by the eldrazi menace]). I rarely played it, for while it was a fun deck, it still left a lot to be desired. I moved, all the way from New Jersey to Idaho, around the time Shadows over Innistrad and, more importantly, Eldrich Moon came out. At the tail end of July this year, I impulsively bought a few packs and pulled the card that would eventually inspire fear in my meta:
At the point that this card was pulled, Magic: the Gathering wasn't exactly a priority at the time. It was the summer, and my focus was primarily on work. I was undoubtedly excited, however, that I had pulled the one rare I wanted in the entire set, carefully put it in a sleeve, put it as one of the other 99 in the deck, and went about the rest of my summer in bliss.
As the fall set in, I sought out all the basics-a new apartment, new job, and most importantly-a game store to settle in to. I found one not ten minutes from the room I rented, which came as a thrill since before I had to travel a half hour just to find the nearest gaming store. I quickly found when EDH/Commander was played, and made friends even faster. After a few nights I decided to pull out my colorless deck, with new Kozilek at the helm. We were going through a game and, by some miracle, I managed to get all three of the new eldrazi titans on the field at the same time.
As you all can imagine, the game didn't last much longer after that.
When the massacre was over, I was outside talking with a friend, and he asked why I didn't have the new Emrakul as the commander. I babbled an answer about needing card draw and such, but he responded on the power of taking someone else's turn, and after that conversation I decided to give it a try.
The effect it had on the EDH/Commander meta here was devastating.
When played at the commander night the next week, people noticed I was playing the colorless deck again, saw Emrakul, and glanced over it, as there were other, more consistent threats on the table at the time. When I got to thirteen mana, with the help of many mana rocks, and took the turn of the "threat" player, it grabbed all the politics of the game and crammed them down a blender set to purée. I took control of their turn, and used the ensuing chaos to gain a board advantage. I did not win that game-everyone wisely ganged up on me-but from there on out the meta was warped. I rapidly discovered that many experienced players have ways to destroy themselves in their own deck-and love to have tutors available. One player, the friend who actually recommended I try Emrakul as a commander, had their turn taken and was furious. When asked why, he revealed the Hatred in his hand-a way to take him out with his own cards-and not enough mana to cast it before I would take control.
The best game where Emrakul took to the stage, however, was only about a month ago. In a five man pod, where someone playing Tasigur, the Golden Fang had locked down the game, I took control of his turn with him having only six life remaining. Most everyone had grown bored and tired of this game, so when it came time to take his turn I knew I had some allies in making sure it would go quickly. He dumped every potentially damaging card in his hand, trying to make his Mindslaver turn not be his Worst Fears realized. On his (my) turn, I activated the Tasigur he had on field , choosing myself as the player to pick, returned a Tempt With Discovery from his graveyard to his (my) hand, and cast it using his City of Brass to bring him to five life. Everyone got a land, giving him (me) five lands. I searched out a shock land and three fetches(as well as some other, non-important land), shocking him and bringing the life total down to three-within lethal range of his own fetch lands. With my colorless deck, I grabbed a Thespian's Stage as backup for any potential shenanigans. I then used all the creatures he had on field to attack and kill all but one player aside from myself, then cracked all his fetch lands, removing him from the game. I finished off the other player because he had a Dark Depths on field, less than 20 life and no blockers, so I used Thespian's Stage to make a Marit Lage token, equipped a pair of Lightning Greaves and won the game.
With Emrakul as the commander, I have milled people out with their own decks, swiped the board clean of both creatures and other players, and cleared a path to victory more times than I can easily count. The meta had no choice but to provide countermeasures, from simple counterspells and artifact removal to Stifling Emrakul's ability multiple times in a game. Some players have even reconstructed their decks to ensure that they hold no means of self-destruction in the hands of another player-yet there is only so much that can be done when your hands are no longer your own. While I have seen other colorless decks, none quite match up to the sheer danger my own brings to the table with the Promised End at the helm. No deck should ever be considered "complete", however this colorless deck is very close to such a mark. Building a colorless deck leaves a very narrow amount of creativity or room for error, even among a land base. The effect, however, all have a similar means of devastation they inherently cause.
So, for future reference, if you find yourself sitting across a table facing any colorless commander deck-and especially so with Emrakul-know that you face nothing but your own worse fears. Your deck is no longer your ally, but your own worst enemy, working deviously against you as time creeps forward towards the inevitable. Your last and only hope is speed, wary player, lest you be eclipsed by a great and terrible moon .
Shawn Leonardo is a casual Magic: the Gathering blogger, and mainly discusses the EDH/Commander format as well as budget solutions. He currently resides in Idaho, where he plots world domination.
Magic the Gathering (MTG) - The Nephilims - Magic's Original Four Color Creatures (And Unofficial Commanders!)
In Magic the Gathering, the Nephilims are a cycle of five four-color creatures printed in Guildpact, the second set of the original Ravnica block. For the longest time, they were the only five four-color creatures in all of Magic. Then, the five four-color Legendary Creatures from Commander 2016 were introduced. But, their existence doesn't make the Nephilims any less interesting.
Some of the Nephilims are actually fairly good cards that see some play in Commander decks. It is a shame that the Nephilims were not Legendary Creatures, as a couple of them could have been very playable four color Commanders. Magic the Gathering head designer Mark Rosewater - better known as MaRo - wished they had made them Legendary in the first place.
So, we have these five Nephilims. Let's take a look at each of them and their overall playability, even as unofficial Legendary creatures and Commanders.
Dune-Brood Nephilim is the BRGW Nephilim. It's a 3/3 with the ability that whenever it deals combat damage to a player, you put a 1/1 colorless Sand creature token into play for each land you control. That could be a heck of a lot of tokens.
The best sort of deck for a card like this would be one like a Maze's End build with Child of Alara as its Commander. Such a ramp deck that has Maze's End for its win condition would be happy to have a card like this who could make a whole bunch of tokens to either hold down the fort or serve as an alternate win condition. For those unfamiliar with Maze's End, its primary purpose is to pull Guildgates out of the deck. When it and all 10 gates are on the field, you win the game. Building up an army of Sand creature tokens while working to accomplish this goal is definitely good.
Unofficial Dune-Brood Nephilim Commander decks would obviously focus on getting a lot of lands into play quickly. Sadly, since you're missing a color, the Maze's End plan won't work. However, there are plenty of ways to still get a lot of lands into play quickly. Key cards in this strategy would include The Gitrog Monster (himself a powerful Commander) and Splendid Reclamation. Having to sacrifice lands to the Monster is fine since you can just get them back into play with Splendid Reclamation. It's an interesting deck concept, although Gitrog Monster himself can do this a bit more consistently. Still, having access to Red and White allows for a broader spectrum of ways you can win the game.
Glint-Eye Nephilim is the UBRG Nephilim. It's only a 2/2, but whenever it deals combat damage to a player, you draw that many cards. Also, for one colorless mana, you can discard a card and give it +1/+1 until end of turn. This is a repeatable effect. It's possible, especially in EDH, that you could draw a good number of cards with Glint-Eye.
Glint-Eye's best deck in Commander is easily Rainbow Creatures, a deck led by Progenitus that uses all 10 of the Shadowmoor/Eventide Lieges for pumping its creatures, as well as all 5 of the Kamigawa block Myojin, and all 5 Nephilim. It also plays all 5 New Phyrexia Praetors and all 5 of the major Theros Gods. The idea that Glint-Eye could get very, very big and draw you a lot of cards is pretty awesome.
If you're looking for ideas on how to build an unofficial Glint-Eye Nephilim Commander deck, EDHREC has a few lists that you can draw from.
Ink-Treader Nephilim is the RGWU Nephilim. His ability is a bit different than the first two.
"Whenever a player plays an instant or sorcery spell, if Ink-Treader Nephilim is the only target of that spell, copy the spell for each other creature that spell could target. Each copy targets a different one of those creatures."
While that's a fascinating ability, how exactly is it used? Besides being played in Rainbow Creatures, Ink-Treader has found a home in Chaos-based Karona, False God decks. These decks play very few creatures and focus around making the board-state as crazy out of control as possible. What Ink-Treader does in a deck like that is make it so that it's basically impossible to remove without destroying every other creature on the board. It's a tricky card, which would be a lot better were it a Legendary Creature that you could build around.
Unofficially, you could build a pretty fun Ink-Treader Nephilim Commander deck. If you're looking for ideas, EDHREC has quite a few suggestions for you.
Witch-Maw Nephilim is only a 1/1 for GWUB. However, whenever you play a spell, you may put 2 +1/+1 counters on it. Also, whenever it attacks, it gains trample until end of turn if its power is 10 or greater. The potential of the Witch-Maw to get extremely big is quite possible, especially in Rainbow Creatures. But outside of that deck, it doesn't do much. Like Ink-Treader Nephilim, it would make for an especially interesting Commander, but on its own is not quite so good. However, not being Legendary hasn't stopped people from making unofficial Witch-Maw EDH decks.
Yore-Tiller Nephilim is probably the best of all 5 of the Nephilim. It costs WUBR to play, but besides seeing play in the usual Progenitus Rainbow Creatures and Karona decks, it also sees heavy amounts of play in Scion of the Ur-Dragon. Scion EDH decks are all about dumping huge Dragon cards in the graveyard so that Scion may become a copies of them later through his effect.
What Yore-Tiller allows you to do is bring a Dragon back into play tapped and attacking straight from the graveyard. Yore-Tiller has to attack to activate this effect, but does not need to deal combat damage. More often than not, it will probably be blocked and killed but whatever is brought in with that effect is likely going to deal a lot of damage, especially if it's a Balefire Dragon or Hellkite Tyrant, or the like. Yore-Tiller has also seen some play in Sliver decks, to help bring back key Slivers from the graveyard.
Were Yore-Tiller Nephilim a Legendary Creature, it would be the best of the 5 as a Commander, as well, allowing for a very solid Reanimator deck, only lacking Green. Here are some suggestions on how to build an unofficial Yore-Tiller Commander deck.
Overall, the five Nephilims are fascinating creatures that had they made as Legendary Creatures would have provided 5 very interesting Commander options. As we've seen, people have used them as Commanders, despite not being Legendary.
Even with some proper 4-color Commanders available now, the Nephilim remain fascinating curiosities, all of which see some amount of play in Commander.
And, of course, all five Nephilims are playable in the rarely played Prismatic Magic Online format... not that anyone will ever care about that format again.
Polymorphous Rush is a versatile instant spell from Journey into Nyx. It has been used in brewing up plenty of interesting Magic the Gathering combos. How does it work, and how well does it work? Let's take a look.
First, the card itself. It costs 3 mana to cast (2U), which is a fair cost considering what this card does. Upon casting it, you choose a creature on the battlefield. This ability doesn't even target, so shroud and hexproof can't stop you from choosing a creature. You can then make any number of target creatures you control into a copy of that creature until end of turn. You do have to pay 1U for each target beyond the first. But it can become quite a blowout if you're copying the right creature!
This ability to target multiple creatures was a mechanic called Strive, one that's exclusive to the Journey Into Nyx set. There are other spells with Strive that would go on to see some amount of tournament play. This looked like it would be one of them.
Did Polymorphous Rush Ever Enable Combos in Standard?
People were very excited when this card was spoiled for Journey Into Nyx, especially because of the Strive ability tacked on to it. Polymorphous Rush seemed like a toolbox card that could work well on offense and defense. While it can end up being a lot of mana for this card to work well, Mono-Blue Devotion, one of the premier decks at the time this card was released, made plenty of mana. It looked like a great way to get out an extra Master of Waves in Mono-Blue Devotion! It could copy a Blood Baron of Vizkopa several times and make your opponent's life miserable!
Also, Heroic was a big mechanic in Standard due to the Theros block. Playing a spell that could target multiple creatures such as Polymorphous Rush seemed awesome! It would get the heroic ability first, such as gaining a +1/+1 counter, then become that creature. That works well in theory.
There was also a cute combo with Sage of Hours and Hero of Leina Tower. Essentially, you'd copy a bunch of Heroes and turn them into Sage of Hours. You could then pay X to add extra +1/+1 counters to the Heroes, and then use Sage of Hours ability to take a bunch of extra turns. Once the Heroes turned back into themselves, you could just beat down with them during all those extra turns. Worked well in theory, but it seemed a bit janky even at the time.
But it never really took off in Standard. Not even in the battlecruiser format of Commander where there's plenty of mana. What happened?
The problem is pretty much this: it really just ended up being more mana than it was worth. Another issue is that you don't get the enter the battlefield effects of the creature it copies. The decks that really wanted this were those that wanted to get extra copies of Master of Waves, but ones that came along with tokens, not just a +1/+1 boost for the Elementals. And yes, it could be an awesome card to copy powerful creatures on your opponent's side of the board, such as the aforementioned Blood Baron of Vizkopa, one of the more powerful creatures that has been in any Standard environment.
But even if it never cracked its way into competitive "top 8" Magic, there were other ways that more casual players could use it, right?
Polymorphous Rush, Battlefield Thaumaturge, and an Easy Biovisionary Win?
One deck that screamed Polymorphous Rush to me at the time was Biovisionary Combo. One of the more fun win conditions available in Magic the Gathering, Biovisionary gives you the chance to win the game at the end of any turn if you happen to control four or more creatures named Biovisionary. There are numerous ways to do this, obviously, but Polymorphous Rush became the easiest method available in Standard. With the addition of Battlefield Thaumaturge, also in Journey into Nyx, Strive costs became a lot more palatable. The Thaumaturge would make an instant or sorcery spell cost 1 less colorless mana to cast for each card that it targeted beyond the first. It seemed pretty good.
But wait, you need 4 Biovisionaries at your upkeep to win the game! Not a problem. Because Polymorphous Rush can be played at instant speed, you can do it at an opponent's end step, which is silly. With how quickly Simic (blue/green) decks can ramp, it looked like this could be a decent Tier 2 deck until the October 2014 rotation. I wasn't alone in feeling that Biovisionary, Rush, and Thaumaturge were made for each other. I felt that this combo could even slip into fringe Modern play-ability with the existence of Mirrorweave from Shadowmoor.
While this worked in theory, setting up the combo really just never worked in Standard. It proved to be far too easy to disrupt. However, a Biovisionary deck would in fact work eventually. In 2016, SaffronOlive of MTG Goldfish would make a Biovisionary deck that worked in his Against the Odds series. He went 0-8 in his first attempt using Mirrorweave. But in his second attempt, which utilized Collected Company, it didn't even need Biovisionary to win. Funny, right? And no, there were no copies of Polymorphous Rush in the deck.
Polymorphous Rush & Young Pyromancer?
There was another thought about Polymorphous Rush. What about using it alongside Young Pyromancer? People were already trying out Battlefield Thaumaturge in Pyromancer decks, too. Young Pyromancer is an awesome creature, and he still sees play in Modern, Legacy, and Vintage today. But sadly, while you could turn the Elemental tokens from the Pyromancer into other Young Pyromancers, Polymorphous Rush itself wouldn't make extra copies from the new Pyromancers. This is backed up the official rulings on Polymorphous Rush from Wizards of the Coast.
Even then, it seemed like Rush would still see play to make more Pyromancers, since there were plenty of cheap spells that would immediately help you benefit from the extra Pyromancers. In theory, this was a good idea, but who wanted to spend that much mana to not get tokens off of the new Pyromancers?
So it was a non-bo.
What About Commander, Where Fun Cards Like This Live On?
Polymorphous Rush never caught on in Commander. Usually, that's a format where a lot of cards with splashy effects like this live on. It does see play, but it's very scattered. So due to it not really being played outside of a handful of random Commander decks, its price has remained that of a bulk rare. You can find copies for about $0.50 USD or less, but due to the casual appeal of the card, some retailers may ask as much as $1 a copy.
Even then, you should definitely keep this card in mind if you're already considering using it. You can use the existing combos in a Commander deck that you might have already. It's just more mana-intensive in practice that you might at first realize, for any of these, and even with the help of the Thaumaturge.
So yes, Polymorphous Rush does work with Biovisionary as you might expect. It works with a lot of cards. But in all of these cards, it's been proven to be too slow to be effective on a consistent basis. It's still neat. And its past history doesn't mean that you won't ever see it become part of a broken combo, though. That it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean anything. Wizards just hasn't printed the card that it will break just yet.
Will of the Masses, the white-green Intro Pack for the Magic 2015 Core Set, is certainly among the better of the five Intro Packs for this set. It has one of the better rares in the set, Hornet Queen. The Queen alone was as high as $6 a copy in 2015 due to being widely played in Standard at one point. The cover card is another fascinating rare in Phytotitan.
As it is an Intro Pack, however, there are some themes that you can see that Wizards may have stretched a bit in this Core Set, especially with the Convoke mechanic. You'll see more why this is a bit stretched at the common and uncommon level as we analyze this list.
2 Sunblade Elf
2 Selfless Cathar
1 Wall of Mulch
2 Oreskos Swiftclaw
2 Midnight Guard
2 Living Totem
2 Will-Forged Golem
2 Siege Wurm
2 Seraph of the Masses
1 Hornet Queen
1 Gather Courage
1 Titanic Growth
3 Raise the Alarm
2 Devouring Light
1 Nissa's Expedition
1 Sanctified Charge
1 Meditation Puzzle
2 Triplicate Spirits
2 Feral Incarnation
First of all, this deck does a lot right. Sunblade Elf is going to be a 2/2 almost all of the time in this deck. His ability for 4W to inspire the troops (give all your creatures +1/+1) can be relevant late game. Selfless Cathar is an okay creature. Oreskos Swiftclaw is a vanilla, but a 3/1 for 1W is perfectly good and playable in this setting. Wall of Mulch is a bit random, but it can sacrifice itself for a single green mana to draw a card, so no harm there. Midnight Guard is an interesting 2/3 creature. as well.
The next three creatures are cases of where Convoke goes right in Magic 2015. They are all common creatures, Living Totem, Will-Forged Golem, and Siege Wurm. Because they can be Convoked, they can be cast for considerably cheaper. Living Totem starts as a 2/3 for 3G that gives another one of your creatures a +1/+1 counter when it enters. Tapping just a couple of creatures makes it a 2-drop. The Will-Forged Golem is a 4/4 for 6, which doesn't sound great, but with Convoke it can become a lot cheaper. The Siege Wurm is a 5/5 for 5GG, but again, he has Convoke, and not much can deal with a 5/5 single-handedly.
You might think, well, why would I want to tap my creatures to cast another creature? Sometimes you simply will find that you're not attacking for a variety of reasons. Why not tap those creatures that would otherwise just sit there to bring out some more powerful creatures?
Keep in mind also is that we're talking about common-level Convoke creatures. That's pretty cool to see. It's especially exciting for new players to realize that they can get some of their creatures out more quickly than they might have otherwise first suspected.
So, kudos to Wizards on designing these creatures. But there are a couple of examples later of where Convoke isn't so playable. One comes right away in the form of the next creature on the list:
Seraph of the Masses is a cute card. It's an angel (yay) but it costs 5WW to play (wah). Oh, but it has Convoke! The Seraph has power and toughness equal to the number of creatures you control! There's a problem with this. There was a card in a past core set called Crusader of Odric. She cost 2W to play, didn't have Convoke, but did the same thing. Geist-Honored Monk from Innistrad cost 3WW, had Vigilance and brought two fliers with it.
Oh, but this Seraph has flying! Yes, that's relevant. But 7 mana is a lot for a flyer that might be a 4/4 or 5/5 when it lands, especially if you have to tap down your creatures to do so. In Limited, this can work out alright. But in a Constructed deck, even an Intro Pack, there are usually better options to play. However, she does happen to work well alongside the last creature we'll be taking a look at...
Hornet Queen was first printed in one of the Commander 2011 pre-constructed decks. She was brought into Standard with Magic 2015. You might wonder why a 2/2 flyer for 4GGG (7 mana) is so good. She costs the same as the Seraph and she doesn't have Convoke. But, she has other things going for her.
First, she has deathtouch. Secondly, she brings four 1/1 flying creature tokens with deathtouch in with her. OK, she combos well with the Seraph - that's certainly true. But wouldn't you rather have a swarm of death-touching Hornets?
All in all, I'm not crazy about the Seraph. But for an Intro Pack, it's a pretty solid creature line-up that shows off some of the better things that the Convoke mechanic has to offer.
Onto the non-creature spells, we start with Gather Courage.
Gather Courage is a reprint from the original set that first introduced Convoke, Ravnica: City of Guilds. It's a decent card. For a single green mana, it gives a target creature +2/+2 until end of turn. What makes it more than simply a weaker version of Giant Growth (which is +3/+3) is that you can essentially cast it for free simply by tapping a green creature you control. Interesting that it was moved up to uncommon from its original common rarity. It would be nice to have more than a single copy of it in this deck, but that rarity bump is the reason for this.
Naturalize is your typical 1G destroy a target Artifact or Enchantment at Instant speed. It's been reprinted tons of times. Titanic Growth is 1G for an instant that gives a target creature +4/+4. Giant Growth is usually better, and it was still in Standard when this deck was first released.
Raise the Alarm is a great reprint from Ravnica: City of Guilds. It's a common that for 1W makes 2 1/1 White Soldier creature tokens at instant speed. It's fantastic for giving you creatures to tap for your Convoke costs, and being White creatures, they help you with your White mana requirements. There are 3 copies of it in this deck. It's a very playable card that sees Modern play in Black/White tokens, and has seen Standard play whenever it's been in the format.
Devouring Light is yet another Ravnica reprint, with awesome new artwork. It has Convoke, which means that it combines perfectly with Raise the Alarm. For 1WW, you can exile a target attacking or blocking creature. This is very strong removal when you figure that you can potentially play this card for zero mana. Very strong card. There are two copies in the deck.
Nissa's Expedition was a new card from Magic 2015. It's a sort of ramp card, allowing you to search your deck for up to two basic lands, put them onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library. It's slightly better than a card like Cultivate, which lets you search out two lands, but one of them go into your hand. Five mana seems a bit costly for a ramp spell, especially at sorcery speed, but it does have Convoke. It was never great in Constructed, but has seen play in some Commander decks.
Sanctified Charge is another new card. It costs 4W for an instant that gives creatures you control +2/+1 and first strike until end of turn. This is an interesting combat trick, although 5 mana is a lot. Dictate of Heliod from Journey into Nyx is a better combat trick, and that's an Enchantment with Flash that boosts your creatures by +2/+2 as long as it remains in play. But it's not a bad common, and it's an okay Intro Pack card. The first strike is especially nice, as it can turn would-be trades into wins for you.
Meditation Puzzle is one of the Convoke cards that makes me scratch my head a little, but I see why it's in here. It's a common Instant for 3WW and Convoke that gains you 8 life. That's quite a tempo swing, and there are people that have enjoyed playing cards like Angel's Mercy - which gained you 7 life for 4 mana. It's a great Limited card, but I don't typically like it in Constructed unless you're specifically playing around a lifegain or tempo theme.
Triplicate Spirits is a Convoke card I can get behind a bit more. It costs 4WW for a Sorcery that makes three flying 1/1 spirits. The Convoke cost makes it a bit easier to stomach, though. I like this card more than Meditation Puzzle, certainly, and getting fliers is pretty cool. I do feel it's a bit slow for Constructed, though.
Next we have Overwhelm, which is basically Overrun with Convoke. There's an obvious problem with that. Having to tap down creatures to help pay for an effect that boosts your creatures by +3/+3 until end of turn seems a bit counterproductive. Plus 5GG is a lot for that sort of effect, especially when you don't gain trample as most Overrun type effects do. I'm simply not a fan.
Feral Invocation rounds out the mana curve all the way up at a whopping nine mana (8G). However, it does make three 3/3 beasts and it does have Convoke. At the time, though, the two "Surprise Centaurs" of Fated Intervention from Born of the Gods were simply more cost-effective. I would play that over this at Sorcery speed. Were it Instant speed it would be a cute combat trick in an Intro Pack. But at Sorcery speed, it's just very slow.
The list finishes out with 13 Forests and 12 Plains, for your typical 25 land in an intro pack.
"Will of the Masses" has a lot going for it. It shows off some of the cool things Convoke can do, by helping you amass forces that can do some serious damage. But the higher end of the curve is clogged up with what I feel are rather inefficient cards like the Seraph and some of the high cost Convoke cards. I like what Triplicate Spirits is doing and gaining 8 life out of nowhere with Meditation Puzzle is cute, but overall it's a bit of a disappointing finish to what starts out as a pretty cool list. The top end of the curve needs work, so I'll give this a B-minus as far as intro packs go.
The final verdict is that this may be the second- or third-best of the Magic 2015 Intro Packs, with Flames of the Dragon being the best of the bunch. For awhile, though, when Hornet Queen skyrocketed in price, this was the most valuable.
For the first time since 2009, Born of the Gods introduced a new five-color card into Magic the Gathering, Chromanticore. Unfortunately, it's not a Legendary Creature. So, we could throw "potential Commander" out the window, right?
Every one said how this Chromanticore could be a pretty sweet Commander, especially considering that it has Bestow on it! How interesting would it be to Bestow this from the Command Zone? To this day, I still wonder about it. But, I'm sure that the Wizards of the Coast design team had their reasons.
Anyhow, Chromanticore is a 4/4 creature with flying, first strike, vigilance, trample, and lifelink. If you Bestow it, which costs 2WUBRG (2 colorless, White, Blue, Black, Red, Green), the enchanted creature gains +4/+4 and all of those abilities. So, on its own or as an Equipment, it's very powerful. If you manage to get all five colors of mana available to you, it's going to be a solid finisher. Then, because it's a Bestow creature, if the enchanted creatures dies or is otherwise removed from the battlefield, Chromanticore remains on the field.
In Standard, it's understandable that Chromanticore didn't do very much. Being a five-color card in an environment where many decks were three colors - perhaps splashing a fourth - didn't really let this card shine. There are ways to sneak it out in Modern and other formats. But, there are such juicier targets to consider in eternal formats that why would you bother?
Although Chromanticore is not a Legendary Creature, some players decided to use it as an unofficial Commander. Decks built around the Manticore have focused on running almost exclusively Enchantment Creatures and other powerful Enchantments. Many friendly playgroups already allow Chromanticore as a Commander, since he's not overpowered. These decks are built purely for flavor, but they look fun. Still, if you're taking the deck to an unfamiliar playgroup, be sure to have a backup Commander on hand, such as Horde of Notions.
Officially, Chromanticore sees a fair amount of play for a five-color card in Commander. Interestingly enough, the Commander who uses the Bestow creature the most is Progenitus, which is odd since you can't attach anything to something with Protection From Everything. Of course, there are other creatures in the deck you can attach it to.
Chromanticore is pretty fun in Child of Alara decks. Attaching the Manticore to it makes for a 10/10 with flying, first strike, vigilance, and lifelink, as the Child already has trample. Karona, False God and Cromat decks also utilize the Chromanticore's talents sometimes.
Honestly, it's a bit strange that Chromanticore wasn't made a Legendary Creature in the first place. The flavor is there. Also, who realistically can play multiple copies on the board at once? You can see why this is an unofficial Commander for some people. It's a casual favorite, for sure. It's a well designed, powerful mythic rare that could have been quite a Commander (officially) if they'd just made it Legendary.
Sure, 5-color Bestow never became a thing in Standard or Modern... But you never know when they'll revisit the mechanic in the future!
Rubinia Soulsinger is certainly far from being the only card in the game that can steal creatures as long as it stays tapped. However, she's also a potential EDH Commander and a Legendary Faerie. Rubinia was originally printed way back in Legends and reprinted in the much maligned white-bordered reprint set, Chronicles. So, it was long past time that she entered modern Magic in the Commander 2013 deck, Evasive Maneuvers.
Rubinia Soulsinger may not be the greatest Legendary Creature to build around in EDH. Still, people try. She's certainly pretty good in a deck that utilizes tap and untap shenanigans like the Evasive Maneuvers deck in which she was printed. Beyond being Mind Control on a stick, she's just a 2/3 for 2GWU, which is okay. But in the right deck, she's very solid and can cause a lot of issues when she's able to tap and untap at will.
True, there are cards in White, Blue, and even Green that pretty much do what she does. But, she's a classic Legendary creature, and some Derevi, Empyrial Tactician and Roon of the Hidden Realm EDH players have kept her in improved versions of the Evasive Manuevers deck. But she's hardly ever going to be popular as a Commander. Still, Bant is a great color combination to build a Commander deck around. So, as a relatively non-threatening Commander, you can build a sneaky good EDH deck around Rubinia Soulsinger.
The Level Up mechanic introduced in the Rise of the Eldrazi set has had its share of successes and shortfalls. Kazandu Tuskcaller, from that same set, falls somewhere in between. The Shaman is a 1/1 for 1G. She can level up twice for 2GG to become Level 2 and be able to tap and create a 3/3 Elephant creature token. In 60-card Constructed formats, that's not wonderful, especially as Kazandu Tuskcaller only remains a 1/1 herself. If you manage to level her all the way up to 6, though, she then taps to create two 3/3 tokens.
In Commander / EDH, where mana is often plentiful, it's fairly easy to get Kazandu Tuskcaller easily up to Level 2. With the untap shenanigans that exist in Commander, this card can be quite abuse-able. This is primarily why Tuskcaller was selected to be a reprint in the Evasive Manuevers deck led by the widely hated Derevi, Empyrial Tactician. But interestingly enough, Derevi is not the Commander that plays her the most often. It's actually the token-happy Trostani, Selesnya's Voice that utilizes her talents the best.
Kazandu Tuskcaller is no money card, but she's solid in any token-creating deck or any deck that abuses tap abilities. Her mana-hungry Level Up ability turns a great many players off, but once her token creation ability is online, she's better than you might at first realize. Kazandu Tuskcaller is a solid addition to any Commander player's arsenal.
Phantom Nantuko was an interesting inclusion in the Evasive Manuevers deck of Magic the Gathering's Commander 2013 preconstructed deck series. It was reprinted from all the way back in Judgment, a set better known for cards like Mirari's Wake, Sylvan Safekeeper, and Test of Endurance. This Insect is a 0/0 creature with a 2G casting cost - so, what makes it special?
Taking a closer look, you can see that this Insect Spirit comes into play with 2 +1/+1 counters and also has Trample. The Trample really isn't as relevant as the fact that the Nantuko is actually sort of tough to kill. Each time Phantom Nantuko has damage dealt to it, you prevent that damage and remove a +1/+1 counter from it. The Nantuko also has the ability to add a +1/+1 counter to itself by tapping.
It's rather possible with enough untap shenanigans to make the Nantuko fairly large to the point that the Trample actually could become relevant. It's hardly the strongest card out there. But if you have a way to keep tapping it or get more counters onto it, then this Insect is pretty useful. It's also a Spirit, which means something to some people. Not that I'd ever try to build Spirit Tribal, but some have, especially around Kodama of the South Tree!
The Nantuko was a solid, if not great, reprint for the Commander product. Even today, Phantom Nantuko is featured in a handful of Derevi, Empyrial Tactician lists, hearkening back to the pre-constructed list. He's also made guest appearances in the decks of Ezuri, Claw of Progress, Ghave, Guru of Spores, Vorel of the Hull Clade, and Atraxa, Praetor's Voice.
Is Benefactor's Draught the Best Green Draw Spell of All Time?
Featured in the Magic the Gathering Commander 2016 deck, Stalwart Unity, Benefactor's Draught is a very powerful cantrip. A cantrip is a card that always replaces itself in your hand by drawing a card. For 1G, drawing a card might be good enough. But this Instant also untaps all creatures on the board. If that wasn't enough, each time a creature an opponent controls blocks, you draw another card.
There are games in which you will be able to draw an incredible number of cards using this instant. Playing this card after blockers have been declared can give you an amazing amount of card advantage for only 2 mana. Timed correctly, Benefactor's Draught offers perhaps the best draw power a Green deck has ever had.
It's in the same deck that features the 4-color Commander, Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis. Because of this fact, this instant has really only seen play with that certain Commander. Only time will tell how many decks actually adopt Benefactor's Draught, but it's just too good to not see play across the format.
Previously, I looked at a Blue/Red (U/R) Delver deck that was making waves in Modern. At the time, it was relatively budget, about $250 in paper with the majority of that price being Snapcaster Mages. As the prices of Snapcaster and Serum Visions were rocketing out of control, however, that list was no longer budget whatsoever. In mid-2019, that list would cost much more at $350.
The good news is that there is a Modern U/R Delver deck that emerged on Magic Online that is about $165 in paper (as of 4/2019) that went 4-0 in a Modern Daily back in July 2015. It's still a solid list to consider now. Plus, the price is still about the same as it was in 2016!
Here is the list as piloted by Nielsen333 on Magic Online.
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Young Pyromancer
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Vapor Snag
2 Forked Bolt
2 Lava Spike
2 Mana Leak
2 Mutagenic Growth
1 Spell Snare
1 Spell Pierce
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
1 Shivan Reef
Young Pyromancer has been a perfect combination with Delver of Secrets since the Delver deck archetype actually began in Legacy. While Modern's non-creature spells aren't quite of the power level of Legacy, making an army of 1/1 Elemental creature tokens every time you cast an instant or sorcery is extremely powerful. With the Delver deck being mostly about tempo in Modern, having a constant army of chump-blockers and pingers is going to be the foundation of this deck's success.
In place of Snapcaster Mage is a much more aggressive creature from Khans of Tarkir, Monastery Swiftspear. The Swiftspear has already seen plenty of play in Standard, Modern, and Legacy. With her Prowess ability, though, she can become quite a formidable presence on both offense and defense. With spells properly timed, the Swiftspear can deal powerful blows that would put stalwart red creatures like Goblin Guide to shame. With Delver flipping into the flying 3/2 Insectile Aberration, Delver now has more of an aggressive flair than its many tempo components would lead you to believe.
At the time, this list eschewed the typical (more expensive) inclusions of Gitaxian Probe and Serum Visions. This build used more affordable draw options Sleight of Hand and Peek. While the Scry ability of Serum Visions is somewhat superior to Sleight of Hand, this was a more budget way to get basically the same thing done. But, with the reprint in Conspiracy 2, Serum Visions are now about the same price as Sleight of Hand, making them a good substitute for the Peeks if you can get them. Gitaxian Probe has since been banned, as well.
Lightning Bolt and Vapor Snag are the burn and tempo all-stars, respectively. Remand and Mana Leak are the primary counterspells. The rest of the non-creature spells are interchangeable with those in the sideboard. In the board there are: 3 Molten Rain, 3 Rending Volley, 2 Dispel, 2 Electrickery, 2 Negate, 2 Roast, and 1 Forked Bolt. This assortment allows the deck to adjust to many different kinds of matchups.
Also, like previous incarnations of Delver in Modern, the deck doesn't need fetchlands. Steam Vents and Sulfur Falls aren't exactly inexpensive nowadays, but they are certainly less than a playset of Scalding Tarns.
If you're looking for a budget Modern deck, this version of Blue/Red (U/R) Delver should be a great place to start.
Read more Magic the Gathering Modern articles here.
Forlorn Pseudamma is one of many cards from the Born of the Gods set that features the Inspired mechanic. Inspired is a neat little ability that gives creatures with it a special effect whenever they untap. In this case, the Inspired ability allows the Pseudamma to create 2/2 Black Zombie enchantment creature tokens. But you have to pay 2B each time it untaps to get this ability. Honestly, in a Limited environment, such as draft and sealed deck, this isn't a bad ability. But is it worth it for Constructed?
Also, the Pseudamma is a little on the brittle side, being a 2/1 for 3B (3 colorless, Black). On the plus side, it does have Intimidate, which allows it to attack unblocked as long as the opponent doesn't control any Black or artifact creatures. This is good, as having Intimidate will allow this creature to attack often enough to make the Inspired ability relevant.
Unfortunately, even in Limited, a 2/1 probably won't last all that long. It's certainly too fragile for most Constructed formats, and even Zombie Commander decks don't really want it. It's not very efficient, although it's a good effect. Even being an Enchantment Creature, there isn't really any way to abuse this untap ability.
There are, however, a couple ways to make this ability cheaper. The artifact Heartstone from years back makes activated abilities cost 1 colorless mana less to activate, This means you can get a zombie token for only 2 mana. That's still pretty fair, so not quite good enough to be worth playing it. There's also Training Grounds from Rise of the Eldrazi which makes activated abilities cost 2 mana less. That's a 2/2 Zombie for only a single Black mana. That sounds really good on paper, but keep in mind, you still have to untap the Pseudamma to get the effect in the first place.
While there are some nice ways to make this guy better, there are just far more efficient and reliable ways to get Zombie tokens. So, it likely sits languishing in bulk boxes for the rest of its life.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Featured in the Magic 2013 Event Deck: Sweet Revenge, Firewing Phoenix is essentially a watered down version of Chandra's Phoenix. Unlike Chandra's fiery bird, this Phoenix doesn't have haste,. Also, while you can get it back from the graveyard, it costs 1RRR to get it back to your hand.
This isn't nearly as good as Chandra's Phoenix which comes back to the field instead. Not only that, it comes back far more easily. Chandra's Phoenix can come back anytime you deal damage to an opponent via a red instant or sorcery spell or by a red planeswalker you control. So, Firewing Phoenix is a greatly inferior version.
Don't get me wrong: Firewing Phoenix was a nice Limited card because it's a flyer and can be brought back fairly easily in a mono-red deck. But four mana to get back a 4/2 flyer in a mono-red deck is probably mana better spent in just about any other format. It's not even too good in Limited in anything other than mono-red due to the heavy investment in Red that's required!
Obviously, Firewing Phoenix was never the Standard staple that Chandra's Phoenix was each of the times it was in Standard. It's a case where Wizards realized that they made a card a little too good, so they designed a greatly watered-down version in the next Core Set. It has beautiful artwork, but that's about all it's got going for it in the long run. It's pretty janky and doesn't see play in any format, really. It does find a home in the occasional Jaya Ballard, Task Mage Commander deck, though. Really, it's just nice to have a foil version of to bling out your binder. Who doesn't love a shiny phoenix?
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Always wanted an Opportunity that can't be countered? With Dragonlord's Prerogative, you may have just that! If you have a Dragon in hand as you cast it or have one already in play, you're in luck. Enjoy your four cards! Then again, I highly doubt that Opportunity has been countered much in the past. Still, six mana is a huge investment and essentially eats up your turn. So, if it gets countered, that's a big waste of resources.
In control and tempo builds, you can play Dragonlord's Prerogative on an opponent’s end step. This is much like the role Jace’s Ingenuity has played in the past. That card offers drawing three cards for five mana and no protection against being countered. So, the potential added protection against counter-magic is useful. But, is it just flavorful icing?
Opportunity is pretty good in Limited and usable in Commander. But, it's hardly ever been a Standard playable card. Jace's Ingenuity, on the other hand, has been, due to being a more palatable five mana. So, how does Dragonlord's Prerogative stack up? It's a strictly better version of an older effect and drawing 4 cards at instant speed is awesome. This is a cute draw card with a seemingly very narrow additional effect.
However, Esper Dragons and Blue/Black Control ended up playing it on a regular basis with a fair amount of success. It turns out that 6 mana for 4 cards is always pretty much worth it, especially with no chance of being countered. With Dragonlord Ojutai and other Dragons seeing plenty of Standard play during the Standard heydey of Dragons of Tarkir, Dragonlord's Prerogative pretty much never could be countered.
As for Commander, Talrand, Sky Summoner was one of the first Legendary Creatures to adopt Dragonlord's Prerogative for his deck, loving the functional reprint of Opportunity. It's not often uncounterable, but that doesn't really matter for Talrand's purposes. Niv-Mizzet the Firemind Commander players wanted it, too, plus many other Dragon Commanders such as Scion of the Ur-Dragon, Dragonlord Ojutai, Intet, the Dreamer, and more. It's very good in the EDH format, especially whenever you can make it uncounterable.
Dragonlord's Prerogative has relatively narrow playability since it needs Dragons in your hand to be used to full effect. While I've argued in the past that this easily could have been an uncommon, that doesn't matter now that no one is drafting the set. The card does exactly what it was designed to do, give Dragon decks a fair, but powerful way to draw cards. It is indeed a Dragonlord's Prerogative to draw 4 cards and there's nothing you can do about it!
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
It's hard not to love a green fatty like Giant Adephage. When he was first spoiled in Gatecrash, I said that I like this guy. At the time, I said that perhaps he's not really worth ramping up to in Standard. That much proved to be true. But I could see cases in which this card could be broken, especially in Commander.
So, he's a 7/7 Insect for 5 and 2 green (converted mana cost 7) with Trample. That already is OK enough for a good uncommon. It's his secondary ability that makes him a mythic rare. Whenever he deals combat damage to a player, you make a token that's a copy of Giant Adephage. This means that you can end up with an army of Giant Adephage.
How can we abuse this ability? The most obvious interaction with Adephage when he was first released was an Enchantment called Infinite Reflection from Avacyn Restored. When attached to Giant Adephage, it would make all of your other non-token creatures into Giant Adephage. Although Reflection costs 5 and a Blue itself to play, this would be a situation in which your sudden army of Adephages could pummel someone to death.
At the time, Trostani, Selesnya's Voice was the most obvious Commander to utilize Giant Adephage. Trostani's Populate ability could make copies of the Adephage tokens. Mayael the Anima decks would use the Adephage as a target for her ability to put power 5 or higher creatures directly into play. But the best Commander for Giant Adephage turned out to be Xenagos, God of Revels, who would be released a short time later in Born of the Gods.
Xenagos has an ability that allows you to give a target creature haste and +X/+X where X is that creature's power until end of turn. Considering that you get to give the Adephage haste, you can do a lot of damage in a hurry. While it's hardly a staple in Xenagos decks, it is one card to consider for the deck.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
While Inspired never became a mechanic with the fuel to become its own deck archetype, the Born of the Gods “Inspiration-Struck” Intro Pack contains a lot of useful cards. When it was released in February 2014, most of these cards were limited all-stars. Also, the cover card, Arbiter of the Ideal, is a fine inclusion in many Blue-based Commander Decks.
Let’s take a look at the list and see what we’re dealing with:
2 Aerie Worshippers
1 Arbiter of the Ideal
2 Black Oak of Odunos
1 Breaching Hippocamp
2 Deepwater Hypnotist
1 Felhide Minotaur
1 Forlorn Pseudamma
1 Horizon Scholar
1 Insatiable Harpy
2 Returned Phalanx
2 Servant of Tymaret
1 Shipwreck Singer
1 Siren of the Silent Song
2 Sphinx’s Disciple
1 Triton Shorethief
1 Warchanter of Mogis
1 Curse of the Swine
1 Evanescent Intellect
1 Oracle’s Insight
2 Retraction Helix
1 Sip of Hemlock
1 Siren Song Lyre
1 Springleaf Drum
1 Thassa’s Bounty
The two rares in the deck are Arbiter of the Ideal and Curse of the Swine. Both are fairly decent cards. Let’s take a look first at the cover card.
Being an avid Commander player, I immediately saw Arbiter of the Ideal’s potential when the card was first revealed. A 4/5 flyer for 4UU is perfectly reasonable with as good of an Inspired ability as it has. Whenever the Arbiter becomes untapped, you reveal the top card of your deck. If it’s an artifact, creature or land card, you may put it onto the battlefield. The only downside is that it gains a manifestation counter, which makes it an enchantment in addition to its other types.
To be fair, that’s not really a major downside depending on what it is you decide to put down. It’s also a may effect, which is always nice. Not only do I love that it’s a Sphinx and has gorgeous artwork. But with the top-deck manipulation available in the Commander format, this is a pretty powerful engine for playing free big stuff.
As far as Constructed is concerned, though, it’s a bit high on the curve. It’s a card that a lot of the more competitive players may overlook, because it’s just too slow in a format that has so much removal flying around it. But it’s a fantastic little card in Commander, and is definitely a fantastic card in this Inspired-based deck. It would later find a home in many Phenax, God of Deception Commander decks.
Phenax’s ability gives all creatures you control the ability to tap to mill the X top cards of target player’s library where X is that creature’s toughness. This combines very well with the Arbiter’s ability, as 5 toughness makes it worth tapping. Then, every time it gets untapped, it can get back a card with its ability. It’s a really nice interaction.
Curse of the Swine, on the other hand, has been played in Standard. While it’s not the most efficient removal, the fact that it exiles and not destroys target creatures is important. It’s a way of taking care of the Indestructible Gods and anything else that your opponent would benefit from its “when it dies” triggers.
The fact that the opponent gets a 2/2 Boar isn’t really that relevant if what you’re removing is a major problem. The fact that it has an X cost means that this card only gets better the more you remove with it. It is at sorcery speed, of course, because at instant speed, this effect would be ridiculous. It’s a Constructed-playable card, though, that’s for sure. It also sees play in Commander, as well. In fact, it’s become somewhat of a staple, being played in literally thousands of Blue decks.
The rest of the deck, though, is another story. Despite having some of the prettiest artwork I’ve ever seen on some Magic cards, it’s basically a bunch of cards that would work well in a Limited deck, but not in Constructed. However, there is a copy of Springleaf Drum in the deck. Not only does this little artifact work well with Inspired, but it’s just a good card in general.
The best creature card in the deck is Siren of the Silent Song. Not only is this Siren a Zombie (meaning it’s playable in Grimgrin, Corpse-Born Commander decks), but it’s a 2/1 flyer for 1UB (1 colorless, Blue, Black) with a solid Inspired ability.
Whenever it becomes untapped, each opponent discards a card, then puts the top card of his or her library into his/her graveyard. If you can get multiple copies out on the board in a control deck, not only does the 2 damage in the air matter, but if you’re running Phenax, God of Deception in the deck, it can tap without attacking.
Now that we’ve established that Phenax is amazing with the Inspired ability, here is my advice for improving upon this deck: build a blue/black control deck! OK, Arbiter of the Ideal would have come out for Consuming Aberration with the Gatecrash mill deck all-star still in Standard at the time. But hey, getting 4 Sirens is a good start, and Curse of the Swine would be in there, too.
If you’re using this deck as a beginning to a casual deck, this list is a good starting point. However, you could get all of the cards you’d need as singles for significantly less than buying this deck as a sealed product. Considering that new copies of this deck can sell for more than $25 online, it’s worth staying away from. Really, the foil Arbiter of the Ideal was the draw at the time, but today they are only about $1. And Born of the Gods boosters were actually valuable at the time, being in Standard, because everyone was trying to crack their playsets of Temple scry-lands and Courser of Kruphix.
Out of the box, this deck itself is a bit underwhelming. It doesn’t really have anything that exciting and the two packs of Born of the Gods probably won’t get you your money back. As a deck, it’s not really too strong, and gets probably a C from me. It maybe deserves a C-plus for trying to put as many Inspired cards in it as possible. In any case, it’s not the best of the decks, by far.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
When the Insatiable Hunger intro pack was first released in 2014, it was “Value City” compared to most other intro decks of the time. Not only does the deck contain a Standard and Modern playable rare, Mistcutter Hydra, from Theros. But it has a lot of other goodies, as well. Is it an amazing playable deck out of the box? That’s debatable. But let’s take a look!
2 Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
2 Fanatic of Xenagos
1 Mistcutter Hydra
1 Nessian Courser
2 Nessian Demolok
1 Nessian Wilds Ravager
1 Opaline Unicorn
1 Pharagax Giant
2 Reckless Reveler
1 Satyr Piper
1 Setessan Starbreaker
2 Snake of the Golden Grove
2 Swordwise Centaur
1 Thunder Brute
2 Voyaging Satyr
1 Destructive Revelry
1 Fall of the Hammer
2 Lightning Strike
1 Messenger’s Speed
1 Mischief and Mayhem
2 Mortal’s Resolve
2 Ordeal of Nylea
1 Pinnacle of Rage
1 Searing Blood
The Nessian Wilds Ravager is certainly an interesting card, and it’s the cover card of this deck. A 6/6 for 4GG that has the ability to either become a 12/12 or fight a target creature is definitely powerful in Limited. It’s not exactly my idea of what a red/green aggro deck should be running, but as far as fatties go, it’s not a bad one at all. But this isn’t the Hydra you’re buying the deck for.
Mistcutter Hydra may not look like much at first, but this little XG (X, 1 Green) creature can get out of control in a hurry. Not only can it not be countered, but it also has Haste (very important!) and protection from Blue, which is one of the best colors in Theros Block Standard. It enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it, so obviously the more you pump into it, the bigger it is.
It’s pretty much a win condition against mono-Blue decks and against blue/black control decks who have a hard time dealing with a big uncounterable creature (and even a lot of their Black creatures have Blue in their casting costs). Just having Haste makes it playable. It’s the best card in the deck.
The Intro Pack also has two copies of Fanatic of Xenagos, which is good whether or not your opponent pays for its Tribute cost. It’s either a 4/4 trampler for 1RG, or a 3/3 with Haste that becomes a 4/4 until end of the turn that it comes into play for 1RG, and it still has Trample. It’s just a valuable creature. With Xenagos, God of Revels around to give it Haste (and double the power until end of turn), this is a really good creature.
As with most Intro Packs, the rest of the creatures are sort of sub-par, most of them being Tribute creatures that are good in Limited but not aggressive enough for a typical Constructed atmosphere. Voyaging Satyr, though, which untaps lands is pretty good. Opaline Unicorn is also a cute little mana rock on a 1/2 body.
The non-creature spells aren’t bad at all, though. It has fine removal in Fall of the Hammer, two copies of Lightning Strike, and a Searing Blood. Destructive Revelry is also quite good enchantment/artifact removal. Messenger’s Speed is a passable Aura, Mortal’s Resolve is an OK combat trick, and Ordeal of Nylea helps you ramp up your basic lands. Pinnacle of Rage is a Limited-only card and Mischief and Mayhem is a bit too expensive for what you want to do with this deck, even though it has a super cool effect.
Improving the Insatiable Hunger Deck, In Context
Unlike some of the other Born of the Gods intro packs, there are ways to make the Insatiable Hunger deck better relatively inexpensively. Here’s a shot at it:
4 Fanatic of Xenagos
4 Mistcutter Hydra
2 Nessian Demolok
2 Nessian Wilds Ravager
1 Satyr Piper
4 Swordwise Centaur
1 Thunder Brute
4 Voyaging Satyr
2 Destructive Revelry
2 Fall of the Hammer
3 Lightning Strike
1 Mischief and Mayhem
2 Mortal’s Resolve
2 Ordeal of Nylea
2 Searing Blood
4 Temple of Abandon
We max out the Fanatic of Xenagos, since that’s easily one of the best cards in the deck, cutting the Opaline Unicorn (as cute as it is) and the vanilla Nessian Courser. We’re also cutting the Reckless Reveler who are too situational for two more Swordwise Centaur, who are vanilla but are 3/2 for two Green and fit our aggressive strategy.
We also max out the Mistcutter Hydras and drop a lot of the more irrelevant creatures: the Setessan Starbreaker and the two Snake of the Golden Groves. The Starbreaker’s removal ability will be compensated for by another copy of Destructive Revelry later. The Snake’s tribute ability can gain you 4 life or become a 7/7 for 5 mana. While that’s not bad at all, three more Mistcutters are more efficient and have Haste, which is very important!
We next cut the Pharagax Giant (great Limited card) for another Nessian Wilds Ravager. The Giant will usually just be a 5 for 4R, so the Ravager just does a lot more work here. The Cyclops are both cut for two more copies of Voyaging Satyr, which helps the deck ramp a bit. The two Nessian Demolok can stay for now, as well as Thunder Brute for being a Trampler that can gain Haste. The Piper will also stay, as having the ability to make one of the big creatures in the deck un-blockable is a nice touch.
We cut a couple of lands since we added Temples for the color fixing, and this gave us room for another Lightning Strike and Fall of the Hammer. Mischief and Mayhem stays in for now for the surprise element, and only the Messenger’s Speed (not really too great) and the Pinnacle of Rage leave for another Destructive Revelry and Searing Blood.
The next upgrade to do with this deck is replace the Thunder Brute with a Xenagos, God of Revels, which will be your win condition. If you can afford them, you’d replace the Nessian Demoloks with Polukranos, World Eater. You could also take out the Piper for an Arbor Colossus. Also, if the Swordwise Centaurs are too vanilla for you, just swap them out for a playset of Burning-Tree Emissary or Scavenging Ooze depending on what you want to do with the deck.
Like the green/black and red/white Born of the Gods intro decks, there’s a nice shell for a good aggressive deck here. I’d give it a B for providing so many value cards in the deck to start, plus you get the two booster packs. Unlike the blue/white and blue/black decks that don’t serve as good shells or provide you with much value in the lists, the red/green deck is easily the best value for your money.
Born of the Gods was a relatively weak set compared to Theros and Journey Into Nyx. So the booster packs aren’t worth much as those from other sets would be. But considering the Insatiable Hunger deck can be had for only about $10-12, it’s not a bad buy when you consider boosters are $3-4 each retail. So you basically get an entire 60-card deck for $5-7.
Mistcutter Hydra isn’t worth much, about $1 or so, but it is definitely a playable card. The Nessian Wilds Ravager is a bulk rare, but sees some play in Commander. An uncommon, Searing Blood, is probably the most competitively useful card in the deck, as it’s played in Modern Burn decks. Destructive Revelry also sees Modern play as artifact removal. Lightning Strike is still played in some casual decks, so it’s worth a non-zero amount, as well. So as a sealed product, it’s actually worth buying as long as you get one of the Gods, Courser of Kruphix, or Brimaz, King of Oreskos from one of your Born of the Gods boosters. A Temple tap-land is good to get, too.
All in all, for an older Intro Pack, Insatiable Hunger is a good one. Since the cards to improve this deck are pretty cheap nowadays, it’s a great pickup for casual players breaking into Magic the Gathering.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Rakdos, Lord of Riots will always be a bit of a special MTG card to me. It was a card that inspired a friend of mine to get into Magic the Gathering. One great thing about new players is that they often notice things about certain cards that more enfranchised players don't. The power level of Rakdos, Lord of Riots always seemed obvious to me. but he was a bit awkward to build around in competitive play.
Red and Black decks, so named Rakdos after that guild's color combination, were quite strong in the days of Return to Ravnica Standard. the leader himself and the namesake of the guild Rakdos himself didn't see too much competitive play. His battle-cruiser type ability seemed best reserved for an EDH deck built specifically around him. indeed, he would become a very powerful commander as time went on for a variety of reasons.
But in Standard, Rakdos, Lord of Riots could serve as a more efficient one-of creature than many people realized. First of all, a 6/6 Flyer with Trample for only 4 mana is downright ridiculous. His only real downside is that you can't cast him unless an opponent has lost life that turn. In Commander, there are about 2 million ways for that to happen. In Standard, there were obviously not so many. But it was most certainly doable given how aggressive Rakdos decks were, and still are really. on raw power alone, this guy was very playable.
On top of that, Rakdos's secondary ability is extremely interesting. For each point of damage dealt to opponents that turn, Rakdos makes your creature spells that you cast cost X fewer colorless mana to cast. It's this ability which makes this card a truly good boss monster in a Rakdos deck. It would also be the key to his power as a Commander.
Being able to make creature spells cost less is always a good thing. Considering how often a Rakdos, Lord of Riots deck causes damage to opponents, you're likely going to be casting a LOT of cheap monsters. In Commander, considering his ability reads OPPONENTS, this allows for even more deadly tactics. Effects that deal damage to all opponents or players become a lot more relevant in a multiplayer format like Commander.
However, there were practical synergies to take advantage of in his Standard heydey. Using a simple commonly played burn spell like Searing Spear would reduce your creatures casting costs for the rest of the turn be reduced by 3 colorless mana. Then, you could find yourself dropping a Thundermaw Hellkite for merely two red mana. This is slightly absurd.
Rakdos, Lord of Riots also made other big Dragons of the time like Moonveil Dragon and Balefire Dragon suddenly far less intimidating to cast. In the right situation, you could drop a lot of big scary stuff in one fell swoop. Heck, you could potentially make Griselbrand cost only 4 Black mana. I don't recall this interaction being taken advantage of in Standard, but it would have been a good one. Sadly, it doesn't work in Commander, as Griselbrand is banned in that format for many reasons.
Rakdos, Lord of Riots makes a very good Commander when used alongside great cards like Olivia Voldaren (another fine Rakdos card) and other cards like Chandra of the Firebrand that can consistently ping players.
On the other hand, his cheap casting cost makes playing two or three in a Constructed deck very manageable. However, no Standard decks really ever wanted that many copies and other constructed formats found him a bit too situational to brew around.
While we were never going to see any top-tier lists running Rakdos, Lord of Riots, that doesn't mean he wasn't a good card at the time. He actually made some appearances at local Friday Night Magic tournaments for a bit. In the long run, he's become an excellent Commander. He's also a very useful member of other Commander decks looking to swarm the board quickly and efficiently with big bad boy monsters.
Don't overlook the Lord of Riots, because a 6/6 trampling flyer alone can be enough to wreck your day. Plus, he can bring a lot of friends along with him, too!
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
A little Mercadian Masques rare called Statecraft took off in price during November of 2016. There is actually a fairly simple explanation for the sudden jump in demand for this older Magic the Gathering card. This Enchantment is extremely good in Zedruu the Greathearted Commander decks. With the sneaky powerful Minotaur Monk being reprinted in Commander 2016, there are a lot of new Zedruu fans out there discovering what this card can do for them.
Statecraft plays two roles in Zedruu decks. The first is the one you would expect from what the card read. basically, your creatures deal no combat damage, but other creatures don't deal combat damage to them either. The advantage of this is that your creatures can block mostly anything. It can even get around creatures with death touch since death touch requires at least one damage be dealt for it to kill the creature automatically.
The less obvious but more important reason to play Statecraft alongside Zedruu is to use it to donate to another player. Not only can Zedruu give things away herself for only three mana, but for each permanent that you own that an opponent controls you gain 1 life and draw a card during each of your upkeeps. Meanwhile, statecraft essentially takes an aggressive player out of the game. Until they can find a way to get rid of it, you get two distinct advantages from it. Any time a card can play two or more roles, it's definitely worth considering.
What about in other decks? Some Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis lists that employ Zedruu have toyed with it. Really, the only other Commander to consistently try Statecraft is Phenax, God of Deception. His deck is based around creatures with high toughness in order to take advantage of the tap ability he gives them.
When Phenax is on board, he gives all creatures you control the ability to tap and make a player put the top X cards of his or her deck into the graveyard. since you're not looking to win by combat damage for the most part, you can rest assured that your creatures won't die in combat thanks to Statecraft.
Can Zedruu decks alone keep Statecraft a valuable card all by themselves? It's likely, considering how popular and good of a Commander she is. Statecraft isn't on the Reserved list however, so it could be reprinted in some future set or product. Still, if you're planning to play Zedruu in Commander at some point, Statecraft should definitely be in your list.
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