by Phoenix A. Desertsong, Staff Writer, Healer & Advocate
In Magic the Gathering, there are a wide variety of rare cards worth less than 50 cents. These are often called "bulk rares" since they can easily be found in bulk. But, the anatomy of every bulk rare card is slightly different. There have been “true bulk” cards such as Serpentine Spike that no one will really ever play. There’s somewhat playable creatures like Fathom Feeder. Then, you have a card that sees a fair amount of play in the ever-growing Commander format that’s probably still a bit underappreciated: Insidious Will.
Back in October 2016, Insidious Will was a $0.50 card that was buylisting for close to its retail price. People were actually pretty excited about this card. Even though it costs 4 mana for effects that typically cost only 2 or 3 mana, the versatility of this card seemed to make it worth it. With Baral, Chief of Compliance looking like he’d be a big part of Standard, it seemed to some people that Insidious Will was going to be at least a $1 or $2 card. This never happened, although Baral, who makes Instants and Sorceries you cast cost 1 less mana, is very good. In fact, Baral is probably going to be tied to this card’s long term value.
Two of its effect choices are Redirect and Twincast. These are cards that each cost 2 mana, being able to choose seems worth an extra price. The third choice is essentially Cancel, which is 3 mana as a straight counterspell. But, wouldn’t having these choices in a control deck be a nice thing to have, even just as a one-of out of the sideboard?
The answer is yes... in Baral, Chief of Compliance EDH decks. Baral has become quite a force in the growing 1v1 Commander scene, thanks to Magic Online adopting the format as a competitive league. It’s clear that most demand for Insidious Will comes from EDH players. While Baral is hardly the only Commander that plays this versatile 4-mana instant, he’s definitely the one who’s added this spell to his library the most.
So, what’s made Insidious Will a bulk rare? It simply never found relevance in the Standard format of the day. It would pop up in the odd Blue/Black Control list. Some people considered trying to use Insidious Will to copy Approach of the Second Sun for a quick instant win, but that didn't work because the second copy of Approach of the Second Sun had to be cast from the hand.
Long term, though, cards like Insidious Will easily surpass $2. Foils of this card will definitely not be less than $2 forever, either. The price of this card is always competitive, meaning that the market price of the card has historically been very close to the median price. That's good news for this card's future, as supply is barely meeting demand.
When it comes to the anatomy of this bulk rare, Insidious Will was a card released at a time where its value simply wouldn't be realized. One copy per Commander player coming off the market at a time simply won't drive the price. This is a card that you want in foil if you’re looking to cash in on it in the long term. But, as far as people who just want it to play with, it’s definitely well worth spending a couple hard earned dimes on to add it to your collection.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
In my Magic deck brewing madness, I wanted to brew a deck around a few bulk rares that seem to work well together: Ghirapur Orrery, Midnight Oil and Key to the City. The best way to do this was to build a Madness deck. In the end, Midnight Oil ended up not being a key component to the deck, although it has drawn me enough cards to be useful enough that its drawbacks don't matter.
Having no hand size is fine with Ghirapur Orrery and Asylum Visitor drawing you cards when you're Hellbent (no cards in hand). If you play it right, you can actually create a decent amount of card advantage for yourself.
Before we go any further, let's take a look at the deck list:
4 Falkenrath Gorger
4 Asylum Visitor
4 Furyblade Vampire
2 Bloodhall Priest
Non-Creature Spells (22)
3 Avacyn's Judgment
3 Cathartic Reunion
3 Harnessed Lightning
3 Key to the City
4 Fiery Temper
2 Ghirapur Orrery
2 Midnight Oil
2 Murderous Compulsion
4 Foreboding Ruins
4 Smoldering Marsh
The creatures basically chose themselves for the deck, because we need lots of Madness cards. Falkenrath Gorger is not only a 2/1 with no drawback, but he gives your other Vampires madness. While this seems pointless with Asylum Visitor and Bloodhall Priest both having Madness already, it means that the one Vampire we do have that doesn't have Madness, Furyblade Vampire, gains it. This turns out to be very, very important.
Asylum Visitor is only 1B and she's a 3/1 that can draw you a card when you have no cards in hand. You only have to pay 1 life for this, too. Believe me, she will draw you cards. Considering how aggressive she is helps, too.
Furyblade Vampire is probably the best creature in the deck! She's a 1/2 Vampire creature for 1R. At the beginning of each combat, you get to discard a card to give her +3/+0 until end of turn! That's not a drawback at all, since so many cards in this deck have Madness! Also, having Trample is actually quite relevant as 1/1's don't help anybody much against the Furyblade.
There are only 2 copies of Bloodhall Priest in the deck because running more ended up clogging up my hand in playtesting. Two copies are enough because the true value of the Priest is when you have no cards in hand. A 4/4 for 4 is OK, but her Madness cost is only 3 mana. Then, if she enters the battlefield or attacks when you have no cards in hand, she deals 2 damage to a target creature or player. This effect has won me games by itself. You would think more would be better, but really, you end up just getting a 4/4 for 3 most of the time. While this is good, you're trying to move so fast that sometimes you need another spell instead of her.
The non-creature spells are what really make the deck work! Avacyn's Judgment is decent in the early game picking off 1 or 2 toughness creatures, and late game this can deal 4-6 damage pretty easily with its Madness cost!
Cathartic Reunion both enables Madness and nets you 3 cards. The full four copies were too much. At times, you even end up discarding your third copy, but it's a great card.
Harnessed Lightning isn't a Madness spell, but it's just too good to not play three of. The energy does make a difference, too, as you play more in a game. And it's instant speed removal!
Fiery Temper is one of the best spells in the deck. You're often going to just send the 3 damage to your opponent's face. In this deck, Temper really is just Lightning Bolt.
The last Madness spell in the deck are 2 copies of Murderous Compulsion. I'm thinking these should just be Unlicensed Disintegration. While Compulsion is a Sorcery, if you happen to discard it for Madness, you get to play it at instant speed. However, Unlicensed Disintegration is probably better overall, so I may switch these two spots to that card. As I build a sideboard, I may shift these in there to combat more aggressive decks in which Midnight Oil really doesn't help me.
Speaking of Midnight Oil, there are only two copies of this strange, but often useful Enchantment. In some matchups, Midnight Oil is great, as you can draw extra cards and play around its drawback of having no hand size. Also, it's ruled that if you play a second copy while one is on the board, you get to set your hand size to the second copy, which is very helpful. Plus, even with no hour counters on them, you still get to draw cards!
But wait, there is another drawback! Whenever you discard a card, you lose 1 life. This is kind of bad, but it can be fine if you're going to win the game anyway. But you can see why we only want 2 copies. You also don't want to be drawing all these cards, because you can actually kill yourself with these triggers (although it only happened to me once).
Also, extra copies of Midnight Oil can be dead in your hand and cost you the game by not being another spell that you need instead. Being four mana means that you won't always want or need to cast it. The good news is, that you actually don't mind discarding to hand size if you have the mana to cast your Madness spells. Also, there are some other synergies with other cards as you'll see in a moment.
Ghirapur Orrery is a really good card that pops up in Vintage Stax on Magic Online. While its a symmetrical effect that can benefit both players by dropping extra lands, it benefits you more to speed up your land drops just so you can get them out of your hand. Then, when you're out of cards, you get to draw three cards. Yes, your opponent gets this boon as well, but you're usually moving quickly enough that they just die anyway.
Do keep in mind that you want the Orrery trigger to activate instead of your Asylum Visitor's, if that's the case. Again, you only want two of these, because they are 4 drops in an aggressive deck. Plus, you don't really need more.
Then there's Key to the City. This card a great Madness enabler and a great way to consistently push through 3 or 4 damage that can't be blocked. Also, whenever it becomes untapped, it can draw you a card. If you stack your triggers correctly, you get 4 cards off of Orrery and the Key instead of just three. This card is really good, and you really don't mind having multiples. A fourth copy may end up coming in out of the sideboard. It's a good card in other decks, but in a Madness deck it's particularly powerful.
Final Thoughts on the Midnight Madness Deck
This deck seems pretty solid, but it hasn't been played against the Top 8 decks just yet. It really needs a sideboard, and as I said, Unlicensed Disintegration would definitely be in there. A fourth copy of Key to the City should be in there , too. Midnight Oil seems like it's a good card in the deck, but I wonder if it's even completely necessary to the deck's success. I'm not entirely sure just what to add otherwise and am very open to suggestions.
If anyone wants to give this deck a spin and finds that the list needs to be adjusted (the addition of Chandra, Torch of Defiance, perhaps?), please let me know what you've found! This deck is cool and while I'm not sure it's Tier 1, I think it's good enough for a Friday Night Magic run.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Aetherflux Reservoir is one of the coolest Magic cards in the Kaladesh set. Not only does it allow you to pay 50 life to deal 50 damage to a target creature or player, but it can gain you a lot of life during the course of the game. In Kaladesh Standard, one deck found a way to take full advantage of this life gain while also giving you a powerful win condition. This deck is White/Blue (W/U) Reservoir, at one time the best Aetherflux Reservoir deck in Standard.
Here's the deck list:
4 Thraben Inspector
2 Pilgrim's Eye
3 Reflector Mage
3 Torrential Gearhulk
3 Essence Flux
4 Engulf the Shore
2 Glimmer of Genius
3 Aetherflux Reservoir
4 Port Town
4 Prairie Stream
2 Stasis Snare
4 Niblis of Frost
2 Summary Dismissal
2 Jace, Unraveler of Secrets
Buy this deck on TCGPlayer
This deck is all about making value plays. Thraben Inspector was one of the best creatures in Standard for a reason. Not only is the Inspector a 1/2 for just one mana, but you get a Clue token in addition. This gives the deck early card advantage. Two copies of Pilgrim's Eye allow you to search out one of the many basic lands in the deck and soon you'll see why there are 13 basic Islands.
Three copies of Reflector Mage allow you to stay ahead on tempo by messing with your opponent's creatures. Cloudblazer is an awesome value creature that both gains you life and draws you cards. Lastly, there are three Torrential Gearhulks to recycle your spells at instant speed, while also providing big bodies to close out the game if the Reservoir plan is taking too long.
Essence Flux is a great way to "blink" your creatures and recycle their effects. It's better if you use it on a Spirit. While there aren't any Spirits in the main deck, there are 4 copies of Niblis of Frost in the sideboard. Anticipate filters your draws so that you're drawing cards you need rather than cards that you don't.
Unsubstantiate is a poor man's Remand, by bouncing your opponent's spells, essentially countering them but sending them back to their hand instead. It's the poor man's version since the classic Modern card also draws you a card. But one thing that it does that Remand doesn't is bounce creatures, including your own. This will come in handy later. Glimmer of Genius gives you Scry 2 and draw 2 cards, and the energy doesn't matter in this deck.
The most important noncreature spell in this deck is the 4 copies of Engulf the Shore. The reason it's so good is that you don't mind returning your own creatures to hand, since they are have enter the battlefield abilities that you want to reuse anyway. This is why you need so many basic Islands, although Prairie Stream counts as an Island, too.
The gameplan is relatively straightforward. Make sure that you're always playing a turn or more ahead of your opponent.Once you have Reservoir on the board, try to cast as many spells as you can each turn. Keep in mind that you gain life when you cast spells on your opponent's turn, as well. It's all about maximizing how many spells you cast while also keeping in mind how ahead you are on tempo. It takes a bit of skill to play this deck, but the results are worth it, as decks like this can win a tournament.
The sideboard gives you Dispels, Negates, and Summary Dismissals for control matchups. Niblis of Frost gives you an aggressive flyer if you need it. Not only is it a Spirit that can tap down an opponent's creatures for a turn, but it also has Prowess. These are very good against aggro decks that will try to race your Aetherflux Reservoir.
Stasis Snare helps you deal with big threats at instant speed. In Standard at the time, these included threats such as Emrakul and Ulamog. The two copies of Jace, Unraveler of Secrets give you an additional draw engine while also letting you bounce opponent's creatures. Jace's ultimate is pretty sweet, too, automatically countering the first spell your opponent casts every turn.
This is a great deck that could be built relatively on the inexpensive side. The most expensive cards of this deck are the Aetherflux Reservoirs, Torrential Gearhulks, Port Towns, and Prairie Streams. It was a good Standard deck that wouldn't break the bank. If you like taking old Standard decks out for a spin, this is a good one to try.
by ElspethFTW, Gaming Successfully Staff
Fairgrounds Warden is a Dwarf Soldier from Kaladesh. Basically, he is a cross between Banisher Priest and Fiend Hunter. He has the ability of the Priest which only exiles an opponent's creature, but the power and toughness of Fiend Hunter. Having the 1/3 stats makes him defensively minded, and with Depala, Pilot Exemplar on the board, he's a 2/4. This guy is great value for only three mana.
While there hasn't been much call for him in competitive play, Fairgrounds Warden should see play at some point, as these sorts of creatures always do. It's important to note that his TCGplayer buylist market price has been as high as $0.09. That's high for an uncommon that isn't a format staple. This is a good sleeper that you can pick up for about a dime on TCGplayer.
by Richard Rowell, Gaming Successfully Staff
Chromatic Lantern has become a staple in 3-color Commander decks, and especially in 5-color Commander decks. With four-color Commanders entering the format after November's Commander 2016 decks, there's little doubt that Lantern will be highly sought after. The Masterpiece Invention version of Chromatic Lantern is not only beautiful, and $50 for this rare version may end up being a bargain before too long.
The original Return to Ravnica printing of Chromatic Lantern has a market price of about $7, and the foil's market price is around $15. Even if the Lantern is reprinted in one or more of the Commander 2016 decks, the foils won't be affected negatively at all. Both foil Lantern printings are great investment, especially for any serious Commander player.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Looking for an unusual but competitive deck that you can build for about $100 to play? Blue/Black (U/B) Colossus may be the deck for you! The deck is named after the deck's strongest creature, Metalwork Colossus. This archetype has posted strong results in Magic Online and has been piloted by multiple players.
Here's the decklist:
4 Glint-Nest Crane
1 Scrapheap Scrounger
4 Foundry Inspector
2 Elder Deep-Fiend
4 Metalwork Colossus
3 Metalspinner's Puzzleknot
4 Prophetic Prism
4 Spatial Contortion
4 Cultivator's Caravan
2 Hedron Archive
3 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
4 Aether Hub
1 Geier Reach Sanitarium
2 Inventors' Fair
4 Sanctum of Ugin
2 Spawning Bed
3 Spirebluff Canal
3 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Harnessed Lightning
3 Incendiary Sabotage
2 Thought-Knot Seer
1 Lashweed Lurker
Glint-Nest Crane is extremely good in this deck. It's going to essentially draw you a card whenever he enters the battlefield. But he can get even better as you'll see later.
Scrapheap Scrounger is an interesting one-of. He's a 3/2 for 2 mana, however, which allows him to crew the Vehicles in the deck. His recursion ability is a bit tricky to use as this is primarily a mono-Blue deck before dipping into the sideboard. But Aether Hub and Cultivator Caravan can provide the black mana if you need it.
Foundry Inspector may look like a simple artifact lord, but he's actually one of the key creatures in the deck. Not only does the +1/+1 help your creatures and vehicles, but being 3 power means that the Inspector can crew the vehicles you need, too.
Elder Deep-Fiend has already proven to be a good creature. With his alternate Emerge casting cost, you will be tapping down 4 permanents a lot. In this particular deck, he's a great way to finish off the game. As it turns out, there's a fairly quick way to get him into your hand and onto the field long before you would think he could.
A full playset of Metalwork Colossus may seem like overkill considering that he's an 11 drop. But there are plenty of noncreature artifacts in the deck, including the Vehicles when they aren't being crewed. It doesn't take much to make this a 10/10 for relatively cheap. The recursion ability can be useful, but since you have Sanctum of Ugin in the deck, you'll be able to get another copy to your hand as soon as you cast him. Sanctum also allows you to get any other colorless creatures in your deck, too, which could often be Elder-Deep Fiend. The earlier you can get down a Colossus, the more quickly you can cast a Fiend for 2 Blue mana. Likewise, when you cast a Fiend, you can go get a Colossus.
Non-Creature Spells Breakdown
Metalspinner's Puzzleknot and Prophetic Prism both offer card advantage by drawing you a card when they enter the battlefield. This is essentially how you ramp up into a Colossus in the early game by using their combined converted mana cost. It helps that the Prism can fix your mana, too, which is very helpful when you board inthe red cards from the sideboard. Also, the Puzzleknot can be sacrified to draw you another card. The life loss usually isn't going to be that relevant.
Spatial Contortion is a versatile card in this deck. This deck has plenty of colorless mana sources. Not only can you use it as a removal spell, but since there are high-toughness creatures in this deck, the extra 3 power can help you win the game out of nowhere.
Cultivator's Caravan not only is a solid mana rock, but he can punch in for 5 damage when he's crewed. This vehicle shouldn't be underestimated. Plus, he can tap for mana as soon as he comes down. Hedron Archive is another piece of mana ramp that can be cashed in later for cards. Better yet, its converted mana cost of 4 helps you get the Colossus down faster.
Panharmonicon is an awesome artifact, and it's getting plenty of deck brewers excited. Here's the first time we've seen Panharmonicon at the heart of a competitive Standard deck. There are so many enter the battlefield abilities in this deck between the artifacts and creatures that having 2 copies of this will let you copy them once or even twice. Even just copying the card draw of the Puzzleknots and Prisms is worth casting the Panharmonicons for. Plus, having a 4 CMC is yet another way to ramp out the Colossus.
Rounding out the spells is one of the best Vehicles in Kaladesh, Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. 5 mana for this much power is proving to be good across several different Magic formats. The 3 damage is pretty relevant, and with Panharmonicon, you get that ability twice (a third time if you control two Panharmonicons). Also, having a 5 CMC means that a Colossus is a lot easier to cast. Having Skysovereign as part of a 1-2 punch means you can do damage in the air and on the ground.
Aether Hub is proving to be a very strong land. While you can only use the color fixing ability once, usually once is enough. Geier Reach Sanatarium is a useful one-of that allows both players to "loot." With the card advantage that this deck already has, this will usually benefit you more than the other player. Inventor's Fair is both a colorless mana source, and another way to seek out a Metalwork Colossus if you need one.
We've already discussed the benefits of Sanctum of Ugin in this deck, and that's why there are a full four copies. There are also two copies of Spawning Bed, which is both a colorless mana source and a way to create three 1/1 Scion tokens later in the game. Whether you choose to use them to attack or pop them for mana depends on the situation. There are also three copies of the red/blue "Fastland" Spirebluff Canal. This appears strange until you look at he sideboard, which has several Red cards which would be difficult to cast with regularity even given all the mana fixing in the deck. The mana base is rounded out by 7 basic Islands.
Ceremonious Rejection counters any colorless spell, of which there are many in Standard. Harnessed Lightning gives you a way to deal with some problem creatures as you ramp up to your bigger creatures. Negate is pretty self explanatory, and is a great way to deal with opposing vehicles, as they start out as non-creature spells. Incendiary Sabotage may be a double-Red spell (@RR), but sometimes, sacrificing an artifact and dealing 3 damage to all creatures is just what you need to get the board state under control.
Thought Knot Seer is useful against control decks, taking your opponent's best answer out of their hand. It's also very good with Panharmonicon, of which there is a third copy in the sideboard. Rounding out the board is Lashweed Lurker, which puts a nonland permanent back on top of an opponent's library. This is a good answer for things like Emrakul, the Promised End which would otherwise be difficult to remove. The third Panharmonicon also makes your Deep-Fiend better by allowing you to tap down 8 permanents instead of 4.
As a budget deck, this is a pretty good one, and it's been able to make several top finishes in competitive tournaments. As the season progresses, you may be able to get some of these cards inexpensively enough that the deck as a whole may actually cost you less than $100. If I were to choose a deck until Battle of Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch rotate from Standard, this would be my pick.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
From its initial spoiling, Panharmonicon appeared to be one of the most powerful four-drop artifacts ever printed. Its applications in the Commander format were apparent from the get-go. It remains to be seen what will become of this powerful tool. Considering how many triggered abilities there are in Magic, the combos seem endless.
Here are 5 Commander decks who can use and abuse Panharmonicon to great benefit. These aren't the only 5 ways to abuse Panharmonicon in Commander, but they are among the best.
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Purphoros' game plan is simple. You play a bunch of Goblins and mass token producers like Krenko, Mob Boss and Empty the Warrens to continuously flood the board with little creatures. Then the Enchantment Impact Tremors and Purphoros himself can finish off the entire table by pinging all opponents to death each time a creature enters the battlefield under your control. With Panharmonicon, these abilities trigger twice. This means you can finish off the game far more quickly.
It also doesn't hurt that Goblins who bring tokens along with them when they enter the battlefield, such as Beetleback Chief, get to make those tokens twice with Panharmonicon in play.
Tazri was the General that the Allies tribe always needed. While a White creature herself, her ability to pump all of your Allies makes her a 5-color Commander due to the color identity rules. This means that you can play any Ally in Magic history in a Tazri deck. The main synergy of Allies is effects that activate whenever another Ally enters the battlefield. While many grant abilities such as first strike or lifelink, which isn't helpful to have more than once, others gain +1/+1 counters or provide many other useful abilities. The Allies who benefit the most include Tazri herself, Hagra Diabolist (make opponents lose lots of life), Kazuul Warlord (gives all your Allies +1/+1), Ondu Cleric (gain lots of life), and Turntimber Ranger (creates Wolf tokens).
Also, Panharmonicon doesn't just copy the triggered abilities when another Ally enters the battlefield. It copies the "enters the battlefield" effects themselves. Allies just become a heck of a lot scarier when they essentially double their firepower due to the Panharmonicon. Their abilities go from being merely interesting and at times fairly powerful to deadly and lethal.
Roon of the Hidden Realm
One of the more popular Commanders around, Roon himself doesn't actually benefit from Panharmonicon. However, the fact that he removes a creature from play and has it re-enter the battlefield at the next end step does help trigger the artifact. Like what happens with the Allies, every "enters the battlefield" effect that your creatures have is literally doubled with Panharmonicon. In Roon decks, however, you're doubling the ETB effects of far more potent creatures such as Sun Titan, Avenger of Zendikar, and many more. You're essentially doubling the value of all of your creatures, then getting that doubled value again every time they re-enter the battlefield through Roon's ability.
Beyond all of the creatures with powerful enter the battlefield effects, another card that benefits from Panharmonicon in a Roon deck is Aura Shards, which allows you to destroy an artifact or enchantment whenever you have a creature enter the battlefield. You'll now be able to choose two to destroy instead. This can become very relevant as the game progresses and you start picking away at your opponents' game plans, especially when you start taking out your opponent's mana rocks two at a time!
Brago, King Eternal
The not-so-eternal King of Paliano may be now deceased in the Conspiracy storylione, but he lives on asobe of the more popular Commanders ever. Like Roon, his ability can exile creatures and bring them back intoi play. His ability is a bit trickier to activate, as Brago has to deal combat damage to a player for it to happen. However, there are two major differences between Roon's ability and Brago's ability. First of all, he can target as many nonland permanents that you control as you like to exile. Also, those permanents re-enter the battlefield immediately. This is known as "blinking," an ability named after the card Momentary Blink that first introduced this effect.
Being at instant speed, you can more readily abuse already powerful effects on creatures like Peregrine Drake (untap ten lands instead of five) and Kaladesh's own Cloudblazer (draw 2 cards, gain 2 life), and Wispweaver Angel ("blink" two creatures instead of one!) But then, you can also abuse the enter the battlefield effects of artifacts, too. Spine of Ish Sah is one that comes to mind. It destroys a target permanent when it enters, but now with Panharmonicon it can destroy two! It also causes Altar of the Brood to cause each opponent to mill an additional card each time an artifact or creature enters and/or re-enters the battlefield. Less excitingly, it also causes Prophetic Prism to draw you an additional card each time it re-enters. Neat stuff!
(As a side note, there's an Enchantment in Kaladesh called Consulate Surveillance. It's an Enchantment, and therefore not affected by the likes of Panharmonicon. However, it does give you 4 energy counters each time it re-enters the battlefield, and has an ability that costs 2 energy counters to prevent all damage that turn from a source of your choice. So if you're building a Brago, King Eternal deck, definitely look to pick up this uncommon!)
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
It makes sense that there would be at least one Legendary Creature in the Kaladesh set who would benefit from having the Panharmonicon. Gonti is a mono-Black Commander with a pretty sweet enter the battlefield ability. Every time he enters, you get to look at the top four cards of an opponent's library. You get to exile one of those face-down and send the other 3 back to the bottom of the deck in a random porder. Then, you can cast the face-sown card at any time, and spend mana if it were mana of any color to cast it.
Already, this is a very good ability on a 4-mana creature. With Panharmonicon, you get this ability twice. You could target another player, or the same player. The card selection is particularly relevant, as with Panharmonicon already in play, you'll be more likely to choose a creature or artifact with a powerful ETB effect. Black can produce incredible amounts of mana in Commander, whether it's with creatures like Crypt Ghast and Magus of the Coffers, or lands like Cabal Coffers and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, so it's rarely going to be an issue to cast whatever card you choose.
Gonti decks tend to play some pretty good creatures with triggers to copy, too, such as Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Sepulchral Primordial. In particular, Gray Merchant can do a lot of damage in multiplayer by draining each one of your opponents for each Black mana symbol on each permanent you control. You then gain all of that life. Getting that ability twice can mean the game sometimes, or put you so far ahead than it will be hard for you to lose. The Primordial already is a good card that can reanimate several opponents' creatures for you. Why not get twice as many?
What Panharmonicon helps with the most is with artifacts such as Cloudstone Curio and Minion Reflector. The Curio allows you to pick up a nonartifact permanent you control each time a permanent that shares a type with it enters the battlefield. This allows you to continuously pick up your "enter the battlefield" effect creatures such as Gonti himself. Whenever it happens to be an artifact or creature, you get to return two of that type to your hand. While you still have to recast those artifacts or creatures, you're probably not going to mind paying their casting costs when you're getting the benefits of their triggered abilities twice once again.
Minion Reflector isn't played in every Gonti deck, but it has a neat ability that can copy a creature that enters the battlefield for 2 mana. Getting to create 2 copies instead of 1 can create even more enter the battlefield effects for an extremely reduced price. True, those tokens have to be sacrificed at end of turn, but you won't mind paying an extra 2 mana for another two Grey Merchant of Asphodel activations or another powerful enter the battlefield ability.
Clearly, there are far more than 5 ways to use and abuse Panharmonicon. However, these are among the best ways to use it and gives you examples of how well it interacts with so many cards already being played on a regular basis in Commander.
How will you use and abuse Panharmonicon in Commander or otherwise?
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Cultivator of Blades is essentially a new and improved version of Wild Beastmaster from Return to Ravnica. Wild Beastmaster saw some play in Standard when the Miracle Sorcery, Blessings of Nature from Avacyn Restored, was legal. If it was the first card that you drew in a turn, you could choose to pay just one Green mana for it. This card distributed four +1/+1 counters among any number of target creatures. Ordinarily, it would cost 4G. When played with Wild Beastmaster, the game could be over pretty quick. Whenever the Beastmaster attacks, your other creatures get +X/+X where X is the Beastmaster's power. Pumping your creatures by +5/+5 is pretty devastating, especially on turn 4, when this could easily be done.
Whereas the Beastmaster was a 1/1 for 2G, the Cultivator is a 1/1 for 3GG, but also with Fabricate 2. This means you can either put two +1/+1 counters on him, or create two 1/1 Servo tokens. It's fair enough to make 3 bodies for 5 mana. But what's most interesting about the Cultivator is having the same ability has Wild Beastmaster. Whenever the Cultivator attacks, your other creatures get +X/+X where X is the Cultivator's power. It's relatively easy to pump your creatures by +3/+3 in that case.
While there are currently some decent pump spells in Standard currently, especially in Red, 5 mana is a lot to invest in this card. As it is, Wild Beastmaster wasn't a top-tier card at any point, just a nice way to quickly win games with the beats out of nowhere. Cultivator can do the same thing more efficiently on its own, but It's not going to win out of nowhere the way that Wild Beastmaster could. It requires a bit more set-up, and being on average two turns slower than Beastmaster really hurts its ability to be a competitive-caliber card. It takes what was already a fringe Standard-playable ability and puts it into a more mid-range role that just isn't going to fly in top-level play.
Cultivator of Blades is probably going to be relegated to Commander, where so many other ways to pump it exist. In token-based strategies, Cultivator of Blades is going to be extremely powerful, especially in that he can create two tokens himself. But he's a bit too fragile and too high on the curve to really impact Standard. But I can see this card doing plenty of work in Limited and Commander. While I wouldn't first-pick this in a draft, it's going to be a useful creature to have if you're running a good amount of creatures. It's a solidly designed card.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Subtle Strike is a pretty good common from Magic the Gathering's Kaladesh set. It resembles an instant from Eldritch Moon called Borrowed Malevolence, except this is strictly better than that card. With Borrowed Malevolence, you could choose one or both effects, but you had to pay an extra 2 mana to do so.
With Subtle Strike, you always pay 1B and can get both effects: Give a target creature a +1/+1 counter, give a target creature -1/-1 until end of turn, or both. With Borrowed Malevolence, you only got to get +1/+1 on a creature. The counter is much more permanent.
Not only is this a decent combat trick in Limited, but it can be pretty good in Pauper on Magic Online. It wasn't quite good enough for Standard, but it's good value for only 2 mana on a common. I'd definitely use this in a Draft or sealed pool, that's for sure.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Confiscation Coup is a card reminiscent of Control Magic, except that this is not an Enchantment like many similar effects. This is a 5-mana Sorcery that can steal artifacts or creatures. What it can steal is dependent on how many energy counters you choose to spend on it.
For 5 mana, Confiscation Coup gives you 4 energy counters as soon as it's cast. This means you don't have to store up energy to get good value out of it. Then, you can use it to steal something with a low mana cost and stock up on counters.
The overall consensus with this card was that it's fairly mediocre. But, the idea that you can steal a 4-drop on turn five is pretty decent. If you're already playing other cards that provide energy, a very good chance in this set, this gets even better. Keep in mind that you don't necessarily have to spend the full 4 energy this gives you to steal something.
Confiscation Coup was very solid in Limited, and proved somewhat playable in Standard in some Control decks. It all depends on what there is worth stealing indefinitely. While this is a bulk rare, it's one of the more interesting Control Magic variants that we've seen. Plus, it works into the energy counter plan about as well as anything. It's a solid little card in an Energy-based deck.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
From a flavor perspective, Deadlock Trap is one of my favorite artifacts from Kaladesh. The art depicts planeswalkers Chandra Nalaar and Nissa Revane becoming trapped within the device. This card is also one of the first, if not the only, cards that actually let you tap a planeswalker. Alternatively, it can also tap down a creature. There is one issue with this card that people have pointed out. As good as it is to prevent a planeswalker from using one of its activated abilities in a turn, there are limited opportunities for this card to actually work.
When the Deadlock Trap enters the battlefield, it comes into play tapped. However, in the process, it gives you 2 energy counters. Each activation of the Deadlock Trap takes one energy counter. People have argued, why not have this ability use mana instead? I'm actually quite certain that the only reason this card exists is because of energy counters. There are enough ways to generate energy in Kaladesh that this card is actually probably better than it looks on the surface. It's also clear that there are going to be a lot of planeswalkers between Kaladesh and Aether Revolt. It seemed probably more useful in Kaladesh Standard than it would be in a vacuum.
In the long run, though, this card is more of a curiosity than anything else and a bulk rare. But from a control perspective, Deadlock Trap is an interesting card for casual players to consider. Three mana for two activations of this card is actually well worth it, but it's slow. At the very least, it's a cool collector's card and it will slow down an opponent in the right setting.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Considering that Kaladesh is the first ever Magic the Gathering set to feature Vehicles, it would make sense that there would be Pilot creatures to crew them. Indeed, Kaladesh features a good number of Pilot creatures. One of the more interesting ones is an Uncommon called Veteran Motorist. He costs one Red and one White mana to cast and is a 3/1. Not only is he an aggressive creature that will help you crew your vehicles quickly, but he also gives the Vehicle he crews a +1/+1 bonus. Plus, when Veteran Motorist enters the battlefield you get to Scry 2.
I really like how aggressive Veteran Motorist is. It's especially cool that he lets you Scry 2 as early as turn 2. Being able to set up your next two draws isn't something you used to see much in a Red/White deck until Scry returned to Magic in a big way in Theros. Since then, though, Red has gotten to Scry a lot with instants such as Titan's Strength. So, having Scry 2 makes this creature not only good for Vehicles, but just a good creature in general.
Diabolic Tutor Reprint with Art Featuring Liliana Vess and Chandra Nalaar! - A Magic the Gathering Kaladesh Card Review
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Diabolic Tutor is a 4-mana Sorcery that lets you go get any card you want from your deck and add it to your hand. Sure, it costs twice as much mana as Demonic Tutor from the first ever Magic sets. But at uncommon, and with several printings, Diabolic Tutor is very popular in Commander. This printing in Kaladesh is welcome for newer players that may not have a copy yet.
The most interesting thing about this reprint is the new art. It features the planeswalker Liliana Vess whispering into fellow planeswalker (and Kaladesh native) Chandra Nalaar's ear. Many players have already said this is their favorite art, although others think it's quite silly.
What I'm especially happy with this card is that clearly we're beginning to see more interaction among the planeswalkers depicted on cards. The fact that they're putting this type of art and putting this much flavor into useful cards like this is good for the Magic brand overall. I expect that foils of this Kaladesh printing are going to be highly sought after since it features two of the most popular characters in Magic the Gathering.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Ornamental Courage is a one-drop Instant from Kaladesh. It gives a target creature +1/+3 until end of turn and also untaps it. Combat tricks are always pretty good in Limited, especially drafts. But, they don't typically impact Standard unless they do something more special. Untapping a creature and giving it pseudo-Vigilance is definitely useful, though. This should definitely be a good common to have in your draft pile.
As far as Constructed is concerned, Ornamental Courage could be useful in some sort of aggressive Ally deck featuring Zada, Hedron Grinder. With Zada, you can target her with Ornamental Courage and it untaps all of your creatures and gives them the +1/+3 boost. However, in an aggressive deck, you're looking more for something like Titan's Strength, which gives the opposite +3/+1 boost. It also lets you Scry 1 for each time Zada copies it. So, it's not really an ideal choice for that type of deck.
While this is definitely a good common, being more of a defensive type combat trick means it hasn't seen much play outside of Limited.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Champion's Helm is a card that previously was only available in the Political Puppets deck of the original Commander pre-constructed deck series. Due to its scarcity and usefulness in a number of Commander decks, the Helm became a $10 card. Used mostly in "Voltron" style decks that focus on attacking with their Commander, Champion's Helm offers both Hexproof for any Legendary Creature it's equipped to, plus +2/+2 no matter what the creature happens to be. It's a very solid Equipment.
Being revealed as one of the Kaladesh Inventions means that more copies entered the market. Inititally, pre-ordering for $50 on Star City Games, some players feel that this is too high of a price for it. Being such a rarity, however, with such beautiful artwork, this should be a valuable card down the road. In particular, players of Kemba, Kha Regent and Zurgo Helmsmasher, both popular Commanders who frequently include this card, may want this Invention to pimp out their decks. Really, any Commander deck that attacks with their Commander on a regular basis can use this Equipment. The $50 price tag seems more than fair for the relative rarity of this card and its usefulness in Commander.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Kaladesh has been called one of the best Magic the Gathering expansion sets in a long time. To make it even better, Wizards has introduced the Kaladesh Inventions Masterpiece series, a set of 30 mythic rare special foils featuring artifacts throughout Magic’s history. One of these is Aether Vial, one of the more useful artifacts in Modern. It once saw much more competitive play in Legacy, but now it’s basically just the primary engine that accelerates Modern decks such as Merfolk, Death & Taxes (as well as in the Legacy version), Green/White Hatebears, and Eldrazi & Taxes. Typically, it’s used to power out 1-drops, 2-drops, and 3-drops, but in Eldrazi & Taxes it can also power out the four-drop Thought-Knot Seer.
There are actually a number of printings of Aether Vial, three of which are already foil: the original Darksteel printing, the Modern Masters reprint, and the From the Vault: Relics printing. People really aren’t fond of the FTV foiling process, so that is the cheapest version at around $50. The Modern Masters foil hangs around $60, and the Darksteel foil is around $70. The first pre-orders for the Masterpiece Aether Vial have been in the $120 range due to the uniqueness and extreme rarity of this version.
Since this is a card you really need four of at a time, it’s understandable why the pre-order price on this card is so high. It’s probably going to easily be one of the most sought-after Masterpiece cards in the set. Occasionally, the Vial sneaks into some Commander decks, too, so there will be those out there that also want a single copy, particularly Sliver Tribal decks. This is a really good card. Most people will likely want to either keep their copies or trade them down to the cheaper pre-existing foils. While you shouldn’t buy-in super early, and perhaps trade them out because of the hype, Aether Vial foils are just always going to be good to have, no matter what the printing.
Nissa, Nature’s Architect is an exclusive planeswalker from one of two Planeswalker Decks released with the Kaladesh set. These decks were the first two Planeswalker decks, which replaced the under-powered Intro Packs that used to come with the release of each new Standard-legal set. While this Nissa nor her red counterpart Chandra, Pyrogenius are in the actual Kaladesh set, both cards are considered part of that set. So, yes, these planeswalkers are Standard legal just like any other cards in the decks.
We’ve already taken a look at Chandra, Pyrogenius to figure out if she’s actually playable in Standard. Of course, it's extremely unfair to compare her to the Chandra in the proper Kaladesh set: Chandra, Torch of Defiance. But, it seems that the Pyrogenius is more of a reimagined version of the original Chandra Nalaar from Lorwyn. In fact, she turns out to be weaker, meaning that she is the most underpowered Chandra planeswalker ever.
Will Nissa, Nature’s Architect fare any better than Pyrogenius? Before we compare her to her own counterpart in the set, Nissa, Vital Force, we will consider the Architect’s abilities in a vacuum first.
Like her Red Planeswalker counterpart, this version of Nissa costs a total of six mana to cast, 4 colorless and 2 Green (4GG). Nissa enters the battlefield with 5 loyalty counters, which is a fine number. As do many planeswalkers, Nissa, Nature’s Architect has three abilities. She has the traditional plus ability that adds counters, the minus ability that removes counters, and an “ultimate” ability that removes a good number of counters for a strong effect.
Nature’s Architect has a +1 ability that gains you 3 life. While this doesn’t sound exciting, it’s not the worst plus ability out there. For six mana, though, you kind of want something with a bit of punch, don’t you?
Nissa’s -4 ability allows you to reveal the top two cards of your deck. If one or both of them are land cards, you can put them directly onto the battlefield. This is an ability that I like, and pretty good value for a planeswalker ability. Additionally, if one or both of those cards isn’t a land card, you still get to add them to your hand. Drawing 2 cards is a decent enough ability. But is it worth bringing her down to 1 loyalty counter right away to do so?
The Artisan’s “ultimate” ability costs a whopping 12 counters! This is quite a high number, to be sure! What does it do? It gives all of your creatures +5/+5 and trample until end of turn. That is an extremely powerful effect, of course. But, for 12 loyalty, you kind of want something a bit more permanent, don’t you?
Is Nissa, Nature's Artisan Playable?
This Nissa planeswalker doesn’t seem too exciting. Granted, this Nissa is meant to be an introduction to planeswalkers. To newer players, I can see her just be exciting to cast. She can do something useful right when she enters, and by the time you cast her, that 3 life she gains isn’t nothing. In fact, using the life-gain ability could actually prove rather annoying to your opponent. The ultimate is awesome, if you get there, and given just a handful of creatures, it probably can end the game.
Unfortunately for Nature’s Artisan, whereas Chandra, Pyrogenius at least served as a watered down version of Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Nissa, Vital Force is just leaps and bounds more powerful.
Nissa, Vital Force VS Nissa, Nature's Artisan
We’ve already reviewed Nissa, Vital Force in the past. So, to avoid repeating ourselves too much, here’s a rundown of Vital Force’s abilities.
+1: Untap target land you control. Until your next turn, it becomes a 5/5 Elemental Creature with haste. It’s still a land.
So right off the bat, Vital Force can add a 6th loyalty counter and potentially affect the board in a big way.
-3: Return target permanent card from your graveyard to your hand.
On the surface, drawing 2 cards seems better as a minus ability, especially when one or both can go into play if they are lands. But this allows you to pick up a card you really need.
-6: You get an emblem with “Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may draw a card.
Let’s just say with how easy it is to achieve this ultimate ability, you’ll probably draw a good amount of cards with this emblem.
Obviously, Vital Force is really good at protecting herself, as that Elemental sticks around during your opponent’s next turn, too. Nature’s Architect decidedly is not. The minus ability on Nature’s Architect seems better on the surface, but knowing exactly what you’re getting to your hand is good, too. There is value in card selection, after all! The ultimate on Nature’s Architect is probably game-winning, certainly, but not as useful from a card advantage standpoint.
Will watered down and under-powered exclusive Planeswalkers be the norm for headlining these Planeswalker Decks? That would mostly be the case, although some have proven more playable in Standard than others. These aren’t meant to be as powerful as the Duel Decks planeswalkers, which were typically Standard-legal planeswalkers being reprinted not long before their exit from the format the following October.
How to Use Nissa, Nature's Artisan
These planeswalkers were designed for newer players excited about casting their first planeswalker. So, I’ll ask the same question as I did for her: is this planeswalker worth casting for 6 mana? Certainly not. Most of the time, the best case scenario is she finds you two lands to put into play and gain you 3 to 6 life. That may be worth 6 mana over the course of a couple turns in a vacuum, but I feel like she really doesn’t do enough.
That being said, she's significantly better than most "intro pack" rares we had in the past. She's still a unique planeswalker card. As a planeswalker, Nissa is highly collectible as a very popular and awesome character in Magic. These Planeswalker decks as they have been released in following years continue to be underpowered, but do manage to unleash a surprise or two once in a while.
While this Nissa would be far from Standard playable, and really not much good in any other competitive format, she has found a way into the ocassional Commander deck. Green decks that already produce an embarrassment of mana will occasionally play here. Gaining 3 life turn after turn is certainly useful. Plus, her ultimate IS actually a potential win condition that opponents actually have to keep in mind.
Yes, this Nissa planeswalker is awfully underpowered. But, she's a foil with gorgeous artwork, collector's appeal, and these Planeswalker deck exclusives are rarer than you might realize. Chandra, Pyrogenius is probably better overall, but Nissa, Nature's Artisan is a great card for any Magic the Gathering collection!
Chandra, Pyrogenius is one of two planeswalkers exclusive to the new Planeswalker Decks series that is beginning with Kaladesh. These replace the old Intro Packs which were always rather underpowered to begin with. While you won’t find this Chandra or her Green counterpart Nissa, Nature’s Artisan in the actual Kaladesh set, both are considered cards that are part of the set, so they are indeed Standard legal just like the other cards in the decks.
The big question, then, is Pyrogenius a good card that’s actually playable in Standard? It’s probably pretty unfair to compare her to the Chandra in the set proper: Chandra, Torch of Defiance. So let’s first consider Chandra, Pyrogenius on her own merits.
Pyrogenius costs a total of six mana to cast, 4 colorless and 2 Red (4RR). She enters the battlefield with 5 loyalty counters, which is a decent enough number. Like most planeswalkers, she has three abilities. In her case, she has the traditional plus ability that adds counters, the minus ability that removes counters, and an “ultimate” ability that removes a good number of counters for a strong effect.
Pyrogenius has a +2 ability which deals 2 damage to each opponent. This is not a bad ability, considering that you can use it as soon as Pyrogenius enters the battlefield. It’s a good start. This is especially good in multiplayer games, as in a 4-player game, you’re spreading out 6 damage.
Her -3 ability deals 4 damage to a target creature. This is not a bad ability, although it brings Pyrogenius down to 2 loyalty counters, which can leave her vulnerable to most run of the mill burn spells and minimal attack. This could be the way in which she “protects” herself, however, by removing the biggest creature threat on the board. In that way, it’s a good ability, especially since the next turn she can just use her +2 ability.
The ultimate of Pyrogenius costs 10 loyalty counters. This deals 6 damage to target player and each creature he or she controls. If this ability sounds familiar to seasoned players, it should. In fact, the original Chandra Nalaar planeswalker from Lorwyn had this ability, but better. The original Chandra had an ultimate that cost 8 loyalty counters, but did 10 damage instead of 6. So obviously, this version is considerably underpowered.
Considering that Pyrogenius is basically a higher costed reimagining of the original Chandra Nalaar, this doesn’t seem to bode well for her chances of seeing much Standard play. Let’s stack her up against Torch of Defiance’s abilities.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance costs only 4 mana (2RR) to cast and she enters the battlefield with 4 loyalty counters. She has two +1 abilities. One lets you exile the top card of your library, and you may cast it. If you don’t cast it, Chandra deals 2 damage to each opponent. This sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The second +1 ability adds two Red mana to your mana pool. So essentially, if you use this ability right after casting Chandra, Torch of Defiance, you basically paid 2 colorless mana for her. Wow.
The -3 ability looks extremely familiar. Torch of Defiance deals 4 damage to target creature. Like with Pyrogenius, it leaves her extremely vulnerable, but can also serve as her protection. But on a planeswalker with a +1 ability that can offer card advantage and a +1 ability that gives you free mana, this seems fine.
Torch of Defiance’s ultimate is pretty ridiculous. For a cost of 7 loyalty counters, you get an emblem. This emblem lasts for the rest of the game. It reads “Whenever you cast a spell, this emblem deals 5 damage to target creature or player.” Could it be a bit hard to obtain this? Perhaps. But it’s well worth it.
Obviously, Pyrogenius is an extremely watered down version of Torch of Defiance. Will this prove to be the case with all of these Planeswalker deck exclusives? I still think she’s a fun card, especially for newer players who are just happy to cast their first planeswalker. Is she worth casting for 6 mana? In a competitive Standard environment, I don’t really think so. Then again, these planeswalkers weren’t meant to be super powerful like the ones you find in Duel Decks, which are actual planeswalkers from Standard-legal sets, but in foil and with alternate art.
Still, I think as far as these decks replacing Intro Packs goes, I’d be happy to have this little collectible beauty than a foil of some random bulk rare and perhaps a few useful commons and uncommons. I’d be happy to pick up this and any other Planeswalker deck just for the exclusives, of which there are a few besides just the planeswalkers. While they have proven under-powered as a competitive product, they're still fun to play!
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