The Moore Report With Henry Moore
Hello everyone, and welcome to what will be the first of many articles that I write for Hobbymaster. I’ll be writing regularly on various topics, so keep your eyes peeled for updates! This week is an exciting week; we’re only a few short days away from the much-anticipated release of this year’s Magic: the Gathering Commander 2014 decks. Since it looks like this release is going to be unbelievably cool, what better way to kick off my Hobbymaster articles than to talk about it!
For those of you who are unaware, Commander is a casual format of Magic. Players build decks around a “commander”, which can be any legendary creature from Magic (or even planeswalkers, as we’ll find out soon…). They then fill the remaining 99 slots of their deck with single copies of sweet spells and creatures that match the colour of the commander. Wizards of the Coast have embraced this format, which is why we’re here today. The Commander 2014 release comprises of 5 purpose-built decks (one for each colour) that include everything you need to sit down for a game of Commander. Each deck is a mix of reprints of older cards, included to compliment the deck’s strategy, and new cards that have never been printed before! These new cards are unlikely to be printed in any regular sets in the future - which is a big driver of the hype behind the release - and they’re what I want to talk about today. For your ease of reference, I’ve provided some links to the full spoiler of both the decklists and the individual cards here and here. If you open these up it’ll help you follow along. Let’s get into it!
The first cycle of cards that caught my eye was the planeswalkers. This time around, Wizards of the Coast decided to add a funky little twist to their new walkers-of-the-planes – they can be your commander! This is really awesome, and it’s something that I know a lot of Commander Players have been wishing they’d do for a long time. Once you get past the cool factor, though, the thought of having a planeswalker as your commander is very interesting. Personally, I’m not a big fan of planeswalkers in Commander. Mostly it’s because I feel that they’re just too fragile, and as soon as you cast one I feel like you have a target on your head. In a two player game, you can cast a planeswalker with a reasonable expectation that it will survive until your next turn, since your single opponent may have a hard time dealing with it. This is great for you, since you get at least another activation out of it. Because the mana investment you make in a planeswalker gives you compounding returns every turn it remains in play, you actively want to try and steer the game in such a way that you can succeed at making this so. However, in big games of Commander, you don’t just have one opponent. You have several, all of them glaring hungrily at your poor planeswalker’s loyalty counters. If you’re Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is perceived as a threat, it’s usually not too much hassle for your opponents to simply turn a few creatures sideways in his direction and end your fun.
That’s not nice. You like fun, right? So do I. And so, apparently, do Wizards. Let me explain: In the example above I mentioned two key reasons I don’t like planeswalkers in Commander. The first was that planeswalkers are perceived as a threat. Well, if you take a look at some of the new ‘walkers printed in Commander 2014, you’ll see that they try to fly under the radar a bit. Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury (excellent name, by the way) is a five mana planeswalker that can “+2” to create a 1/1 elf that can tap to give you a green mana. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Elvish Mystic, but for five mana you’d expect a bit more, right? This is what I mean. If your opponents see you spending your 5th turn making a mana elf, they’re probably just going to give you a bit of a pitying look then leave you alone. Unbeknownst to them, this is exactly what you wanted! It seems like the designers of this set realised that planeswalkers can make your opponents nervous and they wanted to create versions that wouldn’t do that – which lets the player casting it have a bit more fun with their sweet card. The second reason was that you really want to keep your ‘walker in play (for investment purposes). Well, what if you just don’t actually care? What if casting that planeswalker and activating it once was exactly what you wanted and its survival is just a bonus? Again, Wizards seem to have come to the party with some neat abilities that fit this strategy. Take a look at Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath. He costs five mana, the same as Freyalise, and his second ability costs you two loyalty to make a 5/5 demon with flying. Sweet! I’d pay five mana for a 5/5 flying demon any day, and they’re telling me that I get to keep my planeswalker in play too!? Nice. Overall, these new planeswalkers tick all the boxes. They’re fun, they’re super cool, and they’re designed to do exactly what you’d want a planeswalker to do in a multiplayer game. I can’t wait to see them in action!
In the interest of symmetry, and I like symmetry, Wizards have created a couple of new cycles for these decks (i.e. a version of a similar style of card for each deck). The first is a cycle of “offerings”. Each of these cards asks you to choose an opponent to gain a beneficial effect with you. In the case of the white one, Benevolent Offering, you and the opponent of your choice get three 1/1 spirits with flying. Then, after you’ve given this gift, each offering asks you to pick an opponent (could be the same one, could be a different one) to gain another beneficial effect – usually one that synergises with the first. Benevolent Offering specifically lets you and your chosen opponent gain 2 life for each creature you and they control, respectively. Let me just say that these cards are awesome. They’re dripping with politics, which is one of the pillars of Commander. I think my favourite is the red one, Volcanic Offering. I like this one because you get to destroy a nonbasic land and deal 7 damage to a creature, but the other two targets are chosen by an opponent of your choice (and they can’t even target your stuff). So you get to make an enemy make an enemy. It’s great.
The other cycle present is the “lieutenants”. Each deck in this has one lieutenant, and basically they’re creatures that are OK by themselves, but downright silly if you control your commander. Take the blue one, for example. Stormsurge Kraken is a 5/5 hexproof for five mana, which is decent but not absurd. However, if you control your commander, it becomes a huge 7/7, and if it becomes blocked you get to draw two cards! What? I’d love to stick a Curiosity on this fellow and go to town on my hapless opponents.
Beyond the cycles, we’ve also got some downright tasty new spells and creatures that are sure to make waves (one of them literally) in Commander. I’ve chosen five that I like the look of; see what you think. For white I chose Comeuppance, it’s really just a huge Harm’s Way, and it certainly packs a punch. I can see Commander games completely reversed by this card alone. If someone tries to eliminate you with a huge attack, you can just cast this card and suddenly the player who thought it was a good idea to take you out is on the back foot. This also works well against players who think they’re being clever by casting a Fireball for a million. No, sir, YOU take a million. I hope to see some huge blow-outs courtesy of this card.
For blue I chose Reef Worm. I don’t know if this card is good. It seems like it could be, but I just love the flavour that oozes from the text box of this thing. It’s “there’s always a bigger fish” personified by a Magic card, which is incredibly fun. You even get the tokens, and the fish and the whale tokens have the bigger fish lurking behind them in the art. Awesome.
The black card I chose was Raving Dead. I just think this card is hilarious.
Red was easy – it had to be Scrap Mastery. This card is a red version of the card Living Death, but it does the effect for artifacts instead of creatures. It’s undeniably really powerful, and I’m sure this is something that red/artifact mages have been waiting for with baited breath.
Finally we have green, for which I chose Wave of Vitriol. Have you ever played a game of Commander where you were trying to play a fair game with some Forests, some Craw Wurms, maybe an Overrun (Editor: Sure Henry that’s what all the Mono-Green decks aspire to…) or two, and all of your opponents were overpowering you with their ridiculous three-colour decks chock full of powerful nonbasic lands and crazy noncreature permanents? Well, have I got the card for you. There are so many wicked things happening with this card. First, the name is great. I can just imagine a wave of expletives and insults decimating piles of Underground Seas and Coalition Relics, and it feels good. Second, this card is just super powerful. You get to destroy all nonbasic lands, and all artifacts, and all enchantments. Finally, the best part of this card is the honesty check. You’re gonna be destroying a whole bunch of nonbasic lands, but for each one you destroy the controller of that land gets to search their deck for a basic land. So, depending on how many lands you destroy, you get to see how greedy your opponents were when building their mana-base. Oh, you didn’t put any basics in your deck? I guess you’re not casting any spells for the rest of this game (that’ll teach ya!). Commander 2014 definitely does not disappoint when it comes to flavourful, fun and unique cards to add to your decks.
“But, where’s the True-Name Nemesis?” I hear you exclaim! Calm down, calm down, let’s take a step back. Last year, Wizards released Commander 2013, which, unsurprisingly, comprised of five unique Commander Decks. One of these decks contained a True-Name Nemesis, which was a card highly sought after by players looking to play Legacy. This was a bit awkward. The Commander product was supposed to be for Commander Players, and yet one of the decks was worth far more than the others because of the demand of this one card. What if you just really wanted that deck? It seemed unfair that you had to pay more for a card you might not even have wanted. There were further issues caused by this, but suffice to say that this time around Wizards have learned from their mistake. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely cards that could see play in eternal formats (that’s Legacy and Vintage, which are the only competitive formats in which the Commander cards are legal). The white deck has Containment Priest, which promises to ruin Re-animator’s day, and Masterwork of Ingenuity, which we could see cropping up in the Stoneforge Mystic mirrors. The list continues, with cards like Dualcaster Mage out of the red deck, but as I said there aren’t any must-haves for competitive players, which is a great sign for good honest Commander Players (as far as their wallets are concerned anyway).
From whatever angle you look at it, this release is great. Each of the five decks has a bunch of new, interesting and fun cards, and no matter what you’re always gonna end up with a complete Commander deck to play Magic with. Hobbymaster will have these for sale on the release date of the 7th of November, and to celebrate this release will be running casual Commander Tournaments throughout the day on the Friday and Saturday the 8th, complete with prizes and giveaways! Well, that does it from me for today. I hope you all get a chance to come into Hobbymaster over the weekend and check out the new Commander cards, I know I will!
About the Author- Henry Moore - Auckland resident Henry has played at the top levels of magic for a number of years. He has numerous PTQ top 8's and is also a member of the influential Team Chocolate Vanilla Ripple. Henry has now turned his hand to MTG writing and commentry.