July 16, 2015

Origins Evolutions

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The dust from Magic Origins Prerelease is settling just in time for its release Friday. While droves of you will be piling into Friday Night Magic at your local game stores, I'll be prepping to host a party most amazing.

Hedron Crab | Art by Jesper Ejsing

Of course, I'll have my own packs of Magic Origins on hand for my festivities of cracking open crabs and deep-frying unholy creations. I have many vices, but food is one I enjoy sharing. Another vice I have is tracking down every new Magic card I want as soon as possible, preferably in foil for maximum enjoyment.

New sets are never a chore to go through thanks to my Pauper Cube and piles of Commander cards. There's always something new to consider, and covering my list of cards here is impractical. These are some of the interesting highlights:


There's a lot to love about the latest take on graveyard recursion. Two key turns of phrase make this version matter more than other recent angles:

  • "Put target creature from a graveyard" means you get to steal the best right out from an opponent's bin.
  • "Spell mastery" tells you there's a bonus for doing so later in the game—in this case, two +1/+1 counters—when you've already had to a chance to kill some of the better creatures an opponent will play.

If you haven't tried bringing back the dead for more fun, well, that speaks for itself.


Creatures with 7 power for five mana, most of which is flying, sounds like a deal that's too good to be true. For many games it will be, but not in Commander. Priest of the Rite makes us lose a paltry 2 life at the beginning of our upkeep. Not only does a leader like Oloro, Ageless Ascetic negate this entirely, but with so many sacrifice options in black to use (Attrition is among my favorites) there's hardly a risk that the Priest will become a problem.

That 5/5 flying Demon, however, is definitely deadlier for opponents.


The words "If Possessed Skaab would die, exile it instead." sound intimidating. Just ignore them. In Commander, particularly later in the game, the power of the kinds of cards you can choose to get back again from Possessed Skaab outweigh the downside of not being able to recur it over and over.

It's also worth noting that if you mill it to the graveyard, it'll be there to bring back through something else (like, say, Necromantic Summons . . . that you can then return with the Skaab's "enters the battlefield" ability) and it's another tool to add alongside my nemesis, Deadeye Navigator.


An Elemental with 4 toughness for four mana without any special abilities may not set off any alarms but getting 6, 8, 10, or more powerful for four mana should. Zendikar Incarnate rewards you later in the game you find it, but is serviceable as a 4/4 or 5/4 early on. In a deck that uses cards like Flesh & Blood or Kresh the Bloodbraided (cough, cough) a super-powered, four-mana creature will pay excellent dividends.


Among my favorite types of cards are those that provide utility on multiple fronts. Indrik Stomphowler ranks among my most played cards in Commander by a miles, thanks to its useful ability that rarely lacks a target and its sufficient size on the battlefield.

Conclave Naturalists lets me play another effective copy of the card. Twists like these are a boon to anyone that wants to ensure they draw certain types of effects—here, Naturalize—but also advance their board state too. I suggest keeping a few copies of this on hand to consider in any deck playing green.


Sunscorch Regent and Taurean Mauler are potent cards in multiplayer. Now we get a version that triggers off everyone's spells AND comes with trample. Slipping this into play early means someone will have to spend a spell to get rid of it and, if others falter, you'll be smacking them around with a massive creature thanks to their other efforts. I highly recommend giving this one a try.


Tokens, as you may already know, are among my favorite tools in Commander. Going wide makes it easier to block multiple attacks as well as keep defenses going while pressing on offense. Hangarback Walker is a nice way to create an insurance package of tokens, either slowly building up from a smaller size or landing as a massive cast at ten or twelve mana. When Crux of Fate comes down, getting a small army in the aftermath is one of the only ways to mitigate board sweeping effects.


Some players feel creatures are the weakest of permanents in Commander. With new ways to destroy all of them in every set, it isn't hard to craft a deck that feels like they're useless. (Typically, at that point, you pile up the Planeswalkers as they're the toughest to defeat without any creatures hanging around too long.)

I feel the opposite. I believe in creatures that provide incentives and value without additional efforts (See the previous three entries of this list!) Elemental Bond is a value engine for any deck with sizeable creatures, and it's firmly at the top of my "Must Have" list:


Cross-Origination

That's just a glance at what I'm excited to play with soon, but not nearly everything there is to be excited about for Magic Origins in Commander. Syd sent in a deck that can't wait for The Great Aurora:

One of the coolest things about Commander is the variety, sometimes to a ludicrous degree. I mean, the classic example of Storm Herd as a valid finisher exemplifies just how far afield players can go in making a Commander match weird, surprising, and fun.

With that in mind, you've gotta ask yourself: what's weirder and more surprising than a complete shift in everyone's fields?

The main star from Origins in my new deck (aptly named Dirty Fighting) is The Great Aurora. With all the ways the deck has of using lands as a resource distinct from mana (damage with Liege of the Tangle, etc., card advantage with Aggressive Mining and Seer's Sundial, defense with Sylvan Safekeeper and Constant Mists), The Great Aurora is a perfect fit due to how it differs from Warp World. Those lands can mean more in my hand than on the field, so the deck's Plan B when given a well-dug-in enemy is getting as many permanents on the field as possible, casting The Great Aurora (possibly with Boseiju mana) while floating enough to cast Borby, drawing a significant fraction of my deck (possibly having shuffled my graveyard back in), and then chucking the lands to finish my enemies off. Of course, if burn isn't the order of the day, I can play the spell as intended and just get mana onto the field to rebuild my board.

Speaking of getting mana onto the field, Animist's Awakening is a great spell for that in the deck. Given just how intensely this deck needs lands, Nissa, Vastwood Seer (and her transformed self) pushes both the ramp and damage aspects. Zendikar's Roil means all those lands give double benefit, and Molten Vortex subs for Borby or Seismic Assault if need be.

Syd's Borborygmos Enraged

COMMANDER: Borborygmos Enraged
99 Cards

Warp World decks are dangerous. Creating tokens, shuffling permanents, and getting them back in cards is as powerful as that sounds simplified. While The Great Aurora gives everyone untapped lands and cards in hand to work with, it still demolishes pillow forts and large armies. Syd's plan isn't new, but getting another way to make it happen is a welcome addition.

I know it's going to wreck me someday.


Not every deck has obvious additions as clear as The Great Aurora. Thomas—@aqueousdoubt on Twitter—was more tentative about his changes:

Tricky question. I try not to pick up cards for decks on purpose, unless it's a cheap fill in for a few cents, so I consider this more a wish list than what I expect to be able to do after my Prerelease round Saturday.

Anax and Cymede has been my commander for shorter periods of time—or I want to switch things up since I opened it at the Born of the Gods Prerelease—and I think it will gain the most from Magic Origins, assuming I get these. Chandra's Ignition is the big one: mass removal and damage to all opponents, plus a heroic trigger that pumps to help protect my army? Yes, please. More heroic triggers off Pyromancer's Goggles? Fantastic. Abbot of Keral Keep playing "card draw" and more prowess creatures, love it. Then Knight of the White Orchid and Sword of the Animist to help catch me up or accelerate me, possibly getting more colours I need sounds great.

Here's a fictional updated list with my Magic Origins additions:

Thomas's Anax and Cymede

COMMANDER: Anax and Cymede

As a fan of creatures in Commander, it should follow I enjoy playing aggressively too. Here, Thomas brings in fast creatures, burn, and removal to keep the path clear. It may not win any battles that feature an endless stream of Languish, but it will dish out plenty of damage if opponents stumble.

And, honestly, any excuse to lay a beatdown with Dragon-Style Twins sounds amazing to me.


One new way to unleash attacks comes from a surprising place: enchantments. Stephen, with an enchant-laden deck already at the ready, had no problems finding what he wanted from the new set:

This set gave my Karador deck some sweet new toys to try out. My particular list is an Enchantress/constellation deck, so when I saw Starfield of Nyx, my heart skipped a beat! All my enchantments can attack? More graveyard synergies? Amazing artwork? Yes, Yes, and YES! Then the previews kept rolling with Shadows of the Past (may get cut later, but it feels like it might be good), Caustic Caterpillar (a cheaper Sylvok Replica), and Gather the Pack (more stuff to dump into the graveyard). Also, I was looking to pick up a Sigil of the Empty Throne, so bonus! Here's the plan right now:

Stephen's Karador, Ghost Chieftain

COMMANDER: Karador, Ghost Chieftain
Artifact (1)
1 Whip of Erebos
99 Cards

Starfield of Nyx is on my shortlist of cards that will raise serious alarms when I see it next. Stephen already knows that enchantments are powerful in Commander. Giving them additional depth to beat down out of nowhere will take opponents by surprise.

It's also worth noting that any of the legendary God cards are indestructible still whether they're creatures through devotion or through Starfield of Nyx. In case you wanted to attack with Gods or something, perhaps.


Yes, Originally

There were many more submissions on how Magic Origins will impact Commander decks, but I think the point is clear: Stop by your store and take a hard look at all the awesome unleashed. You won't have any trouble finding something that suits your fancy.

This week's question turns to another set of origins, and it's a tough question I struggle with in Commander: How do you play with, or against, Planeswalkers in Commander?

  • Feedback via email, in English
  • 300 word limit to explain the Planeswalker and plans
  • Sample decklist (does not count against word limit)
  • Decklists should be formatted with one card per line with just a leading number, such as "3 Mountain"—just a space (no "x" or "-") between the number and the card name, without subtotals by card type (Submissions that don't follow this rule will be ignored.)
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)
  • Your Twitter handle if you use it

Planeswalkers are an ever-growing part of the game, and are among the most exciting cards to open when a set is released. While some of you may have yet to find the Planeswalker of your dreams, playing nearly any game of Commander is enough to make an introduction through battle.

Whether you're a friend of Superfriends or find Hero's Downfall and In Garruk's Wake to be more in-line with your proclivities, I want to know how you find Planeswalkers in our legendary format.

Join us next week, when we're in for a real surprise. See you then!



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