It’s game day here at spalanz.com, and I’m once again taking a look at Magic the Gathering, after almost a week of listening to a variety of podcasts, predominantly The Command Zone, the MtG Commander podcast hosted by Jimmy Wong and Josh Lee Kwai! I think I may have been sort of tangentially aware of this for a long time now, though at the weekend thought I’d just give it a go after seeing an episode featuring TheMagicManSam, whose youtube channel I really enjoy (and you should totally subscribe to him, as he has some truly amazing content!) Over the weekend, I really fell down the rabbit hole, and having some time off work later last week I continued on, listening to a lot of those shows.
And, you know what? I got really excited for Commander!
I’ve talked about my first game of Duel Commander here, but the enthusiasm of these guys for the format, and especially the gameplay videos they’ve put out fairly recently, have made me really excited to play in the format, and build some more decks! In fact…
I’m not exactly great at building to 100-cards, predominantly because of my lack of experience I suppose, so in the meantime, I’ve bought some of the preconstructed decks from the last couple of editions, and thought I’d ramble a bit about these now!
I have to say right here, four-colour Commanders seem weird to me. There’s an article on wizards.com that details the design process they went through to get to these folks, and it sounds like it took a lot of work to get there. So, don’t expect any more four-colour Commanders any time soon! In fact, I’d be surprised if they went down the route of four-coloured creatures ever again!! The design process is really interesting to read about, though, and another article on the website from lead designer of C16, Ethan Fleischer, talks about how the four-colour factions developed an identity that echoed the Ravnican guilds or the Tarkir clans. Definitely worth checking it out!
Breya, Etherium Shaper is currently really expensive, so I was lucky to get a hold of this, I suppose. Looking through the deck, though, it’s not hard to see why – the four foil Legendary creatures above are almost half the value of the entire deck, alone! The deck, Invent Superiority, is one of the 2016 Commander decks, which feature the new Partner mechanic that basically allows you to have two Commanders on the board – Breya is the cover Commander for the deck, but the other three guys in there each have Partner, which means they can be used in combination with each other, or with any of the other secondary Commanders from the 2016 set, each of whom also have Partner to provide a total of, what, 105 combinations of Partners?! Blimey.
Partner Commanders were designed as a second way to get four-colour Commanders, effectively cheating the system, and were inspired by the Return to Ravnica split cards. These cards featured effectively two different cards that you could cast individually or, if you had the mana, you could fuse them together and cast them as one card. Interestingly, these Partner Commanders are all drawn from across Magic’s long history, with many of them having names evocative of both the Ravnican guilds, and also the Tarkir clans. I really hope we see more Partner Commanders, though I do feel it might fall by the wayside like Lieutenant. Really great stuff, though, all round!
Those four aren’t the only Commanders in the deck, however, as we have a total of seven more possible Commanders here, reprints all – six Legendary Creatures, and a Planeswalker! I’ve already got a couple of these cards, but reprints like this are always very nice. Especially when Daretti himself has been climbing in price. He still isn’t as expensive as his new card from Conspiracy 2, but he’s surprisingly costly, all the same.
I don’t really want to turn this blog into some kind of comment on the value of these things, as I measure the value in terms of how much enjoyment it can be to play, rather than how much I have to fork out to get it, but I think it’s interesting to note just how much it would cost to make these preconstructed decks for yourself. All of the possible Commanders from this deck add up to almost the total cost that I paid for it, £23.99, and I just think that’s nuts!
Finally, I just wanted to mention the fact that this deck includes copies of some extremely interesting cards that I’ve heard so much about from Magic’s history, but never thought I’d get to play – Skullclamp, Cranial Plating, and Baleful Strix. Magus of the Will is a new card that follows a tradition that has been seen throughout Magic expansions since I think Time Spiral, where older, more powerful cards are reprinted as ‘Magus’ creatures – here, Yawgmoth’s Will. These four cards bring the total value of the deck discussed so far up to around £30 as of the time I’m writing this, which is actual MSRP – and that’s just fifteen cards! There are 85 more cards in this deck! Sure, eighteen of them are basic lands, but still! It’s pretty crazy, even if there isn’t the on-colour Nephilim in the deck to enjoy! But I suppose that doesn’t really fit into the theme of this deck, which is naturally artifact-heavy (though no signets, oddly), so maybe Wizards will be looking at re-imagining the four-colour combinations further down the road? (That said, Entropic Uprising does have the white-less Nephilim involved).
I feel like we should also talk Affinity here. I’ve already said how the deck is artifact-heavy, so I suppose it’s unsurprising that the Affinity mechanic would be in here somewhere, and it’s always something that makes me feel a little twitchy. Affinity is a keyword that allows you to reduce the generic mana cost of a card with Affinity for each type of card you control that is quoted in the text, which was most infamously “Affinity for Artifacts”. I’ve played a lot of Magic on the app, which has a really godawful Affinity deck on there to play against, though I can only imagine how awful it must have been to play against these decks back in the days of Mirrodin block. The Affinity deck that appeared back then made use of the fact Mirrodin block had Artifact Lands, and led to some really dark times. The keyword has since been “fixed” in Aether Revolt by the new keyword, Improvise. Master of Etherium up there is actually a mainstay in the current Modern Affinity deck, which further adds to the value in this deck; his price brings the total deck up to £36 right now, which seems to be the current price of the deck online.
I’ve not managed to play the deck yet, as I’m still trying to find more people who play Commander with a casual approach near me. However, while I do want to try to get a game in with the deck as it stands, I’ve actually been thinking about making some changes already, mainly around going further down the artifacts route (despite what I said about Affinity!) Ashnod’s Altar and some of the Fabricate cards from Kaladesh are quite high on my list, to start!
I’ve got some other Commander decks that I’ve not really looked into yet, and I’m trying to put together a Boros-themed deck of my own that is currently based around Tajic, Blade of the Legion (or possibly Anax and Cymede) – though he’s in very early development at the minute, so I need to do some more building there. The basic idea I want is to flood the board with soldiers and pump them all up, so there are a lot of Heroic Creatures, a few Battalion Creatures, and so forth. Stay tuned for that deck coming soon, anyway!
As I said at the beginning, though, this current Commander kick has been brought on by listening to the guys over at The Command Zone, so here’s their take on the Breya deck, including some ideas for tuning-up the deck!