I’ve said it before, and as a member of the global Magic community I have no problem saying it again – Christmas doesn’t just come once a year. We’re already on Christmas number three – still reeling from the recent string of sweet new toys released with the first set in the Tarkir block, the annual Commander product that’s only weeks old, and more recently by the 2014 Holiday Gift Box being only a few days old; we are buried in a landslide of new cardboard. The wonderful folks over at Team Wizards have been awesome enough to send me a few bits and pieces from these recent releases so that I could share some of my thoughts and impressions with you all.
Commander 2014. *sigh*
I hate to let down fans of my regular and incessant complaints, but I’m pretty universally excited about this set.
(I know, I know…I’m Googling “Hell Freezes Over” as we speak to try to find a weather report.)
Here’s the thing – Wizards of the Coast really did it right this year. Commander 2014 has hit in a way that is very much unlike the two previous releases. Let’s take a look:
“Mono Red Sucks” – Sultai Player
November is the most wonderful time of the year for Commander players, with the release of the now-annual Commander products. There is no doubt that this format has grown in popularity within the last five years; with a growing player base, it was time for Wizards of the Coast to throw a curveball in its release of the yearly product series.
So, what are the big changes in Commander 2014 ?
The first major change would feature five mono-colored 100-card decks, a deviation from previous iterations of tri-color decks. Mono-colored Commander decks are underrepresented when compared to other bi- or tri-colored commanders; according to the data from “”Most Popular Commanders” on the MTGSalvation forums, only one mono-colored general cracked the top 50 list. A reintroduction to mono-colored commanders will give newer players an opportunity to explore the format, and allows for a different way to build decks and experience the game.
The second major change is Planeswalker commanders. (The most common question – does that potentially mean all the planeswalkers can be used as commanders? The short answer from the EDH Rules Committee is no.) The 2014 series includes five mono-colored planeswalkers that can be used as a commander exclusively, one in each deck. This is possibly a one-time occurrence; we have no evidence that WotC will continue to design future planeswalkers in their standard blocks that can also be used as commanders. Still, the design space created by planeswalker commanders is certainly intriguing moving forward, and opens many different approaches the WotC design team can go towards in the future.
For the next couple of weeks, Double Down will spotlight several of the Commander 2014 pre-cons. My goal is to assist newer Commander players that purchased these products, helping them navigate through the trenches of playing a mono-colored commander in this format. I will offer suggestions on several pairs of cards to remedy sticky situations or threats one might encounter in a Commander game, or just to help improve a deck’s performance in general. These pairings are tied together by a common theme, and both cards can probably be found in a bargain box somewhere at your local game store.
Daretti, The Goblin with the Blueprint
Daretti, Scrap Savant is the poster-child planeswalker Commander in the red “Built from Scratch” pre-con. The attribute that I find most appealing from Daretti is that all abilities synergize with each other and each plays with the artifact theme, putting artifacts from your hand into your graveyard and later reanimating them back into play. Since the game plan is to focus on an artifact theme, we can play to the strength of mono-red and its interactivity with artifacts. We will need to re-focus “Built from Scratch” to develop around Daretti’s abilities and the artifact theme, and work to overcome some of Mono Red’s inherent weaknesses – card advantage and graveyard interaction.
Double Down: Engines that could
Redundancy is excellent in Commander, and redundancy with this Commander’s ability to draw cards and put cards into your graveyard is even better. Tormenting Voice and Mad Prophet are resourceful ways for mono-red to draw cards and execute this game plan. The pairing creates a feedback loop with Daretti by allowing you to filter your card draw and put cards in your graveyard for additional value down the line.
Double Down: Junk to Scrap
The next pairing of Anger and Squee, Goblin Nabob gives you value when they enter the graveyard. Anger provides your creatures with haste when it is in your graveyard, and Squee is custom-built with a way to recur it back to your hand, allowing you to fuel your discard and looting effects. These creatures can be useful as blockers when Daretti becomes a target on the ground as well.
Double Down: Calibrate Towards Efficiency
One of the weaknesses of playing mono-red is the lack of tutors. By focusing on an artifact theme, there are decent options available – Kuldotha Forgemaster synergizes with Daretti by putting artifacts into your graveyard and is one of the most powerful tutors for artifacts period, as the targets come directly into play. Hoarding Dragon is a creature and a direct tutor effect for any artifact – just make sure the dragon goes into your graveyard at some point, or your tutored artifact is exiled forever.
Double Down: The Perfect Machine
How do we close out games? Scuttling Doom Engine is an exceptional creature with evasion, and deals damage to an opponent when it dies. The Engine gives you value on both ends and plays well with Daretti’s ability to return artifacts back into the field – an added source of consistent damage and an evasive creature in one neat package. Hellkite Igniter is a dragon that likes artifacts; it’s pretty lucky that this deck has an abundance of them on board. A flying, hasted dragon with firebreathing based on the number of artifacts you have in play is a very scary threat for your opponents in this deck.
. . . . .
I applaud the Wizards R&D for a conscious effort to inaugurate a different design space for the Commander player. Reintroducing mono-colored decks will help cater to an audience of players that may not have looked in that direction, and planeswalker Commanders introduce an avenue to expand the format in many new directions, further allowing greater creativity in design, gameplay, and experience. That’s what Commander is all about.
Talk to me – What are some of your favorite cards that play well with Daretti? What Commander will you choose from Built from Scratch? (Don’t forget Feldon of the Third Path, or returning generals Bosh, Iron Golem and Tuktuk the Explorer! What are the hidden gems for those mono-red artifact decks? I would love to hear your comments and feedback below.
Until next time,
Now that Wizards is producing annual commander content for us, it’s that time of the year when it feels like Christmas come early for our global community. By the time you read this the C14 product will be released, you’ll likely have the precons in your hot little hands, and you’ll likely be building with your new toys, windmill slamming minty-fresh cardboard onto playmats and swinging for lethal.
Why I Caved…
Or How They Always Get Me with Shiny and New
Ask me a month ago, and there was no way I was going buy all five. I think most of team GDC and the people we converse with regularly on the tweeters were on that page. Well, except Sean: (Gchat)
But then things changed…