Now that I'm back from a great weekend at GP Atlanta where I hope you tuned in for lots of great Legacy action (and if not the broadcasts are archived on ggslive.com) it's time to settle in to look at the latest core set and how it relates to our favorite format.
Before I get there I want to give a shout out to Rusty Kubis the behind-the-scenes member of the GGS Live broadcast team. Rich and I get most of the airtime you already know and love Rashad but the show doesn't happen without Rusty's diligence and hard work so I want to say thanks to him one more time.
While this is a full set review I'm not necessarily going to talk about every card individually. I'm going to go back to the style of the AVR review breaking down cards in categories of "Probably Won't Get Played" "Might Get Played" "Probably Will Get Played" and "Definitely Will Get Played." Remember this list is focused on Commander only. If a card is bonkers in Draft I might not mention that fact even if I know that's the case.
Probably Won't Get Played
These cards are either poorly costed for the format don't do enough or are clearly designed for Limited where some of them might see a fair amount of play.
White: Angel's Mercy Battleflight Eagle Captain's Call Divine Favor Glorious Charge Guardian Lions Guardians of Akrasa Pillarfield Ox Prized Elephant Rain of Blades Show of Valor War Falcon Warclamp Mastiff
Might Get Played
Like the previous section it seems unlikely that any of these will get played but there is a bit more of an outside shot that we see them shoehorned into a deck or maybe someone will find a niche use for them.
Land: Hellion Crucible
Probably Will Get Played
This section is dedicated to cards that stand a reasonably good chance of getting played in the format but are either narrower in use or simply less exciting than the cards in the next section.
Ajani's Sunstriker: There are already Cat decks out there so it's reasonable to assume this will get played in them.
Crusader of Odric: Someone is pretty likely to put this into a "generate a pile of dudes" deck.
Erase: A reprint from Urza's Legacy that I don't recall seeing much of it coming out in M13 might pique some interest. Exiling things instead of destroying them is almost always preferable if you're not intending to Reanimate them.
Touch of the Eternal: Mechanically interesting as well as the interesting art it's kind of a "it's going to be tough to kill me" card. Perhaps also played with Worship and/or Angel's Grace. Remember that changing your life total means gaining or losing that amount of life so appropriate things will trigger.
Augur of Bolas: Not quite as nice as Sea Gate Oracle because you can whiff on it. Setting it up with Mystical Tutor seems like a good idea. Speaking of which I'm surprised we haven't seen more use of Mystical Tutor to put miracle cards on top of decks. Seems like a match made in heaven.
Courtly Provocateur: This is an elegantly designed card simple in idea but interesting in application. It doesn't say who the creature has to attack but I'm pretty sure you can create unfavorable situations for opponents.
Divination: Probably not played by folks who have immense collections and access to instant draw cards in blue but a nice addition to decks for those new to the game.
Jace's Phantasm: I know there's lots of chatter about this in Standard. I think it's likely to get its day in Commander as well.
Mind Sculpt: Interesting to me that it's target opponent—probably because the seven cards is too good for two mana in self-mill.
Redirect: At the same price I think we'll simply see more Twincast. I'm struggling to envision a scenario where this is better. Even if it's a giant lethal Fireball Twincast will likely make it so that the original doesn't resolve. I suppose this gets put into decks that have multiple ways to monkey around with everyone else's spells.
Scroll Thief: I'm pretty sure we'll see an uptick in Merfolk tribal decks with the new Merfolk Lord which means we're more likely to see this guy. Fish.
Switcheroo: Downgrading this due to its awful name.
Blood Reckoning: Having trouble with token decks? Reckon them in blood. It probably won't help against that Avenger of Zendikar guy who just dropped Craterhoof Behemoth but it pretty much shorts out most other swarm decks pretty quickly.
Murder: Because there are no restrictions on the type or color of creature this can kill which is pretty traditional for black this next step on the Terror-to-Doom Blade evolutionary path is likely to be one of the one-for-ones that sees play.
Phylactery Lich: It's a little janky but combine it with any number of indestructible artifacts available in the format and you might be onto something.
Public Execution: It's probably a little expensive for what it does since if you're worried about creatures swarms they're generally all of the same type (Plant tokens Saprolings) so you could play Tsabo's Decree instead. Still cool design worth a look.
Vampire Nocturnus: Obviously only valuable in the tribal decks but in them can be really strong.
Vile Rebirth: I'll say it again: there's not enough graveyard hate running around. Getting a Zombie out of the deal might encourage some play of this card but at the same cost there is Cremate which seems better.
Wit's End: That Guy will probably play it just because he's That Guy. Then there will be others who play it because of That Guy. It's an endless cycle.
Xathrid Gorgon: The flavor of the card is awesome. Getting it into play and activating it is a little expensive.
Goblin Battle Jester: I think this can be a little more useful than at first blush. Sometimes attacks don't get made because of a single creature's ability to block. Casting one spell—maybe a creature with haste—would make a huge difference in an otherwise unfavorable combat.
Mindclaw Shaman: While it seems like this would be a blowout card I think it's only situationally worthwhile. You have to hold it until you know (or suspect) that someone has an instant or sorcery that you want access to. I think some folks are going to try it out and eventually become disillusioned with it.
Wild Guess: Certainly something Reanimator decks might like to have in their arsenals since they can pitch exactly what they want and draw some cards too. Even in non-Reanimator you can certainly upgrade a dead card into two potentially useful ones.
Arbor Elf: Elf and Elf combo decks are pretty likely to use the untapper.
Elvish Archdruid: Another one for the tribal decks.
Garruk's Packleader: I'd call this a well-underplayed card. The Shards cycle depended on creatures with five power. Three is way more manageable.
Ground Seal: Graveyard strategies being as good as they are I have to imagine this has a place in decks especially since it replaces itself.
Prey Upon: You're in green. Your guys are bigger and badder. Green creature removal for one mana makes the best color in the format even better.
Primordial Hydra: A little janky but there's room for it in "+1 counters matter" decks.
Ranger's Path: Despite being strictly worse than Skyshroud Claim it'll probably get played because players have access to it and those Claims might be hard to find—and people like to search up their dual and shock lands.
Roaring Primadox: We don't see too many Stampeding Wildebeests getting played but I see this one as slightly better since it can return a creature of any color and it's a little more splashable. Momir Vig will probably enjoy having this guy around.
Silklash Spider: Another card that I think is underplayed; I hope that getting reprinted brings it some limelight. It blocks all the Dragons and occasionally clears the skies.
Clock of Omens: Any time there is untapping especially of artifacts I see a combo deck somewhere.
Door to Nothingness: There's a deflation you can see on someone's face when they lose to this. The Door player untaps with the ten appropriate mana and everyone tries to not make eye contact. It's interesting that there are ways people don't mind losing and other ways that they hate. This is one of the latter.
Sands of Delirium: Sure you can mill out someone by creating infinite mana but winning with infi is already pretty easy. The mill strategy in Commander is considerably weakened by the presence of Gaea's Blessing and the Eldrazi although I can see folks going for it with some combination of Sands of Delirium and Keening Stone. I see this getting some use in self-mill decks as well like Sedris and Mimeoplasm.
Staff of Nin: Once it's on the battlefield it does its business without further mana investment. Still it might be a little pricey and have trouble competing at six mana with Caged Sun Contagion Engine Dreamstone Hedron Steel Hellkite and Duplicant.
Trading Post: It does many things most of them in a thoroughly mediocre fashion. Still someone is likely to find an outside-the-box use for it. One of the reasons I love Commander players is that they use jank in interesting ways.
Cathedral of War: Outside of Uril the Miststalker and Rafiq of the Many I'm not seeing too many exalted strategies and both of those decks need to keep an eye on the number of lands producing colorless mana that they run.
Definitely Will Get Played
These are the cards that we all know will find their way into both existing decks or perhaps have new decks created around them. New cards and reprints alike you're going to see them.
Ajani Caller of the Pride: There are few unplayed or unplayable planeswalkers out there. The flying and double strike ability is probably enough. The adding of counters is quite good with persist creatures. His ultimate if you can get there is crazy. Last but not least is that after that ultimate (or if he gets killed beforehand) you can bring him back with Sun Titan.
Captain of the Watch: It's already getting played and it having more availability is likely to see it get even more play.
Faith's Reward: One more expensive than Second Sunrise—but it's only for you. Strong card that might replace Ghostway in some builds. I'm sure we'll see someone along the way float twelve to cast Obliterate and then this.
Intrepid Hero: Like a number of other reprints that are already getting played the card coming out in M13 is likely to get it played more.
Oblivion Ring: Here's a reprint that I'm not sure could get played more in the format.
Odric Master Tactician: I'll be surprised if Monday Night Gamer and Armada Games EDH League regular Keith Bogart doesn't build an Odric deck that features of a bunch of banding creatures. We'll see him in Soldier decks and I think we'll see a fairly diverse number of ways to use him like with creatures that have protection or deathtouch.
Sublime Archangel: Well-named and appropriately Mythic. Putting her into a Rafiq deck makes it even that much more deadly.
Archaeomancer: Scrivener gets played and it's more expensive and the extra power not significant to its uses so I'm pretty sure Archaeomancer gets played as well. The extra blue requirement is probably wholly insignificant. And the art is cooler.
Clone: Now in its tenth set printing (not including being in the Collector's Edition and Venser vs. Koth Duel decks) Clone is simply classic. While it won't ever be a format-defining card it's certainly a card we'll always see. "Format-defining cards" is now in my head as an article idea.
Encrust: I'm not sure I'm fond of the idea of giving blue access to a Faith's Fetters-like effect but it is what it is.
Fog Bank: The new art is really cool. Kind of defines a pillow-fort card and will see even more play than it has before.
Jace Memory Adept: I play this Jace in more decks than I do the Mind Sculptor but that's admittedly because I dumped them when they got to three digits. Great for Mimeoplasm and mill decks I'm dreaming up a self-mill deck to use this in.
Master of the Pearl Trident: Merfolk are back! Sygg loves his new friend.
Negate: Already getting played and no reason to think its play will get diminished.
Omniscience: The latest card causing panic there's no reason to pre-ban this card. Yes we understand that Academy Rector is a thing but it's a ten-mana enchantment that needs other cards in order to be really good. I seriously doubt it warps the format although I'm pretty sure some folks will try.
Rewind: We haven't seen it since Ninth Edition and we'll see it more now. There are more than enough lands that tap for more than one mana.
Sleep: I put this in "definitely played" because I'll definitely play it more. While unspectacular it's solid and can keep scary things from tramping on your head. LOLZ card to combo it with: Siren's Call. Gotta put that in my Ruhan deck.
Spelltwine: The blue players are positively giddy over this. In addition to being able to recast something awesome of your own you get to throw something awesome back in someone's face.
Sphinx of Uthuun: FoF-Sphinx continues his reign of FoF-ing.
Stormtide Leviathan: This is a Commander card: giant expensive and big effect. Love it.
Void Stalker: Void Stalker would be great in the format even if it couldn't target commanders. Since it can it will see quite some play. It will also restart the tuck debate although it's not tuck in the strictest sense.
Diabolic Revelation: Another card that's already generated quite a bit of discussion I'm pretty sure that it's expensive enough to be unproblematic. With a giant pile of mana it's dangerous and likely game ending but that's true of a great number of cards. It may change the way some folks play—making Aven Mindcensor more popular for example—but I don't see the card as panic-worthy. Will it be strong? Situationally. Will it be sometimes insane? Yes. Will it warp the format? I doubt it.
Disciple of Bolas: Sweet squibbity-do! The Disciple has a home in at least two decks (Kresh and Thraximundar) right now. There are no targets on this guy's triggered ability meaning you wait until resolution to decide what to sacrifice. That means while someone might decide to kill your Hamletback Goliath so that you don't draw half your deck you still sacrifice something else. The worst-case scenario is that you have to sacrifice him which means you've paid four to draw two cards—less than optimal but not the end of the world.
Liliana of the Dark Realms: Planeswalkers whose ultimate abilities give emblems are always going to get some attention. As they go this one is nicely balanced. It doesn't seem as game breaking as Elspeth Knight Errant and Tamiyo although it certainly seems worthwhile. While the design suggests she belongs in mono-black—a deck like Maga Traitor to Mortals is sure going to love her—she can probably go in most two-color decks pretty easily and any three-color deck that leans heavily on the black component.
Mutilate: It already sees some play so I think we'll see a little more of it after M13 which may encourage some new (or at least more) Mono-Black decks.
Nefarox: And this guy might be the general that inspires some creation. Maga Dralnu and Mikaeus are Mono-Black commanders that inspire a great deal of fear. Nefarox might slip under the radar despite his pretty cool ability. He also might seem pretty spicy as an aid in your Thraximundar deck but if he attacks alongside Thrax you don't get his ability.
Rise from the Grave: Already seeing play because it can get a creature from any graveyard. Nicely flexible in a straightforward design.
Sign in Blood: I've seen this used as an opportunistic kill card. Otherwise it's just useful.
Vampire Nighthawk: This card already sees some play in tribal decks but I'd like to suggest that it see more outside of them. Dropped early its lifelink ability gains some valuable life. Later deathtouch plus flying keeps the worst monsters from heading your direction. It's a winner.
Chandra the Firebrand: The damage abilities are secondary to the copy ability. I imagine the play line is almost always to cast it and use the +1 ability the first turn then cast something awesome to copy the next.
Hamletback Goliath: The Giant that can get the biggest he's truly scary when a bunch of creatures enter the battlefield at once.
Thundermaw Hellkite: The damage to the opponents' flying creatures isn't all that important but the tapping sure is. This is another card in the set that out of nowhere kind of radically changes a combat scenario.
Volcanic Geyser: Overlooked if it were a sorcery being an instant makes it eminently playable.
Worldfire: Do not panic. This may turn out to be a thoroughly annoying card and get kicked to the curb in September. It may turn out to be no big deal. If it's going to get broken "normally" we can all see how it will: float mana let it resolve then cast your commander. If it's going to get broken in Jhoira it has plenty of company. That's a different discussion.
Boundless Realms: I think some folks are irrationally excited by this one. I think it's a fine card but I think you'll have to put it to some use other than just doubling your lands like landfall or some such. Will it be sometimes crazy? For sure. Is it broken? Clearly not.
Garruk Primal Hunter: I play him I've seen others play him and I don't think I've ever seen his ultimate go off mostly because folks don't want to pass up the opportunity to draw lots of cards in hopes of later getting lots of Wurms.
Mwonvuli Beast Tracker: I've heard some folks reduce this down to "search for Primeval Titan" but I think it has way broader implications. Reach might not be the keyword you search on much but I'm willing to bet pulling that Acidic Slime out at the right time will really pay dividends. Sigarda is probably the newer card that we'll see it search up. Cool design.
Rancor: This might be the reprint that folks are most excited about for Standard. It sees play in Commander now and I'm pretty sure it will see more. It's the push over the top some Commanders especially those which tend to get large but don't have evasion need to get through: Kresh Omanth and the obvious Uril the Miststalker.
Thragtusk: Another card that I think the Standard players are really excited about Thragtusk is definitely going into a few of my decks. Note that his second ability is a "leaves the battlefield" trigger not a "dies" one so combining with Roaring Primadox is natural and obvious. Throw in a Cloudstone Curio for extra hilarity.
Yeva Nature's Herald: Maybe my favorite card in the set it gives green a color I play a fair amount access to something that's traditionally outside its purview. This opens up green especially its utility creatures like Acidic Slime to new lines of play.
Nicol Bolas Planeswalker: The flag-bearer for the whole set there is a fair amount of excitement over him coming back. He's never gone away in Commander and he's still just as scary as he always was.
Akroma's Memorial: I think card price and availability has affected this getting played. This will certainly change and we'll see armies of friends of Akroma running about.
Elixir of Immortality: In Commander this is more of a "shuffle in my stuff so I can reuse it" card than it is a "gain five life" card. It's a pretty cheap way to protect your graveyard from removal.
Gem of Becoming: This upgrade to Armillary Sphere is definitely going into those Grixis decks which are trying to keep up with the ramp of the green decks. As I mentioned earlier folks like getting their dual and shock lands.
Gilded Lotus: Another reprint that I'm happy to see because the cost of the original was creeping up into uncomfortable for some players. It's a card rarely countered but frequently blown up.
The Ring Cycle: Thematically really cool. Ring of Evos Isle is the one I'm looking most forward to since it will be a welcome addition to my Animar deck. Ring of Kalonia like Rancor is for those Commanders that are having trouble getting through. I see Ring of Thune Ring of Valkas and Ring of Xathrid getting a little less play but the cost-effectiveness of the abilities combined with adding the counters will make players give them a whirl.
Tormod's Crypt: Despite the fact that I love my graveyard I hope reprinting Crypt will encourage more folks to play more graveyard hate. You know for the kids.
Dragonskull Summit Drowned Catacomb Glacial Fortress Rootbound Crag and Sunpetal Grove: The budget dual lands are already getting played. I know some folks are a little disappointed that "better" duals didn't get printed but I'm perfectly happy with them. Mana bases are the most expensive thing about Commander decks and I wouldn't mind seeing them getting a little more cost-effective.
Reliquary Tower: A signature card in the format I didn't know was getting reprinted until I saw the full spoiler—and was quite happy about it.
That's a full 74 cards that are no kidding getting into decks in the format making it an absurdly good core set for Commander. Admittedly some of them are reprints but I love the idea of making heretofore difficult-to-acquire cards readily available to the broader player base. Avacyn Restored certainly had more bomb-y and Chaos-Embracing cards in it but I find M13 in addition to being an interesting core set in general a really solid effort.
My 5 Favorite New Cards Are:
Next week I'll talk about exactly which M13 cards are going into which decks and what's coming out an exercise that continues to get more difficult because of all the great cards getting printed to go with the great cards of the past.