Something funny happened on the way to my next Commander game: Eternal Masters popped up. I was just durdling along, and then some super cool cards were once again on my radar. Eternal Masters is obviously not a set of new cards, so a traditional set review doesn't fit the bill, but there's plenty to be excited about. It makes a number of previously un-foiled cards available in foil. To me, being about to chop a few more lines off my “Decks Missing Foils” list is the best part of the deal. Second, it brings into light some cards which might not be getting played at the moment but deserve some attention.
I'm going to go through the set by color to point out some of the highlights. As with other reviews or discussions of a set, my angle here is for Commander only. Eternal Masters looks like a pretty saucy set to draft, but we're going to focus on what it does for the 100-card decks. I'm only going to touch on the cards I think we have a reasonable chance of seeing in the format; Calciderm is cool and all, but I doubt anyone will be playing it outside of Draft.
Balance: Of course, no one will be playing this, since it would be one of the last cards I'd ever consider removing from the Banned List. I just love the art, making me wish it weren't so broken.
Benevolent Bodyguard: In a B/W Cleric deck which is sure to feature some combination of Grave Pact, Dictate of Erebos, and Butcher of Malakir, it's nice to have creatures with built-in sacrifice abilities (especially those which cost no mana). Note that it can only target a creature you control, so you can't make an Aura fall off of someone else's creature.
Coalition Honor Guard: I suppose this one is more of a hope than an actual prediction that it will see play. Flagbearers are neat because they mess with what other players want to do. The “if able” clause won't prevent them from equipping their own creatures, but you can sure screw up their shenanigans with Eldrazi Displacer (hereafter referred to as Blinky the Eldrazi).
Note that, weirdly enough, it also messes with Saffi Eriksdottir. Saffi's targeting condition is simply a creature. You only get that creature back if it goes to your graveyard (so it works with a creature someone has swiped from you with Control Magic), but the Flagbearer ability means you'll have to target Coalition Honor Guard instead of your own Karmic Guide. So in short, I've just given Keith and Shea (the other two who are playing white) some tech for wrecking my Commander Rotisserie Draft deck.
Eight-and-a-Half-Tails: There are 22 Foxes in Magic, and 21 of them white. That's probably not enough for a Fox Tribal deck, but it's a start. Eight-and-a-Half-Tails is another way to mess with Blinky, since it gives protection from white. I'm starting to sense a theme here. Who developed this set, and why do they hate Blinky?
Glimmerpoint Stag: Maybe it's just that my local environment is getting a little happy with large tokens, but I'm giving this one another look.
Humble: In this case, I like the original art better (not that I dislike the new). I'm just happy that it'll be foily now.
Karmic Guide: I was kind of hoping for a throwback to the original art, but what are you gonna do?
Mother of Runes: Mom is an iconic card from Magic's past, certainly prior to the days when Commander even existed. It's a card I'd play for nostalgic value alone. New art is great.
Seal of Cleansing: I think the Seals don't get enough love (although this one and Seal of Doom were in the Commander 2015 set). Early drops that do stuff you want (for no mana) later on seem like a good idea.
Swords to Plowshares: Speaking of iconic cards, although this one came out in Conspiracy (and From the Vault: Twenty), I'm happy to see another printing for those folks who still don't have a foily one.
Wrath of God: I'm happy they went back to the version prior to From the Vault: Annihilation. The desolate mood of the artwork strikes me as more appropriate.
Arcanis the Omnipotent: This is another card which I'm surprised doesn't see more play. I keep hoping Todd Palmer, who picked it in the 47th round in our Commander Rotisserie League draft will drop it onto the battlefield so I can Clone it, but no luck so far.
Control Magic: Sometimes, it's the simple things that matter. New art on a classic card is one of those simple things.
Daze: I actually doubt we see Daze played too much in the format, but I keep hoping to watch that time when someone commits to a crazily large Genesis Wave only to get Dazed. Or Mana Tithed; either one is okay.
Diminishing Returns: Sorry to the Nekusar, the Mind Razer players, the draw is optional. Of course, if they choose to not draw, that seems good for you as well.
Force of Will: Sure, there's the Judge Rewards Program version. Now there's a more affordable one.
Future Sight: Future Sight is a card which I completely forgot about during our draft. I'm not sure it's worth a waiver wire pick; maybe when we do picks for a new set, I'll use one of my ten for it. If I'm going to be the control player, I might as well commit to it.
Hydroblast: Even if red is the weakest color in Commander, there's always something to target with Hydroblast. Trust me, it will rarely be a dead card in your hand. It's not as awesome as Pyroblast, but it doesn't have to be.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor: I'm trying to remember how many times I've seen the +2 ability used (or the -12, for that matter). Mostly it's just the Brainstorm (see what I did there?) and occasionally an emergency creature bounce. I have to imagine this version of Jace is played much differently in Commander from how it is in other formats. And you should trade to me all your Worldwake versions before the run starts. This card will be in the dollar rare bin in no time. It'll be like Wall Street, 1929.
Mystical Tutor: I won't keep repeating myself about liking the foil availability of previously unfoiled cards; this one seems cool because I think that's Sisay's Ring in the art. I'll just remind you to tutor responsibly (and stay in school and play your Fogs).
Phyrexian Ingester: Bold and welcome move to uncommon for a splashable creature that does some heavy lifting in Commander. There are lots of great creatures getting played; all of them are delicious.
Stupefying Touch: I suppose it's just better to kill the creature, but this might be a good weapon for the blue decks that don't like to kill creatures because they'd rather Clone them. Like Todd Palmer's stupid Arcanis the Omnipotent.
Braids, Cabal Minion: Braids, you probably have Aaron Forsythe to thank for where you are. On second thought, you have no one to blame for being Commander-banned but yourself.
Entomb: You know what I've never seen in a game? Entomb in response to Living Death. You know what would be amazing? Someone who is also playing red casting Entomb for Desolation Giant in response to Rise of the Dark Realms.
Havoc Demon: In the days of indestructible, I'd expect Havoc Demon to make more of a comeback. Minuses are the way to kill most of what Avacyn, Angel of Hope protects. Obviously, you need Havoc Demon and a Clone to get rid of Avacyn—or maybe just a well-timed Contagion Engine.
Hymn to Tourach: I still have four of the autographed Susan Van Camp versions of this (the one with the Wolf) that I played in my first Belgian Nationals in, um...1996? 1997? It was a while ago.
Necropotence: People ask why this isn't banned while Yawgmoth's Bargain is. The simple answer is that you don't get the cards right away. Yes, it's powerful, especially in a 40-life format. We just don't think it fits enough of the banning criteria to cut from the format. There will always be cards which people disagree about, and this is an example of one of them. I appreciate that some folks might think that it deserves a ban.
Vampiric Tutor: Really cool new art, and making a card that people want to play more available to them is always a good idea. Speaking of other things I don't see much, there isn't much tutoring in response to Lurking Predators triggers. Fellow Monday Night Gamer Shea has cast Congregation at Dawn a few times, but I figure it'd be more of a thing.
Crater Hellion: I was hoping for Fault Line as one of the Urza's Saga rares that got put into this set, but Crater Hellion is fine enough. And if you care to know, there are twelve Hellions in Magic (not counting Changelings), to include Ulasht, the Hate Seed. Also makes me wonder why no one has figured out something cool to do with Volcano Hellion.
Dualcaster Mage: Perhaps my favorite choice in the set, since three mana to copy any of the outrageous stuff people like to do (Genesis Wave for twenty? Rite of Replication kicked? Thanks!) is pretty cheap.
Gamble: This is the card from the set I've seen most folks actively excited about. I wonder if the order of discarding a card and then shuffling was based on anything—like if you shuffled first and then discarded, something could break the card. I suppose convenience in the case of something like Serra Avatar makes sense; that way you don't have to shuffle twice.
Price of Progress: To me, this is a great card, because it punishes players for being greedy. If you're just chilling and not playing too many nonbasics, you should be cool. I'm not buying the argument that you absolutely must play a full load of dual lands and shocklands in a three-color deck. Sure, it's optimal. And there should be some risk to it. Price of Progress and Anathemancer constitute a good portion of that risk.
Pyroblast: I'll be loading up on these as foil replacements to Red Elemental Blast, which I've played forever even though Pyroblast is better—but only because I had some saucy foreign black-bordered ones. The thing with Pyroblast is that there's no targeting restriction. You can target anything (maybe getting some mileage out of Horobi, Death's Wail), and the spell is countered or the permanent is destroyed if, on resolution, it's blue. You have a chance to change the color beforehand.
Sneak Attack: Always remember the trick of putting creatures onto the battlefield during the end step of the player to your right. Then you get to battle with them on your turn while still having that mana available. And while I don't always advocate being defensive, remember that you can Sneak in a blocker every now and again.
Sulfuric Vortex: The two damage isn't worth all that much, but the no-lifegain part is huge. I know I'd be very sad to have this played by someone else at the table.
Centaur Chieftain: Brian David-Marshall, friend of the show, Pro Tour Historian, and occasional Momir Vig, Simic Visionary player, recently Tweeted his appreciation for this card. Everyone on your team getting trample can be very dangerous; the +1/+1 is just a bonus.
Gaea's Blessing: In the days before there were Eldrazi, we used Gaea's Blessing to keep from getting milled out. Or Feldon's Cane. Gaea's Blessing is a decent cantrip which allows you to put stuff back into your library. I'm more of a fan of Battlefield Scrounger to do the same thing.
Green Sun's Zenith: I know I try to play with a limited amount of tutoring, but there's something I like about GSZ. I liked Chord of Calling better because it's an instant and there were shenanigans involved with convoke (and I just realized convoke combos very nicely with cards that have inspired, such as King Macar, the Gold-Cursed), but GSZ is also cheaper to cast. I see players using it as a ramp spell to go get Dryad Arbor, but it seems like that's just asking to get your manabase hit when the next Wrath of God happens.
Natural Order: If I'm forced to get a green creature from Eternal Masters with my Natural Order, it will either be Regal Force so that I can draw some cards or Maelstrom Wanderer so that I can later bounce it back to my hand and get those delectable cascades. Now being available in foil (it already apparently was, as a Judge promo, which I had forgotten about), it has a strong chance of making it into my Yasova Dragonclaw deck. Looking over the list, there aren't that many big green creatures, but the ones that there are (Woodfall Primus, the aforementioned Maelstrom Wanderer, and Xenagos, God of Revels) would make it well worth it.
Regal Force: Fellow coverage team member and Pro Tour Top 16 finisher Rashad Miller showed us from the get-go the power of Regal Force in his Druid-Ball deck (built from the idea of the Elf-Ball that he played on the Pro Tour). Just when it looked like he was going to run out of steam, there was Regal Force, filling his hand once again. Rashad also demonstrated that you have to take his Enduring Ideal deck very seriously. If you find yourself playing with him and he's not doing much except staying alive, you're in way more trouble than he's leading you to believe.
Sylvan Library: A nice reprint in Commander's Arsenal, and I'm glad to see it again. It's another card I've seen many folks quite excited to see in EMA. Around here, we have a soft rule that you just take eight unless it's going to kill you. I mean, why else play it, right?
Multicolored, Artifacts, and Lands
Baleful Strix: If I were playing all three of green, black, and blue, I might not put Baleful Strix in a deck before Coiling Oracle, but I'm certainly jumping at the chance to put a foil version into nearly any U/B deck.
Brago, King Eternal: I had high hopes for Brago in my Commander Rotisserie Draft deck, but he's been underperforming. I'm hoping that week on the bench will show him that I'm serious. He needs to step up his game. Alternately, the rest of my deck is terrible.
Dack Fayden: The greatest thief in the Multiverse is probably already at a Commander table near you; I suspect now you're going to see a little more of him, which is generally bad for thieves. You should probably start loading up on a Brand or two or maybe Brooding Saurian.
Extract from Darkness: I got thoroughly excited over this card when it came out in Conspiracy—and then completely forgot about it. Second time is the charm. I wouldn't go into this blind; wait to cast it until there is something good to reanimate, and be willing to change your mind if something cooler comes up. Obviously, there might be an emergency situation where you need to run it, or sometimes on turn 5 you might just want to spin the wheel and see what happens. At the same five mana, Beacon of Unrest is more reusable, but it won't be part of your mill strategy like Extract from Darkness is.
Goblin Trenches: This card will always have a special place in my heart. Way back in the day (2000? 2001?), there was a Grand Prix in Houston that I came in to Head Judge. On Friday night of the event, there was a big Standard tournament. Since I wasn't doing anything else, someone suggested that I play. I didn't have a Standard deck with me, but Hall of Famer Paul Rietzl (who was still a teenager at the time) lent me his deck, featuring Goblin Trenches. Long story short, I won the tournament.
Maelstrom Wanderer: It's fair to say that Maelstrom Wanderer is becoming an iconic card in Commander. Temur is arguably the strongest wedge and Maelstrom Wanderer fits most strategies reasonably well. It's a pretty powerful card. If text space weren't an issue, I might try to write it so that only Maelstrom Wanderer and any creatures you cascade into have haste, but that's probably way more (unnecessarily) involved for the text box.
Sphinx of the Steel Wind: I know I'm normally a slave to theme and the only Esper deck I have is Merieke and Her Dragons, but I hope you won't think unkindly of me for putting this into my deck (although I suppose I could just wait for the Merieke Do Over and make it Sphinx tribal). The combination of abilities, especially protection from red and from green, could make it an MVP in the format. Lifelink sure doesn't hurt.
Vindicate: We can agree that for only one more mana, Utter End is better since it's an instant and it exiles. Utter End won't take out a problematic land, which Vindicate can do. Playing both seems like the right call.
Void: This is a style of card that I like because you can't just cast it and have it do stuff; you have to think about it first. Remember to not tip your hand. You announce the number during resolution, after which there's no time for folks to respond. You can do some great head fakes with the card.
Ashnod's Altar: The Altar's stock rose when colorless mana became a thing. Available in foil for the first time. I love my sacrifice outlets, so I'll look to find room in a deck for it.
Duplicant: One of my favorite cards, because it's a Dupli-CAN.
Isochron Scepter: Like with Sunforger, if you want to put an Isochron Scepter package into your deck, you have to commit to it. If you put something obviously threatening under it, like Mana Drain, expect it to get blown up right away. If it's a little more subtle, like Bandage, you might get away with it. Card from this set to pair with the Scepter: Brainstorm.
Mana Crypt: This is certainly the card which most folks have asked me about since the set was spoiled. They're worried that there will be a flood of Mana Crypts in their upcoming games. I'm not sure if I agree that will be the case, but we'll keep an eye on it. Like anything else, if we see Mana Crypt becoming problematic, we'll take action. This seems to be an appropriate spot to remind you that the Commander RC doesn't make decisions based on the secondary market of cards. We don't take into account if a card's value will change in either direction when we decide to ban or unban it. While we might be happy that sets like Eternal Masters might make some cards more affordable for the players, it's simply not a factor that goes into our deliberations.
Mindless Automaton: I have an irrational love of this card. I'm sure I put it in the first five or ten decks I built. I like it for the reanimation possibilities—it went into my original Living Death deck so that I could have the juiciest bits in the graveyard. It looks even better with the new frame, so it might be time to upgrade the ones I have.
Nevinyrral's Disk: You know that a card is iconic when it makes it to the vernacular for a particular type of effect. I'll be upgrading my From the Vault: Relics versions of the Disk because I'm not a fan of the FtV foiling.
Sensei's Divining Top: One of the things I'm most pleased with seeing in pickup games is that people know how to Top in order to save time. It's a thing we've been preaching all along—Top now instead of during the end step of the player at your right, reserving the right to change your mind if the battlefield state changes. Games don't get bogged down, and people don't call for the card to be banned because it's no longer as annoying as it once was. Everyone wins.
Winter Orb: I don't think you have to worry that Winter Orb being in this set means there will be a spate of new decks featuring it. It's the kind of card which you're disposed to playing or not; if you're so disposed, you're already playing it. I suppose now the Stax players can cross one thing off their “need to get in foil” list. I miss the polar bears (unless they're hiding in that cave, which would be neat).
Karakas: Folks have already asked, and we don't issue format-level errata on cards. In the olden days, Karakas did indeed have errata, but the format's expansion meant that it was cleaner to not have so many details for players to keep up with. Not being certain they had access to such errata was a concern.
Maze of Ith: Maze of Ith is a land which doesn't produce mana. When I built a deck, even if I list it under lands, I don't count it as a mana source. If I want 37 lands in the deck, it'll be 37 plus Maze of Ith. Mystifying Maze is a different story, since it produces something.
Wasteland: I really can't ever see this card without thinking of The Who's Baba O'Riley. I'll be singing that song for the next day or two now. And with foil Wastelands now being a little more affordable, I can put them back into decks instead of having Ghost Quarter to take out difficult nonbasics.
Since there are no new cards in the set, I won't also be doing a deck update article about Eternal Masters. As I've mentioned, a number of them will make their way into existing decks, but that's because they're new versions of the card. All in all, it's a great set to get previously difficult-to-obtain cards into the hands of the players that want them.
This week's Deck Without Comment is Demons of Kaalia.
- 1 Burnished Hart
- 1 Platinum Angel
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Abyssal Persecutor
- 1 Admonition Angel
- 1 Angel of Despair
- 1 Blood Artist
- 1 Bloodgift Demon
- 1 Butcher of the Horde
- 1 Crypt Ghast
- 1 Deathpact Angel
- 1 Demon of Wailing Agonies
- 1 Emeria Angel
- 1 Exalted Angel
- 1 Exquisite Archangel
- 1 Harvester of Souls
- 1 Karmic Guide
- 1 Knight of the White Orchid
- 1 Lord of the Pit
- 1 Lord of the Void
- 1 Pestilence Demon
- 1 Rampaging Ferocidon
- 1 Ravenous Demon
- 1 Reaper from the Abyss
- 1 Requiem Angel
- 1 Restoration Angel
- 1 Rune-Scarred Demon
- 1 Shadowborn Demon
- 1 Sun Titan
- 1 Xathrid Demon
- 1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
- 1 Avacyn, Angel of Hope
- 1 Darien, King of Kjeldor
- 1 Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder
- 1 Tariel, Reckoner of Souls
- 1 Teysa, Orzhov Scion
- 1 Boros Signet
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Mardu Banner
- 1 Orzhov Signet
- 1 Pristine Talisman
- 1 Rakdos Signet
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Aura of Silence
- 1 Land Tax
- 1 Marchesa's Decree
- 1 Martyr's Bond
- 1 Mastery of the Unseen
- 1 Phyrexian Reclamation
- 1 Batwing Brume
- 1 Boros Charm
- 1 Crackling Doom
- 1 Grab the Reins
- 1 Holy Day
- 1 Return to Dust
- 1 Whip of Erebos
- 1 Akroma's Vengeance
- 1 Black Sun's Zenith
- 1 Decree of Pain
- 1 End Hostilities
- 1 Gruesome Encore
- 1 Phyrexian Rebirth
- 1 Wrath of God
Check out our awesome Deck List Database for the last versions of all my decks:
ADUN'S TOOLBOX; ANIMAR'S SWARM; AURELIA GOES TO WAR; CHILDREN of a LESSER GOD; DEMONS OF KAALIA; EREBOS and the HALLS OF THE DEAD; GLISSA, GLISSA; HELIOD, GOD OF ENCHANTMENTS; DREAMING OF INTET; FORGE OF PURPHOROS; KARN, BEATDOWN GOLEM; HALLOWEEN WITH KARADOR; KARRTHUS, WHO RAINS FIRE FROM THE SKY; KRESH INTO THE RED ZONE; LAVINIA BLINKS; LAZAV, SHAPESHIFTING MASTERMIND; ZOMBIES OF TRESSERHORN; MELEK'S MOLTEN MIND GRIND; MERIEKE'S ESPER CONTROL; THE MILL-MEOPLASM; MIMEOPLASM DO-OVER; NATH of the VALUE LEAF; NYLEA OF THE WOODLAND REALM; OBZEDAT, GHOST KILLER; PURPLE HIPPOS and MARO SORCERERS; ZEGANA and a DICE BAG; RITH'S TOKENS; YOU DID THIS TO YOURSELF; RURIC THAR AND HIS BEASTLY FIGHT CLUB; THASSA, GOD OF MERFOLK; THE ALTAR of THRAXIMUNDAR; TROSTANI and HER ANGELS; THE THREAT OF YASOVA; RUHAN DO-OVER; KARADOR DO-OVER; KARRTHUS DO-OVER
If you'd like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that's been alive since 1987 and this summer will be running a prequel to our saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor), ask for an invitation to the Facebook group "Sheldon Menery's Monday Night Gamers."