Up until this week, you couldn't really say Commander 2017 without adding "eagerly anticipated." Now that we know what the set and decks look like, that anticipation has been well-rewarded. As with the other Commander products, the decks look eminently playable right out of the box. They'll provide good games and great fun to Commander beginners and veterans alike. Down the road, you'll see me do some coverage on the decks, as it's likely that our next Commander league will be a variant on the Commander 2015 League we did, but today I'm going to focus on the individual cards.
It seems a little weird to say it for this set, but I'll remind you that this review is for Commander only. Commander cards are legal in other Eternal formats, so you never know what might happen; for now, we'll focus on the one for which the cards were made. I'll go by color, focusing predominantly on the new cards, as well as noting my favorite reprint in each color. I'll then pick my favorite card in each category.
Alms Collector: Commander is often a format about big blowouts, and Alms Collector races down that same track. I'm generally happy with cards which only do bad things to players who are getting out of hand (not that drawing two cards is all that bad). Expect Alms Collector to wreck a big Momentous Fall or Disciple of Bolas trigger. The power play will come against Consecrated Sphinx, as your draw will trigger the Sphinx again. As with most games of C-Sphinx chicken, the Sphinx player will have to be the one who taps out. Note that with Alms Collector the resultant draw isn't optional.
Balan, Wandering Knight: Balan is cool, if a bit linear. It can certainly provide a pretty quick commander damage kill if it's carrying two big pieces of Equipment, like Batterskull and Haunted Plate Mail.
Curse of Vitality: This cycle of Curses takes them in a compelling direction. I'd watch out for this one, as it will definitely paint a target on someone's head—but it'll also help your opponents gain life, which might be less desirable for you. Nonetheless, since it's not too much life, you should be okay.
Fortunate Few: A more political card than it might on the surface seem. You'll probably want to start making some deals before you resolve Fortunate Few. Just be careful trusting anyone who says you should definitely choose something other than their Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre.
Kindred Boon: There's a straightforward use for Kindred Boon in your tribal decks, although it's going to get a little expensive. The techier use for Kindred Boon is putting divinity counters back onto your Myojin of Cleaning Fire and friends.
Scalelord Reckoner: A very nice rattlesnake that I wouldn't have minded seeing in the more "traditional" Dragon color of red. Still, since I have a Merieke's Esper Dragons deck, Scalelord Reckoner will fit right in.
Teferi's Protection: Wow! They absolutely went there. Rules Manage Matt Tabak has already mentioned that as of the Commander 2017 release, tokens will no longer cease to exist when they phase out, so Teferi's Protection is even better. My only hope is that this card becomes available in foil very, very soon.
Favorite Reprint: Seht's Tiger
Winner: Teferi's Protection. It will become a format superstar right away.
Curse of Verbosity: Anything I can do to point damage in a different direction is okay with me. I'm not all that high on opponents drawing more cards.
Galecaster Colossus: At least it's nonlands and the Colossus itself is expensive to cast. If the card sticks around a turn or two, it's going to do some heavy lifting in that Wizard deck. The question is if you're going to bounce something or draw a card when you have Azami, Lady of Scrolls on the battlefield.
Kindred Discovery: Cue George Takei. So you're telling me I get to draw cards for doing to the two things I like most to do? Deal. It will become one of those cards which you can't get angry for someone blowing up.
Magus of the Mind: Sweet Mind's Desire on a stick! The ability to more easily reuse Magus of the Mind means that you might not wait until your storm count is perfect, just good enough. If there's a reanimation spell in there, things could get silly pretty quickly.
Portal Mage: Another card which is going to provide some memorable moments, Portal Mage might just be enough of a mini-Fog to keep you alive or a big haymaker which kills someone who isn't you. Be careful with the timing, though. You can't go to "no blocks" and then change things. Because the trigger condition is in the declare attackers step, you'll have to give the selected player a chance to throw some creatures in the way. I will make mention of the fact that choosing a player isn't targeted, so you can select someone who has hexproof via Witchbane Orb or the like.
Favorite Reprint: Clone Legion
Winner: Kindred Discovery. Can't say enough about how much I love it.
Boneyard Scourge: It's a little small as Dragons go, but its repeatability—especially if you're running it alongside Kindred Discovery—makes it well worth it.
Curse of Disturbance: Creating a battlefield full of Zombies is most excellent when you control Blood Artist. I will say that I'm not particularly grooving on the Curse guy's haircut, but your mileage may vary.
Kheru Mind-Eater: I'm not often big on discard in Commander, but exiling cards is something different. Still not sure if this makes any cuts in a non-tribal deck.
Kindred Dominance: You pay a little more for the flexibility over Crux of Fate (which I'm happy to see reprinted), but it's well worth it. Even if you have only a tribal sub-theme, Kindred Dominance will offer you a few options. Of course, you also have the option of choosing a creature type which will just wipe the whole battlefield if that's what you want to do—like being able to kill someone with Blood Artist. Love that card.
New Blood: Some purists might be a little irked at Control Magic in black, but especially with the additional part about changing it into a Vampire, I'm okay with it. And the flavor text is super-sweet.
Patron of the Vein: I'd play this even if it just put a counter on itself. Boosting the whole army of Vampires is going to get crazy. Full disclosure: the first thing I did when I saw this card was look to see if there are any Vampires with persist. There aren't.
Vindictive Lich: Something tells me "Lich" isn't the word that's commonly getting used with this card. Zombie decks like to reanimate cards, so you'll see this one come back over and over to be its vindictive self.
Favorite Reprint: Sangromancer. Underused, underappreciated.
Bloodsworn Steward: The card which I happen to have previewed last week via Twitter is still exciting to me. Haste is a dangerous ability on commanders since it can lead to turn-earlier kills. I think I'll most like Kresh the Bloodbraided to be able to battle (and be larger, as if it needs to be) right away. My favorite use of the card will, however, likely be in my The Threat of Yasova deck, as I'll have even more reason to borrow commanders and battle with them.
Crimson Honor Guard: In some of the most ancient days of the format, we tried to make some rules about not being able to win unless you had cast your commander during the game. They were all too janky or arcane, so we scrapped the idea. In the Armada Games EDH League a number of years ago, there was a penalty for not casting your commander during the game assuming you had the opportunity to do so (no penalty if you never had enough or the right colors of mana, for example), but even that didn't do what we wanted. Anyway, Crimson Honor Guard is a step in that direction. Maybe I'll pair that with Bloodsworn Steward in the aforementioned Yasova Dragonclaw deck to make it a devil's choice of whether to run your commander out there.
Disrupt Decorum: Here we go. Sitting back and watching everyone bash each other sounds like loads of fun. Maybe you can even snipe in with the occasional Tainted Strike or something. Or add Avatar of Slaughter and Furnace of Rath? You have to have a plate of grapes and shout "Let the games begin!" whenever you cast Disrupt Decorum.
Kindred Charge: Not that Goblins need it, but it slots right into your Goblin build. I'm sure Trick Jarrett is Squee-ing right now. Other tribes will love Kindred Charge as well—and once again, you don't have to be completely focused on a tribe to make great use of it.
Shifting Shadow: Obviously, the first thing people think of is to put Shifting Shadow into your indestructible creatures deck. I'm thinking more along the lines of a deck with Oversold Cemetery or Palace Siege, which happens to be one of this set's reprints. Or maybe a deck brimming with enters-the-battlefield triggers and Panharmonicon.
Territorial Hellkite: Four mana for a 6/5 with haste is quite strong, even if you can't control the direction in which it points. There might be a mentality to an opponent not trading with you, since they know they won't be attacked next turn. I'm a fan of putting even more psychology into the game.
Favorite Reprint: The underappreciated Outpost Siege.
Winner: Shifting Shadow. So many possibilities, I'm sure there's stuff we haven't even thought of yet. And hey, free creatures.
Curse of Bounty: This is quite friendly, except for the cursed player. I'm more likely to play this in something which lets me take advantage of all the extra stuff I'm helping people cast. Or with Mesmeric Orb. Yeah, that's the stuff.
Hungry Lynx: There's so much going on here. It's fun and adorable and one of the most flavorful cards in the set.
Kindred Summons: Wait, what? Double my number of creatures from some awesome tribe (like Beasts!)? I'm in. And it's an instant? Okay, sure, you might get blown out if someone casts Rout in response. I'm pretty sure it's worth the risk.
Qasali Slingers: There were already plenty of Cats in Magic. What we were missing were the right multicolor commanders to make cool decks with. Qasali Slingers turns into Aura Shards in your tribal deck—and can't get Disenchanted.
Traverse the Outlands: The eternal question with this card is whether it's worth casting now to be able to cast that big thing, or wait until you cast the big thing so you can cast even bigger thing. Clearly the play here is turn 4 or 5 Malignus, followed up with Traverse the Outlands.
Winner: Kindred Summons. If I were to ever smoke a cigarette, it would be after casting this card.
Arahbo, Roar of the World: Cats are getting dangerous. It can't target itself, so that's something. Phantom Nishoba is Cat, as is the hidden gem Changeling Titan. Arahbo brings the heat to a previously cool tribe.
Edgar Markov: The only thing keeping Edgar Markov from getting completely out of hand is its casting cost. It's already steep to begin with, but subsequent castings get prohibitive, since Mardu really isn't the best at producing lots of mana. Still, if Edgar sticks around a bit, bodies will start hitting the floor.
Fractured Identity: "Oh, you have Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger? Cool story, bro." Again, some psychology going on, because you want to have the awesome thing, but you also have to let two to three other people have the same awesome thing. Maybe you'll need to settle for the somewhat-less-awesome thing—or maybe that God which you can make active but no one else can.
Kess, Dissident Mage: Did someone really have to ask, "I wonder what would happen if Snapcaster Mage were better?" Okay, it's not better, since you can't counter stuff with it on other players' turns, but you see where I'm headed.
Licia, Sanguine Tribune: Probably the next Karador, Ghost Chieftain, in that you'll rarely pay the colorless mana. I imagine some kind of loop in which you battle with Licia, gain life, sacrifice her to do something strong, and then just recast her for three mana. Kudos to the designers/developers for helping solve the problem I mention with Edgar Markov and making Mardu that isn't Kaalia of the Vast playable.
Mairsil, the Pretender: Some folks are up in arms over this card, and I'm not sure why. Its built-in limitations make it highly unlikely to be badly abused without some sort of aggressive tutoring or perfect draws. It'll do some neat stuff, but the cost is pretty high. That said, because of the way the ability is worded, there's no "link" between which casting of Mairsil exiled which card (so it's unlike imprint), meaning it still has the abilities of the previous cards.
Mathas, Fiend Seeker: I hope the bounty counter is a mechanic that gets more exploration in multiplayer products. It's a neat idea. As you already know, I'm not a huge fan of helping opponents draw cards, but there are plenty of creatures which need to get got. Solid design.
Nazahn, Revered Blacksmith: I suppose the only time you don't get Hammer of Nazahn is if it's already on the battlefield or if some other Equipment is your only out (and you have the mana to cast and equip it). The second ability seems like a weird little last-minute addition, but it certainly makes the card better. As good as Nazahn and Mirri are, Arabho is still the one which gets the command zone slot for me.
O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami: A 6/6 flying trampler for six is already good enough. The triggered ability—or even the threat of that ability—jumps it up to top-shelf status. The card opens a new possibility for five-color decks, and it's one that we've been waiting for for quite some time. Other five-color commanders are somewhat linear; O-Kagachi is wide open.
Taigam, Ojutai Master: Speaking of new things, a W/U commander that wants to be aggressive is a nice change. The uncounterable part is nice and probably leads to some protection for combo decks, but the rebound ability is something entirely different. There are plenty of ways to ensure that Taigam survives those combats—from making it unblockable with Thassa, God of the Sea or Rogue's Passage (which might be a little expensive to use every turn) to simply removing it from combat with the underused Reconnaissance. From there, it's all upside.
Taigam, Sidisi's Hand: But wait, there's more Taigam! This one fuels your reanimator and dredge decks by giving you an extra draw and two additional opportunities to put exactly what you want into your graveyard.
The Ur-Dragon: Sure, it costs nine mana. If it hangs around, it's completely bonkers. The cheaper Dragons aren't even close to the awesome part. Drawing cards and putting a permanent onto the battlefield for free (sorry, no cast triggers, Kozilek, Butcher of Truth), not to mention the 10/10 flyer, is reaching the absurd—but that's exactly the kind of thing which we want to happen for that kind of mana. This is the kind of battlecruiser card that Commander loves. Is it broken? No. Is it beautiful? Absolutely.
Wasitora, Nekoru Queen: I'll tell you everything you need to know about Wasitora: Cat Dragons!
Favorite Reprint: Cauldron Dance. A new generation learns of a spicy older card.
Winner: The Ur-Dragon. Multicolored offers the toughest choice, but come on. It has to be the Dragon that started it all.
Bloodforged Battle-Axe: The card falls into a sweet design space suggested by Spawnwrithe and Giant Adephage. Bloodforged Battle-Axe will certainly get your metalcraft count up pretty quickly. And I understand that Cranial Plating is also a thing.
Hammer of Nazahn: I would have been disappointed if the Hammer weren't legendary. It has a name and all. It's an obvious weapon for your Voltron strategies, especially since it gives the equipped creature indestructible. The triggered ability is quite something, since you don't have to pay equip costs (at least initially). And if you want to re-equip, maybe you do so by using Venser, the Sojourner.
Herald's Horn: Solid but not splashy, Herald's Horn is one of those cards that's not going to draw an opponent's precious artifact removal, but it's going to do lots of work for you.
Mirror of the Forebears: Sure, making the Mirror into an artifact might make it a little more vulnerable, but the ridiculously low cost to both cast and activate is well worth the risk. Remember that once the activation resolves, the Mirror won't have the second ability, so if there are tricks to do, activate it twice and then do said tricks between resolutions.
Ramos, Dragon Engine: I imagine there's some Rube Goldberg arbitrarily large combo with Ramos, but I imagine most folks' initial thoughts are either "Hey, I can cast Progenitus" or "Ooh, I can activate Door to Nothingness!"
Favorite Reprint: Commander's Sphere. Card is nearly perfect. Now just need it in foil.
Winner: Mirror of Forebears. Hammer of Nazahn has more raw power, but Mirror of Forebears has more possibility.
Path of Ancestry: Great design. You pay for the ability to create any of your colors by having it enter the battlefield tapped, but you gain the benefit of scrying in your tribal decks. Honestly, I'd be happy to play Path of Ancestry even in a non-tribal deck. For example, in my Kresh Into the Red Zone deck, there are seven matches to Kresh being a Human Warrior: Big Game Hunter, Butcher of Malakir, Disciple of Bolas, Disciple of Griselbrand, Eternal Witness, Hamletback Goliath, and Yavimaya Elder. That's enough to make Path of Ancestry worthwhile even if it wasn't already smoothing out the mana.
As I mentioned, we'll talk a little more down the road about the decks themselves. For now, the individual cards have me thoroughly excited to find spots for nearly all the new ones in one deck or another, as well as dreaming up new decks to go with those sweet new commanders. I suspect that you're thinking the same.
Our regular features Idiotic Combo and Deck Without Comment will return next week.
Check out our comprehensive Deck List Database for lists of all my decks:
Lavinia Blinks; Obzedat, Ghost Killer; Aurelia Goes to War; Trostani and Her Angels; Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind; Zegana and a Dice Bag; Rakdos Reimagined; Glissa, Glissa; Ruric Thar and His Beastly Fight Club; Gisa and Geralf Together Forever;
Shards and Wedges
Adun's Toolbox; Animar's Swarm; Ikra and Kydele; Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky; Demons of Kaalia; Merieke's Esper Dragons; Nath of the Value Leaf; Rith's Tokens; The Mill-Meoplasm; The Altar of Thraximundar; The Threat of Yasova; You Take the Crown, I'll Take Leovold; Zombies of Tresserhorn;
Animar Do-Over; Glissa Do-Over; Karador Do-Over; Karador Version 3; Karrthus Do-Over; Steam-Powered Merieke Do-Over; Lord of Tresserhorn Do-Over; Mimeoplasm Do-Over; Phelddagrif Do-Over; Rith Do-Over; Ruhan 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) which is just beginning the saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor, ask for an invitation to the Facebook group "Sheldon Menery's Monday Night Gamers."