Dominaria is back and better than ever. The once-nebulous, amalgamated fantasy setting that we knew from back when Bill Clinton was still President is now a tightly-defined world with a coherent narrative. But you came here to talk about the cards, not listen to me talk about narratives and stories.
Before we get to the set review, I'll remind you there's a Commander Banned List update coming on Monday. Someone faked a screenshot of me on the official forums last week, suggesting that we were banning Selvala, Heart of the Wilds and unbanning Gifts Ungiven. What will we do on Monday? Scott and Toby are visiting for the weekend, so there just might be some intense face-to-face talks well lubricated by spirits of various kinds (except for Toby, who doesn't drink). Tune in to find out.
As always, this is a set review for Commander only. Some of these cards are going to see lots of play in other formats and might bring you great joy when you draft them, but this assessment is for the 100-card format. It's full of legends, so you know we're going to love it. I'll review white, blue, and black today with red, green, multicolored cards, and artifacts plus lands next week. I'll pick my favorite three cards from the color and give each color a grade.
Let's get to it.
It seems fitting that the first card we talk about is a legend(ary creature). Baird's mini-Windborn Muse ability offers your planeswalkers protection as well – I did a brief search and the card doesn't seem to have new-rule errata. The difference is, of course, that Baird can be a commander and Windborn Muse can't. I still see it as something I'm more likely to play as one of 99. Also, I'm a fan of the new border for the legendary cards. Makes them easier to find when you want to build something.
Exiling is better than destroying, but paying three more than Disenchant is not likely to get this played.
I know some of you are going to want to build a deck with the whole Weatherlight crew (assuming you haven't already). This slots right into the deck to bring you any number of good cards for just 1W. Occasionally you'll whiff, but probably less often than you might imagine.
A viable leader for that deck you want to put Benalish Marshal into, Danitha is like having extra mana. Seems like a natural fit for an Enchantress deck.
This card will pair especially nicely with artifacts you have to sacrifice to activate, from Wayfarer's Bauble all the way up to Helm of Obedience. But who are we kidding? You're regrowing your Solemn Simulacrum.
Not a fan of having to choose the creature when Dauntless Bodyguard enters the battlefield. Maybe if it had flash; otherwise, you simply can't just plop it down and be ready to use it.
I swear, if there's a card in this set called "Step," I'm done.
Evra can lead a deck, which you're going to build around making Evra huge and then gaining a bunch of life. You might consider pairing it with a favorite hidden gem of mine, Tainted Sigil. Then regrow Tainted Sigil with Daring Archaeologist!
I'm on the record of thinking that Sagas are pretty cool. Saga was also a cool band in the 80's. If you're going to be familiar with one of their songs, it'll probably be "Turn Me Loose." This one might be a "fair" way to play Armageddon, but I'll wait to actually see it in action to be convinced.
Sagas are clearly better if you can use them again and again. Whether that's by pulling them out of the graveyard or blinking them is up to you.
It's likely only going in a Knight tribal deck, but it's worth mentioning "hexproof from [attribute]" is sweet design space for them to open up. It's obviously not as strong as full protection, but it also means you can use the attribute on it.
First strike is an ability that gets undervalued in Commander. If you can make your first strike creatures have double strike, things get a lot more interesting in a hurry. Archetype of Courage, anyone? We finally might see Valor in someone's graveyard.
Oh, yes. Sweet yes. I love me some Angels and having them love me back extra is all kinds of good. 5/5 flying lifelinkers have a pretty good history in Standard, too.
At worst, it can be a targeted Fog. At its best, it can get rid of something that could kill you and get rid of it for a while.
Once arguably the best creature in Magic, we can see how far they've come in 25 years. Nice inclusion, even if just for nostalgic purposes.
Shalai is going right into my Trostani's Angels deck alongside Lyra Dawnbringer. I'd play it for the 3W cost even without the ability to distribute counters; adding that, it becomes somewhat bonkers.
I'm telling you, there's going to be a run on Wayfarer's Bauble.
Excellent inclusion to help get your Sagas back.
This one is all about waiting to get to Chapter III. You obviously don't have to put it on the creature that you've put the counters on.
We've saved the best card of the color for last. Even if it doesn't hit everything your opponents have (and I'm assuming here you're waiting to cast it until the advantage is well in your favor), it will consistently hit enough. More importantly, it will exile what it hits. They will be no more. Take that, Sepulchral Primordial.
Grade: A-. Good stuff at the top, but not too good. The density of quality cards is decent as well.
Chapter III as a temporary way to animate your artifacts renders them a little less vulnerable than just full-on making them into creatures with March of the Machines. Of course, The Antiquities War will make your small ones larger than they'd be with March. I can see people getting killed with this.
Being a cantrip means that you're not just doing a one-for-one, which is generally weaker in multiplayer formats than duels. I can't imagine too many non-emergency situations in which you play this without kicking it.
What kind of gyrations must we do to make this work? Lots. It's clearly intended to go with Sagas and sometimes you won't need it to be more. If we want to next-level it, we'll need to have ways to regrow Curator's Wand, since it's going to go to the graveyard when the enchanted permanent leaves the battlefield.
Remember that the permanent can already be legendary if you just want to steal it. Thematically it's a cool card, but we'll have to do a little extra work to make it worthwhile. I suppose we could just combo it with Curator's Wand.
I think that taking extra turns is fine for the game in small measures. Taking arbitrarily large numbers of extra turns is boring and caustic. I'm a fan of the recent trend of extra turn cards exiling themselves as part of the ability. This is a pretty saucy card, too, because for only one mana more than Time Warp, you get to bounce something. Whether that's the creature you need to remove so that you can smash face or the thing you have with a cool enters-the-battlefield ability, there will always be a juicy target for Karn's Temporal Sundering.
Note that the card has two different targets: the player who will take the extra turn and the permanent getting bounced. The only time a spell is countered on resolution is if all its targets are invalid, so giving the targeted creature hexproof, for example, won't prevent the extra turn.
This card isn't that good until the last sentence and then it finishes like a racehorse.
In line for my new favorite card name of all time, The Mirari Conjecture is just strong. For five mana, you get back two things to cast them again, and then copy what you Regrow. And the art is spectacular.
Double-triggering Wizards? Holy Prime Speaker Zegana! By my count, you have 134 Wizards that trigger when they enter the battlefield to choose from (not counting Dominaria). Add on top of that things like Aura Shards and you have lots of value. Add Cathars' Crusade for real insanity.
Speaking of Wizards triggering things, Naru Meha seems like it could get silly with Momentary Blink. Cast Momentary Blink targeting something like the aforementioned Aether Adept. Or everyone's favorite, Mulldrifter. It doesn't much matter. Cast Naru Meha with Naban, Dean of Iteration already on the battlefield. Copy Momentary Blink targeting Naru Meha. The copy resolves and Naru Meha blinks and comes back, triggering again (twice). That original Momentary Blink is still on the stack to be copied again and so forth. Wizards are tricksy.
Not quite Future Sight, but also much more splashable and perhaps a little less broken.
I was already working out craziness when I double-checked the card and saw it's not a Wizard. Okay, so it's only normal blinky goodness.
You can't break Slinn Voda with blinking shenanigans, but you don't much need to. Your giant deep-sea creatures should be enough to murder someone before you need to do it again. If you're building a deck around Slinn Voda, you're going to need to provide yourself with lots and lots of mana because stuff's going to get expensive.
I'm trying to wrap my brain around evaluating Sagas based on what they do for the mana cost. They're kind of like having three different sorceries, but you can't just say that Time of Ice taps two creatures and they don't untap then bounces all creatures all for four mana, since 1) they don't happen on the same turn and 2) there's the opportunity that the Saga goes away before it gets to do the extra bits. You generally want to cast the Saga because of its last ability, but that's the one least likely to happen, so what's the quantitative measure of what that's worth to you? It will be fun to work out.
You just need to have an artifact that doesn't care if it's tapped or not. Like Paradox Engine.
Grade: A-. Excellent cards at the top, density much like with white.
It's going to do more damage than people think it will. You can easily pile up eight or ten damage over the course of a game. If you have it in some looping deck where you keep casting, sacrificing, and Regrowing Ornithopters, you have a "kill everybody" combo.
I think I'll unavoidably start humming "Money for Nothing" every time this triggers. And we're all playing lots of spells with converted mana cost four or greater. Look at them yo-yos.
If your opponents haven't given you any good targets by the time you get to Chapter III, then you're bound to have something of your own to put back. It's always nicer to be playing with the other person's toys, though.
Really? Did Diabolic Tutor need to be twice as good for just one more mana? Giant creature into my graveyard, Reanimate into my hand, thank you very much. As much as I have a distaste for tutors, I'm finding this one rather delicious.
You're already in red, so you'll want to play Aether Flash. If it prevents them from playing creatures because they don't want your Kazarov to get larger, then that's fine. I'm sure you won't mind not having targets for the 3R ability.
A few people will try to make this work. They will mostly be disappointed, but they'll also be filled with glee the one time in a hundred they're successful.
Another cool name with two bonkers abilities. Seems a bit undercosted at 2BB. The card might be at the top of my "can't wait to play it" list.
You get two Clerics to be eaten by your Demon and a slightly smaller Lord of the Pit for a reasonable cost (again, assuming we get that far). Not too bad at all.
While you don't need to have a planeswalker in order to cast Settle the Score, that's the salient part. Exiling a creature is great. Getting two turns closer to that ultimate ability is greater still. The play to wish for here is to have six loyalty counters on Elspeth, Knight-Errant when you cast this and profit. Also, a way to get extra counters on Sarkhan the Mad, since it doesn't have a native plus ability.
The relevant bit here is that it doesn't tap the Soothsayer. It just costs mana.
If Torgaar is your Commander, then you can mitigate the commander tax by sacrificing creatures. The meanest of players is going to cast Torgaar only once and then start blinking it to hit other people. The good news is that once everyone has gotten hit by a Torgaar trigger, they're not likely to get targeted again. Torgaar's owner, on the other hand, might use it gain life and get out of a tight spot.
I'm not a huge fan of discard in Commander, mostly because lots of times folks want to have specific things in their graveyards. Discard at random, however, can wreck their plans.
The designers of this card searched Google Maps for "Sheldon Menery's Alley" and went right up it with Whisper. Slotted right into my Halloween with Karador deck; the only problem is that I'm going to have to remove something that I'd like to reanimate with Whisper to make room. I suppose I'll get by.
I know there are people entranced by the name. I am not one of those people.
You follow the instructions on a spell in order, so you can't kill something and then get it. That's hardly a downside. The card is kept in check by the fact that it's legendary, but once you're capable of casting it, you're going to have lots of juicy targets. I wonder if the "exiling itself" part came in design or development; I'm guessing it happened in the latter because they found out it was way too good otherwise.
Grade: A. The density being a little lower than other colors pushes it down, but the awesomeness of the best cards (and the fact that there are more than three of them) pushes it right back up.
The Deck Without Comment will return after release season.
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; Angry, Angry Dinos; Animar's Swarm; Borrowing Stuff at Cutlass Point; 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; Zombies of Tresserhorn.
Adun Oakenshield Do-Over; Animar Do-Over; Glissa Do-Over; Karador Do-Over; Karador Version 3; Karrthus Do-Over; Kresh 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."