You Lika The Juice? An EDH Reboot!
The past two weeks I've had a lot of other things to write about, so I didn't get a chance yet to weigh in on the big announcements that came down from Wizards of the Coast regarding Elder Dragon Highlander. I figured better late than never and planned on writing about it this week, but
then we got some new news regarding the format from Sheldon Menery and the Rules Committee this week, so I get to hit on something “old”
something new… and if you think about it, something borrowed, something blue (ahhh, Memnarch…).
On December 2, Monty Ashley and Aaron Forsythe dropped a pretty exciting bomb on the multiplayer community. It came in two stages. First was the news that the format known as Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH) would now be known as Commander. Commander is the name of the Magic Online version, which is nearly the same as EDH but with a few noticeable differences. I'm not sure why they didn't use Elder Dragon Highlander for the online name, but I suspect the word “highlander” is the main culprit—referring to the tagline from the Highlander movies, “there can be only one.” Since Commander is much less likely to get any Hollywood studio execs in a tizzy, it makes sense to go with that name going forward, especially if the format continues to grow in popularity and Wizards continues to promote it with product.
What's kinda funny is that I was actually checking out personalized license plates literally the day before this announcement on December 1, and one of the tags I was considering was MTG EDH. I may still get it, but as new people enter the format and the name transitions to Commander, the tag will be less and less cool.
Ultimately, the name change is really a minor thing with mostly all upside. The second stage of the announcement however was where the really exciting news was to be found.
Wizards of the Coast is going to be selling a product called Magic: The Gathering Commander next summer—are you kidding me? Awesome! This product consists of five different 100-card decks with no card other than basic lands appearing more than once per deck with 51 brand new cards distributed among them. Each deck will be made up of three “wedges,” which consist of a color paired with its enemy colors. The wedge colors just happen to be underserved on the legendary creature front, so this is even more awesome! Each deck will also include three different legendary creatures of that wedge combination to choose as your Commander—the corresponding Planar Chaos Dragon and then two brand new legendary creatures. I find it exciting that we're going to have ten brand new legendary creatures to build decks around, all presumably created specifically with Commander in mind! If the new legend they previewed is any indication, they're going to be awesome! If you haven't seen him check him out:
If you know me, you know that I love this kind of card, and I love this color combination in no small part because of the great graveyard recursion themes you can pull together. Karador basically lets you draw a creature spell of your choice each turn with the only limitation being whatever happens to already be in your graveyard. If EDH/Commander has any universal truism, it's that creatures die. A lot. So having creatures in your graveyard is no problemo. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find Buried Alive in the Karador deck, would you? How about some creatures with evoke that might go to the graveyard early, like Shriekmaw?
I also really dig its Affinity for Your Dead Creatures ability, which scales nicely throughout the game to mean you'll basically always be casting Karador for three colored mana no matter how many times he dies.
NEW CARDS JUST FOR US!!
Okay, so we know that 10 of the 51 new cards are going to be kick-ass legends. What about the other 41 cards? Forty-one is an interesting number if you think about it—since it doesn't divide evenly by five, that suggests that there are going to be some cards found in more than one deck. My guess is that at least one of those cards is going to be another functional reprint of Terramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds – both of which I think will also be in each deck as well to help with mana-fixing. In fact, it's going to be interesting to see how these decks fix their mana, since I don't imagine Wizards will be burning up limited rare slots on Ravnica duals or Zendikar fetchlands. I will boldly predict that we'll be seeing wedge “Panorama” fetchlands as well as wedge “Lairs” like the ones from Planeshift—why should Crosis, Darigaaz, Dromar, Rith, and Treva be the only Dragons with a home?
Speaking of homes, each of the Planeshift lairs had catchy names for them. I'm going to take a wild stab at the names of a couple of the new lairs:
Intet, the Dreamer -------> Intet's Mattress
What would you name the lairs of Numot, the Devastator, Oros, the Avenger, or Vorosh, the Hunter?
So, what about new artifact mana fixing? I doubt Wizards would need to use up new card slots this way, since there are plenty of great mana-fixing options of various rarities that are EDH staples and could easily be reprinted. I suspect each deck will include a Fellwar Stone and Darksteel Ingot, maybe even Pilgrim's Eye.
So, new cards… less one Evolving Expanse, five Panoramas, and five Lairs, that leaves 30… which breaks down to 10 new rares, 10 new uncommons, and 10 new commons—or two each for each deck. Two brand new rares, plus the three rare legends, plus maybe one or two recent rare reprints… sounds like the right amount for a $29.99 MSRP product, doesn't it? What cards do you think they'll put in these decks?
In Aaron Forsythe's write-up on the announcement, he previewed the following new uncommon card:
This is a pretty sweet card that scales pretty awesomely the more players you have around the table. In a five-man game, that's twenty power's worth of flying Dragon for six mana. It's amusing to think about casting this when the guy to your right has riled up the table against him—say he just cast Mirari's Wake, and you know he's got a Palinchron in hand. Everybody (but you) gets to pound on him with the extra Dragon plus whatever other creatures they have before he can do something about it.
Of course, what's got everyone really drooling over this card is the thought of putting it in your Karrthus deck. Huzzah!
Now, I hate to let a downer creep into the conversation here, but I can't help but feel like this card is a little too streamlined for its own good. One sentence, eighteen words, a player gets ganged up on by Dragons—elegant, flavorful, political fun.
But what if you're the player who's getting ganked by multiple players? Death by Dragons doesn't give you the option of just giving yourself a Dragon. Or what if there are two jerks at the table, neither of whom you want to help out? While I love this card, I can't help but feel like it's just a few steps short of being total multiplayer awesomeness. Being unable to totally control who does and doesn't get Dragons means this will sometimes just not be a good card to cast, and I think a lot of decks that would otherwise play this will ultimately set it aside.
Except Karrthus. Oh yeah, brother!
Okay, so—I've caught up with what happened two weeks ago. How about the recent news from just this week? In case you haven't heard, effective December 20, 2010, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is banned, and a handful of legends are now legal Commanders.
I'm just a twinge disappointed in the Emrakul ban. Some of you may remember when I presented my case against the proposed house ban of Emrakul at my local game shop, Richmond Comix, and I even proposed solutions to Emrakul among other problem cards and strategies in Commander. Of course, my thinking is that banning Emrakul doesn't go far enough, and that all Time Walk effects period (along with Time-Walk-ish Seedborn Muse ) would improve the health of the format, but unless I suddenly get a voice on the Rules Committee, I guess I'll have to be satisfied with just the giant Time Walk spaghetti monster getting the boot. Too many games boil down to who can cheat out Emrakul early (or metagame someone by stealing it with Bribery) or who can actually cast him over and over again, something that's relatively easy to do with a creature once mana becomes a non-issue.
Okay, one other minor, minor disappointment—I really had hopes of making a Fist of Suns deck with Emrakul but never got around to it.
Still, minor complaints aside, I do think the banning of Emrakul is a good and healthy move. Thumbs up!
The other announcement is the introduction of “Color Identity” as a concept for building your Commander decks. Color Identity will be added to the Magic Comprehensive Rules and indicates that, when building a Commander deck, the mana symbols in the text box are just as important as those in the cost of a card. The Commander's color identity restricts what cards may appear in the deck. Some details:
- The color identity of a card is the colors of all mana symbols on the card, along with any color defined by a characteristic-defining ability (CDA) in the card's rules text.
- Cards in your deck may not have any colors in their color identity not shared by your Commander.
- Mana you produce of colors that are not in your Commander's color identity is colorless instead.
- Mana symbols in reminder text are not part of color identity.
The exciting thing about this rules change is that we can now play some legends that had previously been self-banning by having colored mana symbols in their text box that were not also included in their casting cost. So, let's all extend a warm EDH/Commander welcome to—
Bosh, Iron Golem—come on down!
Thelon of Havenwood—come on down!
Daughter of Autumn—come on down!
Rhys, the Exiled—come on down!
I've always thought it weird and counterintuitive that you couldn't play these cards as your Commanders, and a lot of new players would tell me the same thing. Yes, this is, in effect, adding a “new” rule to the mix, but it feels much more elegant in explaining how to build your Commander deck.
I'm certainly looking forward to putting together a Thallid deck and—what? I forgot someone?
Oh, yeah. I didn't really forget him. I was trying to ignore him, but… okay, okay.
Memnarch… come on down… ( Boo! Hiss!)
Yes, there is one downside to implementing the Color Identity, and that's Memnarch coming soon to a jerk's deck near you! Memnarch is the epitome of a jerk general—all he's good for is stealing other people's cards, and in fact he encourages players to generate infinite blue mana and then steal every other card on the board. Sure, he's a little less threatening without Tolarian Academy, but you're kidding yourself if you think the first two cards Mr. Jerk puts in his Memnarch deck aren't going to be Gauntlet of Power and Palinchron.
Now I'm writing this tongue-in-cheek (mostly)… I suspect a lot of people will try playing Memnarch and come to the conclusion that he's not much fun, and he'll end up in the same ranks as other overpowered and less frequently played Commanders such as Zur the Enchanter.
So… suddenly we've got a format we all know and love getting a new polish and some new official love from Wizards of the Coast—it's a good time to be into Casual Magic! Me, I'm chomping at the bit waiting for the Commander Launch Parties June 17-19, 2011… and hopefully some more new spoilers before then!!
Be good, Santa's watching!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
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My current EDH decks: