The Stuff of Nightmares

Posted in Card Preview on August 8, 2019

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

The graveyard is an amazing thing in Commander. While your legendary creature of choice gets to sit on high out in the command zone, the rest of your on-the-battlefield bodies will attack, block, and die just like they always do in Magic. And unlike Standard or Modern where you can, perhaps, plan on drawing a second or third or fourth copy of a creature to play again, Commander limits you to just a solitary copy.

Which is why recurring creatures from the graveyard is so popular.

  • Unburial Rites
  • Animate Dead
  • Victimize
  • Reanimate
  • Karmic Guide

When your "best" creature is just waiting for you in your graveyard, it makes sense to play with ways to get it back into the action. There are even commanders whose best use is getting your strongest creatures back to work.

  • Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
  • Balthor the Defiled
  • Karador, Ghost Chieftain
  • Meren of Clan Nel Toth
  • Reya Dawnbringer
  • Sheoldred, Whispering One
  • Whisper, Blood Liturgist

Of course, some ways to get back creatures come with more risk. Generally speaking, the more efficient and repeatable it is to return a creature to the battlefield, the bigger the downside. Some effects last only for your turn. Others until the effect that put them into play goes away. Then there's Chainer, Dementia Master.

Chainer is from Torment, and torment is exactly what he unleashes. Three black mana isn't tough at all for mono-black Commander decks, 3 life is a fraction of what you start with, and grabbing a creature from anyone's graveyard lets you make the most of both your choices and the best everyone else brought.

You just have to handle the tiny downside of losing all of them as soon as Chainer gets knocked away.

Losing out on what you get back is why permanent, but slower, effects to get creatures back are more popular. Unburial Rites will guarantee two creatures make a comeback, even if it's more mana and much slower. Reanimate can get a creature from any graveyard, and do so permanently, but you'll pay more life for a bigger (and better) creature.

Now Chainer gets a chance to show what he's learned. Meet Chainer, Nightmare Adept.

Chainer, Nightmare Adept

The Madness in Nightmares

Chainer, Nightmare Adept gives you a solid combination of reanimation effects. You're limited to just your own graveyard, but the effect is permanent and gives your returned creature haste. Whether it's before combat or to get access to an activated ability you have to tap for (on something like Avatar of Woe), ensuring you can immediately use your creature is awesome.

But Chainer's cost is steep: discarding a card. When you have two, three, or more opponents, losing out on extra cards is punishing. But that won't be a problem if you plan ahead. A major theme in the new black-red Commander deck of Commander (2019 Edition)—the one in which you'll find Chainer, Nightmare Adept—is madness.

Big Game Hunter

Madness is an alternate cost to cast a spell, activated when you discard the card. Instead of going to the graveyard, you get to exile and cast it for its madness cost. It's a pretty handy ability to have on a card when you're looking for cards to discard anyway.

  • Avacyn's Judgment
  • Biting Rain
  • Call to the Netherworld
  • Dark Withering
  • Gorgon Recluse
  • Muck Drub
  • Murderous Compulsion

In a format like Commander where big creatures are bound to be played, Big Game Hunter and other spells that kill them are always handy to have. On its own, Big Game Hunter is practically a copy of Murder stapled to a 1/1, but getting to play it for just one black mana by discarding it to Chainer, Nightmare Adept is value above expectation. You can expect plenty of other madness options in the new deck.

Plus new ones, like Curse of Fool's Wisdom.

Curse of Fool's Wisdom

Madness has plenty of creatures and combat tricks to put to use, but an enchantment to curse your opponent is something entirely different. Curse of Fool's Wisdom won't help you catch up to the player drawing extra cards—you'll want something like the old Chainer, Dementia Master to dump that extra life into!—but it does add friction to effects like Echo of Eons and Rhystic Study for an opponent.

Losing 2 life a few times isn't much, but losing 14 in one swing will get noticed!

This Way Lies Madness

With madness and Chainer, Nightmare Adept at the ready, the only things you need are more mana and more cards. Once you hit a critical mass of lands and mana rocks (see options such as Talisman of Impulse, Commander's Sphere, and Mana Geode), every extra card you draw can suddenly become the best creature in your graveyard.

And if you've built your deck with great creatures, you'll be creating nightmares for opponents. Commander (2019 Edition) will be available August 23. Will you be ready for sweet dreams?

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