The Wanderer

Posted in Card Preview on May 24, 2016

By Quinn Murphy

Quinn has been fascinated with Magic ever since Revised Edition. When he is not spending time with his lovely wife and amazing son, he's constantly brewing decks for, playing, and writing about Magic.

I was at a convention with my buddy Dave when I first played Commander. He'd been persistent about getting me to try the format.

"You're going to love this format!" he'd tell me.

"I'm not sure. I don't usually have much fun with multiplayer Magic, and it just seems weird. Also, I don't have a deck."

At the convention where we met up, Dave opened a box full of Commander decks. He offered me my pick of those decks to borrow.

Well, there went that excuse.

I gravitated toward a deck using a card I hadn't seen before: Maelstrom Wanderer. Flipping through the deck, I saw ramps and some big spells to cast. It seemed simple enough. Ramp, cast Maelstrom Wanderer, profit.

The details are a bit fuzzy, but there was a turn when I cast Wanderer, stole creatures from every other player, dealt a bunch of direct damage to one player, and then took that player from untouched to dead after swinging with the stolen creatures. I'm pretty sure there was cackling involved.

I didn't win that game, but two things stuck with me: Commander is a really fun format that was so much better than I gave it credit for, and Maelstrom Wanderer is really, really fun.

As a follow-up to our game, Dave sent me a Maelstrom Wanderer in the mail with a note to "get to work." I eventually did, but I never built a Maelstrom Wanderer deck. My inspiration just took me to other places.

But now my inspiration to build a Maelstrom Wanderer Commander deck is coming back.

Maelstrom Wanderer has been printed twice before, but the Eternal Masters reprint changes it up in the best possible way. What I love most about the art on this is that it provides a sense of scale and also story.

It is all because of that gazelle in the lower right of the card...

There he is...

With that animal, you can see clearly how large and monstrous the Maelstrom Wanderer is. It towers over the gazelle. The Wanderer doesn't even notice the animal as it threatens to trample it.

The gazelle's presence also implies Maelstrom Wanderer's foreignness. Without even referring to its creature type, the art shows you how completely unnatural and "from another realm" the Maelstrom Wanderer is. The energy crackling from within its wood-like frame, and the way the world and that poor, poor gazelle react to it, illustrates so dramatically that Maelstrom Wanderer is more than simply an outsider—it's an intruder.

Accelerate into Destruction

Printed first in the Planechase (2012 Edition) "Chaos Reigns" pre-constructed deck and reprinted in Commander's Arsenal, Maelstrom Wanderer is now getting its third printing. We've talked about the art, but what about the play?

It's clear that we aren't using the Wanderer in Legacy or Vintage anytime soon, but that's okay, because "home" is Commander and Cube.

In Commander, the archetype for building with Maelstrom Wanderer as a commander is simple: play with a lot of ramp and big, powerful spells, then cast the Wanderer. The Wanderer is expensive and harder to deal with the earlier in the game you cast it, so investing in the ramp spells is almost required. The downside to this is having a lot of ramp spells means that you are likely to hit ramp spells when you hit the cascade triggers. Explosive Vegetation is great to hit when you are ramping up to Maelstrom Wanderer, and not all that great when it's flipped over for a cascade. You could alleviate this with deck manipulation, but doing both ramp and deck manipulation at once will slow you down, and that is something you likely don't want.

When you cast Maelstrom Wanderer, you are casting an eight-mana roll of the dice. The payoffs are sometimes massive and other times nonexistent. But you don't play the Wanderer because you want a consistent effect every time; you play it because you want something to happen.

One thing that you know when you have the mana to cast Maelstrom Wanderer is that, no matter what else, you are now the proud owner of vast amounts of mana. If you stick with a rule that no spell in your list costs more than the Wanderer, you can now cast anything in your deck. Even a whiff with Maelstrom Wanderer can be survived if you can hard-cast other big spells one after the other.

There are lots of great cards in recent sets that I think would shine in a deck with the Wanderer. From Magic Origins, Nissa's Renewal is a great ramp spell that gives you life as well. The Great Aurora has seen some Standard play and fits really well here, allowing you to reset the board when life gets too hectic.

Shadows of Innistrad and Battle for Zendikar block do provide a lot of cards that help you if you choose mostly land-based ramping. Tireless Tracker, Sylvan Advocate, and the many landfall creatures in red and green can give your deck early-game pressure or protection while also benefiting from what your deck naturally does.

Here's an older list from former StarCityGames.com writer and current Wizards employee David McDarby.

David McDarby's Maelstrom Wanderer

COMMANDER: Maelstrom Wanderer
99 Cards

Wandering the Cube

What does Maelstrom Wanderer look like in a Cube format? It still acts as an explosive and chaotic win condition, but its power level and importance is going to change drastically depending on the makeup of the cards around it. A cube focused on cheaper, less powerful cards will diminish the impact of the Wanderer, while a cube with more expensive but powerful effects will complement the Wanderer nicely. You'll also need to consider what color-fixing is in the cube.

If you want ramping to be a major strategy, you'll want to make sure that there is the possibility to get the extra colors you need to cast the spell, which shouldn't be difficult at all.

Just Add Excitement

Overall, I love the new art and how it evokes the scale and terror of this Elemental monster. What I love even more is the excitement that Maelstrom Wanderer adds to a game when cast.

Monsters, destruction, chaos!

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