And in the Darkness Bind Them

Posted in Command Tower on January 8, 2015

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.

Fate Reforged has been a wild ride so far. Seeing the tweaks and turns of returning and new mechanics was something I expected. It feels natural to see things like bolster and dash alongside delve and ferocious.

But one mechanic was an unexpected pull to the dark side of previews.

Ghastly Conscription | Art by YW Tang

Manifest is a mechanic I didn't see coming. While at a basic level I get it's an evolution of morph in a sense, it was also confusing for me to really get. After a while it felt like I was having a surreal conversation with myself.

Anything can be face down? Yes.

Creatures can get turned face up for their mana cost? Yep!

But if it's also a morph I can pay its morph cost instead? Yeah.

But I can't turn noncreature cards face up? Nope!

What happens if I somehow do through an old card from like Onslaught? It stays on the battlefield face down? Okay.

When the face-down card-as-creature dies I reveal it and put it in the graveyard though? I see.

So how do we use this? Thankfully we have time to figure that out.

No we don't.

I… uh… well then.

Gravedigging For Fun and Profit

Ghastly Conscription is one of many manifest cards, but unlike the others that pull cards from your library or hand to put onto the battlefield face down, this mythic rare rips them from an opponent. That alone is pretty nifty, but the additional clauses on what and from where make it even better:

  • Grabbing just creatures means that potentially all of our new manifested goodies can be turned face up if we so chose (and can produce the mana to do so).
  • Shuffling the pile face down means we get to know which creatures are which on our side but opponents will have to guess.

Generally, when you morph or manifest something, the order in which it happened is apparent. There are general ideas around which morphs are good to get down first—you'll likely trade those away—than later ones you want to turn face up at some point. Manifest is mostly randomized when coming off the top of the library, so the "order" may matter less unless you're mixing in scry or other ways to set up the top of your library.

With Ghastly Conscription, however, the shuffle always makes things unclear. You'll know, since you can always look at your face-down cards, but with enough creatures and open mana it'll be a nightmare for opponents to attack into.

So what does this mean for Commander?

There are three features all wrapped up in this big, splashy package. The first is mostly utilitarian: graveyard control. When you're battling multiple players, the ability to get more out of the resources you have on hand is useful. You have one hand of cards to battle not just one other player, but two, three, or more. It's simple mathematics that shows you you're going to want ways to deal with multiple cards with just one of your. It's what drives the ubiquity of cards like End Hostilities and the upcoming Crux of Fate, as well as everything that was put into From the Vault: Annihilation.

One card from that special release is Living Death, the poster-child for why a full graveyard should send off alarm bells for you. Living Death certainty handles things on the battlefield, but an overstocked graveyard means the scales of balance are tipped when it resolves. The whole catalogue of effects that pull creatures from graveyards into play—from Zombify to Rise from the Grave to Beacon of Unrest—are powerful when the game goes long and everybody is packing the best creatures they can.

Ghastly Conscription neatly turns that dynamic on its head. While stealing creatures out of a graveyard is great, having only 2/2s to show for it is significantly less scary. If you have the mana to turn some—or all—face up, you should expect some resistance, but in the interim all those face-down creatures are safe from rampaging across the battlefield.

That's where the second feature comes in: You don't have to target an opponent. You are a valid "target player" as well, which means you'll always have the option to use Ghastly Conscription as a much slower way to dump your graveyard back onto the battlefield. I suspect it's this play that will become the primary focus for decks. You can count on your own graveyard and effects filling it up; getting back everything we dumped away always feels pretty good. With the right mix of creatures—say things like Grave Titan and Grim Haruspex—it's easy to see how this can snowball into a runaway value engine.

Which leads to the final feature we can count on: You can read this just as you would another token maker. Black is filled with effects that love to see extra things hanging out for other purposes. The ability to transform creatures into other effects and resources is black's forte, so much so that I suspect the best commanders to use with already come with the ability to do so:

We don't have to go big, however. "Slower" ways to gain value work just as well, and this Ghoulcaller Gisa Commander deck I saw a few weeks ago is exactly the type of deck that can use Ghastly Conscription:

Greg's Ghoulcaller Gisa

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Ghoulcaller Gisa

While I'm not sure exactly where I'd start updating this deck, I'd personally swap out Sadistic Sacrament for Ghastly Conscription. I generally find games more fun when everybody gets to do something cool, and cards like Sadistic Sacrament are pretty good at narrowly cutting out the potential of another player.

Also, I'm just greedy and want one more way to buy up all the creatures I can.

By Land or by Air

Fate Reforged is filled with more than just big spells that feature mysterious effects. It's also a wonderland of new commander options.

As the Fate Reforged Card Image Gallery fills out I have my mind whirling with new deck possibilities and updates to some of my favorite classics. That leads me to today's question: Which new legendary creature are you making a Commander deck for first?

  • Feedback via email
  • 300-word limit to explain the commander and why
  • Sample decklist or list of cards you'll use is requested (does not count against word limit)
  • Decklists should be formatted with one card per line with just a leading number, such as "3 Mountain"—just a space (no "x" or "-") between the number and the card name, without subtotals by card type (Submissions that don't follow this rule will be ignored.)
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)

I hope you're as pumped for Fate Reforged as I am! Join us next week when we go on an adventure through things new and old. See you then!

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