Dig Through Cards (Just Not Through Time)

Posted in Command Tower on November 5, 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.

Commander, as a format, means many things. It means individualism, and the ability to craft a deck uniquely your own with 100 pieces to work with. It means splashy spells, where the biggest and most interesting effects can find room to breathe. It means depth, providing ample room to include the widest variety of Magic cards.

It also means randomness, the least ignored and often most contentious aspect.

Teferi's Puzzle Box | Art by Donato Giancola

I mean it that way. It's the least ignored because most of our process for building Commander decks is meant to resist the natural chaos that building with single copies of 100 cards brings. It's most contentious because there's a strong divide between those who work to prevent randomness—create consistency—in their decks and those who embrace the wildness that comes from it all.

Which card is more popular? Future Sight or Mindmoil?

Future Sight lets you see your next card and, if you'd like, play it. It's powerful because it's essentially a free extra card in hand that can't be discarded—at least through usual effects that discard cards—and can be manipulated through a variety of effects, such as shuffling the deck after searching up a land or scrying it away with something like Temple of Deceit.

I've seen dozens of Future Sights in my days, but only one copy of Mindmoil.

Which card is more powerful? Future Sight or Mindmoil?

The popularity of Future Sight makes it look like an easy choice: Clearly, Future Sight must be stronger. The only game where I recall seeing Mindmoil, I was stunned by its power. Cheap instants let the player repeatedly dig deep into the deck. Leyline of Anticipation ensured he cast the pieces he needed as he went. By the end of a couple turns, that player had out Darksteel Forge and an army of artifact creatures, and effectively saw his entire deck.

Future Sight is good, but I've never seen it set up a powerful combo quite like that.

One of the new legendary creatures coming in Commander (2015 Edition) is Mindmoil on a killer body. Meet Arjun, the Shifting Flame:

A 5/5 with flying for six mana is a fair size for a commander, not too expensive and certainly large enough to make noticeable hits in combat. It's also got Mindmoil tacked on to it for good measure, in case embracing the randomness of your deck is a step you're ready to take.

Well, I am.

Burning Through Cards

Making Mindmoil amazing is easy, and the beneficial effects can be cumulative. Let's break it down.

1. You want to play spells that draw cards at instant speed.

While Brainstorm and Stroke of Genius are obvious powerhouses for drawing cards, simple effects like Magic Origins' Artificer's Epiphany will both trigger the Mindmoil effect of Arjun and leave you up a card.

If you're looking for a specific answer to something, like digging up a Counterspell, having cheap ways to draw cards and therefore see way more of your deck is great. And don't overlook investments like Jace's Sanctum: You can choose the order of the scry and Mindmoil triggers, meaning you can draw a new hand before taking a peek one card into the future.

It helps that your spells will be a little cheaper, too.

2. You want to play spells that have flash or otherwise can be cast at instant speed, or are cast twice.

Since the cards in your hand are a very temporary set, being able to cast them with the Mindmoil trigger on the stack is invaluable. While Leyline of Anticipation and Vedalken Orrery get the job done perfectly, other setup cards like Quicken can't: By the time Quicken resolves, so has the Mindmoil trigger, and you'll have a whole new hand!

Creatures that also serve as tricks are great options, such as Venser, Shaper Savant and Harbinger of the Tides. Brutal Expulsion and Jilt are Arjun-colored options that can answer a surprising variety of what opponents try.

On the flip side, rebound and flashback count as casting the spell, too, keeping your hand the same size while cycling through it. Recurring Insight, Sight Beyond Sight, and Surreal Memoir are the rebound options to consider most, while Deep Analysis, Desperate Ravings, Mystic Retrieval, and Think Twice are standout options with flashback.

And as the biggest effect for your investments, Cast Through Time will turn your Mindmoil engine into overdrive, as all of your card-drawing instants and sorceries get the rebound treatment.

Cast Through Time | Art by Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai

3. You want to have "spells" that come from non-spell sources.

Battle for Zendikar and Magic Origins have several ways to make spells without actually casting anything. Blighted Cataract draws cards, while Skyline Cascade can buy time against aggressive creatures like an opposing Zurgo Helmsmasher. An overlooked card in Magic Origins is Disciple of the Ring, which provides a ton of utility for all of the card-drawing instants I'd be running in an Arjun deck.

And, of course, a card that hasn't been overlooked, at least in Standard and Modern, is Jace, Vryn's Prodigy: The best Merfolk Looter ever can help you dig just a little deeper before letting us "flashback" something far bigger.

4. You want to have ways to reload your hand.

Mindmoil doesn't draw extra cards, at least not without something like Thought Reflection around to help out. Prosperity, Time Reversal, Reforge the Soul, and other ways to get back up to seven cards mean you'll consistently have that many, and ideally draw up into even more with your instants.

And unlike with Quicken, Day's Undoing works here: The Mindmoil trigger will resolve before Day's Undoing's "end the turn" does. Neat!

And if we're this deep in drawing cards and keeping a fuller-than-full hand to cycle through from our deck, we shouldn't worry about discarding at the end of the turn. While Reliquary Tower has long been one of the only easy ways to ensure we could keep a hand of more than seven cards, Arjun has a few tricks up its sleeve to help us out.

Accelerating into a big Prosperity or Mind Spring is easier with a mana rock like Thought Vessel around, and it doubles up the tricks we can include in a Mindmoil deck to hold up as many cards as possible. On the other end, something like Venser's Journal takes advantage of the extra cards we hold by gaining us life along the way.

Mind Games

Arjun, the Shifting Flame and Thought Vessel are only two of the newest cards coming for Commander, and I'm just delighted at the randomness they're going to encourage. While you may not want to cycle through cards as often as Arjun will ask, everyone can agree seeing more of your deck is always an amazing experience.

This week's question is one for the Commander aficionados following this week's previews: What has you the most excited from Commander (2015 Edition)?

  • Feedback via email in English.
  • 300-word limit to share the card(s) and decklist.
  • Sample decklist (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).

Is it Arjun, the Shifting Flame and the promise of Mindmoil madness on a flying Sphinx? It is Dawnbreak Reclaimer, political card extraordinaire? Or maybe Anya, Merciless Angel has you singing its praises? Check out everything in the Commander (2015 Edition) Card Image Gallery and tell me what you can't wait to get your hands on.

Join us next week when we sort through the new treasures. See you then!

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