Hitting Big Time

Posted in Command Tower on October 1, 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.

There's a ton of tools and tricks backed into Battle for Zendikar. Last week's rundown of great things in the set covered tools at a high level. Seeing all the potential waiting to be unlocked makes opening packs at the Prerelease events and first Friday Night Magic so exciting.

Hedron Archive | Art by Craig J Spearing

Tricks with Ally creatures and spells built into lands are great and all, but what makes our return to Zendikar especially exciting for me are the Eldrazi. Commander is home to the biggest and splashiest spells Magic has to offer, and big creatures and spells are the epitome of splashy gameplay.

Powerful cards mean a lot in games of Commander. Hitting eight or nine mana and unleashing a massive something are the turning points I look forward to most in Commander. Of course, there's still something to be said for the three quiet, untapped mana that go on to upend the battlefield, but I'm fascinated by the bigger booms that come Commander's way.

Here Comes the Boom

When we think of powerful spells, we're often pulled to the most powerful effects. Those effects carry an expensive mana cost but provide unbelievable potency in exchange. Leading off our look at power is Ben and one of the old gods of Magic, the Myojin of Night's Reach:

The deck I play in Commander is a Nath of the Gilt-Leaf Elf discard deck. My most powerful, flashiest card is Myojin of Night's Reach. With the indestructibility, it can be freely used for attacking and blocking, and once my opponents have lots of cards in hand I can remove the counter and make them discard everything. This works beautifully with Nath, bringing out a massive amount of tokens and Waste Not, giving me mana, Zombies, and drawing me cards and dealing damage with Liliana's Caress and Megrim. Having Doubling Season in play gives me two counters, which lets the Myojin remain indestructible while discarding all my opponents' hands and then gives me another opportunity to force them to discard.

With Sadistic Hypnotist, Myojin of Night's Reach, and Nath, I am able to discard all my opponents' hands and sacrifice my Elves to stop their hands from getting too large. This also works to a lesser extent with Mind Slash, however both Sadistic Hypnotist and Mind Slash can only be activated at sorcery speed. This gives my opponents one card to play every turn, potentially more if they have a draw engine, but usually it isn't enough to remove my advantage. For this reason, I try to refrain from removing the Myojin's divinity counter until the game has progressed to a point where I can win the game or eliminate some of my opponents in the next few turns. Myojin of Night's Reach is not my highest power or toughness creature, and I have other creatures that have the same cost—but in my deck it is my biggest hitter, my ace in the hole, my star player and the one card that will drastically change the state of the game in my favor.


Ben's Nath of the Gilt-Leaf Commander

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COMMANDER: Nath of the Gilt-Leaf

As forerunners of sorts of the Gods of Theros block, the Myojin of Kamigawa are indestructible—at least until you use their divinity counter ability. Myojin of Night's Reach is among the more potent of the choices available, and Ben's deck makes the most of discard effects all along the way.

An indestructible body until everyone else has to discard their hand? It's a big hit that will draw a lot of attention. Be prepared for the heat if you pull a trick like that out, just like Avery is ready when he breaks out Darksteel Reactor:

Literally, the most powerful card I run is Progenitus as a commander. As far as winning games goes, however, I have to pick Darksteel Reactor in my Vorel of the Hull Clade deck. I can win as soon as the fourth upkeep it's out with just my commander, but there are plenty of ways to speed up the clock. Everyone knows this too, so it becomes archenemy for a few turns (since very few cards can actually eliminate the Reactor).

It's an interesting choice, but I think it seems even better to me because the rest of the deck is pretty weak. I can get really good hands with the perfect mix of stuff with counters and stuff that increase counters, but more often than not it flops. It's nice having something powerful I can rely on to conclude the game one way or another. Usually the first way: Although my overall win rate is very low, I've won about two thirds of games with the Reactor.


Avery's Vorel of the Hull Clade

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COMMANDER: Vorel of the Hull Clade
99 Cards

The most powerful cards in Commander are also usually cards that make you the enemy of everyone else. Darksteel Reactor is among the most frustrating and tantalizing cards to see in a game. While it takes several turns before the "win the game" payoff hits, the recent wave of effects that double counters and speed up the process means it's not always a slow crawl to ending the game.

But it could be.

The threat of a Darksteel Reactor closing out a game without anyone having the chance to really fight it feels oppressive. That's what inspires a big card to cause the tables to turn on the player that cast it. In a Vorel of the Hull Clade deck built to throw counters around like candy, it's clear Darksteel Reactor is going to quickly become a problem. In a red-white metalcraft deck with Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer at the helm, it's probably less dangerous.

Where you put your big effects makes a great difference in how they play out. That's why powerful commanders—a card you're nearly guaranteed to have access to as much as you need—are popular ways to include powerful effects in decks. Jake's take on Captain Sisay is an on-point lesson in potent tutors:

My most powerful Commander card is, without a doubt, my actual commander, Captain Sisay. This is because of how I use her ability to find legendary cards in my "in-game metagame." While I have cards such as Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, and Hokori, Dust Drinker in my deck, more often than not I don't play them. Winning? Awesome. Fun game? Even more awesome.

What I enjoy doing is using Sisay to bring those cards out of my deck, reveal them to my opponents, and let their fear of me playing those cards dictate their actions for a majority of the game. Doesn't always work, but quite a lot of the time my opponents play very cautiously after those reveals, as the cards in my hand draw more attention than the board state itself. I'd call that a powerful card, though maybe more so a powerful/clever use of one. I just got back into Magic in July after a thirteen-year hiatus, and I realize this is definitely my "fun" deck and a month doesn't give much time to deck build on a budget, but I love Command Tower and had to submit. Cheers!


Jake's Captain Sisay Commander

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COMMANDER: Captain Sisay

I'm glad you're back, Jake! You've quickly picked up on two main points about powerful cards that I wanted to make: synergy and threat.

Captain Sisay is only as good as the legendary options she can go find. By including silver bullets to slay potent strategies, you have ways to wriggle out of games that would otherwise get shut down. But that's only the top level of power.

Underneath that, you see what having powerful cards to show off means in games: You can make players move in ways you want without actually committing your threats to the battlefield. Showing that you have an Avacyn, Angel of Hope "coming next turn" will force someone to fire off a Planar Outburst before she comes down. Using the potential power of a card to dictate the flow of a game is power too, and reaches into the murky waters of what being political means in multiplayer games.

As you note, it doesn't always work—but when it does, it's amazing. Information truly is power too.

The All-Powerful Wizard(s) at the End of the Road

I'm a fan of mixing wacky and weird with powerful and potent: Sometimes you just need a Living Death to undo an indestructible army, or a Cyclonic Rift to overload and reset a locked down battlefield.

But does anyone every really need Deadeye Navigator or Prophet of Kruphix? With the update to the Commander Banned List being empty this week (there were no changes), there's always a new spat of discussion around what the could or should from the Commander Rules Committee could be.

It's been a while since we've checked in with the volunteer team that helps guide the Commander format, so I'd like to know what you want to know from them: What question would you ask the Commander Rules Committee about Commander?

  • Feedback via email in English
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)

While there are plenty of questions that won't get answered, I'm 100% sure your minds will find queries I'd never consider. Send in your best questions and I'll see what we can do to get them answered.

Join us next week when we finally fit the newest pieces into our 100-card puzzles. See you then!

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