Commander 2015 Mechanics

Posted in Feature on November 2, 2015

By Matt Tabak

Senior editor. Game designer. Writer. Bon vivant. Matt wears many hats inside Magic R&D, but they're hard to see as he's so tall.

Commander William T. Riker: How did you like command?

Lieutenant Worf: Comfortable chair.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, "The Emissary"

The next time you pull up a comfortable chair for some Commander action, your game might be filled with new weapons from our latest offering: Commander (2015 Edition). There are five new enemy-color decks, featuring 56 new cards along with a bevy of exciting reprints.

How many cards are in a bevy, anyway? No matter. Let's check out some of the new mechanics you'll have the opportunity to play with.

Experience Counters

The five marquee legendary creatures in this release, one per deck, each feature experience counters. This is the second kind of counter that a player can have, joining poison. But while having poison counters is rarely fun, having experience counters can be great!

Each of the five commanders has a triggered ability that gives you an experience counter if a certain condition is met. For Mizzix, it's casting instant and sorcery spells with a converted mana cost greater than the number of experience counters you have. The first instant or sorcery spell you cast will cause this ability to trigger and give you an experience counter. If you want to trigger it again, you'll need to cast an instant or sorcery spell with converted mana cost 2 or greater. Then three or greater, and so on.

Okay, the hoops are well-established. What happens if you jump through them? In Mizzix's case (good luck saying that three times fast), you get a discount on those instant and sorcery spells you're casting. Notably, this discount doesn't change the spell's converted mana cost. So if you have three experience counters, you'll pay only R to cast an instant spell with mana cost 3R, and doing so will cause Mizzix's first ability to trigger.

You keep experience counters even if the creature that caused you to get them leaves the battlefield. So if Mizzix is your commander, she may give you a few experience counters and then head back to the command zone for some reason. The next time she's on the battlefield, you can pick up right where you left off in your instant and sorcery discount frenzy.

Experience counters are completely interchangeable. If you happen to have Mizzix and another one of the legendary creatures in your deck, experience counters one of them gives you will apply to the abilities of each. What are those abilities? You'll have to wait and see.

Myriad

Commander products are awesome because we get to design abilities that you probably wouldn't see in a typical release. Myriad is one such ability. Whenever a creature with myriad attacks, for each opponent other than the defending player, you get a token copy of that creature to attack that opponent or a planeswalker that opponent controls. No more agonizing over which opponent to attack. Just get them all! Or just some of them—the "may" clause means you can decline to get tokens for some opponents, so you can be political if you're into that sort of thing. Attacking a planeswalker will also cause myriad to trigger, as the planeswalker's controller is the defending player.

The tokens basically copy what's printed on the creature with myriad and not much else. If Banshee of the Dread Choir has any Auras or Equipment attached to it, those don't get copied. The same is true for +1/+1 counters or any non-copy effect that has changed its power, toughness, or abilities. But in Banshee of the Dread Choir's case, the tokens will all have the last ability, so you may be causing multiple opponents to discard a card. At end of combat, the tokens are exiled. They don't go to the graveyard, so no abilities that trigger whenever a creature dies will trigger.

Another important point is that the tokens enter the battlefield tapped and attacking. This means they were never declared as attackers. If you have any abilities that trigger whenever a creature attacks, those abilities won't trigger. (Put another way, myriad won't cause itself to trigger. Good thing, too. That would cause an unstoppable army of clones that would not only draw the game but eliminate all forms of life in the universe. Glad I saw that one coming.) This may come up if you give other creatures myriad. How would one do that? Excellent question.

If there are no other opponents, either because your game is down to two players or it started with only two, myriad doesn't do anything. That's okay though. At that point there's only one more player to eliminate before ultimate victory!

The Confluences

Modal spells offer you a choice of different effects. You choose which mode you're using as you cast the spell. A while back, we developed a sweet new layout for modal spells. Bullets! Now that modal spells are easier to read and process, we can do more cool things with them. Like Confluences!

As you cast a Confluence, you choose three modes—and you can choose the same mode more than once. If a mode requires a target, such as Fiery Confluence's third mode, you need to be able to choose a legal target for each time you choose that mode. If you don't choose that mode, don't worry about any target it requires. So you can cast Fiery Confluence even with no artifacts on the battlefield, as long as you stick to the first two modes.

It's important to remember than the effects happen in the order written on the card, no matter which modes you choose. If you choose a mode more than once, you choose their relative order. So say you cast Fiery Confluence choosing the first mode twice and the second mode once. As it resolves, first each creature will be dealt 1 damage, then each creature will be dealt 1 damage again, and finally each opponent will be dealt 2 damage.

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