"My List of…Commands"

Posted in Serious Fun on April 14, 2015

By Bruce Richard

Bruce's games invariably involve several friends, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun, then you are doing it wrong.

Welcome to Choose Two Week here on DailyMTG! While this is an indirect way to talk about the Commands from Dragons of Tarkir, the Commands themselves are representative of the idea of options in Magic. Murder does one thing, and it does it well, but you are limited. The card simply kills a creature and nothing else. Dreadbore offers a little variety! Charms gave you more options but, to keep the casting cost low, their abilities weren't generally all that exciting. Then Commands came along, and the idea of a versatile card that can affect a game in big way, in a variety of ways, was truly born.

Dromoka's Command | Art by James Ryman

When you're looking at casual games, cards that can do multiple things are at a premium. You just don't know what you are going to find yourself up against. And with more opponents, there will be more cards to deal with. While I joke about putting Acidic Slime in every green deck or using Deadeye Navigator in every blue deck, they are effective because they do so many things (or help other cards do so much more).

While each Command offers four options, and plenty of choice, which are the best Commands for multiplayer? Which card brings more to your game? Normally when I do a list, I like to say that a list is in no particular order, but in this case, the order is crucial. Worst to best. And this list isn't just my preferences, this list is fact. If you disagree, go back and look again and I'm sure you'll change your mind. If you still don't agree with the list, just know you still have more to learn. You'll get there, Little One. As the kidnappers say in the movies, here is my "List of Commands."

10. Dromoka's Command

Dromoka only asks for two mana to get the Command at instant speed, but what it offers is little more than a slightly larger Charm. Offering a Fog effect that ignores damage from creatures is almost silly. Destroying an enchantment is great, but letting the player choose which one can often mean you don't hit the right one. I want flexibility, but not at the cost of usefulness. Putting a +1/+1 counter on a creature is a nice effect, but just not on par with what the other Commands offer. Finally, fighting another creature is a solid ability, just not on par with other cards.

For only two mana, Dromoka's Command is a great card. I will regularly pack it in my green-white decks, as it offers flexibility. I can see using this card regularly as a combat trick, something the other Commands can't all offer. This card sitting in the last spot says more about how good the other Commands are than how poor this one is.

9. Incendiary Command

Incendiary Command does what you expect from red cards: direct damage, mass creature damage, land destruction, and strange ways to empty and fill your hand with cards. The options are varied, so you really are getting a true choice when you are deciding which two options to choose. The card tends to offer something at each point in the game.

The problem is the cost and the speed. For five mana and sorcery speed, you just aren't happy with any two choices. Discarding and drawing a whole new hand after spending five mana leaves you with little land to actually cast anything you drew. Doing 4 damage to a player is nice, but limited when you have to run it out at sorcery speed for five mana. I'm a fan of the Pyroclasm effect (2 damage to all creatures), but by the time you have five mana, the creatures you really want dead won't die to 2 damage. As an instant, this card would move well up the list, but otherwise it sits here at #9.

8. Profane Command

This Command is tricky. You can cast it for only three mana, but it would be a complete waste of a card. Even with five mana, costing a player 3 life is rarely much. Once you have six or more to spend, Profane Command starts getting better. It brings creatures back, it kills creatures off, and helps creatures evade blockers. Most decks will only really use a couple of these effectively, but the option is there. Eliminating a creature with 4 or 5 toughness shouldn't be understated, and giving four creatures fear until the end of the turn is often the killing blow in a game.

The downside is that this Command really only seems good in the final plays of the game. Playing this before the final turns is an act of desperation, as you try to stay in the game just a little longer. Too many times, I've found myself trying to kill a creature, but always seemed to need a couple more mana to actually get the kill. The last two options would be so much better if done during combat, but the sorcery speed really hurts.

7. Kolaghan's Command

Kolaghan's Command's options aren't as good as Profane Command, but this is a situation where being cheaper, and instant-speed, moved Kolaghan's Command up the list. Getting a creature from the graveyard is great, but getting it put onto the battlefield is far better. Forcing a discard can be nice if timed at the right moment, and being able to use it at instant speed is rare. Getting to destroy an artifact early in a game is best. Wiping out an early Sol Ring or Mimic Vat is important. The 2 damage to a creature or player offers flexibility too. With instant speed, this can be a combat trick that turns the corner into something special.

Kolaghan's Command isn't higher on the list for the same reason Dromoka rated so low: the abilities just aren't that splashy. As we move up the list, the abilities get bigger and better to the point where getting any one of them would almost be worth the cost of the Command. Kolaghan is a utility card; a precision tool that I appreciate, but the Commands are all about sledge hammers!

6. Atarka's Command

Atarka's Command offers up some interesting abilities. The ability to shut down life gain, even if only for a turn, can be a wonderful thing. Plenty of players run life gain in such a way that they double their life total in a single turn. With Atarka's Command at instant speed, that can be shut down. Vault of the Archangel, a card that I'm seeing more and more, is completely neutered. Dealing 3 damage to each opponent is hardly a game-changer, but for two mana, it is well worth it. Being able to put a second land onto the battlefield (or adding a land on an opponent's turn) can surprise opponents, giving you a color of mana they didn't think you had available, or even just activating landfall. Giving all your creatures +1/+1 and reach can make for amazing surprise blocks, or pump up a small tribe to come in for lethal.

I really like Atarka's Command and wish it had come in higher. The abilities are different, and two mana at instant speed really makes it count. However, the cards above it offer game-changing abilities. Atarka's Command is excellent but not awesome.

5. Primal Command

This Command doesn't mess around. You can either remove a permanent from the game temporarily by bouncing it to the top of their owner's library, or you can follow that up by using the next ability—shuffling the graveyard into the library—making that first card disappear. Even these abilities separately are amazing. The graveyard is just another zone where players access their assets. Shuffling those cards into the library eliminates access to cards completely for some decks. On top of this, tutoring for a creature card can be game over. In Commander, this lets you find that creature you desperately need anywhere in that huge library. Each of the three abilities I've mentioned are what I would refer to as game-changing abilities. When Primal Command is played, the game is about to change. This is what lifts Primal Command to #5!

When you consider what you are getting for five mana and at sorcery speed, the card is priced nicely, but it is still five mana and only sorcery speed. The other downside to the card is gaining 7 life. I know there are times when players will be forced to choose that option, and I feel bad for those players when that happens. It likely means they are trying to put off the inevitable loss for one more round. It is a solid card, but perhaps a little slow.

4. Ojutai's Command

Why does Ojutai's Command sit at #4?

  • It is one mana cheaper than Silumgar's Command. That makes it better.
  • It counters creature spells rather than noncreature spells. While there are more creatures in multiplayer games, there are many ways to deal with them. Noncreature spells can be more tricky. That makes it worse.
  • It brings a creature back from the graveyard to the battlefield, rather than giving a creature -3/-3. That makes it better since you'll get a second chance with one of your creatures, rather than trying to eliminate someone else's.
  • It draws a card rather than bouncing a permanent. Practically a tie. An opponent takes a tempo hit, or you get a boost. I'll take the card draw, but not by much
  • Gain 4 life or destroy target Planeswalker. Game over. So few cards deal with Planeswalkers, and Silumgar's Command can kill one and bounce another.

Ojutai's Command is excellent, but just not good enough.

3. Silumgar's Command

Silumgar's Command bounces permanents and destroys Planeswalkers. When you can destroy a Planeswalker and bounce a permanent (another Planeswalker), you move way up on the Command list.

Countering a noncreature spell and giving a creature -3/-3 are also great options. All of this puts the card ahead of several other Commands. The reason it doesn't sit higher is the cost and how that limits abilities. Any instant that costs five mana starts to have limited effectiveness. Opponents are less likely to be surprised when you leave up five of your mana, as opposed to when you leave up two or three. Being able to counter a noncreature spell is great, but having it cost five mana limits its effectiveness. Even giving a creature -3/-3 is limited. There will still be plenty of targets, but by the time you have five mana, you'll wish you could give -5/-5.

2. Cryptic Command

Many of you who have been playing for a while will rant about this placement. "Cryptic Command is clearly the best Command! It isn't even close!" You are right in that Cryptic is an excellent Command. It is only four mana and an instant. It does everything that you expect from a blue card, and blue is the best color. It counters anything, bounces anything, taps all opponents' creatures, or draws a card. Cryptic Command is ridiculous. If I'm running a primarily blue deck, I'm running Cryptic Command.

The only downside to Cryptic Command is the three blue mana in the casting cost. If you are hoping to play it with only four lands out, you are probably going to have to be a mono-blue player, or you'll realistically be looking at turn five or six before it becomes an option. It is a great card with no real appreciable downside.

1. Austere Command

I know the card is a sorcery. I know it costs six mana. That doesn't matter. Austere Command fixes any problem you have. You need artifacts gone? They're gone. You need enchantments gone? They're gone. You need creatures gone? They're gone. Perhaps you are running mostly smaller creatures, as white sometimes likes to do. No problem, Austere Command will wipe all the big creatures off the battlefield, leaving the way clear. Are you running mostly Angels and other big flyers? Austere Command can help you too, clearing out all those annoying chump blockers so you can take out big chunks of damage.

Cauldron of Allies

Download Arena Decklist

Austere Command is simply the answer card you are looking for, almost all the time!

Ranking cards like this is fun…but, in reality, not particularly practical. Austere Command is Number One, but if you are playing a red-green deck, you are not picking it over Atarka's Command. The true value of every Command lies in the flexibility. Keep choosing cards that offer you options. More options will bring you more chances at success!

Bruce Richard



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