Magic: The Gathering Commander is almost here.
That simple statement is as cool as I can get when it comes to the release I've been looking forward to most. While New Phyrexia is an amazing set—one that I particularly relish for a variety of reasons—Magic 2012 is already peeking over the horizon, and Innistrad is still a nebulous unknown, I'm confident that these new decks and cards for the Commander format will be everything we've been waiting for, and more.
Why am I so sure? Other than the obvious "You write about and play Magic, duh!" grab, it's a well-known fact that I am a huge Commander-format fanatic. Part of the reason it won me over is that multiplayer games with big, splashy creatures and spells create some very interesting situations. I've seen some of the strangest and awe-inspiring plays happen as the result of multiplayer interaction, and it's that unique intersection of political intrigue and player pleasures that I'd like to show you today.
Click here to check out today's preview card from the "Heavenly Inferno" deck:
Stop. Wait. Now say it with me: "Boom! goes the dynamite!"
- Joining Forces for Fun and Profit
Mana-Charged Dragon is a bit special. Join forces is a new ability word that means exactly what it looks like—each player can contribute mana to an effect—but Mana-Charged Dragon is the only place where it appears on a permanent, in this case as a triggered ability. Every other instance is on a sweet spell for everyone to help pump up (we'll get there next).
Mana-Charged Dragon | Illustration by Mike Bierek
Our Dragon is a fire-breather from the heavens, able to charge up and kill the most powerful of defenders and players, and it gets to do that through other players helping out. With both flying and trample, Mana-Charged Dragon will be able to hit home easily, and I'm sure telling you how to use your Dragon is an exercise in redundancy. (Pro Tip: Attack!)
What Mana-Charged Dragon really gives you, however, is a unique way to mix some of the most powerful effects in Magic—the Mana Flare family and global land-ramping—and still see a powerful net positive for you. Let's run this down:
- Thanks to Mana Flare and similar global mana production effects, every player suddenly has a surplus, or at least abundance, of mana.
- When you use the Dragon as the weapon of choice, the players of the multiplayer game become a United Nations of sorts, voting on who should get the short end of the big stick.
- With a vetted attack supported by other players, that extra mana gets funneled into our Dragon harbinger of destruction.
- Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Mana-Charged Dragon provides the unique service of being a joint-strike fighter that other players can buy into. And who doesn't want to play with big mana effects?
So what does this set-up look like? Here's a sample shell of support for the Dragon that can be overlapped into a variety of red-green Commander-format decks:
|Mana-Charged Dragon||Mana Flare|
|Fierce Empath||Heartbeat of Spring|
|Brutalizer Exarch||Collective Voyage|
Give your opponents extra mana and find your Dragon fast: these are basics you can use to start wheeling and dealing ally-empowered blows, and—oh, sorry. You're wondering about Collective Voyage?
If you didn't see this already I'd suggest checking the Card Image Gallery to find other gems you may have missed (like the similarly equipped, token-producing Alliance of Arms). Collective Voyage is one of the four fantastic sorceries with join forces, and it's an excellent way to build the two biggest things we want with our Dragon:
- Goodwill, since everyone gets to jump in on some mana ramping fun.
- Extra mana floating about for future join forces opportunities.
Collective Voyage | Illustration by Charles Urbach
|Rampaging Baloths; Emeria Angel||You get a number of 4/4 green Beast or 1/1 white flying Bird tokens equal to the mana paid.|
|Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle||If you've sculpted things in advance, you can unleash a number of Lightning Bolts equal to the mana paid.|
|Admonition Angel||You get to exile a number of nonland permanents equal to the mana paid.|
|Ankh of Mishra; Zo-Zu the Punisher||Damage is dealt to everyone (including you) for every land they collectively paid to find.|
|Avenger of Zendikar||You put a number of +1/+1 counters on your Plant creatures equal to the mana paid, or set up making an extremely large number of Plant tokens.|
|Stone-Seeder Hierophant||You get mana back equal to the mana paid (untapping a land in between each of the Hierophant's triggers).|
|Vinelasher Kudzu||You put a number of +1/+1 counters on it equal to the mana paid.|
And wouldn't you know it? Most of those cards happen to be red or green as well. Funny that.
- Let Our Powers Combine!
While politically motivating temporary allies out of opponents at a table is a noble and powerful achievement, finding ways to maximize of mana-hungry Dragon of doom all on its own is a natural inclination as well.
Dragons are amazing by themselves, but sometimes you just want to hit a little harder. Mage Slayer lets our heroic monster hit just for turning sideways, and if my rules understanding is correct you can have the join forces trigger resolve first so that the Slayer lets the full force of the Dragon hit home.
Fireshrieker is a similar piece of enhancing Equipment, only in this case it grants double strike. Twice the damage from the same allied investment? Delicious.
And equipping both of them to Mana-Charged Dragon seems like the silliest thing ever.
While Equipment can help our flying friend deliver the goods, another way to hit harder is to simply do it more often. Aggravated Assault is the face of beating down repeatedly, letting up untap and do it all over again for as much as we can affort. Savage Beating is a one-time deal, but can provide a double strike kick in flavor if desired.
Hellkite Charger is a pricier way to gain additional combat steps, but comes with the bonus of being, you know, a Dragon. Throwing Sword of Feast and Famine into the mix creates a way to shotgun the table, blasting a path of destruction with a heavily armed, angry, flying beatstick.
Sword of Feast and Famine and Aggravated Assault creates a similar situation, but the real prize is when you're untapping more mana than it takes to create an additional attack step: that formerly superfluous mana now increments Mana-Charged Dragon every circuit.
Your opponents will need some aloe, because that's just too hot to handle.
If you're thinking about green, given the abundant ways to make extra mana with that color, then you may want to consider Greater Good. Even if everyone joins in on making our Dragon the best it can be, the defending player may not take it standing.
A well-placed Doom Blade has brought many attack plans to a deadened halt, but Greater Good (and Momentous Fall, among others) gives us the ability to take our now oversized monster and convert it into quite a cache of cards. Consider it an insurance policy: if all goes well we're just fine; otherwise we have shiny new toys to play with.
Sometimes, good old-fashioned combat tricks are just what the doctor ordered. While Assault Strobe isn't the instant variety, like the fashionably new-again Berserk, both let us leverage allied efforts for maximum results: an attack your opponent won't soon forget.
Both Lightning Greaves and Sol Ring can be used to—oh, who am I kidding? These cards are just amazing, and they both happen to be featured as reprints in all five of the upcoming decks! Both of these cards certainly help Mana-Charged Dragon, as shroud with haste is great and easy mana is a natural fit, but both cards are also just as solid in nearly any Commander-format deck.
Sometimes, the low-hanging fruit is just as tasty.
- The Finishing Move
I can't wait to ratchet up a Mana-Charged Dragon into an energy-fueled blade of beats for opponents. As a fan of bigger, badder creatures, one that can become bigger and badder than most is something that tickles my fancy to the core. I hope you, too, find reasons to be excited about Magic: The Gathering Commander!
And this means I want to know exactly how you feel with this week's poll:
Whatever your response I'd love to hear your reasons! I'll share a few more things that have me stoked in the forums this week, so feel free to stop in there or shoot me an email using the links below!
And speaking of the Commander format, last week's poll had a pretty solid result, if I do say so myself:
|Which of the following formats would you like to see game coverage of next?|
|Winston, Winchester, or Solomon Draft (two-player, head-to-head action)||110||18.4%|
|Duplicate Sealed (three players, one card pool)||31||5.2%|
|Deckslaver (four or more players)||95||15.9%|
While the new decks coming out next Friday certainly helped drive some excitement around Commander as the format du jour, I'm equally pleased that the two-player Draft formats took second. After the hustle and bustle of the new product dies down a little, I'll be sure to share some two-player action (right in time for Magic 2012 release!) for everyone interested.
Join us next week when we take command yet again! See you then!