Command Tower: Eternal Masters

Posted in Ways to Play on May 31, 2016

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.

Eternal Masters is arriving soon. I know this because I've been counting down the days. Throwback sets with powerful cards have been something we've enjoyed since the first Modern Masters, where we picked up amazing cards for Commander and drafted hyper-aggressive red-white decks. (Speaking for myself, having two Thundercloud Shamans as the entire top end for a deck is living the good life.)

While the Command Tower is a bit dusty since our last visit, there's more than a few good reasons to stop back in, clean up, and celebrate.

Eternal Masters means more than just what Legacy and Vintage are looking for.

Masters Eternal

Commander decks typically start at the top: choosing your leader before digging out the remaining 99 cards is the usual way to get started. When the format took off years ago, options weren't so well defined. It's easy to recall the excitement of finding legendary creatures you had never seen before.

I wasn't there for the Onslaught storyline, but the pit fighters—Jareth, Leonine Titan; Arcanis the Omnipotent; Visara the Dreadful; Rorix Bladewing; and Silvos, Rogue Elemental—made an impression all the same. Silvos led me to try regeneration as a sneaky way to keep creatures around (Wrath of God and Damnation, literally, proved otherwise), and a Jareth experiment led me to see what a monocolor deck could do. (It worked surprisingly well!) These days, drawing a bucket of cards with Arcanis the Omnipotent or firing off volleys of death with Visara the Dreadful still matter, but I'll always hold a soft spot for Jareth and his protection-granting power.

Speaking of the power of protection, another legendary option in Eternal Masters is Eight-and-a-Half-Tails. Eight-and-a-Half-Tails looks unassuming at a glance, but he's a commander I've come to fear. For a paltry three mana—and anything that's just three mana is pretty cheap in Commander—he invalidates most targeted effects in the game, mucking with how copying, equipping, removal, and the fundamentals of combat work. One clever trick that got me in a game against the legendary Fox Cleric was giving pseudo-unblockability to a beefy body: a deck full of Equipment becomes most effective if all opposing forces are white and your well-equipped hero has protection from that color.

But we're nowhere near the top of the power curve for Commander in Eternal Masters.

Brago, King Eternal is a more recent addition to the Commander pantheon, now returning to booster packs after Conspiracy. (Though it doesn't look likely we'll see him again come Conspiracy: Take the Crown.) Flickering—named after Flicker and shorthand for its effect—is what Brago is all about, and ensuring he can hit opponents turn after turn leads to powerful things.

WorldsUnseen's Blinking Brago

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Brago, King Eternal

Brago decks like this focus on maximizing every combat step. Resolute Archangel, Sun Titan, Mulldrifter, and Blade Splicer are all examples of creatures that enjoy getting to trigger over and over. Since Brago needs to deal combat damage to trigger, cards like Whispersilk Cloak and Unquestioned Authority ensure he gets to make his mark on the battlefield.

There's one more choice of commander in Eternal Masters that I've had personal experience with: Maelstrom Wanderer.

A few years ago, when it first arrived as part of Planechase (2012 Edition), I put together a Commander deck around Maelstrom Wanderer. It was meant to be a themed approach, piled high with permanents and one incredibly unlikely way to upend the game: a copy of Primal Surge without any way to seek it out.

Fast-forward through several games and it became clear the deck was too good. Not just "great" or "excellent" but outstanding in every sense of what I wanted to do:

  • Maelstrom Wanderer is a card engine. Put into a deck that ramps up by putting lands onto the battlefield, killing the Wanderer typically made things worse for opponents, not better, as you'd then get to recast it.
  • Granting haste to creatures means putting it into a deck filled with them let you output combat damage like nobody's business. Advancing the game state by attacking every turn is effective for not just ending but winning games.
  • The colors of Maelstrom Wanderer pair up in powerful ways. You get to play cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Shardless Agent, and Bloodbraid Elf (cards that are all coming back in Eternal Masters!) together. Chaining value was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Resolving Primal Surge was effectively game over. There were so many ways to attack for the win immediately that the rare occasions it couldn't happen it turned into a one-turn-cycle puzzle for all of the remaining opponents to solve before dying.

In the spirit of unrestrained power, here is an updated take on Maelstrom Wanderer meets Primal Surge:

Primal Surge Maelstrom Wanderer

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Maelstrom Wanderer
Sorcery (1)
1 Primal Surge
Artifact (1)
1 Birthing Pod
99 Cards

It slices, dices, stomps, demolishes, out-draws, and out-values just about any multiplayer deck out there:

The end result is an aggressive, efficient deck that can beat down on multiple angles, thanks to Maelstrom Wanderer.

A Few Other Things

Awesome legendary creatures aren't the only Commander features in Eternal Masters. A few other fan favorites and first-time-in-premium-foil cards include:

  • Maze of Ith—one of the best deterrents and free combat tricks in Magic.
  • Toxic Deluge—when you start with 40 life, you can afford to pay to clear the battlefield.
  • Mana Crypt—if it's better than Sol Ring, it has to be good.
  • Sylvan Library—for all those mono-green decks you have waiting for an update.
  • Gamble—for all those mono-red decks that desperately need a tutor effect for fun and profit.
  • Dualcaster Mage—it's not Snapcaster Mage, but copying someone's Decree of Pain and resolving it first will make you a believer.
  • Unexpectedly Absent—the card that makes you say "Wait! You're going to search your library? Hang on a sec."

While Eternal Masters is undoubtedly set up to provide a unique Limited experience and support for Constructed, the piles of Commander goodies and ancient cards that have returned again means it's worth checking out even if 100-card piles are your way to play.

No matter what, somebody's got to keep a light on in the Command Tower, right?

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