There are a lot of proud parents here in Nagoya, Japan this weekend. Many of the people involved in the creation of the Magic: The Gathering Commander decks that will be released on June 17 are on site for Magic Weekend Nagoya to continue the unveiling of this much-anticipated new product release.
Organized Play Program Manager Scott Larabee is a good friend against whom I have pitted my Commander deck many times over the past couple of years. Having had to fend off his fiendish 100-card creations at many a late-night gaming session I am more than a little terrified of what lies in store now that he has a had a chance to create some cards. Scott beamed with particular pride over Martyr's Bond, which was previewed yesterday by Noel deCordova.
I had not seen the card prior to today, and I audibly gulped at the sight of it—and the proud-papa grin on Scott Larabee's face as he watched me mentally recalibrate my own decks to deal with it. Bad enough that I have been fighting Rashad Miller's Grave Pacts all weekend with my poor innocent Carven Caryatids, Yavimaya Grangers, and Wall of Blossoms, but now I have to deal with its twisted reflection from Scott's decks?
I was already looking at adding more token generating creatures to my deck to deal with Rashad, and Scott has made it clear that I am going to have to overhaul or get overwhelmed by their insidious plans. I have been searching for my Deranged Hermits and possibly even breaking out the old Vesuvan Shapeshifter / Thelonite Hermit morph action in my Momir Vig deck that I wrote about in April.
*Brief aside before getting to your preview card*
I wrote in that article about adding Liberated to my Momir Vig deck, and I finally got to make him shine this week. I was playing against Bill Stark and Rashad and had been drawing cards like crazy for the whole game, but I was in danger of losing all my lands if Bill got to untap with his Gilt-Leaf Archdruid. I had more than 20 lands in play—and a Gaea's Cradle to boot—and cast Vesuvan Shapeshifter copying Bill's Regal Force. I then used Blue Sun's Zenith to draw the remaining couple of cards in my deck. From there I cast Karn Liberated and used it to exile my own Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur. I cast Walk the Aeons with buyback and drew my Blue Sun's Zenith for my turn. I repeated the process for a couple of turns and then proceeded to start the game over. Sadly, no one chose to join me, and we shuffled up and made room for some other players to join an actual new game.
*End brief aside and get down to showing you your preview card*
I get the pleasure of giving you your first look at a green creature that is a 2/2 for a mere seven mana, but I think you will agree that it is more than worth the price. I present to you... Hornet Queen!
The end result of your seven mana is 6 points of power with flying and deathtouch, giving you either an air force to get into the red zone with or—more likely—a front line to hide behind. It is not going to be very profitable to attack into you. Players will have to trade an actual creature card for one fifth of your Insect, since each of those fifths have deathtouch. It is definitely a great "go bother someone else" kind of card.
I always enjoy playing with bounce in my green-blue decks, and Hornet Queen seems perfectly made for my Cloudstone Curio, Crystal Shard, and Equilibrium to create a nigh impenetrable swarm of insects to hide behind—and maybe even attack with at some point. Sure, they are all going to die to one mass removal spell, but that was true of your one creature card whether it made four additional creatures or not. Even if somebody kills the Queen herself in order to prevent any bounce shenanigans, you are still left with some ornery critters that present a real challenge for your opponent's biggest monsters to get through.
There is no end to the cards that combo quite nicely with the Queen. I am tempted to try and build a deck that lets me play her and FlameFusillade in the same assortment of 100 cards so I can machine-gun down all the mighty Giants, Dragons, Angels, and Eldrazi with my lowly death touching insects. I am more than amenable to any suggestions you all might have about how to add another 98 cards to this deck.
Hornet Queen | Illustration by Martina Pilcerova
I actually get the "pleasure" of showing off two cards today, but I am sure that the second card was offered to me as a form of punishment for stealing too many creatures with my Gilded Drake / Equilibrium combo over the past few months. Or for my mono-blue deck, which has everything from Annex to Blatant Thievery and very few actual threats of its own.
Everyone has their own boundaries when it comes to playing their Commander decks. I tend to not play Sensei's Divining Top. I usually don't run any Wastelands or Strip Mines. I have nothing against those cards, they are just not what I want to be doing in a game.
But I cannot imagine being able to do the things that I do want to do in a game without having some form of Strip Mine at my disposal once this new card is available to everyone. Cue my Homeward Path frowny face:
Seriously?!? Bojuka Bog was already a challenge for my Regrowths, Restocks, and Praetor's Counsels, but you are going to make me give all my hard-earned (read: stolen) goodies back to the people I stole them from? If I Bribery Rashad's Sheoldred, Whispering One, why should he get to control it at the mere drop of a land? The things we do to keep up with this format!
Homeward Path | Illustration by Tomasz Jedruszek
Of course that is what makes the format challenging and fun, and keeps us coming back for more. Normally we have a small handful of cards to weigh for our decks but with the release of Magic: The Gathering Commander we will be getting five brand-new decks and a bushel of new cards to go into our old ones.
I. Can't. Wait.