They’re back! In just a couple short weeks Magic’s favourite villains will return in full force to wreak havoc upon the poor inhabitants of Mirrodin. Those crazy Phyrexians can’t leave well enough alone: they’re always up in other people’s business! And when they throw around words like "compleation" you know they’re only out to mess with your head.
In typical Derfingtonian fashion, I thought it would be a good idea to take a few steps back in time to the last time the Phyrexians took it to the frail, squishy meatbags. Most of us Commander players derive a quaint sense of excitement from exploring old sets and finding hidden gems for their decks and considering we haven't seen the Phyrexians in so very long I thought it would serve as a nice segue into this week's article.
So, when was the last time Yawgmoth almost won all the marbles? Yes folks, it was during the aptly named Invasion block! Take it away, Inception foghorn!
Phyrexians bring out the best in Magic. In their last invasion attempt all it took to stop them was the Legacy Weapon, the Weatherlight and her crew, and a Super Friends Planeswalker squad led by Urza himself - and it was still a rough ride for the Dominarians. While there doesn't seem to be any plans of freaky-deaky planar interpositioning in Mirrodin Besieged, e all know Phyrexians are some of the baddest muthas around. As such, we can expect some nice Commander toys to play with - from both the Mirran and Phyrexian sides - when Mirrodin Besieged is released.
From a gameplay standpoint, Invasion broke a lot of new ground. It gave us kicker, domain, and a whole slew of multicolor cards; so many that decks built around tri-color combinations were not only viable, but encouraged. Before Shards of Alara, there was Invasion.
If you have read any of my past articles you may have picked up the hint that Invasion is one of my favorite sets. I have a lot of fond memories playing with this block. When I was in high school, Invasion was the Constructed format du jour and many of the top decks were built around awesome cards like Blazing Specter and Kavu Titan. Invasion also introduced many cool legendary creatures for the Timmy crowd, like Captain Sisay (my favourite commander) and Tsabo Tavoc. Invasion also gave birth to Fact or Fiction, one of the most ridiculous card advantage spells ever printed. Invasion had something for everyone.
As years passed, Invasion rotated out of the newer formats and many cards in the set have gathered dust, long forgotten...until now! In preparation for the besieging of Mirrodin I took a look through the entire set and picked out a select few cards that you should consider playing in Commander. Because there are more than a few cards in the set that are well-played in the format (ie. Aura Shards, Elvish Champion, Obliterate), I’m going to focus on the cards that I consider hidden gems.
Believe me, there are a lot of them!
What a giant middle finger to all the players who love the fatties! Dark Banishing was always a nice removal spell, and for one more mana you can get a lot more value. The card also fits well with black and red mass damage cards like Spiteful Visions, Furnace of Rath and Wound Reflection.
It’s a giant cat-man wearing a little hat! Look how tiny that hat is, it’s hilarious. What? Five mana for a 2/5? What is this, Legends? Okay, aside from the picture, I bring Armored Guardian to your attention because of its first ability. Repeatable protection is a great ability in Commander, making it similar in function to Eight-and-a-Half-Tails, which as we all know is awesome. While it's a bit ludicrous to compare this clunky cat to ol' 8.5 Tails it just might be worth a shot!
P.S. Cat in tiny hat!
Can we say “best Shatter ever?” Really, not close? Just for using one green mana in addition to red, the targeted artifact can’t regenerate, AND you get a bunch of Saproling dudes. At instant speed!
I remember playing funky casual decks with this spell and Devouring Strossus. What is a "strossus" anyway? Reminds me of beef stroganoff. So good.
You can abuse this spell with other enters-battlefield dependent cards like Pandemonium, set up a nasty Dance with Sneak Attack, or just use it to dump a large creature into your graveyard to recur later.
Crusading Knight/Marauding Knight
Before Mirran Crusader and Phyrexian Crusader, we had these two fellas. While probably not the best options for Constructed, in Commander you can expect some fairly sizable Knights. Even if you get a Knight to 4/4 or 5/5, it’s still a decent deal for your mana. If you’re feeling frisky, you can also pair Crusading Knight with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.
It’s over 9,000!
I talked about Crypt Angel in my article about Commander boxes, but to reiterate: everything about this card is so cool. If you’re playing Grixis, you MUST be playing her. And check out that artwork, it’s badass.
Do or Die
Again, this is one of those cards that wouldn’t be the greatest in Constructed, but in Commander, there’s a very good chance you’ll whack a ton of guys with this spell. It’s not exactly on the level of Browbeat because in the mid-late game, you’ll always be hurting a player’s board. I’d definitely give this one a try.
I think there’s a deceptive amount of power in this card. For two mana, you’ll never be mana-screwed again! If you need lands, you’re essentially choosing your ideal draw each turn. The Sanctuary also has a repeatable shuffle effect, which is great with Sensei's Divining Top, Crystal Ball or Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
Fires of Yavimaya
I cannot love this card enough. Haste is such a powerful mechanic in Commander, and a Fervor with an added bonus is just great.
Any green card that offers card advantage is worth a second look, even if it offers that bonus to every other player at the table. Green decks typically pack a decent amount of fatties anyway, but when you start factoring in reanimation cards like Karmic Guide, or copying spells like Rite of Replication, that’s when things get a little nutty.
If you're playing black and blue, Spite//Malice is one of the most flexible spells you have. Between a creature removal spell and a non-creature counterspell, it covers most of your bases for just four mana.
Instant speed creatures are great to have, and I also like this card for the mind games you can play on your opponents. They'll keep second-guessing whether or not they should attack you. Another neat trick is that if you have the mana, you can stack the Aerostat's activation triggers to put multiple creatures into play.
A less powerful Reanimate on a stick is still a pretty cool thing to have, especially since you can reanimate the Delver for more value. Black has plenty of ways to gain life back anyway so delve to your heart's content!
Pulse of Llanowar
How abusable is this card? Given a suitable way to pump out lots of expendable creatures (like, say, Goblins), you can pay two mana to Wasteland someone. I’d say that’s pretty sweet.
This card has one of the most hilarious illustrations ever, especially when you consider the very real possibility that the artist got a couple of his friends to pose for it. “Oh mah gawd, I’m turnin’ into ice!” “Oh mah gawd, I’m turnin’ into a tree!”
Tangent aside, a repeatable pseudo-Overrun and a repeatable Unsummon are rather nice abilities to have. Bant especially has a lot of enter-battlefield creatures to abuse so it's in an entirely fitting color combination.
This card has "Greedy" stamped all over it. There are probably people out there who play this card just for the chance to land the absolute Magical Christmas Land blow-out scenario: “Dust Bowl my Academy Ruins? Okay, I get to keep it instead, AND your Dust Bowl is destroyed, AND I draw two cards!”
And you can put it on an Isochron Scepter, too! Mad beats.
There are lots of little critters in Commander that you want to kill but don’t want to waste a card doing it. Thornscape Master fits here nicely. He can also protect your creatures or let one swing in unblocked. Nice utility.
A 3/3 with a repeatable Wasteland effect is not a bad deal at all. I'm surprised I don't see it more often because it's quite an efficient little guy ("little" being relative).
Twilight's Call is like a more balanced version of Living Death, but anything that has the potential to drop a lot of creatures into play at instant speed is just asking to be abused - even if it would cost eight mana to do so.
Hope you enjoyed this little sojourn into the past. I'd love to revisit Planeshift and Apocalypse the same way so if you have any suggestions or feedback let me know!
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