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Hidden Gems: Apocalypse

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The final chapter of the Brothers’ War closes in suitably epic fashion as Yawgmoth Himself descends upon the plane of Dominaria. Already battered and exhausted, the Dominarian forces are pushed to the brink as the Weatherlight crew scrambles to unlock the secret of the Legacy. In this darkest time, enemies join forces to face the Apocalypse.

The bedrock of many a Commander deck has been carved from the fruits of Apocalypse. It was one of the first sets to actively support enemy-colored spells and themes, and one of the first to print wedge-themed cards. For those who have looked to push the boundaries of their Commander deckbuilding, you will likely find at least a few Apocalypse cards sprinkled into their decklists. Enemy pain lands such as Shivan Reef and Llanowar Wastes are virtually Commander staples, as are enemy colored utility cards like Death Grasp, Pernicious Deed and Mystic Snake.

But, a number of cards in Apocalypse have fallen by the wayside. I am especially drawn to the cards that encourage wedge colored decks, as this is an area that I feel has not been fully explored, at least not until the Commander decks are relased this summer. As with the previous installments in the series, I’ll go over a hand-picked list of interesting, quirky, or just plain amusing cards from Apocalypse.

Volvers

I always thought the Volvers were awesome from the get-go, and always had ideas in my head to build casual decks around them. Even by today’s standards, their combined double-kicked mana cost isn’t a bad deal for what you can get, and if you need early drops to hold down your board a single-kicked Volver is perfectly acceptable, especially if they’re one of the regenerating variants. The Timmy in me loves all of them like my own children, and to pick one would be akin to Sophie’s Choice (that is, not nearly like Sophie’s Choice at all).

Brass Herald

For the Tribal deck in your life, there’s Brass Herald. While each color in Apocalypse had its own “Messenger” creature, Brass Herald can double up for the respective tribe, or just serve as a Messenger for a tribe that’s unfortunate enough not to have one. Although 6 mana is a little steep, it’s a decent dude.

Ceta Sanctuary

I’m not a fan of most of the sanctuary cycle, but I think Ceta Sanctuary has interesting potential. Green, one of the two relevant colors for the card, has similar cards like Sylvan Library, but Ceta Sanctuary is more like the blue equivalent of Phyrexian Arena, which makes it a potentially powerful card draw engine. And you can, you know, always use it with Sylvan Library. I think the Oracle text is unintentionally hilarious:

10/4/2004: The ability has you draw one or two cards, but never three.

So stop drawing three, you frigging cheater.

Life//Death

Talk about a sweet card for black-green decks! You can either turn your lands into an army of dudes for one mana, or Reanimate from your graveyard for two. I am a big fan of cards like these that offer swingy effects for little mana, for when you need to make a lot of plays in one turn.

Dragon Arch

The mana cost on this artifact is a little high, but once you get it down you can start sneaking in all your fatties for two mana (if you’re playing multicolored ones). But there are so many nice ones that I’m sure you’ll have no problem getting good mileage out of the Arch.

Desolation Giant

I love how the kicker cost is what turns Desolation Giant from “utterly terrible” to “pretty darn good.” It would be cool to find a way to bounce and replay the Giant as necessary, because as a one-shot, it’s comparable to worse than Phyrexian Rebirth. Then again, redundancy is key to making a Commander deck consistent, and the Giant type may be relevant for cards like Ancient Amphitheater. I guess.

Fervent Charge

There is something badass about the [card Oros, the Avenger]Oros[/card] wedge that I can’t quite put my finger on. Regardless, Fervent Charge rewards you for attacking by offering a pseudo-double-Crusade buff for your dudes. Which is not a bad thing at all, given that its colors all have their own potent token strategies. The artwork is also quite funny: the Kavu behind Crovax is obviously copping a feel, while the Treefolk in the background is clearly anxious to get in on the action.

Fungal Shambler

When I first saw this card as the prerelease promo for the Apocalypse release, I thought it was one of the coolest cards ever. And I still think it is. Seven mana is probably a little steep for a creature with only a 4 for a butt, but the swing in card advantage might just be worth it. Double strike will probably go a ways to getting more mileage out of Fungal Shambler.

Guided Passage

Robby Rothe (aka MTGColorPie) wrote about his friend who loved playing Guided Passage, and I can certainly see the appeal. I mean, you’re getting three cards here, and they’re all going to be relevant in some way, if your deck isn’t completely filled with crap. You may not get the card you need in a certain situation, but political scenarios can certainly come into play where an opponent may want to play nice and get you what you need.

Legacy Weapon

I love this card so gosh darn much I went and got an Apocalypse foil copy (which looks beautiful, by the way). It’s the kind of splashy effect you want to play in Commander: you can exile ANY permanent, but you need all five colors to do it. How cool is that? I have gotten this online more than once, and sometimes you’re the good guy coming to rescue by blowing the big baddie’s toys to smithereens, and other times you’ll feel like the evil villain charging his laser. And people can’t deck you (almost)! So fun.

Symbiotic Deployment

The drawback isn’t nearly as bad as it seems in the right strategies, and with the kinds of creatures coming out these days (ie. Avenger of Zendikar) it’s not too hard to draw a butt-ton of cards off this card. I especially like Symbiotic Deployment for Commanders like Rhys the Redeemed, where raw card advantage is harder to find. Like Necropotence, you don’t want to drop it with a full hand: it’s best to use for reloading your entire grip in one or two turns. Also, Seedborn Muse!

Whirlpool Warrior

There is something rather appealing about Whirlpool Warrior that I just can’t put my finger on. It's probably the red mana symbol in an otherwise blue card. It is obviously quite awesome with Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, but the ability to recycle your hand and force your opponents to recycle theirs offers a power not unlike Teferi's Puzzle Box, where you keep combo players off their game by denying them the ability to sculpt their hands. It is also not nearly as annoying as the Puzzle Box, because you can crack the Warrior at key times.

Yavimaya's Embrace

Yet another card that appeals to my inner Timmy, for a whopping eight mana you can Control Magic a creature and give it an insane buff. It is definitely nice on someone else’s Eldrazi, but even in the absolute worst case scenario you can simply put it on your own creature, not unlike Corrupted Conscience. By the way, Corrupted Conscience is totally sweet with Sovereigns of Lost Alara.

And that concludes my Hidden Gems mini-series with the Invasion block and, unfortunately, my Commander column here at Quiet Speculation. I want to thank QS for giving me the opportunity to write about a format I love so much, and everyone who’s commented or offered feedback on my articles. Thanks also to the other fine writers with which I have had the pleasure of writing alongside. Lastly, I want to thank my editor, Adam Styborski, for his supreme insight and editorial eye.

If you'd like to check out what I'm up to or want to chat, feel free to hit me up on Twitter: @derfington.

Until next time, may flying purple hippos bring you much joy and lucksacking.

[Editor's Note: Do you have the Commander bug and a reasonable command of English writing? Drop me a line (styborski AT gmail) to see if you could be the next Commander writer! And thank you to David! You will be missed! Rumble on my heroic, pink Hippo!]

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