Let me start by saying that this week has been insane! Grand Prix Montreal was absolutely awesome, Innistrad has been spoiled, and the Lunch Parties are this weekend! First thing's first: I want to thank everyone who made GP Montreal awesome! I ended Day 1 at 6-3, and was pretty happy with that. I made a few mistakes I shouldn't have, but in the end I don't think I made too many mistakes (besides, who plays around Goblin Grenade plus Reverberate??). I got to play some awesome games of Commander with the likes of @lansdellicious, @derfington, @GaddockTygue, @benc86, and @sagegnosis, I got to meet the whole Mana Deprived crew, and multiple people answered my call on Twitter for Foil Child (children?) of Alara to get signed/altered by Steve Argyle! When all was said and done, the main event might not have gone well, but the Atomic Baby certainly earned its reputation this weekend!
That said, what's more relevant for this week's article is that the complete card image gallery for Innistrad has been released, and that the Prerelease happened this weekend! Let me say up front that this looks to be my favorite set since Champions of Kamigawa, and I loved an Arcane spell more than most people! The flavor of this set is awesome, and while the overall power level may be lower than what we've gotten accustomed to, there are still plenty of home runs in the set! Rather than go through every card, I figured I'd go through a few top 10's to condense the information a little, and give a little more variety. Here we go!
Top Ten Favorite Art
- Angel of Flight Alabaster
- Moon Heron
- Endless Ranks of the Dead
- Reaper from the Abyss
- Into the Maw of Hell
- Make a Wish
- Stensia Bloodhall
- Ghost Quarter
- Gavony Township
The art for this set is absolutely amazing! I love the Gothic-horror feel of the set, and the sheer amount of contrast that you get as you look through the visual spoiler. There are some pieces that have an etheral beauty about them, some that have a very savage, bestial feel to them, and some that are just dark. The biggest conflict seems to be that most of the Human buildings are more Victorian while the other buildings are more Gothic, but that's still incredibly flavorful. All in all, I feel like the art for this set helps make a more cohesive world than it has for the last few sets, and I hope the trend continues for the rest of the block!
"Best" Commander Cards
So maybe these aren't the absolute best cards for Commander out of the set, but they're some of the ones I'm most excited to play with, and the ones which I think will have a significant impact on the format as time goes on. Some are obvious, and some are a little off-the-wall, and I can't wait to get my hands on them to try them out!
1. Mayor of Avabruk/Howlpack Alpha
2. Fiend Hunter
The reason that Oblivion Ring is mediocre in Commander is because the board gets wiped fairly frequently, and then people get their cards back. This may "just" be an Oblivion Ring for creatures, but it's also one that can easily be sacrificed in response to it's enters the battlefield trigger to exile creatures forever, and this is easily recurred. This guy is going to be a staple in a TON of white decks because of how easy he is to abuse with things like Sun Titan.
This is the chase rare of the set out of the gates, that's already being considered for significant Vintage and Legacy play. Are you surprised that it's going to be awesome in Commander? Actually, the card only gets better, since in Commander you get to run cards like Crystal Shard without being embarrassed, so this guy becomes a ridiculous chump-blocking, flashbacking, Sword-Carrying beater that completely changes the dynamic of the game.
This gets you twenty-six power, two times, for one card. Fifty. Two. Power. This is the kind of awesome card that's just barely over-costed for constructed, and is dripping with flavor that's just awesome for Commander. While some mono-black decks just Exsanguinate everyone to death, plenty of others like to run cards like this for style points. This may not be the most powerful option to dump your Cabal Coffers mana into, but it's definitely a fun one!
Who's going to argue with a Flying Phyrexian Arena? I know I'm not. I mean, really, a 5/4 Flier for 5 is perfectly reasonable, but one that draws a card every turn? This guy is incredibly efficiently costed, and is going to be an absolute powerhouse in black-based decks. He may be easier to remove than a Phyrexian Arena, but I don't think there are going to be many Black decks that don't want both of them.
And now we get to the card that's obviously absurd. The easiest card to compare this to is Yawgmoth's Will, and anyone who's played the game for any length of time can tell you just how stupid Yawgmoth's Will is in any format it's legal in, and Past in Flame won't be any different. The ability to recast ramp spells, tutors, and game-ending bombs is nothing to sniff at. It's why people play Recoup. The thing is; a good portion of the time, Past in Flames is just going to be better than Recoup. I know that I'm considering running Past in Flames over Yawgmoth's Will in my Child of Alara deck, because it doesn't force you to exile cards you may not want to.
7. Devil's Play
Red is commonly considered the weakest color in Commander, and for good reason. The fact of the matter is that Red has no good ways to generate any kind of card advantage, and struggles to find enough reach to kill multiple players with 40 life. Devil's Play is a great way to alleviate both of these issues, and is exactly the kind of card that Red needs to see more of. It's incredibly flexible, good at most every point in the game, and is open-ended reach that can kill multiple players! Red decks tend to run multiple Gauntlet of Might-style of effects, and this is exactly the kind of card you want to sink that extra mana into!
In my Verdeloth article, I talked about how the biggest problem that I've had with Green decks is that they often have trouble dealing with the board getting wiped multiple times. A card like Moldgraf Monstrosity helps to generate card advantage off of Wrath of Gods. This may have to fight with cards like Woodfall Primus and Terastodon and the like at the top of the curve in some decks, just because of limited space, but I think that another way to recur giant guys can't hurt.
And Doubling Season returns! For some people, you'll get to run a second copy and do even more dumb things with it, and for others this will be an affordable substitution. It doesn't interact as favorably with Ghave, Guru of Spores, but it's still a very powerful effect for token-based decks. That said, because Doubling Season has been so thoroughly explored, there isn't much new to do with this card, but that doesn't change how powerful the effect is.
10. Kessig Wolf Run
This is the kind of innocuously powerful card that wins games. I know every R/G deck I build is going to run one of these, and my Child of Alara deck will at least test one. While Genesis Wave for 20-some is a great way to end the game, so is pumping 15 or so mana into this to General Damage someone to death. The extra points of damage you get off of this will always be relevant, and is a great way to eke extra value out of your manabase. As a rule, I love cards that encourage people to play an appropriate number of lands, and this is definitely one of the most powerful non-basics in the format!
Build Around Me Cards
How many ways can you think of to activate this guy off the top of your head? I've got Hermit Druid and Divining Witch and Leveler. There are enough ways to tutor up creatures in this format that you could fairly easily dump this guy into play on turn 3 or 4, and then win on the following turn. All you've got to do is have a Deep Analysis in your deck, so that you can mill yourself and then draw out of an empty library. Will this card see much play? I sort of hope not, since I'm not a huge fan of effects that "win the game," but it's still a very interesting card.
Since when does Blue get recursion like this? I get that you have to exile the card to activate this, but it still just seems like a weird effect for blue to have. That said, this is very powerful in Blue/x decks, since blue doesn't have too many creatures with absurd ETB abilities, most of the good ones are in Green and White. That said, the card is still very good, and will win games of Commander.
The obvious thing to do with this is just to name Creatures and start recasting your Avenger of Zendikar, there are some more interesting things you can do. Build a Seismic Assault deck and name Lands. I've got a Child of Alara Enchantment deck that will be happy to have another pseudo Replenish, especially one with Flashback.
There are decks built around a Commander that want to be able to wipe the board without having to kill their Commander. Something like Hokori, Dust Drinker doesn't want Hokori to die, but wants ways to answer threats that do hit the board. I think that this is an interesting role-player for decks that want to answer hordes of guys without killing their Commander.
The Zombie cards from this set are awesome. There's a ton of flavor, quite a few incredibly powerful cards, and tons of great interactions with old cards. Definitely be prepared for a resurgence of Zombie-Tribal decks in your local metagame, since someone's going to break out their Graveborn Muse and Noxious Ghoul.
At first, this seemed like just another way to abuse Phyrexian Arena and Necropotence. Then I remembered that Proliferate exists. This is going to be a really powerful card for some Wrath of God or Damnation decks. You can wipe the board repeatedly, and then try to win the game with Grimoire of the Dead or Liliana Vess.
This is the kind of card that makes people play White in Commander. This is going to about as much play as Reveillark, if not more. It's good in token strategies, good in strategies with utility creatures, and is very easily abused in both of those kinds of decks. Every non-land card in my [card Kemba, Kha Regent]Kemba[/card] deck can cantrip. Saffi Eriksdotter becomes stupid. Don't even get me started on stuff like Darien, King of Kjeldor with Tarnished Citadel in play. This card is the real deal, and is definitely my most anticipated card from the set. I've preordered multiple playsets just so I have them on hand as soon as the set is available!
This seems very good for something like Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind. Cards like this give spell-based decks a way to win with Commander damage instead, and I'm a huge fan of giving decks alternate ways of winning the game without changing the fundamental goal of the deck. I don't know how good this is going to be, but I do expect that it will see a significant amount of play.
This card is just fun. I really want to play this in a Doran, the Siege Tower deck with lots of Castle effects and Solidarity as a ridiculous Overrun. The card just seems like it plays a great utility role in a deck that cares about toughness, and I've been excited to build a "toughness matters" deck!
And lastly we've got a Spirit card. Spirits are an interesting tribe because there are a lot more of them than you think. Sure, most of the "good" ones come from Kamigawa block, but there are still a number of very powerful spirits that don't see much play. The biggest problem with the tribe is that there aren't many good ways of generating card advantage without going outside of your tribe, and Angel of Flight Alabaster is a great way to do that. Now you can regrow your Karmic Guide every turn, and Kami of False Hope lock the token player, all in mono-white!
Unfortunately, that's about all that I've got space for this week! There's a ton more that I'd love to talk about with regards to this set, and after Prereleasing with it, and playing some commander games with Innistrad cards, I already love the flavor and the gameplay of the set. This is definitely my favorite set in years, and I'll be doing a ton of brewing with the legends and other Commander-friendly cards from Innistrad in the coming weeks! Lastly, thanks again for all the awesome feedback I've been getting! I'm still backlogged on mail, but I have been slowly making progress!
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