Insider: Commander 2017 – Arcane Wizardry

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As soon as I saw the art for Inalla, Archmage Ritualist, I called dibs on her deck. This was before her colors were spoiled, and for one feverish moment, I had hoped that she was the general of some really cool BW Clerics deck, but alas – the Mardu vampires deck took that color combination from the possibilities.

However, Inalla being a Wizard is just as great. Back when Commander 2013 came out, I bought the Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge deck on Magic: The Gathering Online, sold the True-Name Nemesis and Baleful Strix for about the cost of the deck, and made a Grixis Wizards deck with the proceeds. Having stopped playing Commander online since the V4 release, I am excited for the opportunity to buy into and update a similar deck.

Deck Value

Out of the box, Arcane Wizardry is worth more than the other three Commander 2017 decks based purely on the value of its cards. This is largely due to the hype surrounding its three generals: Inalla, Archmage Ritualist, Kess, Dissident Mage, and Mairsil the Pretender. Each is preordering for at least $5 on, with Kess already sold out at $15.

Initially, this makes it worth the pickup to me if you can get your hands on a copy. Because of the already-high demand for those three as commanders, as well as the fact that they come in foil, means that prices for generals that continue to be popular will hold steady. A notable example of this happening in the last Commander set was Atraxa, Praetors' Voice, which is still around $20 due to its power as a general and the popularity of its color combination.

New Cards

Kess, Dissident Mage

As much as I love Nicol Bolas and Jeleva, Grixis needed a good all-purpose commander. Kess fills that role well. Mairsil is another in a long line of combo-oriented commanders, which will appeal to the folks who are looking to show off brewing skills, but will probably never surpass the raw power of an archetype-defining general like Nekusar, the Mindrazer. While Inalla has been causing a distinct spike in wizard tribal cards, as demonstrated by my Jeleva wizards deck, wizard tribal does not necessarily need a dedicated general. Inalla may not move much in price, or it may go down in price even.

Inalla, Archmage Ritualist Mairsil, the Pretender

The new commanders are some of the coolest, but there's a number of other new cards in the deck as well. Which ones are you most excited about?

Galecaster Colossus Magus of the Mind Portal Mage Kindred Dominance Vindictive Lich Izzet Chemister Shifting Shadow Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand Curse of Verbosity Bloodline Necromancer Curse of Disturbance Curse of Opulence Mirror of the Forebears Path of Ancestry

Reprints of Note

There were many people who were just as excited for the reprints in the Commander 2017 decks as there were for the new cards. I counted myself among that group, although for less practical reasons (new art for the win!).

Unfortunately, there weren’t that many high-value reprints in this one. Go for the Throat sees Modern play once in a while and before this only had one non-promo printing, and the Mirrodin Besieged version is sitting sold out at $2 at Star City Games, with the C17 version not far behind at $1.50. Another possible long-term payoff among the reprints in the deck is Memory Plunder. The Shadowmoor version is also currently sold out at Star City Games. Memory Plunder also only had one printing before C17. Nin, the Pain Artist, Marchesa, the Black Rose and Havengul Lich are all popular Commander cards that were included in Arcane Wizardry, but each is preordering for $2 to $3 each on StarCityGames.

Here's the complete list of reprints in the deck:


While for the most part it is safe to assume that preorder prices on cards from Commander 2017 decks are at an artificial high, there are a few cards that could continue to go up even as the release hype dies down. I’ve seen a few people that are excited about Kess, Dissident Mage in a Legacy Grixis shell, which I report with some skepticism. Untapping with a creature that doesn’t die to Lightning Bolt or Abrupt Decay that essentially draws you a spell every turn does seem sweet, but given the Legacy metagame right now, I would much rather be playing Leovold, Emissary of Trest.

On the more casual end of the spectrum, I think that Portal Mage has a lot of potential for value growth. The political element of the card is going to make it good in multiplayer in many of the most beloved blue archetypes, such as Group Hug, and its price is still low. It is preordering at Star City Games for $1.

Portal Mage

As we saw with the release of The Locust God, increased archetype popularity can lead to an increase in the price of cards that are good in them. While looking at this deck, I also want to take a look at the cards that could win big as a result of seeing play in newly popular decks. Conveniently, each of the new legendary creatures clearly defines the deck that it wants to helm: Inalla wants to play with Wizards, Kess casts spells, and Mairsil… well, Mairsil does whatever he wants, because who is going to stop him?

Spells-centric cards are hard to speculate on for Commander as much. These cards are likely to go up without needing a Commander set to be released, because most Commander decks will play spells without needing a specifically instant-and-sorcery theme, but Mizzix's Mastery is a card that I have had my eye on for a while. It is currently around $6 on TCGplayer, but the card only has a single printing and is unlikely to get another one in the next year. The card is good enough that its price could easily double in that time.

For Wizards, Patron Wizard already saw a jump, but there are two wizard creatures that are under $2 and have a way to go. Sage of Fables is just a good tribal support creature, and has only been printed once. You can currently buy copies of Beguiler of Wills for less than a dollar, but in decks that have a lot of untapping (such as, say, Wizard tribal and weird combo decks), the card is straight-up nuts. It’s a mythic from Dark Ascension, which is also only available from that set.

Commander Metagaming

As a Commander deck, Arcane Wizardry leaves some to be desired in terms of power, but for a Commander player looking for a solid selection of Grixis cards, the deck does pretty well. Updating the deck could pay off, if you do it with low-investment, high-upside cards like Beguiler of Wills, and the deck has the bones that it needs to become something really cool.

Additionally, depending on the price you get a sealed deck for, it may be cheaper than building your Kess, Dissident Mage deck from scratch, because it saves you from having to buy a $15 copy of your general. Financially, there is not much value outside of the generals, but there is some potential there as well.

What has you most excited from Arcane Wizardry?

One thought on “Insider: Commander 2017 – Arcane Wizardry

  1. As an FYI, I don’t think you have to wait a turn to use Kess’ ability…she simply says you can cast an instant or sorcery on one of your turns..there is no “if she’s in play during your upkeep” trigger or anything. Play her and then cast an instant or sorcery from your yard for free…

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