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Insider: Evaluating Commander 2017 for Eternal

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Today's article will focus on the cards from Commander 2017 that may have some potential in eternal formats. We've seen WotC repeatedly include eternal-playable cards in these Commander products, and cards like True-Name Nemesis and Containment Priest often drive strong demand for one specific deck. That can make it much more expensive and harder to get—so there's a clear benefit to highlighting them early. Wizards finally released the full decklists last week, so we're getting digging ASAP.

As always, it's best to list the criteria I look at when evaluating potential for Legacy (and possibly Vintage; note that these aren't legal in Modern):

  1. Does it fit into an existing archetype?
  2. Does it create a new archetype?

For each of our picks today, I'll be evaluating them on these criteria, and adding some additional thoughts about their general playability.

For this product I will simply go through each color and focus on the new cards. Reprints will cause their respective prices to drop, but aren't likely to affect a format's metagame. To save space I will only list cards that I believe may have an impact—I don't see a benefit to discussing those that flat-out won't.

White

Alms Collector

Alms Collector has flash and a decent body for four mana—as others have mentioned, very Restoration Angel-esque. Though in this case instead of blinking your own creature you continually disrupt your opponent, which in eternal formats is likely to be far more beneficial. This effect means a Brainstorm nets your opponent -1 card (as they still have to put two back) and nets you +1 for a total of +2 in card advantage.

The biggest challenge I can see for this card is that the deck most likely to play it is Death and Taxes, which uses its mana very efficiently—either trading one land for another a là Wasteland or disrupting opponents from casting non-instants via Rishadan Port. It often doesn't have four mana to leave up. Even worse, they don't play any other four-drops, so ticking their Aether Vial's up to four counters likely eliminates the surprise factor.

All that being said, this card would fit well into a Maverick shell (GWx for those who didn't play several years ago when the deck was popular). Maverick plays mana dorks and thus can get this card into play faster, which when it comes to disruption is critical.

If this was a three-drop (with weaker power and toughness) I think it would be an auto-include in Death and Taxes. As it stands I think it will be tried out and maybe end up in the sideboard. Its stock definitely goes up if we see a resurgence in Jace, the Mind Sculptor decks (as there aren't a ton of cards currently played that actually draw you more than two cards at a time outside of Jace and Brainstorm).

Stalking Leonin

This card actually reminds me a lot of a weaker True-Name Nemesis, but that still says a lot. While it's not one of those "must counter" threats like TNN, the benefit of this card is that it's a white three-drop, which means it fits extremely well into Death and Taxes (or Maverick). What's interesting about this card is that unlike many of its predecessors like Fiend Hunter, it just flat out exiles the creature and doesn't return it to play should it itself die. That's huge.

Now it does require the creature to be attacking, so if you're going to hit their Emrakul, the Aeons Torn you're still sacrificing six permanents. But it's really awesome against Marit Lage and Griselbrand as your opponent won't gain life upon said threat getting exiled like they do with Swords to Plowshares.

Overall I think this card has a very high likelihood of seeing play in Legacy. At this time Death and Taxes tends to play good answers already to both Dark Depths and Griselbrand, so I'm not 100% sure it's necessary. But the potential is there.

Teferi's Protection

Here's another card I was on the fence on. The ability is a more powerful, but expensive and counterable, version of Angel's Grace, which doesn't really see play in Legacy or Vintage (outside of maybe some Ad Nauseam Tendrils builds).

Ironically, this would have been much more likely to see play if Wizards hadn't KO'd Miracles, as it's a fantastic way to soft-counter that deck's key card against Death and Taxes, Terminus. Teferi's Protection would definitely have blown out many a Miracles player who had been biding their time against Death and Taxes.

But because WoTC decided Miracles was too powerful (still a bit bitter on that one) it seems this card has more limited uses. It would serve as an excellent response to an annihilator trigger from everyone's favorite Giant Squid, so if we see an uptick in Emrakul, the Aeons Torns we could definitely see this card in Death and Taxes sideboards (though, let's be fair, most of the time they'd still rather have Containment Priest).

Black

Curse of Disturbance

Another potential, but not super likely card. Three mana is a lot to pay in Legacy (and Vintage) so effects need to be powerful. Unfortunately, this one isn't so powerful that it's an obvious inclusion, however, it provides a continual source of card advantage that requires no additional mana input. As an enchantment, it's also difficult to remove.

Of course in Legacy or Vintage there aren't any "additional opponents" to take advantage of the last aspect. But many decks win by attacking, so if you're already going to be attacking every turn getting some extra threats seems pretty good. That being said, this would only really fit in a grindy archetype like Jund (or possibly Grixis) that expects games to go longer, as this card really only seems good after three attacks.

Kheru Mind-Eater

I almost looked past this card as I was scrolling through the spoilers, but the last bit of text caught my eye. Most Legacy and Vintage decks are chock full of powerful cards, so each one that you take from your opponent means you're likely getting something good. The biggest downside is that he doesn't allow you to cast them as though you had mana of any color (like, say, Gonti, Lord of Luxury). If it doesn't find a home in Legacy or Vintage it will be because of that.

The good news is that most eternal decks run two to three colors (and sometimes four), so in the right shell one could likely cast a lot of what you get from your opponent. The wording lets you play lands too, so that might help you mana-fix as well, like Nightveil Specter did in Standard. It also has menace so it's far less likely to be blocked, though the low power is a bit disappointing.

This too seems like more of a grindy card, though it would be cuter in something like the old Abzan Maverick builds that ran Birds of Paradise. That would give you any color of mana just in case, but I haven't seen any of those builds in quite some time.

Red

Curse of Opulence

Lotus Petal is a powerful card, so a one-drop that can create multiple Lotus Petal's certainly deserves a look. This requires a deck that a) is mana hungry, b) has cheap attacking creatures, and c) has something to do with the additional mana provided by this card. This is yet another card I could see showing up in a grindy archetype to benefit from multiple attacks. However, because it doesn't provide additional cards or actually kill the opponent, I'd imagine it more in a Grixis-type than Jund (as blue would have cantrips and other ways to filter any extras away).

It is interesting to note that if you have a threat that can attack, and you play Curse of Opulence pre-combat it effectively costs zero mana. From there, every turn after the first makes it mana-positive (i.e. nets more than it originally cost). So if one built a deck that was very mana-hungry and aggressive (and likely had ways to use that mana to draw additional cards), this could potentially spawn a new deck. That's a tall order, but one worth considering.

Izzet Chemister

This is a three-drop with haste (so at least it can do something on turn three), but since its ability requires R you likely can't use the ability the turn you play it—which is a huge strike against it. However, anytime a Magic card says, "without paying its mana cost," it's important to take heed. WoTC has repeatedly had to ban cards that cheated on mana (whether it's via delve, storm, or alternate costs), so I always take a second look when I see that as an option.

The other problem with this card is that it requires the creature to tap to use either ability so you typically have to wait several turns to really gain any advantages. To me it looks like a worse Past in Flames, which isn't a four-of in any deck. I do think it is likely very powerful in Commander (and especially powerful combined with something like Paradox Engine).

Shifting Shadow

This card resembles Polymorph, except for one less mana. Of course that cost benefit is mitigated by the fact that it doesn't trigger until your next upkeep, so your opponent has a full turn to deal with the creature enchanted before this card does anything.

As it provides a random creature, this would likely only be put into a Polymorph-type deck, which utilizes non-creature spells to create creature tokens so that the "random" creature is a massive threat (like say Emrakul, the Aeons Torn). It seems that some people think this one has legs as copies are pre-selling in the $3.00-$3.50 range currently.

Green

Curse of Bounty

The ability to untap all non-land permanents for two mana is actually pretty powerful. The fact that in one-vs.-one only you would benefit from it and the fact that it's an enchantment (which are more difficult to remove in eternal formats simply because they aren't used nearly as much as creatures or artifacts) are certainly things to consider.

The real question is whether this is something you actually want to be doing. At two mana it can come down quickly and on curve. Now if you're thinking of this like a Serra's Blessing then it would never make the cut, but the power comes in when your creatures tap for abilities. Like, say, Heritage Druid—or pretty much every Elf in an Elves deck.

One important aspect of this card that I didn't originally pick up on is that it triggers when you attack, which means with an Elf deck you can treat it like a Copperhorn Scout. That can allow you to swing with all your mana dorks, untap them, then tap them for mana to overrun with Ezuri, Renegade Leader.

As I mentioned, Elves already has access to Copperhorn Scout, so perhaps that isn't enough. However, the fact that it untaps your artifacts as well does mean you could potentially use it in a non-Elf big mana deck (that happens to attack with creatures). Either way, I'm going to try and pick up copies while it's cheap and store them, especially since the buy-in is pretty low.

Kindred Summons

This is another potential Elf card. The high CMC along with the obvious tribal synergy and the Elf decks' tendency to go wide means that its only real potential is in this type of deck. The question is simply whether it's worth it.

I honestly lean more towards no, simply because Elves already has access to Collected Company. Company only costs four and doesn't require overcommitting to the board (thanks to Elvish Archdruid and Ezuri, Renegade Leader). I imagine Elves players will test it out, but I doubt they'll keep it in.

Blue

Blue actually only got four new cards in this release, and three cost five or more. The other reminds me of a bad Bident of Thassa. That card does trigger off of attacks (instead of combat damage), but unless you have a lot of expendable creatures it probably doesn't do enough.

Multicolor

Kess, Dissident Mage

Four mana is pushing the limits on eternal playability, and the fact that it requires at least a Grixis manabase means the deck options it can go into are limited. You do get a 3/4 for your four-mana investment (so at least she doesn't die to Lightning Bolt) and it's a seven-turn clock for the opponent.

I'll admit when I first read this card I thought she let you cast the card for free. I definitely misread it and thought it was a ton more powerful than it is. However, that being said, she is still powerful.

Legacy and Vintage are full of powerful, cheap spells and giving one flashback (as that is essentially what she's doing) on each of your turns is still a great way to get card advantage. Grixis is also arguably the best color combination for this ability and I could see her being tried out with good ol' Young Pyromancer.

Mairsil, the Pretender

Mairsil suggests a similar (though arguably less powerful) style of deck as the previously mentioned Kess. Though the fact that you can also exile a card in your hand means you don't have to place anything in the graveyard to abuse his ability. That being said, he only triggers on entering the battlefield so you only get to abuse the ability once.

Note that the way the card is worded, future copies of Mairsil will also have the added abilities of cards exiled with other copies. So it would be possible to turn him into a one-card combo engine with something like Triskelion and Phyrexian Devourer. With those cards “caged” in the exile zone, one could combo off with your opponent left with few ways to interact.

Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist

Mirri looks like she might fit into a Maverick-style shell. A 3/2 first striker for three isn't good enough on its own in Legacy or Vintage, but the fact that she makes combat extremely difficult for one's opponent is definitely something to look at. She eliminates the ability for any double blocks and prevents wide alpha strikes from an opponent (like say an Elves player). Thanks to being a green three-drop she can be hit with either Collected Company or Green Sun's Zenith.

My biggest concern is that she doesn't do much against a lot of decks. She doesn't hamper any deck that only cares about attacking with one creature (like Reanimator or Sneak and Show) nor does she disrupt non-creature based decks like Storm.

Taigam, Ojutai Master

Here we have another four-mana 3/4 with cool abilities. While I doubt making your Dragons uncounterable is all that relevant in Legacy or Vintage, making your instants and sorceries so definitely is. Giving them rebound is also very powerful.

I could see Taigam spawning a new archetype. We've seen how Cavern of Souls and Boseiju, Who Shelters All often show up in eternal formats (thanks to the prevalence of counterspells). The free rebound also means that cheap (now uncounterable) cantrips provide actual card advantage instead of just card selection.

Artifacts

Herald's Horn

Three mana is a lot to ask of a card that may not do anything the turn you play it. But mana cost reduction is a powerful ability and the stapled on potential card advantage is a nice bonus. This is one of those cards I could see Elves players trying out, but I honestly doubt they would want to sacrifice a spot in their decklist for a three-drop artifact. Still, I felt that because it may be tested out it's worth giving a second look.

Mirror of the Forebears

Clone effects haven't really made it in Legacy or Vintage much. Some versions of Merfolk play Phantasmal Image, but that's often as a solution to an opponent cheating in a huge threat, and this deck is unique in wanting to max out on two-mana lord effects.

Mirror of the Forebears is a colorless two-drop clone, though sadly it's limited to only creatures you control and only of the type you specify when you play it. Today's two fatties of choice, Griselbrand and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, don't share a creature type and are both legendary. So while this is in the maybe category, I am leaning more towards no, but still felt it was worth it to mention the possibilities.

Ramos, Dragon Engine

People have already discussed how this card can easily be abused with gating creatures like Cavern Harpy. It's always worth looking at cards that can generate a lot of mana, especially when they can go infinite with some setup (looking at you, Transguild Courier and Aegis Automaton—bet you didn't see that combo coming).

Conclusion

This finishes my review of the new Commander 2017 set with a focus on eternal playability. Overall, I don't see a card like True-Name Nemesis in the set that could be slotted into an existing powerful archetype like Stoneblade.

I actually think this might be a good thing, though, as the True-Name Nemesis problem caused a lot of stores to sell out of the "Mind Seize" deck immediately and some of other decks sat rotting in inventory. Even worse, WoTC only sold the decks in sets of five (originally). It got so bad that WoTC started selling sets with an extra "Mind Seize" deck and without one of the others, which allowed store owners to help meet the demand for TNN.

Overall, I really like the set from a Commander standpoint and I do think WoTC gave us enough toys to at least try out in Legacy and/or Vintage to keep brewers happy.

2 thoughts on “Insider: Evaluating Commander 2017 for Eternal

    1. I guess…but here’s the problem I see…Magus of the Will isn’t played in Legacy at all..and I view them both very similarly…as both are the Magus editions of cards banned in the format. The fact is that if you’re going for the shallow grave strategy, why would you want something other than Griselbrand? It seems that trying to use Magus of the Mind to rebuild a Mind’s Desire deck is likely not worth the efforts necessary. The fact that you also have to have an additional blue mana to activate the Magus is the nail in the coffin (IMO). The major difference between Mind’s Desire and this guy is that with Mind’s Desire once you got the mana to cast it you got all the storm copies (unless they have a way to stop that) whereas, with Magus they need only counter the magus or the reanimation spell and you don’t get any effects at all…honestly I think Past in Flames is just way better and plays into what you’re trying to do…

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