When it was first spoiled, Prismari Command wasn't particularly exciting to Modern players. But this month, we're seeing the card on a noticeable uptick, with players registering two to even the full four copies in archetypes as strategically diverse as value, combo, and control. Clearly there's something to this three-mana instant! Today, we'll take a look at the various roles Prismari Command can play for different decks, how it compares to sister spell Kolaghan's Command, and some of the lists that are taking advantage of the Strixhaven newcomer.
Parsing the Modes
Prismari Command has four modes, of which casters may choose two:
- Prismari Command deals 2 damage to any target.
- Target player draws two cards, then discards two cards.
- Target player creates a Treasure token.
- Destroy target artifact.
The first and last modes, also native to Kolaghan's Command, are no strangers to three-cost instants (more on the two Commands below). But the other two are newer.
Creating a Treasure token appears on paper like the spell's weakest mode. But in jamming Magic: Arena of late, I've come to better appreciate the secret power of Treasure tokens, and I don't just mean alongside Urza, Lord High Artificer. Assuming you're planning on casting a spell next turn or this turn, Treasure essentially makes that spell cost one less mana, which often adds up to the initial, Treasure-generating spell costing one less mana. That means that in a pinch, pilots can be paying a functional two mana for any one of Prismari Command's modes, which gives the modal spell an interesting cost-reduction dimension and a heck of a lot of versatility.
Plus, making a Treasure is actually better than just "sometimes costing one less." It's ramp. Simian Spirit Guide was just banned in Modern thanks to the ease at which it let players slam haymakers or combo components a turn early. Seeing as how many of those spells cost five mana (Through the Breach, Ad Nauseam, etc.), Prismari Command can potentially fill the gap, interacting or digging on turn three while "locking in" a Simian Guide for the next turn. And since it's so much more versatile than Simian Guide, we're going to start seeing that pseudo-Guide effect in a lot more decks than had it before going forward.
Then there's the ol' draw two, discard two. This mode evokes yet another banned card: Faithless Looting. You heard it here first, folks: Prismari Command is two banned cards in one! Well, not really. Looting costing a single mana is a huge part of its success; after all, Izzet Charm also features this mode and sees virtually no Modern play.
Kolaghan's Card Advantage
It's not nuts to compare Prismari Command to Kolaghan's Command, even if thanks to their respective colors, the spells were fated to end up in different decks regardless of their text boxes. One key reason: they're nonetheless costed similarly, at 1RC. Another: half of their text boxes are identical.
Among Kolaghan Command's most backbreaking mode pairings is 2 damage and destroy an artifact, a play that often dismantles enemy board states, and at instant speed to boot. Prismari Command shares these two modes, making the same potential blowout possible in URx and giving blue mages a far more flexible option than Abrade when it comes to dealing with artifacts with main-deckable cards. Still, it's worth nothing that Kolaghan Command's other two modes are chosen quite frequently, and that's where Prismari might leave something to be desired.
Target opponent discards a card causes the opponent to minus one, generating a net gain of one in card advantage: Kolaghan's caster spent one card to remove a permanent on the board, and the opponent lost an additional card for good measure. The other mode, return target creature from your graveyard to your hand, also puts the caster up a card. In other words, every mode pairing on Kolaghan's Command generates card advantage.
Not true of Prismari Command; only the mode pairing it shares with Kolaghan's Command will actually plus one indiscriminately, and that's also the most conditional of Kolaghan's card advantage parings, as it requires the opponent to have very specific permanents in play. Prismari's other commands of create a Treasure and draw two, discard two are a wash in terms of card economy, although the former generates an interesting ramp dimension and the latter provides card selection. Prismari Command is simply not a card advantage spell, and comparing it to Kolaghan's Command—one of the format's premier card advantage spells—therefore runs the risk of selling the newer Command short. To Prismari's credit, card advantage is not a premier in-game element in Modern relative to in other non-rotating formats. The same can't be said of tempo and card selection, both of which hold multiple cards hostage on the banlist.
Hold On, We're Comboing Home
If we're not making card advantage, what exactly are we doing with Prismari Command? Proactively, ramping, digging, and dumping; defensively, killing artifacts and creatures. In other words, five things beloved by big-spell combo decks, which seem like the most obvious home for the instant. Take these decks, for instance:
Breach decks have long been combo-control piles wielding tempo cards to modify the game's pace en route to victory, as Splinter Twin once did. Temur Breach is no different, leaning heavily on Wrenn and Six to support Snapcaster Mage in a grind game. The loot from Prismari not only dumps excess combo pieces like spare Emrakuls, but loots through the wrong half of the deck, letting it assemble its combo or amass value depending on the matchup. And of course, a turn three Prismari threatens a turn four Breach, giving the deck that ever-feared dimension from Twin. Opponents aren't even safe with something like Meddling Mage in play, since Command can shoot that as it ramps up to five.
It so has it that Prismari Command is efficient enough that the Breach decks don't need to divert their gameplan in hopes of prolonging the game. This UR Breach deck doubles up on payoffs with Indomitable Creativity and splashes Teferi, Time Raveler as additional combo protection. From there, the gameplan is simple: ramp into a big spell and land that Emrakul.
Niv-Mizzet isn't so much a combo deck as a value deck; its game-winning play is to draw a bunch of powerful gold cards. That does mean the deck can choke on the wrong spells at the wrong time, and it can use all the help it can get at assembling five mana for Bring to Light, Niv-Mizzet, or even Omnath-plus-fetchland. Enter Prismari Command, looter and ramper extraordinaire that also does Kolaghan's Command things, making it both a prime enabler and a worthy payoff to flip off Niv-Mizzet. I'll take 4, thanks!
Prismari Command may not be Kolaghan's Command in terms of card advantage, but its modes are flexible and versatile enough to make it a Modern staple we'll be seeing years down the road, just like the OG Aether Shockwave-A-Shattered Seraph. As illustrated, the modes on Prismari are far better in the right deck than returning a creature or making opponents discard, both of which are mostly best suited for... well, Jund. We're so used to being on the receiving end of great Kolaghan's that Prismari can seem underwhelming at first, but based on its very stellar month in Modern, I'd wager that's about to change!