Commander Card Reviews

Coda: As exciting as all the new generals were, the new Commander set brought a wonderful assortment of non-legendary cards into the mix, as well.  As a whole, these cards focus on politics and exploiting a multiplayer environment more than any other cards Wizards has ever released.

WhiteAlliance of Arms

Coda: I gotta say, the Join Forces mechanic is leaving me a little cold.  Yeah, you get a ton of soldiers, but so does everyone else.  And you paid a card for yours.  And your opponents’ can attack first.  Unless you can break the symmetry somehow, then you’re really, really not getting a very good deal.  The usual anthems and such to pump up your creatures are all well and good, but what you should really be thinking about is following this up with something like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite or Massacre Wurm.  A sweeper with Vicious Shadows or Stalking Vengeance out is pretty vicious, too.  If your opponent casts this, well, I’d think very carefully before chipping in any mana, because odds are you’re going to regret it.

Candy: My main observation about the Join Forces cards: play them when everyone else is tapped out, or very close to. This may mean that the card sits in your hand for a long time, but that sometimes makes you tossing down dozens of dudes on the battlefield while your opponents sit and glare at you from across their tapped mana all the sweeter. Alliance of Arms is probably the most efficient token-generating sorcery I’ve ever seen, but it definitely comes at a cost in terms of timing.

Archangel of Strife

Coda: With the possible exception of a Doran, the Siege Tower deck, is anyone going to choose peace?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Seriously, though, the archangel fits right into most token decks, giving you an always-on Overrun that lets you swing through for lethal damage just that much easier.  Also note its non-legendary status, so go nuts with Rite of Replication.  Watch out for opposing decks that might try to use this effect against you, though, and whatever you do, do not let someone cast Insurrection with this out.  Unless it’s you.

Candy: This card synergizes ridiculously well with trample mechanics. If you’re not running any in your own deck, I’d suggest thinking long and hard before including this angel.

Celestial Force

Coda: While not as impressive as its green and red cousins, the Celestial Force nevertheless is a very solid creature.  Not only does it have a titan-smashing 7/7 body, it can gain you a seriously ridiculous amount of life in a few short circuits around the table.  A must-have for any lifegain strategy, and a very solid inclusion in just about any deck that wants a little extra life cushion to pad out those close races.

Candy: How happy am I that they made white and red versions of Verdant Force? Really freaking happy. The designers did a great job with the flavor and the balance, too. 3 life per upkeep is  awesome, but not brokenly so.

Crescendo of War

Coda: This thing is going to get out of hand quick.  Note that it gets another counter not just on your upkeep, but every upkeep.  And it’s mandatory.  In a big game, that means +4/+0 or more for your creatures by the time the turns swing back around to you.  If the enchantment stays out, you’re looking at some seriously double digit X/1 saprolings running around before too long.  One thing I don’t understand about this card is the odd symmetry-breaking, though.  Blocking creatures you control get another +X/+0.  That’s cool and all, but I’d really rather have an extra +0/+X to offset the bonuses my opponents get.  Unless I had a Meglonoth, or some way to Fling my creatures at my enemies, but that’s kind of a corner case.  In any case, watch out for 30/1 blocking soldier tokens of doom.  Coming to a table near you.

Candy: I’m not sure I’d ever include this card in a deck of mine simply because it embiggens everybody else’s creatures before it ever gets to me. It’s akin to the Howling Mine problem. The deal-breaker is how, unlike Glory of Warfare, my dudes don’t get a bump in toughness when it’s not my turn. Yeah, sure, the bump in power means assured mutual annihilation, but ultimately, this card should be played in a deck that can pretty much guarantee that it’ll have more guys out every turn than everyone else. And that’s quite a feat.

Martyr’s Bond

Coda: As if Grave Pact wasn’t absolutely vicious enough, they had to go make it better.  While the usual Grave Pact sacrifice shenanigans apply, the white nature of this card does suggest that it might see play more as a deterrent than as an incredibly frustrating lockdown machine.  Or maybe I’m just an optimist.

Candy: If you play white, you should include this card. It’s like a Karmic Justice that extracts a like payment, and best of all, it gets around indestructibility. If you don’t run instant-speed sac outlets in your mono-white deck, perhaps now is the time to consider it.

Soul Snare

Coda: Seal of Doom and Condemn had a dangerous little liaison, and this little beauty was the result.  Get some enchantment recursion going and you’re looking at a seriously powerful removal engine.  Easily worth including in just about any white deck.

Candy: It’s a serious rattlesnake card, and furthermore, if you’re able to recur it, it’s some of the cheapest repeatable spot removal in any color that I’ve seen.

Vow of Duty

Coda: I love the whole Vow cycle.  They get troublesome creatures off your back, and yet somehow leave the ‘victim’ feeling pretty okay about the whole exchange.  While I don’t think they’re going to become top-tier EDH staples the way some cards in this set are, I don’t think I could ever really fault a deck for running these.  The white one is particularly nice in that it gives Vigilance, an incredibly useful ability in multiplayer.

Candy: My dream is to see a big scary general, like Thraximundar or Wrexial, the Risen Deep completely bogged down by Vow cards from every other player so that they can’t attack.

BlueFlusterstorm

Coda: I hear that Legacy players are clamoring to get their hands on this one, and it’s just as well, since I doubt most EDH players are going to want to include it.  Pawn it off and then laugh all the way to the bank.

Candy: If you aren’t running Mindbreak Trap, this card gets the job done, and done well,  if you’re facing off another blue player in a counterspell war.

Minds Aglow

Coda: Group hug, everyone!  I don’t feel like I’m really the one to evaluate this kind of card, since giving my opponents cards is about as palatable to me as incest and bestiality.  I guess you could fill everyone up and then nuke everyone with Runeflare Traps and Cerebral Vortexes while you have a Psychosis Crawler on the field, but I doubt too many folks will contribute once they realize your deck is built around those shenanigans.

Candy: Hey, remember what I said about Alliance of Arms? That goes double for Minds Aglow. That is all.

Riddlekeeper

Coda: This doesn’t really seem like punishment for attacking someone.  More like a reward, really, given how many decks abuse the everloving hell out of their graveyards.  Now if you got to put cards into your own graveyard, that might be another thing, but sadly no. It isn’t even that great on defense, either. A wasted card, in my opinion.

Candy: I have in the past built an EDH mill deck that managed to win a good amount of the time (the secret: Leyline of the Void, baby, and a bunch of other graveyard hate, like Ravenous Trap), but this card doesn’t belong in a mill deck unless your playgroup doesn’t run heavy on the recursion. It would probably stop token decks from swarming over you, but it’s mostly going to piss people off more than it will serve as an effective attack deterrent.

Spell Crumple

Coda: Hinder gets an upgrade!  Or a downgrade, depending on your particular attitudes toward recursion and tutoring.  Either way, this gives yet another delicious way to tuck those problem generals well out of reach where they can’t do any harm.

Candy: A Hinder that hinders itself. Fun and flavorful. Given how every color other than green and blue have difficulty recurring instants and sorceries from their graveyards, this card could serve as a reusable counterspell.

Trench Gorger

Coda: Exiling all your extra land that you don’t want is kinda cool, but once this gets bounced, flickered, or killed once its never going to be anything other than an overcosted fatty.  Personally, my sea monster of choice will forever be Stormtide Leviathan—the new hotness can stay on the bench.

Candy: Playing this in late game when you’re sick of drawing lands could be great, and I’m sure you can combo the hell out of it somehow, but I’m not enough of a Johnny to appreciate this card fully, I think.

Vow of Flight

Coda: Another vow, this one granting evasion.  Not really much to talk about beyond the last one.  Stick it on someone’s Eldrazi and watch the hilarity ensue.

BlackDread Cacodemon

Coda: Reiver Demon got an upgrade…kinda.  The fact that it taps the rest of your team is kind of disappointing, since it means you really can’t use it for an alpha strike without going through some major contortions.  Still a great card, though.  I expect this one is going to be wrecking people left and right for a long time to come.

Candy: This card is sick, sick, sick. Best played during your second main phase so you don’t care too much about getting tapped out.  But seriously, you guys: a Plague Wind attached to an 8/8 body (which you can recur much more easily if you’re playing mono-black) for only 1 more mana? That’s a pretty sweet deal.

Scythe Specter

Coda: Finally a specter that doesn’t leave one player feeling completely shafted.  Instead, everyone gets to shoot you dirty looks across the table! The lifeloss is a neat little bonus, too.

Candy: Who loves you the most? Geth loves you the most!

Sewer Nemesis

Coda: This guy is a pretty fantastic dredge enabler, and while he’s never going to reach the epic proportions that Lord of Extinction is capable of, he’s still going to be a very credible threat that just keeps getting bigger.

Candy: This guys is just hilarious. You can choose yourself and make your dredge shenanigans even more ridiculous, or you can choose somebody else who runs very little recursion and watch them seethe.

Shared Trauma

Coda: Now here’s a join forces card I can really get behind. Being the huge graveyard recursion fan that I am, I’d chip in a ton of mana for this in a heartbeat. It’s kind of like drawing X cards, only it’s only the graveyard decks that get to benefit. And hey, if someone has a Lord of Extinction around…things could get ugly.

Candy: The funny thing about this particular Join Forces spell is that the vast majority of EDH players hate dumping their cards into the graveyard. So if you’re running this in your deck, odds are very high that you’re going to be the only one paying any amount of mana (and conceivably reaping the benefits). Just watch out for those Bojuka Bogs and Ravenous Traps, though.

Syphon Flesh

Coda: Syphon Mind is one of my favorite black cards, so the callback is cute, but this just seems too expensive for what it does. Fleshbag Marauder costs 2 less and is way more abusable. This does get the prize for the most disturbing art in the set, though.

Candy: Unlike Coda, I’m a huge fan of this card. Everybody else has to sac a creature, and I get tokens as a result, so it’s removal AND board advantage? Sign me up for that newsletter.

And yeah, that artwork is super disturbing. Amorphous creepy cloud dude seems to be getting a bit of a chubby for all the dead corpses he’s harvesting for you. Ick.

Vow of Malice

Coda: Easily the worst vow, considering how Intimidate is kind of a nonbo with multicolor creatures. Too bad it doesn’t give lifelink – that would have been awesome.

RedAvatar of Slaughter

Coda: Games running long? Have too many people turtling up behind their fatties, not daring to attack? This guy will get things straightened out in no time. Combine him with Archangel of Strife and Crescendo of War for extra hilarity.

Chaos Warp

Coda: Finally red gets some love in the anti-general department.  Note that this can get rid of enchantments as well as pesky generals. A must include in monored and red decks not running blue or white.

Candy: A red Oblation? Why, how very kind of you, Wizards. Thank you. Red was in sore need of some answer cards, and the chaotic element to the spell keeps it squarely in-flavor for the color.

Death by Dragons

Coda: Great flavor, but I’m not quite sure how this will play in real life. Something tells me everyone’s probably just going to leave their dragon back on defense as a deterrent against everyone else’s dragon. An interesting political play I’d like to see people try is giving everyone else dragons…could be fun to see how that plays out.

Candy: A pretty terrible card unless you’re playing it in a dragon tribal deck and plan on casting Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund immediately after. Could also potentially be fun in a group hug build of Zedruu the Greathearted.

Magmatic Force

Coda: Boom! Free lightning bolts every turn is going to get some damage done in a hurry, not to mention its sizeable frame. I highly reccomend doing what the card says and making as many copies of it as you possibly can.

Candy: I think I have a new favorite target for a kicked Rite of Replication. I did in fact manage to make a copy of this monster while playing the pre-con Riku deck, and man, 6 damage to the dome every turn is every bit as delicious as it sounds.

Mana-Charged Dragon

Coda: Is someone dominating the table? This big guy will let everyone gang up on them and cut them down to size right quick. Easily one of the top EDH dragons ever printed.

Candy: If nothing else, using Scion of the Ur-Dragon’s ability to copy this guy in a Two-Headed Dragon game could mean killing somebody off real quick.

Stranglehold

Coda: I highly approve of the no extra turns bit, but no searching? That’s just mean. If griefing is your thing, go for it, but expect this to earn you no small amount of ire from your opponents. I like the art, though. The guy doing the choking? That is one cold, scary looking dude.

Candy: I’ve seen people play this card, and just like when somebody plays Kismet or Frozen Aether, one of two things inevitably result: somebody destroys it immediately, or people start smashing at the controller repeatedly, operating under the theory that once she’s  dead, it’ll go away. I do like that it cock-blocks extra turns, though.

Vow of Lightning

Coda: First Strike is neat and all, but as vows go this is kind of meh.

GreenCollective Voyage

Coda: A delightful way to punish that guy with the 5 color manabase with all of the original duals, shocklands, fetches, and filters. Cards like this tend to be popular, but I’m always very leery of casting them myself. After all, my opponents get to use their mana first. This would be pretty hilarious with a Rampaging Baloths out, though.

Candy: Hey, remember what I said about Alliance of Arms? That goes triple for Collective Voyage. Unless you have Rampaging Baloths or Avenger of Zendikar out.

Hornet Queen

Coda: The ultimate in fatty defense. A horde of flying deathtouchers in a conveniently Reveillarkable package. I’m considering putting this in my Jenara deck, which is high praise, indeed.

Candy: Flying and deathtouch? Two great tastes that taste great together. Swarm, my pretties. Swarrrrrrrm.

Hydra Omnivore

Coda: Six mana for an 8/8 that basically attacks everyone at once? That’s pretty awesome. This combined with any number of power-boosting effects could do some serious damage in a hurry. Also, it should be noted that if there’s a creature that you should not put a vow on, this is it.

Candy: If you’re looking to win through the red zone, boy, do we have a doozy for you! He’s one of my favorite fatties, and makes me reconsider putting Whispersilk Cloak into my Stonebrow deck.

Scavenging Ooze

Coda: Some nice, cheap, flexible graveyard hate on a body that could grow quite large. Withered Wretch is good, and this guy is better.

Candy: I may be overstating this, but I think just about every green deck should include this guy. Targeted graveyard hate for the low, low price of one green mana? Hell yes.

Tribute to the Wild

Coda: Two mana for an artifact/enchantment edict is pretty nice. This should piss off people that just have sol rings out, but I doubt it will have much effect on dedicated artifact or enchantment decks.

Candy: Depending on the deck archetype you’re up against, it’ll range from debilitating to not even registering on the radar. But that’s probably true for most edict effects.

Vow of Wildness

Coda: Probably tied with Vow of Duty for the title of best vow. Trample is always a stellar addition to big McFatty commanders.

ColorlessAcorn Catapult

Coda: Delicious flavor, but aside from that not really that stellar. If I want to give my opponents lots of guys, I’ll use Alliance of Arms, and if I want to do damage, well, there’s plenty of better options.

Candy: I think this card’s pretty damn great, but mostly as a combo piece. My dream combo: have Darien, King of Kjeldor out together with a Soul Warden and an Auriok Champion, ping yourself for 1 damage, and get two tokens as well as a net gain of 1 life.

Champion’s Helm

Coda: A fantastic addition to equipment-focused voltron decks, but not that great for everyone else.

Candy: I find it hilarious that Swiftfoot Boots, which is basically Better Lightning Greaves, is coming out in M12, not in this set. Its “if legendary, then hexproof” proviso really limits its usefulness.

Command Tower

Coda: The best land ever printed for all but monocolored Commander decks. ‘Nuff said.

Candy: As far as I’m concerned, the alternate name for this card is “Color-Screw-No-More.”

Homeward Path

Coda: Wow…this is insanely powerful. But really, now that I think about it, we’ve needed something like this in EDH for a long time now.  Bribery and Acquire tend to warp the metagame around themselves, and this should go a long way towards making your opponent think twice about tutoring up your Eldrazi on turn three.

Candy: I literally squealed with delight when I saw this card, because it’s such an elegant way to deal with blue decks that steal everything that isn’t nailed down. And I say this as a person who has built a blue deck or three that steals everything that isn’t nailed down.

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