Everybody knows about the fancy multicolored legends from Commander. They are the stars. They get oversized cards that show off their “General”ness. They get featured on the biggest Commander sites and hyped like crazy. They are the cards Wizards is using to convince you to buy the Commander decks. In the toughest Commander games in the world, nobody fights battles like these guys.
And then there’s the Other Guys.
You know, the guys who are one color. The guys who have a role and know their role. You flip past them when you are looking at cards to build your deck around, but you come back to them again and again when looking for solid guys to fill up you 99. When you go out and buy your Commander decks today, you’ll set these cards aside right now, but you know they are going into your decks soon enough.
Archangel of Strife
I saw this card among the early cards to be spoiled and expected to see some sort of war and peace theme. Now that I’ve seen all the cards, this card has a lot of text on it but it basically gives all creatures +3/+0. Almost no one will choose the peace option since it is weaker in almost every situation. Even forgetting that for a moment though, this is a 6/6 flyer for 7 that gives +3/+0 to all creatures. Assuming hordes of small creatures, preferably ones with flying, this card can really bring those little 1/1 dudes to life.
The more interesting play is putting her in a Doran, the Siege Tower deck. This will force your opponents to actually have to make a choice. While you will likely choose Peace and do everything you can to put and keep Doran into play, what will your opponents decide? Invariably, someone will choose War with the expectation that he can keep Doran out of play. Archangel of Strife was meant to be in a Doran deck.
Finally, check out the art. I love me an angel with a huge sword and shield, armor breastplate, greaves with serrations along the back… and a thong. Apparently ankle protection is important, but exposed hips and thighs are okay. Although I admit I’d follow her into war, or peace for that matter.
If all you got was the name, what would you think the card would do? Trench Gorger implies some kind of land eating monster. Gorger suggests that this creature probably gets bigger depending on how many lands it destroys. Land eating is basically land destruction, so you’d probably figure a mid-size red creature with that gets bigger for every land it destroys. That’s not too badly off what Trench Gorger actually does, so kudos to the naming guys.
I’m not sure what I think about Trench Gorger. His ability thins out the lands in your deck, which is likely something you want if you already have enough lands in play to afford his eight mana cost. The difficulty lies in how much deckthinning are you willing to risk to really make this guy pay off? If you put 38 to 40 lands in your deck, would you be willing to lose 25% of those and make this guy huge? If you are running him in your Quest for Ula’s Temple deck and you can get him out early, would you be willing to go even bigger?
For me at least, the risk is simply not worth the reward. Creatures are the easiest to kill permanent on the board, and this one doesn’t have any way to protect itself. All an opponent has to do is destroy it or even bounce it and any size advantage you’ve mustered is lost.
What this card comes down to is whether it works in a combo, or whether you are satisfied with a 6/6 trampler for eight mana.
Now this is a card I can absolutely get behind! Six mana for a 4/4 flyer that “specters” everyone at the table is great. The benefit is that there is almost always someone who is vulnerable to a black flyer later in the game, so there is usually someone available to take the hit and force everyone to dump a card. The downside is that usually at this point in the game, most players only have one or two cards in their hand that they haven’t cast yet because they don’t have the mana…
Wait, what? “Each player who discarded a card with the highest converted mana cost among cards discarded this way loses life equal to that converted mana cost.”
Now that I’ve scooped my jaw up off the floor, this just went up several levels of amazing. Each player! You just need to find the weakest link and go after him! This is a black flying creature, so the chances that someone will be vulnerable to his attack are pretty good.
The problem with the newer specters is that they let the opponent choose the card they are discarding. This invariably means that they are discarding either a land they don’t need, or a spell that they can’t hope to cast any time soon because it just costs far too much. Scythe Specter creates a mini-game among your opponents to avoid taking the damage, while trying to keep the cards in their hand that they can afford to play. Just a couple of points from the FAQ for Scythe Specter to keep in mind:
* Each opponent in turn order chooses a card to discard without revealing it, then all the chosen cards are discarded simultaneously. No one sees what the other players are discarding before deciding which card to discard.
* If there are multiple cards tied for the highest converted mana cost, each player who discarded one of those cards will lose life equal to that converted mana cost.
This evens the risk among all the players around the table. Since everyone is going to suffer, no matter who this dastardly dude damages, expect that he will draw removal from whoever has it. He demands that the entire board sit up and take notice.
While looking at the FAQ for Scythe Specter, I also found this:
* If Scythe Specter deals combat damage to multiple players simultaneously (perhaps because some of the combat damage was redirected to another player), its ability will trigger for each of those players.
Forcing players to discard once, then again? That is just evil. However, having this guy do combat damage to two separate players sounds like work. Giving him double strike sounds much easier to me.
The dynamics around this card are interesting. On one hand, you are targeting a single player with all your discard or milling effects in an effort to increase the size of their graveyard. Yet, you don’t want them dead. You want that huge graveyard to just sit there while you attack everyone else around the table with your Horror.
The problem here is that creatures are already vulnerable. There are so many ways to get rid of an annoying creature, even a black one. Now add to this all the graveyard hate that floats out there among decks who fear dredge, reanimator and other graveyard recursion abilities. Now Bojuka Bog not only wipes out someone’s graveyard, it also kills your Nemesis.
An alternative could be to just target the guy with graveyard effects since he is probably trying to fill his own graveyard. This opens up several spots in your deck for other cards, rather than filling it with cards to help pump up the Sewer Nemesis. Of course, this doesn’t avoid the risks described above with Bojuka Bog, and you are playing right into Mr. Recursion’s hands. All this for a Nemesis which could get very small when Living Death goes off. This seems more like a four mana spell that forces someone to use a spell to empty the graveyard of your choice.
Avatar of Slaughter
With cards like this I’m always concerned that I am creating a situation where I will be facing all of my opponents’ creatures as double strikers, since I am forcing all of them to attack every turn. While the flavor text suggests diplomacy has solved nothing, it isn’t suggesting a mad, chaotic rush either. Wait until after your attack phase to cast this. At least force everyone else to attack and tap out before you have to do the same.
Magmatic and Celestial Forces
Which would you prefer, Healing Salve or Lightning Bolt? I thought this was determined a long time ago that this cycle of cards was completely unbalanced. Why is Wizards printing it again? Admittedly, in Commander lifegain is stronger than it is in one v. one play, but it still pales in comparison. I gain three life, or I can kill a creature with three or less power or do three damage to an opponent. This is ridiculous. Does this mean that if there is another set of Commander decks we will see Torrential Force that draws three cards on each upkeep, Blood Force will give us three mana on our upkeep, and Terran Force will give a creature +3/+3 until the end of the turn? Please.
As for the cards themselves, eight mana to get an ability that recurs on each upkeep on a 7/7 body is spectacular. That is a lot of life or burn assuming the creature can last even once around a four or five player table. These guys are going to draw targets onto themselves or you very quickly. There is nothing like reminding everyone on the board at the start of each player’s turn that you can do three damage again and again. And if your metagame is anything like mine, gaining 15 life over one round of a game will draw you plenty of negative attention.
Finally, these cards cost eight mana and there is no shroud or other protection. I know I love playing my high casting cost dudes and seeing Doom Blade take them out before the end of my turn. Just saying.
Five creatures with flying and deathtouch for seven mana? Sign me up. Add in some bounce or blinking (a la Reveillark as per the Eh Team) or other ways to bring the Queen onto the battlefield repeatedly, and things will definitely get scary. Add in a way to give a creature (or all your creatures) first strike/double strike and things only get worse for everyone else.
I have always felt like deathtouch is a better defensive ability. When you attack with a 1/1, your opponent chooses the creature that blocks, so deathtouch is not so devastating. Deathtouch on defense means that the opponent’s biggest creature is going to die. That threat is usually enough to send someone off to find greener pastures. I know that Voracious Cobra (and more recently Glissa, the Traitor) have been great ways for me to send opponents elsewhere. Given that thought, you should be ready to follow this up with something that can go after your opponents. Don’t give them time to find their Raid for your Insects.
Speaking of something that comes after your opponents! The goal for this fellow is to give him trample (hello, Loxodon Warhammer!) or make him unblockable. At six mana he will take too long to get on the battlefield to find an opponent who can’t block him, so he’ll need some help. Although, if you are playing green, you’re probably getting this guy out on turn four, so maybe you don’t need all that much help. Unlike the Specter, who also does something to all players if he can do damage to even one player, the Omnivore is on the ground. Getting through will be a little more difficult. However, want do you want? He is an 8/8 for six mana that does damage to every opponent! This creature has amazing stats and demonstrates just how far big green creatures have come.
Just a quick note before I wrap up. I encourage all of you to attend a local Commander Launch Party this weekend for all the reasons I talked about last week. Big Launch parties and significant sales are the best way to tell Wizards that you would like to see more.