Nerdy News: How to choose from the new Magic commander decks

Kevin Avis

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(Photo courtesy of mtggoldfish.com)

Magic: The Gathering has been around since the 90’s, but only for the past few years have they been making Commander pre-constructed decks that are composed of old and new cards viable in the commander or Elder Dragon Highlander format (EDH). The new decks allow the design team to experiment with new cards that delve into multiple colors. For example, the first decks utilized three color commanders who focused on wedge colors rather than the shards that were featured in the Shards of Alara block. Each set has brought new cards and old cards with each deck, featuring new abilities to enhance game play as well as new legendary creatures to lead your army, and in recent years, the ability to use certain mono colored planeswalkers to command your army.

Commander is a game where you have a deck led by a legendary creature, or planeswalker if the card says it can be your commander, and you construct a 100 singleton deck with cards in the commanders color identity. The Commander stays outside the game to be cast at any moment, like an extra card in your hand that you can use at any time. The abilities that a commander has also add to the color identity, such as Tasigur, the Golden Fang. He costs black, but has an ability that is both blue and green. Because of the abilitiy, you can use black, green and blue to make your deck.

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On November 11th, Wizards will be releasing their latest commander decks, which feature 4 color generals as well as two color commanders with the Partner ability, which allows them to be run with any legendary that also has that ability, so you can have two generals and mix and match colors to construct your deck. 4 color commanders date back to Ravnica, when Wizards first made 4 colored creatures called Nephilim. The Nephilim, however, weren’t legendary and were the only 4 colored cards in all of Magic, until NOW.

The new decks each have their own playstyles and cards they come with, but it’s hard to decide which deck you want when you first start out. Some people prefer beating down with massive creatures, or just beating down your opponent with creatures quickly. Others prefer to make friends at the table, or just do a lot of random things until they win. Whichever your playstyle may or may not be, I’m here to help you decide which deck to get. While some people will spend around $150 to buy all five decks, others pick which one they want most and then buy singles of cards from other decks that they want. Whatever your reasoning is, I’ll go into detail with each deck to help you decide.

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courtesy of media.wizards.com

Entropic Uprising

The first deck from the new preconstructed decks is called: Entropic Uprising. The deck features Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder. This deck is the non-white commander deck and features a fairly big commander whose goal is to hit your opponents. Whenever you cast a spell, you’ll get another for free with his Cascade ability. The Cascade ability is extremely powerful in the commander format, as seen with Maelstrom Wanderer, and lends itself to a fairly spell heavy deck.

Yidris is not for you if you are looking for a commander that beats down with creatures. While the deck is fairly spell focused, it does have some strong and useful commanders as well as creatures in it. Yidris gives Nath of the Gilt Leaf, a commander who makes for a very annoying elf-tribal discard deck. You also get Consuming Aberation, one of the best mill based creatures in commander, as well as Guilt Feeder, a creature whose power lies in its ability to close out games by filling your opponent’s grave.

While the creatures are good, including a nephilim reprint, the spells are what makes the deck shine. Past in Flames is an extremely powerful card for EDH and a staple in red based spell decks. You also get Evacuation, In Garruks Wake, Wheel of Fate and other staples in a lot of Commander decks. The new cards in the deck consist of Vial Smasher the Fierce, a commander that screams chaos but is extremely underpowered, as are the other legendaries in this deck. Each one is unique and playable with their partner abilities, but alone they aren’t viable in most playgroups, so they are playable if your playgroup is very casual, noncompetitive and can create fun atmospheres.

The most attractive new cards in the deck consists of Cruel Entertainment, Goblin Spymaster and Parting Thoughts. Each card offers something new, such as the ability to give to your opponents and force them to attack each turn with Goblin Spymaster or use Cruel Entertainment to force your friends to take each others turn. Either way, those new cards are the biggest appeal to this deck, along with the staple spells that are being reprinted.

The deck itself doesn’t offer much value for trade fodder, and the most expensive card according to TCGplayer is Yidris. With all the staple spells, however, the deck is a great investment for those considering making a spell based Commander deck, or wanting to have fun not knowing what cards you’ll cast each game when you cascade with Yidris.

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Courtesy of media.wizards.com

Open Hostilities

If spells aren’t your thing, the next deck focuses on being LEERRROOOYYY JJJEEENNKKKIIINNNSSS!!!!! The name of the deck is Open Hostilities, the non-blue commander deck. The focus of this deck is to get out a bunch of smaller creatures that can get stronger and have strong abilities to annihilate your opponents before they have a chance to react. The commander, Saskia the Unyielding, does just this. She can attack the turn she comes out and she lets you choose a player so that whenever your creatures deal damage to one player, they deal it again to the chosen player. You can use her to take out someone faster by choosing the one you will attack, or you can take out two players at the same time.

The deck features Mentor of the Meek and Den Protector, two powerful small creatures. Mentor helps mono white decks and small creature decks by giving draw power for having small creatures enter under your control, whereas Den Protector gives you an outlet to get a card back from your grave. Protector was also a staple in green decks during its run in standard format. The deck also features Mirror Entity, which can use all your mana to make your creatures large enough to kill everything.

The deck has a few decent support spells, but the quality and diversity of its creatures are what gives it strength. Also, the deck reprints three of the Hideaway lands, which are lands that give you a free card if you meet the conditions of their last ability. The advantage that these cards can offer in a Commander game makes them staples, especially in creature focused decks.

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Stonehoof Chieftain, Primeval Protector and Conqueror’s Flail are the best new cards in the deck. Stonehoof Chieftain gives you a mono green Beatstick, who makes all your little creatures indestructible, and Trample, two abilities that help close out games. Primeval Protector is a giant Green Monster who gives your opponents a threat they must answer quickly, due to its ability to enter as a 20/20 or stronger in most commander games. The last card, Conquerer’s Flail, is important for most decks because it gives an outlet to prevent your opponents from playing cards on your turn. The significance of this ability is large and useful, especially against spell focused decks and control decks.

This deck has no real value in the cards it has printed and reprinted, so it is not recommended if you’re looking for trade fodder or a gain in value. It also is narrowly focused on creatures and offers good small creatures, but not much for a giant creature deck since the deck is aggressively focused. I would purchase this deck if you like playing mono red or watching race cars go fast, otherwise the deck itself offers nothing outstanding as opposed to the other four.

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Courtesy of mtggoldfish.com

Stalwart Unity

If you don’t want to be the perceived threat right out the gate or like spells, but prefer that everyone loves you rather than hates you, then get the Stalwart Unity deck. This deck features Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis as the commander, and it is the non-black constructed deck. The strength of this deck lies in its ability to make friends. Creatures like Edric, Blazing Archon, Selvala and Veteran Explorer help you to make friends and protect yourself. Selvala and Edric give your opponents cards, while Blazing Archon and Edric convince your opponents to attack another player.

This deck also features a reprint of Windborn Muse, Ghostly Prison, Propaganda and Sphere of Safety, which are all required in a pillowfort control deck. The goal is that your opponents are taxed so highly to attack you that they can’t. These reprints alone, as well as the legendaries, make the deck worth it. However, the deck also has other good cards. With reprints of Tempt with Discovery and Collective Voyage, the deck gives cards what most group-hug decks are looking for.

Whereas the reprints in the deck make it what it is, it does have some good new cards. One new card is Orzhov Advokist, which gets its power from letting your opponents make a stronger creature as long as they don’t attack you.

This deck is recommended for players whose political strategy lies in helping others until they get enough of an advantage to take out their opponent. The reprints are the value of this deck, but it isn’t enough to make it worth it if you are looking for valuable trade fodder. The deck is recommended for beginners, due to its easy nature, and you won’t hate yourself for making yourself public enemy number one. If you want the friendly play style or to make a pillowfort control deck, then get this deck – otherwise this deck is not for you.

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courtesy of mtggoldfish.com

Breed Lethaity

If none of the previous decks suit your playstyle, the most valuable deck to get is Breed Lethaity. The deck features Atraxa and is nonred. The biggest appeal for the deck should be the fact that it has the most expensive reprints and new cards in it. Atraxa, Deepglow Skater and Kalonian Hydra are all powerful cards, but they are also worth about as much as the deck itself, according to the TCGplayer websites seller page.

The commander lets you Proliferate at the end of your turn, an ability that supports counters for creatures, planeswalker and other decks. The abilities utility and color options make the commander one of the most versatile decks. Deepglow Skater relates to Doubling Season, a green enchantment that let planeswalker get out of hand early in games. However, the skater can be abused more, so giving it a lot of value and as interest in the decks dies down, the Skater will end up being one of the most expensive and highly sought after cards printed in the set.

There are other decent creatues and spells in the deck, such as Merciless Eviction, which offers a utility boardwipe, and Duneblast, which destroys all but one creature.

However, the real draw for this deck is how much money some of the cards in the deck are worth. Kalonian Hydra is finally getting a reprint but is still a major powerhouse card for commander games, so getting a copy, the commander and some good boardwipes makes the deck worth it for players looking for trade fodder. If you’re a casual player, you’ll like this deck if you like making small things get bigger. Other than the Yidris deck, this deck is the most valuable, and the other deck for non casual players to consider when purchasing the new commander decks.

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courtesy of cardkingdom.com

Invent Superiority

If you aren’t interested in value and want a deck that uses a combination of cards that work together to make a strong boardstate, the last new commander deck is for you. Invent Superiority, the non green deck, focuses on using artifacts to win the game. The deck is led by Breya, who offers the most utility of the commanders. However the weakness to the deck is the reliance on artifacts to win.

This is the only commander deck with a planeswalker, though, getting a reprint of Daretti from the Commander Planeswalker set. It also features Sharuum and Hana, two powerful artifact centric commanders useful to anyone interested in an artifact deck.

Other than powerful artifact centric commander reprints, the deck itself offers no outstanding reprints besides Beacon of Unrest. The deck does offer Parting Thoughts, a card which is also featured in the Yidris deck, as well as some of the best commanders with Partner abilities of the set. Most of the other new cards are artifact centric and, whereas there are one or two fun cards, the deck is one of the most linear focused decks.

If you like artifacts and want to see what it’s like to play a deck whose goal is to win that way, then this is the deck for you. It doesn’t have outstanding creatures, nor does it rely on chaos or friendship to win. Instead, it uses a variety of artifacts to create a functioning machine to overpower its opponents in a controlled manner. This deck is the least appealing deck, in my opinioin, since it offers a very limited selection for trade fodder, though larger than the aggro deck. It also is focused on doing artifact things only, so it will be easy to enhance the deck, but it is only fun for people that like the narrow focus in a deck.

Those are all the new commander decks and the pros and cons of each. Whether you want to get one for trade fodder, are looking for fun, casual cards or are looking for a deck that’ll be fun to play when you get into commander, then you’re more informed now. So go out and play more Magic, because you never know who you’ll meet and it always creates fun stories of ridiculous moves in commander games with friends.

Collegian blogger Kevin Avis can be reached at blogs@collegian.com. Leave a comment!!