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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
May 04 2016 12:00pm
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I love this game. I love writing about it. Compiling lists about it. Evaluating it. Sometimes, I even play it. I'm an Accidental Player.

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 When Commander 2015 was released last November, the MTGO crowd was displeased to find out that the latest in the set of Commander-based decks was not going to appear in their client (okay, they already knew that since it was announced earlier in the year, but you get what I mean: the sadness was renewed). The reasons for such a product not to come online are mostly due to the difficulty of a proper distribution, given that Magic Online users rely first and foremost on Limited for circulation, and the Commander decks can't be drafted.

  But what to do about the 56 new cards contained among the 342 different ones that would compose the 5 decks? Even if they're only legal in Vintage, Legacy, Commander and similar eternal formats, which means their impact is not very big as a whole, they couldn't certainly leave them off the client just like that. Granted, they did it with a few of the Conspiracy cards that couldn't find a place in Vintage Masters, but those were not as many and not as relevant as these ones.

 The solution was to repackage them into special packs, along with about a hundred reprints from previous multiplayer sets (most notably, the five planeswalker commanders from Commander 2014), and give them as prizes for Legendary Cube events, which are cube drafts where all the creatures are legendary. The creatures in the prize packs are not all legendary, so that's already weird, because you play with packs that are different from the packs with the same name you get as a prize, but all right. They said the 56 new cards from C15 would make up "the vast majority of the ones that are new to Magic Online", but I actually haven't found any other new card, unless we count Diaochan, Artful Beauty, originally from Portal Three Kingdoms then reprinted in Commander's Arsenal, and which however already existed online as a promo. Unless of course it was one of those phantom promos that show up in the database but aren't actually around. I confess I never tried to acquire a copy.

She's a fun Commander card from before Commander was even a thing.

 Tribal-wise, the set of new cards is small, so only a handful of new additions to a limited number of tribes are involved. Thematically, they're also all over the place, in the same vein as the good old Core Sets, where you could find a card from Ravnica next to one from a plane that hadn't even showed up in Standard yet; indeed, the five decks' commanders hail from Theros (Orzhov and Boros colors), Ravnica (Izzet colors), Jund (Golgari colors), and Mirrodin (Simic colors), but cards from other planes are featured as well.

 Anyway, let's have a look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the focus is on all the Constructed applications, the tribes are listed alphabetically, but you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump


Advisor: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 41 (online: 30)

 Related Tribes: Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Advisor is a peculiar tribe. It should be the politician tribe (despite the name seemingly referring to politician's aides only), but you'll actually find anything in there, from shady scientists to geishas. Effects range from hosing, like Gaddock Teeg and Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, to tutoring and reanimation, like with tribe's highlights Imperial Recruiter and Loyal Retainers, to straight up aggro, like Obzedat, Ghost Council. And it looks like our boy Karlov here (whose name references another kind of legend) is a member of the Ghost Council himself, not to mention, a (deceased) relative of tribe's darling Teysa. He's a strong bear in Orzhov colors, bound to grow big in archetypes like Soul Sisters, or just when paired with some steady lifegaining effects like Nyx-Fleece Ram. And every now and then, he can even exile an enemy, if at the cost of his offensive capability. Not an auto-include, but a serious player and an interesting build-around Commander.


Angel: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 128 (online: 127)

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Both Anya, Merciless Angel and Herald of the Host are very clearly multiplayer-only cards (they come from a multiplayer set, after all). To be fair, Anya could be good in 1v1 too, turning into a 7/7 indestructible flyer as soon as the opponent is reduced to half their life. However, it awfully feels like a win-more card at that point, and a sub-par creature until then. Something that is true in a multiplayer setting as well, if mitigated by the slower pace and greater potential for achieving her better status.

 The Herald is somehow of a strictly better Serra Angel in multiplayer, and only in multiplayer. The myriad mechanic is cool enough, stealing part of Hydra Omnivore's thunder, if failing to be as good: the myriad creatures create copy of themselves, which may then be blocked or killed, whereas the Hydra is more implacable: damage an opponent, you damage them all. Still, in this case, a flyer is more likely to connect than a 8/8 vanilla, so there's that. Definitely an Angel that you want to include in most Angel-based, or generally white-based, Commander decks.

 And then there's Dawnbreak Reclaimer, and she may be the more interesting new Angel here. What she does is she casts Exhume with the choices reversed: you get to call what the opponent gets, and vice versa. It might be actually better than Exhume if you plan accordingly, leaving the opponent with not much of a choice (that would be easy in an Angel deck, especially via Entomb), while pointing at their least useful dead guy, if they even have one. Of course, Exhume is a 2-mana spell and this is a ponderous 6-mana Angel, but her stats are very solid as a 5/5 flyer, so you may want to actually pair her up with reanimation shenanigans, to get both her and, say, Angel of Despair, for true battlefield superiority. And what's even more notable is that it's not a one-off effect. You can do it again every end of turn, if you want and the conditions are right. Angel reanimator, or generally reanimator, definitely got a new toy.


Beast: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 333 (online: 328)

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Here's the direct rival to Hydra Omnivore: same color, same power. Native trample gives it an easier time trying to connect, but since we're necessarily talking multiplayer here, it shouldn't be that hard to find an empty battlefield to assault, and at that point, the Hydra just does a better job at global damage, costs less and is more resilient.


Cat: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 136 (online: 131)

 Related Tribes: Illusion, Scout

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Illusory Ambusher feels more like a card-drawing spell than a creature, since it lends itself to just pop up, block and hopefully kill something, and net some cards in the process. Which is already good, as the potential for drawing is limitless and could lead to monstrous amounts in Commander. But it's also versatile enough that you can use it when you just need to smash face with 4 damage out of nowhere, and then still rely on its card advantage later. It's a bit expensive, mana-wise, but solid.

 Oreskos Explorer is also solid, especially in multiplayer (we're going to say this line a lot), bringing back white's classic mechanic of tutoring lands if we have less than an opponent (cfr. Land Tax, Weathered Wayfarer, Knight of the White Orchid, Gift of Estates).


Centaur: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 50

 Related Tribes: Plant

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: So this is a Centaur, that is also a Plant? How does it work? And why his name and art seem to actually suggest that he's just a Centaur that cuts through plants? Anyway, he's a green trampler for 4 mana that you are never really sure how big will be, even if in multiplayer, mid- to late game, he's bound to be big enough. And he has a clause to be brought back from the graveyard every time a fetch land is used, which is a similar mechanic to green Commander staple Masked Admirers. Not great, not bad.


Dragon: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 159

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Dream Pillager applies the relatively recent red mechanic from Chandra, Pyromaster et al. where you get to essentially draw cards but you have to use them immediately. Cost and stats are unbalanced as a result, and it certainly has more chances to bring massive card advantage in Commander than in regular formats. (And by the way, how is that "its wings shimmer with dreams absorbed from its enemies"? It exiles YOUR cards!)

 On the other hand, Scourge of Nel Toth is a great, great, great card to pitch to Zombie Infestation or Necromancer's Stockpile and then reanimate with ease. Especially because it's a Zombie, too, which is insane when you put it in the same tribe of Gravecrawler and such. Plus, it's Meren's dragon pet! Although, it'll take a lot of experience counters for her to reanimate with her own ability.


Elf: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 298 (online: 287)

 Related Tribes: Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Remember Ezuri from Mirrodin? Yes, you do. Bad news for his fans: while we weren't looking, Ezuri got compleated by Jin-Gitaxias, and now he's a cyber-servant of Phyrexia. Other bad news: instead of, like, winning games on his own in any Elf deck by making your entire team huge, now he just gives +1/+1 counters to one dude, and doesn't even have a way to pump himself, so it'll stay a Hill Giant forever. He's the Commander of the Simic-colored C15 deck and, as such, one of the five applications of the new experience mechanic; not the best one.


Giant: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 131 (online: 125)

 Related Tribes: Soldier, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Theros dweller Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas is the Commander of the Boros-colored deck, and another use of the experience mechanic. He's somehow Ezuri's complementary, because he gets you counters (how cool is it to have counters placed on the player, by the way?) only when you cast an expensive creature. The result is just pumping Kalemne himself, which may be relevant if he's your Commander, not much otherwise, even in a Giant deck where, yes, you'll get a lot of chances to cast those big dudes, but the process is not very fast. Still, he's got double strike and vigilance for 4 mana, starting as a 3/3, so he's not too bad even before growing.

 His Captain is actually more interesting, because he's a honest 5/5 with vigilance for 5 mana, and then he gets to outright exile all artifacts and enchantments via monstrosity. Not a quick activation for sure, but the effect is potentially game-changing. It feels like a new staple in Commander, where at some point you'll want to purge the board of all that nasty stuff.

 So at least two of these three new Giants are cool enough; the third is just a bad myriad creature, tough.


Goat: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 7 (online: 5)

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Look at the Goat tribe go! We finally have 5 Goats online (maybe one day we'll get Mountain Goat and Zodiac Goat, too!), thanks to the first green member. Or non-red member, for that matter. And it's easily the best of the bunch, although, well, it's not really Craterhoof Behemoth, is it? Still, it can be good in Commander, even fueling some endgame-worthy alpha strike.


Goblin: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 294 (online: 283)

 Related Tribes: Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: So, the Izzet-colored commander is a Goblin, and actually from the Izzet guild, so unsurprisingly it's an "instants and sorceries matter" kind of guy. Of course it couldn't provide an experience counter for every instant or sorcery you cast, or it would get insane very fast. This way, though, I can't see too many applications for him outside of Commander, and even there, it could lead to crazy discounts for heavy stuff in late game, but in Commander, you're bound to be able to hardcast that stuff in late game, anyway. Also, you'll have to time the spells right, which won't always be that easy or convenient. All in all, not impressed.


Human: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 1789 (online: 1621)

 Related Tribes: Shaman, Soldier, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: Look, even if there are just three new Humans, it won't make me care for the tribe. They're a Soldier, a Wizard and a Shaman, and that's it.


Illusion: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 78 (online: 75)

 Related Tribes: Cat

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This guy feels more at home among other Illusions than Cats, right? Especially if Lord of the Unreal is around. Plus, it's blue. How many blue Cats do you remember? (It turns out there's other five of them).


Insect: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 140 (online: 136)

 Related Tribes: Shaman

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Mazirek is a bit of a steep initial investment, with him being a measly 2/2 for 5. And then it only has one trick in its bag. But boy, that trick can lead to terrifying board statuses. Think of all the sac outlets you can use for value, and then think of all the cards that forces the opponent to sacrifice stuff. Put all of that in a deck, and you'll obtain a team that can get to alpha strike position very fast. Especially if we're talking of a Commander deck with Mazirek at the helm. Being a flyer, it might even be enough on its own, Vulturous Zombie-style.


Lizard: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 48 (online: 46)

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: So, say you get this Lizard to devour a couple expendables. After that, every creature you cast will get a permanent +2/+2 boost. It's not bad for 4 mana, even if the stars must align correctly, which includes Bloodspore Thrinax not being killed on sight, but that's true of most board-altering creatures. It feels like it might be best friends with Mazirek, anyway.


Plant: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 42 (online: 38)

 Related Tribes: Centaur

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This thing is bizarre even if you look at it as a Plant. How does a plant take the form of a centaur to begin with? Is it a centaur that's been consumed by vegetation and its conscience lived on within, a la Swamp Thing?


Scout: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 107 (online: 101)

 Related Tribes: Cat

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Of course Oreskos Explorer's ability define him primarily as a Scout, but doing what most other Scouts do, he's also less relevant here.


Shaman: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 329 (online: 325)

 Related Tribes: Human, Insect

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Look, Mazirek is a good team-pumping dude and all, but the new star of the Shaman tribe, and arguably the entire set, is Jund-born commander Meren of Clan Nel Toth. Her trigger is actually similar to Mazirek's, in that you'll have to sacrifice things (she's also Golgari-colored, after all). But then she'll bring them back. In fact, if you start by saccing a 1-mana guy, boom!, she'll bring that back. How insane is that? And there's more, because even if you don't have the required experience level to reanimate your choice target yet, Meren won't just wait idle, she'll put something in your hand instead. For instance, say you want to reanimate Meren's own dragon pet, Scourge of Nel Toth. Which you shouldn't, because you can just alterna-cast it from the graveyard, but let's say you do, for flavor alone. You can discard the dragon to Necromancer's Stockpile, draw a card, create a Zombie, then sac the Zombie to something else, raise your experience, and at the end of the turn, Meren will put the Scourge back in your hand, rinse, repeat until you'll be experienced enough to resurrect the Scourge directly. And on top of all that, she's a solid 3/4 for 4 mana. "Amazing" is the word you were searching for.


Shapeshifter: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 74 (online: 72)

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: They're still trying to come up with strictly better new versions of Clone. This one comes with free, localized Mirror Entity's ability. I have seen worse, for sure. Especially if you copy something evasive. But the following mana investment is not something to look forward to, unless it spells your victory.


Snake: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 69 (online: 62)

 Related Tribes: Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Three brand new and generally nice Snakes. Broodbirth Viper is myriad applied to Ohran Viper. It costs a bit much, but it can draw you more than one card in multiplayer, although it doesn't seem very likely. In 1v1 is semi-useless, given that Ohran Viper does exist.

 Kaseto, Orochi Archmage (hey, welcome back, Kamigawa plane!) is a solid tribal card for Snake decks, especially when used to power, can you guess?, Ohran Viper.

 And Skullwinder shares Ohran Viper's cost, body and combat ability, adding an Eternal Witness trigger that, however, also benefits an opponent, which is something you generally don't want to do, but there might be a case where it's all in your favor. Or, in multiplayer, a case where you and that opponent are both hating on another, more dangerous opponent.


Soldier: +4

   

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 New Tribal Total: 550 (online: 494)

 Related Tribes: Giant, Human, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Bastion Protector is only notable for being the first card to reference multiple commanders, in the off-chance you've taken control of someone else's commander. It's a good commander-boosting card, anyway, since giving indestructible to your commander is rarely irrelevant.

 Daxos the Returned is a solid token-maker, using experience counters to make those Spirits bigger and bigger. However, the experience is linked to casting enchantments, so you'll necessarily need to go build-around him, which I'm not sure is worth it. And it would've been nicer if the Spirits had flying. They're enchantments, though, which may matter. Still, the flavor runs strong in this one. See, Daxos was Elspeth's boyfriend on Theros, then Xenagos tricked her into killing him (so very Greek tragedy), then Erebos released him from the Underworld but Elspeth had to take his place, and now Daxos is a Zombie, because he's back from the dead, and Spirits surround him while he endlessly and in vain search for his lover.

 As said, the two Giants are not bad, but not very relevant in a Soldier-heavy environment, which usually doesn't care for higher-CMC creatures.


Sphinx: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 38

 Related Tribes: Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Both these new Sphinges make you draw cards, yet both in ways that aren't very reliable, in face of their high casting cost. Arjun does the old Winds of Change trick, which can either be good or do almost nothing. Still, it's repeatable, but also inescapable, which might end up being a curse. And Sandstone Oracle requires the existence of an opponent with more cards in hand than you have, which might be slightly more likely in multiplayer, but it's not a given. Maybe in a Open the Vaults deck?


Spirit: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 413 (online: 409)

 Related Tribes: Advisor

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Yet another myriad creature, Banshee of the Dread Choir might be the worst of the lot, because she has no built-in way whatsoever to help her and her copies to connect, and is a dorky 4/4 for 5 mana. Karlov is good, instead, as noted for his Advisor side. And Spirit-based lifegaining builds are even easier to put together.


Treefolk: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 63 (online: 61)

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Whoa, a Treefolk with flash? That's new. And it untaps and pumps all your team (or someone else's team in multiplayer, for some good political action). The cost of the whole operation is not small, but it sure is a good combat trick. You'll even get one 6/6 flyer blocked and killed in the process.


Vampire: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 140 (online: 138)

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Now, this is as situational as they get, but once the right situation presents itself, man, if it is brutal. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn't include in your deck a 6-mana spell that might be game-changing but it is more likely to be entirely useless; in Commander, I feel like counters on permanents are more common, though. Even if Thief of Blood can't remove experience counters, as they are not placed on permanents, but on players.


Warrior: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 520 (online: 505)

 Related Tribes: Elf, Giant

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Neither Ezuri 2.0 nor that myriad Giant are very good examples of what a useful Warrior is.


Wizard: +5

  

 

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 New Tribal Total: 575 (online: 563)

 Related Tribes: Goblin, Human, Snake, Sphinx, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: We've already talked about Arjun, Kaseto and Mizzix, of which only the latter feels like it might matter in a Wizard build (by the way, Arjun is the first Sphinx with a secondary subtype). Corpse Augur has a nice death trigger that's essentially Sign in Blood on steroids; it can draw you a lot of cards, but it can also kill you in late game, especially in Commander.

 Magus of the Wheel adds another member to the Magi club, the ever-expanding cycle of creatures that replicate the effect of a non-creature card. This time is Wheel of Fortune's turn. It's definitely something you can use and abuse in Commander.


Zombie: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 349 (online: 343)

 Related Tribes: Dragon, Soldier, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: While Corpse Augur and the new Daxos aren't necessarily tools a Zombie deck would care for, Scourge of Nel Toth feels like something they shouldn't leave home without, what with its insane interactions with Gravecrawler, Relentless Dead, Necromancer's Stockpile and whatnot?


SUMMARY

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 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here.


BEST IN SHOW
(click on them to go to their main tribe)

   

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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS

2 Comments

I've had games where a by Paul Leicht at Wed, 05/04/2016 - 13:28
Paul Leicht's picture

I've had games where a skullwinder allowed me to offer an opponent a trade where we each got something we wanted back, without being obviously aligned against anyone else. The trick is to do it with someone who either won't be able to take maximum advantage of the trade off, or find someone who is not in an aggressive position and do it with them. Maybe convincing them that the card YOU are getting back is worth casting again for their benefit too.

I've had a lot of fun with by AJ_Impy at Wed, 05/04/2016 - 17:51
AJ_Impy's picture
5

I've had a lot of fun with some of these. Magus of the Wheel alongside Nekusar, Karlov in everything from 'All Ghost Council all the time' to 'Fun for the whole family', and you've seen the shenanigans I did with the Scourge. A word on Gigantoplasm: The effect doesn't end. You pump it, it stays pumped unless you choose to set it lower.