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By: Leviathan, Mike Morales
May 17 2013 2:41pm
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All right, today we're going to be looking at Dragon's Maze and discussing cards in their relation to the Commander format!  I like new cards, don't you?

The first thing to note in this new set is that there are no artifacts other than cluestones.  Yes, you can cycle them in the late game to draw a card, but I'm not sure that's really all that exciting.  Honestly, for the sama mana cost I would rather have the keyrunes.  They at least provide a body when necessary.  But if you really enjoy cycling through your deck I guess these will be helpful.

There are also the Fuse cards, which seem like a lot of fun.  The Fuse cards are similar to Charms with kicker, in that you can decide which mode you want to use, or get the whole thing at once!  Of course, you have to pay a little bit of a premium for each half of the card.  But most of them are decent and worth considering.  Plus, it's nice to have the redundant effects that these guys provide.

Finally, there's Maze's End.  I could see someone throw this into one of their 5 color decks for giggles, along with something like Deserted Temple and maybe Fatestitcher to get multiple uses out of it.  But the price you have to pay is playing with 11 lands in your deck that come into play tapped.  That can be pretty rough without Amulet of Vigor.  I guess you can use a late game Scapeshift to get a win.  Who knows, maybe you'll pull it off, but I wouldn't count on it.

With that out of the way, let's look at the individual cards!

LEGENDS

Emmara Tandris - All right, there's been a lot of talk about how disappointing Emmara is as a legendary creature.  And I gotta agree with almost all of it.  Emmara basically wants you to play tokens, but there are obviously better token Commanders in Rhys the Redeemed, who comes out way earlier, and Trostani, who not only Populates but gains you life.  Emmara also costs way too much mana to be useful at any part during the early game.  Plus, how does it make sense that a female Elf Shaman is bigger than most dragons?

However, I can see her going into a token deck as a regular creature.  Although honestly, at 7 mana, there are plenty of other better cards for token decks, such as Kamahl, Fist of Krosa and Craterhoof Behemoth.

Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch - Honestly this one is just about as unimpressive to me as Emmara.  Yes, she works well with Unleash creatures, but most Unleash creatures are pretty unimpressive.  I don't think I've seen one played in a game yet.  Of course, there are the Arcbound artifact creatures, as well as Ob Nixilis (when followed up by a land on the same turn) and stuff like Triskelion and Pentavus.  There's also all the Bloodthirst and random Devour dudes in these colors.  But I just don't see a coherent deck theme being built around her. 

I could see her being a dude in Jund decks, especially if you use cards like Doubling Season and Corpsejack Menace to add counters to your guys.  As a matter of fact I could see a deck using Kresh where the Scavenge mechanic really comes into play.  Seems fun actually.

Lavinia of the Tenth - This Commander is a little different from what we typically see.  First, we have Protection from Red, which is a rarity among legendary creatures.  However, her big ability is to detain everything small in play your opponents control.  Obviously if you blink her, or use things like Conjurer's Closet to have her continually keep things locked down, she can be pretty powerful.  However keep in mind that Commander is the land of big stuff, so she can't really do much against dragons, angels and Praetors.  So you need some of your traditional control elements as well.

There are plenty of decks out there that like to blink stuff and that's where Lavinia will shine.  Bant blink is a pretty common archetype and she will fit in nicely with your Coiling Oracles.

Melek, Izzet Paragon - My first thought when seeing Melek is "oh crap, people are just going to try and fit every Time Warp variant they can into this thing, or try and storm into Mind's Desire."  While it's definitely true that you will see both of these archetypes, hopefully you'll see people thinking a little bit outside the box as well.  For those people, remember that you can use Future Sight to play any artifacts or lands that end up on top, or even Deranged Assistant.  You can also use Trench Gorger to clear out your lands so you only get good stuff on top.  I admit that I am working on a Melek deck, and although it does have Epic Experiment, Mana Geyser and some of the other usual suspects, I'm hoping that I take it in a direction that most of you won't be expecting.

I think Melek would be pretty good in Riku decks.  Riku usually has a few instants and sorceries that he wouldn't mind being copied.  I guess the question is really whether it's necessary in those decks.  He could probably go into Grixis control as well. 

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker - Milling really isn't as popular as it used to be in Commander, especially with Eldrazi running around.  Sure, occasionally you run into a Szadek deck online, and even more rarely you face off against Circu.  But those are the exceptions rather than the rule.  Lazav and Wrexial decks run mill, but those are for other purposes (to use your graveyard against you).  So despite the fact that Mirko is actually pretty good at what he does, I don't really think he's going to be that popular a Commander.

However, Mirko is going to be great as a support card.  Everyone from Wrexial, Lazav,The Mimeoplasm, Szadek, even Oona, Queen of the Fae will enjoy having this guy put stuff into people's graveyards.  The ability to repeatedly Mind Funeral people can be really helpful.

Ruric Thar, the Unbowed - This guy just screams Gruul to me.  He is similar to Animar, in that you will want to play as many dudes in your deck as you can since he also hurts you for casting non-creature spells.  Fortunately there are a ton of ETB guys in these colors to help meet your needs.  Keep in mind, though, that if you give him lifelink, through something like Loxodon Warhammer or Batterskull, you can gain life and off set the damage he does to you.  Or  you can play Platinum Emperion to keep your life total the same. He's going to be a ton of fun.  One problem is that he has to attack, which means that even though he has vigilance he may be forced into some unfavorable situations.  But most of the time you should be ok.

Ruric wouldn't mind going into any creature heavy deck, or one that had a decent amount of equipment.  Again, Animar should like him a lot.

Tajic, Blade of Legion - There have been an influx of pretty decent Boros Commanders recently, and Tajic is another that deserves consideration.  He comes out fairly quickly which is nice.  However, before you get full value you need 2 other creatures to attack with him.  And even then, he can get chump blocked all day.  So along with your typical token generators, you need to include stuff like Pyreheart Wolf, Goblin War Drums, and Legion Loyalist.  Really, what I'm saying is that he needs a lot of support, likely more than would be necessary to get Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer online and getting through.  I'm sure that we'll still be seeing a lot of him though.

I actually see Tajic working better as a support guy in a Jor Kadeen deck.  But maybe that's just me.  I don't really see him working well in decks that don't provide both 1) a ton of dudes and 2) ways to get damage through.  I guess equipment would be helpful too.

Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts - The new Teysa is pretty powerful.  Not only does she come with a built in No Mercy effect that provides a bonus of little fliers, but she also has protection from creatures, along with vigilance!  That's nuts.  It means that she can get through any blocker and stay back on defense as well.  If you have a creature based deck and see her at the table, she will typically be the first person you should attack, just so that you can get damage through before she comes online.  Orzhov control has found another really good Commander.

If you have a defensive minded deck this Teysa will fit right in.  She's a great deterrent, and can act as a win condition for grindy decks.  Like I said, if you like No Mercy you will like Teysa.

Varolz, the Scar-Striped -  I've never been a fan of the scavenge mechanic in Commander.  Your graveyard is a precious resource, and being able to have access to creatures through cards like Phyrexian Reclamation or Living Death is always good.  As such, I'm not very high on Varolz.  Yes, he works well with Death's Shadow, (Phyrexian Dreadnaught) and Force of Savagery.  With the right draw you can get Varolz up to 21 power pretty quick.  Even still, he's kind of an "all or nothing" Commander.  Removal gets rid of the resources you put into Varolz pretty quickly unless you put the counters on Skullbriar.  And even then, once Skullbriar dies are you just going to scavenge him too?  If you like playing glass cannon strategies he seems like he could be good though.

No, in a Skullbriar deck he would be great.  The counters stay with Skullbriar, so you aren't just losing the resource when he dies.  Varolz would probably also go well in a creature based deck with a Commander that has some form of evasion or trample, like Karrthus or Ghave.  Any way to really use those counters and make scavenging worthwhile.

Vorel of the Hull Clade - There are a metric ton of cards that like having counters, and doubling them is always fun.  Of course, Vorel has a few limitations, in that you can't put counters on planeswalkers with him.  But you can get around that by using Liquimetal Coating if you want.  Still, it should be pretty easy to have a deck that uses this, Gilder Bairn and Doubling Season to add tons of counters to various cards.  Forgotten Ancient seems like and auto-include.

Of course, Vorel can go into Prime Speaker decks or any other deck that has a lot of counters.  Really, a 5 color deck with Exava would be pretty fun.

CREATURES AND PLANESWALKER

 Aetherling - The new and improved Morphling, this is a pretty solid card for control decks.  The unblockability is very nice, and the ability to protect itself by phasing out is nice.  This also gives it pseudo-vigilance.  Combined with the ability to pump itself, and you have a pretty solid dude.

 Blood Baron of Vizkopa - First, let's just ignore the last half of the text.  So it's a 4/4 lifelinker with two very relevant protection abilities (as anyone who has every played against an Animar deck knows) for 5 mana?  Sold!  But wait, there's more!  Listen, if this vampire ever gets the additional +6/+6 and flying, that's just icing on the cake.  This is a very solid creature even without it.

 Blood Scrivener - Goes well with Sire of Insanity and other Hellbent strategies.  I assume he would be included in Malfegor decks as well.

 Boros Battleshaper - If you like messing with combat, this is the guy for you.  Sure, he costs a ton of mana, but being able to mess with every single combat phase is pretty neat. 

 Master of Cruelties - People seem to be up in arms about how he combos with Kaalia of the Vast.  People think it should be banned, but I don't see it happening.  It's a pretty good card, and giving it deathtouch and first strike is good.  But it's not a world breaker.  Rakdos control decks will love him.

 Notion Thief - Seems cool, right?  Someone casts a big Blue Sun's Zenith, you flash this guy in and steal his draw.  Pretty neat!  Just remember that it isn't a "may" ability.  This means that if you have this guy out when someone gets a Consecrated Sphinx out, you'll deck yourself.  Still, it's nice to get other people's draw.

 Pontiff of Blight - Control decks and mono-Black decks will like this card.  Extort is a pretty good mechanic, and even better in slow decks that like to grind out wins.  If you have 2 other creatures out there with this guy, that can be a pretty big swing in life.

 Progenitor Mimic - Better than Followed Footsteps, this thing is pretty sweet.  Gotta love making copies of dudes.  I assume this is going to be slipping into most Simic decks.

 Ral Zarek - Planeswalkers are always a little difficult to evaluate in this format, but with a little bit of protection they are almost all great.  This guy is really good for his +1 ability in that it can help you ramp, buy untapping a land like Gaea's Cradle or an artifact like Gilded Lotus, while at the same time tapping down a blocker.  For this reason alone I think he's going to be pretty good.  However if you use him to provide pseudo-vigilance for one of your creatures, you are probably falling behind already.  The other nice thing about him is that if he comes into play while Doubling Season is out, using his ultimate won't automatically kill him.  His lightning bolt ability isn't horrible, but it's not great.  Overall I think he's really solid in this format.

 Renegade Krasis - Sort of like a better Cytoplast Root-Kin.  There are a bunch of decks like Experiment Kraj who really like their +1/+1 counters, and this guy will go right into them.  

 Savageborn Hydra - Remember when Shards of Alara came out, and everyone was playing with their Apocalypse Hydras?  A late game guy that can get huge?  That's gonna be this guy.  Really large double strikers that can get bigger over time don't grow on trees.

 Sire of Insanity - This guy could wreck tables, and make people really mad.  I think that he'd go well in some sort of reanimator themed deck, including stuff like Phyrexian Reclamation, as well as some flashback cards.  It helps that he's a big dude as well.  Plus, I like how he's dipping the little guy in a bowl of secret sauce before chowing down on him.

 Trostani's Summoner - Talk about a party in a can.  This lady brings a whole team.  Although she costs 7 mana it's still a lot of value in one card.  I really think she'd do well in Bant blink decks, with stuff like Momentary Blink and Deadeye Navigator.

 Voice of Resurgence - I'm not really sure about this guy.  He's basically a bear.  There are going to be plenty of games where people aren't playing stuff during your turn, but then there are going to be games where the Blue player is constantly doing stuff.  And after a Wrath you're left with a 1/1.  The high variance is what throws me off.  I'm not willing to jump on the bandwagon yet.

 Zhur-Taa Ancient - Mana Flare on a very large beater.  He costs 5 mana, which means late game you should be able to take advantage of his ability.  But do you really want to be helping everyone out with their mana issues?  That's really dependent upon the type of deck you're playing.  Most of the time, however, you aren't going to want this guy.

ENCHANTMENTS

 Bred for the Hunt - Once again, if you're heavy with evolve creatures or just like +1/+1 counters, like a lot of Simic decks, this is a great way to draw cards.  You have to be pretty heavy into the counter theme though.

 Deadbridge Chant - Although the card doesn't technically do anything the turn you cast it, if you're heavy with graveyard effects it can be pretty beneficial.  That, plus automatic manaless recursion is pretty nice.  Of course, a Nihil Spellbomb can make this useless, but that's just the chance you take.

 Gleam of Battle - Obviously better than Curse of Stalked Prey, but you have to pay the mana to make up the difference.  Of you can get multiple attack steps it's actually much better, so I'm sure Aurelia decks will like it.  Still, it's incremental and doesn't immediately do anything.  Fangren Firstborn wishes he could be an enchantment.

 Legion's Initiative - Can protect your team from Wrath effects.  Randomly pumps your dudes.  I guess if you have a bunch of ETB guys it'll help as well.  Why not just play Boros Charm?  I'm not too high on this card.

 Possibility Storm - Too random for my tastes.  Of course, you could set up the top of your library with Sensei's Divining Top, Scroll Rack, etc.  But I'm not willing to put in that much effort for this card.  However it appears that it does work well if you're able to play cards off the top of your deck, like with Future Sight.  You can still get what you want, while everyone else has to do the random thing.  And in addition, if you have Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir out, it acts as a Knowledge Pool and will keep your opponents from being able to play cards.  Annoying.

 Unflinching Courage - Another Armadillo Cloak.  If you like auras, you'll like this.

INSTANTS AND SORCERIES

 Advent of the Wurm - Instant speed 5/5 trampler?  For 4 mana?  Sold!

 Beck/Call - 8 mana for 4 cards and 4 small fliers.  It's a good value late game.  Early game you're going to wish you had something else.

 Breaking/Entering - The Entering half is pretty good all by itself.  Taking any dude from any graveyard and giving it haste, without needing to sacrifice it, is very nice.  The Breaking half will just give you more options.

 Catch/Release - The Catch half is a Threaten for any permanent on the board, not just creatures.  But you can use it with the Release half to get rid of something you don't want.  The Release half by itself is a pretty good value on its own.

 Crypt Incursion - Instant speed graveyard hate with a little bit of a life gain.  A little too narrow to see a lot of use though.

 Debt to the Deathless - Exsanguinate 2.0.  Well actually it's a little more difficult to use than it's predecessor.  Exsanguinate loves mono-Black due to the color's ability to create tons of extra mana.  It's not quite as easy to do in Orzhov colors, but you still have the ability to search up Cabal Coffers and (Tomb of Yawgmoth).  It's not as dangerous in my eyes as Exsanguinate, but that doesn't mean it still can't kill you.

 Flesh/Blood - Seems like a perfect Jund card.  The Flesh part is pretty ridiculously overcosted in my eyese, but it's still not bad late game.

 Gaze of Granite - The fixed Pernicious Deed, seems like it's a Commander staple.  Can wipe the board with enough mana.  Can also do well with Commanders that cost a lot, by clearing the board for them.

 Obzedat's Aid - It costs a lot, but it can get anything from your graveyard and put it directly into play.  Pretty disappointing piece of art though.

 Plasm Capture - A fixed Mana Drain.  Obviously it's not nearly as good as the original due to costing double the mana.  But I'm sure this is going to go into very Momir deck out there.

 Ready/Willing - Wow, a great combat trick.  Both halves of this card are good by themselves, and appropriately costed.  One of my favorite cards in the set.

 Render Silent - Sometimes you just don't want people to cast any more spells.  Probably worth the extra mana involved.

 Wear/Tear - A lot of value in a little package.

CONCLUSION

All right, this is a small set, so the list of staples is going to be small:

On top of that, I'm going to get a hold of all the legendary creatures, pretty much all the Fuse cards, Render Silent, Crypt Incursion (although I doubt I'll ever use it), Gleam of Battle, Bred for the Hunt, Deadbridge Chant, Savageborn Hydra, Sire of Insanity, Ral Zarek, Pontiff of Blight and Notion Thief.  All of these will be good in specific decks but they won't be automatically considered if I'm playing these colors, unlike the ones that I mention above.

Hope you guys liked the review.  If there's a card that I didn't mention, feel free to point it out in the comments.  Hopefully they fix the bug that's preventing Commander games from being played soon, because since the update on 5/8 I haven't been able to play.  Sad times.

Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO
mrmorale 32 at yahoo dot com

CONQUEROR & COMMANDER ARCHIVE