Leviathan's picture
By: Leviathan, Mike Morales
Oct 18 2012 1:50pm
Login to post comments

All right, first off a quick apology for saying that I was coming back and then disappearing.  Real life kicked in and I just haven't had enough time to get games in.  But that won't keep me from spouting off my opinions on the new set!

Ravnica is back, in all its multi-colored goodness.  I like the idea of this whole set, as Ravnica was when I got into MTGO.  It has a lot of good memories for me and I'm glad to see it back.  As usual with my overviews, I am going to take a look at the set through the eyes of a Commander player only.  I don't care how great a card is going to be in Standard or Legacy.  Only Commander matters here.

Along with all the new cards come some new mechanics.  Populate is out there to you Selesnya mages increase your token armies.  Remember, you can only Populate a creature token, and not any actual cards.  While this mechanic works well with Doubling Season and Parallel Lives, it doesn't combine with Proliferate to be crazy and over the top.  Ideally you can put something like a Myr Battlesphere under a Mimic Vat to get the most out of your Populating, otherwise you're just going to get another Saproling token or something.  So when thinking about your token deck and whether it really needs populate, take a look at what kind of tokens you are creating before deciding to go all in with this mechanic. 

The Scavenge mechanic of the Golgari is not my favorite for Commander.  Anything that causes you to exile a card or a creature from your graveyard means that you lose the ability to use that card again.  And as most players know there is a ton of recursion in games, meaning that your graveyard is a valuable resource.  Even though most of the Scavenge critters aren't overly powerful themselves it's still nice to have them come back when someone casts Living Death.  Skullbriar may like the Scavenge critters, but I would even think twice before adding them to his deck.

The Izzet mechanic Overload seems like it was made specifically for Commander.  You can get a small effect for about 1 more mana than it would normally cost, or you can get a much larger effect for a typically fair price.  This is important in that it gives you the opportunity to make choices.  These cards are valuable in the early and in the late game, which is a rarity.  As such, if you are playing these colors you should seriously consider all these cards just for the added utility.

Detain is the Azorius mechanic, and unfortunately it isn't quite as powerful in Commander as it is in a regular 1v1 game.  With multiple opponents come multiple problems and threats.  Frost Titan is good, but not great.  By Detaining someone's Commander, all you tend to do is draw attention to yourself and make yourself a target.  Of course, if you go all in with this mechanic and add other stuff that taps things down like Winter Orb, you have a better shot.  But that will just annoy the crap out of people.  If you have a blinking theme, though, you can add a couple of these guys to help deal with problems.  Just remember that Frost Titan is better than most of the Detainers here.

Finally, Unleash is the Rakdos mechanic.  I honestly don't know whether Unleash or Hellbent is worse.  Both of them suck pretty hard.  The ability to block is pretty important in Commander due to the multi-player nature of the format.  If you give your Unleash guy the counter, he can't block even if he's untapped.  Seems very sub-par to me.  I guess Hellbent is better?  But the Hellbent cards are just horrible in general, at least you get a pretty huge dude most of the time with Unleash.  I dunno, they can both be horrible together.

All right, now that all of that is out of the way, let's move on to the actual cards!


Isperia, Supreme Judge - Any time you see "draw a card" on a legendary creature, you have to stop and take notice.  While not quite on par with Edric, Isperia is definitely a card advantage machine.  Many times people will just avoid attacking you while Isperia is out.  This is great for the Azorius player, who can then spend the extra time granted by Isperia to set up their defenses or wait for their combo to come online.  When people realize what is happening, they will start attacking, granting the Isperia player cards to get out of any precarious situation that may come up.  On top of that, Isperia is a large, evasive beater who can end people with Commander damage.  There's a lot to like when using the new version of Isperia as a Commander, and I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot of her.

As a regular creature in your deck Isperia will often act as another Propaganda/Ghostly Prison effect.  I'm sure that people will love the breathing room she gives, or the extra cards that come into play.  The only thing keeping her back as a "must include" in decks that can support her is her casting cost.  6 mana is a lot, and you can grab pretty good Titans.  There is a lot of competition in this slot, but I'm sure people will find ways to squeeze her into their decks. 

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord - While you won't always be getting Commander damage kills with Jarad, he does have a pretty powerful ability.  With creatures that can get large in this color from Lord of Extinction to Multani, Maro-Sorcerer, Jarad decks will have the ability to take large chunks of damage from all opponents starting around turn 7 (Green decks usually pack a decent amount of accel).  When you get large creatures and combine them with a decent amount of recursion, you can have Jarad machine gun opponents into the ground pretty quickly.  Combined with a mechanic like Dredge that can make Jarad large quick, but it's probably not even needed for such a powerful Commander.  And that doesn't even take into account his self recursion ability, which can come into play as an alternate casting cost late game, when those lands aren't as necessary.

As a regular creature in decks, I can see him slipping into other Kresh decks, and sometimes Savra.  Any deck that likes having large creatures and/or sacrificial effects will like him.  In a Kresh deck not only can he make Kresh larger, but he can also sacrifice Kresh when he's around the 25/25 mark to really hurt people.  But outside of that he's a little tougher to have in a regular deck.

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius - I think that, while powerful, this version of the Firemind is a little weaker than the older one, if only for the reason that you can't pull of a one card combo with Curiosity to win the game.  However, if you're the kind of player that thinks winning that way is cheap (like me) then the Dracogenius is definitely the dragon for you.  He says "draw a card" and has the ability to ping creatures and opponents with direct damage, which makes him pretty sweet.  Plus he's beefier now that he's older (it happens with age, I know the feeling) which means that he can beat a little harder.  However, keep in mind that his pinging ability is very, very mana intensive.  Keep in mind that you're going to want tons of colored mana when playing with the Dracogenius.

This guy is a little tougher as a regular creature in decks.  Again, he is extremely mana intensive.  If you have the ability to make tons of colored mana in your deck (I'm thinking a 5 color deck that runs every Mana Reflection variant it can find) then he's probably worth it.  Some Izzet decks may like him as well.

Rakdos, Lord of Riots - Well, at least in comparison to the original version the new one is a vast improvement.  His restriction isn't that hard to trigger, and you get a 6/6 for 4 mana, which is pretty good.  But he still isn't that easy to abuse, which seems to be what a lot of people want from their Commanders now.  My guess is that he's going to go well with a variety of artifact creatures since a decent Exsanguinate would mean that you could empty your hand of constructs and Eldrazi.  He's not going to be a Commander that "serious" players will use, but he will be fun and interesting.

As a regular creature, I think that he will be passed over for a variety of better and more deck specific options.  Keep in mind that I've only ever seen Rakdos the Defiler played in Tariel decks, and the new version is much more playable than the old one.  But his ability is a little wonky and I can't think of any decks that would really say "I need this card." 

Trostani, Selenya's Voice - I've seen a crap ton of decks using Trostani already, so she (they?) will obviously be popular.  Is Trostani better than Rhys as the Selesnya token maker?  Nope, not at all.  But Trostani seems pretty good at the long game with the life gaining ability.  And on top of that, Populate isn't a horrible way to get tokens.  Still, I think that unless you specifically want to use the life gain ability with cards such as Ageless Entity, Cradle of Vitality and Well of Lost Dreams, Rhys is just better.  But for people who like using goofier choices and aren't always about trying to curb stomp the whole table, Trostani will definitely give you what you want.

As a regular creature, Trostani is great in any token based deck that can support the colors.  So this means Rhys, Hazezon Tamar, heck even Rith, the Awakener wouldn't mind having them in the deck.


 Angel of Serenity - Despite the high casting cost, this is a pretty solid card for the effect you get.  It is generally better than Admonition Angel due to the ability to hit graveyards.  As such, it gives a little bit of hosing as well as the possibility of graveyard recursion.  Keep in mind that blinking spells give you the possibility to exile things permanently (when the Angel's ability is on the stack, blink it).  But 7 mana, jeez, that's a lot.

 Archon of the Triumvirate - Essentially a super flying Frost Giant that has no "enters the battlefield" ability.  This can be pretty powerful against Commander based decks and other decks that rely on one or two large beaters at a time (think voltron style).  However, once again we come up against the casting cost issue.  7 mana is a ton, unless you're playing with Rasputin Dreamweaver or something.  And on top of that, unless you're playing a strategy that specifically uses stuff like Static Orb, there are typically plenty of other cards that you can use to move forward your deck's strategy.

 Ash Zealot - It seems like every color has a super powerful 2 mana creature.  White has Stoneforge Mystic, Blue has Snapcaster Mage, Black has Dark Confidant, Green has a bunch of stuff from Tarmogoyf to Fauna Shaman to Rofellos.  But what does Red get?  Well, this Zealot.  I gotta admit, a hoser isn't exactly what I was looking for here.  But there are plenty of strategies that are based around the graveyard that can hurt because of this card.  Keep in mind that this doesn't prevent the graveyard from being used, which is what will keep me from playing this card.

 Armada Wurm - 10 trampling power for 6 mana, this is the kind of card that Commander players love.  If you like beating with creatures, you will love this card.

 Azor's Elocutors - There are decks that like to stall the game out, usually based around a lot of enchantments.  This guy seems like a perfect fit.  Obviously likes Paradox Haze, but expect to be targeted if you play them.

 Corpsejack Menace - Sort of the cohort to Parallel Lives, this is the other half of Doubling Season.  This guy can go into everything from Skullbriar, the Walking Grave decks to Kresh decks.  There are a ton of decks that like to use counters and he should be in all of them.  Don't forget to add Doubling Season as well.

 Cryptborn Horror - So the ideal play is to Exsanguinate for a lot, then drop this guy.  Of course, those big time late game Exsanguinates usually wipe out the table, but it's always nice to have a back up plan.  If you have one of those "group pain" Kaervek decks that likes to use a ton of Earthquake effects, along with Heartless Hidetsugu and Furnace of Rath, this guy is worth looking at.

 Deathrite Shaman - This is one of those incremental value cards that some people love, and others will think "why the heck would I play with that when I could use Relic of Progenitus?"  But the ability to pick off specific cards in graveyards is always nice, and the damage dealing ability can add up over time.  Unfortunately 2 of the abilities require activation costs, which is just annoying.  But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take a second look at the card.

 Desecration Demon - With the amount of token decks out there, this just seems like a waste of a card slot.  Move on.

 Dryad Militant - Who remembers Samurai of the Pale Curtain?  That card used to see some play, but it seems to have fallen off the map.  The Militant is the counterpart to the Samurai.  I can't imagine too many times when people would want this, other than some sort of all permanent deck.  But it's worth knowing about.

 Goblin Electromancer - A nice little private Storm enabler.  Doesn't count permanents like Helm of Awakening, but doesn't help opponents either.

 Guttersnipe - Combine with the Electromancer in your Storm deck to really hurt people!

 Hypersonic Dragon - A 5 mana hasty dragon isn't bad.  But giving your sorcery spells Flash is a great bonus.  If you like Vedalken Orrery and Leyline of Anticipation, you can add this dragon to help out as well.

 Jace, Architect of Thought - This is a better card for Commander than I first thought.  The +1 ability is super annoying, but decent at slowing the game down.  The -2 ability is card draw, and in late game situation where there is an opponent that will overwhelm the table, pick and ally to give you all the cards!  The ultimate is pretty sweet as well.  Don't forget that you get to search your own library too!  Still probably not as good as Jace TMS in Commander, but still good.

 Korozda Guildmage - Like all the guildmages, the abilities are useful but expensive.  Giving a large creature Intimidate to get damage through is always a good thing.  And the sacrificial aspect will come in handy plenty of times.  Unfortunately the activation cost is pretty high.  Something to keep in mind though.

 Lotleth Troll - I don't know if this is really that great in Commander.  Sure, it regenerates and has trample, but it's pretty small to begin with.  And in order to make him pretty large you're going to have to discard a lot of cards.  I don't see this guy making an impact unless you're really into Dredge and are playing a Karador deck with Stinkweed Imp and Golgari Grave-Troll.

 Mercurial Chemister - Really solid card, despite the high casting cost.  The activation costs are cheap for the desired effects.  You should see this played a bunch.

 Necropolis Regent - Really good for combat based decks.  A large flying beat stick.  The triple Black in the casting cost is a little rough, but I'm sure you guys can figure ways around that.

 New Prahv Guildmage - This guy is solid.  Giving a beater evasion is always helpful, and the ability to detain a permanent isn't bad either.  It costs a decent amount, but it won't be bad.

 Nivix Guildmage - The copying ability is what people will play this guy for.  It costs more than Riku, but having redundancy in a deck is a good thing.  Don't forget to use Chandra as well.

 Oak Street Innkeeper - It seems interesting, assuming that you're going to be attacking.  But when would you want this card?  What kind of deck would pack this?  I just can't really think of a time when you would reasonably want this.  Reasonable being the relevant term here.

 Pack Rat - Rat decks get another weapon!  Bust out your Marrow-Gnawers now!

 Palisade Giant - Obviously if you can give him Indestructibility, or protection from creatures or opponents, he won't be bad at all.  May be a little too janky to really work with though.

 Phantom General - Tokens don't need the minimal pump this provides.  There are plenty of other ways to pump them, from Beastmaster Ascension to Cathars' Crusade, that are just better.  Pass.

 Precinct Captain - A token soldier creator, I'm not sure if this guy is really worth it either.  You have to hit in order to get the token, versus what you could get with something like Hero of Bladehold, which is just better all around.  If you're really hard up for soldiers, I guess he may work.  But generally he's just not that great.

 Rix Maadi Guildmage - This is another really, really mana hungry Guildmage.  Not only that, both of his abilities require that certain conditions be met before you can even activate them.  I see this guy being the lowest on the totem pole.

 Utvara Hellkite - A dragon spawning dragon?  Sign me up!!  Seriously, this one isn't bad.  Unlike the Precinct Captain above, this one gets triggered whenever any dragon hits.  Not only that, it leaves behind 6/6 flying blockers!  Great for your dragon decks.  And if you're playing with Black, don't forget to include Sarkhan the Mad to blow someone out.

 Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage - The Populate ability is going to be used way more often than the centaur maker. (6 mana for a 3/3?  Come on, that's awful.)  If you make some decent sized tokens in your deck, she warrants consideration.  But not every token deck is going to like her.

 Vraska the Unseen - Planeswalkers are good.  Vraska is good too.  The Vindicate ability is pretty sweet, and basically worth the 5 mana initial investment you pay for her.  Then, you can build her up and protect her at the same time with the +1 ability.  Finally, she pumps out little (Phage, the Untouchable) tokens.  Those can be really hard to deal with, especially if you just cleared the board.  Not everyone is going to be able to mount a defense right away.  Almost as good as Jace.

 Wayfaring Temple - You guys remember Scion of the Wild?  This is a better version.  The ability to Populate means that he's made for token decks.  Just give him a Behemoth Sledge and go to town.

 Worldspine Wurm - Large wurm is large!  Kresh decks will like it, but that's a whole ton of mana.  For 11 mana, you can get Ulamog, or this guy.  What would you choose?


 Chromatic Lantern - Good for 5 color decks, and other decks that stretch the mana base and color costs.  Better if you aren't playing Green.

 Codex Shredder - A pretty unassuming artifact, this one has 1 main purpose:  It gives colors that don't have access to recursion the ability to grab stuff from the graveyard.  The fact that it only costs 1 mana is pretty nice, while the milling ability is ok.  It's probably best in decks that want to mill themselves a little bit, or in conjunction with Sensei's Divining Top (I can't believe I'm recommending that card) so that you can dig for answers.  Milling an opponent's library is a little bit risky, but sometimes you can get a player after they Personal Tutor or something.

 Collective Blessing - Good for tokens.  And with all the other options, that may even be pushing it.

 Death's Presence - Another good card for Skullbriar and Kresh, and any deck with a decent sacrifice theme.  

 Detention Sphere - Oblivion Ring 2.0.  If you like Oblivion Ring, you'll like this.  If you think Oblivion Ring sucks because it isn't a permanent solution, you won't like it.

 Grave Betrayal - Made for mono-Black control, this also goes great into any Wrath-centric deck.  Expect to see this played a lot, despite its high casting cost.

 Havoc Festival - Wow, talk about speeding games up.  Kaervek punisher decks really will like this.  Also good at hosing life gain.

 Rest in Peace - Excellent graveyard hoser.  Leyline of the Void with Relic of Progenitus.  This is a card that should be played to keep all those players that abuse their graveyards honest.

 Righteous Authority - Auras generally aren't that great, but this one is worth a second look.  It basically combines Empyrial Armor with a personal Howling Mine.  If you like playing with Maro type creatures, or just like big beaters, this is a fun aura.

 Rogue's Passage - Sort of the companion to Mystifying Maze.  If your deck is based around Commander damage or just really huge dudes, it's worth a shot.  Essentially another Shizo, Death's Storehouse.

 Sphere of Safety - Another Propaganda variant, if you are playing an Enchantress deck then you should seriously consider this card.

 Underworld Connections - I wasn't really a huge fan of this card at first.  It invites land destruction and sets you behind on mana in order to use it.  Both of those are "bad things" typically.  However, there are a bunch of different ways that this can end up being a good thing.  It combines well with Deserted Temple or Arbor Elf, Candelabra of Tawnos, Argothian Elder, Earthcraft, heck even Krosan Restorer.  But where it really gets fun is with Seedborn Muse.  Of course, Seedborn Muse can make just about any card good so that's not a great measure of a card.  But if you are really into abusing Cabal Coffers, then this is a card you should probably play with.  I just wish the picture had a mafioso in it.


Azorius Charm, Golgari Charm, Izzet Charm, Rakdos Charm, Selesnya Charm

All right, Charms are awesome because of the choices they give you.  Each of these is good, but a few are better than others.  Honestly I'm a pretty big fan of Rakdos Charm.  There are a ton of token decks out there, and this can really hurt them.  Instant speed graveyard removal and artifact destruction isn't a bad thing either.  Azorius Charm is also really good.  Giving your entire team lifelink can swing a game, and the pseudo-tucking effect is great if you have a shuffling effect.  The remainder are great, with Selesnya Charm being my favorite.  Golgari Charm is pretty situational, and occasionally you can blow someone out who taps out for a huge Genesis Wave with Izzet Charm.  They're all pretty good.

 Abrupt Decay - I don't know if I can justify a card slot for only blowing up stuff that has a low CMC, even if it can't be countered.  There just aren't enough cards for it to target to make it worthwhile to me.  Yes, you can occasionally hit a Serra Ascendant or Phyrexian Arena, but is that enough?

 Chorus of Might - Instant speed pump that can make a creature huge is always nice.  Token decks can use this for Commander kills, or just to blow out an opponent.  Kind of expensive, but in the right deck it can be worth it.

 Cyclonic Rift - Wow, Overload is good.  Being able to bounce everyone else's stuff is pretty awesome, and can lead to sizeable advantages in the late game.  And even the basic Boomerang ability isn't horrible all by itself.  Well worth playing.

 Dreadbore - All right, so it's not an instant, I can live with that.  Being able to just blow up a planeswalker without having to rely on Vindicate, Desert Twister or combat damage is pretty sweet.  And there are always creatures that need to be killed.  A great utility card.

 Druid's Deliverance - Fog effects aren't horrible as they can leave attackers wide open and prevent you from dying.  Generally they aren't the type of cards that I enjoy playing, but I know that there are some fans out there.  Combining Fog with the ability to Populate therefore makes this worth pointing out.

 Epic Experiment - All right, so this is pretty much the non-permanent version of Genesis Wave.  Being able to abuse this means that you have to have a sorcery/instant heavy deck, which seems very Grixis to me.  You're also going to want to avoid other X spells in your deck.  This seems fun, but I'm not sure that it's more powerful than Genesis Wave.  With G-Wave,  you just lay your deck on the table without worrying about the consequences:  Bam!  With this Experiment, though, instants and sorceries are a lot more situational.  Many times targets are required, or kicker costs need to be paid.  Sure you might be able to get a few tutors or something, but it just doesn't seem like it's in the same class.  I'm not saying that it's a bad card or that it's horrible, it's just not as powerful as its big, Green brother.

 Essence Backlash - Commander is the land of huge critters, so this can really bring the pain.  Imagine countering a late game Lord of Extinction.  Death out of nowhere!

 Firemind's Foresight - People love tutors.  And although this is expensive, it can be cast at instant speed and get 3 cards for the price of 1.  The question is, what are the perfect 3 instants to get?  My guess is that you'll grab answers most of the time, but there should be a better combo of cards out there, right?  Tell me in the comments!

 Goblin Rally - 4 tokens for 1 card is decent.

 Jarad's Orders - All right, so everyone knows that the graveyard is a valuable resource.  This is a double tutor, putting a creature in your graveyard and in your hand.  Both of these are pretty powerful abilities.  You can stick Genesis or Anger in your graveyard, then some fatty or whatever in your hand.  If you like The Mimeoplasm, you'll like this card.

 Mizzium Mortars - Better than Lavalanche and Bonfire of the Damned due to the fact that it can hit everyone else but you.

 Rakdos's Return - While this only hits one player, it hits them very hard.  Late game you can make an opponent dump their hand and hit them for 10, which is great for just one card.  And as anyone with an empty hand late game knows, this can be a hard position to come back from.

 Rootborn Defenses - Making your team indestructible is better than regeneration that cards like Loxodon Hierarch give.  Populate is just icing on the cake.

 Skull Rend - Any card that says "to each opponent" is worth looking at for multiplayer games.  If you like playing with Megrim this should be fun for you.

 Sphinx's Revelation - Instant speed card draw is always a good thing.  Life gain is another bit of icing on the cake.  Gonna be popular.

 Street Spasm - This is one of the few Overload cards that is tough, just due to the huge mana cost involved.  It's 6 mana to do 2 damage to each other creature, and 8 mana to do 3 damage, etc.  Might as well just play (Mizzium Mortors).

 Sundering Growth - Disenchant plus Populate.  Worthwhile.

 Supreme Verdict - Uncounterable Wrath's are always nice.

 Teleportal - I just like this guy's picture.  What the heck is he carrying around?

 Treasured Find - There are a ton of Regrowth effects out there, If you really need another one, here it is.

 Vandalblast - Shatterstorm that hits everyone else?  Yes!


There is a lot of playable stuff for Commander in this set.  Here is a list of what I think the staples will end up being:

Plus, on top of those there are a ton of other cards that are worth picking up.  Seriously, just about all the cards I talked about here could see some sort of play.  There's a lot of good stuff in this set, and now that it's widely available I'm sure we'll be seeing more of all of it.  Of course there's no replacement for Primeval Titan, but I don't expect we'll see one any time soon.

Until next time!

Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO
mrmorale32 at yahoo dot com



Always a great review. You by themonkey at Fri, 10/19/2012 - 08:49
themonkey's picture

Always a great review.

You didn't mention Grisly Salvage in your review. It's a better Mulch. Early game find a land, late game keep a creature. All while stocking your graveyard at instant speed.