Welcome back, everyone. This week I’d like to bring you my favorite new M12 cards for Commander deck use. Please bear in mind that these choices are completely my own opinion, based on what I think is best for the Commander format. I deliberated long and hard over most of the list, but, in the end, I had to use my own best judgment. Let’s get started.
Honorable (or Dishonorable) Mention: Scrambleverse
Depending on your point of view, this card might be the best or the worst in the set. Obviously, there are very few decks that can take advantage of Scrambleverse, but, luckily, Wizards recently printed a new Commander that absolutely loves this card. Zedruu the Greathearted and Scrambleverse go together so well it’s scary. As long as you have a little luck, a bunch of non-land permanents, and have arranged to have Zedruu off the field the turn you mess up the board (via cards like Otherworldly Journey for example) you will likely have the biggest advantage after the dust settles. Unfortunately, as is the case with many goofy red cards, there is a social downside to playing Scrambleverse. Case in point, I played Scrambleverse last night in a Commander tournament after an M12 Prelease (someone simply gave me the card, probably deeming it unworthy of any attention at all) and two of the five total players immediately scooped. Now, it was very late and there were many permanents littering the field, but if one card can make two people just up and quit I think it deserves a lot of scrutiny. Wizards prints cards like Scrambleverse for a small percentage of players; the ones who want to take advantage of it and the ones who just have fun messing with the status quo. I admit that I fall into both categories and I love cards like Scrambleverse. Richard Garfield himself has said many times that luck is the key component of Magic that separates it from chess; the all-important factor that allows an inexperienced player to defeat a master. But the moral of the story is that many players, the ones who relish over defeating entire tables on turn four or five with infinite creature combos, won’t enjoy Scrambleverse and may not want anything to do with you if you play it. Be warned.
10: Chandra’s Phoenix
Red seems to me the weakest color in Commander, at least traditional Red. You know, the Red that’s supposed to be about passion, chaos and fighting onward with no thought of one’s own safety or that of others. Unfortunately, these characteristics don’t work out too well in a Commander game with three to four other players. Most games last well into the late game, and if you’re playing mono-red you’ll most likely be running lots of short-term advantage cards and burn spells. You might be able to take out one opponent and severely damage another, but you’ll make yourself a huge target while doing it. In the mean time, your opponents will be building up much more consistent and reliable board positions. Mono-red simply does not have enough recursion to fall back on, and so playing a mono-red Commander deck is tantamount to suicide (well, kamikaze).
Enter, Chandra’s Phoenix. It may not look like much, but it’s a step in the right direction. This is the kind of flexible, reliable, flavorful card that mono-red desperately needs. Chandra’s Phoenix laughs at board wipes, spot removal, and creatures that can’t block flyers. Also, it loves equipment, one of the best tools in Red’s arsenal. Loxodon Warhammer, Skullclamp, Deathrender, Grafted Exoskeleton, Grafted Wargear, Strata Scythe: all wonderful companions for your undying firebird. And it goes extremely well with another card on this list, but let’s move on for now.
9: Aegis Angel
A 5/5 flyer, while nothing to sneeze at, is commonplace in Commander. Her ability, however, is not. Indestructibility is still an extremely potent characteristic to possess, and Aegis Angel can create some very interesting interactions. Play her targeting your own Whispersilk Cloak or Swiftfoot Boots, equip, and suddenly your little 5/5 flyer is a lot harder to deal with. I’m more interested in her political implications, though. Alliances spring up periodically in Commander games, and Aegis Angel can seal the deal of trust you want to have with another player. Target another player’s Commander and suddenly you’ll have a new best friend.
8: Rune-Scarred Demon
Tutors are great and 6/6 demons are too. Why not put them together? I’m glad someone at Wizards asked that question. Rune-Scarred Demon will almost never be a dead card in your hand, provided you have the requisite seven mana. I like it more than Diabolic Tutor, as swinging for six each turn is a lot more satisfying than dumping a card in the graveyard. Say your favorite new demon just did get stuck in the ‘yard, though, what then? Well, he’s just become Karador, Ghost Chieftain’s and Debtor’s Knell’s favorite target. The recursion potential of Aegis Angel and Rune-Scarred Demon is what makes them really special. I like Sphinx of Uthuun and Arachnus Spider as well, but I think the angel and demon pair will make a much bigger splash in Commander. Hello, Kaalia of the Vast, you continue to be awesome.
7: Garruk, Primal Hunter
Planeswalkers are awesome, no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. Still, I debated on whether or not I could sleep at night if I included them in this list. I compromised by not including the third coming of Jace. Luckily, he doesn’t seem quite as broken this time. I have heard rumors of Innistrad being a graveyard-themed set, though, in which case the new Jace will quickly become like the old Jace in Standard. But this is a Commander article so we don’t really have to pay him that much attention right now. What I find much more exciting is the second iteration of Garruk. Whereas Jace got a small downgrade I’d say Garruk, Primal Hunter is a significant upgrade. The added green mana is important but probably won’t deter mono-green mages at all. What does matter is that Garruk’s minus ability is much better. Green doesn’t get nearly enough card-drawing, and Garruk, Primal Hunter is a great answer to that lack. Where Garruk becomes insane, though, is in his ultimate. An army of giant wurms is a great prize for keeping him around for three agonizing turns. I’d suggest combining Garruk, Primal Hunter with proliferation cards like Plaguemaw Beast and Contagion Clasp to get the most bang for your buck.
6: Chandra, the Firebrand
Hey, look at that, you blink and all the sudden a playable Chandra just pops into existence. I assure you, the quite splashable Chandra, the Firebrand’s main use in tournaments will be to double the effects of cards like Tooth and Nail, Time Warp and Time Stretch, which is unfortunate. Still, this is the best planeswalker other than Karn Liberated that Red has. She goes perfectly well with Chandra’s Phoenix, as she should, and she can take out some key threats if she lives long enough.
5: Sundial of the Infinite
If you’ve read my other two articles you’ll know I’m a huge fan of strange cards. Well, Sundial of the Infinite isn’t just strange; it’s actually good. At the very least, no one will be able to pull unexpected shenanigans on you after you go all in ever again. Heck, this thing even saves itself from being destroyed, provided it’s your turn. Unfortunately, this thing isn’t a recurring Time Stop. So why not combine it with Aegis Angel? Darksteel Forge? Indomitable Archangel? Just a thought. Seeing as how this crazy little artifact can give you all five Pacts for free in one turn, I’d say it’s worth it.
4: Warstorm Surge
I shouldn’t have to tell you that this card is insane. With Warstorm Surge, you don’t even have to attack with your infinite Deceiver Exarchs after Tooth and Nailing it and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker into play. To put this in perspective, that same combo took out three of my opponents when the Animar, Soul of Elements player went off last night. What saved me, you ask? Ghostly Prison. I actually went on to win that game thanks to Reins of Power. If my opponent had had a Warstorm Surge in play it would have been lights out for all of us before he even entered his combat phase.
3: Grand Abolisher
There isn’t a ton of room in White’s huge arsenal of tiny, awesome creatures, but I think we can make some for this guy. As long as you have some way to protect Grand Abolisher you’ll never have to worry about someone countering your Day of Judgment, Decree of Justice, etc. And you can forget about opponents annoyingly pulling stuff during your end steps.
2: Angelic Destiny
The best multiplayer cards exemplify versatility and consistency. Since you’re only allowed to have one of each card in Commander, being able to call on a card multiple times is imperative. And this card rules at that quality. By returning to its owner’s hand, Angelic Destiny solves the main problem with auras and turns practically any creature into a threat. Expect to see this one popping up for years to come.
1: Swiftfoot Boots
This was kind of a no-brainer. It’s not quite Lightning Greaves without the downside, but it’s close enough to become a staple in most decks. It becomes better than the Greaves with Auriok Steelshaper in play, and all three fit very well in a Kemba, Kha Regent deck. I was lucky enough to pick up this card during the prelease, and I advise every Commander player get their own copy ASAP.
Let’s Sleeve Them Up!
And that’s it! Time will tell how these cards fair after they’re widely available. What did you think of the list? Is it perfect? Would you have switched some cards around? Have a card in mind that didn’t get the respect it deserved? Leave a comment below!