I am beginning to think I have previously been a tad too cute with the titles. Also, given that we’re doing a bit of a round-up today, it seems appropriate to simply call out the round-up, eh?
COMMANDER 2016 IMPRESSIONS
Who has two thumbs and called it? This guy.
Here’s what I said back in October, before Commander 2016 released:
“But what if Wizards decided to go wayyyyy out there, and design two creatures that could co-exist in the command zone?
It doesn’t require much of an adjustment to the rules—just increment your commander tax for each card individually, define your deck’s colour identity using the colour identity of the two commanders combined, and come up with a new mechanic that allows your new commanders to co-exist. And it opens up some interesting gameplay decisions about when you cast your commanders, and how.”
The mechanic I predicted was worded thusly:
Alliance (You may begin the game with up to two creatures with alliance in the command zone.)
It differs from the actual Partner mechanic in that it defines the cards themselves as commanders—which, you know, probably should happen if we’re going to play a format called Commander. But other than that, I was almost word-for-word correct with my craziest prediction!
Okay, enough self-regard. You’re here for impressions.
The decks themselves are quite good. I’ve played one game with Kynaios and Tiro and several games with Saskia, and generally speaking, I have all four colours between turns 4-6 or so. I have yet to truly be mana-screwed.
Wizards has done an excellent job in constructing the decklists—they needed to make sure the decks had equal access to all of their colours with relative frequency, without reprinting expensive, in-demand cards like fetchlands that would have made it easy to do so. And they have succeeded.
Additionally, the decks contain many Commander staples—hello, Chromatic Lantern! Hello, Ghostly Prison!—making sure that they can hold their own against a variety of custom-brewed lists.
The Partners mechanic is extremely novel, and it’s going to take a while to figure out. I have a strong feeling that Partner commanders are going to be much better at the head of decks that don’t rely on the commander, than ones where the commander is central.
To give you an example, here’s the latest iteration of my Shadowborn Apostle deck, now featuring Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa and Tymna the Weaver in front.
This is a combo-ish deck—get six Apostles on the field, sacrifice them, bring out Rune-Scarred Demon, bring out Thrumming Stone, get every Apostle on the field, do Fun Things™ with them. Previously, it has featured Athreos, Little Teysa, and Karador as commanders.
It had a problem, though—I never had enough draw, or enough to do in the middle of the game.
Sidar and Tymna help me solve that problem. They don’t need to be out for the deck to function, but having them both lets me poke people with Apostles and draw 3-4 extra cards a turn, which greatly helps with the velocity of the deck. See more cards, cast more Apostles, combo off more quickly.
This is where I think Partners will do best—as supports for their deck, rather than as keystones.
KALADESH PLAYTEST LEAGUE IMPRESSIONS
(This section is going to be much shorter—mostly because I don’t have neat predictions to preen over.)
I spent a bit of time in the Kaladesh Playtest League in recent weeks, and it was an absolute blast!
If you’re not familiar, here’s the deal with League play, in brief:
Start with three booster packs.
Build a 30-card deck using cards from those packs and land from the store.
Play with as many different people as you can over multiple weeks. Matches consist of a single game, with one free mulligan.
Each week, and after every third loss, you may buy an additional booster to add cards to your card pool and rebuild your deck.
In practice, it felt like “mini-Sealed”. I was stretching all those good Limited muscles, looking for synergies and assessing card playability—but there was much less pressure, because of the casual, fun-focused nature of the league.
And I have to say, it’s also pretty fun knowing that, with three rares and only room for 17 or so non-land cards in your pool, you’ve got a pretty high likelihood of drawing an awesome bomb in almost every game.
In short—built, played, had a blast. Cannot recommend enough.
ETERNAL MASTERS LEAGUE, AETHER REVOLT PRE-RELEASES, AND MORE!
And if you’re excited by the idea of League play—good news, everyone!
AMNG is doing an Eternal Masters League for three Sundays in December! At 2 PM on the 4th, 11th, and 18th, you can buy into the league for $40, netting you three Eternal Masters boosters and a chance at glory. EMA boosters will also be available at a special discounted rate of $15 per booster when bought for League play, so come on in!
Also, AMNG has announced that they’ve started doing… SUNDAY pre-releases. (Ooooooh)
Starting with Aether Revolt in January, the store will host a 6 PM Sunday pre-release, alongside the midnight Friday and noon and 5 PM Saturday pre-releases! MOAR MAGIC, amirite?
See you in the store!
Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!