It’s been a bit, MTG Maniacs! Have no fear, we are still here – and perhaps hoping to return to some consistency in posts very soon!
As Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is about to Decay away with Innistrad: Crimson Vow on the horizon, it seemed like an opportune moment to sneak in a little list of cards that we’ve been seeing hit the old Casual Commander tables from the first of the two Spooky Season Sets.
The only thing to mention before we jump in – these are just five cool cards! Not the five best cards, because that sure is highly subjective, especially in the wild world of Commander. Your group and playstyle will always factor in to what you consider “best”. So, instead, here are five pretty rad cards for Commander from Midnight Hunt that maybe you are playing already – but if not, maybe you should think about it, eh?
I will admit right away that I’m surprised I haven’t seen more of this card yet, but I get it – it’s a 3-mana rock, so we inherently hate those because of tempo, etc. But give me a moment to plead the case!
Commander’s Sphere is a card that sees an amount of play. Not a lot, but an amount. I’m going to use it as the easiest point of comparison. While the Sphere can essentially be cycled whenever you no longer need the extra mana, that’s generally a “break in case of emergencies” scenario more often than not – the mana is useful still, and you are digging for one clutch out rather than trying to pad your hand by sacrificing a mana source.
The Celestus actually digs deeper for you while staying on board, so it kind of does both? It will sometimes cost you mana to make the Day/Night switch using its activated ability, but sometimes you will just get it for free with several opponents as well as yourself with the opportunity to set it up. Especially if your deck has ways to play on the opponents’ turns (Leyline of Anticipation and Vedalken Orrery, for example), you can easily set up a couple of triggers without spending any mana and dig away. Plus, you get a life each time the switch happens as well, which can be nice in a close game.
If nothing else, I’m just going to assume people aren’t playing The Celestus because they don’t want to track Day/Night in paper Magic games. Which is fair, I guess. This shouldn’t go in every deck, but at the price it’s sitting at, it’s actually a pretty value-packed mana rock that many decks can get some nice advantage from, especially those with low access to card draw or a way to really capitalize on the triggers (like Rielle, the Everwise).
Boy, if there is one thing I love, it’s versatility, and Dire Strain Rampage has that in spades. This is the swiss army knife of the set – with the ability to act as a Harrow to ramp yourself, a Naturalize when something needs smashing (and a basic land is an OK exchange), and when it comes up, an emergency Stone Rain when a certain land has to go and you don’t mind if your opponent replaces it with two basics.
And…it has flashback! With games going long, Commander to me is all about extracting value from your cards. Flexibility is a light form of value already – ensuring that you can perfectly answer issues when they come up prevents opponents from gaining ground on you as you dig for an answer. Having Dire Strain smash away a Sword of Feast and Famine or a Rhystic Study or any number of other destructive cards is already going to feel like a one-sided trade for a single basic land. But with Flashback, Dire Strain gets straight added value, allowing you to curve this out as two ramp spells some games, and count it as a fancy Ancient Grudge in others.
Especially if you have access to tricks like Flagstones of Trokair or Ramunap Excavator, Dire Strain Rampage should be a card on your shortlist to try out from Midnight Hunt. It’s a little costly both in mana and drawback, but in my opinion, the flexibility and value makes up for those shortcomings nicely.
This cheeky little uncommon is, surprisingly, one of my favorites from the set, and that’s because the ability on the card is actually rather unprecedented. Previous effects have had various stipulations on them – from only watching your own creatures like Erebos, Bleak-Hearted and Liliana, Dreadhorde General, to only watching nontoken creatures like Harvester of Souls and Grim Haruspex. Not to mention many of them cause you life loss as well, which does add up!
Morbid Opportunist trades explosive draw potential for steady draw. Only one per turn, but it can be when anything (other than himself) dies. If the board is wiped, you’ll still get your card as long as something else was there to die, and when opponents brawl with each other (perhaps you made them, Kardur, Doomscourge player!), you’ll be there to profit off of the bloodshed.
Obviously the loss of the explosive potential of drawing many cards at once is a cost, but I also see a positive to it – you have to consider a hidden stat on a card – it’s “threat generation”. Like a tank player in an MMORPG, every card that gets played generates some amount of threat that the other players at the table will react to. Harvester of Souls is an example of a creature that generates a lot of threat very quickly, and players will move to take it out. But little MO here tells everyone he’s reigned in, and that they can control how many cards you draw. Sure, he’ll probably get sniped, but he may stick around to draw you a few cards where a similar creature might not, because there may be more threatening cards to deal with first.
To top it off, it’s a cheap three mana with a nice toughness of 3 to help him survive little pings. I think Morbid Opportunist is a great addition to many black decks looking for some more draw sources – and we all know how important that can be in Commander!
While he’s making the rounds at the top tables of Standard, let’s be sure not to overlook Lier, Disciple of the Drowned for our casual tables as well!
I mentioned earlier that Commander is all about extracting value, and if a Snapcaster Mage is good, then doing it to your whole graveyard would have to land somewhere between “great” and “this won me the game on its own”. While it costs more, Commander is a high-mana format, and where Snapcaster plays like a quick surgical strike, Lier is more like cranking open floodgates in any deck that is heavy on spells or great at tossing their deck into the graveyard. Recasting Time Warp, Growth Spiral, and Demonic Tutor can lead to big value turns, and combos can abound with cards like Reset and Early Harvest.
What about the drawback, you may ask? “Spells can’t be countered” – well, yes, that is going to dictate to a degree what you can recast. Snapcaster is keen for a clutch Cryptic Command counterspell, but Lier would rather play reactive spells. At the same time – this prevents your opponents from countering your own spells as well. So long as you are building or playing with it in mind, the “drawback” in commander may have a greater impact on your opponent’s ability to stop your incrementing value than it will on you.
I see Lier as an easy include in decks that aim spell heavy or want to build some fun combos – as well as those that just are happy to shut off their least favorite type of blue spells. But I also see Lier as a supremely fun commander on his own – where you lean away from Blue’s normal counterspell control and get to have a lot more fun controlling the board with Aetherize and protecting Lier with Reality Ripple. And if you want to get really cheeky – Divide by Zero doesn’t actually “counter” anything!
Finally, we have #1 raddest on our Innistrad: Midnight Hunt list – The Meathook Massacre. What seems at first glance to be a simple board wipe option has quite a bit of fun tricks waiting underneath the hood.
Let’s get the con out of the way right away – it takes a bunch of mana to cast! Toxic Deluge this is not, and that’s fine. – because Toxic Deluge cannot kill your opponents or save you from the brink of death. In fact, the two actually work nicely together: Meathook will often gain you back at least the amount of life you spent on Deluge, if not far more!
Despite the cost, though, TMM once again offers both the things I love to see in a card for commander: flexibility, and value. In this case, the flexibility is in its use as a board wipe or as an “aristocrats”-like combo piece, letting you set up incremental life gain and life loss for doing stuff you were probably already planning on doing – or can build around doing more.
The value – again, other than as a board wipe – is that it sits on the board, helping you win the game but also ready to be scooped up and used again if you are a crafty player or deck builder. Devastation Tide hits different when you scoop back a mass removal spell and make the opponents afraid to rebuild. And if it gets destroyed, it’s nice to have a board wipe that counts as a permanent so you can snag it back with cards like Nissa, Vital Force or Hall of Heliod’s Generosity. Also, Commander players all hate Cyclonic Rift, right? Consider this your Cyclonic Rift insurance policy. At least you get a board wipe back in hand!
If you like to get really cute with it, you can find more ways to get value out of it like using it in a Ghen, Arcanum Weaver deck to wipe the board and then fuel building out your bigger enchantments (but beware, you have to cast it to get the board wipe!). On the other hand, Kethis, the Hidden Hand decks will easy be able to reuse this Legendary board wipe straight out of the graveyard if they can just find a way to get rid of it! And beyond commanders that synergize directly with it, The Meathook Massacre can get its hooks into any black deck that has the potential to build big boards or kill lots of creatures…which sure sounds like a lot of the ones I build!
There you go, folks – five rad commander cards out of Midnight Hunt, just in time for Crimson Vow spoilers to begin dropping! What did I miss – what are your favorite new cards in Commander that were stirred awake in this return to Innistrad? Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time!