By: Eric Sommers
Welcome to the first ever installment of the newest addition to the Questionable Endeavor, Little E’s Commander Archive. I am Little E, and I will be your host every week as we look at various deck ideas, share some stories and experiences, and do our best to keep up with current events, mostly within the realm of the Commander format for Magic the Gathering.
It is an exciting time for Commander players. This Summer’s releases and the recent announcements from Wizards about upcoming products has given the Commander community a lot to look forward to. Upon the release of each of these products, I will review them within the context of my favorite format. So without further ado, I give you…
Back in 2014, Wizards released Conspiracy, the first ever Magic: the Gathering set designed for multiplayer drafting. No one knew what to expect from such a design, but the set was an overwhelming success. The set was full of gems for multiplayer formats making it incredibly popular among Commander players. Two years later we now have the second installment in the Conspiracy line. With it we have some new legendary creatures to choose as Commanders, some fun new planeswalkers, and an assortment of new mechanics to spice up our games.
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This new mechanic is a variation of the Will of the Council mechanic found in the original Conspiracy set. It requires each player to vote, and the spell’s effect will vary based on how each player votes. Council’s Dilemma is an ability word that requires each player to vote for one or two effects to occur. It is found on both spells and permanents and will prompt the players to begin voting depending on which card it is on. Each player, starting with the player who controls the ability, will vote for one of two options. For each vote, the effect will happen upon resolution of the ability. For example...
..if I cast Expropriate and it resolves, I start the voting process by choosing time, the player to left chooses money, the next player chooses money as well, and the last player chooses time. After voting is concluded, I will get to take an extra turn for each vote for time and gain control on permanent form each player that voted money.
Voting was a fun mechanic from the original Conspiracy set, and I am glad the brought it back for Take the Crown. The added effect for each appropriate vote sets this apart from the previous Will of the Council. However, this fails to accomplish what makes the mechanic fun by cutting out the politics. Will of the Council forced players to talk and make a group decision as to what effect they wanted or needed. At times, this required players to make loose alliances to be sure the choice they selected was guaranteed to resolve.
Council’s Dilemma removes that entirely. There’s no reason to come to the table and discuss which effect is best for the group. You are simply going to vote for the effect that impacts you the least. There’s no reason to consider the other option because both effects take place for each vote they get. Overall, I feel like we would have been better off getting new cards with the old mechanic instead. I rate Council’s Dilemma at 2 out of 5 mana rocks.
This is the mechanic I’ve been missing all my multiplayer life but never knew it! At first glance, this combat based keyword action seems harmless, but I feel it will have a huge impact on the games it shows up in.
Here are the official rules for Goad:
701.35a Certain spells and abilities can goad a creature. Until the next turn of the controller of such a spell or ability, that creature attacks each combat if able and attacks a player other than the controller of that spell or ability if able.
So once I resolve a spell that Goads a creature, it forces that creature to attack another player if able each combat until my next turn. This is a great way to shake up the game. For starters, you can goad a creature controlled by a player who is holding their creatures back for defense, leaving them vulnerable to the attacks of other players. It is a mechanic that forces attacking, but also protects you (at least from that creature), which will push games forward and put you in better position to win.
Now, your opponent might have ways to get out of attacking with the targeted creature, such as tapping it. But, ultimately, it still requires them to do something with that creature that will likely leave them open to your next move. Unfortunately, this fun mechanic did not show up on many cards in the set, so I don’t see it shaking up our format too much. Since it is a mechanic that only impacts players in multiplayer games, it won’t have a place in many other sets. Hopefully, we can explore the mechanic a bit more in upcoming Commander products or in the inevitable Conspiracy 3. I rate Goad at 3 out of 5 mana rocks.
The next mechanic is combat based and rewards you for attacking multiple opponents at the same time.
702.120a Melee is a triggered ability. "Melee" means "Whenever this creature attacks, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn for each opponent you attacked with a creature this combat."
702.120b If a creature has multiple instances of melee, each triggers separately.
This feels a bit underwhelming. Sure, attacking is vital to most strategies, but this won’t accomplish what most are hoping for. The decks that love to attack the most can’t make the most of this benefit. Voltron decks only ever attack regularly with one creature, so Melee will never trigger. In order to get the most out of Melee, you need to attack multiple players. Now you will be spreading your attacks to each opponent, or at least multiple opponents, which could leave you vulnerable to counter attacks, or throwing away a creature or two just to boost another.
Melee only shines if you could give it to all of your creatures, which you can thanks to a certain legend we will get to later. Even then, it steadily gets worse as other players start to get eliminated. Add in the fact that if you are attacking multiple players each combat, you won’t be making many friends at the table. Hopefully attacking three opponents each turn hasn’t left you with weakened defenses. I rate Melee at 1 out of 5 mana rocks.
All hail the new king...or queen!
716. The Monarch
716.1. The monarch is a designation a player can have. Some cards instruct a player to become the monarch.
716.2. There are two inherent triggered abilities associated with being the monarch. These triggered abilities have no source and are controlled by the player who was the monarch at the time the abilities triggered. This is an exception to rule 112.8. The full texts of these abilities are "At the beginning of the monarch's end step, that player draws a card" and "Whenever a creature deals combat damage to the monarch, its controller becomes the monarch."
716.3. Only one player can be the monarch at a time. As a player becomes the monarch, the current monarch ceases being the monarch.
716.4. If the monarch leaves the game, the active player becomes the monarch. If the leaving monarch is the active player, the next player in turn order becomes the monarch.
Of the new abilities and keywords in Conspiracy: Take the Crown, this is the one I expect to appear the most. There are a number of cards that “make you the monarch” when they enter the battlefield or upon resolution. From there, you get to reap the benefit of drawing a card at the end of your turn.
The downside is that you will have to defend your crown if you expect to keep it. Whenever a creature deals combat damage to a the monarch, that creature’s controller gets to be the monarch instead. This encourages players to attack, which will speed up games. It also gives players a target. Oftentimes we find ourselves with a board full of creatures, but are afraid to attack any one player out of fear of being hated against by that player. Monarch clears that up. I have to attack the monarch so that I can in turn become the monarch. A great mechanic that will spice up Commander games as well as any multiplayer game. I rate Monarch at 5 out of 5 mana rocks.
Now, the set does have a few more mechanics such as Conspiracy, Agenda, and Draft abilities, but since those mechanics have no impact outside of being drafted, I will not be covering them in this article.
With every new set Wizards of the Coast releases, our options for potential commanders grows. Conspiracy: Take the Crown is no exception. Let’s look at the latest batch of Legendary Creatures, see how they fit into the format, look at which decks might appreciate them as commanders, and then rate them on their overall performance.
Adriana, Captain of the Guard
I already went into my dislike of the Melee mechanic, but I might be able to get behind it in this case. Adriana doesn’t just come with the mechanic, she shares it with all of your creatures. Having the ability on your commander makes sure you almost always have access to it. I can see a red/white token deck putting this to good use. However, red/white decks didn’t need an ability like this to be playable. WIth other commanders available such as Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, Adriana seems lackluster. Boros players have been screaming for some time for a commander who isn’t so combat focused, and I think they will feel let down by this legend. I rate Adriana 2 out of 5 mana rocks.
Grenzo, Havoc Raiser
We now have our second iteration of the dungeon warden of Paliano. Although I don’t like that he lost a color, I do like that they gave him an ability that shares Goad with all of your creatures. Grenzo comes cheap with an ability that triggers for each of your creatures dealing combat damage. With an army of goblins, you can easily get some damage through, Goad each of the defending player’s creatures, and leave them defenseless the next round to repeat the process.
Are you able to goad all the creatures? Are you still able to get more damage through? Well, then Grenzo’s second option will make you a happy little pillager. Exile the top card of the defending player’s library, and until the end of the turn, you can cast that spell using your mana as if it were any color.
I can see this having big impact almost every time it resolves. Now, Grenzo is lacking in colors, leaving him in a weak option for the mono color build. I see him having a home amongst the 99, but with Krenko, Mob Boss being so popular and efficient, I find it hard to believe we will see many decks with Grenzo in the command zone. Sill, I rate Grenzo, Havoc Raiser at 4 out of 5 mana rocks.
Leovold, Emissary of Trest
It seems the elvish nation of Trest produces some solid commanders. While Edric, Spymaster of Trest was blue/green and had a home in many Hug style decks, I don’t think Leovold will be joining those types of parties. The guy is mean. He limits how many cards your opponents can draw each turn to one. He has a built in deterrent to discourage your opponents from targeting him with removal, as well as protecting you and your other permanents. He’s relatively cheap with a decent size body. He is everything you could want out of a commander in these colors.
Prior to Leovold, Sultai only had four commanders to choose from. Other than the dedicated reanimator builds, of which The Mimeoplasm still holds dominion, I am hard pressed to believe that our elven advisor isn’t the superior choice for commander. However, I do see the player who sets this guy in their command zone being hated much like Kaalia players. That never stopped players from playing her. Look for this guy to be showing up in most play groups in the near future. Do not believe them when they say that their deck doesn’t do… There’s no way that I see Leovold that isn’t mean. I rate him 5 out of 5 mana rocks.
Here she is in all her glory, the new queen of Paliano, Queen Marchesa. I am happy with her color shifted return. She might be the best representation of her colors although I don’t see her reaching the popularity of Kaalia. She is a great commander in her own right. The Monarch keeps most games fun, to a point. Marchesa does great work to control who wears that crown. She makes you The Monarch upon coming into play. Marchesa is not formidable herself, but deathtouch makes her pretty threatening. Her colors are great for controlling the board so you remain The Monarch. If you happen to lose the crown, she produces the assassins to steal it back. Of the legends from this set, Queen Marchesa is the one I am most likely to build. That being said, I rate her at 4 out 5 mana rocks.
Selvala, Heart of the Wilds
Our final legend is a revisit from the original Conspiracy. Selvala, Heart of the WIlds is a decent choice for a mono green commander. She nets you an extra card as you resolve bigger creatures and helps you ramp into those creatures. She is cheap to cast, so you can get her out early and make the most of her card drawing benefit. Her abilities don’t leave much room for varying builds.
It might just be my commander heart, but I feel like Selvala would have benefited from a second color. Although she might find a home in the hands of a Timmy who’s new to the format, I don’t see her taking the top spot from Commanders that can outright win you the game. I rate Selvala, Heart of the WIlds at 2 out of 5 mana rocks.
Although Conspiracy: Take the Crown wasn’t made specifically for Commander players, there are more than a few gems that I am sure we will see in our games. Here are some of the cards I think will make waves in Commander.
So there you have it. Conspiracy: Take the Crown is out and ready to drafted. Give it a shot and let me know how you did. Tell me which cards you are most excited to add to your commander decks. Make sure to come back every Friday to read more about Commander and Magic: the Gathering. Happy Commandering!
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