With Commander 2017 out and available in the wild, many of us have bought one or more of the decks and have started playing a few games. I like to try each of them out in their original form before I start deconstructing them for parts. The decks in their original form tend to be solid Commander decks right away, so I enjoy playing them and seeing the interactions between the decks. It also gives me a chance to see how some of the new cards interact with each other. It is often easy to pull a deck apart and end up abandoning a perfectly good card before you discover just how good that card is.
This time is different, though. Too many theme deck ideas have been set aside because they just didn't have the power. Too many theme decks were built as jokes, knowing the decks would never be more than a one-trick pony that exists only for the laughs. While choosing a deck for a cool theme is perfectly viable (in fact I recommend it – they are some of my favorite choices!), everyone wants a deck that at least has a fighting chance. The Commander 2017 decks give these decks a chance.
Which creature themed deck am I looking to punch up? Well, I had a particular tribe in mind, then I talked to my boss, Adam, about it and he suggested something different. I wasn't completely sold on the new idea until last night when my friend Josh showed up for our regular Thursday night game with Neheb, the Worthy. If Minotaurs are going to come up twice in less than a week, it seems like it just makes sense to go with it right?
Let's start with Josh's decklist and show what he was looking at:
Obviously, Josh was not a complete slave to the theme. The hardcore Minotaur enthusiasts would find a way to add blue to the mix for the Labyrinth Minotaur, but honestly, Neheb is a solid commander for minotaurs so why mess with that? Minotaurs has enough problems without adding a color for a minotaur that is marginally playable at best.
There aren't all that many Minotaurs in Magic, and most of the early ones aren't all that good. The standard for early Minotaurs, Hurloon Minotaur, is a 2/3 for three and doesn't make the cut here. Josh enjoyed building on the theme, but his decks tend towards tightly built value decks. Josh is a big believer in getting full use out of every card, so sending a card to his graveyard rarely means that you won't see it again. Given his value-driven tendencies, it is hardly surprising that some Minotaurs don't make the cut, while Sangromancer and others do.
So what are the cards Commander 2017 offers to help this minotaur-themed build?
I know most players have decided that Path of Ancestry only belongs in three or more colored theme decks, but I disagree. This card is Command Tower with the downside of entering the battlefield tapped and the upside of getting to scry several times during the course of a game. When you consider how many times you play a land and don't need the mana that first turn, I'm willing to accept that for the benefit it offers, even in a two-color deck, and even in a deck like Minotaurs, where there are fewer creatures that fit the theme than in other decks.
I was excited about this card when I saw it. Weaker theme decks were going to be able to copy their best creatures! Minotaurs would get bigger and nastier and it would only cost one mana! Consider getting a second version of one of the key creatures in your theme deck and it just made sense to want this card in your deck.
When I discussed the card with Josh, he was less enthused. Copying his best Minotaur on the battlefield most times wouldn't be all that exciting since Minotaurs are not all that impressive. If he was going to include something like that in the deck, he preferred Mirage Mirror. Most of the cards that he would want duplicates for in the deck were the artifacts and enchantments, and he was willing to pay two instead of one mana to have that option.
This logic is likely true for most creature theme decks. Mirror of Forebears is already on the battlefield, so you aren't getting any enter-the-battlefield triggers. You aren't copying your commander or any legendary creatures. You don't really care about copying a creature that gives your other creatures indestructible or flying. Realistically, unless the creature is letting you draw a card when something happens, or is pumping your tribe, copying it won't help a lot. And if it does Mirage Mirror is likely a better option.
The ability to destroy all creatures other than those of the chosen creature type is great! Even with the seven-mana cost, that ability to wipe out your opponents and get a free shot at anyone for one turn is worth it. Realistically, you are probably going to get a couple of turns if you play things carefully. Be sure to check the hand size of your opponents once this resolves. Assuming you aren't the only one with seven mana on the battlefield, the opponent with five or more cards in hand can probably start setting up proper defenses as soon as it is their turn. The poor fellow with only one or two cards will likely have a tougher time of things. If you are looking to get full value from Kindred Dominance, swing towards the opponent with the full grip of cards first, knowing that this will likely be your one chance. The opponent with only a card or two can probably wait until the next turn.
I think that Kindred Dominance could prove to be a real winner even in decks that aren't creature-themed. Your Voltron-style deck (one that builds a single creature into a powerhouse behemoth) can take great advantage of this too. This can also be another form of mass removal if you need it, but paying seven for a generic mass removal spell in black seems like a bad play.
Kindred Dominance is hardly an auto-include either. A human Voltron commander, or any commander from a popular tribe, isn't going to take out every other creature, so there are limits. Also, if your group has adapted to mass removal, take care including this card. Opponents whose creatures recur quickly, or are indestructible, can really limit the value of this card and if I'm going to spend an entire turn playing this card, I want the bang for my buck.
Much like Kindred Dominance, Kindred Charge creates a scenario where you get a turn to really hurt your opponents. Unlike Kindred Dominance, you only get one turn, so be sure to really make it count!
Minotaurs are trying to win by swinging in big, so Kindred Charge is an easy add to the deck. Kindred Charge would get far better if Minotaurs were loaded with enter-the-battlefield abilities, but even without, it makes a great addition. It offers more ways to pump Minotaurs and really ups the sheer volume of creatures, even if only for a turn.
Kindred Charge is a card that really demands a sacrifice outlet in your deck. Multiplayer games are won by using your assets to their fullest and getting mana or life or something else from tokens that are going to leave the battlefield at the end of the turn just makes sense. While Kindred Dominance makes sense in several decks that aren't creature themed, it is less so for Kindred Charge. Copying a single creature for six mana seems an expensive proposition, although the right creature in the right deck would certainly be worth it.
Getting +3/+1 on a creature is rarely a bad deal in any deck, and for Minotaurs looking to beat down, the power and toughness boost are good things. However, any deck running Heirloom Blade is looking on that boost as a side benefit. It is the ability to replace that creature with the next one in your deck that you really want. This ability allows you attack with that creature without fear, knowing that you are going to have another one waiting for you, should your opponent choose to destroy it.
Heirloom Blade can also be used as a weak tutor, allowing you to sacrifice your creature in the hopes of finding a better creature. I expect to see this card show up in combo decks that are looking for a particular creature. A deck that runs two or three creatures of the same type will be able to quickly find the cards they are looking for, without too much effort.
When I first saw the card, I pictured it as a Polymorph you could only use on your own creatures, but it really isn't that. The creature you find ends up in your hand, so you are going to have to cast it. This isn't going to be a situation where you sacrifice a creature to get a bonus, then do the same with the creature that you found. Even in theme decks where all the creatures are cheap, the mana costs are going to limit how often you use this card each turn. Then again, the downsides aren't really relevant for this Minotaur build. A bigger cow that replaces itself is all upside!
Herald's Horn is built for this deck. Minotaurs are not the cheapest of the creature types, so getting them for one colorless mana less is a benefit for virtually every Minotaur in the deck, and paying three mana for the card means that it is practically a mana rock and almost worth running if that was all the card did. However, getting to add a Minotaur to your hand at the start of some of your turns, certainly makes sense.
Herald's Horn is a card that gives you mana and card draw if you are a creature theme deck. This just makes sense for practically every creature theme deck out there. Even the established tribes will be wanting this card since most decks struggle to get either mana or card draw. Even those that don't will have to look at this card as an addition since it does both and only for three mana. This black and red deck runs some recursion, but Minotaurs are happy to get both benefits.
I asked Josh what cards would come out of the deck to add the cards we talked about. The deck is still in the early stages, so he had a few cards he was prepared to let go:
- Anthem of Rakdos for Kindred Dominance
- Flurry of Horns for Kindred Charge
- Dreadbore for Heirloom Blade
- Bloodchief Ascension for Herald's Horn
- Temple of the False God for Path of Ancestry
I'd love to hear from you in the comments or on Twitter about some of your mid and low-powered theme decks and how these cards will or won't help your build!