Well the Commander product for this year was fully spoiled last week and it doesn't disappoint! So many great Commander cards that it is hard to know where to start.
… This isn't a Commander product? This is a full set?! You keep saying that to yourself while we look at ten cards I'm especially excited about for Commander!
The obvious comparison is to Cabal Coffers and it is apt. Every time you would include Cabal Coffers, include Cabal Stronghold. There are two differences: Cabal Stronghold taps for mana. Sure, it isn't black mana, but it doesn't sit like a dead card in your opening hand like the Coffers does. Cabal Stronghold needs three mana to activate. With Coffers, you were getting a benefit once you had three Swamps out. With Stronghold, you'll need four. Given that decks running these cards run Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, or are all black already, this seems like a minor bump, especially when you know it will tap for mana right away.
I don't normally feature any card that makes a land or some of your lands into creatures. They make your lands far too vulnerable to mass removal. It is one thing to run artifact creatures, knowing they can be taken out by anything hitting artifacts or creatures, but to risk losing your lands just so you can add a few points of damage is something I would not recommend.
However, when a card makes the lands indestructible, it is a different story! I know they are still vulnerable to plenty of mass removal, but I think the odds are reduced enough to take the chance. Sylvan Awakening's gift sticks around until your next turn, so you can use the lands to play some defense, as they have reach as well.
The difficult part is deciding when you should play it. If your opponents are going to get you, then you want to play it before they have six lands out since most ways to get caught with land/creatures involve cards that cost at least six. Unfortunately, this means you probably don't have more than seven lands yourself, and you tapped three of them to play the spell. That gives you four lands and you are doing eight damage at best. Is that worth the risk?
Also, keep in mind who you are attacking. While some players will see value and use their mass removal whether you attack them or not, others may hold that mass removal unless they are targeted. Keep that in mind when you draw Sylvan Awakening with 10 or more lands on your battlefield.
I have heard very little about this Vampire and that is shocking to me. I know he costs seven mana and that makes him really expensive to use as your commander, but think about how quickly he can grow! A Pyroclasm or Pestilence Demon and this fellow is off to the races – I can see Kazarov with more than 10 power before he can attack. On a battlefield loaded with tokens, Kazarov could take out opponents in a single swing.
Interestingly, the red activated ability is practically a drawback! He can't go in mono-black decks and in decks that use red, spending four mana to do two damage to a target creature is a poor return on investment given all the red cards that can do so much better.
When potential commanders offer a way to dodge the commander tax, you want to take a long, hard look. When Multani dies, you can return two lands to your hand to get him out of the graveyard and into your hand, where you can play him without paying the tax. If this is only the first time you have to recast him, returning the lands to your hand might not be optimal, since you are just going to tap them to pay the tax. However, if this is the third or fifth time you've played him, then things are different. There are many green decks that can play two or more lands each turn, so doing this may not even amount to much of a tempo hit. In fact, several lands are happy to get another chance to enter the battlefield. Mosswort Bridge, Llanowar Reborn and Hickory Woodlot are a few that are renewed by another chance to enter the battlefield.
Multani's size and innate trample ability means that his deck is undoubtedly forcing opponents to keep a Commander damage attack in their minds when he is out there. Many green decks can get over 20 lands out, so he can swing for a lot and is practically indestructible blocking.
I'm not sure if he is good enough to take the reins of a green deck away from some of the current commanders, but he does offer an interesting take on many green decks.
I like this series of creatures that provide mana if something else happens. While Neheb the Eternal is the star of this class, Grand Warlord Radha does a great job too. What I particularly like are the combat tricks Radha offers. Being tapped out doesn't mean that you can't surprise your opponent, since you get the mana for the creatures before your opponents even declare blockers. Will you be using it to pump a creature or activate some other surprise, or will the mana still be there for your second main phase to let you cast more creatures?
Personally, I want to try out Grand Warlord Radha in my Ol' Buzzbark deck! When the deck is rolling, I tend to want to use all my mana to cast a large Buzzbark on my first main phase to try and pump him and the rest of my creatures. With Radha out, I'll have mana to use later in the turn to add more creatures or throw a little direct damage at an opponent!
Jodah, Archmage Eternal. This card makes the list because of the buzz I've heard from others. Everyone seems very excited to be casting their crazy expensive spells for five mana. I can understand that; too many times we are stuck with cards in hand that we just can't cast because we don't have the mana. Jonah will help us get around that.
Or will he?
1. How long will it take to get the five mana? Getting one mana of each color shouldn't be too difficult, but will it be online by turn five? How many cards in your deck are going to have to be dedicated to getting all five colors available?
2. Will you have Jodah on the battlefield? Jonah is only four mana but he doesn't have hexproof or shroud or even protection from a color. If an opponent can take him out, they likely will do so. Suddenly you are now trying to pay six mana for a card so you can pay five mana for another. The value starts to disappear quickly.
3. What kind of mana curve are you going to have with your deck to make Jodah's ability worthwhile? Jodah doesn't tutor for spells, so you are going to want to have several cards that utilize Jodah and this could make your curve pretty tough, especially if your opponents are putting pressure on you just to keep Jodah on the battlefield.
I wasn't expecting to see an uncommon this high on the list, but here we are. Simic has so many good legends already that I don't expect to see Tatyova as a commander, but this card is too good not to be part of the 99 in plenty of Simic decks. Given you are in the colors of ramp and card draw, there is no way that you shouldn't be able to play a land every turn. This is going to double your card drawing on a typical turn or things could get crazy fairly easily with Exploration, Scapeshift or Wave of Vitriol!
None of this even considers the life you'll get. This is the kind of life gain I love using. It is quiet and consistent. You aren't gaining a ton of life and drawing attention to yourself. Virtually no one cares if you gain one life and doing it regularly gets you the benefit of a fat life total, without drawing the ire of the table!
And if you are questioning how many cards you'll actually draw, consider the last time you played or played against a player who was playing green ramp and ask yourself how many lands did they play? My last game involved over 20 lands, so Tatyova would have likely netted 10 life. And this was without a Scapeshift to make things silly.
How good will a card like Jhoira be? I won't guess about decks loaded with legends. It is tough enough to try and guess how strong individual cards will be, let alone whole decks. What I do know is that there are plenty of blue and red cards that love artifacts, and artifacts are historic spells. The standard blue or red artifact deck can now be merged to maximize a Jhoira deck. Playing Izzet Signet or Fellwar Stone will draw you a card. Artifact creatures will draw cards. Slobad, Muzzio, Feldon, and Thada Adel all draw cards.
Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain opens up a new deck type for Izzet and it should be fun to see how players choose to take advantage of it! This Brawl deck offers up some interesting historic options!
Of all the cards in the set, this is the one that is going to be the source of your nightmares in the coming months. Muldrotha and any sacrifice engine means that you are going to see Solemn Simulacrum cast turn after turn. You are going to see lands get sacrificed and immediately replayed (tell me this isn't going to show up with Tatyova, Benthic Druid?). Creatures? There are plenty of planeswalkers that can be played and immediately sacrificed for benefit that Muldrotha will bring back turn after turn. Muldrotha isn't "the Gravetide" for nothing! This will just keep coming!
I'm hoping Muldrotha, the Gravetide costs too much. I'm hoping players will see the threat and made it too expensive to play. I've been hoping players would play more ways to exile graveyards and destroy enchantments and those hopes have been ignored too.
What decks will want this card? Ignoring the obvious legends build that is certainly going to show up once Dominaria is fully released, I can see this going into every Commander deck with a commander that costs two or less and has two more more colors. Any deck that wants to get their commander out early will want Mox Amber. I know it doesn't help you cast your commander, but it adds a mana of any color you might need once your commander is out there, and it does it for no mana. Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain (and every artifact-themed deck) is going to want Mox Amber. Three, four, and five-colored commanders (such as Mudrotha and Jodah) will want Mox Amber to help cast spells.
Mox Amber isn't as splashy as Mudrotha, the Gravetide or most of the cards on this list, but its utility is amazing and anyone who things a ramp card that costs 0 isn't going to show up all over your meta is kidding themselves.