Monday, June 24, 2013

Top 10 Dragon's Maze Cards for Commander

Now new and improved with (hopefully) 100% fewer silly mistakes, my top ten commander list is back with Dragon's Maze to make your day 110% more exciting.

10. Zhur-Taa Ancient

Zhur-Taa Ancient

While he does come with his risks, Zhur-Taa Ancient is a sizeable body for only 5 mana. Seven power is nothing to sneeze at, allowing him to command some decent board presence. However, the real reason this old guy with the huge neck makes it on the list is his mana doubling ability. At first glance, doubling everyone's mana at the table might seem like it is putting you at a massive disadvantage since all of your opponents get access to double the mana before you do. Yet, they will not necessarily be using all of that mana to go after you, especially if there is someone more powerful at the table and in the right position it can be an excellent way to boost certain players at the table to accelerate their board presence or pull off a massive fireball to catch up with a player who is running away with the game. Also, since he is only 5 mana, later in the game, you could easily be able to play him and some other meaningful spells within the same turn. In fact, if you build your deck correctly, you should be able to take advantage of his effect better than anyone else at the table because you are playing mana ramp and/or awesome X spells like genesis wave. His biggest downside that stops him from being higher on the list is the Hunted Wumpus effect (where someone just drops a nekrataal to kill it when his enter the battlefield ability triggers) since one of your opponents could  play some huge creature and then have mana left over to throw a STP at the ancient.

9. Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

At number 9, Gruul slams in there with another explosively game-changing, if awkward beater in Ruric Thar. Ruric has a potent combination of abilities with vigilance, reach and most importantly dealing 6 damage to a player whenever they cast a noncreature spell. The last ability will vary greatly in power; it will completely hose some decks and do almost nothing against creature heavy decks. It's hard to believe that any player who will be messed up by this card will not want to kill it as soon as possible taking six damage in the process to avoid much more later. However, it is a great way to give an aggressive deck more reach, since it punishes your enemies for clearing the board or countering your kill spells to stay alive and they are in real trouble if they are at 6 or less life. Yet, despite its aggressive pedigree, it still serves as an excellent blocker, killing or trading with all but the most massive fliers in commander. His biggest downside is the fact that he has to attack every turn. Sure, the vigilance helps mitigate some of this downside, but the truth is that sometimes the board will be so clogged where anyone he attacks will kill him and that is just terrible to lose an impressive creature for no reason. I guess Wizards wanted to emphasize the recklessness of Gruul this time around with these two.

8. Progenitor Mimic

Progenitor Mimic

Like all clone effects, Progenitor Mimic takes a big hit in commander from the new legendary rules changes. Not being able to take out any commander despite hexproof or other shenanigans, makes clones much less flexible. However, repeatedly copying the best nonlegendary creature (even if it has hexproof on the board is an ability that can carry the game away post haste. Imagine the mimic copying Terrastodon or Simic Sky Swallower every turn. The mimics biggest downside is it needs time to start working. If somebody wraths or if you are under a lot of pressure, it is not the best creature to be playing, but in games where you can get him to stick around for multiple turns in a row gaining you massive board presence or card advantage in the process, there are few better creatures.

7. Melek, Izzet Paragon

Melek, Izzet Paragon

Melek is a fun, build-around general unlike any of the other Izzet generals in that he isn't overpowered and annoying like Jhoira of the Ghitu, screaming for infinite combos like Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind or absurdly underpowered like Tibor and Lumia. Playing with all the most powerful instants and sorceries and finally having a general that supports those cool instant/sorcery cards like Sphinx-Bone Wand seems like a blast and a deck that would play differently that your average commander deck. Melek is one of those rare cards that feels like he hits a home run for both Timmy and Johnny and I'd expect to see a lot of him at kitchen tables for years to come.

6. Tajic, Blade of the Legion

Tajic, Blade of the Legion

From the piddliest of 0/1 to overcosted 3/3s, any creature that has indestructability has to be on your radar for commander playability. Darksteel Gargoyle is a French vanilla creature that costs 3 more mana than he would without indestructability but he is still a servicable addition to commander decks. So when I saw a legendary indestructable rare with an explosive ability in the same vein as Konda but much cheaper, I wet pants a little bit. Sure if you are unable to get batallion to trigger he is little better than the likes of Darksteel Gargoyle (although any general that is hard to kill deserves consideration in voltron strategies), but unblocked his batallion ability makes him a three turn clock. Cramming your deck full of the best voltron equipment, holy mantle effects and evasive utility creatures and beaters to trigger batallion (hello Soltari Guerillas) will make a fun aggressive deck. Sure, you have to jump through a few hoops to make him as effective as possible, but having built in protection makes your strategy much more resilient to much of the removal played in commander.

Check back soon for the top 5.


  1. I really like Tajic. He seems like he'd be a sweet general or at least a good addition to something like Tommy's metalcraft deck. Also Ruric seems really fun but I'm not sure I'd make him a general unless you were some one who didn't care about losing and pissing everyone else off doing it. All in all I was pretty impressed with the new legends in this set. Except the GW one...

  2. Funny that you should mention Ruric as a general the pisses people off, because I made a mono-creature Ruric deck for Veronica. It's a very straight forward deck that wants to beat down with big creatures. How would you relate Ruric Thar to Gaddock Teeg in terms of annoyance? At least with Ruric Thar you can play your spells, even if it hurts.

    I agree with all your assessments, Phil, though I probably wouldn't have put Zhur-taa Ancient as high, mainly for some of the short comings you mentioned. However, it is really down to play style and my hesitance to give anyone but myself advantages. People may not use extra mana to take you down, but they will enhance their position, which is often to your eventual detriment. All that said, I can't wait to see the top 5.

  3. Perhaps my assessment of Ruric was a bit harsh. I have never really seen the guy in action and Gaddock is pretty annoying. Ruric is more forgiving and way less durdley. The fact that he's a 6/6 makes him better as opposed to somebody sitting behind an indestructible 2/2 that does nothing but say "your opponents can no longer play 2/3 of the spells in their decks." Also for some reason a Ruric commander deck with only creatures didn't occur to me. I was getting a Rumbling Slum chump blocker at 2 life kinda vibe from the card.

  4. I don't think you were far off, if you were off at all. There is a part of me that likes poking beehives with sticks (dangerous since I'm mildly allergic), and that was the impulse behind the deck. I thought about including some useful non-creatures, but I didn't want Veronica to have a "feel bad" moment when she played Ruric Thar and then drew I made it all creatures. Ruric is certainly less durdley than Gaddock and without non-creature spells it is much harder to protect him, so I think people will be able to eliminate him when necessary. The deck's plan is to beat down and punish anyone that tries to stop you. That said, I totally expect people to gun for Ruric once he's in play and have told Veronica to expect the same.

  5. I think labeling this a top ten list of cards for commander maybe is not specific enough to help qualify why each card has been placed on the list. If this is a list of the top 10 cards that are the most powerful to help your deck win in commander, I agree with you that Zhur-Taa Ancient should not be on the list because he can be a huge liability. But if you are talking about cards that will see play because they are fun and splashy and fit into existing archetypes like group hug, then I think the Ancient belongs on the list. Something like Tristoni's summoner, which narrowly missed the list, is definitely more powerful given its synergies with blink effects and overruns, but I think I have an appreciation of cards that break major rules of magic's infrastructure and fundamentally change the way a game is played. However, I agree with you that the Spike in me won't really let me play this card in any of my decks except ones that are trying to be more goofy.

    Ruric is a powerful general that for many spell-heavy decks will demand your attention, but it is no more powerful or annoying than many of the generals we are already play. The important distinction I see between him and Gaddock is that Gaddock will not let you play spells, whereas at least Ruric is kind enough to give you a choice to play them and take the damage. This creates more strategic decision making and less sitting there and feeling bad because you can't cast half the spells in your hand.

  6. You have a good point. I have no doubt that Zhur-Taa Ancient will see play. I was thinking of the list as Top 10 cards I like for whatever reasons and for me I would definitely have put Tristoni's Summoner in the Zhur-Taa Ancient slot, but that's all down to preferences (obviously). Not necessarily because I don't think Zhur-Taa Ancient would be powerful, but because it would be most at home in a play style that does not appeal to me. Of course if one is trying to make a more inclusive list, then the group-hug archetype should enter into consideration. Therefore I can understand why it made the list.