19 Sep 2014

Khans and Commanders - Table Top

Sorry for the formating issues with this post - damn kittens in tubes causing all sorts of cute issues.

So this week is the pre-release of the Khans of Tarkir the new Magic the Gathering set. Hopefully more of the new 2014 Commander set comes out post pre-release.
Acanis by Wizards of the Coast
First off the Khans;
I picked up the Khans duel deck simply because there was a new art foil version of a favorite creature of mine: Arcanis the Omnipotent. 
He costs 6 (3 and 3 blue), which is damn pricy for a 3/4 legendary creature. He can self bounce (where a card returns to it's owner's hand) allowing for some dodgy tricks, making him able to avoid spells and effects that might fuck him up at the cost of 4 (2 and 2 blue). It's costly and I'll need the mana ready at all times, but having 4 mana free as a blue player is a normal thought mid-late game. 
The real power of Arcanis is the tap to draw THREE cards.
Drop the mic. 

Grab a snack and I'll explain after the break.

'Draw a card' is considered the most powerful three word combination in the whole game of Magic the Gathering. Allowing a player to access even more of that pile of carefully planned deck, allows for a greater chance to get those cards or being able to play a powerful combo. More cards = more options in Magic. Now being able to draw three is ridiculous. Normally it would cost more, or everyone including your opponents would also be able to draw mitigating the advantage. To simply draw three extra cards a turn, by simply tapping a single creature - yeah that's awesome.
After playing a few games with Wolf and looking through the well balanced decks of the Speed vs Cunning you get a good feel of two of the new Clans present in Khans of Tarkir. Each Clan is a three colour clan that has some neat abilities. Think the two colour guilds from Ravanca but a wee bit more rough around the edges in play style. It feels a lot like the 2013 Commander decks which is not that bad.
Except I'm hard pressed to play three colour decks. It's not a style I like in deck building and it's not as much fun when I play. My Khans deck at the pre-release will probably be a two colour clan deck cutting out the weaker supporting colour from my clan. I'll play Jeskai as they are the primary Blue clan, but the Temur is looking really tempting with their Ferocity mechanic (cards have an extra effect when cast if you have a creature with a power of 4 or greater in play). The Sultai would be a close contender with the Black with Blue and Red as the supporting colours yet their mechanic is not interesting and it's not wrapping around my brain that well. The Abzan's Outlast mechanic is pretty neat - but otherwise they feel tepid compared to the Orzhov (White/Black) Syndicate or even the Boros (White/Red) Legion. I'd like to take advantage of the Prowess (creature gains +1/+1 for the turn after a non-creature spell is cast that turn) ability of the Jeskai but I feel that I'll be playing Blue/Red.

Khans has not captured my imagination like Theros or Return to Ravnica. The story is neat and seeing the return of some of the older character of the game like Ugin the Spirit Dragon would neat. Also there is talk that there is a time travel shtick that will be prominent in the next two releases of the set. So I'll wait and see before I make a final call on the Khans.

Next up, Commander:
Commander is a favorite style of play. Each player plays with a 100 card deck with no multiple cards allowed outside of Basic Lands. Also one of your 100 cards must be a Legendary Creature that acts as your Commander. The Commander can be called up at any time and when killed or exiled just returns to the Commander zone to be re-summoned (with a cost of +2 for each time they get kicked back to the zone). The Commander also dictates the colour of mana that a player may access, based on the colours of the creatures mana cost. Using Arcanis above who costs 3 colourless and 3 blue, I would be limited to generating blue mana. Any other coloured mana I gain would turned into colourless mana.
I love Commander. Players tend to bring out all the ridiculous cards, only one copy mind you, they can get their hands on. Each turn is a round of big game changing plays, and each player is dropping bombs and crazy cards on a regular basis. Everyone get big plays off and that's the fun of Commander. It's big and crazy - the more players the more fun. When a player starts looking too dangerous to the rest of the group - the group adjusts by focusing on that player until someone else takes a significant lead or earns the ire of the rest of the players. This change of focus is regular as each player is dropping crazy cards and brilliant combos almost every turn come mid game.

Now Wizards of the Coast have said that there will be a November release of Commander 2014. The release will be mono coloured decks and each deck will have a planeswalker that will be able to act as your Commander. Wow. Commander is also when Wizards reprints some cards. Last Commander release the Sol Ring came back in a big way, this time I hope it's a Gauntlet of Power or a Caged Sun. They are getting pretty pricy when buying solo - but they are some of my most favorite ramp (quickly building up access to mana) and buff artifacts. I have both in my Mono Blue Commander Deck.
Teferi by Wizards of the Coast

Speaking of my Mono Blue Commander deck. I have it split between three commanders... Arcanis (last option due to cost).

Second in line is, Thassa (cheap in cost; 1 and 2 blue) the Blue god from Theros that is great mid game and the every turn Scry is super handy alongside making creatures unblock able on the cheap and being indestructible.

My go to Commander and first choice is normally Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir who does plenty by making all my creatures Flash (making them able to be cast as an instant) and cutting my opponents to cast spells only in their main phases - cutting away instants during a combat phase or outside of their turn.
Teferi is why I'm posting today - He is now a Planeswalker and he can be a Commander making him the latest mono Blue planeswalker and the special one to be released this November. Named Teferi, Temporal Archamage costing 6 (4 and 2 Blue) - he looking mighty sweet in the spoilers. He starts with loyalty 5 which is pretty hefty.
Ok wait, Loyalty !?! Allow me to kinda explain... 
Planeswalkers' abilities are based on their LOYALTY. The number printed in the lower right corner indicates loyalty when the planeswalker enters the battlefield. Planeswalkers' abilities each have a positive or negative loyalty cost; adding (if positive) or removing (if negative)loyalty  to activate that ability. A planeswalker may only use one loyalty ability once per turn, and only in its controller's main phase. Whenever damage is dealt to a planeswalker, it loses that much loyalty. A planeswalker can take damage in two ways: a player uses any spell or ability that would deal damage to an opponent, the player may instead choose to deal the damage to one of that opponent's planeswalkers. Secondly, when a player attacks an opponent who controls a planeswalker, the player may declare any or all of the attacking creatures to be attacking the planeswalker instead. A planeswalker with no loyalty, either through use of its abilities or through damage, is put into its owners graveyard.
The new Teferi by Wizards of the Coast
Yeah loyalty, which Teferi has 5 right from the start.

Teferi's +1 ability is easy, draw two cards (once more, drawing cards is good) keep one put the other at the bottom of the deck. His -1 ability is brilliant, untap up to 4 permanents. Vola from four extra mana from untapping lands to having creatures use their ability a second time (Arcanis - draw 3 cards... TWICE!). Now these abilities are awesome - his only drawback is he grows slowly. Being able to use his -10 ability will take five turns, six if you planning on keeping him afterwards.
His -10 ability is a game breaker - using planeswalker abilities outside of your main phase is a big deal. Suddenly Teferi's abilities are even better and if you happen to have another planeswalker out they can start doing some crazy stuff - the various Jace's are ugly looking and Gideon can suddenly start really making things hard for an opponent on their turn. Tons of horrible things, too many things to go about in this post.

So a new Mono Commander, some hopefully reprinted and new cards - Commander is looking damn fine. Oh and each Commander deck is getting a Commander planeswalker - who will be the others chosen - Kamahl would be a neat red planswalker and Phage would be pretty interesting as Black planeswalker. Jeska, Venser, and Radha also share the Teferi's story arc (Time Spiral) and could also jump up into Planeswalker status.

Magic has me this fall and I'm eager to see what's the final showing, I hope to see you at the table.
May you draw well.