By Steven Mace
Morophon, the Boundless
They finally did it. A legendary, five-color, colorless, Changeling all-tribal commander. So, this thing is a key Commander card, and that’s just based on its color identity and a single keyword.
So then let’s talk about the rest of the card. That cost reduction ability is serious business. Not only is that what makes this a five-color commander, but colored cost reduction is rare and almost always powerful. It also works with alternate costs - particularly those of Fist of Suns and Jodah, Archmage Eternal. You read that right. Either of those cards and Morophon make all cards of the chosen creature type free. Also, it notably just says spells, meaning if you choose one of the Lorwyn creature types, you can also cast certain non-creature spells for free as well.
There really are a lot of little things that make Morophon neat. Being colorless to cast means you don’t need to play a five-color mana base to use him. He also boosts some of the weaker tribes by giving them ready access to ramp and card draw that they might not have had before. It even opens up the doors to some of the stronger tribes to have some of the niche cards they couldn’t play before. Morophon is not just a great card, but one that makes Commander in general a healthier format.
You’ll notice a theme in this set of cards paying homage to older cards. A way of WotC cheating in this set by “reprinting” lots of cards while still getting to say that most of the set is new cards. And those of us in Commander are totally cool with it because we get redundancy to important effects.
Anyway, ‘membah Astral Slide? I ‘membah. This is pretty much as close as you can get to a strictly better Astral Slide, as it doesn’t trigger off of your opponents’ cycling like Slide does, which is a pretty tiny difference. Cycling and blink decks will appreciate having the redundancy.
Force of Virtue
The white member of the Force cycle is pretty odd. It could be that a surprise anthem for your team could be enough to blow out an attacking or blocking opponent, especially when you’re tapped out and they think they’re in the clear. That said, I’m not sure giving Glorious Anthem flash, even for free, is something we are going to want to spend card slots on. Probably gonna pass on this one.
White already has some of the best removal in the game. Did it really need to move in on green and get its own Beast Within? The only reason I would rank this lower that Beast Within is because white doesn’t need this. It’s got plenty of clean answers for pretty much everything, while Beast Within allows green to cover things it normally can’t deal with without some sort of board state. I guess if you’ve got that one guy that’s playing Beast tribal, this is better? Great card, I’m just not sure there’s space in the already chock-full pantheon of white removal.
Giver of Runes
Step-Mother of Runes, as I’ve heard it called, is another not-quite-strictly-better version of another card. Unlike Mom, she can’t target herself, but she has an extra toughness, both of which will matter very rarely. If you want Mom in your deck, you are probably in the market for Giver.
Ranger-Captain of Eos
If your deck likes Ranger of Eos, then it will probably want the Captain too. While you get fewer creatures off the ETB ability, you get a nice Silence ability for when you think your spell-slingy opponent may go off. All of that on a 3/3 for 3 mana is a pretty solid value - a fine card for the decks that want it. I’m unsure whether that extra creature off of Ranger matters a whole lot outside of just getting the extra value, but it may be that most people will just want to upgrade their Ranger to this guy since he’s cheaper and the tiniest bit bigger.
Serra the Benevolent
A long-desired lore character. Her card, though, is pretty meh. Her +2 is fine if you’re playing enough fliers - fits well in an Angel deck, which is nice and flavorful. Speaking of Angels, her -3 makes a Serra Angel.
Serra’s best feature is the fact that she only needs to plus up once before she’s ready to create a Worship that cannot be interacted with on the next turn. Honestly, I wouldn’t expect to see Serra showing up often, but when she does, you won’t be upset to have drawn her.
Sisay, Weatherlight Captain
Finally, five-color legendary tribal has a proper commander, and finally, Heroes’ Podium may actually be a good card. Sisay’s power basically is going to come down to how many times can you generate WUBRG in a turn. Very solid, but not overwhelmingly strong like we’re going to see shortly.
Force of Negation
Let’s get this out of the way: Yes, this is not Force of Will. Why did you expect it would be? Now sit down and listen to why it’s still a good card.
Casting this for its actual cost isn’t the worst thing you will ever do; Force of Will is five mana - that’s a lot! Countering any non-creature with little option for recursion is a solid spell even if it is one mana more than you’d like to pay for it. And that extra mana pays for the versatility you get - you can now tap out for something important or big and still protect it from board wipes or removal. You also have protection against your opponents trying to combo off on you, and that’s all at the low, low cost of one blue card from your hand (which, mind you, is less than FoW’s alternate cost). Great card.
Urza, Lord High Artificer
Another major lore character, perhaps even the lore character. While technically he has a black-bordered card in the form of Blind Seer and his severed head is animate and owns a hot tub in the silver-bordered multiverse, this is the first time we’re really getting to see Urza in all his majesty.
And that’s it. Because we really don’t need to talk about how stupid busted this card is, right? Right? I mean, it’s honestly ridiculous. The fact that he makes a “Karnstruct” is the least of his abilities. Making all of your artifacts tap for blue in a way that gets around summoning sickness for artifact creatures is absurd. He lets you jam all the otherwise crap zero-mana artifacts that either no one even knows exist or that Sram, Senior Edificer has been hoarding all these years and have them be actually be useful after being cast.
Now, many of you reading this may not be aware that back in the day there were these things called mono-artifacts. These were artifacts that had static effects that usually were symmetrical but were turned off if they were tapped. Think things like Winter Orb and Howling Mine. Urza is a way to tap them at will and only have their effects on when you want them to be.
Oh, and need I bring up Paradox Engine? This busted card is right at home with Urza. Urza, Engine and four other artifacts, and we move on to Urza’s final ability. Pay five generic mana to play the top card of your library for free. Play. Did it have to be play? Did it?
But Steven, I hear you say, you’ll hit lands and fizzle! Shut up - the Urza deck cast Mana Severance three turns ago! This is mono blue; did you think this was going to be fair? Off to cEDH land for you, while I walk away from any table I see you at, Mr. Urza.
Still, all of that said, without Paradox Engine and in the 99, Urza is probably powerful but fine.
I bring this little guy up because he’s a neat little enabler for a few strategies. Personally, I’m thinking of dropping him into my Rakdos, Lord of Riots deck because he enables a turn three Rakdos with the right hand while also conveniently being a Demon should I happen to draw Rakdos the Showstopper or Liliana’s Contract. I’m sure Ninjas will also appreciate having an unblockable one-drop that is also a Ninja.
Oh boy, finally got to the first one, huh? Sigh. I’m not going to linger much on the Slivers, as Sliver decks pretty much build themselves with some slight variations based on which legend is your commander (i.e., you probably don’t put in Amoeboid Changeling if you’re not on Sliver Overlord, while if you’re not on Sliver Queen, you may not include Mana Echoes).
Feaster of Fools
This is here for his combo potential. This could be a big old boy for very little cost in the right place. Then you just throw him at someone with Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, Fling or Chandra’s Ignition!
Force of Despair
Looks like the black force is pretty solid too. Where Force of Negation stops non-creature combos from killing you out of nowhere, Force of Despair does the same for creature-based combos. This stops things like the numerous versions of the Splinter Twin combo, Protean Hulk combos and Tooth and Nail combos (assuming they didn’t get Avacyn). And again, at only three mana, it’s not too much to cast for its actual cost.
This is a pretty played effect at this point, but hey, that doesn’t make it any worse. And since it’s limited to Zombies, it only costs two, which is no small matter. Probably an auto-include in Zombie decks.
Aria of Flame
I love Sphinx-Bone Wand, and this is just a cheaper (colored) version with a pretty minor downside. Great card for the red-based spell-slinger decks.
Fists of Flames
Whoa! I sort of overlooked this card at first, but after looking at it again, holy crap. Decks like Feather, the Redeemed and Zada, Hedron Grinder will absolutely love this card. Also don’t ignore blue-red spell-slinger decks like the Niv-Mizzets, which can pretty reasonably kill someone with commander damage out of nowhere with this.
I also happen to love Goblin Welder...but this is not Welder. The artifact Entomb is nice, but its activated ability costing mana and being limited to CMC three or less is pretty harsh. In the more niche department, Welder can swap your opponents’ things, which is a small thing, but I’ve had it be majorly relevant in the past. On the other hand, the sacrifice is part of the cost, so your opponent can’t blow you out with a removal spell, which is a nice quality-of-life thing.
Sneak Attack for planeswalkers is pretty neat. It’s attached to a creature, which makes it more vulnerable than I would like, but the effect is very powerful. The obvious home is being cast right after a Doubling Season. However, I would say that any Superfriends deck with red would be happy with this even to the point of playing Sundial of the Infinite. I also like using this at the end step before my turn to put in Sarkhan the Masterless and a bunch of other ‘walkers and smashing someone’s face in. Fun card.
I’m not especially sure this will be as good for us as it will be for Modern, but it’s still not the worst card you could have. At the absolute worst, it’s a 2/2 that draws you two cards on ETB for three mana, which is a more-than-fine rate. But it could also be a 2/2 that brings two 1/1 friends and draws you two cards for three as well. And as a bonus, it can give you some more little dudes after it dies. Decent card.
Ayula, Queen Among Bears
And many commander players rejoiced. I’m not one of them, but I’m happy that people are finally getting something they’ve been wanting for a while now. Goreclaw was nice, but wasn’t exactly supportive of Bears as a tribe. Ayula is the Bear commander that Graham Stark from Loading Ready Run and, like, six other people deserve after all these years. For those who haven’t been waiting for this and are just thinking it may be fun to build, I will warn you: Bears has, like, three good cards, and two of them are in this set.
Seismic Assault but green. This is the other good Bears card, and I would have gone ahead and grouped it with Ayula herself, but I think this has applications beyond Bear tribal, so it gets its own place. I think this is a great card for lands decks like Lord Windgrace and the Gitrog Monster. Another free way to pitch lands is great, especially for the Gitrog Monster, who didn’t have access to Seismic Assault and so had to rely mostly on outlets that didn’t actually have relevance to the game, such as Putrid Imp. Great card, can’t wait.
Force of Vigor
Solid; just a rock-solid card. Kills two artifacts or enchantments at instant speed, potentially for free. Yet another card for saving you from being comboed off on even if you tap out. Just a fine overall card.
A reprint, but I’m bringing it up because it’s a cool card with some sweet new art.
This could very well be one of the most powerful pump spells ever printed. One to turn some measly chump into a legit attacker or six mana to turn an army of chumps into a game-ending force is a pretty reasonable play. Literal only downside is that it’s a sorcery. Watch out for this in token decks.
I’m very unsure of this card - very. Collected Company doesn’t get any Commander play, but I’d imagine there are a lot more sorceries at three mana or less that are powerful than there are creatures. My big issue is that it only hits sorceries. Also, not being an instant like its older brother is a bit disappointing.
Etchings of the Chosen
The most prominent place this will probably go is Edgar Markov. That said, probably any black-white-based token or tribal deck will be okay with having this.
The First Sliver
Sigh. I’m a simple man. I see Slivers, I wrath the board. That said, while this may not be the strongest of the Sliver commanders, it’s probably the most interesting. Cascade is a very powerful ability, and in this situation, it’s possibly crazy because Cascade casts the spell it finds, meaning it’s possible to cast something like Megantic Sliver, Cascade into Sliver Hivelord into Shifting Sliver, and so on and so on down the CMC line, getting tons of Slivers for the price of one. The First Sliver is not as combo-oriented as Sliver Queen, but probably has more aptitude for exploding than Overlord.
Good Fortune Unicorn
Terrible name, but I bring it up because its interaction with Marchesa, the Black Rose is pretty strong. Granted, you’ll have to play in a five-color deck and find both pieces, but it’s a strong play. Just make sure you can get a counter on the Unicorn itself too.
Man, they keep trying to make fair Moxen, and they just keep failing. Outside of a rare circumstance or two, this can’t be turn one ramp, and that plus the absolute terrible top deck this is, I would say, combine to make it a pretty bad card.
As it turns out, there are actually several good Constructs. All five of the Kaladesh Gearhulks, Crystalline Crawler, Hangarback Walker, Kuldotha Forgemaster, Metalworker, Myr Battlesphere, Scrapyard Trawler, Silent Arbiter, Steel Overseer, Stuffy Doll, Triskelion, Walking Ballista and a few others that are kind of niche but can be strong.
The Horizon Cycle
Hey, look, Horizon Canopy is finally getting the cycle treatment! These can certainly hurt, but they’re untapped dual lands. Not only that, but later on you can sac it off to draw a card. Not fetchable, but we can’t have everything we want all the time. Plenty good enough to see play.
Move over Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse, your big brother has come to town. For the low, low cost of one life, any basic you need comes into play untapped. Not quite a proper fetchland, but fine for fixing.
About time. I actually don’t personally care because I don’t have any decks with Extraplanar Lense, but lots of people are excited that these are back, and I can understand why.
Part Two of Steven’s Modern Horizons Commander review will be posted on the People’s Republic MTG blog next week. Stay tuned!