Every Magic player in the multiverse is hyped for Eternal Masters! The whole set has been revealed, and there are plenty of great cards that we Commander players love. To celebrate, I want to take a look at a Commander I haven't used for a while, and build a deck that is heavily influenced by Eternal Masters.
The biggest fans of Eternal Masters are Commander players who love foils. Personally, I would rather have the worst possible functional version of cards (I have a lot of very damaged cards), but I get the appeal of pimping the ride and whatnot. There are a few cards that were unique to Commander product releases, such as Toxic Deluge and Malicious Affliction that have no foil counterpart.
Some cards from this set were never printed in foil, or were only in rare Judge foils. Vampiric Tutor, Force of Will, and Sinkhole are good examples of cards that were never circulated as foils in packs. Winter Orb doesn't even have a special promo foil, and the Mana Vault was only ever printed as a Magic bookmark.
The new art on these Eternal Masters cards is really nice, especially since the art direction back in the day was hit-or-miss. This set would look pretty weird if all the cards had their old art, or even worse, their icky white border (ugh sick!). Take Sengir Autocrat for example – it has much better art in Eternal Masters, which appeals to me because the art fits the card's ability. The old picture is a gross dude being all alone, whereas the new one is a gross dude surrounded by other dudes. The card comes with token creatures, so the old version being alone has always been a huge disconnect for me. Also, the flavor text on the new Sengir Autocrat is pretty spiffy: “The penalty for idleness is death. The penalty for disputing the penalty is death.”
Anyways, I don't want to do a set review for this thing, because they aren't new cards, and I've used all these cards at one time or another over these last 5+ years with TCGplayer. I could tell you how good Mana Crypt or Natural Order is, but you smart folks already know this fact.
Instead, let's build a deck that is constructed with many of the Eternal Masters reprints, including the legendary commander itself. Maelstrom Wanderer is getting its first legitimate reprint in Eternal Masters, with new art as well! I don't mind the art on the Planechase 2012/Commander's Arsenal version, but it does have kind of an 80's cartoon look to it. I honestly have no idea what I am looking at in that picture, but whatever it is, it's not bad.
The new version is definitely a cleaner image, with softer colors that do not assault the retina quite as much. It still has a stilted perspective, but the deer in the foreground adds a great scale to the beast. Although we do can assume that the Maelstrom Wanderer is huge because of its 7/5 size, we could never really be sure how big it was in the old art. You would think this art issue isn't important to people, but I have already had two conversations regarding how the new art makes the Maelstrom Wanderer more playable. Go figure.
It has been quite a long time since I last built Maelstrom Wanderer, so we will also look at cards that were printed in recent sets as well as Eternal Masters. We can catch stuff that was printed in Battle For Zendikar, Oath of the Gatewatch, and Shadows over Innistrad that I wanted to put in a Maelstrom Wanderer deck, but never got around to.
To start off with, Maelstrom Wanderer is probably one of the strongest legends in the entire Commander format for many different reasons. With seven power and haste, it only takes three quick strikes to knock out a player. That alone is stronger than most legends. It is pretty hard to defend against a huge creature with haste, and some games that is all that is needed to kill the table.
Another big factor is that it gives other creatures hates. Cards like Frost Titan or Inferno Titan will double trigger their abilities when they attack, and the tokens from Omnath, Locus of Rage will be able to attack as soon as they are created.
And then, of course, we have the cascade effect... well, double cascade effect. This will net us two free spells that are somewhat randomly determined every time we cast Maelstrom Wanderer. It is a powerful ability that's easy to abuse. Something like Brainstorm or Jace, the Mind Sculptor will set up cascades, and cards like Sensei's Divining Top or Future Sight garner more control of the situation.
The cascade effect does have a few nuances that needs to be addressed, especially with deck-building. Anything that has a converted mana cost over seven will be too large to fit in Maelstrom Wanderer's cascade, so pretty much all the cards need to be seven or less to cast. This isn't a huge problem, but it's worth noting. Spells with X in their casting cost are also pretty bad with Maelstrom Wanderer, as they will equal zero when hit off a cascade.
Though it is still worth packing a few, countermagic spells are usually dead cascade triggers. Something like Remand, Brutal Expulsion, or Venser, Shaper Savant will actually let us bounce MW to our hand in hope of a replay, so they are worth it. If we don't want to bounce Maelstrom Wanderer, we can just elect not to cast them. Counterspells like Mystic Confluence or Cryptic Command are also quite good in this deck, as they have the option to use the non-countering abilities if they are cascaded into.
Instead of counter magic, Maelstrom Wanderer runs with a different form of control – Evacuation effects. The basic idea is that Maelstrom Wanderer will cascade into Whelming Wave / Engulf the Shore / Crush of Tentacles / Devastation Tide, which will end up resolving before Maelstrom Wanderer does. This will mostly clear the board of enemy blockers, which means Maelstrom Wanderer will be able to swing for seven without a care in the world. Since we have a lot of creatures with good enter-the-battlefield abilities, like Solemn Simulacrum, Snapcaster Mage, or the aforementioned Titans, we won't lose much if we Evacuate our own team.
The same goes for evacuating the Wanderer itself, so we have quite a few ways to bounce him back to our hand if we want to cast him again. Jace, tMS and Jace, Unraveler of Secrets both have an ability that will send the Wanderer back to hand, and we also have the Crystal Shard, as well as the other bounce spells I've mentioned.
The thing that a lot of people don't understand about Maelstrom Wanderer, and one of the main reasons it is so strong, is that it kind of wants to die. Opponents often go to great lengths to kill Maelstrom Wanderer, but that just means we get to cast him again. Yes, it is far better to simply bounce it back to hand, but it is not always an option. Rather than use our own resources to bounce it though, we can exhaust the opponents' resources, and just need to pay a bit more mana to do cast Maelstrom Wanderer again. Using a Wrath of God or Vindicate to kill a solo Malestrom Wanderer is totally a win for us, because those removal spells are most likely not going to be used against us later when we have a better board presence.
Pretty much any cheap ramp spells are worth using, though in this case I will emphasize two-mana spells for more synergy with Shardless Agent. Rampant Growth, Farseek and Nature's Lore are all great examples, as well as mana dorks like Birds of Paradise and Sakura-Tribe Elder. We also have the multi-modal Atarka's Command for added versatility. At the top of the curve, Verdant Confluence is an awesome ramp spell, and cascading into Boundless Realms is extremely satisfying as well.
With all the big splashy cards that bounce creatures, we need some sort of board presence that won't be affected by most of them. This means Planeswalkers. Karn Liberated is the big boy, especially since Ugin, the Spirit Dragon fails the cascade test. I already mentioned the two Jaces, but I also included Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. Both versions of Kiora (Kiora, the Crashing Wave and Kiora, Master of the Depths) are good in this deck, and I also put in two of the newer red Planeswalkers – Chandra, Flamecaller, and Arlinn Kord. I am not a huge fan of Arlinn Kord, but that mostly stems from the fact that she has a lot going on. In this case, the trample she gives will be amazing on Maelstrom Wanderer.
From there, I added a few Time Walk effects to help clinch the late game. I tend to hate Time Walk effects for the most part, but in this deck they serve to win games rather than drag them out. Brain in a Jar is being paired with Part the Waterveil in Standard now, and I think it works out really well in this deck. We have quite a few spells that we want to play for free anyways, and the scrying is excellent alongside cascade effects.
I for one can't wait for the release of Eternal Masters coming up in the next week. A lot of good Commander decks are going to get a whole lot better.
Thanks for reading!
- Cassidy Silver