New Commander Staples from Doctor Who

17 Oct
by Steve Heisler

Determinate Exterminate

Welcome back for another History, Restapled, a Commander-focused column that attempts to validate a newer card’s status as a staple by looking at how cards that are similar, synergistic, or competing have fared in the past financially.

The Universes Beyond: Warhammer 40,000 Commander decks were a hit, channeling the flavor and mechanics of the source material into powerful pieces that made an impact on the format immediately. Regardless of how you feel about Universes Beyond, it’s clear cards like Space Marine Devastator or Bloodthirster were designed with Magic: the Gathering in the forefront.

The latest Universes Beyond: Doctor Who decks are similar. Despite cards that ring unambiguously Doctor Who, like The [Insert Number] Doctor series, plenty will shake up the format without giving the impression that you’re playing a different game entirely. A few immediately leap to mind.

Cyber Conversion

At a release price of around $4, this new blue removal spell is priced the same as Pongify and Rapid Hybridization, but is far stronger than its one-mana brethren. It nullifies any creature at instant speed without removing that creature from the board. This is a huge upside in EDH because players can’t put their commander in the Command Zone upon resolution and the effect isn’t dependent on another permanent, like Imprisoned in the Moon, sticking around. Sure, opponents could make a deal and trade bodies, but if someone’s Korvold, Fae-Cursed King or Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow becomes flipped, odds are the rest of the table will be content to leave it be. As someone who has cast Ixidron countless times in Commander, turning my opponents’ dreams face down, I can attest to the sheer disruptive power of this effect.

For two mana, specifically , perhaps Cyber Conversion is more akin to Reality Shift, Resculpt, or Ravenform - cheap removal staples that provide some compensation to opponents for exiling their best creature. However, none of those cards stop opponents from recasting their commanders, and unlike Manifest, once this creature is face down, it stays that way.

STATUS: Mono-blue removal staple

Confession Dial

If you've got a mana-intensive commander leading the charge, this is either going to be one of the best cards in your deck, or a solid role player. At worst, Confession Dial offers strong ETB topdeck fixing and the ability to recast your commander from the graveyard with zero tax and Escape 3 (a minuscule price to pay mid-to-late game). At best, it offers cheap, colorless recursion for numerous powerful creatures - or, in the case of a legends-matter commander like Sisay, Weatherlight Captain or Jodah, the Unifier, the vast majority of your creatures - AND the ability to cheat commander tax.

The closest comparison to Confession Dial is Netherborn Altar, a cheap and, arguably, bad card that requires life and a black deck to keep the commander tax at bay. Other, stronger options include Command Beacon and Hellkite Courser, both of which run at least $8, and a worse one, Myth Unbound, is somehow $2, the price of Confession Dial. Beacon is the only other colorless option and has seen steady price increases over numerous reprints. 

Grab a Confession Dial while its price is low so you can build decks with commanders at mana values greater than five without trepidation.

STATUS: After Command Beacon, staple of decks with high mana value commanders; staple of legends-matter commanders

Ominous Cemetery

I’m not here to argue that this inexpensive uncommon is due to surge in price in the foreseeable future, but this seems like a killer utility land that provides some of the best creature removal available to all colors. Shuffling a creature into an opponent’s library keeps it out of the graveyard and gets around almost all relevant keywords on the creature that would otherwise save it, like indestructible and protection from such-and-such. Plus, there are corner cases when you’d want your opponent to shuffle their library regardless - having the land on the field might dissuade someone from casting, say, Worldly Tutor for the time being.

Five mana for this effect, plus the loss of the land itself, is a steep price to pay, and in 95% of games I’d imagine Ominous Cemetery is nothing but a colorless land that enters untapped. But, that one time you require a kill spell to close out a game, you’ll be glad this took the spot of Rogue's Passage or Emergence Zone. I’d bet money you could substitute this for the grossly overplayed Reliquary Tower in most decks and you’d see nothing but upside. (Other than a deck capable of drawing countless cards, I’m sure anyone would have no problem finding seven killer cards among, say, a 10-12 card hand, rendering Reliquary Tower and its cousin Thought Vessel largely obsolete.)

STATUS: Potential staple of decks up to and including two colors, maybe three

Cyber Conversion
Cyber Conversion (Extended Art)
Confession Dial
Confession Dial (Extended Art)
Ominous Cemetery

Live Free or Die Hard

What are everyone’s feelings on Everybody Lives!? I’m of two minds that it’s either the best protection spell ever printed for Commander or a lame stalling tactic better relegated to super high power games. Would love to chat about it. Share your firsthand experiences or card evaluation thoughts via Reddit, and together we can tank this price!

Check out these other articles:

Modern Times - Even More Meta Updates by Corey Williams

Hidden Gems - Atraxa's Long Lost Friends by Adam Berg

Competitive MTG Finance #3 - Premodern and Other Older Formats by Edward Eng

Steve Heisler
Steve Heisler

Steve Heisler is a writer and pop culture journalist covering comedy, games, television, film and the tech industry. His work has been published in Rolling Stone, GQ, Variety, The AV Club, Fast Company and the Chicago Sun-Times. He began collecting Magic cards during Fourth Edition and plays Commander and Modern primarily. He also enjoys tennis, the Dark Souls family of video games and supporting live comedy. He lives in Chicago with his cat, Rosie.

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