Welcome to the second installment of C+C Magic Factory, where we’ll be reviewing the Mind Seize Commander 2013 deck with regards to its impact on the Cube and Commander formats. So let’s get to it!
Here’s a review of the grading system we’ll be using. The first grade for each card is a Commander grade, the second is a Cube grade.
[A+]: Best in Class. These cards are at the top of the list for any deck wanting the effect.
[A]: Excellent card according to two or more of: power level, size-of-effect, card interaction, or politics.
[B]: Excellent card according to one of: power level, size-of-effect, card interaction, or politics.
[C]: Solid role-filler or theme-supporter.
[D]: Playable, but better options exist.
[F]: A knife at a gun fight.
[A+]: First-pick card on power level alone or tier-one for associated archetype(s).
[A]: High-powered alone or in the context of two or more archetypes.
[B]: High-powered in the context of one archetype.
[C]: Role-filler in a niche archetype or mid-powered utility card.
[D]: Might see play in large or restricted lists (e.g. peasant)
[F]: Not playable in Cube.
Grixis Deck: Mind Seize
With everyone talking about Mind Seize based on the inclusion of True-Name Nemesis and Baleful Strix, it’s easy to miss the fact that the deck comes with three sweet commanders. Thraximundar was the go-to Grixis general for control and acquiring one just got a lot easier. As for the new class, my groups have players building both Jeleva and Nekusar, which speaks to the appeal of their respective strategies. Casting other players’ spells is fun, as is drawing massive amounts of cards, especially when the latter comes with a metric ton of group damage stapled to it. Group card draw is often more aggressively costed than targeted draw, making for interesting and interactive games with Nekusar where everyone gets to see a bunch of cards and cast lots of spells. I am a proponent of Howling Mine effects in EDH, since it can take a glacial multiplayer game and cut an hour or two off the total. I suspect that Nekusar decks have a corollary of fun for everyone for just that reason. What keeps these commanders from higher grades is that the power level isn’t quite there. Jeleva is quite fragile and will often whiff, even if your own deck is built to optimize her ability. Nekusar is a five-mana 2/4 with no natural defense. Once he has died once, you need to hit seven mana, in a deck without green, to replay him. And this is pretty important, since having him in play is so central to the bear hug game plan. Thrax costs seven to begin with, and realistically, you just want him to clean up after you’ve sewn up the game. That said, all three commanders are great fun, have high ceilings for power level, and are nice inclusions in the deck.
In Cube, they suffer from the same problem that all these commanders do—shard sections are non-existent or have one card each. All three need to compete with Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker for that slot, and they also need to get in line behind Cruel Ultimatum before they will see the play in a 40-card deck.
Baleful Force [C+]/[F]
As an overcosted vanilla fatty, this card must be evaluated on its ability to draw a card at the beginning of each upkeep. This gets better the more players you have in your games, and so is naturally at its worst in Cube, where cards at this mana cost get cheated into play and do a lot more to win the game than come with two Phyrexian Arenas. In EDH, you can expect to have some multiplayer games where even if you don’t get to untap with Force, it will still draw you three or four cards—decent for a worst-case scenario. It’s nice that they finished the cycle of Forces with this release, and of all five, this one is the most exciting to play with—drawing cards is always good and it comes in the color best suited to reanimate it.
Diviner Spirit [D]/[F]
Perhaps this card was designed to fill the hole left by the Trade Secrets banning, and in that vein, I could see it creating some fun moments in games with weaker lists. What keeps it out of the big leagues is that for a measly extra blue mana, you can get Consecrated Sphinx. So this card needs a home where you want your opponent(s) to be drawing extra cards. The only way I see this getting played in cube is if someone decides to construct a backdraft cube, in which case I think this goes from unplayable to auto-include on humor alone.
Hooded Horror [D-]/[F]
See Power Hungry review.
Terra Ravager [F]/[F]
Needs more trample. Not even all trample, all the time—a little bit of trample would suffice. A clause that gave Terra Ravager trample if its power were 10 or greater would actually make this card an exciting way to hate on the ramp player. But as it is, you know it’s just going to get chumped by something Avenger of Zendikar pooped out the turn before you die. To see play in Cube, it would need trample and haste (and would likely still just barely make the cut).
True-Name Nemesis [D+]/[A+]
The card that has all the EDH players up in arms over making Mind Seize scarce and overpriced is ironically not very good in the format it was supposedly designed for. Obviously, it’s better in 1v1, but even there, a 3/1 unblockable creature/unkillable wall doesn’t matter nearly as much, given that it’s a 40-life format.
In Cube, this card is the same beating it is in Legacy but with an even greater discrepancy in power level between it and the worst cards in your opponent’s deck. I’ve seen it cast a few times—in those games sometimes the True-Name player would have won anyway and sometimes it died immediately. It does have the power to swing a game, especially against a green deck, but since we play a format where cards like Balance are legal, we expect games to be swung by powerful cards. What sends True-Name really over the top is that if you see it in your first pack you can build towards it by snarfing all the equipment and blue tempo. If you see it pack three, you take it and settle for it being merely “excellent”. There is some talk in the community about it being too good, but in our group that has yet to be substantiated. Any rare/powered list should be running this.
Curse of Chaos [D]/[F]
See Power Hungry review.
Curse of Inertia [D-]/[F]
Like with Curse of Chaos, the effect of Curse of Inertia is so small that it won’t be warping players’ actions. It can make defense harder for the cursed player or allow someone to cast two spells in a turn, but these best-case-scenarios should not be worth a card in your deck. That this card compares unfavorably to Hidden Strings in 1v1 does not bode well for its future in Cube or any serious deck.
Curse of Shallow Graves [C]/[A-]
See Power Hungry review.
Eye of Doom [B-]/[F]
The grade of B- is totally contingent on the Eye’s use in a multiplayer game with four or more people, since in 1v1 this card basically reads “6,T: Welcome to card disadvantage, population – you.” However, in a large game, this says: “You see that guy who’s winning? Now he’s got some catching up to do.” The fewer players in a game, the worse this card becomes (to the point where it’s actively bad), but I think the upside, fun factor, and ability to swing games will make players find room for it in some decks.
Illusionist’s Gambit [B-]/[F]
Here we have yet another unplayable card in 1v1 games. If I wanted a four-mana blue Fog, I’d play Sleep. Like Eye of Doom, the best-case-scenario for this in multiplayer games is attractive: sending one player’s alpha strike crashing into an unwitting opponent, like when, as a child, I would ram my Hot Wheels into each other to see which one would come away most damaged. The difficulty comes in sculpting a board state where you will get to play the Gambit for that effect, as you basically need to keep four mana up at all times. Unlike Eye of Doom, this card is best in three-player games, since casting it removes any form of option from your opponent’s next attack. Even though the overall power level is low, I will be brewing with this because I do play a lot of three- and four-player games and I think I can squeeze a few sweet stories out of this card.
Tempt with Reflections [D]/[F]
See my Power Hungry review for a detailed discussion of the Tempting Offer mechanic.
Tempt with Reflections is similar to Tempt with Vengeance, since the outcome of opponents accepting the offer is predictable and not deck-dependent (the target is chosen once cast). Therefore, this tempting offer has the same political implications and should result in no one accepting the offer so long as everyone at the table knows what’s good for them. Sadly, there is no deck (especially a Cube deck) that wants a bad Clone, save for populate shenanigans. Making X hasty elementals is a new effect for Magic, but cloning is not and there are many better clones out there.
Baleful Strix [B]/[A]
As if this deck didn’t have enough value already, we get a stellar reprint here with Strix. Consensus in the Cube community is that this is the top card in the Dimir guild, as it provides beautiful early defense for a control deck and serves as an evasive attacker with rare card advantage for an aggro deck, and all at an incredibly cheap cost of two mana. In EDH, the card turns out to still be quite good, as it deters players from attacking you with pretty much anything but tokens. Also note that drawing a card is fine at any point in the game. Sadly, this card isn’t in the Eternal Bargain deck. I want to jam Master Transmuter in there and start going off, but I think Wizards intentionally swapped some cards around to give players who buy several decks a puzzle to solve.
Decree of Pain [B+]/[C]
Decree of Pain just left my cube to make room for the Pox package, and up until then did some work. It got drafted and was even maindecked sometimes, but it never over performed. It’s funny to think of a card that wipes the board, draws all the cards, and has a cheap mode as “utility,” but in Cube control decks that’s just what those things are. This is a great reprint for EDH, as players love to call for board wipe once a game is getting unwinnable. This is one of the better ones to rip since it juxtaposes the top threat at the table with the caster instead of just bringing everyone back to square one. That I was able to trade my extras out at $10 apiece before this was released should not be ignored.
Mirari is a nice inclusion here as it fits nicely with Jeleva’s mechanic and generally provides an ability EDH players like. Being able to get one easily is nice for those that missed the reprint in Time Spiral. While Mirari could be the sort of artifact cubes could go for (a high-powered repeatable effect), nowadays it is just too slow. Any serious ramp deck wants to draft big things to cast, not small or midrange spells that need you to draw a one-of to provide a big effect.
As innocuous as it may seem, this effect rules in EDH and is basically a Moat that also prevents flyers from attacking, at least until the ramp player hits a googol mana. Commander players want, above all, to play their stuff. Accepting any amount of damage at the cost of development is unheard of. What keeps this from being truly bonkers is that often players won’t attack anyway and are content to leave guys back on defense and play for the long game.
I also run this card in my Cube to support control, but understand it is leaving some lists as competition in blue is ultra-tight. Nevertheless, some players may appreciate the new art.
Starstorm is a card I had nearly forgotten about until seeing it reprinted here. It has cycling, is an instant, and is easier to cast than Savage Twister. This makes it a strict upgrade to the Gruul version and could be a card players look for to make that swap. Cycling is also the only thing keeping this above a straight F for Cube, since red decks want their sweepers to either blow up lands or dome the opponent.
Strategic Planning [D]/[C-]
This novel P3K reprint is difficult to evaluate. It provides cheap card selection which means it’s neither too good nor too bad, so one must ultimately decide whether the colorless mana is worth putting two random cards off the top in the bin. I found it too weak in testing to be maindecked.
Temple Bell [C]/[F]
I like this sort of effect in EDH, as it can speed up the game and serve as a balancing act in larger games, since catching up to the winning player is more attainable when everyone gets two cards per turn. Temple Bell also has the benefit of avoiding the scenario where everyone else gets to draw off your Howling Mine before killing it and denying you the draw. That it combos well with Nekusar makes it a great choice for this precon.
Overall – Value: [A+] / Playability: [D]
Ironically, this deck would get A+ on value if it were True-Name and 99 Islands, at least until Legacy players get their fill. However, the situation is much better than that since we also get three solid commanders, Strix, and some non-negligible reprints in Decree of Pain, Strategic Planning and Mirari, not to mention the Sol Ring and Command Tower.
Despite the handful of really sweet cards, the deck as packaged is pretty bad; only a mill theme connects the two new commanders, yet a mill deck wouldn’t support either. Mind Seize has some excellent cards but also a lot of duds, so expect to pillage this one for parts to get full value.
Next time, we’ll review Eternal Bargain.
Email: djkensai at gmail dot com
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