Have you ever watched kids play football? I remember hating it at recess; one kid would be “quarterback” and basically every play was a Hail Mary downfield. I would typically take one step across the line of scrimmage and appeal to the kid with the ball that if he just handed off to me, I’d be able to easily pick up a first down (and then some). To the other kids, the entire game of football was just “throw it deep enough times and hope you win.” That is an incredibly stupid game.
In Magic and football, it takes a lot of different elements to be successful. You don’t cast a Fleecemane Lion on turn two and win the game, and you don’t chuck the ball 80 yards on every play. Both take a lot of interactions and exchanges to create a possibility for success. Thoughtseize doesn’t kill your opponent, but is often responsible for helping you win the game several turns later. Dromoka’s Command is not the star wide receiver diving into the end zone, but it is definitely the left tackle protecting the quarterback, giving him the time and protection he needs to make the play. Even though it wasn’t the game-winning move, you wouldn’t have won without it. Just like Jaguars great Tony Boselli.
Dromoka’s Command is Very Possibly the Best Card in Dragons of Tarkir
I’ve been building a lot of mediocre to terrible decks trying to get my sea legs in this new format. Every time I cast Dromoka’s Command, I end up winning the game. Not necessarily on that turn, but it is always setting up a key interaction or exchange of resources that throws off the opponent’s plan. Think about all of the things that a player has to track if they want to play around Dromoka’s Command:
- +1/+1 counter on any creature can throw off math, letting a blocker survive or a smaller creature trade up.
- Sacrificing an enchantment could mean killing an enchantment creature like Courser of Kruphix, Doomwake Giant, or Eidolon of the Great Revel. Or an artifact creature like ummm… Obsianus Golem?
- Sacrificing an enchantment at instant speed is also dangerous in a world where Chained to the Rocks and Banishing Light are prevalent. If they suddenly have that creature back in play, does it influence attacking? What about their next attack step? What about “enters the battlefield” abilities?
- Are there any prowess triggers to consider? Prowess resolves before the Command does, meaning that you can make a Seeker of the Way a 4/4 lifelinker that fights one creature before blockers and blocks another. That’s up to eight life, and you killed up to two of their creatures. NICE RED DECK, NERD.
- There are also a couple corner-case things to consider, like, does this attack still work if they destroy my Outpost Siege (set to Dragons) or my Whip of Erebos (lifelink)? Even though there is a very high amount of playable enchantments in this format, there are few decks that play a very high amount of the card type—it’s likely you’ll only have one in play early on.
- Again, corner case, but there are a lot of different things that care about +1/+1 counters in this format.
- Does the blocking player have a large enough creature to fight one attacking creature and live to block another? That is both with and without the possibility of a +1/+1 counter.
- Dromoka’s Command can trigger heroic for up to two of your creatures at once, if that’s something you’re into.
All of this for two mana. Oh, and that was totally ignoring the first mode (which is also very good, but entirely dependent on them casting something first). I don’t see Anger of the Gods making a comeback in Standard, but this is a strong answer to it (assuming, of course, you have the mana open).
The only reason I’m upset about preordering these is that I won’t have them in my hands on day one.
Evaluating the Commands
Dromoka’s Command is the best of the cycle, and very likely to be a major player in the format moving forward. How good are the other ones, and what can we expect from them?
Right away, I can tell you that Silumgar’s Command is the worst, and that is predicated entirely on rate. With Dromoka’s Command, all of the modes are less impactful than Silumgar’s, and each is worth significantly less mana if they were printed on a card. However, at two mana (and only one card), you are always getting your “money’s worth,” and sometimes getting a great deal. With Silumgar’s Command, you are hoping to get your money’s worth, and typically paying a little extra for the benefit of both modes being on one card. The thing that scares me most about Silumgar’s Command is that it comes down too late in the aggro matchups to make the -3/-3 mode be a strong enough tempo play, and you’ll likely be wanting a Crux of Fate at that point instead. Against the control decks, the Negate mode is great, but requires holding up five mana—at that point, the stronger play may often be Dig and a Dissolve (or whatever three-mana counter you choose). Destroying a planeswalker is good, and you’ll always want some amount of that effect in a world where Ashiok is a factor, but again, five mana feels like a weird place for it. If you’re playing against Abzan Control and they are on the play, you can kill their Elspeth and… bounce a land? Or a Courser? I’m not sure, it just feels like the few times you get an awesome exchange out of it won’t justify the other times it is underwhelming and overpaid. I guess that makes it the Mike Wallace of Commands?
Ojutai’s Command is probably the best for control, but some of the modes feel disjointed. Getting a little guy back in UW is not typically as exciting as it is in RB, especially since it checks mana cost and not power. Seeker of the Way is the first guy I think of getting back, but that’s not a strong enough play to take back a losing game. Drawing a card is of course always good, but it’s only at its best when coupled with a strong tempo play. “Gain 4 life, draw a card” is the type of card that you see in someone’s main deck at FNM that helps you realize you’re going to 2-0 them. Ultimately, this is Remove Soul (or whatever it’s called now) with, “Draw a Card unless you REALLY need 4 life.”
Atarka’s Command already has four slots in my Modern RG Aggro deck. I expect it to do largely nothing in Standard. It costs Burning-Tree Emissary, so it has to be good!
Kolaghan’s Command will either be deceptively strong or deceptively bad. If it wasn’t an instant it would be costed at RB, but because you can force a player to discard during their draw step sometimes, it had to get pushed up an extra one mana. At RB, it’s extremely solid, especially against aggro, and at 2RB it’s stone unplayable. This one is going to require the most work. There are a lot of strong RB creatures in the set though, so maybe Rakdos aggro becomes a thing?
Obviously this is just a first look at everything, and we won’t have a better idea of how these cards look until we get a little more time with them. For now, here are my power rankings:
- Dromoka’s Command
- Atarka’s Command (Modern)
- Silumgar’s Command
- Atarka’s Command (Standard)
- Kolaghan’s Command
- Ojutai’s Command
Also, before we close out today, I want to let you know what my new writing schedule is going to be. From now on, my weekly finance writing will be over at MTGPrice.com, your home for the best finance content online. My occasional strategy thinkpieces and rye, folksy musings will still be here, but not weekly. Instead, I will only be here when the people need me the most, like Batman.
I am Batman.
Longtime magic player and TO.Loving husband and father. Cube > Commander.
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