For the last installment in this series of C+C Magic Factory, we’ll be reviewing the Commander 2013 deck, Nature of the Beast.
Here’s a review of the grading system we’ll be using. The first grade for each card is a Cube grade, the second is a Commander grade.
[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.
[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.
Naya Deck: Nature of the Beast
Commanders: [card]Marath, Will of the Wild[/card] [F]/[A+], [card]Gahiji, Honored One[/card] [D]/[C], [card]Mayael the Anima[/card] [F]/[C]
As it turns out, Marath, the new commander with the biggest text box and recipient of errata before it even hit the shelves, is good. Though I may be biased, just having won a small EDH tournament at my LGS with a decidedly untuned Marath build, the amount of interactions and single cards he enables cannot be ignored. Whether you want to brew a Ghave-style token build or just have Marath be at the helm of a Naya beats pile of big dumb idiots, the elemental beast does whatever you want him to up to and including smashing face on-curve. In my games I spammed 1/1s, went off with [card]Ashnod’s Altar[/card], threatened and achieved early lethal damage with [card]Mirror Entity[/card] and a juiced-up [card]Wild Beastmaster[/card], closed out a game by going to the dome, cast him as a 13/13 and got to play him after a [card]Mirari’s Wake[/card] and [card]Warstorm Surge[/card]. Even a card like [card]Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice[/card] that normally requires significant deck allocation to function is randomly turned on by Marath. This card is $1.50 in paper and $10 online, which is a reflection of the distribution disparity between the two media platforms, compounded with the fact that (spoiler alert) the rest of Nature of the Beast is lacking. I would try to pick up any of these you may see in binders, because it is an excellent general from an unwanted product and $1.50 seems disproportionately low.
[card]Gahiji, Honored One[/card] saw a surprising amount of initial play in my groups despite the consensus that he was powered down from what should have been a 5/5 or at least a 5/4. Anthem-on-a-stick is nice, but compared to Marath’s all-the-abilities-on-a-stick, Gahiji is nowhere near as good or interactive. The political impact did not come up enough in games to make people stick with him, and I have not seen him recently except as support for Marath—a job he does well. You could consider Gahiji for Cube if you have a token theme and include any shard cards, since the competition in Naya is so low. Myself, I run [card]Realm Razer[/card] because [card]Armageddon[/card].
[card]Mayael the Anima[/card] is a decent reprint here as she has sweet art and can be built around in ways that don’t involve losing friends the way an inclusion like [card]Uril, the Miststalker[/card] would. I get the sense that this may be her swan song, as the five-power matters theme seems so stale when compared with these new, more interactive options. The saddest part of this inclusion is that her slot should be occupied by [card]Hazezon Tamar[/card], but the reserved list struck again.
[card]Curse of Chaos[/card] [F]/[D]
See Power Hungry review.
[card]Curse of the Forsaken[/card] [F]/[D]
See Eternal Bargain review.
[card]Curse of Predation[/card] [A]/[C]
See Power Hungry review.
[card]Darksteel Mutation[/card] [D]/[C]
See Eternal Bargain review.
[card]From the Ashes[/card] [F]/[D+]
[card]From the Ashes[/card] is a metaphor for Nature of the Beast in that it’s intentionally underpowered. The idea here seems to be land destruction minus the hurt feelings—except for the guy with the $500 mana base, who can stand being the butt of jokes from everyone while they search out their basics. Personally, I prefer to just run [card]Ruination[/card] (which is unplayable in Cube), but if your social contract frowns on that, [card]From the Ashes[/card] may just be the tool you need to get your fix of LD.
[card]Mystic Barrier[/card] [F]/[C+]
Another card that seems custom-built for [card]Zedruu the Greathearted[/card], [card]Mystic Barrier[/card] is a fun political card ripe for exploitation. I don’t think it’s at home here since Naya typically has creatures out, but for a combo deck, this is a [card]Moat[/card] that is weak to one player’s creatures rather than flyers. If you play combo and still have friends to play multiplayer games with, give this card a shot—I think you will be pleasantly surprised. If you hadn’t noticed, this card does stone nothing in 1v1.
[card]Naya Soulbeast[/card] [D-]/[F]
While a neat mechanic, [card]Naya Soulbeast[/card] is way too overcosted for anyone’s taste. Maybe with 10 players at the table and a [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] on your side, this card can pull its weight, but until Magic starts awarding achievements, no one is going to try that. The flip side of this coin is that this beast is totally unplayable in 1v1.
See Power Hungry review.
[card]Spawning Grounds[/card] [F]/[D-]
Effectively nine mana for your first 5/5, any deck running [card]Spawning Grounds[/card] needs to be cheating on mana in a big way to want this effect. Any sort of combo deck can likely make do with [card]Squirrel Nest[/card]. The effect is good, but paying retail seems not worth it. If [card]Spawning Grounds[/card] cost half the mana, I think it would be exciting enough to see play. Five mana for a 5/5 is fine, and once it’s on the battlefield, it certainly applies pressure.
[card]Tempt with Discovery[/card] [F]/[B-]
Initially I was down on all the tempting offer cards except [card]Tempt with Vengeance[/card], but the amount of play [card]Tempt with Discovery[/card] is seeing in my groups makes me rethink this one. The first observation I had is that people weren’t even playing by the rules: as soon as the spell hit the stack, everyone was rushing into his or her library. Even once we started playing it correctly, each time the spell was cast, at least one person took the offer. EDH players love ramping and [card]Tempt with Discovery[/card] has a subtle upside of playing into the psyche of your opponents. Also, the floor for this card is not the worst, as you can grab a [card]Temple of the False God[/card] and make a reasonable [card]Explosive Vegetation[/card] impression. Since the lands ETB untapped, if a couple opponents take the offer you can usually cast a spell after ramping, which hardly any other ramp spell lets you do. Furthermore, this is the only tempting offer card which uses hidden information, thus giving your opponents opportunities to make mistakes. None of this, however, means it will see any play in Cube.
[card]Terra Ravager[/card] [F]/[F]
See Mind Seize review.
[card]Witch Hunt[/card] [C-]/[C-]
[card]Witch Hunt[/card] is a neat card for a chaos game of EDH, in a Zedruu deck, or to hate on any life gain decks in your meta. The random clause on this card makes it play very differently in multiplayer or 1v1. In a duel, the card just bounces back and forth. Most of the excitement over this card came from people touting it as the second coming of [card]Sulfuric Vortex[/card]. Vortex is the [A+] card for the mono-red burn archetype in Cube, so shouldn’t two Vortices stapled together with a mana discount be an auto-include? As it turns out, the answer is no. Yes, the mono-red deck wants a single 5-mana finisher with reach, but the problem is that there are many cards that can fill that role while still supporting other archetypes. [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card] tops the list, but even [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] or [card]Siege-Gang Commander[/card] are completely serviceable in that role while being nowhere near as narrow. I drafted [card]Witch Hunt[/card] in my cube several times, each time picking it up late. On each occasion, it would have fit perfectly but I always had something better to run at five mana.
[card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card] [A]/[A+]
Here we have the second reason to buy this product. Avenger is the go-to target in any ramp deck. He scales very well from the mid- to late-game and can hit as early as turn four when preceded by a little work. What’s beautiful is that this assessment applies to both Cube and Commander. Like Myr Battlesphere, 40-card decks can get Avenger into play a myriad of ways, and at seven mana, not all of them have to be unfair. He even blinks for sick value! Unless you’re staring down an evasive army, [card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card] stabilizes in one turn and wins the game a couple turns later if not removed. This factor puts him head, shoulders, and rooty appendages above the other fat-and-green competition. In EDH, Avenger is often built towards with cards like [card]Doubling Season[/card], [card]Boundless Realms[/card], and [card]
Sylvan Primordial[/card]. What makes him so great is that he has a top-notch effect at a non-prohibitive cost.
[card]Eternal Dragon[/card] [D+]/[C]
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Creature power creep has pushed both the Eternal and Dragon parts of [card]Eternal Dragon[/card] into obscurity, though plainscycling for two mana does its best to keep this card relevant. It was recently squeezed out of my cube by cards that got drafted and did things, though I was saddened to see it go because landcycling is such a welcome effect. In EDH, where you have more time to durdle, [card]Eternal Dragon[/card] still has a role helping you hit land drops or making an appearance as a 5/5 in the late game. Never bad but rarely good, [card]Eternal Dragon[/card] is at its best when it’s covering up the fact that you’re running too few lands.
[card]Harmonize[/card]’s high rating is due mostly to the fact that unconditional card draw is such a rare yet in-demand effect in green. Forests are to EDH what Islands are to 60-card Constructed, and in the format where color identity is a thing, tapping trees to cast blue spells is the best place to be. In Cube, ramping and fixing are often one in the same, making [card]Harmonize[/card] good but less stellar, since it’s easy to cast Fact or Fiction off a blue splash.
[card]Rampaging Baloths[/card] [B]/[B]
Avenger’s older-but-less-abusive partner in crime is quite good for many of the same reasons Avenger is good. Since you want to play Baloths and immediately trigger landfall, both cards are effectively seven-drops, with Avenger being the better of the two since you get most if its potential value immediately. Any Cube (or Commander) deck that wants one will want the other and will likely run both, though I expect Avenger to be around in cubes much longer than [card]Rampaging Baloths[/card]. Baloths will have to compete with newer cards while Avenger looks down from its perch at the top of the heap.
[card]Wrath of God[/card] [B]/[A]
The OG board sweeper adds some much-needed value to this product. “Wraths” are staples for both Cube and Commander and [card]Wrath of God[/card] is still among the best, even after all these years. Anti-regeneration doesn’t come up very often, but when it does, you’re thankful for it. The only reason Wrath doesn’t get a higher rating is that in Cube, there are enough functional replacements that control decks can afford to take their sweepers later. In EDH, tuck-Wraths like [card]Hallowed Burial[/card] and [card]Terminus[/card] may actually be better due to the life buffer and all the generals and indestructible dudes running around.
Notable Cards in All Five Decks
[card]Sol Ring[/card] [A+]/[A+], [card]Command Tower[/card] [F]/[A+], [card]Opal Palace[/card] [F]/[C-]
These three apply pretty much only to the Commander crowd, as any cube that wants a [card]Sol Ring[/card] has one by now. As for [card]Sol Ring[/card] and [card]Command Tower[/card], best get them now while they are cheap, as any EDH deck would benefit from their power level. Players in my groups rarely cannibalize decks to make new ones; most (me included) build new decks whenever something exciting is released. New decks mean all the [card]Sol Ring[/card]s and [card]Command Tower[/card]s will find homes, so expect the price to rise accordingly. [card]Opal Palace[/card], on the other hand, is not nearly as powerful as the first two and once the novelty wears off, it will probably only be at home in a deck that really wants the +1/+1 counters on its general, like Marath or Animar.
Overall – Value: [D] / Playability: [D]
Nature of the Beast has several problems from the perspective of both value and playability. First and foremost is the lack of exciting new cards. Marath is great and [card]Tempt with Discovery[/card] is good, but the rest of the new designs here suck. Long-term, this will hurt the value of this precon. Furthermore, there is no tier-one Constructed card, no P3K reprint, and no mono-colored general—small transgressions, but they add up. There is some value in the reprints (Wrath & Avenger), but none of the depth seen in Evasive Maneuvers. Playing the deck is basically a lesson on how to not play the cards in your hand, hope to hit your land drops, and dump all your mana into Marath since he’s so much better than anything else this deck can do. Comparing any of the nine non-[card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card] 5+-power creatures to Marath is a joke, and with only ten total in the deck, Mayael has about as good a chance to whiff as to hit. Nature of the Beast is about as cohesive as Mind Seize, but without any good cards. This is sad, because there are so many cool cards that could have been included to showcase how awesome Marath is. Let me know what you think in the comments!
Email: djkensai at gmail dot com