Even though Barcelona hosted the Lord of the Rings Pro Tour and unveiled a ton of new spoilers, its not uncommon for a variety of new cards to appear at a Magic Con, adding another element of interest to these massive events. An example is the mysterious Counterspell that Wizards shouted out rather cryptically in a short article that first appeared in Barcelona and immediately started demanding $2000 asking prices.
Adding to this bizarre Counterspell are the serialized Secret Lair cards that also tend to appear at Magic Con events. Like many serialized cards in MTG, these cards can fetch quite an expensive price, intriguing players to discover what cards would be getting the premium treatment next.
Finally, Gavin Verhey also has a massive hand in introducing some new cards for players to consider each Magic Con. These aren’t tournament legal, but they do introduce new game space to explore for Magic players. There’s no reason that some of these couldn’t, eventually, turn into a tournament legal mechanic!
Whether they will or not is rather unknown at this point, but its not uncommon for Commander players to Rule Zero some of these playtest cards in their casual games and use them anyway. For reference, up to this point, the only way to obtain these cards besides buying them second-hand was to attend the MTG Barcelona event. There is another one of these coming up at Gen-Con this weekend, however.
Here are some of the wackiest new playtest cards that showed up at Gavin Verhey’s Unknown Tournament (which will simply be referred to as Unknown for the rest of the article) event in MTG Con Barcelona!
Perhaps the most interesting potential mechanic to show up in Verhey’s new playtest cards is Spell Commanders. We’ve seen these cards before in terms of what they do mechanically. The twist is that players can utilize them as though they are Commanders. Additionally, it appears as though Gavin’s Unknown event utilized similar rules to Commander Masters Limited, meaning this isn’t necessarily the only Commander in your Command Zone.
One of the early examples of these playtest cards includes Lava, Axe, which is obviously just Lava Axe, but with the new ruling as a twist. Other MTG spells reimagined with this ruling appear to be Clear, the Mind as Clear the Mind, Ransack, the Lab as Ransack the Lab and Rampant, Growth as Rampant Growth. Rampant Growth, in particular, would be rather fun since you should be able to cast it repetitively if you can keep making your land drops.
This isn’t actually the first time we’ve seen something like this. Oathbreaker, recently highlighted by Wizards of the Coast, has instant or sorcery cards called Signature Spells that stay in the Command Zone. These can only be played if you have your Oathbreaker on board (a Planeswalker which also functions as your Commander).
Otherwise, there are some rare instances of MDFC cards that can act as spells in the Command Zone. Many, if not all, of these cards originate from Strixhaven. Jadzi, Oracle of Archaivos and Extus, Oriq Overlord are two examples of cards like this.
This, honestly, seems like very accessible design space, so much so that there’s little doubt from the MTG community that, one day, Spell Commanders will be a real sanctioned thing, even though they kind of already are:
“There will be spell commanders in real MTG, it’s legit design space”
A new series of “Taught by” Playtest cards were also debuted as unofficial cards during Barcelona’s Unknown event. These are Aura Commanders – Enchantments that enchant creatures or Commanders.
An example of these cards is Taught by Surrak (in the bottom row in the middle). This card can be seen in the picture above but, unfortunately, there isn’t really a high-quality image of these cards available at the moment.
Like Spell Commanders, Taught by Surrak has a Commander Enchantment rule in its text. These can attach themselves to your Commander and stay attached as the Commander moves between face-up zones. I’m not sure if you first have to enchant the Commander Enchantment on your Commander from the Command Zone, but the card also functions as a Commander. A reminder that the mono-colored pairing rule being used in Commander Masters Limited also applied to this event, which may need to exist to make these cards work. For that reason, these may be a bit harder to make a reality.
The enchanted creature/Commander in Taught by Surrak’s case gets +2/+2 and Haste. Otherwise, all of these ‘Taught by’ cards also cantrip when you cast them. Other examples of Taught by cards are Taught by Vito (+1/+1 and Lifelink) and more.
Rule Breaker Commanders
Of all the crazy Commander design space explored, this is the wackiest one. Its also the design idea I think is the least likely to see sanctioned play.
Daxiver, Izzet Electromancer is an example of how powerful Rulebreaker could be used in Commander. In this case, Daxiver breaks the color identity rule by allowing you to add instants and sorceries of any color into your deck. Past that point, Daxiver also taps for a mana of any color to cast these spells.
There is a sneaky catch here: your mana base is going to be difficult to construct. While your instants and sorceries are free from the color identity rule, the rest of your deck is not. You can still run cards like Mana Confluence that would abide by the color identity rule normally to fix this, but the amount of lands that fit in this category are rather limited.
This is a really interesting design space, but bending the rules of the Commander format too much could accidentally cause something to snap.
Twists on Commander Favorites
Included in Verhey’s Unknown event were multiple infamous Commander cards reimagined to similar structures. The most blatant reimagining is White Rhystic Study, which is literally just a Rhystic Study that is white instead of blue.
Another example of these cards is Dockbreacher. This presents a flipped copy of Hullbreacher that, instead of turning your opponents draws into Treasure Tokens for you, turns your opponents Treasure Tokens in draws for you. As a cute nod, Dockbreacher also inverts Hullbreacher’s stats.
Treasure Tokens are a very powerful strategy in Commander, so Dockbreacher as a direct Treasure hoser could be something players are excited to see. It should be mentioned, however, that Hullbreacher was banned in Commander because it was too powerful when used alongside ‘Wheel’ cards like Wheel of Fortune. There’s a chance that this card could cause problems if powerful cards start to appear that grant all players Treasure Tokens as upside but it does appear to be less offensive than its partner in crime since there’s no Treasure alternative to ‘Wheel’ effects that can be initiated by Dockbreacher’s owner.
Commander Masters Partner Rule Goes Mainstream?
Its no secret that the new Commander Masters Limited rule is incredibly exciting. The format allows you to try out some wacky combinations that, generally, would not be allowed in sanctioned play. The Prize card for the Un-Known event may hint that this Partner mechanic could actually come to Commander one day.
Now, this wouldn’t be an errata to Commander. That would likely cause pandemonium. Instead, new cards could specifically partner with other monocolored Commanders like our prize card Barce, Friend Finder. This could create some interesting new gameplay, but would likely make the new Partner Commander absurdly expensive monetarily because of how flexible they are (if they have any sort of rarity attached).
It may also rule out the existence of monocolored decks in Commander once and for all, which is definitely not a good thing. As such, there may need to be additional restrictions in order to promote players to keep playing monocolored Commanders in certain situations.
Either way, these interesting new ideas could be making their ways into Commander product over the next few years. We have absolutely no idea if these will come true or not but, in the meantime, if you manage to get your hands on some of these MTG Barcelona playtest cards, with the right playgroup, there’s no reason why you can’t Rule Zero some of these cards to your casual tables. Also be sure to keep an eye on Good Morning Magic, as Gavin Verhey has stated that there will be a video about these cards at some point in the coming days.