March of the Machine: The Aftermath is a tiny 50-card set with plenty of cards looking to make an impact in Commander. Obviously, Nissa, Resurgent Animist is by far the most valuable card in the set and surely will see play throughout Commander. Other cards are not getting nearly as much attention that many casual and competitive players will be running. Let’s take a look at some stand-out cards from Aftermath.
Tazri, Stalwart Survivor
This card is bonkers. “Five color activated ability creature salad” is going to be a very popular deck as players wake up to the crazy amount of things this card enables. Could this dethrone Narjeela, the Blade-Blossom as a competitive five color Warriors/Humans commander? It will be interesting to see as they synergize perfectly with one another.
It looks obvious that Wizards saw the popularity of Narjeela and made a virtual partner in Tazri. Which will be the commander, and which will be relegated to the 99? While it will be meta-dependent on which is truly better, Tazri seems more compelling because making mana, even with restrictions, tends to beat not making mana at all, and effectively drawing up to five cards could be game-winning. Still, Narjeela automatically makes a whole lot of board presence to enable alternate win conditions, so players will need to choose where they want their deck to excel.
Another five color commander, this version of Niv-Mizzet has massive build-around potential. There are so many combos possible now, let alone in the future. On top of that, you can remix his Jump-Start ability with Madness to produce a very unique deck. If you need further value, both Burning Vengeance and Secrets of the Dead gives you that value. Need excellent tutors? Bring to Light, and Eladamri’s Call are there. Widespread Thieving generates a Treasure every time you cast a multicolored spell, which is just incredible for this deck. All of the charms are playable, and many appear on the EDREC top 100 – playing them twice is brutally efficient. There’s no wrong way to build Niv-Mizzet, Supreme, and we’re going to see a lot of creativity expressed within this deck.
Plargg and Nassari
Chaos-decks and Warp World style effects have always existed within Commander. If you can keep your Plargg and Nassari alive for just one turn, it will exile a card from each deck during your upkeep. One of your opponents chooses one card from those four that you cannot play. However, you get to play two of the other three (if you have four players). Think about the power level of cards in typical Commander decks, even the second and third best card out of four should be huge. Why play your cards when you can play everyone else’s, and on the cheap too? A commander that guarantees a new play experience every single time, you will see Plargg and Nassari plus forty mountains and fifty rocks as a budget friendly, casual chaos deck.
Additionally, that’s the low end of this card. The absurd end is if another player is winning and the table needs a solution to the board state. You pick the opponent who will choose what card you do not get, meaning, sometimes, you get to play the absolute best two cards of four if that opponent is helpful. It’s obvious that you should be able to find an answer with a little diplomacy! A very cool card that never plays the same game twice and is inherently as powerful or fair as the meta it is played within.
Karn, Legacy Reforged
Colorless Commander decks are not a new idea, but there are few choices. Karn, Legacy Reforged is a new, strong choice. Players that love battlecruiser Magic are going to gravitate to this card. Cards like Aladdin’s Lamp and Draco are not very good, but when they help you generate mana and make your commander massive, they become pretty nifty.
Outside of being the commander, however, this Karn will also find room in various mono-blue artifact decks. Either way, you’re getting insane value out of a living mana-rock that becomes a credible threat automatically. Keep in mind the mana Karn generates can be used to activate abilities, and there are a ton of useful ones to consider, from Rocket Launcher to Swiftfoot Boots.
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Narset, Enlightened Exile
I would be remiss to not at least mention this version of Narset. It’s a great Jeskai commander, and I think it’s easily the best overall commander for red, white, and blue spell slinging. However, best overall does not mean best. First, Narset, Enlightened Master is an excellent choice for a “taking turns” style deck. Next, Elsha of the Infinite has a lot more combo potential. Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh plus Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker is a very competitive choice of partners in this color shard. Finally, Hinata, Dawn-Crowned does a very specific thing in terms of casting spells with multiple targets for virtually no mana. In all of these cases, Narset, Enlightened Exile does not “do the thing” these other commanders do. However, there is nothing wrong with being a great choice for a general archetype, and this Narset is excellent here.
An interesting card and seemingly overlooked. EDREC top 100 shows 29 commonly played cards, mostly artifacts, that Filter Out bounces. Add onto that Treasure, Clue, Food, Powerstone, etc. and the amount of targets that Filter Out impacts in the EDH format just continues to grow.
This becomes another bounce spell if you want to gain a benefit from re-casting zero mana artifacts, and this is a crazy board control enabler by tapping all your rocks for mana, casting a three mana virtual Upheaval, and re-playing your cards while everyone else has their mana base partially reset.
It’s definitely not as strong as Cyclonic Rift, but it is potentially as good in some situations. Three mana is a lot easier than seven. It’s been said that cEDH is a turn-two format, and I do agree with that in the broadest sense. However, not every cEDH game is settled on turn two, and a powerful three mana card like Filter Out can balance the board or re-accelerate a stalled board state. There are ample amounts of times when you can tap Mana Vault, Mana Crypt, or Sol Ring to generate positive mana, so it even turns this card into a pseudo Dark Ritual. Don’t sleep on this card’s potential.
Jirina, Dauntless General
Two mana for an anti-board wipe/removal card that is also a graveyard hate card simultaneously, wow! It’s at home in a variety of decks like Narjeela, the Blade-Blossom, and various Stax decks. This card will undoubtedly see plenty of play in Standard and Modern because it’s good, and it won’t take long before it’s incorporated into Commander as well. As decks get more and more finely tuned, it becomes a tough choice between which strategies you choose to fight and which you have to let happen. When a card comes along like Jirina, solving multiple different problems, with deck synergy and also very little mana cost, that is a winning card.
A, albeit, much worse Gamble is still a second copy of Gamble. Magda, Brazen Outlaw is a very credible, mono-red cEDH deck and virtually 100% of Magda decks are going to, eventually, slot this card. Outside of mono-red, though, will this card see play? There are a few decks that will try out Handling where it will find a home.
The drawbacks of both two mana and the random discard might seem large at first but the upside is, when it works, winning the game. We all know Demonic Tutor is a great card but even Solve the Equation and Fabricate see play. Cards that have a huge upside with a calculated downside inevitably show up and, in certain metas, can function well enough to win games. Obviously there are also a ton of decks, mostly with blue, that love picking artifacts out of the graveyard so Reckless Handling’s downside is not even necessarily a downside for specific decks.
If you’re down to Reckless Handling as the only card in hand, paying two mana to put any artifact directly into your graveyard can absolutely win games, especially if that artifact is something like Lion’s Eye Diamond with an active Emry, Lurker of the Loch. Finally, this will give a handful of archetypal Johnny type players the “epic” goal of winning a game with Reckless Handling…by dealing two damage to your opponents!
Small set but Good Options
While it is the smallest set in the history of Magic, at least there are several good options for Commander. Whether competitive or casual, five color or colorless, there are cards with potential appeal to the entire player base. Will Wizards continue to produce these micro sets? If done well, we are looking at the future of Magic set design. The only problem? If it’s done poorly, we’re also looking at the future of Magic set design. Only time will tell how successful and how popular Aftermath turns out to be.