Command of Etiquette—A-Mazing Possibilities, Part One

The full set of Dragon’s Maze has been spoiled, and it’s shaping up to be an interesting one. I’m going to go through the full spoiler and pull out a few cards I am excited to play in Commander, and the type of deck that I think could use that card. I am going to hold off on running through the ten new Commanders that Dragon’s Maze offers, as well as Ral Zarek himself, and will be looking at them in more detail next week in part two of my set review. So, without further ado!

DMZ Renounce

Renounce the Guilds

I don’t think this card is amazing, but I see it as being more akin to Tribute to the Wild. It will probably take a couple of permanents off the board, and can easily avoid being a symmetrical effect. Sure, it’s going to miss mono-colored decks completely, but in any other deck they’re going to be running at least one gold permanent: their general. I plan to slot this card into my Thalia deck, because on top of its utility, the card is cheap to cast.

DMZ Aetherling

Aetherling

I was playing EDH with someone new the other day, and I heard him remark that Aetherling didn’t seem worth playing in EDH because it couldn’t combo or do 40 damage. Which, to me at least, seems a little shortsighted. I like the card, I think it’s a solid take on Morphling that’s better than most the variants that have been printed (Torchling, Thornling, and Windreaver). But its secret weapon is definitely its high base toughness; hitting for eight points of unblockable damage is certainly not nothing. I really want to put Aetherling together with True Conviction and other global anthem effects. Maybe the general would be Hanna, Ship’s Navigator, and there would be an enchantment subtheme. Either way, it’s a relatively fast unblockable clock that dodges wrath and removal. It sounds good to me!

DMZ Scrivener

Blood Scrivener

It’s really hard to play Dark Confidant in EDH. Sure, you have a higher life total, but you tend to have a larger average casting cost than most competitive decks. It evens out, and makes the Confidant not the best two-drop you could be casting. This fellow, on the other hand, shows some promise. Sure, it’s not a guaranteed card a turn, but it can also trigger more than once a turn cycle if the stars align. I think my dream usage of this card would be in a Toshiro Umezawa deck that can draw two spells off Phyrexian Arena during your upkeep, use them at instant speed, and then draw two more during the draw step. Of course, in the meantime I’m going to be putting copies of it in Endrek Sahr and the new-Teysa deck I am building. It’s a solid card, and I love me some black draw effects.

DMZ Pontiff

Pontiff of Blight

I completely lost it when this card was spoiled. Extort has been amazing so far in the games I’ve played with it, but the drawback has always been a dearth of grade-A permanents that have the ability. Pontiff of Blight solves this problem by giving your whole team extort, which seems perfect for those monoblack decks that can make all the mana. I am particularly excited to throw this card into Endrek, because casting it into six thrulls and my Commander gives me eight chances to extort my spells. At that point, it’s like adding an Exsanguinate to the tutor I use to find my Exsanguinate!

DMZ Storm

Possibility Storm

This card will see play at two levels in the Commander metagame. You will see this in asinine lock decks that combine Possibility Storm with something like Teferi or Rule of Law to lock people out of the game. You will also see this in Chaotic Hugs decks, in which it will be both hilarious and annoying in equal parts. Either type of strategy is likely to use a general like Zedruu, either to keep a low threat profile or because Zedruu is the best at hugs. So, beware!

DMZ Pyrewild

Pyrewild Shaman

One of my friends plays an Aurelia EDH deck that uses her ability and bloodrush to swing in for increasing power. Pyrewild Shaman seems great for this type of strategy, since it’s cheap to bloodrush and it provides a reasonably strong boost. It also seems like it works well with doublestrike, so look out for Aurelia decks that pack this guy and True Conviction or Silverblade Paladin. Things could get a little hairy!

DMZ Skylasher

Skylasher

It’s weird to think about, because it’s a bear, but I think Skylasher has a shot at being EDH relevant. It blocks blue fliers all day, will reliably hit the table when you cast it, and has flash. It’s not hard to leave up two mana without it seeming overly suspicious, and in a deck with a Voltron strategy it seems particularly strong. I’d personally find it amusing to equip this insect with Sword of Feast and Famine and Sword of War and Peace, to do a lot of basically unblockable damage; Rafiq comes to mind as being the likely general for this type of strategy.

DMZ Beck Call

Beck // Call

It’s always frustrating when a great card finds itself drawn into a third color. If you end up playing this in EDH, you’re probably playing it to take advantage of Beck, since it’s an (arguably) better Glimpse of Nature. It would probably be perfect in an Edric deck, maybe with Elf-ball themes to it, but it really gets dragged down by the Call half of the card. Still, it has potential to be ridiculously powerful, if you can find a more exciting general than Jenara to use with it.

DMZ Blast

Blast of Genius

I am a sucker for Izzet draw spells that also function as two-for-ones. Prophetic Bolt is the obvious predecessor of this card, but it also owes a good deal to Spellbound Dragon, another strong EDH card. I’m not saying this is the type of card that makes it into every deck, but it seems like it would be a Blast to run this in a Jhoira build, which would let you run a higher than usual curve.

DMZ Battleshaper

Boros Battleshaper

If only Basandra had both of these abilities, instead of just the one. Two things make me love this card and think it has a home in Commander. First, it triggers on each player’s combat step (and each combat step that player might have), which means it’s perfect for creating shenanigans. Second, it’s particularly tempting to pair this up with Ghostly Prison and friends, to make it so that the forced attack won’t be at you. If my Zedruu deck stays together, I’m going to make an exception to the fliers theme to give this guy a home.

DMZ Catch Release

Catch // Release

Zedruu is getting some toys! I don’t typically like Release style effects, but it does seem like this is a fairly balanced one. It’s like a super-Pox or a reverse Cataclysm, and it’s a nice callback to Razia’s Purification (a card I personally think is particularly unpleasant to play in EDH). Sure, most of the time you won’t have the nine mana to use both sides of the card at once, but both of them are costed fairly well for their effects and both are effects that you might want to pop off over the course of a game; usually there’s at least one trouble permanent of a random type you want off the board, and Release is fairly thorough in its reach.

DMZ Chant

Deadbridge Chant

It’s an enchantment that lets you repeatably either draw a card or put a creature on the battlefield during your upkeep. That seems fairly good! Unsurprisingly, the Golgari mythic works particularly well with Varolz, a strong BG graveyard-based general. Sure, it’s a little weak to graveyard hate, but it can also be made more powerful with graveyard pruning; cards like Withered Wretch and Relic of Progenitus seem like the type of cards that you can use to help shape the card you “randomly” hit with this powerful enchantment.

DMZ Exsanguin9

Debt to the Deathless

I personally don’t think EDH needed another Exsanguinate running around, but apparently Wizards disagreed. Since it’s not monoblack it misses out on the super-powerful monoblack mana engine, but it’s still capable of some truly heinous things. If this card is not powerful enough for you on its lonesome, try combining it with one of these other fun cards: Sanguine Bond, Wound Reflection, Exquisite Blood, Tainted Sigil, Vizkopa Guildmage, Rhox Faithmender. At least it gets less powerful the more people get knocked from the game.

DMZ Dragonshift

Dragonshift

Krenko makes exponential Goblin tokens, and Dragonshift gives a pretty solid overrun effect in a color combination not generally known for those abilities before this block. Sure, maybe it’s not 100% better than Teleportal for EDH, but there’s certainly no reason you can’t run both. Sadly there’s no great blue and red Goblin general, despite the long history of goblins in this color combination.

DMZ Gaze

Gaze of Granite

They turned Pernicious Deed into a spell and fixed the wording. In some ways this makes it a less powerful card, but realistically Pernicious Deed usually gets popped before you get to untap anyway. Still, it’s a very powerful sweeper that does a number on token decks and decks that like to clog up the board with random permanents. I’m excited to slot a copy into Glissa; sure it will eat all my artifacts, but I’ll get them back after it eats all their creatures as well.

DMZ Oriflame

Gruul War Chant

This card isn’t particularly amazing, but as a player who got into the game way back around Revised, it’s a strong nostalgia hit. Basically, they smashed together Orcish Oriflamme and Goblin War Drums, and the resulting card is a lot more powerful than either of those cards was before. I’d like to play this in a Borborygmos deck (either variant), because it makes it all the harder for you opponents to keep that guy from hitting them.

DMZ Legion's

Legion’s Initiative

Return to Ravnica block has provided Boros colors with now two amazing pieces of anti-wrath technology. Boros Charm is great at blocking most wrath effects, and now Legion’s Initiative gives you a way to dodge all of them, all the while tied to a relatively strong anthem effect. Luckily the exile clause makes it very difficult to go fully infinite with this card (maybe there’s some complicated way to do it in a five color deck using some of the spider-spawning tools), but it’s still a way to squeeze an extra attack out of Aurelia.

DMZ Master

Master of Cruelties

I am generally very opposed to playing cards in Commander that drop peoples’ life totals to unacceptably low levels. So I hate this dude. Still, my prejudices aside, it’s almost a certainty that the Master will see some EDH play.

DMZ ThiefDMZ terrible

Notion Thief

Almost two thousand words in and I’m only now commenting on a relevant Dimir card. That guild could have gotten some better tools in this set, that’s for sure, and if you don’t believe me take a look at their blue cipher rare, Trait Doctoring. It’s terrible! It would be bad even without the “until end of turn” clause, but that just makes it unplayable. Anyway, Notion Thief is generically good. A permanent Plagiarize seems like the type of thing worth playing, but the weak body and irrelevant creature type makes him otherwise unexciting.

DMZ Aid

Obzedat’s Aid

Reanimator strategies are generally fairly strong in Commander, and the ability to get back any type of permanent is a strong one. This isn’t a flashy card. It’s not a new effect for the colors or even for that specific guild, if Crime // Punishment is anything to go by. Throw it in with Unburial Rites for value, and frustrate the heck out of the player who just spent two turns trying to get your Sorin, Lord of Innistrad or Debtors’ Knell off the board.

DMZ Mana Drain

Plasm Capture

People tend to play fewer counterspells in EDH than in other formats, likely because they’re mostly one-for-one trades instead of offering a lot of value. Plasm Capture upends this, because not only is it a hard counterspell, but it offers you the ability to cast an extra card on your next turn. Still, it’s interesting to see that all it takes to unbreak Mana Drain is to add GG to its casting cost.

DMZ Mimic

Progenitor Mimic

Another unexciting but clearly excellent card, Progenitor Mimic seems like an absolutely brutal type of clone. So long as you can keep it alive you get a steady stream of value, similar to the options offered by Spitting Image and Stolen Identity. I’m thinking of retuning my Edric deck into more of a jujitsu theme, and strong copy effects like this will find a home there.

DMZ Ready Willing

Ready // Willing

I don’t really understand the flavor of this card. So, you get ready by untapping, sure, but why does it make you indestructible? And sure, I get that you’re willing, but that doesn’t mean you should be able to kill anything you tangle with and gain life while you’re doing it! I think there are a lot of split cards in this set whose name was chosen because it sounded cool more than because it fits the effect or flavor of the card-pairing itself, but it’s a small quibble. Ready // Willing is going to slot into my Ghave tokens deck. Token strategies tend to be weak to wrath effects and often have difficulty tangling with creatures above their weight class; this one card solves both of those problems.

DMZ Render

Render Silent

There are two ways to use this spell. The first way is to use it to shut down someone who is trying to interfere with your combo the turn you’re going off. Unless they can win the counter war, they’re just going to be locked out from keeping you off your victory condition. And that’s the nicer option. The other option is to use it to shut down your opponent on their key turn, preventing them from resolving any spells at all. If you have to run counters in Commander, you could certainly do worse than Render Silent and Plasm Capture.

DMZ Rot Farm

Rot Farm Skeleton

This is the type of card I find to be vaguely interesting for EDH purposes. I’m always a fan of Gravecrawlers and Bloodghasts, but it’s these slightly less powerful versions that seem to offer some promise. Rot Farm Skeleton is more on the Reassembling Skeleton and Veilborn Ghoul spectrum, but it’s interesting in its own ways since the mill effect works as an enabler for your dredging strategies. I wouldn’t necessarily run this card in a Jarad deck, but it seems perfect for a Varolz deck that happens to be running Jarad.

DMZ Sire

Sire of Insanity

Don’t be a dick.

DMZ Summoner

Trostani’s Summoner

I have a Trostani deck that runs Séance and some other similar effects to make tokens out of creature cards that you can then populate to get repeated value. Trostani’s Summoner comes with its own army, and gains you ten life every time you populate her. So… seems like a pretty good card for that type of strategy. I’d be less likely to run her in a more typical EDH list, but she does beg to be used with Doubling Season and Parallel Lives.

DMZ Flare

Zhur-Taa Ancient

I like playing with Keeper of Progenitus, so a less restricted version of this effect definitely seems strong to me. I think it’s interesting, though, that the Mana Flare is such a drawback that they feel comfortable making it have seven power for only five mana. Keeper of Progenitus only costs one less and it’s a 1/3. I’ll slot this in Adun Oakenshield with Flare, Heartbeat and the Keeper, and it will help me get to Warp the World that much faster.

DMZ Maze

Maze’s End

It’s fitting that we end with this card. Now, on the one hand it’s a less powerful Thawing Glaciers that really only works best in a five-color deck. But that’s not really a bad thing. It’s really good at color fixing, offers the potential for a (fairly easy to disrupt) victory condition, and it taps for mana if you’re doing something more important on any given turn. I look forward to putting a copy in my Child of Alara walls deck, and a second copy in the Horde of Notions deck currently working itself out of my brain and onto the drawing board.

So! That’s Dragon’s Maze in exhausting detail. Obviously, I skipped over a large number of cards, but frankly I don’t find them all that exciting for 99-card play. A lot of the uncommon split cards are overcosted to balance their versatility, and the rares are harder to fit into EDH decks due to their weird color pairings. Three of the five shards are represented and two of the five wedges, but there’s no plan to complete these cycles because this is the last set. It seems a little sloppy and arbitrary, and I’d rather they have added in five more of these splits than waste space on terrible cards like Possibilty Storm and Trait Doctoring.

Still, it should be a fun set to play and I am looking forward to the pre-release this upcoming weekend. I think I am going to try to play Golgari, since it’s a color combination I tend to draft when given the freedom that this block has generally not allowed. I would rather get paired with Orzhov than Gruul, but so long as I stick with Golgari as my base I should be working from a fairly solid foundation.

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