Review: 'Commander 2018: Subjective Reality' (MTG)

Review: 'Commander 2018: Subjective Reality' (MTG) WOTC / SEB MCKINNON

Magic: The Gathering takes a slightly different approach with its Commander 2018 preconstructed EDH decks compared to recent years.  How does each deck come across right out of the box?  Well, as far as Subjective Reality goes, it's pretty fun.

The Deck:

With Subjective Reality, it's all about what's the top card of your deck.  Players who like manipulating their hand and library and pulling shenanigans from seemingly out of nowhere should find this deck and its featured commander, the planeswalker Aminatou, the Fateshifter quite entertaining to play.

Animatou is a scary-looking 8-year-old child with abilities that can be just as frightening.  She is very affordable to cast a WRB and her +1 ability acts as a miniature Brainstorm allowing you to draw one card then put any one card back on top of your library from your hand.  For -1, her second ability blinks permanents that you own.  That's own, mind you, and not control.  It's quite useful beyond just blinking for enter the battlefield abilities because if one of your permanents get stolen by another player because that means you get it back.  Her final ability plays right into the second one but can be quite chaotic on its own.  Almost like something out of an Un-set, Aminatou lets you literally shift the entire game board one player to either the right or the left.  Let mayhem ensue.

Subjective Reality has a handful of new creatures worth mentioning highlighted by Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow, creature costing 1UB that can be brought into play from the command zone via her handy Ninjitsu variation.  Allowing you to cheat past any commander taxes, she can sneak her way into combat for a very affordable UB.  Then, if she or any other ninja you control deals combat damage to a player, youget to reveal the top card of your library and put that card into your hand.  Not only that, each opponent then loses life equal to that card's converted mana cost.  With the top-of-the-deck stacking this deck is able to do, you can do quite a bit of harm with her.

Other newly-printed creatures worth a mention include a new magus in Magus of the Balance, Varina, Litch Queen, and Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign.  Like the rest of the magus cards (ie: Magus of the Arena, Magus of the Bazaar), Magus of the Balance is a walking Balance that can fire off the spell it takes its name and inspiration from for a less-than-affordable 4W.  Varina is one of the alternate commanders included in the deck and is probably better off in a zombie tribal deck but does allow for some interesting card draw and graveyard filling opportunities.  Yennett makes much more sense for inclusion in Subjective Reality by interacting with the top card of the deck.  Whenever she attacks, you reveal the card of your library and can play it for free if its converted mana cost is odd.  If it's not, you get to draw it.  Really, it's a win-win with Yennett.

Moving on from the deck's new creatures and looking at its new spells, there are a couple of new tricks at the player's disposal.  Aminatou's Augury is a card that is open to many possibilities.  While it's rather pricey at 6UU, you get a lot for your investment as you get access to the top eight cards of your deck, get a free land drop (assuming you exile a land), then can cast one card of each type -- creature, artifact, sorcery, etc. -- for free.  With Subjective Reality's deck stacking abilities, this card can be played into rather well. Entreat the Dead is a miracle card just like the also-included Entreat the Angels and yields a similar result, though instead of 4/4 angels you get to return creature cards from your graveyard directly into the battlefield.  Skull Storm is a cool board control card that benefits you for having to re-play your commander over the course of the game.  The card costs even more to cast than Aminatou's Augury at 7BB and really isn't worth it unless your commander has come and gone a few times, but if it hits big enough it will hit hard.

Subjective Reality runs few non-creature artifacts - just eight - and none are new.  It does, however, boast the EDH-strong Geode Golem.  The Golem, a 5/3 trampler for five generic mana, lets you cheat in your commander whenever it deals combat damage to a player.  You're still on the hook for commander tax and any other additional costs, but it's a nice ability for the format regardless.

For as few artifacts the deck runs, it runs even fewer enchantments - three.  One of those, however, is new.  The card, Primordial Mist, features the manifest mechanic that debuted in Fate Reforged.  Again, focusing on the top card of the library, the enchantment creates 2/2 manifest creatures.  It goes a step further, however, as it gives you a way to get around the mechanic's limitation disallowing non-creature cards from being turned over and used.  It's a good way of extending your hand even if it does open the face-down cards to removal.  Even still, the enchantment seems to be begging for somebody to find a way to break it.

On the topic of reprints, Subjective Reality has some rather notable ones in the lower rarities.  Four cards that provide for card advantage - Brainstorm, Ponder, Portent, and Predict - really stand out as they are useful not only within the deck, but in Modern and Legacy as well.  The deck also has some nice removal reprints as well.  For spot removal, players are given Mortify, Return to Dust, and Utter End.  All three spells are useful in their own right.  For board wipes, players the option of cycling spell Akroma's Vengeance as well as the miracle Terminus.

Several EDH staples return in this deck as well.  This includes not only the expected and appreciated Sol Ring and Command Tower, but also Commander's Sphere.

Land base has been a weakness for the Commander 2018 decks and, unfortunately, it's an issue with Subjective Reality as well.  The deck does boast two fairly good new colorless non-basic lands in the commander-focused Forge of Heroes and mana screw insurance policy Isolated Watchtower.  The rest of the lands, however, leave much to be desired.  Color fixing is weak with the deck boasting the likes of Forsaken Sanctuary, Jwar Isle Refuge, and Azorius Chancery.  The mono-colored non-basics are fairly pedestrian as well, though having Halimar Depths is quite nice.

On paper, Subjective Reality stands out a bit more than its counterparts in Commander 2018.   In practice, the deck plays fairly well out of the box even if we don't agree with all of the card choices.  The decision for WotC to include some recursion is nice, too, as you will likely find yourself with more cards in your graveyard than the other three decks this year.  Looking long term, this may be the deck to buy if you can only afford one.

The Value:

Of the Commander 2018 decks, Subjective Reality has the highest yield as far as a financial return on investment.  The featured Aminatou, The Fateshifter lists at $8, but it isn't the highest priced single in the deck.  That honor goes to Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow ($17).  In fact, Yuriko is the highest priced singe in the entire Commander 2018 set and the only card to be priced in the double-digits thus far.  Other cards that have good value outside of the box include Entreat the Dead ($3.50), Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign ($3.25), Sol Ring ($3), and Varina, Lich Queen ($3).  A handful of others such as Magus of the Balance, Isolated Watchtower, Ponder, and Terminus are worth somewhere between $3 and a buck.  Most of the rest, as can be expected are either inexpensive-yet-useful commons and uncommons or just plain bulk.

The Magic: The Gathering Commander 2018 deck Subjective Reality is available now and retails at $39.99.

For An Extra Ten Bucks:

If you want to upgrade Subjective Reality a tad without spending too much money, you might want to start with improving the land base a tad.  The pain lands Underground River ($4), Adarkar Wastes ($5), and Caves of Koilos ($1) are all good options.  So are the scry lands from the Theros block ($2-3 each) when you consider the asking price.  Other budget-friendly additions you may want to consider include the blinking Brago, King Eternal ($1.50), Augury Adept (60¢), Future Sight (50¢), and Mystical Tutor ($4).

Bonus Coverage:

If you want to see the Commander 2018 decks in action, check out this special video presentation from the recent preview battle royale match we held at a LGS in Las Vegas.

Wizards of the Coast provided the Subjective Reality deck used in this review.

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