Review: 'Commander 2017: Arcane Wizardry' (MTG)

Review: 'Commander 2017: Arcane Wizardry' (MTG) WOTC / YONGIAE CHOI

Magic: The Gathering has gone tribal with its Commander 2017 preconstructed EDH decks with each of the four decks having their own creature type focused themes -- Cats, Dragons, Vampires, and Wizards.

If you're a Magic player who likes high offense and smash-mouth combat, then the Arcane Wizardry Commander 2017 deck is not the deck for you.  If you're the type of player who likes to have a little more finesse in their game and have a few tricks up your sleeves, then this is exactly the type of Commander deck that you should be considering.  Were this deck to have a different name, it would go by Johnny.

Inalla, Archmage Ritualist is the face of this deck.  Her Eminence ability might be the one that can be most easily abused.  For an ultra-affordable one generic mana, she can duplicate any wizard entering the battlefield.  Think of it almost like an ETB Splinter Twin sort of an effect.  While there are only so many wizards that care about ETB mechanics (ie: Snapcaster Mage), there are many supplemental cards that do.  And there are many wizard creature abilities that care about tapping -- a duty that can now be delegated to the temporary copy.  After market, she can even make infinite free turns with Wanderwine Prophet (assuming you can get the damage in).  Her second ability, which lets players tap five wizards to make a player lose seven life, is a nice bit of offense in a deck that doesn't have much but it's so overshadowed by her Eminence ability that it's largely forgettable.  Inalla could have only had her Eminence text and we'd still think she makes an awesome wizards commander.

Beyond Inalla, Arcane Wizardry has three other legendary creatures.  First up is Taigam, Sidisi's Hand (Yes, there are two different Taigam cards in Commander 2017 -- one from each of Tarkir's timelines).  This version of Taigam is probably the better one thanks to the fact that despite making you skip your draw step, he lets you choose the best available from the top three cards in your library instead.  He is also a good graveyard enabler with an ability that takes advantage of it built right in.  The next we'd like to highlight is Mairsil, the Pretender of The Dark fame.  A 4/4 for 1UBR, he is a very open ended card with myriad possibilities.  Mairsil is also a huge flavor win seeing as he literally imprisoned Lord Ith in a quicksilver cage, usurping his power and stealing his magic.

The final new legendary is Kess, Dissident Mage and she is worth taking special note of.  She's her own type of Snapcaster and she is very good.  She doesn't give cards in your graveyard Flashback, which is its own ability, but she does let you cast them normally.  This means that add-ons like Buyback and Kicker or replacement costs such as Overload or a pitch spell.  She is a very fun commander and a very fun legendary creature in general.  Kess might also see some consideration in Legacy, so it will be neat to see what sorts of new brews get made around or including her.

Looking beyond the legendaries, there are a handful of cards in the factory Arcane Wizardry deck worth singling out.  One such card is Magus of the Mind, which is a more-or-less walking Mind's Desire.  While it's a slower card than the one that inspired it, there are some benefits for it being a creature due to reanimation purposes.  There is also Galecaster Colossus, which is like a walking Cyclonic Rift (albeit in slow motion).  Of course, unlike Cyclonic Rift, the Colossus is able to bounce opponent-controlled permanents over and over again.  Also included is Bloodline Necromancer -- a card that also exists in the Vampiric Bloodlust deck -- and it fits very well in the wizards deck.  When combined with Inalla, it becomes a very strong two-for-one.  Finally, the new goblin wizard Izzet Chemister.  It's an interesting card that lets players cheat instant and sorcery cards (probably high casting cost ones) into play.  It's a little slow on tempo, but it has some possibilities.

A new Magic card that Commander 2017 introduces into the game via the Arcane Wizardry deck is Shifting Shadow.  It is an extremely interesting polymorph card and it may be better off in its own brews than in a factory-made pre-constructed deck, but that doesn't make it any less appealing.  Shifting Shadow would be best in a deck built around it and works extremely well with indestructible or regenerating creatures and can let you easily cheat out something like a Blightsteel Colossus or one of the Eldrazi titans.

And for those who like board wipes, Arcane Wizardry has one that fits perfectly into tribal theme decks.  While rather expensive to cast at 5BB, Kindred Dominance could very well not only save your butt but it could instantly (well, at sorcery speed) tip the scales heavily in your favor because it destroys all creatures except for the creature type you specify.  Playing wizards?  Name wizards and everything else is gone.  Playing vampires?  Same thing.  Furthermore, once a creature type is named players can't somehow change their creatures' types to the chosen type or otherwise try to save them because by the time that happens the ball is already rolling.

Of course, what good is a control-leaning deck without some tried-and-true control cards?  Thankfully, there is a nice selection of reprints that are included in Arcade Wizardry that players should be well acquainted with.  For on-the-board control, players have cards such as Go For The Throat, Into the Roil, and (if needed) Decree of Pain. Nevinyrral's Disk, the game's original "reset button", is also included.  While there is a nice selection of board control options, counter magic is sadly lacking in a deck focused around wizards and their wizarding ways.  The only counter spell in the entire deck is the multi-mode Silumgar's Command.  WotC should have put in at least a couple more.  Ixidor's Will would have been a perfect fit.  It's almost like WotC wants Magic to be more than a one player game.

Arcane Wizardry isn't a deck that is going to start running full speed out of the gates.  It's going to take some time to get going, which is why it's a little surprising there isn't more counter magic in the deck -- even the lackluster cheap ones like Force Spike.  Thankfully, the spot removal that's included isn't half bad and the three board wipes on the deck list help to level the playing field when (not if) things get out of hand in the latter half of the game.  Still, there are a lot of possibilities for this deck and more patient, less aggressive players will probably really enjoy it right out of the box.

The Magic: The Gathering Commander 2017 deck Arcane Wizardry is available now and retails at $34.99.

If you want to see the Commander 2017 decks in action, check out our highlights video from the recent preview battle royale match we held at a LGS in Las Vegas.

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