I made a ridiculous purchasing decision the other day. I wanted to use “indefensible” there, but that’s probably being too hard on myself; I plan on defending my decision at length, after all. Still, it’s a rare day that I buy a product as premium as the San Diego Comic Con black foil planeswalkers. Unprecedented, even.


I bought them for a couple of reasons. First, and foremost, I think they’re gorgeous foils. I wish Magic made more premium foils like these, and I wish they weren’t so goddamn hard to acquire as a result of their rarity. Everyone should get a chance for a black foil here and there.

I haven't read her backstory yet, but I still think it's weird that she's white.

I haven’t read her backstory yet, but I still think it’s weird that she’s white.

Side note: here’s how you do that. Going forward, every pack contains a foil slot, like Modern Masters has done. Guaranteed foil in every pack. Then, make a sheet of only rares and mythics, which you then print out in black foil. To put all cards on that sheet would really up the chance of a negative experience, and you want everyone to have a positive reaction when they pull one of these things. Plus, that’s a lot of extra work, since these have different highlights than typical foils. Finally, you set the rarity so that you’re averaging between one and two black foils per box. You don’t want to make them too common, but people need to crack them to enjoy them. The secondary market will do the rest of the work, although this would up the EV of a box of cards going forward… if only a little bit.


Still, they’ve always been pretty before, and now’s the first time I bought in. What’s the next reason? They’re commanders! The weird double-sided aspect to the cards means that these are creatures you can make your commander, that are also planeswalkers when the conditions are triggered. Now, they’re not particularly good commanders, but this is still the first opportunity to get a black foil commander (to my knowledge), and on top of that they’re black foiled on both sides. So, that’s a lot of shiny to be rocking at the Commander table.


Finally, these cards may not be particularly powerful, but they’re still interesting to play with, and I don’t have one of each yet. Since I was planning on spending money on them eventually, and since their price curve is going to go down over time, spending that money on normal versions seemed like a waste. Buying into the SDCC promos, on the other hand, is about as cheap now as it will ever be. I don’t care all that much about my cards retaining value over time, since I have no plans to ever cash out of this addictive game, but I’ve been trying to get better about overpaying for cards in my dotage. Gone are the days when I was willing to drop $15 on a single Ob Nixilis because I wanted it now.

I'm not currently playing Standard and this guy isn't good enough for Legacy; Commander's where I get to try him out!

I’m not currently playing Standard and this guy isn’t good enough for Legacy; Commander’s where I get to try him out!

I’ve also proven to be incredibly reluctant to pull the trigger on individual expensive foil cards, like that $70 foil Scion of the ur-Dragon I’ve had my eye on for years. For some reason I’m willing to pay for sets like this or From the Vault, but pricey singles invariably fall out of my cart in the period of reflection I make sure to take right before I pull the trigger.


Side note: always spend some time reflecting before you purchase cards. You may remember things you had forgotten to add to the cart, or you may determine some things aren’t worth the price right now. Either way, if you can avoid an extra $5 shipping fee at least once, you’ve made up for your temporary bout of indecision.

Between this and the sword, they really tried to improve her for the Commander set. Still wish she didn't animate lands though.

Between this and the sword, they really tried to improve her for the Commander set. Still wish she didn’t animate lands though.

Of them, Nissa, Vastwood Seer seems the best commander option. Monogreen has a lot of choices, but most of the popular ones tend to be very aggressive. Omnath, Locus of Mana and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa are strong options on that front, as is Ezuri, Renegade Leader, if you’re going tribal. Legendary green card advantage engines, on the other hand, are much rarer. Nissa is basically just competing with Reki, the History of Kamigawa, and he requires tribal synergies around legendary permanents, which is very specific. There’s also Yisan, the Wanderer Bard, but he’s a lot slower than Nissa, and her abilities can hit more powerful synergies from the start.


Liliana, Heretical Healer seems like the next strongest commander. While I’m not a huge fan of discard, I have thought about playing Liliana of the Veil in commander before, but her ultimate is mean and that ability draws a fair bit of aggro. Liliana, Defiant Necromancer does a much better job of protecting herself, and she has specific synergies that lend a monoblack deck some focus. I mean, that focus isn’t in a particularly novel direction, but she’s still very cool.

And no half-naked Steve Argyle art! Hooray! The most powerful woman in the multiverse is not reduced to a sex object again!

And no half-naked Steve Argyle art! Hooray! The most powerful woman in the multiverse is not reduced to a sex object again!

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy seems like he’s an enabler of turbofog strategies in Commander. Unfortunately, he’s not necessarily better than Kami of the Crescent Moon. He’s not necessarily worse, though; it depends a lot on how you build the deck. Still, having access to a turn two looter every game seems solid, even if he becomes increasingly unable to do that effectively as the game continues on. I’ll say this, though: if I get another copy, he’s going into Azami, Lady of Scrolls very quickly.


Neither Kytheon, Hero of Akros or Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh offer the same degree of focus. Kytheon’s not a bad commander, per se, but he’s an oddly aggressive one. He does a fair bit of self-protection, which is nice, but when he flips he doesn’t have particularly high-impact abilities. Certainly there’s no theme that he supports, other than generic white weenie.

Still counts as commander damage whether it's Gideon or Kytheon who's doing the beating, if you were curious.

Still counts as commander damage whether it’s Gideon or Kytheon who’s doing the beating, if you were curious.

Chandra is similarly underwhelming. Like Jace and Liliana, Chandra’s emblem isn’t game ending, so you don’t have to worry all that much if your opponent’s Chandra is getting close to ultimate range. It’s not great to get tagged with that thing, that’s for sure, but you can still beat a Chandra while under the influence of one of her emblems. The real issue is that two damage isn’t all that much in Commander. Sure, she can pick off utility cards, but she gets to do that once before you have to plus her again; that ability is very expensive given the benefit it offers. And her plus one ability, two damage to a player, is somewhat irrelevant in a 40-life format. Maybe if it counted towards commander damage… but it doesn’t. A deck built around her would probably involve a lot of fire, and those strategies get old pretty fast in Commander.


I don’t regret this purchase, although I am still overwhelmed by it. I will be putting all these cards into decks, most at the top of them. They are pretty, and I’m glad Wizards of the Coast has made them… although I really think the SDCC tie-in aspect of their distribution is utterly, and irredeemably, flawed.


Jess Stirba is doing alright for herself at the moment.

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