As I’ve mentioned previously, I made a ridiculous decision to buy an objet d’art with little practical application: the set of San Diego Comic Con black-foil planeswalkers from Magic Origins. Now, these cards don’t display particularly well on a shelf, unless you were to put them in front of the mirror, something that the packaging, while lovely, doesn’t do. Even if they would display well, that’s really not my jam. I like to play with my cards! And, frankly, Dana and I currently have plenty of randomly expensive cards that, while theoretically are on display in our apartment, are practically just gathering dust. That includes Dana’s promo [casthaven]Ugin, the Spirit Dragon[/casthaven], a card she could put in literally any Commander deck she runs. For us, at least, putting these cards on display is a waste.

The card does not look better in a top-loader covered in dust.


Thus, I decided to pull the trigger on turning these silly semi-planeswalkers into commanders for some of my monocolored decks. The first two were the easiest to adapt. [casthaven]Kytheon, Hero of Akros[/casthaven] easily slotted into my tribal humans deck, a deck that’s bounced between a number of commanders because the deck generally stands on its own. [casthaven]Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy[/casthaven] was also a surprisingly easy update. He ended up taking over for [casthaven]Teferi, Temporal Archmage[/casthaven], which was a good thing; having two completely brutal monoblue decks seemed a bit excessive, even for me. I kept Teferi in the 99, but not having access to the planeswalker at will meant I was less likely to instantly win when I drew [casthaven]The Chain Veil[/casthaven], an issue that plagued the deck from the start.


An unanticipated problem was how permanent heavy Teferi’s deck had been. I hadn’t realized the prime benefit to Jace, Vryn’s Adept was his flashback ability. Things to change for next time, I suppose.


I mean, not running it didn’t feel like an option… if you can’t play that card in a planeswalker-commanded deck, where can you play it?


So flavorful, and yet it’s never really found its niche.


Anyway, a few modifications later and we were off to the races. Dana, my almost-ever-willing partner, took up Kytheon’s journey, while I helmed Jace’s educational efforts. We were both determined to flip our planeswalkers. Only one of us succeeded.


Dana was on the play, and she started strong by playing out [casthaven]Kytheon, Hero of Akros[/casthaven] on turn one. That is basically always going to be the deck’s first play of the game, barring some confluence of enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands. She even got a few swings in, since I did nothing on turn one, and I played out [casthaven]Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy[/casthaven] turn two. Even if I had been willing to trade Jace for Kytheon, which I wasn’t, that willingness evaporated in light of the three lands she had untapped, proving once again the importance of proper sequencing in Commander. She dropped another creature, bringing her count up to two, having taken the second turn off to get the advantages of [casthaven]New Benalia[/casthaven]. It looked like I was in trouble.


The dual scrylands really bumped up my opinion of this card.


Side note: I think Magic Origins would have been the perfect set to round out the monocolored scrylands without giving white an advantage, since you could reprint New Benalia without it seeming totally out of place. Now that scry’s an evergreen mechanic, there’s the chance that cycle gets completed in almost any set, but the name does create some complications. If they do give us more mono scrylands in the future, there’s a strong possibility they’ll be functional reprints, and that would leave monowhite ahead of the pack once again.


Printed once in a set, and then three more times in promotional products. This card is too good to ever see Standard or Modern play again… but imagine a world with MUD decks in Modern!


My turn three was spent looting into a [casthaven]Thran Dynamo[/casthaven], which I played. Dana untapped, smacked me again, and then committed a [casthaven]Ranger of Eos[/casthaven] to the board, getting [casthaven]Weathered Wayfarer[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Mikaeus, the Lunarch[/casthaven]. Things were looking dire for our hero!


That monowhite deck runs a pretty sick Ranger of Eos package.


I untapped, and with a fairly sheepish look on my face, I played out [casthaven]Scourge of Fleets[/casthaven], wrecking her board.


This is yet another chance to point out how ridiculous it is that Gatherer only has *some* of the promo Magic cards ever printed.


Dana was clearly annoyed by this, and mana screwed, but she did what she could to recommit. She dropped Kytheon, [casthaven]Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Mikaeus, the Lunarch[/casthaven] (which was a cute little combo), but she had no means of giving them haste, so she passed the turn. I untapped, flipped [casthaven]Jace, Telepath Unbound[/casthaven], and then shrank Kytheon. I also played [casthaven]Talent of the Telepath[/casthaven] against her, which was pretty stupid given the creature-heavy nature of her deck, and had the infuriating side effect of milling six valuable lands off the top of her library. She untapped and replayed [casthaven]Ranger of Eos[/casthaven], getting [casthaven]Spurnmage Advocate[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Mother of Runes[/casthaven], but she was still missing her land drops, and attacking into the leviathan would have been a bad play, so she passed the turn.


The unexpected all-star of Dana’s game.


I was flooding out, and she was mana screwed, so it seemed like a good time to play out [casthaven]Well of Ideas[/casthaven]. This let her commit a little more to the board, although there were still no good attacks, and it let me attempt, and fail, to draw more action. It wasn’t that I was drawing bad cards, it was just that what I was drawing tended to be more multiplayer-themed. Then I ripped [casthaven]Rite of Replication[/casthaven], and with another sheepish grin I made another [casthaven]Scourge of Fleets[/casthaven]. Again, Dana lost her board.


I wonder if we’ll see any more kicker cards now that we’re heading back to Zendikar. My guess, based on the duel decks, would be no.


Only then did I start to attack. That had probably been a little conservative of me, to hold off for so long before trundling in, but I was really interested in ultimating Jace as my victory condition. Unfortunately, this caused me to miss the play that could have saved my life.


One of my favorite “No Lands” victory conditions involves rezzing this off Dread Return and Narcomoebas, and then getting back Azami, Lady of Scrolls and Laboratory Maniac.


See, Dana recommitted hard to the board, dropping [casthaven]Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit[/casthaven] and then firing off a stream of cheap creatures. I under-estimated her horde. I had been so focused ticking up Jace that I failed to notice when she dropped an [casthaven]Angel of Glory’s Rise[/casthaven] into her graveyard. With Anafenza on the battlefield, she kicked [casthaven]Marshal’s Anthem[/casthaven], and resurrected her whole board. Counters went everywhere, though I was lulled into complacency by the relative smallness of the army I was facing down.


When this was first printed, I thought it was like the coolest thing ever, and I shoved it into any Limited deck that saw it. My fervor on this front has not cooled.


And then I made my fatal error. Instead of giving [casthaven]Rite of Replication[/casthaven] flashback, I ultimated Jace, thinking I could survive a hit given my two blockers. I was wrong. Dana untapped and dropped [casthaven]Elite Scaleguard[/casthaven]. She had well more than two attackers with +1/+1 counters on them, so I died to exactsies. I had been at 34 life.


This card is shockingly good in Commander. I’m currently running it in three different decks: Ghave, Guru of Spores, Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, and, of course, Kytheon.


Thus, [casthaven]Kytheon, Hero of Akros[/casthaven] prevails in game one of the tournament of new planeswalkers. If all goes well, next week will see [casthaven]Nissa, Vastwood Seer[/casthaven] face off against [casthaven]Liliana, Heretical Healer[/casthaven]. The winner of that round will play Kytheon, and the winner of that match just wins!


As for why I’m only including four decks in my impromptu tournament, well… I just don’t have much interest in building a deck around [casthaven]Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh[/casthaven]. Her ability is strong enough for the 99, but a little too weak to justify running her as a commander, especially when to do so would require pushing out [casthaven]Krenko, Mob Boss[/casthaven] or [casthaven]Daretti, Scrap Savant[/casthaven]. I don’t need three monored Commander decks, after all. As is, she’ll be seeing plenty of play in my [casthaven]Alesha, Who Smiles at Death[/casthaven] deck and my [casthaven]Tymaret, the Murder King[/casthaven] deck, and while I contemplated playing those two against each other, and then giving the winner a bye next round, it seemed like the cleanest way to do this would involve staying focused on the four planeswalkers who seemed strong enough to anchor a theme.


So tune in next week, for another exciting installment in the Tournament of Neophytes!


Jess Stirba is planning to play in Eternal Weekend this upcoming… weekend.

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