Commander 2019 Set Review - Mystic Intellect
(Backdraft Hellkite l Art by Rudy Siswanto)
Jes the Guy for the Job
Everyone, hello! Welcome to the Commander 2019 Jeskai review! As "The Jesguy," I've been waiting for a Jeskai deck for years, and here we finally have it! We have an entire Jeskai precon deck at our disposal, and it focuses on one of the coolest mechanics ever made: Flashback! This deck is chock full of fun and interesting cards, sure to excite spellslingers and Jeskai enthusiasts alike.
I can barely contain my excitement, so let's get into it before I hyperventilate.
Sevinne, the Chronoclasm
Here we have it! The face legend for the Mystic Intellect deck, Sevinne, the Chronoclasm! A 2/2 for five mana may not seem that great, but Sevinne is a really interesting commander, especially in Jeskai colors. His first ability allows us to jam in as many red damage-based sweepers as we want without having to worry about killing him. Blasphemous Act, Chain Reaction, and Earthquake are the kind of spells I'm thinking about here. Sevinne's damage prevention ability also allows him to block with impunity, giving your opponents no reason to swing at you with their creature unless it has trample. Better yet, think how well his ability interacts with effects like Pariah!
Damage prevention is great and all, but Sevinne's second ability is where things get nutty. If my math is correct, there are 88 legal cards with a named mechanic (Flashback, Jump-Start, Retrace, and Aftermath) that can be cast from your graveyard and trigger Sevinne's doubling effect. That doesn't even include cards like Finale of Promise, Snapcaster Mage, or Mission Briefing, which can cast and copy any instant or sorcery from the yard!
Sevinne allows Jeskai to move into a more controlling build, grinding out games with value spells and the ability to double game-ending spells like Devil's Play, Increasing Confusion, and (in some builds) Increasing Devotion or Call the Skybreaker. Keep in mind, though, that even with these spells, it may be useful to have another win condition in the deck, since these games will hopefully be a slower and more drawn out. Something like Jaya's Immolating Inferno or Storm Herd will do. Increasing Vengeance or Refuse//Cooperate are great for copying those big game-ending spells to give you a bit more reach.
Having a fun spellslinger commander that carves out its own role from Narset, Enlightened Master, Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest, and even the brand-new Kykar, Wind's Fury feels wonderful. Copying spells is always a blast, so don't be afraid to double or even triple up on the copying effects in Sevinne's deck. Take a page out of this chronomancer's spellbook: repetition is key.
Repetition is key...
Repetition is key...
Pramikon, Sky Rampart
Now here is the commander that I'm most excited to build around! Pramikon, Sky Rampart has an effect seen on only one other card: Mystic Barrier. It literally changes the direction of combat! In fact, if you have multiple opponents and both Pramikon and Mystic Barrier are in play, each choosing a different direction, no one can attack at all! While it may at first seem cute or a bit janky, I think Pramikon is one of the more solid legends to come out of Commander 2019.
Unlike Sevinne, who carves out a controlling Spellslinger strategy, Pramikon facilitates slower, methodical gameplay and even slower builds. By directing the most threatening player away from you, you have time to set up and start whatever shenanigans you're interested in.
- Want to play Jeskai control? Play Pramikon! It won't die to your board wipes if you include cards along the lines of (Retribution of the Meek, Dusk//Dawn, and Anger of the Gods). It is also a relevant blocker, directing aggression elsewhere.
- How about combo decks? Splinter Twin and Pestermite seem pretty strong. Or maybe you're more of an Aurelia, the Warleader and Brago, King Eternal kind of person? Perhaps you played in Kaladesh Standard and want to relive Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian combo? No matter how you want to go infinite, Pramikon will guard you.
- Sure, you could have played a Planeswalker deck with Narset, Enlightened Master before, but you would have never had the chance to get any on board before you were knocked out of the table. Pramikon once again comes to the rescue. Planeswalker decks are already quite strong once they are able to get going (see Atraxa, Praetor's Voice for that), and once we get extra time thanks to Pramikon, we will be able to snowball out of control quickly, especially with planeswalkers like Chandra, Awakened Inferno, Elspeth, Sun's Champion, and both Will Kenrith and Rowan Kenrith at our disposal.
- Ever wanted to play a Blink deck in Jeskai colors? Yeah, me too. For six years. Well, we finally have a Jeskai commander with a relevant enter-the-battlefield effect! One of Pramikon's weaknesses is that once one player is killed off, you become an available target to the scariest opponent at the table. By building a blink shell around our Wall-mander, we can have as much fun with Cloudblazer and Purphoros, God of the Forge as we want, while also being able to mitigate Pramikon's biggest weakness by blinking it and switching the direction of combat in our favor as necessary. This is my preferred build path, and I'll be building it as soon as possible.
Now, one could (validly) argue that none of these strategies should be getting a tool like The Sky Rampart to help facilitate them. However, if there is one thing I value about a commander, it's how wide open they are for brewing, and our friend Pramikon is chock full of potential. I say Pramikon will be oodles of fun!
Elsha of the Infinite
For as many reasons as I am excited for Pramikon, I am feeling let down by Elsha. She is by no means bad; in fact, she is quite good! She's basically a more balanced Narset, Enlightened Master, which is fantastic for people like me who hesitate to play Narset at more casual tables. My only real gripe is that Elsha, unlike Sevinne or Pramikon, doesn't carve out any niche space of her own. You can basically swap out an already-built Narset deck for her, and not much would change, aside from the fact that you're playing a more interactive commander.
None of that is to say that Elsha isn't fun or interesting. While you need to jump through a few hoops, there is a potential Aura or Equipment deck that she can helm, while also being another decent spellslinger commander. Another option for her is as a combo commander, allowing you to draw your deck with Kykar, Wind's Fury and Sensei's Divining Top, and winning with Laboratory Maniac or Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. No matter the build, cards like the aforementioned Sensei's Divining Top, Soothsaying and Scroll Rack are must-haves for this deck. Topdeck manipulation is very important for Elsha.
However, my first deck with her will be utilizing her as a Sunforger commander.
Sunforger provides quite a few boons to Elsha. With Sunforger equipped, she can take down opponents in three hits. If you have to unequip it, Prowess will still pump her with the spell(s) Sunforger casts. Additionally, she will act like an Experimental Frenzy, which will help maintain card advantage into the late game. Being able to cast spells off the top of your library gives you a bit more reach that other Sunforger variants struggle with. Being in Jeskai also gives us access to a plethora of hard counterspells, such as Absorb, Counterflux, and Dovin's Veto.
Overall, while Elsha may not add anything new to Jeskai as a color combination, she does refine some issues that Narset, Enlightened Master poses, and she provides impressive depth if you're willing to work for it.
Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero
The final new legendary creature from the Jeskai deck is the one and only Weatherlight Hero himself, Gerrard Capashen! Gerrard is a very unique Boros commander. While he doesn't look blatantly powerful, he can be decently strong when built around properly, like a Faith's Reward on a stick. What makes him so interesting is the way Gerrard's ability is worded. Unlike Elenda, the Dusk Rose, or Roalesk, Apex Hybrid, who must go to the graveyard and stay there to receive their death triggers, Gerrard's ability allows you to exile him after he dies, triggering his ability and allowing you to put him back into the command zone.
One of the more common strategies popping up is a combo build. Comboing like this is not my forte, so I will be referencing a fantastic article written by Kristen Gregory from Hipsters of the Coast for the synergies I talk about here. Gerrard can help facilitate "Eggs" strategies in decks that include red and white, whether they are Boros or four-color like Breya, Etherium Shaper. Eggs are combo decks that cycle zero- to one-mana artifacts (such as Lotus Petal or Mishra's Bauble) for incremental value, and close out game with cards like Reckless Fireweaver or Disciple of the Vault.
Another combo option is a lock involving Gerrard, Adarkar Valkyrie, Oblivion Stone/Nevinyrral's Disk, and a haste enabler such as Urabrask, the Hidden. Use the Valkyrie's ability on Gerrard, so he'll return to the battlefield when he dies. Then wipe the board with your artifact. Gerrard will trigger, as will the Valkyrie's ability. Luckily, you can actually move Gerrard to a new zone, out of the graveyard, before his ability resolves, and you'll still get the rest of his effect, returning all your other recently-dead permanents to play along with him! If you have a haste enabler, the Valkyrie will be able to tap once again to put her protection on Gerrard, allowing you to clear the board again whenever you get the chance! While four different cards may sound like a lot to ask for, this combination of cards can lock opponents out of the game if they don't have the removal to break it up, since it will allow you to clear the board over and over every chance you have.
If you choose to forgo the combo route, the next option is the Shivam Bhatt special: a creature-based beatdown deck! This kind of deck is simple and straightforward. Having Gerrard in play allows you to be a bit more aggressive, committing more to the battlefield without having to worry about the usual consequences like Wrath of God effects. That being said, be wary of removal like Swords to Plowshares, Evacuation or Merciless Eviction when playing this kind of deck, as they still have the ability to blow you out. This kind of deck will enjoy cards like Sun Titan, Ashnod's Altar, and Bomat Courier - essentially anything that will allow you to accrue value over time while also being aggressive. Welcome aboard, Gerrard.
Let's now move onto the nine other original cards that appear exclusively in the Mystic Intellect deck! (There will be a review later this week to discuss new cards that appear in multiple decks.)
Backdraft Hellkite is a really cool card. One of the downsides to Past in Flames is that it costs a decent chunk of mana to gain access to the cards in your graveyard, which can get in the way of casting those cards. Backdraft Hellkite is a more fragile version of Past in Flames, but the turn it attacks (which will presumably be the turn after you cast it) it will allow you to use all of the mana at your disposal!
It may be a bit too fragile or slow to run in a really tuned Storm deck, but Dragon decks should still be able to get quite a bit of use out of Hellkite. On average, instants and sorceries make up 10% of The Ur-Dragon decks, 17% of Scion of the Ur-Dragon decks, and 11% of Lathliss, Dragon Queen decks. These spells also usually end up being some form of ramp, draw, or removal, which is quite a lot of incidental versatility for the Hellkite to be able to provide. Even if you choose not to play a Dragon tribal or spellslinger deck, Backdraft Hellkite can provide a plethora of utility as long as your deck has the ability to support it.
Hailed by some as the best card in all of Commander 2019, Dockside Extortionist enters the format with the distinction of being the best-dressed Goblin in all of Magic.
There isn't much to say about this little fellow that hasn't already been said. He's quite strong, especially in a format where two- and three-mana rocks like Signets and Commander's Spheres play an important role in any deck without green. Even if each opponent only has one artifact or enchantment out, by the time you play this, you will be up three mana, and jump from turn three to turn six. That is a staggering amount of speed.
I haven't even had a chance to talk about the"fun" things that can be done with this gobbo yet either. It can go infinite with Deadeye Navigator quite easily, Mycosynth Lattice allows it to produce a Treasure for each permanent your opponents have, and Reckless Fireweaver alongside Feldon of the Third Path or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker provides absurd, consistent value and damage. Any artifact deck such as Saheeli, the Gifted, Daretti, Scrap Savant, and Breya, Etherium Shaper will be eager to add this little fellow their their 99.
Treasure Nabber this is not. Dockside Extortionist is the real deal.
As a fan of two-mana acceleration, I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time on Empowered Autogenerator. It is essentially a slow Gilded Lotus that cannot immediately tap for mana. It also will take until your eighth turn (if you play it on turn five) before it will tap for three mana like Lotus. That's a bit slow for my taste.
That being said, in decks like Atraxa, Praetor's Voice, Pir, Imaginative Rascal, Vorel of the Hull Clade, or other Proliferate decks, this is another option to go alongside Astral Cornucopia, Everflowing Chalice, and Pyramid of the Pantheon. This conversation would be slightly different if Paradox Engine was still legal, though. For now, the Autogenerator is good in decks that already know they want it, but probably won't make much of a splash elsewhere.
Ignite the Future
Say hello to Light Up the Stage's older sibling! Ignite the Future exiles the top three cards of your library and gives you access to them until the end of your next turn. That is huge! Red has come a long way from originally being the sixth worst color in Commander.
Nearly any red deck that struggled with card advantage will be stoked to include this card. Having a full extra turn to play your cards - on top of a Flashback cost that mitigates paying for the spells you exile - pushes this into the realm of being a red staple.
Ramp like Dockside Extortionist and card advantage like Ignite the Future are boons to red decks everywhere. Move over, Act on Impulse, you've been replaced.
Mandate of Peace
Teferi's Protection this is not, but wow this is a powerful Fog. For two mana, not only does this Silence all of your opponents, but it also ends the combat phase. Ends. The. Combat. Phase. That is incredibly powerful. No more Sun Titan or Brago, King Eternal triggers, no damage, no lifelink, no effects, no spells, nothing. Mandate of Peace is perfect for both aggressive and combo decks, allowing you to swing out without fear of repercussion from the most threatening player on board, or allowing you to get that one extra turn to survive and combo off. Talk about an absolutely perfect card for that Sunforger build we were talking about earlier....
The only downside to this spell is that it exiles itself once it resolves, (un)luckily making sure that it cannot be looped and recurred, but this isn't much of a downside at all with a card this versatile.
Mass Diminish curiously turns all of one opponent's creatures into 1/1s until your next turn. Just like Ignite the Future, there again is that "next turn" text - thank you, Wizards! This spell is a sorcery, though, which isn't ideal, but forcing all of an opponent's creatures to become incredibly frail for an entire round at the table seems very strong.
Unfortunately, this spell does not take away the creature's abilities (unlike Polymorphist's Jest or Sudden Spoiling). However, it does have Flashback instead, allowing you to hit the same opponent two turns in a row, or to spread the love to another opponent. Mass Diminish does not seem ideal for slower, controlling, defensive decks, as they will usually want to bounce or wipe the board to deal with creatures more effectively, and often prefer to interact with things at instant speed. Rather, this seems like an ideal tempo card for aggressive or combo decks, allowing them to attack with impunity or buy critical time in order to pull their combo pieces together.
Once upon a time, people asked for card advantage in white. "Let us draw cards!" They demanded, despite knowing that drawing cards in white would be a color pie violation. "Let us show you how white does card advantage," said Wizards, and thus they printed Sevinne's Reclamation... but not a cheer was heard. Why?
Sevinne's Reclamation ? is ? white ? card ? advantage ?. It does not say "draw a card," but it will still net you three cards for the price of one. It promotes resource management and manipulation, which is completely on-flavor for white. It can ramp you on lands if there are any in your yard, or at the very least buy back your Ghost Quarters and Wastelands.
Podcaster extraordinaire and fellow writer for EDHREC Dana Roach dug up some stats on Sevinne's Reclamation, and the results are very interesting.
These are some good statistics. Reclamation will be able to hit a vast majority of the most commonly played cards in the format, not to mention that it hits every land out there, and can even be built around (similarly to Sun Titan) to make sure that is it more effective and potent. Reclamation can get back a plethora of cards, especially when paired with other colors. Mentor of the Meek, Sunforger, Aura Shards, Narset, Parter of Veils, the list of powerful cards that Sevinne's Reclamation can reclaim is incredible.
While it won't work in every white deck, Sevinne's Reclamation is a powerful tool for a wide berth of decks, and shows us what is possible when we demand better card advantage in white. Don't sleep on this spell! Card advantage isn't just about drawing cards!
Thalia's Geistcaller is the white equivalent of Secrets of the Dead and Burning Vengeance. I wondered if it was going to happen in this set, and it did! You have no idea how much this pleases me.
Geistcaller is a bit more fragile than its enchantment counterparts, but it makes up for that by being able to make itself indestructible if you have a free Spirit laying around, which shouldn't be a problem in the decks that will play it. The obvious synergy here is for Sevinne, the Chronoclasm and Karador, Ghost Chieftain decks, where you will be getting at least one Spirit a turn. Another option is in graveyard-based Kykar, Wind's Fury decks, where the Spirits produced by Kykar and the Geistcaller can each be used to fuel the other.
There are decks for Thalia's Geistcaller, but this card is a tad niche. Much like its counterparts, Geistcaller is not broken or absurd, but it is a solid build-around card that gets better the more you take it into consideration when deckbuilding.
Wall of Stolen Identity
I'm not going to lie, I'm not really sure who this card is for. It isn't bad, but it is definitely a bit out of left field. Clones are usually great (there are 1,127 Clone decks on EDHREC), though this does has a bit of interesting trade-offs compared to your normal Clone.
Normally when you use a clone, you want to copy the best creature on board, which also often happens to be a big beater. In these cases, Wall of Stolen Identity is a bit worse than your average Clone, as it gains defender no matter what it copies. To help counter this downside, it taps the creature down until our Wall leaves the battlefield. That is a decent trade-off, since it is a temporary a two-for-one, but this card is purely defensive in nature. In some situations, you'll get to clone you opponent's Selvala, Heart of the Wilds or Zur the Enchanter, shutting off both tap and attacking abilities, putting its second ability to work quite well and doing something a normal Clone couldn't do.
Clone fans and Wall Tribal enthusiasts, rejoice! You've got another consideration for your decks! Everyone else, use your discretion when considering this card. It's good, but Clever Impersonator may just end up being better for your specific deck.
Not Just a Flash(back) in the Pan
There we have it! All of the unique cards found only in the Mystic Intellect deck! Which ones are your favorite? Do you agree or disagree with my assessments? I'm super interested to hear what you think! This deck has been a fantastic boon for Jeskai as a color combination, and seeing it get more support makes my heart soar.
I'm so pleased to have been able to share this with you all, and I hope you found it useful!
As always, you can find me on Twitter @thejesguy, where I will be breaking down the Jeskai deck more thoroughly throughout the next two months, or you can get in touch with me by email at email@example.com. I'll be seeing you all soon with another installment of Archetune-Up soon! I can't wait to see more people Master the Way of Jeskai with me!