Esper Commander Review: Part 2
The shard that brought us the artifact sphinxes and blue thopters is the final (finally) chapter in the Commander Three-Colour Review series!
Esper can play a lot of different ways, from swarming thopter or myr tokens, to draining life and controlling the game, to messing around with graveyards with Sharuum. But one thing you will find it hard to avoid with Esper is the artifacts. You will probably play a lot of artifacts in Esper even if you haven't built around an artifact-based theme.
So, is Chromium still playable? Who's Dromar? How many sphinxes will we see? Let's find out in the Esper Commander Review!
A quick reminder of how this will work:
We’re looking at each card’s multiplayer effect, its power level, and whether or not it’s playable in a multitude of decks or just one. For legendary creatures I’ll still assign one letter grade, but also talk about the card’s viability as a commander or in the 99.
The grading looks like this:
A: Bombs/broken cards and excellent commanders. A lot of fun with unique design and interaction. Will effect the board in a big way in just about any deck or will allow for a very strong deck to be built around it if it is a commander.
B: Very good cards in most decks or total bombs in only one particular deck. Solid commanders but perhaps not the best in the colours.
C: A playable commander card, not great, maybe you’re running it because of budget reasons. This card may be perfectly good in a specific deck yet not playable in others. An average commander, the abilities make for a mildly interesting/fun commander.
D: Not really a playable card in EDH except in some corner cases and specific builds. Generally not good. A commander that has no relevant abilities or is just not very fun.
F: Unplayable in a commander deck or as the commander itself.
Merieke Ri Berit - A
The card that no one knows how to actually pronounce can make for a very oppressive commander if built around the right way. I always forget that Merieke (mer-eekee?) doesn't untap during the untap phase because whenever I've seen her in play untapping her is never a problem. Once the player gets a Freed from the Real or a Pemmin's Aura on Merieke it's hard to keep any kind of creature on the board.
Let me just say that I don't like Oloro. I don't like the ability he spawned (Eminence), and I think R&D needs to stay away from the Command Zone.
Call me old fashioned, but I think you should have to actually play a card for it to do something in a game. That being said, Oloro's power level cannot be denied and aside form the salt I have about his Command Zone life gain ability, he's a very cool commander with a ton of decks being built around him every day.
Punish Ignorance – D+
The most specific mana cost ever for a counterspell probably isn't worth it in commander, unless you really want the life gain trigger in an Esper deck, which isn't outside the realm of possibilities I suppose.
Sen Triplets - A+
Last week our Esper commanders were a little underwhelming. This week we've already talked about Merieke and Oloro and now we have Sen Triplets. One (three?) of the most unique and interesting commanders out there, Sen Triplets is great. I just wish we could get a reprint soon to bring the cost of this card down to a more reasonable level.
Esper keeps the great commanders rolling here with Sharuum the Hegemon. At the helm of an artifact reanimator strategy Sharuum is a true nightmare. Not only does she have infinite combos, but she also takes you straight to value-town every single time. That's not even mentioning that a 5/5 flyer is definitely not insignificant.
Easily one of the best artifact commanders around, her only downside is that the six cost can be prohibitive if you don't draw your mana rocks.
Sludge Strider - C+
There's a neat ability on a pretty efficient creature here, but it feels like Sludge Strider never really coincides with the type of deck it wants to be in. I don't know a lot of artifact decks that sacrifice but also want a lot of life gain triggers.
Obviously the incidental life gain is fine, I just think the potential of this card is a little limited outside of a very specific and strange brew. Oh, and the whole having to spend the one mana part? Not that cool.
I always think SSW is a legendary creature because it's a three colour card with a thousand keywords on it. This cube-classic is still a solid commander card and reanimator target in just about any deck that can run it, and will get you back into a game in a hurry. The mana cost is a bit prohibitive but just don't pay it, ya know?
Sphinx Sovereign - B
Another eight-mana artifact sphinx? I remember seeing this card in a game of EDH and thinking, "Lose three life? That's not that bad." Cut to five turns later and I'm begging the Magic gods for a board wipe just so I can have a turn where I don't lose what is now a fifth of my life total.
What I'm saying is, this sphinx is good but it does take a hit from that extreme mana cost.
Yet another totally unique and fun Esper commander, Sydri wants to helm your non-creature artifact decks and make them super deadly.
I love this card because it does something no other Commander can do, and that means unique deckbuilds and using weird cards you might not consider for other decks. Maybe this is where we want Sludge Strider?! Sydri's power level on her own isn't there and she requires some setup, but her ceiling is high and you'll be able to make some sweet plays when she's on your board.
Thopter Foundry - B
The classic infinite combo enabler, Thopter Foundry is a great EDH card in the vein of these sac-based artifact decks. I just wish it didn't have that nontoken clause, but I suppose that would be pretty busted? Sac outlets are great and when your deck's creatures are all artifacts anyways, Thopter Foundry gains even more value.
Tower Gargoyle - D
Four mana 4/4 flyers are great, but not for EDH. We can do better.
Trial // Error - D
Our first Esper split card, this one basically says, “Counter target commander unless you somehow want to use the other side of this card but I bet you never will.”
Its bounce ability doesn't do that much aside from maybe kill some tokens? Possibly? This card's saving grace is the two mana counterspell for multicoloured cards which makes this playable in some super control-heavy decks, and makes the card not a total waste.
Wandering Mage - D-
What a specific card for clerics, wizards and... damage prevention? I think this might be usable in an Esper clerics deck, but I don't actually know if that's a real thing. I'd normally say this card is useless, but in this hypothetical tribal situation I guess it could do some work. So like my driving test when I was 16, it passes, but just barely.
Windwright Mage – F
I'm sure this card was decent in draft, but in EDH it needs something else to be played alongside cards like Sharuum and Thopter Foundry.
Zur the Enchanter - A+
I'm sure I don't need to say much about Zur the Enchanter that hasn't already been said a thousand times before. But put aside the power level and busted decks that are always built around Zur, and consider him the next time you want to build a non-broken, value based enchantment subthemed-deck in Esper.
Powerful commanders like Zur don't always need to be tricked out and taken to the absolute limit of power levels if all you want to do is have some fun. Just, make sure that anyone you play with knows how you've built your deck so they don't hate you out of the game as soon as possible.
That does it! All the three-colour combos are great for Commander, and sure, some are better than others at adding to different parts of our game, but they all have some great cards to offer. I for one will be including a lot more of the charms in my decks from here on out, as I think they can really provide a lot of function when you're looking for those niche abilities that you don't necessarily want to devote an entire card to. Split cards too, lots of functionality put into one card.
It's been a lot of fun looking at these cards with a critical eye overall, but I am definitely looking forward to a different type of article in two weeks. Thanks for reading!