The Temur Spells of C20
This is the fourth part of my analysis series concerning the Commander 2020 preconstructed decks so if you’re looking for the previous parts on the Sultai, Abzan or Jeskai decks, find them here
So far, the Jeskai deck has been the absolute standout of all the decks so far. While the win conditions are not as game ending as one would like them to be, the average card quality and consistency of the deck is just so much higher than the preconstructed decks normally have. Of course, after drawing so many cards, we have to evaluate the spellslinger deck in hopes of drawing even more cards! Will the Temur commander deck this year offer a strong new alternative to Riku of Two Reflections? Let’s take a look.
Commander: Kalamax, the Stormsire
Colours: Temur (Green, Blue, Red)
Core Theme(s): Spellslinger
For starters in this deck, there are only 25 instants with some rather strange choices for the deck. While the number is reasonably high, it definitely could be better and some of the card choices really bog this deck down. Cards like Clash of Titans and Hunter’s Insight are just mediocre picks that should be immediate cuts. With access to so many cards that could potentially draw cards while removing threats like Expansion // Explosion, Electrolyze or Blink of an Eye, this would greatly increase the consistency of the deck while offering more worthwhile reprints for the format instead of these draft cards at best.
The mana curve of this deck is also rather rough. Due to the build requirement for this deck to predominately be instant speed, the number of ramp spells available is rather low and the number of spells costing five mana or more being fifteen will result in turns not using your mana efficiently. As well, one of the big win conditions in the deck being Hunting Pack, a card that is rather difficult to gain much value. As well, the spells having such a high mana requirement will result in minimal payoff or an inability to cast an instant speed spell on each opponent’s turn to take advantage of Kalamax. The addition of Wilderness Reclamation to the list is definitely one of the high points but it would be nice if they included a reprint of Seedborn Muse if they’re going to keep the mana costs so high.
The mana base itself is also less than ideal. Cards like Kessig Wolf Run, Mosswort Bridge and Oran-Rief, the Vastwood are cards that specifically support creature-based strategies so their inclusion in a spellslinger deck is rather questionable. The rest of the mana base seems perfectly adequate. It’s full of lands that enter the battlefield tapped and too many colourless lands like the other decks. It is nice to see a reprint of Scavenger Grounds and Kessig Wolf Run but it does seem like there’s just too many utility lands in this deck. Roughly 20 cards in this deck have double of a single type of mana in their cost so hitting at least two of each colour may prove to be difficult in this list as it currently stands especially as early as turn four.
Just like the Jeskai deck, the Commander itself, as well as the two partners, seem like wonderful additions to the format, while the additional legendary creature seems to be more fringe. The Commander Kalamax, the Stormsire seems to be a wonderful new addition to the Temur clan, offering payoff for various two for one cards becoming even better four for ones. Cards like Fact or Fiction and Lightning Bolt go from already being efficient cards to being back-breaking for your opponents. It has the effect of increasing the card quality of your deck if built around and that is a powerful effect to have in the format. Good cards become great and great cards become incredible. The converted mana cost of this card only being 4 also helps the playability in keeping it efficient without requiring further mana investment.
Pako & Haldan
The Partner Commanders in this deck will also prove to be popular very quickly. Both Pako, Arcane Retriever and Haldan, Avid Arcanist are efficient threats that enable a strong card advantage engine from each player. The cards also act as a permanent extra hand as long as you control Haldan because the card only looks for the fact that a fetch counter has been placed on them this game. Each time Pako attacks is equivalent to drawing two-four cards a turn based on the number of players in the game. Bonus points that you get to name the deck “Stop Trying to Make Fetch Happen.”
Xyris, the Writhing Storm
Staying on the theme for this year, the alternate Commander Xyris, the Writhing Storm holds minimal playability and power. While an entertaining card, Temur doesn’t generally have the ability to take advantage of opponents drawing cards. I could see this card working as a potential group hug Commander or within a group hug deck. However, the overall power level of this card is rather low given how much you give your opponent.
The Temur deck adheres to the norm of this year's decks by not offering many great new cards including the free card Deflecting Swat. While there is some merit behind the card, it just isn’t that powerful of an effect and is a little overhyped coming up to launch. While protecting your commander is a strong effect, it won’t see anywhere near the level of play that something like Fierce Guardianship will. The number of spells running this kind of effect in the format as it currently stands is rather low and the ones that do generally offer some sort of upside. Not a bad card thanks to the fact you won’t be paying a casting cost for it, but not as powerful as it could have been. Reasonably middle of the road and will likely hold some value without a reprint soon.
Is it an axolotl? Is it a frog? Is it a squirrel? Maybe it’s a Merfolk with shapeshifting abilities. Nascent Metamorph is an interesting design to offer support in blue-based tribal decks with some potentially explosive plays. But with the number of mana creatures played in the format, it will likely just result in this becoming a 1/1 that can tap for one green mana. The converted mana cost of the card is efficient and it could result in some fun plays, but I don’t see this one being too powerful of a card without you knowing the top card of your opponent’s library consistently with Telepathy or similar effects.
Another new group hug favourite Glademuse continues the trend of helping your opponents too much. While a potentially powerful effect with Kalamax the symmetrical aspect of this card hurts its playability. Less likely to be removed but you are giving your opponents all the more reason to play on your turn instead of their own. Letting your opponent potentially counter one of your spells and draw a card off of it seems like a less than ideal situation. I can’t say this should see much play, but it will certainly see some play. Not likely to hold value long term as it turns into another bulk rare.
Probably the worst card to be printed into this set is Eon Frolicker. Never give your opponents extra turns if you can avoid doing so. Even if you’re trying to run this in a deck with Ugin’s Nexus and Stranglehold, this card is ill-advised. A unique enough effect to hold some value but not one that should see play unless you can find a way to consistently abuse the effect to your own benefit.
The last of the new creatures is Ravenous Gigantotherium. A card that could potentially do some real damage if you’ve developed your board into a large number of creatures. However I can’t say that there aren’t better cards that grant payoff for that while being less fragile. If you sacrifice your whole board into this card, one removal spell will ruin your day and you’ll have wasted your mana on an inefficient removal spell that likely won’t win the game. I can’t say I recommend this card as we’ve already seen a similar effect in Apex Altisaur and that card has neither held value nor seen heavy play. This card likely holds a similar fate with an already low preorder price of CAD $1.49 at the time of writing. This card will likely see little to no play in the format.
The new spells in this deck do seem to be a touch above the creatures. Decoy Gambit isn’t amazing on its own, but when you start having multiple copies of it on the stack it could result in either some serious card draw or a fixed Cyclonic Rift. Most players are reading this as it won’t draw three cards and instead bounce three mediocre creatures, but even if you draw one card off of this card and manage two bounce two solid threats to your board the card is worthwhile. It’s just a mana efficient card that will get you ahead on the board while replacing itself and even more so in decks that can copy it. This will likely see some play and retain some value long term due to its powerful and unique effect for decks that can take advantage of it.
Curious Herd looks like a miss here. In terms of out of the box power level, each of these decks run anywhere from five to ten artifacts, so you’ll never be getting that much value out of this card. As well, most lower powered decks run only the bare minimum of Sol Ring and a few other effects while higher power decks run Null Rod and other artifact hate to keep the table fair. This will be a very meta specific card for if you regularly play against Breya, Etherium Shaper or Daretti, Scrap Savant decks. This card lacks the power of Bane of Progress as it doesn’t actually answer the threats your opponents have played and hopes that the best kind of removal is player removal. Without trample for the tokens, I don’t see this card holding much value or being heavily used.
The artifacts in this deck are where the majority of both the value and power are coming from. Twinning Staff looks to be a powerful new addition to the Commander format. Copying spells is common enough but also being low on the mana curve while offering an additional copy makes the power level on this card rather high. This is powerful in both Kalamax and Riku decks as an excellent enabler. The preorder price at the time of writing is only CAD$3.49 but I see the card holding a much higher value long term as players learn how great it is in even Melek, Izzet Paragon or Wort, the Raidmother decks.
While not as exciting as Twinning Staff, Lavabrink Floodgates is both a mana rock and a board wipe in one. A ticking time bomb that will likely serve most red decks rather well. The power level of the card is reasonable in more mid-tier decks that can afford to threaten the board with this card but it isn’t quite Oblivion Stone. Many players are also missing the fact that you can blow it up within a full turn rotation. It does say “at the beginning of each player’s upkeep” as opposed to your upkeep which does help this card drastically. You can have it blow up on the player before your upkeep assuming a four-player pod. Board wipes are never bad in Commander and the fact that this is an artifact could help it see play in various Breya or Daretti, Scrap Savant decks. Expect this card to see a reasonable amount of play and hold a modest price long term.
As far as reprints are concerned, this deck offers above-average quality when compared to the rest of the set. The main standouts are: Crop Rotation, Chaos Warp, Wilderness Reclamation, Rashmi, Eternities Crafter, Etali, Primal Storm, Solemn Simulacrum, Dualcaster Mage, Lightning Greaves and Kessig Wolf Run. This deck definitely has the capacity to pay for itself and then some. From a value perspective, this deck is an absolute win.
Upgrading the Deck
In terms of upgradability, the number of cards that come in at a low price and can easily slot into this deck is rather high. As well, most players will be able to tune this into whatever kind of spellslinger deck they’d like to. If you want to storm off with this deck, it has the tools to help enable that. Do you want to never have to play on your own turn? Throw in a Leyline of Anticipation for those pesky creature cards and go to town. There are a lot of different ways to build this deck so let’s take a look at the general value upgrade path.
While there are some notable exclusions for budget reasons like Primal Amulet, this is a much more efficient list that will be able to much more consistent play on curve while casting spells during each opponent’s turn to take as much advantage of the Commander as the deck can. One of the key pieces missing in the precon is the ability to tap Kalamax without risking that they die in combat which this list looks to rectify. The inclusion of cards like Paradise Mantle, Cryptolith Rite, Ral Zarek and Survivor’s Encampment are explicitly for this reason. They may not be powerful cards on their own, but they enable the commander efficiently while ramping or fixing the mana in the deck. As well, I’ve put the available temples into the deck as the mana base just really needs better lands that tap for different colours. Being able to scry with our lands will help the deck's consistency while fixing our mana.
A key exclusion from the cards that have been added to the deck is Nexus of Fate. This card is just insane in the list and if you play in a community that is accepting of extra turn spells, this is perhaps one of the strongest upgrades you can have for this Commander. Being able to take two (or more) extra turns with little to no setup is an incredibly powerful effect that will elevate this deck to a much higher power level. Once you begin putting more money into the deck, Nexus of Fate is an auto-include.
The curve of the deck has also been drastically lowered. Taking advantage of spells like Brainstorm, Opt and Thrill of Possibility will help this deck smooth out a lot of its draws while also being high-value cards when your Commander is finally on the field and enabled. Being able to just use one or two mana per opponent's turn on instants while drawing 2+ cards seems extremely powerful. As well Lightning Bolt is a generally undervalued card in the format made even better by being able to copy it for easy value while being a reasonably budget inclusion. As mentioned above, this card takes a lot of good cards and makes them so much better.
The deck offers several clear paths for upgrades and has a pair of wonderful partners inside the deck that we can expect to be interesting and well-designed Commanders. The reprints and overall value of the deck are pleasing with a couple solid new cards being added to the format. The deck has some issues with its mana curve out of the box and can have trouble enabling the commander but has enough powerful plays to keep it playable. The deck can be upgraded to a much higher power level on a rather low budget making it an approachable deck for both new and old players. Not quite the quality of the Jeskai deck, but this deck is definitely another hit in this set and we can all look forward to some lovely new Temur spellslinger decks coming out of this.
Next up, we’ll be reducing our spell count in favour of making a board full of Human tokens in the Mardu deck ‘Ruthless Regiment.’ Let’s see if this set of commander decks can end strong with a go wide creature deck!