Whenever a set isn’t about gold or multicolor as a theme, the few and far between gold cards really help bring the set together. And Dark Ascension certainly does that – unless you happen to like Green-White. Well, then you better enjoy some artifacts and none of the lands either.
It took years, but Wizards seems to have realized lords are better when they’re easier to obtain. Making the shift so a bunch of them are uncommon is a genius move since it makes it so much easier for players to get a hold of them. But what I really like is that they are gold. Diregraf Captain is a great way to tie together black-blue zombies.
On the surface, this Captain reminds me a lot of Dralnu’s Crusade but it goes so much deeper. Having deathtouch makes him a pricey target to trade with in combat. Then he pumps everyone in a great way. And then Wizards gave him the ability to eat away at your opponents’ life totals! This is an amazing lord and I can’t wait to build some black-blue zombies.
All of the captains are going to sound similar because they’re all great. The fact that he’s a 2/2 with evasion for 3 makes him passable to begin with, but his pumping is much appreciated and becomes terrifying in multiples since they’ll protect each other with hexproof. If you’re thinking about building an aggressive spirit deck, you deck list should probably start with 4 Drogskol Captain.
A cycle of mythical monsters is always fun, and Drogskol Reaver is a very interesting spirit. First off, he’s a beast in the sky with double strike. But it is the second line that says whenever you gain life, draw a card. This guy turns something as simple as Ajani’s Mantra into a one-sided Howling Mine. The biggest problem is how expensive he is, but in Commander 7 mana is barely anything. Or if you’re like me, you just play reanimator anyway (though he doesn’t quite compare to Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur).
This card just doesn’t do it for me. She’s incredibly flavorful, but I generally dislike creatures that require a sacrifice. The better way to look at her is a 4/1 flier with haste that can become indestructible. I wouldn’t bother trying to ensure it’s a human. She’s a good card, but I expect mythics to be splashier.
I am actually very happy this card isn’t legendary, because she would be terrifying as a Commander. Being a 4/4 for 5 isn’t awful and staying out of Bolt range is always a good thing. But for a single mana, you can reanimate any creature in any graveyard! Sure, you need to be able to cast the creature (which makes her much less fun in Commander), but when combined with a few Fellwar Stones, she’s pretty amazing.
And that doesn’t even take into account that she then gains any activated abilities if you reanimate the target!
Huntmaster of the Fells & Ravager of the Fells
Now this is how you make a werewolf! Another fantastic damned if you, damned if you don’t card that essentially forces each player to play one, and only one, spell each turn. The first side automatically gives you 4 power and some life but the real trick is the balancing act of constantly switching back and forth. Even if you don’t care about werewolves, this is the kind of card any red-green battlemage will want in their arsenal.
Well, maybe you won’t want Huntmaster of the Fells if you’re running Immerwolf. But this is another lord that is amazing. I don’t know what makes this one wolf so special (flavor text would have been quite helpful), but the last ability really makes him shine. Being able to prevent your werewolves from changing back into humans is amazing and exactly what the casual werewolf player has been looking for. The only oddity about this is the fact that he has intimidate – which isn’t nearly as good on a multicolor creature.
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
I love Planeswalkers when playing. They’re basically enchantments that cause people to freak out, which is usually entertaining. Some of them, like Garruk Wildspeaker and Jace Beleren, can easily live on the battlefield without drawing much attention but I suspect it will be years before Sorin can safely come into play.
His first ability is a decent one since any decent walker is able to protect themselves. The life link is a nice touch too. Emblems are always powerful, but it is interesting seeing such a cheap one. Worst case, you pay 2WB to give all your creatures +1/+0 for the rest of the game and get the next combat step as a freebie.
But the ultimate is what I find most interesting. The ability to kill three creatures will almost always be useful, but then being able to return those creatures under your control? That is a game ending ultimate! If you’re playing white and black, consider Sorin.
The final lord is just as good as the other ones – actually, maybe even better. Since so many of the vampires in Innistrad rely of hitting your opponent, first strike makes them much harder to chump. But I really like how first strike interacts with the older vampires too. The only oddity I see with this card is that he has first strike and gives first strike; while the other lords all did something different. The cycle is broken!
Altar of the Lost
If you have a lot of flashback spells, this is better than Catalyst Stone. Maybe you should run both in your awesome flashback deck and let me know how it works?
I want to combine this with Skullclamp and draw all the cards. I don’t see this being used much but in the right deck with some sacrifice outlets, it could shine.
Chalice of Life & Chalice of Death
Yes, the text on Chalice of Life is clunky as can be – but that’s okay. I love that Wizards is acknowledging other formats besides standard with cards like these. Had the card simply said you transform it if you have 30 life, it would be crazy broken in Commander. But the weird text makes the card actually work and I expect to see a lot more cards like this since it works much better than Command Tower.
As for the card itself, the first half is kind of boring (unless you have Drogskol Reaver out), but the second half is a cup of unlimited Lava Axes! What more could you want from a refreshing beverage?
Elbrus, the Binding Blade & Withengar Unbound
I love this. The flavor works so much better than Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang. I do enjoy how weak the equipment is, but it is so worth it when you get to the other side. Just slap it on Invisible Stalker (maybe cheat it into play with Stoneforge Mystic) and start killing.
The second half is terrifying. Flying, intimidate and trample seem like overkill, but that is exactly what this card deserves. Being a 13/13, he’s beyond massive but it’s the second ability that is really astounding. If you can resolve Withengar Unbound and give him some shiny boots, the game is over.
I love how a card that gives intimidate looks so happy. There are better equipment cards to play.
This is a very interesting card. If you’re sick of people comboing creatures out, this is a solid way to stop most of them (good thing I bring Dramatic Entrance). In casual though, people rarely make the plays like this to shut down someone’s deck. In Commander though, this may be exactly the silver bullet you need to stop someone. Until you remember this still lets Zur grab enchantments.
I hate Zur.
This has the exactly same cost as all five of the swords.
Half Obelisk of Undoing and half Altar of Shadows, this is a very weird card. Recursive removal is a good thing and while 7 mana seem like a lot, it does exile the card. My biggest concern is how fragile Helvault is. A single well placed Shatter could absolutely ruin everything.
Jar of Eyeballs
This card is totally broken with Evil Eye of Orms-by-Gore, but totally nerfed with any spider. But the ability is still solid, especially in colors that don’t have access to much card draw. Green and red mages will love being able to filter through their decks and Jar of Eyeballs definitely helps out.
Warden of the Wall
This card is weird. I like the flavor, but three mana feels like way too much for a card that either is a 2/3 flying blocker or adds only 1 to your mana pool.
If werewolves are this much of an issue, look up Extinction.
A staple mana fixer, Evolving Wilds is still good. It isn’t great, but does fine in a pinch.
As a one-of in some green-black deck, Grim Backwoods is a fine utility land. In the late game where a 1/1 might not be worth much, being able to cycle it for a new card is a good deal. Plus this enables morbid too!
The fact that this is random makes me like it much less. It’s easiest to compare it to Buried Ruin, but for red and blue, this is a decent way to get things back.
Vault of the Archangel
If you are playing black and white, you need to play this. If this card only gave deathtouch and lifelink to one creature, it would be good. But no, it gives it to all of your creatures allowing you to decimate an entire army in a single attack. How is this even remotely fair?
Top 5 Gold, Artifacts & Lands for Casual and Commander in Dark Ascension
5. Huntmaster of the Fells & Ravager of the Fells
4. Vault of the Archangel
3. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
2. Elbrus, the Binding Blade & Withengar Unbound
1. All four of the uncommon lords