face ninetypixPrimeval Titan is like Christmas for lands.Primeval Titan. Those two words can cause an intense and heated debate among just about any set of Commander players. Whether he was being used to tutor up Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Cabal Coffers or just a pair of Forests, Prime Time was nearly ubiquitous in any green mage’s arsenal. Alas, Prime Time’s reign came to an end on September 19, 2012, as a way to curb aggressive ramp strategies and bring more diversity to the format.

As most everyone knows, though, Primeval Titan was part of a cycle of mythic rares from M11 (and later M12); each had a similarly powerful ability, although they naturally were of different power levels in different circumstances. Sun Titan, Grave Titan, and Inferno Titan all see heavy play in Commander to this day. They’re all impressively costed creatures with immediate board impact, relevant combat abilities, and repeatable effects. Their reprinting in M12 and subsequent rotation out of standard has brought their costs down to under five dollars each. In short, they’re very good cards that slot easily into many decks.

While these large, splashy cards are the very thing that Commander is known for by many, I personally groan a little bit whenever I see a Titan, just because it’s boring and, forgive the pun, standardized. We have the whole of Magic’s history to draw from, and the Titans are great, but it makes the game stale to see everyone play the same cards over and over. Unfortunately, there are few cards that fill those same slots in such an effective way.

Enter Gatecrash.

Gatecrash has a cycle of rare Primordials. The first thing I wish to point out is that they are Avatars as opposed to Elementals, which I find baffling. That’s not actually relevant to the issue at hand, though.

primordialsThese creatures each have a powerful ability on an impressive body and a relevant combat ability. These abilities, though, instead of being repeatable, scale with each additional opponent. Some people will point at a card like Enter the Infinite and say it was “made for Commander”. Whether or not that’s true about a lot of cards is debatable. In this case, it’s not. The Primordials, while great in limited and in regular multiplayer, are clearly aimed at the Commander crowd, and they fit into as many decks as the Titans do.

Therein lies the problem. I have nothing against using Spelltwine, Reanimate, Swords to Plowshares, Mass Mutiny, or Bramblecrush/Rampant Growth on all my opponents. Indeed, that sounds awesome. Unfortunately, each of these cards is so generically powerful that almost every deck that plays their colors will want to at least consider including them. Many, many decks are going to immediately add these cards to their lineup, and diversity in the format will suffer for it.

Of course, there are tribal and theme decks that won’t play these cards, and even decks that wouldn’t use the ability well enough to warrant the inclusion. Some people may scoff at the cards, or consider them less appealing than the actual spells they are based on. Some people, like myself, may try to not include them in as many decks as possible. These creatures are still going to be everywhere.

Do we blame WotC? Of course not. They are just trying to give us fun, powerful cards that play well in our chosen format, and there’s nothing wrong with that. This is battlecruiser Magic, after all, and these creatures fit the bill. Unfortunately, this is also the format where Cat tribal is a real thing. This is the format where we can play with our tattered old Chub Toad. So he’s maybe not the most awesome card ever. He’s adorable and he’s been our faithful companion since Ice Age.

But perhaps that’s not an appealing argument to you. You want your deck to be a lean, mean, winning the game machine, and if these Primordials are the optimal card, they’re going into your deck(s). That’s understandable, too. First, though, let me attack the discussion from another angle.

Murdered him dead.When Rofellos hits the table, people know to Murder him. Consecrated Sphinx? Taking a one-way Path to Exile. People know which cards have led people to victory over and over again. These cards are popular because they are powerful, but everyone at the table recognizes them for the threat they are. Meanwhile, I’ll sit over here, cozy inside of Urza’s Armor, and in a turn or two I’ll drop Pestilence and wipe the board. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!
How many times have you played a Sword of Power and Value and seen it immediately Putrefied? How about Scythe of the Wretched? Admittedly, the cards fit into different decks for different reasons, but the same thinking that applied to Consecrated Sphinx applies here. There are probably as many or more decks that include at least one Sword of Chocolate and Puppies than decks that don’t; they cause headaches for opponents, so usually everyone wants to kill them as soon as they drop onto the field. Funny how people won’t try to destroy your Scythe until after your Nin, the Pain Artist has already stolen their entire army.

I’m not completely against the Primordials, though! One thing that I will recommend the Primordials for is their availability. “Wait,” you might be saying, “isn’t that part of the problem? Isn’t their ubiquity what we’re discussing?” Correct, but newer Commander players can sometimes feel overwhelmed and lost both in building an initial deck an in playing their first game. The Primordials do provide a readily available, obviously playable cycle of affordable, powerful cards. Newer players don’t need to be told that these cards are awesome, and they also don’t need to fork over a lot of case for them. These big boys allow newer players to play with the other big boys, and that’s a definite positive.

I’ve rambled enough on these cards, but I did want to give everyone a warning to think before just including them in every new deck they possibly can. Certainly consider them, and play with them and have fun with them. At the end of the day, though, remember that your battered, old Terastodon will miss you.

Join me next week, when I’ll be discussing counter magic, card parity, and bonus value.