When I was opening up my Commander product boxes and getting out the new yummy cards, I noticed something disturbing on the back of the Counterpunch deck box.
Each of the decks have a blurb on the back of the box that quickly explains the format and what you can do with the deck. This is normal marketing stuff that you see with everything. But, one of the great things about Magic is that you can actually use the product to sell. If people aren’t seeing awesomeness with the large foil Commanders on the front, they can see what else might be in the deck by looking at the back. Let me set it up for you if you haven’t paid attention or haven’t picked up your Commander product yet.
On the right side there are seven cards from the deck. They all share a pattern: You’ve got all three wedge Commanders, the new enemy colored Commander, Sol Ring, and a new card and a reprint that only exclusive to this deck. The five you can’t change, nor should you, but I have to question the choices for the other two cards.
Now, seeing how you almost can’t find these anywhere at the moment, this argument almost becomes a moot point. After all, this is a product that could be packaged in a plain white box and people would still buy this in droves. This product is still going to be on the shelves a year from now like Planechase and Archenemy before that. Maybe some players who haven’t played in years are looking at what these cards do, or someone just getting started in Commander.
I would have to believe that Wizards did market research for this product and what I could be saying could be against all evidence. But even with the Johnny/Spike/Timmy model, there are some strange choices here. I’m going to look at each of them from the standpoint of selling the product. The obvious rule I should say is that I have to use existing cards from the deck, I can’t add or change those at all.
New: Archangel of Strife
The Rundown: The deck is based around Angels, Demons, and Dragons, so the obvious choices for these two cards would be a combination of one of those three creature types. Malfegor is a Demon Dragon so that fit all three with the new Angel so (brushes hands together) our work is done. Wait, you mean Malfegor was a Prerelease card so players might want a different choice on the back of their product? I imagine the reason for picking Malfegor was A) Another Commander you can use in the deck and B) it has the words “Each opponent”. When selling a multi-player product, it’s important to push the multi-player portion of it.
Options: But Archangel of Strife already has each player written on the card, so it can be implied that you want this with multiple opponents. If you keep Archangel of Strife, you need a new reprint of the Demon or Dragon variety. Bladewing the Risen was in new frames for FtV: Dragons, but still is a splashy effect. The other choices don’t look that exciting, so I would actually change the reprint to be an Angel: Angel of Despair. Looks pretty sexy when you vial it into play with Kaalia. This opens up the new card to be Mana-Charged Dragon which promotes multi-player. Too bad the name sucks so we’d might have to look at Dread Cacodemon, which ironically doesn’t work with its Commander.
New: Archangel of Strife
Reprint: Bladewing the Risen
I really hate the name of Mana-Charged Dragon; if it was called any other name I would gladly switch that over to the new card. But that name won’t sell anything.
New: Hydra Onmivore
Reprint: Prophetic Bolt
The Rundown: The deck is all about copying creatures and spells and they give us something so unexciting as a Lightning Blast that Impulses? Alright, it’s not bad, but it’s not something I’m picking up my wallet for. The Onmivore, however, is something that screams awesome. “You mean if I deal damage to Jake, I can also deal damage to Sam and Greg?” It’s basically Green direct damage, and WotC decided to use another direct damage spell on the back. It doesn’t scream that this is going to be a powerful deck.
Options: Truth be told, there’s a ton of spells in this weak that are kinda weak in the format on their own. Brainstorm? Fire//Ice? I’m not saying their bad, but nothing I would put on the back of the box. You have to see both sides of this Commander: the copying creatures and copying spells. Call the Skybreaker is one of the more powerful spells in the deck and for 9 mana you get 2 5/5 flyers. Ruination is something you can’t copy because there will be no effect, and the only new spell is Collective Voyage, which is a strange spell to copy. Magmatic Force is a new creature that you could use to replace Onmivore, but is it as cool? You’re replacing one fatty for another. I would love to us Simic Sky Swallower as the creature, but then you’re using Collective Voyage as the spell and does it really upgrade over what you already have?
New: Hydra Onmivore
Reprint: Call the Skybreaker
The lack of awesome exclusive new spells really hurt selling this deck to it’s full potential.
New: Hornet Queen
Reprint: Storm Herd
The Rundown: The one that started this whole piece. Great, so we’ve got a flying Green creature and a spell that fluctuates with your life total, where only four cards in your deck that can abuse it (two of them Lifelink, one activated ability and the other is an upkeep effect). Yes, this deck makes tokens; we can tell because both of these cards make tokens when you cast them. While the other decks so far have had two different sides that you wanted to show off, all this does is scream “Tokens!” It’s not bad, but it’s narrow. And sorry, but Storm Herd has never wanted me to buy anything.
Options: Luckily I feel we can play around with both cards since there’s no other parameters we have to meet besides tokens. For new, we can actually show off the Join Forces mechanic with Alliance of Arms since it does meet our one requirement. Hell, even Acorn Catapult will work because it gets people thinking what you could do with it. Symbiotic Wurm is a great way to show off some of the sacrifice mechanics that you have in the deck (as well as anti-board wipe). The enchantment Attrition can give you other ways to show off a what you can do with your mound of tokens.It might be a little too close to its actual printing but Awakening Zone might be a great way to show of token creation.
New: Alliance of Arms
Reprint: Symbiotic Wurm
I wanted something that showed creating tokens and other ways to sacrifice stuff besides just the Commander. But Attrition with Alliance of Arms just looks weird. You keep the same colors with the same style of effects (one time spell and creature/token combination), but it looks better than Storm Herd on the back of the box. Don’t get me wrong, I think it works in the deck, but that’s not a marquee card.
New: Martyr’s Bond
Reprint: Brion Stoutarm
The Rundown: Three/Fifths of these decks’ reprints are other Commanders that are in the deck. This seems a little odd to me since I’ve had it beaten into my head by MaRo that people love cycles. Why don’t we put all the extra Commanders on the back of the box? As for Brion Stoutarm here, seems a little odd to be talking about sharing with others and all we’re going to do is fling stuff at them. You really don’t steal anything (Insurrection is a one time steal, and Reins of Power you lose him anyway. Dominus of Fealty is you’re only saving grace and you’re lucky if that survives a turn), which is the real fun with Brion, and you don’t have all that many exciting creatures to fling anyway. What are you doing on the back of the box? As for Martyr’s Bond, this might be the most right on pick out of the design of these packages.
Options: This deck is an embarrassment of riches. Chaos Warp is in here. Flusterstorm is in here (Though it might not wow the Commander crowd). Crescendo of War is a great political card. But mostly we’re looking for reprints, and there’s no shortage of good ones. While none of the other decks have uncommons (a point could be made for Devour for Power), new frame Propaganda would sell. I already mentioned Dominus of Fealty, which makes more sense when vying for a political style anyway. Commander favorite Wild Ricochet, but it’s not like you can’t find those in dollar bins anywhere.
New: Martyr’s Bond
Reprint: Wild Ricochet
Both of these play real nicely with the political theme going on. They give you the ability to play politics by giving you bargaining chips to reason/threaten your opponents. Most of the other reprints that are rares are cute, but the ones that would be nice to put on the back of the box are uncommons. This deck has some awesome new cards, but I think more players would be excited by this enchantment.
Devour for Power
New: Minds Aglow
Reprint: Wrexial, the Risen Deep
The Rundown: Here’s a deck that’s all about customizing your Commander to be really awesome and the best you can do is a mass drawing spell? This is one of the new must have Commanders and you’re trying to sell me on a drawing spell that will also help your opponents? That doesn’t make sense. Sure, you want some supporting spells, but it would be cool to see some more creatures that you can use. One of them is Wrexial, which is pretty nice to exile, but the main focus of this deck is creatures, let’s use that.
Options: One of the better decks in terms of reprints. Solemn Simulacrum, Avatar of Woe, and the uncommon Eternal Witness are all great creatures to promote on the back of the box (Grave Pact, Fact or Fiction and Living Death would be great, but we’re looking at creatures). The Witness alone would be enough to sell the boxes as it’s only seen print twice: in Fifth Dawn and as an FNM promo. As for the new cards, Sewer Nemesis seems pretty nice; Johnny and Timmy like the card. But there are hardly any new creature cards (which is a disappointment), so Minds Aglow might’ve been an alright choice. But there aren’t that many new cards in this deck, but plenty of reprints. The best one might be the other Join Forces card, Shared Trauma; at least that one puts the cards in the graveyard for you to copy with The Mimeoplasm.
New: Shared Trauma
Reprint: Eternal Witness
Yes, I threw an uncommon on the back of the bock. But she isn’t like every other uncommon, she’s almost like a rare. She will sell boxes. Wrexial is pretty awesome and all, but it was printed within the past year, and it’s been 8 years since Eternal Witness was last seen. As for the new card, I went with Shared Trauma, because this just cements this one as a graveyard based deck. It helps gets the creative juices flowing for deck building.
I ended up changing 7 out of 10 spots. Some of the choices on the back of the box were a little confusing, but somewhat understandable. I think that the marketing department could’ve done better but like I said before, the product sells itself. If you know what’s in the box, then it doesn’t matter what’s on the outside.