I have not written on this blog for quite a while, but I feel compelled to respond after today’s discussion of a new card spoiled for the Commander Set got out of hand. I initially started this blog to be aimed at both newer and more casual players. That is still my intent and I feel that this issue relates directly to this crowd. I might be wrong, but I believe my intentions are in the right place. Now that I am home from work, I am going to try to collect my thoughts. Since Twitter unfortunately leads to difficulties due to character length and how quickly responses are often sent I wanted to try and clarify my opinion on this matter. First of all here is the card in question: Opal Palace.
It’s a land that can be filtered for all colors (a la Shimmering Grotto), and also has an added bonus of adding +1/+1 counters to your Commander based on how many times your commander has been played. I actually love the idea of having things that care about how many times your commander has been played (especially the new Grixis General that has been spoiled). However, here is where my concern is (and it does start with an assumption that might be wrong, but it’s interesting for a discussion either way).
If Opal is replacing Command Tower, I think this is bad (especially for new players). It comes down to utility in my opinion, and what is better for newer players to both have access to and how things affect game play. People have pointed out generals this the +1/+1 counters are especially good for (Prime Speaker Zegana, Ghave, Guru of Spores, Ulasht, the Hate Seed, Isamaru, Hound of Konda). I countered with commanders I don’t believe it is useful for (Angus Mackenzie, Zo-Zu the Punisher, Obzedat, Ghost Council, Thada Adel, Acquisitor). This leaves a lot of legendary creatures on both sides, but where I’d like to focus is on commanders that are trying to win through 21 point of general damage or through attacking in general. In general, unless the number of additional counters you are getting from Opal Palace is very high, the number of hits you need to General Kill someone does not change much (one notable exception is Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon). I think the value of the +1/+1 counters you get are not as game changing as others (and that is just an opinion obviously).
Now I want to talk about Command Tower. When I first started playing EDH/Commander the first thing that was hard for me was building my mana bases for multicolored decks. I had a pretty decent collection that spanned a long part of magic history. Most of the lands that I wanted were either already expensive (Shock Lands or Dual Lands) or had tons of restrictions (came into play tapped, dealt damage to me when I used them, etc). I quickly learned though that I needed a fair amount of these lands to consistently play my spells. Command Tower, does something that very few cards do (especially for multicolor decks). It comes into play untapped with no drawback and taps for all the colors you can use for the game. Since you want to have so many lands that can tap for multiple colors Tower is much more valuable than a lot of other options. And guess what? It came with every one of the new decks designed for either casual players or players getting into Commander. It might be true that taking out any one multi-colored land is not going to make or break a deck, Command Tower is one of the best available to new players. It did not require knowing years of magic history or access to tons of old cards. To me this card was one of the biggest hits of the Commander Product. This is not some selfish me wanting command towers (I have enough, can make profit trading to new players). It’s what I think should be readily available to new players even if it devalues some of my cards. As an aside this card is currently around 5 bucks.
I don’t think that Opal Palace is a bad card. I am just not convinced that it is better for the majority of decks and new players than Command Tower and hope that I am wrong in my assumption that the inclusion of this new interesting land is pushing out the old reliable one. This is all my opinion, but I was not able to state it clearly in 140 characters and I would love to hear what people think.
I want to thank all the readers who have been coming to check this out. I can be reached on the comments here and @HobbesQ on twitter! I appreciate any and all feedback.