It’s been only a short time since I’ve brought you some Magic: The Gathering news, and there’s a brand new supplemental set coming out. This set, Battlebond, is designed as a Draft product, and a Two-Headed Giant Draft Product at that. There are Previews at your Friendly, Local Game Store this weekend, so grab a partner and get playing in a format that Wizards of the Coast is finally giving some support to.
Battlebond cards are obviously awesome in the draft format they’ve been created for, but Wizards have been pretty sneaky by giving Commander players new mechanics, new cards, and much-needed reprints. Commander is a casual, multiplayer format and the kind of Magic I most often play, personally, and to claim that this is Commander Masters, as many have, ignores the brand new cards that we’re getting for our pods. So, with Commander front and center on our minds, let’s look at Battlebond.
Holy Shit has Battlebond gone crazy with reprints. Everyone’s favorite Super Friends enabler Doubling Season, a $60 card with only two printings: reprinted. Legacy staple True-Name Nemesis, far too expensive for casual Merfolk tribal decks at $30: reprinted (and in foil for the first time). Land Tax (with the Judge Promo art) once $36: reprinted. Diabolic Intent, spiking at $30, now reprinted. This isn’t Masters 25; every single Mythic in this set is worth the $3.99 a pack. But it’s not just the heavy-hitters: Seedborn Muse, Mystic Confluence, Angelic Chorus, Nirkana Revenant, Noosgraf Mob, Kor Spiritdancer, Sower of Temptation, Swords to Plowshares, Peregrine Drake, Spell Snare, Impulse, Evil Twin, Gwafa Hazid, Mycrosynth Lattice, Genesis Chamber, Auger Spree, Skyshroud Claim, Elvish Visionary, Beast Within, Boldwyr Intimidator…
I’m serious when I say: Commander Staples are getting a reprint. Real cards for real decks. Wizards wants Commander to be cheaper, they want it to be easier to sleeve up 100 cards and play with your friends. They tried creating a new format with Brawl, to mixed results. But this, reprinting cards to drop the barrier of entry for actual Commander, is just what the format needed. Commander preconstructed decks are among the best product Wizards makes, and this product seems clear that they want Commander to stay the fun goofy multiplayer madness that it can be, while providing cards to make sure that you can’t just buy a win.
To that end, Wizards has also gifted us with the Party Lands. Commander is a non-rotating format, which means that cards from Magic’s earliest days are still legal. That also means that cards on the Reserve List (a list of cards Wizards has promised to never reprint) are legal. Perhaps the best of these are the Dual Lands, lands that tap for two different colors of mana and can be used the turn they’re played with no downside. The cheapest of these, Plateau, currently goes for $175 and Underground Sea is currently hovering around $600. For cheaper options, players usually look to cards that do the same thing with downsides. Either requiring that it be among the first lands you play or dealing you damage when they come in or dealing you damage when use them. The Party Lands are a Commander godsend.
As long as you have more than one opponent (remember, Commander is a multiplayer free-for-all) they come in and can be used right away. Sure, they are missing Basic Land types so they can’t be fetched and yeah, they only come in Allied colors. But this is the closest thing Commander players are ever going to get, save shelling out the $2,000 for the original Duals.
In 2016, the Commander preconstructed decks introduced a new ability, Partner, which allowed you to have two Commanders instead of one. Battlebond takes it another step forward with “Partner with.” You can use two creatures that Partner with each other as your Commanders, but can’t pair them with any other Partner Commanders. This expands the possibilities from just the 15 Partner Commanders from the 2016 precons.
Partners with also has another function in non-Commander play. Essentially, whenever you play one, you (or your Two-Headed Giant teammate) may search your deck for the other one and put it in your hand. Great as Commanders, great in the 99, great to draft in Battlebond. Great cards all around. Oh, and using the same colation technology that gave every Dominaria booster, if you open one Partner with card, you’re guaranteed to have the other one in your pack. Oh, and they even have two Planeswalkers that Partner with that can serve as your Commander. And if there was any doubt that this set was built with Commander in mind, Will and Rowan are the first two cards ever outside of Commander to mention Commander-specific rules.
Assist is a new mechanic introduced in Battlebond that allows other players to help pay for spells you cast. In Two-Headed Giant the play is clear, use your teammate’s mana to help your team drop a bomb. In Commander, however, you get to play politics. Pods with Counterspell decks often spend quite a bit of time wondering if now is the right time for a Board Wipe. Now, it’s easy. “I cast Play of the Game, who’s helping to pay?” Even at Competitive Commander games, you can always just fail to pay the full amount and await friends. If you can’t pay the cost, you haven’t cast the spell and it returns to your hand. You’ve surrendered some information, but gained a great deal, as well (namely, that no one wants to help pay for your board wipe). Someone about to fire up their game-ending combo? Out of Bounds is there for you. Big fatty clogging up the board? Gang Up on it. Politics is an inherent part of multiplayer Magic and these cards are easily going to fit into many, many a Commander deck.
Friend or Foe
Speaking of politics, Battlebond introduces the Friend or For mechanic. In Two-Headed Giant, this is obvious: your teammate and you get a reward and your opponents each get a penalty. But, in Commander, things get a little more interesting. You can choose which of your opponents are your friends, and which are your foes, and you can decide every time you cast a new Friend or Foe spell. Obviously these slot right into Group Hug strategies, but with Friend or Foe cards in the format many, many decks are going to want to play a little nicer early on to reap those benefits. And there’s one card for each color, so no one is safe.
Battlebond might be the best $3.99 pack for Commander players that Wizards has ever made. But to just look at the reprints (which, again, Holy Shit! Are amazing) is missing the brand new cards and mechanics we have to have fun with.
Battlebond Preview events are happening at your Friendly, Local Game Store this weekend, June 2-3, and the full set drops next week on June 8. So grab a friend, and by your powers combined, enjoy the best team draft format ever created.
Joe, Unplugged is a Level 1 Magic Judge and one of the founders of Gemhammer & Sons Gaming whose last video game purchase was Super Mario Sunshine in 2002.
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