As of July 12th, 2013, the rules for Legendary permanents have changed. Before this date, if two or more legendary permanents with the same name were on the battlefield at the same time, all of them are put into their owners’ graveyards as a state-based action. After the rule change, now if two or more legendary permanents with the same name are under the control of a single player, that player chooses all but one of them to go to their owners’ graveyards as a state-based action.
This rules change is having, and will continue to have a large impact on the Commander format. I will now illustrate some of the changes that are happening at the Commander table because of it.
1. Clones are no longer kill spells. Cards like Phantasmal Image were frequently used to remove opponents’ generals (and other legendary creatures) by copying them, and then letting state-based actions send both the clone and the original to the graveyard. The days of the Clone-Assassin are now over. Now, instead of destroying the creature you chose your clone to mimic, you get a copy of that Legendary creature. This is actually a pretty hefty nerf to mono-blue decks, who enjoyed the best single-creature kill effects because of the old Legend rule. Quite hilariously, however, a clone will still kill Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund, right after stealing all his dragon friends.
2. You now no longer have to worry if another player shares your general. You can play your Rafiq of the Many deck without having to worry that another player will have Rafiq in his command zone too. They can both coexist at the same table, though you don’t get to count your opponents’ Rafiq damage when calculating general damage – your Rafiq alone must do 21 damage to a single player to take them out of the game.
3. Hexproof and Shroud just got much stronger. Under the old Legendary rules, there used to be four ways to remove an untargetable creature – sweepers, combat damage, sacrifice effects, and clone killings. Now, there’s only three – and in the case of Sigarda, Host of Herons, only two. If you have a means of making Sigarda Indestructible as well (through the use of the popular Darksteel Plate, for example), then your opponent’s only hope is a non-targeted exile (or bounce) effect. Uril, the Miststalker used to be scary… now, he’s downright terrifying. Now that hexproof and shroud are more valuable, they will be played more, and it’s time to adjust tactics. If you’re running a Trinket Mage suite of 1-cost artifacts in your deck, now’s the time to include Glaring Spotlight. Sweepers like Hallowed Burial, Final Judgment, and Black Sun’s Zenith become more valuable as a result as well.
4. Legendary cards are now safer to play. In addition to legendary creatures, it’s now safe to play Umezawa’s Jitte, the Kaldra equipment, Day of Destiny, Akroma’s Memorial, Konda’s Banner, Mox Opal and the like. Don’t get me wrong – quite a few decks were running these cards anyway. However, if you weren’t running them simply because it wasn’t worth the risk of losing them just because other players also decided they were worth running? Well, now you don’t have to worry about that.
5. Expect changes to the banned list soon. Consider that right now there are some very powerful legendary creatures in the format who warp games on a frequent basis, but were previously kept in check by being Legendary. Imagine now a table with more than one Sheoldred, Whispering One on it. Or Iona, Shield of Emeria. Avacyn, Angel of Hope? How about the entire table playing with a hand size of zero thanks to two copies of Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur in play? Since the beginning of the original Legend rule (in which if a Legendary permanent was in play, another Legendary permanent with the same name could not be played), Legendary cards have been designed with the understanding that there will never be more than one in play at the same time. These cards were not balanced and tested in an environment where more than one could be in play at the same time, and we don’t yet know the full implications of what this change will entail. So, it might not be wise to shell out twenty bucks for Iona, Shield of Emeria until we’ve had at least six months (and two banning periods) go by.
6. Mana bases just became a bit more interesting. Now that you no longer have to care if another player is packing their own copy of a Legendary land, the floodgates are now open. The legendary lands that players were already playing just became more powerful (Gaea’s Cradle, Adademy Ruins, Volrath’s Stronghold, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth,Yavimaya Hollow, Kor Haven, and Phyrexian Tower, to name a few.) In fact, Gaea’s Cradle doubled in price immediately after the rules change was announced, when legacy players realized they could now “chain” cradles for absurd amounts of mana.
However, there are also two cycles of Legendary lands, one from Legends and one from Champions of Kamigawa, that I have come to call “superbasics.”
These are lands that do not come into play tapped, produce one color of mana with no drawbacks, and have a second ability on them. The only downside to them over a basic land is that they are not actually basic lands, so cannot be fetched with cards like Cultivate or Evolving Wilds. Nonetheless, if you have plenty of basics in your deck, you can probably substitute some of them with these “superbasics” with no detriment, and potentially great benefit.
SuperPlains: Eiganjo Castle can be activated to reduce damage to a legendary creature by 2. Flagstones of Trokair gives you some protection against land destruction by replacing itself with a Plains in the event it gets destroyed. (Sadly, the Legendary land from the Legends expansion that produced white mana was Karakas, which has been rightfully banned.)
SuperIslands: Minamo, School at Water’s Edge untaps a legendary permanent. Oboro, Palace in the Clouds can return to your hand for one mana. Tolaria eliminates Banding and Bands With Other from your opponents’ creatures, just in case you’re playing at a very bizarre table.
Well… it’s going to be an interesting couple of months as Commander players figure out just how these rules changes will affect their play tables. The community is already divided on the issue, and it seems the more casual the table, the more excited they are about the rules changes. Some players are seriously concerned that hexproof and shroud will warp the format. I am just going to wait and see, myself. Blue mages will definitely have to make some adjustments, but otherwise the immediate impact to our game tables should be mostly positive.
As always, time will tell.