Time Spiral Remastered: A Guide for Commander Players
“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection--thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.
Wow, my fellow Commander players. If you haven't drafted Time Spiral, then you are probably under the age of 30. No, seriously. In October of 2006 the Time Spiral block began, nearly 15 years ago. So although it may still be considered new to the “old guard,” it is clearly an older set by today's standards. As someone that often likes to teach others to play Magic for their first time, it is always a joy for me when those new players start to realize just how deep the catalogue of Magic cards truly is. They often ask how long I've been playing, but that doesn't quite send the message as seeing them realize just how many sets have been released. When Time Spiral was originally released it was around the 45th expansion set or so. Now, there are over 100 expansion sets, and that's not even counting the ancillary products or additional collector sets. There are so many sets now that seeing an older block get remastered as a single set is actually very cool.
If you're worried that this set isn't going to be super fun because you never played Time Spiral, well I guess you never played Time Spiral. Time Spiral was awesome. It was the original Dominaria block. If you enjoyed the nostalgia and coolness of Dominaria, then you're going to love Time Spiral. I felt like Dominaria was a Time Spiral set without all the crazy effects and abilities. The story and vibe just felt like old-school magic. Not that Magic needs to feel old-school or anything. Magic is constantly innovating and always introducing new mechanics. However, it does feel good to play Magic based around its simplest and oldest mechanics. It never ceases to amaze me that newer players can continually enter this game. The rules are complex and only get more so with each set. There are always new sets of mechanics and rules that expand or break old rules. The longer you've been playing the easier it gets, but when Time Spiral released it managed to pack more mechanics into the set than all previous sets combined. No, really, it was ridiculous. Yet, it was also very fun. So much fun to draft and collect and build with. Time Spiral Remastered is going to be a nostalgia packed goodie bag for old and new players alike.
The choices the design team made concerning what to reprint appear to be basically perfect. Now, I haven't drafted the set yet, but just looking through the spoiler sheet I fondly remember both winning and losing to a variety of those cards. Losing to Angel's Grace in draft when I over-extended was an epic way for my buddy Andrew to defeat me. Beating my friends with Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir was pretty sweet too. Playing Akroma, Angel of Fury as a Morph and then flipping her against my opponent's blue-white draft deck was some crushingly good fun. Living the dream and drafting a five color sliver deck is a wondrous thing (just go for it). If you've never drafted slivers, then I suggest you give it a shot. Living the sliver dream is really a thing of beauty. This set seems like what it promises to be: a “best of” reprint set that refines the entire draft experience. That's pretty sweet. Heck, even if you are just cracking boxes this set seems like good fun.
The old school time shifted borders are also a pure treat for older players. These intriguing reprints run the gamut from chase Mythics to staple commons. Every pack comes with a time-shifted card in the old border, and I have no doubt that if you don't want the card you open, someone you know does. These cards are going to be highly sought after. I'm telling you now, because I want you to trade them to me. No, seriously, please trade these to me. I can't imagine a simpler way to appeal to older players that also doesn't leave out the newer players. The list of reprints hits on every single format. These cards will be wanted by many people. Even if you're someone that doesn't like the older look, then you are almost assured that you can trade up for the older version with someone else who has the same cards plus a little extra. I have no doubt that these will trade for more than they are worth. People will want them that badly. In a way this is like opening a foil and being able to trade it for the non-foil plus more stuff. Who doesn't like more stuff? The older borders are nice bonus trade fodder. As a cube owner and a Commander player I can tell you that people like me will be looking to pick up at least a set of each one of these. I honestly don't think there's a single time-shifted card I don't want to own. This old-school treatment for new school cards seems to hit on all the cards that traditional enfranchised players play with across all formats. I was drooling when I saw the old-school gold card treatments. I just love that old gold look. Seriously, this is an awesome idea. I hope they do this with other blocks and remaster them with some other “gimmicky name” in the time-shifted slot. “Guild-gates” for Ravnica or “War Inventions” for Urza's block, or perhaps “Coalitions Relics” for Invasion? The possibilities aren't endless, but with over 100 expansion it seems like the mine is pretty rich.
Time Spiral Remastered has many strengths. The biggest may very well be its variety. The variety stems from having both the extra card slot and the fact that it spans what was originally three different sets. Combining the block of sets that were Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, and Future Sight into one remastered set is pretty ingenious. Instead of spreading ideas and mechanics and draft choices across three sets it all gets condensed down into one set that is basically a highlight reel for the block. Mark Rosewater has spoken about condensing blocks and eventually we got to see this and live with a reality that is a one set block or the occasional two set block. It was easier for design to build good draft environments that fit with a storyline by having fewer sets to connect together. So, when Wizard's applies today's design approaches to yesterday's sets we end up with these cool remastered items. They function like watching a best-of highlight reel. That's exactly what this set is, so I'm pretty excited for other people to finally know just how amazing this block really is. It's both fun and flavorful.
Which cards do I think will be the best new pick-ups for Commander players? Well, let's take a gander at the colors for a moment and see which rares, uncommons, and commons are the best for including in your 99 or inspiring a new 99. I won't belabor the Mythics, because Mythics are usually awesome.
I'm sure you noticed the usual clause about Mythics, so let's talk about Crovax, Ascendant Hero. Crovax has been upshifted to a Mythic…ugh. Well, it should end up being a cheap Mythic, but this is going to be a great card in your go-wide Humans decks. I might even reconsider including it in my Djeru, With Eyes Open deck. Mangara of Corondor is an amazing card for answering literally anything on the board, so I imagine most decks will be excited to have this card as well. Uncommons are also a tough call as there are plenty of cards that slot into many go-wide strategies and plenty of tribal support cards as well. Overall, I think it's a toss-up between Stonecloaker and Lost Auramancers for best pickups in the uncommon slot. Now, as for the commons I think that Children of Korlis is a very interesting card that makes math a bit more complicated for your opponents. It can do some sneaky things if you have ways of paying life to set up ridiculous turns.
Blue's ability to take extra turns is amazing. Add “Buyback” to an extra turn spell, and the game is usually over in short order once you cast Walk the Aeons. It's an amazing card, but the card I'm most excited for people to be introduced to or maybe even reminded about is Draining Whelk. That card is amazing. This is the perfect time to reprint the whelk as the inspiration for this card, Mana Drain, was just reprinted in Commander Legends. You have to look at the original Mana Drain artwork, but once you do, then you'll totally understand what I'm talking about. That's just one small instance of how interconnected Time Spiral is with Magic's entire history. The uncommons are the place where you can see the power of Split Second. That keyword is amazing, and it's always fun saying no to people when they try to respond to a Split Second spell. That's why Wipe Away is the uncommon I'm most excited to see from this set. For blue's commons I'm giving the nod to the sweet duo that is Reality Acid and Dream Stalker. It has a whole archetype built after it in pauper, but using either card in your 99 in Commander is still a legitimate consideration. Especially if you're running any sort of blue deck with fan favorite Capsize (with Buyback).
Black's Mythics are cool, but it's super exciting to see people being introduced to Sudden Spoiling (Split Second is brutal) and Tombstalker. Tombstalker is probably underplayed as a beatdown device in most decks, but how often are you actually utilizing every card in your graveyard? Being able to drop a respectable threat in Commander for two black mana is very powerful indeed. The uncommons have plenty of depth as well, but I really like Minions Murmurs for all those decks looking to just refill their hand without spending six or more mana to do so. Life is cheap, so spend it on drawing cards. The commons have two cards that are criminally underrated—Pit Keeper and Enslave. They are both better than they seem at first. Enslave seems overpriced, but stealing is not what people expect from black. Meanwhile Pit Keeper is a super cheap card whose upside is very easy to turn on.
Red has some fun stuff, but seeing people picking up more copies of Reiterate is going to be an absolute blast. The flavor behind many of the uncommons is just so cool, but I really loved seeing Basalt Gargoyle in there. I'm not sure it's worth playing outside draft (perhaps even questionable there), but seeing Granite Gargoyle's aggressive sibling is just good fun. The true excitement comes from another red spell in the uncommon slot. Haze of Rage has storm and Buyback, so it's going to be a great surprise finisher in quite a few red decks. Red's commons are ridiculous. Two spells with storm: Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens are both good in the right decks. However, Ancient Grudge is Gruully excellent.
Green has a couple cool cards outside the obvious fungus among us theme. Heartwood Storyteller is a card I'm excited for people to start playing with a bit more. This card enables an awful lot of card draw and usually replaces itself at the very least. Two cards in the uncommon slot really draw me in for completely different reasons. If you've read this far, then you know I'm going to mention Krosan Grip, because it has Split Second and allows you to destroy pesky artifacts and enchantments without letting your opponent get one last use out of it. I love Split Second, because it essentially brought back the idea of “interrupts” in Magic. They functioned as instants, but they were faster. Split Second is really just the fastest interrupt ever. I love spells with Split Second. Now, Gaea's Anthem being downshifted to uncommon is a bit silly. It'll be nice to have plenty of copies of that lying around in the near future. Green's commons are basically devoted to slivers and thallids, but Utopia Vow is a great piece of removal for mono-green strategies.
Multicolor has amazing stuff, but nothing as amazing as all the slivers being there. Well, not all of the originals or anything, but plenty of strong slivers are there—Sliver Legion! Now, if you haven't been brutalized by a deck running Jhoira of the Ghitu, then you're lucky. If this is your first introduction to that card, then please, go grab every large CMC spell you can find, toss them in a deck with Jhoira of the Ghitu, and watch your friends groan every time you announce your commander.
Artifacts and Lands
The artifacts and lands are cool, but easily the most exciting cards to see here are Coalition Relic and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. The fact that both of them are merely rares is very fortunate. It would have been awful to see them upshifted to Mythic status as they are hard enough to come by now. Thankfully, these should be easier to come by, and people will be expanding their access to mana in truly exciting ways.
I know that the Mythics are all pretty exciting, and I spoke about that earlier so don't think I'm ignoring them, but you don't need me to point out Akroma's Memorial or cards without casting costs are incredibly powerful. Overall, this set has many cool tribal sub-themes I didn't dive into, but I'm sure you'll see as you peruse it. Those types of things are cool, and should not be underestimated from either a play perspective or collector's perspective. Getting all the pieces for your tribal decks can be difficult, but when a set is fresh and pieces are abundant, then you should snap up what you can while you can.
Overall, I have to say that Time Spiral Remastered seems like a no-brainer of a pick-up for most Commander players. If you happen to be able to draft this with friends, then you should absolutely get a box or even two. No, really, it's so much fun to play as a limited experience. The cards you have left over after the draft can easily be put to good use as either Commander deck filler or trade fodder. I just don't see a world where you can draft this with friends and then not have it be worth the price of admission. Buying this simply to crack packs can be worthwhile if you don't own these cards. There's so many sweet reprints in here that you are bound to stumble upon plenty of play material for your gambling efforts. In short, this is a set that has serious depth for Commander players. I caution you not to dismiss it as a draft only product. While I do consider it a no-brainer for Cube enthusiasts, drafters, and collectors, it is really a set that offers Commander players many cards worth playing.
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