The Land's Wrath Commander deck, tying in as one of two Magic: The Gathering precons with the game's newest upcoming expansion, Zendikar Rising, is being revealed right here, right now! And, to top it off, we have an exclusive interview with Gavin Verhey, Lead Deck Architect.
Bleeding Cool: First off, could you please introduce yourself?
Gavin Verhey: Hi there! I'm Gavin Verhey, the lead architect for this project. I want to give a big shout out to Corey Bowen, who was the lead designer. Together, we brought this project to life!
BC: Excellent. On to brass tacks! What was your design process for the Land's Wrath deck, as Lead Architect? What were the overall steps you and your team took to bring this deck to players' hands?
GV: 2020 is really a year of Commander – the format has grown so much since the first Commander
product released all the way back in 2011, and it's now perhaps Magic's largest format. Yet, we were still only doing one dedicated Commander release a year. So, it was time to upsize how much we were doing for Commander to match the players. And while the other traditional sets we release in a year are still sets for Commander, in the sense they have cards you can play in the format, we know people really like the fixed decks.
Additionally, we have seen that a lot of people are getting into Magic through Commander. While it is a complicated format, this also makes sense: it's what their friends are playing. So, with Zendikar Rising (and also Commander Legends later this year) we've created two Commander decks that are extremely accessible. These should be great entry points for new Commander players, while also having a few new cards and neat themes for experienced Commander players as well.
BC: Typically, Naya decks tend to have a lot of big creatures, and Eldrazi are some of the biggest. What challenges did you face when designing this deck without the Eldrazi in the picture anymore?
GV: One of the rules we set for ourselves with this deck is that the three new cards needed to be from Zendikar, but all of the reprints could be from anywhere. That said, especially for the landfall deck which would creatively be the deck that hates the Eldrazi, that would be very creatively odd! Fortunately, in this case, we have access to green – a color known for its gigantic creatures. Cards like Rampaging Baloths and Multani will get the job done! The other colors are no slouches either, bringing reprints like Sun Titan and Admonition Angel into the fray.
BC: Obuun, Mul Daya Ancestor takes the lands-matter theme in a bold direction for Commander. How many different iterations of Obuun did you go through before getting to the final version? How long did it take from initial design to get it perfect?
GV: Given that these decks only have three new cards apiece, and that the new Commander is the only option for leading the deck, it was probably the single card that the most focus was put into. (The same is true for the face card of the other deck.) We went through so many versions – and we had to create something that would be exciting for new-to-Commander players, while also tickling the fancy of experienced Commander players as well. I'm happy with where it turned out – and excited to see what people think!
BC: What is your favorite combo or synergy in the Land's Wrath deck?
GV: A lot of them revolve around the reprint card Together Forever. I love that card (as the lead designer of Battlebond, I may be a tad biased), and there are a lot of fun combinations with it here because Obuun gives out a counter every time you play a land. – A card like Armorcraft Judge can become a real draw engine when you get to recast it every turn.
BC: Geode Rager is a fantastic card that showcases a mechanic outside of the Zendikar Rising set. Besides Obuun, what are the top three commanders that would you endorse to put Geode Rager into the 99 of?
GV: Yes – thanks for noticing on Geode Rager! One of the cool things I've always loved about Commander products is being able to pull mechanics from anywhere and everywhere. Even though there are only three new cards per deck here, I'm very glad we were able to do a little of that! Goad is an awesome multiplayer mechanic, and helps the game moving along. Have fun goading all of your opponent's creatures with this one! Three other Commanders that would be happy to cast Geode Rager are:
- Marisi, Breaker of the Coil – It goads already, and it's a lot of fun to make your opponents have to deal with constantly attacking one another. (…Well, fun for you anyway.)
- Marath, Will of the Wild – Its ability to deal damage to things or even permanently grow a creature is great to muck with your opponent's combats as they're attacking each other.
- Ghired, Conclave Exile – Ghired wanted to be able to attack clearly, and goad makes sure he can do just that!
BC: What was the most memorable moment for you in playtesting this set of Commander decks? Do you have any fun stories from that part of the process?
GV: It's not so much about these exact decks, but more about the whole project. We are making two
decks for Commander Legends as well, and at one point we had a playtest with the two Commander Legends decks and the two Zendikar Rising decks all playing against one another. As the person architecting both projects, it was very cool to see decks from two entirely different sets sit down and play against one another – and have great games. It was this very cool moment of, "It's happening! It's real!" – and as a designer, you love for these moments. We really tried to make sure these would fit well into games that have any of the other preconstructed decks we make, and I think it turned out well.
BC: Trove Warden takes a non-zero number of hints from various established white cards and
synthesizes them into a very strong reanimation card. In what other ways is Wizards of the
Coast aiming to make white a stronger color in Commander (and elsewhere, by association)?
GV: Ah yes, the topic of white! We've heard loudly that white needs more support, especially in Commander. The color is historically bad at card advantage and mana ramp, perhaps the two most important pieces of Commander decks. So, we have a number of cards and new takes on things in the pipeline that we think will help white out. (We recently previewed Keeper of the Accord from Commander Legends later this year, which is another great example.)
This card is stellar because it can give you both card advantage and mana ramp. You can exile cards under it and have them all recast it when it dies, which is a source of card advantage… And if some of them are lands (and there are plenty of ways for lands to hit the graveyard even at common and uncommon – from Evolving Wilds to Myriad Landscape) you can ramp ahead!
As for what's to come in the future… We have a number of things we're trying, and I can't give them all away yet, but one that I'm particularly interested to get thoughts on which you'll find in the Zendikar Rising is "shared draw" like Farsight Adept. This gives you and target opponent card draw. This is something white could potentially do more of in the future! If you're reading this, let me know what you think of this effect, and how you would feel if it let you and an opponent draw even more cards. (You can find me on Twitter! @GavinVerhey)
BC: Can we expect to see other set-integrated Commander decks in the foreseeable future?
GV: We haven't announced what the future holds yet, but I think this model of attaching Commander decks to sets is going to be pretty successful and I would definitely expect us to do it again. That said, I'd love to know what you all think. Let me know your feedback – we're always listening and learning.
Hope you all enjoy these decks! They're a blast to play with and made to integrate well into your Commander table. Have fun!
The full decklist for Land's Wrath can be found here. Are you excited for Zendikar Rising and these Commander decks? Let us know in the comments below!