Review: 'Commander 2018: Exquisite Invention' (MTG)

Review: 'Commander 2018: Exquisite Invention' (MTG) WOTC / RYAN PANCOAST

Magic: The Gathering takes a slightly different approach with its Commander 2018 preconstructed EDH decks compared to recent years.  How does each deck come across right out of the box?  Well, as far as Exquisite Invention is concerned, it's just not quite all there.

The Deck:

Planeswalkers are cool.  Artifacts are cool.  So an artifact deck headed-up by one of Magic's most artifact-focused planeswalkers should be twice as cool, right?  Well, maybe on paper.  In practice, it's a bit of a jumbled mess.  There is hope, however, for those who are looking for an interesting base off of which to make their own EDH deck in the future.

Exquisite Invention sees a second incarnation of Saheeli in Saheeli, the Gifted.  She's interesting in that she has two +1 abilities with the first creating a 1/1 Servo token and the other discounting your next spell by one colorless for each artifact you control.  Between the two, the second is the more appealing ability but its completely useless if you are sans artifacts.  Her ultimate ability is pretty neat as it lets you create copies of every artifact you control.  Furthermore, those copies have haste and that's great for copying artifact creatures.  It has the promise of being a good for a "go wide" victory, but if most of your artifacts are utility ones such as mana rocks or you simply have a bunch of 1/1 Servo tokens, it's not so spectacular.  Add in the fact that they disappear at the beginning of the following end step, and we're back to a ho-hum response.

In terms of notable creatures, old-school players should appreciate seeing the early-Magic character Tawnos get a card in Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice.  Besides just being old-school fan service, his ability allowing players to duplicate activated and triggered artifact abilities is not only useful, it can be just downright silly if paired with the right artifacts.  Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer is another new creature of note.  This legendary was previously only mentioned in the flavor text of Sarcomite Myr from Future Sight but appears in full force in Commander 2018 by not only giving creature tokens haste but also creating 2/1 Myr artifact creature tokens AND making all of your creature tokens mimic any one token creature of your choice.  Brudiclad is a creature that can let things get out of hand in your favor quite easily if given the chance.  There's also Treasure Nabber -- a creature that can really put a kink into your opponents' plans by temporarily stealing their mana-producing artifacts when used.

Of course, with Exquisite Invention, it isn't just about "normal" creatures.  It's also about artifact creatures.  This deck has a handful of brand new ones.  Probably most noteworthy of them are Ancient Stone Idol and Geode Golem.  The Idol is a nod to the Zendikar card Stone Idol Trap and can be quite the surprise for your opponent when a 12/12 with trample seemingly appears out of nowhere.  As for the Golem, it's one of the uncommons in this set that really got our attention.  In short, it lets you play your commander FOR FREE when it deals combat damage to a player -- something that shouldn't be too difficult thanks to it being a 5/3 with trample.  You'll still need to play the tax and any ETB costs, but that's really not a lot when you consider the mana cost has been paid for by the Golem.

When it comes to new non-creature artifacts, this deck boasts the likes of Retrofitter Foundry, Endless Atlas, and Coveted Jewel.  The Foundry lets you create 1/1 Servo tokens, then upgrade it to a 1/1 flying Thopter token, then upgrade it further to a 4/4 Construct.  It can also untap itself.  The entire process, however, is rather mana intensive.  Endless Atlas is affordable card draw that encourages the use of basic lands in your EDH deck and might see some play outside of the format.  The six-mana costed Coveted Jewel is a very interesting card as it taps for three mana just like a Gilded Lotus does, but has the added benefit of letting you draw three cards when it comes into play.  The downside, however, is that it's easy to lose control of it.  When that happens, your opponent gets to draw the cards.  Of course, you could always get it back and re-reap the benefits.

Beyond the handful of cards making their debut in Exquisite Invention, the deck also boasts a nice selection of reasonable reprints.  Players should be pleased to see new printings of cards like Duplicant, Blasphemous Act, and Swiftfoot BootsSol Ring and Command Tower (of course) also make their respective re-appearances.  There is no reprint that will really wow you, but it does have one of the best reprint selections of all of the Commander 2018 decks.

Like the rest of the decks released this year for the set, the land base for Exquisite Invention leaves much to be desired.  There is the aforementioned Command Tower as well as the nice new non-basic land Forge of Heroes and a reprint of Buried Ruin, but beyond those there's really nothing of note.  For multi-colored lands, players are given lackluster options such as Izzet Guildgate, Izzet Boilerworks, and Swiftwater Cliffs.  At least one of those could have been something at least slightly better such as a Shivan Reef or Spirebluff Canal.  At least WotC thought to include reprints the relevant Mirrodin block artifact lands: Seat of the Synod, Great Furnace, and Darksteel Citadel.  There are also two notable exclusions from this land base that we found surprising.  As trivial as it may seem, WotC did not see it fit to include either Evolving Wilds or Terramorphic Expanse despite the deck boasting a whopping 27 basic lands.

The Value:

Commander decks have a reputation for packing in more monetary value than the MSRP implies, so it should come as no surprise that the same is exactly the case for Exquisite Invention.  Cards found in the deck that are topping the price guides include Treasure Nabber ($8.50), Saheeli, the Gifted ($7), Endless Atlas ($3.50), Unwinding Clock ($3.50), Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer ($3), and Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice ($3).  There is also a cool 16 cards that are some worth somewhere between $1 and $3 each.  The rest (as could be expected) might as well be considered bulk.  Treasure Nabber is an interesting one because the card could rise a bit over time as it has interesting implications with other formats.

The Magic: The Gathering Commander 2018 deck Exquisite Invention is available now and retails at $39.99.

For An Extra Ten Bucks:

We recommend improving the land base for those looking to upgrade to Exquisite Invention.  Working on a budget, including Evolving Wilds (15¢) and Terramorphic Expanse (25¢) are good ideas that cost mere pennies.  It would probably be a good idea to also replace some of the slow dual lands with the scry lands from the Theros block ($2-3 each) and maybe a Shivan Reef ($3).  The Rivals of Ixalan card Storm the Vault ($1.50) is a shoe-in as it's very easy to flip into the Tolarian Academy inspired Vault of Catlacan.  Creatures such as Trophy Mage (25¢), Treasure Mage (40¢), and Sai, Master Thopterist ($3.50) are great inclusions.  And the Dominaria saga The Antiquities War ($1) can be an easy finisher.

Bonus Coverage:

If you want to see the Commander 2018 decks in action, check out this special video presentation from the recent preview battle royale match we held at a LGS in Las Vegas.

Wizards of the Coast provided the Exquisite Invention deck for the purpose of review.

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