Could / Would / Should - Blue Playtest Cards
Welcome back to Could / Would / Should, the series where I evaluate things that don't legally exist, starting with my marriage as of two days ago.
This time, I'm tackling every blue playtest card from Mystery Booster: Convention Edition and ranking them by if they could, would, and should be printed into Commander. I'll also crown the champion card that absolutely should be legal in the format, regardless of if my mother approves. Let's go!
Animate Spell is actually pretty reasonable for a playtest card. It's a cheaper, narrower Spell Queller that gives the creature to the spell's owner.
Couldn't: A point in its favor is that it's about as weird as Spellweaver Volute is, and that's an actual card. This wouldn't survive in its current form, though. The version I see Wizards printing would put the targeted card face-down onto the battlefield, like Cloudform, or pull an Ugin, the Ineffable and just exile it outright. Once you remove that enchant ability from the equation, is it really Animate Spell?
Wouldn't: Even ignoring that, the major thing holding Animate Spell back is the fact that it isn't good enough to justify the complexity. Would you play a Counterspell that:
- Only targets instants and sorceries,
- Gives your opponents a huge creature, and
- Lets them cast the spell they wanted to anyway?
Remember, Swan Song exists.
Should: And yet, there's something to be said for how flexible this card is. Sure, you can target an enemy spell for a cheap Delay, but the much more interesting play is to throw it onto your own Wrath of God as a rattlesnake.
Aren't Inklings a Silverquill thing?
Could: Biting Remark somehow feels less prone to error than Panglacial Wurm, because you're holding the cards you scry separate from your deck. I'm sure some enterprising Johnny will still find a way to ruin everyone's lives with it, probably involving taxes and a Selvala, Explorer Returned.
Would: It's cute enough as a one-off effect in a Future Sight II. I doubt this gets fleshed out into a full mechanic, though, because a Limited format with Scrycast as a major component sounds like hell.
Should: I like the idea, and if we're in agreement that Scrycast is a one-off at best, at least a 3/3 flyer for four is decent enough on its own if it doesn't pan out.
Command the Chaff
Command the Chaff lets you cast a spell from your opponent's sideboard without paying any mana except for the six you need for Command. You need to be damn sure it's worth the investment, and most of the time in my Convention Edition drafts it was not. I do remember this causing one of my opponents to side a card into their deck, despite being unable to play it. That was pretty funny.
Could: Though this would be printed in Conspiracy III: Grassy Gnoll and nowhere else. Luckily, it's costed high enough that it wouldn't make a major dent in any constructed format.
Would: If Learn and Companion are any indication, it's that sideboards are no longer the safe havens for that fifth copy of Plummet they once were.
Shouldn't: Though maybe I'm just tainted by my own experiences of drawing this and then getting nothing out of it.
Control Win Condition
Wait a minute, this isn't a Control Win Condition! This is just a big beater! A real control win condition would make me exile all the cards in my hand, every permanent I control, and each of my hopes and dreams.
Could: Sure, nothing on this card is magically impossible...
Wouldn't: ...but it's such a headache! Control Win Condition gives itself away, too, like when you have to ask your opponent to make sure their graveyard is ordered properly when running Guiding Spirit. The instant someone starts tallying the number of turns they've taken -- and they would be tallying them, or else there's going to be disputes -- is the instant I know they're a control deck with a Win Condition and I have to find a new pod.
Shouldn't: Don't make cards that force additional bookkeeping if you can avoid it.
I didn't think it was possible to over-do how blue a card could be, but here we are with Do-Over, the spell that asks the question "Waiter, can I have some bourbon to wash down this Tylenol?"
Couldn't: I can't imagine the phrases "as best you can" and "do the rest at random" boding well for a card's printability.
Wouldn't: Picture a World Championship hinging on how players resolve this monstrosity.
Shouldn't: Don't make cards that force additional bookkeeping if you can avoid it.
Form of the Mulldrifter
Form of the Mulldrifter is an effect that lets you cast your creatures as another creature, which is a criminally ignored possibility in Magic: the Gathering. On the stack, you can counter a spell, or copy it, or redirect its targets, or steal it, or bounce it, or exchange it for Perplexing Chimera, but you can't turn it into something else. There's so much potential there, mostly involving Mutate. Now if you'll excuse me a moment, my doctor told me to take my sedative whenever I consider Mutate again.
Could: If Garth One-Eye can mention cards by name, Form of the Mulldrifter can do it, and they've already experimented in the play-as-something-else space with Richard Garfield, Ph.D. I'm predicting something similar to this card will show up in Unfinity.
Would: Sure, it's a powerful draw engine, and it sets up reanimator decks really well, but it costs five mana to cast, and each Evoke costs another three on top of it. It makes up for it by drawing you two cards when it enters, but this is just slow enough that it's plausible.
Absolutely Should: Izzet Squee, the Immortal, here I come!
This card looks like chaff, but actually might be too good, which means the flavor is on-point. A flashable, flying 2/1 for three is already decent value, but Innocuous Insect replaces itself and doubles as an infinite mana sink that draws your deck? Move over, Cloudkin Seer!
Could: Buyback is specifically worded to say "put this spell back into its owner's hand instead of that player's graveyard," but I don't know why they can't pull a flashback and change it to "instead of anywhere else."
Would: The infinite mana sink portion of this isn't enough to scare Wizards off of printing it. Compare it to Whispers of the Muse, which already exists and is easier on color requirements.
Should: This is the pack rare that will make new players frown when they see it and experienced players nod in quiet approval.
Island Fish Jasconius was once literally an Island Fish, but with a rules refresh the type Island was reserved solely for lands. Jasconius has since languished in its Fourth Edition home as a not-quite-Leviathan that can only attack blue players, and nobody has sought to rectify this injustice... until Jasconian Isle surfaced.
Could: Since there's a direct parallel in Dryad Arbor, of course more creature lands could be printed.
Wouldn't: The problem with them is that Amulet of Vigor exists and is a Modern staple. Making every blue-aligned fetch land a potential 3/4 blocker is something I see Wizards actively avoiding.
Shouldn't: If we're going to revisit land creatures, they shouldn't be fetchable, and the ones that are can't have a toughness that dodges Lightning Bolt.
Khod, Etlan Shiis Envoy
Khod, Etlan Shiis Envoy, also known as Cod, Atlantis Envoy once you cough up the chicken bone caught in your throat, is a decent pick for both sides of the command zone.
His ability that turns everything into Islands in addition to their other types is obviously meant to synergize with islandwalking Merfolk. It enables some pretty disgusting Ninjutsu effects, provided he's not removed before blockers, but even letting them connect for the damage alone is worth it considering the static buff. Nothing's more terrifying than the seven damage a turn the early game Merfolk flunges threaten when Master of the Pearl Trident is backing them up.
Khod is also relevant in the ninety-nine of a land-hacking deck. He's a perfect springboard for your Carpet of Flowers and great at bringing everyone's lands to a rapid Boil. He can even lead the mono-blue version; you just have to change the word "Island" to something else using a text-changing effect such as Mind Bend. Unfortunately, since the effect is tied to a creature, it doesn't have the resilience of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, which is a significant downside.
If you're looking to build around Homarids or Cephalids -- an odd choice as they have no coherent identity -- you could do worse than a flat buff, though I'd rather run Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor or whatever strange thing Naomi's latched onto in the past couple months.
Could: It's worth noting that neither Camarids nor Nautilids exist, but everything else about Cape Cod potato chips is above board.
Would: It's a reasonably priced, effective tool for Merfolk with enough layers underneath it not to be pigeonholed into that strategy -- all hallmarks of an excellent Commander.
Should: You can even make an Islandhome tribal deck if you prefer to ignore that it's no longer a keyword.
Realistically, you're only drawing cards off Learned Learner when either your Reliquary Tower or Thought Vessel is in play. Otherwise, he's a 0/3?
Could: There's nothing that seems super problematic with him rule-wise.
Wouldn't: And while there's nothing wrong with the card itself, the environment he'd need to be in to see consistent value out of him seems too jank to be actively designed towards.
Should: Though I wish he had a second ability that's a stronger drawing effect if your hand size was less than seven or even zero.
And with a somersaulting cheese factory, I can get triple the cheese output...
Could: If you abstract it a bunch, four-faced really isn't all that different from a Saga. Something triggers it to change chapters, it performs the action corresponding to that stage. I just hope the inevitable counter Wizards would create to track the ability isn't called a "face token," because that sounds... sinister.
Wouldn't: I imagine that playtesting Loopy Lobster at all would immediately reveal people forgetting to advance the counter after an attack.
Shouldn't: "Okay, which state is Loopy Lobster on?"
I hate when large corporations recycle things from twenty years ago, because now I can't say "Hey, remember that show The Weakest Link?" in reference to the Bank mechanic. Damn you, NBC!
Could: This is a "soft could" in the way Command the Chaff is. The idea of a match doesn't work too well on the kitchen table, but at the very least the design space is worth exploring.
Wouldn't: Are you joking?! This effectively lets players who draw out game one start game two with a substantially larger hand. If Companion was malignant, it would be Bank.
Shouldn't: The only bank card that should matter in Magic: the Gathering is the one that lets you withdraw funds to purchase more packs.
All that's missing, ironically enough, is the Cycling.
Could: Flying counters weren't real when this was originally designed, but now that they are, this looks painfully vanilla.
Would: I can't wait to see this at common in Magic's hottest new Summer 2025 set, Ikoria II: Size Doesn't Matter.
Should: But only with the art untouched. Part Rawk Hawk, part Pistols for Pandas, all husband.
Back during the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms prerelease, I remember it was game three, my opponent was tapped out, and all I had to do to get through for lethal was to remove one blocker. Luckily, I top-decked the perfect answer. I smirked, flicked it out from my hand, and said "Mind Flayer?" to which they responded, "Yes, I do."
I think about this maybe once a week.
Could: Of course, Squidnapper is just Mind Flayer's I'm-really-afraid-of-commitment cousin. I hope the one point of toughness is worth it.
Would: Though I shudder to think of how poorly a Ransom-flavored Commander precon would go over. Welcome to Magic: the Gathering, the game where you negotiate with terrorists.
Should: If only because the idea of paying ludicrous sums of mana to get past your opponent's plans worked so well for Ward. I'm all for slowly and secretly reintroducing Rhystic back into the game.
The Grand Tour
The Grand Tour is a blink spell told by your grandmother. Sure, it turns a permanent into an indecisive city planner, in that it's constantly changing zones, but ultimately it's not too different from Cloudshift: Mulldrifter leaves, Mulldrifter comes back.
Couldn't: At first glance this seems fine, but the problem is that they decided to make the top of your library a pit stop. That zone, unlike the others on the card, is supposed to be hidden, so it's strange to track something through there. The rest of them aren't perfect, either; imagine the replacement effect hells of Madness and Library of Leng.
Shouldn't: But then again, I don't want to deal with whatever monstrosity is built to abuse this, either.
I wish this abomination didn't poison the well for the idea of token cards, because I can't look at Time Sidewalk and feel anything other than "I need a shower."
Couldn't: Tokens can't exist in the library, thanks to state-based actions. The rulings for Time Sidewalk specify that token cards can, but then you get to the question of the original wordings of something like Teferi's Realm, which used "cards" as shorthand for "nontoken." Do those get updated to specify noncard tokens?
Wouldn't: Wizards wants to prevent you from screwing up your deck during shuffling if at all possible, which is why you don't see things like ramp spells that create token lands.
Shouldn't: Presumably, the downside of Time Sidewalk is that in its base form, an extra turn spell that costs so much mana would be absolutely unplayable. That's been thoroughly disproven by cards like Alrund's Epiphany, and this one doesn't even exile itself when you cast it normally! Not to mention Time Walk itself, which you can easily tutor for and recur in a dedicated deck.
Truth or Dare
Truth or Dare is a strange game. It's either extremely innocent with gossipy truths about which girl you like and gross dares about eating something nasty or extremely not innocent with gossipy truths about which girl you like and gross dares about eating something nasty. There is no middle ground.
Could: Nothing special here, though it's weird to see a permanent effect like this from a sorcery. It reminds me a bit of Riding the Dilu Horse in that regard.
Wouldn't: Woof, this is rough. This card either slows the game to a crawl as a player uses their perfect knowledge of the game to attempt to guarantee victory, or it puts your opponent on a ten-turn clock. Add in some targeted draw, like Blue Sun's Zenith, and both modes guarantee misery.
Shouldn't: It's not even the correct color identity: this should clearly be Izzet.
Visitor from Planet Q
Couldn't: The second part is fine, but the first part is too weird. It's unfortunate, because flash always felt like a kludge to me.
Wouldn't: If Wizards really wanted to, they could do a massive Gatherer update to make instant a supertype, changing all instances of instant on cards to "instant sorcery" or "noninstant sorcery." It also cuts down on the phrase "instants and sorceries" we see on a lot of spellslinger cards to just "sorceries," which feels nicer.
Should: Do it, you cowards. I've done harder refactors at work.
Come back eventually, when I'll pick another pool of cards to could / would / should. See you!