I’ve been quite impressed by Ulvenwald Mysteries, a 3 cost green enchantment from Shadows over Innistrad. While I haven’t seen it in Commander yet, I saw it a fair bit in draft, and the amount of work it put in there was remarkable. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it start turning up in several Commander decks in the near future, either. I’ve already put it in a few of mine, perhaps the most notably in my combo deck commanded by Glissa, the Traitor called “Warranty Void if Seal is Broken”:
Before we get into how Ulvenwald Mysteries fits into the deck, let’s look at what this enchantment does:
Whenever a nontoken creature you control dies you get a Clue token. This basically means that for two mana you can draw a card whenever one of those nontoken creatures dies. This is similar to another popular enchantment in Commander called Fecundity. Fecundity lets you draw a card for free, and also triggers for token creatures dying. This is clearly better, but unlike Ulvenwald Mysteries it gives this effect to all players. Most of the time you won’t care that your opponents are also drawing cards, but sometimes your opponents make better use of your enchantment than you do, and that can be a bit of a drag. While a Commander deck that runs Fecundity is unlikely to replace it with this new enchantment, it might consider also including an Ulvenwald Mysteries as a sort of ‘second copy’ of Fecundity, since they have a similar function and fill a similar role.
But Ulvenwald Mysteries isn’t simply ‘whenever a nontoken creature you control dies you may pay 2. If you do, draw a card.’ If it was, it really would just be a worse Fecundity. Instead you get that Clue token, an artifact that you can sacrifice later to draw a card, in case you don’t have the mana right away. This helps, as it allows you to ‘tap out’ by using all of your mana in a turn, but not miss out on the card draw. It also means that you can avoid having to discard cards at the end of your turn if you have too many; this is often not an issue, but there can be advantages to spreading out your draws.
Depending on your deck you might not even want to sacrifice your Clue tokens to draw cards. In my Glissa, the Traitor deck, for instance, these tokens could be used with a card like Kuldotha Forgemaster or Krark-Clan Ironworks for various effects. Any deck that cares about Artifacts would do well to consider the inclusion of Ulvenwald Mysteries as an extra source of these permanents, since having nontoken creatures die in a Commander game is pretty common.
While it’s fine to talk about how valuable these tokens can be, the real reason I was excited to put it into my Glissa, the Traitor deck was because of how it can be used to outright win the game. Here’s one example of how this enchantment could be used in my deck as part of an infinite combo:
I have Krark-Clan Ironworks and Ulvenwald Mysteries in play. I cast Myr Retriever and then sacrifice it to my Krark-Clan Ironworks for 2 mana. When it dies I get another artifact card from my graveyard back to my hand. Let’s say I’m able to get Junk Diver. Junk Diver is very similar to Myr Retriever in that when it also dies I can get another artifact back from my graveyard to my hand. With the extra mana I can generate from sacrificing the Clue token I have enough mana to continually loop casting these two creatures and sacrificing them as many times as I want. Not only that, but at the end of each loop I will have more mana than when I started; between the Myr Retriever and the Clue token the enchantment creates I gain 4 mana, but the Junk Diver only costs 3! Just in case I was running short, Ulvenwald Mysteries will produce an extra Clue token when the bird dies, too! So this means that this loop generates both infinite mana and infinite Clue tokens. This means that I can draw as many cards as I want and still have mana left over to cast things. In short, these four cards together can effectively make me win the game; sure I’ll need one more card, like Blood Artist or something similar, to actually deal the killing blow, but because this loop also draws cards, it gives me access to the entire rest of my deck. Not too shabby! Considering that even if I didn’t have all of the pieces for this combo, Ulvenwald Mysteries would still be useful for digging deeper into the deck to find the missing pieces, it seems like a great fit.
What is truly remarkable about this enchantment, though, is that, for all of the amazing things I’ve gone over, I’ve actually only been talking about the first half of this card. That’s right, it does even more!
Not only does it make Clues when nontoken creatures you control die, but it also gives you a 1/1 Human Soldier creature token whenever you sacrifice a Clue! It is important to note that this triggers when you sacrifice the Clue for any reason, so cards like Krark-Clan Ironworks will also give you a Soldier token for your trouble! This is perhaps the main ability that made Ulvenwald Mysteries so strong in draft; not only were you generating card advantage with your Clues, but you are also creating an army to protect yourself and eventually overwhelm your opponents. This extra value is what sets Ulvenwald Mysteries apart from similar cards like Fecundity; by giving you card draw without giving up board presence, this enchantment really has the potential to be a great card in Commander.
Not only does it fit into oddball combo decks like mine, but I could easily see this card finding its way into other strategies, too. Any token-based deck with cards that double the number of tokens you have in play, like Parallel Lives or Doubling Season, might consider running Ulvenwald Mysteries, for instance; these enchantments will not only double the number of Soldier tokens generated for each Clue sacrificed, but the way they were worded means that they will also double the number of Clues generated. This is of course contingent on running enough nontoken creatures for the first ability of Ulvenwald Mysteries to be relevant, but considering the number of creature cards that also put tokens into play, most token-based strategies in Commander should have enough creature cards to make this new enchantment worthwhile.
Tribal decks may have a reason to include this card as well. The creature tokens that Ulvenwald Mysteries puts into play are both Humans and Soldiers, one of the first times we have seen this combination of creature types on a token. Soldiers are a well-supported tribe in Magic’s history, which is usually very aggressive, so the extra card draw from the Clues would be welcome. While there has not been nearly as much Human tribal support in the game to date, we are seeing more and more of it as time goes on, especially in the Innistrad blocks. The new Sigarda, Heron’s Grace, for example, could be a great Commander for a Human tribal deck, and the tokens from Ulvenwald Mysteries would fit in nicely alongside cards like Thalia’s Lieutenant, Hamlet Captain or Riders of Gavony. Plus it would be on-theme!
Overall, I’m extremely impressed with Ulvenwald Mysteries; its design is simple, but deceptively powerful. When I first saw this card I was impressed at how good it was, and that was before I had even finished reading it. The fact that it not only draws you cards when your creatures die but also creates creature tokens of its own seems over the top, especially for an uncommon card. If all it did was give you a Clue token when a nontoken creature you controlled died, it would still be a good card, but it does that and more. This card is not only good, but it is very versatile. While it would be defensible in almost any Commander deck that could run it, the fact that it can have so many synergies is what makes this card stand out in my mind has having a lot of potential in the format.