Magic: The Gathering Fallout Commander review — “I feel something magic in the air tonight, and I’m not just talking about the gamma radiation.”

2 months ago 108

The quote I’ve shamelessly stolen for my tagline is from Mr. New Vegas, a radio host in Fallout: New Vegas. It almost perfectly encapsulates my thoughts on the Fallout Commander decks. Unlike the last round of Universe Beyond Commander decks (Doctor Who) I have been a Fallout fan as long as I’ve been playing video games, and I was very excited to get these decks to the table. Right out of the gate, I really like these decks. I don’t think they’re quite as good as the Doctor Who decks, but just like the Doctor Who ones, they are a love letter to Fallout fans in the form of fully playable Magic: The Gathering Commander decks. I do have some notes that knock these decks down a bit so let’s get into what these decks are and how they play.

Overview – Open the Vaults

The Universes Beyond Fallout Commander decks consist of four decks: Scrappy Survivors, Hail, Caesar, Mutant Menace, and Science! There are also collector boosters available for the Fallout set which were introduced starting with the Doctor Who set. Each Fallout deck contains 37 to 41 new card designs with the rest being reprints with new Fallout themed art. This model falls in line with previous Universes Beyond Commander products such as the aforementioned Doctor Who and Warhammer 40k Commander decks. I like this model as all of the cards can be obtained by buying the four Commander decks. Wizards of the Coast has offered unique artwork within collector boosters (introduced with Doctor Who), but this time there are five reprints in the collector boosters not found in the Commander decks. While I understand this is to entice players to purchase collector boosters, I’m not a fan of hiding away some of the cards in a collector booster. For me, alternate artwork in the collector boosters is fine as you can still acquire the normal cards from the Commander decks, but now we are starting to see unique cards in the collector boosters. Five unique cards isn’t a lot, but it is something I am curious to see if Wizards will increase this in the future. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but it is something I wanted to bring up.

Ravages of War can only be found in collector boosters.

What of the decks themselves? Starting with Scrappy Survivors, this is a WRG deck headed up by Dogmeat, Ever Loyal. If you love Fallout and were interested in learning Magic, this is the deck I would recommend to start with. The deck plays fairly straightforward, playing out creatures and suiting them up with auras/equipment. The auras/equipment strategy has been around a long time and I would be critical if that’s all the deck had to offer. Scrappy Survivors also creates Junk tokens, an entirely new token that allows you to exile the top card of your library and play it this turn. Not only is this a nice mechanical edition, but the junk token is thematically perfect for Fallout too. The last bit that keeps this deck interesting are the added ways to bring back your auras/equipment from the graveyard. All of these combined allow the deck to be easy to play, but interesting enough that it doesn’t get stale.

Hail, Caesar is a WBR led by…Caesar, Legion’s Emperor. I don’t know what I expected. Hail, Caesar is a creature tokens strategy deck that wants to play out creatures and get value by attacking their opponents. The deck is full of creatures that have abilities that create treasure tokens, junk tokens or empower your creatures when you attack. The rest of the deck is made up of cards that further bolster your small creature strategy through enchantments, equipment and targeted removal that help pave the way for your side of the board. The fun here is playing out your creatures and then trying to puzzle out your best attacks in order to pressure your opponents while furthering your game plan. Hail, Caesar isn’t perfect as it is vulnerable to board wipes and it can run out of options fairly quickly if combat isn’t going your way. Overall though, Hail, Caesar is a fun deck that succeeds in its game plan.

New cards created for Fallout.

Mutant Menace is a UBG with The Wise Mothman as its commander. I know the card is named The Wise Mothman, but my experience is that this Mothman is angry and will attack you several times hoping to knock you out through commander damage. Mutant Menace also features the rad counter, another new mechanic that perfectly fits Fallout. As players accumulate rad counters they will have to mill a card for each rad counter, then take a damage and remove a rad counter for each nonland card milled. Mutant Menace is filled with the strange and horrifying creatures found across the Wasteland. The deck’s other primary mechanics are +1/+1 counters and proliferate. As radiation grows, so will your creatures. Mutant Menace feels like the most unique of the four decks, and is the one I would recommend if you’re an experienced player. The rad counter is new and unique and that alongside the proliferate mechanic leads to games where your creatures are large and in charge.

Lastly, there’s Science! a WUR deck where progress is administered by Dr. Madison Li. Science! brings back the energy mechanic from Kaladesh in order to power up its many artifacts. The goal is to generate energy and use that energy to further your plans by powering up your artifact creatures. Sadly, out of the four this deck lacks the synergy found in the other three and tends to struggle to put together a cohesive game plan. The deck always has things to do, but can fall behind the other decks as games progress. The artifact theme is once again thematic for Fallout and the cards within are fun, but there just isn’t enough energy for everyone. (Somehow, not having enough energy is also thematic for Fallout.) While the other three decks do a good job of supporting their commanders, Science! doesn’t have the density of energy effects to support Dr. Madison Li. The deck isn’t terrible, there is fun to be had here, but when compared against the other three the lack of synergy is noticeable. If I was going to tweak one of these decks I would start with this one.

New cards using existing MtG mechanics that represent Fallout well.

Overall the decks are great. They aren’t perfect, but they are great decks for new and experienced players as they encompass different playstyles found within Magic. There are a myriad of mechanics found across the decks including Raid, Enrage, and Split Second. Vaults are represented as Sagas and tell the terrible stories of the various experiments administered throughout the games. If you’re familiar with the experiments, each Vault card reminds you of the events within. The junk token and rad counter are mechanically sound designs while also being a fantastic representation of the Fallout universe. Mechanically these decks make wonderful use of many existing Magic mechanics that make sense within the Fallout universe.

Artwork and Thematics – All The Glitters

I’ve already touched on the art, it’s hard not to. This is some of my favorite Magic artwork I’ve seen, period. The decks are full of amazing Fallout artwork and while I thought the new cards would be what I was most excited about, it turns out the thematic reprints are what have truly blown me away. The designers picked some of the best existing Magic cards that could represent Fallout and Wizards had amazing artwork created for these cards. The Fallout Path to Exile is my favorite version of that card by mile. Even if you don’t like Universes Beyond, the amount of respect and detail given is what keeps me interested in them. You can really tell that the people who worked on the Fallout decks truly understand the games and why people love them.

Existing MtG with new Fallout themed artwork. Other great reprints include: Solemn Simulacrum, Steel Overseer, Puresteel Paladin, Skullclamp, Mantle of the Ancients, Fraying Sanity, Tireless Tracker…I’ll stop now…

Despite my gushing, the thematics aren’t perfect. As a Fallout fan, I ask, why is Boone in the Caesar deck? Boone’s not a big fan of Caesar and I can’t imagine he would want Caesar as his commander. Why is Piper in the mutant deck? She’s pretty normal, I think? I get it…we can’t put literally everyone in the Scrappy Survivor deck. I’m sure there are design reasons as to why certain cards ended up in their homes, but these are the dumb questions you ask when you’re familiar with Fallout. The real point being that the artwork is the one area where Magic: The Gathering has basically never let me down and as a Fallout fan I appreciate the level of care they give their theme and art.

I mentioned the unique artwork only found in the collector boosters. The two styles of artwork that are found within are the Pip-Boy Showcase frames and the Vault Boy frames. The Pip-Boy frames feature more “realistic” artwork as though the games might show you through the lens of your Pip-Boy 3000. While I do like these frames, I prefer the normal frames as they are a different interpretation of Fallout through the skill of each artist. I like seeing Fallout portrayed differently than I’m used to. The Vault Boy frames are indicative of the game’s mascot Vault Boy in his retro cartoonish style. Despite their simplicity, I do love the cartoonish artwork found on the Vault Boy frames as they are appropriately silly.

One normal frame, one Pip-Boy frame, and one Vault Boy frame.

Conclusions – Megaton’s Fate

If you’re a Fallout fan and you’re wondering if these decks are worth trying out, I recommend them. If you’re an experienced player there are new things to discover within that you might find interesting even if you’ve never played a Fallout game. The four decks are largely creature based and when played together create a fun pod that’s interactive and dynamic. This is what makes Commander games fun. The Commander format always features some level of politicking and alliance shifting so each deck has a chance to come out on top. As usual, the artwork and thematics are top notch. I usually gush over Magic artwork and here I’m even more in love with the art. As a longtime fan of Fallout I love what Wizards has created with these four decks. Overall, I absolutely recommend these for a Fallout fan or a Magic fan.

Chris began tabletop gaming in college and quickly fell into the addictive world of cardboard. Beginning with D&D and Catan he became an enthusiast of all things gaming; analog or digital. Chris, now a relapsed MtG player, loves connecting with people via gaming through RPGs, board games, and video games. A particular favorite is testing friendships through social deduction games.

Whether you’re a fan of Fallout or Magic: The Gathering I think there is something for you to love with these four decks. For the experienced players, there are new mechanics that are powerful and interesting. For Fallout fans there’s some of the most amazing Fallout artwork I’ve ever seen. I truly appreciate the care Wizards takes with their Universes Beyond products and I hope this continues. Despite the decks having a few design hiccups, they are fun to play and I personally love them as a pod being played together. Overall, I absolutely recommend these decks for any fan of Fallout or Magic: The Gathering.

Chris Wyman

PROS

  • The artwork and thematics are some of the best I’ve ever seen
  • New mechanics like the Junk Token and Rad counter
  • Each deck employs a different strategy within MtG that is fun and interesting to play

CONS

  • Decks can lack synergy for their strategies
  • Five of the set’s cards are only found in collector boosters

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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