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Magic: The Gathering Universes Beyond Doctor Who review — I just want to tell you: you were fantastic.

So…I know nothing about Doctor Who. I had to have a friend help me with the byline for this review. Doctor Who has always been in my peripheral and I’ve always thought I’d get around to watching it, but I never have. Now, Wizards of the Coast has released four Doctor Who Commander decks each themed from across Doctor Who’s vast history. While I’m not familiar with The Doctor, I am familiar with Wizards previous Universes Beyond Commander products. So far the Universes Beyond Commander products have been good. Both the Warhammer 40k and Tales of Middle-earth Commander decks are solid crossovers. With Doctor Who I had high expectations that these decks would live up the pedigree Wizards has set for themself.

Artwork – Into the Time Vortex

Before we talk about the mechanical workings of the decks, let’s talk about the art and theming. In this particular case I have little reference to judge the card artwork and since I know nothing about Doctor Who, I took the decks over to a gathering where I knew some Whovian friends would be. I wanted to get some “expert” opinions on the art and flavor of the cards. This worked out even better than I hoped as I watched several of my friends meticulously examine every card one by one. Every now and then I’d answer a question about what the rules text on the card, but most of them didn’t care about the mechanical rules. I mention this interaction because the cards had a literal enchanting effect on my Doctor Who friends. They wanted to see all the artwork and had a good time looking through the cards. I tried to entice some of them to try Magic: The Gathering, but none of them took me up on my offer. In the end I was assured that the cards had amazing artwork and that a lot of cards represent important episodes from the show. They got to nerd out talking about their favorite episodes that were on the cards. I think the artwork across the cards is cool too, but I’d trust their judgment before mine as I don’t know who anyone is.

Artwork recommendations by someone who knows Doctor Who

Overview – Bigger on the Inside

While there’s a lot of applications for the cards within the Doctor Who Commander decks, I will be examining them as preconstructed Commander products. With that in mind we have four decks and they are: Blast from the Past, Timey-Wimey, Paradox Power, and Masters of Evil. Each of these decks contain fifty new card designs which is a lot more than a standard new precon Commander deck. Part of the draw of Universes Beyond is seeing things from other properties represented on a Magic card and I hope Wizards will continue to make more new designs rather than less as the Tales of Middle-earth Commander decks had only around twenty new designs per deck. A common thread between each deck is that they all contain a particular strategy that the deck wants you to lean into. The puzzle of each game is how to maximize your deck so that you come out victorious. Let’s take a look at each deck to see how they personify Doctor Who.

Starting with Blast from the Past, this deck represents the original run of the show containing Doctors 1-8. This deck contains the highest density of Doctors and companions. Across all of the decks there are numerous Sagas for hallmark episodes of the show and these Sagas are most important for Blast from the Past. This deck also has a historic theme where the player will generate additional value from artifacts, legendaries, and Sagas. Thus it comes as no surprise that this deck is crammed full of historic cards. Blast from the Past focuses around playing out your many historic permanents until you’ve overwhelmed your opponents through creatures. If you like playing creatures and synergizing them, this is a great deck for you. Creature strategies tend to be more straightforward, but with so many historic triggers even this deck can be a lot to remember.

Blast From the Past Face Commanders and the Saga for the City of Death

Timey-Wimey starts off the reboot of Doctor Who with Doctors 9-11. Timey-Wimey sure lives up to its name as this deck focuses on manipulating Time Counters. The mechanics Suspend and Vanishing take center stage here. Timey-Wimey wants the player to find ways to bring their suspended cards into play faster and to keep their vanishing cards around longer. The win condition for this deck seems more broad as it has a lot of spells and general creatures. While the deck didn’t have as clear a goal to me, Timey-Wimey does a good job of keeping itself in a game by generating additional value from its counter manipulation strategy. Perhaps this deck’s strength is its ability to respond to a changing game state as it always seemed to be able to do something even if it didn’t seem as game breaking as some of the others.

Paradox Power features the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctors and wants to cast spells anywhere but your hand for additional value. How do you do that? Well, I’m going to throw some keywords at you: Foretell, Rebound, Retrace, Flashback, Cascade, and “play/cast from exile this turn.” Do you know what all those words mean? Great! I’ve got a fun deck for you. If you’re not familiar with that alphabet soup, I suggest you keep the internet handy while playing this deck. Despite the complexity, this deck is a ton of fun as a player again tries to puzzle through their turn working for the best play order. This deck seemed more focused on spells than creatures. Since the deck also features Cascade, a player also has to be ok with the inherent randomness that Cascade can produce. The end game for Paradox Power also seems less certain as it features a variety of creatures and even some direct damage spells, but similar to Timey-Wimey it always had something to do.

Masters of Evil is a deck that wants to attack every other player at the table. Thematically this deck contains all of the major villains from Doctor Who. This is an aggressive deck that rewards itself for dealing damage to other players. Masters of Evil has a lot of ways to push damage through its evasive creatures and its Villainous Choice mechanic. With Villainous Choice, the other players either have to lose something or let you gain something. This is a fun design space as everyone reacts differently to a bad choice. For me, Villainous Choice is the type of design where Universes Beyond excels as this mechanic is flavorful and fun. If you like being the villain at the table, this deck is for you. Since this is an aggressive deck, Masters of Evil keeps the game going and forces the other players into the game rather than sit back until they can win outright. If the other players don’t do something, the masters of evil will win.

Masters of Evil Face Commanders and the Saga Genesis of the Daleks

Conclusions – Truth or Consequences

My biggest takeaway that I’d like to communicate is that each deck is an incredibly fun puzzle to solve. Each turn you will be racking your brain trying to figure out the best way to sequence your play so that you can build the best position possible. As a pod the decks reminded me of a euro style area control board game where I was focused on my own engine first. At some point I would have to eliminate the other players, but I was too busy running my own deck to spend much time considering what the others were doing. After our games got past the setup phase we’d then start evaluating the board and politicking as per normal Commander games. Since it is Commander there’s no shortage of interactivity either with counter magic, removal, big board wipes, and game wide sweepers lurking in everyone’s hand. Sometimes games turned on a dime with big combat blowouts and other times there wasn’t anything you could do as your life ticked to zero. This is all normal for Commander and these decks are much closer to constructed Commander play than other precon Commander decks.

Normally precon Commander decks only have two choices of commanders, but here with the myriad of Doctors and companions you could choose all kinds of combinations. These decks use a variant of the partner mechanic where you get one Doctor and one companion as your Commanders. (Except for Masters of Evil.) The upside of this is that there’s just a lot of choices contained in each of the Doctor Who Commander decks. On top of all this there’s also ten new in universe Planechase cards with every deck. There’s so much value in these Commander decks I almost forgot about the Planechase cards. Planechase is a fun variant of Commander where you can hop from plane to plane for different game effects. It’s a nice inclusion for these Commander decks and seems very representative of Doctor Who.

Alternate Commander choices for Blast from the Past and the Saga Trial of a Time Lord

The only negative I have with the Doctor Who Commander decks isn’t even a real criticism. I tend to look at Universes Beyond products as something that might bring new players to the game and here these decks are not a good starting point for Magic: the Gathering. Perhaps learning to pilot one of these decks would make a great goal for a new player, but I would not start someone new to Magic with these decks. If you play a lot of constructed Commander, these decks aren’t any more complicated than player constructed decks, but there’s a lot of triggered/activated abilities, +1/+1 counters, and various mechanics from all over Magic inside them. That being said, this means there’s a lot for veterans here. Whether you keep them assembled or build new decks from the cards within, there’s so much potential for new Commander plays it’s dizzying.

Summary – Everybody Lives!

Even as someone who now knows almost nothing about Doctor Who, I can say that mechanically these decks are fantastic. Yes, that one was on purpose… Each one has been lovingly crafted to create a fun play experience that while complicated, is incredibly rewarding to play. Each deck employs different strategies to win with a variety of play styles. If Wizards of the Coast continues to treat their Universes Beyond Commander products with such care I will be excited to see each and every one of them whether I’m familiar with the property or not. As a crossover these decks seem like a labor of love. While I’m not sure the Doctor Who Commander decks will draw too many Whovians to Magic, I may have to go finally watch some Doctor Who.

Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

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 recovering 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.

90

Excellent

Magic: The Gathering

Review Guidelines

Even as someone who now knows almost nothing about Doctor Who, I can say that mechanically these decks are fantastic. Yes, that one was on purpose… Each one has been lovingly crafted to create a fun play experience that while complicated, is incredibly rewarding to play. Each deck employs different strategies to win with a variety of play styles. If Wizards of the Coast continues to treat their Universes Beyond Commander products with such care I will be excited to see each and every one of them whether I’m familiar with the property or not. As a crossover these decks seem like a labor of love. While I’m not sure the Doctor Who Commander decks will draw too many Whovians to Magic, I may have to go finally watch some Doctor Who.

Chris Wyman

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

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