Magic Commander Universes Beyond: Dr. Who Set Review, Part 1 of 4: The Mechanics

The newest Universes Beyond until the one being released as a Secret Lair the week after this release as a surprise pop-up Helly Kitty I’m an adventurer, focuses on the BBC show about a regenerating Time Lord who is sometimes a man and sometimes a woman but always deeply British, and went from battling trash cans (Daleks) by having long conversations, walking and talking Aaron Sorkin style to being a quippy pseudo-action scifi whose show resolution often involves heartbreak, a sonic screwdriver (tricorder) and outwitting grotesque and villainous foes.

The set has several new mechanics, as well as a lot of old ones.

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Doctor’s Companion

This is Backgrounds, but for creatures. Or put another way it’s yet another variant of “partner with a limited selection of potential commanders.” The Doctor’s Companions represent someone being one of the travelers tagging along on adventures with the Doctor, usually a clever and bright-eyed human who accompanies the immortal Timelord on their baffling journeys, assists them, and since the Davies era alternates between acting as the Doctor’s conscience/moral center and the ignorant rube the Doctor can moralize to. Historically the companions were there to be eye candy but since the early 2000s revival are there more for plot and casting diversity.

BPhillipYork: Wizards will keep revisiting “partner with card from this set” probably forever. Which is probably good, because some of the original Partner commanders remain some of the most problematic cards in the format. The companions are decently balanced to allow 3- but not 4-color decks, since all the Doctors have two colors and all the companions have one, and there’s usefully a “choose what color this is” Doctor’s companion.

TheChirurgeon: Thematically it’s definitely a cool way to make your favorite Doctor-companion pairing a thing for your deck, so that’s pretty cool. But it also kind of misses in that having two companions is pretty common… though that would probably have been better served by making some pair character legends than letting you have three Commanders.

FromTheShire: As someone who is vaguely aware of this franchise at best, I do know that the Doctor sometimes (always?) has a companion, and fortunately Magic already has the perfect mechanic to reflect this dynamic. I like that it’s worded to be internally consistent so we don’t have these mucking up games by pairing with existing partner commanders, and it also severely limits the power level which has been an issue in the past.


This already exists in game, but is a useful name for “cast from anywhere other than your hand” i.e. exile, the Command Zone, the graveyard, the shadow zone, the twilight zone, the forbidden zone, the zone of zones, the Ama-zone, and any other place that isn’t your hand.

TheChirurgeon: This is one I hope sticks because it’s generic enough that it doesn’t have to be tied to Universes Beyond and it makes sense as a mechanic name.

FromTheShire: Yeah, this is definitely something that we have been seeing increasing amounts of, so having a keyword for it would be great.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Time Travel

For each suspended card you own and each permanent you control with a time counter on it, you may add or remove a time counter.

BPhillipYork: This is pretty cool; I think suspend cards are fun and don’t see enough play in Commander and having more of them and more support for them is cool and a good thing. It can lead to more deck diversity and is very on-point, flavor-wise for the ostensible focus of the Doctor’s purpose as a Timelord. Though I’ve never been clear on whether he’s supposed to be a weird like, non-interfering benevolent version of Q and not affect causation – it mostly feels like the whole time travel thing is just an excuse to bounce around in time with new sets and weird characters. Besides, the Doctor’s powers are wasted on things like “resolving wars” and “saving alien species” and not “stopping humans from discontinuing the Choco Taco.”

TheChirurgeon: The Jhoira’s Timebug mechanic getting its own mechanic name makes a ton of sense and I’m extremely here for anything that makes Suspend viable in more formats. I’ve always been fond of my Jhoira deck and I’m happy the new time travel stuff is in blue and red. Great fit.

FromTheShire: I too have a pet Jhoira of the Ghitu deck and love seeing new support for suspending cards. Being able to manipulate all of your counters at once is super nice, and maybe means a little less emphasis on feeling like you need to build in infinite mana combos for repeated Clockspinning and the like, which is a positive.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Villainous Choice

With Villainous Choice your opponents are forced to chose between one bad thing and either another bad thing or a thing that is good for the player forcing opponents to make the decision (which is a bad thing in game theory terms).

BPhillipYork: Much like Expropriate this ability will be much stronger than it should be because your opponents will make the wrong choices.

TheChirurgeon: I’m going to say “CHOOSE WISELY” every time I force someone to do this. Yes it will be insufferable. No I will not be stopping.

FromTheShire: Huge fan of Rakdos decks and have absolutely played decks trying do fun things with all of the bad punisher choices cards, and this is a much better take on that idea. Generally letting your opponents make choices is not the best plan for you, but some of the choices you’re forcing here are really solid, and look like they will be a blast regardless of their power.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast


Planechase is back, with new planes and phenomenon. Planes produce ongoing effects. Each turn players can opt to roll the planar die as a Sorcery. The first attempt is free, and each later attempt costs 1 more generic mana. When you roll the planar die you have a 1 in 6 chance to planeswalk to a new plane, and a 1 in 6 chance for Chaos to Ensue, activating the secondary ability on the plane.

Some of the cards in Planechase are Phenomena. When you planeswalk to these you do their effect, then planeswalk to a new plane.

BPhillipYork: Most Commander games have absolutely enough going on, especially with Universes Beyond sets like Dr. Who and Lord of the Rings grabbing mechanics from every set in Magic history. Planechase adding on to that is a bit too much.

TheChirurgeon: I like Planechase, but I do think it’s too much with these decks for more novice players. That said, there are a few cards in the decks which reference Planechase, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for those.

FromTheShire: I’m absolutely mad for Planechase Commander, so seeing built in support in the precon decks is awesome. Love introducing the concept to more people and giving them the cards without requiring buying a whole separate product they may or may not know anything about. Worst case they just don’t use them, so basically no downside here.


Returning Mechanics

There’s just a mess of mechanics in this set, and each incarnation of the Doctor has a relatively unique thematic ability. There’s a lot that shows up in small quantities here, especially where it fits with the above mechanics, meaning there’s too much to go over each one individually.

Time Counters

There’s suspend stuff, but also time counters that don’t involve suspending things. This makes sense as you need time counters to interact with the Time Travel mechanic. Vanishing shows up here as another time counter mechanic – this mechanic usually lets you get a better creature for cheaper but with the caveat that it’s destroyed when the last time counter is removed, meaning you only have it for a limited time.

Mechanics appearing in this set include:

Convoke, Cascade, Mill, Surveil, Impulse draw, Investigate, Retrace, Clues, Food, Cycling, Training, Demonstrate, Exploration, Retrace, SHADOW, phasing, Undying, Foretell, token auras, Mentor, Split Cards, Sagas, Adventures, Retrace, Affinity, Emerge, Voting, Goad, Fight, Storm, Vanishing, landcycling, Flashback, Rebound, Afflict, Vehicles, Conspire, Escape, Myriad, Fuse, Free Spells, Replicate, Retrace


Next Time: Blast from the Past

That wraps up our look at the set’s mechanics. Join us next time as we review the first of the preconstructed decks, Blast from the Past, the Bant deck heavily focused around the Doctor themselves. In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at