Oloro, Ageless Ascetic was a slow starter from Commander 2013, not getting much popularity until a few months after the set came out. An isolated performer at first, it has become the centerpoint of the format, placing quite well in tournament after tournament, often taking the top spot despite not being the most popular commander.
The main distinguishing point compared to most other commanders is that this one is at its best without even being cast. It shapes the game from turn 1, giving it a completely different character right from the start. The life cushion given by Oloro lets deckbuilders play much less spot removal and early defense than they usually would, giving more room for a variety of game plans.
It can play control with a much more solid plan than Esper can usually get – instead of praying to get the right mix of answers, it can sit back behind hard counterspells and just cast a sweeper at the right moment. It can play combo by using the extra 2-3 turns afforded by the life gain to find the combo pieces.
In addition, by having such an impact on a fundamental resource of the game, it shuts out a primary strategy completely – you can’t win against Oloro by simple attacking. You either need to use commander damage, which Oloro can focus on stopping as it can ignore other sources of damage, or to out-resource Oloro in an attrition game – a challenging task given the large control toolbox that the Esper colors give. Since individual cards don’t enter into this, the only thing we can do to diminish Oloro’s dominance is to ban it.
A few reasons make Cataclysm stand out:
- in a board state where you’re behind, Cataclysm almost always resets the game in your favor. As you know it’s coming, it’s easy to keep a removal for the one threat your opponent will keep. Armageddon is no help here.
- in a board state where you’re ahead, it almost always seals the win.
- it attacks the opponent’s resources on every front. If your opponent’s strategy is based around creature swarm, Cataclysm is good. If it’s based on ramp (lands or artifacts) it’s good. If it’s based on planeswalkers, it’s good. In fact, it’s only bad against permanent-poor control decks, which can probably counter it anyway.
- it’s difficult to play around. Because Cataclysm is unique in its effect, playing around it is often a losing proposition – the opponent might not have it but still gains an advantage thanks to it.
- it’s the only card with this kind of effect for so cheap, the closest equivalents being the 6-mana Wildfire-type effects, which still remain more conditional.
All in all, we believe Cataclysm is acting against format diversity, by encouraging counterspell decks and blue-based aggro-control, and discouraging everything else.