With the imminent release of the new Strixhaven set, Phillip York and FromTheShire are evaluating the first years as they make their way into the academy. Note that as our typical coverage is focused on Commander, we’ll be primarily examining the set’s cards through that lens, though where we think something might have use in another format we’ll make a note. For more on how the set will shake out in Modern, consider checking out The Dive Down Podcast, who do some pretty great analysis of Modern.
Phillip: Mila is really strong on its own, triggering to get loyalty counters on your planeswalkers is pretty nice because in a lot of games mana dorks and utility creatures like Bob might be on the board, and with nothing to do will just swing at planeswalkers in order to get their loyalty counters down. Triggering card draw off targeting your permanents is also a nice protection for them, but Boros typical strategy is to go wide with creatures, or go deep with creatures and buffs, usually with recursion. So your main concern in situations like this isn’t your creatures being targeted, it’s board clear. And sadly Mila doesn’t help so much with that.
Lukka on the other hand is pushing into some relatively untapped potential for red, creature recursion, aside from a couple of cards like Feldon of the Third Path. Cycling cards out to your yard and then recurring them is a respectable combo, and there are any number of huge creatures with giant ETB effects, or in white there are some blink spells to make the creature “forget” to be sacrificed. Lukka’s emblem is real potent as well, though getting up to 7 and then ticking over seems like a hassle. Terror of the Peaks does the same thing, and is a flying dragon, and only costs 5 mana.
There’s also a weird thing to me, flavor wise and design wise, where it sure seems like Mila is supposed to protect Lukka, except it’s a modal card so you can’t have both out at once. In non-singleton formats, of course, you can have both, but it’s a bit strange to me that Lukka doesn’t create a Mila token or some such. However I still really like this different color modal legendary creature color identity, and I think it lets you run a really interesting commander, even doing some things like ticking up Luka to get the emblem then letting him die so you can get Mila, should you so choose.
FromTheShire: For me this is way more interesting in a 3+ color superfriends deck than sticking to Boros. The more planeswalkers the more benefit you get from Mila, and the more likely you are to actually either dissuade some attacks or come out ahead loyalty wise. The fact they also reward you for any type of permanent being targeted is really nice as well, since it means at the bare minimum it will replace itself if it’s spot killed.
Lukka has a very nice card advantage engine for his plus, which is great because when evaluating a planeswalker for Commander you want to look primarily at the non-ultimate abilities. As much fun as it is to dream about hitting the ultimate, unless you’re planning to Doubling Season into it, it’s relatively unlikely. Planeswalkers are targeted almost instantly by most players, both because of how powerful they can be if left unchecked, and also because at most tables it is easier politically to hit one than to hit an opponent. People expect them to be attacked so the same person who might focus you down for hitting their life total will usually shrug about their planeswalker being killed.
Phillip: Deadly Vanity is a pretty potent board clear, but at 8 mana, and 3 of it black, it’s pretty tough to cast, Selfless Glyphweaver would have some real obvious combo potential with Orah, Skyclave Hierophant, except it’s exile instead of death, so I think this card is kind of a dud ultimately.
Especially in a Cleric deck, I think the Glyphweaver is great. In most creature based decks one of the things that sets you back the most is getting your board wiped, especially in tribal and token decks. Having a relevant creature sitting out that you can sacrifice at instant speed without costing mana is fantastic. Yes it can be dealt with with spot removal, but you’re forcing your opponents to have two answers to what you’re doing rather than one, and frequently they just won’t have it in hand. It will also often buy you several entire turns as they cobble together and coordinate their answers.
Deadly Vanity is fine to have as an option on the back of the card I’m actually here for, but I’m not putting it in a deck for the effect. There are a large number of white and black boardwipes that are better than this on rate, and if I’m in 8 mana territory, I’d rather spend the extra mana for a one sided wipe like Plague Wind or In Garruk’s Wake.
Phillip: These two seems like a fun commander pairing, and on brand for the new Orzhov +1/+1 thing, but I don’t think there’s enough white and black +1/+1 triggers to make Shaile shine very hard. Embrose’s ability to ping off 1 toughness creatures is moderately useful, and using him to kill creatures and draw cards could definitely be useful especially as white and black have a lot of death triggers and ETB triggers, and there are also some recursion options, though the most obvious of them would be paring Embrose with persist so the creature would continually die then pop back, there are no White or Black 1 toughness creatures with persist. You could combo it with Murderous Redcap, but then you couldn’t run Shaile/Embrose as commander. I’m sure it’ll see play, but it doesn’t seem supported enough ultimately for Shaile and Embrose to be good, but if there are more Orzhov +1/+1 abilities forthcoming, and especially more triggers, then it could emerge as a fun mid-tier commander pairing.
I like this in a BW Clerics deck, but I can also see actually building around it. Scryfall says there’s 450 cards that fit in Orzhov that deal with +1/+1 counters so I think there is plenty of support. You can build in to the drain/gain or lifelink route with things like Archangel of Thune, tap into the well of outlast creatures from Khans like Abzan Battle Priest, Abzan Falconer, and Ainok Bond-Kin, or run a whole bunch of Ajanis, most of which deal with counters. It would also go great with a BW or Mardu Vampires build, there’s a ton of counter synergies there. You can also run something like Animation Module and use Embrose strictly as a draw engine by making Servos and then either pinging them or sacrificing them for value. I also really like Unspeakable Symbol to get some instant speed counters/card draw.
Phillip: I think this card is fun, and definitely playable. In the Simic space lies card draw off lands coming into play, and really leveraging massive ramp, and there’s the obvious combo of putting a ton of land into play then discarding a card to get your Jadzi back, then using all that land you just dropped to cast Jadzi, and then putting a bunch of absolutely huge creatures. I think this is a fun card, and potentially a really strong mid or high deck could be built around it, or even possibly a true cEDH deck could emerge given the way the meta seems to allow for green ramp.
This card is absolutely bonkers. Simic has gotten sooooo much support in the recent past, mostly dealing with ramping and drawing cards, which are exactly where you want to be with this commander. Journey theoretically helps accelerate you into Jadzi, though I am willing to bet in a lot of games when you are ready to cast it you will 0-1 lands left in hand to put into play. However, there are going to be games where you play a Mana Crypt or Sol Ring turn 1 and Journey turn 2 and drop like 4 lands in to play, and that is going to feel amazing. Once you have Jadzi in play, the value train from her Magecraft is insane. Load your deck up with protection spells and laugh all the way to the bank as countering things actually builds your board state.
Phillip: This just seems too slow and expensive for what it does, and while you could certainly run it as a weird kind of Izzet commander, there’s just so many better more powerful options. The only real synergy here is discarding a hugely expensive spell to make your Torrent Sculptor massive with +1/+1s, unblockable with blue spells and giving it double strike to one punch people out, but frankly Shu Yun does the same sort of thing, but much better.
Torrent Sculptor isn’t actually Legendary so it can’t be your Commander, but I also agree that this is a roleplayer in an Izzet build at best.
Phillip: Uvilda just seems like a lame version of Jhoira of the Ghitu, though you could exile a bunch of extra turn spells and then keep casting them turn after turn, for a taking turns deck. Nassari, Dean of Expression is another kettle of fish entirely, a nice card advantage engine, and there’s an obvious rhythm where you could spam out some big spells with Uvilda, then kill Uvilda or return to command zone or hand, dump out Nassari, and get the +1/+1s from the exiled spells being cast. As fun and crazy as this combo is, and casting big red and blue spells like Enter the Infinite, or Dragonstorm could be, it’s firmly in the territory of low or battlecruiser type decks because of how cumbersome and telegraphed it would be.
Nassari is pretty cool, I think if I want to build this deck I’m planning around them being the one in play most of the time, with Etali, Primal Storm as the hidden Commander. The biggest upside with this build is that it gives you access to blue and all its many benefits. Uvilda is pretty slow, still makes you pay for some of the costs of the spell, can only do one per turn, and has no way of speeding up the removal of the counters. Much, much worse than Jhoira.
Phillip: This cauldron is really nice, gaining huge amounts of life isn’t that hard, you could use it to discard fatties for reanimation and net pests out of it, and also use the exile feature after milling as a card draw engine. Restorative Burst on the other hand seems pretty weak and unwieldy to me, and also exiles itself for reasons I can’t fathom.
Yeah I don’t really know about this one, it’s kind of disjointed. The discard is probably fine, but I’m having trouble building a deck in my head that is both trying to lifegain and also mill your opponents? Mill is already a challenge in Commander most of the time, and generally requires your deck to be pretty focused on it. The card draw is also okay in that it’s included, but both black and green have much, much better draw engines. Burst is also a why for me, cards like Eternal Witness exist.
Phillip: Valentin is great, big green ramp and exiling your opponents creatures to get pests seems awesome, and plays to a lot of Golgari strengths from the command zone. Including this in your deck for Abzan also seems really reasonable, the weakest feature here is the fragility, Valentin is bound to eat a single point of damage off something. Lisette’s ability seems to belong in another kind of deck entirely, a lifegain beater deck, but that’s really more of a white type of deck, though the trigger puts a +1/+1 on each creature you control, and there are a few situations where that could be really powerful, however most of them are in Simic colors, in which case you’re talking about Sulati colors, which is a strange archetype.
Personally I would be looking to build around Lisette if I was planning on making this my Commander, Golgari decks aren’t usually holding up mana to pay for the Pest creation, and even if you are, a great deal of the time everything is getting wiped at once, not a steady trickle of creatures. Most likely of all would be slotting this in to an Abzan counters deck, maybe reanimating Siege Rhino or something. The abilities are all nice to have access to in a deck, I just don’t they do enough independently to build around.
Phillip: Amazing. Amazing hatebear, amazing for group slug. Revel in silence is is another silence. Biggest weird problem with these two is the color identity: typically boros isn’t that interested in silence, though it never hurts, and white isn’t that interested in group slug. But definitely playable in the appropriate color identity decks.
You know I’m a huuuuge fan of group slug decks, but the white color identity really throws a spanner in the works here for me. I guess this goes into some kind of Gisela, Blade of Goldnight deck, otherwise this is a cool card without a home.
Phillip: Plargg is fun times, card selection, and cycling through your deck to cast things for free is very reasonable. This color identity is the same as Zirda, the Dawnwaker, and to me that’s a definitely way to run a Boros deck differently. Augusta is a strange card, with the tappings and untappings, but what it screams to me is a way to combo with Najeela effectively. Being able to untap your creatures when you attack would allow you to pay for Najeela’s ability with mana dorks, and thankfully August untaps all your creatures, not just the attacking ones, which has huge potential ramifications for getting the combo off the ground. You could also potentially combine this with cards with tap down effects, like Opposition, to tap down blockers and get your creature through, thought that color identity is all over the map.
Definitely seems more like a roleplayer in the 99 of something else than a Commander in its own right. I also think you’re here for untap shenanigans rather than Plargg’s rumaging and CMC 3 or less searching.
Phillip: If you can get Rowan’s emblem, which should be fairly easy, you can go infinite with any copy spell in the game. Will I’m not really sure what to do with. He changes power and toughness, but doesn’t strip abilities, so frequently, who cares. Drawing cards is nice, but paying 5 mana to draw 2 is pretty meh (especially in blue) and his ultimately is powerful but it gives enough beaters you’d actually have to be worried, handing out 5 4/4 elementals is no joke. Ideally you’d probably be exiling your own treasures or other tokens to get… better tokens but that’s a long way to go for a go wide combat strategy in Izzet colors.
I’m not terribly impressed with either of these in Commander. Again, a lot of the time you’re going to get one activation before they are killed, and neither of them really does enough to justify their inclusion in that case. The cost reduction is nice, but you can’t count on it sticking around to actually matter.
Phillip: Augmenter Pugilist is kind of a funny card, an 8/8 trampler if you have 8 or more lands though is pretty meaningless. However Echoing Equation on the other hand is a hilarious card to me, this notion of copying legendary creatures and making them non-legendary is clearly a theme that WotC is pushing, and many commanders easily go infinite if you can copy them a couple of times. Potentially you can create hilarious decks out of this, such as the the the Krark Sakashima deck we published just last week.
Agreed, you’re only here to do some equations, although it still adds up to a great result. A lot of cards are legendary for a reason and if you can start making multiple copies of them things get game end-y real quick. I can’t wait to slot this in my Vial Smasher the Fierce and Thrasios, Triton Hero list, because multiple Vial Smashers is just fun as hell.
Phillip: Search for Blex – A + + card draw, with yard option. Blex, Vexing Pest, um okay, cool flavor card I guess, I don’t know why he makes other pests stronger? Not to wax about flavor country here, but if he’s an escaped pest shouldn’t he have escape abilities, like hexproof or something?
This is a solid draw spell stapled on to a neat Lord. Have I personally been clamoring for a lord for any of these tribes? No, but I still really appreciate it when Wizards prints cards like this because there ARE people out there who will have been wanting one. Part of the beauty of Commander is seeing somebody come to the table with their bad, oddball, lovingly built Bat tribal deck and try to sneak some wins out while living their best life.
Phillip: I’d love to see a Kianne, Dean of Substance resolve with Mana Echoes in play and just make infinite fractal tokens. Imbraham plays pretty nicely with Kianne, both putting study counters out there, and Imbraham letting you draw cards, once Imbraham dies you can get Kianne back, or do some sort of unsummon deal to pull this off, but it seems most likely paired with a simple blink spell, since Kianne is probably the one you’ll want to finish out once you have some study counters out there and just churn out some Fractal tokens, usefully Kianne is also an elf druid so you could pretty reasonably Pyre of Heroes or Birthing Pod to get her.
These are both perfectly fine cards, but Simic has gotten so many pushed cards that I can’t see myself building a deck around them.
Phillip: This is an okay card, and clearing out non-creature, non-lands can be powerful, but it costs 8 mana to pull off, otherwise you just get a bunch of 2/1 fliers, which isn’t bad but there isn’t a lot of synergy there.
I’m kind of on board for this Martial Coup-esque ability, but it doesn’t destroy creatures and the potential blockers it gives you come into play tapped. There are definitely going to be times where this gets you immediately hated on by the rest of the table.
Phillip: Extus is definitely a doable win con in some arcane ways, Chain of Smog + things that trigger when cards leave your graveyard, like Syr Konrad, or other such. There’s also a few cards that have “discard a creature card:” or “discard a card”, Skirge Familiar and Volrath’s Dungeon probably being the most obvious combos. At 4 mana it’s going to be tough to justify this as a value piece, but it could definitely be a combo piece.
Awaken the Blood Avatar is awesome. I love this Mardu Sacrifice theme that’s emerging, actually getting the blood avatar is cool, and this is, imo, another very viable Mardu Commander which can explore different deck themes entirely, depending on how you want to do it. Extus ability works really well in aristocrats, and the Blood Avatar side is a nice midgame control card, with the upside that many times Orzhov and Mardu Aristocrats wants their creatures to die.
Awaken! Awaken! Awaken! Awaken! Devour worlds, smite forsaken! *Dethklok intensifies* Extus is great but I don’t even care, I’m here with a bunch of sacrifice fodder trying to awaken as many Avatars as I can because this card is metal as fuck. Mardu even means I can include the Party Hard, Shred Harder Secret Lair versions of Anguished Unmaking and Dreadbore as well.
Phillip: Just really solid card. Nice flexible instant that will blow up any non-creature, non-land permanent, essentially.
This is very efficient, straightforward, excellent removal. Love it.
Phillip: This seems fairly weak sauce, in a commander setting. Destroying creatures isn’t very valuable, so the best way to leverage this would be pumping your own creatures in some way. Cost reducers are often dangerous, so there is probably some complex Rube Goldberg combo you can build around this if you really want. Also he doesn’t make inklings so like, what’s up with that?
I’m weird so I already have a Toshiro Umezawa deck, I could see myself building a stunt deck around Killian. It’s not a good idea though.
Phillip: I love the idea of new Elder Dragons. We can go back to playing Elder Dragon Highlander, and these new ones are less absurd than the truly overcost “generals” that started the format off. A 2/5 with double strike and flying in a new +1/+1 tokens theme is a relatively dangerous card in terms of raw commander damage. The obvious mode is draw a card lose 1 life, but forcing players to have creatures can occasionally be useful, and may allow for the political dimension WotC is obviously pushing.
The true Elder Dragons will only ever be the Dominarian ones to me, but it’s still fun to play with ones from other planes. A flying, double striking Commander is a great place to start, and all three abilities will have times where you want them. None of them pull you strongly in a given build around direction, so Shadrix is a true blank canvas for you to do what you like with. This Triwizards Tournament promises to be siiiiick.
Phillip: I think this card is definitely playable, though it’s going to be rough sometimes in commander, as so often you want to kill the commander, who will often not be a mono colored permanent. Nonetheless a lot of critical combo pieces, as well as commanders, are mono-colored.
Yeah this is absolutely going to have targets, especially since it hits any permanent type. Extremely good.
Phillip: If you have a lot of mana this is an instant win card, and any win con is worth exploring, but generally you want your infinite mana sink to hang out in the command zone so you definitely have it. There’s a few ways you could use this card, with Sensei’s Diving Top, with cards you can cast from exile like Squee, and Misthollow Griffin, and it could also be used with the new Prismari dragon to get tokens to pay for future spells. Potentially, with all the red recursion and rituals you could cast this spell repeatedly on one turn, fueling itself over and over.
Interesting, but I think if you have enough mana to make this worth doing, there are better things you can be doing with that mana. It’s a sorcery too which is not ideal.
Phillip: Turning treasures into mana rocks is just plain amazing. He also gives you one, and is a very respectable 3/4 flier for 4. This is arguably one of the best Elder Dragon commanders there is out the box, and also combines with cards like Dragon’s Approach really really nicely. So I’d expect to see decks built around this or using it as part of a critical combo, and just as a value piece, just in so many ways, so so good. There’s also the possibility of using Galazeth for the sort of oldschool Urza stax deck that relied on using your commander to tap down your own stax pieces so that they dont affect you, cards like Winter Orb. While not quite as flexible as Urza, Lord High Artificer‘s ability to tap for mana to be used for anything, and to have an infinite mana sink in the command zone, this alternatively lets you run Izzet colors instead of just mono-blue.
Not just Treasures but any artifacts, which, yes, amazing. Whether you go for a fair build or some kind of eggs strategy, there is an absolute ton of crazy things you can do with Galazeth. Combine with Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain and artifact cost reducers like Foundry Inspector for some serious shenanigans.
Phillip: I like the 1UU/RR casting cost cycle being done, (1CHC split between two colors is pretty balanced, imo) and fits really nicely into commander. Making the next instant or sorcery you cast cost less is okay, and you could definitely combine this punching decks and what not, buffing the muse and then using it to cast further buff spells or pay for big spells later in the turn. It’s a bit pricey at 4 though, especially lacking haste.
Cost reductions are always good to have, and thankfully this has flying so you should be able to find someplace to get in safely for your triggers.
Phillip: This is a really strong versatile card, card selection or a treasure token, combines with Galazeth Prismari nicely, or lets you destroy a small creature (or hit a planeswalker, or a player, if necessary) or destroy an artifact that’s a problem. Just nice, value card.
Some of the Commands this time around aren’t really aimed at Commander, but this one has all good modes. Solid.
Phillip: This is so blatantly part of a copy / magecraft win con I don’t know what else to say. Also a legendary creature so you can run it out of your command zone to guarantee you have it.
As a good rule of thumb, if you see someone play a card that bounces things to their hand in Commander, alarm bells should immediately be going off in your head. If you’re lucky it’s only for a strong value engine, if you’re unlucky that thing is going to end the game. This is likely to be in the latter category.
Phillip: So, yet again generating magecraft triggers and also setting up an infinite combo off any copy spell. It’s a cast trigger which leads to weird interactions with cards like Fork. The nice thing about this though, is since it’s a cast trigger, once it resolves you get the copy of the spell, even if your opponents counter it, which means you can use Teach by Example to draw out a counterspell.
In the kind of deck where you want this effect it’s great. Absolutely can get out of hand.
Phillip: The pest creation ability is pretty negligible, though it could be useful in a deck built around lifegain and cards that cause loss of life when you gain life, Golgori colors don’t really offer sufficient stax pieces to slow down the game enough to get a 7 mana value commnader out, but paying 10 life to untap your lands could potentially be a really big deal. Especially when compared with lifegain in various ways. If you had sufficient ways to spend mana at instant speed on the board through activated abilities this could be really powerful way to end the game. Unfortunately most spells that reanimate creatures are cast at sorcery speed. But for example, if you had Chainer, Dementia Master and a good reanimation target like Gray Merchant of Asphodel in your yard, you could just keep reanimating him, if you also had a sac outlet. But that’s a lot of moving pieces.
Our next Elder Dragon, Beledros is an obvious Commander for the Golgari lifegain deck. Any effect that triggers on each upkeep is worth seriously looking at, and making tokens is really good. They’re excellent sac fodder, chump blockers, and fuel for the untap ability. And boy, what an untap ability – there’s a reason they limited this to once per turn. Both black and green can make huge amounts of mana, and getting to untap and do it a second time is extremely powerful. It’s also worth noting that if you do something like sacrificing Beledros and recasting it, you can activate the ability again. This gets naaaaasty with cards like Savra, Queen of the Golgari, Sanguine Bond, Doubling Season, and Zulaport Cutthroat.
Phillip: This is a huge board clear, clearing all tokens, good mana rocks, mana dorks, lots of strong utility creatures, and even many commanders, and nets you a huge amount of mana. Unfortunately Golgori doesn’t have a huge number of clears like this, so building your deck around it is probably a mistake.
2 CMC or less seems underwhelming, but I think you will catch a surprising amount of permanents with this. Mana rocks, mana dorks, utility creatures, enchantments, any tokens…. There are going to be times when this is completely devastating and gives you a huge spike of mana.
Phillip: This is a really nice card, letting you get back a creature in return for a sac, and many decks built around effects like this need creatures to die or be sacced (or both) to create triggers off cards like Mayhem Devil or Zulaport Cutthroat, though it is a sorcery which makes it a bit slow compared to some of the more recent “force sacrifice” effects that have been coming out, this one, as opposed to being asymmetric gives you recursion, and also nicely forces a planeswalker against decks that run creatureless.
Solid rate for forcing sacrifices and getting back an important permanent at the same time. Golgari decks especially looooove their graveyards, you’ll have plenty of targets for this.
Phillip: This card is really really nice, another triggered “whenever you gain life, opponent loses life” trigger, at a very affordable price point. Given there are now about 5 of these lifegain triggering lifeloss on your opponents decks are much more viable. The notable thing about Dina is she only cause 1 life loss per trigger as opposed to being equivalent lifeloss, some of the triggered ones, like Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose are equivalent amounts of life (though only 1 opponent). Having a built in sacrifice ability is also really nice, as creatures dying is frequently a way to cause life loss or gain, so for example Dina has a way to dump pests to get their life gain to cause her life loss to trigger, so really is the total package.
Dina is another one of the cards that dials Beledros up to 11. At the very least you’re draining the whole table by 4 per turn cycle, which doesn’t sound like a ton but will add up a lot faster than people expect. Very good roleplayer.
Phillip: This is really really expensive, 7 mana value but 6 colored pips is tough to pay for. But with cards like Syr, Konrad it’s the ability to instantly kill the board, also it’s weirdly an instant, which you don’t normally see with a card like this. It does let you put your graveyard into your hand right before your turn, potentially filling your hand to win the game.
This is exactly as good as your deck is at filling its graveyard. You’re in Golgari so you should be pretty good at it, and this can easily be something like a draw 20+. If you want to get really frisky, you play Hermit Druid and no basic lands and just draw your whole deck.
This isn’t a horrendous rate even if you’re paying full price, and in the deck you’re likely running it in, it’s almost a better Assassin’s Trophy.
Phillip: I think this is totally playable, even at 4, and the cost reduction is reasonable. Destroying target permanent is really critical for some kind of defense in commander/conquer, because, while usually suck decks function around a legendary creature as a combo piece, it’s often far more effective to destroy another part of the combo since commanders just come back over and over, but putting a critical enchantment or artifact into the graveyard is a way of interrupting someone else ending the game.
This isn’t bad and can certainly get you some great value, but usually you want to be chaining your CMC’s up, not down. I imagine there’s something busted you can do with it.
Phillip: This is a nice toolboxy spell, letting you recur a fetchland pretty easily, mill if you want or cause mill if you want, will generally also blow up a nice utility creature or mana rock, but can also be used for a lifegain/lifeloss trigger.
All of these modes will have use cases in Commander. Nothing flashy but toolbox-y.
Phillip: This is a cool card, really nice for a go-wide Boros strategy, which has been pushed significantly over the last year or so for commander. 4 mana value is a bit high, but given it potentially affects your whole board I can see it being played, also a powerful enabler for just killing with commander damage.
Boros likes to smash, and the only thing better than smashing once is smashing twice. Double strike is one of those things that makes players go from feeling okay to dead instantly, and this is also a Human, which matters in decks like Winota, Joiner of Forces.
Phillip: Spirit tribal is apparently a thing now, and you get a creature etb and a leave enter graveyard trigger. Sadly most of the things that care about stuff going into your yard are black, which is not present anywhere in Hofri’s color identity. Even so this will cause you to get a token of your creature that’s also a spirit, and combos really well with something like Kykar, Wind’s Fury, since he could turn around and sac your spirit buddy for mana. This is definitely a setup for Boros recursion, essentially via cards like Sun Titan. I think this is a cool card and can definitely be played, 5 is a bit high. If it had black this would be a terrifying card (Shepherd of the Cosmos or Sun Titan + dance of the dead or animate dead and a sac outlet would mean infinite etbs as the creature recurrs it’s retrieval effect over and over). This is also big for cards like Purphoros or Impact tremors.
Hofri is an extremely welcome addition to Boros. For a long time, one of the big complaints about the color pairing is that for as many different Commanders as there were, the vast majority of them were nearly identical variations of this creature turns sideways and kills you in combat. Hofri does still care about combat, BUT it opens up some cool new angles of play. You can either play a somewhat traditional deck that has the benefit of pseudo-reanimation for value and ETB’s, OR in the much more fun camp you can build a Spirit tribal deck, which is a thing I’m pretty convinced nobody has ever attempted in Boros before. If you go this route you still get to take advantage of his second ability as well as getting maximum effect from his first, which gives you a lord effect and arguably the two best keywords for an aggressive deck. There are 180 spirits in red and white, and I can’t wait to see what cool nonsense I can brew. Surprise hasty trampling Malignus, here I come!
Options 2-4 are effects you would be on board with having in most decks, and making the Spirit token will be good in some situations. It’s kind of on the pricey side, but when this saves your board you’re going to be perfectly happy to pay it.
Phillip: This seems okay, it’s pretty pricy for the toolboxy effect, leaving 5 mana untapped to react and make your creatures invulnerable is rough, the sac a permanent for draw is probably the strongest of the modes, though you may need a creature for a surprise block, or haste for something.
Yeah we really have something going here. This goes directly in to the Hofri deck, no questions asked. Makes your Spirits more deadly, and the creatures you exile with his ability all hit the graveyard first so Quintorius will keep powering out more Spirit tokens for you.
Phillip: Instant sorcery recursion is apparently a new big thing for boros, and it’s a potentially powerful thing. The lifelink is less meaningfull unless you’re pushing into mardu colors, in which case it could start to get fairly obnoxious.
I liked it when they first gave the ability to grant your instants and sorceries lifelink, and getting another copy of that effect is welcome. The second ability can do some crazy stuff if you can dump the right cards into your graveyard and I’m all about it.
Boros doesn’t really get graveyard recursion historically, so this set in general and this card in particular are welcome additions. In these colors you would probably have paid 4 to get any one of these effects, potentially getting them all is huge.
Phillip: So toolboxy, but so slow. But even so, so toolboxy.
Another good targeted removal spell, mainly held back by the fact it is a sorcery. I think both modes are still quite good and the card is totally worth playing, it’s just not an auto-include.
Phillip: 7 mana is like a lot, but you can potentially come out and swing right away, and since it’s red, you could use his ability to generate more attacks right off the bat via cards like Seize the day, and red has plenty of rituals and recursion, so I could see this popping off in the right deck in a very scary way.
Back to cheating on mana costs. Digging 7 deep is sizeable, and increasing your power is good both for getting damage in with Velomachus and allowing you to cast larger spells. This is going to be a fun deck to play, though it suffers from largely doing more Boros things in a slightly different manner.
Phillip: So more boros recursion, and would have a hilarious interaction with double strike, I would love to see a double striking Warsinger with a sac outlet return a Feldon of the Third Path with haste who returns something else, gets sacced, sac the returned thing, the double strike hits so you return the Feldon and it returns the something else.
Awwww yeah, more Spirit payoffs for Hofri. The warsinger gives you another method for getting value out of your graveyard, which is so nice in these colors. I’m extremely about it, so much so that I am probably going to do a writeup of this deck I am starting to formulate in the next week, so stay tuned if that’s a thing you care about!
Phillip: This is a really strong toolboxy spell for simic. Countering spells or eating creatures is just enormously good in so many ways, and most games players can’t pay 3 more for an important spell.
Counter their problematic non-creatures or fight their problematic creatures, can’t ask for much more than that for 2 mana.
Phillip: This whole making copies of legendary things that are non-legendary easily ends games with combos or stacking triggers so, on top of everything else this is an instant, and it will let you just copy dockside extortionist if necessary, or grab a copy of your opponents commander (when doesn’t Simic want a Tymna, the weaver) just enormously good and playable even if you don’t have a particular plan for it.
As we mentioned before, making non-legendary copies of legendary creatures can be suuuuper good. You do have to sandbag your creature a couple of turns since it only works while it is on the stack, which is a definite downside. I’m still slamming this in a ton of decks, even in the worst case you’re only paying 2 for a clone.
Phillip: I’m sure you could do something terrifying with this, offhand I would think it would really pop off in Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider type decks that want to bring out a planeswalker and instantly do something huge due to doubling loyalty tokens. Also just spamming out fractals is possibly enormously scary in the right deck.
Kasmina is pretty baller in a superfriends deck. You have the usual pattern of plus for value, minus to protect herself, ultimate to probably win the game, but the unique ability here is granting other planeswalkers her loyalty abilities. There are some really strong things you can do with this, chief among them using one with high starting loyalty to get her ultimate immediately, or combining her with Teferi, Master of Time and using her scry ability to rush Teferi to his ultimate, taking infinite turns after just one rotation of the table.
Phillip: Missing land drops in long games is problematic, so this will often let you avoid that in control decks without running too many lands. This also helps ensure you get massive ramp and land availability in lands matter type decks, and not coincidentally this shares colors with cards like Tatyova, Benthic Druid and Aesi, Tyran of Gyre Strait to really leverage your land drops.
This is a really good little value engine that rewards you for what you already want to be doing.
Phillip: This is really good in a toolboxy protective way, basically getting a two for one typically, or even three, depending on how you cast it, and potentially lets you net important etbs again or recur important cards, or stop someone from reanimating a big fattie.
The least useful of these abilities is adding the counters but the other 3 modes are all great. Being able to bounce a problem, counter a problem, and graveyard hate all on one card makes this well worth an inclusion.
Phillip: Making your fractals bigger on attack is okay, but doubling counters on a creature is probably the bigger threat, especially for things like Sage of the hours where lots of counters can be really dangerous. But really this feels kind of “meh” for 5. Evasion + Trample is often redundant on top of everything else.
This is the Elder Dragon I am least interested in personally. Simic counters is an archetype with a good bit of support that somehow still manages to not feel right in my experience. It may be because of how good other Simic Commanders are, in fairness. The second ability can be useful if you build in a token direction at the base rate, or make anything threating if you go a little bit Voltron and start pumping Tanazir up.
Phillip: Yeah this card is fairly straight foward for what it does, most powerful is probably putting the land into play to ramp even faster, but it’s nice that later on it lets you draw once those lands are in play.
Oh look, another Simic value engine that ramps you and draws cards. Quite a rarity, there. Seriously though, this is a great engine.
Phillip: This is a hilarious commander, not super strong but with the right cards could do some crazy stuff, adding WBURG is always nice for getting things going, and the cascade like effect could be huge.
I love when Wizards makes weird cards like this. Is building a sort of reverse Primal Surge deck with no permanent spells a good idea in order to get a Cascade once per turn? Absolutely not. Am I going to try it at some point anyways just for giggles? Yeah, seems pretty likely. They don’t call me the guy with multiple failed Epic Experiment lists for nothing
Phillip: It’s a colorless sorcery that does something useful, so it’s definitely potentially playable in my opinion, truly colorless non-permanents are pretty rare, and cost reducers generally only reduce colorless cost, so this has potential.
This card isn’t fantastic because it only fixes you, it doesn’t ramp, but if you’re not playing green this is still extremely handy, even more so if you’re playing on a budget so you don’t have access to a bunch of fetch lands etc.
Phillip: I think this is one of the most blatant Harry Potter references, but it’s not a bad rock and alternate wincon, and in combination with a few cards could pretty easily cause a win in a go wide strategy. 5 creatures with double strike, or 5 creatures with Pir, Imaginative Rascal isn’t too hard to get. Also fairly scary with Najeela, the blade blossom since you can get to 10 warriors very very easily with her.
A mana rock with an alternate win con stapled on to it is pretty fun. I think it’s probably going to get blown up every time you get close to enough counters to actually kill someone, but still, fun!
Phillip: It seems kind of dumb to have a modal card where one side is an insanely obnoxious asymmetric stax effect that is going to have a hugely inhibitory effect on the game, and the other side is terrible group hug nonsense. 5 colorless for a 4/4 that lets you copy their instant and sorceries if they don’t pay 2 is enormous. It also potentially lets you keep a player from winning much more easily, since if Player A tries to Pop off, player B can willingly give you a copy of their counter spell or other effect.
You’re never casting Explore, you’re strictly here for the Archaic. If your opponents can’t pay for the ability, the sky is the limit for the free value you can get.
Phillip: More playable dual lands is useful.
Nothing crazy here, these are great budget alternatives for shock lands or simply supplemental lands if you’re already running those.
Phillip: This is okay, better in commander with cards like Wheel of Fortune and Wheel of Misfortune hanging around. It’s kind of an expensive win-more thing, which is fine but not that exciting to me.
This is a cool callback to Library of Alexandria. Having some card advantage on a land is very nice, even if it is situational.
Next Time: Strixhaven Commander Decks
That wraps up our look at the set’s multicolor and colorless cards, but we’ll be back Thursday in our regular slot to a look at the set’s supplemental Commander decks, also known as Commander 2021. In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.