Howdy everyone! When you last saw me, I was doing a review of all of the rings across the multiverse to see what would be worthy of bearing (check that out here if you missed it). With Middle Earth right on the horizon to join the world of Magic, I thought it would be fun to take another look at something thematic from the franchise with an interesting niche: Rangers.
Rangers are quite important in the Lord of the Rings series as a whole, with main characters and plots having heavy influence from the Ran… wait why am I trying to stay spoiler free for this? If you haven’t seen the movies or read the books, first off you should, and second off one of the main characters from the series is a member of the infamously badass and mysterious group known as the “Rangers of the North,” who are considered by many to be dangerous and distrustful due to their secrecy. In reality, they were sentinels against the evil forces that would try to harm the lands they protected, and while comparatively few in number they were all known to be excellent warriors and foresters.
While Rangers are a key staple of the typical Dungeons & Dragons-inspired fantasy world (look at every fantasy game ever- even if there isn’t explicitly a Ranger by name, there is one. I promise), Magic hadn’t actually come around to making them a real creature type until the official Forgotten Realms sets rolled around. I would put a guess as to there being enough overlap with other creature types that they didn’t feel it necessary, but it seems like they’ve wanted to expand on them quite a bit by retroactively making a bunch of things Rangers!
For the purpose of this review, we’re going to go on a few rules. First, I’m not going to cover every Ranger in the set; there are some that are really just not Commander cards. You don’t need me to comment on if you want to run a vanilla 4/1 (but don’t bother lying to yourself, you’re gonna run Elvish Ranger anyway). Second, I’m not reviewing these in the context of a synergistic Ranger deck: if you’re running one, you can’t really be picky and most of these will probably make the cut anyway, so I’ll be commenting on them in the context of any deck.
Here’s my rating scale:
S: The only reason you wouldn’t include this is personal choice, other synergy, or budget.
A: Always a solid choice, can’t go wrong taking up a slot.
B: Generally a good pick, can work well in most decks or very well in others with synergy.
C: Good in niche situations, but might be outclassed by other picks.
D: Generally outclassed by other picks. Only playable in extreme niches or if you just like the card/it fits your deck’s theme.
Alright, let’s Vig-go.
Interestingly, I think this card isn’t bad for what seems basic. If you’re playing an initiative deck, you really want the initiative as much as possible. While I think the mechanic as a whole needs a lot of investment to really make it work in Commander, having a clean and consistent card with good types is never bad.
Rating: C, but if you have Dragon synergy in an initiative deck its probably a slam dunk. Speaking of…
This is a pretty neat Commander actually. Backgrounds were…well…left in the background a bit in all of the releases of last year. That being said, they still found some popularity with some nuts-o combos. This guy contains literally 0 of that hype. That being said, I don’t think it’s too shabby. Getting free big stats off any chunky Dragon in your graveyard is a pretty easy ask if you pair him with a blue or black background. Free stats without having to do too much setup can be solid to go for some double-strike one shots. Dragons will basically always be overshadowed by their 5-color overlords though, and Skanos might just not be interesting enough to steal the spotlight.
Exactly today I learned there was a morph card relevant to Elves. This card fills a funny role of not being bad, but just being very not notable in a tribe of notable chaps. Interestingly, there is merit to the “tapping creatures to power an effect” type ability this has. If you haven’t played against Seton, Krosan Druid, first off your playgroup are cowards, and second, he has an interesting interaction that allows you to ignore summoning sickness to use his ability. Tapping the creature is a cost to his ability, not an activated ability he’s giving the creature. This pseudo haste allows you to do some preposterous shit in that deck, so I can see merit to having it in Elves too. I think this card would be solid if it wasn’t for Elves having so many good cards.
If you play this in morphs you’re a maniac.
Rating: C in an Elf deck, but T for Terribad outside of that.
Juniper Order Ranger
Oh sweet, extra counters! It’s one of many Hardened Scales-like effects in the game now, and while I think it’s costly it’s such a good effect that I don’t think most people mind paying the premium. If speed is the name of the game, you might leave this one at home, but if you’re playing a slower build-up counter deck, this is a great card with solid typings.
Rating: B, pretty much only not A because of its cost-to-stats ratio.
I swear green has a genuinely comical amount of card draw now. Regardless, this card is great, and similarly to above is only held back by its cost. I think this needs the right type of deck to shine, but can really perform well if you’re a Human and counter based deck, fitting with what they were pushing in the newest trip to Innistrad.
Bonus points for non-Human decks that just happen to have a Human Commander that eats counters for breakfast.
Rating: B, genuinely a great card that’s almost exclusively gated by cost and the ol’ once-per-turn nerf bat.
Stud in Kithkin. If you play Kithkin, you’re either literally Richard or you’ve belt sanded your meta-loving brain to a point where it’s so aerodynamic that good ideas just slide right over your head.
This card is awesome.
Rating: S in Kithkin, otherwise D for Does Not Exist outside of Kithkin-world.
Short and sweet on this one: I think Werewolf decks can’t entirely afford to be picky, but I don’t think I’d run this one if you can help it in most cases. It’s weak on the front side of the flip, and while a one-mana fight can be great and reasonably reliable in Tovolar, Dire Overlord, I think that’s pretty much the only place for it. Granted, it’s great there, but basically every Werewolf with a decent butt-end effect is too. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but I don’t like to analyze this card having a high inclusion rate being jacked up by the one Commander that enables it.
Don’t let me wail on it too much though, it’s a fantastic card in Tovolar and deserves a spot there for sure.
Rating: C in any deck not with T-Money at the helm, but A exclusively if he’s leading your deck.
I had to check an embarrassing amount of times to make sure I didn’t butcher that name. Drizzt is a super nostalgic card for me, as I used to play the Legend of Drizzt box games all the time with my pals in middle school. My friend’s dad used to maniacally scream “GOBLIN CUTAHHH” from two rooms down whenever a goofy little Goblin Cutter spawned in. Fantastic games, big ol’ recommend if you’ve never played them.
In terms of Magic, Rizz-man is interesting, but I don’t think he’s great sadly. While you can do some really cool sacrifice shenanigans with him and make him pretty massive on top of getting free tokens, I think he boils down to a pretty standard counter-Voltron Commander. Really his only selling point is the whole “make big stuff die to make him extra big-big,” but that feels like extra steps to just making him huge and whacking someone’s dome in.
Rating: B, D-Rizzy isn’t bad by any means, but I think he’s a bit more effort than he’s worth to get rolling.
I’ll cut things off there for now, but be on the lookout for a part 2 where I cover some of the ones we missed! We still have quite a few to check out, and if you’re savvy you’ll know there are a few staple-cards in that bunch. In the meantime, enjoy a second breakfast. You earned it.
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