With Commander Legends releasing, the format is about to see a shakeup arguably bigger than any in its relatively short history. This week, Phillip York and FromTheShire are doing a card-by-card review of the new set and what the new cards mean for Commander, starting today with Multicolored cards.
Commander Legends contains a number of cool reprints, a hefty infusion of new commanders in a spread of colors, a nice return to the Partner mechanic, and three hugely impactful cards that are going to significantly move the more competitive metas. There’s also the new Encore mechanic, which allows replayability and gets a huge amount of value out of enters the battlefield and death effects.
Opposition Agent is probably the most important card in the set. 3 mana for a flash creature that not only stops an opponents search, it lets you control the player and choose the card, tutor it into exile, and then the card becomes yours. This is kind of, frankly, astonishingly good. Games will end simply due to dropping an opposition agent on turn 1 or 2 and ruining someone’s game because they try to search land. You can also remove critical combo pieces from opponents decks exiling necessary pieces or win conditions, or grabbing your own.
This is smothering tithe, except cheaper, blue, and with flash. It’s helpfully a merfolk pirate also, and there are plenty of cards that care about being merfolk and pirates. Between this and Opposition Agent the entire meta will shift away from combo and search.
oh no wait I’m sorry
To be fair Jeweled Lotus is nowhere near as powerful as black lotus. This new lotus is only usable to cast commanders, and to be fair, for a lot of commanders it will only show up in the middle of games to pay commander tax.
But for commanders like Urza, Lord High Artificer and Godo, Bandit Warlord and other previously unaffordable commanders it offers an opportunity to come into play. One of the problems with commanders like Gitrog has always been their CMC, but with Jeweled Lotus available there’s definitely a chance they will come out swinging early. The card is in some ways a hit for two of arguably the most competitive commanders: Thrasios, Triton Hero and Tymna, the Weaver, as it does little for either. However it’s also a boost to Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and Kenrith, the Returned King. It’s also a boost for artifact focused decks, Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, Kykar, Wind’s Fury and Elsha of the Infinite.
There’ll also be a resurgence of one punch decks. Popping out a commander on turn 1 due to a lotus drop will make these decks much more dangerous, and may even allow them to pull out wins due to sheer speed. There’ll also be a move to Boros decks, there are a number of potentially strong Boros commander partners and partner pairs dropped at very affordable CMCs.
Given, Opposition Agent, and Hull Breacher, the existence of Notion Thief, Alms Collector and Aven Mindcensor, as well as Narset, Parter of Veils and Ashiok, Dream Render it’s suddenly gotten quite hard to search your library or draw extra cards.
More competitive decks have frequently focused on draw engines or else tutoring heavily, picking out combo pieces and ending games quickly. But now there are so many ways to shut these strategies down it’s probable that more competitive decks will have to move to alternative strategies. More control and interaction can help prevent and remove hatebears, and the mechanic of “putting cards into hands or play” has few downsides. Because of Drannth Magistrate it’s harder to cast commanders and off the deck, but lacking flash casting off the top of your deck can also still be effective strategies.
Phillip: It’s a literal ball of elves. It’s perfect. It’ll also hit fairly hard, elves can ramp like crazy, and if they board clear it will still make your commander hit harder. There are any number of creature tutors and overrun style cards to finish games with, this will make for a fun janky sort of commander deck.
FromTheShire: Abomination is an interesting Voltron style commander in Golgari for Elves as an alternative to Nath of the Gilt-Leaf which is more of a go-wide strategy. Menace and especially Vigilance are frequently underrated, and the fact that Abomination stays huge even if your board is wiped actually goes a long ways towards mitigating one of the biggest weaknesses of tribal decks which rely on building a critical mass of creatures in play. Black also gives you access to some excellent reanimation and self mill options as well if you want to go that route.
A Bant commander with a card put (that isn’t draw, this is important, a card put), Amareth seems most destined for artifact decks, as casting artifacts will allow the deck draw more artifacts and go through ramp rapidly, possibly even drawing, though lacking red for Jhoira is a hit.
I’m seeing one of the best Primal Surge commanders. No other instants or sorceries, a bunch of artifact and creature based ramp that both accelerate you and generate value with your commander out….good, clean, janky fun!
This is the standard bearer for Encore, and a 3 CMC Dimir commander that can gain this much value is sure to be a strong one. A stat block of 1/4 means Araumi is going to be immune to most damage based board clear as well as single target damage based removal. There’s potential combo lines with Dramatic Scepter and Sigil Tracer.
I really like commanders like this. Frequently when a new mechanic like Encore is introduced, you want to build a deck around it, but there simply aren’t enough cards to do so. Being able to grant the mechanic to other cards opens up a world of fun possibilities, and Encore in particular can be very powerful with either value ETB abilities or combat damage triggers. You can tell I’m the less competitive guy here as I can’t wait to cast Mulldrifter or Gray Merchant of Asphodel out of my yard.
Archelos has a weird effect, and when we’ve seen effects like this before they’ve been triggered, such as Amulet of Vigor. You can use Archelos carefully to nurture such a strategy, and if it’s tapped it can be a potentially powerful stax effect. Archelos could also be used to control comes into play tapped lands and artifacts in interesting ways.
Oogway is going to be a blast to play and annoy the crap out of your opponents. Stick a Freed from the Real on them and go to town. As a side note, it seems pretty weird to me that this is a Sultai commander since this is typically an effect associated with white.
Putting out lands tapped while cascading seems fun, and as a sort of fun commander it should be good. There’s the potential to build some kind of Temur high CMC casting deck possibly using Averna as a base, and comboing off cards like Tatyova, Benthic Druid and the new Tatyova, Benthic Druid and Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty. I don’t think such a deck would be top tier competitive, but it would lead to some crazy games, and it’s an excuse to run some high CMC cards.
Averna is solid. Without having Cascade themselves I think I want to slot them into the 99 of my Maelstrom Wanderer rather than running them as a commander, but maybe having guaranteed access to them to get some ramp off of an early game Bloodbraid Elf is better than I think.
These group hug type decks have their place, and WotC is clearly pushing the Black/Green elves angle, with lots of new elves in Black and multicolored elves, but as a commander Belbe certainly seems lacking, likely to help your opponents more than you and not giving you access to anything particularly powerful.
I tend to agree. Some people enjoy group hug decks but they’re not my thing. Frequently they fall into the trap of helping everyone else at the table out without a plan for winning the game themselves and end up kingmaking. When building this style of deck, I think it’s important to have some way of breaking the symmetry of the effects and taking more advantage of the way you are helping the table because your deck is built with it in mind. Belbe encouraging damaging your opponents doesn’t do enough in this regard in my opinion, I’d much rather have a commander like Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis. My inner Vorthos is very pleased to see her get a card though. Wizards has been doing a fantastic job over the last few years of giving a nod to the players who have been with them since the beginning and sprinkling in a healthy dose of the characters they grew up with.
Borca is a new Boros commander, and it offers some built in card advantage but if the cards are high CMC then you will struggle to cast them and if they are low CMC then his power will be low, so the upside seems minimal at 4 CMC.
It’s an interesting new take in Boros that might encourage you to build your deck in a different way than most other commanders in the colors since you can trigger it in some interesting ways like flickering permanents or somehow exiling Draco from your graveyard, but at the end of the day you’re still another Boros Voltron deck.
This card is fun, and it will lead to fun wacky games, but not good. As a commander you could go balls-to-the-wall and try to give away cards like Nefarious Lich, but without blue you cant control or protect these cards and they are likely to simply bounce or disenchant it to make you lose.
Very Rakdos, this deck is constantly going to make you tightrope walk in a three ring circus of your own making. As hilarious as the games where you donate someone a Steel Golem or Aggressive Mining are going to be, there are going to be plenty of other games where they kill your Blim before it deals damage and hoist you by your own petard.
As a commander probably lacking, but as a beater in a pirate deck Vargus has some strong potential.
Much better as an anthem effect with upside in an Admiral Beckett Brass deck than as a commander.
Colfenor is a bit overcosted as an Abzan commander for what he’s doing, though there are some interesting combos you can set up with sacrificing creatures and +1/+1 counters, once you set up a way to sac a creature with a +1/+1 counter it can return other creatures of the same nominal toughness. Potentially you can set up infinite loops with this, and say something like Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and an altar. Sac an elf, it returns with a counter, sac it again, return a different elf to your hand, recast, sac, etc.. But this is a lot of mana intensive cards, locked out by graveyard control, locked out by rule of law effects, and vulnerable to lots of different kinds of removal.
Another interesting lore card that doesn’t do enough to stand out from the pack. There are better commanders to combo with and Doran, the Siege Tower is a better Treefolk tribal leader. Why isn’t it at least Indestructible? Somehow the Sapling of Colfenor is tougher than the parent tree itself.
Mardu are not the colors most typically associated with enchantments. Black has some powerful enchantment effects, and there’s definitely some synergy with blacks “suicide enchantments” cards like Sacromancy and Treacherous Blessing as well Oath of Liliana and various Sagas. There’s also a sideline to be had in reanimating enchantment creatures. But missing the enchantress cards makes this deck a relatively tough sell, all your draw is going to have to come out of enchantments, it lacks strong non-artifact ramp, and lacks countermagic and land ramp.
I’m disagreeing on this one, I love this card. Enchantments are some of the most powerful cards in the game, and there isn’t a ton of mass removal spells for them, and even fewer that exile. It’s much more likely for your opponents to have a few pieces of targeted removal like Krosan Grip meaning you can often grind your way to a board state that your opponents simply can’t deal with. Lethal Vapors or Nether Void are mild irritant once, but if they come back every turn it can get seriously annoying. Group slug decks aren’t the most competitive but I’m a huge fan, so keep your eyes open for an upcoming article on the archetype and this sweet new commander for it.
This set of abilities is toolboxy but not in a game winning way.
I don’t really get this card. On the one hand it encourages a cantrip heavy, Storm style deck in order to turn the small benefits into something worth doing. On the other hand, the kind of player who is typically going to enjoy that type of deck and pilot it well can just….storm off and kill the table.
This just feels like a dumb gimmick card. There are 10 prior salamanders, spread across blue black and red, so Gol Muldrak can’t even use half of them in some kind of weird tribal deck. Also salamanders should have regeneration. Probably 0:regenerate.
Agreed. I love seeing weird, bad tribes get support to make janky decks with, but even I have never given a single thought to salamander tribal, and Gol Muldrak doesn’t actually support it. Your commander is one of the most powerful resources available to you, and I can’t picture the table where at best making a single 4/3 per turn cycle isn’t squandering that resource.
Hamza is sort of a weird variant of Animar, Soul of the Elephants, and you can run some of the same old combos you could with Animar, but given the uniqueness of this ability it seems like the only other place it’s liable to see much play is in a +1/+1 creature deck out of a commander like Atraxa
It seems like another card that will fade into the background – Selesnya tokens/counters has been done a lot before, and better, and Animar does this kind of combo better because you have blue for countermagic backup.
This is a weird gimmicky card, and if it had white it would be pretty easy to consistently drop big fatties and give your creatures indestructible, you could also build some kind of deck around low power high toughness creatures, but they tend to be white or blue as opposed to red and green. Hans might combo particularly well with Neyith of the Dire Hunt, but since combat damage no longer goes on the stack negotiating this deck would be rough.
Another fun throwback reference, the titular Hans from Ach! Hans, Run! and the original Goyf Lhurgoyf gets his own card. I don’t think continually getting your commander eaten by the enormous monsters you want to cheat out with him is the best plan in the world, but it’s certainly extremely flavorful and hilarious. You definitely have to tell him to run out loud each time you attack before you flip your top card.
Imoti, Celebrant of the Bounty
This card seems like it definitely has potential, though 5 mana for something with 1 toughness is a risk. Still pumping out cascade can be quite powerful, and there’s always the old obvious combo enabler Palinchron.
Another card I think I’m slotting into Maelstrom Wanderer rather than building a deck around.
WotC is obviously pushing the monarch mechanic hard, in part it seems to push games out of stasis and towards some kind of action. One of the weaknesses of commander is that there’s not necessarily much incentive to attack anyone, especially if you’re just “playing for fun” and don’t want to make people unhappy. The monarch mechanic gives you a direct incentive to deal combat damage, and it seems mostly stolen straight out of Jihad aka the Eternal Struggle, another Richard Garfield game, which had “the edge” to move the game along. Jared’s abilities seem to work counter to each other, once you become the monarch he becomes a safe blocker, but he makes someone else the monarch and you can’t become the monarch this turn, so it forces you to give away a likely card draw for a not very impressive 3/3. The best case scenario would be to become the monarch then cast some damage based mass removal to pump Jared, then kill people with your commander. A long way to go for combat damage.
We’re back in Lore Town, though if you remember the Carthalions you were deep into the story even back in the day. It’s an interesting card though not a very pushed one. I think it would have been cooler to see Jared after his spark ignited and he became a planeswalker.
Doesn’t really offer much as a Rakdos commander, but will fit very well in many Mardu and Rakdos decks. Dealing damage equal to it’s power to any target on death is a really nice power especially in a sacrifice/reanimate deck, and being 2 cmc and 1 power and toughness makes Juri easy to reanimate, potentially setting up a game ending combo.
Does what it says on the tin.
This card is bad. There are many, many, better stronger Azorious commanders. And bird wizards make no sense, and he has no “wizardy type” abilities.
Another strong disagree for me on fun grounds not power. As the proud owner of BOTH Commander Eesha and Kangee, Aerie Keeper tribal decks, I’m stoked for birb deck number three. Kids these days with their Bragos and their Cyclonic Rifts, they don’t know how it used to be and the long lineage of Aven wizards. Back in my day we cast Storm Crow and we LIKED IT!
I guess there’s room for this commander in group hug, or decks working off Smothering Tithe and Hull Breacher but it seems like a stretch at best.
Purely a meme card to me.
As a commander this seems lacking, but there are potential combo lines with commanders like Atraxa, Praetors Voice (built in lifelink and proliferate) and cards like Sage of the Hours
Weirdly I think this is actually on the verge of becoming an interesting tribal deck. We’ve gotten Brightmare, Inspiring Unicorn, Loyal Unicorn, Good-Fortune Unicorn, and Emiel the Blessed. Staple a horn on to Crested Sunmare and….you still don’t quite have a deck but there’s a good bit of synergy to build on if Wizards gives us a few more cards.
This seems good, but at 5 cmc it’s a lot to pay for a commander in two of the colors without much ramp. Black offers sacrifices and dark ritual to get a commander out early, and “whenever” abilities can be strong. If Liesa cost WWB and you could pay 4 life to bring it out we’d be a lot closer to being in business.
She’s not cEDH powerful, but at slightly less competitive tables I think Liesa is a monster. One of the most powerful things you can do in Magic is cheating mana costs, and you’re never paying commander tax for her. She’s a decent beater on her own, at least partially covers the life to cast her with her lifelink, and her drain ability synergizes extremely well with what most Orzhov decks are trying to do anyways.
Hexproof from artifacts, creatures, and enchantments is a weird kind of ability. It seems mostly thematic, and not of much use. Nonetheless:
“When Nevinyrral, Urborg Tyrant enters the battlefield, create a 2/2 black Zombie creature token for each creature that died this turn”.
definitely has a lot of potential, especially with built in board wipe, and white and blues ability to flicker creatures and board clear, as well as the altars to generate mana, Nevinyrral definitely has the potential to go infinite. Still, 6 cmc is a long way to go for for a bunch of zombies out of Esper.
God, they crushed it with this one. His hexproof and destroy abilities perfectly call back to Nevinyrral’s Disk, and making zombies fits for one of the original undead army creating liches in Magic. Esper Zombies has been getting some love as well, I can definitely see myself either building this deck or including him in a Varina, Lich Queen shell.
A 1/6 Flash Faerie Knight is a weird stat block, but “put into hand” for casting during other player’s turns and gaining one and putting one into your graveyard has a lot of potential. The 5 cmc is partially offset by the flash, and I think this card will show up in the 99 a fair amount, especially in a new, slower staxier format.
In commander your graveyard is frequently a second hand, so Nymris says “draw two for playing on everyone else’s turn” which is what you want to be doing as a blue player to begin with. Nothing flashy but good, consistent card advantage.
Ending the turn is good. There are a lot of cool cards that in red and black and blue that do something then punish you, and ending the turn before the bad thing happens can be very good. Drop a Wormfang Manta and sac it, let the extra turn resolve, then end the turn. Reanimate it and get yet another turn, over and over.
This effect is always fun, and being able to use it politically on an opponent’s turn is a nice upside even if it is an edge case.
This card is great. Huge Amazing. Drop it in the 99 for a Boros equipment deck, which this set is pushing. As a commander it seems a bit lacking, but its certainly viable.
Boros gonna Boros, but this is a solid addition to the arsenal. At only 2 mana this guy can pop out from nowhere and dial your commander up to 21 real quick.
There are definitely ways in Orzhov to create a lot of tokens, Tombstone Stairwell and this card would go absolutely berserk together, but as a 5 cost commander that’s again, a long way to go.
I agree this isn’t a super pushed commander but it fits in very well with an established archetype. Think of her as an Anointed Procession you can put in your command zone.
This is okay in some kind of Gruul battlecruiser deck, but pretty lacking.
It can get decent sized but it has no evasion and requires you to have another big creature in play to even force your opponent to chump block. I’d much rather just have another big creature.
I guess… an unfun mechanic nobody liked is back, mana burn. And you can do it during players end steps or other phases where it’s hard to cast spells but at best it’s only 3 damage and it’s only once per go around due to tapping. Tapping to generate 2 mana can be strong, If you have some way to change the color of mana this will go infinite with Pemmin’s Aura, with Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy this will get really big with Umbral Mantle, with Zirda Dawnwaker and one of those cards you get infinite mana, but that’s all over the color wheel. Seems like at best an annoying gimmicky effect, there simply aren’t that many ways to force mana gain.
Once again revealing the troll-y, crotchety old player I am, I’ve literally been asking for an enchantment to bring back mana burn for years so I am pleased as all hell. This Overabundance has been burning a hole in my pocket for 20 years and I’m damn sure going to enjoy every second of punishing my friends for playing Magic with me until they get annoyed enough to crush me with all the free mana I’m giving them. That, uh, probably says a lot more about me and them than the playability of Yurlock.
This is such a cool effect and fits so well into pirates in my opinion. I’m not sure thematically about how much sense “magic pirates” makes, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise notwithstanding. There’s also the potential to sacrifice the free creature you got with Goblin Bombardment or Makeshift Munitions (or end the turn with Obeka). 5 mana is a lot though for a creature, a 4/3 flying Human Pirate.
You thought your creatures were safe from Admiral Becket Brass in your hand, but now here comes Zara Steal Yo Girl to snatch them away from you. Unique effects like this are always great, and this one fits well into what pirates are doing, especially if you can take further advantage by preventing the stolen creature from returning to your opponent’s hand.
Check back tomorrow when our review of Commander Legends continues with an examination of all the new cards added in White. Until then, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.