Commander Legends Review, Part 4 of 7: Black

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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. Today we’re continuing our review by looking at the new Black cards in the set.

If you missed Part 3 of our review yesterday looking at the Blue cards in the set, you can find it here.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Armix, Filigree Thrasher

Phillip: There’s really no synergy here, it’s a fine costed partner commander, but you can only target creatures controlled by the defender, and you have to either have artifact cards in the yard or in play and black isn’t a color with a  lot of synergy with artifacts, so it hardly seems worth the bother unless you’re really into golems or something.

FromTheShire: Mainly slow and conditional removal that will most often be picking off utility creatures rather than game ending beaters, though in the course of the game Armix will eventually get there since they also still care about your artifacts even if your opponents blow them up. Having to attack with a 3/2 into the controller of the creature you wish to remove can be pretty tough – fortunately there are some artifacts like Whispersilk Cloak that synergize well to keep you safe. They obviously pull you very strongly into an artifact heavy deck that can interact with cards in the graveyard, both of which can be extremely powerful in commander.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Briarblade Adept

Encore is neat, and being able to drop -1/-1 tokens on something to kill it is neat, but it’s kind of a 4 cost somewhat flexible removal from the yard, so unless you’re going to synergize this with cards like Bastion of Remembrance or Zualport Cutthroat off all it’s etbs and death triggers, seems sort of lackluster for 5 mana.

Clearly here for the Abomination of Llanowar deck in limited, since this set is designed to be drafted after all. This can function as a removal spell for its Encore cost but I can’t see it making the 99 in most decks.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Court of Ambition

It’s really smart to play cards that virtually force all your opponents to attack you.  But if you are some kind of badass or running a bunch of wall of shadows maybe you can weather the storm.  It’s not a bad card, but 3 life lost a round isn’t too significant.

It’s certainly ambitious to try and actually make it back to your turn as the monarch with this out, it’s going to be sweet if you do though. Obviously great in dedicated monarch decks like Queen Marchesa or discard decks like The Haunt of Hightower, doesn’t make the cut in decks not looking to take advantage of the effect.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Demonic Lore

This card has a lot of potential for either Donate type decks or else decks that require you to sacrifice permanents to pay costs like Korvold, Fae Cursed King. It’s also an etb effect so if you flicker it you’ll get 3 more cards and this combos well with decks that end the turn prematurely as well, such as Obeka, Brute Chronologist.

Mainly interesting in Ghen, Arcanum Weaver or Blim, Comedic Genius builds or something running Claws of Gix, you definitely want to have a plan to either sacrifice or donate the enchantment after you draw your cards.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Elvish Doomsayer

This would be really good if it had encore, or if you gave it encore.  So give it encore.  If you’re recurring creatures out of your yard and saccing them, that’d be good as well.

Perfect for Nath of the Gilt-Leaf, a skip pretty much everywhere else.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Elvish Dreadlord

This is a cool wrath for tribal decks, especially with encore.  Or just some kind of special friends.  Activate only as a sorcery though is definitely a weakness.

A mini one sided wrath the first time around, and likely a full one when you can Encore it. Being on a relevant body in a tribal deck is great. You will want to have sac outlets like Ashnod’s Altar in the deck so you’re in control of when you get the effect, which fortunately are already useful in the decks this goes in.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Exquisite Huntmaster

4 and then 5 for tokens is okay if you’re leveraging them somehow.  If not, not so great.

Elf decks can make very good use of creature tokens, but I’m not convinced this does enough to be worth inclusion in your deck. 5 mana for at most 3 tokens when you Encore isn’t a fantastic rate, and the timing of when you get the tokens is going to be a little awkward in most cases. If it goes anywhere it’s in an Abomination deck, the same as in draft

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Eyeblight Cullers

Oh yay another token creator.  We get it WotC, you want a Black/Green elf tribal deck.

Cullers is in a similar boat as Huntmaster, essentially tacking on a mill three to their Encore ability. In an Abomination deck this represents a 3-6 power boost when it dies which may be enough to get it over the line and into the deck.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Falthis, Shadowcat Familiar

So this card is kind of interesting, deathtouch doesn’t require it to be combat damage, so if you have a commander who can ping stuff that could be fairly dangerous.  Menace is okay, sometimes it means they can’t really block you, so if you have creatures which need to get through to trigger combat damage, for cards like Coastal Piracy or some of the swords, that could be fairly useful.  3 mana for a 2/2 is so so, partner etc.. is kind of generic and boring, these familiar just feel kind of blah.

Ideally you will pair Falthis with another commander with either trample or first strike in order to maximize the effectiveness of menace and deathtouch, though any commander who wants to deal combat damage will benefit. I could actually see a pretty fun build with Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh and equipment, swords get a lot more dangerous when wielded by a creature with first strike, menace, trample, and deathtouch. They’re also way more hilarious being wielded by a Kobold, so there’s that too.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Feast of Succession

-4/-4 to all creatures is pretty hefty boardclear, most commanders slot into 2 or 3 toughness, so this will kill virtually everything utilitarian or commanders, but 6 mana is a lot, the only way I could see this being playable is if you have some special friends planeswalker deck with big mana, but even then it’s just overcost compared to things like massacre.  Becoming the monarch is neat, and a mechanic that WotC is pushing.  The art is fantastic though.

Languish is basically unplayable in commander, and paying 2 extra mana to draw a card at the end of the turn doesn’t really change that.

Rob: I don’t care if this card is unplayable. It’s one of the coolest cards I’ve ever seen. I love everything about this and the art rules and I’m gonna get it on a playmat.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor

This is a cool partner commander with a utility ability and a utilitarian 3 toughness to survive damage based board clear.  There are a number of things you can do with this in recursion and encore putting cards into your yard can be very powerful.  It’s also not a “draw” effect but rather a “put” effect.  Cool card, I definitely expect to see decks with this as a commander.

Sheoldred, Whispering One‘s underling Keskit is here in search of perfection and compleation, but perfect is the enemy of good. He allows you to dig a bit and fuel your graveyard but you’re sacrificing a lot for the privilege, literally. I can see this working in a graveyard recursion heavy token deck and not many other places.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Miara, Thorn of the Glade

So this is a cool elf tribal commander.  Toughness is low at 2, 2 mana is fine and drawing off elves dying definitely fits into the sort of Golgari elf theme pretty well.  Saccing creatures to an altar to get the mana to draw cards off them seems pretty delicious, and encore could be used with cards like Priest of Titania to get infinite mana, so encoring elves out to go through your deck for your wincon makes perfect sense.

This is a solid little card advantage engine. Obviously you have to have the mana to pay into it but in Elves not enough mana is rarely your issue and you should have plenty of tokens to trigger this on your own terms. Make sure to toss a Skullclamp in the mix for maximum value.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel

Doesn’t this card already exist?  Except it’s a vampire not an elf and has white and black and…  well maybe not quite.  Elves as a tribe are probably better than vampires, there are more, they are cheaper, they are more utilitarian, they make warriors.  And this is a “leaves battlefield” trigger, as opposed to a “dies” trigger, so putting it in your hand, flickering it, etc..  In fact, you could set up loops where you exile it, creating tokens, it comes back, you sac the tokens for the mana to exile it, and thus create endless etb and death triggers.

But it costs 6.  Which isn’t necessarily that bad in a Golgari elf decks, elves can ramp pretty outrageously.  But this is definitely

Nadier is on the expensive side at 6 CMC but in a tribe known for its mana dorks that shouldn’t be too much of an issue. They’re great value and boardwipe protection on their own and it’s nice they have a leaves the battlefield trigger so you still get the effect even if they are exiled rather than killed. Adding in a sac outlet that makes mana and a recursion effect like Nim Deathmantle lets you make infinite mana and tokens, and having part of your combo in the command zone is always a big plus.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Nadier’s Nightblade

This is like a bad version of a bunch of other cards which are also bad versions of Zulaport Cutthroat.  If the 8 cutthroats that exist aren’t enough for you, run this.

Here’s your on-theme finisher for the Nadier combo. Always nice when we get another Zulaport Cutthroat effect even if this one only cares about tokens. It’s worth pointing out that this just says ‘token’ not ‘token creature’ so this will also trigger off of clues, treasures, whatever you have.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Necrotic Hex

Really cool art.  Saccing six creatures is a lot of creatures, unless someone has infinite creatures that’s probably all their creatures.  That being said, it costs 7 mana.  But it makes six tokens.  A land of contrasts.  Overcost.

A very flavorful card with some upside in a Zombie tribal deck, and the fact it forces sacrifices rather than destroying will sometimes be relevant. At 7 mana I really want to be sure that the board gets cleared when I need it to, and this leaves too big of an opening for something like a token deck to laugh it off and then kill you.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Nightshade Harvester

It’s cool for group slug themes, plus it should rapidly get really big, so big it’s threatening and will get blown up.

I personally love this card because punisher effects really grind my gears. With my personal bias taken out, this kind of card can go either direction. If it gets left alone for the whole game, it can absolutely plink 20-30 damage off of the table in total and grow into a scary threat. On the other hand, it has no evasion on board, and this is EXACTLY the kind of card that can paint a target on your head and unite a table to kill you to stop being annoyingly pinged for 1 constantly.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Opposition Agent

This card is by far the most important card in the entire set.  Ridiculous amazing card.  There’s a white creature, that’s almost as good, and that’s super playable.  This is just insane.  Totally nutso and will be meta-defining and is an auto-include in every deck with black.  Biggest weakness of this card is that everyone will be running it and the timestamp will determine who gets to steal the card.  Going to reshape competitive and high-powered metas.  Absolute wrecking ball of a card.

Ok, deep breaths. This card clearly has an insanely high ceiling, stealing something important when you flash it in and turning off fetchlands, land ramp, tutors…..extremely powerful things to do, without a doubt. HOWEVER, I will be the tiniest dissenting voice and say in lower powered games this is mainly going to steal one card and then be a somewhat annoying deterrent until it dies. In high power games, cEDH, hell even in Legacy and Vintage most likely, the combination of theft and tempo loss for your opponents will be magnified since those decks are both more likely to have the kinds of effects this turns off and more likely to be trying to win the game extremely quickly. Hands down one of the best cards in the set.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Plague Reaver

This is a cool card with a really weird effect.  I also like the idea of just using it a deck as a 6/5 beater for 3 that is scary as hell because at any time you can just sacrifice it and give it to someone.  Especially in a madness deck just hilarious card.

This is a fun and unique effect that belongs in a Blim deck hands down. If this comes out on curve it will put in some serious work – as much as 40 life is, you still can’t ignore taking 6 damage a turn for as long as you might think, so there’s a real chance you can force a chump block or two with a utility creature while an opponent is trying to get set up and disrupt their game plan, and the more cards they play out of their hand the more likely it is to actually get the sacrifice trigger to happen when you donate the Reaver.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Pride of the Perfect

This sucks.  There are so many better cards that do better things and are cheaper or easier to cast or more protected or do so much more.  Only for hardcore tribal decks.

Could be great in limited if you draft Elves, and that’s about it. Elves have no shortage of Lord and Overrun effects that you can surprise your opponents to death with, a +2/+0 enchantment just tells the table you’re going to be scary soon and that they need to deal with you now.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Profane Transfusion

Costs 9 so like ugh, get at me dawg.  Huge effect if you actually pull it off, can do hilarious things Children of Korlis or something like that, but really, 9 mana.

If your deck already contains Mirror Universe, Children of Korlis, and Repay in Kind and is doing life loss and gain shenanigans, this might be an include. In any other kind of deck, 9 mana for this effect isn’t even close to worth it. Do note that in an exchange, the players mechanically gain and lose the appropriate amount of life with effects like Sanguine Bond

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Rakshasa Debaser

6 mana is a lot but for a reanimator deck it’s a pretty huge effect.  Sadly most people aren’t packing huge creatures in their yards, so you’re probably going to end up pulling utility creatures.  The encore ability though makes it so you don’t need a reanimator effect in hand, but it costs 8 mana, which is a lot.

This card is great. Unconditional theft, and the creature you’re attacking with is big enough to actually survive some combats and get the effect more than once, which is frequently an issue with these kinds of cards. By the time you can afford to cast this, there should also be some targets worth getting in graveyards as well, and the Encore is good value which will occasionally allow you to steal a game with some combination of creatures nobody could ever see coming.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Sengir, the Dark Baron

6 cost for a 4/4 flier with a weird ability that makes it hugely threatening but doesn’t end the game = your commander getting exiled.  The ultimate in “win more” cards.

When this was one of the first cards revealed for Legends, I knew I was going to love this set. Baron Sengir is one of Magic’s oldest and most iconic villains and I’m super excited to see him get a much more modern playable card. The updated counter mechanic makes him a threat to fly in with lethal commander damage quickly, meaning you could be looking at gaining 15-20 life from the player you KO. Vampires also have a lot of life gain and drain synergies built in that this ability plays well with. Overall a home run card for me.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Szat’s Will

I like these “each opponent chooses the highest” because most of the time the highest CMC will be their commander.  Also creating a ton of 0/1 thrulls is awesome, and I like thrulls, I remember Fallen Empires, in fact, the first tournament I ever won was a fallen empires draft tournament.  Do not do the math and figure out how old I am.  Bring back Ebon Praetor  Bring back homarids.  Unlike most effects of this ilk it’s an instant, which does give you some flexibility to cast this during the player to your right’s end step.

Crackling Doom isn’t a super widely played card but it’s not a bad card. Removing the restriction to Mardu colors and adding graveyard hate and some incidental token production all definitely help as well. I think this card will be solid if unexciting. 

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools

I like these partner Planeswalkers, I think they are a really cool concept, and make planeswalker commanders much more viable in a number of ways.  I think this +1 is pretty neato, and has a lot of potential for using one commander as a ramp to get the other one rolling.  Also the -10 resolves in a weirdly huge way, and potentially grabs you up to 6 creatures (ok 7 is possible hypothetically if someone had cast Control Magic on Szat’s partner).  Sac tokens are often quite useful, but 5 mana for sac tokens is pretty meh.  Everyone is going to be talking about making the doomstack Szat deck but to me he doesn’t seem that functional, but maybe there is some amazing combo to be pulled off.

Yet another iconic evil from the past gets a glow up, this time in full blown planeswalker form which is a bit of a rarity. Likely due to design space, Wizards usually makes these creatures even if the character is best known in the story as a walker. Both of his plus abilities are thematic and useful which is good because nobody is ever going to let you get to his ultimate. There has been some degree of uproar online about the ultimate being unfun and unfair and I personally think it is overblown. Even when partnered with green for access to Doubling Season he doesn’t enter with the necessary loyalty to use the ability immediately and there is no easier political maneuvering than convincing the table that everything needs to go on hold until Tevesh dies.

Rob: Hell yeah I am here for finally getting a Tvesh Szat Planeswalker card. Give me Urza as a planeswalker, cowards.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Tormod, the Desecrator

The four mana cost hurts this but getting a token every time something leaves your graveyard is potentially huge. Cards leave graveyards all the time, there are a number of ways to create loops, plus cards like timetwister exist, it’s also cards not creatures, which is nice.  There’s definitely things to be done with this (also a zombie, a powerful tribe with a lot of recursion and etb and death triggers).

This is the first appearance of an old character who many current players will actually have heard of due to Tormod’s Crypt. He’s very solid in any Zombie deck to swell your undead hordes with little bits of incremental value.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Vow of Torment

I dunno about these vows… they don’t seem good. And it’s definitely not enchantress colors. Maybe if you got something anytime it did combat damage to your opponent?  Like if it gained you life equal to the damage it dealt to players, suddenly that’d be a neat card, and also shut down certain decks. But it doesn’t really do that so it’s kind of meh.

The vows have been seen in a number of the preconstructed commander decks, and unfortunately, this follows the trend of not really doing enough to be worthwhile. It’s a shame because the core idea is cool, they just haven’t printed one that is strong enough yet.

 

Tomorrow: Red

Check back tomorrow when our review of Commander Legends continues with an examination of all the new cards added in Red. Until then, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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