Commander Legends Review, Part 5 of 7: Red

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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 Red cards in the set.

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

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Alena, Kessig Trapper

Phillip: So there’s definitely things you could do with this commander that would be pretty neato, such as a Rakdos reanimator deck, where you’re bringing back cards like Ball Lightning and then generating mana off their power; they die at the end of the turn anyway, so you can reanimate them again.  But at the end of the day it’s 5 mana for a mana dork really. Yeah it generates a lot of mana, and it certainly could go infinite, with say Sword of the Paruns pretty easily, but red typically isn’t the most amazing color if you have infinite mana (guess which color you usually end up wanting. Yeah you got it in one.) It’s just a slow and unwieldy way to get infinite mana (she doesn’t have haste so…) I’m glad to see more partners, but mono colored partners just don’t really stand up to the ridiculousness that is Thrasios, Tyman and Vile Smash, as well as Kraum, and they all have to compete with Kenrith and Golos.

FromTheShire: Agreed that there’s lots of fun things you can do with Alena. In addition to what Phillip said, I’m extremely down for jamming her in a Feldon of the Third Path or Xenagos, God of Revels deck. You’re in the haste color which is good as well; I think she’s definitely geared more towards combo-ing off than grinding for value.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Aurora Phoenix

Phoenix cards are cool. Cool Tribe. Come back from the dead in a different way, that’s cool. It’s too bad they don’t have more interesting abilities, like coming back and dealing damage to all creatures, or coming back when they take damage, or something with the sun or fire. They’re just.. phoenix cards.  6 for a 5/3 flier with cascade is over cost.

One of these days I want someone who is interviewing Mark Rosewater to ask what the bet was about that he lost and was forced to make a new phoenix every third set for the winners bad phoenix tribal deck. Remember that one time where they accidentally made it a playable card in Arclight Phoenix? Good times. This card might make a Maelstrom Wanderer deck because it’s recurrable cascade but the actual card is eh.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Blazing Sunsteel

I think this is a really cool card, but it costs 4 to equip, which makes it virtually unplayable. There are ways to equip for free, so if you can cheat it on to a creature then that’s pretty cool.

This is a lot of hoops to jump through to try and do something kind of tricksy if you’re putting it on a creature with deathtouch or something else weird. Most of the time you’re going to pay 6 mana to have the creature chump blocked by a token and get to ping something for one, and in a format with some truly incredible Equipment, that’s just not going to get the job done.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Boarding Party

Yeah it’s a really cool looking card, it could have a new ability (re-hire me WotC) tribal Cascade (you get it right?  You cast it and then you turn over cards until you get a lower casting cost card of the appropriate tribe), but uh, instead we have an overcost 6/3 pirate with haste and casade for… 6. At least it’s 5 colorless.

Wizards likes these kinds of cards where they can support two different archetypes in draft (Pirates and cascade) which makes perfect sense when viewed through that lens. As a card to put into a commander deck after the fact though, it’s just way too much mana for not enough effect. It’s a common for a reason.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Breeches, Brazen Plunderer

This guy is amazing.  Amazing and totally cool, 4 for a 3/3 with an amazing ability. Playing off your opponents libraries is a really cool mechanic that I like, and it fits really well into commander and pirates in particular, looting and plundering.  So this guy is awesome, and I definitely see decks built around him and Malcolm, as well as just putting him in any pirate deck. The interaction with Glint Horn Buccaneer is amazing and terrifying.  Also the OG pirate, Pirate Ship.

Super stoked to see the best character in the Ixalan story arc get his own card. Yes, I’m including both Pathos Vraska and Personal Growth Jace in the list. I wish he and Malcolm’s abilities cared about each other a liiiiittle more, at least he gets you partway to casting the cards you steal. Fantastic card that continues to give Pirates sweet effects.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Coastline Marauders

I think this is a cool card thematically, I like that it makes some kind of sense, getting +1/+0 for each land defending player controls and having trample all comes together.  I’m not sure why it has Encore. Encore is a good ability. The problem is there are too many good pirates with utility abilities.

It’s telling how much of a difference adding trample to a card like this makes. There are a ton of varieties of this effect that are unplayable because they have no evasion, and no matter how big the creature gets, if it can be effectively defeated forever by 1/1’s, it’s just not good. Pirates have enough going on now that I’m not sure they truly need a big beater to close games, but they have a good one if they do.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Coercive Recruiter

I love this card. Thematically very cool, fits very well into a pirate deck. Did you know under the comprehensive rules, you’re allowed to talk like a pirate (the super annoying version) if you play a pirate tribal deck so long as it isn’t any good? If it’s good you can’t. But if it’s bad, you can, and you should.

Zealous Conscripts is meh whenever it’s not a combo piece. Conscripts that triggers whenever a tribe member enters, and turns the stolen creature into said tribe, now we’re talking. I think your opponent legally can’t block if you do an impression of the weird new creature type you’ve created. “I attack you for 10 with my Eldrazi Pirate. Fthlbthpl tentacle noises….arrr?”

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Court of Ire

Cool picture for a bad card. I don’t get why these courts all cost so much, they are slow and bad and don’t do much. If they all cost 3 they’d be playable.

I’ve made a case for the black court, but this one is both more expensive and does less for you. The fact that one of red’s things is direct damage is one of the biggest things that makes it weaker in most commander games, leaning in to it by conditionally making it possibly remove one creature per turn cycle certainly doesn’t fix that.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Crimson Fleet Commodore

Overcost. Not as good as better pirates. Pirates becoming the monarch makes no sense too. His ability should be like “each time a creature you control deals combat damage to the monarch, draw a card”.

Another archetype spanning draft common.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Dargo, the Shipwrecker

This guy goes absolutely notes with ….[check notes] oh right treasures. So sac 2 treasures for 2 mana and his cost is reduced by 4, so he costs … 3, 3 treasures and you net mana casting him, and then if you sacrifice him, say to a Phyrexian Altar, you get 1 colored mana and his cost goes up by 2 but down by 1, so you can cast him again, so if you have an ETB trigger or death trigger, like say Impact Tremors then the game is over.

Some fun things you can with loops, but I feel like you can do the same kinds of things more efficiently and with fewer pieces. He’s fine, and the flavor is on point.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Emberwilde Captain

See this guy has a monarch ability and then like a pirate ability that makes sense. And he’s cheaper. And straight up better. But he’s also a creature made of fire hanging out on a boat? Does that jive for anyone? Savvy, fire is bad.

A reasonable way to introduce the monarchy in your Pirate deck that’s also useful in a monarch-centric deck to help you actually hold on to the crown. May also have the best flavor text in the set.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Explosion of Riches

I like this card, it’s a cool randomish ability and it’s thematically in line with what red is supposed to be about, but I think you should get a treasure for each opponent who draws a card.

An extremely red effect, with all the drawbacks that brings. Even if you get maximum value, you’re still trading some damage to give yourself card disadvantage for 6 mana. A pass for me.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Fathom Fleet Swordjack

4 for a 4/3 is expensive but as many ways as pirates have of creating treasures it’s actually fairly scary and could be a game ender potentially, especially with Encore.

Sneaky good, and the fact it’s an attack trigger not a deals damage trigger like most Pirates is huge.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Flamekin Herald

This card definitely has potential, like with Dargo. Keep casting him and keep cascading. Or in Food Chain. But Food Chain already does it’s thing, though this would let you have a back up win con.

If you’re already a deck built around cascading, this is fantastic. Keep in mind that cascade does stack, so Maelstrom Wanderer gets up to three cascades, etc. If you’re not using the mechanic already, it’s only fine.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Frenzied Saddlebrute

This is a neat way to make a player playing one punch or Najeela kill one of your opponents, but it costs 5.

An interesting political card, but I don’t want to give ANY of my opponents haste if I can avoid it. The fact they killed one of my opponents this turn means they’re probably now only a turn away from killing me too, and now I have one fewer ally to deal with their board.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Hellkite Courser

This is a cool card.  I don’t think it’s really good, but it’s an attempt to get around commander tax in the mid or late game. It’s weird that it doesn’t have haste though, since it sure seems like the commander is riding in on it.  Maybe like paratrooping in?

Expensive but very good. It’s not worth it as a strictly value play most of the time, but for the kind of deck that just needs its commander on board for a turn to secure the win it’s perfect. Don’t forget that it’s a Dragon and perfect for an The Ur-Dragon deck, meaning you can drop this on turn 5 with the cost reduction and get a free swing in with your extremely powerful commander.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Impulsive Pilferer

This card is amazing and hugely good and a game winner combo card under the right circumstances.

Anything that makes enough mana to recast itself when it dies immediately goes to the top of the ‘watch out for this combo piece’ list.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Jeska, Thrice Reborn

This is a neat planeswalker partner, with an obvious one punch combo, also I like how it gets benefited from commander tax in a way that jives with the game fairly well.  Note that it will always get a loyalty counter from casting itself (ok well not if you play Jeska in the 99).

A great lore card, and appropriately aggressive and deadly for a planeswalking barbarian. It’s neat that her 0 ability frequently functions the same as when she was Phage the Untouchable.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Jeska’s Will

This is a really solid red card.  It’s so solid I’m surprised it’s not a blue card. Three to potentially get a huge amount of mana, especially given red’s propensity for wheels and what not, and then play off the top of your library is enormous.

Great card that is indicative of the direction they have been pushing red to shore up its weakness at drawing cards. This can either be great value on its own, or extremely scary with something like Underworld Breach.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar

All these familiars are like super disappointing. This one is so close to being really good. Insert the word “combat” and you can instantly one punch three people to death.  Instead it’s so lackluster.

It’s not going to make you any friends, and your Voltron deck is still going to struggle to kill the table at times, but I think this is great for giving your deck some reach.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Krark, the Thumbless

Wooh give Krark his thumbs back so exciting. In seriousness this card has crazy potential. Right away it’s amazing with something like Sakashima of a Thousand Faces.  The way the triggers work they are all looking at the same spell on the stack, but generating copies. So if you have say Krak and Sakashima and then cast Rite of Flame, you if you get tails then the spell goes back in your hand. If you get heads then tails you get 2 mana and then it goes back in your hand.  Once you get 2 or 3 Krarks, like say with Sakashima and clones of Sakashima, or Sakashima’s Will your odds of generating infinite mana keep going up. So this Goblin Wizard can definitely storm off into a Grapeshot or Aetherflux Reservoir win.  On the other hand making people watch you flip coins all day is super annoying.

Krark goes in very specific decks, but in those decks he’s absolutely incredible. I’m a huge fan of coin flip decks because I love all of the mechanics that people hate, and once we can actually meet and flip coins in person again, I’m going to have a deck waiting to rock.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Meteoric Mace

This card sucks. It costs too much. Equip 4? Wtf  It doesn’t even do anything. Whoo cascade.

This level of buff and equip cost wasn’t worth it when it cost 2 to cast, adding cascade and trample for 4 extra mana doesn’t change my opinion.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Port Razer

This card is scary and amazing and definitely a potential for a win.

Extra combat steps are extremely dangerous even if they’re not infinite, and this card is good enough to both make the cut in Pirate decks to get more and more damage triggers and in regular old turn creatures sideways decks.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh

People are already theorizing how to turn this guy into a crazy one puncher, probably with Jeska. Myself I don’t play that style of deck much, and I think Kobolds make no sense, but I can see how it’s kind of neat. The little red dot makes him legally red btw.

Absolutely love this guy and he can go from funny joke deck to extremely deadly very quickly. Time to bust out my Kobold Taskmaster and a bunch of equipment and start going to town! It’s also worth saying that there are rumblings that this might do something in Vintage or Legacy, which will be hilarious if it pans out.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Soulfire Eruption

These 9 cost haymaker spells are cool, and obviously a lot of card advantage, cast a bunch of exiled spells, I guess if you have 9 mana to cast a weird sorcery you probably have more than 9.

You’re here for the card advantage, the direct damage likely wouldn’t matter much even if you knew how much it was going to be. It’s good that you can still play them until the next turn because at 9 mana you’re probably not doing anything else on this turn, unless you’ve gone infinite, in which case you should probably have a better way to end the game.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith

This is a cool card in so many ways. 3 for a 2/2 with a powerful triggered utility ability is really nice. Combos well with an amazing amount of cards, including Krark Clan Ironworks and Drago, things with affinity, cards that get a bonus for each equipment attached, plus being able to just kill Tymna is really nice.

In my unbiased opinion as the owner of Goblin decks for Legacy, Modern, Pioneer, and Commander, Goblins are the best creature type in Magic. An artificer weaponsmith slowly pelting things to death with rocks is incredible, and my only design note to Wizards is that I’d gladly have sacrificed Partner in order to get what would surely be some incredible flavor text. There’s a reason Goblin Offensive has one of the best flavor texts in the game.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Volcanic Torrent

I think this has potential, especially if you have some way of manipulating your library, since you’ll reliably deal 2 damage to each creature and each planeswalker but only to the ones your opponents control, but potentially as much as 5 just off itself. Red’s board clears almost always affect their own creatures, which is a huge weakness since many decks want to run utility creatures. It’s a bit high cost for all that, but it’s kind of a 2 for 1 minimum which makes it decently playable in my opinion. Nice that it’s only 1 colored mana, something WotC seems to be pushing in this set.

The inclusion of the word ‘each’ is such a huge difference maker when it comes to cards making the cut in commander. Sometimes this is only going to sweep the utility creatures your opponents have, and that will be a little sad. Other times you’re going to wipe a whole lot of stuff off the board, gain a bunch of value, and be in position to do some serious damage. There’s still that classic red variance but this one is good enough to be worth playing.

 

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Wheel of Misfortune

This is a really cool weird card, with all kinds of games theorizing going into what number you choose, and the ability to cause yourself to lose a bunch of life is sometimes weirdly powerful. Just for the record the only numbers in Magic are positive whole integers, you can’t choose pi or E or a suffusion of yellow or something like that. Obviously if players don’t want to discard and draw they can all choose 0, which makes it an interesting card. I really like that WotC is actually leaning into the fact that commander is a true multiplayer format, and putting cards that aren’t simply retreads of 2 player cards with the wording changed to “all opponents” or “each opponent” is really nice to see.

Apparently WotC came up with a new mechanic but it didn’t make it into Commander Legends, so hopefully we can expect to see something else like the monarch at some point, something with a political aspect to it. I’d love to see something like “pauper” as a title, very white themed, like the player with the least lands, or cards in hand or permanents or something like that.

It took them quite a while, but Wizards is now clearly committed to giving us extremely close but not truly functionally identical printings of the Reserved List cards, at least the ones anyone cares about. As a fan of cards like Goblin Game and Wheel of Fortune to begin with, I’m all about playing them mashed together. Would you like to play a game?

 

Tomorrow: Green

Check back tomorrow when our review of Commander Legends continues with an examination of all the new cards added in Green. 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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