At last, Magic’s newest expansion has us reaching the climax of the 4 part story arc with the Phyrexians as Elesh Norn’s forces spill out into countless planes, bringing together strange allies and forever altering the fabric of the multiverse. A new set means new cards, and we’re kicking off our review with the multicolor cards that serve as signposts to let you know what direction each color pair is trying to build in.
Last time we covered the mechanics, and this time as usual we won’t be looking at everything, and we’ll be doing this primarily but not exclusively with an eye for Commander play.
Errant and Giada
FromTheShire: Having a cheap Commander you can get down early is always nice, and flash is sweet as well. Without doing an exhaustive look there’s 315 cards with flash in this color identity, and a little under 2,000 with flying, so there should definitely be a list here, and being able to cast all of them off of the top of your library while also giving you foreknowledge of your draws is great. Being in blue means you have a ton of great top deck manipulation as an added bonus. Probably not my personal speed but I could see this heading some super cool decks.
BPhillipYork: This seems borderline competitive, the ability to flash things in is enormous, unfortunately WotC has been fairly careful about “giving” flash. Cards like Vedalken Orrery let you spells as if they had flash which does not actually count as flash. However a staxy value advantage deck playing flash cards is a viable deck type, and there’s plenty of library manipulation in blue.
Invasion of New Phyrexia / Teferi Akosa of Zhalfir
FromTheShire: Definitely one of the more playable of the Battles for Commander purposes, this is solid as just a token generator with the bonus that it’s probably going to flip and loot once before it dies. They’re also giving us some cool Azorius Knights support in the set, which leads us to…..
BPhillipYork: This is transparently built to support the new Knight Commander with eminence. Sidar Jibar of Zhalfi. It’s great for that, but it just feels a little too on the nose. Stacking ward emblems is kind of funny though.
Marshall of Zhalfir
FromTheShire: If I’ve said it once I’ve said it 1000 times, always love to get a new Lord, especially for underrepresented tribes. This guy is great, not only does he drop on 2 like a lot of the more modern lords, he also brings an activated ability that can come in surprisingly handy. If you know there’s someone at the table gunning for you, paying 2 to tap down their biggest threat before combat will frequently swing combat math in a big way. However, there is one little downside….. What decks is this going in? The real answer of course is “Standard decks” and Sidar Jabari of Zhalfir, but in EDH land this doesn’t really play nicely with anything we currently have. There’s basically no UW Legendary Knight to build around since your only choice is Tura Kennerüd, Skyknight which actually cares about Soldiers and spellslinging, so your next options are either Rafiq of the Many or Galea, Kindler of Hope which are okay I guess? Rafiq is all about pumping one creature though which doesn’t really take advantage of a lord effect, plus the problem where some Commanders have such a fearsome reputation that you may be killed on sight while you desperately swear that no really it’s Knight tribal not something crazy is literally called the Rafiq problem so….there’s some potential obstacles. Galea is okay but again cares more about enchanting or equipping a couple of creatures. Elanda and Azor is probably your best choice since they at least get you the colors you need plus black, which has some great Knights, and their ability actually does something on tribe. After that, there isn’t even a BAD 5 color Knight so looks like it’s Morophon, the Boundless time. It would really have been nice if this wasn’t so color restricted, though I understand why they did it for non-EDH reasons.
BPhillipYork: More support for Azorius Knights, which is fine I guess, very solid to have a 2/2 anthem creature with a tap ability and only costing 2 mana. So a real solid creature for a go wide and tall Knights deck, and can tap down meddlesome blockers.
Hidetsugu and Kairi
FromTheShire: This card is neat as hell. At first glance, okay getting to Brainstorm when they enter play is useful but not THAT powerful, although obviously you’re in blue so you can do a bunch of blinking to get extra value. What you’re really here for is the dies trigger though, even if the damage is only target opponent. Rather than trying to recast them a bunch of times, or likely even Reanimate-ing them, you want to be using things like Quasiduplicate and Phantasmal Image to make copy after copy – the fact that they instantly die to the Legend rule is actually a bonus! Once you are able to start chaining together token creators off of the top and manipulating your way into the next one, you can do some really powerful and fun stuff.
BPhillipYork: This is potentially pretty breakable. If the spell you’re casting is a reanimation spell, you can reanimate Hidetsugu and Kairi, triggering them again, and killing off your opponents by just doing the ‘ol lather rinse repeat. Also could be a really fun way to whip out some hugely expensive black and blue crazy sorceries, in a more chill, less consistent but more explosive deck, or also another way of taking turns.
Rankle and Torbran
FromTheShire: Love this spiteful little duo of sheer annoyance and pain. Their abilities mean you’re almost guaranteed to connect with someone at the table, which then means you can do a little ramping, control the board a little, and give a solid damage boost to your team. You don’t even have to hit the same person to get the bonus, so you can safely attack a different player if your primary target would be able to stymie Rankle and Torbran.
BPhillipYork: To me, this is kind of just a bad version of Rankle, Master of Pranks which is in and of itself a fairly brutal card, it costs 5 mana, which is only 1 more than Rankle the original. Having 4 toughness is really solid, since red has some really nice damage-based board clears that do 3. The struggle with Rankle is of course mono black so having access to red does make this a lot more solid as a Commander.
Kogla and Yidaro
FromTheShire: This is an interesting Kaiju pairing, but why on earth is it only an ETB trigger? Yes Kogla has one, but his destroy ability is an attack trigger, and these should be too. Sure getting the trample and haste when you first cast it is nice, but after that you’re left with a vanilla 7/7 as your Commander, and that is just not going to get you there. Sure you can buff them, but that is also true of the host of other smashy Gruul Commanders that also actually have abilities once they’re on the table. I have a hard time picturing this seeing much Standard play with the cost, and the destroy ability is both difficult and bad in Commander as well – who is this for?
BPhillipYork: There are a lot of better options as commanders in Gruul, though I do think it’s a fun card to just throw in decks, cycle-ish away when you need to draw and if you can get this big beater out go for it. It is a bit strange that it has an ETB trigger, though it does make it a bit more consistent, if less value in the long term.
FromTheShire: A lot of the time creatures that just get big aren’t worth it, but this little guy has one crucial extra word: Trample. Green and white have a ton of counter support, so this can get wildly out of control since it triggers for the first time for EACH permanent and you’ll be bashing people to death in no time. Good signpost card.
BPhillipYork: Fine for decks focused on +1/+1 counters but there are really stronger cards and better way to do similar things.
Ghalta and Mavren
FromTheShire: Now we’re TALKING. Aggressively costed trampler that can reward you for either going big or going wide, and once you get all of your Doubling Season effects online can even do both at once. Plus they have to y’know, deal with a 12/12 Commander that tramples. The art fucking rules too.
BPhillipYork: 7 mana for a 12/12 is uh, decent. Making giant tramplers is pretty fun, and I do have a Dinosaur deck I’m keen to throw this in, tons of 1/1 Vampire tokens is probably the most broken you can do with this, since you’ll be doubling your counters every time you attack (though that has shades of being a really, really bad Najeela, the Blade-Blossom).
Drana and Linvala
FromTheShire: Another card I really like, though it can be somewhat meta dependent. Shutting off your opponents’ activated abilities can be absolutely devastating against some decks, and then getting to use those abilities yourself is even better. The tribes are both great when you’re figuring out what your plan is against decks without said abilities, and this fits extremely well with a bunch of stax and hatebear effects too.
BPhillipYork: This is a funny annoying stax effect and even stealing your opponents’ activated abilities. In an annoying stax deck having this on top is pretty useful for shutting down creature-based strategies, though usually, that’s just going to be mana dorks, except when you randomly rob Kenrith, the Returned King of his abilities.
Baral and Kari Zev
FromTheShire: I think this card is another one that isn’t really for Commander. On the other hand for Standard I could see this becoming a bit of a menace between the abilities, the value, and the token. The way the bonus spell works does seem like it might result in some clunky play patterns though.
BPhillipYork: Yet another worse version of Ragavan is kind of meaningless, getting a free spell each turn is really solid in Izzet. So many powerful instants and sorceries to trigger off of, and red and blue have a variety of cards that benefit from casting on other people’s turns, to really turn this into a value engine.
Glissa, Herald of Predation
FromTheShire: Regular readers can probably predict where I’m going with this right away – I don’t give a damn about Incubating, I’m windmill slamming first strike and deathtouch Every. Single. Time. We now have about 250 Phyrexian creatures in these colors after a bunch of cards had their creature types updated, including a whole bunch with toxic and infect. I’m extremely down for making my opponents choose between blocking a bunch of cheap infect idiots with their real creatures, knowing they are going to die to first strike, or taking a bunch of poison counters. Probably the first deck I am building from this set.
BPhillipYork: Not my favorite Glissa by any means, this is just an overcosted beater with some weird abilities, I don’t see incubator tokens being really that worthwhile, and handing out first strike and death touch is kind of meh. The ways in which you could really leverage deathtouch do exist, like Fynn the Fangbearer, which suddenly turns into a brutal finisher.
Yargle and Multani
FromTheShire: YARRRRR-GLLLLLLLLE *BRRR BRRR BRRRRRRRR* Were you all in on the meme last time around? Then you’re going to love this go around even more. Adding green means you get access to a bunch of cards like Traverse the Outlands, Return of the Wildspeaker, and Selvala, Heart of the Wilds in addition to your Essence Harvest, Rite of Consumption, and Tainted Strike, as well as the ramp to actually make it all happen.
BPhillipYork: Hyping up stat lines is really kind of boring to me.
Djeru and Hazoret
FromTheShire: I really like the way this card addresses the typical Boros struggle of ending up empty handed by actually giving you a decent bonus for it. There are a ton of super hard hitting Legendaries you’ll be happy to hit with this, as well as ones that grant extra combat steps. Can’t wait to turn hasty swings with this into nasty Eldrazi titans for free. It’s even explicitly a cast, so you trigger their abilities.
BPhillipYork: Boros exile and cast from combat is an increasing theme, and a solid one, but this is a weak example of it. Looking for Legendary creatures to cast off this isn’t really going to explode or do much with.
FromTheShire: Some fun stuff you can do here, and it pairs well with the previous version. Lots of value to be had, and I like that it recycles the spells back into your deck to fetch again with your Sunforger.
BPhillipYork: I guess people who care about the story think this guy is so hot but to me he’s just uh, an elephant guy or whatever. The really solid trick here would to combine extra turn spells with this, the red extra turn spells cause you to lose, but there are ways around that, like Platinum Angel or Sundial of the Infinite. This is a high risk-reward strategy, but it seems very “Boros”.
Inga and Esika
FromTheShire: I’m torn on the art for this one. On the one hand, I love weird old art like the original Llanowar Elves. On the other hand, this doesn’t feel very Magic-like to me. As for the actual card, stop me if you’ve heard this before – it’s a Simic legend that generates a bunch of mana and draws a ton of cards. It’s very good but also very safe.
BPhillipYork: Really fun for Simic creature decks, everything is a mana dork and you’ll net a lot of creatures which tap for mana for more creatures.
Kroxa and Kunoros
FromTheShire: The abilities are good and returning creatures straight to the battlefield is obviously fantastic, needing 6 cards in your graveyard a pop is pretty darn steep though.
BPhillipYork: Fun times, not as powerful as the OG Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger on the other hand if you can fill up your yard quickly enough there are things you could reanimate with this trigger, such as Akki, Battle Squad. You’d need a way to cycle 5 cards each combat to fill your yard, and a way to sacrifice the squad, nonetheless, this would theoretically generate a lot of combat steps (not infinite since you’re exiling to effectively escape the creature). Red also has a lot of creatures that enter and cause draw and discard.
Borborygmos and Fblthp
FromTheShire: Absolutely love this pairing. By their powers combined, they have…. Depth perception! They mainly offer a good way to ping off problematic creatures and helm a lands matter, Life from the Loam style deck, and it seems pretty fun.
BPhillipYork: This is just weird and fun. It’s not good, but its weird, and it’s fun. There’s 4 ways to play lands from your yard now too so discarding to the yard isn’t so bad.
Thalia and The Gitrog Monster
FromTheShire: Okay, so what if we combined my favorite abilities with a powerful ramp and draw engine and then threw in slowing down your opponents and messing up their blocking on top of it? All for a very reasonable 4 mana too. It’s more grindy and less combo oriented than the original The Gitrog Monster while still being very powerful and I’m here for it.
BPhillipYork: This is a really strong card IMO. Extra land, sac trigger with draw attached, opponents’ creatures, and nonbasic lands enter tapped all really solid abilities on a 4/4 with first strike and death touch. A really solid semi-staxy Commander that plays well into a land theme.
Zurgo and Ojutai
FromTheShire: Not a bad little card advantage engine, and the hexproof means you’re almost certainly connecting when this drops. Kind of a bummer that it only digs 3 deep and still puts it to your hand rather than casting it for free. Plus ‘one or more’ means it doesn’t scale as you go wide.
BPhillipYork: Card draw off Dragon combat damage is actually one of the better “Dragon based” decks I’ve seen. 5-cost 4/4 flyer with haste and hexproof the turn it enters is pretty solid with a built-in better than Coastal Piracy even if it’s only for Dragons. So a pretty solid mid-range Jeskai Dragon Commander. Dragons haven’t gotten cheap per se, but they don’t all cost 6+ mana anymore there is a solid selection of 3-5 cost Dragons, many of which have haste and are solid beaters.
Zimone and Dina
FromTheShire: Remember Inga and Esika from like 30 seconds ago? Same idea but with a dash of black to add draining and caring about sacrificing creatures. Pair it with Retreat to Coralhelm and do the kind of dirty things these decks always do.
BPhillipYork: This is a solid triggered ability, with Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora out there and other things you can easily be drawing every turn, and with various untap effects you could easily be sacrificing over and over. Sultai sacrifice is a solid, solid thing to build around, this will draw and ramp you and is a very affordable 3 mana Commander with 3 colors.
Omnath, Locus of All
FromTheShire: At last Omnath has reached his final form, or at least until he also becomes part Eldrazi somehow. We have the old style retention of mana which I love, and then a bit of card advantage and ramp which also tracks. I like that it cares about enough colored mana symbols to actually have players make interesting deck building choices that wouldn’t be included in a typical Commander list. I’m curious to see how it plays out versus the inherent tension of turning your leftover mana black. Does this become basically a 5 color mono black list, a super symbol heavy Ultimatum type list, or something else altogether?
BPhillipYork: Bleah. I don’t really like this compleation of Omnath. We all saw it coming, 5th color Omnath but I was hoping for a more landsy theme. It’s another decent 5 color Commander though and lets you save up mana for big things. The pre-combat main phase trigger will let you draw one card each turn, even if you don’t get to generate mana off of it. If you want to make some kind of flashy deck with lots of big expensive spells this is one way to get the mana for them. Ultimatum tribal could be a thing.
Next Time: Monocolored
That wraps up our look at the set’s multicolored cards. Join us next time as we review the sets colored cards, picking out our favorites, and talking about the future build-arounds. In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at email@example.com.