Magic’s newest expansion has us journeying into the glistening, oil drenched heart of New Phyrexia as allies from across the Multiverse race to stop Elesh Norn from conquering countless planes. 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.
BPhillipYork: Not probably sufficient of a beater for Commander. Flying might cut it for decks that go hog wild with artifacts, possibly off of something like Smothering Tithe.
FromTheShire: Normally cards like this are kind of whatever since while they get big you can just chump them for days, but the addition of flying jumps the threat level up significantly. Still not likely to make it in Commander but possibly in other formats.
Loxi: 10,000 leagues under the sea tribal here I come. Regardless, this card is cool but not groundbreaking; I’m sure it’ll be popular in casual pods just due to how easy it is to use/slot in a lot of decks. Seems like a HOUSE in limited if you’re also using BRO to draft.
Malcator, Purity Overseer
BPhillipYork: 3/3 Golem creators are definitely proliferating so this fits nicely in with others, the fact this guy will repeatedly trigger is pretty strong. Since it’s blue and white could be paired with a lot of the group hug and if your opponents triggers, but as a 1/1, the main route here would be flickering Malcator and other helpful artifacts like Solemn Simulacrum.
FromTheShire: Love the art, meh on the card. It’s a good bit of work for not much payoff.
Beanith: Sorry, I’m going to need a moment to parse just how awesome this creature type is. It’s a zombie-robot elephant wizard! Admittedly it’s a weak 1/1 with a dull ability and lacking the correct Boros colour so it can’t be put in my future Comet, Stellar Pup Commander deck. Ah well, they can’t all be winners.
Loxi: I think this is a really cool head for Golem tribal, but in reality Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer, seems significantly better for the tribe as a whole. If you specifically want blue & white and don’t want to run a weird 3-color pairing with partners, I’m sure Malcator will do the job. Seems like a lot of hoops to jump through for a mediocre payoff.
Kaito, Dancing Shadow
BPhillipYork: This has some utility with things like ninjas, which may want to bounce to your hand, or other creatures with strong etb effects. The payoff for all that seems insufficient, unless maybe you have some way of flickering Kaito himself, so you can make a Drone, then draw a card, then flicker, then draw or make another Drone.
FromTheShire: The modes are all pretty good but I still don’t think this is worth it in Commander. A lot of times this is either make one creature unblockable or make a Drone, draw a card, and then die.
Beanith: Every now and then I see a cool ninja card like this one get the urge to start building me a Ninja Commander deck. Luckily I missed most of the hoha around Neon Genesis Kamigawa so thankfully for my wallet, I’ve yet to cave to this particular urge. I particularly like this chap for being able protect himself with his +1 and -2 abilities with the added bonus of possible being able to do it twice.
Loxi: Ninjas, rogues, you name it; if you’re in Dimir and you want unblockable goodies, I think this card has some sweet value. I do think 4 mana is a bit hefty since there is no way this guy survives that long on the board, but if it fits the theme of your deck and you can consistently benefit from multiple of his modes, go for it. I will comment that I think making drones is not super exciting, and in reality this will be an unblockable/draw engine.
Venser, Corpse Puppet
BPhillipYork: This Venser seems lame to me.
FromTheShire: Now here’s some great Phyrexian body horror. Poor Venser gives his life and his spark to save Karn and the Multiverse, and what does he get in return? For his corpse to be reanimated by some massive memnite. Likely not strong enough to be commonly seen as a Commander, but he certainly can be a fun deck if you want to go that route. More often you will see him
Beanith: My mono-black Zombie that I use on Arena is getting a bit long in the tooth and I’ve been meaning to mix it up with a new deck that doesn’t rely on my opponent rage quitting after 3 turns of me making them throw out their hand via discards. This card alone is giving me ideas of possible zombie themed shenanigans.
Loxi: I have mixed opinions on Venser. On one hand; holy shit that’s Venser. On the other, he seems too…confused. He wants to proliferate, yet outside of his toxic 1 he doesn’t really benefit from proliferating and can’t proliferate himself. Giving your artifact creatures flying/lifelink can be strong, but you have to be built for proliferation effects, artifacts, and payoffs for the actual counters from proliferating. I think he’ll be more of a 99 card, which is a shame for a surprise from an old friend.
BPhillipYork: So, pretty strong with Yawgmoth, Thran Physician and just generally kind of useful for discard effects, if you’re also proliferating. I feel like this hits more in Standard.
FromTheShire: Really like this guy, a 2 damage flyer for 2 is just a great rate, and then you staple on Toxic 1 AND a recursion ability. Great for coming down early and getting the poison train rolling, and then as you progress your game by proliferating it comes back over and over.
Loxi: Similarly to Venser, I think this fits best in aristocrats-y decks that proliferate a lot. Maybe something with Reyhan, Last of the Abzan and a partner with blue? I do see potential here, I’m just not sure where to put it.
Kethek, Crucible Goliath
BPhillipYork: This guy seems like the strongest course is to use him as a polymorpher, if there is a specific creature you want in your deck you can run multiple legends to go grab it. Archon of Cruelty seems like one option, and potentially you could be using this with Sneak Attack, dropping out huge creatures then sacrificing them to this to get more creatures. Access to black and red would let you also reanimate your sacrificed creature.
FromTheShire: This is an interesting twist on the Birthing Pod style mechanic that we haven’t seen particularly often, at least in part because you generally want to be going up the chain not down. I can see it with a bunch of things that benefit from cheating creatures out and sacrificing and good ETB’s but generally you can find much better Commanders to play that style. Maybe if you load up on Threaten effects you can do something pretty fun.
Beanith: Robot doggo that cleans up its own mess. What’s not to love? I could see some use combos using cards like Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia to churn out some sacrificial tokens.
Loxi: This card is pretty dope, although I wish I could use it’s effect more than once a turn. I wonder if you can pull some Polymorph-esque shenanigans with this; things that generate tokens to sac big enough to search your deck for real creatures that can do crazy things. Regardless I think it’s a neat card, but probably will be more of a control-deck rather than aristocrats, since it just seems too slow for a true sacrifice strategy.
FTS: The problem with tokens is it keys off of mana value, and tokens generally will have CMV 0 unless you’re making token COPIES of creatures, and this isn’t the best color combo for that.
Lukka, Bound to Ruin
BPhillipYork: That -4 is a confusing ability since things are rarely templated like that, though it kind of makes sense (kind of) if you pay for him with Phyrexian mana though you can’t use his -4 right away. 5 Mana to generate mana is meh in ommander, so this card is obviously for 4-of formats.
FromTheShire: Costs too much to be your ramp even if you’re paying life, the Beast isn’t worth the card when this dies immediately, and damage based removal doesn’t scale well in Commander. A pass for me.
Beanith: It’s bad enough I immediately equate Gruul with fecking Werewolf decks but now I also have to watch out for suspicious cards like Gigantosaurus?
Loxi: Domri died so we could have Lukka, but honestly this card is pretty gas. He isn’t scary enough that he will draw crazy hate, and can generate a lot of long term value. I actually really like this card, and might pick it up to try in Neyith of the Dire Hunt. Ramp and self protection are great, and making 3/3’s with toxic 1 isn’t bad for the rate. Flexible casting costs mean he can actually be a legitimate source of mana advantage early and provide some juicy removal later. Overall, one of the more exciting planeswalkers of the set for me.
Migloz, Maze Crusher
BPhillipYork: These abilities just seem too expensive to usually be impactful. If you’re proliferating you could be destroying artifacts and enchantments every turn or so, but that’s still a lot of mana for that effect.
FromTheShire: Solid rate for the body and entering with 5 oil counters can really kick start things if you’re going that route. Great suite of abilities as well. Another one that I don’t expect we’ll see a lot of in Commander but might pop up with some frequency in Standard.
Loxi: Hear me out: this is a neat Voltron commander. He can remove noncreature threats, pump himself to get more damage in a pinch, and provide evasion to himself. Yes, his counters are limited, but in a set full of proliferate and with some small blink effects, he could do some work. I don’t think this card is designed for EDH particularly, but I think there are some really cool creative freedoms to take with it. Also, it’s a 3 mana 4/4 with upside. If I could travel back in time and show this to a player when Homelands was a new set, I think they’d faint.
Melira, the Living Cure
BPhillipYork: Now that Melira, the Living Cure is uh… the living cure her anti-poison abilities are actually weaker? Also she doesn’t seem to be … scouting much. It seems like this is how some planeswalkers will be uncompleated. Her reanimate ability is interesting, though it exiles.
FromTheShire: 2 mana might be worth the on board protection effect for a key piece or your Commander, the poison counter hosing isn’t going to come up very often, though it’s extremely strong when it does. Expect to see it in a lot of sideboards elsewhere.
Beanith: Sorry, I feel asleep half way through reading this card. Hooray for being almost immune to poison I guess?
Loxi: This is a sideboard card to help with poison for limited/60 card formats, which I think is cool to see on a legendary for the purpose of the story and being recognizable. Don’t play this in EDH unless you really like the flavor or have other synergy; run Solemnity if poison is an issue for you.
BPhillipYork: 2 mana for a 2/2 with toxic 2 and a +1/+1 trigger for other creatures with toxic is decent for constructed but that shouldn’t push the Commander dial.
FromTheShire: Interesting to get a lord effect for Toxic creatures that doesn’t actually directly help with the poison plan, but it does help keep them alive and since you still deal regular damage with toxic maybe you just beat them to death the old fashioned way in the meantime. Definite 4 of in 60 card.
Loxi: I don’t know what Commander will have these colors and go hard into toxic; but if you do, go for it.
Kaya, Intangible Slayer
BPhillipYork: 7 mana for this seems like a lot, though exiling creatures and getting copies of them is super strong. Grabbing utilitarian Commanders could be huge.
FromTheShire: Stop me if you’ve heard me say it in every set about virtually every planeswalker, but just not worth it to pay 7 to get any of these effects once before being summarily beaten to death. Even in a superfriends deck I don’t think this makes the cut.
Beanith: It’s Kaya and she’s more expensive than ever before to cast. The abilities aren’t awful at least but I’m not sure how handy the +2 is in late game?
Loxi: This is a good planeswalker, but I think that casting cost is just too much. I’m stealing a bit of a take from MTGGoldfish’s Saffronolive, but I think if she additionally gave YOU hexproof she could be really interesting. Hexproof just won’t save her from getting smacked by creatures; especially in Commander.
Ria Ivor, Bane of Bladehold
BPhillipYork: I’m trying to figure out some way to make this number absolutely enormous. It seems strange this guy isn’t toxic himself, but he creates toxic Mites. But a Howl from Beyond or something on him could generate a ton of Mites. Being in Orzhov colors means he could easily slot into some kind of aristocrats deck or even lead it.
FromTheShire: I want to say this is entirely too fair of a card but I don’t think that’s the right way to put it. Just kind of a weird tension and delayed gratification which is going to get you killed with no immediately obvious way to do something truly strong.
Loxi: I get the idea of this, but mentally having to get a creature through and watching it deal literally no damage but build your board state sounds so awful. I know there are cool things to do with this like aristocrats or what-not, but the feelsbad of attacking for no actual progression towards the game ending seems painful. It’s great in theory but if a board wipe hits, you’ll wish you had a different Commander.
Ovika, Enigma Goliath
BPhillipYork: This is pretty fun. Big and expensive, but creating Goblins every time you cast a non-creature spell is big. With triggers and draw/discard cards this could be a game winner, if you are generating triggers off of Impact Tremors and its analogs. Getting out a 7-cost Commander and then combo-ing off isn’t totally unreasonable.
FromTheShire: Spellslinger decks can sometimes struggle with things like ‘having blockers’ or ‘closing out the game without casting Omniscience‘ and this will get you over those hurdles rapidly. I have an old Mizzix of the Izmagnus deck that was focused around using spells that created tokens that I would be interested to switch to Ovika and give a go for double the token fun.
Beanith: Where do you think it found that sweet cape? No matter, the Nightmare tag is quite fitting as I’m fresh off a vicious loss to a 30+ goblins thanks to some Krenko, Mob Boss shenanigans. Too soon Wizards, too soon.
Loxi: First off: the alt art goes hard. Second, yeah I love this card. A few years back I made an Izzet Goblins deck with Nin, the Pain Artist and it was a blast. This really embodies that feel I wanted from that deck. You can lean more into goblin tribal synergies or just go full spellslinger, but ideally somewhere in between is the sweet spot. A really strong ward will help it not die right away, which makes playing a 7 drop Commander less scary. Not a bad body for attacking/blocking too.
BPhillipYork: This is really solid in my opinion. The funnest thing to do with it to me would be to remove counters off of Sagas, so they just stay in play and keep triggering. But those are a really solid set of triggers, toolboxy and interesting, and first strike with deathtouch means you’ll likely swing through when you want to.
FromTheShire: I’ve been a big fan of Glissa since back in the day with Glissa, the Traitor, and I’m thrilled to see she’s retained her first strike and deathtouch which is maybe my favorite combo of keywords. The draw is excellent, the counters are situationally very useful, and I guess now that she’s Sunslaying instead of Sunseeking she destroys enchantments instead of artifacts which is still a very nice option to have. A lot of the older Golgari Elves kind of just happen to have the creature type, but Glissa seems more likely than most to benefit from being run in a tribal shell with a bunch of lords since she wants to be dealing combat damage.
Beanith: Of course there’s a robo-zombie elf and it has a very good chance of running around destroying all of your enchantments and counters… AFK brewing a Golgari because if you can’t beat them, you might as well bring down their win rate from the inside?
Loxi: Kaldheim era brought Golgari Elves to light, along with stuff like Commander Legends having the newer partners and Abomination of Llanowar. Glissa is SO good in those decks, since she provides a lot of utility regardless of the board state. Great keywords plus two very niche but potentially very useful abilities are great, but the fact that you can always just draw cards if nothing else makes her incredible. I don’t play Elves myself, but if any of you play Green/Black Elves, be sure to give her a try. She slots in Zombies as well if the colors work out for you!
BPhillipYork: Yeah this guy seems kind of bonkers to me. +1 poison counters is potentially a lot, with swarms of Mites it’s enough to kill someone in a single turn pretty easily.
FromTheShire: Magic players looooove doubling things, and while this is narrow, it’s extremely powerful and a necessary piece if a Toxic deck is going to be playable. Pretty fairly costed as well, and the activated ability is a solid bonus.
Beanith: Toxic 2 and Deathtouch? The future is dark.
Loxi: Unlike Slaughter Singer, I can see a bit more action for this card just due to the colors. I’m still curious if toxic has enough actually good cards to make work in Commander (which I am withholding opinions on until I see them more in action), but I think this is a really good supporting piece if that deck comes together well. I think since one of the precons is poison focused, this will probably be popular regardless of how “good” it is on paper, which is perfectly fine by me.
Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler
BPhillipYork: This doesn’t really do it for me, it seems like potentially there could be a loop with this but I can’t find any. Haste is nice, and untapping things is nice. Milling to the battlefield is solid, and it’s nice that it doesn’t have to be one of the milled cards.
FromTheShire: Tyvar has a better shot than most to hit the battlefield since the ability is pretty unique but at the end of the day he can still easily be killed and he can’t be your Commander so you’re not reliably going to have him in hand, which dampens how much you want to build around him like he requires.
Loxi: Oh yeah, dredge decks are about to have a field day. There are SO many value plays to make with this, and for a 3 mana planeswalker he can spice up a lot of decks with a pretty low barrier to entry. Speaking of Golgari Elves too…
BPhillipYork: Double strike is one of the harder things to get, and making other equip costs cheaper is solid. This whole For Mirrodin! thing is kind of interesting (since when are Rebels red…) But equip 5 is brutal if you don’t want it on your token.
FromTheShire: Strong agree that anywhere else this would be Rebel erasure but on New Phyrexia with Urabrask being the only one not to bow to Elesh Norn and such it fits. Not bad in an all Equipment Voltron build where you’re equipping with Puresteel Paladin or the like, if you ever have to equip this fairly you’re not going to be happy about it. Still, double strike is so good for those decks that you’re almost certainly including it.
Beanith: Finally Boros shenanigans. I swear Shire put these at the end so I wouldn’t just just do the fun ones and then proceed to goof off theory crafting a home for the goodest boy Comet, Stellar Pup.
Loxi: The equip cost is pricy, but with lots of ways to Brass Squire things, this seems like a well rounded include for any equipment focused deck. I wouldn’t jam it in a hodge-podge mixed Voltron deck because of that high cost though – but in my opinion that’s what makes a well designed card for an archetype.
Jor Kadeen, First Goldwarden
BPhillipYork: So I guess this is the Rebel Commander. I’m not blown away, I miss the Rebels that searched. For a 2 cost Commander this is decently solid, though 2/2 is a really low statline.
FromTheShire: Kind of an interesting twist on how Boros decks usually want to do their equipment. Could open the door to some cool stuff, could be that asking to both have out a bunch of creatures and also a bunch of equipment spread around on them rather than just cramming a dozen swords into your Commander’s hands. Definitely one I’d like to do some experimenting with.
Beanith: Boooo Equipment shenanigans.
Loxi: I am very excited for this Commander for one big reason; this is one of the first notably good equipment commanders that wants a strategy to have your equipment spread out across your board rather than stacked up on one creature. This will make a lot more cards in the archetype viable and makes for all-in but powerful swingy equipment deck and a more aggressive, tempo focused version. I really like this one, and even though I know some people are iffy on Boros always being equipment focused, I think this Jor Kadeen strays enough from the pack to be exciting.
Nahiri, the Unforgiving
BPhillipYork: I guess this is some kind of thing though I can’t see how you’d want to exile an equipment and then pay to equip it. Grabbing out creatures is pretty solid, and with proliferate you could potentially be turning out tokens of crazy large things.
FromTheShire: No thanks. I don’t care about the forced combat, there’s plenty of ways to get rummaging that can’t be attacked and killed, and if you reanimate an Equipment you still have to pay to equip and then it exiles at the end of the turn? Nah.
FTS: Mostly because they’re not actually part of the set but are the leaders of one of the companion preconstructed Commander decks, so come back when we do our Unstable Mutation on the deck in the near future!
Loxi: She is interesting for sure. I don’t know why you’d want temporary hasted equipment, but the option is there. I think she’s probably not the worst in Boros reanimator decks, but ironically equipment focused decks probably will pass on her.
Ezuri, Stalker of Spheres
BPhillipYork: Double proliferate is solid, though if you’re casting this duder then trying to pay his trigger that’s 7 mana, which is, a lot. If you could flicker him then pay that would be strong. There’s ways to generate huge amounts of mana via proliferating repeatedly so this could get strong, but it seems to expensive to consistently pull off.
FromTheShire: For me this is going in a 99, never the Command Zone. The times where you have the mana to pay for his ETB are going to be limited I think, but he’s a really nice draw engine for a proliferate deck.
Beanith: I’m still too annoyed at Shire right now… but if you insist, the card is fine?
Loxi: I’ve played Ezuri, Claw of Progress for the past 5 years of my life, and its safe to say I’m a bit disappointed he didn’t get a very exciting card. 7 mana to proliferate twice and drawing here and there is nice, but I don’t think I care enough to want to ever make a slot for him outside of decks that actually want proliferate triggers. He really isn’t bad by any means, just nothing super exciting to me. Cracked in Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice, of course.
BPhillipYork: This is a super solid piece for toxic and poison decks. Really solid statline, evasion, trigger, and toxic 1. Just all around strong card.
FromTheShire: Hands down one of the best uncommon signpost cards, it’s costed fairly, it flies, it poisons, and then it just keeps ever increasing pressure on your opponent. Absolute must answer if they want to stop you from running away with the game.
Loxi: Now this is a proliferate card. I think this card can slot easily into most decks that have the colors and care about counters, be it Pir & Toothy, any of the Quandrix crew, or whatever flavor of Simic you prefer. Although on a side note; this thing is a BIRD?
Atraxa, Grand Unifier
BPhillipYork: Well everyone is hot to speculate about what battle cards are, and also the lack of tribal cards. It’s possible we’ll see a rules update, or there are now 9 card types. 7 mana for a 7/7 isn’t terrible, and it should nab you a lot of cards when it enters. And obviously you could just cheat out Atraxa, Grand Unifier and then flicker it, which seems like the best choice. I would probably run this Atraxa in an Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice deck.
FromTheShire: Modeled along the lines of Niv-Mizzet Reborn, who was stupendously powerful in Standard but is mostly just fine in Commander. This Atraxa is more ready to rumble in combat as a 7/7 with the same great suite of abilities so a lot of the time I think we’re going to see her as a Commander that gives you some solid card advantage and then starts to really pressure life totals while also playing excellent defense. The art is fire again too.
Beanith: Could make for an interesting Commander, especially if you can somehow squeak out a win using Triskaidekaphile
Loxi: I’m going to beat this to death on top of every other content creator; but Atraxa is just a goodstuff Commander through and through. Yes, you can probably do some really cool niche stuff with her because she’s powerful enough to enable weaker archetypes just from her card advantage alone. But realistically she’s a big & expensive Commander that will probably just run good cards and slam them into the table. I think there is a place for this type of design, it’s just a shame that a lot of the cool archetypes that will come from her will probably be overshadowed by the less interesting ones.
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.