by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
When compared to his predecessor in the original Zendikar, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is easier to cast with a potentially much more devastating ability. He only costs 4 mana to the Bloodchief of Ghet’s 7 mana casting cost, meaning he gets into play much sooner. Also, the Bloodchief has a tap ability, which while good, it doesn’t beat the Traitor’s ability. The Traitor of Ghet causes any opponent’s non-token creature that dies to be exiled and you get a 2/2 Zombie token out of it. Also, you can pay 2B and sacrifice a Vampire or Zombie, except himself, to put 2 +1/+1 counters on Kalitas. He even has lifelink!
In Standard, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet proved himself to be a major competitor, making him a $20-25 card in mid-April 2016. He’s pretty good in Modern, too! Because of this, his price tag put him a bit out of reach for some Commander players for some time. When he left Standard, however, his price dropped closer to $12, allowing for more people, especially EDH players, to fit him into their collections.
There are so many good mono-Black Commanders already. But Kalitas not only can get you an army of Zombie tokens while shutting off any graveyard-based strategies. He can also make himself bigger, meaning he could potentially take out players on his own.
So, why hasn’t Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet become more of a player in EDH where it seems like he would be very powerful? Part of the problem is that he prevents any decks that work at all out of the graveyard to function, while still being able to use your own graveyard. Basically, he can draw hate very quickly. As a member of the 99, he’s still quite useful, but again he draws a lot of hate.
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is definitely one of the more powerful Legendary creatures from recent sets. The pieces are there for him to lead formidable decks, and perhaps a bit too formidable for your everyday Commander group to want to deal with on a regular basis.
EDHREC has a good sampling of decks with Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet as the Commander. You can check out their Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet page to get an idea of what sorts of EDH decks people build around him.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The Legendary Dragons of Kamigawa are some of the more memorable cards from Champions of Kamigawa. Two of them are considered to be very good, two more of them are pretty good in Commander, but one has never really caught on as a Commander himself. This is the Green Dragon, Jugan, the Rising Star. His effect is good enough that he’s seen play as part of the 99 in some decks. But can you build around him?
Since Jugan’s ability is all about +1/+1 counters, you sort of want to go all out on this theme. Unfortunately, a lot of the best counter-abusing cards are in White. So in Green, you’ll want to take advantage of all of the token producers and use cards that can benefit from having a bunch of counters placed on them. On top of lots of ways to ramp your mana and create lots of tokens, there are plenty of ways to make your token army deadly.
Thanks to one TappedOut user with a decent Jugan Commander list, I was able to come up with this deck list below. Whereas the list I found focused primarily on tokens, I found other cards to blend the counter and token strategies in even better ways.
Jugan, the Rising Star 3ggg
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder 1g
1 Champion of Lambholt 1gg
1 Eternal Witness 1gg
1 Fertilid 2g
1 Lifeblood Hydra xggg
1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer 2g
1 Wild Beastmaster 2g
1 Bloodspore Thrinax 2gg
1 Fangren Firstborn 1ggg
1 Forgotten Ancient 3g
1 Fungal Behemoth 3g
1 Ant Queen 3gg
1 Bane of Progress 4gg
1 Hydra Broodmaster 4gg
1 Rampaging Baloths 4gg
1 Avenger of Zendikar 5gg
1 Hardened Scales g
1 Helix Pinnacle g
1 Earthcraft 1g
1 Regrowth 1g
1 Revive 1g
1 Sword of the Animist 2
1 Arachnogenesis 2g
1 Ashnod's Altar 3
1 Awakening Zone 2g
1 Beastmaster Ascension 2g
1 Blasting Station 3
1 Cultivate 2g
1 Deep Reconnaissance 2g
1 Harrow 2g
1 Journey of Discovery 2g
1 Kodama's Reach 2g
1 Nissa's Pilgrimage 2g
1 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar 1gg
1 Search for Tomorrow 2g
1 Squirrel Nest 1gg
1 Beacon of Creation 3g
1 Explosive Vegetation 3g
1 From Beyond 3g
1 Harmonize 2gg
1 Hunting Wilds 3g
1 Into the Wilds 3g
1 Parallel Lives 3g
1 Seer's Sundial 4
1 Skyshroud Claim 3g
1 Doubling Season 4g
1 Eldrazi Monument 5
1 Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury 3gg
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter 2ggg
1 Nissa's Expedition 4g
1 Nissa, Worldwaker 3gg
1 Primal Vigor 4g
1 Restock 3gg
1 Caged Sun 6
1 Death's Presence 5g
1 Nissa's Renewal 5g
1 Akroma's Memorial 7
1 Boundless Realms 6g
1 Howl of the Night Pack 6g
1 Praetor's Counsel 5ggg
1 Decree of Savagery 7gg
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
by Phoenix Desertsong, Old School Duelist
Many of the Legendary Creatures in Magic the Gathering’s Legendary-happy Kamigawa Block are absolutely terrible as Commanders. A few of them are actually pretty cool. One you rarely hear about is Infernal Kirin.
Similar to his Blue counterpart, Cloudhoof Kirin, he has an ability that activates whenever you cast an Arcane or Spirit spell. Unlike Cloudhoof, though, who mills cards from the top of a target player’s deck, Infernal Kirin causes players to discard cards equal to the converted mana cost of the card you cast. This makes it a lot more hit or miss. But, it can be potentially devastating, as well.
There are plenty of good Spirit and Arcane spells, but not nearly as many in Black as there are in Blue. However, the good news is that there is plenty of support for discard in Black. So while all-out Spirit Tribal is necessary for Cloudhoof Kirin, the same is not true of Infernal Kirin.
The Spirits and Arcane spells you do play in an Infernal Kirin deck are somewhat random. But because it’s the converted mana cost of the cards you care about, they don’t even really have to be all that good to begin with. It’s a fun deck to try, even if it’s not the most consistent at following the Commander’s gameplan. You can actually build an Infernal Kirin deck for as little as $50!
If you're looking to build something fairly competitive around Infernal Kirin, you can build either a Spirit Tribal deck or a Discard themed deck. How would you play Infernal Kirin?
by Phoenix Desertsong, Old School Duelist
Helm of the Gods is an equipment from the Magic Origins set that costs only 1 mana to cast with an equip cost of only 1 mana. The Helm gives its equipped creature +1/+1 for each enchantment you control. In decks that live and die with Enchantments, this artifact is definitely worth considering.
Does it work in competitive Constructed play? Green/Black Constellation decks during the Journey into Nyx Standard era could use it. Heroic decks could use it, too, especially those that used a lot of Auras - which are also Enchantments. But, the Helm never really fit into any of those lists.
Also, the Standard decks in Standard which could have used the Helm best when it was released lost all of the Theros cards a few months later in October 2015. However, with the release of Dragons of Tarkir, SaffronOlive of MTGGoldfish came up with a Standard "Bogles" deck featuring Conifer Strider and Sagu Mauler. It used the full four copies of Helm of the Gods and was a fairly fun deck. But, it wasn't a big winner or anything.
Bogles decks in Modern could use it. But, again, it doesn't fit in what is already a deck vulnerable to dead draws. Modern Prison decks could find a slot or two and stick it on one of the few creatures in the deck. But, that is hardly a top tier deck, and it's more like cute tech than a true upgrade.
Helm of the Gods in Commander / EDH
In 60-card Constructed decks, there isn't much room to give. In Commander, though, Helm of the Gods can fit into a variety of decks because you have 99 slots to consider. Also, Commander decks have plenty of ways to tutor for it. Trinket Mage can grab it, being a one mana artifact. Being an equipment, Quest for the Holy Relic, Steelshaper’s Gift, Stoneforge Mystic, and Stonehewer Giant can also seek it out. You could get it with the creature Relic Seeker from Magic Origins, too.
The Helm is a card that gets better as you go through the game. You just play it as soon as you need it. It could be a game-ender, and even a +2/+2 boost is worth the investment. Unlike an Aura, an Equipment is usually going to stick on the board when the equipped creature is gone.
Immediately what comes to mind are Commander decks with a heavy Enchantment theme. This includes Tuvasa the Sunlit, Daxos the Returned, and the hated Zur the Enchanter. It also includes Voltron Aura-loving commanders like Bruna, Light of Alabaster, Krond the Dawn-Clad, and Uril the Miststalker. With such a minimal commitment of mana, the Helm could deal those last few points of Commander damage you need for the win. It can go on any creature, though. Any Commander deck that loves enchantments can use the Helm.
Helm of the Gods will never be a money card, but bigger and better enchantments are printed all of the time in Magic the Gathering. If an Enchantment-happy deck is going to be in play for you, the Helm at least needs to be in your deck-building toolbox.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Old School Duelist
The Commander 2017 pre-constructed decks for Magic the Gathering introduced a number of strong cards for the Commander format. One of these is a one-mana Equipment called Bloodforged Battle-Axe. It's like an improved version of Bonesplitter, except that this axe can actually copy itself!
At only 1 mana to cast and 2 mana to equip, Bloodforged Battle-Axe gives the equipped creature +2/+0. Also, whenever that creature deals combat damage to a player, you create a token that's a copy of Bloodforged Battle-Axe! That's a pretty awesome way to stack up Equipment in a hurry!
This Battle-Axe offers a very minor initial investment that can copy itself many, many times over. Also, the tokens then can copy themselves. So, if a creature has multiple Bloodforged Battle-Axes equipped, it can create a whole token of Battle-Axe tokens in a hurry.
Another great thing about the way Bloodforged Battle-Axe is worded, a creature with double strike that successfully deals damage to a player can cause this Equipment to be copied twice! On the second trigger, you can end up with three total Axe tokens, because the first token will copy itself, as well! If you have something like Parallel Lives or Doubling Season in play, it becomes all the more ridiculous.
Plus, there's another Equipment in Commander 2017 called Hammer of Nazahn. This legendary artifact allows you to immediately attach an Equipment that comes into play to a creature. That means all of those tokens can be equipped right away for free! It also doesn't hurt to play something like Puresteel Paladin to make equip costs cost zero mana instead, allowing you to use these tokens quickly.
Imagine a deck that plays Hellkite Tyrant having a card like this. With the Tyrant's instant win condition of having 20 artifacts in play, you may be able to automatically win a lot of games just having a bunch of copies of this Axe in play! Interestingly, as of late 2019, we still haven't seen this really happen.
There are many advantages to having a card like this, especially in decks that care about how many artifacts you have in play. There will be plenty of Commander decks that will find a slot for this one-mana artifact, even some that may not be 100 percent Equipment based. Any deck that benefits by having a lot of artifacts in play can find a home for this unique Equipment.
Unsurprisingly, the Commander who uses Bloodforged Battle-Axe the most is the very Legendary creature that you would most expect: Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith. Not only can the Cat Artificer fetch the Hammer of Nazahn and put it straight into play, but it can get other Equipments to your hand. The Battle-Axe also sees a lot of play in Akiri, Line-Slinger decks - who loves the additional artifacts that the Battle-Axe creates, and other Equipment-happy Commanders such as Balan, Wandering Knight, Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale, Valduk, Keeper of Flame, Sram, Senior Artificer, Kemba, Kha Regent, and more.
How would you use Bloodforged Battle-Axe?
by ElspethFTW, Gaming Successfully Staff
Of all the Battle for Zendikar cards we reviewed on Gaming Successfully, one in particular was very popular. It wasn’t the new Kiora, Master of the Depths or any of the other planeswalkers. The most popular of all of our Battle for Zendikar spoilers was Bring to Light. It's a very interesting sorcery that costs 3UG and has Converge.
In our review, we found that there is plenty of potential for Bring to Light. This is especially the case in Commander, and in 4 and 5-color decks where its true power can be realized. Considering the amount of interest this particular card has, we’ve decided to go into greater depth into how Bring to Light can be used most effectively.
Bring to Light in Modern
As far as Constructed goes, it will take quite a specific brew that doesn’t mind waiting to have 4 or 5 colors of mana to seek out a specific creature and/or combo piece. There was a lot of fun during the early days of Battle for Zendikar Standard when people were cheating Siege Rhinos into play. It wasn't a bad deck and could win some games, although it wasn't going to win any major tournaments.
The one deck that I had in mind which seemed a natural fit was Scapeshift in Modern. Scapeshift decks already run four colors and has access to five. The sorcery Scapeshift itself costs 4 mana, so barring counter-magic, you could tutor up Scapeshift and win the game. I just don’t know what you’d cut from the deck to play a 5 mana sorcery that isn’t an optimal draw a good chunk of the time. People have definitely been trying, though, with varied success.
One interesting theme that has been discussed surrounding Bring to Light is using it cast the 0 CMC casting cost spells from Time Spiral: Ancestral Vision, Hypergenesis, Living End, Restore Balance, and Wheel of Fate. These spells have some powerful effects, but can’t ordinarily be cast unless they are Suspended with the costs on the card or cast for free by a Cascade Spell. In fact, Cascade cards have been used to great effect with Living End in the infamous Modern combo deck and has been also done at times with Restore Balance. Bring to Light gives you another way to play these cards for free without investing any extra colored mana. But is it worth ramping up to 5 mana just to have a chance to tutor them out?
The most important aspect to consider in Modern is how rampant counter-magic is in the format, especially Remand. Who wants to Bring to Light a Living End only to have it countered, or worse, put into their hand where you then have to suspend it? Granted, this is the same deal as with Cascade, which requires you to still cast the spell, even if it is for free. But with Cascade, you typically get the 3 or 4 mana to cast them far more quickly than you would with Bring to Light.
The chance of your opponent essentially countering 2 cards at once feels bad. With the Cascade spells, you typically will just have an opponent counter that and not simply wait for you to tutor the card you really want before actually casting a counterspell. A 5 mana card just seems a bit too slow to jam into Constructed if all it does is set you up to potentially waste one of your combo cards and possibly a whole turn.
The one of these five that I feel could benefit the most from Bring to Light is Hypergenesis, a card that only sees play in Commander decks like Phelddagrif and Maelstrom Wanderer. Hypergenesis is super good if you have a stacked hand of bombs. Being a “group hug” type of Commander, Phelddagrif decks don’t mind suspending it until such time that it’s okay to let everyone dump their hands onto the table. Maelstrom Wanderer would just cascade into it at often random times, making it not quite optimal for the deck.
Bring to Light makes it so that you can play Hypergenesis when you actually want to play it. This should help the card’s playability a bit. The only requirements are that you play blue and green, and there are plenty of Blue/Green commanders happy to oblige. But often Hypergenesis will be the best target, especially in a two-color deck. Getting a Birds of Paradise or another 1 or 2 mana creature doesn’t feel so powerful for 3UG.
The true power of Bring to Light will be in five-color Commander decks. This card’s true power comes from being able to simultaneously tutor and cast 4-5 CMC spells from the deck. The question is what spells are there for Bring to Light to get and how powerful is it as one of the 99. Underwhelmed by its Constructed prospects, it seems that there is real potential for this 5-mana Converging sorcery in Commander. Let’s take a look.
Scion of the Ur Dragon
Imagine a tutor that could go get a Dragon and put it directly onto the battlefield without having to pay its mana cost! True, Sarkhan Unbroken can help you do that in a big way. So how can Bring to Light help the 5-color Dragon deck? Most of your best Dragons are 6 or more mana, but there are some targets that this tutor can find you in a pinch.
One particular card that Bring to Light is good at getting is Crux of Fate, which is a 5-drop Black board wipe that can destroy all Dragons or all non-Dragons. In a dedicated Dragon deck, this is a sweet boardwipe. Being able to tutor it up and play it all for five mana is pretty sweet, providing you can tap WUBRG.
Creatures you could get with Bring to Light include Dragonlord’s Servant (1R to let you cast Dragon spells for 1 less), Dragonspeaker Shaman (1RR to let you cast Dragon spells for 2 less), Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon (who can kill opponents out of nowhere with Infect, and Thunderbreak Regent (which makes it painful for opponents to use targeted removal on your dragons). Kaalia of the Vast and Stormbreath Dragon are other creatures you tend to see in Scion that would be Brought into the Light easily.
Sorceries you may want to tutor up with Bring to Light include Fearsome Awakening (reanimate a Dragon with +2/+2) and Living Death (awesome with lots of Dragons in the grave). For instants, you have Sarkhan’s Triumph for 2R to tutor up any Dragon to your hand - which probably doesn’t seem like the most cost-effective way to do so, but it works in a pinch. You also have access to a suite of removal spells in Utter End, Putrefy, and Mortify. These cost 4, 3, and 3 respectively, but in the right spot, paying 5 with 3 or 4 different colored mana could be the difference in a game.
Verdict: B in this deck. There are enough solid target for Bring to Light to rarely be a dead card once you get to 3 out of 5 colors of mana. It gives you access to a bomb like Living Death, a one-sided boardwipe like Crux of Fate, and a few of your utility creatures. Grabbing a removal spell in a pinch isn’t bad, either, since otherwise you’d spend a Demonic Tutor or even Diabolic Tutor seeking them out sometimes.
Sliver Overlord / Sliver Queen / Sliver Hivelord / Sliver Legion
If there were any archetype that appreciated Bring to Light, it would be Slivers. There are very few Slivers that even cost more than 5 mana. Those would be Battering Sliver (5R), Fury Sliver (5R), Megantic Sliver (5G), and Groundshaker Sliver (6G). Groundshaker and Battering Sliver both give trample, but Battering Sliver helps all Slivers, while Groundshaker only helps yours. Horned Sliver gives all Slivers trample for only 2G, however, so you can live without those two in play. Megantic Sliver gives all your Sliver +3/+3 and Fury Sliver gives all Slivers (including those you don’t control) double strike. Those would be the only 4 that you would care about that can’t be tutored up by Bring to Light.
The coolest thing about Bring to Light in Slivers is that you can get any of the WUBRG Slivers into play with it. Whichever one you’re not playing as your Commander can be almost essentially be cast from the deck! Slivers have such a toolbox to draw from that Bring to Light is essentially: WUBRG: Cast target Sliver with converted mana cost 5 or less from your deck. That’s extremely good and can probably be a game-winning play in some circumstances.
Beyond that, Bring to Light can tutor up Distant Melody (to draw you a bunch of cards) or Patriarch’s Bidding (to bring back a ton of Slivers). It also can tutor up Utter End to exile any nonland permanent that’s bugging you and/or preventing you from winning the game outright.
Yes, Demonic Tutor, Diabolic Tutor and company can get you the card you need when you need it, but getting 2 cards out of 1 is always cool and with Slivers, the synergy is there to make tutoring up the right guy super strong.
Verdict: A- in this deck. It doesn’t get every Sliver ever, but besides Megantic Sliver and Fury Sliver, it can get pretty much anyone you need. Plus tutoring up Distant Melody or Patriarch's Bidding under certain circumstances feels pretty good.
Top Commanders: General Tazri, Karona, the False God and Reaper King
With Battle for Zendikar, Allies have been a big deal. While only a handful became Standard playable, Allies got plenty of good cards for 5-color Ally tribal commander. Best of all, the ones you care about are 5 mana or less, so hurray.
While there weren't any 5 color Legendary Allies printed in Battle for Zendikar, there was one in Oath of the Gatewatch, General Tazri. Because of her 5 color ability, this makes her eligible to play every color Ally in a Commander deck led by her. So can she and the other two 5-color Legends commonly seen with Allies use Bring to Light to their advantage?
Karona, the False God gives all creatures of a chosen type +3/+3 until end of turn whenever she attacks. The downside is that Karona gets to run around the table as each player gets control of her during each upkeep. There are ways around this, like equipping her with Assault Suit or attaching any of the Vow Auras to her, which all prevent her from being able to attack you. Then she can get really fun.
Reaper King is another option, and by using Enchantments like Conspiracy and Xenograft to make all your creatures Scarecrows in addition to their other types, each creature that enters play basically says: destroy target permanent. Ouch.
General Tazri can tutor up any Ally from your deck when she enters the battlefield. While Bring to Light isn't 100 percent necessary, pretty much any Ally you'll want will be CMC 5 or less.
For purposes of Bring to Light, Reaper King is probably the one who can use it the best. With Reaper King, you can tutor up lots of Changeling creatures, which count as both Allies and Scarecrows without any outside assistance. Karona prefers to be more of an Enchantment-happy deck, something that Bring to Light doesn’t really like unless you’re playing all of the Theros block Gods. More on that later.
The best allies you can tutor up? Turntimber Ranger is the most obvious choice, as he costs 5 mana (3GG) and can overrun the board with Wolf tokens. Hagra Diabolist costs 4B and can make opponents lose life rather quickly. Kabira Evangel offers your Allies protection from the color of your choice each time he or another Ally enters battle. Seascape Aerialist costs 4U and gives all your Allies flying when he or another Ally enters.
From Battle of Zendikar? The only one I’d bother to tutor up is Drana, Liberator of Malakir. Her ability to quickly pump your team is pretty awesome when you’re going for an alpha strike. There’s another one I like, Tajuru Warcaller, who costs 3GG, and has a Rally trigger that gives all your creatures +2/+2 until end of turn. He’s stupidly fragile as a 2/1, though. None of the others seem like considerable enough threats to warrant being pulled out by Bring to Light.
Verdict: C. You can get some nice advantage by tutoring out Changelings and the right Ally when you need one, but it’s not really best suited in the 99 when it comes to Allies. In a more typical Reaper King deck, though, it’s going to be fine for grabbing any Changeling or Scarecrow you want, as most are 5 or less CMC. But even in that build it’s barely a C card choice.
Because of the fact that Karona works best with the five Vows (and Assault Suit) being played on her to make her downside into an upside, it makes sense that she’ll want lots of Enchantments surrounding her. While she makes an interesting Tribal commander, which is why some Ally players like her, the real cool thing she can do is play God Tribal.
That’s right. Karona is typically built with the Theros Gods in mind. All 15 are played in some Karona lists. Best of all, all of the Theros block gods cost 5 CMC or less. So any of these can be solid targets with Bring to Light. Karametra, God of Harvests perhaps isn’t the best in this deck, but she’s almost always going to get you at least a land or two (her ability to grab Forests and Plains aren’t limited to basic lands). Having between 10-15 realistic targets for Bring to Light seems a decent plan.
You can go get Chromanticore, too, but you can’t use its alternate casting cost to Bestow it on another creature, which is probably the best thing about it in the first place, so that’s not really going to ever be a realistic target unless it happens to be your only remaining target for Bring to Light or something.
Verdict: B-, while not necessary as one of the 99, Bring to Light can seek out any of the Theros Gods you want or need at any given time. It’s otherwise pretty weak in an Enchantress deck, unless you’re using it to cast Demonic Tutor or Diabolic Tutor from your deck, which isn’t really that great.
Child of Alara
The best targets in Child of Alara aren’t really that wonderful. It’s typically a control deck based around planeswalkers. That said, Theros Gods appear in quite a few Child lists, as their being indestructible is really good with Child’s effect of blowing up all non-lands. You can also get any wraths, such as Supreme Verdict or Wrath of God with Bring to Light. Other than that, though, there’s nothing else exciting to get.
Verdict: C-, it has decent targets but Bring to Light is a bit of an awkward choice for this deck’s 99.
Here we have another Commander that loves Planeswalkers, but also really likes the Theros gods. Also, Child of Alara being able to be in the 99 gives Bring to Light a saucy target. Maelstrom Archangel, which is also seen in some Child builds, is also lots of fun to play with, cheating any nonland card into play whenever she deals combat damage to a player. Grabbing boardwipes is okay, too.
Verdict: C. Not sure I’d play it in my 99, but it can tutor up Child of Alara, which bumps it up a few points.
Horde of Notions Elemental Tribal
Tutoring up Mulldrifter and Shriekmaw at CMC 5 feels OK to me. Getting Torrent Elemental at 4U, a card really only playable in Elemental Tribal EDH, seems OK, too. Tutoring Incandescent Soulstoke, the Elemental lord who can let you cheat Elementals from your hand into play for 1R is less exciting, but fine. Soulstoke forces you to sacrifice those Elementals, but Horde of Notions can always get them back. Ingot Chewer and Wispmare are fine for value plays, but don’t seem worth casting Bring to Light. Grabbing Reveillark seems fine to reanimate a couple of little guys seems fine though.
There are a bunch of other cool Elementals you can get. Animar, Soul of Elements would be my favorite target. Forgotten Ancient can rack up quite a few +1/+1 counters for you to share with the rest of your army. Lord of Extinction is one of the most powerful Elementals ever, and he’s only 3BG. You could also bring in Fusion Elemental, an 8/8 for WUBRG - just to say you did it.
While not quite as exciting as what you can do with Slivers, Bring to Light does go get you your value creatures, although in the case of the Evoke creatures, you’re probably better off naturally drawing them and Evoking them to naturally reuse with Horde of Notions, anyway.
Verdict: B+. You get a pretty sweet variety of value with Elementals as you do with Slivers. Being able to tutor out Animar is pretty sweet, too.
Typically, Cromat is a “Super Friends” Commander, in that the deck plays all the Planeswalkers you can stuff into a deck. Other players just build 5-color good stuff decks. Basically, anything that you’d want to get in Child of Alara or Progenitus decks you can and would get here.
Verdict: C-, you’ll want to focus on the Planeswalkers, probably, and this doesn’t feel like an optimal use of a slot in your 99.
Atog tribal is a cute deck, but besides grabbing Living Death or Patriarch’s Bidding (which are good in Slivers, too) and the usual suspects like Eternal Witness, this is probably the worst of the 5-color decks to play this
Verdict: D+. I wouldn’t play it in here. It would work, but it’s sub-optimal.
Overall, Bring to Light does work in a lot of 5-color strategies, but it’s probably not optimal in every deck. It can take the place of Diabolic Tutor in some decks, especially Slivers and Elementals, which is not nothing. If the tuck rule, which allowed players to return your Commander to the deck, wasn’t changed to allow you to prevent your Commander from being returned to the deck, this would always be a pretty good way to get your Commander back. As such, you technically still could, especially if you’ve cast your Commander a bunch of times in that game. This is a pretty sweet toolbox card in the right deck.
Could Bring to Light be good in other Commander decks that aren’t 5-color? I wouldn’t suggest it in Maelstrom Wanderer, as Cascading into it means you can only get 0 CMC spells. But there are plenty of Blue/Green/X decks that want certain creatures, instants or sorceries, so I definitely wouldn’t count it out. However, as we’ve seen, the real power is getting that full 5 CMC value out of the card you tutor, so in 2 or 3 color decks you’re definitely getting diminished returns. U/G/x decks have some decent targets, but most of them are 4 or 5 mana, so Bring to Light is pretty useless.
With the Commander 2016 decks came 4-color Legendary Creatures, along with the Partner Commanders which also allow for 4-color EDH decks. Bring to Light seems pretty solid in these decks, seeking out key spells at various points in the game. That's a whole other article, though.
I’d really love to see someone make Bring to Light a way to find the final piece of an unbeatable combo. I’m fairly certain that won’t happen outside of some crazy fringe Friday Night Magic deck or in casual play. What I am certain of is that Bring to Light will see some play in 5-color and other decks in Commander, which should keep it from ever falling to true bulk status.
How would you use Bring to Light in Commander? Or if you dare, how would you use it in Constructed?
An EDH Deck for Only $1 on Magic Online!? SaffronOlive's "Penny Dreadful" Isperia the Inscrutible Flying Tribal Commander Deck
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
I happened to be browsing MTGGoldfish for some budget Commander decklists, and came across this Isperia the Inscrutible Flying Tribal Commander deck brewed by none other than the legendary SaffronOlive!
At the time, that I found this decklist, it hadn't yet been played on MTGGoldfish's Commander Clash video series. It would be featured on the Penny Dreadful episode of Commander Clash. In this episode, SaffronOlive would play this deck against four other decks that cost around 1 event ticket to build on Magic Online! (This Isperia deck costs about $30 to build in paper, which is still mega cheap!)
"Penny Dreadful" is a variant of Commander similar to 1DH in paper. In 1DH, you build a deck with cards that cost $1 or less each. In Penny Dreadful, you're looking to build an entire 100 card Commander deck - including the Commander - for 1 event ticket or less. This means spending only 0.01 tix - roughly a penny - on each card. While card values fluctuate, there's an official Penny Dreadful list that changes with each set release, so this is what you should build from. You can also use the Scryfall search engine, which has a filter for Penny Dreadful.
If you ever wanted to play Sphinx Tribal, or Flying Tribal in general, this is a nice cheap way to do so! There are three other "Penny Dreadful" decks featured in this Commander Clash video, led by Hazezon Tamar, Brago, the Eternal, and Shu Yun, the Tempest.
Here's the Penny Dreadful episode. The original episode page with the Penny Dreadful deck lists can be found here.
In case you’re interested in building an extremely cheap but fun tribal deck, here is the decklist!
1 Hypnotic Siren
1 Stratus Dancer
1 Argent Sphinx
1 Conundrum Sphinx
1 Dungeon Geists
1 Thunderclap Wyvern
1 Archon of Redemption
1 Guardian of Tazeem
1 Jwar Isle Avenger
1 Master of Predicaments
1 Prognostic Sphinx
1 Serra Sphinx
1 Sphinx of Lost Truths
1 Arbiter of the Ideal
1 Cerulean Sphinx
1 Draining Whelk
1 Sphinx of Jwar Isle
1 Sphinx of the Chimes
1 Sunblast Angel
1 Thousand Winds
1 Uyo, Silent Prophet
1 Alhammarret, High Arbiter
1 Diluvian Primordial
1 Emeria Shepherd
1 Goliath Sphinx
1 Resolute Archangel
1 Sphinx of Uthuun
1 Curse of the Swine
1 Compulsive Research
1 Crib Swap
1 Insidious Will
1 Plea for Power
1 End Hostilities
1 Jace's Ingenuity
1 Planar Outburst
1 Traumatic Visions
1 Winds of Rath
1 Phyrexian Rebirth
1 Planar Cleansing
1 Recurring Insight
1 Treasure Cruise
1 Brittle Effigy
1 Corrupted Grafstone
1 Azorius Cluestone
1 Azorius Keyrune
1 Magnifying Glass
1 Ojutai Monument
1 Seer's Lantern
1 Spectral Searchlight
1 Isolation Zone
1 Gravitational Shift
1 Azorius Guildgate
1 Blighted Cataract
1 Calciform Pools
1 Coastal Tower
1 Meandering River
1 Moorland Haunt
1 Tranquil Cove
1 Transguild Promenade
1 Vivid Creek
1 Vivid Meadow
1 Warped Landscape
If anyone would like me to do an in-depth deck tech on this deck, or any other deck, Penny Dreadful or otherwise, I’d be happy to do so. Just let me know. Until then, enjoy this extremely cheap EDH list!
by Phoenix Desertsong, Old School Duelist
Looking for a Commander to lead a Tribal Vampire EDH deck so you can jam in all your new Vampires from Shadows Over Innistrad? Wondering how to slip in the notoriously blue flip-side of Elusive Tormentor: Insidious Mist? Garza Zol, Plague Queen just may be the gal to be your Vampire Commander.
From way back in Coldsnap, Garza Zol is not the most popular Vampire Commander out there. But because of the three colors in her mana cost, she allows you to splash Blue. This allows you to play the often overlooked but color intensive Blood Tyrant, plus another semi-popular blue/black Vampire Commander Szadek, Lord Of Secrets. Meanwhile, you can jam other Blue staples such as Counterspell, Cyclonic Rift, Hinder, Rhystic Study and more.
What’s cool about Garza Zol is while she’s expensive to cast, she can get bigger fairly easily and also draw you cards. You can just play all of the best Vampires available. In particular, Shadows over Innistrad provides some of the best ones ever printed for use in a Tribal deck. Falkenrath Gorger gives all of the Vampires in your hand Madness, allowing you to play them as you discard them from your hand! Olivia, Mobilized for War allows you to discard a card to give another creature a +1/+1 counter and haste. It even makes it a Vampire! Asylum Visitor and Indulgent Aristocrat are playable, too.
Here’s a sample decklist for a powerful Garza Zol, Plague Queen EDH Vampire deck!
Garza Zol, Plague Queen
Guul Draz Assassin
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Olivia, Mobilized for War
Mirri the Cursed
Anowon, the Ruin Sage
Bloodlord of Vaasgoth
Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
Fiend of the Shadows
Butcher of Malakir
Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet
Szadek, Lord of Secrets
Non-Creature Spells (23)
Blade of the Bloodchief
Feast of Blood
Go for the Throat
Urge to Feed
Obelisk of Grixis
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
Jwar Isle Refuge
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is another powerful Vampire that you can consider. But due to his strength in competitive play, his price has been as high as $30 - although it's settled to closer to $7.
Drana, Liberator of Malakir is another Vampire you could consider not listed above, and she’s reasonably priced around $5.
For non-creature spells, if you don’t have the $25 to shell out for a Demonic Tutor, then Dark Petition will usually work just as well in its place for less than a quarter of the price. Otherwise, the deck is fairly affordable and great for anyone who wants to take Tribal Vampires for a spin with the best cards available.
Originally from the days of Alara Reborn, Filigree Angel has found herself so useful in Commander that she's been reprinted in Commander decks on two separate occasions. When Filigree Angel enters the battlefield, you gain 3 life for each artifact you control, which includes itself. A 4/4 flyer that gains you, at the very least, 3 life for 8 mana doesn’t sound incredibly cost-effective.
But in Commander, 5WWU isn’t that restrictive of a casting cost. It's especially worth casting by turn 8, as well, since the life-gain that one would get from Filigree’s effect by that point will be substantial. With artifact cards like Sol Ring, Swiftfoot Boots, Lightning Greaves, Darksteel Ingot, and Sensei’s Divining Top a part of many Commander decks, you’re talking about double-digit life gains whenever this card hits the board.
Also, while a 4/4 flyer doesn’t seem impressive on the surface, there are so many pumps for artifact creatures that exist in Commander that this Angel probably will be a good deal beefier when it hits the board. Add to that we have yet another Angel for Angel lovers, and one that’s light on the wallet (they sell for only about 50 cents USD a copy.) Filigree Angel was also reprinted in one of the Commander 2013 and one of the Commander 2016 decks.
While hardly one of the best artifact creatures around, Filigree Angel has its uses, especially in an artifact deck that cares about life-gain. There are quite a few Commander decks out there that revolve around artifacts. What better way to keep yourself in the game than double-digit life gain? In particular, the popular Breya, Etherium Shaper plays Filigree Angel a lot. But if you play any artifact Commander deck in White & Blue, you should definitely consider slotting this artifact angel in somewhere.
by ElspethFTW, Gaming Successfully Staff
The Magic Origins “flip walker” experiment has proven to be a success. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, in particular, succeeded the expectations of many. Nissa, Vastwood Seer saw plenty of Standard play. Liliana, Heretical Healer became a decent mid-range card and extremely popular among the casual crowd. Kytheon would work his way into Standard competitively. Even Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh burned some folks in Standard. In Commander, they've all proved worthy of attention.
Previously, we took a look at the Commander 2014 planeswalkers specifically designed to be your Commander. We found them to overall be better than your average legendary creatures, which is to be expected. These flip walkers blend the two card types in some interesting ways. You have to build around them to ignite their spark, then compliment their ascended abilities, as well.
How has the EDH / Commander community risen to the challenge? Which Origins planeswalker is best in the format? Let's find out.
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy / Jace, Telepath Unbound
Commander of 300+ decks (EDHREC)
In the 99: Seen in about 5000 decks. Top Commanders include Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Azami, Lady of Scrolls, Atraxa, Praetor's Voice, Mizzix of the Izmagnus, and Teferi, Temporal Archmage
It may seem strange to say, but Vryn’s Prodigy made Jace tribal a thing. That was the approach to building his deck, at first. It really does seem to make sense to jam any card with his name on it or any card having to do with him in a deck and run with it.
In Commander, the "looter" (draw a card, discard a card) ability on a 0/2 simply isn't that exciting. Even when you do flip him, the flashback ability is not what you'll be trying to do. You'll be looking to tick him up to his ultimate and work to mill everyone to death. There are a lot better ways to do it in Commander. You could obviously use his flashback ability on extra turn spells to help you “get there.” The trick is getting more than one activation out of him and there are plenty of other ways in blue to recycle spells.
Being such a hot card in tournament play, though, probably kept most Commander players from acquiring him at first. This Jace could prove useful in more than a few decks that actually like the looting such as Sultai (green/black/blue) and are happy to get the flashback for some big spells.
Some blue/black and Sultai decks also don't mind getting the emblem to get some fuel for reanimator spells. Simply put, I’m not sold on him as a Commander, but he's shown up in the 99 of more than a few strong commanders.
Grade: B (he's not bad in multiplayer, but much stronger in 1v1), In the 99: B (definitely a useful complementary piece on both sides)
Kytheon, Hero of Akros / Gideon, Battle-Forged
Commander of 180+ decks
In the 99: Seen in 1500+ decks. Top Commanders include Odric, Lunarch Marshal, Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, Iroas, God of Victory, Captain Sisay, and Tajic, Blade of the Legion.
Kytheon is an interesting case where as a Gideon planeswalker he's a bit awkward. He's extremely easy to flip in Commander, but not remaining a creature makes it difficult for him to keep bashing in for considerable damage. Oddly enough, however, Gideon Battle Forged as a creature can still deal Commander damage when he becomes a creature with his ability. This is both good and bad. It means he's a huge target at the table, but he can also dodge a lot of creature removal.
Being so unique, I'm not surprised he hasn't been tried more as a Commander. The original Gideon Jura may be better overall in some ways, but the ability to be the first one drop planeswalker in Magic history makes Kytheon highly playable in any mono-white or Boros (red/white) aggro strategy.
Grade: B (Commander), B+ (In the 99). He’s a one-drop planeswalker for crying out loud!
Liliana, Heretical Healer / Liliana, Defiant Necromancer
Commander in 500+ decks
In the 99: Seen in 5000+ decks. Key contributor in Meren of Clan Nel Toth and Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Notable appearances in Gisa and Geralf Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, Grimgrin, Corpse-Born and Karador, Ghost Chieftain
Liliana’s popularity shouldn't be too much of a surprise as her flip side embodies Liliana’s two favorite things, discarding and reanimating. The optimal Liliana brew probably hasn't been found yet, but stocking up on value creatures and ways for you to benefit from opponent's discards is a nice place to start. Mono black is so flooded with strong Commander options that it's no surprise that major innovations taking place around the Heretical Healer haven't yet taken place.
That being said she's easy enough to get online in Commander, so you can get some solid value from her. Just being able to build a Commander deck around one of the most popular planeswalkers of all time is pretty sweet. After her rotation from Standard, she has found consistent homes in the 99 of Commanders who most value her contributions.
Grade: B (Commander), B+ (In the 99). Mono black is flooded with Commander options, but she should prove to be a good one long term.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer / Nissa, Sage Animist
Commander of 350+ decks
In the 99: Seen in 6000+ decks. Key contributor in Omnath, Locus of Rage. Honorable mentions in The Gitrog Monster, Meren of Clan Nel Toth, Atraxa, Praetor's Voice, Karametra God of Harvests, Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Titania, Captain Sisay, Omnath, Locus of Mana, and others.
Landfall is a pretty big deal when it comes to Nissa. A slightly worse Borderland Ranger doesn't seem worthy of Commander status. But a free Forest never hurt anyone. However, when you hit your seventh land her flip side is enough to get her going. She's already done a good deal of work in competitive Abzan.
Sort of like her C14 counterpart Freyalise, she can do a lot for a variety of decks. Her plus ability gives you real card advantage and the ultimate can help to set up a pretty good endgame. She affects the board more than Freyalise so I see her having staying power as a Commander.
As a contributor in the 99, she's found her way in a wide variety of decks, especially ones that can take advantage of her as a Planeswalker with use of Doubling Season.
Grade: B+ (Commander, although she's even better in 1v1), B (In the 99). You just have to hold her back until you’re ready to flip her.
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh / Chandra, Roaring Flame
Commander of 300+ decks
In the 99: Seen 900+ times. Honorable mention in Rakdos, Lord of Riots
Did you see this coming? It turns out Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh is the real deal in Commander. It's a shame that her planeswalker side doesn't deal Commander damage, but with the amount of burn you can realistically throw around that doesn't matter. The emblem wins games. It's actually quite easy to build around her.
As one of the 99, she is pretty much only useful if you need to ping things, making her really good friends with Rakdos, Lord of Riots. This gal is so good in multiplayer that it's a bit scary. She would be far from the first card to be better with more players, but she's as good as she is as a commander due to how her effects play up.
Grade: A (Commander), C (In the 99). Build a deck around pumping your burn spells, copying them, and flipping Chandra and you have a chance at burning everyone at the table.
In the early going, Chandra was the best commander of the Magic Origins bunch. But has time has passed, Liliana has become the most popular, which isn't very surprising considering how easy she is to flip in Commander. In the 99, Nissa, Vastwood Seer has become very popular as a worse Borderland Ranger who can turn into a decent Planeswalker. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy has shown up all over the format as the member of the 99. Interestingly, Kytheon hasn't been adopted by as many Commander players as you'd think and is rather under-appreciated in the format.
Which is your favorite flip-walker? Who do you think is the best in the Commander format long-term?
by ElspethFTW, Gaming Successfully Staff
1v1 Commander has been a real format in Magic: the Gathering for some time. Unofficially, 1v1 Commander has been regulated by the Duel Commander rules committee. Recently, noticing just how popular the format is on Magic Online, Wizards of the Coast decided to add tournament support for 1v1 Commander! Hurray! Right? Well, there are some interesting things that they did in order to do so.
Somewhat strangely, Wizards decided to adopt their own banlist that is completely different from the one that the “regular” Duel Commander committee uses. You can see the massive difference in what Wizards of the Coast is banning in the format VS what the duel Commander Committee decided to ban effective on May 10th here. While having two wildly different banlists for official online play and paper play is obviously going to be confusing for long-time players familiar with the “French banlist,” Wizards does have data to back up their decision making process.
However, Wizards did spark outrage by announcing that players of multiplayer Commander, as of May 10th, would have to abide by the one-on-one banlist. Being completely unbalanced for a multiplayer format, it makes sense that this seemed to spell laziness on the part of Wizards. Did they simply think that the well-established multiplayer community (who have been going with the MTGcommander.net banlist for ages) would just go along with this?
Fortunately, thanks to the outspoken Magic community, Wizards announced that they will return to two separate banlists for one-on-one and multiplayer Commander by July 5th. However, this means that people who enjoy multiplayer Commander on Magic Online, which is quite a few, are going to have to experience a very different Commander format than the one that they’re used to. I won’t go into a card by card breakdown of the different banlists here, but what I can say right away is that it’s going to force some creative card choice changes and create a very different metagame than the one that most Commander players are used to.
However, in spite of this obvious miscalculation to force the same banlist on everyone, Wizards may have actually done something very good for Commander. With EDH actually becoming a competitive format on Magic Online, even if it’s just one-on-one, this means that Wizards is hopefully going to be treating the format with more care. Wizards keeps printing some extremely powerful cards that warp the format. This is especially in one-on-one, as we’ve seen by some of the decisions made by the Duel Commander rules committee, which isn’t affiliated with Wizards.
Now, of course, multiplayer Commander is going to remain the “casual” format that it has always been. It’s not making Wizards money (directly) like the 1v1 Commander tournament support will. And, of course, 1v1 Commander plays very differently than multiplayer in some ways. The politics are definitely one of the selling points of multiplayer Commander. Also, there are many cards in Magic that go from being mediocre in one-on-one Magic to incredible once you have four or more players at the table.
I think by monetizing the one-on-one Commander format, which is already a fiercely competitive format, especially in Europe, it will probably make Wizards think more about the format when designing cards specifically made for the format. Also, by making players on Magic Online wait for their original multiplayer banlist to be reinstated, it’s going to make people experiment. These new forced limitations will probably lead to new interactions between cards being discovered. It could actually be a good thing for the format as far as deckbuilding is concerned, especially when forced to live without staples such as Sol Ring.
What concerns me, though, is while I’m happy to see Commander become a real competitive format supported by Wizards, it could also mean that people are going to buy out cards that are currently affordable to online players. Many players who play Commander on Magic Online play there because it is far cheaper to build decks on there, at fractions of the cost when compared to purchasing the cards individually in paper. As of early May 2017, you can build fairly competitive Commander decks on Magic Online for as little as $20.
While most competitive 1-on-1 decks are built somewhat differently than multiplayer ones, especially due to the different banlists, there are a lot of cards that don’t see play in other competitive Magic formats that do see play in all forms of Commander. This could price a lot of the Commander community out of bothering to play on Magic Online. Also, this could be a bad thing for the community as MTGO is the only place that many Commander players can reliably get a game going on a regular basis. It’s also where a lot of Commander players playtest their decks before purchasing cards in paper (of course, Wizards doesn’t care about that!)
So, while I love that the 1v1 Commander format will now be supported by Wizards of the Coast, it’s obviously been done because they see it as a new way to make money. As for the financial impact on Magic Online, you’ll want to watch the cards banned by Wizards for the Commander format, as well as those that are no longer banned in the online 1v1 Commander format. (Prophet of Kruphix is a big one!)
I really appreciate that Wizards actually took the time to explain their reasoning behind each of the bannings. I doubly appreciate that multiplayer Commander will return to normal after the release of Hour of Devastation on Magic Online. It’s very good to know that they continue to listen when they make strange decisions, and will look to find an amicable solution that everyone can live with.
But wait, if you’re a Commander player who doesn’t play on Magic Online, how will this affect you? Simply put, if 1v1 Commander becomes a fruitful enough format online, it’s extremely likely that Wizards will be supporting it in paper Magic, as well. This will affect the availability (or unavailability) of the same cards. It will be interesting to see how the unofficial and official banlists will be reconciled over time. Even if you don’t care about Magic Online, what will happen in Commander in MTGO will no doubt have an effect on off-line Commander, as well.
It's very confusing that for a bit there will be a paper multiplayer banlist, a paper 1v1 banlist, and an online 1v1 & multiplayer banlist. What Wizards was trying to do was unify the lists to make one banlist for all of them. They were probably hoping that through testing it would inform the official multiplayer Commander banlist, as well. The best solution, of course, is for everyone to use the same banlist for 1v1 and multiplayer, most likely. However, since multiplayer and 1v1 play differently, we'll see if this can actually ever happen.
What is your take on Wizards supporting competitive 1v1 Commander? Do you think it’s good or bad for the format? What do you think will happen in regards to multiplayer Commander due to having to be forced to use a different list for two months?
Whatever happens, 1v1 Commander will definitely be a format I watch closely now. Let’s hope Wizards makes this a fun format for everyone!
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Spawn of Thraxes is a Dragon creature card in Magic the Gathering that can do a ton of damage in a Mono-Red deck. Of course, for Standard play, a seven mana casting cost was far too much for Red Deck Wins to muster. Still it wasn't hard to see the Spawn seeing Commander play. Indeed, after being a decent Limited bomb, this Dragon found his way into a lot of Mono-Red Commander decks.
Being able to deal damage equal to the number of Mountains you control to a creature or player makes the Spawn's effect versatile. He can take out a problem creature or deal a substantial amount of damage to an opponent. This isn't necessarily an efficient way to spend 7 mana in most Constructed decks. But, in Commander, you're not going to mind paying 7 mana to deal a ton of damage late in the game after you've played most of your Mountains.
Two Commanders that take full advantage of Spawn of Thraxes' ability are Feldon of the Third Path and Zirilan of the Claw. Feldon can create token copies of any creature card in your graveyard. This means you can create a Spawn token for only 3 mana as many times as you want, getting that effect and also getting a 5/5 creature token with flying and haste for that turn. Zirilan can search him right out of the deck for three mana, and in this case he also gains haste. However, he has to be removed from the game at the end of the turn. In both cases, one summon is almost always going to be worth it.
How much is Spawn of Thraxes worth? Being a promo that had a high supply and relatively low demand, Spawn of Thraxes' price is probably never going to exceed much more than $1. Still, this Dragon is a great addition to many Red Commanders' toolboxes. He may not win the game on his own, but he can deal a great amount of damage for often as little as three mana. If you're sorting through bulk bins and happen to find a copy, Spawn of Thraxes is worth picking up on the cheap for your collection, especially the foil alternate art promo version from the Journey into Nyx prerelease.
by Shawn Leonardo, CommanDollar
Commander is a format dedicated to the unusual,the wacky, the crazy, and the occasional rules question that make judges cry themselves to sleep. The 100-card Highlander format was first geared towards multiplayer and social play, though through the support of Wizards of the Coast (via creating products for the format and taking it into consideration when designing sets), the format has taken a sharper edge.
With the release of Aether Revolt comes Exquisite Archangel, a creature that many who enjoy the format are divided on-some think this to be an auto-include in their decks, while others believe it should be struck with the almighty ban-hammer. But why?
At first, Exquisite Archangel looks bland-a 5/5 flyer for a total converted mana cost of 7 isn't all that exciting. The controversy comes from the small wall of text:
"If you would lose the game, instead exile Exquisite Archangel and your life total becomes your starting life total."
Put into layman's terms, if this card is on a player's field and they take lethal damage, they simply remove this card from the game and start with a new buffer of life. In formats like standard, modern, etc. this may be concerning-after battling and slinging spells to eliminate your opponent from the lofty amount of twenty life, they simple reset to the start with all the board advantage intact. For commander players, however, this card is a much greater issue, as the format has a starting life total of forty. So what are the arguments for and against banning this card?
Why Exquisite Archangel should be banned in Commander
1) It negates all of a player's hard work in eliminating a single opponent
2) It is a single card that can change the outcome of an entire game
3) It can be splashed in any deck with white
Why Exquisite Archangel shouldn't be banned in Commander
1) It dies easily to removal
2) Higher mana cost
3) Exiles, meaning it cannot be reused multiple times
4) One-of in a 99-card deck
These arguments echo similar sentiment over the years, of cards players want banned from the game due to their degenerative nature. More often than not, however, cards become banned only after they have been tried in the format, and found guilty of warping the game around themselves (we're looking at you, Primeval Titan).
What are your thoughts on Exquisite Archangel? Should it be banned, or allowed to stay in the format?
By Shawn Leonardo, CommanDollar
With Aether Revolt coming soon to a kitchen table near you, it's the perfect time to be both excited and prepared. The latest Magic: the Gathering set promises a whole new batch of fun, unique interactions that can potentially change a number of format's metagames.
While it is sometimes difficult to get Commander players excited for a new set, Aether Revolt seems to have delivered on that end of the bargain, especially with its set of Legendary Creatures. Players both new to the format and experienced are bound to pick up these cards and want to bring them to their maximum potential, and the ideas below can give everyone a headstart on the process.
Sram, Senior Edificer and Batterskull
Draw in any mono-color besides blue makes everyone think twice , and after careful consideration it looks like Batterskull would be a Sram commander's best friend. It doesn't take any kind of deep analysis to see that Batterskull can provide you with some much-needed card draw, as well as a potential threat. While somewhat expensive already, I can forsee the price rising just a hair due to the desire for commander players. Hopefully this has inspired you to go to Gathereror some other card database and pour over the pages!
Baral, Chief of Compliance and Arcane Denial
Counterspells were already pretty great before Baral was spoiled. Now, cards like Dissolve are all Counterspells, meaning two open blue mana will always signify a resounding "No" while this legend is out on the field, cancelling your plans entirely. Arcane Denial becomes merely one blue mana to outwit your opponents. This cryptic command will lock down the board state as long as there is open mana, and is a wonderful option for the right control player. Foil your opponent's plans before they even get going with sheer force of will, or wait for them to make a mental misstep before profiting from your oppressive will.
Rishkar, Peema Renegade and Forgotten Ancient
Rishkar seemed underwhelming at first-until you notice that he turns your creatures with counters into Llanowar Elves. You could easily go into Elf tribal with this legend, however you can go in almost any direction you want with Rishkar's burst of strength. Forgotten Ancient allows you to rapidly increase your mana sources, since everyone will be playing spells as much as they can to try and keep up. Note how this card's first ability is triggered when it enters the battlefield, meaning you can find ways to flicker it, adding to both your mana base as well as an increasing savagery during combat. Once you've enjoyed the fruits of this card's natural panoply , casting as many cards as you have the mana for (which should be a lot, and quickly), the game should soon swing in your favor, and your opponents will find themselves in death's presence. A deck centered around Rishkar will certainly be a triumph of the hordes!
Kari Zev, Skyship Raider and Confusion in the Ranks
Red has a fatal attraction when it comes to...well, pretty much anything. As far as legends go, Kari may be the weakest amongst the Aether Revolt when it comes to being a Commander. Acting on impulse and reflexes alone won't get you far in the multiplayer format, and fortunately this article can become a useful chasm guide for you. Kari likes to work with cards like Confusion in the Ranks, swapping a tapped Ragavan for your opponent's best creature, then watching the pandemonium that ensues when they lose Ragavan and their best creature after combat ends. Use these arcane teachings to cause impact tremors in the game, and you'll have a good chance of avoiding where ancients tread.
Yahenni, Undying Partisan and Dictate of Erebos
Yahenni was made with some small measure of diabolic intent. With cards like Dictate of Erebos and Grave Pact, this commander becomes an abhorrent overlord, making everyone barter in blood. If your deck is not centered around creatures, you have a stronger chance; if not, the game becomes one of attrition, and you will soon eliminate the competition. There is no such thing as innocent blood in a game Commander , but with the right cards on the field this new legend becomes a merciless executioner, and one sinister concoction of a deck.
Hope of Ghirapur and Whispersilk Cloak
Wow! A new colorless Legendary! What a godsend! Now, what do we do with it? Attack, of course! Whispersilk Cloak is perfect for this creature, ensuring the ultimate evasion to get damage through in combat. This creature should be cast every first turn if it is your commander, to carry a blazing torch to your opponent's field. You may not be delivering any hot soup, however this card will certainly give you an infiltration lens on what your opponent's strategy is. It may not be a power house, and it may earn a glaring spotlight from your opponent(s) who are locked down, but if all your opponent can cast is creatures (locking out instants, sorceries, planeswalkers, artifacts, and enchantments), there will be more than just hope for victory.
These legendary creatures all have a lot of potential for the Commander format, and players around the world are excited to get their hands on them and weild them with deadly efficiency.
Prerelease for Aether Revolt is this weekend, January 14-15, and releases in stores on January 20th, 2017!
Shawn Leonardo is a casual Magic: the Gathering blogger, and mainly discusses the EDH/Commander format as well as budget solutions. He currently resides in Idaho, where he plots world domination.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Quietus Spike is a Magic card from Shards of Alara quietly enjoyed a rise in price from around $2 to $4 over a couple of years. However, with a reprint in Commander 2017 and later in Planechase Anthology, the original printing fell under $2. Quietly, it's been a very solid Equipment for quite a long time.
Appearing first in Shards of Alara, and also included in a Planechase pre-constructed deck, Quietus Spike is a 3-drop Equipment that gives a creature deathtouch. Also, whenever that creature deals combat damage to a player, that players loses half of his or her life, rounded up.
Voltron strategies, those that involve loading up one creature with a bunch of Equipments and/or Auras, are extremely popular in Commander. This would explain why a great many Kemba, Kha Regent decks have included this equipment. A card like Quietus Spike is especially good on a Commander like Rafiq of the Many, who much of the time has double strike. That means the effect of Quietus Spike activates twice, which means a ton of life lost.
Quietus Spike is also fun on any creature that has trample or otherwise gains trample. This is because when you assign damage on a trampling creature, only 1 of that damage has to be dealt to a defending creature. Now, not only can you deal more damage, but greatly sap your opponent's overall total, as well.
Sadly, the Spike's ability doesn't trigger Gisela, Blade of Goldnight's double damage dealing ability. This is since the Spike's ability is life loss, not damage. The Spike also doesn't grant you additional combat damage when totaling the 21 Commander damage (also known as general damage) necessary for an invididual Commander to take out a player. It also doesn't double infect damage, which is a good thing, because 10 Poison Counters to kill a player is a low enough total to begin with.
The Spike was also quite good in the short-lived but massively popular Tiny Leaders format, the 50-card Commander variant in which you can only play cards with converted mana cost 3 or less. With how prevalent Voltron strategies are in that format, and the lack of lethal Commander damage, having an Equipment like this can end games quickly. Your opponent only starts with 25 life in Tiny Leaders, so it won't take much for any creature equipped with this to land a heavy blow.
The Tiny Leaders format didn't last all that long, but a lot of people bought Quietus Spike that didn't have use for them before. The price has been on an even steadier rise since then. It took a big jump from $3 to almost $4 between February and April of 2016 and the price has been wavering between $3 and $4 since then.
Even without Tiny Leaders, Quietus Spike sees play in a wide variety of Commander decks. Interestingly, the Commander who utilizes it the most is not one with Double Strike. It's actually Olivia Voldaren. Olivia is usually a Vampire Tribal Commander who is definitely focused on life loss, so you could see the Spike fitting into that strategy quite well. Another Commander bent on life loss is Vela the Night-Clad, so it's little surprise that the Quietus Spike shows up in some of her decks, as well.
Also, both of these decks have access to an Enchantment called Wound Reflection. This card has a player-killing combo with Quietus Spike, since it causes each opponent to lose life equal to the amount of life lost that turn at the end of each turn. It's probably the best combo available with Quietus Spike.
Quietus Spike is a fairly valuable equipment in a wide range of Commander decks. While it hasn't become a staple in the format, it's widely played. You can't really go wrong picking this card up if you're fond of Equipment-based decks.
While you may not expect a 5 mana Enchantment to see much Standard play, Dictate of Heliod definitely did. As a one-of in many mid-range decks, being able to give all of your creatures +2/+2 at instant speed proved extremely powerful. It's often a game-winning swing in power. This card can lead to some serious blow-outs, especially when its cast during combat.
When Dictate of Heliod was first released, a lot of Heroic deck builders wondered if this Enchantment would trigger Heroic abilities. Because Dictate of Heliod does not target, sadly, it did not. However, it didn't stop this card from seeing play even in some Heroic Aggro decks that sometimes just needed a slight boost to win the game. But it really was more of a mid-range card during its Standard lifetime. And while the effects of additional copies of Dictate of Heliod do stack, it never really made sense to run more than one copy in a 60-card deck.
Considering how good this card turned out to be in Standard, it's no surprise that it sees regular Commander play. Token-happy Commanders Rhys the Redeemed and Trostani, Selesnya's Voice adopted it quite quickly, although not to the degree that you might expect. It hasn't become a staple for any one Commander.
The Commander who has best adopted Dictate of Heliod is Daxos the Returned. The Enchantment-happy commander can spit out of a lot formidable tokens with his ability. Being an Enchantment, the Dictate gives you an experience counter when cast. This makes the tokens that Daxos creates much more powerful. The extra +2/+2 power and toughness boost is certainly helpful, too, but not quite so much to make it a staple in his decks.
Another Commander that has made good use of the Dictate is Iroas, God of Victory. The Journey into Nyx red and white God has seen fit to play Dictate of Heliod in about 25 percent of his lists. Since he gives creatures you control the ability to only be blocked by two or more creatures (known as Menace), giving your creatures a significant +2/+2 boost can be quite relevant. You can really blow out an opponent's blocking plan by bringing in the Dictate at Instant speed.
While Dictate of Heliod never became the Commander staple that some members of the EDH community predicted, it's still a great toolbox card. It's also a card with beautiful artwork, and that means foil copies could be a nice little investment. It's actually surprising that Dictate of Heliod's foil price was still little more than $1 even towards the end of 2016. This is a card that all Commander players should have in their deck building toolbox. It's an anthem that doubles as a combat trick. If you're running any White creature-heavy Commander decks, it's one to consider.
Anthem effects in Magic the Gathering are always cool. Who doesn't like making their creatures bigger? When they don't help opponents, they're even better. Theros gave us one of the better anthems out there, Spear of Heliod. It's become a Commander staple. While the Spear is probably a better anthem overall, Hall of Triumph is much more versatile in what decks it can be played. As an artifact, it's colorless, which helps it fit into more decks.
Hall of Triumph costs 3 colorless mana to cast. When it comes into play, you choose a color and creatures of that color you control gain +1/+1. Sadly, you can't choose colorless as an option for Hall of Triumph. Despite, colorless mana getting its own mana symbol in Oath of the Gatewatch, you still can't choose colorless as an option if you need to choose a color. It's pretty straightforward. While it's limited to a single color, there are plenty of mono-colored decks that could use an anthem effect, especially Red decks that wouldn't otherwise have one.
It seemed Hall of Triumph would become a mono-colored Commander staple. After seeing a bit of play in Standard, however, the only deck that widely adopted the Hall was Krenko, Mob Boss. Along with the Tribal anthem, Obelisk of Urd, suddenly Krenko's Goblins became more imposing. As an artifact, Hall of Triumph is still relatively underplayed considering the versatility of its effect. If you're running a one-color Tribal deck in Commander, you should definitely consider running a copy of Hall of Triumph.
Magic the Gathering (MTG) - The Nephilims - Magic's Original Four Color Creatures (And Unofficial Commanders!)
In Magic the Gathering, the Nephilims are a cycle of five four-color creatures printed in Guildpact, the second set of the original Ravnica block. For the longest time, they were the only five four-color creatures in all of Magic. Then, the five four-color Legendary Creatures from Commander 2016 were introduced. But, their existence doesn't make the Nephilims any less interesting.
Some of the Nephilims are actually fairly good cards that see some play in Commander decks. It is a shame that the Nephilims were not Legendary Creatures, as a couple of them could have been very playable four color Commanders. Magic the Gathering head designer Mark Rosewater - better known as MaRo - wished they had made them Legendary in the first place.
So, we have these five Nephilims. Let's take a look at each of them and their overall playability, even as unofficial Legendary creatures and Commanders.
Dune-Brood Nephilim is the BRGW Nephilim. It's a 3/3 with the ability that whenever it deals combat damage to a player, you put a 1/1 colorless Sand creature token into play for each land you control. That could be a heck of a lot of tokens.
The best sort of deck for a card like this would be one like a Maze's End build with Child of Alara as its Commander. Such a ramp deck that has Maze's End for its win condition would be happy to have a card like this who could make a whole bunch of tokens to either hold down the fort or serve as an alternate win condition. For those unfamiliar with Maze's End, its primary purpose is to pull Guildgates out of the deck. When it and all 10 gates are on the field, you win the game. Building up an army of Sand creature tokens while working to accomplish this goal is definitely good.
Unofficial Dune-Brood Nephilim Commander decks would obviously focus on getting a lot of lands into play quickly. Sadly, since you're missing a color, the Maze's End plan won't work. However, there are plenty of ways to still get a lot of lands into play quickly. Key cards in this strategy would include The Gitrog Monster (himself a powerful Commander) and Splendid Reclamation. Having to sacrifice lands to the Monster is fine since you can just get them back into play with Splendid Reclamation. It's an interesting deck concept, although Gitrog Monster himself can do this a bit more consistently. Still, having access to Red and White allows for a broader spectrum of ways you can win the game.
Glint-Eye Nephilim is the UBRG Nephilim. It's only a 2/2, but whenever it deals combat damage to a player, you draw that many cards. Also, for one colorless mana, you can discard a card and give it +1/+1 until end of turn. This is a repeatable effect. It's possible, especially in EDH, that you could draw a good number of cards with Glint-Eye.
Glint-Eye's best deck in Commander is easily Rainbow Creatures, a deck led by Progenitus that uses all 10 of the Shadowmoor/Eventide Lieges for pumping its creatures, as well as all 5 of the Kamigawa block Myojin, and all 5 Nephilim. It also plays all 5 New Phyrexia Praetors and all 5 of the major Theros Gods. The idea that Glint-Eye could get very, very big and draw you a lot of cards is pretty awesome.
If you're looking for ideas on how to build an unofficial Glint-Eye Nephilim Commander deck, EDHREC has a few lists that you can draw from.
Ink-Treader Nephilim is the RGWU Nephilim. His ability is a bit different than the first two.
"Whenever a player plays an instant or sorcery spell, if Ink-Treader Nephilim is the only target of that spell, copy the spell for each other creature that spell could target. Each copy targets a different one of those creatures."
While that's a fascinating ability, how exactly is it used? Besides being played in Rainbow Creatures, Ink-Treader has found a home in Chaos-based Karona, False God decks. These decks play very few creatures and focus around making the board-state as crazy out of control as possible. What Ink-Treader does in a deck like that is make it so that it's basically impossible to remove without destroying every other creature on the board. It's a tricky card, which would be a lot better were it a Legendary Creature that you could build around.
Unofficially, you could build a pretty fun Ink-Treader Nephilim Commander deck. If you're looking for ideas, EDHREC has quite a few suggestions for you.
Witch-Maw Nephilim is only a 1/1 for GWUB. However, whenever you play a spell, you may put 2 +1/+1 counters on it. Also, whenever it attacks, it gains trample until end of turn if its power is 10 or greater. The potential of the Witch-Maw to get extremely big is quite possible, especially in Rainbow Creatures. But outside of that deck, it doesn't do much. Like Ink-Treader Nephilim, it would make for an especially interesting Commander, but on its own is not quite so good. However, not being Legendary hasn't stopped people from making unofficial Witch-Maw EDH decks.
Yore-Tiller Nephilim is probably the best of all 5 of the Nephilim. It costs WUBR to play, but besides seeing play in the usual Progenitus Rainbow Creatures and Karona decks, it also sees heavy amounts of play in Scion of the Ur-Dragon. Scion EDH decks are all about dumping huge Dragon cards in the graveyard so that Scion may become a copies of them later through his effect.
What Yore-Tiller allows you to do is bring a Dragon back into play tapped and attacking straight from the graveyard. Yore-Tiller has to attack to activate this effect, but does not need to deal combat damage. More often than not, it will probably be blocked and killed but whatever is brought in with that effect is likely going to deal a lot of damage, especially if it's a Balefire Dragon or Hellkite Tyrant, or the like. Yore-Tiller has also seen some play in Sliver decks, to help bring back key Slivers from the graveyard.
Were Yore-Tiller Nephilim a Legendary Creature, it would be the best of the 5 as a Commander, as well, allowing for a very solid Reanimator deck, only lacking Green. Here are some suggestions on how to build an unofficial Yore-Tiller Commander deck.
Overall, the five Nephilims are fascinating creatures that had they made as Legendary Creatures would have provided 5 very interesting Commander options. As we've seen, people have used them as Commanders, despite not being Legendary.
Even with some proper 4-color Commanders available now, the Nephilim remain fascinating curiosities, all of which see some amount of play in Commander.
And, of course, all five Nephilims are playable in the rarely played Prismatic Magic Online format... not that anyone will ever care about that format again.
Phantom Nantuko was an interesting inclusion in the Evasive Manuevers deck of Magic the Gathering's Commander 2013 preconstructed deck series. It was reprinted from all the way back in Judgment, a set better known for cards like Mirari's Wake, Sylvan Safekeeper, and Test of Endurance. This Insect is a 0/0 creature with a 2G casting cost - so, what makes it special?
Taking a closer look, you can see that this Insect Spirit comes into play with 2 +1/+1 counters and also has Trample. The Trample really isn't as relevant as the fact that the Nantuko is actually sort of tough to kill. Each time Phantom Nantuko has damage dealt to it, you prevent that damage and remove a +1/+1 counter from it. The Nantuko also has the ability to add a +1/+1 counter to itself by tapping.
It's rather possible with enough untap shenanigans to make the Nantuko fairly large to the point that the Trample actually could become relevant. It's hardly the strongest card out there. But if you have a way to keep tapping it or get more counters onto it, then this Insect is pretty useful. It's also a Spirit, which means something to some people. Not that I'd ever try to build Spirit Tribal, but some have, especially around Kodama of the South Tree!
The Nantuko was a solid, if not great, reprint for the Commander product. Even today, Phantom Nantuko is featured in a handful of Derevi, Empyrial Tactician lists, hearkening back to the pre-constructed list. He's also made guest appearances in the decks of Ezuri, Claw of Progress, Ghave, Guru of Spores, Vorel of the Hull Clade, and Atraxa, Praetor's Voice.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
A little Mercadian Masques rare called Statecraft took off in price during November of 2016. There is actually a fairly simple explanation for the sudden jump in demand for this older Magic the Gathering card. This Enchantment is extremely good in Zedruu the Greathearted Commander decks. With the sneaky powerful Minotaur Monk being reprinted in Commander 2016, there are a lot of new Zedruu fans out there discovering what this card can do for them.
Statecraft plays two roles in Zedruu decks. The first is the one you would expect from what the card read. basically, your creatures deal no combat damage, but other creatures don't deal combat damage to them either. The advantage of this is that your creatures can block mostly anything. It can even get around creatures with death touch since death touch requires at least one damage be dealt for it to kill the creature automatically.
The less obvious but more important reason to play Statecraft alongside Zedruu is to use it to donate to another player. Not only can Zedruu give things away herself for only three mana, but for each permanent that you own that an opponent controls you gain 1 life and draw a card during each of your upkeeps. Meanwhile, statecraft essentially takes an aggressive player out of the game. Until they can find a way to get rid of it, you get two distinct advantages from it. Any time a card can play two or more roles, it's definitely worth considering.
What about in other decks? Some Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis lists that employ Zedruu have toyed with it. Really, the only other Commander to consistently try Statecraft is Phenax, God of Deception. His deck is based around creatures with high toughness in order to take advantage of the tap ability he gives them.
When Phenax is on board, he gives all creatures you control the ability to tap and make a player put the top X cards of his or her deck into the graveyard. since you're not looking to win by combat damage for the most part, you can rest assured that your creatures won't die in combat thanks to Statecraft.
Can Zedruu decks alone keep Statecraft a valuable card all by themselves? It's likely, considering how popular and good of a Commander she is. Statecraft isn't on the Reserved list however, so it could be reprinted in some future set or product. Still, if you're planning to play Zedruu in Commander at some point, Statecraft should definitely be in your list.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Charms are a pretty cool concept in Magic the Gathering. They are cards that can serve a variety of purposes by giving you one of several options. In Khans of Tarkir, there were five three-color charms, each of which corresponded to one of the five Clans of Tarkir. One of the five that didn't get as much love as others was Temur Charm. It's a cool card, though, with widely varied abilities.
Here are this Charm's three modes:
• Target creature you control gets +1/+1 until end of turn. That creature fights target creature you don't control.
• Counter target spell unless its controller pays 3.
• Creatures with power 3 or less can't block this turn.
The first mode is very good, especially in the colors that this card would be played in. Red/Blue/Green decks tend to play a lot of aggressive creatures. So giving one of your creatures +1/+1 and having it fight a creature you don't control usually is going to be a win for your guy. It fits in perfectly with the Temur Clan's strategy and its Ferocious mechanic. That +1/+1 until end of turn could activate a Ferocious ability that wouldn't otherwise trigger, making one of your creatures with 3 power into a creature with 4 power until the end of the turn.
The second ability is essentially Mana Leak. There was speculation of that popular counter-spell seeing a reprint in Khans of Tarkir. Indeed, it was functionally reprinted on this card. It's an interesting effect to see on a RUG card, but useful nonetheless.
The third ability prevents creatures with power 3 or less from being able to block that turn. Pilots of super-aggressive decks will have to be aware that chump-blocking may not be possible if the opponent has access to this card. While that third mode may not be used all that often, it has to be anticipated now whenever a Temur deck is being played.
This is a very strong Charm that should have seen a good deal of Standard play. It did in fact see a ton of play right after the release of Khans up until the release of Fate Reforged, after which it pretty much disappeared from competitive play. Temur Aggro played anywhere from one to three copies of the Charm. Some Midrange and Control lists also used the card in varying counts as well.
While it saw very little competitive play after March 2015, it still sees play in a few Commander decks. Predominantly, it found a home in Surrak Dragonclaw decks, which makes sense considering that he was the Temur leader from Khans. The synergy seemed pretty obvious in building a deck utilizing all of the best Temur cards from the block. Other Commander decks in those colors like Yasova Dragonclaw (from Fate Reforged), Animar, Soul of Elements, Riku of Two Reflections, and Intet, the Dreamer have dabbled with Temur Charm.
A card that gives the option to serve as removal while also potentially activating Ferocious, act as a permission spell, or open up the floodgates for a lethal attack is quite versatile. While its days as a useful competitive toolbox card are long past, Temur Charm still has a home in the right Commander decks.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Faerie Artisans is one of the more interesting takes that I've seen on a clone effect. I think it's pretty good, especially when you consider that the copy that they make is an artifact in addition to its other types. It definitely makes opponents be more cautious about what they play, especially creatures with enter the battlefield abilities. Having only one copy at a time to me seems fine, and with doubling effects you can actually get two or more copies of each creature an opponent plays.
Yes, this ability isn't optional, but I think that it being mandatory is what actually makes this card so good. This sort of copycat effect gives the card a lot of flavor, and a 2/2 flyer isn't a bad body on a 4-mana creature with this kind of ability. The Artisans are already seeing play in a great many Commander decks, especially alongside the Commander that they come with, Breya, Etherium Shaper. This is one creature to watch from this set.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
My first impression of Kraum, Ludevic's Opus was that he was a much improved version of Jori En, Ruin Diver. With Jori En, you drew a card whenever you played your second spell in a turn. Kraum flips that around and draws you a card when an opponent plays their second spell in a turn. But on top of that, Kraum is a 4/4 with flying and haste. That's pretty aggressive. Plus, he has Partner, so he can pair up with any other Legendary Creature with Partner.
Kraum seems pretty good to pair up with Vial Smasher the Fierce who deals damage to a random opponent for the first spell you cast during your turn equal to that spell's converted mana cost. Kraum draws you cards and Vial Smasher softens up your opponents' life totals. Gaining the black mana is pretty awesome, too.
If you want to draw even more cards, you can Partner him with Tymna the Weaver. She not only gives Kraum access to Black and White mana, but has a draw engine of her own. At the beginning of your second main phase, you can pay X life where X is the number of opponents damaged in combat that turn. If so, you then get to draw X cards. This seems like a natural partnership to me. Then you can suit up Kraum and really go to town.
A lot of players have found Kraum, Ludevic's Opus underwhelming on his own. But he has an aggressive body and an ability that can draw you at least an extra card almost every round of turns. He's definitely better with a Partner, but I really just like him overall.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Vial Smasher the Fierce is a Commander with Partner that could see play in Legacy.
An alternate time-line version of the Ankle Shanker from Khans of Tarkir, Vial Smasher the Fierce is a Commander with the Partner mechanic with a powerful, but random ability. At first glance, it's clear that Vial Smasher is really good at throwing a lot of damage around.
Whenever you cast your first spell each turn, including on your opponent's turns, Vial Smasher deals damage equal to that spell's converted mana cost to a random opponent. Because this damage is random, she is probably not going to be very popular creature in a multiplayer Commander game. Vial Smasher is really more of a nuisance than anything else, but you can get a ton of value out of this ability.
In a one-on-one Duel Commander game, however, Vial Smasher is extremely powerful. Since the ability is always going to hit your opponent, it can become a very short game. Duel Commander starts with a much lower life total. It used to be 30, but this amount was lowered to 20 in September 2016. This could be one of the best commanders in that format.
Keeping this in mind, could Vial Smasher even be Legacy and/or Vintage playable? Keep in mind, casting a Force of Will, even for its alternate casting cost of exiling a blue card from your hand and paying 1 life still has a converted mana cost of 5. As Vial Smasher is only 3 to cast, it's possible she could be a way to finish off a game in what's usually quite a fast format.
It also seems possible that Legacy Burn may want a copy or two of Vial Smasher. Even an extra 1 or 2 damage goes a long way in those decks. In Vintage, there are some big spells that get cast, so Vial Smasher can win the game if she's on the board when they are. This seems like a card that could show up occasionally in these formats.
As a Partner, Vial Smasher not only gives access to Red and Black mana, but also gives a way to deal a lot of damage out of nowhere. While it's rare that she'll just kill a player out of nowhere, spreading the damage around just for you casting spells is an extremely efficient way to close a game out quickly. I think this gal is going to see a lot of play as a lone Commander, a Co-Commander, and as one of the 99. And if Vial Smasher is as good as she looks, she may even pop into competitive Legacy or Vintage!
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Pretty much everybody said the same thing about Atraxa, Praetors' Voice. Since she's able to allow you to proliferate at the end of every turn, everyone is thinking about running a 4-color Infect deck. So, what's proliferate? It means that you can choose any number of target permanents or players who have a counter on them and put another counter of that type on those players or permanents.
Proliferate was a big deal back in New Phyrexia, since you can add poison counters to players with each proliferate trigger. There are plenty of Infect creatures from the Scars of Mirrodin block in White, Blue, Green, and Black. So, you can see the appeal of having all 4 colors at your disposal. But as someone who has never been a huge fan of Infect as a win condition, I'd like to find ways to utilize her a bit less one-dimensionally.
What's most awesome about Atraxa is the sheer number of abilities on her. Not only she is a 4/4 flyer for 4 mana, but she also has vigilance, lifelink, and deathtouch. There are so many dimensions to build off of here that a single article can't possibly contain all of the potential builds!
Personally, I'd build a Voltron style deck with Atraxa that utilizes Auras and Equipments which offer +1/+1 counters, such as the Ordeal Cycle from Theros. Then, I would also include other ways to proliferate such as Contagion Engine. Atraxa is always going to be a ton of fun to play with, even if some of the more obvious themes are built around her for the most part.
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