Commander Legends Review Part 2 – Non-Partner Rares

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Hey magic people! Here’s Part 2 of my review of Commander Legends. (Part 1 is here) This one’s all about the non-Partner Rare cards. Check em out!

Cycle-finishers Spectator Seating and friends are functional, strong cards that are good for multiplayer Commander of all levels. They aren’t really exciting and you don’t need me to tell you they’re good. Hope you open some. Moving on.

Tabletop gaming destination War Room is a great addition to the gigantic swathe of utility lands out there. Some colours need card draw in any way they can get it, and having it stapled to lands is always helpful. Drawing a card with War Room can hurt, and the mana cost is real, but making mana and coming in untapped help a lot. I will certainly play this, and my colourless Kozilek Deck would be a great place for it.

Artifact creature Bladegriff Prototype reminds me of Trygon Predator, but not being able to select the target yourself is a big drawback. Any token deck shrugs at this. The twist of course is that this is a ‘political’ card, ie. it forces a choice on your opponent from which you can only profit. It has some definite casual appeal that way, but the CMC, body size and targeting method make me shrug too. Seems like a Battlebox card if I open one.

Can we use unspent Jeweled Lotus mana with Horizon Stone? Yes! Kruphix, God of Horizons can be a huge pain in the Nyx, and enable some broken things, and this doubles down on that effect. Seedborn Muse and Unwinding Clock are places to start with this, and Helix Pinnacle is a good finish. In the pantheon of insane artifacts that create grotesque gobs of mana, however, this is probably medium. But watch out for it. Colourless Eldrazi decks will love it, and so might CMC=X decks of all sorts. Anything with a pronounced late game, and especially those that can’t lean on green ramp. But green ramp might like it too.

I think the best way to look at modal cards like Akroma’s Will, where the ‘both’ is conditional on a Commander’s presence, is to see if either half is worth it by itself. For the CMC cost, I’m borderline on effect 1. It’s good, but only optimum if you can send an army of ground-based troops into combat they’ll all survive (probably unopposed b/c flying) and then have them still be relevant blockers. It’s not Christmasland, but it feels like it’ll be a mediocre optimum. The other half is very different. Protection and indestructible have multiple applications, not a single dream scenario. Lifelink too. Whether this is better than new freebie card Flawless Maneuver, or even cheaper options like Make a Stand is debatable. I’m not sold on this one, but the second half, plus the ability to have both for 4 mana at instant speed is intriguing.

Skycat Armored Skyhunter seems pretty strong. This is one of the best Phantom Monsters ever printed. And this is a white card? It double cheats, once on the Equipment or Aura’s CMC, and once on the equip cost. Not only that, the activation is on attack, not combat damage. Both creature types are relevant, and it’s immediately one of the best cards in either tribe. I expect this to be overlooked. Great card.

The first of the Court cycle up for trial is Court of Grace. While I don’t think this is the strongest of the cycle, I think the cycle overall is extremely strong. The Monarch, plus upside, plus additional upside if you have the Monarch at the start of upkeep makes for a very powerful card. The Court cards don’t cost much, are blinkable, tough to get rid of, and snowball quickly. Angel tokens can add up. Flying 1/1 chump tokens can do real work. It’s even card draw for white. I think the Courts are the scene stealers of the set, but we’ll see if the rest are as good, or frighteningly better….

One of the very first spoilers of the set, Keeper of the Accord came with a promise of a renewed dedication to making white relevant. We’re still waiting on that one. Maybe starting with Court of Grace would have better. The Keeper here is fine, but bear in mind that unless you’re coming from behind, this is a 4CMC do-nothing. I would rather have a Cultivate or Thran Dynamo than this card. All things considered, I might even take Sisay’s Ring over this, soldiers or no. Try again, R&D.

Wrath protection Promise of Tomorrow is like Colfenor’s Urn, Safe Haven and Endless Sands before it: shaky. I’d play something like this if I wasn’t going to use my graveyard anyway. Otherwise a timely Disenchant can exile your team for good. It’s annoying and hilarious that an opponent’s Forbidden Orchard can shut this card down. I played Bag of Holding recently and loved it, so maybe this deserves a chance, but it’s not easy to control the trigger, and yeah, can result in your creatures being gone until next game.

Adding to the growing pile of weird, conditional Wrath of God variants is Slash the Ranks. This is okay, and meeting the all important condition of asymmetry is easy with decks that only play their commander for creatures, and those that play none. Getting rid of planeswalkers is a nice bonus. Since Cleansing Nova and Austere Command are so versatile, it’s tough to imagine this seeing tons of play, but who knows. This will be very good in a handful of decks, and just okay in a lot more.

Blurry dust guy Soul of Eternity is the new Serra Avatar. Encore is a great big bang of an ability, and this is a reasonable finisher for white decks that gain lots of life and sit and accumulate mana behind a pillowfort. Not having any evasion sucks for a card like this, but that can be worked around. I think this is probably bulk, but cards like this can go well with cards like Brion Stoutarm, and Encore might be all the best of Myriad and Unearth with a little extra upside in that the token copies die.

Whoa baby! Amphin Mutineer is seriously sweet. Like a sort of Pongify or Curse of the Swine on a stick. Totally blinkable, not hard to Encore, and ready to exile in a salamander-light meta. This is amazing. I want one. I don’t really know what else to say here. Fun pirate?

As a blue Maro wielding a Spellbook, Body of Knowledge is pretty cool, but that third ability, where you draw on damage, is where things get really interesting. Blue isn’t known as a fight colour, but Arena and Triangle of War go anywhere, and you can play multiple colours in 2020. Who knew. Lots of potential, even just as a blocker. Flash it in for extra fun with Leyline of Anticipation, Emergence Zone or Alchemist’s Refuge.

The second Court card is quite strong. Court of Cunning is cheap to cast, tough to interact with, and of course, mills. This is a pretty strong mill clock if you have the Monarch, and not that terrible if you don’t. You can even mill yourself, or mill selectively, which is really great against the Meren of Clan Nel Toths of the world, or your political allies. Not the best Court, but totally excellent. Apparently Vintage might like this off of a turn 1 Black Lotus. I’d play this, and consider it for decks that don’t normally mill, too. I’d definitely play it in any self-mill concept. Love me some Monarch.

Here’s another great Pirate! And a pretty great Merfolk. Probably one of the best in either tribe, really. Too bad for Rogues and Thieves, because Hullbreacher would be all over their lists, too. The body is decent, and the flash is amazing, but their draw turning into your treasure is bonkers. Chances are you’ll only get one good use out of this and then it’ll get killed or opponents will play around it, but that one use will be super sweet. This is another one for the Vintage and Legacy crowds, but this should see lots of Commander play too. Notion Thief and Alms Collector exist and do work in a similar fashion, and if you make great use of those, might really love this.

While I personally think the real drudge in the lab is the Laboratory Maniac, this new guy has some potential. Laboratory Drudge should help abilities like Encore, Unearth, Embalm, and others like it. Most of those are strong in blue and already involve Zombies. This will probably never be flashy but some decks will have a really welcome spot for it. Sedris, the Traitor King, while not a popular Commander, is a great place to start.

I wanted to love Sakashima’s Protege, and I was loving it, until those last two words in the text box. This turn. Aw, crap. I feel like the 6CMC warranted the copy of any permanent, considering how reasonable Clever Impersonator is to cast, but no. ‘This turn’ is extremely limiting. The card is still ok, but is both less competitive and less fun because of ‘this turn.’ I was going to say how Flash and Cascade might make up for it, but seriously, copying is this card’s major draw. A fail for me.

Modal card Sakashima’s Will is full of potential, but has some unfortunate drawbacks. Sorcery speed. Opponent chooses. The wide variance of the second mode. When the opponent has one creature, and it’s their Commander sitting under Swiftfoot Boots or Lightning Greaves, this looks like a genius move, but even that clashes with the second mode because of the Legend Rule. Turning all of your creatures into your new acquisition will kill them, and choosing anything else will possibly turn your new guy into one of your chumps. I feel like this being playable hinges on you doing something special with the second mode.

I love Wrong Turn. What’s not to like here? Even the art! Monster in a library. Silly monster! The self-help books are in aisle 24, not 27. Sheesh. Sometimes they let blue players have fun, and not just rebuy Time Stretch with Mystic Sanctuary for the umpteenth time. This is fun, like Fumble. While Zedruu the Greathearted is an obvious choice to cast this, I’d shoehorn it into all sorts of blue decks. Because Wrong Turn is also a weird, unique piece of strategy. Maybe what I love most is how totally unplayable this would be in 2 player cEDH. Great for any multiplayer variant of Magic.

Now we get into the scary courts. Court of Ambition is one to watch out for, like criminal court. 3 life or discard is nasty enough, and can be turned into further mayhem with things like Megrim, Dredge the Mire, or even good old Nath of the Gilt-Leaf, but it’s when the Court player has the Monarch that things get scary. 6 life unless two cards is a real clock that goes through damage prevention. It’s also not ‘discard a card to prevent 3 life lost.’ Either toss two or eat the 6. If you have one card in hand, you eat the 6. Each colour has a number of options to protect their Monarch, and black is probably near to last, with medium blocking and flying blocking ability, and few pillowfort cards. Still, black kills threats easily and can race out to early mana advantages with cards like Dark Ritual so this could get online faster than attackers. The potential card advantage with three opponents and keeping the Monarch could put you up one and them down 6 cards. Or 18 life. In one turn cycle. Yowza. I’m not sure I like cards that force your opponents to take the Monarch from you or feel some terrible pain, especially at as cheapesque a cost as Thorn of the Black Rose or Marchesa’s Decree, but here we are. Could there be even scarier Courts?

Probable Drow Elvish Dreadlord does exactly what the designer wanted it to do, and that’s make me want to play Golgari elves. Maybe Zombie elves, but I’m flexible. This set gives that archetype some gas, and since I just mentioned Nath of the Gilt-Leaf, I’m even more stoked on this card. This is possible playable in a zombie deck, too, but may just kill all your stuff. As an emergency boardwipe from the grave that uses -x/-x and deathtouch to do the work, it’s unique at least. For elves, though, awesome. And any which way, this is a really exciting Encore effect, and makes Encore look good. Very cool card.

While I love anything that makes a lot of zombie tokens, I’m not crazy about things that make me sacrifice six creatures. If I can make that a plus for me, or if I plan of playing this onto an empty board a lot, then Necrotic Hex becomes a lot better. I have a deck or two this might fit actually. The 7 CMC and sorcery speed are tough, though. I think this will likely be available at bulk prices for me to consider if I don’t open one.

Another dark elf, Nightshade Harvester seems like a pretty good start on bringing landfall down a notch, and I can play it in Golgari Elves. It’s a bit fragile, but grows fast. Maybe someday shamans will be more relevant, and there’ll be yet another reason to like this card. Expect it to eat a lot of removal, though.

By now, you may have seen how Opposition Agent makes friends with Maralen of the Mornsong, who just happens to be a great way to find it in the 99. I don’t advocate doing that to your friends or your enemies, but some people will. You can also use this as a general way to stop the rampant tutoring and ramping in today’s Commander meta, which is the assumed purpose. It’s a great human and rogue, too. I can’t stand tutoring myself, and would love to see more speedbump cards like this. But the Maralen interaction is really obnoxious.

Toxic monster Plague Reaver is really weird, but it seems like in a good way. One of the many many reasons that Commander is great is that giving your opponent a 6/5 isn’t really that big a deal. This could just end up like a strange chain of Mind Rots, but if you can make use of the discard or the sacrifice, this can be an even more intriguing card. Make sure you’re prepared at least to have it immediately sent back at you.

There aren’t that many cat demons, but Rakshasa Debaser sets the bar pretty high. As big as a Grave Titan and the same price, and while the Debaser comes without ETB or deathtouch, it can make a much bigger splash when it attacks. The Encore ability is expensive but impactful. It might end up being almost as good as some casts of Rise of the Dark Realms. This is pretty strong and will do lots of work.

The black Commander modal card is Szat’s Will, and it immediately looks better than some others because it’s instant speed. The first mode is alright. While the biggest thing isn’t always the thing you need to kill, it’s rarely the worst. The second mode is narrow, because you might go a whole game without any reason to nuke the graveyards, or there might not be any cards in graveyards, or any creatures, or any with a decent power number. But add it all up, and it’s possibly playable. If you have a plan for the tokens, jump on this. It might surprise you.

Phoenixes in Magic seem to either do very well, or be completely ignored. Arclight Phoenix and Rekindling Phoenix did well. Aurora Phoenix seems like it’ll be ignored. I’d rather have haste on a 2/3 or 3/3 body than 5/3, which I assume was the tradeoff. Cascade is fine, but at 6 CMC, you’re leaning heavily on the Cascaded card to carry the weight here. The recursion aspect seems narrow, and recurring this to hand doesn’t inspire, even if it nets another Cascade. I guess this gets an autopass in a Cascade deck, but otherwise probably just gets a pass.

In the past, Threaten effects attached to creatures have done alright. Zealous Conscripts is great, and Captivating Crew is mana-intensive, but also great. Coercive Recruiter should do just fine, and adds another cool pirate to the crew. A few pirates can even generate tokens, and there are plenty of ways to copy them in blue and red. Every new swabby is another Threaten. Good times on the high seas, and probably won’t cost ye much booty, matey.

Scary Court alert! This is the most expensive Court, at 5 CMC, but Court of Ire can potentially even protect itself by dealing out the judgement. I like damage-over-time effects, usually enchantments that ping my opponents for one or two on someone’s upkeep. Put a bunch together and the life totals drop fast. Stuff like Mogis, God of Slaughter, Skullcage, etc. While 2 damage to any target on your upkeep is hardly a clock, 7 definitely is. Throw in Torbran, Thane of Red Fell or Fiery Emancipation and that 2 looks pretty good by itself. Scary! But is it even the scariest?

I didn’t mean to write the words ‘fun pirate’ so often, but I’m increasingly glad about it. Here’s another fun pirate! Getting the Monarch on a pirate body is great for pirates, though Emberwild Captain is a pretty solid Monarch card in general. It’s great for protecting Courts, and since the damage is on attack not connection, you can even get the best of both worlds by blocking. This goes well with silly cards like Thantis, the Warweaver and Trove of Temptation and really hoses decks that keep a dozen cards in their hands at all times. The worst thing about this is fragility. Like many of the great creatures in this set, it’ll eat removal like crazy. Watch out for King Suleiman!

Getting an added cast when casting your Commander seems good, though it’ll pull from the cards you put in the deck, and can totally land on a lategame Sol Ring when you need it least. But variance is fun, and Flamekin Herald adds fun variance. This is probably best with some Partners, although triple Cascade off Maelstrom Wanderer seems like a must-do. Maybe see how many times we can Clone this guy. Good types, too.

All things considered Jeska’s Will is the Commander modal card that seems like it’ll be the most impactful. Both modes are good, as they put you ahead on resources, and getting both together is excellent. This might not be as crazy as some Mana Geysers, but getting 6-7 mana for 3 up front could make this cEDH playable. Same with the pseudo draw 3. It’s one of the good ones that lets you play lands you exiled. Probably a red staple going forward.

Alpha callback Wheel of Misfortune wraps up the red cards with a card that looks silly but could end up being bananas. Experimental Frenzy and Fires of Invention found success after initially looking like silver-bordered cards, and this likely will too. Some decks, like those helmed by Nekusar, the Mind-Razer, want to use all the wheel cards as damage anyway, so any result is great. As a reliable source of card draw, this might not be, and you can totally take the damage if you’re not careful. But drawing 7 cards is worth a lot of risk. Subgame cards like this can also be a lot of fun, but there’s a lot of fizzle potential here if everyone chooses 0 or 1. I’m sure people who regularly play mind games with their friends will get the best use out of this.

Who hasn’t wanted to buff their oozes? All the celebrities are doing it. As much as we shouldn’t dwell on what exactly a Biowaste Blob is comprised of, this threatens to be too slow to offer enough for the cost. Eventually, this card will drown the board in disgusting token copies of itself, but unless you’re packing Doubling Season or Parallel Lives and company, it’s going to be a long wait before they’re big enough to make any real impact. The fact that you need a Commander makes it even slower. Ooze tribal got a little better with this card, and it feels very Oozy, but yeah, really slow. It’s also pretty borderline for Changeling decks that love lords. I play one of those, and the lord effects I run have to have a buff plus a great ability. Competing with the likes of Knight Exemplar, Timber Protector and Greatbow Doyen is little out of this Ooze’s league.

When you go through the Court system, and you arrive at the highest Court of the land, it may be this one. The black and red Courts threaten to clock you quick, but a free creature in green, possibly every turn, is a positively terrifying verdict. This is an easy turn 2 play off of a Sol Ring and 3 off of a dork or rock or Rampant Growth. You might get attacked by an early agro guy, but this is Commander. How many people are playing early agro guys? Even if they are, and you played a dork, you might be able to block. And then it’s free creature city. I would do everything in my power to stop the Court of Bounty player from untapping with both this and the Monarch, but considering this also makes extra land drops, I think it’s just about kill on sight. Let’s just consider for a moment what crazy turn 3 or 4 free creatures could come along with a repeatable, free source of card draw. People play Blightsteel Colossus and Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. Avenger of Zendikar is pretty good early. Hornet Queen is going to make sure you hold on to the Monarch. Stonehoof Chieftain? If you’ve got a way to make token chumps, playing a card like Evolutionary Leap can sac a doomed chump that’s committed to blocking and turn it into next turn’s free haymaker. I think this Court’s ceiling is very, very high, and it plays well into most, if not all, green strategies. I feel like this should have cost 3GG.

Want to choose a flashy new creature to play for free on turn 3 with Court of Bounty? Try Dawnglade Regent. Double up on the Monarch, and ward off those pesky hexes. As much as this is fairly strong, and hexproof is great even if it’s conditional, what’s with the huge Elk? Aren’t Elk 3/3s? Careful relative creature sizing is long gone, and this could be pretty much any type. Would this break something if it were a dinosaur or other type that makes sense as an 8/8? I wouldn’t want to hard cast this if I could help it, and no trample or other evasion holds it back a bit. Cards like this seem to precede cards like Day of Judgment. Maybe not so flashy after all. Considering a lot of green cards win the game for about the same amount of mana, this underwhelms.

The green Commander modal spell, Kamahl’s Will is another instant, and possibly a good one. There’s a lot going on here. A lot. Both modes have some interesting moving parts. The first mode can be anything from a weenie-based alpha strike to a hedge against land destruction of any scale. The vigilance aspect means both attacking and tapping for mana are in play, and indestructible means those weenie lands can sometimes pull off a game-saving block. The elemental type is relevant too, and so is haste. We’ve seen this kind of card before, but Natural Affinity is the only other instant, and it’s not flexible at all like this is. Do we have a pretty sweet card, just on the first mode? Looks like. And the second mode is possibly also hot. I like fight cards, like Pounce, and I also like snipe cards, like Ambuscade. Both have pros and cons. Sometimes you want your creature to take the damage. But like Ambuscade, this allows you to use the creature damage as true removal, not a possible trade. Each of your creatures dealing damage ups the chance of it being a kill, and can even get you a bunch of damage triggers if your creatures don’t care who they damage, like Briarbridge Patrol or Greatbow Doyen. A deathtouch creature is always a great pairing with a card like this. Kamahl’s Will is extremely playable, and really potent. Green really does get the best stuff, doesn’t it?

The creature version of Natural Order, Magus of the Order is yet another degenerate way to get Progenitus out early, or Craterhoof Behemoth out medium late. Yawn. If you want your games to work out the same every time, play more cards like this. Not sure why this needed a 3/3 body, or why we needed this card. I really hope it’s unplayable.

Mega ramper Rootweaver Druid is an interesting take on land ramp. While this kind of card masquerades as a group-hug card, it’s really a ramp 3 for 3 mana with a body attached. To all opponents of anyone who plays this, as well as Tempt with Discovery, Collective Voyage, etc., pass every time. Every time. They don’t play a card like that because they want you to succeed. Chances are they’re planning on making 3 landfall triggers into a more powerful play than anything you’ll do with a couple extra mana, possibly before you get to even spend it.

Going by Sweet-Gum Recluse, eh? I think that was one of the things they used to call old Bill Wonka. This card has a lot of techy bits, but at 6CMC, is relying on the Cascaded spell to be good, like the above Aurora Phoenix. Yes Cascade tribal, yes spider tribal, yes green fun goodstuff. Maybe to a +1/+1 counter deck. No to a power level like that of Court of Bounty or Magus of the Order.

I’m pretty sure the first card you want to look at for an Amareth, the Lustrous deck is Bident of Thassa. Right? Type tribal? Artifact lands, enchantment creatures, Dryad Arbor? Mycosynth Lattice played fairly for a change? You could call it Everything is Everything. I want to build this deck. Cards like Whirler Rogue and Heliod, God of the Sun have big potential here. So does Sai, Master Thopterist. In general, Amareth is a fine dragon too, and would do well in a lot of 99s. Was Amareth’s hat designed by Kozilek?

Slow player Archelos, Lagoon Mystic seems perfect as the new Vehicles Commander. Not even kidding. Vehicles provide the perfect tap outlet for our durdly turtle, and Mobile Garrison even untaps him to tap again. If a judge or other important person comes over and tells you to stop tapping your turtle so much, you probably should. This is another deck I should probably build. Sultai vehicles is the kind of stupid I can get behind. Stay tuned for this one.

Leave it to 2020 Magic design to give us a way to ramp from exile. Ramp from Exile could totally be Meatloaf’s next comeback album. Kind of like Bat out of Hell but the Bat has trouble with stairs these days. What do I even write about Averna, the Chaos Bloom? It’s obvious what it does, and it goes in decks that Cascade. I could write pages about the potential of the 4/2 elemental shaman aspect, but lorem ipsum to that.

After hitting the parkour gym, Belbe, Corrupted Observer likes to sit down for a kale and brains smoothie, and just watch the chumps walk by. Maybe flex a little. This is an incredibly strange card. It’s entirely possible that you could gift your opponents as much as 4 colourless mana on each of their turns. I’m not sure if that’s worth what I guess is supposed to incentive them to turn on each other? Sure, you get as much as 6 extra mana on your turn, but you’re snack-sized, and will have to keep Belbe alive after the first time a table sees you make 6 easy mana every turn with something like Ill-Gotten Inheritance. There are a lot of black cards that swap life totals, control players, up damage via cards like Sower of Discord, and mess with plans. Maybe force some awkward choices with cards like Endless Whispers. Belbe ramps into big mana stuff pretty quick too, like the big demons. Could be a really cool deck here.

Fun with exile? Bell Borca, Spectral Sergeant almost makes me believe. The payoff is a little questionable, as the Commander’s power is all that our exiling really impacts, but high CMC cards in Boros could be a fun build. Combustible Gearhulk springs to mind immediately, and so does Azor’s Gateway. Sometimes it’s more about the surrounding cards than the Commander. Making use of the Exile Zone is something Magic design is doing more and more of. In subtle ways, but still. Making Exile a Zone rather than an acknowledgement of the world beyond the scope of the game made this inevitable.

Imp Impresario Blim, Comedic Genius looks like a pretty good new archetype in Rakdos Donate. There are plenty of creatures and enchantments that are ripe to be given away, like Abyssal Persecutor, Bronze Bombshell and Demonic Pact. You can even give your opponents something really stupid like Form of the Dragon. Comedy! Discard is tricky because it can be a major feelbad, not to mention a massive help for a graveyard deck, but this seems like it won’t be too harsh. Doing symmetrical discard can both allow you to go Hellbent in the Hellbent colours, and give you things to give away that won’t change how they work, like Bottomless Pit for example. Lots to work with here.

Bearded Tree Colfenor, the Last Yew does not excite me at all. Yup, he’s sleepy and slow, and he has all the tree abilities, like a big butt, vigilance, reach and shaman status, but the marquee ability is just… so… boring. Haven’t we seen this before? Wasn’t a very similar card Orah, Skyclave Hierophant in the last set? Not every card has to break new ground, or be powerful and splashy, but as far as 3 colour legends go, meh.

Fibre-optic repair technician Ghen, Arcanum Weaver looks pretty pleased about the job. I feel like you can do a deck around a legend like this in one of two ways. You can scour the archives for cool enchantments that have ETBs, or want to be sacrificed. Treacherous Blessing is a good example of both, and Ghen’s ability doesn’t target the sacrificed enchantment, so we can, uh, sacrifice it… before it’s sacrificed…. Anyhow, it works. That’s the value plan, I suppose. The other way is to say, oh hey we’re in a tutor colour and an enchantment tutor colour and we have access to Starfield of Nyx, and go from there. They might have the same endgame, who knows. The difference is in how much you want to have something like Starfield of Nyx every game, and what that allows. Does the deck assemble a toolbox in and out of the graveyard that Ghen is constantly swapping around, or does Ghen help the combo pieces get into play for the win? Another very interesting card with cool potential that I might do a deeper dive on.

They say two heads are better than one, but a lot of those animals get news coverage, then end up in a jar somewhere in a roadside curiosity show. Gnostro, Voice of the Crags looks to buck the trend with an awesome third head. What do the crags say? Well, unfortunately, I’m not sure the crags want Gnostro to speak for them. Gnostro wants you to cast spells, which is fine, and gives you some payoffs for casting them, but falls down on the one thing a flurry of spells really needs afterwards, and that’s a hand refill. Scry is great, but if I’m not drawing those cards, it’s not really good for spell flurry. Damage to a creature is fine, but I’d rather hit players or ideally, any target. Gaining life is fine, but it’s usually the weakest of any modal mode, and it definitely is here. None of the Curious Obsession and Ophidian Eye-type Auras help to draw cards for poor Gnostro. Sorry to say this one’s a mountain pass.

Who in their right mind would want protection from salamanders? I mean, honestly. Salamanders are awesome. This card confuses me. I don’t believe this dude’s name is Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist either. He looks like a Jason or a Craig who’s trying to get people to call him by what he says is his ‘salamander name.’ A lot of very silly decks will be built around this card, and probably a few serious ones, though I’m not sure if there’s any real worthwhile payoff for mowing down opposing salamanders. A lot of death trigger stuff is in black. This might need more support to be more than just a meme card.

SaffronOlive doppleganger Hans Eriksson has definitely inspired a lot of people. Those in my sphere are excited to have Hans fight the creatures that appear off the top of the deck. Super fun. However, I feel like anybody attempting to build this deck needs to consider how much it matters that you have to send Hans into combat to get the topdeck trigger. That means getting around summoning sickness and nasty defenders. I’m not saying it’s not doable, but that’s going to be a sizable chunk of your deck, and not having enough haste and protection for Hans is going to result in a lot of doing nothing. Not so fun. Cards like Darksteel Plate and Hammer of Nazahn will keep Hans alive, both during fights and combat. Having to rely on stuff like that to make the deck work is unfortunate, but it allows you to play cards that would otherwise kill Hans. Like the Lhurgoyf. Of course the ideal card for Hans to fight in his natural state is probably the Hornet’s Nest. Good idea, hilarious card, but possibly too awkward to really work.

Fabio and He-man had a baby, and the result is Jared Carthalion, True Heir. Giving an opponent the Monarch is new and interesting, and the payoff is kinda cool. I’m always a little skeptical of cards that push you into doing Commander damage, but doing damage to your own creatures with Blasphemous Act and Star of Extinction can be fun, and you can play cards like Brash Taunter, Stuffy Doll and even Mogg Maniac, a personal favourite of mine. The picture is priceless. He’s here for what’s his. Is it romance in the falling leaves? You know it. A sordid Fling for the win.

Wabbit Rizard Kwain, Itinerant Meddler is sort of a choose-your-own-adventure Commander. In that you have to come up with a strategy because the card doesn’t really suggest one. No Underworld Dreams or Tainted Remedy here. The bonus for opponents is real, including being optional even in the case of payoff for the wabbit player. Perhaps a vehicle deck faceoff with Archelos, Lagoon Mystic is in order, but otherwise this is a little open-ended for me. Not excited about it.

Somehow, the physics of Magic work in such a way that unicorns, alicorns, pegasi, and even mounted knights do not get the benefits of cards like Crested Sunmare. Just not enough Equipoise, I guess. While I don’t think Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn is exciting, I think it’s really solid, and would make a pretty good Commander. It offers a very real payoff for lifegain with +1/+1 counters, and the colours support those things beautifully. Having the trigger on every end step offers a deeper strategic threshold to play with, making this a card I would recommend to newer players to build a deck around that they can grow with. The creatures can be anyone’s creatures, BTW, so Generous Patron can ride along. A big win for the MLP crowd, too.

Commanders that mitigate the Commander tax, like Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow and Derevi, Empyrial Tactician have been really powerful in the past, and Liesa, Shroud of Dusk looks like she could be in the same category. This is quite strong. 5 mana for a 5/5 flying lifelinker would have seemed preposterously OP in some of Magic’s history, but not in 2020. There has to be much more. Here, the tax evasion ability is topical, and lifeloss can be turned into a positive in magic. Ask Children of Korlis. Then ask them where Korlis is at, and why not looking after the children. The lifeloss on spellcast ability is sicktwisted, but again, can easily be twisted for the Liesa player’s benefit. This is a dangerous toy in the hands of smart people.

Is the art on Nevinyrral, Urborg Tyrant based on the actual Larry Niven? It would make a cool book jacket photo. This card looks pretty good. The hexproof is strong, making tokens on ETB is great and gives Larry a strategic vector to pursue, and having a boardwipe stapled to your Commander is pretty great too. This should be very popular, for good reason, especially the colours. It competes with Varina, Lich Queen for Esper zombie deck dominance, but offers completely different abilities. This hardly seems oppressive at 6 CMC, but that might hold it back a bit too. It still dies to all the spell-based removal, and isn’t cheap enough to recur a lot as a boardwipe. I like this a lot as the new hot zombie Commander, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I say the exact same thing about another card in less than a year, and Larry fades into the background. Read Ringworld!

I really, really like Nymris, Oona’s Trickster. Flash has fans and devotees and needs more unifiers like this. This makes me want to build an all instant speed deck. It’s finally time for that Breaching Hippocamp I opened to do something other than collect dust! This even has some fun reanimator applications. The types are odd, but might open up some synergies, and the power/toughness is bizarre but super useful. Even the art is exciting. The drawback? 5CMC. This isn’t as fast as the art suggests, and is powerful enough to eat removal, making recasts and the tax something to consider.

Oh, Becca! We finally have a turn-ending Legend in the Command Zone. Mitigating the drawbacks of cards like Final Fortune is the dream of turn enders, and I’ve seen decks that abuse Sundial of the Infinite before. This is a bit of rules lawyer of a card, because there are going to be a few games where the sequences the Obeka player comes up with will require some explanation. You’ll definitely learn the difference between end of turn and end step. Like many Commanders on this list, Obeka will likely require some protection to live to see a second activation. Luckily being in a good colour for haste, a good one for counterspells and untapping, and a good one for recursion make that very possible. Watch out for Magic Judges with Obeka decks!

There was a simpler time, a purer time, when the stack meant the cookies you had next to your gaming area for sustenance. Pepperidge Farms remembers. In those days, we had a thing called manaburn. Each unspent mana at the end of a phase cost you 1 life point. It justified now incomprehensible cards like Power Surge, Mana Short and Pygmy Hippo. Well, now it’s back. By popular demand? Did we know we wanted this guy? At first glance, the vigilance is an eye-roller. That means they think you can attack with this guy and still use the activation. Hey, you never know, but you probably shouldn’t be attacking with this. You should be saving it to tap during opposing draw phases or the late stages of Combat, when it’s tough and awkward to use the mana before it turns into damage. You can use it to do timely things yourself, but 3 mana is a lot to give an opponent unless you’re sure they’ll have trouble using it. Having a bunch of static mana sinks on hand for yourself is pretty key here, I think. I’d be wary of things like Mana Flare and Overabundance as they might help rather than hurt opposing plans. Cards like Arcane Laboratory or Eidolon of Rhetoric might help, but wrong colours. I’d look for mechanics like that, though. Perhaps Conqueror’s Flail or Damping Matrix which shuts off a few opposing options can start to form a shell for Yurlok of Scorch Thrash, but we’ll see. I’m skeptical, but hopeful that this guy can work as a Commander.

Coming to us from the bottom of the alphabet is Zara, Renegade Recruiter. Of course I have to say she’s a fun pirate, though the picture looks a little dour. Needs more parrot. And why is she flying? Maybe it’s a huge parrot, and they’re all standing on it. That makes sense. This is potentially powerful, and potentially a lot of fun, but be warned. No opponent wants you to do this to them. You get to see their hand and smack them with their own toy. Not a feelgood. I think this is better in 99s than as a Commander because at least they won’t see it coming, but either way pack a lot of haste to make sure this turns sideways at least once. As a Commander, prepare to pay the tax. At least you know that if Zara dies immediately, the killer is probably packing something amazing in their hand. Hooray? If I were building this one, it’d be few creatures, really big mana, and some card draw for everyone. You might need Cyclonic Rift and friends to keep the heat off, but I’m sure fun can be had.

Bonus coverage! Blazing Sunsteel is one of the two exclusive rares to the Boros precon. While the CMC is nice, being in red is limiting, and the equip cost is a lot. Luckily, the effect is well worth it, giving a tidy little power bonus alongside a nasty effect similar to that on Stuffy Doll, Brash Taunter and Mogg Maniac. I feel like I’ve referenced those three cards before. Lots of ways to stack those effects up, but watch out for replacement effects that turn the damage into something else entirely. Great piece of equipment, despite the equip cost.

While Auras are not widely played, Timely Ward at least does something desirable, and that’s protect the Commander. It’s probably fine for an Aura Commander, like Bruna, Light of Alabaster, but gets a shrug from me.

In a somewhat unusual move for a Hydra, Stumpsquall Hydra is a base 1/1. There are only 3 others, and none have X in the CMC. Fun facts all around. This is probably a solid role player for Commanders like Pir, Imaginative Rascal paired with Toothy, Imaginary Friend, but doesn’t do much for me. You can totally target opposing Commanders, which is something some people might jump at, and is a sneaky bit of strategic potential that could make this into something better than I’m seeing now.

All the way to the bottom of the column! In the deeps, we find the Trench Behemoth, which is an expensive Landfall engine in a not-so-Landfall colour. The Landfall-not-landfall ability reminds me a bit of Geode Rager, and this is probably a whole lot of awesome in a hybrid Landfall/Sea Monster deck. Glad that archetype is getting some love. Rampaging Baloths and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle are like, two whole Zendikars ago.

Wow, that was a long one, and I’ve still got Uncommons, Commons, Partners and Reprints to go! Hope you’re not as braindead as I am after all this. Thanks for reading! Your life matters! Black Lives Matter!

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