Hey magic people. It’s part 3 of my Commander Legends Review, and we’re into some extremely juicy cards: the uncommons! I love uncommons. There are plenty of strong ones, and rarely do they seem to be a problem in terms of design or balance. Rarely. Let’s not talk about Veil of Summer. They’re also cheap, for the most part. I love getting tons of play value out of card that’s worth a quarter, and has been ignored by a large part of the Magic community. Not me, not here. Check out these new, cheap beauties. (Reprints will be covered in a future post, main review page here.)
It’s kind of funny how a card like Guildless Commons didn’t already exist. While this is kind of a shrug overall, it is a nice new tool for colourless decks to play with, as well as an additional bounce land that can go in any deck, for Landfall purposes, say. I’m happy it’s available, because there was no reason for it not to be printed eventually.
While many of the parts of Ingenuity Engine seem like ingenious engines, the CMC is pretty hard to swallow. Sure you get a massive cascade out of it, but the activated ability of the card is incongruous with being expensive. This should be a cheap enabler, not a questionable late game play. Not excited.
While Kangee’s Lieutenant seems pretty little, cheap lord effects like this can add up quickly, even if they’re tied to combat. Azorius flyers has done well in Standard and Modern occasionally, and all the tools are there for Commander decks. A 3 mana flyer lord is decent at base, but the Encore here can add several flying bodies plus some serious buffs for an alpha strike. All from the graveyard at a reasonable cost. You can even get a lot out of the fact that the Encores are tokens. I like this.
Tapdown effects rarely rule the roost, but Merchant Raiders has at least the fact that it’s a pirate and helps remove blockers going for it. Admiral Beckett Brass can definitely use this, and having the tapdown be repeatable on pirate ETB is totally a great weapon for the Admiral. Other than a pirate deck however, this isn’t so great. Blink decks can do better, as can human decks, as can Changeling decks. Probably great in pirate-themed cubes and Battleboxes.
Like the above pirate, Demonic Lore is great in a few specific concepts, and questionable outside them. New legends Ghen, Arcanum Weaver and Obeka, Brute Chronologist would like this right away, most likely. Something like Shattergang Brothers or Korvold, Fae-Cursed King might too, but you really have to be able to get rid of this thing the turn you cast it. New rakdos Donate Commander Blim, Comedic Genius might enjoy it as a very real ticking clock to pass to an opponent.
Some Monarch cards just make me happy, and Feast of Succession is right up there. I like specific numbers on stuff like this, because it’s both janky and strategic. Sure, royal Languish here doesn’t kill everything, and the biggest is often the worst, but it clears out most token armies and eats smaller indestructible creatures for lunch. What it doesn’t specifically do is kill creatures with 5 or more toughness, which is just what we want if we’ve just given our opponent our Xantcha, Sleeper Agent. I used Languish in my version of that deck to great effect. I love this for Battleboxes.
Another top-notch new black uncommon, Nadier’s Nightblade is quite the drain engine. It’s even a little something new, as the tokens will trigger if they are bounced or exiled instead of just killed. I’m curious what happens if you Insurrection, take a player’s token army, and then kill them with it. Will the other players get drained for each of the tokens that have ceased to exist because the player lost the game? This pairs well with pretty much all black token strategies, from thrulls to zombies to elves to vampires to snakes to spirits. It’s even a 1/3 as opposed to a 2/2, which makes it a shade more survivable. Lovely. Don’t be surprised if this kills you some day! Expect to see it from Massacre Girl for sure, under an massive pile of triggers.
Dark elves really got a shot in the arm from this set. Pride of the Perfect is expensive for a lord that only adds a total of 2 to power and toughness, but I’d almost always have +2/+0 versus +1/+1 given the choice. Add that it’s an enchantment and will survive the boardwipes your elves didn’t, and we’ve actually got something here. It’s not tough to generate 1/1 elf tokens, and having them be 3/1s is pretty sweet. Aggressive Changeling decks might look at this, too. Narrow, but I like it.
I’m shocked Vow of Torment didn’t already exist. I looked it up, and we already have Vow of Malice, so now you can double down on your vows in black. Sounds like a wedding or something. I quite like the Vow cards, as they function surprisingly well as removal and encourage interesting gameplay. They work a lot like Goad, and if you get a lot of mileage out of Goad effects, try the Vows, too. A Commander like Thantis, the Warweaver likes Vows, and there are many others.
Combining a scaling power ability with trample is a great way to package up a killshot. Coastline Marauders is totally up for it, as putting lands in play is what a lot of decks do very well. This could do well in both humans and pirates. The first time it’s out, it’s probably small, but the Encore effect is a possible alpha strike for all. There are plenty of group hug decks out there that might see this as an ideal finisher, too. Dat Encore. Only 6 mana. Plus any deck that likes to do multiple combats. I’ve played Xenagos, God of Revels as a Commander for a really long time, and while this might look good for Xenagos, remember that the god’s ability triggers at the beginning of combat, and this triggers when announced as an attacker. Not the order we want. Ah well. Still awesome. Don’t be surprised if you’re killed by one of these after a deck lets you put tons of your lands into play.
Some cards look pretty questionable until you look at them the right way. For 6 mana, and based on the text, Explosion of Riches isn’t something I want to cast. Too random, too likely to help my opponents, and not enough of a bang for 6 mana. But… I’d totally put this in a deck that’s looking to copy spells a lot. Put a bunch of copies of this on the stack and you may have something. Still could be random though, and gift your opponents the cards they need to finish you. ‘Target opponent chosen at random’ is an interesting phrase. Does that mean if one opponent has Witchbane Orb they’re not considered for the RNG roll, or they’re in the roll, and it fizzles if it hits them? Judge please!
Using a pile of treasure tokens to kill a table is probably on a pirate’s bucket list, and Fathom Fleet Swordjack is the guy to do it. Again, we have a reasonably costed pirate that can do some serious damage with a wacky scaling attack trigger. And that’s not all, the scale goes one larger with the Encore. Again, 6 mana. Again, could kill a table. This guy looks like a slam dunk for decks that poop artifacts like servos and thopters everywhere, too.
Not all of the powerful new orcs are pirates, as Frenzied Saddlebrute can attest. Being a warrior is a great thing, because of the tribal synergy available in Commanders like Najeela, the Blade Blossom, but being a haste enabler gets you a look from every deck that can cast you. This is pretty awesome, as well as pretty unique. It goes in the Goad line of thinking, where letting opponents kill each other is part of your plan, and is a big hasty body itself for a reasonable cost. Passive haste effects for you entire team don’t grow on trees, either. This is a little risky, but can be very playable.
As far as Cascading 6-drops go, I’d take a piece of equipment over a derpy creature, I think. A big power bonus and trample aren’t bad, and the equip cost isn’t the worst. I think this is is fine for a Commander like Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale, but it nonbos with Godo, Bandit Warlord as you want to cast it for the Cascade. Every other good red equipment Commander can take a look here and kick the tires, but it’s no automatic include. A new printing might make this great, like a Commander version of Kazuul’s Toll Collector, but that’s kind of what Syr Gwyn is. I’d try it in a Battlebox.
Counting the number of spells you’ve cast and then turning it loose with Tendrils of Agony, Grapeshot or Empty the Warrens is a time-tested Magic strategy that has got tons of enabler cards banned in 60 card formats. Volcanic Torrent is a Storm card at heart, but no matter how many spells you fire off, doesn’t touch your opponents’ life totals. Interesting sweeper potential for spellslinger decks, but not a finisher by any means. That clashes with the fact that you want to cast it as the bottom of a pile of spells. I think this is awkward in a bad way, but I could be wrong.
Whether the rest of your elves are alive or dead, the Abomination of Llanowar counts them all. Menace is okay, and vigilance means a menacing blocker, but without trample or any sort of native self-protection, this is probably just a big vanilla dork. Good CMC, though.
I really like Encore. It’s on strong creatures with splashy effects, it makes tokens, and the tokens even die, if you’re into death triggers. The idea that we can give Encore to all sorts of wacky ETB effect creatures is a great thing. Araumi of the Dead Tide stands to be powerful, fun and splashy as a Commander. A nice CMC, a good toughness, and no additional mana investment into the activation are all big pluses for this card. Self mill will be required, which not all players can stomach, but that means the Araumi deck could be a mill deck itself. Tons of possibilities here, and great types means it could totally be in a lot of 99s, including dimir powerhouses The Scarab God and Lazav, the Multifarious.
As much as I love a lot of the new pirates, I think Captain Vargus Wrath is one for the cutting room floor. As a Commander, his ability only gets better as he dies, which isn’t ideal, because recasting your Commander isn’t casting other things. He could do okay in a pirate Partners deck, where you might have a base +2/+2 from casting your Commanders, but this guy has to attack for that bonus to trigger. I’d take a static +1/+1 to all pirates over this. Sorry, Vargus, too many hoops to jump through. Save em for your ears.
Does Hamza, Guardian of Arashin have any potential in a Modern Affinity or Hardened Scales deck? As a possible 2 mana 5/5, who knows. This seems pretty solid, if not exciting. I bet you can build a pretty good +1/+1 counter deck around the elephant warrior, or toss him into an existing one. I imagine you could do all creatures like Arcbound Ravager, Endless One or Ugin’s Conjurant and cast them for free. Could be fun.
I imagine that most of the Cascades from the Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty Commander deck will be a 6 drop into a ramp spell. If your Commander is 5CMC, and wants you to cast 6 drops, the mana acceleration is essential to get you there. I think the fizzle potential is pretty real. Maybe not fizzle but ho-hum, as you’ll be stacking up mana. Toss this in the Maelstrom Wanderer deck and forget about it, or push the envelope with Apex Devastator and see how many Cascade triggers you can get off a single 10-mana spell.
If your Juri, Master of the Revue deck wins, you can say you were Judge, Juri and Executioner. While it doesn’t have a native sacrifice enabler in itself, the rakdos colours are full of them to enable Juri to be huge. Then you can wander into all sorts of dangerous situations with him. That part sounds fun, and I can imagine a deck full of cheap self-sacrificers like Executioner’s Capsule, or maybe a super expensive deck starring The Abyss and Diamond Valley for a sort of Perilous Travel Revue. Either way, All is Dust is probably a good idea. I can see myself building this one.
Before this latest Kangee, Kangee, Sky Warden, there was Kangee, Aerie Keeper, and they could totally roost in each other’s 99. There are lots of blue-white-bird-wizard-flyers-matter cards, and few of them are expensive. This is a great budget Commander, and a great introductory Commander for newer players. It even introduces some of the complexities of combat without making it look daunting. Some hilarious and maybe little known bird cards include Aerie Worshippers, Ageless Sentinels, Airborne Aid, Animal Sanctuary, Aven Brigadier, Aven Wind Guide, Azorius Keyrune, Battle Screech, Celestial Gatekeeper, Crookclaw Elder, Jotun Owl Keeper, Seaside Haven, Skycat Sovereign, the truly special Soraya the Falconer and the amazing Soulcatchers’ Aerie. I play the last two in a Changeling deck. Crookclaw Elder too. Birds ftw. Take a flock on the wild side.
Equipment lovers, rejoice! Reyav, Master Smith is here to double up all the combat damage triggers from your ‘Swords of,’ like Sword of Feast and Famine. Having that same effect for Auras is gravy, and totally not necessary for this guy to be great. The types need some help, and don’t offer much synergy, but the CMC is just what a boros Equipment deck wants. Could be big money, with the Swords, or super budget with basics and Equipment like Mask of Memory. Or go all Auras! Another great uncommon.
We now know that the clerics are here to Party. Thalisse, Reverent Medium is a great cleric for the partiers, and has a terrific midrange CMC for Orah, Skyclave Hierophant. She’s great with the various Teysas, and anything that does tokens at all. Flying creature tokens are just about the best tokens to make, because they can do so much. I think there are tons of fun synergies to try out, and the only real drawback is the 5 CMC in non ramp colours. This is another uncommon Commander that could spawn a range of decks from the absurdly expensive, to the extremely cheap, and all be fun and competitive.
The last uncommon on the menu today is Tuya Bearclaw. I’m assuming the Diaglu in the flavour text is the bear. While this is a fine warrior creature, and could be a great addition to a deck helmed by Zilortha, Strength Incarnate aka Buy-a-boxzilla, doesn’t get there as a Commander for me. It could be fun with a pile of jank like Blistering Barrier, Nessian Boar, and a bunch of Firebreathing creatures. Captive Flame would be good, and for Godzilla, too. Maybe cost reduced powerhouses like Ghalta, Primal Hunger and Avatar of Might or vehicles like Demolition Stomper could be the way the deck rolls, but it’s Commander Damage for the win, most likely. If that’s your thing, and you like the big Gruul monsters, you probably can’t go wrong here.
Overall, the non-Partner uncommons are a pretty inspiring bunch. I would happily take on almost all of these cards. The non-Partner Legendaries in this set are pretty good. Some are pretty blah, and a few raise eyebrows, but most look to be fun, safe and fair. Good stuff, Wizards. Thanks for reading! Your life matters. Black Lives Matter!