The Commander Legends review rolls on! Time to see the noble common under the microscope. These ones are the new ones, not reprints. Are they princes or paupers? For the review roundup page, go here. I’m leaving out The Prismatic Piper, which will end up my Uncommon and Common Partners review. Coming soon. For now, the chaff will speak!
Near the top of the Cascade curve is Maelstrom Colossus. The big idiot 7/7 body is sadly not enough of the 8CMC to make this playable on its own. If you can discount it with Saheeli, the Gifted or have it be part of a Cascade deck, it’s going to be fine. Kinda ho-hum, though, and really leaning on the Cascaded card. If that’s the biggest baddest 7 drop in your deck, amazing, if it’s Fyndhorn Elves, not so much.
While there is a Brago, King Eternal reference in the flavour text, this little beauty falls short of what’s played with a Commander like that. That being said, Staunch Throneguard is the ONLY Monarch card in colourless, not counting Throne of the High City. That’s significant, because the Monarch is awesome enough that a turkey of a creature like this might be worth it. Mono red artifact commanders like Daretti, Scrap Savant can definitely find a use for this. My colourless Kozilek, the Great Distortion deck loves card draw, and is a little short on 5 drops. I can even use the 5 toughness to keep some of the early heat off until I can drop a titan or two. Sweet.
Angels these days resemble modern fighter craft more than cute cherubs, and 6CMC for a 3/5 flyer is pretty lacklustre. Anointer of Valor has a pretty sweet ability, however. We’ve seen it on Jubilant Mascot, and I like that card, but it can’t activate on the opponents’ turns. The Anointer is a little cheaper to activate, too. There are all sorts of things you can do with +1/+1 counters, so this might fit some weird niche and be great. If they do a Legend version of Generous Patron in white, this is a great choice for that 99.
Auras can be tricky to play with, but Benevolent Blessing could be useful for Tuvasa the Sunlit, Bruna, Light of Alabaster or Krond the Dawn-Clad. Flash makes a big difference, and protection can be one of the best things going. You can’t choose colourless, which is never insignificant, but not removing your coloured stuff is pretty great. This is okay, but pretty niche. Auras in a nutshell.
Coming in with an absurdly cheap Encore cost is a new kithkin, how about that? Are kithkin about to make a comeback? Probably not. As ‘common’ as the base creature is, Kinsbaile Courier costs the same in back as up front, which isn’t bad for potentially 3 attacking token creatures and 3 +1/+1 counters. Anointed Procession or Doubling Season really push this little guy hard. I think this might be sneaky good from the graveyard, and plays really well with some big time cards that a lot of people already play. Almost all of the Encore cards are really interesting, and this is no exception.
I quite like Azure Fleet Admiral. Decent cost, okay stats, but the Monarch is always great, and having a built-in way to get it back if you lose it is amazing. This could crack a lot of human, pirate and blink lists, and maybe some others.
I don’t like Fall from Favor as much as most other Monarch cards. The tapdown enchantments in blue need help in general, and the Monarch should be a difference maker, but the huge swing of losing the Monarch and the tapdown is a feelbad. This gets a pass from me.
Counterspells in Commander are tough to use, as they require precise timing to matter, amid three opponents. They have to either save the game, or provide some added value, like Mana Drain or Spell Swindle. I personally like Desertion, and I think Summary Dismissal is something to consider, but I’m not high on Forceful Denial, even though the extra value is a whole other spell. The timing is an issue. Responding to an opponent’s play is not a great time for your random spell. Holding up 5 mana can be tough too. Pass.
The hang-gliding pirates known as kitesails have a pretty good pedigree already. Kitesail Freebooter is a cross-format staple, showing up in big-time humans lists, mostly in Modern. Kitesail Skirmisher is unlikely to crack any format but Commander, but it’s okay. I don’t think this is that amazing an Encore card, but several flying tokens that make other things flying aren’t bad. The pirate decks in particular might need some flyers and some ways to get through blockers. Having that stashed in the graveyard is cool. Encore ftw.
One of the biggest swings in CMC to Encore cost is from Trove Tracker, which might be a decent enough chump to be playable. Blue isn’t so much of a death trigger colour, but you can find ways for this to die easily. Since Encore is sorcery-speed only, spending seven mana to send out some chumps and draw cards might not be the same power-level as some of the others, which is funny to say, but some of these others enable game-ending plays. I think this is barely playable, but the more you make use of the human, pirate and death trigger aspects, the more it looks ok.
With an recursion cost less than its CMC, Briarblade Adept gives the Golgari elves some sweet Encore. As a semi-reliable weenie remover, this isn’t so great and costs too much, but the cheap Encore and the likelihood that you’re doing something with elf tokens makes this worth considering for the dark elves. Assassin isn’t so supported as a creature type, but every year some new type gets love. This could be in the Assassin deck too, if it ever emerges.
With a cheap cost and a death trigger in the best colour for it, Elvish Doomsayer is off to a good start. Nath of the Gilt-Leaf and Teysa Karlov probably really like this. There actually aren’t many cards that force a discard on death, so this is kind of unique, too.
There are a lot of random cards that beg to be teamed up with Doubling Season, and Exquisite Huntmaster is the latest. Tokens galore. Teysa Karlov, too. What really intrigues me here is that it’s a warrior. This could do a lot for Najeela, the Blade-Blossom. An encore creature with a death trigger seems self-synergistic. Love it.
Here’s another creature with a death trigger, which is also an elf that makes elf warrior tokens. This one mills, to stuff the graveyard for Encores and such. I think the CMC is too much, though. Eyeblight Cullers has enough moving parts that some deck might love it, it just has a ton of amazing competition at 5CMC in black. Without an Encore or Cascade angle to shoot, you can probably get a bigger bang for your skulls.
While a bunch of the six mana Cascade spells are a little on the dud side, I think Boarding Party has some solid potential. It impacts the board immediately with a very high power, giving it some of the same juice that made Bloodbraid Elf so good. The elf was perfectly positioned to smash into Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and fire off some other Jundy spell, too. For the Boarders, most of the great pirate and human spells fit under six mana and could be Cascaded into. I like it.
As another 4 drop Monarch-producing pirate, Crimson Fleet Commodore is totally playable. Do you think his ogre Mama is proud of her son the officer? I’ll bet she’s glad she didn’t eat him after all. 5/2 trample is funny body to add to the Monarch, but it’s also a sneaky way to get it back. Nothing like a well-dressed, well-spoken ogre to make the other Shreks look like a bunch of Donkeys.
Do you like tokens? So many decks like them. So many decks like goblin tokens, and artifact tokens, and mana producing tokens. The list is very long. Impulsive Pilferer looks like he could crack them all. I’m still kinda sorting out the math on this guy, and where it’s the nastiest. Daretti, Scrap Savant? Krenko, Mob Boss? Purphoros, God of the Forge? Three of the top mono red Commanders should take an immediate look at this little guy, as should anything that plays around with artifacts, like Saheeli, the Gifted or Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer. The only thing holding this back, potentially, is having fewer than three opponents. It’s even a great blocker, as it threatens to turn into a pile of treasure if you attack into it. Or just use it to ramp to 8 mana on turn 5, after discarding it to Tormenting Voice or something. Awesome. I’d rather have this than most of the Mythics in this set.
Dinosaurs were officially established in Ixalan, and have had a steady trickle of new cards ever since. The latest, Annoyed Altisaur is merely ok in the greater scheme of things, but having built a dinosaur deck myself, I would probably play it. The dinos are weak in the air, suffer from low natural card advantage, and really get the most out of big bodies with trample. This is all of those things, and if you’re doing dinos, 7CMC is probably what you’re aiming for most of the time anyway. Ramp hard, and don’t overlook this guy.
Encore creatures seem to have the edge when it comes to setting up weird, narrow alpha strikes. Fin-Clade Fugitives are the version of Christmasland where each opponent has an army of 1/1 Saproling tokens and less than 7 life. I do like salamanders, and this is a rogue for your weird salamander theme Parties, but outside limited and Battleboxes, I don’t see anyone playing this. Maybe some kind of elf token deck, like under Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen or Ezuri, Renegade Leader. Check back in a year when Party has the D&D set under its belt, but looking at the art, this is weird for weird’s sake.
Last among the new commons is Natural Reclamation. I think the direct comparison is actually Reclamation Sage. While you get a 4ish drop at instant speed from Natural Reclamation is it better than getting a 2/1 elf body for 2 mana less mana? The body has a pretty good pedigree of synergy with other elves, blink, ETB bonuses and recursion. Not saying you can’t play both, but I’m betting the high CMC mostly isn’t worth it here. Could be wrong, but the answer window to nasty artifacts and enchantments can be narrow, and holding up 5 mana in green is not usually green’s style. Probably just one for the Cascade decks.
Since we’ve come to the end of the commons, and the Encore cards, I wanted to say a word or two about Encore. When Encore creatures leave the graveyard, they trigger Syr Konrad, the Grim and Desecrated Tomb. The ability can be copied by Lithoform Engine and Rings of Brighthearth. Encore can be made cheaper by Embalmer’s Tools and Zirda, the Dawnwaker.
Encore can’t be made cheaper by Heartstone or Training Grounds or Biomancer’s Familiar, and Necrotic Ooze can’t copy the ability because it requires the card to exile itself from the graveyard as part of the cost. Same with Skill Borrower if the Encore card is on top of your deck. Encore tokens die at end of turn, as a sacrifice. Those are triggers you can use, both the death and the sacrifice. Ending the turn via Sundial of the Infinite or Obeka, Brute Chronologist will keep the creatures alive another turn, but they will be sacrificed at the next available end step.
Well that’s it for the new Commons. Like with the Uncommons, I’m pretty happy with what I see. There’s some good power, great abilities, and most of all, playable cards in Magic’s biggest format. Encore! Encore! Thanks for reading! Your life matters. Black Lives Matter!