Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate looks like it’s going to make a big impact on Constructed Commander, and the Limited format looks like a ton of fun as well. I’m very excited to draft it, but we’re not here to talk about draft today. We’re here for my full Constructed-focused review of the precon-exclusive cards from this set!
As a reminder, my focus is on social Commander rather than competitive EDH. These days, I’ve been leaning more toward a desire to play three 40-minute games in lieu of one two-hour slog, but I’ll be talking about cards from the wider social perspective. My goal when playing Commander is for everyone to have fun but also for me to have a good shot at winning the game – or at least doing the thing my deck set out to do – so if that’s your mindset as well, these reviews will probably resonate with you. I won’t be reviewing reprints, so you can just assume I feel the same way about Fireball as I did before we found out it was in this set. I also don’t review every card – if I feel they’re not worth mentioning, I don’t give them a write-up, but we all know there’s a deck out there for every card. In particular, if I don’t mention a card with one of the set’s core mechanics, my thoughts can likely be summarized as “Decent in a deck focused on that mechanic, not great outside of it.” When you inevitably disagree with a review (or think I skipped something good), please feel free to tweet at @RagingLevine with your thoughts!
One other note: for each commander with Choose a Background, I’ll let you know which background I’m most excited about pairing with that commander in Constructed!
Horror tribal with a mill theme, you say? Consuming Aberration is right at home in the N’ghathrod preconstructed deck, and we can absolutely add in Geralf’s Mindcrusher for some additional mill and recursion value. While this Captain N lacks the powerful controller belt from the cartoon, he can certainly give opponents pause with a lot of the powerful mill cards from the last few years like Maddening Cacophony, Court of Cunning and yes, Bruvac.
I’m usually an instigator myself, but it’s nice to have some help. That’s where Firkraag comes in – attack with Dragons, do some goading and profit! You only get to goad one creature per player you attack with a Dragon, but that’s fine. Firkraag isn’t restricted to opposing creatures that are required to attack, so while goading opposing creatures with other effects or just putting together Fumiko the Lowblood and some Propaganda effects can also be profitable, you can also build up a force of your own must-attackers with cards like Goblin Assault. I’m really glad to see Pursued Whale made the list here, as it’s a fantastic choice.
It’s party time! Cards like Coveted Prize from ZNR obviously fit right in with Nalia’s party-centric mechanics. Don’t be afraid to do a little tutoring to fill your party up, especially with cards like Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire that put cards on top of your library. I think leaning into Cleric synergies is a good call in Orzhov – you can easily supplement that with changelings, Mirror Entity and just a few resilient cards from each other class in the party.
This background wants us to build some tribal synergies up, so the question is this: who’s the best Background-enabled commander for a tribal focus? Why, it’s Burakos, Party Leader! We may not be casting a ton of Orcs, but given that Burakos is also a Cleric, Rogue, Warrior and Wizard, the tribal focus of that deck should give us the opportunity to hit a draw trigger each turn. Ideally we can get some flash nonsense going in order to draw cards on opponents’ turns also.
With plenty of great new artifacts to sacrifice like Nimblewright Schematic and Prized Statue, it’s easy to imagine lining Clan Crafter up alongside cards like those along with Ichor Wellspring and friends. As far as a commander, Clan Crafter could go quite well with Safana, Calimport Cutthroat in a Dimir initiative/artifact deck that pumps out treasures and artifact creature tokens with an eye toward generating a wide board for optimal Clan Crafting.
Zellix, Sanity Flayer
Mill time, huh? We want to mill creature cards specifically, because that will allow us to get some Horror tokens. If we’re really serious about mill, Dimir is the clear answer, and I think that actually makes Haunted One a great option. Zellix and our other Horrors will get a power boost and undying until end of turn whenever we activate the mill ability if Haunted One is in play – that boosts our tokens, but we should also play more Horrors to make this work.
Burakos, Party Leader
Creating four Treasure tokens a turn seems like an incredible reward for attacking, so we need to build a party and keep Burakos on the battlefield. Seasoned Dungeoneer, Reconnaissance and Equipment can help with that. I’d be happy to give Burakos a Noble Heritage to add some counters for better swings, but Folk Hero really seems like the best call overall.
Any Background-compatible commander with a tribal focus will love this. Burakos is already black, so that’s probably not the best choice. Zellix makes sense, as mentioned earlier, but any Dragon-focused commander like Ganax could work as well. That said, Karlach could be fun, though you will be playing some weird Tieflings and Barbarians if you choose to go that route. The undying makes me want to play something combat-focused, though, so perhaps Karlach is the right call.
Baeloth Barrityl, Entertainer
Okay, we need to pump Baeloth up immediately so that everything is goaded. With a five-mana commander that’s likely to be a target, we’re going to need a lot of mana. If we want to pump up Baeloth and ramp a bunch, the most logical choice of Background is… you guessed right, it’s Raised by Giants! Let’s go red/green, get Baeloth some Baloths, and wade into the brawl while everyone else is fighting each other. Perfect timing!
Well, Durnan of the Yawning Portal is absolutely casting spells from exile, and we can throw in some suspend, Adventure and other vanilla exile-casting in order to deal some big damage. Durnan even discounts the spells we’re casting, but that doesn’t change how much damage is being dealt by our very passionate historical preservation hobby. I suppose the flavor is more “you found something powerful, wild and dangerous”, but I think there’s other headcanon here to explore.
Durnan of the Yawning Portal
Like I just mentioned, I think this pairs best with Passionate Archaeologist. Undaunted is a fun returning mechanic here, albeit one I did not expect to see tacked onto the end of a long paragraph. We do need to make sure Durnan can survive some combats, so you could also pair him up with Agent of the Shadow Thieves or Sword Coast Sailor, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable to suit him up with Equipment or Auras to keep him combat-viable. Throw in some high-cost monsters like Apex Devastator and even some Eldrazi to discount!
Deep Gnome Terramancer
Fetchlands trigger this, as do most ramp spells and tons of other effects that put lands onto the battlefield. It won’t catch you up to the player putting three lands on the battlefield a turn, but if everyone is using fetches and being moderately fair, you’ll be the one who’s really far ahead. The flash here is really nice but also feels unnecessary, as this is already incredibly powerful. I’m sure we’ll see this in basically every white deck for a while.
Harper Recruiter, Seasoned Dungeoneer, Stick Together
I threw these three cards together because they are rad in party-focused decks but not really applicable outside of them unless you’re fully changeling tribal. They’re so straightforward! I do like Seasoned Dungeoneer a lot with Burakos in particular since you’ll be able to sneak him through and get some extra value off the explore.
If you’re up against a lot of blink/ETB-focused decks, this is a solid counterplay card, but it’s very specifically aimed. It’s also a Horror, which matters for some of the cards we’ve already seen, so if you really need to go Horror Tribal, you’ll probably throw in Aboleth Spawn for some value.
This only discounts your first artifact spell each turn, but if it’s around for just a couple of turns, you’re already getting all of your mana back. Once you hit level two, you get your card back, and if you really feel like getting to level three, you’re getting a copy of your best artifact every turn. This can honestly fit in any artifact list that includes blue – it’s not super splashy unless you do hit level three, but the discount is fantastic if you do land it on an early turn. That said, cards like Etherium Sculptor do a better job of the discounting, so it may just be unnecessary in higher-powered decks. The token ability makes me think of Brudiclad.
This card’s wild. It’s certainly dependent on having a lot of Horrors and having a good artifact to steal abilities from. I suppose at some point you just copy a Sol Ring and use your Horrors as mana rocks. This also works just fine in the Tribal Tribal world with a bunch of changelings, I suppose.
A Stunt Double that only copies opposing creatures? Sure. The flavor here is pretty hilarious – you see your doppelganger and you fly into a rage, but for some reason that rage is totally misdirected anywhere but the location of your new double. For decks full of clones, this is a fun clone!
Yet another card that demands a large amount of Horrors to really maximize it. Since your Horrors should be milling people, it all makes perfect sense. Consuming Aberration ahoy!
Black Market Connections
If you’re into paying life to make some of your Witherbloom synergies work (see Willowdusk, Essence Seer), this is a solid pickup, especially if you have plenty of other life gain synergies to offset this. I’m not suddenly back in on Phyrexian Arena or anything, but the ability to modulate how much life you’re spending each turn and what you’re getting out of it seems really interesting. I’m super into paying a life each turn for a Treasure, and honestly, I think that might be the best mode here. How does this only cost three mana?
Well, it’s obviously brainswitch! That’s the whole premise of Knights of Necropolis. Brainstealer Dragon rewards you explicitly for playing your opponents’ cards, which is rad for anyone playing a Tasha deck, because you’re getting extra value! It’s nice to have a direct reason to cast other players’ cards beyond “it’s fun to do so”, but also, it’s fun to cast their stuff anyway. As usual, other players’ cards are often worse on our battlefield than on theirs, but cards are so good these days that it really doesn’t matter.
It’s repeatable Makeshift Mannequin at sorcery speed! This grabs from any graveyard, but given the escape mechanic, my expectation is you’ll want to mill everyone – yourself included – if you’re casting this. Being able to retake the initiative with an escape spell is pretty rad, and did I mention this is a sorcery with escape? The flavor makes sense, at least. This is a fine long-term value card, but it’s not wildly powerful.
Remember the section of cards earlier that only matter in party decks? This one’s at least applicable to a deck focused on a single one of the four types as well, because it’s not really about the party mechanic per se. Cleric decks have a lot of recursion that makes exiling things with unearth a little awkward, so perhaps we’re looking to use this as support for a Rogue deck? Certainly great in a party deck regardless.
Okay, we’ve seen plenty of Horrors already, but Crabs and Oozes? I’m ready to let this fly in an Ooze tribal deck with Umori as the commander… or perhaps Umori as companion and Muldrotha as commander? Bring me Gelatinous Cube! Crab Ooze Horror is a very evocative creature type – it evokes me not ever wanting to see an Uchuulon, let alone an ever-growing number of them.
I love goaded creatures not being able to block – not only can we easily attack our opponents, but they’re attacking past each others’ goaded creatures! This is an interesting spellslinger payoff that can act as a cool defensive tool and allow you to focus on attacking with tokens generated by Talrand, Sky Summoner, Young Pyromancer and so on, but given the amount of chump blockers those decks usually have, I think that’s a minor upside rather than a huge payoff.
This is an extremely straightforward goad payoff. The more you goad, the better this is. It’s a good payoff, and the goad decks could use a couple of abjectly powerful cards, so here you go.
Delayed Blast Fireball
Look at the flavor! The in-card storytelling! Foretell is the perfect mechanic to illustrate this spell, and since it’s one of my favorite D&D spells of all time, I’m incredibly happy to see it here. I can’t wait to cast this in a Torbran list. Come to think of it, Neheb, the Eternal loves this one too! Dealing five to each of your opponents and all of their creatures at instant speed is probably just good, and don’t forget you’re casting this from exile if that matters to any of your cards!
This is hilarious. Of course the party can’t get their loot organized properly! I wish this effect was symmetrical for flavor value, but regardless, this card looks like a lot of fun to play. Is it an incredible powerhouse? Not really – if you’re already speedrunning dungeons you’re probably doing something much more powerful/not playing red.
More bonuses for spells from exile – it’s too bad the tokens this makes die so quickly, but that just lets you focus on going hard with noncreature spells from exile. Jamming this in Bell Borca, Prosper or any other commander that enables easy casts from exile is going to generate a ton of extra value.
Why the weird wording? Oh, to accommodate the overload! It’s not much of a Spectacular Showdown if you don’t overload it. That said, this being a sorcery makes thinks awkward – you have to attack first, which means your opponents get the chance of whether to block or leave their creatures up to beat the heck out of you. Casting this with Bothersome Quasit in play seems like a winning play, though!
Is this a worse Reclamation Sage? No, it’s a fun Reclamation Sage! It’s more functionally restricted, since it has to counter an ability to blow something up, and since mana abilities don’t use the stack, you’re not hitting that Sol Ring. Flash and foretell add a lot of value, and if you’re playing Ooze tribal or just want to play something different, definitely give this a shot. It might impress you!
Journey to the Lost City
This is a weird one. 45 percent of the time, you probably get a land (with 37 land in your deck, you have about an 86 percent chance of hitting at least one). 50 percent of the time, you get a Wolf of indeterminate size. If you hit that high roll, you get the jackpot… kind of? Those four cards are hopefully all permanents, and at least one had better be great. I think you have to want to roll a lot of dice to play this, because this card doesn’t have a great purpose otherwise.
The adventure spell here is very interesting – you can just use it to rebuy something, or you can cast the Adventure, cast the Hunter on the same or following turn and cast the exiled card for free. You can then go about casting all of your creatures that are on adventures (or otherwise exile-cast them) for free once per turn! If you have some with flash or can get your Vedalken Orrery up and running, obviously you can get a bigger edge out of this.
I like the idea of a suspend ramp spell because it lets you play around the landfall. Get your landfall goodies ready and prepare for a big turn! Like other suspend cards, this plays well with Alaundo, but I’d be happy to play this in Maelstrom Wanderer or other decks that just want a steady stream of extra land every once in a while.
Equip this to Burakos and profit. You definitely want this in your party decks – a hasty flying lifelinking deathtoucher that’s immune to damage sounds pretty good, and the equip cost is cheap for what you’re getting. No stats, but really, who cares?
If this didn’t take the initiative when played, I’d be pretty far off it. A four-mana rock that defaults to adding just one mana and has an ability that only works when you’ve completed a dungeon… well, a lot of these “if you’ve completed a dungeon” cards are pretty seriously win-more, but this is the win-more-iest. Looks like a necessary evil for initiative-focused lists, at least in the first draft. Might be cuttable, but hopefully I’m wrong and it overperforms.
Okay, that’s it! I get to stop reviewing cards and start brewing… for a few weeks, at least. See you next time!
Eric Levine, also known as RagingLevine, is an accomplished Magic Judge, having head judged many Grand Prix events as well as the Mythic Championship. He's been writing about Commander since 2012 and enjoys building casual, fun decks to play with friends after long days at tournaments.