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Commander Legends Constructed Set Review

The full Commander Legends set has been revealed, and I’m very excited to share my thoughts about it. Today I’ll be looking at every new card in the set with an eye toward constructed Commander! I have to say constructed because Commander Legends Limited is a real and very cool thing that I plan to write about very soon. Instead of using a numerical scale, I put the cards I review into categories that I think encapsulate their roles in Commander, as a numerical scale wouldn’t make much sense. Here are the categories I use:

  • Commander: You want this card in the command zone at the start the game. Its best use is to lead the charge as the cornerstone of your deck, but it can probably fit into your 99 as well.
  • Build-Around: This card can be a huge player in the theme of your deck. It either enables the theme by itself or is something you’re looking to take advantage of over the course of your ideal game. It’s probably worth dedicating other slots in your deck to cards that work with a build-around.
  • Powerhouse: This card’s not really about synergy, but it’s good all by itself.
  • Role Player: This card might not be the cornerstone of a deck list, but it’s an important part of the engine or strong enough on its own to merit potential inclusion. This category also covers cards that look good enough to try out but don’t seem like obvious winners.
  • Tech Card: Counterplay is important, and if a card doesn’t fit into one of the above categories but is good enough at countering other strategies, it’ll be included here.
  • Niche Inclusion: This card might make your deck if you have a deckbuilding restriction, whether it’s self-imposed based on theme, a power level consideration, or a card availability concern.

As a reminder, my focus is on social Commander rather than competitive EDH. That means you’ll be hearing about cards largely from that more relaxed 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, so if that’s your mindset as well, these ratings will probably resonate with you. I won’t be reviewing reprints, so you can just assume I feel the same way about Negate as I did before we found out it was in this set. When you inevitably disagree with a rating, please feel free to tweet at @RagingLevine with your thoughts!

White

The Prismatic Piper

The Prismatic Piper

Rating: Commander?

Toot toot! This absolutely wild piece of Seb McKinnon art massively outclasses this card’s power level (which is effectively nonexistent,) but I expect I’ll eventually do something where I build five different half-decks for The Prismatic Piper and then randomly mash one of those together with another Partner Commander before gameplay. Regardless, this card is an escape clause for when you whiff in Limited, not a card you play because it does something good.

Akroma, Vision of Ixidor

Akroma, Vision of Ixidor

Rating: Commander

This version of Akroma is all about keyword abilities – the more you have, the bigger you get, as long as they’re on the list of what appears to be largely evergreen keywords plus partner. Combining this with Akroma’s Memorial is a pretty obvious move, and most creatures are going to need help to get at least +3/+3 from Akroma, which I consider the line for making this card awesome. That means we’ll need equipment and enchantments like Sword of Vengeance and True Conviction to add more abilities to creatures. Consider partnering Akroma with Rograkh, Sone of Rohgahh, since she gives him +4/+4! It’s also very interesting that Akroma triggers at the beginning of each combat, not just on your turn, making vigilance’s natural scaling in multiplayer even more exciting.

Akroma's Will

Akroma’s Will

Rating: Powerhouse

Obviously this is insane with the above Akroma, but if you control your Commander and are doing anything with combat and a reasonable amount of creatures, you should be able to delete at least one of your opponents after casting this. Double strike is extremely powerful, and between flying and protection from all colors, there aren’t a lot of things that will be left able to block. Even if you don’t control your Commander, the first option is often going to be good enough.

Alharu, Solemn Ritualist

Alharu, Solemn Ritualist

Rating: Commander

Alharu follows in the footsteps of Basri and friends from M21, distributing counters and then providing some bonuses to creatures that have them. Five mana for a total of 5/5 isn’t an amazing deal, so you’ll have to do some work with other counter engines in order to make this worth it. Partnering Alharu with Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer could yield some interesting results, but I think Slurrk, All-Ingesting is the better choice.

Anointer of Valor

Anointer of Valor

Rating: Niche Inclusion

A pretty bad rate on the creature itself combined with a very expensive way to add counters indicates this card is aimed at Limited rather than Constructed.

Archon of Coronation

Archon of Coronation

Rating: Role Player

Damage doesn’t cause you to lose life? That’s a powerful defensive effect, but realistically, most damage is combat damage, and even with this effect online, combat damage still transfers the crown to the attacker. If your Queen Marchesa deck needs more ways to become the monarch, this card is an easy choice, but if being the monarch isn’t a big component of your game plan, try a different 6-drop. Also, here’s a fun note: damage dealt to you isn’t being prevented, it just loses its (most common) outcome. That means, notably, that if you are dealt Commander damage, you don’t lose life, but the damage still happened and is still tracked – and you can still lose that way, even when you are the monarch and control Archon of Coronation! (Infect and lifelink are also relevant here.)

Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist

Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist

Rating: Commander

Consolidating all of your attachables at once can lead to some very powerful combat steps – just consider the mana savings. Not having to pay to equip things can really open up options for pre-combat plays or allow you to hold up mana for defensive actions that might save whatever creature you’re magnetizing everything onto, and for just 2W, Ardenn represents a low level of mana investment into that plan. I suppose you could also get weird with it and build a deck where you just move all your Curses onto the scariest player, which is now my plan. If you’re planning to build the more reasonable version of Ardenn, though, Armix, Filigree Thrasher is an interesting partnership option, as you’re liable to have plenty of artifacts. I would also consider Anara, and of course, Rograkh.

Armored Skyhunter

Armored Skyhunter

Rating: Role Player

Damage doesn’t cause you to lose life? That’s a powerful defensive effect, but realistically, most damage is combat damage, and even with this effect online, combat damage still transfers the crown to the attacker. If your Queen Marchesa deck needs more ways to become the monarch, this card is an easy choice, but if being the monarch isn’t a big component of your game plan, try a different 6-drop. Also, here’s a fun note: damage dealt to you isn’t being prevented, it just loses its (most common) outcome. That means, notably, that if you are dealt Commander damage, you don’t lose life, but the damage still happened and is still tracked – and you can still lose that way, even when you are the monarch and control Archon of Coronation! (Infect and lifelink are also relevant here.)

Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist

Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist

Rating: Commander

Consolidating all of your attachables at once can lead to some very powerful combat steps – just consider the mana savings. Not having to pay to equip things can really open up options for pre-combat plays or allow you to hold up mana for defensive actions that might save whatever creature you’re magnetizing everything onto, and for just 2W, Ardenn represents a low level of mana investment into that plan. I suppose you could also get weird with it and build a deck where you just move all your Curses onto the scariest player, which is now my plan. If you’re planning to build the more reasonable version of Ardenn, though, Armix, Filigree Thrasher is an interesting partnership option, as you’re liable to have plenty of artifacts. I would also consider Anara, and of course, Rograkh.

Armored Skyhunter

Armored Skyhunter

Rating: Role Player

Six being the new number for these effects continues to feel about right. Four mana for a flying Hill Giant isn’t exciting, but you need to account for the amount of mana saved by putting an aura or equipment directly into play. To get to an 80% hit rate, you’ll need 23 aura and/or equipment cards in your deck, which is a sizeable slice of your nonland cards – no surprise that this card requires full commitment to theme. If we guess that the average converted mana cost of the permanent entering the battlefield is about 3, and if we bump that up to 4 when considering that we’re saving on equip costs as well, this creature is free 80% of the time. Obviously, there are setup considerations here as well, as casting Enlightened Tutor followed by Armored Skyhunter changes things significantly. Eldrazi Conscription, anyone? Perhaps an Argentum Armor?

Benevolent Blessing

Benevolent Blessing

Rating: Tech Card

Since the days of White Ward, workarounds for auras to make sure they don’t make themselves fall off have been important. Benevolent Blessing takes this to another level and slides protection in under anything else that’s already attached as well. That said, there are enough instant-speed non-targeted ways to provide one turn of indestructibility, protection, or similar that this is much more aimed at Limited.

Court of Grace

Court of Grace

Rating: Build-Around

This and all of the Courts give me additional incentive to take the crown and keep it firmly on my own head. This one is even good at helping you regain the throne, as even if you just get a 1/1 Spirit, that’s a disposable evasive creature that can sneak in if necessary. A 4/4 every turn is good output for a single card, and I expect to see many more games where the monarch token shows up now that this cycle of enchantments exists.

Kangee's Lieutenant

Kangee’s Lieutenant

Rating: Role Player

You’ll need to be all in on the flying theme for this to work in your deck, but once you’re trying to swarm opponents with small creatures in the air, every anthem effect helps. Inniaz and, obviously, Kangee decks will welcome this addition. This is also our first card so far with Encore, which is a really exciting new ability. It’s like the Unearth keyword from Shards of Alara tuned up for multiplayer, and if you’re attacking with three of these simultaneously, your flyers are going to get pumped up to a ridiculous degree.

Keeper of the Accord

Keeper of the Accord

Rating: Powerhouse

It only catches you up rather than pushing you forward past opponents, but it’s the best catch-up card printed in some time, and simply staying in the game is powerful. The Soldiers are great at wearing equipment, enjoying buffs from anthems, swarming planeswalkers, or just chump-blocking. The more basic Plains you can play, the more reliably this card stays good in the late game.

Keleth, Sunmane Familiar

Keleth, Sunmane Familiar

Rating: Commander

I’m really excited by the way Keleth (and every Commander in the Familiar cycle) uses the Partner mechanic – it’s a support creature for any Commander that loves to attack and wants to get bigger. Siani, Eye of the Storm strikes me as a possible option, as does Slurrk, All-Ingesting. Rograkh continues to be a great option as well, or maybe I just love Rograkh. If you want to go old-school, consider Reyhan.

Kinsbaile Courier

Kinsbaile Courier

Rating: Niche Inclusion

The value here is really in the Encore ability, as a total of 3/2 for 3 mana is nothing to write home about. That said, I think there are many better ways to put counters on creatures.

Livio, Oathsworn Sentinel

Livio, Oathsworn Sentinel

Rating: Commander

This is a fun one. The first ability can get political if you need it to – you can help opposing creatures dodge upcoming wraths if that’s somehow helpful to you, but remember that the controller is the one with the choice. The counters mean that if Livio dies and comes back, the exiled creatures can still be brought back with Livio’s second ability. This could create a burst of value with Kodama of the East Tree, which honestly doesn’t need the help. You could also pair Livio with Esior, Wardwing Familiar for defensive value or Halana, Kessig Ranger for some Pandemonium nonsense. Sure, there are stronger blink Commanders, but it’s fun to try new things.

Prava of the Steel Legion

Prava of the Steel Legion

Rating: Commander

The toughness boost for tokens is huge and makes repeated combats much easier to see through – if more tokens survive, you can hold back more resources in case of a wrath. Put an overcosted Mobilization on top of that and you’ve got a really efficient package. You could sacrifice some soldiers to cast Dargo, the Shipwrecker or go all in on tokens with Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel. No matter what you pick, though, this one looks like a ton of fun.

Promise of Tomorrow

Promise of Tomorrow

Rating: Build-Around

This is high-risk, high-reward if you care about your graveyard. It’s an easy way to recover from your own wrath effect – cast this, then clear the board, and if Promise of Tomorrow survives to your end step, you get your creatures back. The more agency you give to other players in this process, or the longer you wait, the riskier this gets, as any recursion you have will be stymied if your creatures end up in exile forever.

Radiant, Serra Archangel

Radiant, Serra Archangel

Rating: Commander

Radiant is costly and slow, but as long as you have sufficient flyers to support her, she’s going to be nigh-on impossible to kill. At 6 power, she only needs to deliver four hits to a player to eliminate them, and a few pieces of equipment can accelerate that to three or even two swings. I love cards that threaten to win via Commander damage, so in order to augment Radiant, I’d pair her with any of the familiars – Anara, Esior, Falthis, and Kediss would all work well, with Keleth being less of a consideration given that she doesn’t add a color to the mix.

Rebbec, Architect of Ascension

Rebbec, Architect of Ascension

Rating: Commander

This set is an incredible series of lore deep cuts, which is one of the things I love most about it. Rebbec, who unknowingly helped bring about Yawgmoth’s ascension, is a cool character and a fantastic Commander. She encourages you to create a wide board of artifacts with different converted mana costs so that they have protection from a variety of different effects. Obviously, they can still be swept away by cards like Austere Command or Cleansing Nova, but targeted effects like By Force, Crush Contraband, and similar can be stymied with a good board. Rebbec pairs best with Glacian, who also wants you to have tons of artifacts, but Ich-Tekik, Armix, and even Keskit are viable options as well. I like the idea of turning Rebbec into an artifact in order to extend the protection to her as well.

Seraphic Greatsword

Seraphic Greatsword

Rating: Role Player

This card, as I’ve noted in the past, has two modes: it’s either great or awkward. If you’re at the highest life total, you’ve got a pretty bad Vulshok Morningstar on your hands, but in multiplayer, unless you’re serious about life gain, there’s a good chance the biggest number will belong to someone else. That said, you then have to be able to attack that player, who is likely to be at the highest life total because they’re well defended. Moonsilver Spear never really made an impact in Commander, but maybe this version will.

Slash the Ranks

Slash the Ranks

Rating: Role Player

The bigger and better your Commander, the stronger this card is. Commanders that require a lot of help from other creatures won’t be excited about this, but any Commander that stands on its own or has plenty of things attached to it already benefits greatly. This is a contextually awesome wrath effect, and I like that in terms of both design and gameplay. If I’m attacking with my Commander, it’s likely I want to slot this in.

Soul of Eternity

Soul of Eternity

Rating: Niche Inclusion

Sure, it can be big, and sure, it has encore, but it needs some amount of evasion in order to do what it wants to do. Unless you are using something like Warstorm Surge or Verdant Sun’s Avatar to leverage this creature’s stats, steer clear.

Timely Ward

Timely Ward

Rating: Role Player

This is the first of our six cards that appears only in the preconstructed decks. Timely Ward is a great pickup for decks that want to stack up tons of auras or equipment on their Commander specifically, so it makes sense we see it in the Wyleth precon. The longevity of a card like this makes it an interesting balancing act with cards at the same mana cost like Make a Stand, Rootborn Defenses, and of course, Teferi’s Protection – and Teferi’s Protection will always be the gold standard for these effects. At least, I hope so.

Triumphant Reckoning

Triumphant Reckoning

Rating: Build-Around

A nine mana card that brings back exclusively noncreature permanents from your graveyard? Yeah, that’s going to need a very specific deck in order to be any good. You need to have a graveyard that will win you the game on the spot, and you need to be assured that you won’t get wrecked by instant-speed graveyard hate. It’s by no means impossible, but it’s not going to happen most of the time. Note that this is part of a cycle of nine mana sorceries, because there is nothing more Commander than a nine mana sorcery.

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Blue

Amphin Mutineer

Amphin Mutineer

Rating: Powerhouse

Blue point removal is an amazing modern development, especially when it exiles the targeted creature. You can turn the board’s most threatening creature into a 4/3, which is likely to be a downgrade, and the Mutineer trades with that 4/3 itself if necessary. What really puts this card over the top, though, is the Encore ability – 6 mana to transmogrify three creatures into Highborn Vampires is a great deal, and you likely dome each opponent for three on top of that.

Azure Fleet Admiral

Azure Fleet Admiral

Rating: Role Player/Build-Around?

This card is very clear about its plan: if someone else takes the crown from you, Azure Fleet Admiral will take it back. If you’re adamant about maintaining your stranglehold on the monarchy, this card does that – and other than being a Pirate, it doesn’t have anything else to offer.

Body of Knowledge

Body of Knowledge

Rating: Niche Inclusion

Of all the Maros in the world, this is the Maro-est. It’s also one of the first cards I’ve ever seen and immediately thought, “I want to target this with Nin, the Pain Artist!” That said, if your best case situation involves Nin, you’re already in a pretty weird place, so I don’t expect to see this one too often.

Brinelin, the Moon Kraken

Brinelin, the Moon Kraken

Rating: Commander?

Everything about this card is big. Well, everything except the actual effect of the trigger. It’s a shame, because Big Stuff Tribal is a fun way to play, but it almost doesn’t feel worth the effort. In Limited, I expect this reads a bit better, but probably not much given how multiplayer often works. I suppose I’d pair this with Gilanra for the theme, but you’d really have to love that theme.

Court of Cunning

Court of Cunning

Rating: Role Player

Unlike most of the Courts, you can’t just throw this in any deck and profit – you have to want to mill someone. Whether that someone is your opponents or yourself is something I leave to you to figure out, but I personally see this as a self-mill tool rather than an offensive piece. This all changes in Limited given the 60-card decks, but even then, you have to keep the crown for quite a while, and this card does not help you do that beyond the single trigger.

Eligeth, Crossroads Augur

Eligeth, Crossroads Augur

Rating: Commander

If you can keep this on the battlefield I think it’s incredible. Opt and draw 2? Serum Visions and draw 3? Does this even need a partner? Of course, the answer is yes: Eligeth wants to be friends with Siani, Eye of the Storm for more scrying, or Sakashima of a Thousand Faces to clone a Thassa, God of the Sea, a Sphinx of Foresight, or similar. This card, of course, is further proof that many of us don’t even care about winning games or doing things – we just want to draw more and more cards.

Esior Wardwing Familiar

Esior Wardwing Familiar

Rating: Commander

Another piece of the Familiar cycle, Esior is both exciting and adorable. Any Commander that will be a lightning rod for spot removal is going to want a friend like Esior to make things easier. If Ardenn is going to carry all the equipment and auras, he could be a good choice, as could something very powerful like Kodama of the East Tree. If you really need your Commander to stay in play for your deck to work – Eligeth and Krark come to mind here – Esior is a good choice to pair with them as well.

Fall from Favor

Fall from Favor

Rating: Niche Inclusion

Apologies, Pauper players – this one was made for Limited, and it shows. If you’re all in on Monarch, this is yet another way to reclaim the crown, but if not, I’m sure you can find something better to do.

Forceful Denial

Forceful Denial

Rating: Niche Inclusion

If you’re all in on cascading, you could theoretically do worse than this. It’s strange to attach cascade to a counterspell, as you generally don’t want to cascade into counterspells – even though this reverses that paradigm, it still feels weird. Sure, there’s value to be gained in the cascade, but the cost means you have to hold up more mana to counter a spell and gain a mystery effect, which means this is not the counterspell you’re looking for most of the time.

Ghost of Ramirez DePietro

Ghost of Ramirez DePietro

Rating: Commander

This opens up a whole new world of creative design. All you have to do is take a well-loved but underpowered Legend from the old days, put “ghost of” in front of its name, and then give it abilities and a new stat line! I’m looking forward to Commander Legends 2 featuring cards like “Ghost of Sivitri Scarzam” and “Ghost of Bartel Runeaxe.” Joking(?) aside, this card is very strange. You have to be self-milling or discarding cards to get value out of the damage trigger, but if you are, this ghost starts to hit on the Shadowmage Infiltrator axis, which is interesting. Partner this with Falthis to sneak it through, Malcolm to get some treasure, or Sakashima for double ghosts. Tormod is also an option, as you remove a card from your graveyard with Ramirez, triggering Tormod and getting a Zombie in the bargain.

Glacian, Powerstone Engineer

Glacian, Powerstone Engineer

Rating: Commander

Glacian lived and died by powerstones (seriously, look it up) and this card cements his artifact theming. You’ll want plenty of artifacts, especially ones that you don’t need to tap for other activated abilities. That way, you can grab the cards you need and cast aside any you don’t – though if you have enough artifacts to really fuel big Glacian activations, you can fill your graveyard and use that too. Partner him with Rebbec, obviously, though there are other options: Toggo’s Rocks could inspire Glacian, as could Malcolm’s Treasures, and Armix fits the artifact theme as well.

Hullbreacher

Hullbreacher

Rating: Powerhouse

A Notion Thief that translates opponents’ extra draws into Treasures instead of cards for you? Yeah, we’re going to get tired of this one quickly, aren’t we? This card is just abjectly powerful, and while that frustrates me, I’m sure I’ll have fun casting it at some point.

Kitesail Skirmisher

Kitesail Skirmisher

Rating: Niche Inclusion

Another Limited plant, this one could also end up in Pirate decks. Pirates got a huge push in this set, so break out your copies of Admiral Beckett Brass or enjoy the new Commanders this set has to offer. A lot of the new Pirate cards want you to connect in combat, so Kitesail Skirmisher could have a home there.

Laboratory Drudge

Laboratory Drudge

Rating: Role Player

If your graveyard deck actually uses the abilities of cards in graveyards rather than just dredging and reanimating, Laboratory Drudge could help you draw some additional cards, which ironically could be turned into a dredge if you feel like it. Araumi of the Dead Tide probably wants this one, as encore is an activated ability of a card in a graveyard, after all.

Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator

Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator

Rating: Commander

Another piece of the Pirate puzzle, Malcolm ensures that your attacks bring back some loot. Treasure is so good in Commander, a format where you almost always need more mana, so pair Malcolm with Breeches, Dargo, Ghost of Ramirez DePietro, or, strangely, Glacian. Dargo and Glacian make the best use of the Treasures, while Breeches and scary Ramirez focus on the profitability of combat.

Merchant Raiders

Merchant Raiders

Rating: Niche Inclusion

This one’s for Limited, folks. Hostage Taker went soft and decided to just tap creatures rather than stealing them, and here we are.

Mnemonic Deluge

Mnemonic Deluge

Rating: Role Player

So there has to be a really good instant or sorcery in a graveyard, and the board needs to be clear of Tormod’s Crypts and the like, and you have to spend nine mana on this at sorcery speed. That’s a lot to ask, but if this actually gets to do its thing, it could be very powerful. It could also just sit in your hand and be disappointing for most of the game, which is the most realistic case. That said, the one time in ten that you actually cast this is going to be so much fun that I almost don’t care about the other nine.

Sakashima of a Thousand Faces

Sakashima of a Thousand Faces

Rating: Commander

This card is so cool. It’s a clone that can be your Commander, and it can clone your other Commander. You could not ask for a more widely applicable partner than this! Pair this with whoever you want to play two of. Also, don’t forget this is a Mirror Gallery that lives in the command zone, which means you can clone your other legendary permanents with Sakashima or other clones and profit!

Sakashima's Protege

Sakashima’s Protege

Rating: Role Player

So, you could cascade into something sweet and end up copying that, but most often you’ll be casting this at the end of an opponent’s turn when they’ve landed a good permanent. Six mana for a reactive spell is a lot, but if you’re all in on instant-speed interaction, that’s not so bad. The worst case is a six-mana 3/1 with cascade, which is, frankly, not good.

Sakashima's Will

Sakashima’s Will

Rating: Role Player

Sakashima’s Will is, evidently, to let one of your opponents exert their own will by choosing a creature for you to gain control of. Unless you are really hyped about the second mode of this card, it’s not what you’re looking for. Sorcery speed Mirrorweave is going to be amazing sometimes, though, so if you have a creature with an incredible attack trigger, give this one a shot.

Siani, Eye of the Storm

Siani, Eye of the Storm

Rating: Commander

I’m always excited about cards that make it profitable to flood the board with flying creatures, and Siani’s scrying ability does just that. The deeper you scry, the closer that increase in quality gets to actual card advantage – imagine scrying for 5+ after declaring attackers. Pair with… who am I kidding, pair with Eligeth, but there are plenty of other options as well.

Sphinx of the Second Sun

Sphinx of the Second Sun

Rating: Build-Around

You could play this as Wilderness Reclamation on a (very big) stick, or you could make the most of the card and get value out of the extra upkeep by stacking up a ton of upkeep effects. (You get an extra draw, too, which is sweet.) You could also double-activate Aggravated Assault during your postcombat main phase, which would give you the following sequence of upcoming phases – remember that, as stated in rule 500.8, “If multiple extra phases are created after the same phase, the most recently created phase will occur first.”

Combat

Main

Combat

Main

Beginning

Once we get past that first extra combat and into the first extra main phase (which is a postcombat main phase, as per 505.1a: “Only the first main phase of the turn is a precombat main phase. All other main phases are postcombat main phases.”) the Sphinx triggers again, putting a beginning phase after the current main phase since it’s the most recently created phase. At that point you untap/upkeep/draw, have a combat, and then have a main phase – in that main phase, you just need to activate Aggravated Assault twice more in order to rinse and repeat ad infinitum-ish. (The caveat being you will eventually draw all your cards if you don’t win the game at some point during your infini-turn.) Sound confusing? That’s because it is. Maybe hearing Matt Tabak explain it out loud (with additional thanks to @minor_deviation on Twitter) while you look at a cute cat will help you understand it better. If not, at least you saw a cute cat.

Trench Behemoth

Trench Behemoth

Rating: Niche Inclusion

A non-evasive creature with an awkward landfall effect that you’d assume would be a goad but isn’t? I’m lukewarm on this, but I’m sure there’s some nonsense to be had with the untap ability. Glad to see this as one of the precon exclusives, as this would be incredibly unfun in limited.

Trove Tracker

Trove Tracker

Rating: Niche Inclusion

Wrong Turn

Wrong Turn

Rating: Role Player

I like the idea of moving control of a creature attacking you to a player whose turn won’t come again until after your own, but is that worth a whole card? I think this one is more about having a good time than having an actual impact on the game, and I’m okay with that. (If I’m not, honestly, who is?) I suppose it’s also another (worse) Donate for Zedruu decks and the like, so that upgrades this one a bit.

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Black

Armix, Filigree Thrasher

Armix, Filigree Thrasher

Rating: Commander

Armix seems better in Limited than Constructed, but people underestimate point removal a lot of the time, and Armix’s ability can feed itself if you’re discarding artifacts. Of course, you could just play the artifacts and discard things you don’t need, which is usually the better play. Partner Armix with anyone who cares about artifacts even a little bit or with a familiar, particularly Anara to get access to green and for the indestructible.

Briarblade Adept

Briarblade Adept

Rating: Niche Inclusion

Even in an Elf-heavy deck, there are so many better options that I can’t imagine casting this outside Limited without some very good reason (such as “I like this card and I want to play it”, which is the best reason to play a card in Commander.) The only out for this card is that the encore is so cheap. Actually, I’d play this in a Horobi, Death’s Wail deck.

Court of Ambition

Court of Ambition

Rating: Role Player

It’s a shame that this one gives opponents options, but the effect does really add up over the long game. The way it adds up in the short term, though, is by offering opponents a strong incentive to attack you, because discard just feels so unpleasant to so many players. I’m sure we’ll see this one in Tinybones decks, so brace yourself for that.

Demonic Lore

Demonic Lore

Rating: Niche Inclusion

If you have ways to profitably discard cards in hand, or if you’re just so far up on cards like Crypt Ghast and Cabal Coffers that you don’t know what to do with your mana, Demonic Lore is a good deal. Giving this away with a Harmless Offering or Blim, Comedic Genius before the trigger goes off is probably a better plan than trying to work around the downside on your own board, but there are a few ways to sacrifice enchantments or permanents in general that might be worth thinking about.

Elvish Doomsayer

Elvish Doomsayer

Rating: Niche Inclusion

It’s just fun to turn cards upside down, right? Elvish Visionary in reverse isn’t as good as the original, but if you’re going for some sort of mono-black Elves deck, some concessions must be made.

Elvish Dreadlord

Elvish Dreadlord

Rating: Build-Around

If you needed a list of reasons to make a Golgari Elves deck, Elvish Dreadlord should be high on that list. Sacrificing it at a convenient time should give you a good hold on the board, and the encore looks a lot like a Plague Wind to me. I think Elf decks just got a little more fun, honestly – I’m not a big fan of the linear “ignore my opponents” type of tribal decks, and Elvish Dreadlord takes things in a different direction.

Exquisite Huntmaster

Exquisite Huntmaster

Rating: Niche Inclusion

Everything I said about the encore Pirates is true of this card, except it’s for Elf decks instead.

Eyeblight Cullers

Eyeblight Cullers

Rating: Role Player

This card leaves behind tokens and does some self-milling, which means it could be a lot of fun with something like Greater Good or Altar of Dementia in graveyard decks. I almost put this as a Niche Inclusion, but something is telling me this card is more than that. It’s a lot of value in just one card, and I can’t overlook that.

Falthis, Shadowcat Familiar

Falthis, Shadowcat Familiar

Rating: Commander

If your other Commander needs to get through combat and hit an opponent in order to do its job, Falthis should be high on your list of partner options. Even one that just needs to attack to trigger may want Falthis’s help to stay alive – the combination of menace and deathtouch makes blocking both difficult and risky.

Feast of Succession

Feast of Succession

Rating: Role Player

Languish hasn’t made a huge splash in Commander, and adding “you become the monarch” along with a higher cost isn’t going to change that. With that said, if your opponents are trying to get the crown from you with tokens, this card will make that a lot harder. Plus, all of you with Seb McKinnon theme decks just got yet another amazing piece of art along with a serviceable card.

Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor

Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor

Rating: Commander?

Join me as I ask: Is this card even good? You need three other artifacts and/or creatures, and they need to be things you want to sacrifice, so hopefully they’re tokens. That said, if you’re pumping out tons of tokens and intend for them to be killed, Keskit is a great way to turn a few of them into cards. It’s going to take some serious work to make Keskit good, but I think it’s doable. Pair with Prava, maybe? Get Tevesh Szat to supply the tokens? Use Toggo and sacrifice rocks? This is a tough one.

Miara, Thorn of the Glade

Miara, Thorn of the Glade

Rating: Commander

Miara is part of this set’s big Elves push, and a Golgari Elves push at that. Elves with death triggers are a big part of this new paradigm, and I’m here for it – insuring your wide board with some card draw as they exit is Miara’s main function, and Elves can find plenty of ways to gain that life back. For the full Golgari Elves experience, pair with Numa, or go mono-Black elves and pair Miara with Nadier – given the 21 total mono-Black Elves that currently exist, many of which are woefully bad, I’d stick with the Golgari option for now.

Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel

Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel

Rating: Commander

Nadier is interesting due to the token focus – he’s not specifically focused on Elves. With that in mind, the plan should be to go wide and stack up counters on Nadier, which get released when your board ends up getting wiped. Nadier can also force opponents to use spot removal in advance of their own wrath effect, which is also an advantageous situation. I could see myself pairing Nadier with Kamahl, or perhaps with Malcolm as Nadier is not restricted to caring about creature tokens. Prava is also an option, as is Tevesh Szat – I’d love to sacrifice a huge Nadier to Tevesh Szat, and the Thrulls contribute to Nadier’s growth.

Nadier's Nightblade

Nadier’s Nightblade

Rating: Role Player

If you’re looking for Aristocrats Effect #127, Nadier’s Nightblade could be what you’re looking for – you have to be all in on tokens, but if you’re already playing Ghave, Slimefoot, or something similar, it’s easy to keep tokens moving onto and off of the battlefield. Tokens are commonly the fuel for Aristocrats decks anyway, so it’s not too much of an ask. If, however, you are as bored of Blood Artist as I am, you can safely set Nadier’s Nightblade aside after your Limited matches.

Necrotic Hex

Necrotic Hex

Rating: Role Player

This is going to be a wrath a lot of the time, and when the dust settles, you end up ahead of the game. That said, if your opponents are flooding the board with tokens, this card gets significantly worse. Assuming your board is empty before you cast this, you’re getting a lot of value out of it for just a single card.

Nightshade Harvester

Nightshade Harvester

Rating: Tech Card

If you’re looking for minor ways to punish ramp, Nightshade Harvester exists, but I think this is much more aimed at Limited than Constructed. Just one life is barely anything at all, and it doesn’t add up as fast as you’d want it to. It’s especially embarrassing when an opponent has Tatyova and just ignores the life loss.

Opposition Agent

Opposition Agent

Rating: Tech Card

I’d guess this will have some impact in higher-power games where tutors are commonplace, and even in lower-power games, you can counter a fetchland. That said, in low-power games, is that really what you want to be doing? I’d save this for games with optimized decks that rely on tons of tutors and low-cost cards where the early game is the only game.

Plague Reaver

Plague Reaver

Rating: Niche Inclusion

This card creates a weird subgame, and with that in mind, it’s not going in most decks. You have to be willing to spend three cards to give an opponent the choice about whether or not their board gets wiped, and if you care about your own board at all, it’s likely this one’s coming straight back to you. That said, if you’re on some sort of Homicidal Seclusion plan, maybe this is rad?

Pride of the Perfect

Pride of the Perfect

Rating: Niche Inclusion

If your deck is all about Elf tokens, Pride of the Perfect is, well, perfect. If not, you’re spending a lot of mana on a marginal effect. I find that most Elf decks have tokens as a subtheme rather than a focus, so I don’t expect to see this a lot.

Profane Transfusion

Profane Transfusion

Rating: Niche Inclusion

I was describing this card to someone yesterday and could not totally contain my amusement at how incredibly niche and, frankly, often bad it is. Why are we paying nine mana for this? What is the point? If your answer is “it’s fun,” then you’re on the right track. If you’re looking for a card with an explicitly high power level, I advise you to head elsewhere.

Rakshasa Debaser

Rakshasa Debaser

Rating: Powerhouse

Sure, it has to attack to get its reanimation effect off, but it almost doesn’t matter if it manages to attack in its initial life. The encore is that good. It’s a Sepulchral Primordial out of the graveyard, and well, we all know how powerful that card can be. If I’m self-milling in black, I’m probably looking to include this card in my decklist, and even if I’m not, it’s a great way to play with powerful toys that don’t belong to me.

Sengir, the Dark Baron

Sengir, the Dark Baron

Rating: Commander

Effects that trigger on another player losing the game don’t pay off too often – Blood Tyrant is the classic example. The life gain also needs to matter, so unless you’re going to the dome with Aetherflux Reservoir or abusing Channel, that second ability is better than flavor text by a very small margin. The first ability, though, is much better in any game that is a creature slugfest, and to me, that screams Limited. I’m sure Sengir will be a ton of fun, and I look forward to pairing him with Slurrk for counter value or Tevesh Szat for sacrifice value, but from a power level standpoint, he’s uninspiring.

Szat's Will

Szat’s Will

Rating: Tech Card

At five mana, I think this card is a good deal if and only if you get both modes going. Crackling Doom plus a Soul-Guide Lantern activation plus, say, five 0/1s is probably worth somewhere in the neighborhood of six mana, but the two effects taken separately don’t inspire me at this cost.

Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools

Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools

Rating: Commander

It’s always cool to see another member of the Nine Titans represented on their own card – with the printing of Tevesh Szat, we’re up to four (Szat, Urza, Freyalise, and Lord Windgrace.) Maybe in Commander Legends 2 we’ll get Taysir or Daria. Tevesh Szat is best when you are excited about 0/1s, which means you’re all in on sacrifice value. The -10 will not win you the game on the spot, but it’s such a cool ability. Pair Szat with a low-cost Commander like Rograkh, or use Sakashima of a Thousand Faces to copy something with a great “dies” effect.

Tormod, the Desecrator

Tormod, the Desecrator

Rating: Commander

This card looks like a ton of fun. Dredge, get a Zombie. Activate Reassembling Skeleton, get a zombie. Cast Gravecrawler from your yard, get a Zombie. Go full Vintage and return Krovikan Horror to your hand, get a Zombie. Pair with Tevesh Szat, Keskit, or my personal favorite option, Ghost of Ramirez DePietro.

Vow of Torment

Vow of Torment

Rating: Niche Inclusion

The Vow cycle has been re-completed with a card much more geared toward 2020 design. The original black entry in the cycle, Vow of Malice, used intimidate, and menace is much more congruent with the current nature of design – intimidate, and its old friend fear, aren’t that much fun. It’s also interesting that Vow of Torment’s art has some similar elements to Vow of Malice’s art, so take a look at them side by side for a moment of “oh, that’s cool!” That said, I don’t see the Vows too often, so I’d say this is largely a Limited consideration.

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Red

Alena, Kessig Trapper

Alena, Kessig Trapper

Rating: Commander

Alena wants to give you, effectively, a refund on the biggest creature you’ve played that turn. There’s also some level of possibility that you might put a huge token on the battlefield, then use Populate effects to copy that token, giving you a big one-time mana advantage. This is a pretty interesting effect, and while Alena’s pretty costly at five mana, if she survives to use her ability she can really help you get ahead on board. Pairing Alena with a high-stat partner like Kodama of the East Tree could be good, but I think Halana’s pay-to-Pandemonium ability is the best match for Alena.

Aurora Phoenix

Aurora Phoenix

Rating: Role Player

Is spinning the wheel professionally as effective in Commander as it was in the days of Bloodbraid Elf and Bituminous Blast in Standard? Well, Averna, the Chaos Bloom, a Temur cascade-themed Commander we’ll see later, certainly implies the possibility, but with just 19 spells with Cascade available in Temur, it might be tough. That said, if you’re going to play Aurora Phoenix, you should go all in.

Blazing Sunsteel

Blazing Sunsteel

Rating: Build-Around

This precon exclusive turns the equipped creature into a Mogg Maniac, and when you’re able to add that effect to a creature of your choice, it turns out things get pretty exciting. The old paradigm of dropping Shivan Meteors on Stuffy Dolls gets more exciting when you can start blasting an indestructible creature with Nin, the Pain Artist to draw cards and fire off huge bursts of damage. (Yes, I know what I said about Nin earlier, but this is different!) 4 to equip is certainly a hurdle, and the rest of this card isn’t super exciting, but I’m excited to see what I can accomplish with this card.

Boarding Party

Boarding Party

Rating: Niche Inclusion

This is the kind of card you have to play if you’re going all in on Cascade, and it’s not particularly inspiring in Constructed.

Breeches, Brazen Plunderer

Breeches, Brazen Plunderer

Rating: Commander

I love these exile effects that let you play other players’ spells. Breeches is very much reminiscent of Grenzo, but with a bit of a lower power level. Having Partner changes the math a bit on that, though, and Breeches pairs well with Malcolm, who wants to hit every possible opponent all the time to get Treasure, which can fuel Breeches’s ability.

Coastline Marauders

Coastline Marauders

Rating: Powerhouse?

Coastline Marauders is going to be a great deal at most points in the game, and the encore is a bit reminiscent of Anathemancer, summoning some huge ball lightnings to punish players who have lots of mana available. I suppose my “Powerhouse?” rating is largely in comparison to the cost – the rate on this creature is just very good.

Coercive Recruiter

Coercive Recruiter

Rating: Build-Around

If you’re looking for a reason to build Pirates, this is high on the list. Every Pirate comes with an Act of Treason attached, and the creatures you borrow are temporary Pirates, meaning they’ll trigger the abilities of the various Pirate commanders. All in all, this is an incredible card and I’m excited to try a Pirate deck myself for the first time.

Court of Ire

Court of Ire

Rating: Role Player

We still haven’t seen a Court that I like as much as the white one, but at least this one helps clear the way for future attacks if small creatures are in your way. Seven damage is a lot, and if you’re hanging onto the crown, this helps you stay ahead. That might sound like “win-more” logic, but staying the monarch is a huge advantage.

Crimson Fleet Commodore

Crimson Fleet Commodore

Rating: Niche Inclusion

For when you absolutely must become the monarch at the cost of playing cards that aren’t very good otherwise.

Dargo, the Shipwrecker

Dargo, the Shipwrecker

Rating: Commander

Dargo gets cheaper when you sacrifice things, which will often be Treasure tokens. That said, it’s also a Greater Gargadon-style reusable sacrifice outlet, though it works in bursts rather than lingering over time. I haven’t seen Gargadon in a while, so its day may have passed, but perhaps Dargo will revive my interest. Pair with anyone who likes sacrificing (Tevesh Szat) or makes treasure (Malcolm).

Emberwilde Captain

Emberwilde Captain

Rating: Role Player

This is an interesting rattlesnake effect that deters opponents from coming after you when you’re the monarch, but given the caveat that, if they’re low on cards (and thus more desperate for the crown) they’ll take less damage, I’m not super impressed. If you start trying to justify this card by giving opponents additional draws, you are in a pretty bad position in my opinion.

Explosion of Riches

Explosion of Riches

Rating: Niche Inclusion

This is fun! It’s a fun card, and there’s no doubt about that, but at its core, it’s a Lava Axe variant, and it’s not worth six mana unless you have some very specific reason to play it.

Fathom Fleet Swordjack

Fathom Fleet Swordjack

Rating: Niche Inclusion

I don’t think Pirate decks want to hoard their treasure as much as this card indicates, but I’ll definitely experiment with it as I try the pirate’s life for myself.

Flamekin Herald

Flamekin Herald

Rating: Niche Inclusion

It’s important to remember that, even if you’re paying a lot of commander tax, the converted mana cost of your commander is still based on the symbols on the upper right hand corner of the card. With that in mind, devoting a whole card to maybe getting to spin the wheel on your Commander seems like a pretty bad value proposition in terms of the value you’re getting. Sure, you can play this and then immediately cast your Commander, but you could also just play another card that does what you actually want it to do instead.

Frenzied Saddlebrute

Frenzied Saddlebrute

Rating: Powerhouse

I love this card. Your creatures get haste, and so do your opponents’ creatures, but only in the way you want them to. If you are encouraging combat at the table, this is one of the best ways to give your opponents reasons to attack each other without putting a target on your own head. It’s weird to call this a powerhouse, since it’s dependent on the actions of other players, but I think it deserves the title.

Hellkite Courser

Hellkite Courser

Rating: Build-Around

This requires a commander with a powerful enters the battlefield ability or a powerful ability when it attacks. Bladewing the Risen seems particularly sweet with this, as does Dragonlord Atarka, but using partner commanders gets you some extra value by virtue of choice. Bruse Tarl really shines with this effect, as you get to double up on it. The value you can get with this card is off the charts, honestly.

Impulsive Pilferer

Impulsive Pilferer

Rating: Niche Inclusion

This seems more like a Limited card intended to tie the Pirate archetype together rather than something you want in Constructed, but the Encore is an interesting way to bank some mana for later.

Jeska, Thrice Reborn

Jeska, Thrice Reborn

Rating: Commander

Jeska feels almost like another member of the familiar cycle – she’s a support card dependent on your desire to recast commanders over and over, and her first activated ability tends toward taking a commander that wants to do combat damage and pushing that commander’s power level over the edge. The -X seems much better in Limited than in Constructed, but I admit I haven’t totally figured this card out and I’m going to need to try it out to find out more. Pairing Jeska with Dargo is intriguing, since an unfettered Dargo hit with a Jeska activation spells 21 commander damage, but I think access to another color is likely important, so perhaps Radiant is the best option.

Jeska's Will

Jeska’s Will

Rating: Niche Inclusion

Most cards like this give you a longer window to play the exiled cards, so you really want the extra mana from the first mode along with the exile. You also need to be targeting an opponent with at least four cards in hand to get an actual mana advantage, so I’m worried this card is going to end up just rotting in your hand more often than not.

Kedniss, Emberclaw Familiar

Kedniss, Emberclaw Familiar

Rating: Commander

It’s important to remember that Kediss’s ability won’t radiate commander damage to opponents who aren’t the recipient of the initial attack, since that damage isn’t combat damage. That said, if you are getting aggressive with your other partner, it could be fun to try this out, though I expect Kediss to be more of a “speed games along” valve in Limited. Pair Kediss with someone big – Dargo, Kamahl, Radiant – and hit hard. Maybe this is the partner Sengir is looking for?

Krark, the Thumbless

Krark, the Thumbless

Rating: Commander

I love coin flip decks, but I worry that Zndrsplt and Okaun have this market cornered. Who do we even pair Krark with? I’m honestly not sure. That said, I think Krark’s ability is deceptively powerful and might lead to some storm nonsense or, more appropriately in this set, some wild cascade value – remember, cascade is a cast trigger!

Meteoric Mace

Meteoric Mace

Rating: Role Player

It’s no Loxodon Warhammer, as it costs ten mana before you get this equipped to something, but if you’re interested in the cascade and you need another way to give creatures trample and send them over the top of defending creatures, it’s worth a try.

Port Razer

Port Razer

Rating: Build-Around

Port Razer itself has to deal combat damage for the ability to trigger, and normally, a 4/4 with no combat-relevant abilities can’t make that happen on its own. That said, making token copies of Port Razer unlocks a lot of really degenerate possibilities, and that alone elevates this card’s rating. You can warp your deck around effects like this and go for combat infinites if that’s something you’re interested in, but it does take a lot of work.

Rograkh, Son of Gohgahh

Rograkh, Son of Gohgahh

Rating: Commander

Rograkh needs help to get anything at all done. Perhaps that help comes in the form of buffs from Akroma, attachments from Ardenn, counters from Keleth, or buffs from other partners, or perhaps you just suit Rograkh up manually and go to town. However you choose to make Rograkh happen, the 0 cost is a huge deal and shouldn’t be overlooked, and Rograkh’s built in abilities are very powerful in concert. I’m sure there’s also some Cheerios-style nonsense to be done with Rograkh, but someone else will have to do that work.

Soulfire Eruption

Soulfire Eruption

Rating: Powerhouse

Red’s nine mana sorcery may be my favorite. You can just target everything for value, and then next turn, you play whatever you want from this massive arsenal of exiled cards. Of course, it costs nine mana, has a variable (okay, basically outright random) effect, and requires you to either wait until next turn or have way too much mana available to take advantage of the exiled cards, but I have a deep and abiding need to cast this and have fun doing it, and I think that when it does resolve, it will absolutely warp the game around itself.

Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith

Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith

Rating: Commander

Toggo is an odd one – a red landfall Commander (well, faux landfall, but still) that makes Rocks? The rocks themselves are pretty mediocre, but they add up quickly, and if you have any need for a large hoard of artifacts, Toggo can provide that without too much effort. Dargo, Keskit, Ich-Tekik, and even Ardenn are all interested in this paradigm, and Glacian can tap the Rocks for value. I don’t think faceplanting into rock is a top-tier power level strategy, but it sure looks fun.

Volcanic Torrent

Volcanic Torrent

Rating: Niche Inclusion

If you have the ability to go off and feed the storm-like ability of this card before casting it, this becomes much more powerful, but by itself, X is going to be 2 unless you decline to cast the cascaded card. This is yet another mystery box card, where you might well get “value” for your mana but end up using your mana on effects that aren’t super relevant.

 

Wheel of Misfortune

Wheel of Misfortune

Rating: Powerhouse

Wheel effects are powerhouses, and this certainly is a wheel effect, though it does have a subgame on it to distinguish it from actual Wheel of Fortune. I’m not a big wheel person, so this card doesn’t speak to me even though I love weird subgames.

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Green

Anara, Wolvid Familiar

Anara, Wolvid Familiar

Rating: Commander

If you want to attack with a partner commander, consider Anara as a supportive choice. Indestructible commanders don’t die too often in combat, so swinging with something like Armix, Breeches, or even Dargo becomes a lot easier. That said, make sure to bring some haste effects to the table, as opponents are liable to spend mana on their own turns on spot removal when Anara’s around.

Annoyed Altisaur

Annoyed Altisaur

Rating: Niche Inclusion

Are we so desperate to cascade that it’s time for bad Colossal Dreadmaw?

Apex Devastator

Apex Devastator

Rating: Role Player

This is one of those cards where it doesn’t really matter what happens because it’s so much fun to cascade four times. The extended art treatment really makes this card pop, as the text box loses all that pesky reminder text and just says “Cascade, cascade, cascade, cascade” which is what we all want. It’s reminiscent of foil Time Stop (“End the turn” and nothing else.) Sure, you get a 10/10 with no abilities when it lands, but imagine picking this up with Temur Sabertooth and recasting it, or generating 10 mana with Alena, or just not worrying about any of that and casting four random spells from your deck because you know this is the literal top end.

Biowaste Blob

Biowaste Blob

Rating: Role Player

Biowaste Blob gets better with partner commanders, as it tends to be easier to keep at least one commander in play. This ooze is a little slow to get going, but once it does, the exponential growth gets out of hand – if left unchecked, the ooze count grows from one to eight after three upkeeps and only gets crazier from there. As a single card threat that forces opponents to kill it now or face the consequences, Biowaste Blob is a lot of fun.

Court of Bounty

Court of Bounty

Rating: Role Player

I mostly want this if I’m in monarch mode, but I think it’s likely that this card is stronger than I think it is, which is how this got upgraded to Role Player. The extra land drop is fine, but not gamebreaking compared to cheaper cards. At what point do you just decide to play Quicksilver Amulet and Sakura-Tribe Scout instead of leaving things to chance (and having to do things in your upkeep?)

Dawnglade Regent

Dawnglade Regent

Rating: Niche Inclusion

Again, if you’re not in full-on monarch mode, this doesn’t seem like it’s worthwhile. That said, I expect this to be incredibly obnoxious in Limited.

Fin-Clade Fugitives

Fin-Clade Fugitives

Rating: Niche Inclusion

“Elf Salamander Rogue” is in the running for best type line of all time, but that’s not enough for this to break out. Gor Muldrak might be slightly ahead of his time here.

Gilanra, Caller or Wirewood

Gilanra, Caller of Wirewood

Rating: Commander

I’m not as unimpressed with this as I am with Brinelin, but it’s close. There are better ways to reliably draw cards in green that require less setup. That said, sure, pair this with a partner that costs 6 or more, but don’t be surprised when it disappoints.

Halana, Kessig Ranger

Halana, Kessig Ranger

Rating: Commander

I love this pay-to-Pandemonium effect because it leans toward what I think of as the intended use for that kind of effect – playing huge creatures – rather than a Purphoros, God of the Forge type of plan. Halana requires you to actually make choices about when to pay for the trigger, and that seems like a lot of fun. It’s hard to recommend pairing her with anyone but Alena, so I won’t bother.

Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer

Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer

Rating: Commander

I’ve long been a fan of the Splicers, and seeing Ich-Tekik show up in this set gives me hope for a Selesnya Golem deck. Livio could blink some Splicers, and Prava could buff the tokens, but I honestly like Rebbec as the partner here to give your Golems a wide array of protection abilities. You’ll want to lean into the artifact theme, play some blink effects, and invest in cards like Heroic Intervention and Teferi’s Protection.

Kamahl, Heart of Krosa

Kamahl, Heart of Krosa

Rating: Commander

Eight mana is a steep cost, but the ability to also have a partner means you can shift your strategy between the early game and the late game. The Overrun trigger is enormously powerful, and this Kamahl’s land animation ability is really well designed to be used for its intended purpose. Kamahl, Fist of Krosa was a great land destruction card, but this Kamahl only targets your lands and makes them indestructible, making it much easier to stomach sending lands into combat. That said, watch out for Aetherize and similar effects ruining your day.

Kamahl's Will

Kamahl’s Will

Rating: Role Player

I think, for this to be good, you have to get both effects, and you have to really want your lands to turn into creatures. As with all the Wills, it’s best in a deck with its namesake, at least on the surface, but any deck that can leverage a large number of attackers on a single turn could theoretically benefit.

Kodama of the East Tree

Kodama of the East Tree

Rating: Commander

This is one of the few cards I’m not particularly happy to see in this set. It’s just so ridiculously powerful. It triggers on tokens, meaning that a bounce land and a Field of the Dead get pretty wild with it. Did we need another green commander that generated ridiculous amounts of value in exchange for you just playing Magic? I submit that perhaps, we did not. Players are going to take very long turns with this, and you’re going to feel like you’re far behind when you see it in the command zone to start the game. Partner this with Toggo for landfall value nonsense, or try Tormod to get another trigger when Zombies enter the battlefield; no matter what, make sure to play Life from the Loam to keep your hand full of land.

Magus of the Order

Magus of the Order

Rating: Niche Inclusion

The thing with the Magus long-term cycle is that the cards themselves are very slow, and decks that care about tutoring up Craterhoof Behemoth have more efficient ways to do so. This means Magus of the Order doesn’t have much of a home – it’s a lower-power card that generates an effect that higher-power decks are more interested in.

Natural Reclamation

Natural Reclamation

Rating: Niche Inclusion

Looking at cards like this is a bit like gazing into the inner workings of a machine – you can really see how cascade is valued in this set. For an extra 3 above Naturalize, you get to cascade, which should make you think about your deckbuilding, what your hits are, and the math behind possible whiffs in terms of both low-value spells and cards that simply don’t want to be cascaded into (X-spells, counterspells, very narrow effects.) All that said, it’s still a mystery box liable to generate an effect you’re not as interested in now that also requires you to hold up lots of mana.

Numa, Joraga Chieftain

Numa, Joraga Chieftain

Rating: Commander

This card seems insane with a critical mass of Elves, as cards like Priest of Titania, Elvish Archdruid, and Wirewood Channeler turn into ways to massively buff your board. It looks like Numa will fit very well into existing Elves decks and can work as well in the maindeck as it does from the command zone. Numa is set up well to pair with Miara.

Reshape the Earth

Reshape the Earth

Rating: Powerhouse

Ten lands? Really? This is a game-winning effect with so many Landfall cards – don’t even get me started on Tatyova – and plays well with Maze’s End and Field of the Dead. When you get right down to it, in green decks, the cost isn’t even that prohibitive. That said, Scapeshift often does a good enough job for less mana.

Rootweaver Druid

Rootweaver Druid

Rating: Niche Inclusion

If all three of your opponents take the deal, you get three lands and each of them gets two. They get to use their extra mana first, though, which is a bit of a problem that makes me much less interested in spending three mana on this effect. I’d rather have a Farhaven Elf most of the time, I think.

Slurrk, All-Ingesting

Slurrk, All-Ingesting

Rating: Commander

Any creature whose name is just an onomatopoetic representation of the sound it makes is all right by me, and I assume Slurrk is just the sound this thing makes when it eats. Slurrk wants to go wide on +1/+1 counters, making it an interesting option as an Ooze tribal commander. Anything that cares about +1/+1 counters is a reasonable pairing for Slurrk, but I’m partial to an old-school pairing with Reyhan.

Stumpsquall Hydra

Stumpsquall Hydra

Rating: Niche Inclusion

This precon exclusive hydra is made for situations where you want to distribute counters among both of your commanders, and those situations are going to be few and far between.

Sweet-Gum Recluse

Sweet-Gum Recluse

Rating: Niche Inclusion

You’re hoping to cascade into a creature for sure – if you do, this represents 15 total power and toughness on top of that creature’s stats. That said, I think that you need to find a more reliable way to use this card by pumping out tokens, and it’s quite likely you can get more value by pumping all your creatures with something less narrow.

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Gold

Abomination of Llanowar

Abomination of Llanowar

Rating: Role Player

I think this will be in maindecks more often than it will live in the command zone, as the available partners, as well as cards like Nath of the Gilt-Leaf, could be more exciting than this stat block of a card. That said, menace makes this slightly more interesting than it might otherwise be, and Elves are otherwise largely disinterested in winning via Commander damage, so it might be fun to try. It’s much more likely to be in the command zone in Limited, I think.

Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait

Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Straits

Rating: Commander

Once again I find myself glad that this is precon-exclusive, because if Tatyova II was going to come to a draft theater near me, I’d be pretty vexed. (I actually used to draft at a movie theater the last time I lived in Massachusetts, so “draft theater” was a real thing. It’s not as though we drafted in the actual room with the screen and stuff, just the little café that was part of the whole unit. Those were good times.) While I question whether Commander needs this card in particular, I think introducing players to the format with something like this could be good, and the power level of this commander will give the preconstructed deck game against decks it might otherwise be totally destroyed by.

Amareth, the Lustrous

Amareth, the Lustrous

Rating: Commander

Amareth plays well with repeatable scry effects and cards like Sensei’s Divining Top. It also triggers on tokens, which means the opportunity to stack up a ton of triggers and draw a lot of creature cards is present. Amareth is going to require you to do a lot of work and center your deck around its effect, but those who manage to do so will be well-rewarded.

Araumi of the Dead Tide

Araumi of the Dead Tide

Rating: Commander

This is the Dimir Commander I’ve been looking for lately! I’m excited to mill myself and then play weird Sedris-style games, though Araumi doesn’t synergize with Teferi’s Veil. It does, however, synergize with “end the turn” effects, and copying the encore activation with cards like Rings of Brighthearth could be a lot of fun as well. There’s a lot of power in this card, and I expect my first attempts at building Araumi to be much stronger than I expect them to be. It’s interesting to see a Commander whose power scales down with the number of opponents remaining – even though you have to exile fewer cards, the reduced payoff scales down much faster.

Archelos, Lagoon Mystic

Archelos, Lagoon Mystic

Rating: Commander

Archelos is, as many Twitter pundits have observed, supremely weird in its color identity – shouldn’t this kind of effect be white? Jules Robins, the lead developer of Commander Legends, indicated that it would be more fun if you could “use this effect with black card that create tapped Zombies and reanimate creatures tapped.” I haven’t managed to put together a satisfying Archelos list yet, but I’m interested to see how cards like Army of the Damned synergize with it.

Averna, the Chaos Bloom

Averna, the Chaos Bloom

Rating: Commander

As mentioned earlier, I’m not sure there are quite enough good cascade cards to fill out this deck, but given how powerful adding a Rampant Growth type effect to every cascade would be, I’m not sure it matters how good the cards are. As long as Averna is in play, you’re ramping hard, and if you can translate that into a payoff, you’ll be doing just fine. Cascading into another cascade card is obviously the dream, and with Apex Devastator at the top end, it’s more than just possible.

Belbe, Corrupted Observer

Belbe, Corrupted Observer

Rating: Commander

I haven’t entirely figured out Belbe yet from a gameplay perspective, but I enjoy the flavor – Belbe, a cyborg made partly from the body of Eladamri’s daughter Avila, replicates the functionality of Eladamri’s Vineyard in a more ruthless way. Breaking the symmetry of Belbe’s effect with cards like Bontu’s Monument, Jarad, and Palace Siege should lead to a strong advantage for the savvy Belbe player, but there has to be more here than that.

Bell Borca, Spectral Sergeant

Bell Borca, Spectral Sergeant

Rating: Commander

I wrote my Commander Newsletter last week about Bell Borca, and I’m still very excited by this strange card. A Boros commander whose focus isn’t one of the mainline Boros themes? Sign me up. Even better, it has built in “card draw”! Bell Borca should be fun no matter how hard you lean into the exiling, but the further you go down that path, the better it seems.

Blim, Comedic Genius

Blim, Comedic Genius

Rating: Commander

A more vicious Zedruu for the year 2020, Blim is here to hand out some of the cards that Zedruu only dreamed of giving away. I’m talking, of course, about the many black cards with serious downsides that can end games in a hurry. Cards like Demonic Pact, Immortal Coil, and Nefarious Lich can really put a damper on games, but if that’s not what you find fun, there are plenty of options for cards that simply do nothing (Darksteel Relic) or have smaller downsides like Demonic Lore.

Captain Vargus Wrath

Captain Vargus Wrath

Rating: Role Player/Commander

It’s nice to see an Adeliz-style Pirate commander that enables a swarm of attackers rather than just generating value. I expect this will be a solid choice in Limited if you’re looking to end games quickly, though it could be a better maindeck card in either Limited or Constructed given how well its ability plays with partners.

Colfenor, the Last Yew

Colfenor, the Last Yew

Rating: Commander

Reminiscent of the recent Orah, Skyclave Hierophant, Colfenor lacks the tribal restriction but only returns creatures to your hand. Still, stepping down on toughness isn’t too difficult, and given Abzan’s access to creatures that have great effects on sacrificing themselves, I expect we’ll see some interesting, if slow, Colfenor decks.

Ghen, Arcanum Weaver

Ghen, Arcanum Weaver

Rating: Commander

I wrote an article about Ghen already, but let me summarize – Ghen’s ability is quite expensive to activate, but given that Ghen amounts to a Goblin Welder for enchantments, the power level is high as long as you can activate him repeatedly. Some self-mill wouldn’t go amiss to help cheat out high-cost cards like Sunbird’s Invocation, but I like the idea of abusing enters the battlefield effects on enchantments a little more, personally.

Gnostro, Voice of the Crags

Gnostro, Voice of the Crags

Rating: Niche Inclusion

Gnostro is a supremely strange Commander for a Jeskai spells deck that wants to chain together low-cost cantrips for a frustratingly small payoff. Finding ways to untap Gnostro for multiple uses per turn should help, but this deck is going to spend so much mana and so many cards to fuel Gnostro, and I’m not convinced it’s worth it.

Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist

Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist

Rating: Niche Inclusion

I’m not sure Gor Muldrak makes any sense as a Commander, or any sense at all. All it takes is a quick removal spell and your protection from Salamanders is no longer there, so if you’re giving away 4/3s for fee, you’re likely to be vulnerable in a hurry. That said, if you’re giving away Salamanders, the recipient is unlikely to want to change that, so it’s hard to say how this will actually play out. I think this card is going to be a ton of fun in Limited and a bust outside of it.

Hamza, Guardian of Arashin

Hamza, Guardian of Arashin

Rating: Commander

Whenever I build a +1/+1 counter list, I end up with 30+ creatures in my list, and Hamza seems poised to take advantage of that type of deckbuilding. Throwing around counters, casting discounted creatures, and then using green card draw to keep the engine running isn’t too tough, and I expect to see quite a bit of Hamza in both Limited and Constructed. It kind of blows my mind that this is an uncommon, though I think it’s harder to keep the engine running in Limited.

Hans Eriksson

Hans Eriksson

Rating: Commander

Hans, no! We all know what is about to happen! The Lhurgoyf is coming! You can even see Saffi in the background raising the alarm. Most creatures worth putting into play for free are going to kill Hans, and if they don’t, your opponents’ blockers will, so you’ll need to suit him up with Darksteel Plate, Slagwurm Armor, or other protective equipment. Regeneration abilities are also an option here. Manipulating the top card of your library is an option as well, but Hans is kind enough to put the card into your hand if you whiff.

 

 

Imoti, Celebrant of the Bounty

Imoti, Celebrant of the Bounty

Rating: Role Player

It’s a shame this one doesn’t have partner, but none of the multicolored creatures in this set do, and that’s by design. That said, while I’m not super impressed by Imoti, I think this card presents an interesting deckbuilding challenge, as you need to have a good mana curve but also a solid amount of 6+ cost spells. I expect a lot of cascading into ramp or enablers to happen, which would make Imoti disappointing in practice. I suppose this could just go in the cascade deck and make the big cascade cards have more cascade.

Jared Carthalion, True Heir

Jared Carthalion, True Heir

Rating: Commander

I have a vague memory of this character from Magic: the Gathering: Battlemage, but never did I think he’d make it past flavor text. Nevertheless, here he is, in the form of a very confusing card. He shows up, gives away the crown, and then goes to get it back? I mean, sure, that’s a fun hero’s journey, and I love adding the monarch attribute to games as I think it makes them more dynamic. Not only does the Shadow Mage give away the monarch, he stops you from grabbing the crown on the same turn, meaning other players will definitely gain an advantage when you play this. I think giving putting Jared in fights, attaching Pariah or Pariah’s Shield to him, and forcing combat will all be popular ways to cause havoc at the table with this strange new card.

Juri, Master of the Revue

Juri, Master of the Revue

Rating: Role Player

I’d rather have an enabler than a payoff at the helm of my deck, since payoffs of this level are a dime a dozen. Juri will be a fun Commander in Limited, but I don’t see this as where you want to be in Constructed for a Rakdos deck.

Kangee, Sky Warden

Kangee, Sky Warden

Rating: Commander

Much like Inniaz, Kangee wants you to load up on small flyers and crash in for huge amounts, but Kangee requires you to put him in danger along with the rest of the team. Using something like Maze of Ith to pull Kangee out of combat could be useful, and it’s another great reason to play one of my favorite cards, Reconnaissance. As someone who already owns a Commander deck based on a previous (worse?) version of Kangee, I’ll be giving this a shot in Bird tribal for sure, and while it’s not going to be a top tier power level Commander, Kangee lays the foundation for anyone who loves UW Skies to make a Commander deck, which is great for Constructed and Limited alike.

Kwain, Itinerant Meddler

Kwain, Itinerant Meddler

Rating: Commander

People love breaking the symmetry of Howling Mines, and Kwain lets you do just that. It’s quite strange that Kwain offers the choice to draw a card, but if you have something like Hullbreacher on the battlefield, it’s likely they’ll choose “no,” leaving you with a discount Archivist that also gains you life. You can also break the symmetry by making your draws more valuable than theirs with cards like Teferi’s Ageless Insight and Chasm Skulker.

Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn

Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn

Rating: Commander

I love life gain cards that reward you for lump sum life gain rather than triggering on each individual life gain, as they make cards like Angelic Chorus and Wall of Reverence feel more meaningful. The idea that I could massively buff my team by choosing the rarely-used life gain mode of Heliod’s Intervention seems like a lot of fun. I’m very interested in the balancing act proposed by Lathiel between counter payoffs and life gain.

Liesa, Shroud of Dusk

Liesa, Shroud of Dusk

Rating: Commander

I already wrote an article about Liesa, so I’ll just say this: if you’re looking for an Orzhov commander that wins via Commander damage, try Liesa.

Nevinyrral, Urborg Tyrant

Nevinyrral, Urborg Tyrant

Rating: Commander

I think my favorite potential use case for Nevinyrral is to cast him and then respond to his ETB trigger by sacrificing him. That way, his Disk trigger goes on the stack above his ETB trigger, which means you’ll be left with plenty of Zombies and not much else to contest them. You can also cast him after wrathing normally, but my way seems more fun.

Nymris, Oona's Trickster

Nymris, Oona’s Trickster

Rating: Commander

I could honestly see this as a role player in decks that want to fill the graveyard as well, but those decks need to be capable of consistently casting spells on each opponent’s turn. I prefer being able to focus on something like that, which is why I see this as a Commander first. Make sure you have ways to cast spells out of your graveyard or some solid Delve effects in order to maximize Nymris.

Obeka, Brute Chronologist

Obeka, Brute Chronologist

Rating: Commander

We’ve all dreamed of having Sundial of the Infinite as our Commander, and now with the Encore mechanic as well as cards like Feldon, Sedris, and even cards like Final Fortune, Obeka looks like a ton of fun. As long as you’re well-versed enough in the rules to explain to less experienced friends how this all works, Obeka is an enormously fun option to headline your newest Grixis deck.

Reyav, Master Smith

Reyav, Master Smith

Rating: Commander

Boros continues to focus on attaching things to other things, and Reyav is emblematic of that. The Kaladesh flavor here adds a little bit of fun, and red has a few ways to sneak things past blockers that might be relevant in this kind of deck. That said, I expect this to be on the lower end of power for Boros equipment commanders, though Reyav’s low cost makes it easy to keep things going.

Thalisse, Reverent Medium

Thalisse, Reverent Medium

Rating: Commander

My immediate desire is to create noncreature tokens like treasures and clues with an eye toward building a weird deck, but there’s certainly plenty of room to build something more straightforward and just double up on tokens. Since Thalisse’s ability cares about the number of tokens created that turn before it resolves, using cards like Strionic Resonator to double that trigger is a wonderful proposition.

Tuya Bearclaw

Tuya Bearclaw

Rating: Niche Inclusion

Reverse Syr Faren doesn’t exactly give me hope outside of Limited.

Wyleth, Soul of Steel

Wyleth, Soul of Steel

Rating: Commander

Boros card draw! Rejoice! Drop the balloons! Okay, this is a precon exclusive, but still! I’m absolutely entranced by this card and can’t wait to attach tons of Bone Saws and Shukos to it. This is going to be so much fun to build around. Even cheap Auras seem like a great deal – cards like Dragon Mantle, Angelic Gift, and Chosen by Heliod cantrip immediately, and slapping an All that Glitters on this is going to be a big deal. Break out your Flickerforms, folks, because it’s time to keep Wyleth safe with everything you’ve got.

Yurlok of Scorch Thrash

Yurlok of Scorch Thrash

Rating: Commander

So many cards changed functionally when mana burn went away. Yurlok changes all that, turning cards like Tectonic Instability, War’s Toll, and Citadel of Pain into much stronger versions of themselves. Yurlok is from Alara, and it’s very amusing that the Alara block was the last block for which mana burn was still a thing, as the rules change came with the release of Magic 2010 on July 17, 2009. I do think that Yurlok has a big and obvious target on his head, and only time will tell if playing against him in is any fun at all – though I’m in love with Yurlok right now, I suspect he might actually be one of the classic “looks fun, actually destroys fun” commanders, but with apologies to my friends, I will be giving this one a try myself – if and only if they’re up for it, of course! (If not, well, that will probably tell me everything I need to know.)

Zara, Renegade Recruiter

Zara, Renegade Recruiter

Rating: Commander

This card’s power level is largely dependent on the contents of your opponents’ hands, and the ability will encourage them to play their creatures early and often. Using red wraths and blue card draw to stay ahead of opponents resource-wise can help ameliorate that, but Zara is at her most fun when you get to borrow a creature and then either sacrifice it or use cards like Ghostly Flicker to turn it into a new object under your control that won’t be returned to an opponent’s hand.

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Artifacts

Bladegriff Prototype

Bladegriff Prototype

Rating: Niche Inclusion

For all of you out there who have ever asked a friend, “Hey, can I attack you? I need to trigger my [whatever]”, this is the card for you, Sure, you want to bolt me, but in return, I get to blast something I don’t like? Sign me up for at least a few of those per game. Once you get down to the 1v1 portion of a game of Commander, though, [UPDATED] this gets a bit weirder, as the player you’re attacking has to blow up their own stuff. This is better than I initially thought when I misread it, but I still think it’s not going to show up too much.

Commander's Plate

Commander’s Plate

Rating: Powerhouse

This card is the real deal in a deck with a limited color identity – much like War Room, it’s incredible in a colorless deck and great in a mono-color deck, but I’d argue this is totally serviceable in a 3-color deck. If you’re tired of Swords of This and That, you’ll be a bit annoyed to see this, which is unfortunate because you’ll see it a lot.

Horizon Stone

Horizon Stone

Rating: Niche Inclusion

Hanging onto your mana is cool but often unexciting, and though this can slot into many more decks than Kruphix can, I still see this as something that requires a very specific deck to be useful, and if you need this effect that badly, making Kruphix your commander is still your best play.

Ingenuity Engine

Ingenuity Engine

Rating: Role Player

You can bounce Ingenuity Engine with itself by sacrificing something else if you need to reuse the cascade, but that’s not exactly a high-value play. Ingenuity Engine is more of a weird value engine for decks that want to rebuy on artifacts, and if you want to create some kind of crazy combo deck with Teshar, I’m sure this card is a part of it. A lot of the combos I’ve seen with this card involve 4+ cards, which is my kind of combo – weird, cool, and easily disrupted.

Jeweled Lotus

Jeweled Lotus

Rating: Role Player

This card is totally fine in the kind of Commander I play. Not an auto-include, not for every deck, situationally powerful – okay by me. That said, my (uneducated) opinion is that this card could have a disruptive effect in cEDH, and if it ends up getting banned at some point, I won’t be sad to see it go. If I play this, it’ll be in a low-powered deck that depends on its Commander to do something fun and interesting, and I’ll enjoy casting my Commander on turn 2, doing something wild on turn 3, and getting annihilated by the table by turn 8.

Maelstrom Colossus

Maelstrom Colossus

Rating: Niche Inclusion

If you need your cards to have cascade, this card has cascade.

Phyrexian Triniform

Phyrexian Triniform

Rating: Powerhouse

You have to be ready to spend a lot of mana on a lot of golems, but there’s an incredible amount of power in this card. Even if, by the time you activate the encore, one player has been eliminated from your four-player game, 12 mana gets you two 9/9s that turn into a total of six 3/3s. This is one card! One card that could net you a total of twelve 3/3s in the course of normal play! Phyrexian Triniform is absolutely delightful and a great showcase of the encore mechanic.

Staunch Throneguard

Staunch Throneguard

Rating: Niche Inclusion

If you need your cards to say “you become the monarch,” please enjoy. This looks like a limited card and something that could have an impact in Pauper, but I’m not overly impressed for constructed.

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Lands

Guildless Commons

Guildless Commons

Rating: Niche Inclusion

You have to have a deep-seated need for more bouncelands to add this to your deck. That said, I think cards like this are great for limited, where you can effectively increase your land count without dedicating more spots to land by playing these.

Rejuvenating SpringsSpectator SeatingTraining CenterUndergrowth StadiumVault of Champions

Rejuvenating Springs, Spectator Seating, Training Center, Undergrowth Stadium, Vault of Champions

Rating: Powerhouse

Yes! I was so happy when these were revealed initially, as I love this cycle of lands. The additional printings of the original members of this cycle as Zendikar Rising box toppers has been very helpful already, and completing the cycle in Commander Legends means more decks have access to more dual lands that enter the battlefield untapped.

War Room

War Room

Rating: Powerhouse

I wrote an article about this one too, but as a reminder, it’s great if your deck has 0-1 colors in its color identity and probably still fine in some 2-color combinations like Boros.

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Okay! We did it. I need a nap. I need several naps. Commander Legends releases on November 20th, and you can preorder sealed product and singles right now at ChannelFireball.com. You should also make sure you’ll be free on the weekend of November 28th and 29th for CommandFest Online 3, which features online matching for webcam Commander via Discord and Spelltable, a weekend-long Commander Legends Sealed Deck event, and an amazing series of panels and streamed games on our Twitch channel. You won’t want to miss it!

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