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Commander Review: Commander 2018

It's my favorite time of year: a new Commander set is coming out! Commander 2018 has been fully spoiled, which means it's time to go over every new card and ponder its implications on the format! Let's begin!



Boreas Charger

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

By design, every color in Magic has things they're traditionally good at and things they're weak at doing. Unfortunately for White, the two things its weakest at - card draw and ramp - are two of the most important things in the Commander format. White has some good options, like Knight of the White Orchid for ramp and the insanely good Land Tax for card draw, and yes White has colorless options like every color decks, but overall it's way behind all the other colors. Those two glaring weaknesses is why Mono White is unquestionably the weakest Mono Color in the format, something loudly complained about for a while now and no doubt Wizards of the Coast is aware of.

Wizards has decided to throw White a bone this time around with Boreas Charger, another variant of the conditional "land balance" idea seen in Land Tax / Tithe / Knight of the White Orchid. The Charger costs more than the Knight and is clunkier at ramping since you only get the lands when it leaves play instead of when it enters, so no ramping with this turn 3 to cast a 5cmc spell on turn 4, which sucks. However, Boreas Charger entices you with bigger rewards, since you can even get extra lands put into your hand if the land disparity is bigger.

Unlike Knight of the White Orchid, I wouldn't jam Boreas Charger into a White deck unless I had ways to consistently have it leave the battlefield when I want it to. It will fit best in Blink decks (Brago, King Eternal) as potentially repeatable source of card advantage, and Sacrifice decks (Teysa, Orzhov Scion) that can sacrifice/recur it. Equipment decks (Kemba, Kha Regent) may want the Charger too if you have plenty of ways to tutor up Skullclamp. The Pegasus also gets better if your deck naturally gets behind in land count with things like karoos (Azorius Chancery).

Overall, Boreas Charger is worse than Knight of the White Orchid both for being clunkier to use and also for being 3cmc instead of 2cmc (I much prefer my ramp at 1-2cmc), but it's still a great card in a few different archetypes and should see a good amount of play.


Empyrial Storm

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Empyrial Storm is being talked as the worst of the Storm cycle, and while that's true, but summoning an army of angels for six mana is still a good way to win the game. Like all the cards of this cycle, cheap, easily recastable commanders (Rhys the Redeemed) and partners (Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder) are going to get the most bang for your Storm buck. Rhys the Redeemed is the standout choice for this card, being a super cheap commander you'll recast multiple times and eventually double the size of your army! I can also see Empyial Storm doing great work in a Boros deck such as Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder plus whatever, as the angels benefit greatly from haste (Anger) and can get silly with a Warstorm Surge out!


Heavenly Blademaster

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Heavenly Blademaster is a sweet finisher in basically any Aura / Equipment deck. In Equipment decks it seems trivial to suit up the Angel into some X/X double strike monstrosity, add haste from Lightning Greaves or similar, and 1-shot an opponent. Even better, Kemba, Kha Regent is Equipment that likes to Go Wide, so you can pump your Cat army while doing this and maybe take out the entire table in one swing.

Aura decks are almost always running Sigil of the Empty Throne, Ajani's Chosen, and perhaps other token generators, so again it seems easy to set up lethal swings with Heavenly Blademaster. Solid inclusion.


Loyal Unicorn

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Like all the lieutenants, Loyal Unicorn works best with the various Gods (Kruphix, God of Horizons) and low cmc commanders (Rhys the Redeemed) and partners (Silas Renn, Seeker Adept). The Unicorn helps you attack with creatures that otherwise would die by blockers and the vigilance lets you still have blockers for a possible crackback. I expect Loyal Unicorn to do the most work in a Go Wide style deck with a swarm of smaller creatures. It also has potential in Boros decks that run Earthquakes, protecting your creatures from your own board wipes.

Other cards will perform the same function better than Loyal Unicorn, but it's still a decent card and a fine option on a budget. 


Magus of the Balance

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The Magus cycle continues, this time giving us the creature version of Balance. As discussed when talking about Boreas Charger, White has always lacked card draw and ramp to the same extent as the other colors. Balance is one clever old way to turn White's weakness into a strength by bringing everyone else down to your level, but things get very interesting once you build around abusing it! The most common method is having a deck with a super high concentration of fast mana rocks like Sol Ring and Mox Diamond, dumping your hand asap and then making everyone else discard and lose lands while you're ahead on board. Or you can focus on the land destruction aspect by manipulating your land count with stuff like Fieldmist Borderpost and Azorius Chancery. Or just make everyone hate you by responding to the spell/trigger by casting Teferi's Protection so everyone loses all lands on the battlefield and cards in hand -- you know, classic White things.

Balance is banned in Commander, but Magus of the Balance is a welcome addition to the spiteful White player: 5 mana is a steep activation cost, but the Magus is a creature and therefore has a lot of synergies in White, letting you recur it easily with Sun Titan and Reveillark, tutor it up with Recruiter of the Guard, and more. You want to run this in a deck with tons of fast mana rocks and Teferi's Protection obviously.




Aminatou's Augury

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There are eight legal card types in Commander (creature, land, instant, sorcery, planeswalker, enchantment, artifact, tribal) so technically you could cast all eight cards you exile off Aminatou's Augury but it doesn't seem likely. Odds are decks that run this will be consistently casting ~3 cards off it, which is more than fair for 8 mana down, but a deck can only have so many 8 cmc spells and there's a lot of insane cards at that cmc competing with this.

Aminatou's Augury definitely wants to be in a High CMC deck with topdeck manipulation. Basically it wants to be in Jodah, Archmage Eternal, because why win when you can win more? Oh, I guess it's good in Aminatou, the Fateshifter too, but c'mon! Jodah! Yes, I'd like to pay WUBRG instead of 8cmc! Whee!


Echo Storm

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Like all the Storm cards from this cycle, Echo Storm is a below-average card if you haven't cast your commander at all aka Storm Count 0, but it becomes good once you've cast your commander a single time, and things get silly fast once you're at Storm Count 2+. If you want to double check with comparisons: copying a single artifact costs about 2-3 mana as shown by Copy Artifact / Sculpting Steel. Copying two artifacts is trickier, but if we use Saheeli's Artistry then paying 5-6 mana sounds about right. Therefore casting Echo Storm after casting your commander a single time becomes worthwhile, and I'm confident in saying that getting anything more than two copies makes this card bananas. Like all the cards of this cycle, cheap, easily recastable commanders (Rhys the Redeemed) and partners (Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder) are going to get the most bang for your Storm buck.

I think Echo Storm is worth running in any Artifact deck that looks to cast its commander even just a single time, and will shine best in partner-based Artifact deck (Silas Renn, Seeker Adept) to really abuse the Storm Count. Mmm, Storm Count.


Estrid's Invocation

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Copy Enchantment is a fine card in Enchantress, doubling up on your best Enchantment and occasionally copying an opponent's. Estrid's Invocation does the same thing Copy Enchantment usually does for the exact same cmc, but way better since it gives you the option of blinking itself each turn, which offers way more potential: you can always copy something better later on, you get to re-use ETB triggers (Act of Authority), and an enchantment entering the battlefield can trigger other permanents as well (Eidolon of Blossoms). So good! Estrid's Invocation is an auto-include in any Enchantress deck that can run it -- sorry, Daxos the Returned


Ever-Watching Threshold

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Ever-Watching Threshold is a neat variant of Propaganda, deterring random attacks sent your way. Ultimately it's a significantly worse version; while neither enchantment will stop a single big creature from swinging at you for lethal, Propaganda is quite effective at stopping a Go Wide army from smashing your face, whereas Ever-Watching Threshold does not. The only upside this new variant has is it protects your planeswalkers from random nibbles.

I don't think Ever-Watching Threshold is good enough to run in most decks, but some very specific Pillowfort decks, like a Blue-based Monarch deck (if that exists) maybe wants any protection it can get.


Loyal Drake

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Like all the lieutenants, Loyal Drake works best with the various Gods (Kruphix, God of Horizons) and low cmc commanders (Rhys the Redeemed) and partners (Silas Renn, Seeker Adept). Loyal Drake is kind of like a Phyrexian Arena, except crucially you can draw a card the turn you play it instead of waiting until your next turn like Arena. The downside is that this is a fragile 2/2 creature that has a high likelihood of dying to some random removal / board wipe. Loyal Drake's generic card draw makes it a solid inclusion in any deck that consistently trigger it. It's alright, but there are better cards that serve the same function that I'd look to upgrade to eventually.

More importantly: anyone else first see a Sliver when they look at the artwork? Look at its right wing. Every time I look at the artwork my brain takes a second to find the drake head so the sliver imagery goes away.


Octopus Umbra

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Octopus Umbra is a fine card but doesn't particularly excite me. I love totem armors, but either I'm running them specifically for the protection so I want them as cheap as possible (Hyena Umbra), or they have a degenerate ability tacked on that I'm willing to pay extra for (Bear Umbra). Octopus Umbra just turns my creature into a better beatstick, which is fine, but rather, ah, pedestrian. I prefer more high society things during a game of Commander, like drawing cards or assembling Kaldra.

Of course, if you're making an Auras deck in Blue, then totem armors are especially great, and this is one of the better totem armors, so yeah I'd recommend it. Otherwise ... meh.


Primordial Mist

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Primordial Mist is a sweet steady source of card advantage with a twist: you're not putting the card in your hand like a Phyrexian Arena but instead directly into play. Oh, and it triggers on your end step so you get some value on the turn you play it which is a huge improvement. Not a bad mana cost either.

The card advantage is more restrictive, however: Primordial Mist doesn't play nice with non-permanents so you want a deck with a very high concentration of permanents, like Creature decks. Mists is actually best in Creature-heavy decks because you can flip up manifested creatures any time, whereas non-creatures basically can only be flipped up at sorcery speed. Although you can still exile your creatures too if they have sweet ETB triggers you want to use. Primordial Mist is also another crucial piece of a Manifest deck where you can play around cards with negative ETB drawbacks like Eater of Days. That's some sweet jank I can get behind!

Overall, Primordial Mist is a solid card. It's not insane and probably won't make the cut in most of my decks, but it's certainly a card to consider in permanent-heavy (Creature-heavy) Blue decks. I may run it in my Animorphs list just due to flavor reasons, even though I don't expect it to be too great there.


Vedalken Humiliator

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In a vacuum, Vedalken Humiliator gives your army pseudo-evasion when attacking, since the only possible defenders will be mere 1/1's. Not terribly exciting for an Artifact deck but not horrible. Things get a lot more interesting if you pair Humility with weenie board wipes -- Earthquake, Toxic Deluge, etc. Killing all my opponent's creatures with an Earthquake X=1 is just good value! An Izzet Artifact or Breya, Etherium Shaper running that specific kind of board wipe will enjoy Humiliator, but my favorite inclusion is probably the overlooked Tibor and Lumia!






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I give Bloodtracker a solid "meh." I think it's terrible on its own, costing way too much mana and life investment to be worth running. It gets better if you stick it in a +1/+1 Counter deck and load it up with Increasing Savagery or something similar, but even then it costs too much. Then again, there might be some busted combo with Bloodtracker I'm not aware of, so let me know in the comments section if you think of any. Until then, I doubt I'll run it.


Entreat the Dead

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Entreat the Dead is the first time we've seen the miracle mechanic since its debut way back in Avacyn Restored, and oh boy it's a good one! I don't think it's a stretch to say this is the best miracle card for the Commander format: hardcasting this is pretty bad, but in decks full on Brainstorm cards and Sensei's Divining Tops, consistently casting this for its miracle cost is easy and the payoff is insane! Getting back 2+ creatures directly into play with this is a huge swing in your favor.


Loyal Subordinate

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Like all the lieutenants, Loyal Subordinate works best with the various Gods (Kruphix, God of Horizons) and low cmc commanders (Rhys the Redeemed) and partners (Silas Renn, Seeker Adept). While the least exciting to me of all the Loyal cards, the amount of lifeloss is pretty high for the cmc and I can see it being a fine inclusion in Mogis, God of Slaughter decks, and possibly other Group Pain decks but I can't think of any off the top of my head (I wouldn't want it in Rakdos, Lord of Riots since Rakdos dies too often). Outside of that niche application it looks pretty bad.


Night Incarnate

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Speaking of mechanic callbacks, Night Incarnate is an amazing new card with the evoke mechanic! Evoking this by itself is alright as a mini board wipe, basically a slightly worse Languish. However, having this trigger on a creature means there's a lot more synergies to abuse once you throw in graveyard recursion (Horde of Notions), sacrifice outlets (Ashnod's Altar), and blink cards (Eerie Interlude). Killing your own small creatures can be a bit awkward so not all decks that can abuse Night Incarnate will still want it, but in the decks that do, this elemental is going to be an allstar at board control.


Skull Storm

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Like all the Storm cards from this cycle, Skull Storm is a below-average card if you haven't cast your commander at all aka Storm Count 0, but it becomes good once you've cast your commander a single time, and things get silly fast once you're at Storm Count 2+. Skull Storm is the closest standalone "I win the game" of the cycle. Assuming your opponents are at 40 life and you cast this with Storm Count 1, your opponents go from 40 life to 20 to 10, each opponent losing 30 life off a single spell! Compare that to Commander staple finisher Exsanguinate where spending 9 mana total means you're only draining 7 life from each opponent, or Torment of Hailfire for 9cmc makes opponents lose 21 life if they choose to. Unlike the other two, Skull Storm can't straight-up kill your opponents by itself, but it shouldn't be too hard finishing them off when they're clinging to 1 life. Like all the cards of this cycle, cheap, easily recastable commanders (Rhys the Redeemed) and partners (Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder) are going to get the most bang for your Storm buck.

The thing keeping Skull Storm in check is it requires setup: that sweet lifeloss only kicks in once your opponents no longer have creatures. Yes, it Diabolic Edicts your opponents if they do have creatures, but crappy creature removal is not what you want for a 9 cmc spell. You want to ensure your opponents have little/no creatures on the battlefield, then smack them with bonestooooorm! 

I expect Skull Storm to do well in any Black deck running a heavy amount of creature removal. Orzhov Sacrifice decks like Teysa, Orzhov Scion, Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, and partners Regna, the Redeemer / Krav, the Unredeemed usually keep the opposing board squeaky clean with stuff like Dictate of Erebos and good ol' fashioned Damnation, making this a good fit, but also any Black Control deck with a relatively cheap / repeatably cast commander may want to consider Skull Storm over the usual finishers.


Sower of Discord

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I love political cards and Sower of Discord is right up my alley! In most situations you'll be picking two opponents to essentially double the damage dealt whenever you hit one of them. This is a great way to get damage through Pillowfort decks by attacking a more open opponent. It also incentivizes other non-chosen opponents to attack the linked players also to maximize their damage output. However, linking two opponents means they won't be swinging at each other anymore and they'll make killing Sower of Discord / you their top priority, so this tactic can backfire. Alternatively, you can link yourself to an aggressive opponent, stopping them from attacking you until they can get rid of your 6/6 flyer. 

I think Sower of Discord will be a fine inclusion in any aggressive Black deck. I'm excited to try it out in Rakdos, Lord of Riots, allowing me to get even more value out of my Earthquakes for even greater mana discounts. It's also a powerful inclusion in Group Pain decks like Mogis, God of Slaughter for similar reasons.




Emissary of Grudges

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Emissary of Grudges is a cute concept: you've got this hasty 6/5 flying at an opponent's face which is a decently scary threat that your opponent needs to deal with, and when they try to Swords to Plowshares you're like "how about you Swords your own creature instead?" That's the ideal situation of course. Other times you'll get one hit in before Emissary gets swept into the graveyard by a Wrath of God -- not a great use of 6 mana.

The high variance on Emissary of Grudges turns me off from it. I like the card, it's the type of card that makes for great stories when it works, but it's too high a mana cost for me to risk it sucking. If it makes its way on to Magic Online I'll run it, but only so I can target Seth with it.


Enchanter's Bane

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I guess since Red can't deal with enchantments, it can at least mildly discomfort them? I don't get why this card is here; it looks too low-impact for Commander. Was this printed here for Legacy sideboards or something?


Fury Storm

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Like all of the cards in this cycle, Fury Storm is good once you've cast your commander a single time, and then anything beyond that the card gets silly. For easy comparisons, Reverberate / Fork are clearly superior if your Storm Count is 0, but then it's a usually better Wild Ricochet at Storm Count 1, and anything Storm Count 2+ is bananas. Copy your opponent's Genesis Wave X=10 three times? Sure. Copy your Time Warp two times? Why not. Like all the cards of this cycle, cheap, easily recastable commanders (Rhys the Redeemed) and partners (Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder) are going to get the most bang for your Storm buck.

Spellslinger decks like Kess, Dissident Mage and Mizzix of the Izmagnus will love this. Just cast your commander a single time and you're set.


Loyal Apprentice

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Like all the lieutenants, Loyal Apprentice works best with the various Gods (Kruphix, God of Horizons) and low cmc commanders (Rhys the Redeemed) and partners (Silas Renn, Seeker Adept). In the case of Loyal Apprentice, I expect the best fit would be an Artifact deck led by partners Silas Renn, Seeker Adept / Akiri, Line-Slinger, since the commanders are so easy to keep recasting and keep on the battlefield to trigger the lieutenant mechanic. I actually quite like Loyal Apprentice in that specific deck. Beyond that though I'm not sure there are other Artifact commanders that can consistently stick around the battlefield for this to be worthwhile. When it's always on, Apprentice is a fine inclusion, though like all the Loyal cards I'd eventually look to upgrade to a card that performs the same function but better.


Nesting Dragon

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Nesting Dragon is solid all by itself: decent body, great landfall trigger that deters attacks and board wipes, all for a fair cmc. The Dragon will do the most work in a Landfall deck (Lord Windgrace) and/or Sacrifice deck (Shattergang Brothers), where you flood the board with sacrifice fodder that turn into scary threats. Great card.


Reality Scramble

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I'm loving this exploration of Red Polymorph variants! Reality Scramble is an amazing one. Turn your 1/1 soldier token into a Blightsteel Colossus? Turn your clue token into a Blightsteel Colossus? Turn your Wild Growth into Omniscience so you can play your Blightsteel Colossus for free? The possibilities are endless!

Any dedicated Red Polymorph decks will love this. Pair with tokens, topdeck manipulation (Scroll Rack), stir, bam. Great with Vaevictis Asmadi and others.


Saheeli's Directive

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Saheeli's Directive is the Artifact version of Genesis Wave and while it's more restrictive it's just as degenerate: Artifact decks are so good at dropping their hands on to the table as quickly as possible with a buttload of mana rocks, so putting all those artifacts to use with Saheeli's Directive is just what the deck wants. You'll whiff on lands and other non-artifact cards but when you're casting Directive for X=15+ it doesn't matter as you'll probably win that turn anyway.


Treasure Nabber

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Treasure Nabber looks good even in a vacuum: mana rocks are common sources of ramp in any non-Green deck and borrowing a Sol Ring and Izzet Signet for 3+ extra mana each turn is quite good value for 3 cmc even on a fragile creature. Things get even better in Artifact decks with consistent sacrifice outlets like Kuldotha Forgemaster and Breya, Etherium Shaper. Use your opponent's artifacts and then sacrifice them for extra value! It's removal with extra goodness!


Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor

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Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor is one of my favorite cards in the entire set: it's so cool and unique! You've got this efficient token maker at just 3cmc that is just begging for haste and ways to increase power for even more tokens. Those tokens aren't on your side (at least not initially) but that's fine, because they can't be used against you and might even take a chunk out of another opponent's life total. Then once Varchild goes away, those tokens are yours -- great for blink strategies! It's like the Stockholm Syndrome version of Group Hug! "Here, I'll help you by giving you tokens! *smack*"

Oldschool players will be particularly pleased that this not only is a great callback to Varchild's War-Riders but it actually has great synergy with them too! Unfortunately, the good ol' MTGFinance community identified that too, and since War-Riders is on the reserved list it got bought out quick.




Crash of Rhino Beetles

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If you have 10+ lands in play, Crash of Rhino Beetles is a 15/15 trampler for 5 mana. 15/15 trampler for 5 mana! I usually gloss over Big Dumb Beaters like this, but this is just too big to ignore. Ten lands sounds like a lot but this is Green we're talking about; we'll usually have ten lands out by turn 7, maybe earlier. Wrecking someone for 15 damage is already sweet, but Crash of Rhino Beetles can do so much more with a little support, like ramping out 15 lands with Traverse the Outlands, drawing 15 cards with Hunter's Insight / Greater Good, blowing up a target with Warstorm Surge, or just 1-shotting an unfortunate opponent with a 30/30 thanks to Xenagos, God of Revels or Berserk.

Crash of Rhino Beetles looks like an auto-include in any Go Tall deck: Xenagos, God of Revels, Ghalta, Primal Hunger, anything like that.


Genesis Storm

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Like all the Storm cards from this cycle, Gensis Storm is a below-average card if you haven't cast your commander at all aka Storm Count 0, but it becomes good once you've cast your commander a single time, and things get silly fast once you're at Storm Count 2+. I think it compares favorably to its most obvious reference point, Genesis Wave: at Storm Count 1, Genesis Storm only nabs you two permanents compared to a Genesis Wave X=4 hitting up to 4 cards, but Storm skips the less useful lands, has no cmc restriction, and has no deckbuilding restriction of requiring a high concentration of permanents to be good like Wave does. Genesis Wave does have more appeal in Big Mana decks though, since it's the perfect mana outlet once you have 10+ mana available. Like all the cards of this cycle, cheap, easily recastable commanders (Rhys the Redeemed) and partners (Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder) are going to get the most bang out of Genesis Storm.

In the end, I think these two great cards want to be in different decks: Genesis Wave wants to be in Big Mana decks that have high concentration of permanents. Genesis Wave wants to be in decks with high cmc permanents: for example, you can add this to a sweet Spellslinger deck with Riku of two Reflections and cheat out some big things like Swarm Intelligence!


Loyal Guardian

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Like the rest of the lieutenants, Loyal Guardian is the most consistent in decks with commanders that are hard to answer, specifically the Gods (Ephara, God of the Polis), or commanders that are cheap and easily recasted like the partners (Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder). I can't think of any God deck that wants this, but as for partners, it might be a good inclusion in Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker / Reyhan, Last of the Abzan decks. Otherwise, you can run this in a +1/+1 Counter deck like Atraxa, Praetors' Voice or Experiment Kraj and it will do alright. Like all the cards in this cycle, Loyal Guardian is a solid card in the right deck, especially on a budget, but eventually I'd look to replace it with a different card that does the same thing but better.


Myth Unbound

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Myth Unbound is an alright inclusion in decks built around a cheap commander, or partners. It eases the pain in having to recast them over and over. The downside is that the enchantment does nothing for you if the commander doesn't need to be recast multiple times, which is the situation you really want to be in; probably look to run commander protection like Heroic Intervention over this.


Nylea's Colossus

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Nylea's Colossus costs a whopping 7 mana and doesn't immediately swing the game around by itself like many other 7cmc spells, but it's still a fine finisher in basically any Enchantress and particularly good in one with a Go Tall subtheme like Tuvasa the Sunlit. With some enchantments in hand and mana to cast them (and ways to grant evasion), Nylea's Colossus can turn any piddly army into game-enders, or a big beater into a 1-shot wonder. 

It's a lot of mana, a lot of setup required, and you still need to find evasion, but if you want your Enchantress deck to win by attacking, then Nylea's Colossus is a good choice.


Ravenous Slime

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Graveyard strategies are plentiful and powerful. There's entire decks based on creature recursion (Meren of Clan Nel Toth) and it's rare that a playgroup doesn't have at least one person at the table running such a strategy. That's why graveyard hate is so important in every deck, and it's nice seeing more varieties of graveyard hate: Ravenous Slime joins its bretheren, Scavenging Ooze, as a Green gy-hate creature option. While it can't exile creatures (and noncreatures) already in the graveyard like Ooze can, Slime passively exiles anything that dies on its watch for no mana at all, also denying any death triggers (Solemn Simulacrum) in the process while growing into a real threat. It's a creature so it'll die soon enough, but it's a lot of value at just 3 cmc, and nothing stops you from recurring it yourself if you need it for a matchup. This is an excellent card that I highly recommend trying out if your playgroup has a significant Graveyard presence.


Turntimber Sower

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Turntimber Sower looks like a staple for any Lands deck, but it definitely makes the most Plant tokens in The Gitrog Monster, that zany land-sacrificing, self-milling Frog overlord. You then use those Plant tokens to chump block, draw cards with Skullclamp, pump with Avenger of Zendikar, and of course, get back important lands to replay. Turntimber Sower takes work to shine, but in the right deck it's great value at a low cmc.


Whiptongue Hydra

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Leans in to Dragon tribal player
Whisper in ear
"Hail Hydra ..."

If your Green deck doesn't have lots of flyers and your playgroup has tons of them, Whiptongue Hydra is one of the best answers ever printed. It doesn't take the spot of cheap instant speed removal, but if you're slugging it out for a long game, yeah, this Hydra does serious work. I like it more than Silklash Spider, especially since you can blink it for extra value (Roon of the Hidden Realm). Solid piece of hate.




Aminatou, the Fateshifter

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Aminatou, the Fateshifter is strange in that, unlike most planeswalkers, her abilities don't compliment each other: her -1 ability doesn't help fuel her +1 ability like, say, Estrid, the Masked. Even more curious, all three abilities seem to support entirely different archetypes! Her +1 supports topdeck shenanigans (Entreat the Angels), -1 supports blink (Mulldrifter), and her -6 wants you to have as few nonland permanents in play (Spellslinger? Eerie Interlude?). Yeah, her -1 can get back something she gave away with her -6, but it's clunky. So, what's the deal?

Honestly, I don't know yet. I have a feeling they originally designed Aminatou to be all about topdeck manipulation but then realized there weren't enough cards in Magic to make an entire deck around it and didn't have enough space in the product to properly support this new archetype with new cards (think Feline Ferocity's problem last year) so they just filled in the gaps by adding the ETB theme.

Still, I like that, at least on its surface, Aminatou can be built multiple ways instead of being shoehorned into one gimmick. I'm eager to find out what I can do with this weird 'walker once I do my $20 precon upgrade series. The backbone of this deck has to be its topdeck manipulation since that's the +1 ability, but from there who knows? Blink subtheme with permanents that ETB scry? Donate / swap things (Puca's Mischief) and then get our own stuff back with her -1? So weird!

Weird as she is, don't mistaken Aminatou, the Fateshifter's unfocused abilities for weakness: she's got some powerful tricks up her sleeves. She's got at least one easy combo to pull off: Aminatou + Felidar Guardian can have each permanent blink the other for an infinite loop by using her -1 on Guardian and using the Guardian's trigger on her. This combo can become a win condition with a third card like Altar of the Brood. She's weird, yes, but she's not bad.


Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle is one of the most unique and interesting cards I've seen in a while! You cast it as a creature, but it enters the battlefield as a land (triggering landfall!) and it taps for UG so it's like casting Explosive Vegetation for a Forest + Island. After you cast five spells it becomes a 12/12 for just 4cmc which is bonkers. I don't know how good it is; it's just so neat!

Arixmethes looks like a fine commander, perhaps as a Sea Monster Tribal leader, or maybe a Voltron deck looking to 1-2shot opponents and draw a billion cards off Hunter's Insight, or maybe a funky Lands deck? There's even more potential for Arixmethes as part of the 99 with extra colors, like putting it in a White deck with Solemnity so it's just a 12/12 for 4 cmc that can tap for mana.


Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

This is a weird one: Izzet Tokens! I don't think I've seen that combination before, but now here we are with Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer. I think the simplest way to build Brudiclad is to swarm the board with tokens whichever way you prefer (Young Pyromancer if Spellslinger, Sai, Master Thopterist if Artifact, etc.) and then turn them all into the scariest token you've got. Since we're in Blue, we can cheat a little by turning basically any permanent into a token, and then turning all our tokens into a copy of that artificial token. Helm of the Host, Cackling Counterpart, Saheeli's Artistry, God-Pharaoh's Gift, there's dozens of ways to turn our Inferno Titans and Roil Elementals into tokens that we can copy with Brudiclad!

Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer also has potential being a Myr Tribal deck since he's the only legendary creature that specifically mentions Myr that I know of, so that's neat!


Estrid, the Masked

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Enchantress is an archetype that holds a special place in my heart since my most beloved physical deck is a 5C Enchantress deck that I've been tweaking over five years now -- in fact, one of my earliest Budget Commander articles was about that deck, which is still up here. Enchantress as an archetype goes back literally to the beginning of Magic: the Gathering's history with Verduran Enchantress printed in the very first set, Alpha. The archetype has received support in the years since, with entire blocks dedicated to it (Theros) and other blocks intended to be dedicated to it but ended up not (Urza's Saga). And yet, in Commander at least, Enchantress has long been neglected.

The heart of Enchantress has always been the Selesnya color pairing: that's where you've got all the powerhouse cards like Replenish, Serra's Sanctum, plus the Green goodies like Argothian Enchantress. Yet in the 6+ years Commander has been officially supported we never got a single legendary creature in Selesnya colors that cared about enchantments; not even in Theros block! We got a cool Orzhov Enchantress in Daxos the Returned that I liked, the Voltron/Combo of Bruna, Light of Alabaster, and most recently Tiana, Ship's Caretaker, but we always lacked that crucial Green/White pairing. Until now.

Finally, FINALLY, we've got our Enchantress commander in Green+White: the face card is Estrid, the Masked. Thankfully, she's awesome! Relatively cheap to cast, her +2 ability is some insane ramp when paired with land enchantments like Wild Growth / Utopia Sprawl / Fertile Ground / etc. (there's like 10 good ones total) Her -1 protects your important stuff and synergizes with her +2, and her -7 is like a Genesis Wave for enchantments, all great stuff! As far as the Bant Enchantress commander options go, I think she's my favorite.

Beyond just being a great card when played straight, Estrid also has combo potential: Estrid, the Masked + The Chain Veil + enchanted lands lets you produce infinite mana by using her -1 to enchant the Veil, then using the Veil to +2 multiple time to untap Veil + lands to go up in net mana. Add additional cards from there to win the game somehow. It's a lot of cards but they're all stuff you'd be running in the deck anyway.

So yeah, Estrid, the Masked is awesome. Very happy with her. It's always felt that Enchantments is the unloved sibling of Artifacts, but now Enchantress got a ton of love this set and I'm thankful for it.


Gyrus, Waker of Corpses

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A lot of people are talking smack about my boy Gyrus, Waker of Corpses. People really hate that Gyrus exiles the creature it makes a token of, which works against Reanimation strategies looking to Reanimate creatures over and over, and that the token is gone at the end of combat. And that's fair criticism ... if Gyrus was your traditional Reanimation Control deck, but it's not. The Hydra is an Aggro deck first and foremost, not looking to repeatedly reanimate the same creatures in a loop over multiple turns, but rather just slam a bunch of damage into your opponent's faces. And when you look at it that way, Gyrus is very efficient at what it does.

The easiest comparisons to Gyrus, Waker of Corpses is Isareth, the Awakener and Alesha, Who Smiles at Death: they all can reanimate creatures in your yard and they all have restrictions on how they do it, but Gyrus' ability costs no mana! That means you get a free reanimation (albeit temporary) to smack / ETB trigger / sac, and then you use that mana you saved to cast other things and keep the tempo going! Oh and yeah, Gyrus scales with how much mana spent to play it, meaning commander tax hurts less than the others.

Once you start evaluating the card on what Gyrus is intended to do and not what you expect a card like this should do based on previous cards, I think you'll agree Gyrus is pretty darn good at its niche.

For people complaining about Gyrus, Waker of Corpses simply because it doesn't promote the main theme of the precon it's featured in, aka Lands.dec, well ... yeah, that's a valid complaint. Kinda sucks, but hey, the Hydra is still pretty sweet!


Kestia, the Cultivator

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Kestia, the Cultivator draws cards, so I'm already interested. It starts getting good once you're drawing 2+ cards a turn, though it's unlikely to draw 5+ card due to its restrictions since Aura decks don't easily Go Wide and there's no super efficient way to create an army of enchantment creatures outside of cheating with Enchanted Evening. Kestia herself is an enchantment so she inherently synergizes better with staple Enchantress cards like Verduran Enchantress, something the other Enchantress commanders don't do. I also like having the option to bestow which gives her extra protection against removal.

Kestia is a great option as the commander of a Bant Auras or generic Enchantress deck, and she's an excellent inclusion in the 99 of any Enchantress list. I expect to see her played in just about every Enchantress deck -- sorry, Daxos the Returned.


Lord Windgrace

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Lord Windgrace is simply great value for five mana. His +2 ability is delicious card draw, putting gas into your hand while simultaneously setting up graveyard shenanigans like his own -3 ability. His -3 ability is both recursion and ramp, lands that you can immediately use since they enter the battlefield untapped. His -11 is at least four turns away in a vacuum and while it doesn't end the game it still should be a huge momentum swing in your favor, though I am disappointed such an ultimate can't hit lands.

You don't need to do much to get maximum value out of Lord Windgrace: pretty much just run all the fetchlands you can afford so you can consistently get back 2 lands with his -3 ability and you're golden. Obviously we can go further with this, running a dedicated Lands deck that looks to fill our graveyard with lands and other stuff via cards like Faithless Looting and Life from the Loam, recur our stuff with Windgrace and stuff like Splendid Reclamation, and throw in cards that care about lands (Avenger of Zendikar). Easy peasy. If you're feeling particularly brutal, Lord Windgrace is actually one of the best commanders for a Mass Land Destruction deck: all you gotta do is ramp out Windgrace and keep smacking the table with Wildfire type cards while Windgrace gets your lands back with his -3! It's a powerful strategy but not something I'd recommend if your playgroup isn't cool with it.

Is Lord Windgrace the best Land commander? Well, no -- The Gitrog Monster is still the best option, but keep in mind Gitrog Combo is one of the best decks in the entire format. Lord Windgrace can helm a very powerful and open-ended Lands deck which is much more exciting to me than a busted, very linear combo deck that the Frog inevitably becomes. This planeswalker is my favorite choice in Lands commander, beating out all the rest in terms of enjoyment in my opinion, which is the best praise I can give him.


Saheeli, the Gifted

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Commander players have been asking for an Izzet Artifact commander for a long, long time. Wizart responded by printing Breya, Etherium Shaper, the most powerful Artifact commander ever made. People weren't happy, however, because Breya is 4C and not Izzet, even though you could build a Breya deck with no W/B cards in the 99. Then Wizards tried again with Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, yet another busted Artifact commander which Mark Rosewater even says of her, "Finally, a Jhoira that's a Jhoira and a blue-red 'artifacts matter' commander." Unfortunately the players unhappy with Breya are also unhappy with Jhoira because she's an amazing Artifact commander she doesn't just care about artifacts but all historic spells. Honestly Wizards should've seen that one coming considering people nitpicked Breya for extra totally optional colors.

But now, finally, we have our IZZET commander that cares specifically about ARTIFACTS: Saheeli, the Gifted. And she's pretty good too! Her first +1 ability is solid, giving you a 1/1 artifact creature that can be sacrificed for value to things like Skullclamp / Goblin Welder, makes her other abilities more powerful, and at the very least is an okay chump blocker. Her second +1 is where the true power lies, letting you ramp out absurd artifacts like Darksteel Forge and Blightsteel Colossus. Finally her -7 can actually win games on the spot assuming you have enough artifact creatures to be lethal.

Saheeli also has at least one infinite combo with her: Saheeli, the Gifted + Deepglow Skate + Mycosynth Lattice. Cast Skate to double Saheeli's loyalty and then ultimate her, making a copy of everything including Saheeli and Skate. Let the original Saheeli die to the Legend rule and have the new Skate double the loyalty of the Saheeli token, repeating the process for an infinite token army with haste.

Where does Saheeli, the Gifted rank in terms of Artifact commanders? Well, she's definitely weaker than Breya, Etherium Shaper and probably Jhoira, Weatherlight Duelist too, but I do like her more than any other monocolor Artifact commander other than perhaps Sai, Master Thopterist. She's definitely in the "very strong" category.

With the community finally getting their Izzet Artifact commander, I hope that we don't see another "Artifacts matter" Commander deck in a long, long time. Please. We have long reached a saturation point with the Artifact archetype. I'm just so tired of it. The last Commander Artifact precon was Breya, Etherium Shaper only two years ago, and every other damn Standard set has an Artifact theme to it already. Please, Wizards of the Coast, lay off it for a couple years.


Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice

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Of all the many, many, MANY Artifact commanders available to us, I think Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice might end up being my favorite. No, he's probably not more powerful than Breya, Etherium Shaper or Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, but out of all the Artifact commanders out there, Tawnos is the one with the most open-ended promise of unbridled shenanigans. Basically a Rings of Brighthearth and Strionic Resonator merged into one card, Tawnos is going to get more bang out of your chrome buck, making extra tokens off Wurmcoil Engine, destroying an extra permanent with Spine of Ish Sah, cheating into play an extra artifact with Master Transmuter -- there's a vast array of sweet possibilities on this wee 2cmc commander. I appreciate that.

Tawnos isn't just extra value, he unsurprisingly comes with tons of combo potential as well. Obviously Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice + mana rocks + Paradox Engine is infinite mana, but saying "combos with Paradox Engine" is about as surprising as saying "this planeswalker is really good with Doubling Season!" There's more obscure combos out there though, such as pairing Tawnos with Sands of Time for infinite untaps / mana -- yes, Sands of Time is a real card that now has actual Commander potential.

Overall, I think Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice is amazing. He's very powerful even if he's overshadowed by the likes of Breya and Jhoira, aka some of the most busted commanders in the entire format. You can build an Artifact deck under Tawnos a million different ways, or jam him into the 99 of any Artifact deck. As much as I love him though, Wizards, take a break from pushing the Artifact archetype on us. Please. There's so many other archetypes out there that need more support.


Thantis, the Warweaver

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Like many people, I too am a little disappointed that the secondary Jund commanders in the Land-themed precon don't actually card about Lands, but at least Thantis, the Warweaver is a really cool and unique commander that I'm excited to build around. I can't be too upset at that.

On the surface, Thantis, the Warweaver looks pretty bad: 6cmc for a 5/5 vigilance reach creature that forces everyone to attack and gets a little bigger if you're attacked. No immediate payoff, no haste, no protection from removal, rather high cmc. A lot of things working against this spider from the get-go. But for me it's more about the unique archetype she helms rather than the commander's raw power itself.

Basically, Thantis, the Warweaver wants to lead a deck built around forcing your opponents to attack for value. This is very similar to my Budget Gahiji and Kynaios and Tiro deck concepts. First, we make ourselves a bad target to attack, not just because we have a giant spider blocking but also stuff like No Mercy, Koskun Falls, and Elephant Grass. We can also encourage our opponents to attack elsewhere with nice things like Curse of Opulence. Next we gift our opponents armies so they can swing at each other for more damage with stuff like Sylvan Offering and Seed the Land. Finally, we benefit from all the creatures dying left and right with death triggers like Revel in Riches and Blood Artist. Our creatures must attack too, so we can make blocking less appealing with Archetype of Finality and Bow of Nylea, or we can go Defender Tribal with a bunch of defenders that can't attack and Vent Sentinel for the win!

Thantis is sweet. Unfortunately not a Lands commander, but sweet.


Tuvasa the Sunlit

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Part beatstick part card draw, Tuvasa the Sunlit is an excellent addition to any Enchantress deck, either as your commander or as part of the 99. At the same cmc as the other enchantresses (Mesa Enchantress), Tuvasa is restricted to only drawing 1 card per turn, but instead she becomes a huge beater, acting as an excellent blocker or attacker. You can also sort of get around her drawing restriction by adding ways to cast your enchantments at instant speed with Leyline of Anticipation, Vedalken Orrery, and Alchemist's Refuge. Whether you make her your commander or stick her in the 99 is up to personal preference: honestly, I think all the bant enchantress commanders are pretty close in power level so it depends on how you want to end games. If you're looking for a more Voltron style, Tuvasa the Sunlit is your commander.


Varina, Lich Queen

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Holy Zombie Tribal, Batman! Varina, Lich Queen is likely going to be my favorite Zombie Tribal commander ever printed. Grimgrin, Corpse-Born is the undisputed champ of Zombie Combo, Gisa and Geralf were the best at long grindy value, The Scarab God the king of raw power, and Thraximundar the most aggressive, but Varina ... Varina is the best at setting up big reanimation plays. I'm looking at you, Zombie Apocalypse

Cycling is exactly what I want to be doing in my Zombie Reanimation decks! I want to discard my zombies and keep everything else in hand! I want 10+ zombies in the 'yard so I can bring them all back with Patriarch's Bidding! Varina does this so efficiently. The lifegain is nice too. Also we have access to White, which while it doesn't contribute much to Zombies it gives us two excellent pickups with Necromancer's Covenant and Wayward Servant, plus it gives our deck access to artifact and enchantment removal!

Thraximundar has been the commander of my Zombie Tribal for over 6 years now, but finally the king has been dethroned. Long live the queen!


Windgrace's Judgment

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Windgrace's Judgment is ridiculous value! Super flexible multiplayer removal at instant speed! 5 cmc is well worth what you get here. Flexible, instant speed removal is just so valuable in Commander, where threats come in all card types. This shouldn't replace cheap spot removal (Swords to Plowshares) or board wipes (Wrath of God) but it's fair to compare this to, say, Utter End. Windgrace's Judgment is just so good I expect it to be one of the most played cards from the set if the price stays down.


Xantcha, Sleeper Agent

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Oh my god I love this card for so many reasons. I love Xantcha's character and I'm glad to see her printed here and paying homage to her first card representation, Sleeper Agent (though I much prefer the original art). I love the mechanics themselves: this is a political card, able to indirectly dish out a ton of damage to your opponents by attacking for 5 each turn and draining its controller when people draw cards. I love politics, so this is right up my alley. Great value for 3 cmc!

Xantcha's biggest downside is that soon enough an opponent will have a blocker that can eat her, which is an easy way to get rid of her. Unfortunately I can't think of a lot of ways to fix this problem without getting super niche. For example, we can remove blocking potential entirely with cards like Bedlam. We can also pump Xantcha up with auras like See Red and Eldrazi Conscription.

All in all, I'm a big fan of this card and will first try to run her in the 99 of a Politics deck like Queen Marchesa or Gahiji, Honored One, or even Thantis, the Warweaver.


Yenett, Cryptic Sovereign

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Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign is kind of like Narset, Enlightened Master where it's just trivial to break. All you gotta do is run huge odd-cmc spells and ways to put them on top of your library via Brainstorm / Scroll Rack / Vampiric Tutor and voila, you win. Example: Mystical Tutor, attack, reveal Expropriate, good game.

This card is way too simple for me to get excited about. She encourages a style of play that doesn't appeal to me, both piloting her or running up against her. Not a fan.


Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow

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Now this I can get hyped for! COMMANDER NINJUTSU! YES! It's no secret that I love the ninjutsu mechanic: I love aggressive tempo decks, I love evasive beaters, and I definitely love blink strategies, all things ninjutsu supports! It's such a shame that the mechanic is named ninjutsu because it ties to Kamigawa, a setting we're not likely to ever revisit, and that means we rarely get the opportunity to see new ninjutsu cards. Thankfully we got a new one here, and it's one of the most important ones ever printed because finally we've got a Ninja commander!

Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow is so fun. So so fun. She encourages evasive ETB creatures (coughcough Mulldrifter) to swap out for ninjas, re-using the ETB triggers later on. She wants your ninjas to keep getting in there too, and since they don't have built-in evasion you'll need to provide them with it with things like Wonder / Filth. We also want topdeck manipulation (Brainstorm) and high cmc spells (Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre) but we can cheat a bit on the high cmc with cards that have alternate casting costs (Snuff Out). 

Yuriko might just be my favorite commander in the entire set. I'm so hyped!




Ancient Stone Idol

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Ancient Stone Idol is a big ol' creature that can be cast for as little as zero mana, but more likely I'd expect this card to be cast for 7+ mana. I think it's most likely to see play in Sai, Master Thopterist, but I fear once you're swinging with 10+ creatures this card is just win-more, and when an opponent is swinging with that many creatures you don't want this, you want a board wipe!

I dunno. I can't get on board with this card.


Coveted Jewel

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Coveted Jewel is a Gilded Lotus that ETB draws you 3 cards for 1 more mana. That's really good! Things only get better if you have any way to bounce/blink it for even more sweet card draw (Brago, King Eternal). Unfortunately, your opponents are going to be gunning for your Jewel, so either you need to protect it behind a giant army, a pillowfort they can't pay (Sphere of Safety), or you need to get rid of it (Goblin Welder). 

I think Coveted Jewel will work best in a Red/Izzet Artifact deck that has plenty of sacrifice outlets. Honestly the best pairing with Jewel is Goblin Welder, since it can both abuse its ETB trigger and get it out of the battlefield so your opponents can't nab it.


Endless Atlas

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Wow, Endless Atlas is actually reasonable card draw for Mono Color decks running a good amount of basics! Mono White decks, rejoice! This is really decent card draw for you!


Geode Golem

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Geode Golem is restrictive, situational ramp that can easily die during combat due to low toughness unless you give it better evasion somehow. This is not a card I'd spend 5 mana on. Pass.


Retrofitter Foundry

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I used to love cards like Trading Post: slow, durdly colorless value engines, doing a bunch of minor things that slowly add up over time. But the more I play Commander, the less I like these types of cards, opting for faster, more mana-efficient ways of generating value. Retrofitter Foundry is just another durdly card I don't care for. Yes, it's a colorless way to make infinite creatures if you have infinite mana, which is respectable but there's plenty of better ways to win with infinite mana; even Staff of Domination is a colorless mana sink to draw your entire deck and hopefully win the game that way. And outside of infinite mana I just don't like the Foundry. Cool, I make a small creature token and can slowly make it bigger. Don't care. Pass.




Forge of Heroes

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Forge of Heroes isn't a land I'd run in any generic deck but there are quite a few commanders that would specifically enjoy it. I think planeswalker commanders benefit the most, basically all of them but especially the ones with the fewest colors (Daretti, Scrap Savant). If your commander cares about +1/+1 counters then this is like a worse Opal Palace, which is still fine if your commander enjoys the redundancy (Marchesa, the Black Rose). Forge of Heroes probably shines brightest in a Kytheon, Hero of Akros deck (all 5 of them), since you can possibly cast and flip Kytheon in the same turn, turn him into a creature, and then activate Forge to give him both a +1/+1 counter and a loyalty counter. Value!


Isolated Watchtower

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Scrying Sheets is a terrific card for any deck running lots of basic lands (20+) and you're willing to splurge to have them all snow-covered. Isolated Watchtower is kind of similar, also wanting you to run lots of basic lands, but also letting you scry! While Sheets always puts the land into your hand, Watchtower puts the land into play -- ramp! -- but only if an opponent has two more lands than you, boo. This makes Isolated Watchtower most appealing to non-Green Mono-Color decks as those have the highest amount of basics and the least access to land ramp. As long as there's a Green player at the table, odds are you'll get to ramp with Watchtower once or twice, which is great value considering how little it costs to run this.

I'll be running Isolated Watchtower in pretty much all my non-Green Mono Color decks. It comes into play untapped, the activation cost is low, the payoff is high; there's just little reason not to run it.


That's All, Folks!

Holy crap that was a lot of cards to review! There are a lot of goodies here to make an impact in the Commander format. I expect to see a lot more Enchantress decks now that the archetype has been properly supported in the format. We've also got goodies for Artifacts, a couple cards for Lands, a terrific new Zombie commander, the entire Storm cycle is amazing, Wingrace's Judgment ... yeah, lots of good stuff.

Let me know what you are most excited about from Comander 2018! What cards are you going to brew with first? What additions will you make to your current decks and what new decks will you build? Tell me in the comments section!

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