Browse > Home / Strategy / Articles / Commander Review: Commander 2020 | Part 2 | Red, Green, Multicolor, Colorless, Lands

Commander Review: Commander 2020 | Part 2 | Red, Green, Multicolor, Colorless, Lands


We finish our Commander 2020 review with Part 2: Red, Green, Multicolor, Colorless, and Lands! If you haven't read Part 1 you can check that out here!

 

RED

 

Agitator Ant

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I know I'm in the minority here, but I LOVE Political Combat decks! Force your opponents to attack and kill each other while you sit back, relax, maybe sip a mojito? Agitator Ant promotes that playstyle: your opponents get to grow their creatures, and then they attack each other for extra damage, win-win! Of course, your opponents can opt out of this, and they definitely will if they think their creatures will be blocked/killed in the process, but it's going to be awfully tempting to put some extra counters for an evasive beater that was planning to swing anyway! And even if they opt out of the counters, you're still getting counters yourself so it ain't all bad.

I like Agitator Ant. It's neat. Is it a powerful card on its own? Heck no! This is a Political card and its power is tied to your opponents, not yourself. And it's a cute lil' ant and I just wanna hug it -- maybe an air hug from a safe distance though!

Recommended For: Political Combat decks like Gahiji, Honored One

 

Fireflux Squad

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

"Oh, I'm not attacking you with this 1/1 Human Soldier token. I'm attacking you with ... ah, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger! BLAM!"

Fireflux Squad is the latest iteration of Polymorph effects which seemed to have moved from Blue over to Red's territory, which honestly is appropriate considering the chaos/random of it being fitting in Red. The card is super efficient, costing only four mana and coming with haste, so you can use its ability immediately, assuming you have another attacking creature to exile. The tricky part is getting a 4/3 with no evasion to survive combat so you can use it again. Even if you use it once, however, it's basically just a Polymorph at that point, which is fine.

Decks can either be a dedicated Polymorph / Combo deck where you run just one or two creatures in the entire deck and a bunch of token generators so you're guaranteed to always hit the giant creature with this effect. Or you can run a mix of creatures and topdeck manipulation like Worldly Tutor and Sensei's Divining Top to still hit something good each time. Either way, Fireflux Squad is a good enabler.

Recommended For: Polymorph decks like Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire

 

Frontier Warmonger

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Menace isn't the best form of evasion, but when it's benefiting not just you but also enticing your opponents to hit each other, it gets quite a bit better! Frontier Warmonger is a slick mix between a buffer for your own army to get damage through, and a political tool to encourage your opponents to attack each other, albeit very minor encouragement. Nothing crazy here, but altogether I think it's worth the four mana.

Recommended For: Human Tribal decks like Jirina Kudro; Warrior Tribal Najeela, the Blade-Blossom; Political Combat Gahiji, Honored One

 

Lavabrink Floodgates

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Lavabrink Floodgates is both an okayish mana rock that turns into an okayish board wipe once the majority of the board agrees to popping it. A 4cmc mana rock that taps for RR is a decent enough rate, comparable to cards like Firemind Vessel, Worn Powerstone, and Gilded Lotus, all fine cards. The board wipe is comparable to Chain Reaction, though both often struggle to kill the biggest threat at the table, making both worse than Blasphemous Act.

Floodgates works in a way to Coercive Portal, except the Portal actually provides good rates for both options it offers: 4cmc for a colorless Phyrexian Arena is great, and 4cmc for Oblivion Stone is great. The downside to Portal, and the reason why it doesn't see much play, is that you aren't solely responsible for what part of the card is used: the table is. If you are the one who has a nice board state, the Portal can actually be your downfall as your opponents vote to blow your stuff up.

Lavabrink Floodgates suffers the same issues as Coercive Portal in that not having full control of when it's popped can end up harming you more than helping. There's a big risk associated with these cards, but Floodgates doesn't offer good enough rewards to make it worth running.

While I don't think Lavabrink Floodgates is a powerful card, there's a janky casual archetype that I quite enjoy, a variant of Politics that focuses on letting opponents choose what happens which I call a Voting deck. You fill it with the Conspiracy vote cards like Council's Judgment and give them other choices like Floodgates does. It's not a strong deck, but in my experience it's a fun one both for you and your opponents if you're in a casual setting.

Recommended For: Political decks, Voting decks.

 

Molten Echoes

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Molten Echoes is a more mana-efficient Flameshadow Conjuring for Tribal decks. Pretty much any Tribal deck should consider running Echoes, but especially Tribes with a lot of ETB triggers like Allies (Hagra Diabolist) or focused on sacrifice like Clerics (Rotlung Reanimator). It's hard to imagine a Tribal deck not getting a lot of value out of this card, however. It's a really solid card!

Recommended For: any Tribal deck

 

Spellpyre Phoenix

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Spellpyre Phoenix is a beefed up Archaeomancer for the Cycling archetype, and it's really, really good. Being able to cycle Starstorm or Akroma's Vengeance early on and then getting it back once it's needed is real nice. I love how not only does the Phoenix kinda benefit from dying so you can recast it and get another card back, but it synergizes well with being discarded to looting cards like Faithless Looting as you'll eventually get it back to your hand for free, turning the looting into super efficient card advantage.

The most important thing about Spellpyre Phoenix, however, is that its recursion ability is an ETB trigger. The cornerstone of any Cycling deck is Astral Slide / Astral Drift, which is used to soft lock your opponents from ever doing things with their creatures, protect your own creatures from removal, and re-use ETB triggers like this Phoenix here! With Phoenix and Slide on the battlefield you have a rather disgusting value engine where you can constantly cycle instants/sorceries, blink the Phoenix, and immediately get the cycled cards back. That's card advantage right there!

Recommended For: Cycling decks like Gavi, Nest Warden

 

Surly Badgersaur

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Surly Badgersaur is another crazy good value engine for not only Cycling decks, where you're discarding tons of cycling cards per turn with the help of New Perspectives and Fluctuator, but even more impressively in Wheel decks, where you're discarding entire hands at once with cards like Windfall and Wheel of Fortune. In these decks, the Badgersaur will be generating tons of treasure tokens, growing to a huge size, and taking out all opposing creatures in no time.

Surly Badgersaur is basically Red's version of Waste Not. It's not quite as busted as the enchantment, as it's slower and more vulnerable to removal, but it's still an insane card in the right deck, definitely a new auto-include.

Recommended For: Cycling decks like Gavi, Nest Warden; Wheel decks like The Locust God

 

GREEN

 

Capricopian

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Capricopian is similar to Lavabrink Floodgates where it's not a powerful card, yet I'll probably toss it into a janky low-power Political / Voting decks. I like the idea of opponents constantly growing / redirecting the Goat at other opponents, turning it into a bigger and bigger threat and adding suspense at the table. Unfortunately Capricopian is a pretty bad threat on its own, being rather small for the mana spent and not even having anything to spice it up like protection from removal or even trample for a bit of evasion. It's puzzling to me that they didn't push the stats on this one since the drawback is so awful if you actually want to attack a specific player; Ruhan of the Fomori is a good example of pushed stats being balanced with a big drawback and that was nine years ago!

So yeah, Capricopian kinda sucks. But if you're playing a Voting / Political deck and only care about theme, Capricopian fits nicely.

Recommended For: Political / Voting jank decks

 

Curious Herd

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Like Call the Coppercoats, Curious Herd can be a super efficient token generator in some scenarios, but it's completely dependent on what your opponents are playing. I think Herd is significantly less powerful than Coppercoats, however, since creatures are far more common/plentiful than artifacts and Coppercoats can scale up with the strive mechanic. This is meta dependent, however, and if your playgroup has a lot of Artifact decks then Curious Herd can become a serious threat, providing an instant speed army that could straight-up take someone out right away.

Token decks might want to try out Curious Herd. Beast Tribal definitely wants it, if that's a thing.

Recommended For: Tokens like Trostani, Selesnya's Voice; Beast Tribal

 

Glademuse

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

"Hey, WOTC, you know how you keep saying that the color pie is a fundamental aspect to the game and must be maintained?"
"Yeah."
"And you keep using the color pie argument as the reason why White isn't allowed good card draw or ramp, both essential things to succeed in Commander?"
"Yeah."
"Then why is Glademuse Green when it's clearly a Blue card?"
"Haha color pie go brrr"
"So could we get some color bending for some much-needed strong White cards if you're willing to give Green basically the entire pie at this point?"
"NO!"

Gripes aside, Glademuse is a sweet card in any Draw Go deck looking to play most of their cards on other players' turns -- assuming your Draw Go deck can run it, since many of them are not in Green, which shouldn't have been Green in the first place WOTC ahhhh!!!!

But yeah it's a good card. Sure, it helps your opponents too, but it's always going to help your deck more if you've built around it. Plus you can slap down Teferi, Temporal Archmage to reap all the benefits yourself.

Recommend For: Draw Go decks like Kalamax, the Stormsire

 

Ravenous Gigantotherium

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

While it costs a lot of mana and creatures to set up, I think Ravenous Gigantotherium has potential to be a decent creature removal on a stick in some Sacrifice or Tokens decks. In an Emmara, Soul of the Accord Tokens deck, for example, it shouldn't be too hard to have an extra 2-4 1/1's laying around that this Beast can munch on to turn into a serious threat that wipes out a few opposing creatures. Or a Sacrifice deck like Meren of Clan Nel Toth, you're devouring creatures that want to be sacrificed anyway, giving Meren experience counters -- oh and Meren herself can repeatedly recur Ravenous Gigantotherium for targeted removal if you get enough counters!

While it does have its uses, Ravenous Gigantotherium does cost a whopping 7 mana to cast, and it requires a board of creatures that you want to sacrifice to it. This is a terrible card when you're behind or have a small / empty board -- which is exactly the time you really need your removal to work.

Overall, I don't think Ravenous Gigantotherium is a great card. Even in the decks that can make proper use of its devour mechanic, chances are you're better off with an unconditional, cheaper to cast creature removal like a Swords to Plowshares or Wrath of God instead. If you're in Mono Green however, which is limited in creature removal (for now), then maybe it's a good enough choice.

Recommended For: Tokens decks (Emmara, Soul of the Accord); Sacrifice decks (Meren of Clan Nel Toth)

 

Sawtusk Demolisher

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Beast Within is one of the best spot removal cards in the format. Sawtusk Demolisher has the same effect as a mutate trigger for four mana and comes with beefy body. That's definitely respectable! I expect this to be one of the best mutate cards in the Mutate deck. I'm not sure I'd play it outside of that archetype, but it's a staple there for sure.

Recommended For: Mutate (Otrimi, the Ever-Playful)

 

Selective Adaptation

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

For a deck loaded with keywords, Selective Adaptation is a pretty good top-end card draw+ spell. Note that it doesn't just count creature cards; you can snag lands like Cascading Cataracts off this too! Adaptation is at its best when you can stack the top of your deck with hits, but that's probably impractical.

I think this is a neat and thematic card to add to any Keyword Soup deck, like the new Kathril, Aspect Warper, or Rayami, First of the Fallen. It may not outperform the best options like Rishkar's Expertise but it's still good.

Recommended For: Keyword Soup (Rayami, First of the Fallen)

 

Slippery Bogbonder

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Of all the new cards that put keyword counters, Slippery Bogbonder is easily one of, if not the best of them all. You can use it to protect an important creature from spot removal, or Volrtron up a creature into an unstoppable force. Imagine using this to give a double striker like Samut, Voice of Dissent a whole bunch of +1/+1 counters, hexproof, and maybe other keywords as well! Yowza!

Personally though, any time I see a new card in Black or Green that gives a keyword counter, my first thought immediatley is of Skullbriar, the Walking Grave. Once Skullbriar gets the counter, it keeps it permanently! Permanent hexproof commander! Yeeeeeeah!

Recommended For: Any Keyword Soup deck; Skullbriar, the Walking Grave

 

MULTICOLOR

 

Brallin, Skyshark Rider & Shabraz, the Skyshark

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Brallin, Skyshark Rider & Shabraz, the Skyshark don't mess around. They're not here to durdle and gain value. Nope, they're just here to kill you, and they can do it alarmingly fast. They are basically the finisher for any deck that draws/discards a huge amount of cards quickly, such as a Wheel deck or a Cycling deck. In a Wheel deck, chain together a Windfall into Wheel of Fortune or similar and both partners quickly become lethal. Same happens in a Cycling deck when you drop down New Perspectives and start cycling through half your deck at once. Both partners can have not only flying but also trample, so there's no chump blocking these behemoths -- you either have a removal spell or you're dead!

Brallin doesn't even need Shabraz's help to kill people either. Just discard more cards than your opponents have life totals and you're good. Infinite mana + Blue Sun's Zenith, discard to hand size, boom.

These partners are fine commanders if you want super-efficient finishers in your command zone, but they also work just fine in the 99. They have high cmcs and don't have haste/protection, so there's a risk here, but they kill so quickly and efficiently that's it worth it.

 

Cazur, Ruthless Stalker & Ukkima, Stalking Shadow

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Cazur, Ruthless Stalker is a solid +1/+1 counter generator, growing your evasive creatures and opening up potential +1/+1 synergies. He is an engine in the deck. Champion of Lambholt and Herald of Secret Streams are going to be allstars here, giving all your creatures evasion. Cold-Eyed Selkie and Cephalid Constable are examples of creatures that you'll love to pump with Cazur. +1/+1 cards payoff cards like Rishkar, Peema Renegade, Winding Constrictor, and Inspiring Call work well here. Lots of ways to explore +1/+1 Counters in Sultai! 

Then of course is Ukkima, Stalking Shadow is the finisher of the partnership. Ukkima can chip away at opponents, growing in power thanks to Cazur and other cards. That's a fine way of using it, but its true power lies in its LTB direct damage trigger, making it a potential finisher for infinite combos.​​​​​​ The most obvious combo using Ukkima is with Food Chain: make infinite mana with a cast-from-exile creature like Eternal Scourge, then cast and exile Ukkima infinite times for infinite damage. I know, we finally found a way to break Food Chain wowowow! But seriously, having an easy way to finish games is always a good thing no matter how you build the rest of the deck.

Cazur and Ukkima are good candidates no matter what power level you're looking for. Want a casual / semi-competitive deck with them? Build a Sultai +1/+1 Counter deck looking to smash face and grow your creatures with counters. Looking for a CEDH deck? Build a dedicated Food Chain list around them. Both work well!

 

Trynn, Champion of Freedom & Silvar, Devourer of the Free

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Trynn, Champion of Freedom & Silvar, Devourer of the Free is promotes a very specific, unique deck: this is a Mardu Aristocrats deck, but specifically wants you to be Human Tribal as well. Thankfully it's pretty easy to fill a deck that meets this requirement, as many Mardu Artistocrats staples, like Zulaport Cutthroat and Disciple of Bolas, happen to be Humans, and the new cards from their C20 deck and lots of new Mardu cards from Ikoria promote Human Tribal as well, like the terrific Species Specialist. So while you don't have a huge card pool to work with, what's available is strong.

Trynn produces sacrifice fodder in the form of Human tokens, up to once per turn if you attacked. This is a bit underwhelming for a 4cmc commander, but being Human tokens is super relevant so it's still welcome. The star of the partnership, however, is Silvar. Silvar brings a ton to the table: it's an instant speed, repeatable, mana-free sac outlet, letting you draw cards on-demand with Species Specialist and enabling a bunch of infinite combos. It's also a sac outlet that is resilient to removal, able to become indestructible when needed. Finally, Silvar is a bonafide threat all on its own, able to quickly grow into a powerhouse that can start knocking out opponents with commander damage.

Silvar's high power more than makes up for Trynn's underwhelming ability. Together they're a powerful Mardu Artistocrats deck that sets itself apart with the Human Tribal theme.

 

Haldan, Avid Arcanist & Pako, Arcane Retriever

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Flavor-wise, I love everything about these cards. It's a dog and its owner playing a magical game of fetch! The mechanics perfectly convey what's going on and the artwork is lovely too!

Power-wise, these partners aren't the strongest, but I think they're better most early comments give them credit for. It's true that Haldan does nothing on its own, which is a little weird, but it's a partner! I think it's fine if a partner relies on the other to do things; in fact most designated partners don't really "do" much by themselves and rely on the other to be great.

Like most of these partners, while the Human is a bit blah, the Monster brings the power: Pako comes out the gates swinging thanks to haste and can potentially be hitting for a good amount right off the bat depending on what it exiles. Exiling people's libraries is already a useful thing: Combo decks or at least decks with combo finishers -- the most common form of finisher in the format -- can be absolutely crippled if you randomly exile a key combo piece.

Where Pako brings the pain and disruption, Haldan brings the card advantage. This is very much a "Theft" deck, aka Steal Your Stuff, which is a popular archetype in Commander. You can take Haldan + Pako all the way into a Theft theme, or just use them as card advantage, fetching the best noncreature spells to deal with the current situation.

These partners look fun. Their relatively high cmc, the fact that you need to spend additional mana to start casting the exiled spells, and neither of them coming with any built-in protection means they won't be the strongest commanders out there, but I love the design and they look like good casual fun.

 

Nikara, Lair Scavenger & Yannik, Scavenging Sentinel

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Nikara & Yannik are an interesting pair in that it combines two archetypes that are seemingly at odds with each other: +1/+1 Counters and Blink. Nikara is the card draw engine, drawing you a card whenever a creature with a counter on it leaves the battlefield. Yannik provides a whole bunch of +1/+1 counters when it enters the battlefield, also causing another creature to long-term blink, which both pumps your creatures while drawing tons of cards off Nikara.

Since Yannik is such an efficient +1/+1 counter generator it's easy to riff off its ability and build a deck all around +1/+1 Counter synergies. But also since Yannik's counter generation is tied to an ETB trigger, and Nikara's card draw is an LTB trigger (not death), adding a Blink subtheme to the deck can be powerful. Blink Yannik or other creatures with good ETB triggers like Reclamation Sage, growing your army, blowing stuff up, and drawing cards off Nikara. The result is an utterly unique +1/+1 Counter Blink deck that I've never seen before.

I should also mention that Nikara, Lair Scavenger is actually great on its own as well and might be worth considering splitting her from her partner so she can be added to Counter decks like Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons and Yawgmoth, Thran Physician. Imagine having a bunch of 1/1 snakes with Hapatra and Nikara on the battlefield, casting Black Sun's Zenith for X=1, killing all your 1/1's, drawing a whole bunch of cards, and making even more snakes? Sounds sweet to me!

 

Jirina Kudro

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Jirina Kudro is designed for one thing: Go Wide Human Tribal. Her ETB makes Human tokens and her anthem gives all your Humans +2/+0, yeah, pretty straightforward card here! Casting Increasing Devotion, drop down Jirina, swing for a bunch. Easy peasy!

You can add a bit more depth to this strategy by building around Jirina's ETB trigger and adding a Blink theme to the deck. Blink Jirina and a bunch of other Humans with powerful ETB / LTB triggers, like Disciple of Bolas, Dire Fleet Daredevil, and Ranger-Captain of Eos for maximum value. Eerie Interlude and similar mass blink spells will be very powerful here.

While not the strongest commander, Jirina Kudro does a fine job promoting an aggressive Human Tribal strategy and her anthem will close out games.

Recommended For: As commander; Human Tribal

 

Kelsien, the Plague

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I have a soft spot for Kelsien, the Plague. I might be biased because it was my preview card, but there's a charm to this scrappy lil' guy. He's relatively low cmc, aggressive, and can snowball while being hard to keep down, but he needs a lot of support to get there. He reminds me a lot of my old favorite underdog from long ago, Skullbriar, the Walking Grave.

By himself, Kelsien ain't great. A 3cmc haste vigilance 2/2 ain't a great rate. His ping ability won't dent most creatures in Commander, though it will be nice to pick off random utility creatures like Birds of Paradise. Without any support backing him up, your best use of Kelsien is sniping creatures right before they would die, either to a removal spell or to combat damage, slowly collecting experience counters until Kelsien becomes a threat in combat. That's pretty awful though.

However, it's really easy to turn Kelsien from a garbage tier commander to a serious threat. The most common way will be giving him deathtouch with cards like Basilisk Collar, making his ping ability instantly lethal against any creature. You can boost his pinging other ways too, like equipping Thornbite Staff so he can ping multiple times per turn cycle. You can also add experience counters to him other ways, such as with proliferate cards like Contagion Engine or playing other creatures that generate experience counters, like Daxos the Returned.

With a bit of work, Kelsien becomes a real threat, a repeatable removal spell that shuts down your opponents while simultaneously beating them down with an ever-growing threat that doesn't shrink in size when killed. I like that combination. It may not be the strongest strategy, but it's a fun one to me.

Recommended For: as commander; Pinger Tribal

 

Kalamax, the Stormsire

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Temur Spellslinger has been a thing for a decade now, at least as early as the original Commander set with Riku of Two Reflections. Izzet has long been the primary home of Spellslinger, and while Green rarely focuses on instants/sorceries, there's a ton of sweet Green cards that can add to the strategy, from the usual suspects like Harrow to more niche stuff like Hunter's Insight. Basically Izzet brings all the typical Spellslinger staples, while adding Green gives you better mana and a few extra goodies.

Kalamax, the Stormsire is a unique take of Temur Spellslinger, focusing specifically on instant spells but also promoting an aggressive strategy with +1/+1 counters. The most straightforward way to tap Kalamax so you can use its copy trigger is by tapping it to attack; luckily Kalamax starts as a reasonable 4/4 and can quickly grow much bigger than that, so attacking shouldn't be a problem. But there's other powerful ways to tap Kalamax, such as Dual Casting, copying instants which grows Kalamax but also letting him use his copy trigger too!

There's some flexibility with how you build Kalamax. I think most versions of Kalamax will simply be generic Temur Spellslinger, basically a new, better version of Riku of Two Reflections decks. All you wanna do is ramp, copy your spells a billion times, win with Ral, Storm Conduit infinite copy combos or just a massive copied Comet Storm. This is the strongest way to build Kalamax. But you could also build a Temur Spellslinger deck with a +1/+1 Counter theme, running a bunch of cards that care about counters like Rishkar, Peema Renegade and Inspiring Call, forking more as a value play instead of racing to win the game.

Recommended For: as commander; Spellslinger; Spellslinger with Counters

 

Xyris, the Writhing Storm

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Xyris, the Writhing Storm looks like a slam-dunk Temur Wheels commander, jamming all the available Wheel of Fortune variants and stringing them together while making a huge army of snake tokens to win with. There's plenty of Wheel commanders already in Izzet colors, most notably The Locust God and Nekusar, the Mindrazer, and while they all have their own strengths and weaknesses, Xyris sets itself apart with its powerful combat damage trigger, which itself acts as a repeatable wheel effect that is ripe for abuse.

Pump spells can be a unique way that Xyris differs from other Wheel commanders. Become Immense can be regularly cast for just one mana in a Wheel deck, letting Xyris hit for nine damage and create nine tokens. Dropping a bunch of cheap pump abilities on Xyris not only draws you more cards and make more tokens, but you could also take people out with commander damage. Green also gives you access to token doublers like Doubling Season, which can be a powerful inclusion if Xyris isn't your only token generator.

Another alternative way to build Xyris is Snake Tribal. Xyris happens to be the most efficient Snake token generator available, making it overall a stronger commander option than previous candidates like Seshiro the Anointed.

Recommended For: as commander; Wheel; Snake Tribal

 

Kathril, Aspect Warper

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Keyword Soup is still a relatively unexplored archetype: we've got Odric, Lunarch Marshal, Rayami, First of the Fallen, and now Kathril, Aspect Warder. They all have wildly different playstyles and strengths/weaknesses, but all of them want to load up on creatures with useful keywords, then "redistribute" those keywords to other creatures to make mega-creatures!

Kathril's subtheme is Self-Mill / Graveyard: it's the easiest of the bunch to get tons of value from, since you immediately can give your creatures a bunch of useful counters as soon as Kathril enters the battlefield. You can effortlessly set up a bunch of keywords in your graveyard with format staples like Buried Alive, Entomb, even discard creatures to Fauna Shaman and the like. You can either load up all the counters on Kathril like a Voltron deck, or you can turn other creatures into the perfect killing machines, whatever works!

While perhaps the easiest to set up value plays, Kathril's main weakness as a Graveyard-focused deck is Graveyard hate. That's not necessarily a greater weakness than Odric or Rayami, but it's something to consider when bringing Kathril to a playgroup. If faced with lots of graveyard hate, you may want to pack cards like Feldon's Cane just in case!

Recommended For: as commander; Keyword Soup

 

Tayam, Luminous Enigma

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Tayam, Luminous Enigma is a superb, highly flexible "churn through your entire library" combo engine. Tayam + Weaponcraft Enthusiast + Ashnod's Altar = infinite mana and infinite self-mill. You can do similar things with undying creatures ([[Young Wolf]) and persist (Kitchen Finks). Toss in a Zulaport Cuttrhoat or Blood Artist in your deck and you have infinite drain. There's so many combo variants here that it's hard to imagine a Tayam deck that doesn't accidentally have an infinite combo in it without even trying!

There are also non-combo options that could be fun with Tayam. It's a strong recursion engine when played fairly, and you can get back stuff like Liliana of the Veil with it, like a weird Sun Titan variant. Most Tayam decks will be focused on the combos, however.

Recommended For: as commander; Combo

 

Akim, the Soaring Wind

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Akim, the Soaring Wind is far from being a busted card, but it's an alright support card in a Tokens deck. There are quite a few powerful ways to generate multiple tokens with Akim per turn cycle, such as The Locust God or Kykar, Wind's Fury, but these cards churn out so many tokens so easily that Akim's token contribution barely registers. The most interesting part to me is the ability that gives all your creature tokens double strike, which can be a powerful finisher to help Token decks close out games in a single combat step. This ability unfortunately costs a whopping six mana to activate, however, on top of Akim's already high 5cmc, so it's going to be difficult to both cast Akim and activate its ability on the same turn.

I would've loved to see a slimmer version of Akim that has a lower cmc, no token generation, and its double strike ability be a passive anthem, similar to how Aven Wind Guide is designed. What we got instead is an alright creature but is too slow for me to recommend for higher power Token decks.

The best deck recommendation I can give Akim is leading a Bird Tribal deck. Birds are a janky tribe with minimal support and there's only a handful of decent commander options to choose from: Kangee, Aerie Keeper is flavorful but low power, and Derevi, Empyrial Tactician is high power but cares nothing for the tribe itself. Akim, the Soaring Wind may not match Derevi's raw power, but it generates bird tokens, making it a fantastic flavorful commander that is significantly more powerful than Kangee, and gives access to red birds like Kykar, Wind's Fury.

Recommended For: Bird Tribal; Tokens

 

Gavi, Nest Warden

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I've loved the Cycling archetype for a long, long time. One of my first Magic memories was playing with Astral Slide and Lightning Rift way back during Onslaught. For a long time, however, the Cycling archetype didn't have the tools to translate into a fully fleshed out Commander deck, but that changed with Amonkhet a few years ago, the next set to make cycling a primary mechanic. With Amonkhet adding a ton of powerful new cycling support card, I was delighted to share a Cycling Zur primer which to this day is still one of my favorite decks.

A few more years have passed and now WOTC brings back cycling as a primary mechanic with Ikoria, and with it comes an entire precon focused on it with Gavi, Nest Warden as the first official commander of the archetype. Even without having a chance to play with Gavi yet, I can confidently say this is the strongest commander for a deck focused on Cycling.

Gavi's cycling cost reduction is where most of the card's power is found. Having a pseudo New Perspectives in your command zone is incredibly powerful, letting you cycle four cards for free per turn cycle in a typical 4-Player Commander game. Not only does this fuel cycling support cards like Astral Drift and quickly fill your graveyard for finishers like Herald of the Forgotten, but it can also straight-up steal a victory immediately with Decree of Annihilation, crippling your opponents' abilities to cast spells while you continue cycling for free. The fact that Gavi can immediately Armageddon lock people out of the game the moment the card resolves is incredibly powerful.

Not only is Gavi such a strong card by itself, but having access to Red has now become such a boon thanks to new cards in C20 like Spellpyre Phoenix, Surly Badgersaur, Brallin, Skyshark Rider, and undoubtedly even more goodies in Ikoria as well. With this latest set, the Cycling archetype reaches new heights under Gavi and can easily be a semi-competitive deck that can dominate casual tables in a hurry.

Oh yeah, the token generation is nice too! Not crazy or anything, but easy to churn out a token army that can chump block and eventually pressure opponents with.

Just like Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer dethroned Animar, Soul of Elements as the best Morph commander, Gavi, Nest Warden has dethroned Zur the Enchanter as the best Cycling commander. Gavi simply offers better support than Zur if you want to focus entirely on the Cycling theme. That's not to say that Zur doesn't bring good unique things to the archetype -- access to Black gives you amazing cards like Archfiend of Ifnir and Shadow of the Grave, and Zur himself can fetch up Astral Drift -- but Gavi brings even more. Like Kadena vs. Animar though, Zur is definitely the stronger commander overall, since he can fetch haymakers like Necropotence just as easily as he can fetch Astral Slide, so if you're looking for a high-powered Cycling deck that is okay moving away from the theme to add more power, Zur is still the best choice. But for a dedicated Cycling deck, it's Gavi all the way!

Recommended For: as commander for the Cycling deck.

 

Otrimi, the Ever-Playful

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I wish Otrimi, the Ever-Playful was pushed a bit more. Mutate is a brand new mechanic found only in C20 and Ikoria, so there's simply not a lot of mutate cards to build a 99-card singleton deck with, so the expected power level of a dedicated Mutate deck is going to be on the lower end. It would've been nice to see a more pushed commander to help offset this relative weakness, like how they propped up Morph Tribal with a pushed Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer.

That's not to say Otrimi, the Ever-Playful is bad -- repeatable graveyard recursion is nice -- it's just that it isn't busted or greatly offsets a limited card pool. I would've much preferred, for example, the combat trigger instead allowing you to tutor up a mutate card from your library, so you can more easily find the few mutate cards your deck can run in sultai colors. 

On the flipside, maybe it's fine that Otrimi isn't that strong? After all, Mutate is not a very strong tribe, making it an excellent candidate for more casual settings, which Otrimi further promotes. He's definitely not a commander that will generate a lot of hate, and that's probably appropriate for this tribe.

Recommended For: as commander for Mutate.

 

Zaxara, the Exemplary

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Exemplary indeed! Zaxara, the Exemplary is a busted commander, easily able to generate infinite mana with untappers like Freed from the Real and just an overall excellent mana dork that doubles as a great blocker thanks to deathtouch.

Zaxara's trigger ability to generate Hydra whenever you cast a spell with X in its mana cost makes it an excellent choice of Commander for X Tribal deck, specifically Hydra Tribal, a tribe full of creatures with X costs (Hydroid Krasis). A deck full of X spells like Villainous Wealth and support cards like Unbound Flourishing can be very fun!

I expect Zaxara to be one of the more popular commanders, built either as X Tribal or Sultai Goodstuff, with infinite combos in the back pocket.

Recommended For: as commander; X Tribal; Hydra Tribal

 

COLORLESS

 

Bonder's Ornament

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

"Manalith with upside" is the bare minimum for playable 3cmc mana rocks these days in Commander. Bonder's Ornament fulfills that requirement but only barely. Paying five mana to draw a single card is better than nothing, but it's pretty bad. I guess WOTC was terrified that Mono White would draw cards off this so they made it as unappealing as possible. There's the additional downside that your opponents will also draw a card if they control their own Bonder's Ornament, but realistically this will never happen as it's very unlikely that more than one person would make the mistake of running this card at the same table.

Recommended For: not recommended.

 

Cryptic Trilobite

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

The cryptic part of this card is figuring out it's not a garbage ramp card but instead a combo piece.

Cryptic Trilobite + Ghave, Guru of Spores + Cathar's Crusade is infinite tokens and mana. Do similar things with Marath, Will of the Wild and Hardened Scales. Lots of redundancy here, but they're all infinite combos.

I expect this card to show up as a new combo card in similar decks.

Recommended For: as a combo piece for commanders like Ghave, Guru of Spores and Marath, Will of the Wild

 

Manascape Refractor

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Manascape Refractor has generated a ton of conversation with wildly differing reviews of the card. Many call it a new Commander staple, while others call it garbage. My review is the infuriatingly correct one: it depends.

I have beaten this damn drum for years now: most of your ramp should be between 0 to 2cmc. Sol Ring, Wayfarer's Bauble, Rampant Growth, Signets -- these are all so much better than most 3-4cmc ramp options like Explosive Growth and Commander's Sphere. Tempo is important. Being mana-efficient with you first turns is important. Yes, even in a slower casual Commander setting, it's important.

That's not to say that all 3cmc+ ramp options is terrible or that you shouldn't run it. It's just that ramp in this range should bring something way extra that justifies including it. Mirari's Wake doubling all your mana is a good example of this. Chromatic Lantern in a 5C deck is another great example, where the fixing is huge especially with a budget manabase. Gilded Lotus in a deck running the Dramatic Reversal + Isochron Scepter combo is another example. There's plenty of 3cmc+ ramp I'd recommend, but they are in the minority compared to 0-2cmc ramp.

I wouldn't recommend Manascape Refractor in all decks. But context is important, and Refractor gets real good in some decks. If you're consistently tutoring up Gaea's Cradle then having a second copy is very good. A deck running a bunch of utility lands like Kor Haven, Maze of Ith, Refractor gets a lot more value in these decks. There's probably even some sweet combos that Refractor enables that I haven't even thought of. In those situations, Refractor is an excellent inclusion. But if you're not running these types of cards, then Manascape Refractor is reliant on your opponent's lands to be good, and that's not a good spot to be in. Then it's just a Manalith that comes into play tapped, aka hot garbage.

Recommended For: decks with ultra powerful lands

 

Sanctuary Blade

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Sanctuary Blade offers some nice flexible protection and a bit of pump. Overall though it's nothing impressive. I wouldn't recommend running it.

 

Twinning Staff

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Copy decks will love Twinning Staff. I feel like it was made to go infinite with Ral, Storm Conduit. Easy include in decks like Melek, Izzet Paragon, or Temur Spellslinger.

Recommended For: Spellslinger decks like Riku of Two Reflections

 

LANDS

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Nesting Grounds is a slam-dunk in any keyword soup deck. Being able to move counters around is a huge boon.

Recommended For: any Keyword Soup deck (Kathril, Aspect Warper); +1/+1 Counter decks (Prime Speaker Zegana)

 

That's All, Folks!

We've just wrapped up C20 review but we're not even close to done talking about all the new cards! Expect the $20 precon upgrade next, and after that, there's still all of Ikoria to cover! Crazy weeks ahead! Thanks for reading!


More on MTGGoldfish ...

commander review

Commander Review: Commander 2020 | Part 1 | White, Blue, Black

instant deck tech

Instant Deck Tech: Vadrok Mutate Storm (Modern)

single scoop

Single Scoop: Historic Solar Flare

this week in legacy

This Week in Legacy: Into the Pit


Next Article