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Commander Review: Core Set 2019 Part 1 (White, Blue, Black)


Core sets make their glorious return to Magic, and while people celebrate the return of much-needed sideboard hate for various formats, us Commander players are picking up some goodies as well! Here are my favorites from the set, starting with White, Blue, and Black cards:

 

WHITE

 

Ajani's Welcome

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Ajani's Welcome gains far less life than Soul Warden since it only counts your own creatures, but it's generally more resilient to removal due to being an enchantment. Overall I think it's significantly worse than Warden but in a Lifegain deck running lots of creatures, this is still a cheap source of repeating lifegain to fuel synergies like Ajani's Pridemate and probably worth a slot.

 

Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants is okay in any deck running 7+ creatures that he can get back with his -2. Even better if the deck has a +1/+1 Counter theme but I can't think of one. The ultimate isn't scary enough that I'd be scrambling to combo it with Doubling Season nor is it easy enough to reliably activate that I'd want it in Cat Tribal. Maybe some versions of Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim or Alesha, Who Smiles at Death will want him.

 

Cleansing Nova

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Cleansing Nova is fantastic. It's basically a less modular, cheaper version of Austere Command, one of my favorite board wipes in the entire format. It's sometimes a more expensive Day of Judgment but having the option to mass-Disenchant the board is well worth the extra mana. While I still prefer Austere Command as my top White board wipe, Nova is probably my second favorite alongside Hour of Revelation. I'm pretty sure I'll be running both Command and Nova in most of my White decks going forward.

 

Lena, Selfless Champion

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Lena, Selfless Champion has too much variance for my tastes, either pumping out an army of Soldiers or just one token. Offering protection from creature board wipes is nice but Selfless Spirit does this for 2cmc instead of 6. Lena is a Knight though and produces Soldiers, both weak tribes that may consider picking her up simply due to lack of better options. She can also combo off with Ashnod's Altar + Eldrazi Displacer but I'm sure there's cheaper options to do this with.

 

Leonin Warleader

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Leonin Warleader is no Hero of Bladehold, but the notable thing here is that she's a Cat that produces Cat tokens, making her an excellent inclusion in Cat Tribal. Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist is my top choice for this, but any Cat Tribal deck will love the Warleader.

 

Remorseful Cleric

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Remorseful Cleric isn't flashy yet I absolutely love this card. Graveyard recursion is highly prelevant in the format; basically every deck runs some amount of recursion like Sun Titan and Animate Dead, but also some of the most popular decks in the format are focused on Graveyard strategies (Muldrotha, the Gravetide). Every deck needs to have graveyard removal just like you need creature / artifact / enchantment removal. Remorseful Cleric is basically Tormod's Crypt on a stick, but being a creature opens it up to far more synergies, since there's better options for recursion (Reveillark) and its subtypes are relevant in Tribal decks, Spirit or Cleric. Black decks in particular take full advantage of creatures with top tier creature recursion and sacrifice value (Butcher of Malakir). One of my favorite deck options at the moment is tossing this into my Karador, Ghost Chieftain Spirit Tribal list!

 

Resplendent Angel

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Wow! Resplendent Angel is a powerhouse! It's triggered ability is a slightly more demanding Angelic Accord, but it comes on a 3cmc Angel body and it can also trigger its own ability if you want to sink 6 mana into its activated ability. The best decks for this are Lifegain decks that can potentially trigger its ability every single turn: Angel Tribal decks will love this, as will Trostani, Selesnya's Voice, and possibly others like Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim.

 

Suncleanser

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Suncleanser looked like a very powerful "sideboard" hoser against specific decks but I've since mellowed out on it. You can remove experience counters from an opponent, but the best experience counter commander -- Meren of Clan Nel Toth -- doesn't really care about it too much (graveyard hate is far more effective). You also can't target yourself with it for whatever reason, so no protection against Infect decks. You can remove +1/+1 counters off a creature but usually it's just better to kill that creature instead.

Honestly I don't know when I'd actually want to run Suncleanser over other things. I may try it out in my Zedruu the Greathearted deck and maybe in a Blink deck like Brago, King Eternal, but I'm pretty sure it's not worth the slot.

 

Valiant Knight

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Valiant Knight is a fine new staple for the Knight Tribal deck. It's fine -- certainly not on the level of Kinsbaile Cavalier, but the power level of Knight Tribal is so low that a weaker Cavalier is still a top 10 card in the tribe.

 

BLUE

 

Metamorphic Alteration

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I'm not sure what decks want to run Metamorphic Alteration but I'm glad this weird card exists. Unlike most Clone variants, this one doesn't copy ETB triggers which is a bummer, but it's a low-cost aura which undoubtedly will come handy in some sort of deck eventually. Perhaps Hanna, Ship's Navigator? I don't know -- tell me your ideas!

 

Mirror Image

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

We get another Clone variant with Mirror Image. I think this one is a lot worse than the original; while you do save a mana, your opponents usually have juicy copy targets in a multiplayer game and it's a shame that you'll never be able to copy them. Perhaps if there are dedicated Combo decks that need to copy their own creature, then Mirror Image might be the best choice -- assuming the lifeloss from Phyrexian Metamorph is relevant -- because you are saving a mana thus speeding up your combo.

 

Mistcaller

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Mistcaller is another clear sideboard hate card for formats that I'm not knowledgable enough about. I think most Commander decks will take a hard pass on this, except maybe Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca, and even then it's unlikely. I guess if you're playing at the very most competitive Commander tables and are getting destroyed by Protean Hulk combos then maybe you can bring this in.

 

Nexus of Fate

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Nexus of Fate is a better Beacon of Tomorrows and they go into the same deck, aka Extra Turns.dec. You're either taking infinite extra turns by setting up a combo like drawing your deck with Enter the Infinite so you always draw this card, cast it to take an extra turn, put it back, then draw it again, rinse repeat. Or you can take nigh-infinite turns by stringing them together with Narset, Enlightened Master or Taigam, Ojutai Master. Either way you're not playing "fair" Magic and the 7cmc isn't daunting.

I'm sad that going forward we'll be seeing a sweet Commander card locked behind the Buy-A-Box promo. I wish an entire card wasn't gated like this; I wish it was just a new art/frame of a sought-after card, like a masterpiece version of Lyra Dawnbringer. I bet you anything that would be very successful!

 

One with the Machine

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

One with the Machine is a cheaper, Artifact-restricted Rush of Knowledge. I quickly dismissed this card since most Blue-based Artifact decks -- basically just Breya, Etherium Sculptor at this point -- usually don't run enough high-cmc artifacts to risk running something like this. However, there's one Artifact deck that will love this card, and that's the relatively unknown Muzzio, Visionary Architect, aka the fairest Blue Artifact commander ever printed. High cmc Artifacts are kinda his schtick so One with the Machine is an easy include. I'm sorry for forgetting about you, Muzzio!

 

Patient Rebuilding

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I don't like Patient Rebuilding. I'm horrible at math, but doing my own homework -- and then, more importantly, asking Seth to do it for me -- if your target opponent has 40 lands in their deck, the probability of milling at least 1 land is 79.2%, at least 2 lands is 35.6%, and 3 lands is 6.2%. That's pretty good odds to draw at least one card, but not great odds to draw 2, and you can also whiff entirely. Then there's the additional problem that milling an opponent almost always helps them due to how popular/effective graveyard recursion is in this format. If Patient Rebuilding let you target yourself then I'd be totally on board, as it could open up tons of build around potential, fueling your own graveyard strategies and encouraging you to manipulate the top of your library for maximum value. Alas, it only targets opponents.

There are simply better card draw options in Blue. If you want to pay 5 mana to draw cards, there's always Tidings.

 

Psychic Corrosion

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Psychic Corrosion is a better Sphinx's Tutelage for multiplayer since it hits all opponents instead of just one. The Mill archetype faces an uphill battle in Commander since incremental (nonlethal) milling ends up helping your opponents, especially Graveyard decks (Muldrotha, the Gravetide), and a random eldrazi titan like Kozilek, Butcher of Truth can ruin all your hard work. However, pairing up Psychic Corrosion with a giant Blue Sun's Zenith targeting yourself is an easy way to deck all your opponents in one turn. There's also Mill decks that make incremental milling work, specifically Dimir versions like Phenax, God of Deception and Lazav, Dimir Mastermind.

 

Riddlemaster Sphinx

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Riddlemaster Sphinx isn't a great card, but it is a Blue Sphinx, which makes it super playable in Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign decks, at least the ones that are going Sphinx Tribal. Me, I'm a Cheatyface and just use Arcane Adaptation instead.

 

Sai, Master Thopterist

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Sai, Master Thopterist is a cheap value engine, filling the skies with Thopters that you'll use in numerous ways, from chump blocking, doubling up your army with Sharding Sphinx, drawing cards with Thopter Sky Network, winning the game with Time Sieve, drawing cards (duh), and so on. This card is just gas in any Artifact deck. I'll be running Sai as part of the 99 of pretty much any Blue Artifact deck; while he's a great commander as well, Artifact decks benefit a ton from having access to at least Red and bonus if they get Esper colors as well -- you know, Breya, Etherium Sculptor

My personal favorite deck with Sai has to be as a key piece of Thopter Tribal. I love this tribe because Artifact decks are always at least semi-competitive because the archetype is so darn powerful, and focusing on the less optimal tribe at least tones down the archetype while still being a legit deck that does sweet things.

 

Supreme Phantom

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Supreme Phantom is the blandest Lord possible, but it's still an effective and welcome Lord for an under-represented tribe. I'll happily run this in O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami Spirit Tribal.

 

Tezzeret, Artifice Master

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Tezzeret, Artifice Master is insanely good. This Tezzeret is probably up there with Tezzeret the Seeker for best Tezzeret in Commander. You can create chump blocking artifacts while ticking up, draw 2 cards easily for +0, and the emblem is bananas. Too slow for Fast Combo decks of course, but any slower/grindier Artifact deck will love this and any Superfriends list that has a good amount of artifacts will love this too.

 

BLACK

 

Demon of Catastrophes

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

If you throw a damned soul into the fire, Chernobog from Disney's Fantasia emerges from the mountaintop and starts partying hard. I dig it! Amazing homage to an amazing movie aside, Demon of Catastrophes isn't a terribly exciting card for Commander, but may make the cut in a Demon Tribal list, which usually have devoted cultists to sacrifice for these kinds of demanding fiends. Casual fun!

 

Epicure of Blood

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A common, creature version of Sanguine Bond has potential, and by "potential" I mean it combos with Exquisite Blood. For some reason, Wizards keeps reprinting Bond and new versions of Bond, but we have never seen a reprint of Blood. I guess that's an intentional move by Wizards to keep the price high but I wish they'd just go ahead and reprint Blood already.

 

Fell Specter

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Megrim on a stick is pretty darn good! Fell Specter looks like an auto-include in Discard decks like Nath of the Gilt-Leaf and Wheel decks like Nekusar, the Mindrazer.

 

Fraying Omnipotence

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I was initially excited that Fraying Omnipotence would be a big Pox but then I realized it doesn't hit lands. Boo. I still think this card has some value, like in a Nath of the Gilt-Leaf Discard deck, but I doubt Stax decks will be interested. Also obligatory #FreeBraids.

 

Isareth the Awakener

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Isarath the Awakener looks like an interesting but weaker variant of Alesha, Who Smiles at Death: she's more flexible with what she gets back, but Alesha usually saves mana on her reanimation. The biggest problem is that the reanimated creature is exiled when it leaves the battlefield, which is a nonbo for Graveyard decks. I'm not a big fan of Isareth but I can see playing her as part of the 99 of an aggressive, combat-focused Black deck that doesn't run a lot of reanimation (why?) so the exiled creatures don't matter as much.

 

Liliana's Contract

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Holy crap, is Liliana's Contract the best "you win the game" card ever printed? I'm thinking "yes"! Right off the bat, you're paying 5 mana to draw 4 cards and lose 4 life, which is already competitive with some of the best Black card draw available like Promise of Power and Ambition's Cost. If you have any way to blink enchantments it just gets better. Getting four different Demons in play is trivial in Commander: you don't even need to be Demon Tribal! Many Rakdos, Lord of Riots decks just simply have beefy Demons in their deck to ramp out, from Runescar Demon to Ob Nixilis, Unshackled. Or you can just cheat with Conspiracy / Arcane Adaptation! Really easy condition to meet! And even if you don't win the game with it, draw 4 cards for 5 mana is sweeeeet!

 

Liliana, Untouched by Death

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Liliana, Untouched by Death is going immediately into my Tribal Zombie deck. She's the best planeswalker ever printed for the tribe and a darn-near auto-include if I've ever seen one. All of her abilities are super relevant to a deck that is trying to fill their graveyard with Zombies and do mass reanimation shenanigans. Her "ultimate" is immediately usable and synergizes well with Rooftop Storm, letting you cast all the Zombies in your graveyard for free! Whee! I'm so excited to play with her!

 

Nightmare's Thirst

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Nightmare's Thirst has excellent artwork that also happens to be a great homage to The Nightmare painting by Henri Fuseli, one of the coolest depictions of sleep paralysis. 

The card itself is pretty good too: it's a cheap, conditional removal card for Lifegain decks, though Black is already flooded with superb targeted removal like Snuff Out, Malicious Affliction, Go for the Throat, etc. I'd still run it in any Orzhov Lifegain deck though.

 

Open the Graves

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Open the Graves is nice board wipe protection for Zombie Tribal at minimum. It will shine brightest with a Sacrifice subtheme though, especially how easily it enables infinite combos with things like Ashnod's Altar + Nim Deathmantle + Blood Artist. Combo or no, it's not a bad inclusion at all!

 

Stitcher's Supplier

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Stitcher's Supplier doesn't look like much but I think there's some potential in Zombie Tribal. It's a 1 cmc Zombie that helps the deck immediately start filling the graveyard for mass reanimation cards like Zombie Apocalypse and Patriarch's Bidding. I don't know if it's effect is good enough to be worth a slot but I'm going to test it out in my own Zombie Tribal list.

 

Coming Up: Part 2! Red, Green, Colorless, Multicolor!

We've got some sweet Tribal cards to pick up, along with some possible new staples like Cleansing Nova, so not a bad haul so far! Let me know what your favorite cards are and where you'll play them! We pick up with Part 2 next time with Red, Green, Colorless, and Multicolor cards!


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