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Commander Review: Core Set 2021 | Part 2 | Black, Red

The full card list for Core Set 2021 is out, which means it's time for the Commander Review! Here are my favorite new Commander cards from the set and which decks will want them. In Part 1 we covered the Shrine cycle, White, and Blue cards. Now we'll cover Black and Red in Part 2!




Archfiend's Vessel

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Archfiend's Vessel is just a neat card. It's not a game-ending threat or anything, but a unique way to get a heavily discounted 5/5 flyer in a bunch of decks that can easily reanimate it. I like it as a "fair" creature to get back in Nethroi, Apex of Death, or with Command the Dreadhorde, or heck even a Sun Titan. It's just neat, you know? I like it!

Recommended For: Nethroi, Apex of Death; Cleric Tribal (Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim); Demon Tribal


Demonic Embrace

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I like spells that you can cast from the graveyard. It's neat. I like neat. Is Demonic Embrace strong? Nah, probably not. But it's neat!

Recommended For: I dunno. I really like the art though!


Hooded Blightfang

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

"Deathtouch Tribal" isn't really a thing, but if it ever is, then Hooded Blightfang is a nice form of reach for that deck. The only other deathtouch support card that immediately springs to mind is Vraska, Swarm's Eminence. There may be one or two more cards out there but it ain't enough yet. But maybe one day we get a Deathtouch Tribal commander, that'd be neat! Some sort of Deathtouch + Snake Tribal would be a sweet design space: see Ophiomancer, Pharika, God of Affliction, and Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons.

Recommended For: Deathtouch Tribal (if it's a thing)


Kaervek, the Spiteful

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Kaervek, the Spiteful is getting a lot of hate for not being as flashy/powerful as his original printing, Kaervek the Merciless. Honestly I can agree with that: despite the original's super high cmc, the card is very unique and very flashy. Meanwhile new Kaervek is very ... bland, for such an important oldschool villain. But bland doesn't mean bad! While yeah it's narrow, the -1/-1 anthem can be useful in certain specific decks just like Night of Souls' Betrayal.

I'm pretty sure Kaervek, the Spiteful is a sweet new inclusion in Grismold, the Dreadsower. I'm not sure where else.

Recommended For: Grismold, the Dreadsower


Liliana's Standard Bearer

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Liliana's Standard Bearer is a sweet way to draw an absurd amount of card: cast it after attacking/blocking with a horde sacrificial tokens, after a board wipe, or after combo'ing with an infinite death loop such as the Zombie Tribal staple Gravecrawler + Phyrexian Altar + any other Zombie to draw an arbitrary amount of cards.

I think the Bearer is a fine inclusion in any Go Wide deck really, but because it's a Zombie and a Knight it's most likely to see play in those two tribes, particularly Zombie Tribal because that tribe does Go Wide and Sacrifice the best. It's super efficient card draw that easy relatively simple to set up in the right deck.

Recommended For: Zombie Tribal (Varina, Lich Queen)


Peer into the Abyss

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Peer into the Abyss isn't some generic card draw spell. It's a flashy bomb in a few specific decks that can utilize its insane potential.

First and foremost is Nekusar, the Mindrazer, aka Underworld Dreams on a stick. If you have any of those types of cards on the battlefield, Peer becomes a targeted kill spell against an opponent, which is bonkers.

If you want to target yourself with Peer, the best shell for that is probably K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth. K'rrik is all about high risk, high reward. With K'rrik you only need to pay four mana to cast Peer, losing 6 life immediately and then half your life total when it resolves. At that point you either combo off to win the game or probably lose, but after drawing half your deck it's hard to imagine losing!

Recommended For: Nekusar, the Mindrazer; K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth


Sanguine Indulgence

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I have seen ZERO people talking about Sanguine Indulgence in Commander so I might be crazy but isn't this random common actually really good in Lifegain decks? For one black mana you recur two creatures; that's a great rate! I'd be more than happy to jam Indulgence into any Lifegain deck that has 15+ creatures in it! Gaining 3 life is trivially easy in the right shell.

Recommended For: any Lifegain deck (Karlov of the Ghost Council)


Silversmote Ghoul

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Another not very flashy but seriously respectable inclusion in a Lifegain deck. Gaining 3 life is trivial in the right shell, so you're constantly getting back this flexible sac fodder. It's particularly cute with Soin, Imperious Bloodlord and makes me think of making a fun Lifegain Vampires deck. I like it as fodder for Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim decks especially. Budget Lifegain keeps getting better and better!

Recommend For: Budget Lifegain decks (Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim)


Thieves' Guild Enforcer

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Thieves' Guild Enforcer is one of the very few Rogue Tribal support cards. Rogues have yet to be a fully fleshed out tribe, though the most common/obvious theme is about stealing stuff (Knowledge Exploitation). It's strange to me that WOTC has never tackled Rogue Tribal yet, and more puzzling how they haven't identified "steal stuff" as the theme to focus on.

Here we have a Rogue Tribal card that ... mills people? I mean okay, it does set up potential theft like Mnemonic Betrayal, but looking over the current Rogues available and they don't really support this mill theme. How does this tie with notable Rogues like Gonti, Lord of Luxury, Notion Thief, or Agent of Treachery? I'm disappointed.

Whatever. I guess you infinite blink Enforcer for infinite mill and that's that. I doubt Enforcer will see much play but maybe some day Rogue Tribal will have a mill subtheme and Enforcer will be an important player there.

Recommended For: a future Rogue Tribal deck


Village Rites

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

WOTC has been pushing Skulltap variants for a while now: Altar's Reap made it instant, while Costly Plunder added flexibility by letting you sacrifice an artifact. Now we've got the most mana-efficient version with Village Rites, the half-priced Altar's Reap! Honestly I'm impressed by this innocent-looking common. Pay B draw 2 is a great rate. Being instant means you can sacrifice a creature that is about to die anyway due to removal, and only needing a single mana means it's easy to keep it up for that situation. This is super efficient for what it does.

Despite being a solid card, Village Rites still pales in comparison to the most busted Skulltap variant ever printed: the almighty Skullclamp! Same rate of 1 mana and sacrifice a creature to draw 2 cards, but it's repeatable! Skullclamp has been and will always be an insane Magic card that hopefully will never be surpassed. So the question becomes: does a Sacrifice deck want Village Rites if they're already running Skullclamp?

Well ... maybe. I think it's a solid card even if you're running the clamp. It smoothes out draws and at the very least gets you closer to finding the clamp. And of course for budget Sacrifice decks that can't afford Skullclamp, this is a great way to still draw cards efficiently.

Recommend For: Sacrifice decks (Korvold, Fae-Cursed King)


Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Okay, so take Sanguine Bond, lower its cmc to 3, make it a legendary creature with two popular tribes, then toss in an okay mana sink for good measure! Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose was made for casual Commander appeal: Sanguine Bond + Exquisite Blood is a classic Commander combo that has remained popular for nearly a decade now. Even without combo'ing off, slapping down Vito in a Lifegain puts your opponents on a short clock: Oloro, Ageless Ascetic is passively pinging someone for 2 each turn and basically anyone is one Beacon of Immortality away from being obliterated.

So yeah, Vito is not just an instant casual darling, he's also powerful. Not only is he a cheaper Sanguine Bond, he has way more synergies to work with, being able to be brought back with Sun Titan, being a Vampire so he works with cards like Blood Tribute, being a Cleric so he works nice with Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim Cleric Tribal decks, etc. Lots to work with here.

Recommend For: Vampire Tribal (Licia, Sanguine Tribune); Lifegain (Oloro, Ageless Ascetic)


Witch's Cauldron

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Witch's Cauldron is a fine budget sacrifice outlet in Sacrifice decks. It's pretty much a slightly worse Vampiric Rites, which is one of my go-to budget sac outlets: same cmc, same mana cost activation, same payoff, but Cauldron taps to activate so can't sacrifice multiple creatures per turn unless you have other ways to untap it. I'm happy to run Cauldron alongside Rites. It's nothing impressive, but it does what you need it to do in a Budget Sacrifice deck and I can't imagine this card ever going over fifty cents.

Recommended For: Budget Sacrifice decks (Korvold, Fae-Cursed King)




Brash Taunter

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Stuffy Doll got a massive upgrade! Brash Taunter fulfills the same roll as the Doll but is no longer limited to a single target opponent and has a much more potent activated ability that costs three additional mana but can dish out way more damage. Just like the Doll, I expect Taunter to see the most play in Group Burn decks that try and burn out the opponents while keeping the board clear with Earthquake effects. Cast Star of Extinction, deal 20 damage to an opponent's face? Seems like a sweet deal to me!

Recommended For: Group Burn decks (Mogis, God of Slaughter)


Chandra, Heart of Fire

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Chandra, Heart of Fire is pretty clunky in Commander. Her "impulse wheel" discarding your hand and temporarily getting to play the top 3 cards of your library, while yes it's card draw, is going to be hard to take advantage of the turn you just spent five mana to cast her. It would've been so much better if you had until your next turn's end step like Light up the Stage. Chandra's Shock ability is bland in Commander. That ultimate is serious spice, but those +1's to get there aren't that exciting for a 5cmc walker.

Chandra, Heart of Fire is a fine top-end for a dedicated low-cmc Red deck. Maybe Hazoret the Fervent. I can't think of many decks that would want her though.

It's crazy to think this Chandra and Teferi, Master of Time are from the same set!

Recommended For: Hazoret the Fervent


Chandra's Incinerator

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Chandra's Incinerator is one of the most powerful Commander cards to come out of M21. The card is essentially a 6/6 trampler that passively mows down opposing creatures and planeswalkers for a single red mana in Group Slug decks that are running stuff like Impact Tremors, Earthquake, and Repercussion. It's a new staple in Purphoros, God of the Forge, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, Neheb, the Eternal, Rakdos, Lord of Riots -- all Group Slug decks. It's the new best card in all these decks.

Recommended For: All Group Slug decks (Purphoros, God of the Forge)


Conspicuous Snoop

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Efficient card draw in Goblin Tribal! Conspicuous Snoop is sweet by itself but makes for the perfect pairing with Goblin Recruiter, stacking the top of your library with Goblins to immediately cast or just use the activated abilities of! This is a powerful effect and while I don't know what the most busted combos Snoop enables are, I'm sure it will be an easy staple in just about any Goblin Tribal deck.

Recommended For: Goblin Tribal (Krenko, Mob Bos


Double Vision

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Double Vision is Fork in enchantment form, and it's silly. Yes you can definitely use this to do infinite combo things with Doublecast and Ral, Storm Conduit. Yes it's definitely a shoe-horn in Kalamax, the Stormsire. The card is just good clean fun.

Recommended For: Kalamax, the Stormsire


Fiery Emancipation

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

After making a billion variants of Furnace of Rath that double damage, WOTC decided to kick it up a notch by tripling the damage with Fiery Emancipation. Six mana is a lot for an enchantment that does nothing with itself, but odds are if you get to untap with this then you win the game: Comet Storm or whatever burn spell of choice is gonna clean up the table real quick.

Personally, I just want to make a deck with every single damage doubling effect: Furnace of Rath, Dictate of the Twin Gods, Angarth's Marauders, Gisela, the Broken Blade, Insult // Injury, heck even Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, literally everything you can toss in here ... and then kill someone with a Gut Shot. Because it's about sending a message!

Recommended For: Burn decks (Torbran, Thane of Red Fell)


Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I'm not sure how powerful Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge is, but he sure is heckin' interesting! Gadrak is loaded with value at his meager 3cmc, being a 5/4 flyer that can generate a ton of Treasure tokens -- ramp, in Mono Red! But there's some hoops that you need to jump through: Gadrak can't attack unless you control four or more artifacts, and he's only making treasure tokens if nontoken creatures died on your turn.

So there's a bunch of shells where you can put Gadrak to great use. First is a Sacrifice deck. If Gadrak is your commander then I'd recommend running a bunch of Threaten effects to steal opposing creatures and then sacrifice them to something like Ashnod's Altar. You're stealing opposing creatures, dishing out extra damage, killing them and turning them into treasure! Or slot Gadrak into Marchesa, the Black Rose, put +1/+1 counters on your creatures and then sacrifice them, getting those creatures back but making treasures in the process. Of course, Gadrak is also a dragon, so Dragon Tribal decks like Lathliss, Dragon Queen may want it too.

Recommended For: Sacrifice Decks (Marchesa, the Black Rose); Threaten decks; Dragon Tribal (Lathliss, Dragon Queen)


Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner is another Red legendary that packs a ton of value at just 3cmc. Subira is kind of like Red's version of Edric, Spymaster of Trest, supporting Weenie decks by providing tons of card draw potential. You'll want to dump your hand full of low cmc creatures on to the battlefield then use Subira's ability to refill your hand while smashing for ever-increasing amounts of damage. I think she works great as both a Commander or as part of the 99 of just about any Weenie deck.

Recommended For: As a Weenie Commander; Grenzo, Havoc Raiser; any Weenie Aggro deck


Terror of the Peaks

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Warstorm Surge is a great, impactful card that may have just been surpassed in Commander with Terror of the Peaks, a cheaper Surge stuck on a 5/4 flying Dragon. This is a creature that just has to be answered by your opponents or else it'll start quickly picking off opposing creatures while smashing for big damage. Most Stompy decks are going to be happy with Terror, but since it's a Dragon the most obvious home for it is Dragon Tribal. Lathliss, Dragon Queen is downright disgusting with Terror of the Peaks!

Recommended For: Dragon Tribal (Lathliss, Dragon Queen)


Traitorous Greed

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

We've seen a lot of Threaten variants over the years, with the common goal being "slightly better Threaten": Hijack can also steal artifacts, Harness by Force can steal multiple creatures, Kari Zev's Expertise lets you cast a spell for free, etc. Traitorous Greed is a pretty decent variant to toss into the pile, costing 4 mana upfront but giving you back 2, effectively costing only 2 mana if you spend the 2 mana it gives you on something else.

I think Traitorous Greed has the best potential in Zada, Hedron Grinder, where it's actually a super janky ritual that generates mana if you target Zada with it and have at least 2 other creatures on the battlefield. Zada is a silly deck.

Recommended For: Zada, Hedron Grinder



$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Transmogrify is a Red Polymorph, exiling instead of destroying. Not sure what deck wants this, but it's neat.


Unleash Fury

$ 0.00 $ 0.00


Unleash Fury is a super neat card. It's like a Berserk, double the cost and no trample but doesn't require you to sacrifice the creature at end of turn. It's generally worse than a double strike granter like Temur Battle Rage since those offer the creature "protection" from blockers by killing them before they can deal damage, but it does stack with double strike which is very juicy, plus post-combat you can Fling the creature as a finisher.

I like Unleash Fury in just about any deck that I'd run Temur Battle Rage in, like Xenagos, God of Revels. It's also a great inclusion in Brion Stoutarm decks. My favorite deck for this, however, is Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest, which can easily turn into One Punch Man with Unleash Fury!

Recommended For: Stompy decks (Xenagos, God of Revels); Brion Stoutarm; Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest


Part 3 Coming Soon! Green, Multicolored, Colorless, Lands!

We complete the M21 review with Part 3 coming soon! What are your favorite cards from the set? Disagree with any of the reviews? Let me know in the comments section!

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