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Commander Review: Ixalan Part 2 (Red, Green, Multicolor, Colorless, Lands)


We continue our Commander Review of Ixalan with Part 2! If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here. Let's get started!

 

RED

 

Angrath's Marauders

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Angrath's Marauders is another Furnace of Rath-style damage doubler in Red, except only you get the benefit of doubled damage, like a worse Mono Red version of Gisela, Blade of Goldnight. The effect is undoubtedly powerful, but it's tacked on to a 7 cmc fragile creature, making it unappealing to the majority of players. The one nice thing I can say about Angrath's Marauders over the better Gisela, Blade of Goldnight - other than Red decks can play it outside of White - is this one isn't legendary so you can do silly things like Rite of Replication it and deal a billion damage to your opponents. So maybe a Clone deck will enjoy this?

 

Burning Sun's Avatar

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

People rarely play Lightning Bolt, but when it comes with a 6/6 Dinosaur for 6 cmc, yeah, I'll run it in the Dino deck. Commander may be called the "Battlecruiser Format" but there's always small-but-powerful utility creatures to pick off with this, like Oracle of Mul Daya. Burning Sun's Avatar isn't amazing, but it's a solid inclusion to the tribe, and it gets better if you have any methods of re-using its ETB trigger.

 

Captain Lannery Storm

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Captain Lannery Storm is a solid inclusion in the Admiral Beckett Brass deck, where she helps trigger the Admiral's ability and finds some treasure. Nothing spectacular, but a solid 3-drop.

 

Captivating Crew

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Captivating Crew is a new staple in Threaten decks from Brion Stoutarm to Shattergang Brothers! For those unfamiliar with the archetype, it revolves around temporarily stealing your opponent's creatures with Threaten effects, and then sacrificing the stolen creatures before you have to give them back. So yeah, the ability to repeatedly Threaten stuff is AMAZING in this archetype!

Captivating Crew also has a home in Pirate Tribal led by Admiral Beckett Brass, where you can use it to remove potential blockers to help trigger the Admiral's ability.

 

Fiery Cannonade

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Fiery Cannonade is probably an all-star in Limited and Standard formats, but it'll be a lot less consistently useful in Commander since the creatures are usually bigger. That said, it's still a neat trick in the Pirate deck, picking off small utility creatures and possibly taking out larger creatures after they've blocked in combat. Not great, but situationally useful and flavorful. You can see how little I think of Pirates in Commander when cards like Fiery Cannonade show up as a talking point.

 

Otepec Huntmaster

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Otepec Huntmaster joins Kinjalli's Caller as an excellent source of early ramp for the Dinosaur deck. Creature ramp is more fragile than other sources of ramp, but Otepec Huntmaster also acts as a haste-enabler, making him more than worth the risk. He is a staple in the Dinosaur deck.

 

Rampaging Ferocidon

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Sulfuric Vortex has arrived in Dinosaur form. Like Vortex, Rampaging Ferocidon is an excellent answer to Lifegain strategies, but enchantments are more likely to survive longer on the battlefield than creatures, so Vortex will usually be the better pick. In the Dinosaur deck, however, you're taking advantage of the creature type, making Rampaging Ferocidon significantly better. It does stop your own lifegain cards, but unless that's a big theme in your deck, it's worth still running to hose decks like Vona, Butcher of Magan.

 

Star of Extinction

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Board wipes and land destruction are both incredibly useful in Commander. Star of Extinction's 7 cmc is a tad too high to be recommended in a generic Red deck; I'd prefer Volcanic Offering to kill specific creatures / lands, and Blasphemous Act for board wipes. However, in a deck looking to burn out their enemies with Stuffy Doll / Boros Reckoner and similar cards, Star of Extinction can pack a punch.

 

Sunbird's Invocation

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Sunbird's Invocation can do solid work in decks that have tons of high cmc spells that can be cast at a discount. Delve cards (Dig Through Time), affinity (Mycosynth Golem) and "affinity" (Metalwork Colossus), convoke (Chord of Calling), and other cards let you cast high cmc spells without paying their costs and can turn Sunbird's Invocation into a serious engine.

As Tom pointed out to me recently, Sunbird's Invocation might be good enough to be played straight in any high CMC deck; he was running it in his Dinosaur deck, where it can pull out an extra card every time he casts a Dino.

 

Trove of Temptation

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Normally I don't want to give my opponents incentive to attack me, let alone force them to do so, but in decks that want to be attacked, Trove of Temptation can be a key card to turn on the deck. Force your opponents to tap out or waste mana with Propaganda / Ghostly Prison, kill their creatures with No Mercy, make tokens with Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs, and so on. Basically, run this in Pillowfort decks that are built around defending against attacks.

 

Vance's Blasting Cannons

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I like Outpost Siege in Red decks that are lacking better sources of card draw, aka Mono Red and Boros decks. It ends up being a slightly worse Phyrexian Arena, which is still a fine source of card draw. Vance's Blasting Cannons acts as another Outpost Siege that you may eventually flip into a land that has an alternative use of Lightning Bolt'ing pesky utility creatures. That's great value! I'm definitely running this in nearly all my Mono Red and Boros decks.

 

GREEN

 

Deathgorge Scavenger

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Like Scavenging Ooze, Deathgorge Scavenger is a great graveyard hoser made even better in Green since the color excels at creature synergies (e.g. Survival of the Fittest) to take full advantage of it. I think the Ooze is a bit better since you can remove multiple cards at instant speed, but Deathgorge Scavenger is a better option in the Dinosaur deck due to its relevant creature type.

 

Growing Rites of Itlimoc

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Growing Rites of Itlimoc is my pick for the single best Commander card from Ixalan in terms of raw power and how many decks will want to run it. Gaea's Cradle is a busted card and even this worse version is an absolute powerhouse in creature-heavy decks. Due to Gaea's Cradle's obscene power and its scarcity due to being on the Reserved List, the card is prohibitively expensive to pick up, but thankfully Growing Rites of Itlimoc gives us a more budget-friendly version to play with. Even if you do have Cradle, you'll want to run this enchantment as well.

 

Ranging Raptors

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Ranging Raptors is a great tribal source of ramp for the Dinosaur deck. Since enrage is the Dinosaur mechanic, you undoubtedly be running ways to abuse this -- Pyrohemia is a personal favorite. This innocent-looking Dino can ramp out a crazy amount of land if left alone! A definite staple for the tribe.

 

Ripjaw Raptor

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

One of the best cards for the Dinosaur deck. It draws you cards and has a big body for its cost. What more could you want?

 

Savage Stomp

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

The best targeted removal spell for the Dinosaur deck: for one mana, you grow one of your Dinosaurs, kill a smaller creature, and trigger your Dinosaur's enrage ability. Yeah, easy staple.

 

Shaper's Sanctuary

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

When Leovold, Emissary of Trest was banned, a lot of people lamented that Leovold's creature protection ability was really fun/"nice," but it was unfortunately combined with a very unfun/"mean" ability. Well, now you can play the "nice" part of Leovold. Is Shaper's Sanctuary good? I don't know, but it can draw you cards for 1 cmc so it can't be too bad.

 

Thundering Spineback

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

The top end of Commander decks are crowded with big flashy cards that swing games in your favor. Thundering Spineback doesn't really do that, but it does make your Dinosaurs bigger and poops out more Dinosaurs, so that's pretty cool. If you're playing a Dinosaur deck this is a fine top-end.

 

Verdant Rebirth

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Another neat trick to keep a creature alive in response to combat or a removal spell. It's even better if the creature has a good ETB trigger.

 

Verdant Sun's Avatar

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Verdant Sun's Avatar is another solid top-end to the Dinosaur deck. The amount of lifegain this creature can net you is no joke. It gets especially good if you're running a Lifegain subtheme, or have ways to bounce/blink creatures to keep gaining life.

 

Waker of the Wilds

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Waker of the Wilds has the ability to awaken lands cheaply and repeatedly. It's a great effect, and would be amazing in an Awaken deck (e.g. Sylvan Advocate), but I don't know where the Waker's home would be. Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper is the only "official" Awaken deck, which is annoyingly outside of Green, despite Green being all about turning lands into creatures. Maybe Omnath, Locus of Rage would like more Elementals popping up, but I think that's a stretch.

 

Multicolor

 

Admiral Beckett Brass

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Admiral Beckett Brass is the single most powerful Pirate you can run in Commander, which is especially good because you can run her in the command zone. She opens you up to Grixis colors, letting you run all the Pirates, she buffs your crew, and she can steal pesky permanents. That's a ton of power packed into a 4 cmc card.

The main problem with the Admiral is that the Pirate tribe is, well, bad in Commander. Aggressive beaters like Siren Stormtamer and Fathom Fleet Captain may be allstars in Limited or Standard, but they do not scale well in a multiplayer format where everyone starts at 40 life and have plenty of time to ramp up and start dropping Inferno Titans and Diluvian Primordials.Admiral Beckett Brass gives you a shot at stealing your opponent's superior cards, but you're much better off just playing good cards yourself.

In reality, the best Admiral Beckett Brass decks are going to be ones that use Arcane Adaptation, Conspiracy, and Xenograft to turn your creatures into Pirates; that way you can plunder your opponent's battlefield for booty but still get to run good cards yourself. Be sure to run Strionic Resonator as well to steal two things per turn!

 

Belligerent Brontodon

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Belligerent Brontodon is noteworthy in that in joins the small club of cards that let you assign combat damage with toughness rather than power, the only other two cards that I know of being Doran, the Siege Tower and Assault Formation. The Brontodon costs far too much to run it for this ability and I wouldn't run it as a backup to Doran, but it's still something to keep in mind.

 

Gishath, Sun's Avatar

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Gishath, Sun's Avatar is the biggest payoff card to running Dinosaur Tribal, and it is well-worth the whopping 8cmc to cast it! As your commander, Gishath stomps out the gates swinging (albeit with tiny arms), dealing 7 damage, trampling over any possible blockers, and dropping down multiple high-cmc Dinosaurs on to the battlefield. With vigilance and new untapped Dinosaurs now on the battlefield, you're safe from the crackback of non-flying creatures. 

Even without being fancy about it, playing Gishath straight is huge value. Just one combat step and Gishath can take you from a weak board position to a dominating one. If you do get fancy -- and you should, since this is Commander -- Gishath ends games in a hurry. Make sure you get the most out of its triggered ability by pumping its power (Berserk) and/or giving it double strike (Savage Beating), which not only lets you poop out more Dinos but also can straight-up kill players with commander damage. If we're getting super fancy, cast Gishath with a haste-enabler on the field like Fires of Yavimaya, attack with Gishath to deal big damage and poop out Dinos, then take an extra combat step with Fury of the Horde or similar and swing with your enormous army of Dinos, probably taking out all your opponents.

Dinosaurs are looking great for Commander, with Gishath, Sun's Avatar being the cherry on top. We have one more set with Dinosaurs coming up so the tribe can only get better!

 

Hostage Taker

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Hostage Taker is the best Pirate outside of Admiral Beckett Brass. Removal is always good, and stealing stuff is even better. This is also a notable way for Dimir to get rid of artifacts, something the color combination usually struggles with. There will always be something good for Hostage Taker to exile/steal, from an opposing Sepulchral Primordial to a Sol Ring. Hostage Taker's theft is an ETB trigger, which makes it even better if you have ways to abuse it, like Panharmonicon.

Hostage Taker is obviously a staple in the Pirate Tribal deck, but might also see play in decks that can abuse her ETB trigger, like Marchesa, the Black Rose.

 

Huatli, Dinosaur Knight

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

We were so close to having a Dinosaur planeswalker! A dinosaur knight, even! Darn. Maybe next time.

Does the Dinosaur Tribal deck want to run Huatli, Dinosaur Knight? Eh, sure, why not. It's not a terribly exciting 6-drop, but everything she does is useful, just not as useful as I'd like for 6 mana. Dinosaur decks will usually have the creatures to protect her, and her ultimate can lead to lethal combat steps. It's flavorful so yeah, run it.

 

Huatli, Warrior Poet

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I much prefer this version of Huatli for the Dinosaur Tribal deck. She's 1-cmc less, and her 0 ability is really nice, giving you more Dinosaurs on the battlefield to benefit from your Dinosaur support cards. Her ultimate is flexible, letting you pick off small utility creatures or remove blockers for a lethal attack. Her +2 is okay, but gets even better if you have a lifegain subtheme, and considering we've seen a few great lifegain Dinosaur cards (Deathforge Scavenger, Verdant Sun's Avatar, Priest of the Wakening Sun), I don't think it would be wrong to run a Lifegain subtheme to take advantage of it, like Well of Lost Dreams and Cradle of Vitality.

Huatli, Warrior Poet gets two thumbs up from me for the Dino deck.

 

Raging Swordtooth

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Raging Swordtooth is a sweet way to ping (but not kill) your own Dinosaurs to trigger their sweet enrage keyword (Ripjaw Raptor). It can also kill off small utility creatures (Birds of Paradise) or even bigger creatures that already took damage post-combat. It's also a 5/5 trampler for 5cmc. Sweet! Great support card for the Dinosaur deck.

 

Regisaur Alpha

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Regisaur Alpha brings a crapton of value to the Dinosaur deck: haste for your army and 7 power on the board split between two Dinosaurs, each benefiting from your tribal synergies (e.g. Thundering Spineback). Easy staple for the Dinosaur deck.

 

Shapers of Nature

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Shapers of Nature does useful things, but the mana cost to get value out of the card is simply too high in most cases. Most decks looking for these abilities will prefer Zameck Guildmage. One notable exception is Experiment Kraj, since you can put counters on your opponent's creatures to gain their abilities, which is kinda neat.

 

Tishana, Voice of Thunder

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Tishana, Voice of Thunder is the Go Wide sister of Prime Speaker Zegana, aka Go Tall. She wants lots of creatures on the battlefield to draw a bunch of cards, and has a built-in Reliquary Tower to let you keep the absurd amount of cards you draw. She'll be huge too, often a 10/10 or greater, which is perfect for Voltron strategies if she's your commander. Tishana is solid both as a leader or part of the 99 of any Go Wide strategy; perhaps even Tribal Merfolk Tokens running stuff like Deeproot Waters? I wouldn't try too hard to break her as casting her "fairly" is still huge value no matter what.

 

Vona, Butcher of Magan

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Orzhov and Lifegain go hand in hand, so it's nice to see a great way to use all that lifegain with Vona, Butcher of Magan. Vona is useful both as the leader or as part of the 99 of pretty much any Orzhov deck; whether or not you want her as your commander depends on if you want a slower game but have more interaction. If you're going Lifegain, Karlov of the Ghost Council is the fastest, scariest commander out there. If you want to go Lifeswap, Selenia, Dark Angel is the most efficient at lowering your life total instantly. If you want to tax your opponent, Kambal, Consul of Allocation is your man. But Vona brings a repeatable nonland Vindicate, which is amazing at dealing with just about anything your opponents throw at you. Even better, you can use Vona politically, offering to spare your opponent's permanents if they work with you. That's an amazing tool to have in the command zone, or as part of the 99.

I can totally see Vona taking command of any of the decks I just mentioned. If not, put her in the 99! She's also a Vampire, so Edgar Markov may like her as well.

 

Vraska, Relic Seeker

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Something something Superfriends Doubling Season something something complete. Man, Doubling Season is a dumb card with Planeswalkers.

 

COLORLESS

 

Conqueror's Galleon

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Trading Post now has competition for the title of most played durdly card in Commander! Conqueror's Galleon durdles hard after you crew it up and attack once. Lands are sweet, and it comes with lots of useful abilities, but it just costs so darn much mana to get going. Pay 4 mana, crew this next turn (or this turn with haste), attack, and next turn I can pay 5 mana to draw a card? That's 9 mana plus crewing this over three turns for my first card? That's terrible. The card is so, so slow to get going that I can't imagine wanting to play this in most any deck.

 

Dowsing Dagger

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I like Sword of the Animist quite a bit in creature-heavy decks; basically you need to deal combat damage with it twice for it to be on par with Explosive Vegetation and any further hits is just value. It's a great option in any aggressive non-Green deck and obviously great in Equipment decks.

I like Dowsing Dagger even more than the sword: for 4 mana to cast, equip, and hit an opponent, you get a land that produces even more mana than Explosive Vegetation would give you. That's seriously good! Even the plant tokens you generate can be a political tool, giving them to someone you didn't intend on attacking anyway as a sign of "friendship."

 

Fell Flagship

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Fell Flagship makes me sad at how crappy Pirates are in Commander. You get a small anthem for your Pirates, and if your 3/3 without evasion hits an opponent, you make them discard, pissing them off a little. I would've much preferred drawing a card instead. I would've preferred if this thing gave my Pirate menace, or islandwalk, or some sort of evasion instead of +1/+0. Fell Flagship might be great in 1v1, I can't say, but I can say it's a shipload of disappointment in Commander.

 

Pillar of Origins

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I mention Pillar of Origins as a warning to anyone thinking about jamming this into their Tribal deck: don't. This bad mana rock only functions when casting your tribal creatures and can't tap for mana for the rest of the deck. Commander players have access to so many great mana rocks -- Fellwar Stone, all the Ravnica signets (e.g. Azorius Signet), the Talisman cycle (e.g. Talisman of Dominance), and so much more -- that you should never be tempted to run this card. Bad card. Bad!

 

Primal Amulet

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Primal Amulet starts off as a bad Jace's Sanctum that turns into a better Pyromaster's Goggles. I love both of those cards dearly in Spellslinger decks. I will love Primal Amulet too. I'd consider this a new staple for the Spellslinger archetype and will happily jam it into all those decks.

 

Sentinel Totem

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Sentinel Totem joins Relic of Progenitus, Scavenger Grounds, and Tormod's Crypt in the arsenal of cheap colorless graveyard hosers. I truly believe every Commander deck needs a graveyard hoser and a way (or multiple ways) to fetch it when needed, just because how powerful and popular Graveyard decks are. Sentinel Totem brings the added benefit for Scry 1, which isn't as good as Relic's card draw or ability to nibble away at graveyards, but I might prefer it for a single deck: Brago, King Eternal. I like the idea of blinking the totem with Brago for free Scry value!

 

Thaumatic Compass

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

There was a time when Journeyer's Kite was a very popular card in Commander. Then people started playing better cards. Thaumatic Compass is an upgraded Kite, which turns into a Maze of Ith that can tap for mana! That payoff is good enough to run it in my decks. Thaumatic Compass probably will be best used in Green decks that run land ramp, so you can get that sweet flip as quickly as possible.

 

Treasure Map

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

If you play it straight, Treasure Map reads: "pay 5 mana over 3 turns to scry 3 times, then put a land into play tapped with 3 treasure counters that you can sacrifice for card draw." It's alright, but not terribly exciting. If your deck runs other ways to generate treasure, or is a Revel in Riches deck, Treasure Map gets a lot better. Otherwise I'd probably skip over it.

 

Vanquisher's Banner

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Maybe I'm spoiled by superpowered anthems like Coat of Arms and True Conviction, but giving my creatures +1/+1 just doesn't excite me. It's a welcome ability, don't get me wrong, but it won't push my army over the edge. Vanquisher's Banner does come with card draw, however, and I do like me some card draw!

Vanquisher's Banner is the ideal card when you're up against Control decks that are keeping you from reaching a critical mass of creatures to swing in with. Coat of Arms and True Conviction aren't worth squat if your creatures are dying before they get to do anything. In those cases, you want a card that gives you a steady source of card draw to grind through the board wipes, and Vanquisher's Banner does just that. Then, once you fought through all the pesky removal, you can drop the big "time to kill someone" anthem to finish the job.

 

Field of Ruin

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Lands are the least likely permanents to be destroyed in a typical game of Commander. We have far less powerful/popular cards that can do it than, say, destroying creatures / artifacts / enchantments. But sometimes it's nonbasic lands that are actually the most threatening thing on the board: Emeria, the Sky Ruin, Gaea's Cradle, Gavony Township, Cabal Coffers, Maze of Ith, for example. Now Ixalan brings even more powerful fliplands like Growing Rites of Itlimoc to deal with.

As the list of power nonbasic lands grows, we need more answers to combat them. Strip Mine is the classic example, but it's just one card, and despite being heavily printed it sits at $7 currently and is only going up. Thankfully, Field of Ruin has arrived, and while not quite as good as Strip Mine, it's an excellent second version at a fraction of the price. I've heard lots of people call this card bad because it ramps your other opponents, but the net lands gained by your opponents is still the same: Strip Mine puts you and your opponent each down a land, while Field of Ruin puts your unaffected opponents up a land. Same net difference. The difference here is that you've ramped your opponents, but the Strip Mine example is you put you and your targeted opponent down a land.

Strip Mine is usually going to be superior, but Field of Ruin is still a fine card. It gets even better in Landfall decks like Omnath, Locus of Rage, where you can get an Elemental out of the activation too.

 

Unclaimed Territory

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Yeah, this isn't the Cavern of Souls reprint everyone wanted, but Unclaimed Territory is still a fine inclusion in heavy Tribal decks for the mana fixing. I would for sure run it in 4-5 Color Tribal decks like Allies and Slivers, and maybe 3 Color but not lower than that.

 

That's All, Folks!

Ixalan brought a lot of sweetness to Commander. I'm a big fan of the fliplands from a design standpoint and most of the cards are quite powerful, especially new staple Growing Rites of Itlimoc. This set is all about Tribes, and the big winners so far are Dinosaurs, which are off to a great start and can only get better, and Vampires under Edgar Markov, a deck more than happy to absorb all these sweet new White Vampires being printed. I'm disappointed in Pirates and Merfolk, which feel like they were made strictly for Limited / Standard and had no consideration for Commander.

I think Pirates could've easily been more viable in Commander with a simple wording tweak so they scaled for multiplayer. What if cards like Deadeye Tormentor and Storm Fleet Arsonist made each opponent discard/sacrifice? What if Sailor of Means made a treasure for each opponent? This would not affect 1v1 at all, but would make these mediocre cards more exciting in Commander without breaking anything. Ah well.

That's it for the Commander Review! Let me know what you thought of my assessments, what you disagree with, what cards you think I missed, what you are excited for and building/adding! Tell me about it in the comments section below! Next up will be the Budget Commander 2017 articles that I'm super late with! Sorry for the wait!


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