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Commander Review: Throne of Eldraine | Part 2 | Red, Green, Multicolor, Colorless, Lands, Brawl


The full card list for Throne of Eldraine is out, which means it's time for the Commander Review! I covered White, Blue, and Black cards in Part 1. Now I'll be covering the rest here in Part 2! Let's get to it:

 

RED

 

Claim the Firstborn

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Is Claim the Firstborn the cheapest Threaten variant ever printed? My quick skim couldn't find a cheaper one. While narrow, this card may still be interesting enough to test in a Red Aristocrats style deck that uses Threaten effects as added value and sacrifices the stolen creature instead of giving them back. Judith, the Scourge Diva, Greven, Predator Captain, and Brion Stoutarm are examples of Aristocrats that might go deep on the Threaten route to try this out.

 

Crystal Slipper

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves are played a bunch in Commander. Crystal Slipper is the same cmc and same equip cost as Boots, but loses hexproof for a little extra damage. Is it worth the exchange? No, but if you need a second haste equipment after Boots and Greaves is too expensive for your budget, the Slipper does the job just fine.

 

Embercleave

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Embercleave is a goddamn house in the shape of a sword. It's well worth the total six mana to cast and is almost always going to be cast for less than that. Double strike alone is incredibly potent, gaining more and more value the higher the power of the creature you're giving it to, and on top of that Embercleave also gives the creature +1/+1 and trample. Compare this to Fireshrieker, a pretty decent equipment already, and Embercleave is clearly absurd. This is amazing in a Go Tall deck like Xenagos, God of Revels, giving your 10/10 beastie an extra 12 points of damage and letting them trample over any potential blockers. It's even better in an Equipment deck like Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale, since it works nicely with the most powerful equipments that have combat triggers like the Sword cycle (Sword of Fire and Ice), doubling the triggers you get from them, plus it's an equipment itself so it benefits from any card type synergies your deck runs.

Embercleave is nuts and is going to close out a whole bunch of games.

 

Fervent Champion

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Fervent Champion is one of the best cards for Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale. It's a mere one mana to cast and it's a Knight, so it efficiently triggers tribal cards like Worthy Knight. It wields equipment like a champ, making all your best equipment like Sword of Light and Shadow free to equip which is a huge tempo swing in your favor. Finally, it has haste to swing immediately and first strike win combat, both great attributes to wield equipment. This is an easy staple for Syr Gwyn.

 

Fires of Invention

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Fires of Invention is an interesting ramp card that works best in decks that want to spend a lot of mana on activated abilities, like Grenzo, Dungeon Warden and Zacama, Primal Calamity. In those type of decks, Fires lets to keep casting spells while letting you dump all your mana into the activated abilities. I wouldn't run Fires outside of this narrow application, but for decks heavy on activated abilities with mana costs this enchantment can really shine.

 

Irencrag Feat

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Rituals in Commander are most often used in Storm decks to chain together a bunch of spells and win with something like Aetherflux Reservoir or Brain Freeze. They are also used to enable big plays at the beginning of the game that can steal wins before the rest of the table has a chance to set themselves up, like casting a turn one Dark Ritual to Entomb and Reanimate a Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur.

Irencrag Feat's restrictions makes it difficult to imagine it seeing play in the way that most rituals are currently used. At 4cmc it's a fair bit slower to speed out giant haymakers like Dark Ritual can on turn 1, and being restricted to casting only one spell after it makes it awkward for Storm decks to use it reliably. 

However, I think there are some powerful niche uses for Irencrag Feat, specifically to help ramp out giant haymaker Red commanders. Two immediately spring to mind: Drakuseth, Maw of Flames and Godo, Bandit Warlord. Irencrag Feat can get out a turn 4 Drakuseth all by itself, probably turn 3 if you have any other early ramp, which can dominate the board if your opponents don't have an immediate response. Godo is even scarier as it's by far the most competitive Mono Red commander currently available thanks to its easy Helm of the Host combo. Using this ritual to speed out such huge haymakers might be worth it.

 

Irencrag Pyromancer

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Irencrag Pyromancer is going to take some work to truly shine. It's easy enough to reliably draw two cards on your own turn, even in Mono Red, with stuff like Faithless Looting, Cathartic Reunion, Mask of Memory, etc. But a repeatable Lightning Bolt on each of your turns, stapled to a fragile creature, isn't that exciting. To make this card worth running, you want to put it in a deck that can reliably trigger its ability each turn, including your opponents'! That's a tall order, but there are a few specific commanders that can pull this off, most notably Jori En, Ruin Diver or Niv-Mizzet, Parun in Izzet, or a Jeskai deck that runs Jeskai Ascendancy, or a Temur Flash list abusing Seedborn Muse and Wilderness Reclamation. You may not be able to Lightning Bolt on every single opponents' turn, but getting 2-3 Bolts each turn cycle is well worth it in the right deck to pick off utility creatures and planeswalkers.

 

Opportunistic Dragon

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Opportunistic Dragon is another great inclusion in the Threaten / Aristocrats archetypes. You're paying a bit more mana for the Threaten and can't tap/attack with the creature, but the theft isn't until the end of your turn and it comes with a 4/3 flying body. You can't steal any creature, only Humans, but that's the most common creature type by a long shot and you can steal artifacts which are abundant in the format!

It's very likely that you'll have a good target to steal any time you're looking to cast this Dragon, and then you just sacrifice it to an outlet like Goblin Welder. And you can also sacrifice the Dragon for more value too! Plus, since the Threaten effect is an ETB trigger, you can get even more use out of Opportunistic Dragon with copy effects like Flameshadow Conjuring and Strionic Resonator or blink effects like Cloudshift.

Opportunistic Dragon is a great inclusion in a bunch of Threaten / Aristocrat decks like Brion Stoutarm and Greven, Predator Captain, but is most exciting in Shattergang Brothers, since it can sacrifice both stolen creatures and artifacts for value!

 

Robber of the Rich

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Robber of the Rich is cheap, efficient impulse draw. Being cheap and having haste means you can probably get value out of Robber the turn you cast him, though he'll likely need help getting passed blockers since here's a mere 2/2 with no evasion. Most impulse draw only let you cast the exiled card until the end of turn so it's nice to see this one letting you cast it in future turns as well as long as you attacked with a Rogue, which also encourages a Rogue Tribal theme (even if Rogues aren't well-represented in Red yet).

While I won't be jamming Robber of the Rich into just any Red deck, I think the card can do serious work in any deck that cares about attacking and has plenty of ways of giving creatures evasion. Robber easily slots into the 99 of an Etali, Primal Storm or Grenzo, Havoc Raiser deck, the latter even being a Rogue as well. These decks are all about attacking, evasion, and are generally Steal Your Stuff decks.

 

Seven Dwarves

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Initially I wasn't going to mention Seven Dwarves. It's a cute pop culture reference that can do some work in Limited, nothing more.

Then Seth killed me with precisely seven dwarves. So fine, let's take this seriously for a moment.

Seven Dwarves isn't a good card in Commander. It's pure jank. But if you're looking for jank, perhaps because your playgroup is very casual, or perhaps you want to humiliate your opponents, then you can build around Seven Dwarves and start taking out fools with them. Tutor them up with Dwarven Recruiter, draw them with Depala, Pilot Exemplar, and copy them with Mirror March, Flameshadow Conjuring, Kindred Charge, Spy Kit, etc. People laugh when you've got two dwarves on the battlefield. They stop laughing when you have seven. Again, it's not good, but they can and will kill people if left alone. Seven 8/8 dwarves is 56 damage, people!

 

Syr Carah, the Bold

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Even more impulse draw for Red, this time for a Burn-focused Spellslinger! Syr Carah, the Bold has the potential to be very sweet and unique in Commander, giving card advantage to a Burn deck. Fiery Confluence can draw 9 cards! Chaining together red rituals like Seething Song and Mana Geyser to cast Grapeshot / Ignite Memories, then cast more cards off Syr Carah! Pretty sweet, no?

Well ... not really. If you have infinite mana then sure, but Red isn't amazing at ramp, and Syr Carah herself is 5cmc and has no protection against removal. The entire concept here requires a truckload of mana and the payoff isn't really worth it. Maybe if Syr Carah was 2cmc or something then it'd be more tantalizing. As-is, however, she's mostly a reminder at how busted Syr Conrad, the Grim is compared to the rest of the cycle.

 

Thrill of Possibility

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Looters are great at setting up tons of archetypes: they fill the graveyard for decks like Sedris, the Traitor King or serving as a madness enablers for Anje Falkenrath. I regularly run Faithless Looting and Cathartic Reunion in Red decks and I'm happy to cast them just for the card filtering alone.

Thrill of Possibility is very exciting because we don't have a lot of good looting options at instant speed, and this one is a strict upgrade to Tormenting Voice and Wild Guess. Thrill is also a great way to draw cards on our opponents' turns which triggers cards like Irencrag Pyromancer. The first deck I'd run this in is Jori En, Ruin Diver, but any deck that is currently running either Wild Guess or Tormenting Voice now has an easy upgrade.

 

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Red Deck Win players, rejoice! Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is here, and he's about to burn away his opponents' life totals. Torbran works best when paired with Red burn cards that deal repeated one or two points of damage, which he then doubles or triples the output of. Impact Tremors, Manabarbs, and Purphoros, God of the Forge are just some of the excellent pairings with Torbran, putting your opponents on a very short clock. Torbran also plays nicely with Red board wipes such as Earthquake and most notably Pyrohemia, letting you break the symmetry of these wipes and killing opposing creatures while keeping your own tough critters alive (especially if you equip him with Darksteel Plate or similar!). 

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is going to do serious work both as your commander or as part of the 99 of a Group Slug deck like Purphoros, God of the Forge or Mogis, God of Slaughter.

 

GREEN

 

Flaxen Intruder

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Some people might consider Flaxen Intruder in Ayula, Queen Among Bears, but I'd advise against it. Paying seven mana to create three Bear tokens isn't a good rate, even in our jank tribe. Compare that to Grizzly Fate which generates four bears for five mana after meeting an easy condition. The creature side isn't great either, since it needs both haste and evasion to be effective. It's not terrible in Ayula decks, but it's certainly not one of the better Bear generators, and I'd rather skip on the mediocre Bears and just run more card draw / tutors to find the good ones instead.

If you're interested in Ayula, Queen Among Bears, I wrote a pretty clawsome article about her that you can find here!

 

The Great Henge

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

What a great gift for thicc critters everywhere! The Great Henge is an auto-include in any deck looking to drop beefy creatures, either Go Tall decks like Xenagos, God of Revels and Arahbo, Roar of the World, or Voltron decks like Uril, the Miststalker and Mowu, Loyal Companion (you even get an extra +1/+1 counter!), where you can reliably cast this artifact for a mere GG! Also any creature-heavy +1/+1 Counter deck will also love this card, like Atraxa, Praetors' Voice, since you'd maximize all aspects of this card. Heck, basically any creature-heavy Green deck is happy running The Great Henge since you'll most likely be casting it for four or five mana without even trying and it's well worth the cost.

The Great Henge is going to make huge waves in the Commander format. It's incredibly powerful and fits into a ton of decks. Zendikar Resurgent, a format darling as well, simply pales in comparison to this new kid on the block.

 

Keeper of Fables

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Keeper of Fables seems to be flying under peoples' radars and that's a shame because it's legit good card draw for a bunch of Green decks. It only triggers off non-Human creatures, but for many decks that's not an issue, and even if you have a mix of Humans and non-Humans you can still draw cards, plus Keeper itself is a non-Human so it can trigger its own card draw. You're also not stuck only drawing one card per combat: Keeper's ability triggers for each player dealt combat damage, so you can draw multiple cards if you're hitting multiple opponents. Also because creatures with first strike deal combat damage before creatures without first strike, Keeper's ability can trigger twice during one combat if your creatures deal combat damage to one player at different times. Sure, this isn't quite as good as Coastal Piracy, but I think it's a lot better than most people give it credit.

Keeper of Fables is going to work best in Go Wide decks or any deck that can consistently hit multiple opponents with non-Human creatures. At the very least, I expect it to show up in every Cat Tribal deck such as Arahbo, Roar of the World.

 

Kenrith's Transformation

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Green is pretty amazing at most things these days, but one thing they're still (thankfully) lacking in is solid unconditional creature removal. Green has got Beast Within and Song of the Dryads, but after that you gotta start scraping the bottom of the barrel. Kenrith's Transformation may not be quite as good as the two top options, but it's still very good, perhaps the third best option overall in Green. While it doesn't remove the creature entirely, it removes all threatening qualities of the creature, and we know from Beast Within and Rapid Hybridization that a vanilla 3/3 isn't a real threat in Commander. But what makes this card so good is the fact that it draws a card, which what turns this variant of Lignify into a top-tier option.

Kenrith's Transformation is a great inclusion in any Green deck struggling to find more creature removal, but it will shine brightest in any deck that specifically cares about auras; any Enchantress deck running cards like Retether and Kor Spiritdancer are going to love this card.

 

Oakflame Adversary

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I'd expect Oakhame Adversary to cost only two mana at least half the time you draw it. A two mana Ophidian with deathtouch to deter blockers is pretty darn good. However, sometimes being four mana is far less good, and the inconsistency here makes me less likely to recommend it for most decks. The Adversary is best suited in decks that can take advantage of its creature types and are looking for budget-friendly card draw: Warrior Tribal under Najeela, the Blade Blossom and Elf Tribal under Ezuri, Renegade Leader or some other Elf commander.

 

Once and Future

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Double Regrowth at instant speed in a Green-heavy deck is pretty good. Even Regrowth + Reclaim is pretty decent if your deck is into topdeck manipulation, such as Terminus. But the question is: is it good enough? Generally speaking if you want a card back then you're running Regrowth because it increases the likelihood that you'll have enough mana to immediately cast the card you return, and if you want topdeck manipulation then Reclaim / Noxious Revival are simply more efficient. If you're paying extra for a Regrowth then you're runnng Eternal Witness / Skullwinder because they're stapled on to creatures, or you're going bigger with Praetor's Counsel / Seasons Past. Once and Future sits somewhere in between these options, being card advantage at instant speed without being so expensive as to be at the top end of your mana curve. I think it's a solid inclusion in any Green-heavy deck, particularly decks that care about instants/sorceries, like Wort, the Raidmother.

 

Once Upon a Time

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I'm not sure how playable Once Upon a Time is in Commander. My initial impression is it's actually not bad in creature-heavy decks, where it's basically a green Impulse that occasionally is free to cast. Then again, maybe it's too inconsistent even in creature-heavy decks to be worth it. Probably the latter. What do you think? Is there a sweet synergy or gimmick that makes Once Upon a Time good in a particular deck?

 

Questing Beast

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Questing Beast is a pushed card that is certainly exciting for Standard but doesn't translate well into Commander. An aggressive 4/4 creature just isn't going to cut it in a multiplayer format where your opponents start at forty life. There are some cute tricks with the Beast, namely pairing it with Fog variants to prevent all damage dealt by your opponents' creatures but not your own, though that alone isn't worth building a deck around (or is it?). If Questing Beast sees any play in Commander, it may show up as part of the 99 of Rayami, First of the Fallen, since it gives Rayami vigilance, deathtouch, and haste, which is a rare keyword combination for sultai creatures.

 

Return of the Wildspeaker

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Return of the Wildspeaker would already be a solid card just for the card draw mode. The best Green card draw in Go Tall / Stompy decks have to be Rishkar's Expertise and Garruk, Primal Hunter. Both can draw a ton of cards relatively safely, since even if an opponent has an instant speed removal response on your biggest creature you'll still draw some cards if you have a second creature on the board. They are a definite step up from Soul's Majesty, which is at risk at setting you up for a blowout since you have to target a creature. I'm also a fan of both Hunter's Insight and Hunter's Prowess, which are just as risky as Soul's Majesty and require combat damage but end up being the most mana-efficient card draw for the archetype.

Return of the Wildspeaker is the safest option of them all since you can cast it at instant speed, allowing you to use it in response to removal like Wrath of God while keeping your instant-speed options open. At the very least you can always cast this at the end step before your turn so you have a full turn with all your mana to cast the spells you've just drawn and therefore less likely to discard down to hand size. The card draw only counts non-Humans, which isn't actually a big downside for most decks since Humans are rarely going to be the biggest creatures on your battlefield.

But what really sets this card apart is that it also comes with a second mode, and Overrun effect that let you close out games. It doesn't give your creatures trample, but instant speed makes up for it, crushing unsuspecting blockers and turning normal-looking attacks into lethal swings. This is amazing flexibility to have in your pocket that can't be dismissed.

Return of the Wildspeaker is an excellent card that will fit right into a ton of Green decks. I expect it to see a respectable amount of play in Commander going forward.

 

Syr Faren, the Hengehammer

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Syr Faren, the Hengehammer is an interesting commander. We've seen this triggered ability a few times already in cards like Gruul Beastmaster, Wild Beastmaster, and Cultivator of Blades, but this is the lowest cmc version of this ability and we can use it as our commander to build around. A deck built around Syr Faren is probably going to look like a Voltron-meets-Stompy deck: pump up Syr Faren with the best green buffs like Rhonas's Monument, Rancor, Invigorate and so on, and Syr Faren doubles the effectiveness of these pumps by equally buffing another attacking creature. Go Tall / Stompy staples like Rishkar's Expertise, Traverse the Outlands, and newcomer The Great Henge fit perfectly with this style of play.

Syr Faren's low cmc and redundant card with similar abilities make him a good commander candidate to build around. And because I'm an awful person, I would absolutely build Syr Faren as an Infect deck: equip him with Grafted Exoskeleton, make him 10/10 with Become Immense, pump a Glistener Elf to 11/11, kill two people in one swing? Yes please!

 

Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I'm struggling to think of good uses for Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig. He's relatively low cmc and collects +1/+1 counters rather quickly, especially if you're just pumping out low-cmc off mana dorks like Llanowar Elves, like a +1/+1 Counter version of Elfball ... except we already have a better version of that with Marwyn, the Nurturer. If you're just going for generic +1/+1 Counter goodness, Mowu, Loyal Companion does Voltron better and Rishkar, Peema Renegade is better at snowballing, and that's without looking outside of Mono Green. Yorvo is a Giant, but that tribe's support is mostly in Boros, and Nobles aren't a unified tribe currently.

That's not to say Yorvo is terrible -- he's playable -- but he doesn't bring anything particularly good to the +1/+1 Counter archetype. Maybe someday he will, but for now, I wouldn't recommend him.

 

MULTICOLOR

 

Dance of the Manse

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Dance of the Manse is a fine recursion option for both Artifact and Enchantment (non-Aura) decks. It's most comparable to Open the Vaults, which is more reliable at returning all your enchantments/artifacts at a set cost, but comes with the drawback of helping your opponents as well. In comparison, casting Danse at the same cmc for X=4 means you're getting up to four artifacts / non-Aura enchantments with a cmc 4 or less back from your graveyard, so you're less likely to get the same value as Open, but at least you don't risk helping your opponents. Once you can sink 8+ mana into this spell then you'll probably get all the non-Aura enchantments you'd want back, plus they become 4/4 beaters, which is ... not always good, actually. Yes, you now have an army of attackers / blockers, but turning your enchantments into creatures means they're now susceptible to creature removal. I ended up taking out Starfield of Nyx out of my Enchantress deck after getting my enchantments wiped one too many times by Wrath of God. If you're in Red and have reliable haste enablers like Temur Ascendancy then this gets much better, otherwise, the risk of creature removal makes this a downside more often than not.

If you're running a non-Aura Enchantress deck like Tuvasa the Sunlit and are looking for more recursion options outside of Open the Vaults, Replenish, and Retether, then Dance of the Manse is a solid option. But if you're heavy on Auras then this card is useless for you.

If you're an Artifact deck in Azorius colors such as Breya, Etherium Shaper, Alela, Artful Provocateur, or the oldie but goodie Sharuum the Hegemon, then this gets a bit more interesting. Again, it's probably worse overall than Open the Vaults and Scrap Mastery (if Red) but there's less mass recursion options for Artifacts so this could make the cut.

 

Doom Foretold

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Doom Foretold is a rather weak Stax piece. Both options here are kinda meh, but if you add it all up it's still pretty good value. If I ever played Orzhov Stax I'd consider giving it a go. 

 

Drown in the Loch

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Drown in the Loch looks fantastic in a Mill deck. I love the flexibility of both removal and countermagic for just two mana. Mill decks are basically required to run graveyard hate, otherwise you'll end up kingmaking Graveyard decks like Meren of Clan Nel Toth which will be delighted with you setting up their deck for reanimation, but you can still run targeted removal like Shred Memory to stop reanimation and leave enough cards in the graveyard for Drown in the Loch to be reliably awesome.

The most common Mill commander is Phenax, God of Deception, which is also the right color combination for this excellent new removal. I wrote a Budget Phenax article that you can check out; it's a bit outdated but the deckbuilding philosophy and general deck shell remains the same.

 

Escape to the Wilds

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

WOTC has been printing Red impulse draw like crazy these days, and now they're doing it on multicolor cards too. This one is Green, so you get to play an additional land, yay. While I'd be singing Escape to the Wilds' praises just a few years ago, Gruul has improved their card draw options by such an insane amount these past years that honestly, I'd skip over this for most decks. Creature-based Green decks are already spoiled with top-tier card draw: Go Tall decks have stuff like Rishkar's Expertise and Go Wide have stuff like Shamanic Revelation. But Escape to the Wilds still has its uses, specifically in Gruul Land decks like Mina and Denn, Wildborn and Omnath, Locus of Rage, where the extra land drop is actually useful and you'll probably have the mana to play all the exiled cards without breaking a sweat.

 

Faeburrow Elder

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Faeburrow Elder is a swole Bloom Tender that can smash faces while providing excellent ramp. 3cmc is way worse than 2cmc when it comes to mana dorks, so there's no question that Bloom Tender is significantly better, but the Elder does come with a few upsides. First, it's multicolored, so it can immediately tap for WG all by itself. Second, it can be a respectable blocker at the very least, and vigilance lets it sneak in some damage as well without interfering with the ramp. Third and most importantly, Bloom Tender is currently $50 USD and you can currently grab Faeburrow Elder for under a buck, so uh yeah, it's a nice budget option!

Multicolor decks that run lots of multicolor permanents will want to consider Faeburrow Elder for ramp. Being a creature means it's more susceptible to being removed than other forms of ramp, but it's still worth the risk if you're tapping it for 3+ mana. The Elder is also a Treefolk, making it a nice pickup for Doran, the Siege Tower Treefolk Tribal.

 

Garruk, Cursed Huntsman

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

While I've found Garruk, Cursed Huntsman to be nearly unbeatable in Limited, this card doesn't translate well to Commander. All his abilities are pretty good, but they don't add up to being a card I'd be excited to run at 6cmc, especially with the extra work needed to protect a planeswalker from multiple opponents. Golgari has far better options for all the stuff this Garruk can do.

 

Grumgully, the Generous

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

You wouldn't think uncommon legendary creatures would end up being some of the strongest commanders in the set, but just like Syr Konrad, the Grim before him, Grumgully, the Generous ends up being one of the most busted new commanders from ELD thanks to the easy combos he enables. Just add Grumgully, mix in any persist creature (Woodfall Primus), and sprinkle in any repeatable sac outlet that doubles as a finisher (Goblin Bombardment), and BAM! Instant infinite combo! Outside of those easy combos he's a pretty tame anthem for your non-Human creatures that might see play in a Gruul +1/+1 Counter deck.

 

Inspiring Veteran

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

If you're going deep on Knight Tribal (you masochist), Inspiring Veteran is a solid choice. It's an anthem, it's a Knight, and it's just 2cmc. Pretty deece.

 

Kenrith, the Returned King

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Let's get this out of the way first: Kenrith, the Returned King is possibly the strongest 5C commander ever printed. He's a finisher if you generate infinite colored mana; Isochron Scepter + Dramatic Reversal + a bunch of mana rocks / dorks, Temur Sabertooth + Dockside Extortionist, Deadeye Navigator + Palinchron, they all do the trick. Then you can force opponents to draw infinite cards or just cast / reanimate creatures, make them infinitely large, and give them haste + trample. That's pretty busted.

I don't really care about Kenrith's busted side. It's nice having an easy way to close out the game, sure. But what I'm super excited about is POLITICS! Commander isn't a 1v1 format where you're smashing your deck against your opponent's to see who is the victor; there are multiple opponents at the table, which opens the opportunity to strike deals and take down mutual threats. It's normal to see the table band together against someone who is in a commanding position aka the archenemy, and I've also won many games that I had no business in winning just by talking my way out of bad situations.

There are plenty of cards out there that work even better when you've secured the cooperation of an opponent. Fact of Fiction can be an instant speed draw 5, and Tasigur, the Golden Fang can grab back the exact card you want. WOTC has also printed many political cards specifically for multiplayer: curses like Curse of Verbosity, tempt cards like Tempt with Discovery, offerings like Volcanic Offering, and vote cards like Council's Judgment all encourage your opponents to work with you to take out mutual threats. And while this is mutually beneficial, you're always coming up on top in these exchanges, basically using your opponents as a hammer to bludgeon everyone. This is an archetype I've been calling "Politics" for years now, back when I wrote Budget Gahiji in 2015, and again when I did the Stalwart Unity $20 upgrade. It has very different goals and mindset than Group Hug, an archetype I loathe with all my being, but that's a rant for another time.

Kenrith, the Returned King is the best Politics commander ever printed. I say this as a longtime fan of Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis, fantastic Politics commanders in their own right that benefit you more than they benefit opponents. But K&T don't give you access to Black, nor do they enable combo wins, both things that Kenrith does. Plus, Kenrith's abilities are powerful!

You have complete control on who you help: heck, you could just use the abilities for nobody but yourself if you'd like. But gosh, it's so easy to politic with Kenrith's abilities! "Hey, if I use (X ability) for you, will you do Y for me?" And you just do that over and over. Sure, I'll give your creatures haste/trample if they aren't swinging at me! Yeah, I'll reanimate your Reclamation Sage if you blow up that Vedalken Orrery! Technically you're "helping" your opponent, but really you're just a puppet master using your opponents to do the dirty work for you.

I love Kenrith. This is my favorite commander in a long time.

 

Oko, Thief of Crowns

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Unlike Garruk, Cursed Huntsman, I'd actually be interested to give Oko, Thief of Crowns a shot in the right commander deck. His +1 ability, essentially a Lignify that can also target artifacts, is actually a great form of removal. His +2 ability is much worse unless you're playing a Food deck, though it's great at setting up his ultimate. No matter how you tick up, you'll be ready to use his -5 ability, a Switcheroo variant that can end up benefiting you immensely, even if it's somewhat restrictive. That's some great value at 3cmc and is worth investigating. I'll be trying him out in the Food deck at the very least.

 

Outlaws' Merriment

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Outlaws' Merriment is a bad Assemble the Legion, and I'd rarely even consider playing Assemble. Pass.

 

The Royal Scions

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

You know what's a good 3cmc Izzet planeswalker? Dack Fayden. Look at Dack, then compare him to The Royal Scions. Poor Scions aren't even close. You loot half the number of cards and the middle ability is garbage compared to stealing Sol Rings. Go add Dack to your deck and skip these planeswalkers.

 

COLORLESS

 

Crashing Drawbridge

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Mass haste effects outside of Red are extremely limited. The only one I can think of is Concordant Crossroads, and that one helps out your opponents as well. Usually, you're stuck only giving one creature haste at a time, like Commander staples Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots. Crashing Drawbridge is therefore very appealing to non-Red decks looking for their own Fervor effect, like Go Wide decks such as Trostani, Selesnya's Voice. The gives Go Wide decks extra oomph to immediately attack the same turn you deploy your forces.

Outside just any non-Red Go Wide deck, I expect Crashing Drawbridge to become a new staple in Arcades, the Strategist, a deck that has a habit of churning out a turn of defenders in one turn. This gives Arcades another way to immediately attack and win.

 

LANDS

 

Castle Cycle

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All the lands in this castle cycle are noteworthy new utility land options for a ton of decks. They are all low risk, medium reward utility.

First comes the minimal risk: they can sometimes enter the battlefield tapped if you have no lands of the required type (including dual lands with basic land types like Hallowed Fountain). But they'll almost always enter untapped and they tapped for colored mana, so really the big thing you're losing out on running, say, Castle Vantress over another Island is the basic land type, which can be important if you're running cards that care about basic land types like Caged Sun, Gush, Scourge of Fleets, etc. But if you aren't running a lot of those cards then the risk is minimal/nonexistent.

The rewards here are all pretty decent. Of all the abilities here, Castle Garenbrig is the one I'd expect to activate the most since it's actually mana ramp for creature spells, but Castle Embereth is my favorite as an excellent pump for Go Wide decks like Zada, Hedron Grinder. Castle Vantress has quite a steep cost but I still expect to run it in a bunch of decks, either as topdeck manipulation for decks like Melek, Izzet Paragon or as a mana sink fo Draw-Go decks like Talrand, Sky Summoner. Castle Locthwain is the cheapest repeatable land card draw ever printed and while it can sting a bit, you might actually use that to your benefit if you're running a masochistic Selenia, Dark Angel deck that wins with cards like Repay in Kind. Castle Ardenvale is definitely the weakest of the cycle -- paying five mana to create a 1/1 is terrible value -- but even then, the risk is so low that I'd definitely give it a shot in any Mono White deck and would seriously consider it in any 2C deck that runs Skullclamp.

There are a ton of utility lands out there to choose from and only so many land slots you can run them in. But with such a low risk and decent rewards all around, I'd highly recommend giving these castles a shot!

 

Common Wild Cycle

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Just like the castle cycle, the Common wild cycle is excellent new utility options for a bunch of decks. They're going to be harder to enter the battlefield untapped and to use their abilities, requiring three other lands of a specific type instead of just one. But with the harder restrictions come better rewards: you immediately reap the benefit of their activated abilities (and no mana cost!), plus the lands themselves have basic land types, so Dwarven Mine is fetchable with Wooded Foothills and Mystic Sanctuary is counted by Engulf the Shore.

Not all the lands in this cycle are equal, with the most noteworthy standout being Mystic Sanctuary. This land is downright busted, allowing you to recast miracles like Terminus and even enabling infinite loops like Ghostly Flickering Mystic Sanctuary and Archaeomancer to get back any extra turn spell (Time Warp) and Ghostly Flicker to take infinite turns. Witch's Cottage is my next favorite since, well, recursion is nice. Dwarven Mine is free value in any Red-heavy deck but especially nice in Go Wide decks like Zada, Hedron Grinder. Alas, poor white got one of the lamest again with Idyllic Grange.

Any mono color deck or deck that leans heavily towards one color should take a look at their respective land. I think Mystic Sanctuary is going to see the most play -- for good reason -- but I expect to run Witch's Cottage and Dwarven Mine in a bunch of my mono color decks as well.

 

Tournament Grounds

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Tournament Grounds looks custom made for Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale. It's nice that it mana fixes for both Knights and Equipment spells. You probably won't ever see it in any other deck, however ... okay, maybe Everything Tribal.

 

BRAWL CARDS

 

Mace of the Valiant

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Mace of the Valiant grows super fast in a Go Wide deck. Tokens, or the Go Wide version of Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale Knight Tribal are excellent choices for this equipment.

 

Silverwing Squadron

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Silverwing Squadron is a crucial token generator for Go Wide versions of Knight Tribal. It's an excellent blocker and attacker, generating 3 Knight tokens (and increasing it's P/T +3 in the process) each combat step in your typical 4 Player FFA game. That's good value at 6cmc. But I wouldn't run it outside of Go Wide Knight Tribal since there's simply better options for tokens if you don't care about the creature type.

 

Faerie Formation

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Faerie Formation just costs way too much in most decks. It could see play in a Faerie Tribal deck looking to win off infinite mana, such as Isochron Scepter + Dramatic Reversal and then using Formation to draw into your win condition, but otherwise it's just too mana-intensive.

 

Embereth Skyblazer

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Embereth Skyblazer is worth consideration in exactly one deck: Go Wide Knight Tribal under Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale. Being able to give your army +3/+0 in a typical 4 Player FFA game is good value for 3 mana, though it does get worse once opponents are knocked out. Flying on attacking is key here to make sure the Skyblazer survives combat and is also nice to trigger equipment like Sword of Fire and Ice.

 

Steelbane Hydra

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Steelbane Hydra is a neat, repeatable Disenchant, but its high mana cost to cast + activate makes it far less efficient in your average Green deck than current popular creature options like Bane of Progress or Reclamation Sage. However, its value goes up significantly in decks that can reduce its mana cost and/or take advantage of its +1/+1 counters. Being a Turtle Hydra with an X casting cost makes it an easy addition to Gargos, Vicious Watcher and Rosheen Meanderer decks.

 

Thorn Mammoth

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Green's go-to strategy for creature removal is to crush them with bigger creatures. It's not as quick or reliable as a Swords to Plowshares, but it works. Thorn Mammoth fits that niche perfectly. Seven mana is a ton to get going, but it's bound to crush a creature as soon as it enters the battlefield and then threatens to crush a bunch more if not dealt with quickly. Thorn Mammoth gets significantly better if you can either pump its size (Become Immense) or give it indestructible (Darksteel Plate) so it can fight multiple creatures a turn without succumbing to its wounds.

Thorn Mammoth is best suited in Fight decks alongside Vigor and Foe-Razer Regent, where all the fighting only grows the Mammoth into a larger threat. I can also see it being played in decks that can beef up its size, most notably Xenagos, God of Revels.

 

Alela, Artful Provocateur

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Alela, Artful Provocateur is very flexible in how you can build around her. She's a fine Faerie Tribal alternative to Oona, Queen of the Fae, giving you access to White and generally being safer / more consistent than the higher costing Oona, though Oona will remain superior if you're looking to win with infinite mana combos. She's a solid Enchantress commander, giving you access to Black which popular options like Tuvasa the Sunlit don't have, or access to Blue if you're one of the few players still rocking Daxos, the Returned. Esper Enchantress is bound to see even more goodies soon with our imminent return to Theros. Finally, she is a fine Artifact deck, if for some reason you don't want to be playing Breya, Etherium Shaper. No matter which archetype you choose, Alela is always going to be providing solid value to your deck.

 

Chulane, Teller of Tales

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Risen Reef is everywhere these days. Now it's even a commander! Chulane, Teller of Tales is disgusting value. Cast a bunch of cheap creatures, drawing cards and ramping, then cast some more. Eventually you've drawn/ramped enough that you win with whatever. Make a deck focused on Bounce/Blink with Mulldrifer and Panharmonicon. Make a Landfall deck with Avenger of Zendikar. Make a Land Stax deck with Storm Cauldron. Everything works when you have a busted value engine in your command zone! I personally find Chulane to be a bland, boring, obnoxious commander, very similar to Tatyova, Benthic Druid. He's just really good and generic. That's not my cup of tea, but I know I'm in the minority here and I don't mean to shame people for liking him, just wanted to rant a bit.

If I was forced to play Chulane, Teller of Tales, though, it would definitely be Moonfolk Tribal. Moonfolk are pretty terrible, but Chulane is really good, and he helps both with card draw and putting back the lands you're bouncing to activate abilities. So the deck might be decent?

 

Knights' Charge

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Knights' Charge is another staple in the Go Wide Knight Tribal archetype. It adds nice extra damage whenever you attack and offsets the lifeloss from Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale. The activated ability is steep, but lategame getting back all the Knights in your graveyard is a game-winning move. Easy auto-include.

 

Korvold, Fae-Cursed King

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I knew Korvold, Fae-Cursed King was good the moment I read the card, but it was only when I sat down and played against him that I realized how good he is. He's really, really good, easily in the top 4 best commanders from ELD/Brawl. You will be drawing an insane amount of cards and pumping him into one-shot range with zero effort. Wooded Foothills, Dockside Extortionist, Sakura-Tribe Elder, so many cards just happen to have "sacrifice" in their activated ability that it's downright absurd how quickly you get value out of Korvold. 

Yes, Prossh, Skyraider of Keld, your Food Chain shenanigans are cool, but outside of that, Korvold, Fae-Cursed King undisputedly holds the crown for most powerful Jund Dragon.

 

Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale

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Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale may not be the strongest of the Brawl commanders, but she's definitely my favorite. I've long loved Equipment Tribal but have been frustrated at the lack of options for Equipment commanders. Akiri, Line-Slinger + Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder have been my go-to for a while, but they don't specifically help Equipment. Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith is certainly the best Equipment commander, but it bothers me to no end that he's Green, a color that has absolutely nothing to do with Artifacts let alone Equipment. 

Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale fulfills all my desires for an Equipment commander. She's basically a Puresteel Paladin -- the single best card in Equipment -- in your command zone. Equipping for zero mana is huge ramp, saving you usually three mana (Sword of Light and Shadow) and sometimes much more (Colossus Hammer). And she draws cards! Ramp and card draw, that's what I want from my Equipment commander; heck, any commander!

Syr Gwyn also supports Knights, and with ELD, WOTC really worked to connect Knight Tribal to Equipment. There is now plenty of overlap between the two tribes: Puresteel Paladin is the best of the best, but Fervent Champion, Danitha Capashen, Paragon, Balan, Wandering Knight, and Kinsbaile Cavalier (double strike means double the equipment triggers) are all Knights that you really want in your Equipment deck as well. With Syr Gwyn, you're free to focus more on Knight Tribal and Go Wide with cards like The Circle of Loyalty and Josu Vess, Lich Knight, or focus on Equipment with cards like Sigarda's Aid and Sram, Senior Edificer, or a balance of both.

Personally, I'm not too interested in focusing on Knight Tribal. Go Wide Knights have some strong card options, but they're not as good as other Go Wide tribes like Zombies, and their Go Wide cards are just about hitting your opponents harder. By focusing on Equipment, you're still hitting your opponents harder, but all the equipments come with strong utility that your deck needs as well, shown by cards like Sword of Sinew and Steel and Sunforger.

Syr Gwyn's great, but her biggest weakness is her mana cost: six mana is a lot. She has no inherent protection (though equipments can fix that) so once she dies once, twice, you're not going to be getting much value out of her. It's strange to me that WOTC decided to give her the highest mana cost of the bunch when cheaper options like Chulane, Teller of Tales and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King happen to be way stronger as well. If she was 4cmc, or even 5cmc, she'd have been perfect without being too oppressive. Ah well. I still love her and plan on playing her a ton.

 

Arcane Signet

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I don't like the design philosophy behind Arcane Signet. The card shouldn't be banned, but I'm afraid of the path it leads to.

Arcane Signet is a staple in basically any non-Green deck, and some Green decks as well. It's the best 2cmc mana rock ever printed (Grim Monolith is only better in specific decks) and just behind Sol Ring, Mana Vault, and broken 0cmc mana rocks like Mana Crypt for best mana rocks in all of Commander. You're going to see it everywhere, and for good reason.

Arcane Signet was purposefully designed to be this auto-include staple for the format. It's there to sell Brawl precons, and it's already succeeded. But here's my problem with it: Commander is a 100 card singleton format. It's purposefully designed for variety. By adding no-brainer staples to the entire format, you're cutting down on the variety. Instead of thinking about how you'll fill the 99 of your deck, now you're automatically thinking about 98 cards, because one of those has to be Arcane Signet. Actually it's 97 cards, because one of those is Sol Ring, obviously. And actually it would be only 96 cards if Mana Crypt wasn't prohibitively expensive.

Some may argue that auto-include staples are okay if they're lands/ramp. I disagree. Lands/ramp should be about half your deck and it would be a shame if half your deck was already locked in with auto-include staples. People say that Green ramp are already all staples, but again, not really: Rampant Growth doesn't usually show up in my 5C decks, and even cards considered staples for the longest time like Cultivate are now getting alternatives, which is great. And there's new, EXCELLENT ramp options that still have weaknesses, like Curse of Opulence and fan favorite Smothering Tithe. This is good! Options, pros/cons, decision making, is good!

And sure, there's already staples in the Commander format. Command Tower is a thing, obviously. But that's missing my point: my point is I don't want more of them being added.

Paradoxically, adding new cards that are auto-includes to the pool of Commander actually makes the pool feel smaller as there's less deckbuilding decisions to be done. That's my problem with it. Not that Arcane Signet is busted, or should be banned. I don't like that WOTC is making new auto-includes to push products. I don't like the philosophy behind it. And because it's so successful, they'll just keep doing it more and more. That's what scares me.

 

Tome of Legends

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Tome of Legends is excellent, mana-efficient card draw for decks with cheap, aggressive commanders. The Tome shines best especially in decks that are lacking in good card draw, aka Mono White decks (and sometimes still Red/Boros). Aggressive Mono White commanders like Linden, the Steadfast Queen, Boros partners like Akiri, Line-Slinger, are going to get maximum value out of this tome.

 

That's All, Folks!

All done! Phew! That was A LOT of cards for one article. What do you think of the new stuff? What are you most excited about? Agree/disagree with my assessments? Any card I missed, or good interaction I didn't cover? Let me know in the comments section!


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