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Commander Review: War of the Spark Part 1 (White, Blue)


War of the Spark has been fully spoiled and that means it's time for the Commander Review!

Before we talk about individual cards, I wanted to give some general thoughts about the cards that define this set:

When You Should Play Planeswalkers

There's a ton of planeswalkers in War of the Spark that we'll have to review. They all do very different things and fit into very different decks. However, all planeswalkers have similar attributes that you should be aware of when deciding whether or not to run them in your deck. So instead of repeating myself endlessly in this review, here are some tips to maximize the effectiveness of your planeswalkers.

You should play planeswalkers if ...

  • You are okay with them being targeted and hated no matter what. Your opponents will be gunning for your planeswalkers the moment you cast them. Planeswalkers are long-term value engines and provide clear, visible threats to your opponents, especially the ones with powerful ultimate abilities. Even the lowly Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded will draw hate at the table for fear of his Insurrection ultimate ability. Since killing planeswalkers is as easy as attacking them with creatures, if your opponents can safely do that, they will. You have to acknowledge this and be okay with it. If you tilt easily or feel it's "unfair" that people are killing your planeswalkers instead of attacking Jimmy who is clearly ahead, then save yourself the headache and don't play them.
  • You can protect them from attacks. Casting an unprotected planeswalker while your opponents have creatures means that 'walker is all but guaranteed to be dead before your next turn. Creature-heavy decks with lots of potential blockers, Pillowfort decks that can prevent attacks (Sphere of Safety), decks loaded with creature hate (Wrath of God), and Stax decks (Jokulhaups) are your best bet for keeping your planeswalkers around.
  • You can use their abilities more than once per turn. Cards like Oath of Teferi and The Chain Veil activate loyalty abilities more than once. Rings of Brighthearth doubles your ability. Extra turn spells like Savor the Moment let you activate them an extra time before going to an opponent's turn.
  • You can add counters to them. Proliferate cards (Atraxa, Praetors' Voice), cards that double the counters on permanents (Doubling Season) let you use planeswalker's minus abilities more often, most notably the game-winning "ultimate" abilities (Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God).

 

The more of the listed attributes you can check off, the more powerful the planeswalker becomes in your deck. That's not saying your deck must have all these attributes for planeswalker cards to be good. I'll run Tezzeret the Seeker in decks for the sole purpose of using his minus ability a single time. But if your deck offers zero support for walkers and/or you get upset at opponents hating out your walkers no matter what, then planeswalkers cards might end up being worse in your deck than a non-'walker card with a similar function.

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With that out of the way, let's look at the cards!

 

WHITE

 

Finale of Glory

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Like all the cards in the Finale cycle, Finale of Glory is a solid card that turns into a ridiculous bomb once you can cast it for X=10. When X is less than 10, it's not as good as the best white token generators, but I'm still happy to cast it. Compared to White Sun's Zenith, you lose instant speed but create an extra token. Secure the Wastes is also instant speed and generates an extra token but Finale's tokens are twice as big. March of Multitudes is generally better than the rest but only if you've already got some creatures on the battlefield and/or your deck has lifegain synergies. I much prefer all three of the aforementioned cards over a Finale for less than X=10 because instant speed is a huge deal, but it's still a fine card.

But once you factor in the crazy value of a Finale cast for 12+ mana ... wow. At 12 mana you're creating 10x 2/2 Soldier tokens and 10x 4/4 Angel tokens with flying and vigilance! That's 60 damage on the board, 40 of it with evasion! Not being able to be cast at instant speed sucks because it stops you from casting this right before your turn and immediately attacking for lethal, but Red decks running this can just pair it with a haste enabler (Ogre Battledriver) for an easy victory. Or if you have ways to cast it at instant speed (Vedalken Orrery, Leyline of Anticipation).

Finale of Glory is a new staple for Token decks. It will certainly be strongest in Red Token decks, like Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer or Hazazeon Tamar, but pretty much any Token deck in White should strongly consider running this. Also Angel decks (Lyra Dawnbringer) able to consistently cast this for X=10+ will love the army of Angels. If you manage to cast this for X=10+ and swing you've basically won.

My only criticism is that Soldier Tokens are supposed to be 1/1's. We already have white tokens that are 2/2's with vigilance: KnightsWhy are these tokens Soldiers instead of Knights, Wizards???

 

Gideon Blackblade

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Gideon Blackblade looks ridiculous in Standard but I doubt he'll see much play in Commander. A 4/4 attacker that is hard to remove isn't that exciting in this format, and while his +1 is useful in Go Tall / Voltron strategies, other cards like equipment (Darksteel Plate) or even other planeswalkers (Elspeth, Knight-Errant) do a better job supporting your heavy-hitters. His -6 is great but not that exciting. Basically we just have better options for most decks.

But I'm terribly excited for this beefslab.

Why? Because Gideon Tribal Superfriends is a thing that I love and he is PERFECT for the deck! Low cmc, pilots Vehicles like a champ (Weatherlight), gives your other Gideons lifelink, sure let's do it! Ajani Steadfast gives him a +1/+1 counter and a loyalty counter! VALUE!

Is it janky? Yes. But I love it!

 

Gideon's Triumph

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Gideon's Triumph is pretty bad in Commander. You don't want to run super conditional removal when you have access to unconditional staples like Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, heck even Crib Swap. I only mention this card because it's perfect for Gideon Tribal.

 

Gideon's Battle Cry

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Gideon's Battle Cry is a bad pump spell and tutors up a bad Gideon. But it's perfect for Gideon Tribal, hence it's mentioned here. Basically if the card name says "Gideon" you know what I'm gonna say about it.

 

Gideon's Company

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Gideon. Tribal.

 

Gideon, the Oathsworn

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The planeswalkers in these duel decks are designed to be bad, and Gideon, the Oathsworn is no exception. But, one last time: GIDEON TRIBAL. I'm running it!

 

God-Eternal Oketra

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God-Eternal Oketra isn't a fair card. Sure, you can play it fairly, and it's still quite good -- 3/6 double strike and a steady source of 4/4 Zombie Warrior tokens as you cast creatures is amazing value for just 5cmc -- but she's going to be a combo piece, and a very very good one at that. If you're running her as part of the 99 of a Varina, Lich Queen Zombie Tribal deck she's yet another combo payoff to ye olde Gravecrawler + Phyrexian Altar combo and all its variations to make an infinite army of 4/4's. Or you can do similar things with her as a commander. And again, even if you're just doing "fair" things like making a 4/4 token for each 2 mana you spend casting Whitemane Lion and returning itself to your hand, you're getting way ahead.

Run Oketra in Zombie Tribal. Run her as a commander. Put her in Odrich, Lunar Marshal. Good card is good. 

 

Grateful Apparition

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Grateful Apparition is a White Thrummingbird with the added upside that you can still proliferate if you hit a planeswalker. Having a cheap, repeatable, mana-free proliferate engine is pretty sweet in decks that are all about counters, be it planeswalkers, +1/+1 counters, or whatever else. It gets even better if your deck has ways to give the creature haste, protection from removal, better evasion, double strike, etc. Superfriend lists that support Grateful Apparition and don't aggressively clear the board of creatures with numerous Wrath of God effects will enjoy the extra loyalty counters. However, I think it will be best suited in +1/+1 Counter decks that care about creatures, perhaps an Abzan list like Anafenza, the Foremost, or Atraxa, Praetors' Voice.

 

Ignite the Beacon

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White gets another planeswalker tutor in the form of Ignite the Beacon. It compares favorably to our other similar tutors, Call the Gatewatch and Djeru, With Eyes Open. Call is the cheapest but you only tutor one walker and it's sorcery speed. Djeru only gets one walker as well, but he defends your walkers decently and you can potentially bounce/blink him to tutor more walkers. I think in a vacuum I'd rank them: Call the Gatewatch (cheaper is better) > Ignite the Beacon > Djeru, With Eyes Open, with Djeru's ranking going up if you can consistently re-use his ETB trigger.

I think Ignite the Beacon is a great inclusion in any deck with 10+ planeswalkers to tutor up. Instant speed means you can cast it right before your turn and have a better idea of what walkers you want to snag, plus it plays nice with other instant spells like if you're holding up a Counterspell. I prefer a handful of tutors over it, notably Call of the Gatewatch and Demonic Tutor, but realistically if my deck has 10+ walkers I'm probably running this card 9 out of 10 times.

 

Parhelion II

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Parhelion II costs a ridiculous eight mana, can't attack the turn it comes out unless you can give it haste, and still needs to be crewed to even do anything. That's not a great start. However, once you do attack with it, you're smashing for a whopping 13 in the air and producing two 4/4 Angel tokens in the process. That's a huge beating, but not enough for me to be excited about running Parhelion II in most decks.

There is at least one deck where this card is a new auto-include: Depala, Pilot Exemplar. Parhelion II is the strongest Vehicle ever printed (ignoring cmc) and Depala can take full advantage of everything this card offers. Even its prohibitive cmc is less of a problem with Depala since you can cheat it into play with cards like Goblin Welder and Daretti, Scrap Savant. Turn a token from Curse of Opulence or Smothering Tithe into a giant ballin' Vehicle!

 

Rally of Wings

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Rally of Wings is a cool combat trick in a Flying Tribal deck. It's cheap, buffs your army decently, and allows you to ambush creatures that attack you. A Bird Tribal deck like Kangee, Aerie Keeper might enjoy this.

 

Ravnica at War

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I've actually played around with Renounce the Guilds a decent amount in Mono White decks and Boros decks as a Sunforger target. It's obviously situational but powerful at the right table. Ravnica at War is much the same with an even greater payoff, but can also do absolutely nothing if none of the opposing decks are running a lot of multicolor permanents. If you're running a deck with little/no multicolor permanents and you're in a playgroup with opponents that consistently run multicolor-heavy decks, this is a beautiful piece of tech against them. It's backbreaking in that situation. Even if you jam this in blind and go against strangers it can still be good — or it can do nothing, who knows.

With such a high variance, I probably wouldn't advise running Ravnica at War blindly. It's certainly a cool "gotcha!" card and amazing piece of tech against known multicolor-heavy playgroups though.

 

Single Combat

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Divine Reckoning is an amazing board wipe for Voltron decks looking to invest heavily in a single creature on the board, punishing opponents for having multiple creatures. I think Single Combat will be used in Voltron decks as well for the same purpose. It hits planeswalkers as well, but more tantalizingly it stops opponents from casting creatures or planeswalkers until the end of you next turn which can be a significant tempo boost.

I love Reckoning in any White Voltron deck -- Sigarda, Host of Herons, Rafiq of the Many, Uril, the Miststalker, etc. -- and will be more than happy to run Single Combat alongside it. Also Arahbo, Voice of the Wild Go Tall!

 

Teyo, the Shieldmage

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Teyo, the Shieldmage is an easy new inclusion in Arcades, the Strategist Defender Tribal decks: he's fairly costed at 3cmc, immediately makes a wall when you cast him, and then makes a second wall if he survives another turn. That's good value if you're drawing a card off each wall. They can attack as 3/3's! Having hexproof is a nice bonus as well; it usually does nothing, but when it comes in handy it really can be a lifesaver, such as being milled out by Stroke of Genius or Seth messing with you using Chaos Wand. The Defender deck is well-suited to protecting Teyo as well, since the deck is full of, well, Defenders.

Pretty straightforward auto-include here.

 

The Wanderer

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One of my favorite archetypes in Commander is Boros Burn Control, a deck that keeps the board clear of opposing creatures while simultaneously killing them with Earthquake cards. I've written two Budget Commander articles on this archetype, first with Archangel Avacyn over here, and then again when the "official" commander for the archetype was released, Firesong and Sunspeaker, over here.

Key cards to both strategies were Mark of Asylum, Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant, and Light of Sanction. All these cards protect your creatures from your own Eathquakes, turning them into one-sided board wipes. The Wanderer not only provides the same benefit, they also protect you from damage, saving you a ton of life in the process. As a cherry on top, they can immediately exile a threat and do it again in the future! This makes The Wanderer the best version of this effect out of the entire bunch, though Mark of Asylum is probably the most consistent one and is half the cost. From experience, I think Boros Burn Control wants ~3 of this effect if you're running tutors as well, and my top 3 would be The Wanderer > Mark of Asylum > Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant.

 

Tomik, Distinguished Advokist

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Tomik, Distinguished Advokist is getting some buzz about being a good meta-specific answer if your group is being dominated by popular Lands strategies like The Gitrog Monster and Lord Windgrace. I disagree, since we already have much better ways of stopping Land decks from getting lands back from their graveyards, and that's cards like Relic of Progenitus, Tormod's Crypt, Rest in Peace, and Leyline of the Void. These cards not only do a better job at disrupting Land decks, but they're also harder to remove than a wee little creature, and they're just as effective at dealing with any Graveyard strategy.

I think Tomik, Distinguished Advokist has the best chance at seeing play as part of the 99 of a Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper, giving your animated lands some much-needed protection from opposing targeted removal. You just need to be careful that you have an answer in case an opponent either Reanimates or Clones Tomik, or else you won't be able to target your own lands! Even with this potential downside, I think he's a worthy inclusion in Noyan.

 

Wanderer's Strike

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Spread the Sickness got upgraded from "destroy" to "exile." 5 cmc is still a ton of mana for this effect, however, and I can't see myself running this card in any sort of Counters deck unless I'm brewing with an extremely tight budget restriction.

 

BLUE

 

Bond of Insight

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I regularly run Pull from the Deep in my Spellslinger decks. Bond of Insight is easier to cast and more flexible, letting you get two instants or two sorceries if you want. Self-milling is beneficial as well since you'll be setting up other recursion cards (Mizzix's Mastery), fueling delve cards (Treasure Cruise), and possibly dumping flashback/jump-start cards to use (Deep Analysis). Milling your opponents is either good for you if you can steal from opposing graveyards (Diluvian Primordial) or bad if you're facing Graveyard decks (Meren of Clan Nel Toth).

Overall, I consider Bond of Insight one of the best recursion cards for Spellslinger. Better than Pull from the Deep and Call to Mind (unless you have combos to infinitely recur it), equal to Flood of Recollection, and usually better than Archaeomancer unless you have ways to bounce/blink creatures.

 

Commence the Endgame

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Commence the Endgame is a card I wouldn't run in most decks, but there's a at least two decks I would consider trying this out in. The first is the "Hand Size Matters" deck. Yes, I made that term up because honestly it's an obscure thing. There's a decent amount of cards that get better bigger your hand: Empyrial Armor is a random example but Kamigawa block ran with the concept as an unofficial mechanic (Kagemaro, First to Suffer). That's the only deck where I'd be excited to run Commence the Endgame; elsewhere it's just too low-impact for a 6cmc spell.

The second deck is Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun. The Amass mechanic seems a bit loose in Commander, but if anyone can make it look good it'll be Temmet, who's all about making one big ol' token and smashing with it. Commence the Endgame definitely has the potential to make a huge token!

 

Contentious Plan

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Contentious Plan is one of the cheapest, quickest ways to proliferate currently in the game. It's an easy upgrade from Steady Progress, which I never ran, but not quite as good as Tezzeret's Gambit, which I run often. Any deck heavily invested in a counter theme of any kind, be it +1/+1 Counters like Pir, Imaginative Rascal or Superfriends like Atraxa, Praetors' Voice should consider trying this out as a cheap source of proliferate. At the very least, this Common is bound to be very cheap, making it an excellent replacement for a more expensive card in your deck.

 

Eternal Skylord

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I personally wouldn't run Eternal Skylord in most Zombie Tribal decks since a good portion of the zombies won't be tokens and if you're in Blue you're probably better off running Wonder instead. However, if you don't own a Wonder or want some redundancy, Eternal Skylord works fine too.

I'm much more interested to run this in an Amass deck, where both parts of this card will be super relevant. I'm not sure which commander will be the best leader for Amass, but my current pick would be Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun, which likes to focus on one or two big tokens to smash with. 

 

Fblthp, the Lost

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Fblthp, the Lost already has a vocal following from the name alone, despite the card just being ... okay. Unless someone discovers a strong combo with it, this is definitely a Janky Fun card, which is totally fine.

There's plenty of ways to draw extra cards off Fblthp: Conjurer's Closet, Deadeye Navigator, Erratic Portal, and others either bounce or blink the homunculus to draw one extra card each time. If you want to draw two extra cards, however, you're going to need to tuck him first. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some obscure artifact card from The Dark that has an activated ability that puts a permanent on top of your library, but I couldn't find it. Still, there's good ways, like Proteus Staff, or good spells that target multiple creatures like Curse of the Swine to take out real threats while tucking Fblthp in the process.

Casting Fblthp from your library is a bit harder in Blue: Future Sight, Magus of the Future, and Temporal Aperture all work.

All in all, Fblthp, the Lost isn't a strong Commander card, but he's neat, and that's kinda the point of the character. Great for more casual tables. 

 

Finale of Revelation

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Finale of Revelation is downright disgusting in Spellslinger decks like Mizzix of the Izmagnus (X=10? EASY!) or Niv-Mizzet, Parun (shuffle my graveyard back in to keep drawing and pinging!), but any Blue deck that generates a ton of mana can have tons of fun with this, like Tatyova, Benthic Druid. Bonus points if you cast High Tide before this too!

Obviously there are caveats: Finale isn't amazing in every Blue deck. If you're casting this for less than 12 mana, it's a flexible but slightly inefficient card draw spell when compared to basic stuff like Concentrate and Tidings. It also can't target opponents like Blue Sun's Zenith, which doubles as a combo finisher if your deck can generate infinite mana. It also exiles itself so no chance for recursion.

So no, Finale of Revelation doesn't just replace cards like Blue Sun's Zenith or Stroke of Genius, and it's not strictly better than similar cards. But where it's good, it's great, and I'm very excited to get my hands on a copy.

 

Flux Channeler

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Flux Channeler is an insane Magic card. This is a more restrictive but cheaper to cast Inexorable Tide on a stick. It doesn't trigger off creature spells, so it's no good in a creature-heavy +1/+1 Counter deck or creature-heavy Infect deck, but Superfriends and Artifact decks will love Channeler. Superfriends barely play any creatures, so Channeler is basically a better Tide, dropping tons of extra loyalty counters on all your planeswalkers so you can activate your game-winning ultimates. Artifact using counters are definitely more janky, but Seth is going to be happy to run Flux Channeler the next time he tries to win again with charge counters (Darksteel Reactor).

Cards like Inexorable Tide and Flux Channeler only get more absurd as more cards are printed, since adding counters to stuff is a fundamental design space in Magic and basically every single set ever printed will have new cards that add counters. You should always have a Channeler in your collection even if you aren't using it at the moment.

 

God-Eternal Kefnet

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Oh my God-Eternal! (sorry, had to do it one time)

God-Eternal Kefnet is the perfect addition to any Draw-Go Spellslinger deck like Talrand, Sky Summoner, or as a commander of his own deck. All you need is a deck jam-packed with instants/sorceries and instant-speed draw like Think Twice and Radical Idea and you're bound to get insane value casting copies of spells at a discount. Things only get better if you're running library manipulation cards like Ponder, Preordain, Sensei's Divining Top to make sure the first card you draw next turn is a spell you want. And it gets even better if you're running Leyline of Anticipation so you can cast your Preordains at instant speed! What's that? You want to know how to win the game??? WHO CARES! LOOK AT THE VALUE!

God-Eternal Kefnet gives me vibes of Melek, Izzet Paragon and Rashmi, Eternities Crafter. He's kinda a blend of both and more restrictive than both. But the big thing is that he's much harder to shut down, since you can always put him back into your library. This means you pretty much always have access to him and can reliably build a deck around him without worrying about paying ever-increasing commander tax as he dies.

Yes, I'll build a commander deck around this Kefnet. Definitely.

 

Guildpact Informant

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Guildpact Informant is a generally worse Thrummingbird, costing an extra mana but can trigger off damaging a planeswalker. However, in decks with a strong counter theme that supports Thrummingbird -- giving it hate, double strike, etc. -- they might want redundancy and run a slightly worse second version. Atraxa, Praetors' Voice, Marchesa, the Black Rose, these type of decks may consider running Guildpact Informant.

 

Jace's Projection

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Is Jace's Projection a great card? No. It pales in comparison to a similar card like Chasm Skulker. But it can get big fast with card draw (Windfall) and if you have a ton of mana you can pump out a big Jace ultimate (Jace, Architect of Thought). But the real reason I mention this is because it's another key card in the ultra janky Jace Tribal deck. Also it's a Wizard and Illusion, pretty handy tribes to be in. Jace, Cunning Castaway pairs up with this for Illusion Tribal maybe? Lord of the Unreal, your time in the spotlight may be soon!

 

Jace's Triumph

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Divination is bad in Commander, but Painful Truths is the bomb. Jace's Triumph is usually a Divination in most deck, but in Jace Tribal it's the Truth! Jace Tribal is back on the menu, baby!

 

Jace, Arcane Strategist

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Card is bad, but don't care: JACE TRIBAL!

 

Jace, Wielder of Mysteries

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Jace, Wielder of Mysteries is like Laboratory Maniac and Jace, Memory Adept has a baby. If you're playing a deck that wants to win with Laboratory Maniac, I think new Jace is an easy inclusion since he adds redundancy to the deck and he actually advances your game plan outside of being a "you win the game" card. Focusing just on his +1, casting this 4 cmc card and immediately drawing a card and milling (usually yourself), then repeating this on following turns, is solid -- provided you're ready to protect him from all your opponents' creatures gunning for him the moment he enters the battlefield. So combining that, the Maniac effect, and the chance at drawing seven cards off an ultimate, makes for a very impressive card.

I expect to see Jace, Wielder of Mysteries run in all decks that run Laboratory Maniac, unless the deck is ultra competitive and only wants a single copy of this effect. Any other deck that runs Maniac and often sees turns 6 and 7 should seriously consider running Jace for redundancy and as a viable card draw engine and graveyard enabler.

 

Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor

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I never play Monastery Siege. But would I play it if I got both effects each time and I got a 2/2 Wizard token on top, for just 1 more mana? In Wizard Tribal decks, heck yes. Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor isn't insane, but she brings a lot of value and the fact that her chump blocking tokens are Wizards makes her strong enough to be a good candidate for any Wizard Tribal deck to fuel nonsense cards like Patron Wizard and Sigil Tracer. She's only got enough battery life to activate twice but that's enough, and pseudo-protection from targeted removal is sweet.

 

Narset, Parter of Veils

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Narset, Parter of Veils is the perfect hate card in Commander. In this format, every deck needs to draw cards, even the most Aggro ones. A Spirit of the Labyrinth that only affects your opponent is VERY GOOD. The fact that she can also activate at least two times for card advantage is just gravy on top of a powerhouse static ability.

Narset is going to be insane in decks that can protect her. If you can add loyalty counters to her too then that's a bonus. Any Superfriend deck in Blue will love her. Stax decks that can stop opponents from attacking her will love her too. Great card for Commander.

 

Spark Double

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My favorite two Clones in Commander are Phyrexian Metamorph and Clever Impersonator. Metamorph is insane because it only costs 3cmc with zero drawback, is an artifact so benefits from additional type synergies, and can copy artifacts as well as creatures. It's the best. Impersonator is fantastic because it can copy any nonland permanents, even planeswalkers. That's a pretty high bar to beat.

Spark Double is usually worse than the two mentioned cards, but in a Superfriends deck this is even better. You can copy a 'walker or a creature, and they become slightly better. The best thing I can think of copying would be Nissa, Vital Force since you can ultimate right away, but there may be other silly things as well. It's really good. Also very good in any +1/+1 Counter deck like Pir, Imaginative Rascal or Marchesa, the Black Rose.

 

Next Up: Black, Red!

This set is insane for Commander. Absolutely insane. We're going to get through all of them, but man. This set. Thank you, Wizards!


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