War of the Spark is probably one of the most ambitious sets in recent memory. Pitting characters from all across Magic’s history against the Thanos-Esque Nicol Bolas, WAR is an Avengers: Infinity War style battle to save the Multiverse from Bolas’s ascension to god.
Everyone is involved – except Sorin and Nahiri who just want to resolve their fight from Innistrad (this time with Sorin not ending up as a weird half-rock, half-vampire, half-ancient-all-powerful-planeswalker, if he gets his way).
I’m very excited for this set and already have cards earmarked for my own personal decks. I’ve also been keeping an eye out for cards that I think will become – if not staples – incredibly popular in Commander over the coming months.
I’m going to look at one card for each mono colour and two cards for each Guild combination (25 cards in total!) so get comfy and have look at what I think you should be getting hold of as soon as possible.
White – Gideon Blackblade
I’m not a huge fan of playing White as a core colour in Commander – the cards tend to run out of gas too quickly for my liking. That being said, Gideon Blackblade is not only a powerful creature that dodges sorcery speed removal but also provides nice utility in exiling Multicoloured permanents. All of this for the low, low price of 3 mana makes him a lot better than most creatures at that price and even cheaper than a lot of simlar removal in White too. All-round great package.
Blue – Finale Of Revelation
Draw X cards, untap lands, no maximum hand size. All things I enjoy.
People keep telling me this card is too much mana, but a fair Time Spiral is too juicy for me to pass up. Casting Finale then holding up a handfull of cards with enough mana for a couple of counterspells… It’s just perfection! Add the amazing art on top and you’ve got a recipe for me putting it in every blue deck I own.
Black – God-Eternal Bontu
Oh boy, where do I start with this?
Firstly, bringing back the Amonkhet gods as eternals was amazing and I love them all.
Secondly, the clause that new gods have to replace the old Indestructibles from Theros and Amonkhet alongside the return from the graveyard to your hand ability of Hour of Devastation gods is amazing. You can’t even exile these.
Finally, this card is a dream for any black player. Turning your hordes of zombies into cards is the goal for basically any deck and Bontu does just that. Add in the new Liliana to draw two per creature you sacrifice and dive into a swimming pool-ful of cards. Sacrificing ‘permanent’s utilises lands, mana rocks and useless enchantments to find your Gray Merchant of Asphodel for an easy win.
Great card, proceed to put into all black decks.
Bolas’s Citadel was a close contender for this spot. Check out my earlier article on its merits and use.
Red – Chandra, Fire Artisan
My favourite colour, and one of my favourite planeswalkers. This may be a biased choice but y’know what? I don’t care because this card is great!
Card advantage is always something red struggles with, so being able to “draw” a card every turn, potentially go off and “draw” 7 when Chandra ultimates is something red can never pass up.
Her passive deters players from hitting her because she can just turn around and shoot that player’s Teferi or Jace, or just go for the face true red mage style. I love this card and can’t wait to play it.
Green – Green Sun’s Zenith. Oops, sorry I mean Finale of Devastation
Another of the Finale cycle makes the cut.
Just like Finale of Revelation, I’ve been told this is too much mana, but since the goal of any green Commander deck is to play a 12-mana card on turn 5, I figured that this is just two more mana to give that 12-drop +10/+10 and haste. Tutoring a creature from your graveyard and your library (and without Green Sun’s Zenith colour restriction) makes this Finale potential for most played green card in the format.
I’ll be searching for Worldspine Wurm with this as much as possible. What’ll you look for?
Like the last two Ravnica-based sets, War of the Spark has a big emphasis on the Guilds:
Azorius – Teferi, Time Raveler & Time Wipe
I can’t seem to find a Teferi card that isn’t completely bonkers.
Whether it’s Magic lore ensuring Teferi’s power in his supporting cards, or the power of Time magic in all fantasy settings, but this card is going to be nuts in the format. Teferi himself not only stops all of your opponents from interacting with your turn just like Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir but also lets you play your board wipes and other sorceries at instant speed with his +1(!!!!!), but lets you bounce most permanents AND draw a card.
I’m excited to jam him into my Angus Mackenzie deck.
As well as Teferi himself, Time Wipe (his attributed board wipe) is also amazing.
A 5-mana board wipe that not only kills all of your opponents threats, but lets you return a creature with a great ETB or cast ability to your hand. Kozilek, the Great Distortion, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Hydroid Krasis come to mind.
Don’t even get me started on using Teferi to cast this at instant speed to save a creature from spot removal whilst killing all other creatures in play.
Love, love, love these cards – buy up a bunch of copies and just force them into any decks you can!
Dimir – Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge & Ashiok, Dream Render
I’ve chosen a lot of planeswalkers for this list. It could be the strength of walkers in this set specifically, or their generally high power level. Either way I highly recommend getting both the new Tezzeret and Ashiok.
For Tezzeret you want a more specific kind of deck – Breya, Etherium Shaper or Sen Triplets are just screaming for planeswalkers and creatures with affinity for artifacts.
When will Wizards learn that they should just stop making artifact-related cards? They’re just too good.
Make Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas‘s ult a +2. Add the ability to return artifacts from your graveyard to your hand. You have an incredibly powerful planeswalker worthy of the 6CMC price tag.
Ashiok, on the other hand, is a utility card, not a win condition.
Commander sees so many tutors that even Shadow of Doubt can seems worthwhile. Turning that one off restriction into a passive planeswalker ability is a great shout and the perfect addition to any control deck.
Ashiok’s ability is what really shines, though. As well as tutors, Commander is chock full of graveyard strategies. Reanimator, storm, even artifact decks rely on cards like Daretti, Scrap Savant and Goblin Welder to power out expensive cards early. being able to put cards into an opponent’s library and then exile it is very powerful and the fact that Ashiok’s ability to do this is not symmetrical means that they’re a perfect addition to even reanimator deck. This is one that I think will really become a staple of the format and rightfully so.
Rakdos – Angrath’s Rampage & Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion
Considering red and black are two of Bolas’s three colours, the Rakdos cards have been pretty underwhelming. I couldn’t find another gold Rakdos card worth putting in this section, so went for a mono-red one I think will be great in Rakdos decks.
Angrath’s Rampage was the only gold Rakdos card I could find that really got me excited for the colour combination. That’s because it’s insane!
I’m a huge fan of utility cards, which is why the Command and Confluence cycles are some of my favourite cards ever (resolving a Cryptic Command is one of the best feelings in magic – change my mind!) and Angrath’s Rampage is no different. While it’s a sorcery (I’d rather it were an instant), that’s made up for with the low 2-mana cost. It can get around indestructibility to kill cards like Avacyn, Angel of Hope, or force your opponents to sacrifice their one powerful planeswalker. It may seem a little low power, but I think it’ll be a dark horse in a lot of play groups and will almost always catch you off guard.
This new trampling iteration of everyone’s favourite legend with too many creature types is another great addition to your favourite Rakdos deck. With Neheb, the colour combination gains much a needed boost to card selection. Being able to pitch your hand like Wheel of Fortune and draw into a whole new one not only fuels graveyard strategies but also lets you draw into the cards you need in specific situations (imagine discarding Razaketh, the Foulblooded and drawing Animate Dead, just imagine it…).
Gruul – God-Eternal Rhonas & Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
Unlike Rakdos, I’m not ommitting the gold cards from Gruul because they’re not good enough – the new Domri is awesome! – but because Rhonas and Ilharg so perfectly epitomise the idea of Gruul in Commander. Big, trampley beefcakes with potential to grow.
Comparisons have been drawn between Ilharg and Sneak Attack/Through the Breach.
I cannot wait for the day where I attack with Ilharg and put Worldspine Wurm into play. Alternatively, combine Ilharg with Rhonas for its ETB effect every turn. I cannot wait.
Not only is Rhonas amazing with Ilharg, but there is potential to abuse this card in so many ways.
Using Greater Good to sacrifice Rhonas is just one. Put him third from the top and draw 5 cards, play Rhonas again. The flavour text of Chainwhip Cyclops sums up the whole ideaology of Gruul better than I ever could:
“You say this Tenth District, not Rubblebelt. But where smash happen, that Rubblebelt. Rubblebelt state of mind.”
-Urgdar, cyclops philosopher
Selesnya – Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves & Huatli, the Sun’s Heart
Like mono-white and Boros decks, I’ve always found Selesnya a little underwhelming (although I’m currently building a Shanna, Sisay’s Legacy deck so that opinion may soon change). You always seem to get very far ahead, walk directly into a Wrath of God and then flop around like a fish out of water until one of your opponents puts you out of your misery.
But I promised to go through every guild colour combnation so here we are:
Tolsimir seems like the most interesting card for Selesnya.
Creating a wolf on entry, turning future wolves into removal is great. Combine Tolsimir with Wren’s Run Packmaster and really you’ve got an engine that’ll let you kill off everything you want until one of the two is dealt with. While the wolf sub-theme is a little strange in War of the Spark, since there are only two cards that really care about the creature type, Tolsimir may now enable some kind of a Selesnya wolf deck.
Huatli, the Sun’s Heart may seem a weird choice. I’m not sure who at Wizards keeps asking for toughness-matters cards, but they just keep coming.
Arcades the Strategist from Core 19, High Alert from Ravnica Allegiance and even Ixalan’s Belligerent Brontodon (which seems to be the dinosaur that Huatli has modelled herself on with this new iteration). We’re moving further away from Doran, the Siege Tower being the only viable “Butt Fight” commander and deeper into 4c territory with every new set. I’m not sure who the best commander is for those 4 colours but I’m leaning towards Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker and Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper.
Orzhov – Kaya, Bane of the Dead & Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord
Two more planeswalkers, two more cards I think we’ll see a lot of in Commander.
Kaya is absolutely amazing.
While she does have a high CMC, stripping Hexproof from voltron commanders or the permanents they control is a good ability. Being a passive takes away mana commitments like Arcane Lighthouse every turn. Add the ability to exile creatures (even those with hexproof, thanks to that passive). I think Kaya will find a spot in all Orzhov, Esper and especially Atraxa decks as a repeatable but less flexible Utter End/Anguished Unmaking.
As well as Kaya we get a new iteration of Sorin.
As you can see from his art, he’s still not happy after escaping the wall of Markov Manor. Now he’s here to make your opponents unhappy too. Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord bestows that classic Sorin lifelink ability, but now he gives it to your planeswalkers too. His +2 looks a little weak for commander, but that’s not the reason to play him. Imagine -X as a 4-mana reanimator spell. Not as powerful as some, perhaps, since it only returns low cost creatures on the turn you play it, but it does let you return combo pieces and utility creatures and lets you bring back multiples over a few turns. Viscera Seer on the turn you play him. Midnight Reaper the turn after.
Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord synergises really well with cards that put stuff in your graveyar, like Teysa Karlov. With the popularity of Teysa at the moment I’d expect Sorin to see a lot of play. He reminds me of the planeswalker side of Liliana, Heretical Healer, a card that I think is very underrated in Commander.
Izzet – Ral, Storm Conduit & Saheeli, Sublim Artificer
One of my favourite colour combinations, I really think that they’ve done the two Izzet planeswalkers in the set justice.
Ral is the epitome of an Izzet planeswalker.
He could have no abilities and he’d be great, but his -2 really is the cherry on the top of the cake. A combo engine that lets you cycle through cards like Fork, Reverberate and Expansion to infinitely ping your opponents. On top of that you can simple -2 him and cast Expropriate, if you really want to lose all your friends.
While Ral is the perfect Izzet spell-slinger, Saheeli brings a lot to the recent influx of Izzet artifact cards.
Making servos with every mana rock or noncreature spell enables numerous affinity and Welder strategies. Turning an artifact you control into another artifact allows you to circumvent the singleton restriction of Commander, offering multiples of Foundry Inspector or Jhoira’s Familiar, for free artifacts and yet more servos. I love this card and wish the Commander Rules Committee would reconsider allowing hybrid mana costs in decks with only one colour in their identity. i.e. I want to play this in my Daretti deck and I can’t really afford to change it into Saheeli, the Gifted.
Golgari – Casualties of War & Deathsprout
Golgari has been strangely underwhelming for Commander in this set. I mentioned God-Eternal Bontu above, and after Vraska, Golgari Queen and Izoni, Thousand-Eyed, the Golgari planeswalker and legend were very mediocre. That being said, Golgari have been given two very powerful removal spells – one Golgari Decimate, and one that I feel has gone under the radar a little.
Unlike Decimate, Casualties of War is less likely to lose a target and therefore its cast.
The ability to destroy a planeswalker almost justifies the two additional mana, although without the price hike I’d be ranting about how insane it is.
Deathsprout may seem like a spot removal spell (which people normally undervalue in Commander), but it also allows you to ramp or fix your mana.
It’s basically Doomblade with Rampant Growth tagged onto it. I’m a huge fan and will probably be playing it in a lot of decks. It’s just a little unfortunate they didn’t make it Hero’s Downfall and let it kill planeswalkers too…
Boros – Feather the Redeemed & Nahiri, Storm of Stone
I LOVE red decks. It’s my favourite colour to play and I think that the decks you can build in mono-red are incredibly varied from – control to aggro or combo it covers all bases. With that in mind, I HATE playing Boros. I’ve not found a commander that interests me and I always find that you get off to a hugely fast start, run out of gas, then spend the rest of the game waiting for your turn to top deck a land and go back to looking at your phone. Or maybe that’s just me…
Feather may be one of the most interesting Boros commanders you can play.
Using cantrips Defiant Strike, you can consistently draw cards, or steal your opponent’s equipment with Magnetic Theft. Add reuseable board wipes like Fell the Mighty and Rolling Thunder, keep her alive every turn with Boros Charm and Gods Willing, and you’ve got a Boros deck unlike any other. I’m excited to see the brews that people come up with for Feather.
As well as this exciting legendary creature, Boros gets one of my favourite characters in the multiverse.
Nahiri, Storm of Stone does so much for Boros decks. Her ability can kill multiple creatures, and a board of first strikers reduces the significance of blockers. Cheaper equip abilities combine to make a nice little utility package. Skullclamp is a huge fan of this card and helps you to fix the card draw issue that you normally have with Boros decks.
Simic – Roalesk, Apex Hybrid & Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
This was a very hard selection to make. I was torn between Roalesk, Tamiyo and Kiora. As so many other cards have similar effects to the new Kiora I settled with the other two.
Roalesk does what you’d expect from a Simic legend, puts counters on stuff and then puts more counters on stuff.
Putting two counters on one creature is a little weak but his double proliferate death trigger can get out of hand very quickly. What you really want is Nim Deathmantle in play with a sack outlet and go to town with counters until your board is so big it can’t be dealt with. While it’s not as relevant, Roalesk also has flying AND trample, a nice little addition to a card with already powerful effects.
Roalesk is sweet, but what I’m really excited for is the new Tamiyo. While not super impactful or exciting she is the queen of utility.
With a Sigarda, Host of Herons passive, her +1 is situational card advantage that also fills up your graveyard. Her -3 is a repeatable Eternal Witness, which according to EDHREC is one of the most played cards in the format. While I expect she’ll see most play in decks like Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Muldrotha, the Gravetide, I’m excited to play her in my Bant Reclamation Angus Mackenzie deck, because returning Mana Drain, Dig Through Time and Seedborn Muse all seem very exciting prospects.
As well as all of these there is of course the new Nicol Bolas, Ugin, Karn and the unexpected 5c Niv, all of which I’m also very excited to play (but I could be here all day if I listed every card I’m excited for!)
As always, this is a personal list. Let me know what you’re most looking forward to from this set and which of the legends you want to build a deck around.
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