Ikoria fever is sweeping the land of Commander with a bunch of great cards coming from the set itself as well as the five Ikoria-Themed Commander 2020 decks. We’re off to a great start with the Commander product-filled year we were promised. I’m going to look at the five face cards from the new Commander pre-constructed decks and pick two cards that aren’t from Ikoria or the new Commander set that you should consider picking up if you want to build a deck around that Commander.
Ruthless Regiment – Mardu (White, Black & Red)
Jirina Kudro, the face card of the Mardu deck, is very much focused towards an Aristocrat strategy, where you create a lot of small creatures and/or tokens then sacrifice or allow them to die to get some kind of benefit. Her second line of text also leans towards the potential for a Human Tribal strategy so I decided to pick one card for each of these potentialPhyrexian Altar
I had two options for the aristocrats card: Ashnod’s Altar or Phyrexian Altar. Honestly, you probably want to have both but I decided to go with the latter as it will help to facilitate your three colour cards whereas Ashnod’s Altar only creates colourless mana and won’t offer any fixing solutions. Phyrexian Altar is amazing in this kind of deck as it allows you to sacrifice creatures without needing any mana and at instant speed, this helps a lot of the aristocrat strategies as it not only means you don’t need to worry about your creatures needing to be blocked and die in combat but you can also use it at instant speed with cards like Grave Pact to interrupt potential combo-pieces or just kill your opponent’s creatures at instant speed.
Angel of Glory’s RiseI’m not a huge fan of tribal decks. Personally I find them a little linear but I know that a lot of people are huge advocates of the archetypes and will play only tribal decks until the day the sun expands and swallows the earth. With that in mind, I decided to check out EDHREC for popular cards for tribal decks. One card that caught my eye was Angel of Glory’s Rise. With zombies being one of the more popular tribes that people play exiling all zombies in play is enticing by itself but the really important part of this card is that it brings back all of the humans from your graveyard to the battlefield. Since you’re a human tribal deck you’re probably playing around 80-90% humans in your deck’s creatures which means that if you get hit by a board wipe this is a very powerful way to rebuild instantly. As a bonus if you’re mixing the human tribal and Aristocrat strategies you can sacrifice all your creatures to your Phyrexian Altar, cast your Angel and bring back everything that died. Double the value for half the price!
Arcane Maelstrom – Temur (Blue, Red & Green)
I find it very hard to be completely impartial when writing about Commander because I really love some colour combinations and deck archetypes while others are much less interesting to me. I think that’s what makes Commander so great as a format: you pick a Commander you identify with and then build around it with cards you love.
Temur is a colour combination that does everything I love to do in a game of Commander. Ramp, big creatures and even bigger spells. Kalamax is a perfect embodiment of Temur it copies your spells and enables some great spellslinger-style decks but also needs you to attack to enable the spell-copying ability
Cryptolith Rite After saying that you need to attack with Kalamax to enable his spell copying ability I’m going to immediately contradict myself by saying that if you want an instant-speed focused deck you might not want to be on the attack every turn. To do this and ensure that you can still copy spells you need to find a way to tap Kalamax without attacking. There are a few of these but I decided to go with Cryptolith Rite because it allows you to tap Kalamax for some value (in this case mana) and also be useful with other creatures should your Commander die.
I knew coming into this that one of the cards I wanted to showcase for Kalamax was an extremely powerful instant. There are a few that could probably go in this spot but Dig Through Time is a card I’m always excited to cast whenever I’m playing it; It’s great if you’re ahead, behind, playing a spellslinger deck or a creature-based deck with a few supporting spells. I don’t think there has ever been a time or a deck when this card is not appropriate to play. Add to its power level the ability to cast it for a mere UU and you’ve got arguably one of the most powerful instants every printed and one Kalamax would be proud to copy.
Symbiotic Swarm – Abzan (White, Black & Green)
Abzan is one of those colours where the decks either have tons of interesting interactions or are decks that make a million tokens and then turn them sideways. Kathril tries to combine the two by spreading out keywords to various creatures before making itself bigger. You can take a couple of approaches with this effect, the first would be spreading the keywords to other creatures to diversify your threats and make Kathril really big. The second is to dump all of the keyword counters onto Kathril, not make their Power and Toughness any bigger but then use enchantments, equipment and now mutatations to affect Kathril’s Power and Toughness to try for a Commander damage win.
Skullbriar has always been one of those Commanders that’s a pain to deal with due to its ability to keep +1/+1 counters when it leaves the battlefield. With the release of Ikoria this is scaled up by the introduction of keyword counters which Skullbriar will also keep when it leaves the battlefield. This means you can give it a Hexproof or and Indestructible counter from Kathril’s ability to make it hard to deal with and when someone does finally remove it, say with a Cyclonic Rift you can just pay BG again for your hasty, buffed up Hexproof & Indestructible creature. Whether it’s in the 99 of a Kathril deck or the General of it’s own deck expect to see this card popping up in your playgroup a lot more frequently.
Every graveyard-centric deck needs ways to get cards into its graveyard as quickly as possible to get their respective engines running. One of the best ways of filling graveyards is definitely dredge. I was going to put Golgari Grave-Troll here but then I realised for one less dredge Stinkweed Imp actually gives Kathril a flying counter too, two birds with one stone. Sadly Stinkweed Imp doesn’t give deathtouch too because it uses the old wording but even without that, I think that the value the dredge and the presence of flying is very powerful and I expect this to be a staple in Kathril decks.
Timeless Wisdom – Jeskai (White, Blue & Red)
Another colour combination I hold dearly. One of the first Standard decks I ever had success with was Jeskai and I’ve been trying to rebuild the connection ever since. I thought I had it with my Sevinne deck but unfortunately, I fell out of love with it. I think this new one may retake that place in my heart.
As those of you who have read my Kadena deck tech will know, casting cards for free and drawing cards are both up there on the list of things that get me excited in a Commander deck and while not actually casting them, Gavi lets you cycle for free once a turn and that fits the bill for both of the things I love to do. Add to that a consistent engine in the form of making an army of 2/2s and you’ve got a recipe for a good time.
Free interaction is always amazing and counterspells are no exception to this. Anyone that has watched or played Legacy will know the omnipresence of Force of Will, something also being emulated in Modern fairly well with the addition of Force of Negation. Commander is no exception, with 0-mana counterspells being just as powerful but much less present. Decree of Silence has been more and more popular since Hour of Devastation and the printing of Solemnity can lock out all of your opponents from casting spells. While not as oppressive, being able to cycle Decree of Silence for free in an opponent’s turn to counter a spell and draw a card (effectively making it a free Dismiss) means that this 8-mana enchantment will be a staple in Gavi decks in the foreseeable future, as well as the other Decree’s in this colour combination.
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Drawing cards is something that Cycling decks thrive on and being able to double up these draws is very powerful. What makes doubling card draw even better with Gavi is that the token generating ability cares about how many cards you draw in a turn not how many times you cycle meaning that when you use your free cycle each turn you’ll draw two cards and create a 2/2 leading to an incredibly powerful engine that will draw you 8 cards and make 4 2/2s in one turn cycle. A powerful engine that will close out games in no time if not answered quickly. Make sure to grab your card draw doublers and some ways to protect them from removal (Willbender is a personal favourite because it even deals with split-second).
Enhanced Evolution – Sultai (Blue, Black & Green)
Last but not least we have Otrimi. I found this card quite difficult to write about and to find cards that may fit it well since a lot of the cards that you’d expect to find in a Mutate-matters decklist have actually come out in the new set that I was trying to avoid including cards from since they’ve not been released so I couldn’t evaluate the power level of them. That being said after thinking about it I realised that really Otrimi is just another Sultai graveyard-centric deck and with that, I was able to gauge cards that will most likely work with it.
The first thing I decided with Otrimi is that filling up the graveyard is going to be very important. With that in mind, I looked at Dredge decks similarly to Kathril but thought that while they rapidly fill up the graveyard Otrimi actually wants a more refined way to fill the graveyard since it really only cares about creatures with Mutate. Two options came to mind, Entomb and Buried Alive. You would most likely include both but I decided that Buried Alive was the one I’d specifically mention since it hits three potential options and protects your potential targets from targetted graveyard removal like Deathrite Shaman and also give access to multiple silver bullet mutate cards you can return from the graveyard.
As an avid Mairsil, the Pretender player I’ve looked through all of the Blue and Black creatures with activated abilities more times than I care to think about and Jodah’s Avenger is one of the weirder ones out there. In this deck Jodah’s Avenger serves more as a vessel for Otrimi than a creature you will use to actually close out games. Mutating Otrimi onto Jodah’s Avenger means that you can give him one of a huge list of keyword options but the most important ones are probably Double Strike, which will allow you to trigger Otrimi’s recursion ability twice, and Shadow which will almost always ensure the creature will be unblocked and will, therefore, deal combat damage to trigger the ability. The combination of both will almost always ensure the ability to recur two mutate cards from the graveyard.
So there we have it. Two cards I think will be great for each of the main Commanders of the new Commander 2020 product. Let me know which of the Commanders you’re most excited to play and what cards you’re looking forward to playing in their decks
Thanks for reading and if you’d like to see more Commander content check out the decks I’ve written about so far as part of the 32 Commander Challenge below:
1. Sultai – Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer
2. Jeskai – Sevinne, the Chronoclasm
3. Mono-Blue – Kefnet, the Mindful
4. Simic – Edric, Spymaster of Trest
5. Grixis – Mairsil, the Pretender
6. Mono-Red – Neheb, the Eternal