By Steven Mace
Hello and welcome to my very first Commander set review! I’m Steven, and I hope to guide you on this journey through what looks to be an amazing set so far. For those who care, I’ve been playing Magic since 2012 - which is fortuitous, as that’s when Return to Ravnica released. So I have a special connection to this plane.
Whilst reading this review, keep in mind that I am only human and so have my biases. I try to do my best to set them aside but will sometimes fail. I am what R&D at Wizards calls a “Johnny,” a player who plays magic as a puzzle-solving exercise. I delight in deckbuilding and finding wild interactions that cause strange situations and push the rules of the game to its limits.
I’m also a filthy casual; I am not interested in ending the game on turn two; in fact, I particularly enjoy long games. These are my biases, so keep them in mind while reading what I have to say. With the introductions out of the way, let’s talk about these sweet cards!
You also won’t see Limited fodder taking up space here or lower-rarity things that I don’t think make the cut in Commander, with the exception of planeswalkers.
Now we can get to the cards.
Karn, the Great Creator
Calm down, Karn. Calm down. His static ability is a one-sided Null Rod. We could stop there, and he’d probably be good enough, but that’s not all he does! His +1 is fine if you’re being fair. But Voltaic Construct plus any mana rock that makes more than 2 mana makes infinite mana. Oh, and don’t forget to kill your opponents artifact lands (no, don’t do that, that’s rude)!
His -2, however, is stupid. If your group has wishboard rules, it may be time to rethink them, since you can wish up Mycosynth Lattice, which combines with Karn’s static ability to lock opponents out of the game. Other busted ways to abuse it include looping Ugin’s Nexus (given a way to keep Karn’s loyalty up) for infinite turns.
Ugin, the Ineffable
What is it with colorless planeswalkers? It seems like they can’t be bad. All your colorless spells costing 2 mana less with no minimum, protection and card advantage on a +1 ability and removal for a minus. A very powerful card.
Finale of Glory
Probably the easiest of the Finales to evaluate. For X equal to 1 or 2, you’re not especially happy with this. Once you get in the 5 to 9 range, you’re doing great. And as with all the Finales, once you get to X equal to 10 or more, the card is dumb. This is also one that you want to just dump all of your mana into. Once you’re at 10 or more, you get 6 power for every mana you put into X, which is absurdly efficient. Great card for token decks and ramp-heavy white-based decks.
The static ability is just Gideon doing Gideon things. The best thing about Gideon is he is dirt cheap, but I don’t think he’s great for us. His removal is slow, and his support ability is lacking. On the plus side, you can equip The Blackblade Reforged to him for an immediate flavor win. He’s not amazing, but he’ll do. Being able to be a creature while also being able to use his abilities is a convenience that may make him stronger than all the other Gideons.
What a bomb addition for zombie decks, and honestly, just white decks in general. Tacking an extra 4/4 vigilance onto every creature you cast seems pretty strong. And it comes with a 3/6 double striker for 5. Just a rock-solid card.
Thrumming Bird is not an unreasonable card, and I’m sure there are decks that don’t have access to Thrumming Bird or other good proliferate options that would like this. Decent card.
Ignite the Beacon
This is a solid card for “Superfriends” builds, allowing you to tutor for two walkers at instant speed. These sort of decks can find themselves in a position where the things they’re doing every turn don’t use their mana, so having things to hold up and threaten counterspells with can be very strong.
So for you heathens that play Superfriends, pick this one up. Buckle up, by the by - you’re going to see the word “Superfriends” a lot in this article.
Martyr for the Cause
In the sort of deck that can reuse and abuse this, it could be amazing. Make your dudes big with +1/+1 counters, boost your planeswalkers up, etc. Probably one of the more abusable proliferate effects. It’s no Evolution Sage (patience, friends), but it’s not bad.
What even is this?! Wow. For those that don’t know, the first Parhelion was the residence of many of the Boros angels, and during the events of Ravnica: City of Guilds block, it crashed into the spires of Prahv, killing the co-villain of the block, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. Now the Boros unveil its successor in what may be Ravnica’s hour of greatest need. Later, we’ll see that this thing is basically the Death Star.
As for the actual card, it’s…wow. The cost is massive. Eight mana and four power worth of crewing. That’s no small feat. And if it dies before it’s declared as an attacker, you’re going to feel terrible. However, if you get to swing with this thing, it’s great. The first attack is 13 (yes, technically it’s 9 because of the 4 it cost you to start it up, but in a practical sense it’s 13), and from there on it’s self-crewing because it’s producing 4/4s. And its power grows each turn.
And last but not least, everything has vigilance, and the angels don’t come in tapped and attacking, so you’ve got a great defense as well. I’m certainly going to try this in Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, and I think it will be fine. Overall a card with an abysmal floor but a game-ending ceiling.
Ravnica at War
This is seriously meta-dependent. Could be game-ending, could be a blank piece of paper. Play this one with caution, friends.
Now here’s an interesting board wipe. It’s not quite Cataclysm, but I think we can let that go, as there are very few planeswalker board wipes out there. If your meta is heavy on the Superfriends (which after this set it probably will be, at least for a little while) you’ll definitely want to pick this up. But even if you don’t see too many ‘walkers around, this is a fine card against most creature decks.
Teyo, the Shieldmage
Arcades, the Strategist rejoices! Three mana to make two 3/3s, draw a card over two turns and be hexproof the whole time. At least until someone decides to take out Teyo, which is just profit. So it’s a good card in Arcades…
But bad elsewhere, which is my major criticism. He’s literally only good in a single deck.
Leave this one to Limited. White has some of the best creature removal in the game; you don’t need to limit yourself to sorcery-speed destroy effects that only hit a subset of creatures. The static ability is niche as well, as the most common source of non-combat damage to your creatures will be Blasphemous Act.
You may occasionally run into other sources from particular decks. Another meta call maybe?
Two relevant creature types and a decent enters-the-battlefield ability. Good to see it in a reprint with some cool FNM promo art. I play neither Fish (Merfolk) nor Wizards, so I don’t know if Augur makes the cut or not, but it certainly could if you have enough instants and sorceries.
Commence the Endgame
What an aggressively mediocre card. At worst, it’s a 6-mana draw two and make a 2/2 - for sure not worth it. The fact that the draw portion doesn’t get any better really holds it back, and as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think one-off amass cards will be very good in commander, even though this one could make a pretty big dude. If you want a good draw spell out of this set, I recommend waiting for the Finale.
Yet another Zombie keyword lord, this time for flying. But this actually may be too expensive to be worth it; 5 mana is a lot, and it’s limited to tokens. I would rather just play Wonder or even Archetype of Imagination.
Fblthp, the Lost
Imagine Elvish Visionary. Now take away the relevant creature type. It’s still a good card, right? Probably. Now, throw in a goofy side-case scenario where it’s better. Even better, play mono-blue creature-less Storm, play Proteus Staff, and profit.
Is that good? Probably not. But it’s probably fun. And that’s what this format is for!
Finale of Revelation
Now this is an interesting card. I’m not sure that, at sorcery speed, the base form of this is good enough. However, the 10-mana-plus version is pretty ridiculous. So, the question is; is it worth it to have the low-X version in the early game when you don’t really want it so that you can have the high-X version later on? I’m going to lean on the positive side of that. At the very least, you can use it early to draw a couple cards when you wouldn’t be doing anything anyway. It's just unfortunate that the exile clause is tacked on regardless of how much you cast it for.
Oh, the good cards are back! Superfriends and +1/+1 counter decks are hyped for this card. It’s not quite Inexorable Tide, but that’s also 5 mana, while this one is 3. Proliferate is a very strong mechanic, and it’s great to see it back again.
Man, the gods are on-point this set! With Kefnet, you get all the miracles! But before we get to that, let’s be clear that a 4/5 flier for 4 is a fantastic rate. That effect is where the juice is though. It applies to the first card you draw every turn (every turn) - that means your opponent’s turns too! And it’s technically card advantage, since you cast a copy of the spell, and you still have the actual card in hand to use as well.
Kefnet is super-solid both in the driver’s seat and in the 99. Great card, and dang if Kefnet isn’t hard to get rid of. This ability that this round of gods have may be the best so far. Even though you don’t get them back immediately like the Hour of Devastation gods, this makes them exile-proof. The only way to stop these guys is transforming enchantments like Kasmina’s Mutation, killing them and then using instant-speed graveyard hate or letting them go back into the deck and then milling that player.
Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
Jace Beleren: Living Guildpact, pirate, interplanar man of mystery, and now Laboratory Maniac. Triple blue is rough, but he can dig you three deep every turn and has two separate win conditions built into him. You probably shouldn’t play him until your library is pretty low, otherwise people are liable to kill him before you can win with him. Solid card, less vulnerable than Lab Man in a way and more utility.
Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor
This card is interesting. It gives a Frost Titan-style protection to your creatures and planeswalkers, which could be great. Increasing the cost of dealing with your things could put your opponent’s off of dealing with your stuff for just long enough to do what you need to do - or even better, lead them to use their removal on other players’ threats. Another interesting thing is that she protects herself, which is usually not a thing.
Kasmina’s activated ability is one of the most versatile of the uncommon walkers. Making a dude and providing card draw is something you would normally see spread across two abilities on a mythic ‘walker in any other set, but by the gods, this is War of the Spark!
Not many of the “signature spells” are good enough to show up in this review, but this one follows a pattern of other good cards that makes it strong. That pattern is in the vein of cards like Song of the Dryads, Darksteel Mutation and Imprisoned in the Moon: transforming things while leaving them in play rather than killing them. This sort of thing is especially good against decks that rely on their commander. It is weaker than the aforementioned cards, as it allows the transformed creature to attack, block and die, but if that’s not something you care about, then this will be strong. Best in a mono-blue deck, probably, but still strong.
Not the most impressive card but worth mentioning in my opinion. Usually, giving hexproof to your entire team won’t matter, but in that case cards like Mizzium Skin are better. But this importantly covers all your permanents and you, which isn’t nothing.
Narset, Parter of Veils
Terrible name for a decent card. Gotta be careful with that static ability before we get too close to Leovold, Emissary of Trest territory. The activated ability should have been -1 in my less-than-humble opinion, but she’s a mere 3 mana, so I can’t complain too much that she’s digging eight deep and drawing me two cards. Still, I fear that, outside of rude Stax decks, she will fall into the 100-105 slot: just barely out of the deck.
Let’s not forget that Narset is a karate master so skilled that she can bend magic with it. This card is great: Remand a card and get your own copy of it. The thing I look forward to most is getting someone’s Cultivate or Explosive Vegetation, especially if I’m not playing green.
Vehicles all over the place now, even under water! Unfortunately, Magic’s first submarine is pretty meh. The draw-a-card trigger is fine, and the fact that it triggers off of planeswalkers is a nice bonus, but it’s just a 2/3 with no evasion that costs you power on board to get attacking.
Sub-optimal…eh? Eh? No? Fine.
Teferi’s Time Twist
Not a bad blink effect, getting any permanent is pretty major. Blink decks may want this, but some may be a bit over-optimized to want it and not have the space. Worth noting that it’s a 2-mana way to reset low-loyalty planeswalkers or even get an extra activation out of one. Also, getting any permanent allows you to fizzle removal on non-creature permanents in a way we haven’t had before. This is a solid utility spell.
Not quite Clever Impersonator, but almost a strictly better Clone (that can’t copy your opponent’s things). And it comes with an extra +1/+1 counter or an extra loyalty counter just because it likes you. Great card. If you would play Clone, there’s very little reason not to play this instead.
This card is dumb. We all know that, yeah? Shadowborn Apostles and Demon’s Horn? Sure. Sensei’s Divining Top and Aetherflux Reservior? Let’s go. Card is dumb. Duuumb. Oh, and that’s not even all it does! It comes with its own built-in win-con! Fortunately, this part is limited: tap and sacrifice 10 permanents. That’s not an insubstantial cost, but with the first part of the card and sufficient building around, this shouldn’t be difficult to achieve. Dumb card.
Command the Dreadhorde
Now this is a juicy card - specifically, a juiced-up Reanimate, both in the fact that it can get multiple cards and that it can target planeswalkers. Oh, and it can hit your opponents’ graveyards too! In a format where we have a ton of life and a ton of reliable life gain, this will be a strong card. Yet another reason I wish I could play black in Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice.
Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage
It’s a shame that this is the first card for such a cool character. For those who don’t know, this is Davriel Cane, star of the Brandon Sanderson novella, Children of the Nameless. He’s a bit of a dandy that has wandered the multiverse for a little while but has recently settled down in a remote part of Innistrad. He’s a kind of mind mage that steals spells from the minds of his victims, as well as a demonologist.
But the card is far from as cool as he is. The static ability is a little bit like The Rack, punishing players with low hand sizes and encouraging a discard theme. His -1 ability is pretty basic: target player discards a card. Unfortunate that it targets, but then again, he is only three mana. Try it out in Nath of the Gilt-Leaf.
Deliver unto Evil
Interesting card - choose four cards in your graveyard and get the worst two from among them probably isn’t that bad. And bonus points if you have a Bolas planeswalker: you just get all four. Probably not an unreasonable card, but definitely great if you’re playing Nicol Bolas, the Ravager and thus can readily have a Bolas around. Also, can we just stop and appreciate that it seems like Seb McKinnon can do no wrong? What a phenomenal artist.
This is no Bitterblossom, but it could be worse. Zombie decks will probably like it. Honestly, it’s a bit odd. I think you want to be constantly feeding them into something, because having the body is better than making a body a little bit bigger. And by that token, I’m not sure if the lifelink part is actually important, other than these army tokens zombie tokens don’t usually get very large. I think it’s definitely worth a shot in the Zombie decks, but it may not end up being able to make the cut.
Do you have planeswalker problems? Do you have one planeswalker you really want to ult? Well then try Elderspell™, brought to you by Bolascorp.
But for real, I think this card probably won’t be good enough unless your meta is full of Superfriends decks. If you can use wish cards, then this is a fine card to include in your wishboard. Otherwise, it’s just too narrow.
Finale of Eternity
This is, in my opinion, the most questionable of the Finales. The low-X version can be pretty bad. I mean, if you can kill three 1-toughness dudes for 3 mana, that’s fine, but once you start going up, it becomes harder to justify the cost, especially at sorcery speed, which appears to be a common theme for these cards. Once you get to 10, though, you get your quarter of a Rise of the Dark Realms. Obviously, this is also worse than Rise since it costs you 12 mana to do and doesn’t get the sweet things your opponents may have played. However, Rise is always Rise and is 9 mana every time. Finale has uses outside of that, which helps in the flexibility department.
Being an eternal looks really good on these gods. This is just a sweet card for the raw value. It’ll go great in black token decks like zombies and will draw you all the cards you could ask for. Blink for the sac-and-draw trigger and reanimate for even more value. But if you want the real value from sacrificing Bontu, may I point you to Barren Glory? With a sac outlet, Barren Glory and Mindslicer in play, cast Bontu. With her ETB trigger on the stack, sacrifice her off. Then sac every permanent you have except Barren Glory. Mindslicer will trigger and cause each player to discard their hand. Now your opponents have a single draw step to find a way to get rid of Barren Glory, and if they don’t get there, you win. And all that on a solid, evasive body to boot!
This is a unique card. The fact that it can get a planeswalker back when it dies is cool. It’s also dirt cheap. This card has potential to be great and maybe even busted - I’m lookin at you, Sun Titan.
Liliana, Dreadhorde General
Now we’re getting somewhere. The card draw ability is great, as it has been in its previous forms - better, in fact, because it doesn’t call for non-token creatures only. As all 6-mana walkers should, her +1 protects her, in this case with a zombie token. It’s no Elspeth, Sun’s Champion plus ability, but it’ll do. And producing zombies specifically isn’t irrelevant.
Her -4 is a lot, but it takes out two creatures from every player, and bonus points: you draw cards for yours. Her -9 is also a lot, but she comes in at six, so it’s not too bad, and it’s also basically game-ending as an asymmetrical Cataclysm. In this day and age, you expect this to say non-land, but no, you get it all. Now pop that Thrilling Encore and lose all your friends. It’s their fault for letting her ult.
Whereas Gideon’s Triumph won’t be found in this review, Lili’s may actually be Commander-relevant. A Diabolic Edict with slight upside is playable, and the upside is more likely to happen because Lilianas tend to be more Commander-playable than Gideons. And speaking of the upside, this is a rare occurrence of instant-speed discard. Someone Vampiric Tutor or scry to the top while you have your Dreadhorde General in play? How unfortunate for them. Get that draw step and lose another friend. Maybe follow Jace and dump Lili - she seems to be losing you a lot of friends.
Now this is a juicy card. It needs a lot of work, but it could be a board wipe that leaves a hard-to-block body behind. I think this would be best in a place like Gonti, Lord of Luxury or other black decks that want to abuse ETBs and deaths. I’m not convinced Massacre Girl is going to be good because of how specific her ability is, but it’s cool that WotC is fulfilling all these memes they gave us in old Ravnica, and she’s certainly a neat card.
Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted
Ob has a major beef with the Gatewatch, and now their antics have gotten him trapped on a plane again - and he is not pleased about it. Ob is probably unique among the uncommon walkers because you probably don’t want to tick him down unless you absolutely need to. You’ll probably be happy to let him sit there and do his best impression of Nekusar (his secret BFF) until you need to tick him down. Just remember that giving your opponent two cards can be just as scary as the thing you killed.
Price of Betrayal
The impact of this is unclear. I bring it up because it's 1 mana for a solid piece of tech. Worth considering, but I don’t expect it to be a card that is especially exciting.
Got tokens lying around? Like to sacrifice things? Need removal? As long as you don’t need it at instant speed and can reliably fulfill the sacrifice part, Spark Harvest will do work for you. Otherwise, you should probably just stick to Hero’s Downfall and other instant-speed kill spells.
Vizier of the Scorpion
Even more zombie token keyword lords. This could very well serve as full evasion because people won’t want to trade their actual creatures for your meager tokens. It’s no Gleaming Overseer, but it’s solid.
A bit of a card of extremes. Four mana for this effect by itself is way too much. However, if you can reliably meet the “ferocious” requirement, then getting this for one is great. Red counterspells are always nice.
I think this is a darkhorse common. The +1/+0 is probably irrelevant, but 2 mana for a scry whenever you cast a noncreature spell that can throw itself in front of a scary thing if it needs to seems like solid value.
Chandra, Fire Artisan
This is a source of impulse draw like Chandra, Pyromaster that punishes your opponents for hitting her. But her ult kind of worries me. Impulsive drawing for that many cards should probably be allowed to be played until the end of your next turn. It’s risky unless your overall curve is very low or you can produce a ton of mana probably just tick her up.
Free flashbacks on attack? Yes please. Pump this zomboi up and cast your dumbest things. Probably better in Modern than in Commander, but I think this guy is solid and will probably find his way into my Neheb deck.
Trample is a powerful keyword; the problem that makes this the worst of the zombie token keyword lords so far is the fact that it’s in red. Most zombie decks are in various forms of blue and black or blue, black, and white. If you can manage a zombie tokens deck in black and red, then this with Vizier of the Scorpion will be fantastic together.
Finale of Promise
Now this is how you do a big red mythic. You can pay 3 to flash back a couple of little 1-drop spells, or you can go big and fire off six spells for 12 mana. Great card. Maybe the best Finale, or at the very least the second-best (stay tuned, the green one is pretty great too).
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
Woo pig sooie! Mono-red has been getting some sah-weet commanders lately. Between the two Nehebs and now Ilharg, mono-red really has been growing, and it’s kind of great. Ilharg will be cool leading a sort of mono-red blink deck. Throw in things that have cool enters-the-battlefield effects or damage triggers and go to town. Bring the aporkalypse down on your opponents with the biggest scariest things you can manage. Or if you want to be a jerk and just kill people, throw down a Blightsteel Colossus.
Jaya, Venerated Firemage
I’m not super high on Jaya. If you want that damage-boosting ability, grab you an Embermaw Hellion so you can get a 4/5 trampler for the same amount of mana. The two Shocks she gives are pretty irrelevant. Pass on Grandma.
Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
Hey, Krenko’s back! And way, way less busted. But that’s fine; he’s still pretty strong. Goblin tribal loves running lords, so having him start off at 3 or 4 power doesn’t seem too hard. And then he brings the Purphuros trigger…I mean goblins. Probably going to be better as part of the 99 in Krenko, Mob Boss than as the commander himself, but certainly give him a shot.
Powered by lightning! This is a neat card. It’s a cheap threat that is immune to sorcery-speed removal and has an alternate way to activate itself. This thing could be scary in the right decks. Just, you know, be careful with vehicles. This could also just be bad as a topdeck.
Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion
What is dead may never die, or at least that’s what I hear. And despite Samut and the Gatewatch’s best efforts, Neheb is still kicking, has crossed through the planar bridge to Ravnica and has lost none of his kick. There are plenty of mono-red or heavy-red decks that would welcome this version of Neheb, including his Neheb, the Eternal (into which this curves beautifully). But that’s not all! Feldon of the Third Path; Daretti, Scrap Savant; Sedris, the Traitor King...the list goes on.
Basically, if a deck likes to see things in its graveyard and is red, Neheb will be great in there. And that’s to say nothing of him leading the deck himself. He could DH for Neheb, the Eternal, and I think little about that deck would change.
Sarkhan the Masterles
This may well be my favorite of the rare planeswalkers. The static ability is very powerful protection. Dragonlord Silumgar has an awfully nasty look in his eye all of the sudden. Sarkhan’s +1 could very well be game-ending in a Superfriends deck, but even by himself he gives you an extra 4/4 to beat face with. And on top of that, he brings extra dragons with his minus ability as well. Can’t wait for this guy.
Tibalt, Rakish Instigator
Oh Tibalt. Mark my words, this uncommon Tibalt will be more expensive monetarily than his mythic Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded version - because he’s actually good. Unlike Sulfuric Vortex, he doesn’t Shock you every turn, and unlike Stigma Lasher, he doesn’t need to hit someone. On the downside, he doesn’t hit your opponents either (not directly), is more vulnerable and isn’t permanent like Lasher. But bonus points: he brings party boys that ping when they die!
Arlinn, Voice of the Pack
Poor Wolfmom - by far, the worst of the ‘walkers we’ve seen. Like, is this something that even the mediocre werewolf tribal decks would want? Six mana to make three 3/3s over three turns and then sit around pumping the rest of your wolves just a tiny bit? I mean, the werewolf decks are pretty low-end anyway, so maybe they’ll be happy to have this even though it’s pretty bad. Werewolf players: I’m sorry WotC treats you so bad.
Awakening of Vitu-Ghaz
At this point, I don’t know why we are worried about Ravnica. They are literally throwing the worldtree at Bolas’ army. But the card? I mean, is a tapped 9/9 with flash for 5 good? What about an untapped one for 6 (since you have to have an extra untapped land to make use of Vitu-Ghazi)? It’s quite the beating if you can blow someone out with this.
But let’s be honest: we’re Commander players. We aren’t just going to animate a basic Forest or something so mundane as that. No, we’re going to animate a Needle Spires or an Inkmoth Nexus. Bonus flavor points if you use it to animate Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree though.
Now this is what I’m talking about: a 3-mana 3/2 that proliferates on landfall. There are decks where this is going to be insane, but there are also decks that will just want this. Even if you’re just playing one land a turn, if you’re in a +1/+1 counter deck or a Superfriends deck, this will still be good. But if you’re dropping two or three lands a turn and basically going off this could be nuts. Check out Fertilid.
Finale of Devastation
Remember how I said that the possibly best Finale was yet to come? Yeah? Well, we’re here folks, and this card is bonkers. You get Green Sun’s Zenith, but for 1 more mana, you get to pull from your graveyard if you want, and you aren’t limited to green creatures only. This is the only one I truly feel good about without it’s 10-plus-mana mode. That said, that mode is also ridiculous. Get the +X/+X and haste until end of turn at a minimum of +10...and then go get your Craterhoof Behemoth.
Snekdad is back and more game-ending than ever. Great in the 99 or at the helm of a big stompy deck. It can also provide a Craterhoof Behemoth-like effect but with the added benefit of giving vigilance just in case you don’t end them right there and you can block a crack-back. And for the low, low, price of 5 mana. And the fact that it’s a 5/5 with deathtouch that’s hard to keep gone isn’t irrelevant.
Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter
Rishkar, Peema Renegade is a thing, and this is basically that but less vulnerable to removal. It’s fine, but not stellar - just fine. All decks need their role players, and Jiang plays a good role. Best part of Jiang is sweet Mowu in the background.
Mowu, Loyal Companion
Speaking of that good boy, here’s Mowu (since Jiang’s card doesn’t make him itself this time). This good boy is swole AF and comes with his own Hardened Scales. Conveniently, he curves cleanly from Jiang, who can immediately pump him up to a 5/5 vigilant trampler. Unfortunately, Mowu is mostly just a beater, which tend to not be good enough in Commander. Maybe you can abuse the fact that he comes with the Hardened Scales ability somehow? Go with Ghave, Guru of Spores, good boy.
Nissa, Who Shakes the World
Personally, I’m a bit on the meh side for this version of Nissa. She feels pricy at 5 mana and is kind of restrictive. The double-your-mana static ability is great, but the fact that it only works with Forests pretty much restricts it to two-color or mono-green. And making lands into creatures always makes me nervous. I’m not big on making my mana base into vulnerable creatures. On the plus side, instead of set-sized elementals, they’re 0/0s with +1/+1 counters which can be proliferated.
Meanwhile, her ult is pretty underwhelming; -8 and higher should be game winners. This solves the problem I have with making my lands into dudes, which is nice, but the second part has the same problem as the static ability of being limited to Forests. And to boot, they come in tapped. Come on, I worked to get this ult, the least you could do is let me use the lands now.
Now, let’s be clear. Two mana to get some Forests to your hand is pretty weak. That said, the normal version of this card will let you keep land-light hands in heavily green-based decks. But it’s really that “kicker” that you want. Getting any three lands to your hand is actually pretty awesome. Assemble Tron out of nowhere. Get your Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Cabal Coffers, and Gaea’s Cradle all at once. Best place to play this is probably Nissa, Vastwood Seer, since that guarantees you get your Nissa.
This is interesting. Seven mana is a ton, but this could be very powerful. Use one mode to get back Eternal Witness and then do whatever you want with the other three. Could be neat in Superfriends or +1/+1 counters, where you can do that and then proliferate three times. Also useful is that proliferating three times makes the new Tamiyo’s minus ability to get a card out of your graveyard free while you do whatever else with the fourth choice and all your other planeswalkers and creatures you’re proliferating. Making dudes gets an honorable mention as useful. What do you mean four options?
Return to Nature
What a useful card. Naturalize is a decent card, and this is just better. Blowing your opponent out on their recursion is a nice bonus to the artifact and enchantment removal.
Vivien, Champion of the Wilds
If Garruk couldn’t be bothered to show up, at least Vivien can show up and do work. You probably only want her in a very creature-heavy deck. I mean, do we need to discuss that giving things flash is strong? Being able to wait until the last moment to do things is strong, kids. Sun Tzu once said that if flashing will result in victory, then you must flash.
I love her +1. It makes your dudes into great defenders. You can attack and still block, and get those fliers while you’re at it. And then we get to why you want to be creature-heavy: her -2 takes the best dude from your top three cards and stows it away, pseudo-adding it to your hand. This is the Gonti, Lord of Luxury wording, meaning you can cast them even when Vivien is gone.
You know…when WotC tries to fix old cards, it usually fails pretty hard, but I think that in this case, they got it right. It’s not overwhelmingly powerful, but it’s definitely strong. A 2-mana startup cost is just fine, right in line with the likes of Survival of the Fittest. And while the activation cost is a bit on the pricy end, being both a card and a bunch of mana, the payoff can be pretty extreme. Play it in your Seedborn Muse-style decks for maximum effectiveness. Use it like an Aether Vial to make your creatures uncounterable. But you’ll probably dump as much mana as possible into this when you use it, since it costs you a card. And whiffing because you only got to look at three cards is pretty rough.
Another darkhorse. It looks innocuous enough at first, but it’s a clean way to spend unused mana at the end step before your turn and find the card you need. Finding planeswalkers is a great bonus. It’s also a great place to sink infinite mana. And lastly, it’ll be a solid budget card.
Ajani, the Greathearted
Get your own epithet, Ajani; you’re no Zedruu! That said, Ajani is… fine? Static vigilance is certainly nice. His plus is a bit underwhelming; the most exciting thing about it is that it lets you keep using that minus. Speaking of, the -2 is where it’s at for this version of Ajani. Unfortunately, it’s a bit on the narrow side. If your deck plays Ajani Steadfast, then you’ll probably want The Greathearted. Otherwise, I think he just won’t cut it.
As we all know, the name of the game with removal in Commander is versatility. Angrath’s Rampage is cheap and has a bunch of options. The only thing lacking is that it’s a sorcery. And while there are places where sacrifice will be unfortunate, there will also be places where it’s key. As with several other cards in this set finding their way into Commander, I think it comes down to space. We literally just got Bedevil a few months ago, and that does everything this does, but at instant speed and you get to choose what goes.
What? What? This card is pretty hard to evaluate. At first blush, it’s wild. I think most decks probably play one or two walkers, which probably isn’t enough to justify this guy, but if you play several or even better a Superfriends deck, this card is a legit threat.
Also, consider some of the uncommon planeswalkers in this very set that come with upwards of 7 loyalty. With the new Kiora, you can power this down a turn faster, draw a card and have a 10/10 trampler. I think my favorite way to abuse this, however, is with Simic Ascendancy. This can get a ton of counters very quickly. Toss in things like Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice and Evolution Sage, and this thing could get ridiculous and turbo up Simic Ascendancy to win out of the blue.
Casualties of War
This is forevermore a black-green staple card. You get to destroy one of each permanent type, but unlike similar things like Decimate, you don’t have to have a target for each thing to cast it. I would have liked to see it be an instant, but hey, we can't have everything. Great card.
Do we need to talk about this one? We know Zulaport Cutthroat is good. And this is that, but it also triggers off of planeswalkers. Gravy! And speaking of gravy, it also has a relevant creature type. Vampire decks love this sort of effect, and now they have a third one. Literally the only downside is that it can’t go into some decks that Zulaport and the rest of this card’s kin can because of color. If your deck wants this card, you already know it. And there it will be great.
Now here’s an interesting card: Murder plus Rampant Growth. It’s a bit color-intensive, and having your ramp be dependent on having a target can be a bit dicey, but I think this is a fine card. The biggest thing standing in its way is the glut of amazing removal options already in this color pair. Best home is probably Lord Windgrace or The Gitrog Monster.
And thus, godhood dies. Commander doesn’t have the reputation of being where expensive cards go to die for nothing. This card is phenomenal removal. For sure it will miss important things, but it will stop most of the things that are actually scary.
Domri, Anarch of Bolas
Poor kid, he just fell in with the wrong crowd. That said, the wrong crowd makes him awesome for smashy creature decks. Static +1/+0 to everything, mana, uncounterable creatures and fights if you need it? Solid card. Domri tends to show out when he’s three mana.
This looks like a Limited card at first blush, but the fact that it gives red-green decks a way to readily deal with planeswalkers and give a little bit of pump is nice. Worth a shot.
Another interesting card. Is Negate playable in Commander? Maybe. Like I said above, the name of the game is versatility, and it can be tough to limit oneself to counters that only stop certain things when there are so many that can stop anything. But on the other hand, being uncounterable can be a huge deal when it comes time for that potentially game-ending counter war over someone’s win condition. I think that if something like Swan Song is playable in your white/blue/x deck, then this is also playable. The 1-mana difference compared to Swan Song is big enough to justify not replacing it with this, but you will definitely be interested in finding a slot for it.