(Inniaz, the Gale Force | Art by Livia Prima)
Hi everyone! I hope you’re all as excited about the new commanders from Jumpstart as I am. We’re going to talk about the exciting new set’s commanders, especially how they’ll look at the head of their own deck, or possibly how they’ll fare in the 99! Let’s get right into it!
Emiel the Blessed
We’re starting out with a big one. Emiel is going to be a great fit for any +1/+1 counters deck that includes white and green, but I think it’s begging to be built as the head of the 99, and there are several build paths we could go down. Emiel’s first ability allows us to blink another creature, re-triggering enter-the-battlefield effects and dodging targeted removal. Blink decks typically include blue, like Brago, King Eternal, Roon of the Hidden Realm, and Aminatou, the Fateshifter. This opens up some new space for a blue-less blink deck. Let’s take a look at some blink targets in these colors:
Pretty great cards all around. Plus of course there are always the classics, like Thragtusk, Terastodon, and Angel of Serenity. Importantly, this commander can go infinite with effects like Workhorse or Brood Monitor, which will give you infinite ETB triggers for cards like Cathars’ Crusade! If played in the 99 of a deck like Roon of the Hidden Realm, this can act as a second Deadeye Navigator to go infinite with things like Palinchron.
Next, we have +1/+1 counters synergy. Green and white have plenty to work with in this space. We have Proliferate cards like Evolution Sage, doubling up counters with Doubling Season and the new Branching Evolution, and draw options like Inspiring Call and Armorcraft Judge. However, this has an interesting duality with Emiel’s first blink ability, since a creature loses its counters when it leaves the battlefield. If only there was a card that could help with that… (*cough* The Ozolith *cough*).
Lastly, let’s talk about the most casual way to build Emiel, and that’s Unicorn tribal. There has never been a Unicorn legend before, so this is our first option. There are currently only 23 Unicorns for us to use, but I’ll wager that number will go up soon. They’re fairly vanilla creatures, so Emiel offers the helpful ability to pump them with an extra +1/+1 counter when they enter the battlefield. That’s a nice boost, making our 3-mana 2/2 Pearled Unicorn come in as a just-barely playable 4/4. The new Blessed Sanctuary is also a great include, pumping out additional 4/4s, and the new-ish Good Fortune Unicorn is an all-star in this deck. Even still, this will probably be a low-powered build and might need some help from some Changelings, so watch more for the Selesnya blink strategies with this one, especially if they threaten to go infinite..
Here it is, everyone! The mill commander that we’ve been waiting for. Mill has been a viable strategy, but hasn’t been as powerful as it could have been. How much better is Bruvac at than previous mill commanders? Exactly twice as powerful. Doubling up the cards our opponents mill scales the strategy from 60-card formats to commander nicely. Until now, most of the popular mill commanders have usually been Dimir. We have examples like Phenax, God of Deception, Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker, and Lazav, Dimir Mastermind.
Black brings a back-up plan of utilizing the graveyards that we’re milling to make up for the deficiencies of mill strategy. With black, we can reanimate creatures with Sepulchral Primordial, Geth, Lord of the Vault, Rise of the Dark Realms, and Animate Dead. We can also weaponize our opponents graveyards with cards like Guiltfeeder, Bloodchief Ascension, or even with value from Mortivore-type effects.
We’re losing these effects, but let’s take a look at what we gain.
Traumatize and Fleet Swallower become instant KOs for one opponent. We can copy Traumatize, get it back with Archaeomancer, or Narset’s Reversal it back to our hand until the whole table is dead. We only need to draw 20 cards with Psychic Corrosion to mill each opponent for 80 cards. Archive Trap and Startled Awake mill for 26. Mind Sculpt and Talent of the Telepath each mill for 14. Patient Rebuilding mills 6 and will on average draw us 2-3 cards a turn.
But let’s get to the juicy stuff. Bruvac seems custom-tailored to be the Persistent Petitioners commander. He’s an Advisor, and with three other Advisors, the Petitioners mill someone for 24! I’d expect many Bruvac decks to be combo-tastic, making infinite mana to draw themselves down with a Psychic Corrosion or win with Laboratory Maniac as a back-up plan, getting enough untaps to petition the table down with Intruder Alarm, or Dramatic Reversal + Isochron Scepter combo. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if a Bruvac deck could be powerful enough even without playing infinite combos.
I’m intrigued by the potential build paths Inniaz opens up. First of all, Djinn tribal? There are 27 Djinns in our colors, and not all of them are good. Indentured Djinn, Drifting Djinn, and Serendib Djinn are a few examples. However, there are some cool ones, like Djinn of Wishes, Old Man of the Sea, and Tidespout Tyrant.
Now that we have that out of the way, Inniaz would be phenomenal for at the head or in the 99 of a flying tribal deck. We could put out a lot of small flyers and pump them up with Inniaz or other effects like Empyrean Eagle, Favorable Winds, and Gravitational Shift. Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor and Archetype of Imagination are great ways to smash through with all of our flyers.
Let’s talk about that last ability. Being able to swap permanents around the table is a great form of removal and a way to balance the power at the table. It can be really bad for the person to your right, whose best thing you’re going to take, and also really bad for the person to your left, who will probably end up with a 1/1 flyer, or a useless Grasp of Fate that will still keep permanents locked down, but won’t do them any good on their side of the field. This ability gets even better as we get down to a one-on-one game, since we can always steal any big baddie our final opponent plays, without having to wade through multiple other players to our right. We can also pass the best permanents around the table to eventually something good from any player. This will probably be the most powerful strategy, but will inevitably draw a lot of ire, as folks don’t like their stuff getting stolen.
Inniaz makes for a great political commander and teaming up with a player or two means Inniaz will draw less removal. Using this ability politically means we can promise to steal certain threats and leave others where they are, depending on which players we are allied with. We can take a haymaker from an enemy and give it to a player if they promise to not use it against us. There are lots of awesome political cards in blue and white, including Council’s Judgment, Benevolent Offering, and Tempt with Reflections.
Overall, a great commander that opens up the flying tribal door and has many other rooms to explore too.
Ormos gives us an interesting take on combo. At 6 CMC, it’s a bit cost-prohibitive for cEDH, but it’s abilities clearly push us towards a combo strategy. So we’re left with a casual combo commander. Urza, Lord High Artificer has taken a lot of flack for being overpowered. Ormos gives us a similar combo option but seems more reasonable.
Mono-blue is the master of infinite combos, and easy access to those combos with plenty of instant, sorcery, and artifact tutors. At the point we have infinite mana with a combo like Isochron Scepter + Dramatic Reversal, or Power Artifact + Basalt Monolith, Ormos simultaneously allows us to draw our entire deck. Enter the Infinite is a fun option with Ormos. To win the game we could endlessly recur extra turn spells and KO opponents with commander damage, or go for the classic Thassa’s Oracle/Laboratory Maniac win (by getting rid of Ormos).
Wow, a cheap sacrifice outlet on a commander that draws us a card! Kels is reminiscent of Yahenni, Undying Partisan, Erebos, God of the Dead, and Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, but now with access to blue! Sacrificing things feels like it should have a home in blue and black, but this is the first Dimir commander to sacrifice creatures besides Grimgrin, Corpse-Born. She also feels like a more fair Korvold, Fae-Cursed King.
We have a lot of options to get more value out of Kels’ card advantage, like Smothering Abomination, Pawn of Ulamog, and Grim Haruspex. We could even go full aristocrat with Blood Artist and Plaguecrafter effects. Evoke and Exploit have great extra uses with her ability, too, such as Mulldrifter and Sidisi, Brood Tyrant.
We will want some sacrifice fodder to power Kels. Some options are Abhorrent Overlord, Chittering Witch, Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder, and Bitterblossom. However, this may be an opportunity to explore some lesser-seen cards. Is this a deck that we can make Awaken the Erstwhile work? Whirler Rogue is a neat option if we want to get through damage with Kels. Finally, I think Spiny Starfish is a fun token producer that might find a home in this deck. It’s only in 62 total decks on EDHREC and can make us a token at each end step!
Kels will be a great card advantage engine, but her menace and indestructibility also give her the option to be a potential Voltron commander. The new Malefic Scythe could quickly build up counters and equip to Kels for big damage, similar to Strata Scytheand Blackblade Reforged. We have many options in Dimir colors to make Kels unblockable, including Dauthi Embrace, Shizo, Death’s Storehouse, and Aqueous Form. Siren Stormtamer and Glen-Elendra Archmage are great protection options. I’m excited to see what players do with this new creative space in Dimir colors.
Tinybones, Trinket Thief
Brought to you by Amos Byrne
There are a few legendary creatures that work well at the head of discard decks. The Haunt of Hightower or Nath of the Gilt Leaf are really the only two that give us any kind of reasonable value for forcing opponents to discard. Tinybones seems like it could give them a serious run for their money, given that the payoff isn’t tokens or counters, but cards. Also it costs two mana. Also also, it can close out games, which is fantastic because nobody likes topdecking for eight turns while the discard play digs for their… for their… oh that’s right, discard doesn’t have many finishers, so this will still be quite welcome in discard strategies that want to run more colors.
The best way to take advantage of that “each end step” clause will be cards that force your opponents to discard on their turns, like Painful Quandary, Gibbering Descent, or even Bottomless Pit if you want them to really hate you. While six mana is kind of expensive, mono-black players with a bajillion mana to spare from their Cabal Coffers or Bubbling Muck will probably have a blast blowing out a table with that ability after dropping a Myojin of Night’s Reach. This card seems like a delightfully multifaceted new toy for discard decks, and a welcome respite from long tedious discard games for everyone else.
The most popular Goblin generals produce more Goblins, like Krenko, Mob Boss and Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin. Other deal out damage with Goblins, like Purphoros, God of the Forge and Pashalik Mons. Wort, Boggart Auntie provides Goblin card advantage.
Muxus finds a new and unique way to weaponize our Goblins: commander damage! Muxus can attack for a huge amount of damage if we have a large board of Goblins. We’re definitely going to want to find a way to get him through enemy lines, like Rogue’s Passage, Goblin King, or Legion Loyalist. On top of that, he gives us card advantage by putting Goblin cards from the top 6 deep in our library right onto the battlefield. We can take full advantage of this ability with a Conjurer’s Closet, Helm of the Host, or Cloudstone Curio. He may not be as fast as other Goblin options, but for Goblin players who don’t always want a Krenko game that ends on turn 5 or 6, that’s a pretty good thing.
The Minotaur tribal commander we’ve been waiting for has arrived. I actually started writing this and forgot about all of the other Minotaur commanders there are. There are eight legendary Minotaurs! Can you name them all? I think they’re easy to forget because aside from Neheb, the Worthy, they encourage non-Minotaur build paths.
Spoiler alert if you’re still trying to guess all 8: Firesong and Sunspeaker, Zedruu, the Greathearted, and Tahngarth, First Mate all pull us away from Minotaur tribal, but Sethron really cares about his Minotaurs. He gives us an extra Minotaur when another one enters the battlefield, just like Edgar Markov does for Vampires–but Sethron’s is an enter-the-battlefield trigger, unlike Edgar’s cast trigger. That means Sethron’s ability is much easier to activate and unlocks the potential for shenanigans.
We can get an extra Minotaur from Sethron by hitting a Minotaur off of Dreamshaper Shaman, copying a Minotaur with Felhide Spiritbinder, or blinking a Minotaur with Conjurer’s Closet. We shoudn’t forget cards like Kragma Warcaller, Rageblood Shaman, and Didgeridoo, either. Additionally, where Neheb pumped our Minotaurs for the challenge of having one or zero cards in hand, all Sethron asks is a measly three mana to pump our team, while also giving them evasion and haste. Minotaurs are generally vanilla-ish creatures, so they needed a boost from a strong general, but there are enough synergy pieces for a solid tribe here.
This wonderful chaos Devil will be fun for the whole table. Let’s be honest, some people don’t like chaos (sorry Kya!) but Zurzoth solves that problem by encouraging us to do a bit of a group hug with that chaos. He can also take chaos into new directions, embracing the randomness of discarding unknown cards and flinging damage around.
Zurzoth wants our opponents to draw cards when it’s not their turn. We can do this with things like Burning Inquiry, Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, Geier-Reach Sanitarium, and Temple Bell. We’ll get three Devils for the price of having everyone draw a card! Once we have three Devils we can fling them at our opponents to trigger Zurzoth’s final ability, which will create three more Devils, and deal out three damage. This will be a non-stop party of draw, discard, and damage (but not in a Nekusar way)! Pair with Havoc Jester and Hellrider for even more damage!
What if we increase the chaos and find a random way to decide where the Devil damage is dealt? Let’s take a Twister spinner and spin it to aim the damage! Let’s roll a dice to see which player’s face will get hit! On top of that, how about we look into some damage doublers like Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and Dictate of the Twin Gods. Let’s deal even more damage with our Devils with Impact Tremors, Purphoros, God of the Forge, and Cavalcade of Calamity. There are 28 creatures with the devil type in mono-red, and they’ve found a great new home.
This is the end of this section, because I’m not allowed to talk about it.
Just kidding. We have a new fight club commander! Until now, Rhonas, the Indomitable had been appropriated as the fight commander due to his deathtouch and indestructibility. Getting card advantage for each fight is a phenomenal upgrade. Drawing a card for one or more creatures being blocked is a nice cherry on top, but I’m not sure if I want to put all my eggs in that basket.
Let’s talk about fight effects. We have oodles of fight effect to choose from, at instant-speed like Pit Fight, or sorcery-speed like Prey Upon. Setessan Tactics is particularly good, letting us fight as many times as we want. We have creatures that can help us fight, such as Ulvenwald Tracker, Gruul Ragebeast, and Thorn Mammoth. Whenever we target one of our creatures with a fight spell, Gargos, Vicious Watcher will fight another creature, doubling up our card draw. Arena is a useful land that enables a fight but doesn’t tap for mana so count it as a spell slot in your deck. Kogla, the Titan Ape does a lot of work for us, fighting a creature when it enters, removing pesky artifacts or enchantments, and giving us a way to protect Neyith and itself.
Let’s talk about some creatures we want to fight with. Apex Altisaur can wipe out a lot of creatures, triggering fight after fight and drawing us tons of cards. If we want to get a bit dirty, Silverclad Ferocidons will make our opponents sacrifice their boards and Polyraptor will copy itself into oblivion. Anything with indestructible and/or deathtouch will be helpful, as we can see from the previous fight club commander: Rhonas, the Indomitable.
The Gods are good options for other indestructible fighters, like Nylea, Keen Eyed and Xenagos, God of Revels (note: they’ll need to be creatures to have them fight). I also love the new Brash Taunter and its predecessor Stuffy Doll in this deck to deal fight damage to opponents’ faces.
Finally, the last ability of getting a Lure effect every combat and doubling that creature’s power is a really effective way to get combat damage through. Rampage is an old keyword that pumps a creature for each creature blocking it beyond the first, so those creatures could be good ones to target with Neyith’s ability. I like Varchild’s War Riders, since it gives our opponents 1/1s for us to fight if we need to, and it has trample. Gorilla Berserkers, Marhault Elsdragon, and Elvish Berserker are other examples of this effect.
What happens if we make Engulfing Slagwurm the target of Neyith’s ability? All of our opponent’s creatures will have to block it, they will all die, and we will gain a lot of life. What’s more, the Slagwurm’s ability resolves before combat damage is dealt, so it will survive to do it again next turn!
For you Vorthos lovers out there, how about an Arya Stark themed deck? Arya loves to fight constantly throughout her character’s evolution in A Song of Ice and Fire. We can live in an alternate Westeros reality where Arya reunites with her beloved dire wolf Nymeria. They patrol the woods together fighting off Southern armies, making friends with other beasts, and creating an army of rampaging savage defenders of the North. Arya becomes a legendary figure, a story told in dark corners of taverns, the nomadic reclusive hero of the house of Stark that’s as deadly with a blade as her dire wolf is with her teeth.
I have to say it, each one of these commanders either opens up a build path that didn’t previously exist, takes an existing theme and puts a new spin on it, or is something that Commander players have been waiting for, whether they knew it or not. They are begging to be built around, draw you in, and spark that creative drive that we Commander deckbuilders love. I think the design team hit it out of the park with these. I hope to continue to see design spaces like these being explored in the future.