With the release of Strixhaven, in addition to the Elder Dragons, we finally have all ten commands available to us as well. This is just another way that Strixhaven has been similar to the Khans of Tarkir block in regards to some of its content. Much like the original Titans that debuted in Core Set 2011, over time the original five Commands from Dragons of Tarkir have shifted in popularity, with a different Command seeing the most play depending on time frame and format.
Since they're no longer played in Standard, and the metagames in older formats move much more slowly, the original Commands have pretty much maintained the same power ranking for some time now. I would say they look something like this:
Truth be told, the first two are the only Commands that see any real play nowadays. Kolaghan's Command is easily the most popular, making its way into Cubes as well, but Atarka's Command sneaks into a Modern or Pioneer deck from time to time. As far as Dromoka's, Silumgar's, and Ojutai's, well, their play is solely relegated to that Standard format, with maybe minimal fringe play afterward, along with regular Commander play. I remember Ojutai's Command wanting so badly to be Cryptic Command. I still don't think it's a bad card, but the formats it's legal in need a card to counter more than just creatures.
Either way, Strixhaven has five more Commands for us, one from each school. Today we're going to talk about those, along with how playable they seem. I don't feel comfortable ranking them along with the original five Commands just yet, but we'll be ranking them among themselves for sure.
This being an instant makes it decent, as being able to give all of your creatures indestructible in response to something like Doomskar is a big deal. Being able to Lightning Helix or sacrifice an excess land to draw two cards are both great abilities as well. I think the weakest mode is the 3/2 creature, but it does pair well with the indestructible mode if you're avoiding a sweeper and want to put an additional guy on the board, or if you're trying to make some beneficial blocks. Five mana is a lot, and one of my main concerns is that the aggressive deck that wants to utilize this isn't going to want to spend that much mana on it. This could certainly be their top end, but who knows?
I feel like I've mentioned before how a lot of cards are now designed with Commander in mind, even in "competitive" sets. Notice how even the third mode says "target player gains 3 life," independent from the "deal 3 damage" text, allowing you to choose a player other than yourself. Ah, diplomacy. It's these little changes that show how much Commander is really impacting the game.
This one, in my opinion, is very good, and most reminiscent of Kolaghan's Command. It's three mana, it's an instant, and it's in one of the best color combinations. In fact, if you choose the damage mode and the artifact mode, you literally have Kolaghan's Command. Both of these modes are extremely versatile and frequently used on Kolaghan's Command. Now we get the same potential in a card. In addition, we also have an Izzet Charm/Faithless Looting effect as well, which is always good. I don't need to tell you how strong being able to filter your hand or get specific cards into the graveyard is. We all know. I mean, Faithless Looting is literally banned in Modern, so...
The last mode creates a Treasure token, which is easily the weakest of the modes, however it does ramp a deck that would likely otherwise be unable to ramp to five mana. This is not nothing, and in Standard, a lot of action takes place at five mana. I'm going to preemptively assume this is going to be the strongest Command, if not in Standard, then in older formats and on a longer timeline.
As another three-mana instant Command, this one also has a lot of potential. I think one of the modes that has the most potential on Quandrix Command is the "target player shuffles up to three target cards from their graveyard into their library." Having two of these in your deck prevents you from ever decking yourself, making Quandrix Command a great option for either or Bant control decks, the same way Elixir of Immortality once was. Interestingly enough, this is actually one of the weakest modes in a vacuum. I would predict the modes we're going to get the most use out of are returning a creature or a planeswalker to their owner's hand and countering an artifact or enchantment spell, but the other two modes could be very good in the right situations.
Historically, the best Commands were those that cost three or less. Those are the ones that saw the most play, and I think Quandrix Command is good enough to keep that tradition alive.
Now we come to the first ever sorcery-speed Command. It also costs a whopping four mana, so we're not off to the best start here. I think Silverquill Command does a lot of good things poorly. It has abilities that a lot of great Black and White cards have, but as one-shots that cost four-mana at sorcery speed, I don't think they really get the job done. Drawing one card and losing one life a la Ob Nixilis Reignited, sacrificing one creature a la Liliana of the Veil, returning a creature to the battlefield a la Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants, and giving +3/+3 and flying ala Elspeth, Knight-Errant.
This Command literally just takes four abilities from four planeswalkers and lets you use two of them, one time each. I think at instant speed, this could be a reasonable card. As it stands, this just kind of feels like a bad Rankle, Master of Pranks. The funny thing is that two of these abilities are on Ojutai's Command, and one of them is better there. And we know how that Command ended up...
This is a weird one, and I think it will have the most impact in older formats where there are more two-mana artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers. The first ability also basically draws you a card when fetch lands are present, or returns something like Thespian's Stage or Dark Depths to your hand. Giving a creature -3/-1, while limited in what it can kill, can still kill a good deal of threats, including nearly every creature in every Death and Taxes deck, or something like Dark Confidant or Delver of Secrets. The last ability is just doing its best Collective Brutality impression, which is fine when, unlike Collective Brutality, you're getting a second mode for free and without having to discard a card.
While I'm not sure the card will have many Standard applications, it feels like an all-star in older formats, and the low casting cost (er, I mean mana value?) makes up for any abilities that seem less exciting.
Ultimately, I think my Strixhaven Command ranking would be as follows:
When it comes to Commands, I think being cheap is the most important factor, and I think being an instant is the second most important factor.
But what do you guys think? Am I missing any sweet applications or interactions with these new Commands? Would you rank them differently? I'd really love to hear your thoughts. Do me a favor and sound off in the comments below!
Well, that's about it. Strixhaven is looking exciting so far, despite the fact that all the cards have about 9,000 words on them. Over 9,000? I guess 18,000 on the double-faced cards. But they do seem exciting. I'm looking forward to playing with the cards, and upgrading my Cube with the ones I find worthy. This is a topic I'll be going into in the next couple of weeks as well, so look for those articles. As always, thanks a ton for reading. I appreciate you guys, I hope you're staying safe, and I'll catch you next week!