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Innistrad’s Commanders

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The Innistrad set release is creeping up on Magic players. This weekend marked the passing of the prerelease for the latest set, and the beginning weeks of October will be haunted by release parties and players cracking open boxes of the horror-themed expansion. Like most players, I am a sucker for a new set, and I spend a good deal of my spare time reading spoilers, shopping preorders for the newest cards, and trying to line up my latest want list for Commander foils.

Today’s article will outline the new Legendary creatures made available by the Innistrad expansion. While these cards are generally interesting to the masses of Magic players, they are very tempting specifically to the legions of Commander players. We are always scouring spoiler lists for a Legend that will drive our next deck choice. Maybe you have a certain color combination that you’re waiting to craft. Some folks are looking for a specific creature type to headline their next tribal deck, while others are simply waiting for an ability or stat package to drive them wild.

Commander Count

The Scars of Mirrodin block offered Commander players thirteen options. After observing local playgroups, league play, and watching a number of online and Grand Prix matches, it would appear that many of the Scars-block choices landed some play time. The Praetor cycle offered solid monocolored Commander choices. Many folks had the Legends join the ranks rather than lead the army, but they all received some solid play. Ezuri, Geth, and Glissa made some appearances. Geth offered mono-Black players a solid Commander slot in a thin field of choices, while Ezuri and Kemba headed some tribal theme decks.

I have honestly not seen too much of Thrun, and I only saw glimpses of Glissa getting play, although these options may find a spot in the command zone on occasion. Skithiryx stands out as a highly competitive Commander, and might be the fiercest (and most hated) Commander from the block. Here is the list for your reference:

Scars Block Legendary Commander Options

Unlike Tenth Edition, the M12 set contained zero Commander options. The summer’s Commander release supplemented Legend-starved players, but the format’s player base will likely be pumped to experience Innistrad’s offerings.

The Four Innistrad Legendary Options

Innistrad makes four new Legendary creatures available for Commander. There is a Spirit Cleric, a Zombie Warrior, a Human Cleric, and a new Vampire. Sadly, we did not land a Werewolf Legend. I know that many players are interested in running a Wolf-pack-themed Commander deck and really can’t believe that the design folks skipped this option. Maybe the howling from the player base will result in a correction to this omission.

While the set only offers four choices, tribal players can rejoice. We have options for Spirits, Clerics (two), the popular Zombies, and a timely release of a B/R Vampire for vamp-lovers. Let’s dive into the options and explore the deck styles and playability of the Innistrad Commanders.

Geist of Saint Traft

Geist of Saint Traft

While we have seen some popular ghost Legends in the past (Ghost Council of Orzhova), this Spirit Cleric should offer a slant to ghost-lovers. This is our first Commander to feature Hexproof (although Thrun originally had Troll Shroud). The ability to target your Commander with handy Swords and key Auras becomes a lot better when your opponent cannot simply kill your Commander off with targeted removal. Aside from making questionable attacks, the Geist of Saint Traft will only make his way back to the graveyard (or command zone) due to some mass removal or board-wiping effect.

The fact that Saint Traft’s ghost is W/U makes him attractive to a number of players. Commander is flush with excellent spells in these colors. Further, you might have noticed that many players flock to Commanders with low converted mana costs. At 3 CMC, you will typically be able to cast your Commander early and often.

Aside from its Hexproof ability and being cost-efficient, players might like the fact that Geist of Saint Traft slings an additional creature onto the battlefield when attacking. Some decks might benefit from the Angel’s introduction to the field, while most will just enjoy the extra damage. Overall, this ability does not directly contribute to the ghost’s Commander-damage total and is not entirely impressive during a multiplayer game.

Players might drop this guy into a W/U deck while searching for a cheaper Commander, or they might fit him into a tribal or themed deck. We might have enough Spirits to begin making a deck around ghosts. Here is a quick list of some of the cards that could fit into such a theme. After looking over the list, it looks more fun than it originally sounded.

Fifty w and/or u Spirits for Ghostly Commander Decks

Spirits can be a pretty solid tribe. You get some cards that folks already like to play in Commander, including the Dragon Spirits, some Spirit Legends, and a host of ghostly creatures that use and abuse the graveyard. I never recommend running over thirty or so creatures in a tribal Commander deck, so deck architects should trim the list down to a manageable count, depending on your other card choices. However, there are some interesting, disruptive, and resilient creatures that fill out the Spirit ranks. This list can also be supplemented by some of the newer creatures that will make an appearance in Innistrad (think Moorland Haunt). Maybe we will develop this theme a bit more in future articles if folks are interested.

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born

Zombies are assuredly a popular tribal theme in Commander. We find our second gold Commander option in Innistrad rising from the graveyard in the colors U/B. These are two of the most powerful options for Commander players. You have access to all sorts of amazing cards, from Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor to counterspells and Time Stretch. I imagine that many players will flock to a U/B Zombie theme with the release of Innistrad’s support enchantments like Back from the Brink, Endless Ranks of the Dead, and Rooftop Storm, plus fantastic spells like Army of the Damned. When you pair these options with awesome Commander staples like Grave Pact and Limited bombs from M12 like Call to the Grave, you end up with a Zombie tribal deck that could almost be Standard Commander!

The Zombie tribal theme is my pick for one of the coolest, most popular decks for our format, and heading the charge is Grimgrin. Sacrificing a Zombie is no problem, given the near endless supply that players can generate. In fact, it can actually be designed as a benefit for decks that are looking to eat some brains. Not only are you going to be able to stack a fat pile of +1/+1 counters on your 5-mana 5/5 Commander, but you are likely going to be chewing down on the ranks of your frustrated opponents.

This Commander option is full of flavor and should be quite powerful. I suggest picking up your foil copies early and often. Consider pairing him with cards that maximize sacrifice effects and graveyard abuse, and slam your opponents with pumped zombies using cards like Door of Destinies and Coat of Arms.

Don’t Miss These Zombie-Themed Treats

Mikaeus, the Lunarch

Mikaeus, the Lunarch

While Mikaeus, the Lunarch is interesting, I am unconvinced that many players will choose this guy as a Commander. He might sneak into a Human or mono-White Cleric tribal deck, but White Weenie rush decks are neither overly popular nor particularly effective in most Commander environments. I love the art on this guy, although I wonder if he is ever going to catch his robe on fire.

The obvious strength to Mikaeus comes from his casting cost. There are not too many Legends that sport x in the casting cost. The first time you cast your Commander might be for 2 or for 12. When you go to recast him, you could pay 2 along with the w, but you get a sort of sliding scale. In fact, this sliding scale gives you quite a bit of diversity later in the game. I believe this is the only Commander that can initially be cast for 10, then cast again for 5, then for a third, frivolous time, for 5!

This flexibility will not be enough to carry the Lunarch as a Commander, but it will assuredly make him a solid choice in X/W decks looking for a little pump. Pair this guy with token armies and Doubling Season for great results.

Olivia Voldaren

Olivia Voldaren

Moving away from mono-White robe-wearing humans, we pick up our fourth Commander option from Innistrad. Olivia Voldaren will give B/R Vampire players an eternal afterlife deck for the soon-to-be-retired Standard Vampires. As the B/R Vampires die off from Standard, they can find a place among the ranks of your O Negative deck. I am impressed at the timing and color combination offered by this card.

Predecessors, like Blood Tyrant, Garza Zol, and Szadek, offered Vampire-lovers solid options. I know quite a few players who jumped on Vish Kal when he debuted this summer, but there is something so very desirable about Olivia. I like the fact that she mechanically operates like a Vampire. She infects other creatures with her 1r ability, and then finishes the act by luring her newly crafted Vampires away from opposing control by glamouring them with her 3bb ability.

She is a modern incarnation of a Vampiresque Memnarch. Rather than turning permanents to metal and stealing them, she vamps them up and lures them over to fight under your control. While she might not appeal to everyone, she is definitely flavorful and should support a solid following among Vampire players.

Olivia rounds out the third gold Commander option from Innistrad and gives us a spin on our color wheel. We have a U/B option, a B/R option, and a W/U option. You can tell that R&D is working harder to support Commander as a format, and the gold Commanders from this expansion represent some fun new options.




Like most players, I am excited about this set and the gems hidden among the ranks of new cards, and I am overall pleased with the new Commanders. However, I would implore the folks in R&D to give us a Legendary Werewolf/Wolf lord! It would be awesome to land a B/G Commander who pumps Werewolves and Wolves, and who might even transform. Maybe in the next set.

Thanks for reading along this week. I hope you guys are enjoying the Commander format, reading some of the great content on this site and others, and crafting new hundred-card decks with your Innistrad cards. Check back next Monday for more action!

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