I feel like last time I talked about this set, I gave the Planeswalkers the “yadda yadda yadda” treatment. I didn’t want to talk too much about them specifically because I felt like ‘walkers are the toughest cards to evaluate in a given set and I wanted to let everyone take them for a test drive before I pronounced judgment. Instead of talking about which are “good” and which are “bad” I instead want to talk about the kind of 75% decks I think they would do well in, cards I’d pair them with in a 75% deck and the ones that got me thinking about deck ideas. Some of the uncommon planeswalkers are sort of juiced because their inability to add counters makes you play a bit more carefully. Even in Limited, though, there were ways to add more counters and all of a sudden the uncommon planeswalkers were a force to be reckoned with. I think almost all of the ‘walkers in the set will impact Commander, even the ones that clearly were not designed with Commander in mind. Let’s look at the Planeswalkers in War of the Spark and talk about what we’re going to do with them.
Gideon is a very aggressive planeswalker/creature hybrid that isn’t really optimized for Commander in his primary role as “sometimes a creature,” but that’s perhaps not enough to keep him from seeing play. He shrugs off boardwipes and attacks in the aftermath which means you could do the wiping and have a creature ready to go. I think his main appeal is that he grants one other creature some very good abilities and if he gets ticked up, he removes a troublesome permanent.
The decks: I like him in a Narset, Enlightened Master, Daxos of Meletis or Uril the Miststalker/Bruna the Light Alabaster type build first and foremost. Having a commander that needs to attack to do anything is a real liability sometimes, but making that creature indestructible when it needs to swing but not connect, giving it lifelink when you’re about to die and it’s OK if they chump, or giving it vigilance when you need to protect yourself can win games. In Voltron decks where only one creature attacks anyway, you can buff that creature and have built-in removal. Gideon having multiple useful modes means he’s two or three cards in one deck slot and that’s very useful.
Jace is a bit boring. Decks that already had a Laboratory Maniac now have two Laboratory Maniacs, and Jace is even a little less tricky to get to win with since if you use one of his modes you can even still win the game if they remove Jace in response. This is a very good card but I don’t like Laboratory Maniac decks much because for them to work the entire deck needs to be dedicated to running out of cards which means you can’t really switch gears into something else - you’re a Lab Maniac deck and that’s what you are. I have one Lab Maniac deck and I don’t play it much.
The decks: Here’s the EDHREC page for top commander for Lab Maniac.If you are interested in my Lab Maniac deck, I have taken a lot of steps to make it not a 75% deck at all and it’s sort of boring but it’s also pretty potent. Here is the starting point and I have since added a lot of efficient artifact mana cards, a Dramatic Reversal/Isochron Scepter package (Brainstorm on a Scepter, it turns out, is very good in a deck with Kydele and Reversal is cheating). It’s not 75% and I always win the same way, but if you want a deck where it feels like you can’t lose, this is probably my best deck. Hit me up on Twitter if you want the new list.
Brutal in Limited, Six Lili, as she likes to be called, is a bit of a beating. With four modes, a reward for saccing creatures, a way to clear the board, enough starting loyalty to laugh at whichever plucky attacker makes it through her wave of the undead, and some killer art, this is already making a splash in Commander.
The decks: My Tesysa Karlov deck added a proxy of this the second the card was spoiled to test it and I quite like it. The mana curve in that deck didn’t need to go up - I recently gave it a massive overhaul, removing cards like Butcher of Malakir (SACRILEGE!) and adding cards like Cruel Celebrant to make the mana curve less insane. Why add a 6-drop? Well, she’s that good.
Atraxa, Praetors' Voice decks, Massacre Girl decks, Varina, Lich Queen decks (hey, zombies), Muldrotha, the Gravetide, The Scarab God - there are a ton of decks that can use a card that’s just sort of generally very powerful. Outside of Varina, Liliana, Dreadhorde General doesn’t per se synergize with a ton of the decks that use her, but with four good abilities, she will break parity wherever she goes.
This card isn’t seeing all that much play, probably because you need a strong proliferate theme to keep her stocked with counters and Red is the literal 5th best color at getting that going. Her ultimate isn’t that worth it, really but her middle ability has some potential. Personally, I don’t need her in any of my 100 card decks, but they can’t all be winners.
The decks: Jodah, Archmage Eternal seems like a good fit. Drawing an extra card every turn that you may or may not be able to play is useful but if it’s a big, expensive spell and you can play it by tapping five mana, you can end up doing Blue ‘walker stuff with a Red one.
Wow, what a Commander-optimized card. I’m giddy reading this card. A personal Mana Flare that can make your Armageddons end the game (you better end the game, though) and can get your whole deck’s worth of Forests into play is savage. There are plenty of decks that would make great use of the extra mana, and the land shenanigans can really help out in decks that have the infrastructure for it. I think this is a solid card and there are some decks that can’t afford not to play this, though they’re not exactly new decks.
The decks: Omnath, Locus of Mana comes to my mind first, but Lord Windgrace is not far behind. Kruphix, God of Horizons likes that static ability, Tatyova wins the game off of that ultimate - basically any Simic deck can benefit from more mana, more creatures with +1/+1 counters on them and more lands out of the deck. Any Green, big mana deck is champing at the bit for this card, and it’s easy to see why. I like the idea of having Evolution Sage out when you Ultimate Nissa, and Sage helps you build to that Ultimate WAY faster - potentially the turn you play Nissa. Doubling Season anyone? This is a ‘walker I haven’t ranted about much before now but I’m really stoked.
This card isn’t super duper strong but it’s super duper annoying in Limited. Making walls is a good trick and it’s even better if you can make them attack, draw some cards and make them virtually 3/3. Did I mention you get Hexproof, too? All for the low low price of 3 mana? This doesn’t have wide appeal but it has one deck VERY excited.
The decks: Or deck, rather, is Arcades! You can use all of the parts of this card to great effect in that deck, and it’s not too shabby in Doran, the Siege Tower decks, either. Being untargetable isn’t something we inherently think of as that strong but if you made a tally mark every time you were targeted with something that hexproof could have prevented, you may be surprised. It’s not enough of an impetus to play the card, though, and if you’re not proliferating enough to make a wall every turn or drawing a card when you do you won’t want this. Still, Arcades, the Strategist players are stoked.
Wow, this card is pretty nutty. The relevant part of Leovold, Emissary of Trest draw smoothing, five starting loyalty for three mana? Conley Woods is already rocking his stream with a deck where you use Narset and Notion Thief to Day's Undoing people out of the game. Lots of decks rely on drawing a lot of extra cards and while this doesn’t quite shut off the really annoying cards like Rhystic Studies, it DOES hamper a lot of strategies and it’s going to be pretty annoying. People aren’t sure what to do with this card, yet, but it’s too good not to test.
The decks: This part is tricky. This ability is good enough to build around but if it’s not your commander, how do you reliably get her out? One copy in 99 cards doesn’t come up often so filling the deck with cards like Vision Skeins and Arcane Denial isn’t necessarily worth it. This is much better in Modern, I think, but I think Aminatou, the Fateshifter decks could make use of this. I also think decks like The Locust God could really hose people with cards like Teferi's Puzzle Box. That’s brutal but potent.
This card is just sort of generally good. Pinging people for drawing cards gets there and decks that do this already see play. I think we can look a little wider than just those obvious ones and look at Ob like an Ashes to Ashes that lets them draw rather than dealing you damage. However, this mostly goes obvious places.
The decks: Nekusar decks windmill slam this and I’m not sure what else. Do you have a Seizan, Perverter of Truth deck? For the most part this is just another Megrim that triggers at the beginning of when you wheel them instead that can kill two dudes later. Not bad at all.
The decks: Every dragon tribal deck wants this and I’m not sure what else. I guess Superfriends builds could run this and then you’re looking at The Ur-Dragon or Jodah, Archmage Eternal or some other Five-color Superfriends list. Will Kenrith and Rowan Kenrith, maybe? I’m not terribly excited but if I were a dragon player, I would be. Narrow but strong. Good.
I wish I had thought to put this in the Tolsimir deck I made last week. Being able to play a fightwolf as an instant is pretty boss. I don’t like this card much but if you have Yeva, Nature’s Herald in a deck, this is a real upgrade. She’s 3 mana which makes her better in faster formats, imo.
The decks: My Tolsimir deck from last week could use her and maybe some decks like Ulrich of the Krallenhorde. I am not sure any of my decks could use her but any deck with Yeva, Nature's Herald (and Yeva decks, of which there are a non-zero number on EHDREC) will want an extra copy of that effect.
This is just not that great, and that’s OK. The frost shield effect is annoying in Limited but in a big mana format like Commander, the tax is easier to pay. Making a Vodalian Merchant is also much better in Limited.
The decks: I am not sure anything really needs her, but that’s OK with me. I have seen Kasmina in Superfriends lists but that’s about it.
This is a pretty dirty card in perhaps an Eight-Rack list since it can make them discard over multiple turns, but I’m not sure Commander cares. It’s so hard to keep their hands empty. Maybe hit them with a Nicol Bolas or something (the one named Nicol Bolas).
The decks: Nicol Bolas, basically. I think this is just a little weak for Commander, which is fine. This is nasty in Limited in the right deck. Also, they don’t all have to be good.
Now THIS I like. I already talked about how The Wanderer was quite good in Tolsimir decks because it made fights unfair and people have talked about how using The Wanderer to take 0 damage from Command the Dreadhorde was the dream. Blanking burn, not getting dinged by pain permanents and, what the hell, a couple of castings of Reprisal to boot? Sign me up.
The decks: My Tolsimir deck, for one. I also like the idea of using her to blank wipes like Blasphemous Act and I brewed a Tajic deck with Mark of Asylum that The Wanderer would be perfect for. Firesong and Sunspeaker could benefit from making Blasphemous Act one-sided, maybe. Feather decks likely want this protection so they can play cards like Spawning Breath on their own creatures and lots of other decks that I can’t even think of. If you want ideas, check out the page for Mark of Asylum on EHDREC.
Burn, baby! Burn! Burn is… sort of weak in Commander. Certainly cards like Furnace of Rath and Dictate of the Twin Gods are popular but I don’t know if dealing an extra damage warrants inclusion alongside so many doublers. This says “source” so it’s not just burn spells, so get creative.
This is both strong and HEAVILY tribal. I wouldn’t play this in a non-Wolf deck, which is too bad since there aren’t many.
The decks: There are two different Legendary creatures named Tolsimir so both of them work, as does Ulrich. Other creatures make tokens more easily and you’re benefiting so much from making your Wolves beefier that you won’t pay 6 mana for this in a deck like Rhys, the Redeemed or Trostani, Voice of Selesnya. This is a Wolf card.
I did a LOT of work with Tibalt in Limited. That said, I don’t know which decks want this.
The decks: Checking out the EDHREC page for Sulfuric Vortex yielded a few deck ideas like Mogis, God of Slaughter and Zo-Zu the Punisher, so I think if you have a Vortex, consider Tibalt as another copy. Keeping them off of lifegain is actually pretty non-trivial and Oloro, Ageless Ascetic decks annoying everyone could really suffer. I don’t know if that makes Tibalt a sideboard card that you have to maindeck or not, though. This is cheaper than Witch Hunt, makes some dorks that are dangerous to swing into and it’s a meme card. That’s not nothin’.
I am hyped about this card and I’m not sure why. I think it’s the perfect marriage of two cards I want in a lot of my Simic decks - something to make my utility dorks into mana dorks like Cryptolith Rite and something to put counters on my creatures. This is basically two cards in one. Every one of my Simic decks except Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix and Thrasios, Triton Hero want this. Pair this with Simic’s ability to proliferate and you’re keeping this around and you’re giving out counters every turn. I love this card and I won’t hear people call it a bad Earthcraft.
The decks: Every Simic deck that deals with +1/+1 counters, which is nearly all of them. Pir, Imaginative Rascal and Toothy, Imaginary Friend, Roalesk, Apex Hybrid, Experiment Kraj, Vorel of the Hull Clade, Ezuri, Claw of Progress, Kumena, Atraxa.. MOWU wants this. I love this card and people are telling me I’m wrong all day on Twitter and I don’t even care. I’m putting an alt-art Japanese copy in like 6 of my decks. It’s 75% of the way to a Cryptolith Rite and 75% of the way to a Titania's Boon and that’s where I like my cards.
Next week we’ll do the multicolored walkers but I have to wrap it up because I way exceeded my word count for the week and I don’t want to get in more trouble OK thanks for reading byyyyeeee.