Since there were two sets that dropped right on top of each other, I decided to mash the reviews together. You get more picks and you get fewer set reviews in the future which leaves you more articles built around the new commanders from the twosets that dropped on top of each other. Sound good? I'm pretending everyone said yes because I can't hear you, this is an article and I wrote it days ago.
A brief refresher for my longtime fans (you're the best) and an explanation for my new fans (soon you'll be the best, too) - I'm not going to waste anyone's time talking about cards that are good in general. You'll figure out whether you want to jam Mangara, the Diplomat in a deck soon enough. I write about 75% Commander so I'm going to review cards I think are either good in my existing 75% decks, or which enable you to build that way. Some of the Legendary creatures could have a 75% deck built around them, or go in the 99 of one, and I'll be sure to mention which when I talk about them.
Liliana, Waker of the Dead
One thing I like to do in Black-based 75% decks is steal dead creatures. If an opponent used a removal spell on a creature and you steal that creature, you created a lot of value for yourself in one move because you're up a creature, one opponent is down a creature and another is down a removal spell, making the world safer for your creature. Reanimation is a good way to play 1 or 2 mana for a 12 mana creature, it's a good way to gain control of an opponent's creature and it's a good way to get more mileage out of your own creatures. Where I think Liliana herself shines is a deck like Tinybones or my Gettin' Nathy deck or some other deck with payoffs when opponents discard. Waste Not and her are quite a pair, but you may just want to keep their hand completely empty and drain life from them. Either way, after your opponents pitch their most expensive creatures because they can't afford them early, you'll have a lot of targets for that sweet emblem. The new Jace seems fun to activate X times a turn cycle but Lili is going to get you a lot of advantage and if you do climb to that emblem, you're going to grind a ton more advantage.
I like a good Rouges build as much as most people and an unblockable Rogue that draws lots of cards is fine by me. Anyone casting their commander from the command zone draws you a card, so right off the bat you should be getting 3 or 4 cards out of this 2-drop if everyone plays their commander once while he lives. Your creatures and spells are usually pretty cheap (and the prowl cost is usually cheaper) so you can keep extra mana up to draw even more. I like Rogues decks because spells like Memory Plunder and Knowledge Exploitation are very 75% and you dictate the tempo of the game by being very aggressive very early. Removal and countermagic make sure you stay ahead once you get there and almost all of your creatures are hard to block or unblockable. Once you start slapping equipment like Quietus Spike on a Rogue that can't be blocked, it no longer hits like a 2/2 and they'll regret not taking you more seriously. This card deserves a look in more than just Rogues decks, though - it's a spirit but lots of blue decks could use a 2/2 unblockable that punishes people for playing their commander a lot.
I really like the idea of putting Grafted Exoskeleton on this card, but that's sort of janky and 75% decks aren't necessarily janky. I think this is worth mentioning because a new thing I discovered about a way to build 75% involves making opponents attack by goading and taunting them. When I first read the name, I assumed this would be that but this is actually another Stuffy Doll, which I love. Pair this with Blasphemous Act and Stuffy Doll and watch the table sweat. Goading is twice as nice with another Stuffy Doll out to make you a frightening target. I'll be honest, I literally just wanted to mention that I'm getting into goading as a 75% build more and more and this doesn't even do that but it's too late, I got you to read about it. Plus, I like this card, I'm willing to bend my own rules.
To that end, forcing opponents to attack is useful in all colors, not just Jund. This may make you a juicier target, but if you have other ways to prevent that like Propaganda or Crawlspace, you can get people fighting amongst themselves. Do they cooperate and kill each other's Pirates to make each other's lives easier, or do they resent the other player's attack and refuse to play nice? Who cares? Let the table deal with it. If players who weren't planning to attack have to attack players they weren't planning to attack with creatures they weren't planning to attack with, you're thwarting a lot of plans, and that's how a 75% deck can hang with better decks.
This bears discussion in a way that I think something flashier like Fiery Emancipation does not in that it rewards you for playing during other players' turns. Kalamax is a recent card that encourages you to do that and I like the idea of Kalamax being my new Riku deck. Double Vision isn't as good as Thousand-Year Storm at first blush but I think I'd rather compare this to Sunbird's Invocation. I have a tendency to play pet cards, add way more enchantments than most people and go heavy on lands, so Instants and Sorceries get cut a lot. I'm working on curbing those impulses, but if I don't, doubling the fewer Instants and Sorceries I do run could be the answer. This doesn't have an activation cost like Riku does and I think that's pretty swell, and you can trigger it on your own turn which you can't do with a Sorcery in a Kalamax deck, making it perfect for Time Warp effects. If you can't make yourself cut cute cards and Enchantments like me, maybe add one more Enchantment.
I don't have a ton to say about Delusions of Aristocatocracy (I'm going to work on that nickname because that does not sound good to me) other than that it's really funny to donate it and the deck I brewed last week may be the most 75% deck of all time and it runs this noise. This doesn't quite say "You win the game" but it makes someone lose and you do that enough times and you win, and that's mostly 75%.
Gadrak. the Crown-Scourge
I immediately thought of Prossh when I saw this card at first but upon re-reading, you can't sac tokens to make treasure with Gadrak. You can sac opponents' non-token creatures, however, and if you're running a lot of Threaten effects, you can sac their creatures for mana before you give them back then get even more mana. Killing their creatures also works, but it's less fun. Pair this with Hellkite Tyrant to win the game quickly and pair it with Captivating Crew to keep your side stocked with unwilling recruits that can attack then walk the plank and be reincarnated as booty. That's a pirate's life for me! This is going in Korvold, at minimum.
Emiel the Blessed
The creature you blink need not be a Unicorn, and I wonder if this card would be more hyped if people realized that right away. I think this is an absurd build-around and while I don't really have an existing deck to throw this in, you're going to do a ton of work with this. The ability can be made cheaper with cards like Heartstone and Training Grounds (if you're using this in the 99 of a Bant deck like Roon) and since the creature comes back immediately, you could SPAM it as many times as you could afford to use it. Cards like Wall of Roots and Devoted Druid can be activated more and be reset and there are plenty of good ETB effects in Selesnya colors. I'm excited to brew a deck around this card.
Tinybones, Trinket Thief
Tinybones is my favorite Jumpstart commander. I want him in his own deck and also in the 99 of the Nath deck I talked about putting Liliana into. Waste Not will do a ton of work in this deck. A 75% way to focus on Tinybones is using cards like Painful Quandary and Ankh of Mishra to really squeeze opponents so they take a ton of damage from trying to play a normal game and end up in Tinybones' six-mana shotgun blast range. Alternatively, use Sorin Markov to just make their life total 10 and watch them struggle to keep their hand full.
Inniaz, the Gale Force
This may be the most 75% commander of all time. The ability to give and receive both lets you swipe good cards and give away bad cards, all while playing delightful flying creatures. I had a ton of fun brewing with this card last week and I'm building the deck to play on webcam as soon as it comes in, which should be very chaotic as people have to proxy the cards they get from other players. No, I don't know how I got this way but thanks for asking.
I'm pretty sure running this without ever wanting to activate the last ability still warrants a slot in some decks. Protecting your spells from countermagic is an important way to ensure your victory and it goes overlooked at times. An early tenet of the 75% Philosophy calls for doing what you can to protect your strategy, and while I had cards like Hindering Light in mind, this definitely qualifies. This is a better version of most existing cards like it because it protects Green noncreature spells, and a lot of those, like a large Genesis Wave, beg to be countered.
Both of these sets are not only giving us a ton of new and exciting cards, there are some pretty absurd reprints. This is the most excited I've been about a core set in a long time and Jumpstart, while not designed for me per se, is so value-dense that it's worth busting for singles as well as to play with, which will help make a lot of these commander staples more affordable. Wizards has been getting creative at contriving ways to reprint cards that won't ruin Standard or Pioneer or Modern and I'm thrilled that I know the next 3 decks I'm going to brew. Join me when I do so, won't you? Until next time!