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Partnering with Rule Zero


Commander Legends is now out and with it comes tons of amazing new cards, many of which contain some incredible characters and callbacks. I know I certainly wasn't expecting Jared in all of his 90's glory, personally! The best part was actually the return of the original partner mechanic - and this time it was clearly worked on enough that the cards aren't broken but are more interesting than anything else. This has given us some fan favorite pairings like Alena and Halana, Malcolm and Breeches, and my personal favorite of Rebbec and Glacian, of The Thran fame.

There was, however, one legend that got some people talking about how partner could be implemented in ways beyond the mechanic itself - thanks in no small part to Commander's Rule Zero. This card is, of course, Hans Eriksson.

Hans Eriksson

If you're unsure of exactly why, let's back it up to the card that Hans originally came from: the Lhurgoyf.


In this Ice Age classic, there is the ever classic flavor text of, "Ach! Hans, run! It's the Lhurgoyf!" This quote is attributed to Saffi Eriksdotter as her last words as they're attacked by the dreaded creature.

Saffi Eriksdotter

As it happens, due to the madness of Time Spiral, we got an actual Saffi Eriksdotter card. As the card came out in 2006 - a whole decade before Commander 2016 where partner would debut - it makes perfect sense that she couldn't have partner. However, many players determined that you couldn't just have Hans without Saffi (and, let's be real, a Lhurgoyf somewhere in the deck). But without partner on either, how would we make this work?

Turns out, the solution is pretty easy! Rule zero of Commander takes care of it quite well. This "rule zero" refers to the social contract players enter into when playing a game of Commander. Usually, things like the actual rules and banlist are, well, more guidelines than anything. Players can house ban cards however they want to make their play experience more enjoyable. This rule also enables players to use silver-bordered cards - something not traditionally allowed.

It has also allowed several cards that might otherwise not be technically allowed as commanders to lead your 99. Here's a few popular choices for this sort of thing:

Genju of the Realm
Richard Garfield, Ph.D.

Elbrus, the Binding Blade

So, with this idea in mind, numerous people took to Twitter and quickly announced that they would absolutely have to play Hans and Saffi together as though they had partner, courtesy of rule zero. This got me wondering: with this discussion fresh and partner becoming a more acceptable mechanic, what other combos would be a suitable choice? Let's run down a few choice pairings!

Kamahl, Pit Fighter and Chainer, Dementia Master

Kamahl, Pit Fighter
Chainer, Dementia Master

Let's get this one right out of the way. Last week I talked about the journey of Kamahl and his sister Jeska through the Odyssey and Onslaught blocks. In it, I mentioned the friendship of Kamahl and Chainer. The pair fought together within the Cabal pits and became great friends. Eventually, their friendship went south when Chainer tried to heal Kamahl with the Mirari, as it went against Kamahl's barbarian culture of allowing wounds to heal naturally. The two would eventually square off with the Mirari turning Chainer into a mutated mess of horrors, leading Kamahl to take his former friend's life - and the Mirari itself.

Still, the two were great friends for some time within the story, and they seem like a great place to kick things off since it works well with last week's topic. It's unfortunate that only the Red Kamahl works here for flavor reasons - since he became a Green druid after Chainer's death - because his card here isn't that great. Both versions of Chainer work nicely, however. You can either use Chainer, Dementia Master's ability to bring back the creatures Kamahl picked off, or else run his younger version of Chainer, Nightmare Adept for a more hastily aggressive strategy instead.

Also, Wizards, if you're reading this, please give us a new Red Kamahl the next time he comes back. For flavor.

Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer and Bosh, Iron Golem

Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer
Bosh, Iron Golem

Much like my love for Kamahl and the characters of Otaria, I also fell in love with many of the characters on the world of Mirrodin. I read each of the books about Glissa and her travels for revenge against the creators of the levelers that slaughtered her family, and it crushed me to see her compleated in Mirrodin Besieged. Of all her allies - and there were several on her journey - none was more notable than Slobad. An outcast among Mirrodin's goblins, he joined Glissa after she returned in the arms of the levelers to a cave where he was hiding.

Soon after, the two discovered the golem Bosh in the Mephidross and journeyed as a trio to the core of Mirrodin to uncover the diabolical plot by Memnarch. His goal: to take the latent planeswalker spark from Glissa so that he could travel the multiverse and follow his creator - Karn. This ended up backfiring when Memnarch succeeded in activating his machine to steal said spark and transferred the spark to Slobad instead. Slobad gave up his newfound spark to revive those killed by Memnarch - including Glissa herself.

While Glissa and Slobad make the most sense as a pair from a story perspective, Slobad and Bosh are likely to make for more enjoyable gameplay together. Utilizing some artifact sacrifice shenanigans, you can turn the deck into a sort of artifact aristocrats list. Make sure you bring plenty of mana rocks, though, because Bosh is quite expensive on his own.

Belbe, Corrupted Observer and Ertai, Wizard Adept

Belbe, Corrupted Observer
Ertai, Wizard Adept

During the Rath storyline that took place from Tempest to Exodus, Ertai was tasked with opening the portal that would allow the Weatherlight crew's escape from the plane once their mission was completed. As fate would have it, Ertai would be left stranded on Rath during the escape. When Volrath left Rath to follow the Weatherlight crew for some revenge of his own, it was determined that Ertai, Greven il-Vec, and the new vampire form of Crovax would compete for the title of Rath's new evincar. To observe the choosing of this new evincar, Phyrexia sent Belbe - the corrupted and repurposed form of the Skyshroud elf lord Eladamri's daughter Avila.

Over time, Belbe gained more self-awareness of herself and grew more and more fond of Ertai - going to far as to form a relationship with him. Eventually, Crovax took the evincar set by force and Eladamri killed Belbe with the very poison used to kill her as Avila. This - along with his abandonment - embittered Ertai and he submitted to Crovax, becoming a Phyrexianized monstrosity in the process. However, I think it's best to combine the original Ertai with the new card of Belbe, bringing them together as they were represented in the story of Nemesis and allowing for possibly interesting control brews in the process.

Also, while not a true partnership in the sense of what we're going for here, bringing together Ertai, the Corrupted with either Squee card could be hilariously flavorful. Squee was, after all, granted immortality simply so Crovax and Ertai could kill him over and over again - and he works together with Ertai's ability quite well.

Michiko Konda and Toshiro Umezawa

Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker
Toshiro Umezawa

Michiko was one of the chief protagonists of the Kamigawa block story. Her birth allowed her father, Konda, to steal That Which Was Taken - the child of the supreme kami O-Kagachi, thus beginning the great Kami War. With the aid of her friend, she escaped the castle of Eiganjo where she was raised and set out on a journey across Kamigawa. In Jukai, she met the ronin samurai Toshiro Umezawa - or Toshi for short.

The two of them would eventually reclaim That Which Was Taken and release the spirit - Kyodai - from within. This spirit appeared as a spiritual doppelganger of Michiko and eventually merged with her - becoming Kamigawa's new guardian as the Sisters of Flesh and Spirit. Together, they defeated both Konda and O-Kagachi, bringing peace to the plane. While they took to their new roles as guardians, Toshiro was blinded and taken to Dominaria by the Myojin of Night's Reach. There he would establish the Clan Umezawa, of whom the legendary Tetsuo Umezawa would eventually defeat Nicol Bolas.

As is, it's only fitting to bring the pair of Michiko and Toshi together. Their abilities even complement each other quite well - provided you can fill your graveyard up with some sweet instants. And of course, you'll want to bring That Which Was Taken along for the ride as well in the deck's 98 for maximum flavor.

Gisela, the Broken Blade and Bruna, the Fading Light

Gisela, the Broken Blade
Bruna, the Fading Light

When Gisela and Bruna first appeared in Avacyn Restored alongside Sigarda, the Magic community lauded the trio of Avacyn's angels. Much to our horror, however, the story of Shadows Over Innistrad would show Gisela and Bruna fall with Avacyn's madness, leaving only Sigarda to help humanity.

Following the death of Avacyn, Nahiri successfully summoned Emrakul to Innistrad. In their madness, they then succumbed to the eldrazi titan's will, merging into the horrifying being known as Brisela. She battled with Sigarda and Thalia - who had been infused with the Geist of Saint Traft's being to aid her. In the end, Brisela died when Sigarda was freed from the horror's being - having been nearly assimilated into the writhing mass herself.

This iconic pair, however, remains an excellent way to utilize this rule-bending partner setup. Just don't be surprised if you lose a few friends in the process, even if it's worth it to meld the two angels as one. We are'mrakul!

Jhoira of the Ghitu and Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir

Jhoira of the Ghitu
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir

Teferi and Jhoira have had many partners in their numerous adventures, however the two of them had their humble beginnings together in the Tolarian Academy. The classmates did their own thing at the school, with Jhoira unknowingly aiding the Phyrexian sleeper agent K'rrick in his plans to attack the Academy. This led to all kinds of time madness, with Jhoira and Teferi both dying and Karn going back in time to prevent their deaths. Teferi was locked in a time bubble but eventually freed by Jhoira.

Later, the two would fight together in the great war against Phyrexia. They would eventually help during the Time Spiral block to seal the time rifts of Dominaria that they had a hand in bringing forth. In doing so, Teferi lost his spark, not knowing that Jhoira's amulet contained a powerstone which held his spark within. During the events of Dominaria, Jhoira would once more meet with her old companion and give him back his spark - allowing him to walk the planes once again.

While I think either Jhoira or Teferi work for this pairing, I chose the versions from Time Spiral block to represent both excellent characters. They even work well together as your opponents will be unable to respond to Jhoira's suspend triggers with Teferi on the board, thereby ensuring your victory.

Venser, Shaper Savant and Karn, Silver Golem

Venser, Shaper Savant
Karn, Silver Golem

Speaking of Time Spiral block, we were here introduced to the character of Venser, who had been studying the time rift at Urborg. He met eventually Karn, who soon became his mentor. Unfortunately, when Karn gave up his spark to seal one of the time rifts, the Phyrexian oil inside him from Xantcha's hearthstone drove him to madness. With the last of his planeswalker abilities, he flung himself to the plane of Mirrodin, which he himself created.

This set off a chain of events where Venser sought Karn out on Mirrodin - eventually finding him in its core alongside Elspeth, Koth, and Melira. Melira, who was unaffected by the Phyrexian oil, attempted to heal Karn, but to no avail. He was too far gone. And so, having long been battling an affliction of phthisis, he gave his life to save Karn, and in doing so imbuing his former mentor with a new spark.

Their time together may have been brief, but Karn and Venser have always stood out strongly in my mind as a great pair. It's not hard to see how this can work well as a Mono-Blue Artifact Control kind of deck, and of course include some of Karn's planeswalker iterations in the 98 as well to help round things out.

Ixidor, Reality Sculptor and Akroma, Angel of Fury

Ixidor, Reality Sculptor
Akroma, Angel of Fury

I'd like to end things with one more pair from the continent of Otaria. Ixidor was an illusion mage who fought in the pits alongside his wife Nivea. One day, the two of them were paired up against Phage - the putrid reanimated form of Jeska. Nivea was killed during the battle and afterwards, Ixidor was banished to the desert. Here, he found he could craft more than mere illusions and created a paradise all his own.

In this paradise, he gave birth to the angel Akroma, made in the image of his lost love. Her purpose? To take revenge on the Cabal and Phage. The Cabal survives their attack and mounts a counterassault on Ixidor's fortress. Here, he is devoured by a deathwurm unleashed from within Phage, and worships the form of Nivea within until he is rescued by Kamahl to take down Karona - of whom Akroma is a part of. He dies in the ensuing battle, which also leads to Akroma dying in the end as well.

For this pairing, I chose something a little different. While the Akroma in this story was the White one we've come to know from Legions and Commander Legends, Ixidor works best with morph creatures. Of the three Akroma creatures, only the alternate reality Red version has morph, so I figure it's probably a better option. Still, there is no real wrong choice, as every Akroma is great and can be built uniquely alongside the crafty illusion mage.

That's all I have time for today, however there are still many more other great possible combinations that can be made. Maralen and the Vendilion Clique, Urza and Mishra, numerous members of the Weatherlight Crew, Linden and Kenrith, or even the five Magic Origins walkers and their color's respective legendary creature from the set. The sky is the limit if you decide to rule zero together some partners, after all. Which ones would you want to build the most?

Kendra Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: Kendra Smith

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