I finally found the time to sit down and write an article for you guys! I am in college at the moment and between school and other responsibilities finding the time has been damn near impossible. Enough about my extended absence however, Guilds of Ravnica released a couple weeks ago and is ripe with exciting commander options both as the leader and as a lieutenant. Without further ado let’s dive in!
Tajic, Legion’s Edge
As a Commander: I don’t play Boros at all ,but even I was hoping they would receive a commander option that isn’t combat focused but sadly new Tajic doesn’t do it. The most interesting part of this card is the ability to save your creatures from non combat damage. It is true that they can survive damaged base board wipes such as Blasphemous Act and Star of Extinction, which will be relevant occasionally.
Other than that if Tajic is the commander he seems to want to go wide since he comes down and instantly mentor a smaller creature so he seems to want to have an army at his back. Ideally, having first strike allows him to survive combat. However, his latter ability doesn’t save him if there’s a massive behemoth in the way. This is commander, big creatures are everywhere! The point is 3/4ths of this card does not do enough in commander. Mentor only adds one more power to the board which is underwhelming to say the least. The remaining line of text saves his army from damage based board wipes but will not stop a Damnation or Wrath of God from ruining your day. He might be a good general for a casual soldier tribal deck, outside of casual metas he simply does not do enough.
In the 99: I can see this Tajic finding a home in some naya token decks; Either Marath or Gahiji perhaps? I really don’t know this card falls short of what is a playable commander card in my opinion.
Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
As a Commander: This one’s a bit better in my opinion. It doesn’t give these maligned colors a truly viable commander option but better. Aurelia also has mentor however, she can absolutely lead a voltron strategy; simply slap some swords on her then commence with the beatdown. In addition, white is good at tutoring for equipment and enchantments thus, it is not so difficult to find the right sword for the job. Bear in mind, if she is a equipped with a sword that gives either protection from red or white Aurelia can’t target herself with her combat trigger. There is also the possibility of a hatebears strategy, the kind of deck that wants to make sure your opponents cannot play Magic. After the board is locked down the plan is to win with a steady beatdown courtesy of Aurelia and whatever mentored up creatures are available. However, there are many better options than Aurelia for the latter, as far as the former goes she has the same Achilles Heel of other voltron decks. The better voltron commanders either dodge targeted removal like Chromium and Uril or stop edict effects from ending your game like Sigarda.
Aurelia does none of those and any voltron strategy with her at the helm will be easy to disrupt. As far as hatebears goes boros simply does not give the player enough tools in terms of card draw and tutors. The reason why four color stax decks are so powerful is because they can tutor for whatever hate piece that is needed to answer opposing strategies. Boros simply doesn’t have those options. That being said, don’t let me dissuade you if Aurelia gets the brewing itch going then by all means build her.
In the 99: If you want to play Aurelia in the 99 I can think of a couple places for her. She might be a decent Alesha target since she can come out of the grave and mentor another small creature. She might be a halfway decent Kaalia target. Alternatively Samut Voice of Dissent would be happy to have the extra keywords, especially in a build that is keyword focused. Even if a Samut build isn’t keyword focused Aurellia has incidental synergy with the cards that a Samut deck would play.
Before I move on to the remaining legends I want to express my disappointment at the Boros offerings. They are both largely combat focused and one sided. Their mechanic Mentor does not do nearly enough, adding one more power to the board will not make a difference in most commander matches. I understand these are intended for standard and such but they printed Firesong and Sunspeaker recently; a Boros commander that have an interesting effect that is not so single mindedly focused on combat. I feel like this was a missed opportunity for Wizards to take Boros in a new direction. The fact of the matter is that anyone who likes the flavor of Boros is taking a downgrade in deck power because of the color pairings’ lack of card draw ,mana ramp ,and compelling commanders. I was hoping that Wizards would grace commander players with some unique and interesting Boros generals but alas here we are… Ah well, there’s always the next Ravnica set right?
Niv Mizzet, Parun
As a Commander: This Niv Mizzet does not combo as easily with Mind over Matter as the Firemind although he is truly izzet! I’d wager that he leads a spellslinger deck not a storm deck since those decks want to be a bit more fast acting. Also those decks want their commander to enable their strategy rather than being a payoff for the deck working. In addition, his cost is so restrictive the best case scenario is casting him on turn 6 and then attempting to storm off on turn 7. Again, storm wants to be much faster akin to Kess, Jeleva, Yidris, Mizzix, or Jhoira. However, the kind of deck that Niv Mizzet can lead well seems to be an amalgamation of Melek, non storm Mizzix, and his previous iteration the Firemind. In other words he benefits from card draw matters like the Firemind and casting tons of spells like Melek and Mizzix. The burning question is how does he close out a game? There are a few ways I can see Niv sealing the deal. For instance, Psychosis Crawler and the Locus God function perfectly well as game ending payoffs for drawing tons of cards.
Effects such as Sphinx’s Tutelage can serve as a way to end games since Niv Mizzet will draw you to oblivion and back. There is also the typical Isochron Scepter/ Dramatic Reversal combo that could be easily nestled into this spellslinger shell. With Niv Mizzet out the aforementioned combo will net infinite mana and afford us our entire deck enabling a win with Laboratory Maniac. This win condition seems to be the easiest however, it can easily fit into most decks with blue that run mana rocks and thus is not specific to Niv Mizzet. This new iteration of the top dragon of the Izzet is both powerful and versatile and will make a compelling option for those that want to sling a bunch of spells about.
In the 99: I may be exaggerating the impact of his mana cost however, it is quite prohibitive when trying to fit him into other strategies. In short his cost demands that the player builds around it most other commanders simply do not have the room to do so. If he would fit anywhere it would be other spell slinging izzet colored decks. I would not advise using him in a deck with another color present. If you are considering running the Parun of the Izzet league then it behooves you to be completely devoted to the Izzet League!
Emmara Soul of the Accord
As a Commander: New Emmara is a vast improvement over her previous version. This Emmara combines tapping/untapping synergies with a good old fashioned Selesnyan beatdown. She creates a token whenever she becomes tapped thus, the goal of her commander deck would be to tap and untap her as many times as possible. She takes full advantage of cards like Seedborn Muse which can untap her at every untap step, she can also be used crew vehicles which will allow them to swing and Emara will make a token.
Furthermore, Selesnya are some of the best in the business at making token armies so there is a ton of support upon which Emmara can capitalize. The deck could also focus on life gain payoffs since the soldiers Emmara makes have lifelink of which there are plenty in white. For instance having Sylvan Library when our life total is alarmingly high is a good time. Or, as with Niv Mizzet there is enough space to run an amalgamation of all of these strategies and it would function well since all of these plans synergize together. Or you could pick your favorite if you want to be more focused. The bottom line is that Emmara is a strong card that leads a terrifying commander deck with a bit more happening then the average token swarm. She is strong, impactful and versatile what’s not to love?
In the 99: Emmara fits into any number of other Selesnya commanders. Token armies have been one of the main strengths of the GW color pairing ,and Emmara certainly helps with that plan. A few examples of commander of decks that Emara could find a home in are Rhys the Redeemed, Tolsimir Wolfblood, Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, Shalai Voice of Plenty and a fair few more. She might also find a home helping out Marath, Ghave and perhaps some Anafenza builds that wish to go more wide. Overall strong card which does exactly what the color pairing wants, I am sure I will be seeing her plenty in my various playgroups.
As a Commander: I’ll be honest this card is just plain weird. New Trostani comes with a pair of dudes which makes sense. She is also an anthem which is also in line with a Selesnya ideal ,but where did that last line come from? It seems quite out of the blue and I would think Trostani 2.0 would be more true Selesnya. That last line of text is weirdly specific and narrow. She might honestly just lead a typical green white beatdown which doesn’t necessarily have a token focus. It seems like the kind of deck that is not built around the commander’s ability but more built on an established theme. In this case that theme is playing big creatures and punch opponents in the face. Trostani is simply there as another anthem or some extra chump blockers or as a way to defend against mind control effects if those are plentiful in the meta. She is not a build around, having her in the command ensures that the pilot has access to those effects should the need arise.
In the 99: This Trostani is one of those legends that is better in the 99 helping out a different general. She will fit perfectly in any token deck including fellow Selnesnyan Emara as well as any creature based deck needing a way to combat mind control effects. There isn’t much more for me to say solid piece of the 99 not so great to lean on as the leader.
Etrata, The Silencer
As a Commander: Etrata is another strange one! At first glance it seems as though Etrata is not meant for commander play. I will concede that any build with this legend at the helm will be janky and slow but when it wins it will do so with the purest finesse. With the trigger to shuffle her into the deck on the stack we can blink Etrata with effects like ghostly flicker. Etrata is then returned to play not shuffled back ready to swing again and close contracts on your opponent’s key creatures ,and eventually put a knife in their backs so to speak. Essentially Etrata feels like a control deck with a few such tricks. This deck will likely want a healthy amount of interaction to deny opponents meaningful progress long enough to end them in one shot. Another possible direction for those that wish to not be as ruthless is to copy Etrata herself with effects such as, Blade of Selves, Mirror Gallery ,and Helm of the Host.
It is doable however for my money the stronger more viable option is the former. The latter seems clunky and slow and is likely to fall behind even in the most casual environments. Overall Etrata feels like a deck that has a cool unique build that requires just a bit of subtle maneuvers to make work. I ask you what’s more Dimir than subtle maneuvers?
In the 99: I tried to find a place for her but her abilities are so weird they feel as though they require their own build. I could very well be wrong and have missed a spot for here but her text does make it unlikely she will play well with others. Let me know if I missed a good home for her in the comments!
Izoni, Thousand Eyed
As a Commander: Perhaps I am too used to Meren levels of power when I saw Izoni I was a tad disappointed. The factor that caused my chagrin is that she is most powerful as a well timed payoff, and getting the timing right will be quite finicky. I am probably harder on Izoni that I should be I was really excited for my favorite color pairing to have new commander options and while Izoni does care about creatures in the yard and does sacrifice creatures the process is quite slow, and mana intensive. My personal expectations aside, one of the first points in her favor is that Izoni’s first trigger enables her second ability by giving you fodder to sacrifice. In addition, in metas where graveyard hate is less prevalent having creatures in the graveyard to feed Izoni’s trigger might not all that difficult. Furthermore, there are a plethora of tools made for dumping creatures into the graveyard. One key factor that anyone thinking of building Izoni needs to be aware of: if you wish to run a bunch of dredge and self mill to fuel your commander you should have a hefty amount of creatures so that when you want mill willy-nilly you are less likely to dump a card that you cannot easily get back. I would go so far as to say you want upwards of 34 creatures to get the most use out of Izoni’s first ability. Another point in Izoni’s favor is that she affords the builder the ability to swarm with tokens for the win as an additional path to victory. In addition to the self mill and reanimation you can also run a package of team buffs and token payoffs like Parallel lives and Doubling Season.
As seen with previous commanders she gives the player agency to choose which aspect to focused the deck around. Izoni does have interesting text and has a few possible directions. The 6 mana price tag plus the cost of the ability was a turnoff for myself however, I could easily see a fun sacrifice themed deck coupled with a toke beatdown being pretty powerful. In addition she is a decent option for those that want to make a Golgari sacrifice themed deck but don’t want the hate that Meren inspires. As mention previously, do not let my negativity dissuade you. Izoni largely fell victim to my lofty expectations which were in hindsight a tad unreasonable. With that said her art is cool she is definitely flavorful for her guild and seems like an enjoyable time to both build and pilot. Go nuts fellow Golgari mages!
Lazav the Multifarious
As a Commander: Fellow agents of House Dimir your guildmaster as arrived. Of all the Guilds of Ravnica legends this is the one that has me itching to brew! The deck I envision for Lazav is a graveyard based toolbox deck that wants to put a bunch of awesome creatures in the graveyard for Lazav to copy. We enable this plan by running plenty of self mill and other ways of fill our yard. We can dump Invisible Stalker into the grave to protect Lazav from removal, Arcanis to draw cards, and turn him into any god to save him from destruction based board wipes. There are also some awesome lines with Thassa, God of the Sea.
Think about it, we can turn Lazav into Thassa activate her ability to make him unblockable then turn him into something huge like Leveler and we are beating someone in the face for 10 commander damage. If our graveyard comes under fire we’re blue so we can run a healthy suit of counterspells including the likes of Stifle to stop those pesky Bojuka Bogs. Once we have sufficiently weathered all of the removal and sweepers that our opponents have, we turn Lazav into Vector Asp giving itself infect then we turn him into something massive give him evasion and go for the kill. New Lazav reminds me of Marsil, in that he benefits from having tons of options both in hand and in the graveyard. The trick will be putting the resources in the right spot. We do not want Leveler in our hand we need that baddie in the yard therefore, we include a few discard outlets and looters to ensure that we do not get caught with these uncastable cards in our hand. In the same vein Buried Alive, Entomb ,and Corpse Connoisseur are some of the best cards in a Lazav since they can move resources to the exact right place.
This deck can also win directly from a Buried alive with the good old fashion Necrotic Ooze/Triskellion/Phyrexian Devourer combo. Which is an easy win from a resolved Buried Alive. The amount of possible lines in this deck is staggering and it will not play the same way twice. I am absolutely building this commander deck and I cannot wait to see how it plays. As I am typing this I just finished up a guilds draft after which I was able to trade for Lazav among other cards I was after, there will be a deck tech in the coming months!
Make good reads and smart plays y’all, and thanks for reading!
The images were obtained from https://scryfall.com