War of the Spark has been out for a while and while this is a planeswalker-focused set there are a ton of commander worthy legendary creatures for players to work with! This the second part of my legend review, I will be focusing on the Black, Red and Green cards. I will give my take on what kind of deck they will lead and where they could fit in the 99 of other decks. Without further ado, let’s get to it
As a commander: Bontu is a classic black card, she benefits from being surrounded by expendable permanents. She could lead a reanimator shell or a mono-black token deck that focuses on drawing as many cards off Bontu as possible in order to hit a payoff card at the right time. Alternatively, we can run a sacrifice-focused deck utilizing token generation in conjunction with Grave pact effects to keep opposing boards clear and fueling our game plan simultaneously. Any of these builds would utilize Bontu as well as other sacrifice payoffs to give us cards and mana all the while propelling us to whatever black win condition strikes our fancy. Even with all of that synergy to fit into our 99, there might be enough room to run a hefty reanimation package. This suite can either recur Bontu, other threats, or sacrifice fodder.
When I saw Bontu I wondered if it was viable to build something similar to that of a Gonti deck, meaning that we can run a ton of ways to bounce, blink, and recur our commander in order to double and triple dip on Bontu’s trigger. If we could combine that engine with either expendable permanents like tokens or creatures that want to die then we might have ourselves an intricate mono black machine. She seems solid no matter which approach we take and I’m sure I’ll be seeing across the table plenty.
In the 99: In addition to being a compelling commander in her own right Bontu absolutely fits in tons of black sacrifice-focused decks. I could also see her fitting into any token decks with black. In particular, she would fit in decks that can both rebuy her ETB trigger multiple times and have permanents to spare. At a glance, she is a solid include for Zombie tribal decks since they usually have zombie tokens to feed to her and she benefits from their tribal support. Gisa and Geralf can cast her from the grave and she is a way to make use of Varina’s tokens as well as trigger her when Bontu attacks which then gives Varina more discard fodder.
Additionally, Chainer and some Meren decks wouldn’t mind have access to Bontu in their 99 since they can bring her back repeatedly and have plenty of fodder. Either way, Bontu seems like a card that can be solid as a commander and will also pull her weight in the 99, as a commander she is open-ended enough that there is room for exploration and tinkering and she is a strong payoff in sacrifice focused decks.
As a Commander: Massacre Girl is less open-ended then her godly counterpart. She screams mono-black control since she is essentially a board wipe in the command zone which demands to be built around. She needs one-toughness creatures in play to start the chain, these creatures would preferably recur themselves so that once she is replayed the chain of -1/-1 will continue to the point that every creature will eventually die. This may sound somewhat similar to one possible build for Bontu and there may be a decent amount of overlap, however, the creatures in this deck will exist only to fuel Massacre Girl’s trigger to wipe the board. The creatures in a Bontu deck are pockets of redeemable value, Massacre Girl’s cohorts are there to be massacred. The ideal way to win for Massacre Girl would be to keep the board clear and once opponents are out of resources cast a big Torment of Hailfire.
In addition, the deck could feature several planeswalkers since Massacre Girl will likely ensure the board is kept clear so our planeswalkers will not be staring down opposing creatures. I could see her at least challenging Erebos for pure mono-black control. While she doesn’t provide irremovable card advantage having constant access to a wipe seems like a boon for that kind of deck. At minimum Massacre gives a solid alternative to Erebos that gives a different direction for a Mono-Black control deck.
In the 99: I don’t know whether she will be featured in the 99 my gut feeling says that she needs to be built around. Possibly a deck that is interested in killing opposing creatures such as Toshiro Umezawa or a similar deck that has a built-in payoff when creatures die. Or a deck featuring small creatures that want a wipe stapled to a creature, either way, she should only be run if she reliably wipes the board.
Illharg the Raze-Boar
As a Commander: Illharg is a hefty hog with an explosive ability to match. He is essentially a Sneak Attack in the command zone. Since the creature enters play tapped and attacking we do not benefit from on attack triggers however, any static effects on these beefy creatures would have an immediate impact.
Illharg wants us to cheat creatures into play, the various builds of Illharg will differ based on the creatures that are coming into play. Depending on player preference an Illharg deck could either run a plethora of threats to cheat in with Illharg coupled with plenty of artifact ramp in order to cast those threats if Illharg is uncastable. Or Illharg could lead a more value-based deck centered around ETB triggers that can be rebought since the creature is bounced after combat. Either way, any deck that can optimally run Blightsteel sounds like a good time to me. Illharg is explosive and impactful, his cheating of mana costs is something that is similar to Etali but not as vulnerable to sweepers. If that wasn’t enough, he’s a Boar god!
In the 99: Illharg seems like an impactful addition for a Xenagos deck since the party god can give Illharg haste and he is then able to add another threat to the board upon attack. Mayel seems like she would welcome our new Boar God as it also helps her drop more threats. Similarly, certain Vaevictis Asmadi decks would welcome the flexibility of being able to add threats to the board from the hand in case some large bombs become lodged. In addition, Illharg does a passable imitation of Vaevictis in that he is able to cheat in one large threat per turn. As was with the case with the previous gods Illharg is both compelling as a commander and has a home in a myriad of other decks.
Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
A quick aside before I start gushing about this goblin badass, after both the new Ravnican sets released I was disappointed with the cards in both Rakdos and Golgari guilds. The Golgari mechanic was lackluster and none of my EDH decks got much in the way of playables. My Golgari decks got Assassin’s Trophy and my Rakdos decks got Bedevil. Other than a few other minor hits those were all that the new Ravnica sets presented my Golgari and Rakdos decks. Perhaps it was presumptuous of me to expect powerful EDH cards for specific strategies from a standard set, however, with the guilds being featured I thought that it was possible to find some EDH gems for my decks of those colors. That being said, other than those two removal spells plus Plaguecrafter I felt as though both the Golgari and Rakdos guilds were given the short end of the stick while the Simic got an EDH powerhouse in Prime Speaker, Vannifar. I had one request for War of the Spark, if WOTC prints a new Krenko and he is at least solidly playable I will no longer gripe about my favorite guilds being left in the dust. Lo and Behold here we are! Krenko is back and ready to wreak havoc with his goblin gang from Tin Street!
As a Commander: Krenko does not necessarily lead a traditional goblin deck, the most common build that I have seen wants to suit up Krenko with equipment in order to create a swarm of goblins and collect commander damage kills. This deck would benefit from all of the best goblin lords that we all know and love in order to be able to go both wide and tall. The lords also pump Krenko’s power, even more, creating even more goblins to swarm our opponents with the next turn. Since we are considering an equipment-focused build we can build into Red’s ability to interact with artifacts. There might be just enough room to include some artifact-matters synergies along with a recursion package to revive important equipment. Funnily enough, many of the best artificers in the business are goblins themselves; namely, Goblin Welder, Goblin Engineer, or Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer.
In addition, any artifact recursion package would be remiss without the token Goblin Planeswalker, Daretti which is both flavorful and functional. If built right this deck can have the resilience of a mono-red artifacts deck coupled with the aggression that Goblins as a tribe brings to the table. All of this creates a blisteringly aggressive deck that uses equipment to accelerate our commander to deathly power. Which utilizes a recursion package to give our deck some resilience to removal and a package of goblin lords to help our swarms finish off a game. In short, Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin is a different breed of goblin commander that offers contrasting directions for the tribe as a whole, and a non-tribal direction for players that do not share my love for those tiny green crazies. Krenko could be built with a Goblin tribal subtheme or simply be focused on equipment. My excitement over new Krenko has fully overshadowed my disappointment in the latter two Ravnica sets. If Krenko’s text box wasn’t enough the flavor text perfect summarizes the goblin way perfectly.
In the 99: I have some firsthand experience for once! I immediately slotted new Krenko into my Wort, Boggart Auntie deck which I also wrote an article on linked below and he is proven solid every time I have tutored for him. He enables himself so he doesn’t require any lords to be good since he simply can grow on his own and with lords, he creates enough goblins to feed Skirk Prospector and Goblin Chirurgeon.
Playing him with haste feels fantastic and he is equally dangerous in the early and late game since if he dies I can recur him next turn with my commander. Overall new Krenko is exactly what I have wanted as a Goblin player and he certainly feels like he is leading a charge of angry goblins against the establishment of Ravnica. Overall fantastic card as far as mechanics go, the art, on the other hand, looks a tad different than his previous card which is a minor complaint but is still somewhat bothersome. Apart from that minor gripe, I am satisfied with having a new powerful goblin to add to the ranks!
Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion
As a commander: The newest iteration of Neheb is arguably his strongest card thus far. There are plenty of ways to build him since his ability doesn’t lend him to any specific build. He draws us cards and gives us mana, there are plenty of strategies that would like to have constant access to both card selection and mana acceleration. The most popular direction I’ve seen for Neheb is a deck focused on extra combats, using cards like Aggravated Assault to gain infinite combats with Neheb as long as we have at least 5 cards to discard to his ability.
This deck would utilize extra combat steps not just to go infinite but also to maximize Neheb’s card selection to draw a combo piece such as the aforementioned Aggravated Assault. I have also seen Neheb built as an artifact commander, he doesn’t interact with artifacts directly. However, his ability does fill the graveyard and the insane card velocity he provides allows us to find ways to take advantage of powerful artifacts that Neheb dumped 6 feet under. In theory, we could also build Neheb as a voltron commander with some artifact-matters synergies similar to the build I described above for Krenko. Neheb affords this strategy some consistency as he allows us to rip through our deck to find key equipment while being vulnerable to edict effects much like most voltron deck. In addition, he naturally has trample which helps his own trigger and any equipment that are equipped that trigger when he connects. Neheb is both powerful and open-ended, he could likely support a combination of all of these strategies if that sounds like fun. Neheb is a commander ripe for experimentation and I’m sure there are some creative builds out there that I didn’t even consider. He seems like a general whose sheer power can support some creative strategies.
In the 99: If a deck needs mana and card selection Neheb will perform well. I have him in my Bosh deck and he has been fantastic every time I’ve drawn him. If a deck uses the graveyard he becomes even better since he helps on that axis as well as giving us more options in our hand. He has become a fantastic sidekick to Bosh since that deck wants artifacts in the graveyard. Even if a deck doesn’t utilize the ‘yard Neheb is fantastic for simply seeing more cards and giving the pilot more options.
As a commander: Rhonas honestly seems to lead a simple mono-green big dude beatdown deck. He wants to be surrounded with as many large trampling creatures as possible then Rhonas comes down and gives his board the extra oomph it needs to kill the table. There isn’t much else to say, we ramp, we play several burly creatures, and Rhonas closes out the game. In addition, we run all of the power-matters card draw spells like Rishkar’s Expertise and a team buff or two in case Rhonas is uncastable. He is what is expected from Mono-green, Step 1: Ramp, Step 2: Play large creatures, Step 3: Profit.
In the 99: Rhonas is a fine addition to any deck looking to make use of having large creatures in play. When I saw this card spoiled I immediately thought about Xenagos, God of Revels because doubling the team’s power first main phase then doubling the nastiest customer with Xenagos at the beginning of combat is insanity, imagine all of those buffs stacked on a Blightsteel!
In addition, Rhonas fits into several other green beatdown decks like Ghalta, Goreclaw, and Surrak. Rhonas turns Ghalta into a lethal attacker, and he makes the latter two have untenable boards. This god will absolutely show up in several commander decks more so than leading the charge himself I feel. He is essentially a powerful team buff that is less optimal if opponents know about him and can prepare for him.
Mowu, Loyal Champion
As a commander: My first thought as to what kind of deck this pup would lead is a mono-green voltron deck with a +1/+1 counter subtheme. He wants to have counters on him and his keywords allow him to connect with relative ease. If we wanted to augment the voltron plan we could throw some infect in the deck and some proliferate engines to both increases the counters on Mowu and our opponent’s poison counters. Green is the color with the most infect support thus, this idea might have some legs. Even if we ignore that possibility at minimum Mowu can become large alarmingly fast which can beget some explosive starts.
In the 99: Mowu is another legend that I feel is better suited for the 99 rather than being command zone himself. Any counter focused deck that wants a large beater would welcome Mowu.
Here’s the link to the Wort, Boggart Auntie deck tech it’s a tad out of date but the core strategy is still the same https://mysticalteachingsmtg.com/2018/08/17/auntie-knows-best/
Card images were obtained from https://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Default.aspx
I do not own any of these images, they all belong to Wizards of the Coast.
Thanks for reading y’all!
-Paul of Clan Nel Toth