Despite being targeted at a totally different format, Modern Horizons 2 continues to be a complete home run for Commander. The new offerings include tribal legends, long awaited support cards for popular themes, throwbacks to the ‘90s, and even a planeswalker commander!
An underworld chef first referenced back in 1993 on Granite Gargoyle’s flavour text, we’ve been waiting for Asmor for 27 years. But while it looks like she has some utility in Modern in the emerging Feasting Troll King deck, her abilities are a little underpowered for Commander, offering little in the way of a proactive strategy.
But who cares? Commander is about more than just winning, and what Asmor lacks in power she makes up for in flavour. Literally. As a masterchef, Asmor is best suited for a themed deck that shows off the culinary side of the Magic multiverse.
You’ll want to start with The Underworld Cookbook, but you’d be amazed how many more delicious cards have been printed!
Hack up your protein with Butcher’s Cleaver. Season everything with Rain of Salt and Peppersmoke. Give it all a quick Roast before you Bake into a Pie in the Witch’s Oven, let the Hot Soup cool for a bit, and don’t forget to set the table with a Fork and a Rakdos Riteknife. Invite Master of the Feast to your Feast of the Unicorn, and before you know it you’ll have a three star Michelin Commander deck.
Sythis isn’t the most innovative commander in the set, but she was one of the most requested: a dedicated enchantress in the Command zone. Yes, yes, Tuvasa the Sunlit did her best, but the “first Enchantment” clause really kept her from shining as bright as she might have. Sythis is even an Enchantment herself, upping your count for synergy cards like Helm of the Gods and the brand new Sanctum Weaver.
At such a low mana value, Sythis is trivially easy to get into play and even easier to leverage for new cards. It’s no secret that having card draw available on demand is powerful, and Sythis will be a force to be reckoned with just by virtue of the sheer advantage she provides. Even a low power brew built on a budget is going to swamp the table with Enchantments before most players have the opportunity to react.
Back in the ‘90s, when Commander was but a fledgling format, the only legendaries allowed at the helm were the original cycle of Elder Dragons. This is where the old name for the format came from: Elder Dragon Highlander.
Things have changed since, but if you want to take it back a couple of decades and play EDH the way that Adam Staley designed it, Piru the Volatile is for you. Or maybe you just like massive dragons!
Piru even nods to the original Elder Dragons with her pay or sacrifice upkeep trigger, but unlike her predecessors it’s actually desirable. When she dies, she’ll effectively wipe the board of almost all non-legendaries. The lifelink even triggers on death, gaining you life in multiples of seven and putting you up to a total where your opponents will need either Commander damage or a combo to bring you down.
In order to break parity, you’ll want to run as many Legendaries as possible. The best of them will be the ones that make Piru’s death trigger even stronger, like Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, and Teysa Karlov.
Good Games Adelaide’s very first spoiler card! And what a spoiler, Carth the Lion is a truly unique card, being the first time we’ve ever seen the +1 loyalty symbol printed on a creature. Many players overlook the fact that the placement of a loyalty counter on a Planeswalker is a cost rather than an effect.
With Carth in play, Planeswalkers not only gain extra loyalty with each activation, they’ll lose less loyalty as well. Let’s say you have Vraska, Golgari Queen in play with only 2 counters. Normally, you’d need at least 3 counters before activating her -3, but Carth lets you activate Vraska for just -2, and you’ll even get a chance to dig for more ‘walkers when she dies!
Carth obviously lends himself to a Superfriends strategy—throw as many Golgari Planeswalkers into the deck as you can, and go from there. The more we have, the higher our chances of card advantage from Carth’s trigger, and the more value we’ll gain from his presence.
If you really want to be evil, try Sorin Markov. You can tick Sorin up to 7 loyalty the turn you play him, which means you can use his final ability the very next turn. I recommend Nissa, Vital Force, Garruk, Apex Predator, and Liliana, Dreadhorde General for similar tricks.
While Strixhaven showed us the surprising depth of strategies that Red and White are capable of via the Lorehold college, there are plenty of us who were happy with Boros just the way it was: gigantic boards full of powerful creatures. General Ferrous Rokiric certainly falls into the latter category, and looks to be one of the fastest and most threatening Boros commanders yet.
With Hexproof from monocolored, Rokiric is going to dodge just about every popular removal spell played in the format. Your opponents will need either a boardwipe or something like Abrupt Decay if they hope to bring down the General. Finding protection for your commander is crucial to any strategy, but having a commander with natural protection makes life a lot easier.
Better yet, Rokiric produces tokens at an unprecedented rate, and 4/4’s with a relevant creature type no less. All he asks is that you play multicolored spells, something that you’d want to do anyway. Some of the finest are Figure of Destiny and Make Your Mark, where for only a single mana you’ll produce a Golem token. Back that up with offensive powerhouses like Blade Historian, Balefire Liege and Legion’s Initiative, and you too can feel like Professor McGonagall casting Piertotum Locomotor and waking the statues in the Battle of Hogwarts.
A planeswalker that can be a commander? In a Modern set? It’s more likely than you think. Despite lacking reminder text that would signify this, Grist is a legal commander on account of being a creature in every zone other than the battlefield.
The first non-humanoid Planeswalker in a black-bordered set, Grist lends itself to an insect theme, an otherwise neglected tribe. Thankfully, there are a lot of powerful insects out there, so you won’t be hamstringing yourself just for flavour. Hornet Queen and Ant Queen are perfect for building your horde, although the best for this is Scute Swarm. There’s also great utility in Caustic Caterpillar and a useful anthem in Blex, Vexing Pest. If you want some extra value out of Grist’s -2, try Mortician Bettle or Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest.
No doubt you’ll have to run a few creatures that aren’t insects just to round your list out, but you can maximise Grist’s +1 with Ashes of the Fallen. It ensures every creature you mill will count as an Insect!
Or perhaps you’re not fussed with power and just want a deck filled with unsettling art? Try Giant Cockroach, Swarmyard, Flow of Maggots, and most hideous of all, Brood of Cockroaches. My skin crawls just looking at that last one.
No pain, no gain. You’ve gotta risk it to get the biscuit. Heads; I draw a card, tails; I deal two damage to myself. If you live your life by any of these common mantras, you might be interested in Yusri, Fortune’s Flame.
We’ve seen coin flipping commanders like Krark, the Thumbless, and Okaun/Zndrsplt before, but we’ve never seen the stakes this high. The ceiling for this card is ridiculously high.
But for every turn where you reach that ceiling, draw five cards and receive a free Omniscience effect, you’re just as likely to draw nothing and deal ten damage to yourself. The likelihood of winning every flip is 3.13% and the same goes for losing every flip. But for players who like riding by the seat of their pants, this is the precise appeal of Yusri.
For synergy I would recommend the brand new Tavern Scoundrel, a persistent source of mana on turns where you get lucky. Likewise, Chance Encounter has just been reprinted, the perfect alternate wincon for a coin deck. Krark’s Thumb also goes without saying, and it will take your chances of hitting 5 successful flips all the way up to 23.73%!
Finally, you’re bound to lose some flips and send your lifetotal spiralling, so you’ll need something to stabilise. The best solution is lifelink, as equipping Basilisk Collar or Shadowspear will offset any self-inflicted damage. Good luck!
Is this Magic as Richard Garfield intended? The weirdest card in a weird set, and it’s not even close. The protagonist from Arena, the first Magic novel from 1994, Garth has never had a card—until now.
As far as throwbacks go, Garth reigns king above them all. Capable of producing copies of one of five cards first printed in Alpha, he is the ultimate nod to the earliest days of Magic, and the only legal way to get Black Lotus into play in Commander.
Garth has been designed with one thing in mind: old-school players. He lacks the utility of Kenrith and will never be as ubiquitous as Golos, but if you’re interested in five colours, you won’t find anything as unique as Garth. I challenge you, dear reader, to build a deck around him using nothing but Alpha cards. It may lack the power of modern bells and whistles, but the challenge and novelty will more than make up for it.
If you’d rather push Garth to his limit, find yourself a copy of Dead-Eye Navigator and Concordant Crossroads or Fervor, and you’ll have a game-winning combo. Simply make a Black Lotus, use two mana to blink Garth, and do it again. Rinse and repeat until you have infinite mana and then mill the rest of the table out with Braingeyser.
Despite the mechanic first appearing back in 2016 with Shadows Over Innistrad, Clues have never had a dedicated commander until now.
Much akin to Chulane, Teller of Tales, Lonis rewards you for doing something that every deck already does: play creatures.
Mana dorks like Fyndhorn Elves and Birds of Paradise will be especially useful in Lonis as they’re both a cheap source of Clues and extra mana to crack those Clues. The best low cost creature for Lonis is Shrieking Drake, which allows you to convert every drop of Blue mana you have into a clue.
Try Tireless Tracker and Erdwal Illuminator for even more clues, and make sure you leave room for Academy Manufactor. A clue for every creature is already fantastic, but a clue, a treasure and a food is just madness. It even creates an infinite loop with Shrieking Drake!
To make use of those clues, you can always tap Lonis in search of someone else’s permanent, but think bigger! Add Urza, Lord High Artificer, and suddenly every single clue is a mana rock. Add Shimmer Dragon and you can draw cards from those Clues without cracking them. Season to taste with doublers like Panharmonicon and Adrix and Nev, Twincasters and see if you can investigate the mystery of why Simic keeps getting such busted cards!
Who would win in a fight? Emrakul, Aeons Torn or fifteen squirrels? An oft repeated joke about the absurdity of stat lines and how they correspond to the power of the creatures they represent, the real answer has always been… duh, Emrakul easily wins. The squirrels don’t have reach! The squirrels don’t stand a chance. Unless of course, they had their fearless general Chatterfang leading them. If they did, Chatterfang could bravely sacrifice his own soldiers and by the power of dark magic, acorns, and state-based actions, give Emrakul a lethal -15/-15.
Chatterfang, Squirrel General is not only a powerful commander for a tribe that has never had one, he is a seriously powerful threat, a valuable utility piece, and an infinite combo enabler. First up is Forestwalk which can be useful for commander damage, but is best for equipping Chatterfang with something that demands damage to an opponent, like the brand new Sword of Hearth and Home.
Far more exciting is the token replacement effect. If you make a token of any kind you also get a corresponding amount of squirrels. This is NUTS. Cards like Chitterspitter, or Deep Forest Hermit, or Chatterstorm are now twice as powerful. And that’s to say nothing of cards like Pitless Plunderer, that will give you both a treasure and a squirrel. Suddenly, activating Chatterfang for (B) and sacrificing a squirrel will reward you with treasure, and a fresh squirrel, which lets you do the exact same thing again. With two cards, you’re able to wipe the entire board. Throw in Skullclamp, and you can draw your entire deck.
It’s going to be a challenge to build a weak Chatterfang deck. Even without any of the myriad infinite combos the deck can run, the doubling effect and the easy removal will win game after game. And while you might think that squirrels have no right being this powerful, lead designer Mark Rosewater would remind you that “squirrels are just rats with better PR”.
So, time to broaden your horizons and try out one of these fantastic new commanders isn’t it? Next week we’re going to do a deck tech, and I thought I’d open it up to the peanut gallery and see what everyone would most like to see a deeper dive on.