I maybe went a bit too far with the budget in my previous look at Commander, so I figured I would make things right and go the opposite way now. There is no better time to do this than the release of Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate. I find this set amazing because it's not pretending. It's just a fun, unassuming Commander-centric set with lots of wacky stuff. We're talking party and dungeon-venturing levels of wacky.
The house rules are simple. I refrain from including plain powerhouses in the following collection, and I only include one commander per color combination. This list would have been filled to the brim with Dimir commanders otherwise. Either way, there are still so many more commanders one could mention. Feel free to comment whichever you feel is unduly absent, and tell us why it is your jam! With that out of the way, let's get the party started!
Not all tribal decks focus on a single tribe. Elves and Vampires do, for instance, as they have hundreds of good cards, if not more. Their commanders aren't just powerful because of their own effects, but also because of the remaining 99. It's harder to say so for Demons, Devils, Imps, and Tieflings, which is why most people aren't playing these wacky tribes. None of them is populated enough, but Raphael, Fiendish Savior might be here to save them all. It's among the less restrictive commanders in the list as you can build your deck in many ways.
Not only do I find playing underpowered tribes fun, Raphael also has a pretty interesting second effect. If you can send a creature card to your graveyard every turn, you're getting a super annoying, life-stealing 2/2 Devil token that can pick small stuff off.
All tribes that Raphael covers—think Vexing Devil, Harvester of Souls, and Prosper, Tome-Bound. Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos can, and probably should, give the deck a sacrifice-oriented side plan, along with cards like Mayhem Devil and the new Ob Nixilis. Gut, True Soul Zealot is probably the better choice for a sacrifice theme thanks to Agent of the Iron Throne, but Raphael gets style points.
For the first time in Magic's history, we're getting a legendary creature with suspend synergy! Because of Greater Gargadon, you would probably have a better time if you had the option of including red, but let's be real here. Both red and black have powerful suspend cards, which is probably why Wizards decided Alaundo would be better off without them. Looking at Jhoira of the Ghitu, that probably was a wise decision. Also, players would probably find a means to make Restore Balance broken if Alaundo had white in its color identity.
As a result, only Simic colors remain. Thanks to both Modern Horizons sets, this is still great. You might be losing access to Glimpse of Tomorrow, but you get to experiment with Gaea's Will, Inevitable Betrayal, and Sol Talisman. Not to mention Crashing Footfalls, which has proven to be really good over time, especially in Modern. Fine, I'll stop.
It brings something completely new to the table while giving ancient cards the chance to shine again. I find most suspend cards to be either broken or borderline unplayable, so I hope this commander gives the latter another chance. I also find it interesting how this archetype brings together cards with and without suspend.
Ancestral Vision, Crashing Footfalls, Hypergenesis, Inspiring Refrain, possibly Gaea's Will and Inevitable Betrayal from suspend ones. Other than those: Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty, Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner, The Great Aurora … Any big card, really. Also, given how Alaundo only requires tapping, most cards that untap other cards are automatic inclusions. Here's my budget take on the Seer:
|Commander: Alaundo the Seer|
Control may be the first thing on everybody's mind when it comes to the Azorius guild, but there's more to it than that. White and blue also happen to be the best colors for exploring dungeons. Although it's not the first legendary creature to utilize this mechanic, I'm inclined to think that Imoen, Mystic Trickster might be the best one. Ward is a mechanic that is very welcome within any commander, not to mention within one that draws you cards rather consistently.
Truth be told, it's considerably harder to keep the initiative than to just keep venturing into the dungeon. Fortunately, blue has many cards that let you take the initiative, and so does white. If you're wondering why white when Imoen is just blue, it's because of Far Traveler. With so many creatures that help you pass part of a dungeon whenever they arrive to the field, I don't see how there could be a more fitting background.
Rilsa Rael, Kingpin also looks like an interesting choice due to Acererak the Archlich, but I think it's a bit too slow. Also, as I've said, I happen to prefer white cards here. The initiative even makes its Fog effects useful here! Adventures in the Forgotten Realms started this whole idea, but didn't quite round it up. I'm adding Imoen here in hopes that it will.
Nearly all blue and/or white cards that say "venture into the dungeon" or "you take the initiative." It's really hard to pinpoint any of them, but if I had to, I'd choose Hama Pashar, Ruin Seeker, Seasoned Dungeoneer, and Dungeon Delver. Fog-like cards help you keep the initiative, and blinking creatures like Brago, King Eternal can help take it. If you want to get really spicy, you can even add Soulherder!
As if there weren't enough of them, we're getting yet another spellslingering commander. Zevlor may look too slow at first glance, but it has haste, and its effect is much stronger than it seems. The fact that you get to copy some of the game's craziest spells thrice for just two mana is mindblowing!
Unfortunately, it also is one of the worst-worded cards in quite a while, so let's go over it again. Basically, if you have three opponents and you cast a spell with a single enemy target, be it an opponent or their permanent, you get to copy said spell twice. One copy targets one opponent's permanent or face, with the second targeting another opponent's permanent or face. The great thing about this effect is that, if you hit one player's face, you can still hit another one's permanent.
The only thing balancing Zevlor is its speed, or lack thereof. If it manages to enter the battlefield, it'll probably die right after you activate its ability. You'll resolve it, of course, but you still need to pay the mana for the big spell. This commander becomes extremely powerful given a good target, but loses on speed greatly.
On the other hand, imagine hitting all opponents with a well-timed Exhaustion, Cruel Ultimatum, or Curse of the Cabal. A single one of these can almost end the game on the spot, yet many of them are budget-friendly.
Imagine how busted Dynaheir would be if green were part of its color identity. This way, however, it'll have to be featured in a casual list. It's not as powerful as it could have been, but it can still be okay with the right setup. That right setup wouldn't even include just creatures, but artifacts too.
The newest Jeskai Wizard may give creatures pseudo-haste, but its final ability works with whatever permanent type. While most key cards are indeed creatures, I think that artifacts are a must here. This deck even has a backup plan in the form of Zirda, the Dawnwaker.
You read that right. This deck can function surprisingly well with a companion if you're willing to sacrifice just a few cards. It's not a free inclusion, but it's close. While it's not synergistic with Dynaheir one bit, it's still an additional card in hand should things go south.
Similarly to my previous choice, Dynaheir has an interesting mechanic that's almost broken, yet isn't. Even though it has haste, it is balanced well. You still need loads of mana to both play this Wizard and activate other abilities. That, coupled with interesting abilities overall, is why I chose this legend.
The Locust God, Wand of Wonder, and Captivating Crew first come to mind. Muzzio, Visionary Architect and Triskaidekaphile also seem interesting. Phyrexian Processor also looks very promising. This is just a staring point; there are too many good choices here.
A list like this wouldn't be complete without at least one commander that instantly turns you into an archenemy. What better choice is there to fill this slot than Jon? Another interesting thing about this commander is how nostalgic it is. Should you decide to build it, you'll quickly come to realize—or recall—how bad creatures used to be. It'll take you back to the time when having a Grizzly Bears body brought upon downsides to creatures, not benefits.
Giving bad creatures to other players is this deck's main win condition, but Jon Irenicus isn't the only one able to do that. There are some other cards with similar effects like Modify Memory and Wrong Turn. Also, if you really love being the bad guy, you can emphasize that even further with Tasha, the Witch Queen!
It's fun, at least for the one playing it. That should explain it already. Just be aware that this deck, similarly to, say, Tergrid, God of Fright // Tergrid's Lantern, may cause you to lose friends.
The ones already mentioned and, naturally, creatures with downsides. Taniwha, Flesh Reaver, Ebonblade Reaper, Rust Elemental, Drinker of Sorrow … Again, too many to name.
The main issue with mana dorks is the fact that usually, the longer a game goes, the worse of a topdeck they become. Now imagine having a commander that both buffs their stats and makes them more useful overall. Instead of playing some generic Gruul Stompy deck, you get to hit opponents for crazy damage with a Dryad Arbor! Need I say anything more?
Even crazier, with a bit of luck, you can chain multiple huge spells with this commander and some specific mana dorks. With creatures like Marwyn, the Nurturer and Viridian Joiner, you can first buff them, then use their abilities to generate mana for even more big cards. Thanks to this tactic, among other things, you can make a Human Boar command an Elf army.
And that's not all, as you can even create some sort of Hydra tribal deck with this commander. I wouldn't recommend that, but at least mixing Hydras and Elves sounds really good. I've even tried to do so myself, as you will soon see.
Last, but absolutely not least, imagine one-shotting people with Plague Myr. Raggadragga's first ability makes it a 3/3, and the last one can turn it into a lethal 10/10 force.
It's one of the most interesting Gruul creatures I've seen to date. It isn't broken and can be played in a myriad of ways.
The usual mana dorks like Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves, Paradise Druid, Leafkin Druid, and, of course, Radha, Heir to Keld. More of them if you're playing Elves, less of them if you're playing Hydras. Stuff like Apex of Power and Boundless Realms, whichever tactic you end up with. Kindred Summons if you focus on a single tribe. You don't have to, though. As the Spanish girl from an old meme says, why don't we have both?
|Commander: Raggadragga, Goreguts Boss|
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