Commander General Reviews

Coda: It’s finally that time, ladies and gentlemen!  The most anticipated release of all time for EDH players is finally here, and it most certainly does not disappoint.  MTG: Commander should shake up the EDH metagame like nothing else that has come before.  Not only are we treated to a legion of powerful new cards, the new generals have opened the doors to completely new, never-before-seen archetypes that should keep even the most jaded EDH deckbuilder busy for months to come.  We’ve decided to split up the reviews this time, first giving the legendary stars of the show their due before going through all the other new hotness to come down the line.

Animar, Soul of Elements

Coda: Protection from white and black means this guy is going to be all but impossible to remove from the table without resorting to a board wipe, and its other abilities? Wow. Not only does it get bigger, it makes your creatures cheaper and cheaper the bigger it gets. This is pretty much begging to be paired with X-mana creatures, proliferate, and Doubling Season. Given the popularity of white and black, he should also be unblockable quite often, meaning you can back up your horde of hydras with the very real threat of general damage.

Also worthy of note is that Coal Stoker and Priest of Urabrask will work together to give you infinite red mana, storm, and counters on Animar if a Cloudstone Curio is out. Or you know, you can just play everyone’s favorite infinite combo creature, Palinchron, who can do the same thing all by himself once Animar has 3 counters.

Candy: I have a creature-only Momir Vig, Simic Visionary deck. Now that Animar’s out, however, I’m going to make it a regular EDH deck, and make Animar my creature-only general. Seriously, how sweet is this dude for timmies everywhere? Not only can you get creatures out for stupid-cheap, Animar becomes a decently-sized beatstick. Overwhelming Stampede is going to be especially hilarious in this deck.

Basandra, Battle Seraph

Coda: “Diplomacy has solved nothing.  Only bloodspill can end this now.  Call forth the warbringer.”  While she easily takes the prize for the most badass flavor text (on Avatar of Slaughter for those interested), Basandra has the unenviable position of being a role player more than an actual general. Her ability is nice to have to break stalemates and force awkward blocks, but her stats and abilities just aren’t that conducive to use as a general. In a world where 5/5 is considered average, a 4/4 flier just ain’t gonna do it.  On the other hand, Terese Nielsen really outdid herself on the art here.  Just gorgeous.

Candy: Her biggest downside, in my opinion, is the global lock on casting spells during combat. Now, if your opponents can’t cast spells during combat, that’d be a different story—she’d be at an equivalent power level with most of the other generals released in this set. As it is, white and red love combat tricks. While it’s true that your opponents can’t hit you with Condemn once you get her out, it’s also equally true that you can’t use one of the most efficient General removers out there, either, and awesome combat instants like Savage Beating. In all, she’s the Commander who excited me the least when I saw her.

Damia, Sage of Stone

Coda: Ever wish you could have Consecrated Sphinx as your Commander? Now you can, and in the three most powerful colors, no less. Damia reminds me of Thraximundar in that she’s extremely expensive, but if she sticks around for any length of time she’s just going to straight up win the game for you.  While most people are going to want to stick her into a control deck, as strange as it might sound a Damia voltron strategy could actually be quite potent. Load up on cheap ramp, removal, and counterspells, and you can just go nuts, confident that you’ll have seven shiny new cards in hand next upkeep. Deathtouch also means you can throw some first strike and trample equipment on her and just mow through blockers like they weren’t even there.

Candy: I decided to use her as a my Commander during the release party this past Saturday, and let me tell you, she is pure deliciousness if you can get her to stick around. People sat around with empty hands in late game while I drew back up to seven every. Freaking. Turn. During another game, in which I played against a friend who was piloting her, he said at one point “Awww, I don’t get to draw cards this turn. Sadface!” Yeah. Boo fucking hoo, buddy. Life is so hard when you have a full grip of cards.

A potential downside, as Coda pointed out to me while we were chatting about her, is that she can seriously screw you over if you have her out right after somebody kills all lands with Armageddon, but that’s kind of a corner case. Overall, I think Damia is probably the most flexible general they’ve printed in this set, in that you can really take her in a million different directions. Most generals show you—or at least strongly suggest—the direction you should go in. Damia just makes sure you’re never short of cards so you can keep the cogs of whatever machine you’re building running smoothly.

Edric, Spymaster of Trest

Coda: At first glance I saw Edric and thought, “Cool, all my guys become Ophidians.” Then I looked closer and realized that all my opponents got to reap the benefits as well…as long as they didn’t attack me. It leads to some really interesting politics, where everyone doesn’t want to get rid of Edric, but you’re the only one remaining untouched through it all. Devious.

Edric is probably at his best as either a roleplayer in a Momir Vig elf tribal deck or heading up one himself. He’s a decent inclusion in any deck running his colors, simply because of the political effects his presence on the battlefield, but make sure you’re going to have enough dudes to really reap the benefits or your opponents are going to bury you in card advantage.

Candy: Together with Damia, Edric is equally good either as a Commander in his own right or as an enabler. Of all the politicking cards, he’s probably one of the most powerful I’ve seen coming out of this set yet, though I’d probably kill him just out of sheer principle. Them’s a lot of cards that he’s netting everyone else. If you’re building a Phelddagrif group hug deck, this guy’s a must-include.

Ghave, Guru of Spores

Coda: Pentavus is a pretty neat card, and Ghave basically turns your entire army into versions of the mighty modular monstrosity. Ghave synergizes well with a whole host of different strategies. Saproling/fungus tribal is one way to go – just stick every thallid, saproling generator, and saproling pumper you can find in and go nuts. A slightly more subtle route is to use Ghave’s abilities to provide a never-ending stream of sacrifice fodder for cards like Grave Pact and Victimize. Also note that a bunch of creatures use +1/+1 counters to fuel their abilities, such as Fertilid. Ghave could help you get a huge amount of mileage out of those cards. He’s definitely not going to knock your socks off with his power level, but Ghave makes for a bunch of interactions that should keep Johnnies happy for a long time.

Candy: To be honest, Ghave doesn’t really ring my bell. And that’s weird, because I’m such a whore for tokens and token decks. I’ve built 15 Edh decks to date, and of those, at least 5 of them focus on creating and abusing tokens for fun and profit, and all but two of them feature token production in some capacity or other simply because tokens generate so much board advantage. It’s entirely possible that at this point, I’m just burnt out on tokens and token decks. Ghave does provide lots of combo-licious opportunities and strong synergies, but honestly, I see RGW as the ideal color combination for token decks. I’ll be interested to see what other people with come up with for him, but I probably won’t be building a Ghave deck myself.

Kaalia of the Vast

Coda: A Timmy general, through and through.  I imagine most decks that use her will focus on making her unblockable (to remove the danger of attacking into an opponent’s flying fatty), giving extra combat steps to trigger her ability multiple times, and as many ways as possible to find more fatties to throw into the fray.  Given that black’s ideas of card draw typically involve a life payment, better stick in a bit of lifegain, as well. While her power level is pretty mediocre overall (after all, there’s plenty of cards out there that let you cheat fatties into play), I really dig the flavor of this card.  No wrath like a woman scorned, indeed.

Candy: She’s not very sturdy, but holy balls, I played against this deck during the release party, and the guy playing it cast Lightning Greaves turn 3 and then Kaalia turn 4, and let me tell you: she’s gross. She has evasion, the guys she cheats out tend to have evasion, and if it weren’t for the fact that the pre-con deck didn’t have card draw or deck manipulation worth a shit, he would’ve smashed all of us into the ground several times over by the end of turn 7 or s0. Waves of Aggression is a must-include in this deck; ditto Hellkite Charger and Aggravated Assault. Lots of fun to play with and against.

Karador, Ghost Chieftain

Coda: Karador seems awesome, but only in a very specific kind of deck. Basically, dump as much of your library into your graveyard as you can, then go nuts with the reanimation. Teneb used to be the general of choice here, but while Teneb is far more powerful in that he reanimates for a 3 mana flat rate from any graveyard, Karador encourages you to mix traditional fatty reanimation with smaller utility creatures. Reanimate a Sakura-Tribe Elder every turn for ramp, evoke Mournwhelks and Shriekmaws (or Reveillarks!) over and over again…the possibilities are very exciting. Also, the fact that he’s usually going to cost between 3 and 5 mana, even after he’s been cast a few times, is an incredible advantage.

Candy: Teneb used to be the Commander of choice if you wanted to abuse dredge, but Karador is in some ways a better choice. Being able to cast a creature card from your graveyard once during each of your turns? That’s nuts. Survival of the Fittest is now better than it was—and it was plenty good before. Add to that the fact that he’s going to be one of the cheapest generals to play pretty much all the time if you’re doing things right, and he has the potential to be one of the most powerful generals yet. Karador decks make graveyard hate—both mass removal, as with Tormod’s Crypt and Relic of Progenitus, and targeted removal, as with Stonecloaker or Withered Wretch—even more important than they already are.

The Mimeoplasm

Coda: Ever look at a creature and think, “It has an awesome ability, but why isn’t it bigger?” Well, ask no more. 10/10 Cold-Eyed Selkies! Gigantic Plague Stingers! 20 counters on a Triskelion! There’s really no limit to the shenanigans you can pull, so dump your library in the graveyard and get creative!  Take note that whatever you copy gets exiled, so make sure to build in lots and lots of different combos and synergies in your deck, or you’ll be left in the cold when your one true combo gets hit with a Path to Exile.

Candy: I got to cast this once, and holy balls, guys. I had an 8/8 Shattered Angel. (I chose the angel instead of something more exciting because I was really, really low on life.) While dumping your own library into your graveyard is a great way to go with a Mimeoplasm deck, I think making sure all your opponents’ graveyards are nice and full and then sniping the tastiest targets is also a viable strategy. Makes for some super-sweet targeted graveyard hate, for one, and it also makes sure that you’re never out of gas, for another. Blue and black offer you a multitude of ways to get other people’s cards into their graveyard: discard, milling, removal, board wipe (oh my God, Life’s Finale in this deck would be absolutely hilarious)—even counterspells. This card makes both the Timmy and the Johnny parts of me  cackle with glee. Of all the generals I’ve seen so far, this, together with Animar, make me the most excited and light up the deck-building parts of my brain.

Nin, the Pain Artist

Coda: Nin looks pretty awesome, I have to say.  Having a Braingeyser on a stick as your general can contribute to all kinds of brokenness.  Expect to see her deck packed full of indestructible creatures and ways to exploit massive amounts of card draw.  Stuffy Doll is the obvious target of choice for most players. While Nin’s massive card draw leads you toward a control/combo strategy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her used in a mill strategy, too, letting you essentially fireball your opponent’s library to finish them off.

Candy: Playing Stuffy Doll and Burning-Eye Zubera never felt so good. I still think Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind is the combo-tastic general of choice, but Nin is better in that she’s sneakier and if you’re up against her, you don’t mind her killing your stuff. At least, not at first, which is what makes her so insidious and so good.

Riku of Two Reflections

Coda: Basically, Riku is like having the Mirari and a better Minion Reflector as your general.  Both of those cards are extremely strong, so it stands to reason that Riku is going to be just this side of insane.  I mean, he’s in green, so you can ramp up like crazy (copy your ramp spells!), then double up on your ridiculous fatties before doubling up on your card draw to refill your hand and twincasting removal and burn spells.  Also, let’s think for a moment of some gamebreaking spells in Riku’s colors.  Let’s see…how about Tooth and Nail, Rite of Replication, and Genesis Wave.  Twincast them for just two mana more.  Yes, that’s right.  Double down on a X=11 Genesis Wave.  Watch out for this guy, and do your absolute best to tuck him safely out of the way as soon as he hits the battlefield, or things are going to get out of hand fast.

Candy: Sweet cream-covered Christ on a cracker, just make sure you have a removal spell or two in your opening hand when you’re playing against this Commander. He’s probably the most brokenly powerful of all the generals Wizards has printed in this set, and while that’s Riku’s strength, it’s also his downfall. He’s usually the first general to get hated off the board, and for good reason. My advice to Riku players: don’t rely on him sticking around, because he won’t.

Ruhan of the Fomori

Coda:  A big dumb beater, yes, but one that can be played on turn 4 and kill you in three hits.  Also note that white is the color of equipment, blue is the color of counterspells, and red is the color of extra combat steps.  He may not be very sophisticated, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less dangerous. Having multiple ways to give him haste and various forms of evasion and protection should be fairly important, so load up on quality equipment.

Candy: A pretty hilarious general, but if used as-is, a fairly boring one.

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave

Coda: Kind of hilarious, but I wonder how long it’s going to take for this to really be anything more than an annoyance. A hasty slith that doesn’t lose counters when it dies is still going to take no less than 6 hits to kill someone. And that assumes that no one bounces or tucks your general in the meantime. If you’re going to make the big green zombie work, go all in on the voltron. Make him unblockable, add and proliferate counters, do whatever you can to require as few hits as possible.

Candy: Honestly, my first thought with Skullbriar was “Oooh, a new enabler for my Savra deck!” If you want to use him as an aggro Commander, he’s certainly a really fun choice, but you’re going to have to pump him the hell up. But hey, good thing green and black are pretty good at doing that. I think people are going to seriously underestimate him and then all of a sudden realize they’re staring down the barrel of a really big, really angry zombie dude who keeps his counters in most zones. Just make sure to protect him appropriately, such as having several instant-speed sac outlets in case somebody tries bouncing him or tucking him, or when somebody plays a massive Black Sun’s Zenith.

Tariel, Reckoner of Souls

Coda: Tariel is kind of awesome, but it’s going to take a bit of work to get any kind of reliability out of her ability. Sometimes you’ll reanimate an Eldrazi in response to its graveyard trigger, other times you’ll just get a random 1/1 off-color utility dude. In order to get what you want every time you’re going to have to either find a way to untap her repeatedly or selectively exile all the creatures you don’t want.

Candy: Tariel’s randomness honestly makes her more fun for me, not less. I mostly get a kick out of stealing things from other players while playing EDH, and I find that Tariel’s randomness not only makes the theft more amusing (since I have a decent-sized chaotic streak), it makes her a lot less threatening and makes her a lot less likely to be targeted, especially if other threats are out on the board.

Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter

Coda: Big flying lifelinkers are fine in my book, and the fact that he’s a sac outlet and source of removal makes him quite powerful, indeed. Think of him as a WB version of Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief. Those characteristics mean he’s probably going to see lots of play both as a roleplayer in decks like Ghave and as a general in his own right.

Candy: Now this is a token general I got pretty excited about. Black and white are the two best recursion colors, and white sure does love pooping out dudes for cheap (both token and non-token). Generals who have removal for activated abilities are insanely powerful; anyone who’s gone up against a tuned Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief or Teysa, Orzhov Scion deck knows what I mean. You can pull some really interesting tricks with Vish Kal, and I think time will tell whether removal via dumping mana, as with Drana, or removal via sacrifice, as with Vish Kal, is more efficient.

Zedruu the Greathearted

Coda: The sleeper hit of this entire set.  Not since Phelddagriff has Wizards printed such a blatantly political general.  While clearly targeted directly at Johnnies who like to mess with people’s heads, I think Zedruu will garner a surprisingly large following amongst Spikes who will use her to do things like giving their opponents a Steel Golem to stop them from casting creatures or donating Illusions of Grandeur to their opponents and then bouncing it repeatedly, nugging them for 20 damage and gaining 20 life a turn.  Really, she’s just so flexible that almost any kind of deck can be built around her.  Donate a useless permanent or two for a little extra card draw in a control deck, donate auras to your opponents to draw cards while beating for the win, you name it.  Personally, I can’t wait to brew up a deck of my own.  It’s often said that your Commander decks are expressions of your personality, and I don’t think that’s ever going to be more true than with Zedruu.

Candy: I think the only new Commander I’m more afraid of is Riku. If you see Zedruu on the battlefield and you know she’s not in a group hug deck, all I can say is KILL HER. Kill her with fire. Nuke it from orbit.

1 comment to Commander General Reviews

  • Rottcodd

    For the record, I used Riku of Two Reflections last Saturday, and in four or five multiplayer games, I was always the first one killed. One guy who had to leave early made sure to finish me off right before withdrawing. :/

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