Now that Commander 2016 has been fully revealed, it’s time to take a look at all the commander possibilities the new set opened up - is what I’d like to say. But with the new “Partner” mechanic you’ll get 125 possible combinations for 3 and 4 color decks according to my math. So in order to preserve my sanity and get this article published before Winter 2017 I’ll “only” be looking at:

  1. The 4c legends and
  2. My three favourite partnerships

Alright. If you’re ready, let’s get this over with:

Breya, Etherium Shaper

Legendary Score: 6/10

Remember that many of us wanted an Izzet-Artifacts-Commander? Well I guess Wizards wanted to make up for the delay and simply added an additional color for each year we had to wait. Jokes aside, Breya seems like a rather decent commander for an artifact deck but nothing too amazing. Let’s check out her oracle text:

  • When Breya, Etherium Shaper enters the battlefield, create two 1/1 blue Thopter artifact creature tokens with flying.
  • {2}, Sacrifice two artifacts: Choose one -
    • Breya deals 3 damage to target player.
    • Target creature gets -4/-4 until end of turn.
    • You gain 5 life.

Even though with a lot of these new commanders it will get a bit difficult let me use my trusty “compare to known stuff”-method. Basically you’re looking at the final form of Pia and Kiran Nalaar, having additional colors and more options on what to do with your artifacts when sacrificing them.

The two thopters she brings when entering the battlefield are used up rather quickly: -4/-4 on an important target or shooting down an opposing planeswalker and they’re gone. In fact, all 3 options of her activated ability have such medium impact that paying 2 mana and sacrificing two artifacts feels like a little too much. Sacrificing two artifacts would’ve been enough with no mana cost at all or make it so you only have to sacrifice a single artifact so you’ll get at least two activations each time you cast her. Of course those two thopters aren’t the only artifacts you’ll have at your disposal - Ichor Wellspring and Junk Diver would like to say “Hello!” - but still the ability to function in a vacuum is an important feature to have on a commander and Breya lacks a bit in that department. The main thing Breya is really good at as a wincondition for a combo-heavy deck, as you’ll only need to assemble infinite colored mana in order to loop her into victory. She won’t help you get there and colored mana is a bit harder to get than colorless mana when we’re talking infinite but having the hardest-to-come-by-piece in your command zone is still pretty good.

As it stands she’s in a good place as a color-providing commander (there are other words for that out there I’d rather not write) with some additional synergy should you go an artifact-heavy route. Obviously she could’ve been way more spectacular but with previous commanders like Prossh, Skyraider of Kher or Daretti, Scrap Savant as daunting examples, Wizards went the safer and less format warping route.

Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice

Legendary Score: 5/10

It’s interesting that she’s the one that divides opinions the most in the community. Many people think she’s decent at the very least, being a very efficient body for four mana with and extra value-trigger, while others - myself included - don’t see her having much of an impact on the format aside from the fact that she’s a 4c commander with little competition for the spot.

  • Flying, vigilance, deathtouch, lifelink
  • At the beginning of your end step, proliferate.

Now if you were to compare her to other “value over time”-commanders like Meren of Clan Nel Toth, or Animar, Soul of Elements you realize that each of those creatures brings something to the table that let’s you get very good value out of a single turn. Meren has her experience counters so while she might recur a Sakura-Tribe Elder to your hand the first time around, casting her lategame, even if she only survives a single turn, she might be bringing a Avenger of Zendikar back onto the battlefield. Animar has Protection from White and Black, the two best spot removal colors, so while she’ll sometimes take two or three turns to reach maximum effectiveness, her built-in protection makes her very likely to live that long. And sometimes all it takes is a Dream Stalker to go crazy from the get go anyway.

Atraxa on the other hand, if you’re looking to abuse her proliferate-trigger, basically only scales with the size of your board and the possibilities to add counters. If you have a huge board with a lot of creatures/walkers/artifacts that use charge counters/etc. she’ll be great, but then again you already have a huge board so you’re usually in a good spot anyway. And if you’ve only got one or two possible targets you’ll need her to stick around for two or three turns to get into a good spot, because no haste and/or untap ability can help her like it would help a Roon of the Hidden Realm. Once she dies and you’d have to cast her again for 2 or even {4} additional mana, the amount of value you’d need to get from that trigger to make the mana well invested is a bit high. Don’t get me wrong, the potential of her getting out of hand with a combination of cards is there, but you’re always playing against 2-3 opponents that might not want that to happen, in which case the expected outcome is rather meagre.

The shell I’m seeing her the most in is some sort of Superfriends deck. One extra loyalty on a planeswalker is pretty good considering most of them “only” have +1 abilities - thank god - and as a blocker she can put all those combat-keywords to some good use. With flying and deathtouch she’s pretty hard to profitably attack into if someone were to try and kill your walkers and the added vigilance and lifelink makes her a good creature to have in and sort of racing scenario. Other than that maybe a hybrid between Abzan and Simic where you basically take a Ghave, Guru of Spores deck, add a little Vorel of the Hull Clade flavoring and finish with a touch of Jenara, Asura of War. But then again why not play one of those decks where you have a commander that has higher synergy with your gameplan and greater immediate impact?

What I can’t stress enough though is: Don’t - for the love of Cthulhu - build Infect. Because if you do you’re in for a bad three to four games before you’re disassembling the deck again. Why is that? Good that you’re asking. As I’ve written about before, Infect’s main issue isn’t lack of ways to proliferate but to get people poisoned to start with. I don’t want to go into detail (You can read about it here), just take my word that Atraxa is not the answer Phyrexia hoped to get for its question: “How do we take over EDH once we get bored in Mirrodin?”

Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis

Legendary Score: 7/10

Oh my god, I am in love with this card. Rites of Flourishing is one of my favourite cards in the format and this is basically an upgraded version of the card for the command zone.

  • At the beginning of your end step, draw a card. Each player may put a land card from his or her hand onto the battlefield, then each opponent who didn’t draws a card.

Not only will your opponents have to choose between an extra land drop or an extra card, but you’ll also get immediate value yourself whereas with Rites of Flourishing you’ll need to untap - get to your draw step - to fully benefit. Additionally, you’ll get a really reliable blocker for four mana which is usually a good thing to have in decks that plan to take full advantage of Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis.

Due to its universal nature, you can build a plethora of different decks in which Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis will always feel very synergistic and important, making them an ideal commander for a “bottom-up” design, where you basically build a highlander deck and then go looking for a fitting commander in your colors. Of course one deck that comes to mind immediately is a group-huggy Phelddagrif-style deck, but the more you think about it the more you’ll realize that it’s not really grouphug when you get a card AND a land drop and everyone else is getting a card OR a land drop. Personally I plan to build a dedicated Warp World/The Great Aurora-Combo deck with them since they support the plan of ramping hard and finding my important cards really well while being in the exact 4 colors I need to get access to all my important cards.

Saskia the Unyielding

Legendary Score: 7/10

Have you ever played with Hydra Omnivore? That’s how every creature will feel like in Saskia the Unyielding.dec. Fun fact: Hydra Omnivore gets even better in this deck because it will deal 8 to everyone and an extra 8 to the chosen player.

  • Vigilance, haste
  • As Saskia the Unyielding enters the battlefield, choose a player.
  • Whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to a player, it deals that much damage to the chosen player.

On the surface she looks like a really good enabler for beat-down decks in a format that kind of lacks them. Then you start to realize that you can get two triggers out of every Blazing Specter. But on an even deeper level you begin to see political aspects of her as well. Say Player B is starting to get a way too dominant board position and your best out is just killing him. If you now choose him with your Saskia you might be able to still kill him by attacking a Player with more life total than Player B who hopefully agrees to take the damage in order to get Player B killed. In that scenario, you’ll even be the hero that “saved the table” while you dealt some good damage to another opponent of yours that you would’ve had to kill at some point anyway. Additionally if you already had a way to get through, you can still choose that player to basically grant your creatures double strike, while still stacking with actual double strike to become “quadruple strike”.

There are just so many things going on with her that I’m really eager to see what people will do. Warchief Giant and other Myriad creatures are insane, on-hit-effects can get out of hand just as easily and with so many available colors you’re bound to find something broken that fits your personal playstyle.

5 Color Combo Store

Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder

Legendary Score: 9/10

What would a Commander-set be without a really, really, really, … broken card. If with Breya, Etherium Shaper Wizards went the safe route, with Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder they kind of went scuba diving in North Canada in Winter… naked.

  • Trample
  • Whenever Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder deals combat damage to a player, as you cast spells from your hand this turn, they gain cascade.

So basically, for four mana you get a 5/4 with trample, which is enough to connect in 99% of the cases, and once he connects he makes Maelstrom Wanderer look like Fervor on a stick. Obviously there are some flaws to him, but to be honest there’s a limited amount of things a four mana card should be able to do and we’re above that by a lot already.

As for how to build around him, it’s pretty much up to you. Whatever you cast, you’ll get your value as long as your deck isn’t filled with counterspells and situational cards. And of course you should play a few cards to protect and enable your commander, not that he needs many. Just some boots to warm his feet, maybe a mantle if it’s really cold outside and Yidris will be a happy Ogre.

Bruce - Tymna

Partnership Score: 7/10

I’ve been playing a Mardu-Goblin-Tribal deck for about half a year now and while the deck is insanely fun, Zurgo Helmsmasher pretty much does his own thing and provide the colors. The lack of a universally usable beatdown commander in Mardu - one that is synergistic with any kind of beatdown plan whatsoever - was always astonishing to me, but that’s all in the past now. With Commander 2016 I’ll be switching to Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder paired with Tymna the Weaver, a pairing where one gives the deck some extra punch…

  • Whenever Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder enters the battlefield or attacks, target creature you control gains double strike and lifelink until end of turn.

…while the other provides the needed card draw to keep going through removal.

  • At the beginning of your postcombat main phase, you may pay X life, where X is the number of opponents that were dealt combat damage this turn. If you do, draw X cards.

Of course the lifelink from Bruce is something a goblin deck lacks and combines well with paying life to Tymna. But the main synergy between the two is that Bruce giving double strike to a creature will usually allow you to attack an extra player with that creature, allowing you to either draw two extra cards that turn or forcing that player to chump.

Vial Smasher - Ludevic

Partnership Score: 8/10

Have you ever played a game of EDH and had a Kaervek the Merciless on the field? If so, then you’ve probably thought “Man why doesn’t he trigger on my spells?!” at some point.

  • Whenever you cast your first spell each turn, Vial Smasher the Fierce deals damage equal to that spell’s converted mana cost to an opponent chosen at random.

Ok, to be fair you can’t shoot creatures with it and even planeswalkers are relatively safe, but that doesn’t mean he’s awful! Compared to Kaervek, him costing {4} less is a huge deal and being weaker might mean he stays in play longer thus effectively dealing more damage. The only thing I don’t like about the card is that you won’t always be able to trigger him right after casting him because - if you don’t have a good Instant to play - then the first spell you’ve cast this turn is Vial Smasher the Fierce himself.

Why does he pair so well with Ludevic?

  • At the beginning of each player’s end step, that player may draw a card if a player other than you lost life this turn.

On his own Ludevic does a pretty good job of ensuring you don’t get randomly hit since as long as he’s on the field at least one enemy creature will attack someone else to get an extra card and a 1 / 4 blocks pretty well too. But when combined with Vial Smasher you only need to play your spell for the turn, roll the dice to determine who gets burned and draw your card. Easy and efficient.

Those two combined are the ideal partnership for a game-accelerating Grixis deck with Sulfuric Vortex and Fevered Visions since the random hits, those that Ludevic diverts pretty well, will have a greater impact if everyones life total is reduced constantly by cards like those.

Trasios - Ravos

Partnership Score: 9/10

I might be a little biased by how these two fit so well in one of my favourite decks, 4 color Spirit-Tribal with a lot of Soulshift cards, that was sporting a Witch-Maw Nephilim as the commander just for the colors before. But even then it would be a 7/10 at the worst.

The way these two work together is that Trasios takes care of the early game and ramps you a little into the later stages where Ravos takes over, hopefully supplying you with a never ending chain of gas while helping your creatures end the game quicker at the same time.

Let’s look at Trasios first:

  • {4}: Scry 1, then reveal the top card of your library. If it’s a land card, put it onto the battlefield tapped. Otherwise, draw a card.

You can read it “4: Scry 1, Coiling Oracle” if you want - without the body obviously - and as we all know Coiling Oracle is a great card. But don’t forget about the Scry-part of the ability that serves two purposes: 1) it will ensure that you get lands more often should you need them and 2) it makes the ability more relevant in later stages of the game where you might want to find more gas to spend your prior acquired mana on. So when I say Trasios is good in the early game I really mean he’s always good.

And then there’s Ravos:

  • Flying
  • Other creatures you control get +1/+1.
  • At the beginning of your upkeep, you may return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.

It’s funny how, with all these end-step-triggers lately, Ravos kind of feels a bit unloved by Wizards with his upkeep-trigger. Maybe they decided that Meren of Clan Nel Toth would’ve been a bit too strong even if she stayed at zero experience counters, who knows. Fact is he’s still a very good late game play and - if you time him correctly - should almost always return at least one creature to your hand, which can oftentimes be enough gas for the next few turns. And as I mentioned already, the Anthem-effect is not to be underestimated especially if you’re looking to grind out your opponents and then finish them with whatever you have on hand. For example some Lingering Souls combined with Ravos hit for a total of 10 damage in the air and you can’t exactly say you’re committed to the board at that point. I’m definitely excited to see which decks he will see play in.

A photo of Tobias Zehetner Tobias Zehetner

Tobias 'SibirianPns' Zehetner is an austrian software deveolper/student and a former competitive Legacy and Standard player who found his way into EDH several years ago. He enjoys vegan food, playing video games and his EDH matches as crazy as possible. The aspect of politics in EDH is what he enjoys the most about the format.