Born of the Gods makes Theros better in Limited. At least, that’s my opinion, corroborated by pretty much everyone I talked to at the prerelease on Saturday. But you’ll be hearing all about that as the week goes on, and it doesn’t pain me in the slightest to admit that several of my fellow writers are better equipped to handle those conversations. So let’s talk Commander. I’ve seen many of these cards in play now, and I think I have a handle on what might find a home in the format, and what probably won’t.

So here we go:

Brimaz, King of Oreskos, is a solid constructed card. I think it has a home in EDH as well, though. He would make a solid monowhite tokens general, as well as a solid roleplayer in many other decks. My dream, though, is to set Brimaz up with Knight-Captain of Eos. The Knight-Captain’s ability is to sacrifice soldiers for a white mana in order to fog the battlefield. With Brimaz, this means every attack or block you make comes equipped with a fog in a can, and that means you’re only fighting when it benefits you to fight. It’s a nice position to be in, and it’s a relatively low-cost way to lock the board.

Kiora, the Crashing Wave is good. If there’s ever a format where you want Explore on a stick, it’s Commander. Ramping up is a major strategy in the Commander meta, even if it’s not the only successful solution. But that’s the obvious strategy; I am most excited about her ability to shut down combat commanders. Often she’ll be doing that directly, by using her plus one ability to bubble the threatening commander, but that’s boring to me. What I really want to do is play her with Guardian of the Gateless and friends. How else can you make an impenetrable wall to keep you out of combat? Veteran Bodyguard and company, that’s how. The damage prevention ability is a lot more abusable than it would initially appear, even if it’s mostly going to be showing up in Bant decks.

The Gods aren’t bad. They best ones for EDH are probably going to be Ephara, God of the Polis and Karametra, God of Harvests, because they both translate directly into card advantage, which is the most important thing in Commander. Commander is the land of Wrath of God, and that means you need to be constantly accruing card advantage so that you don’t run dry when you inevitably get “two-for-one”ed, or worse. This makes indestructible a key keyword, even for enchantments. Mogis, God of Slaughter seems less exciting since Commander players are usually good at making choices, although I can see him getting spicier if you throw in Wound Reflection and Furnace of Rath to make their choices harder. Phenax, God of Deception, seems completely ill-equipped for EDH. Mill is not a successful strategy in Commander in the best of times, and I don’t think highly of his mill ability. And then there’s Xenagos, God of Revels. Great name, great art, probably the secret hero of the set (I mean, who cares if he’s a god? Be nice to your new neighbor, dick pantheon). But for EDH? Eh. He’s too linear. But some people like that, and the opportunity cost for including him in any Red/Green trample deck seems minimal. Expect to see him, but also expect to hold your enchantment exile effects off for more dangerous threats. Like Purphoros, God of the Forge, a must-include in almost any deck that would run Xenagos.

Spirit of the Labyrinth is a griefer card. As such, it’s going to see play. There are Death and Taxes builds of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben that are going to love playing the Spirit alongside hate cards like Aven Mindcensor. It’s the reality of the game that some people love strategies like this. I don’t, and I made my own Thalia into a tribal deck instead, but I recognize there’s appeal there. The real danger I see of the card, though, is that it shuts off your own ability to stay ahead on card advantage. If this card does end up working well, it’s going to likely be in a blue and white shell, with cards like Ephara, God of the Polis providing slowtrips and cards like Court Hussar and Telling Time providing you with card draw without the words “draw a card.”

Courser of Kruphix is solid. I know, it’s the baby sister to Oracle of Mul Daya (it’s a weird family tree, okay?), but that doesn’t mean it’s not a powerful card. There are plenty of situations where you want to know what’s on top of your library, and plenty of ways to manipulate it as well. I’m most excited to play the Courser with Crown of Convergence, an oft-forgotten card from the original Ravnica block that already works swimmingly with the Oracle of Mul Daya Channelers set.

I think Chromanitcore was a missed opportunity on many levels. On the one hand, I recognize it would have been a pain in the butt for Wizards to have to figure out how Legendary interacts with bestow, although Leyline of Singularity means they really should know how that works anyway. It’s probably complicated and counter-intuitive, and for that reason they took away the chance to run an enchantment as your five-color general. On the other hand, though, I am annoyed they skipped the opportunity to make it an elemental manticore, so that it at the least slots into Horde of Notions decks. As is, if you want to play it in EDH you have to shove it into a deck that likely doesn’t have a direct thematic link to the card, and if you want to play it outside of Commander you’re out of luck.

Hero of Ioras is going to be a bit player in enchantress decks. But the sad thing is that I don’t think he’s even going to be good enough for all of the enchantress builds. I think that the Hercules myth has been reduced to a role-player in Bruna, Light of Alabaster decks. I say this because most enchantress decks are built around non-aura, persistent effects. When you overload on auras alone, you leave yourself open to Wrath effects, which, as previously mentioned, are all over Commander. Maybe if Herc himself had been legendary, as would befit a demigod, he could spawn his own new archetype… but if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Incidentally, I am pro riding beggars, but that’s not really relevant to EDH.

Champion of Stray Souls is the type of Baneslayer Angel I like to see in my Commander decks. It’s gross if it survives to untap and it’s capable of returning itself to your hand to try again if they kill it before you’ve had your fun. It’s slightly limited by the fodder you need to make it work, since a pure tokens build may not have worthy targets to resurrect, but once it is online it’s instant speed mass-resurrection. And unlike Living Death and family, it’s one-sided! Hurrah!

Felhide Spiritbinder has some promise. The real problem with the card is that it’s not blue. If it were a blue card, which might make slightly less sense from a color identity perspective but could still work, you could play the Spiritbinder in Derevi, Empyrial Tactician and abuse the heck out of its inspired ability. As is, you’re going to be relying on artifact enablers like Sword of the Paruns, which are fine, if unexciting. Still, repeatable copy effects seem powerful, and I think it’s a fun enough effect to make playing with it a worthwhile proposition.

The Fated cards seem unevenly distributed in terms of their relevance to Standard versus Commander. The Standard playable ones are probably Fated Conflagration (a solid removal spell), Fated Intervention (instant speed tokens), and Fated Infatuation (instant speed copy effect). Infatuation might see borderline play in EDH, but I think if you want that effect the scry 2 isn’t worth losing the flashback options that Cackling Counterpart offers, especially given how much harder it is to play a UUU spell compared to a 1UU spell. Fated Retribution and Fated Return are both way too expensive to see reliable Standard play, but seven mana for the best creature in any graveyard, that happens to also be indestructible… that’s good! And instant speed wrath effects, like Rout, also tend to cost seven mana anyway, so that’s just on par with the format’s needs. Plus, realistically, you don’t want to be popping your wrath on turn four anyway, since the nasty stuff you want to wrath away doesn’t tend to hit the battlefield until later in Commander. So, I solidly endorse playing the white and black ones in EDH, and I can see people playing the others without much shame.

I’ll make a confession. I preordered a bunch of Astral Cornucopias. In fact, I bought the store out of them when I was preordering another couple of cards, and I saw that they were priced fairly cheaply. While it’s certainly no Chromatic Lantern (and really, what is?), I still think this is a solid mana rock that offers late game upgrades and works wonderfully with proliferate, all of which are qualities I look for in my EDH enablers. By which I mean cards that let me do the crazy things I like to do in EDH, and not my Dana.

Anyway, those are the main cards that are leaping out at me from the rare slots. Next week I’ll be back to run through the different prerelease and release promos, as well as some of the more exciting commons and uncommons. I’ll also give a more detailed explanation as to why I skipped many of the cards I skipped, because there are a lot of rares in this set that just aren’t targeted for the Commander format. Which is fine! This set’s been good for us, and I am looking forward to jacking some of these new tools into my various decks.

PS: I wrote this article before the banning of Sylvan Primordial, but this is a Commander blog so I should probably talk about it. So, to start, like its predecessor before it, Prime Time (aka Primeval Titan), the Commander Rules Committee banned Sylvan Primordial. Their justification is that it’s not hard to ramp into it on turn four or so, and that it’s kind of a dick card. And they’re right about that; the lack of a may clause on its targeting ability means that you often were put in a position where you needed to grief an opponent’s land if you wanted to take out a different player’s problem permanent, and get full advantage of the ramping boost. That having been said, Sylvan Primordial filled a lot of holes in green EDH decks. It was simultaneously a ramp card, a way to deal with problem permanents, and a beefy blocker. I can see that it’s that variety of hats that made the ban committee so certain that it had to go, but it does mean it’s not going to be an easy card to replace. Still, there’s always Deadbridge Navigator, which has gone yet another cycle without even discussing the possibility of a ban.

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