Two-Headed Giant is one of my favorite ways to play the game—it’s an excellent way to teach newer players how to compete in limited formats and it smooths out misplays by encouraging communication and cooperation—and so I am, as you might expect, excited for Battlebond. I’m doing a quick review before the release weekend—all the new stuff, as I think we’re aware that Swords to Plowshares is excellent and that Noxious Dragon will kill many, many things.

Battlebond is specifically designed to play in 2HG—there won’t be any cards that rank up based on the format, a la Scholar of Athreos or any of the Extort cards from Gatecrash—and it’s a more traditional set than it appears on first glance, at least as far as limited goes. Outside of Sealed and Draft, I’m concerned about Assist in Commander; political play is always fun, but this is going to be a very simple binary of “do I want to help this person or not?” It reminds me of Join Forces, which never went far in Commander. Regardless, there is a wealth of fun new designs in the set, so let’s jump in!

Top Five New Constructed Cards

  1. Casual/Commander/Legacy—Arena Rector: I’ve played the absurd/absurdly fun Rector Combo (EOT sac Academy Rector to Phyrexian Tower, cast Kaervek’s Spite with her trigger on the stack, discard your hand/all permanents, tutor up a Barren Glory, win the game) before, so you’d better believe I’ll be slamming out an Ugin with this new version. I don’t expect her to be very good, but she’s an excellent choice in a W/B value Commander deck and for the most fringe of Legacy play.
  2. Casual/Commander—Bramble Sovereign: Absolutely. Copy your own Craterhooves, copy your opponents’ Phages, copy your opponents’ Craterhooves and sit in blissful safety behind a wall of attack-taxing effects. Pure value.
  3. Casual/Commander—The Duals: Fastlands that enter untapped unless it’s become a showdown. Presumably, we’ll get the remaining five in the next multiplayer-focused set; until then, these slot into every allied deck.
  4. Casual/Commander—Play of the Game: Perilous Vault costs nine mana to pull this same effect off. Play of the Game can cost as little as WW—although will probably be closer to 3WW, still allowing you to drop something proactive. An excellent reset button that doesn’t even require much in the way of politics; someone will benefit from a wipe and will be willing to dedicate three or four mana to the cause.
  5. Casual/Legacy Fringe—Spellseeker: I may not like it, but this belongs here. Tutors up a toolbox, provides card advantage when recurred, slots immediately into most EDH decks that run blue. Inarguably good, invariably boring.

There are no obvious Leovolds or Council’s Judgments in this set—sensibly, as it’s more focused on teaming up than efficient answers.

Top Five New Limited Cards

  1. Inner Demon: Infest effects are generally playable. Infest effects that turn your creature into a flying clock are uniformly excellent. This will sweep away the Warriors and deathtouchers that seem ready to define the format and do so while giving you a Volcanic Dragon or better.
  2. Ley Weaver: Absolutely obscene with Lore Weaver. Mana ramp that draws a relevant card when you cast it (and have picked up a Lore Weaver) that’s still serviceable even if you didn’t. Shouldering your partner’s weight while they’re mana screwed is one of the least appealing aspects of the format; this will help greatly.
  3. Jubilant Mascot: The blowout potential is real—tapping four mana to have the targets taken from you is debilitating—but the ability to spread the counters between your creatures and your teammates can balance that out. The +1/+1 sub theme in the set means this is more than just a power and toughness boost, and if you pull it off twice, you’re in clover.
  4. Aurora Champion: The density of playable Warriors in the set means this is generally a Territorial Hammerskull that swings for 3. That seems compelling.
  5. Skystreamer: Games will be decided by dropping this collaboratively on turn three. Games will be put out of reach by dropping two of these on turn six.

In summation: White seems very strong.

Top Five Hidden Gems

  1. Stunning Reversal: I can’t even process how much I love this card. Part reactive Ad Nauseam, part set-up for Axis of Mortality/Mirror Universe shenanigans, this card does something niche very well.
  2. Game Plan: The issue with draw sevens, of course, is that it gives your opponents the time to enact their fresh cards before you. That changes when you can politic your way into only spending two-three mana on a draw seven. This is more Reforge the Soul than Days Undoing.
  3. Thrilling Encore: Grim Return was terrible at three mana, so I’m leery of committing entirely to this, but a combination spell that’s threat-theft and Wrath insurance is a fabulous card. You want to run Rise of the Dark Realms for the haymaker power if offers, but there’s nothing so sweet as hoisting the ever-loving hell out of someone by their own Wrathy petard.
  4. Cheering Fanatic: The applications of this dude are fabulous. He’s a terrible Goblin Electromancer, but an excellent fake-out card. Name a powerful card your teammate doesn’t have! Name a combat trick to keep your opponents guessing! Treat him as a disposable mana rock like he’s designed to do! I love the minimal effects that add up to something deceptively potent.
  5. Saltwater Stalwart: Awful name, great Ophidian impersonation. This is the exact sort of card that overperforms subtly and dependably.

The Bottom Four

  1. Last One Standing: Annoying to determine the outcome of, tilting when it backfires. Definitely will lead to stories and decent when you’re far behind, but this will be more frustrating than it will be useful. Somewhat surprised they printed this in a paper set, as against token decks, it’s awfully time-consuming.
  2. Spellseeker: Obviously a great card, but now all Blue Commander decks have access to another Cyclonic Rift. Fetches Momentary Blink for value, Shallow Grave for laughs, and will be such a profoundly boring card in the format. Outclassed by other, more direct tutors, but obviously, vapidly good.
  3. Soaring Show-Off: Not worth it at all. Sure, you draw a card, but this is an accelerationalist card, not an advantageous card. Digging your opponents to your bombs is not work saving one mana off your Aven Fisher—which will be quickly outclassed in this format. Jungle Wayfinder at least offers a relevant body; this is a Wind Drake for the same cost.
  4. Fumble: Weirdly, there are no equipment cards in Battlebond—not one—and there are only three playable Auras that would benefit you by stealing the enchanted creature: Unflinching Courage, Inner Demon, and Dragon Breath. This is pretty rad for Cube and Commander, but is a complete trap in Battlebond itself. Essentially, this is here because how do you make a set based on gladiatorial combat and don’t include any weapons?

Top 6 Legendary Partner Pairs


  1. Regna/Krav: Extremely interesting—these two reward you for the more common auxiliary effects. Getting a couple of points of life and a few cards incidentally or going all-in on a token strategy are equally viable. Obviously excellent in Karlov, Arvad, Elenda, etc.
  2. Pir/Toothy: Atraxa decks, Experiment Kraj decks, +1/+1 counter decks, etc. A combination of a toothless Doubling Season and a Toothy Chasm Skulker is a pretty plug & play archetype, but it’s always fun to watch the dice mount up.
  3. The Kenriths (Rowan/Will): Information overload on this pair; I swear there’s a new line of text every time I read the cards. All of it sums up to insurmountable advantage—I’m having a hard time seeing how you overcome this pair once active, especially if they led with a Will Kenrith.
  4. Gorm/Virtus: Goofy names aside, I also find this a pretty dull pair—disappointingly so, as I’m always interested in Golgari brawlers. Good with Sapling of Colfenor, Ikra Shidiqi, and various flavors of Doran. Limited players, prepare yourself now: someone is going to hit you with this guy, take you to 15, then drop Archfiend of Despair for the win. Practice your meditation exercises and statistics analysis now to rectify the tilt.
  5. Sylvia/Khorvath: Combat-oriented generals, one of whom is pretty expensive. I don’t love Knights in Boros, but I do love giving Dragons double strike. Sylvia into Thunderbreak Regent into Stormbreath/Glorybringer/Thundermaw seems exceptionally scary, albeit unlikely.
  6. Okaun/Zndrsplt: This pair is someone’s absolute dream. More power to you if it’s you.

I like that the Legendary Partners are geared more towards specific lines of play than simply being Good Stuff generals. The tutoring effect is meaningless when they’re your Commanders and a potent tutor in Limited, which is excellent design, and the flexibility offered by targeting your teammate is appreciated.

All in all, Battlebond seems great. I’m spending the weekend drafting the set, and am anticipating seeing these new Legends at the kitchen table. Plus, come on, more Land Taxes always means a better macrogame.

Next time: I shuffle up the Lich’s Mastery deck at a standard tournament. Will Sunmare get there?

A lifelong resident of the Carolinas and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Rob has played Magic since he picked a Darkling Stalker up off the soccer field at summer camp. He works for nonprofits as an educational strategies developer and, in his off-hours, enjoys writing fiction, playing games, and exploring new beers.

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