Two weeks ago I started looking at the exciting Commander 2019 previews featuring decks built around different mechanics from across Magic’s history. This was nothing new, as every year I take a look at the new generals Wizards has created for the product and outline quickly what I would do if I were to build around each of them. You can find my thoughts on the Cat generals here, as well as the Dragons, Vampires, and Wizards of Commander 2017. Last year, we looked at Lord Windgrace & Saheeli and Aminatou & Estrid. Commander 2019 follows the trend, kicking off with the Morph and Populate decks last week. Today, I’ll be looking at the decks built around the mechanics of Madness and Flashback.

Merciless Rage

The advent of Commander has often meant that there are expectations for Wizards to provide viable legends that care about the mechanics they print in Standard-legal products. This normally isn’t too much of an issue, but surprisingly mechanics like energy, transform, flashback and madness have never had their fair shots, achieving varying degrees of success.

I have already written about how I crammed as many graveyard-matters mechanics as I could into an Olivia, Mobilized for War deck, but the deck never felt like it had the as-fan to read as a madness or flashback deck. That is where Anje Falkenrath and the Merciless Rage deck come in to finally offer the support madness fans are looking for.

Not only does Anje play well with madness, she openly endorses it. Essentially a hastened Rummaging Goblin, you get access to madness costs on your spells with very little effort, with the main upside being that you will have a dedicated way to fill your graveyard with cards that want to be there, right from the command zone. Two of my favorites from my Olivia deck are Pyrewild Shaman and Bloodghast. These can both be brought back easily in an Anje deck, netting serious card advantage. If I were to build around Anje, I would skip the ‘spellshapers’ I featured in Olivia and likely skew more towards madness cards to strengthen the synergy. I believe a deck that features card with flashback, unearth, embalm and retrace can be a real power house if you want to go deep on curating a list, and Anje just might take up the mantle for me.

Our next two generals, Chainer, Nightmare Adept and Greven, Predator Captain, are in the running for ‘Most improved over prior designs’ – their originals date back almost a full two decades! Still, I came to Chainer with some remorse, if only because Chainer, Dementia Master was such an iconic card when I first got into the game. To lose his ties to the nightmare creature type was honestly a let down during my first reading of the card, but once I got over that minor nitpick, I have to admit that Chainer, Nightmare Adept is a genuinely cool card to build around. If you have a creature with madness, like Reckless Wurm, not only can you cast it for the cheaper  Madness cost, but Chainer then allows you to cast another creature from your graveyard… both with haste. Even without madness tricks, Chainer is poised to be a fantastic re-animator Commander that is almost guaranteed to appear in your metagame real quick.

Greven, Predator Captain is a big step up from Commander Greven il-Vec, and possibly the third best general to strap an Assault Suit onto. The ability to leverage a Flame Rift or Pestilence in your favor as they spike your general’s power has my brewer senses tingling and I have a feeling I’m not alone. It’s hard to say for sure, but since Greven loves Doom Whisperer, Greed, Phyrexian Colossus, and Treasonous Ogre, it seems entirely possible that we may be seeing a resurgence of kamikaze style decks. Finding ways to grant our general some combination of lifelink, regeneration and trample are going to be of high importance, but I am genuinely excited to see what a few of my local players will come up with if they too are inspired by Greven.

To be completely honest, I feel that K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth is potentially broken in the “greatness at any cost” department. This brokenness seems fitting, as within the lore, K’rrik is potentially the most advanced Phyrexian that exists, part of the invading army that got caught in a time bubble during the Time Streams novel. As for the card, I am quite thankful that he is confined to one color, but I think there is still a lot to be had with him in the command zone.

The ability to ignore black mana and instead use your life as a resource means that you can grant K’rrik shadow via Dauthi Embrace for only 4 life, cast and attack with Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon for three mana and 6 life, while also casting your Whip of Erebos, Phyrexian Arena, and Grey Merchant of Asphodel in rapid succession. K’rrik allows for you to be much tighter with your spells and allows you to play more economically, as you are reducing your reliance on your mana. In my eyes, the key factor is going to be keeping our general on the battlefield and frequently slamming in with K’rrik or our other bodies to deal lifelink damage.

We also have access to cards like Surestrike Trident and Loxodon Warhammer to regain the life points we’re using up. The deck is absolutely going to be high risk, possible higher reward and I think this Phyrexian will absolutely entice the audience it’s meant for.

Mystic Intellect

As someone who spent a lot of time trying to figure out a good Dralnu, Lich Lord deck for my playstyle, I feel Sevinne, the Chronoclasm brings a lot of legitimacy to a flashback strategy. Short of reprinting Snapcaster Mage as a legendary creature, I don’t know what I thought a solid flashback general would look like.

Sevinne offers an interesting build around as he supports not only flashback, but also aftermath, retrace, and jump-start to really carve out a graveyard spells-matter archetype, leagues clearer than before. Flashback will probably still be the most dominant way to take advantage of Sevinne, with a much greater saturation of cards with the mechanic (plus cards that favorably interact with flashback, like Burning Vengeance or Secrets of the Dead).

Of all the generals in Mystic Intellect, Elsha of the Infinite might be my favorite. She’s a more Commander viable Jeskai general than Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest, who I had always wanted to make work, but never quite stuck the landing. It’s probably good that Bolas’s Citadel is not in Elsha’s color identity, but you’re far from short on that kind of strategy here. Combining Ugin, the Ineffable or another cost reduction card with Sensei’s Divining Top and Mystic Forge can help you storm off, and adding an Aetherflux Reservoir will close things out.

For me, I would want to combine draw engines to get past creatures and lands with reactive spells as to play my game off the top of my library and on other players’ turns. Obviously cards like Monastery Mentor and Saheeli, Sublime Artificer are both going to garner different levels of value for this deck, but I also think powerful sorceries like Blasphemous Act, Austere Command, and Karn’s Temporal Sundering are going to be more valuable when you can break through their timing restrictions.

Pramikon, Sky Rampart presents an interesting level of politics that I don’t feel I’m prepared to properly tackle; let’s leave that to the Andrew Marginis of the world to properly brew. What I can say about Magic’s first legendary wall is that I think it will create fun game states for playgroups that are already enjoying formats like Star or Emperor, but don’t have the game size to support it on a given night. If I were to assemble a deck built around Pramikon, I would be using it as a group hug deck that pushes players to bend to my will and take out my competition, instead of simply walling myself off behind a Propaganda, Norn’s Annex, and Ghostly Prison to avoid attacks.

Of course, I say all of this with zero experience – maybe I’ll play with it once and find that I enjoy putting players into decision paralysis with Disrupt Decorum and Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist every game.

Finally, Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero is the Boros Commander many players in love with the color identity have been waiting for. Opening up space for a general besides Archangel Avacyn who has reasonable protection against board wipes is a great move, and gives Boros a distinct leg up, allowing for something other than combat to build around.

I haven’t gone deep on Gerrard yet, but anything that routinely removes large swaths of permanents, like Austere Command or Bearer of the Heavens is going to have a place in this deck. Mana rocks like Commander’s Sphere and Mind Stone, or artifacts that accrue value either as they enter/leave the battlefield such as Ichor Wellspring or Pilgrim’s Eye are going to be especially valuable in this deck. While not for everyone, I really like the innovations Boros has gotten this year with Gerrard and Feather the Redeemed. Here’s hoping he sticks.

The Commander product for 2019 to me reads like a roaring success. It’s astonishing how many cards I wanted to see have made into this year’s decklists, and, though there are deeper cuts that were left out for whatever reason, the same could be said about every year’s release. For the most part, I like the direction that these decks have taken and I have plans to purchase all four of them at some point this Fall. I like the new faces, and I like the return of Weatherlight Saga characters that didn’t have a great showing their first time around.

Stellar product all around. Just remember the secret choice and Magus cards next time!

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH and the EDH community. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.

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