As the Summer winds down, we’ve reached one of my events of the year: Commander Previews! This year the decks were all built around a themed mechanic as their identity and while I was excited to see what might be possible with Morph or Flashback, I can confidently say I was not expecting some of what we got in previews this week.

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 one the Cat generals, as well as the Dragons, Vampires, and Wizards of Commander 2017. And then there is last year’s entries on Lord Windgrace and Saheeli and Aminatou and Estrid. Commander 2019 is no different as today I will be looking at the decks built around the mechanics of Morph and Populate.

The Faces of Faceless Menace

When we learned that Morph was going to be a theme one of the decks would be built around this year, I have to admit I was pretty excited. My Aminatou, the Fateshifter deck has a sizable Morph/manifest suite, but the deck has been more stagnant than I was hoping it would be as the last year since her release. What I was not expecting was that the deck was going to house so many stellar legendary creatures.

Our marquee legend is Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer and while I had been lukewarm on them, I understand that players have been clamoring for a general that explicitly plays well with Morph creatures. I think the design space for a powerful deck is absolutely there, making the first face-down creature spell you cast each turn effectively free and making all face-down spells cantrip massively empowers the deck.

The deck skeleton I envision will be able to also take advantage of the new Scroll of Fate, manifesting cards from our hand and drawing us another card. But I also want to look out for cards that were excluded from the precon, like Ebonblade Reaper, which can drastically change an opponent’s place in the game, or Primordial Mist, which can turn manifested instants or sorceries back into spells.

Something I wasn’t prepared for was just how much of an all-star Volrath, the Shapestealer was going to be in this product. The right deck skeleton will ultimately require some time thinking about ways to effectively get counters onto whichever creature we want to copy, but right now Generous Patron, Midnight Banshee, Xathrid Gorgon, and Makeshift Mannequin are topping my personal list.

The game plan as I see it is to find creatures that gain value based on the size of their body but are built small. Have Volrath become a Beguiler of Wills and tap to likely nab the best creatures on the board. Become a Marionette Master and sacrifice your artifacts to decimate your opponents one by one. Or attack as a Ravenous Slime and avoid all the chump blockers. I don’t want to dedicate too much of this article to what I plan to do with Volrath, the Shapestealer, as I fully expect to write an entire article on him once I’ve gotten some games in with a build. So look out for that in the coming months.

Lastly there is Rayam, First of the Fallen and Grismold, the Dreadsower, two generals I honestly have less to say about. In Rayam I see a lot of potential, especially as I’ve been trying to make Soulflayer work in Commander since its printing in Fate Reforged. The fact that he takes advantage of the abilities of all players is very enticing and probably means that I will one day have something very exciting to say about him. Grismold on the other hand easily gets me thinking about Slimefoot, the Stowaway as a general I have been meaning to get off the ground.

The two will likely be linked in the format, making cameos in each other’s decks and I think the existence of one makes the other better. I’m excited to see what I can do with the deck outside of Illness in the Ranks and Plague Engineer, especially since I haven’t made a Golgari deck that has been great with card advantage.

Generals of Primal Genesis

In the Populate deck, Primal Genesis, our marquee legend is Ghired, Conclave Exile, who reminds me of how I wish I had done some exploration of Populate in the last seven years, but with Ghired, I absolutely think I can make up for lost time. The addition of Red to the possibilities means that we can take advantage of cards like Devastating Summons, Feldon of the Third Path, Flameshadow Conjuring, and Godsire to create either massive creature tokens or copies of tokens that were meant to only last the turn, but can now stick around.

It’s unfortunate that the only creature that can do more populating once copied is Wayfaring Temple, unless of course you’re equipping Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice with Helm of the Host. It will be wise to keep in mind cards granting extra attack steps like Aurelia, the Warleader and Waves of Aggression. This interaction will allow you to populate more than once each turn and go even wider. Lastly, I recommend having a Dolmen Gate or Reconnaissance around, as you’d hate to lose your general or the creature tokens to combat damage.

During my Commander career, I never got around to building a Mayael the Anima even though she always looked like a lot of fun. Atla Palani, Nest Tender won’t play exactly the same, but I see a lot of the same potential in her as I did in Mayael.

Atla does one of the most powerful things you can do in Magic: cheat on mana costs. And I think that with the right resources, you should be able to build a creature-heavy deck that ignores the mana curve and weighs towards huge game ending threats to have hatching out of Atla’s eggs. With an Ashnod’s Altar in play, we should be able to start hatching out creatures like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or a Cataclysmic Gearhulk to really mess with the table. Of the generals in this deck, I see Atla as the most akin to a blank canvas, sure there will be auto-includes, but I believe there is a lot of room for personal expression here.

Moving beyond the token theme, Marisi, Breaker of the Coil is our second general to push goad as a deck theme, after Grenzo, Havoc Raiser. The ability to control combat while also cancelling out combat tricks means that your opponents are going to be forced to turn on each other and also be playing combat where all the tricks are on-board tricks. The important part here is that you’re going to want to have a creature at the ready that will guaranteed deal combat damage the turn Marisi enters play. For an option on the mana curve, I recommend Lone Wolf, but Thorn Elemental could also be valuable for starting this cycle of madness.

Tahngarth, First Mate is our last general for the day, but at least we’re going out with a bang. Easily a second-in-command to Marisi, in his own deck I think you can very quickly use him to “spread the love” and finish people off with commander damage just like we used to do with Zurgo Helmsmasher. Tahngarth is already going to be difficult to block—though a Canopy Cover never hurts—so, we’re only concerned with making him hard to remove. Darksteel Plate, Hammer of Nazahn, and Shield of Kaldra are going to be really helpful in that regard. Overall, you’re just going to need to be vigilant to not getting your general accidentally killed. Get your copies of Assault Suit ready as well, just in case you need to forge a different path.

Looking over the decklists provided by Wizards for each deck, it’s astonishing how often cards I would like to see in the decks are already there. Sure, there are deeper cuts that were left out for whatever reasons the designers might have had, that could be said about every year’s releases. But for the most part, I like the direction they these decks were all taken in and I have plans to purchase a copy of the three we have seen at the time of writing. I like the new faces, I like the return of Weatherlight Saga characters that didn’t have a great showing their first time around. Stellar product all around.

Join me next week, when I turn my attention to the possible generals of the other two decks—Mystic Intellect and Merciless Rage—and craft a few more game plans. I will be hanging around MagicFest Minneapolis this weekend, so hopefully I can get some games in and have at least a few existing stories.

Commander 2019 Faceless Menace Decklist

1 Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer

1 Vraska the Unseen

1 Deathmist Raptor
1 Hooded Hydra
1 Chromeshell Crab
1 Ixidron
1 Kheru Spellsnatcher
1 Stratus Dancer
1 Thousand Winds
1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
1 Bane of the Living
1 Grim Haruspex
1 Silumgar Assassin
1 Den Protector
1 Seedborn Muse
1 Thelonite Hermit
1 Sagu Mauler
1 Willbender
1 Skinthinner
1 Ainok Survivalist
1 Great Oak Guardian
1 Nantuko Vigilante
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Icefeather Aven

1 Ghastly Conscription
1 Hex
1 Overwhelming Stampede
1 Tempt with Discovery
1 Tezzeret’s Gambit
1 Cultivate
1 Explore
1 Farseek
1 Urban Evolution
1 Biomass Mutation
1 Echoing Truth
1 Reality Shift
1 Putrefy
1 Sultai Charm

1 Strionic Resonator
1 Sol Ring
1 Thran Dynamo

1 Trail of Mystery
1 Bounty of the Luxa
1 Secret Plans

1 Darkwater Catacombs
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Llanowar Wastes
1 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
1 Sunken Hollow
1 Thespian’s Stage
1 Yavimaya Coast
5 Island
3 Swamp
7 Forest
1 Ash Barrens
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Command Tower
1 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Foul Orchard
1 Golgari Guildgate
1 Golgari Rot Farm
1 Jungle Hollow
1 Myriad Landscape
1 Opulent Palace
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Simic Growth Chamber
1 Simic Guildgate
1 Temple of the False God
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Thornwood Falls
1 Woodland Stream

New Cards
1 Rayami, First of the Fallen
1 Volrath, the Shapestealer
1 Kadena’s Silencer
1 Sudden Substitution
1 Thought Sponge
1 Gift of Doom
1 Thieving Amalgam
1 Apex Altisaur
1 Road of Return
1 Grismold, the Dreadsower
1 Pendant of Prosperity
1 Scroll of Fate
1 Leadership Vacuum
1 Mire in Misery
1 Voice of Many
1 Scaretiller

Commander 2019 Primal Genesis Decklist

1 Ghired, Conclave Exile

1 Garruk, Primal Hunter

1 Angel of Sanctions
1 Wingmate Roc
1 Dragonmaster Outcast
1 Feldon of the Third Path
1 Giant Adephage
1 Soul of Zendikar
1 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
1 Desolation Twin
1 Flamerush Rider
1 Heart-Piercer Manticore
1 Rampaging Baloths
1 Thragtusk
1 Emmara Tandris
1 Wayfaring Temple
1 Roc Egg
1 Garruk’s Packleader
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage

1 Hour of Reckoning
1 Phyrexian Rebirth
1 Shamanic Revelation
1 Cultivate
1 Explore
1 Farseek
1 Harmonize
1 Fresh Meat
1 Momentous Fall
1 Second Harvest
1 Rootborn Defenses
1 Trostani’s Judgment
1 Beast Within
1 Druid’s Deliverance
1 Slice in Twain
1 Naya Charm
1 Sundering Growth

1 Mimic Vat
1 Soul Foundry
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Sol Ring

1 Growing Ranks
1 Intangible Virtue
1 Colossal Majesty
1 Elemental Bond

1 Cinder Glade
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Gargoyle Castle
1 Sungrass Prairie
7 Plains
4 Mountain
8 Forest
1 Ash Barrens
1 Blossoming Sands
1 Boros Garrison
1 Command Tower
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Graypelt Refuge
1 Gruul Turf
1 Jungle Shrine
1 Kazandu Refuge
1 Krosan Verge
1 Myriad Landscape
1 Naya Panorama
1 Rogue’s Passage
1 Rugged Highlands
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Terramorphic Expanse

New Cards
1 Atla Palani, Nest Tender
1 Marisi, Breaker of the Coil
1 Commander’s Insignia
1 Doomed Artisan
1 Song of the Worldsoul
1 Ghired’s Belligerence
1 Tectonic Hellion
1 Full Flowering
1 Ohran Frostfang
1 Selesnya Eulogist
1 Tahngarth, First Mate
1 Idol of Oblivion
1 Cliffside Rescuer
1 Hate Mirage
1 Voice of Many
1 Scaretiller

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