As I was looking back at all the legendary creatures that came to Magic the Gathering in 2022, I found myself rather impressed. A lot of designs had slipped through the cracks for me. Because of this, I wanted to find a topic for this week which would help shed some light on my favorite designs of the year. It could be a legendary creature to helm a deck, or one which can play a strong supporting role. But seeing as there were a large number of legendary creatures printed into Magic in 2022, trying to create a list that took all of them into account seemed untenable. So, I gave myself the stipulation of looking at legendary creatures printed into Commander through the preconstructed Commander products. This means whether it be the decks that came out with the Standard legal sets, signified eternal-legal booster fun, or from specialty decks, like the Warhammer 4000. If they were adorned with a Commander product set symbol, they were viable entries for today’s list. In no particular order, these were my picks.

Deathleaper and haste creatures Putrefax and Ball Lightning. All capable of utilizing double strike when they enter play.

Deathleaper, Terror Weapon

One attribute of design which can cause me to become irrationally attached to a legendary creature is when they allow interesting card selection to thrive. Deathleaper, Terror Weapon granting double strike exclusively to creatures that have just entered the battlefield creates for some exciting choices. It immediately benefits creatures with haste, or those that create tokens that enter the battlefield attacking. Additionally, double strike is something that can be taken advantage of on the defensive as well. A card like Elementary Mastery can have its typical usage, or it can threaten any would-be attackers. Deathleaper’s simple caveat means a lot of cards you might normally pass up on suddenly become viable without needing to dedicate your entire strategy to them. Since we are working in two colors with a simple stipulation, we are able to fill out the rest of the deck with non-haste spells in whatever capacity we deem appropriate. 

Urza, Chief Artificer surrounded by Baleful Strix and Myr Battlesphere, showing off how to best utilize affinity for artifact creatures and Urza’s menace granting ability.

Urza, Chief Artificer

The ability to circumvent commander tax can be very potent. As much as I may love Derevi, Empyrial Tactician" data-card-name="Derevi, Empyrial Tactician">Derevi, Empyrial Tactician, I understand they circumvent commander tax in a less palatable way. Urza, Chief Artificer definitely feels a lot more like Karador, Ghost Chieftain, and allows artifact creatures to thrive in a unique way we haven’t really seen since Sydri, Galvanic Genius. By 2022 standards, Urza feels relatively simple in terms of what he is trying to accomplish in this interaction, which is something I appreciate. Even granting menace to most of your creatures is a strong enough boon. Even if Urza isn’t leading a deck, I would expect them to show up in the other 99. 

Kros with tapping shenanigans cards, Spore Cloud and Crackdown.

Kros, Defense Contractor

Since I started utilizing Kros, Defense Contractor this summer, I have been impressed by how much they can dictate the flow of combat. Kros’ abilities work wonderfully in tandem, obviously, but the scope of what the second ability can trigger off of often means we can goad many creatures at once with something like Thrive or The Crowd Goes Wild. We often end games on our terms. While goad had already existed in these colors, I feel like Kros put the Bant goad cards in the spotlight and allowed a deck to finally get a footing.

A lot of my experience with Kros this year came from his time in my Derevi, Empyrial Tactician deck. In this deck, the cat advisor often controls combat in subtle ways that keeps my profile low. The player on the receiving end of goaded combat is far more likely to aim their ire at the controller than me. While not the focus of the deck, I can say that if nothing else, I’m happy to have them for that deck the most.

The Ever-Changing 'Dane with Lightwielder Paladin and Inkwell Leviathan, showing off the range of creatures Dane can become.

The Ever-Changing ‘Dane

I have been a pretty avid fan of Clone decks over the years. They tend to reward adaptive gameplay and force the pilot to stay on their toes. While I haven’t had time to dive full-on into The Ever-Changing ‘Dane, I find the design of them to really push what could be possible for the archetype. My immediate thought upon seeing this card was, “I would like to stack some triggers and make them a Phyrexian Dreadnought.” After some thought, I think there is even more that can be done. Boxing this general into the Clone archetype may be vastly underrating what is possible.

‘Dane gives us protection against Threaten effects, but we also get to use Seasinger to steal our opponents creatures. We can transform our general into them before stealing anything we may want. There is also potential to mimic the shenanigans players do with Scion of the Ur-Dragon, now without the creature type restrictions and death triggers. I’m also getting some strong ​​Volrath, the Shapestealer vibes. While I don’t know if there is the same level of depth compared to the design space of Volrath, ‘Dane definitely deserves a breakdown in the future.

Kotori with Darksteel Juggernaut and Mechatitan Core

Kotori, Pilot Prodigy

In many ways, Kotori, Pilot Prodigy is the one that got away in 2022. I wanted to make a deck that skillfully spun out of what this card was trying to do, but never found a list I was happy with. Vehicles are not without a few choice generals to build around and crew 2 is a huge upgrade in some cases. Despite the bump, it still feels fair in the grand scheme of things. Similar to the aforementioned Sydri, Galvanic Genius, being able to grant an artifact creature lifelink and vigilance can be all one needs to get out of a tricky situation. It also seems fair to say that following all the artifact themes coming out of The Brothers’ War, Kotori may be even better as 2022 closes, solely off the second ability. All in all, this is not a general I want to sleep on, I just personally haven’t found exactly what fits my needs yet.

Hazezon, Shaper of Sand pictured with Ramunap Ruins and Asari Captain.

Hazezon, Shaper of Sand

It’s a shame that a lot of the Naya/Cabaretti design space in 2022 that was dominated by Jetmir, Nexus of Revels and his ilk. It outpaces what Hazezon, Shaper of Sand is trying to do, to the point where I fear they will all overshadow Hazezon in the long run. The reinvented Legends character really feels like a general that is going to have a lot of potential in the future, but hasn’t been seeded yet with the right cards to take advantage of everything the card is trying to do. Regardless, a deserts-matter general with warrior theme elements feels niche enough that I hope it gets a chance to shine. We may need a few more products down the road to deliver what we need.

Utilizing desertwalk is going to be tricky, as it will require some form of land transformation. Think Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth for deserts, or more donation effects like Bazaar Trader to be printed. But the desert recursion potential, making a Ramunap Ruins deck theoretically possible has me intrigued. And, of course, Hazazon’s third ability is the most easily exploitable of his abilities. We already have technology like Anointed Procession for token doubling, Impact Tremors for damage, Mentor of the Meek for card draw, and Jaheira, Friend of the Forest for excessive mana. All in all, this card took me by surprise when I first saw it earlier this year and I hope I can dedicate time to it eventually.

Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful with Alpine Watchdog and Pack Leader.

Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful

I don’t know that any list for the year should go without a mention of the mono white partner, Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful. While not the most complex legendary creature of 2022, Yoshimaru has stood out to me as a utility piece the more I’ve built around them. Right off the bat, I think any time Partner can be used in such a way that it doesn’t create a four-color deck, it allows for some individuality. Being able to add white to a deck through Partner means that a lot of the legendary or planeswalker-matters cards, like Arena Rector, Search for Glory, or Thalia’s Lancers can easily mix with a general like Reyhan, Last of the Abzan to converge on multiple themes. Yoshimaru also has proven to be a solid Voltron commander, weighing its card selection towards legendary permanents and blinking to build towards a beastly hound. 

Tetsuo, Imperial Champion with Embercleave and Cruel Ultimatum

Tetsuo, Imperial Champion

Tetsuo, Imperial Champion has been on my list of things to build for the last few months now. The fact that 2022 was able to give us a surprise legendary Samurai was certainly going to get my attention. What I appreciate the most about this Tetsuo is how it’s doing things outside of what we saw in Kamigawa Neon Dynasty. Being able to be equipment-focused, but still express the theme in multiple ways, allows for the deck to go in many directions. At one point I had tried assembling a list built on the theme of defeating Nicol Bolas decks; the ones which utilize Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. The idea was to creating something capable of dishing out of the appropriate amount of damage to kill the Planeswalker side at a moment’s notice. The problem being that finding equipment that was high enough cost to do just that was more prohibitive than I had imagined. Most spells that traditionally deal a lot of damage to a planeswalker do so using X as a variable. I still think something using Embercleave, Hero’s Blade, Ronin Warclub, Sai of the Shinobi, and Stormrider Rig are viable, it just might not be as thematically focused as my first idea.

Looking Forward to 2023

I think it’s fair to say we left 2022 with a lot of unexplored tools. In a year where we had flying mecha and demon mob bosses, we also explored Dominaria in the present and past to explore one of the most important events in the history of the plane. It’s a wide spectrum. I do feel like the cards designed for our format have been wildly successful in many ways, and unfortunately a lot has gone unexplored. We are currently living through an extended period of Magic which will one day be dug through for all of the hidden gems it contained. It feels impossible to create a wishlist for what I would like to see come in 2023, but I do hope some of the archetypes I’ve outlined today might see some support in surprising ways. Perhaps we’ll see the more support for desertwalk?

Ryan Sainio (he/him) is a Graphic Designer exploring the Commander format and Magic history on a regular basis. Notable decks that value flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks include Shattergang Eldrazi, Doran Soul Sisters, and Chatterfang ProsBloom.

MTG Content Creator Awards 2022 nominee: Format Specialty Writing & Excellence in Writing Overall

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