Theros has been fully spoiled and it's time to see what this means for Commander. Let's begin!
Chained to the Rocks
I’m loving this card for WR decks. It lacks the instant speed of Swords to Plowshares or Path to Exile and it can lead to a savage 2for1 if someone blows up the Mountain you’ve stuck the chains too, but exiling a creature for 1cmc is too sweet to ignore. I consider Swords significantly better and Path (already a 1for2) only slightly better largely due to instant speed. I’d run all three in pretty much any WR I’d make though.
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Wowza! Now this is a planeswalker fit for Commander (and Standard too, but this is not the article for that)! An immediate board wipe on a planeswalker is most impressive. Not to mention making three soldier tokens as a +1 is incredibly sweet as well. With these two abilities, Elspeth is surprisingly capable of protecting herself in a format where planeswalkers usually have a life expectancy of 1-2 turns.
Elspeth 3.0 is a new white staple. Board wipe, token generator, finisher, she does it all. You won’t regret picking her up!
Gift of Immortality
A neat way of abusing sacrifice triggers or enter-the-battlefield (ETB) triggers, but it’s slow. I’d consider this a “fair” shenanigan since it doesn’t allow any infinite combos that I can think of.
Heliod, God of the Sun
The best parallel I can think of is Mobilization, a card I’ve had experience playing in my Darien tribal soldier deck.
Vigilance isn’t the most exciting passive, but it does allow more chances to swing into an open enemy without worrying about leaving yourself open to counterattacks in the process.
The token generation is costs quite a bit of mana and doesn’t increase your devotion in the process. White has better ways of making tokens. I do find cleric tokens mildly interesting, however. I’ve never seen cleric tribal before, but if such a deck exists then Heliod would serve as a mighty patron.
This part applies to all the gods so I won’t repeat myself in other god reviews
Then we have the part that all the gods have in common: they’re 5/5+ indestructible creatures if you have devotion 5+. A 5/5 indestructible is amazing but how often it will actually be a creature depends on how you built your deck, how your opponents built their decks, and luck of the draw. The inconsistency of this ability puts it in the “pretty good” category and, coupled with the rest of the card's effects, determines whether it moves into the "awesome" category.
I don't think Heliod's passive or active are very exciting, so he's merely "pretty good" to me. I won't be quick to make room in my white decks for him.
Soldier of the Pantheon
“Lifegain Matters” decks looking for more Soul Wardens might want to try out this card. It could gain a substantial amount of life and be an impressive chump blocker. Or it could be crummy vanilla 2/1. It might be worth testing.
Spear of Heliod
An anthem and rattlesnake wrapped together is a strange and seemingly conflicting package. Aggressive swarmy/weenie decks want the anthem effect and usually the imposing army itself serves as the rattlesnake. On the other hand, pillowfort/control decks could use the rattlesnake effect usually because they don’t have a scary army to deter attacks.
I can see this played in swarmy decks that really need another anthem and can use the spear’s activation to deal with evasive threats. More hardcore control decks have better options.
Bident of Thassa
I don’t see Coastal Piracy often, but this upgrade may be good enough to see some play. Evasive weenie decks like Edric will probably like this card. The active is deceptively powerful too, as it not just opens up an opponent to attack with your dudes and draw cards, but also can be a political play to leave the biggest threat defenseless and open to a coordinated lethal attack by the rest of the table.
Curse of the Swine
I can’t tell you how happy this card makes me. The lore, the cute lil’ piggy tokens, and the mechanics all come together so wonderfully.
Mass creature exile is insanely powerful. It’s essentially a one-sided board wipe that denies any possibility of reanimation shenanigans, which is one of the most popular strategies in the format. And this is a blue card! The tokens are adorable and mostly harmless. This is Commander we’re talking about, pretty much any creature you play with be able to hold off some 2/2’s.
Master of Waves
This merfolk is just begging to broken. He’s yet another way to enable infinite combos. Master + phyrexian altar+ deadeye navigator = infinite blinks or infinite mana with one more blue permanent. There are also multiple variations of this, such as swapping out the navigator for nim deathmantle. Toss in Blood Artist or any win condition of your choice and boom, infinite combo win.
If you want to play nice, he’s also a pretty cool elemental lord. Tribal Horde of Notions maybe?
Ordeal of Thassa
While they don’t like much on the surface, the Ordeals can be deceptively powerful due to the last line, “When you sacrifice…” This means that you don’t have to attack three times before you get the final effect. Instead, you can jump immediately to that effect if you have an enchantment sacrifice outlet.
Imagine this: you play Ordeal of Thassa on a creature, swing, put a +1/+1 counter on the creature, and then after combat you sacrifice it for value and draw 2 cards. A +1/+1 counter, 2 cards, and whatever benefit from your sac outlet, for 2 mana. That’s pretty good!
Finding good enchantment sacrifice outlets will be the real trick, however!
And the sweet blue cards keep rolling in!
It’s a ridiculously powerful counterspell for 1mana! A 2/2 flyer is nothing in Commander, as powerful cards like Beast Within, (
Sylvan Primordial) and Terastodon have already shown us. This is an easy pickup for most blue decks. I’ll be looking forward to making some swans with my Talrand deck.
Thassa, God of the Sea
I find it interesting that Thassa is only 3cmc while the rest of the gods are 4cmc.
Her passive is sweet, though I have no clue of its actual power level. I’m incredibly biased here since I absolutely love scry and probably overvalue scry 1, but gosh darnit the mechanic feels so good! It’s no Phyrexian Arena but we’re not done with the card yet.
Her active a sweet one. It plays nice with creatures that do sweet things when they connect with opponents, like Thada Adel, Acquisitor and friends. It’s also good for when the biggest threat on the board that you want to focus on also has a big army to defend himself that you need to get around, which usually goes hand in hand.
Definitely a worthy inclusion in aggressive ninja types of decks.
Everything I said about Master of Waves applies here. Infinite combos galore. Even without combo’ing out, this is a solid creature ripe of fair synergies. The casting cost is a bit harsh, however.
Agent of the Fates
This card would be absolutely brutal if you could trigger its ability. Just one trigger and it’s better than Fleshbag Marauder, which sees some play. Triggering him without playing subpar cards to do so will be the real challenge.
Erebos, God of the Dead
Erebos’ passive is the most situational of the gods, which makes sense since it’s pretty much a lifegain deck hoser. How relevant/powerful that is depends on your meta, though overall I don’t think it’ll do much.
The active is the real draw to this god. In decks that don’t have access to card draw, Erebos is a solid way to refill your hand, though that lifeloss will stack up fast if you don’t have some lifegain to even it out.
I can see Erebos being solid in RG decks like Kaervek the Merciless, where you don’t have a ton of card draw and you want to deny your opponents an easy way out of your group pain. Even better, though, is WB decks. WB is probably the worst combination for card draw (white has the least of any color) and the best combination for efficient lifegain to even out Erebos’ lifeloss. White also offers additional ways to fetch him when he’s needed, such as Idyllic Tutor.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
This innocent looking common has some potential in mono-black, where the lifedrain can be pretty significant and the creature body is ripe for ETB abuse, either with blinking or reanimation. Personally, I’ll be testing him out in my tribal zombie deck. Looks like fun!
Does your meta have pesky planeswalkers? Need another spot removal? Hero’s Downfall fills this gap admirably. For the record, I like this card more than Dreadbore due to its instant speed able to disrupt the notorious “oops I win” creatures that Commander houses.
Hythonia the Cruel
Sisters of Stone Death will happily another gorgon to the fold! Tribal Gorgon EDH is happening!
Hythonia is at best a very risky Plague Wind unless you have 10BBBB available on the turn you decide to cast her. Sure, she’s not the best option, but TRIBAL GORGON EDH WHEEEE!!!!
Now this is a bestow creature that I like! Mill decks can add this bad boy as a surprise finisher. Mortivore approves!
Read the Bones
A really sweet card draw at common! Is it better than (Night’s Whisper)? Depends if Scry 2 is worth 1 more mana. I have a feeling that it’s just as good, making it probably playable in black decks that need more draw.
Whip of Erebos
Lifelink is pretty decent. The active, however, seems a little overpriced. It’s essentially a “fixed” Unearth mechanic as it denies even more tricks to keep the creature around -- though Sundial of the Infinite still works I think?
Reanimation decks will probably avoid this, but lifegain decks might want to try it out.
Could be pretty sweet in Green/Red ramp decks that want to do something with their excess mana. Sacrificing 3 out of your 10+ lands doesn't bother you, but you can bet that non-green decks at the table will really feel that sting. Borborygmos Enraged decks might want to try it out.
Hammer of Purphoros
Well, it's better than Fervor, but not quite Fires of Yavimaya. Being able to generate an artifact enchantment token is pretty interesting, however. With so many card types, this card and the tokens it creates is begging the builder to find synergies.
Being both an artifact and enchantment means it's even more likely to be destroyed. If you want the haste in red, I'd still go for Anger first, but this is a fine second choice if you want more redundancy.
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Of all the gods, the red one impresses me the most. Purphoros' passive alone is worth a card, as it's comparable to cards like Pandemonium and Warstorm Surge just by itself. The god of the forge clearly wants to play with swarms of weenies, and red token decks will absolutely love him. Dropping down a Siege-Gang Commander and dealing 8 damage to all opponents in the process is no joke. The active is just gravy, offering you the opportunity to attack more often or close out games entirely.
In creature form, Purphoros plays incredibly well with lifegain equipments such as (Basilisk's Collar) or Loxodon Warhammer, gaining you 6 or so free life each time you play a creature.
Expect to see Purphoros at the helm of future mono-red decks, and possibly showing up in other multicolor swarm strategies!
No, we're not quite there yet with the minotaur tribal deck, but we're getting there! Hold onto your (Digeridoo) and pick this guy up, because by the time Theros block is fully released we should have enough to make that dream come into fruition.
That's a lot of damage potential! I'm usually not a fan of strict beaters in commander, though this one is quite good at doing that. Most likely it will be killed before your next untap phase by the guy holding 7 cards in hand and doesn't want to give you a chance to activate its monstrosity. Or maybe he can't and this creature does explosive amounts of damage in two turns, who knows?
Bow of Nylea
In decks that can abuse +1/+1 counters, this versatile bow could be quite good. I'm looking at you, Skullbriar, the Walking Grave and Vorel of the Hull Clade! In these types of decks, the bow has one very strong ability but has the other more “meh” abilities as additional options.
Nylea, God of the Hunt
Mass trample is okay. Most played green fatties already have some form of evasion though. The pump active is pretty sweet as just the threat of pump will make it more difficult for opponents to attack or block you. All in all, however, I'm not too impressed.
Ordeal of Nylea
The same thing I said about other Ordeals applies here: if you have a sacrifice outlet for this enchantment, it becomes a half-priced Explosive Vegetation, which is absurdly good, if not the best priced Ordeal of them all.
Polukranos, World Eater
Polukranos is an undercosted fattie in a color full of them. The cool part is his monstrous ability acting as removal, something mono-green could have more of. In your typical rampy monogreen deck, this hydra could devour 2-3 problem creatures regularly. If you're splashing another color, however, you probably have more efficient answers to problem creatures.
In mono-green? You've got another anti-creature dude. Multicolor? You have better options. Unless you're going tribal Hydra. Then yes, use him. Actually, if you're the first person to make a tribal hydra deck and send me a video of it, I'll give you 3 event tickets! Because that'd be awesome.
This is a fine source of ramp and fixing, but I think green has better options available. It's protected from targeted removal and sort of blocks. However, it's a turn slower than Birds of Paradise and still remains a casualty of board wipes, which are frequent in this format. I prefer my ramp in land form, such as Rampant Growth, Farseek, or Nature's Lore.
Anax and Cymede
For the spot of general in Boros swarm decks, I still prefer Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer, since Boros decks almost always fulfill the metalcraft requirement indirectly anyway to make up for the color combination's weaknesses (primarily ramp, but also card draw and a few other things). There's also the trick of activating the dynamic duo with good cards, the common issue with the heroic mechanic.
For one more mana, this Angel of Despair will Vindicate an additional target when it dies. Actually, scratch that, it exiles the target! Woot! The death trigger allows for some more combos, such as with Nim Deathmantle. Or could you imagine it with (Kiki-Jiki, the Mirror Breaker)? Yikes!
Kaalia of the Vast will still prefer the angelic version, otherwise this archon is a fine upgrade.
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
I don't see the appeal at all. Turn one, she does nothing. Turn two, she might do something if you exiled a creature, which you could very well have blanked on. Keep trying until you exile a creature you want, and then wait another turn to cast it. All in a format where planeswalkers have an incredibly short life expectancy. Um.. no. Maybe in Standard the mill 3 will be more relevant.
Daxos of Meletis
Lifegain decks or ninja-y decks in UW colors, however few there may be, shall happily receive this card into the fold. Daxos functions similarly to Augury Adept but is easier to connect with, kinda like Nightveil Specter. One annoyance, and something I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, is that Daxos cannot play exiled lands, as it specifically says you can cast the card instead of play it, like how Nightveil Specter is worded.
Medomai the Ageless
I think this is one of the best designed casual cards from the set. It's powerful, but cannot be easily pushed into a degenerate insta-win combo. In a format where Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots see tons of play, Medomai is going to get bang for your buck.
He'll be especially sweet in U/W aggro decks, which he'd fit well at the helm of, but honestly any deck that likes extra turns can at least give him some consideration. Do you have powerful upkeep effects? Do you like extra chances to draw into a Miracle card? Do like drawing an extra card, playing an extra land, and being able to cast extra spells? Yeah. Yeah, you do.
Prophet of Kruphix
… and here comes my vote for worst designed casual card. Prophet takes the best parts of an easily broken card, Seedborn Muse, and slaps on flash for good measure. It's trivial to break this card into a thousand pieces.
UG have all the tools to warp this from a great card into something you'll dread seeing each time it lands on the board. Sorta like Consecrated Sphinx. All they need to do is draw cards, preferably with creatures, and then use their every person's turn casting spells and possibly drawing more cards if needed. Gee, if only UG was good at drawing cards.. Essentially this is card reads, “during each opponent's turn, take an extra turn.” But the Prophet is vulnerable to removal! Gee, if only UG had access to amazing countermagic or something.. Sigh.
The thing that really grinds my gears is something so obviously broken is given to UG, the strongest color combination in the entire format. How often do you run across any of these commanders: The Mimeoplasm, Maelstrom Wanderer, Prime Speaker Zegana, Animar, Soul of Elements, Edric, Spymaster of Trest? I'm guessing the answer is, “pretty often!” There's a reason for that. Not to mention Momir Vig, Simic Visionary, which will be the most abusive of this new card.
Did UG really need this? Wizards, if you must print broken commander cards, how about throwing that lovin' to less powerful colors? Howzaboot that sobbing lil' color in the corner, Red? Maybe give Boros a hug, huh?
Okay, rant over. This card is one of the strongest in the set, and the strongest card in the set in decks can really take advantage of her (coughMomircoughwheeze).
Triad of Fates
I like all the things these ladies do, but they do it so slowly! You need to wait 3 turns until you get any value out of this card. That's simply too long. If you can grant them haste, or have multiple ways of untapping them, then they can get better.
Graveyard denial is always potent in commander. Every single time I sit down at a table, there's at least someone running a graveyard abuse deck. Almost everyone runs at least some amounts of graveyard recursion. So hating on graveyards is a safe and powerful bet.
Cerberus does this on a big evasive stick. That's tasty. If the hound hurts your opponent's tactics more than your own, I'd run this. Bonus points if you have Leyline of the Void out when it kicks the bucket!
Xenagos, the Reveler
Swarmy token decks have a new friend. Xenagos is easily comparable to Garruk Wildspeaker. Most often he'll probably not ramp as much as Garruk on turn 4, but lategame he has the potential to power out some huge mana ramp if you have a large army already out.
Zedruu the Greathearted players have a new toy. A free donate and group hug effect. If you like Zedruu and like group hug, this is the card for you!
Doesn't look like much, huh? Probably didn't even notice this lil' guy, but he's good! This elk is to Explosive Vegetation as Wayfarer's Bauble is to Rampant Growth for non-green decks.
Where he truly shines is mono-black decks. Why? Cabal Coffers. Well, Coffers, and Magus of the Coffers, Crypt Ghast, Nirkana Revenant, Caged Sun.. you get the idea. Mono-black ramp wants swamps, and lots of them. Thran Dynamo is sweet ramp but it ain't no swamp to get more value with your Coffer effects. The Hart brings you the good stuffs. The Hart might do some damage before you pop it, too, maybe pull off a Sharpshooter on an unsuspecting opponent. Good times.
Colossus of Akros
Not the most optimized choice, but sweet Jeebus 20/20 trample indestructible! Yowza! To me, this is what Commander is about, and seeing this printed makes me very happy.
Pyrix of Pandemonium
Group Chaos players also get a new toy. If you just want to watch the world burn and laugh at the insanity it creates, Pyrix is the card for you!
Nykthos, Shrine to Nix
Mono-colored decks just got another sweet ramp card to play with to put beside Caged Sun and friends. Nykthos doesn't ramp early, and is horribly inconsistent, subject to being awesome and then suddenly crummy after a board wipe, but that's alright when the risk's cost is playing an untapped colorless land.
The Temple Cycle
No, they're not the best available lands in the format. And you know what? That's more than fine. We already have the best mana-fixing dual lands that Wizards will ever print. You can bet there won't be more powerful dual lands available than original duals, ravnica shocks, and zendikar/onslaught fetches. So I welcome worse lands that will be far more reasonably priced. That means budget players like me just got slightly better guildgates for their decks. When they rotate they'll be at the dollar range. Excellent!
Whew, that's a lot of cards! Join me next time when I do something pretty special -- a pauper and peasant cube review for Theros! Don't know what the heck pauper cube is? I'll enlighten in you in that article!