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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Aug 27 2019 12:00pm
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COMMANDER 2019

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 It's that time of the year again when a new innovation product comes out – or at least it is since a couple of years, because the Commander series used to have a November release until 2016, but Commander 2019 has been unleashed upon the Magic world this very month, much like its two closest predecessors in 2017 and 2018. And exactly like last year's edition, it's composed by four preconstructed 100-card decks, three of them three-colored and one two-colored, but in different combinations: this time it's the turn of Naya (based around populate), Jeskai (based around flashback), Sultai (based around morph), and Rakdos (based around madness). These are the four respective commanders, which are back to being creatures again after last year's planeswalker intermission.

   

 The good news is that this time the usual MTGO distribution via Treasure Chests has preceded even the August 23 paper release, with the new cards already starting to show up on 30% of the chests since August 14, complete with the "C19" three-letter code rather than the generic "PZ2". However, four cards aren't yet available due to bugs that still need fixing: Empowered Autogenerator; Elsha of the Infinite; Rayami, First of the Fallen; and Tahngarth, First Mate. Considering we're still missing a few from Commander 2017 (Mairsil, the Pretender; Portal Mage; Vindictive Lich), this could take a while.

 Anyway, let's have a look at these new Commander-friendly creatures and their tribes. As always, the main focus is on all the Constructed applications, the tribes are presented alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 302
  • New cards: 59
  • New creatures: 36
  • Reprinted cards: 243
  • Reprinted creatures: 68
  • New Legendary creatures: 16
  • New Snow creatures: 1
  • New artifact creatures: 1
  • New enchantment creatures: 0
  • Triple-subtype creatures: 0
  • Creature types affected: 36
  • Tribes with more than one addition: Human (+8), Wizard (+4), Shaman (+3), Vampire (+3), Warrior (+3), Druid (+2), Minion (+2), Naga (+2), Shapeshifter (+2), Snake (+2), Soldier (+2), Wall (+2)

Ape: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 25, online: 22

 Related Tribes: Snake

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: No Advisors nor Angels in C19, so we start with Ape instead. Or at least with this Ape/Snake monstrosity, from the Sultai morph deck, given that manifest is a cognate ability to morph, even if it doesn't exploit the reduction cost granted by Kadena. But it's not an issue when manifest is already free, and in this case you even steal stuff from the opponent's deck, which is excellent, a Thief of Sanity automatic effect that doesn't require connecting. And then you can suicide the grabbed creatures and drain their owner for two? It's a very powerful effect that doesn't involve the expense of a single mana, and becomes devastating in a multiplayer table when you repeat it once per turn for each opponent. Of course our Ape hybrid costs seven to begin with, and it's not particularly great on the battlefield per se, if somewhat resilient to damage-based removal thanks to its big butt. It's also the second black Ape in the game after Sidisi's Pet (so black Apes is definitely a Sultai, morph-related thing), the first whose blackness is independent from being a Zombie.


Artificer: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 118, online: 114

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Introducing the Sculpture creature type – token only. So this guy gives you one free creature token per turn, with increasingly large bodies, but you can't attack nor block with them (they're literally statues!), you have to figure out a way to put them to some use. Intriguing. Definitely a Johnny card, though at first sight it doesn't seem more alluring than, say, Ophiomancer. And why is he "doomed"? Because he has to keep working on his sculptures forever? Oh, don't worry, Artisan, I'm sure sooner or later someone will zap you for one damage. Oh, wait a minute, that's what your controller will do! Okay, I figured it out, once their creator is dead, the statues will come to life! That's what his doomedness refers to. Cool.


Berserker: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 75, online: 72

 Related Tribes: Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: As his name clearly indicates, this is a companion piece to Anje Falkenrath, the commander of the Rakdos madness deck, though Anje's ability won't make her Ravager drop sooner than turn four without mana acceleration, which doesn't seem ideal. Regardless, a 3/3 for (potentially) two is not a bad deal, and the attack trigger synergizes once again with madness, or just with very fast hands that need constant refilling.

 I don't think I ever understood the lore behind the madness mechanic – which is 17 years old by now (it first appeared in 2002's Torment). These creatures are mentally ill, therefore they are... more likely to show up earlier than expected? Wait, is the discard a metaphor for attempted suicide? Man, that would be pretty dark. Is Basking Rootwalla so unhappy with its life?


Cat: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 179, online: 172

 Related Tribes: Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: One of the secondary commanders in the Naya deck, though he doesn't particularly play into the populate theme. Four mana for a 5/4 is still decent nowadays, even involving three different colors, and shutting down combat tricks for the opponent can be useful, if not always crucial (they'll have to use instant removal before the combat phase starts, which may be mildly annoying on MTGO, since chances are they'll forget to set a stop in first main – of course they can just shoot down Marisi during the previous end step, if they have open mana). I feel like the universal goad is supposed to be the main attractive here, though it's more effective in multiplayer, where the goaded creatures have to attack someone else. In 1v1, you'll have to be more careful to turn it into advantage by goading the opponent into disadvantageous attacks. But it can even just be a way for very aggressive decks to clear the path against board states that don't feature a ton of opposing creatures with defender.


Centaur: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 58

 Related Tribes: Druid

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The two things this Centaur does, preventing a creature from being recurred and populate, are both useful but not immediately related, and yet they need to happen at once. So you'll need to have a token to copy while there's a creature in a graveyard you don't mind to exile. Of course it'll be a frequent enough occurrence, especially in a dedicated populate deck, and the graveyard hate still functions on its own, albeit at that point is probably a bit overcosted. Plus the cost/body ratio is acceptable. Too bad Centaurs don't traffic in tokens too much – they just have Conclave Cavalier and Pheres-Band Raiders, both of which aren't ideal partners for Selesnya Eulogist.


Cleric: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 389, online: 364

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: A flying token per recursion, especially via flashback? And then you'll have a potentially indestructible three-powered lifelinker on your hands? Man, I knew Thalia's underlings are always problematic. To be fair, this is more of a midrange player than something white aggro would play, but the token generation alone has some potential for grinding. I mean, with this on the battlefield, Lingering Souls gets you three Spirits when flashed back. The Geistcaller might even pique the interest of some kind of soft dredge or Past in Flames build.


Demon: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 104, online: 101

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The second ability looks like a worse version of Phyrexian Obliterator's, and a flyer is even less likely to meet a blocker, which goes against what you'd want to happen. Plus, not having trample, and with the option of taking damage instead of saccing permanents, the opponent can just chump with some small flyer and not much will happen. He's decent if you can cast him via madness, I guess, but there are better 6/6s for five in the tribe, like Doom Whisperer.


Devil: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 26, online: 25

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Randomness is never too great, but free spells are, and by turn four maybe the opponent won't have too many options to choose if they get selected by the ability. Granted, maybe they'll have no option at all and the ability will do nothing, but there's a chance it'll give you at least a free Opt or something. And eventually, the advantage will accrue and be felt. Fun card.


Dinosaur: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 91, online: 90

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Dinosaurs are definitely here to stay – they might even aspire to become green's iconic creature at this point (given that there are now 44 green Dinosaurs vs. 39 green Hydras). Apex Altisaur is a big-butted reactive fighter, taking a page from Gargos, Vicious Watcher's book of tricks and re-applying it to the enrage mechanic, rather than to pseudo-heroic. And speaking of enrage, I'm not sure Dinosaurs aptly convey the idea of "easily triggered". I mean, maybe the small and swift ones like the velociraptors do, but the larger ones give more the impression of animals whose nervous system doesn't really work that fast.

 Anyway, the Altisaur is given a chance to turn its enormous vanilla body into a threat, making up for the lack of trample with the fact that any chump-blocker with power higher than zero will trigger enrage, letting it kill something more valuable. Unless there's only one chump-blocker facing the Altisaur each turn, like a recurring token from Bitterblossom or Awakening Zone, which is the worst case scenario. At a whopping nine mana, it doesn't compare too favorably with the tribe's other curve-topper, Zacama, Primal Calamity (Ghalta, Primal Hunger almost never costs 12, it's in fact more likely to cost GG), but at least it keeps it simple and doesn't require branching into two additional colors. It also has an immediate impact on the board, so it might represent a minor reanimation target, especially in a deck that can actively trigger enrage.


Djinn: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 46, online: 45

 Related Tribes: Monk

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The top of the library is a design space that's being thoroughly explored as of late. So after Experimental Frenzy and Bolas's Citadel, as well as more specialized forms like Vizier of the Menagerie for creatures and Mystic Forge for artifacts, it's time for blue to join the fun and remind everyone that Future Sight came way before all those other cards. To be fair, the restriction to instants and sorceries had been already tried with Dominaria's (Precognition Field), which nobody much cared for, but Elsha of the Infinite has the advantage of being a creature – which is of course also a disadvantage, especially with such a boltable body, but prowess interacts directly with what the "play-from-the-top" ability is trying to do, so Elsha can still double as a source of combat damage rather than just sitting there with the wrong card stuck on top. Plus, she adds a Leyline of Anticipation effect to the package, which might well be the one thing that seals the deal on her whole shtick. Again, with only three toughness she's a bit on the frail side for five Jeskai mana, but the potential for broken plays in a spellslinging deck is all there.


Dragon: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 196, online: 194

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Commander 2019's Obligatory Dragon puts a novel spin on the tribe's typical, larger-than-life attack trigger, by essentially allowing it to cast Past in Flames again and again. Other than that, we're left with a mediocre 4/4 flyer for five, so I doubt it's going to find a place in storm or other combo decks, but there's definitely value to be mined in the chance to cast every instant and sorcery twice.


Druid: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 184, online: 180

 Related Tribes: Centaur, Elf

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The Eulogist is a good-not-great creature, probably not an addition the Druids are particularly interested in, though it should be noted the effect is repeatable multiple times per turn given enough targets and mana, and Druid tribal (which, makes no mistake, is Elf tribal by any other name) is all about that sweet, sweet mana. It might still better than Voice of Many, a green Hill Giant that in multiplayer might draw you up to three cards, but in 1v1 will either be a strictly worse Masked Admirers or... a green Hill Giant.


Elf: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 381, online: 368

 Related Tribes: Druid

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: What's the path that leads from Voice of Many to Shalai, Voice of Plenty and finally to Voice of All? Something feels wrong with this progression. Possibly because the first element in that list is just an Elf in a cape who's striking a dramatic pose in front of some leaves.


Goblin: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 344, online: 331

 Related Tribes: Pirate

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This posh Gobbo looks like he would make for a nice sideboard card. Against robots (or, you know, in Vintage), he can be an amazing ramp enabler; in other scenarios, he may not accomplish much. Great flavor, though: he's not stealing the opponent's valuables, he's extorting "money" from them based on their wealth. Incidentally, treasure tokens are on their way to become an evergreen mechanic. They've been a very successful design with a plethora of different implementations.


Hellion: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 17, online: 16

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: If you're the one who ramped to seven to play this Hellion, aren't you also most likely the one with more lands in play? Granted, maybe you used alternative mana sources, like dorks or rocks. Recursive land destruction for free is a scary concept, but this guy seems designed to drop at a point in the game when it matters less. Plus the destruction is not targeted, so it'll involve the least valuable lands at any given time, and it's bound to affect you as well, eventually – call me crazy, but attacking with an easily blockable, expensive vanilla beater only to lose a couple of my own lands doesn't feel like I'm winning.


Horror: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 196

 Related Tribes: Minion

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: You don't really want to pay seven freaking mana for a 2/2, so I gather K'rrik has to be looked at as a 2/2 for four that causes you to loss six life upon casting. So even worse somehow? He has lifelink to give back the life he took, and grows larger for each black spell you cast, but that's a very slow process, and not one bearing an enormous tactical value. Say you cast this on turn four, and the opponent kills him before he can connect – you just spent a whole turn and six life to eat one removal spell? Yawgmoth shouldn't be proud. Then again, Yawgmoth apparently has terrible taste in choosing the names of his offspring.


Human: +8

  

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 New Tribal Total: 2244, online: 2061

 Related Tribes: Artificer, Cleric, Minion, Shaman, Soldier, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: This seems as good a place as any (considering there's not much to say here other than "Humans get some more toys they won't probably care about") to note that lately we're seeing returning characters from Magic's old storylines, be they former Weatherlight crewmembers like Gerrard and Tahngarth, their archnemesis Volrath, or Chainer, the protagonist of the second novel in the Odyssey cycle, owner of the titular Torment. I'm not sure what this means, except Magic: The Gathering is not forgetting its past – and it's got a lot of it.


Kor: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 55

 Related Tribes: Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: "Protection from the opponent" is mostly just a fancier way to grant protection from whatever is targeting the permanent you want to save, but being the sacrifice effect of a vigilant bear means it'll be always at the ready when needed. I dig it.


Minion: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 42, online: 41

 Related Tribes: Horror, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Are Minions a thing once again? Mark Rosewater was on record saying (and reiterating) that Minion is a retired subtype so they won't make new cards for it, but they seem to do (see also Xantcha, Sleeper Agent from Commander 2018). I guess it gets un-retired whenever a set flashes back to characters from past storylines about The Cabal and such? (By the way, "The Cabal" is a really lame name for a nefarious organization, it's like calling your archvillain "Mr. Evil").

 The Minions (which, we should say, have sadly no relation with these) have now got exhumed as secondary and tertiary legends for Anje's madness deck, resulting in the underwhelming K'rrik as well as in Chainer's second incarnation. Chainer was the main character in the novel based on Torment, and his previous card, Chainer, Dementia Master, was a Nightmare lord that could reanimate creatures from any graveyard for three black mana and three life apiece, but they would only last as long as he remained on the battlefield. With the new moniker of Nightmare Adept, but no more links to the Nightmare tribe whatsoever, he's still able to raise creatures from the grave like his predecessor, except you'll have to pay their regular casting cost by means of a sort of retrace for creatures – which of course is what earned him his job as madness enabler in the first place. Plus he gives them haste, which might be the crucial part of the deal, because it's not limited to whatever Chainer personally reanimates, it involves any and all creatures you cheat into play. So maybe he's also meant as an enabler for reanimator builds and the likes? Although, at that point, wouldn't you just be better off running an universal haste provider, like Madrush Cyclops? After all, this new Chainer costs you four mana of two different colors, and his stats are wildly below curve, so it's not like he comes bearing further advantages outside of a madness list. I guess his name will keep being mostly known for Chainer's Edict.


Minotaur: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 78, online: 77

 Related Tribes: Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Tahngarth is yet another piece of ancient Magic history coming back to remind us that there was a time when the planeswalkers weren't the main characters in the stories. Back when Tahngarth was the first mate of the original Weatherlight under Gerrard and Sisay, he used to be monored in the form of Tahngarth, Talruum Hero, a largely functional 4/4 for five with proto-vigilance and proto-activated fight. The 2019 reboot added green, increased his body by one point, shaved one mana, and made him immune to gang-blocking. But also, now opponents gain control of him during their combat phase. Wait, what? All right, it's more like you can choose to have Tahngarth join another player's attack, but you still get to decide whom he's attacking. Of course in 1v1, this ability is completely moot, because opponents can't attack themselves or their planeswalkers. All in all, not too impressive. Is it me, or for being a Commander product, the legendary creatures aren't very thrilling this time around?


Monk: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 86, online: 83

 Related Tribes: Djinn

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Tribal Jeskai Monk is a thing (they have Mantis Rider!), so the tribe may be willing to welcome Elsha (once she'll be programmed into MTGO) and try and exploit her surrogate Experimental Frenzy cum Leyline of Anticipation for instants and sorceries. Although, I must note, spellslinging and tribal setups aren't really close friends.


Naga: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 37

 Related Tribes: Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Kadena makes for an excellent centerpiece in a list built around morph because she's essentially a morph lord – with her on the battlefield you get to cast one morph or megamorph creature face down for free each turn, while all the face-down creatures entering the battlefield also draw you a card, and that includes those engendered by the manifest keyword action, plus even more obscure one-time effects like Illusionary Mask or Tezzeret, Cruel Machinist. The downside is that, once again, you're forced to deal with the fact that you're casting a three-colored Hill Giant, with all the safety concerns of a three-toughness critter. But in the correct deck, the tempo gain and the card advantage are clearly priceless if you can get her going, and that's why she's a good build-around commander – Kadena is definitely one-note, but it's a high note.

 Her named attendant is suitably a morph creature herself, adding the countering of abilities on the stack (both activated and triggered) to the bag of morph's surprise tricks. Not indispensable, and clearly extremely situational, but cute enough. Plus her stats are not that much worse in face-down form (she just loses a point of power compared to her megamorphed state), so you won't find yourself in a hurry to turn her face up.

 All this said, Naga is not exactly the most synergystic tribe for face-down strategies. There's only another couple of them with morph, Kheru Spellsnatcher and Sagu Archer, both not particularly exciting, plus Qarsi Deceiver as a dedicated mana dork.


Phoenix: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 21, online: 20

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: It goes without saying, this Phoenix is strictly for Commander (or Brawl, if it were a Standard card. Which is not). Does it shine there? Well, it's not bad to have something to accompany the commander when he or she ventures back onto the battlefield, and haste allows for some aggression or tactical maneuvering, like pressuring opposing planeswalkers. It looks like something all Commander decks with red identity could profit from. Phoenix decks, on the other hand, not so much, though a 3/3 hasty flyer for four is not even the worst Phoenix in existence (that would be Firestorm Phoenix. Shudder).


Pirate: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 91, online: 81

 Related Tribes: Goblin

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Extortionist is unquestionably a Pirate's Pirate. Just look at that outfit! And all the ill-gotten treasure! Still feels like he belongs in the sideboard, though, just like most tech that depends on whether or not the opponent plays any artifact or enchantments.


Scarecrow: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 33, online: 32

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Nobody likes to spend four mana on a 1/4, even if it's colorless mana, but this Scarecrow is jumping on a pretty juicy bandwagon: the land business. Ramping your mana through additional land drops or recurring lands from the graveyard, especially in a fetch land and Wasteland environment, are both worthy and related propositions. Granted, you have to attack with or otherwise find a way to tap your Scaretiller in order to use its abilities, and you would generally want to do the things it does earlier than turn four (just ask this year's sensation, Wrenn and Six). But for the lone new artifact creature in C19, it could have gone worse.


Shaman: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 381, online: 376

 Related Tribes: Human, Troll

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: All legendaries, all the time. The Shaman tribe is the home of both the Naya commander and one of his vices, as well as the sub-commander for Kadena's Sultai list. Let's start with the latter: Grismold is a serviceable 3/3 trampler for three that presents every player with a Plant during each of his controller's end steps, so the first one is given right away. Why does he do that, you ask? Well, it's because he wants those 1/1 suckers to eventually die and somehow grow his own body (does he go and eat all those vegetables? Is he, literally, a vegan troll?). This plan does seem a little mad, although it could create interesting situations in multiplayer, granting Grismold some degree of political immunity. In 1v1, to keep populating your one opponent's board is probably not a very good idea, short of having a consistent way to kill those little walking cabbages.

 As for the Naya guys, Ghired (who was once Selesnya-aligned and now is Gruul-aligned, therefore the sum of all their colors) puts a lot of power and toughness onto the battlefield for five mana. To spread that over multiple bodies is always good, and Ghired is also able to replicate his trampling Rhino (or anything else he likes better) via attack-triggered populate. It's a straightforward design, but very effective, and not too easy to counteract, since killing Ghired still leaves his player with the superior beater around.

 Being part of the same overall strategy, Atla Palani's ability similarly has to do with tokens, but hers are more subtle and yet potentially more powerful than Ghired's brutal Rhinos. In fact, the 0/1s she creates for 2 mana each turn are sort of a Summoner's Egg with a cascade spin. The design is winning and flavorful (especially in a Dinosaur deck, since she's from Ixalan), but of course there are a few things that can go wrong while tending to an unknown Egg: the hatched creature might not end up being all that we'd want it to be (it might even be, in a mind-blowing twist, another copy of Atla Palani!), and the eggs won't hatch themselves, so we'll need either an external sacrifice source or the kindness of the opponent attacking into it. Plus, Atla, unlike Ghired, isn't a very resilient Shaman, even if, weirdly enough, they do attack for the same amount. By the way, her description sadly dispels the notion that she's somehow laying the eggs herself: she just gathers them and "encourages and guides" them, whatever that means. It probably gives way to an even more ludicrous image where this crazy egg lady talks and sings to a clutch of eggs.


Shapeshifter: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 95, online: 93

 Related Tribes: Wall

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Volrath, the Big Bad from the Weatherlight saga, is one of those names better known to the average Magic player for a card associated with him (case in point, Volrath's Stronghold) than for his own incarnation. In fact, Volrath the Fallen is a pretty obscure and not particularly good creature from Nemesis. Luckily, Volrath, the Shapestealer is now here to reinforce the evil Shapeshifter's legacy. And boy, does he do that. Now in Sultai colors (gotta say, the green part is a bit sketchy), the new Volrath is a five-drop 7/5 that distributes -1/-1 counters onto his enemies, at the rate of one per turn, then copies their abilities. Actually, he doesn't just replicate the abilities of the creatures he directly nerfed, but of any creature with any kind of counters on them. So if there's, say, a Hydroid Krasis at the other side of the table, you pay one mana, and you've got yourself a 7/5 flyer for this turn cycle. And let's not forget those free -1/-1 counters and all the things they can kill or maim. I don't do the "Best in Show" for Commander products (not enough cards, and often strictly designed for multiplayer), but Volrath would certainly be in the Top Three.

 Comparatively, Wall of Stolen Identities is... sad? And a bit absurd? It's a Clone that can't attack but you still paid Clone mana for it (or should I say, Spark Double mana, also known as twice of Phantasmal Image mana), with the only small advantage of doing a Frost Titan number on the copied creature, which has the effect of not being very appealing as a copy of a creature you control. Also, how does a bunch of stolen identities pile up into a wall? What does that even mean? I know, I should have stopped trying to figure out this stuff after Wall of Omens.


Snake: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 82, online: 74

 Related Tribes: Ape

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Speaking of "Best in Show", Snake might be the winner here, because Ohran Frostfang is both an excellent creature and something that stems directly from one of the tribe's high point, Ohran Viper. This is that card's big brother, extending its abilities to all your creatures, while also, not incidentally, doubling its body. Not the cost, though, which remains an affordable five mana, a small price to pay for such a powerful game-changer. It's also worth noting how it remains a Snow creature, but the combat ability is slightly reworked into more effective deathtouch, albeit only while attacking. You want to attack with your team when you have Frostfang around, anyway.

 Thieving Amalgam is also pretty good – an awesome, if expensive way to eat into your opponent's library – even if black is not the best color for Snakes.


Soldier: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 656, online: 598

 Related Tribes: Human, Kor

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Clifftop Rescuer is a nice little Soldier, but all the attention here goes to Gerrard, who was once upon a time the main character in Magic stories, sort of the Jace of his time (or should we say Chandra these days?). The monowhite Gerrard Capashen was never particularly good – he gave you some life, tapped some blockers away from his attack path – and even his original designer Mark Rosewater doesn't hide his dislike for that card. The new and improved Boros Gerrard has better, more triumphant art (the old one looked like someone who dressed as a pirate for Halloween), and his ability is appropriately heroic: a team-wide insurance against sweepers. In fact, he's also an incentive to run sweepers yourself in your creature decks, with Gerrard turning them into a nearly one-sided affair, particularly if Gerrard is your commander so he can come back and do it again. Interestingly, he also returns all your artifacts to the battlefield, which might have some combo applications with Eggs-like setups. And he's a 3/3 first striker for four mana, which is the correct cost, Goblin Chainwhirler notwithstanding.


Sponge: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 2

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Behold! The second ever Sponge in Magic: The Gathering! More than twenty years after Urza's Legacy's Walking Sponge! It took all these years but we finally have proof that Mark Gottlieb was right in keeping the Sponge subytpe around during the Grand Creature Type Update (which is itself closer to Urza's Legacy than it is to the present). Because, look, now there's two of them! It's a proper tribe!

 So, what's the plan with Thought Sponge? You wait for when the opponent hopefully draws additional cards during a turn, or you just cast it as a 2/2 that draws you two cards when it dies? Either way, it's more playable than Walking Sponge. See, the Sponge tribe is growing and also getting better!


Troll: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 32, online: 31

 Related Tribes: Shaman

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Is Grismold good as a Troll? Not particularly, even if the best Trolls have regeneration, so those 1/1s won't threaten them too much. I think it could be good in a deck that's able to leverage a go-wide strategy better than the opponent. Like, some kind of Overrun build?


Vampire: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 236, online: 232

 Related Tribes: Berserker

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Vampires have courted madness since they were touched by Emrakul's presence in Shadows over Innistrad, but Anje Falkenrath really takes this mechanical interaction to the next level, and then some: she essentially reads, "cast a creature for its madness cost and draw a card for your trouble; then do it again!". As a three-drop with haste, her only limit is how much mana you have available to keep her shenanigans going, especially if you also have her pal (and probably subject) Falkenrath Gorger alongside her on the battlefield. Too bad Basking Rootwalla doesn't suit her color identity nor general Vampire strategies, otherwise she could drop four copies of the little Lizard at once for no mana at all, draw four cards, and still end up untapped and ready to swing! (Though she's just a 1/3 without any evasion, so she's probably going to stay back, maybe just loot a little to get rid of excess lands if there's no madness card to cast).

 The other legendary Vampire, Rayami, is from Zendikar rather than Innistrad and belongs to Kadena's deck. I'm not sure why, since he has nothing to do with face-down creatures, instead collecting a wide range of abilities from all the poor souls whose death he happens to witness. It's one of those effects that might just do nothing for a long time, with Rayami sitting there waiting for something relevant to add to his arsenal, and no guarantee this will ever come to be. His slight playability derives more from being a 5/4 four-drop with a semi-efficient knack for shutting down graveyard recursion than from the off-chance of him becoming a flyer or acquiring protection from white at some point.


Wall: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 128, online: 107

 Related Tribes: Shapeshifter

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Reportedly, and somewhat inexplicably, players have been asking for a legendary Wall for a long time. And now they've got one in Pramikon, Sky Rampart, a Jeskai-colored air barrier that messes with the attack options in multiplayer in a way that might just make things worse, while doing absolutely nothing in 1v1. So, is every Wall lover happy now? Probably not. Is a madcap Pramikon Commander deck going to be tried at all? Probably.


Warrior: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 703, online: 686

 Related Tribes: Cat, Human, Minotaur

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Both Marisi and Tahngarth are reasonably playable five-powered four-drops featuring a little bit of combat advantage and not much else going on with them. The Rakdos-aligned Greven doesn't really deviate from this recipe, but adds a crucial twist. Previously featured as Commander Greven Il-Vec, he was Volrath's second-in-command, yet he's here part of Anje Falkenrath's madness deck – a missed opportunity to reunite the two characters. He's a 5/5 like Tahngarth, but costs one mana more, with menace being sort of the opposite of "can't be blocked by more than one creature". In fact, you'd like for Greven to be facing multiple blockers, because his power can grow – though by the time the opponent has to assign blockers, they'll already know how big Greven has become for the turn. Really, that sacrificial trigger is more about converting a creature into cards, along the lines of effects we've previously seen in black (Disciple of Bolas), but are more often found in green (Greater Good, Momentous Fall, Life's Legacy). However, there's some tension there, since you want Greven to sac creatures with high power and low toughness, to maximize the gain and minimize the downside, but then Greven's own power grow based on your loss of life. You might not care about that, or on the contrary you might want to find even more ways to damage yourself or pay life (fetch land plus shockland comes to mind) in order to have Greven hit the hardest he can.


Wizard: +4

   

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 New Tribal Total: 706, online: 688

 Related Tribes: Human, Naga, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The apt commander of the Jeskai deck, Sevinne has a powerful but very narrow impact on the battlefield – he's basically a five-mana flashback-enhancing station, doubling all the instants and sorceries that you cast from the graveyard, thus providing a big incentive for running Backdraft Hellkite (other than, of course, Past in Flames itself). Even his immunity to damage is meant to help his chances of survival – no Shocks and Bolts can get rid of his otherwise puny 2/2 body – he just wants to be left alone so he can do his thing, but this way he also acts as a bit of a barrier against combat damage, to preserve the life total of the spellslinging deck he's headlining.


Zombie: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 447, online: 440

 Related Tribes: Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Bone Miser is technically also a Wizard, but its color and effects spell Zombie tribal more than anything else. And it's a fascinating design, as the reversed creature version of this neglected card from Magic 2015:

 Will Bone Miser do better than Waste Not? Well, to be blunt, probably not outside of Commander, on the basis that it's only legal in Legacy and Vintage, and the competition there is enormously steep, especially for a midrange creature. But the idea here is that Waste Not relied on things happening to the opponent, whereas the Bone Miser player will experience a more direct control on its effects, therefore being able to set up multiple value trains, like getting free Zombie tokens while casting madness creatures (unsurprisingly, it's being released as part of Anje's deck), or cantripping though flashback and jump-start cards, the latter further improved when discarding to their recast. All in all, there are many reasons to have discard outlets around, and several valid self-discard targets available, but the problem with Bone Miser is ultimately the same Waste Not also faced: they're both there to cheer on a strategy that they don't help enabling in the least. It's not bad to have a 2/2 materialize out of nowhere while you're discarding your Griselbrand to Faithless Looting in order to reanimate him later – but it's not really necessary either. Plus, Bone Miser is much slower than Waste Not, and easier to deal with, albeit I'm not sure the opponent would even bother if it wasn't a 4/4 that might do some damage on its own, if in a boring, prosaic way that doesn't relate to all the fun things this guy should be doing for you.


SUMMARY

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 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here.


THE COMMANDERS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

   

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THE VICE COMMANDERS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

   

   

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THE SUB-COMMANDERS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

   

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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS