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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jun 03 2020 12:00pm
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COMMANDER 2020

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 The five wedge-colored preconstructed decks that compose Commander 2020 are also collectively known as Ikoria Commander, since this is the first Commander product to be set in the same world as the Standard set it's released semi-simultaneously to (on MTGO it came a bit later, on May 26, by taking the by now usual Treasure Chest route), effectively replacing the (unofficially) discontinued Planeswalker Decks as a tool to ease new players into the game. This choice, which will be repeated to a lesser extent in the fall with two precon decks linked to Zendikar Rising, changes the overall feel of these Commander lists, now more homogeneous, both to each other and with respect to the current Standard environment (the majority of the included cards are either new cards using Ikoria's mechanics or directly reprinted from Ikoria), which is a weird line to take for an eternal format like Commander.

  

 Of course all Commander products are, by their own nature, focused on legendary creatures, but Commander 2020 goes beyond the usual ratio, due to the return of the "partner with" mechanic from Battlebond, requiring a number of these new legendaries to come accompanied by an equally legendary counterpart. This results in almost half of the new creatures in Commander 2020 to have the legendary supertype, i.e. 20 out of 46 (for comparison, Commander 2019 had 16 out of 36, while the ratio in Commander 2018 was 12/33).

 

Will we ever learn how Will & Rowan went from being babes in the woods to the Thunderdome?

 Of the five "Apex tribes", Beast and Nightmare enjoy the larger boost, with 7 new creatures each; Elemental and Dinosaur only have 4 and 3, respectively, while Cat ranks last with no more than a couple new members. On the unusual side, it's noteworthy the presence of a new Badger, Hyena and Trilobite, as well as two new Whales, plus further representatives for the two tribes that debuted on Ikoria, namely Otter and Shark. There's also the first new Warlock to be added to the game since the (supposedly major) type's introduction in Throne of Eldraine.

 Anyway, let's have a look at the new 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: 323
  • New cards: 71
  • New creatures: 46
  • Reprinted cards: 252
  • Reprinted creatures: 89
  • New Legendary creatures: 20
  • New Snow creatures: 0
  • New artifact creatures: 0
  • New enchantment creatures: 0
  • Triple-subtype creatures: 0
  • Creature types affected: 33
  • Tribes with more than one addition: Human (+16), Beast (+7), Nightmare (+7), Warrior (+5), Bird (+4), Elemental (+4), Dinosaur (+3), Soldier (+3), Cat (+2), Hydra (+2), Insect (+2), Shaman (+2), Whale (+2)

Assassin: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 58, online: 55

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: To kill people for a living you need to give up on empathy, so the Assassin type rarely ventures outside monoblack (only 12 Assassins come in other color combinations, and only four of those aren't at least partly black). So this Mardu guy isn't an immediate fit, although the tribe has Queen Marchesa in the same colors. Vigilance and haste allow for a surprise attack while still being able to defend; or, in the case of Kelsien, the Plague, who sorely lacks deathtouch, to tap and ping. And while producing victims by pinging for one is possible, it's not really going to happen constantly, so those experience counters better come from other sources too. Luckily, experience is a mechanic that already had a cycle in Commander 2015, and is returning here somewhat randomly with Kelsien. Those five older cards were all dual-colored with enemy-color pairs, so the two that match more closely our Assassin are Daxos the Returned and Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas (yeah, C15 had a strong Theros component). Which means you can grow Kelsien by casting enchantments or expensive creatures. Not sure it's going to help much, but worst case scenario, Mardu got a hasty pinger that can potentially also hit for more than a Gray Ogre.


Badger: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 5, online: 4

 Related Tribes: Dinosaur

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Ikoria loves its Mustelidae, so alongside the Otter debut, Badger is back too (Wolverine was there as well, but no new Ferret in sight so far). This honestly preposterous tribe famously started in 1995 with the special promo Giant Badger, which you could redeem by cutting out and sending a coupon found inside the HarperPrism novel Shattered Chains (starring unforgettable Magic characters Gull and Greensleeves), because that's a thing people were still doing in the Nineties. That same year Homelands gave the world another Badger, then the tribe first went monored in Mercadian Masques; by that time, the subtype had been phased out and survived as card name only, but it unexpectedly came back after 15 years with Charging Badger in Born of the Gods. All these creatures do pretty dull things like being a 1/1 trampler or a 3/3 mountainwalker for five, so Surly Badgesaur with its reverse Waste Not routine feels like advanced alien technology. It's still a Hill Giant that requires an external discard outlet to do anything, but it can grow, fight things, and even create Treasure tokens by discarding lands, which could contain the roots of a combo.

   


Beast: +7

   

  

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 New Tribal Total: 405, online: 396

 Related Tribes: Cat, Hyena, Nightmare

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Beast is one of the Apex tribes in Ikoria, the five major types of the non-Human faction. It's especially supported in Commander 2020, given that it gets one of the five commanders, Otrimi, the Ever-Playful, which leads the Sultai-colored deck that's based around mutate. Otrimi doesn't have a mutate trigger, but it can mutate for just four mana, which is a larger than usual discount from its converted mana cost. And then it regrows mutate creatures from the graveyard upon connection, something not exceedingly difficult to achieve for a 6/6 trampler that can acquire all sort of additional keywords when mutating. Definitely a solid commander for a mutate deck. Its ideal lieutenant is Sawtusk Demolisher, which has the same body and mutate cost as Otrimi (but in monogreen), and casts a Beast Within at each mutation. Well, okay, it's a Beast Within that can't affect creatures, but still a very powerful effect to repeat, making it one of the most desirable mutants for a specialized list.

 Still in monogreen, Glademuse is a classic "group hug" card for multiplayer, granting symmetrical card draw when spells are cast in another player's turn. It feels bizarre for a green card to actively invite counterspells, but I guess the Simic Flash synergies are spreading across all of the formats. Ravenous Gigantotherium is a new take on the big ETB-fighting curve-topper a la Thorn Mammoth. In this case, you need to sacrifice some fodder first if you want the Gigantotherium to really be effective; let's say you have two tokens to spare, then you can divide nine points of damage as you please, killing up to nine 1/1s in the process. It requires more setup than similar cards, but in a format like Commander it's close to becoming a new minor staple.

 Herald of the Forgotten comes from the Jeskai cycling deck, and positions itself as the over-the-top finisher for such a strategy, being able to reanimate everyt permanent that you previously pitched, in a final blaze of recycling power. Sure, you need to hardcast the Herald for eight mana, which probably involves a degree of ramp no cycling deck is expected to provide. Except in Commander, where everything is bigger!

 A second legendary beast with commander potential, Tayam, Luminous Enigma, is part of the Abzan deck, whose theme is "counters". The designated commander there is Kathril, Aspect Warper, but Tayam is a decent second, distributing vigilance counters as a welcome gift to all your creatures. The activated ability might feel a bit clunky: you spend three mana, and give up three counters, to mill three cards and reanimate one creature with a converted mana cost of three; I appreciate the trinity theme, but a situation when all of this is really worth the effort must be appropriately engineered. Still, Tayam's self-mill helps Kathril finds keywords, an Tayam itself would love to be in a deck with Frondland Felidar (which wasn't included in Commander 2020, shamefully). It instead gets the partnership of Yannik, Scavenging Sentinel and Nikara, Lair Scavenger. Yannik is sort of a new take on the champion mechanic (which is, in turn, a progenitor of mutate); you temporarily puts a creature away and in exchange you distribute +1/+1 counters equal to its power, and all that boon could go on Yannik itself if you want, fusing the two bodies in a way mutate never allows. You might want to spread the goodies, though, so Nikara can more effectively act as a Midnight Reaper. Both Tayam and Yannik are multicolored four-drops with a 3/3 body, so you better make good use of their abilities, since their stats aren't exactly above the curve.


Bird: +4

   

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 New Tribal Total: 263, online: 250

 Related Tribes: Dinosaur, Shark

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Some interesting, if not great, Birds here. Souvenir Snatcher adds a stealing effect to mutate's bag of tricks; it's only for noncreature artifacts, which most likely means a mana rock, but there's a chance you can steal some crazy stuff like God-Pharaoh's Gift. Six mana to mutate is not a cheap cost, but it comes with flying and a 4/4 body attached, so it could be worse.

 Cartographer's Hawk is definitely worse, for instance. It wants to replicate a Knight of the White Orchid deal, but to get there you need to deal combat damage to a player who controls more lands, and then the Hawk is returned to hand, so it'll be at least two turns before you can try it again. Commander formats are notoriously mana hungry, but there are better ways to ramp than this, even in white.

 We do better with Akim, the Soaring Wind, the vice-commander of the Jeskai deck, which creates a free Bird token as a bonus to every other token creation. Granted, this means it doesn't do anything on its own, plus its body is, once again, a bit below-curve for its cost, and the six-mana activated ability to give double strike to all tokens is more than a bit pricey, if occasionally effective. The same deck also features Shabraz, the Skyshark and its partner Brallin, Skyshark Rider. They're kind of casual-looking but very flavorful, a flying Shark and its rider who give each other trample and flying. Shabraz grows when you draw while Brallin does the same when you discard, so you want a lot of looting and/or rummaging effect with these two. Shabraz is the better card on its own, because for the same CMC, it comes with a relevant keyword and the ability to grow and gain life every turn without outside assistance.


Cat: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 204, online: 197

 Related Tribes: Beast, Nightmare

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The cycling lord Herald of the Forgotten is also a Cat, which doesn't feel particularly relevant to what it does, albeit its color fits the Cat tribe more than it fits Beast. Silvar, Devourer of the Free is one half of the partnership with Trynn, Champion of Freedom. They're part of the Mardu deck lead by Jirina Kudro. Trynn has kind of a raid mechanic that creates 1/1 Human Soldiers. And Silvar... eats those guys? (I'm not sure about the flavor here, the "Champion of Freedom" moniker is a ruse? She attracts poor schmucks that get feed to her companion?) (Yeah, apparently that's exactly how it works, except Trynn believes she's doing a favor to the city by culling the weak, all Sparta-like. Nice white brand of sociopathy). All in all, Silvar does a reasonable but generally worse impression of Falkenrath Aristocrat (it costs more, doesn't fly, can't eat anything but Humans), and Trynn is not the most efficient token-maker either.


Cleric: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 398, online: 373

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Nikara doesn't need Yannik to do her job of being a Midnight Reaper that specializes in creatures bearing counters. So almost a strictly worse Midnight Reaper, considering she's legendary and loses one power to gain menace, which might or might not be a trade worth making. The real edge is the wording that doesn't exclusively care about creatures dying, so exile, flicker and bounce effects also count, and tokens are within her purview as well. In the right build, she might be good enough. And if you have an use for the Selesnya card she fetches for free, even better.


Dinosaur: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 112, online: 111

 Related Tribes: Badger, Bird, Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Only three Dinosaurs, but one of them is a commander. Kalamax, the Stormsire is at the helm of the Temur deck, which is somewhat uncharacteristically themed around instants. As long as you keep attacking with Kalamax (or otherwise find a way to tap it), you get a free instant copied each turn, which is pretty huge. Even copying a counterspell in the opponent's turn matters, since it gives you a decisive advantage in any counterspell battle. And Kalamax gets bigger and bigger, which is a nice bonus that helps perpetuating the virtuous cycle, since it makes attacking with the stormy Dino less and less of a risk. Of course, in case of a board stall, if you have no safe way to tap Kalamax, its skills will get to waste.

 The discard-eager Surly Badgersaur is not especially at home in a Dinosaur deck, but a Dinosaur deck is certainly more of a home than a Badger deck could ever be. Akim, the Soaring Wind is probably meant more for Bird decks, instead, since it creates Bird tokens that only ask to exploited by tribal lords like Keeper of the Nine Gales; this said, Dinosaurs are perfectly capable of generating tokens, and could use the flyers, though the Jeskai colors aren't really their favorite shell.


Druid: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 194, online: 190

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Slippery Bogbonder is part of an incomplete cycle of three cards that deal with keyword counters (the other two are Avenging Huntbonder and Daring Fiendbonder). As the name implies, she can essentially create her own Slippery Bogle out of nowhere, even accessorizing it with all kinds of other counters you happen to have around. On top of that, she's a 3/3 hexproof herself, and the whole routine can be done at instant speed, so you could also neutralize an opponent's removal spell in the process. Pretty good card with many applications.


Elemental: +4

   

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 New Tribal Total: 449, online: 442

 Related Tribes: Dinosaur, Hound, Otter, Whale

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Elementals share Kalamax, the Stormsire, arguably the most powerful of the five commanders, with the Dinosaurs. They also share three other new members with smaller tribes where they feel more relevant, so see you there.


Fish: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 32, online: 28

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Ikoria taketh away, Ikoria giveth. Fish lost four members to the introduction of Shark, but now they get a fresh new one for their troubles. Tidal Barracuda is meant to give a bit of an advantage to everyone at a multiplayer table, as a way to make your opponents digest the fact that it's giving the bigger advantage to you. But if we switch to 1v1, your opponent is not going to make a lot of being able to cast all their spells with flash in their own turn. Shutting down enemy interaction in your turn is the big deal here, more than just flashing things in the opponent's. Is it worth four mana for an unimpressive 3/4 vanilla? Possibly. Cards like Yeva, Nature's Herald never saw much play, but this Fish does much more than that, and even if it's not exactly Teferi, Time Raveler (for one, it doesn't prevent tricks in the opponent's combat phase, or something like Finale of Promise), its disruption is real.


Fungus: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 43, online: 42

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: This is a simple guy with a simple goal: being included in a Golgari self-mill, "graveyard matters" build, thus becoming a decent beater in the vein of Rhizome Lurcher, but cheaper and easier to cast, and with a second life in the late game that's possibly even more relevant, since you can add a ton of power to an evasive finisher. Little design detail: the addition of the word "other" to the text is an elegant way to make scavenge mantain the same math Boneyard Mycodrax produces when it's on the battlefield.


Goat: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 10, online: 8

 Related Tribes: Hydra

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Goats and Hydras together at last! Read more about it in the Hydra section, but also, congratulations to Goat for hitting its tenth member! Let's be honest for a minute here, Goat; if Magic didn't have a jokester as its head designer, you never would have been a type of creature a mystical leader of a fantasy army would want to field among their troops. And yet you still made it to the double digits, so it's even more of an accomplishment.


Hound: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 75, online: 71

 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Haldan, Avid Arcanist has a mystical retriever dog that (somehow) fetches spells for him. They make for the most interdependent pair of all the partnered bonders, since Pako's ability doesn't do a lot if Haldan isn't there to cast the retrieved spells. Sure, Pako grows when he hits noncreatures (which also notably include lands, which Haldan is able to play, so the whole process is also a roundabout way to ramp); but he starts as an unimpressive 3/3 for five, so there's gotta be more to his attacks than just making a bigger vanilla beater. Haste is nice to get the thing going as fast as possible, but the turn you drop Pako, you probably won't have mana left to cast any spell with Haldan, or land drops to make.


Human: +16

  

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 New Tribal Total: 2382, online: 2199

 Related Tribes: Assassin, Cleric, Druid, Scout, Shaman, Soldier, Warlock, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: What's not a monster on Ikoria is a Human, so the mega-tribe encompasses all the featured classes. They also embody one half of all five "partner with" pairs, since those represent a Human bonding with a monster. Mardu commander Jirina Kudro, the slightly more compassionate daughter of General Kudro of Drannith (as well as Lukka's ex-girlfriend), is thankfully the only Human-enhancing new card in Ikoria Commander. Or maybe Shabraz, the Skyshark should also count, as it can technically gives flying to a bunch of Humans.


Hydra: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 49

 Related Tribes: Goat, Nightmare

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: It's been a while since they started having fun with Hydras having heads of various animals: cobras with Hooded Hydra, asps with Honored Hydra and Ramunap Hydra, lizards with Whiptongue Hydra, turtles with Steelbane Hydra and Thunderous Snapper. Now Capricopian enters the tribe in the realm of mammal hybrids, which is a whole new leap. Ridiculous art aside (it definitely feels like Capricopians can't function in life with all those interlocking horns), this is just a Feral Hydra reworked strictly for multiplayer purposes. It could be fun to look at the opponents mana-battling over its activated ability, but you'd be better off spending your X on something with more oomph, as well as something you have more control on.

 Completely different case for Zaxara, the Exemplary, Otrimi's vice-commander in the Sultai deck. Now, black and blue aren't really Hydra colors (not counting Progenitus, there are only four Hydras requiring one of those two colors, albeit Hydroid Krasis and Polukranos, Unchained both make good arguments for the splash). Zaxara's immediate presence is underwhelming, as its body is boltable, and you don't really want to trade it away by exploiting deathtouch. But wait until you cast another X-costed Hydra, and you'll get a (skill-less) doppelgänger, free of charge – Zaxara even provides a couple mana to make the X bigger. It's surely an impactful effect longterm, but how many large, scalable Hydras, or similar spells, does one expect to cast, even in a slow game of Commander? It's great with Banefire, not so great with Walking Ballista. Still more playable than Capricopian, though, even with the triple color requirement, which overall is not really earned, or even justified from a non-Commander point of view: Zaxara should have been blue-green, with a bigger body and no deathtouch.


Hyena: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 4

 Related Tribes: Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: In addition of being a Beast, and a partner, Yannik is also the fourth Hyena in black border, the first printed as mythic (or rare, for that matter) and the first to be legendary, following Gibbering Hyenas from Mirage, Trusty Companion from Kaladesh and Hyena Pack from Amonkhet – so at least now the tribe established firmer roots in two of its three colors. I'm not sure I get the "A Scavenger Girl and Her Hyena" flavor with Nikara and Yannik. I mean, Yannik doesn't look into the graveyard, it replaces a living creature on the battlefield, but then the creaturecomes back when Yannik goes away, so it seems more like a parasite? And Nikara is also not linked to the graveyard in any way. And where does the counters theme come from? Is it meant to represent the fact that Nikara only scavenges for the best things? It's very nebulous. On the bright, comical side, Trusty Companion reminds us how R&D keeps thinking hyenas are friendly animals that make for good pets.


Insect: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 171, online: 167

 Related Tribes: Nightmare

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Kathril, Aspect Warper is the commander of the Abzan deck, which is all about counters. Specifically, Kathril cares about keyword counters (including the two that Ikoria proper didn't have access to, double strike and indestructible). The more keywords you can muster, the more your team or Kathril itself will prove effective on the battlefield. The deck includes a few other "keyword hoarders", namely Cairn Wanderer, Majestic Myriarch, Odric, Lunar Marshal and Soulflayer (the new sorcery Selective Adaptation is also in the same vein). Kathril looks at the graveyard like the Wanderer, and what it wants to see is a lot of creatures with keywords, or even better a creature with a lot of keywords. In that regard, Kathril's deck offers multi-keyworded specimens like Aerial Responder, Archon of Valor's Reach, Vampire Nighthawk, Zetalpa, Primal Dawn, and even classic Akroma, Angel of Wrath. The trick is having one or more of them already in the graveyard when Kathril hits the battlefield, so the ideal shell seems to be a self-mill deck (which, curiously, the Commander deck has very little elements of; good luck sending Zetalpa to the graveyard naturally). In short, Kathril requires a ton of setup, can be strong if properly prepared, especially if both hexproof and indestructible are provided to it, and it's pretty much unplayable otherwise.

 The other Insect of Ikoria Commander, Agitator Ant, is a peculiar group hug card that lets each player permanently boost a creature in the end phase, therefore right away, but those creatures are forced to attack. In 1v1, you'll be the one attacked by the opponent's boosted creatures (as the goad clause is moot there), but you may be able to turn this to your advantage by engineering a favorable block, which is the reason the ability is worded that way, giving the Ant's controller the chance to enlarge a creature that won't be goaded until your next turn, so it can block in the meanwhile. Definitely an odd duck, and extremeley underwhelming stats-wise (a Gray Ogre once again, though it might be elected as the receptacle of its own counters), but the potential to some tactical advantage is there, perhaps coupled with a robust amount of removal.


Leviathan: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 22, online: 21

 Related Tribes: Snake

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: As its moniker suggests, Xyris, the Writhing Storm is the vice-commander to Kalamax, the Stormsire in the Temur deck (the two of them don't really synergize mechanically, though). Do you remember the "draw two" archetype from Throne of Eldraine? Well, Xyris is a counterplay to that, since it wants for the opponent to draw more than second card – and more cards after that, really. In fact, it even makes them draw itself when connecting, in sort of a group hug routine with an extra payoff for Xyris's controller. The payoff is, ultimately, not comparable to drawing cards, since the tokens Xyris creates are just vanilla 1/1s. And a 3/5 flyer for five is not an appealing package nowadays. Still, you also draw three cards per connection, and you go wide in the process, so there might be some way to close the game before the opponent is able to put all those extra spells to use – or they'll draw removal for Xyris, so you spent five mana to generate a Howling Mine burst and three tokens. One thing's for sure: the opponent will want to be hit by Xyris at least once, so our Leviathan is guaranteed to stick around for one turn cycle.


Nightmare: +7

   

  

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 New Tribal Total: 58

 Related Tribes: Beast, Cat, Hydra, Insect

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Nightmares have a quantity of new legendaries: commanders Otrimi and Kathril (from the Sultai and Abzan decks, respectively), their lieutenants Zaxara and Tayam, as well as Trynn's man-eater kitty, Silvar. They're all kind of okay build-around cards, with Otrimi being the one to really shine in the deck that's meant to host it, which is any mutate build.

 Rounding off the tribal ranks, Mindleecher is another powerful mutant with flying, a massive body, and a version of the ability of Thief of Sanity, which is the kind of mutate trigger you want to repeat as much as possible. Vitality Hunter sees the one-off return of monstrosity, used to distribute lifelink counters on other creatures, while the Hunter itself becomes a big lifelinker; its original stats are unimpressive, though, and the monstrosity cost, while affordable, is not cheap enough to be game-breaking as a follow-up on turn five, although attacking with, say, a 6/7 lifelinker is not the worst.


Otter: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 3

 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Otter came into existence with two cards in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, and immediately got a third member in Ikoria Commander. And Eon Frolicker is a big Otter, a four-drop 5/5 flyer (don't ask why they chose to make an Otter fly, of all creatures. This could have easily been a Drake, but Drakes can't have nice things). There's a catch, though: you'll have to give the opponent an extra turn. Well, "an" opponent, since this is meant to play differently in multiplayer, where you give an advantage to one of your opponents while making sure they won't use that advantage against you. In 1v1, they still can't really attack you, but the extra turn still happens, meaning an extra land drop, an extra card draw, extra tempo to deploy. I don't think a slightly more resilient Phantasmal Dragon really offsets all of that. But nice try, and potentially a very nasty move in multiplayer against a third party, although it can comes back to bite you there, too, when you'll still have to deal with a surviving opponent that took one more turn than you did.


Phoenix: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 24, online: 23

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: All right, a cycling deck is going to return this Phoenix in hand every single turn, if necessary. But will it want to cast it, then? It's five mana and sorely lacks haste, so the answer is probably not, even with the free recursion of a cycling card as part of the deal.


Scout: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 146, online: 140

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: This is a better white ramp card than Cartographer's Hawk is. In any turn where your land count has fallen behind (and in multiplayer, the chances someone at the table is ramping hard are higher), you can just play a land from the top. And if not, you're left with a perfectly reasonable 3/3 firs striker for three, and the strategic advantage of knowing what your next draw is, which is also valuable for all shenanigans that involve the top of the library. This Scout is likely an instance of those attempts at giving white its unique form of card advantage that Mark Rosewater often mentions on his tumblr.


Shaman: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 393, online: 388

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Gavi, Nest Warden is the commander of the Jeskai deck, and possibly the most powerful card in the set, as an incredible, if expensive, cycling enhancer. Cycling one card for free every turn, and getting a 2/2 as a bonus, can be worth the five mana for a merely defensive body. The flavor is weird, though. What does being a Human Shaman who looks out for orphaned Dinosaur Cat eggs and then gets imprinted as the hatchlings' surrogate mother have to do with cycling? (Then again, cycling is a bit of a flavorless mechanic to begin with).

 The Shamans can also count on the dynamic duo of Brallin and his flying Shark. That has to be a reference to Whale Rider, right? I'm suprised they didn't make it a girl, though (it does look like a girl in the art, but apparently, it's not).


Shapeshifter: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 96, online: 94

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The design space of clone creatures is getting smaller and smaller, but new takes are still possible, if increasingly more far-fetched. Nascent Metamorph adds a mandatory random component to its transformations, cascading into the first creature found from the top of the opponent's library, a mechanical approach that Ikoria seems to apply to a variety of cards. Now, this could result in some very flashy target... or it could result in nothing at all, if we're facing a creatureless deck. Also, the Metamorph keeps changing shape (it's less "nascent" than it is unstable), so the luck component is really pushed here. The silver lining is that it at least has the capacity to mess with scry and other library manipulations, but it feels like a minor advantage. The larger appeal is the two-mana cost, but it's undone by the utter unpredictability and unreliability.


Shark: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 8, online: 7

 Related Tribes: Bird

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The newborn Shark family is growing fast, and can boast a legendary mythic already. Also, they're going overboard with these Sharknado tributes now ("overboard" – get it?). How many flyers can an aquatic creature type really support?


Snake: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 88, online: 80

 Related Tribes: Leviathan

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Xyris creates Snake tokens, so that's the tribe that should favor its inclusion and boost those suckers with Seshiro the Anointed or something. Two of Xyris's three colors are a perfectly fit for Snakes, anyway; the third, not so much, as there were only two other red Snakes before, some obscure Portal card forgotten by time and Voracious Cobra from Invasion, which is twenty years old itself.


Soldier: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 685, online: 627

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Here's the "cascade"-like cheating maneuver being implemented once again on Fireflux Squad – they've been really using it liberally in both Ikoria-themed sets, considering how broken it can be. There's of course an inherent stochastic component to it, but when the library is your own, it's not that difficult to arrange a desired outcome (see Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast), or at least minimize the whiffs. So yeah, this Squad that can sac a random token and Polymorph it into an Agent of Treachery plays really well with Winota, Joiner of Forces.

 For the rest, Jirina Kudro and Trynn, Champion of Freedom are both Soldiers, but their tribal flavor is Human. Then again, that's a type many Soldiers sharre, so they would probably benefit for that significant +2 boost to their power. Indeed, the tokens Jirina creates sport both types, but that mechanic only works in Commander, so all in all, Jirina's home might be stipulated by her text. Plus, she's maybe a bit slow as a lord in other formats. That's the case of Trynn too, which replicates the outdated "four-drop 3/3" layout we've seen elsewhere as well; on her favor, her tokens don't require any resource, and she even provides card advantage in the form of a free sacrifice outlet card you suddenly find in your hand – as already noted, Silvar is a less efficient Falkenrath Aristocrat, but you don't look a gift Cat Nightmare in the mouth. (Really, don't do that, he eats people).


Trilobite: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 4

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Fourth Trilobite alert! The room Ikoria devoted to the most improbable tribes is almost moving. This one's actually only the second instance of the Trilobite type not being attached to something else that overshadows it, since the original Electryte was a Beast and Scuttling Sliver was, well, a Sliver. (Cryptic Trilobite) is a creature made of +1/+1 counters, therefore great for mutate purposes, and has that XX casting cost that immediately reminds us of Walking Ballista, while the activated ability to make it grow is the same found on Hangarback Walker. No pinging or Thopters here, unfortunately, the counters can only be used to fuel activation costs, but at least in a 1:2 ratio. It's a somewhat disappointing use of a mana sink creature... unless you use it to halve the cost of adding a new +1/+1 counter on Walking Ballista! Except, you already spent two mana for each counter on Cryptic Trilobite, so it's a zero-sum game. Oh well. This is also the fourth non-artifact non-Eldrazi non-Ugin-related colorless creature in the game, after the three from Ikoria proper. Gotta admit, a very ancient lifeform suits the premise of natural colorlessness more than some random cute fox does.


Warlock: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 7

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Warlocks come back after their debut on Throne Eldraine with... something that looks like a Berserker? Except monoblack? (Which some Berserkers are, but not many). I mean, this guy has got a huge deathwish, by fulfilling which you are allowed to gift another creature with an indestructible counter. Man, if Daring Fiendbonder knew the secret of indestructibility, couldn't he use it on himself? Or maybe he discovered it in the afterlife? Anyway, the initial attack on turn four isn't going to wreak much havoc, since the Fiendbonder has no trample and dies of a common cold. The indestructible counter may come in handy, but it's sadly added at sorcery speed, so it can be easily responded to. Not the most impressive Ikoria Commander card. Also, unrelated: "indestructible counter" sounds wrong, doesn't it? It seems to refer to the counter. This is what you get by using an adjective instead of a noun, like most other keyword abilities do.


Warrior: +5

  

 

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 New Tribal Total: 726, online: 709

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Avenging Huntbonder is arguably the best of the trio of non-legendary Bonders that also includes Daring Fiendbonder and Slippery Bogbonder. It's not cheap enough to become a thing outside of Commander or casual, but a double striker that hands over double strike counters can lead to explosive attacks – not Embercleave or anything, but effective for sure. Along the same lines is Frontier Warmonger, a four-drop 4/4 that makes everybody in your team menacing – only when attacking, but what use does menace could possibly have in defense?

 The mythic Warrior is the last of the partners, Cazur, Ruthless Stalker. Yet another creature using the old Hill Giant body/cost ratio (which is bad), but also turning all your creatures into Sliths (which is good). If you're playing Sultai, Cazur also provides the perfect specimen to use his ability on, the unblockable Whale Wolf, Ukkima, Stalking Shadow. Yeah, it's a Whale Wolf. Not, it's not silver-bordered.

 Here's another (bad) pun: Species Specialist, which is Midnight Reaper for Warriors. Or for any tribe, really. In fact, the tribal restriction removes the loss of life associated with Reaper's card draw. Or maybe it's the fact that the Specialist is one mana more expensive, which is probably a crucial factor in making it not good enough.

 Finally, this hotchpotch of Warriors also includes the bizarrely intriguing Titan Hunter, which can really throw a multiplayer table into chaos, because everybody who doesn't have a sacrifice outlet at hand is going to start suicide-attacking their creatures to avoid losing four life per turn. Problem is, this steampunk-looking gal does supply a sacrifice outlet for her controller, but for two mana per activation, which means you either have seven mana the turn you dropped her, or you're going to lose four life – and for a vanilla 4/5 you already spent five mana on, it could be too much.


Whale: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 9

 Related Tribes: Elemental, Wolf

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Whale is getting close to the tenth member, which is not a particularly significant threshold (you're still a pretty small tribe), but it's still something to celebrate. The marine mammals aren't there yet, but they did get their first legendary with Ukkima, Stalking Shadow. Which, in Ikoria's most preposterously cartoonish hybridization, is a Whale that's also a Wolf, because those are things that happen on the Godzilla plane. Regardless, it's an unblockable beater that fetches the guy who'll make it an unblockable beater that grows at every attack. There's also a death trigger that drains an opponent for Ukkima's power – not exactly as versatile as Dreadhorde Butcher, but at least this way it's not just a blue-black Phantom Warrior.

 Partners and legendaries aside, Ethereal Forager is the most exciting new Whale here, as it's a 3/3 flyer for two, thanks to delve, an it will even give you back instants and sorceries you might have used as delve fuel. Simple but brilliant, one of the few Commander 2020 cards I can see being played in Legacy (there's a cycle of zero-cost instants, but they're strictly for Commander, and they're in fact going to become staples there).


Wizard: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 729, online: 711

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This is the guy who sends his Elemental doggie to retrieve spells. They make for a strong pair, but Wizard decks aren't probably going to bother including a Gruul card, and without Pako's assistance, Haldan does exactly nothing.


Wolf: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 53, online: 49

 Related Tribes: Whale

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: How big is Ukkima? I imagine that its Wolf side is what justifies the "Stalking Shadow" moniker, but if you're as large as a regular Whale, you're not really going to pass unnoticed. Anyway, it's the first ever blue Wolf, as well as the second black one after Carrion Howler from the original Ravnica set (which turns 15 next October, can you believe it?). I doubt Wolf decks will care very much about this novel new member, unless they really want Cazur around. Which they probably don't.


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 BONDERS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

  

 

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THE BONDERS' COMPANIONS
(click on any of them to go to their review)

  

 

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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS