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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Aug 17 2023 12:56pm
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COMMANDER MASTERS

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 The main Commander Masters product is an anthology set distributed in draftable boosters that only contain reprints, but it's accompanied by four pre-constructed Commander decks with new cards in them, with the typical legality of only Vintage, Legacy, and Commander. The decks all possess strong themes, two of which – Sliver Swarm and Eldrazi Unbound – involve explicit tribal elements. The other two – Planeswalker Party and Enduring Enchantments – are centered around the namesake card types.

   

 Let's have a look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the tribes are presented alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 NOTE: Alchemy cards, Acorn cards, and other non-tournament legal cards aren't counted toward the tribal totals.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 324
  • New cards: 40
  • New creatures: 23
  • Reprinted cards: 284
  • Reprinted creatures: n/a
  • New Legendary creatures: 7
  • New Snow creatures: 0
  • New artifact creatures: 0
  • New enchantment creatures: 3
  • Triple-subtype creatures: 0
  • Creature types affected: 21
  • Tribes with more than one addition: Sliver (+6), Human (+3), Bard (+2), Eldrazi (+2), Spirit (+2), Wizard (+2)

Avatar: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 104, online: 101

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: For reasons that are entirely mechanical – and in fact betray the flavor quite a bit – all new colorless creatures have been slotted with the Eldrazi in their tribal deck. This is one of the Archaics of Arcavios, who are entirely benevolent entities from the beginning of time. Abstruse Archaic doesn't look like a particularly far-reaching card, because the conditions to meet for the copy are quite narrow: only activated or triggered abilities, and only coming from colorless sources. But beside a non-small range of potentially high-profile effects (in the precon deck alone, those include things like Duplicant and Burnished Hart, which are a great bargain for just one extra mana), the ability of Abstruse Archaic interacts with the many powerful colorless artifacts printed throughout Magic's history. For instance, it's another way to combo with Sands of Time (providing redundancy to Lithoform Engine and Strionic Resonator). We can even get cute and double Door to Nothingness to kill two opponents at once at our multiplayer table (the Door has a five-color identity for deckbuilding purposes but it's colorless on the battlefield). This guy is definitely a combo piece.


Bard: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 17

 Related Tribes: Human, Satyr

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The enchantments deck has Theros as its natural setting, due to the "enchantments matter" theme that the godly sub-plane of Nyx always carries. It's the case of both these new Bards, including the legendary Narci, Fable Singer (for being such a small, new tribe, Bard has a large number of legendaries among its ranks, more than one third of the total). We don't know much about this young-looking songstress, but her flavor text about stories ending perfectly incapsulates her two main abilitities, which add lifedrain and card draw to the last chapter of all our Sagas. On top of that, we're rewarded with extra cards for the sacrifice of other enchantments as well – anything from Sterling Grove and Alseid of Life's Bounty, to the Seals, the Omens and the Ordeals, to more specialized enablers like Gatherer of Graces in combo with self-recurring Auras like Rancor. It's a ton of potential card advantage, and given that Narci encompasses three crucial colors for this strategy (particularly white and green), and is accompanied by a pretty decent lifelinking body, she might have a bright future as a build-around commander.

 And if we're on Theros, we'll find Satyrs, and what's more iconic than a Satyr playing a pan flute? That's what Composer of Spring uses to do a ramping constellation deal that's reminiscent of Nessian Wanderer from Theros Beyond Death. The two Satyrs share color, cost and body size, but the Composer needs lands already in hand to have a payoff. Which means she actually works wonderfully in tandem with the Wanderer. And she has a late-game bonus that turns her into an Elvish Piper of sort – speaking of another musical girl in a pastoral setting. In a dedicated deck, it couldn't actually take long for the six-enchanment condition to be fulfilled, which could also result in the Composer dropping and triggering in the same turn, something the Piper couldn't naturally accomplish.


Beast: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 468, online: 458

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Another Theros resident from the enchantment-based precon. Enchantment being one of the main card types in the game, it's not too difficult to effectively have Nyxborn Behemoth as a 10/10 tramper for two green. And given that some of those enchantments might be expendable afterwards, we can add a fairly reliable indestructibility to the Behemoth's skills, which means it can be a serious finisher in "enchantments matter" decks, while being essentially unplayable elsewhere.


Cat: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 267, online: 257

 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The planeswalker deck is somewhat arbitrarily Jeskai-colored, and has this winged Cat as one of its new legendaries. It's basically a roundabout way to copy the activation of one of our planeswalkers – or more, if we happen to have multiple versions of the same characters on the battlefield at once. Leori, who's a Patagia Tiger from Ikoria (possibly Lukka's original companion), is going to have an easy time connecting in the air, so the ability should trigger often enough. Its body is not the most resilient, though, and vigilance is probably not going to matter much. Also, the wording encourages building around a single planeswalker type to maximize the gain, but most of those that have several strong cards to their name, like Chandra, Elspeth, and Jace, are going to be monocolored, so Leori will require a double splash. It works better with consistently dual-colored planeswalkers like Dovin, Nahiri, Ral, Saheeli, and Teferi.


Cleric: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 546, online: 515

 Related Tribes: Kor

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This is a five-drop with a subpar body and a do-nothing attitude on arrival. So not exactly the type of card one strives to put in their deck, not even in casual Commander. Right? Well, except the free duplication of the first enchantment we play every turn is an incredibly huge advantage, if our build packs a lot of those. And it can lead to extremely, extremely broken plays with Doubling Season. Because the copy we receive from Ondu Spiritdancer is a token, which the original Doubling Season will in turn double. So now, every time we play a Saga in a following turn, we get EIGHT of them, and they all resolve all their chapters immediately. Really vertigo-inducing. It's not for everyone, in fact it's probably only for Johnnies and Jennies (after all, it involves casting two five-mana "do-nothing" cards back to back), but boy oh boy they're going to have some game-breaking fun with this pale gal.


Demigod: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 6

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: At some point before being compleated during the New Phyrexian Invasion, the Therosian God of the Dead Erebos apparently created another reluctant, semi-cursed Demigod other than Tymaret. Designated as the commander of the "Enduring Enchantments" deck, Anikthea has a great functional partnership with Narci, Fable Singer, whose strategy involve cheap enchantments going to the graveyard for Anikthea to reanimate as 3/3 menacer Zombie tokens. To be fair, Narci still looks as the more appealing commander between the two, as she gives us life and cards, whereas Anikthea only slowly and conditionally populates our battlefield. Plus she's more expensive while not being much of a board presence on her own – just a 4/4 with menace, which doesn't even guaranteed she'll be able to attack unopposed and trigger her recursion ability every single turn. The ETB angle shouldn't be undervalued, though: if most of Anikthea's targets have a ETB ability, she'll retrigger them when she created her copies.

 All this aside, Anikthea, Hand of Erebos represents the sixth Demigod ever printed in the game, the first multicolored one, and the only one not belonging to the original cycle from Theros Beyond Death. It's something to be proud of.


Demon: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 159, online: 153

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: This six-mana 6/6 frampler can eat an enchantment to boost itself, which is only relevant if sending that enchantment to the graveyard provides extra value. More importantly, it allows us to pay life rather than mana to cast an enchantment, once per turn. Now, this is tempo gain, and could more often have relevance, even if it would pay off more on an early drop. Demon of Fate's Design is also an enchantment creature itself, which might be significant for what it enables in the rest of the build (a near-full reduction cost to Nyxborn Behemoth, for instance). We had other four "enchantment Demons" in the past, all monoback – and all from Theros, naturally.


Eldrazi: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 121

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: It's kind of maddening (and maybe that was the point!) to have a whole precon deck allegedly dedicated to Eldrazi, and yet only two new members. And they're not even that good, to be honest. Flayer of Loyalty brings us back to the expensive annihilators from Rise of the Eldrazi, like Artisan of Kozilek or Pathrazer of Ulamog. It's a 10/10 trampler for 10 with annihilator 2 and a roundabout, not always effective way to essentially give itself haste by casting Act of Treason on an opposing creature and then temporarily turning it into itself. This weird approach is rewarded if we have a way to sacrifice the stolen creature afterwards, but it's punished when we're facing an empty board with the Flayer in hand – so in general whenever we're up against control strategies. And it's not even like a 10/10 with annihilator 2 and pseudo-haste is worth ten mana anyway, considering that's what Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger also costs.

 Then we have deck commander Zhulodok, Void Gorger, which was entirely designed for that job, because a creature that gives double cascade to our expensive colorless spells only makes sense if we can start it from the command zone. Other than that, it's a vanilla 7/4 for six mana, stats that wouldn't even make the cut in Limited. On the creative side, this is the first named Eldrazi that's not an iteration of one of the three Titans. Zhulodok, who's from Ulamog's lineage, lived a very long time ago, was slayed by Nahiri, and is apparently responsible for the creation of the Vampires on Zendikar. Cool stuff, but the card is unfortunately just an uninspired, colorless-based rehash of Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty from Commander Legends.


Elemental: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 513, online: 505

 Related Tribes: Cat

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Leori is meant for Superfriends lists, so it's equally unlikely to have a place in either Car or Elemental tribal decks.


Human: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 3139, online: 2933

 Related Tribes: Bard, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: Just one Bard and two Wizards – at least these precon decks have managed to keep the Human component to a bare minimum, probably due to the fact that two of the lists are based around non-humanoid monstrosities.


Illusion: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 93, online: 87

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: This is a strange take on a changeling from the ever-shifting Kaldheim realm of Littjara, given that it's not a Shapeshifter, and instead of the changeling keyword, it has just one secondary subtype of our choice. On the battlefield, it acts as repeatable quasi-Distant Melody via "Titan trigger", as the name implies. Indeed, Titan of Littjara also shares the same cost and body with the classic M11 Titan cycle. On its own, it just loots, because, unlike Distant Melody, whenever we draw with this Titan, we have to discard one card at the end of the process. On paper, it complements nicely any tribal strategy; in practice, not many blue tribal decks are going to care for massive card draw off a six-drop. Illusion could, though, and monoblue is their color. We kind of waste the customizable extra tribe that way, but as long as the card-drawing job is done, the Titan won't mind. It's also possible to just combo this illusionary giant with Arcane Adaptation, something that we could pull off in Commander.


Insect: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 199, online: 195

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: For some reason, this very green-looking Cicada is not only colorless (how does that happen to regular living beings?), but it accelerates the speed of casting of every other colorless spell. That wouldn't probably be enough for a rare with high-end legality, so Skittering Cicada also borrows the mana values of all the colorless spells we cast in the turn and transforms them into trampling power. It could end up being more lethal than anything else in our deck – well, barring some Eldrazi – and if the boosting seems to run slightly contrary to the flash, as its value is maximized in our turn, we can also wait until combat damage is assigned and cast a big colorless creature as a combat trick, helping the Cicada to kill blockers or push damage through – a constant threat of activation extended to the entirety of our spells, at least if we're running this guy within a colorless build. Which is obviously what we're supposed to do, and what limits the scope of its applications, and all but nullify its impact on Insect tribal: there are other 27 colorless creatures within the tribe, but they don't seem to collectively amount to any kind of winning strategy.


Kor: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 80

 Related Tribes: Cleric

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: This potentially scary enchantment duplicator is a Kor from Zendikar – a lady Kor, I think, based on the precedent of Kor Spiritdancer. But the artwork could also be meant as genderfluid. The Kor tribe doesn't incorporates enchantment strategies, by the way. They care more about Equipment. In fact, there's only one previous Kor with a rule text that benefits from an enchantment-heavy environment, and it's the weak uncommon Stone Haven Pilgrim from Jumpstart.


Naga: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 40

 Related Tribes: Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: The colorless Eldrazi deck has a second new legendary as "vice-commander", even if it doesn't have anything to do with the Eldrazi. On the contrary, Omarthis is a Naga from Tarkir with mastery on the Ghostfire magic, which is what Ugin used against the Eldrazi. Flavor mess aside, Omarthis doesn't seem to connect thematically with Ghostfire either, as it's pretty much a colorless Wildwood Scourge with a manifest take on Hangarback Walker's death trigger. It could be good in a list with plenty of X-costed finishers like the mentioned Walker, Walking Ballista, Stonecoil Serpent, and whatnot. Naga tribal is not going to be that kind of list, having a grand total of zero colorless members prior to Omarthis.


Ogre: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 118, online: 113

 Related Tribes: Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The mysterious Onakke from Shandalar make an appearance in the planeswalker deck. The Oathkeeper is just a little helper for Superfriends lists, providing a reduced Ghostly Prison protection for our planeswalkers and a six-mana resurrection for one of them once the Oathkeeper has also gone the graveyard. Functional, but nothing to write home about. Although a four-toughness roadblock for two mana has some merit in 60-card Constructed as well.


Phoenix: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 35, online: 33

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: If Chandra has her own Phoenix, why shouldn't be the same for Chandra's mentor Jaya? The late pyromancer's firebird is especially tailored to serve planeswalkers, copying their activations and reporting back for duty every time a planeswalker shows up on our battlefield. At five mana, a Superfriends deck is probably better off casting a planeswalker spell instead, but it's easy to pitch the Phoenix to some loyalty ability causing looting or rummaging, and then have it back for free as soon as we put our next walker on the stack. It's a pretty good card within that strategy, but as most of the new spells in the planeswalker precon, it suffers from an utter lack of synergy with its tribe.


Satyr: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 31

 Related Tribes: Bard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: We had a boy Nymph, so why not a girl Satyr, as strange as that might sound to someone who knows Ancient Greek and Roman mythology? (It's not the first one, the gender inclusion happened in Theros Beyond Death with cards like Careless Celebrant, Stampede Rider, and the super-cute Gallia of the Endless Dance). Hailing mostly from Theros, the goatfolk also have better synergy with enchantments, including several constellation members and even a Satyr Enchanter.


Sliver: +6

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 115

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Unlike the Eldrazi counterpart, the Sliver deck does a decent job of staying faithful to the theme and adding new members to the tribe. Admittedly, designing new Slivers is not particularly difficult: you just pick a keyword or ability they didn't have before. And even if the low-hanging fruits have been all taken already, there's still plenty to choose from. The precon list has a new monocolored cycle, which includes:

  • a white one with monarch or a boost on ETB (is it supposed to be from Fiora?)
  • a blue one with goad on ETB (probably the weakest of the bunch)
  • a black Zombie one with both afflict and amass upon death
  • a red one with impulsive drawing upon connection
  • a green one with replicate, the only one of the cycle that's not a four-mana 3/3 (instead, it's a "bear")

 On top of that, the commander is a new five-color legendary lord. Those are getting harder to do justice to. This one, called Sliver Gravemother, gives every Sliver encore, which means we can unearth them but in multiplayer the effect is paired with myriad as well. The Gravemother also has an extra bit of text disabling the legendary rule for Slivers; this way, we can fully exploit encore on the legendaries as well. It seems to reside firmly at the low-end of the "Sliver Queens", since it doesn't impact the board in any significant way. All in all, not a very groundbreaking set of new additions for the popular hyper-linear tribe, which is disappointing because they so rarely get a new member – last time it happened was in 2019 with Modern Horizons.


Spirit: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 589, online: 579

 Related Tribes: Naga, Ogre

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Omarthis must be intended as one of Ugin's "spectral guardians", like Scion of Ugin and Ugin's Conjurant. And the Onakke are the ghosts of an ancient Ogre civilization. Neither of these facts help mitigate the complete absence of synergy between these two cards (a "+1/+1 counters matter" card and a "planeswalkers matter" card, respectively) and the Spirit tribe.


Wizard: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 961, online: 937

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The "Sliver Swarm" deck is, predictably, five-color, and it contains another new WUBRG payoff in the form of Rukarumel, Biologist, a Human researcher who specifically focuses on Slivers. Her (goofy) name was actually referenced several times before in the flavor texts of some of the Slivers from Time Spiral block, where she appeared to be writing down observations in a field journal. Now that we met her, she looks more like a Simic-like mad scientist than expected, growing little Slivers in her lab (as 1/1 colorless tokens) and basically causing all of our creatures to mutate into Slivers. The opposite is also true, so we can give Slivers tribal bonuses from other sources, as unlikely as it is that they'd need that kind of extra advantage when they can already mimic a lot of what other linear tribes do. But it's never wise to underestimate the crazy combos Johnnies and Jennies might come up with whenever a rule-bending card is introduced. For instance, another thing Rukarumel can do, entirely unrelated to Slivers, is turning, say, all our Goblins into Elves. At the very least, this could lead to weird multi-tribe build, but the payoff must really be amazing to justify the involvement of a clunky five-color 3/3.

 The other new Wizard in this set of cards is Sparkshaper Visionary from the "Planeswalker Party" precon. This one performs another kind of transformation, by turning our planeswalkers into 3/3 Birds that scry upon connection. The change lasts only until the end of the combat phase and includes hexproof as well, otherwise it'd be mostly a way to let the opponent use simple creature removal on our precious permanents. The Visionary's cost is cheap, his body is defensive, the free scry is nice, and it can be a legitimate alternate wincon in Superfriends builds. It can also be absolutely unnecessary, though.


Zombie: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 538, online: 528

 Related Tribes: Sliver

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: This Sliver is a Lazotep Zombie and the artwork is clearly depicting Amonkhet. So are there Slivers on Amonkhet now? Apparently not, since during this WeeklyMTG, it was established that none of the new cards from these Commander Masters precons is necessarily canon. The Slivers have had a strange relationship with Magic's storyline, anyway. They mostly had a small role during the original Phyrexian Invasion, particularly where it pertained to Volrath's story. Outside of Dominaria, some names and abilities seem to suggest they might exist or have existed on Alara and Mirrodin. Shandalar has the strain of humanoid Slivers from Magic 2014 (the ones everybody hated). And the Sliver Gravemother from this set has an elaborate back story that takes place on an "unknown plane".


SUMMARY

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