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By: Leviathan, Mike Morales
Jan 31 2013 10:40am
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I know what you're thinking:  What about Gatecrash??!?!  Relax, I'll get to it shortly.  But I got around to this one, and figured you guys deserved to see it.  Plus, Gatecrash doesn't come out online for at least another week or two.  I think.

All right, so this is Onslaught block.  This review is specifically for Commander only.  It's basically going to hit a bunch of cards that you probably already know about, and a few that you might not.  It's always nice to take a look at the old stuff since we tend to forget them over time.

So Onslaught obviously had a pretty huge tribal theme going on.  If you have an elf, goblin, zombiewizard or soldier deck there are plenty of cards for you to go through and choose from.  Just click on the links to see what I'm talking about.  In addition, there are a bunch of cards that are pretty tribal specific, like Steely Resolve, Tribal Forcemage, etc.  For the most part I'm not going to cover these, but it should be easy to do a search for them pretty quickly (all right, I did it for you, it is right HERE).  But I am going to point out cards that I think are either underplayed, or could have applications outside of tribal decks.

Let's see, there's also a morph and cycling theme in this block.  Nothing really exciting about either of those concepts.  They do get used occasionally though. 

All right, that's enough with the introduction.  I might not hit a hidden gem, so if I miss something feel free to mention it in the comments.  With that, let's get to it!


akroma, angel of wrath

Akroma, Angel of Wrath - The big mama jamma!  So many keywords in so little space!  However, when it comes right down to it, she's "just a beater."  A strong, magnificent, beautiful beater, but a beater nonetheless.  She also costs a lot of mana, which can be tough for a mono-White deck to come up with.  Fortunately she does have haste and some relevant protection abilities and can kill someone 3 turns after you cast her.  But her mana cost starts getting out of control pretty quickly.  Occasionally she still sees play as a Commander, either in angel decks, or as a finisher in a control deck.  But more often than not people like using mono-White angels that actually have an effect on the opponent, whether it's Iona, Linvala or Avacyn (who doesn't affect your opponent but helps everything else out).  But I still love you baby!

If you have an aggressive deck that needs a tough to deal with threat at the top of the curve, Akroma is a pretty good choice.  She can also do well in control decks with lots of Wrath and recursion effects to clean things up.  Having protection from Black makes her able to dodge a lot of spot removal.  So Mayael the Anima and Selenia, Dark Angel decks would probably both enjoy having her around.  Plus she's pretty.

arcanis the omnipotent

Arcanis the Omnipotent - I think I've only seen this guy used as a Commander once, which is surprising because it's pretty easy to break him.  Just add Mind Over Matter to make it so that you can draw your entire deck.  Combine with Psychosis Crawler and a variety of tutors and watch your opponents cry.  Add Omniscience to keep on theme.  Keep in mind that I'm not advocating this course of action, but it's douchey enough that I'm just surprised I haven't seen it yet.  Anyways, he's pretty solid all by himself even if you're playing fair with him.  Include some untapping effects like Thousand-Year Elixir and you can draw a mess of cards.  I guess people would rather play with Teferi or something.  How can you pass a guy who's Omnipotent? 

I think that Arcanis is worth adding to almost any Blue deck.  Who doesn't like drawing cards?  Plus, with enough mana he can protect himself!  If you have untapping effects or haste effects in your deck, he's even better.  Seedborn Muse you say?  That's just silly!  Don't forget the old guy.

bladewing the risen

Bladewing the Risen - Zombie Bladewing is actually a lot of fun, and the focus of my very first dragon deck!  It wasn't a very serious deck, but it was a good amount of fun.  Basically you can get a specific dragon into your graveyard using Buried Alive or Entomb or something, or even by filling your graveyard with Moonlight Bargain and then reanimate it by casting Zombie Bladewing!  Pretty sweet, right?  The big problem with this Bladewing is his casting cost.  7 mana is pretty prohibitive for a lot of decks.  But with all the new dragons available since I made that deck over 2.5 years ago, I'm sure that you can make it well worth your while to use him.  And don't forget that he has the ability to pump all your dragons!  So dragon token makers like Utvara Hellkite would be beneficial as well!

Almost any deck playing his colors and running a decent amount of dragons could use Zombie Bladewing.  Recursion on a stick is always nice.  Scion of the ur-Dragon decks would like him, just be aware that using the Scion to search him up won't allow you to reanimate another dragon, although you could still use the dragon pumping ability.  Dragon-themed Karrthus decks would probably like him also.

ixidor, reality sculptor

Ixidor, Reality Sculptor - I actually saw him used as a Commander once, and I made sure to give that guy a ton of cool points.  Ixidor is so whacky that anyone that runs him should get a pat on the back.  Although Blue has a decent amount of morph creatures, most of them blow.  Of course, you still have access to the Pickles lock with Brine Elemental and Vesuvan Shapeshifter, but the remaining morph guys give minimal effects.  You have stuff like Willbender and Fathom Seer, along with Scornful Egotist and Shaper Parasite.  Still, it's mono-Blue, so you should be fine if you aren't a slave to your theme.

I can't imagine using Ixidor in any deck that didn't have a morph theme.  He's just too narrow.

jareth, leonine titan

Jareth, Leonine Titan - An old school titan, I've never seen him used as a Commander.  Unfortunately he just isn't really that exciting.  Sure, he gets huge on defense, but aside from a few randoms like Angus Mackenzie most Commanders aren't chosen for their defensive capabilities.  The protection granting ability is nice as well, but you're paying a lot for not much power.  He's also a cat, but cat tribal decks have other options.  If there were a way to switch is toughness and power consistently in mono-White, you might see him used.  But as it is he just doesn't bring that much to the table.

I think he would be a great dude in Doran decks though.  Keeping in mind his triple White casting cost, he would be a pretty big hitter in one a Doran deck.  But Doran decks already have so many options.  He could also be decent in cat decks as a big dude, but you just won't see him much otherwise.

kamahl, fist of krosa

Kamahl, Fist of Krosa - Kamahl is a guy who used to see a lot of play.  Being able to Overrun at instant speed is a pretty sweet ability.  As such he usually comes with a token army, with everything from Beacon of Creation to Endless Swarm helping him out.  Add some ways to increase your mana, and with Green's multiple ways of dealing with various problems (from Desert Twister to Acidic Slime) you should be able to overwhelm the table.  In addition Kamahl has the ability to turn lands into creatures.  Although you can animate your lands to let them participate in your charge, mostly this ability is used to get rid of annoying lands when someone plays Wrath of God.  However he seems to have fallen out of favor recently.  That's fine, as Kamahl decks were pretty ubiquitous for a while.

Kamahl is a great guy to include in any token based strategy, whether as a back up to Ezuri in an elf deck, or to help out with Ghave's tokens.  But he doesn't just work in token decks.  Any deck that has big beaters should like him, as he gives your entire team a boost and trample, and can do it multiple times with enough mana.  Add to that his ability to off lands, and you have a very good creature.

karona, false god

Karona, False God - Well, she's 5 colors and lends herself to tribal decks.  I think the tribe I've seen her used with most often is allies.  I've also seen her randomly with beasts.  Giving her up every turn is a pain in the ass, but hopefully you're the only tribal player at the table that can really abuse her.  Aside from tribal decks, I did see a guy who built a "creatureless" deck with her that only had token producers plus some defensive cards.  So he would create a ton of sand people or pegasus tokens or whatever then play Karona and beat down.  That was a fairly interesting premise.  Of course, being 5 colors you can always just put together a "good stuff" deck with her at the helm, but that's boring.

If you have a 5 color tribal deck I guess you could throw her in there.  But losing her and possibly giving that Ezuri player some extra power doesn't sound like the best idea to me.

mistform ultimus

Mistform Ultimus - The original changeling, this guy could be fun to build around.  You could include all the Blue lords like Lord of Atlantis, Grand Architect and Scion of Oona to make your Ultimus the ultimate bad ass.  Then, include the typical Blue control to make sure that he can get through and hit hard.  You would probably need some equipment as well.  I guess the real question is whether there are actually enough lords (there are at least a couple of merfolk) to make this a viable deck.  How many do you think you would need?  My guess is at least 17, but that's just a guess.  If you can't get that high, add some Swords.  Seems like it would be interesting though.

If you need a changeling I guess you can use him.  There are plenty of others out there already though.

phage the untouchable

Phage the Untouchable - All right, Phage is one of those "unplayable" Commanders that people can actually play with if you put enough thought into it.  First, you need a bunch of tutors, which Black certainly has plenty of.  Next, you need things like Torpor Orb and Sundial of the InfinitePlatinum Angel also fits in here.  I can't think of any other cards right now that stop "enters the battlefield" effects or prevent you from losing in Black, but I'm sure there are one or two more.  Add a few pieces of equipment to make sure she gets her damage through and/or is protected, like Lightning Greaves, Whispersilk Cloak, and some other stuff like Shizo and Dauthi Embrace.  You will probably also want some creature and/or artifact recursion, so Beacon of Unrest and Grim Discovery would be good.  Slap in a framework of mono-Black control.  Bam!  You got a deck!  Probably not as tight as regular mono-Black control, but still fun to work with.

I guess you could put Phage into a zombie deck, or a Black control deck.  The only issue is worrying about stuff like Warp World, which can put Phage into play not from your hand, or even Living Death if you have Phage in your graveyard.  But I always give people who play Phage props.  She's so scary!

rorix bladewing

Rorix Bladewing - Poor Rorix.  Just outclassed by all the other dragons available as Commanders.  Karrthus steals other dragons, all the Invasion and Time Spiral dragons give access to other colors.  Rorix at least has haste going for him, right?  But he just seems sort of sub-par as a Commander.  Mono-Red dragon tribal, with Crucible of Fire and a couple pieces of equipment would make him kill people quicker.  But I have a feeling I'm never going to see him used as a Commander.

As a regular creature, he is a big hasty flier.  Unfortunately there are so many good, modern dragons out there that he has a lot of competition.  The triple Red in his mana-cost is tough for multi-colored decks sometimes.  Heck, I didn't even use him in my Zirilan of the Claw deck a while back.  Ah well.  Power creep.

silvos, rogue elemental

Silvos, Rogue Elemental - Big and stompy!  I've seen Silvos used as a Commander several times in the past, and it's easy to see why.  With a power of 8(!) for 6 mana and the ability to regenerate, he's a very well priced package.  Include Green's ability to ramp and he gets even better.  I would probably include some stuff that gives him shroud or hexproof, whether it's Swiftfoot Boots or Aspect of Mongoose, but he should be pretty resilient otherwise.  The shell to build around him can be anything from elemental tribal to mono-Green control.  As a matter of fact, I think that's the main reason I don't see him used too often:  He's so generic he doesn't really give people something to build around.  But don't be afraid, get cozy with Silvos and see what he can do!

If you like big stompy things, he's a fun guy to have in your deck.  However a lot of modern fat have extra abilities tacked on to them.  Regeneration and trample aren't always enough.

sliver overlord

Sliver Overlord - Slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers.  Slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers.  Slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers.  Slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers.  Slivers.

Slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers slivers.  Slivers.

visara the dreadful

Visara the Dreadful - Visara is a good option if you're looking for an outside the box control Commander.  However there are lots of other legendary Black creatures in a similar range of casting cost.  But it's nice to be able to pick off creatures when necessary, and she's big enough to be worrisome in combat.  I would look for ways to give her vigilance, probably starting off with Batterskull.  She still not better than Maga or Sheoldred though, but both of those will put targets on your head.

Visara is a great creature for your control deck.  I've used her plenty of times in the past and I'm usually happy to see her.  She can sit back on defense, picking of creatures, or go on the offense.  She's also great in a deck that likes to use tappers, like my Ramses Overdark deck and Tariel, Reckoner of Souls deck.  She's just good at what she does.


Chartooth Cougar Elvish Aberration Eternal Dragon Shoreline Ranger Twisted Abomination
Chartooth Cougar, Elvish Aberration, Eternal Dragon, Shoreline Ranger, Twisted Abomination

The landcyclers all serve a pretty good purpose, but some are better than others.  The Green one, Elvish Aberration, is pretty redundant in most Green decks especially since there are plenty of other Green cards that do the job better.  (However, I did use it in my Experiment Kraj deck.)  The Blue one is just poop, period, as evidenced by the fact that it is the only one that hasn't been reprinted yet.  The Cougar at least has Firebreathing, which means that it's pretty decent in mono-Red.  And the Abomination can regenerate.  I've used him plenty of times in the past.  The best of them is obviously the Dragon, just for the ability to cycle early, then come back late game and be a big flying beater.  And that's pretty much how I'd rank them, from worst to best.

Dreamborn Muse Graveborn Muse Lavaborn Muse Seedborn Muse Windborn Muse
Dreamborn Muse, Graveborn Muse, Lavaborn Muse, Seedborn Muse, Windborn Muse

Just like with the landcyclers, there's a pretty clear hierarchy among the Muse cycle.  The worse is Lavaborn Muse, since her ability is pretty much out of your control and can oftentimes do nothing.  She also has never been reprinted.  Dreamborn Muse is ok for milling decks but it seems like there are a lot of better ways to do it.  Windborn attaches a nice little Propaganda effect on a creature to create some defense.  Graveborn is solid card draw that is only a little worse than Bloodgift Demon.  However, if you're playing with other zombies, especially if your commander is a zombie, she's an auto-include.  But even though Graveborn is pretty good, Seedborn is the best.  She allows you to repeat tapping effects every turn, and if you're running Vedalken Orrery, you can play your stuff at any time.  She's almost always the number one problem on the table when she hits because her owner never has to worry about running out of mana.  She's just that good.

ambush commander Ambush Commander - This is a card that I think I should see played at least once in a mono-Green deck.  Turning your forests into an army sounds pretty sweet, and with Kamahl or a Garruk ultimate can get pretty crazy.   You just gotta make sure that you have enough mana available to sacrifice the Commander to himself in the case of a Wrath of God or Earthquake.  Works well with Timber Protector as well.

bane of the living Bane of the Living - This was the creature version of Black Sun's Zenith before BSZ was around.  The ability to get rid of indestructible creatures with enough mana is always worth having around.  On top of that you can keep your fatties around if it works out. Unfortunately the Bane has sort of fallen out of favor in recent times, but it's still good.

broodhatch nantuko Broodhatch Nantuko - I have yet to see this guy played either, but he seems like he'd be fun.  Just block a huge dude, un-morph him, and all of a sudden you have a token army!

butcher orgg Butcher Orgg - I really love this guy, but for some reason I never keep him in any of my decks.  He basically has the Rhox ability, but allows you to pick of creatures as well!  That's great at getting rid of small utility dudes that you don't like.  Or you can just send it all directly at your opponent.  I think the thing that turns me off about him is that he's at the high end of the curve with triple Red in his casting cost.  But I'm sure that I'll get him into a deck soon.

caller of the claw Caller of the Claw - Not as good as Fresh Meat, but if you like sacrificing Bloodghast over and over again in a single turn the Caller can generate a nice little army for you.

carrion feeder Carrion Feeder - A nice, cheap sacrifice outlet.  I liked him a lot in my Endrek Sahr deck, but if you can make a bunch of dudes and have a lot of death triggers, he's pretty neat.

chromeshell crab Chromeshell Crab - This is an old school morph guy that people used to play, but has since fallen out of favor.  I know that the morph cost can be a little bit pricey, especially since Gilded Drake only costs 3 mana for the same effect.  But it is nice to be able to set him out there, then wait for a big dude to come along and steal.  And don't forget that he can be morphed at instant speed, so wait to see if that Rafiq is coming after you or someone else before stealing him.

corpse harvester Corpse Harvester - This is a fun zombie who can help you with mana issues and tutor up the zombie that you're looking for.  Current zombie decks have lots of tokens that can be sacrificed to this guy.  He is admittedly a little slow, but if you want a way to get that specific zombie he's pretty good.

dawn elemental Dawn Elemental - The heavy White casting cost hurts this guy's playability, but he's good in a defensive, controlling mono-White deck.  If you like Commander Eesha, you'll like a flying defender who soaks up damage.

dragon mage Dragon Mage - A Wheel of Fortune every time he hits!  He's not just for Niv-Mizzet decks.  If you play mono-Red and need additional draw he can be very helpful.  He also likes Underworld Dreams and Psychosis Crawler.  Ok, he's mainly for Niv-Mizzet decks, but still.

dragon tyrant Dragon Tyrant - A big finisher in a lot of dragon themed decks.  A large, firebreathing double-striking trampler can really bring the pain.  Most of the time you don't have to worry about his upkeep cost because he usually kills a player right off.  Scion of the ur-Dragon and Zirilan of the Claw decks like him.

dwarven blastminer Dwarven Blastminer - Like Dwarven Miner before him, this guy is good at dealing with all of those specialty lands that people like to play.  Being a morph dude actually helps him a ton, as you can keep him face down until you're ready to use him to avoid the hate that you'll probably receive.  I've found that I play both the Blastminer and the Miner in the same deck when I used them.

entrails feaster Entrails Feaster - A funky piece of graveyard hate, you obviously don't drop this cat on turn 1.  However, late game you can probably get rid of that annoying Genesis or Bloodghast, or some other creature that is constantly being recurred.

exalted angel Exalted Angel - Another old school morph creature that used to see tons of play, but doesn't anymore.  Interestingly, she doesn't technically have Lifelink.  Her closest modern analogue is probably Battlegrace Angel, but I still like her better.  She's a nice little surprise that can beat down and have fun.

forgotten ancient Forgotten Ancient - Talk about forgotten!  This guy is a better version of Taurean Mauler for only an additional mana.  Any deck that cares about counters, especially +1/+1 counters, should have this guy.  In addition, if you're about beating down, you should have this guy.  He can make your Commander huge if he lasts a turn!  Obviously works best in Skullbriar and Experiment Kraj decks.  You should give him a chance to shine in your next beatdown deck.  Really, he's good.

goblin assassin Goblin Assassin - Admittedly, this is a coin flip card, and that's not everyone's cup of tea.  But if you can produce a couple of goblins you have a good chance of taking out a bunch of dudes on your opponents' boards.  Think of him as a less efficient, but repeatable, Fleshbag Marauder.

goblin sharpshooter Goblin Sharpshooter - If you're going to make a bunch of tokens or dudes, and plan on sacrificing a lot of them to something like a Preyseizer Dragon or Predator Dragon or even Skullmulcher or Goblin Bombardment, you need to play this guy.  Yes, I know that dealing with all the triggers is a pain in the butt.  But he'll be worth it.  Pinger decks and decks with Basilisk Collar would be good for him as well.  Thromok the Insatiable and Malfegor decks would like him.

gustcloak savior Gustcloak Savior - I used this guy in my Radiant, Archangel deck and liked him a lot.  Being able to Maze of Ith all your guys whenever you attack means that you can keep guys back for defense, and save any of your creatures that would die in combat.  If you have a defensive deck he could be pretty good.  He's also not bad with Ruhan of the Fomori.

havoc demon Havoc Demon - This guy used to be played a bunch too back in the day, mainly because he could deal with indestructible creatures.  However, indestructible guys now seem to be a lot bigger, and as such, this demon's ability to deal with them has diminished.  But if you are playing a demon deck with a lot of big dudes and a couple of sacrifice outlets, you can use him to wipe the board of smaller creatures when necessary.

hystrodon Hystrodon - Card draw on a creature.  This guy is good.  It's pretty nice that he has trample built in as well.  Stonebrow decks love him.

krosan tusker Krosan Tusker - Just a solid card for what it does.  It searches up the correct land and draws a card.  And if you don't need either, it's a big body.  Although I've seen people tutor for Tusker with Fierce Empath just to cycle him and been confused about it at times, it's a really solid card.  Very good when you have Commanders with strange casting costs.

mischievous quanar Mischievous Quanar - Aside from being funny looking, this is another old school morph guy that no one plays anymore.  However, even back in the day when he did see play I don't think I ever saw anyone flip him back over so that they could copy another spell.  Still, if you like your Twincast attached to a creature this is your beast.

nantuko vigilante Nantuko Vigilante - I saw this guy played recently, and was pretty shocked.  Like the other morph guys mentioned here, he has fallen out of favor.  Now when people want stuff blown up, they run to Acidic Slime and even Mold Shambler.  But still he's worth a look.  Who knows, you could use all these morph guys in a Torpor Orb deck or something.

nefashu Nefashu - I used this guy in my Horobi, Death's Wail deck.  He was really fun, and there were plenty of people who had no idea that he even existed.  It's just worth noting that he's out there.

riptide shapeshifter Riptide Shapeshifter - Now, this isn't your normal morph guy.  With the correctly constructed deck, you can use this guy to get a creature for any occasion.  Want people not to attack you?  Name Archon!  Want a big, indestructible beater?  Name Eldrazi!  Want to increase everyone's damage potential?  Name Avatar!  Want to make someone hurt for hurting you?  Name Advisor!  Or Incarnation!  Want to squish all your opponents' little guys and hurt him?  Name Wurm!  Or squish them and pump your team?  Name Praetor!  Want to get rid of an annoying Commander?  Name Shapeshifter!  Remember, creatures with "enters the battlefield" abilities work as well as those with static abilities.  Add some reanimation so you can get your Riptide Shapeshifter back into play, and do it again!  Heck, I might actually build this deck.

root elemental Root Elemental - Now, I know that his morph cost is enormous.  But in a mono-Green deck he can put a big beater into play at instant speed.  Not bad, right?  Well, actually, it's still bad, and definitely worse than Quicksilver Amulet and Elvish Piper.  Nevermind.

scion of darkness Scion of Darkness - The Ink-Eyes before Ink-Eyes was popular, this guy has a nifty effect with built in trample to make sure that his triggered effect can happen.  I still see him every once in a while.  His main problem is that he isn't nearly as mana efficient as current creatures (think Grave Titan) but at least he can cycle himself away in the early game if needed.  I have yet to see anyone use Dark Supplicant to get him into play though.

siege-gang commander Siege-Gang Commander - A nice little party in a can, the best part is the ability to fling goblins directly at opponents.  If you want an instant army this card is for you.

silent specter Silent Specter - This is a morph card that bucks tradition, in that I never used to see it get played but now it seems to be popping up a bunch.  There's actually a lot to like about him, in that he still has evasion after being unmorphed and has a decent body, to go along with his discard ability.  This is an under the radar card that you should give a second look.

silklash spider Silklash Spider - Another old favorite that I haven't seen in a while.  Mono-Green used to have lots of problems with fliers, but with old Silklash here and a bunch of mana, you could handle most flying problems.  Now, though, mono-Green has more weapons at its disposal and this spider has fallen away to newer stuff.  Still, he's very good at what he does, which is control the skies.  I like him in Doran decks.

symbiotic wurm Symbiotic Wurm - There are a couple different Symbiotic creatures out there, but the biggest is this Wurm.  Not quite a party in a can, it's nice to have him out when someone Wraths.  It's really a matter of what your deck needs if you want this over Penumbra Wurm.

true believer True Believer - Giving yourself shroud is always handy.  It's also not a bad way to protect yourself from a majority of graveyard hate out there if you have a graveyard based deck.  Of course, it doesn't stop stuff like Rest in Peace or Relic of Progenitus, but he does stop stuff like Tormod's Crypt and Gaea's Blessing.  Along with the random Fireball that gets played.

undead gladiator Undead Gladiator - This guy used to see a lot of play, but I never liked it.  I guess you can get rid of stuff in your hand to cycle and draw something new, but that seems really inefficient.  He can also be good for putting stuff in your graveyard for reanimation decks.  But I haven't seen him in forever.

voidmage prodigy Voidmage Prodigy - Wizards like countering stuff.  They'll even kill each other off to do it!  Also, the art on both versions of this card is horrible.  Scott M. Fischer did the original, and he's usually pretty good!  Poor Kai Budde.

weathered wayfarer Weathered Wayfarer - In the current metagame of Green ramp decks, if you don't have access to Green, most of the time you will be behind in mana development.  That's where the Wayfarer comes in!  He doesn't have a restriction of only getting basics, so you can even perform mana fixing if necessary.  Basically I think this guy can go in any White deck that doesn't have access to Green.

willbender Willbender - Still a fun card to play with.  Although it's funny, most of the time when a Blue player drops a morph, you almost always guess that it's Willbender.  Bending targeted stuff is always fun.

withered wretch Withered Wretch - Basically the best available in terms of graveyard hate.  His activation doesn't require any mana, and he's a zombie as well!  Sure, Nezumi Graverobber can flip, but if you really want to keep costs down I would go with the Wretch.


Barren Moor Forgotten Cave Lonely Sandbar Secluded Steppe Tranquil Thicket
Barren Moor, Forgotten Cave, Lonely SandbarSecluded Steppe, Tranquil Thicket

These cards bear mentioning because there are plenty of decks that can rack up mana quickly that would rather draw a card than drop another land.  Along with the Urza cyclers (Drifting Meadow, Slippery Karst et al.), and Life from the Loam you can really start getting through churning through your deck.  I've used this gimmick in several decks, along with fetchlands, to good effect.  I also like including them in mono-colored decks, especially those without a good amount of draw, just to give them additional digging power.

Dragon Breath Dragon Fangs Dragon Scales Dragon Shadow Dragon Wings
Dragon BreathDragon Fangs, Dragon ScalesDragon Shadow, Dragon Wings

The dragon auras aren't horrible, and as a matter of fact they should probably see more play.  Each of them give a power boost (except Wings) which means that if you have a commander with 6 power they can turn from 4 hit killers to 3 hit killers.  Breath is the one that gets the most play for its haste granting ability, but I do occasionally see Fangs to give big dudes trample.  I've never seen anyone use Scales or Shadow, even though granting fear is a pretty good evasive ability.  Wings is the one that I'm a little surprised about, in that it actually can get itself into your graveyard for a free card!  Sure, there are better ways to get cards in Blue.  But it's still fun to think about.

aggravated assault Aggravated Assault - Who doesn't want extra attack steps?  I like this card with stuff that gives bonuses for attacking, like Stonebrow, Krosan Hero or Marton Stromgald.  Also good with Argentum Armor.  Yes, there are infinite combos with Bear Umbra, Nature's Will and Sword of Feast and Famine, along with Hellkite Charger

annex Annex - This card occasionally shows up, and I think it's underplayed.  There are a bunch of random utility lands that you could snag off your opponents that could come in handy.  This card would work especially well in 5 color decks.

aurification Aurification - A nice little piece of defense to make sure that people don't attack you.  And if they do, they can't attack you again!

cover of darkness Cover of Darkness - This is a card that I have never seen played, but that I used in my Lord of Tresserhorn deck way back in the day.  I think that making your tribal deck especially difficult to block would be something that people would like.

day of the dragons Day of the Dragons - Now here's a card that I've wanted to play forever, but that I never have actually used.  Unfortunately I just haven't found the right deck for it.  Sure, you could use it in a token deck (not something Blue is especially known for) but that sort of defeats the purpose.  I think it would go really well into a Bant deck with a lot of "enters the battlefield" creatures.  If you like playing with Ghostway or Sudden Disappearance, this card is probably for you.

death match Death Match - This is an interesting card for token decks.  It's a symmetrical effect, which means that your opponents can use it as well.  But if you have the ability to pump out mass quantities of tokens, like in a Ghave or Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder deck, you can keep an opponent's army in check.  Of course, if you're up against another token deck it can be rough times.

decree of silence Decree of Silence - Talk about slowing the game down.  Unless there's already a Soltari Visionary or Ethersworn Adjudicator in play when this is cast (and why would someone cast it if there was?) people just have to sacrifice some spells to get rid of it.  And lots of people don't want to do that.  Good for buying time, or if you already have a good position.  I suppose Krosan Grip could blow it up as well.

future sight Future Sight - Ah yes, the original Oracle of Mul Daya.  This is great for digging through your deck a little quicker and playing spells that aren't even in your hand.  Of course, everyone sees what you're going to draw, but that's a small price to pay.  And yes, this in conjunction with Sensei's Divining Top means that you can draw a ton of cards.  Well worth playing.

gratuitous violence Gratuitous Violence - You want your guys to hit harder and be stronger?  Put this into play!  Sure, it doesn't do anything by itself, but if you have a big dragon out people will be frightened.  And check out the art, that guy on the left has a rocket powered spike for a hand!  What's not to love?

grip of chaos Grip of Chaos - Man this card is frustrating.  Just, arrgh.  But if your deck is all about dudes and attacking, and nothing else, it might be worth it.  But man, this can be one of those cards that just ticks you off.

lethal vapors Lethal Vapors - This is one of those "who's gonna bite the bullet" cards, like Standstill.  If you play with indestructible dudes, you can get around it, but there are only so many of those that are actually useful.  So eventually someone has to sacrifice a turn so they can cast creatures.  I find that I'm often the one that sacrifices "for the good of the table," also with Temporal Extortion, but I always wonder how long people would put up with this card if I wasn't there.

mana echoes Mana Echoes - I always hear about this card in conjunction with token decks, but I don't think I've ever seen it played.  To fully abuse it you need some sort of filter though.  I suspect that it would be pretty good in Ulasht, Thromok and probably Riku decks.

mobilization Mobilization - Good in soldier decks and some token decks.  Remember, Zhang Fei, Fierce Warrior is a soldier!

mythic proportions Mythic Proportions - This was the "original" Eldrazi Conscription, and nobody played it.  Of course, Conscription is way better, but if you don't like using the annihilator mechanic this is a decent fall back.

one with nature One with Nature - This is a nice one that helps you accelerate and fix your mana.  Even better when you put it on Hystrodon!

oversold cemetery Oversold Cemetery - A nice, old school piece of recursion.  It's cool that you don't even have to cast anything to get the effect, but it does mean that you're pretty susceptible to graveyard hate.  You have to have a pretty creature heavy deck to pull it off though.  Otherwise it just sits there and does nothing.

pemmin's aura Pemmin's Aura - Do you like tapping and untapping your dudes?  Do you want to give them shroud?  Do you want to pump them a little bit?  Then I have the aura for you!  Pretty much turns any of your dudes into Morphling.  And although Morphling is no longer considered the best creature in the game, it's still pretty darn good.

righteous cause Righteous Cause - Not a bad little life gain card.  Small and incremental.  Can add up over time, especially in token decks.  Of course, for one more mana you get Patron of the Kitsune, which has a big body attached for the same effect.

riptide laboratory Riptide Laboratory - There are plenty of wizards out there that have "enters the battlefield" effects that you might want to re-use, whether they be Venser, Shaper Savant, Glen Elendra Archmage or Augur of Bolas.  However, it's also just good a protecting your wizards in general.  If you have a couple wizards in your deck, you need the Laboratory.

riptide replicator Riptide Replicator - I know this is mana intensive, but I always wondered why it didn't see at least a little bit of play.  Seems like it could do well in various tribal decks, such as Reaper King.  Being able to pick the creature type of the token created can come in handy.  And who knows, if you run a proliferate theme you can make the dudes you create bigger over time.

sigil of the new dawn Sigil of the New Dawn - Yes, it requires that you keep some mana available.  But it is nice to have a little bit of Wrath insurance.  And if you have a cheap "enters the battlefield" creature with a sacrifice outlet, like a Viridian Shaman or something, this will let you get another chance to use it.  Typically not as good as Sun Titan or Emeria, but it has more flexibility.

slate of ancestry Slate of Ancestry - Typically seen in tribal decks, this is a card that should be looked at in any creature or token heavy deck that doesn't have a lot of draw options.  I used it in my Marton Stromgald deck, so I would say that mono-Red decks would like it.  If you find you dump your hand quickly and make a ton of dudes you should look at it.

sulfuric vortex Sulfuric Vortex - Sometimes you just don't want people to gain life.  While there are other options out there such as Forsaken Wastes, Leyline of Punishment, Everlasting Torment and Havoc Festival, this one is a little bit cheaper, and makes sure that everyone gets hit during their upkeep.

temple of the false god Temple of the False God - Automatically bumps you from 5 to 6 mana, so if you have a 6 mana commander it's pretty much worth using.  Also good in Green decks that have some ramp.  I've been stuck with it and only 3 other lands out before, which is annoying, so it's also nice if you run Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.  Basically a good overall land.

unspeakable symbol Unspeakable Symbol - Now, I've seen people use this in Zur decks, but I'm just not sure that it's really worth the investment without a decent amount of lifegain in your deck.  Could also be used in Skullbriar decks.  If you have a deck where +1/+1 counters really matter it might be playable.

upwelling Upwelling - An Omnath for everyone!  This can get really out of hand quickly.  Often seen in group hug decks, I actually used it in my budget Omnath list as a political card.  It made me seem not nearly as threatening.  Of course, my deck was made to abuse massive quantities of mana, so it still worked out better for me than most.  But you have to be careful with it.


Decree of Annihilation Decree of Justice Decree of Pain Decree of Savagery
Decree of Annihilation, Decree of Justice, Decree of Pain, Decree of Savagery

Obviously Decree of Silence is part of this cycle, but it's the only enchantment and I already talked about it.  As for the others, they are all pretty powerful cards.  Decree of Pain is the most played, for being both a sweeper and card draw.  That's a pretty good combo in one deck, especially for control decks.  And occasionally the cycling comes in handy against token decks.  Decree of Justice used to see a lot more play, but it's still good at drawing a card and making soldier tokens.  I've seen Decree of Savagery once, and that's disappointing.  Unfortunately the mana cost is just too high to justify the effect, even if it seems pretty cool.  Who knows, maybe the new Simic cards will help out.  And then there's Decree of Annihilation.  Please don't be the jerk that uses this card.  Even in Jhoira decks.  Just, don't do it.  Thanks.

Chain of Acid Chain of Plasma Chain of Silence Chain of Smog Chain of Vapor
Chain of Acid, Chain of Plasma, Chain of Silence, Chain of Smog, Chain of Vapor

This is a cycle that I hear mentioned every once in a while, but that I rarely see played.  People just don't want to have the spell get bounced around out of their control.  But there are instances where each card can be handy.  Chain of Acid can help out mono-Green control.  Chain of Smog can be good in Nath decks.  The other three Chains are a little tougher, since they require someone to bounce a land to keep the chain going.  But they're still worth knowing about.  Chain of Vapor especially can work well at bouncing stuff on the table.  And if people don't want to continue the chain, then these cards are all upside.

akroma's vengeance Akroma's Vengeance - Before Planar Cleansing came around, this was the big White sweeper that people used to love.  However her Vengeance was printed at a time when planeswalkers didn't exist, so it's not nearly as popular despite the ability to cycle.  However, the vulnerability is actually something you can exploit!  If you're playing a planeswalker heavy deck, this will keep your 'walkers alive while wiping out the table!  And 'walkers love it when there's nothing else out there to mess with them.

artificial evolution Artificial Evolution - Can help mess around with certain types of tribal decks.  Narrow, but sometimes people want this kind of effect.

biorhythm Biorhythm - BANNED!

blatant thievery Blatant Thievery - Ah yes, a classic theft spell.  When the table's full, you get to pick the best thing out there for each player.  Typically that's a 3 for 1 deal!  Of course, the card gets worse the fewer opponents you have.  But it's still fun to take stuff from people, right?

cabal conditioning Cabal Conditioning - A mass discard spell that doesn't get as much hate as Myojin of Night's Reach, mainly because recurring it is a pain in the ass and it doesn't leave a body behind, plus it requires that you have another card (that has a high casting cost) in play.  I used this card in my budget Nath of the Gilt-Leaf build and it worked pretty well most of the time.  Being able to make everyone discard 5 cards when you have an Acidic Slime out is nice.  It's a horrible top deck after the board gets wiped though, especially due to the high casting cost.

dimensional breach Dimensional Breach - Just a goofy way to tick off everyone at the table.  It sort of makes everyone's permanents have suspend.  The good thing is that you eventually get all your stuff back.  The bad thing is that it takes a while.  So if you don't use a ton of permanents this can swing things your way.

dragonstorm Dragonstorm - If you have a couple dragons in your deck, why not throw this in there?  Especially if you have ways to double up your mana and make this thing more castable on the same turn as you drop a Sol Ring or something.

explosive vegetation Explosive Vegetation - A very good ramp spell.  Its closest analogues are Skyshroud Claim, Ranger's Path and Hunting WildsRanger's Path is the worst of these, but the other three all have their purposes.  Vegetation is especially good if you aren't packing dual lands but you have a multi-colored deck.  I like it a lot.

false cure False Cure - Sometimes people like to gain a ton of life.  Sometimes, they have a Warhammer out there on a huge dude.  This is a nice way to make sure that they hurt a lot.

harsh mercy Harsh Mercy - A nice Wrath effect for tribal decks.  Different than Divine Reckoning in that most of the time you get to keep your entire team, instead of just one creature.

head games Head Games - I have yet to see this played, but I know that someone will use it and blow me out at some point in the future.  Ideally you use it on someone to team up on the biggest threat at the table and give them some answers.  Otherwise you're just stuffing someone's hand full of land.

insurrection Insurrection - The game ender for Red, most of the time this card is well worth the cost.  Especially good if you pack sacrifice outlets.  Very good.

long-term plans Long-Term Plans - Mono-Blue doesn't pack a tutor that can get you anything, so this is the closest thing you get.  Fortunately, Blue is very good at drawing cards.  Sure it's not as good as Demonic Tutor, but nothing is.  Great in Azami decks.

mind's desire Mind's Desire - I've seen this card used once or twice in games.  In dedicated storm decks it can actually be pretty good.  But it's pretty much a "build around me" kind of card.  I'm pretty sure I'll never play it.

oblation Oblation - White specializes in tucking commanders, and this one doesn't require that the commander be attacking like Condemn.  Getting rid of a troublesome commander is well worth the 2 card draw disadvantage you typically suffer.  Commander staple.

patriarch's bidding Patriarch's Bidding - A form of mass recursion that typically ends up being a better Living Death in the right decks.  Almost any tribal deck that has Black in it should run it.  It won't wipe the board, but being able to bring back your team, while opponents only get a creature or two, is nice.  Instant speed ability isn't one that I've used a lot of but I'm sure it can be busted.  Scion of the ur-Dragon and Rat decks seem to love it.

reaping the graves Reaping the Graves - This actually seems like a pretty decent version of recursion, but I've only seen it used rarely.  It's instant speed, so can be used in response to graveyard removal.  And since it has storm you may be able to grab a bunch of dudes.  Underplayed.

starstorm Starstorm - Basically I love this card because it's instant speed, and it doesn't hurt you, only creatures.  Of course, it doesn't hurt opponents' life totals either. 

stifle Stifle - Although this card saw tournament play, it's generally not flashy enough for most decks.  But if you play with a few cards that have significant drawbacks, you can pack this and occasionally hit an opponent as well.

syphon mind Syphon Mind - A nice little bit of card draw that scales with more opponents.  Combine with Commanders that like discard or stuff in graveyards, like Wrexial or Nath.  I used to see it all the time, but it's sort of fallen off to the wayside now.

threaten Threaten - The original of Red's temporary theft spells, Insurrection on a smaller scale.  Goes in everything from Brion Stoutarm decks to those with a decent amount of sacrifice outlets.  Always fun when someone has a huge beater out there.

trade secrets Trade Secrets - This is one of those cards that gets out of control really quickly.  Similar to a Chain card, if you have a willing opponent you can draw half your deck.  Of course, if you have Psychosis Crawler in play I'm guessing that no one will let you do that.  But still, when I've seen this card played I've seen the caster draw 30 cards.  Just don't pick the guy with Reliquary Tower in play.

weird harvest Weird Harvest - It seems like it would be good for combo decks, especially those that need specific creatures.  Of course, if you can't cast them right away then it may not be worth it, because everyone else gets to tutor stuff up as well.  Pretty much should only be played in Group Hug decks.

wheel and deal Wheel and Deal - This card is best friends with Underworld Dreams and maybe (Chandra the Firebrand).  I used it in my Nicol Bolas Grixis Group hug deck.  Can also be good if you want graveyards stocked.  Limited uses otherwise.

wing shards Wing Shards - Another older card that doesn't see as much play as it used to.  There are plenty of times when people cast multiple spells prior to attacking, and this thing really hurts them.  In addition, there are a lot of Commander based decks that only attack with one creature at a time.  Wing Shards handles both of those situations nicely.  Remember, it can often times handle those hexproof guys.


All right, here are the staples from the block that I think every Commander player should own:

On top of that, there are a bunch of role players that I really like, such as all the landcycling creatures, Hystrodon, Patriarch's Bidding, Wing Shards, Akroma, Arcanis, some of the dragon auras, Mobilization, Gratuitous Violence, Slate of Ancestry, Riptide Laboratory, Silent Specter and Silklash Spider.  There's a ton of cool stuff here for tribal decks as well.  I use a ton of these cards mainly because I play a lot of creature oriented decks.  So this was a great block for me.

A lot of the legendary creatures are a little bit outclassed, particularly because most of them are mono-colored.  But that doesn't mean you should ignore guys like Silvos and Ixidor.  They're tons of fun.


I've been enjoying the videos, so I figured I'd bring a gameplay video of an old deck.  I know you needed a fix!  You can find the deck that I used HERE.  Check it out!

I figured out afterwards that the reason I couldn't get the Spinerock Knoll to trigger was that the guy I hit conceded before damage resolved, so in fact I hadn't hit him for the require 8 damage needed.  Oh well.  

Hope you guys enjoyed the overview, as well as the blast from the past.  Until next time!

Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO
mrmorale32 at yahoo dot com



I feel I need to stick up for by bogtrog at Thu, 01/31/2013 - 22:57
bogtrog's picture

I feel I need to stick up for my boy Jareth. He is the commander of what might be my favorite deck. Everyone sees his defensive ability and writes him off, but his real power lies in his ability to buy protections. It makes him extremely hard to remove, and very hard to block. I run him in a equipment voltron shell with some control and protection mixed in. It might not be the fastest deck around, but once it gets rolling it is very very hard to stop.

Did you ever post a list for by RexDart at Fri, 02/01/2013 - 12:40
RexDart's picture

Did you ever post a list for that Zirilan deck you say you had awhile back? I have one on MTGO, the only commander deck I still ever occasionally play online, and was curious about yours. I've never seen another one.

Bog, I see what you're by Leviathan at Fri, 02/01/2013 - 12:59
Leviathan's picture

Bog, I see what you're saying. The protection granting ability is probably the biggest reason to play him. He can easily slip past non-robot defenders. Unfortunately, he does require some equipment, and you can turn almost any Commander respectable with enough of a voltron theme. Still, White gives you enough control elements that it is a playable deck. But he would be so much better if he even had 1 more point of power.

Rex, the Zirilan deck is pretty old now, and is in the archives. It was created before Conjurer's Closet and Sundial of the Infinite were printed. Plus, there are a ton of better dragons that have been printed since then. But the basic idea of the deck is still pretty playable. Here it is: http://puremtgo.com/articles/conqueror-commander-vol-lvi-zirilan-claw

The 4 power doesn't really by bogtrog at Fri, 02/01/2013 - 17:49
bogtrog's picture

The 4 power doesn't really matter all that much. My deck runs 7 pieces of equipment that turns him into a 3 swing clock, and has another 4 or 5 ways to tutor for them. It is pretty rare for him to swing naked.

Have you ever tried out a white epuip votron before? I can't recall you writing one up at least.

I have, it was my very first by Leviathan at Fri, 02/01/2013 - 19:33
Leviathan's picture

I have, it was my very first article actually. Go back and check it out!

Very interesting article! I by athariel at Sun, 02/03/2013 - 03:47
athariel's picture

Very interesting article! I really like your set reviews, especially for the older sets when I took a break from Magic.