Saturday, October 19, 2013

Commander 2013 Review: The Legends

Well, honored guests, the time has come. The full spoilers for the Commander 2013 decks have been released, and so it is time for me to finally talk about some of the new goodies we're getting this year.

Today we're going to start by examining the new Legendary Creatures. We didn't get a cycle of new 2-color Legends this time, like in 2011's decks. Which sucks a lot, but the allied color pairs aren't nearly as Legend-starved as the enemy pairs so it's forgivable.

So, what did we get for new three-color options? Let's take a look.

Here we see a good example of one of the benefits of doing supplemental products like the Commander decks. It allows Design to play around in areas that would likely be off-limits in a regular expansion. On the other hand, this kind of very targeted design can feel a bit too "on the nose". Command Tower was WotC getting this right. I'm not sure how I feel about this guy yet. That said, Bant Bird Tribal decks have a great new General, so it can't be all bad. He's not going to replace Rafiq or Jenara for most aggro decks; he's more "build around me", whether that means combo, control or Bird Tribal. Voltron seems viable too.
Another fairly wacky "build around me" General. I'd honestly be disappointed by the Bant offerings, but the truth is that it was probably extremely unlikely from the outset that they'd manage to print something good enough to sway me away from Rafiq, and I'm not sure they SHOULD have done so. Anyway, this guy would actually have been the perfect General for a very different approach to Rafiq that I had put together, but I ultimately abandoned that build. The point is, though, there definitely is a deck out there for Roon of the Hidden Realm.
I am going to call it right now: This guy will be around for a long while. He's a great alternative to all the current crop of commonly-played Esper Generals. There's a lot you can do with Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, but of course it's best to build around his abilities somewhat, as his P/T to CMC ratio is less than stellar (but not horrible). He definitely has the potential to be a format staple for a long time to come.
And here we have a  more traditional Esper Legend, in that she demands an Artifact-focused build. She's a fair replacement for Sharuum, but I can't really see her taking off. Her abilities are just kind of weak and durdle-y, and pretty easy to play around. She also has the horrible interaction with Mycosynth Lattice that Karn is already known for. Sadly, I expect that's what most players will do with her. I hope to be proven wrong.
Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge is a pretty fantastic design, and I like the way she makes use of the "Commander Tax" as a resource. Her abilities are pretty brutal, but she's going to be best when you can cast her many time, so mana is going to be an issue. Hopefully this will keep her in check, because she could be insanely strong otherwise. She kind of seems to be this set's Kaalia, but hopefully she'll prove to be a little more interesting and less linear than Mrs. Of The Vast.
Other than Oloro, I think Nekusar is the one new Legend I see most people getting excited about. I must admit, he is pretty much the PERFECT General for any Grixis Griefer deck. That said, it seems pretty likely the average Nekusar deck is going to be painfully homogenous: Forced Fruition, Underworld Dreams, Wheel of Fortune, etc, etc. This guy is the Mimeoplasm of the set: Starts off insanely popular, the format will be oversaturated for a bit and people will complain. He'll fall out of favor for a while, then quietly just take his place as an old, familiar staple.
This guy should be pretty fun, as long as you can keep him away from the Food Chain combos. Then again, even with infinite 0/1 Kobolds, you still need a way to actually win... but yeah. Dragons are awesome. Kobolds are awesome. Prossh should be good times. Not going to replace Karrthus as my Dragon General of choice. But he's definitely cool.
Finally, Jund gets an incredibly grindy, annoying Control general! I should love these guys, as I am a big fan of grindy, annoying Control. I just don't see anything here that  really sells that this deck will actually work. It seems like it'd just be a Savra deck + some red shit, but I think Savra already works better than this deck would.

My first instinctive reaction was "Oh, great, another Naya Tokens General", but then I realized Rith kinda sucks, and Hazezon Tamar is really expensive, so now I'm kinda pumped for this guy. Tokens are really popular, so I'm sure I'm not the only one. The built-in option for direct damage is the big selling point. Marath, Will of the Wild is one to watch. He looks unassuming at first, but could get out of hand if you aren't careful.
My first reaction was "Oh, great, another Naya Tokens General... that doesn't even make tokens."  And, that's still kinda where I'm at with this guy. However, he could easily just head up an Aggro deck, with a bit of built-in political protection. He certain encourages your opponents to fight amongst each other, like Edric does, but I don't think his "bait" is nearly as compelling as "drawing shit tons of cards". Time will tell if the Naya Political deck is a thing, but I'm not convinced just yet.

So those are all of our new Legendary Creatures. Some I like, some I don't. Some I think will be very popular, others... not so much. But all of them at least do something different from what we had before (to some extent), so I think all ten will get some love early on. Which of these new Generals do you think we'll still be playing (with or against) two years from now? Let me know your picks in the comments.

As for which of these I'll be using, neither of the Bant guys really makes sense in my Rafiq deck (though either one could easily have replaced him in my current Rafiq build, but I'm still to dissatisfied with that attempted brew to keep it around even for the sake of these new guys). So, I'll be giving them a pass. Esper remains one of the very few color combinations that I just can't find a good Commander for... I've tried "fair" builds for Sharuum and Zur, but neither of those really felt like a good fit for me, personally, so I'll be officially adopting Oloro as my Esper General for the foreseeable future. I'm pretty happy to have finally filled this gap.

Both of the new Grixis Legends appeal to me. I must confess a strong desire to build the exact same Nekusar deck that everyone else is planning... but I might just leave that to others, and try my hand at Jeleva. But she kinda steps on Wrexial's toes a bit. Neither of the two actually fits very well into my existing Grixis build with Thraximundar at the helm, so even to just include them in the 99 would require restructuring the deck. Not sure what to do here, as it's the one Shard where I really like BOTH of the new options, but I also like my current deck a lot, so... this is one to think about.

I like Prossh, but not really enough to dethrone Karrthus as high king of all dragons. But even though it wouldn't have the same interactions with Prossh not being a General, I think he still might be worth running in my Karrthus deck.

Meanwhile, I can't replace Rith with Marath fast enough. The build will have to be altered somewhat to accommodate Marath's relatively different approach - rather than armies of 1/1's I think focusing on making fewer but bigger tokens will be the way to go here. This allows for a Populate subtheme too, which will help differentiate the Naya Token deck from the Ghave deck a bit more. I'm very excited about this prospect and can't wait to start brewing.

Well, folks, that's all for today. The next two posts will cover the other 41 new cards included in these decks. Enjoy!


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. SHIT! Jake, I'm very sorry. You left a great comment with a ton of text, which I really wanted to thank you for. Instead, my dumb ass deleted your comment instead. SO SORRY! I will try to restore it, but I don't think Blogger will let me... fuck.

  2. While I don't remember everything, I'll post my thoughts again. Actually having some in hand/play may have influenced me some.

    Derevi: Voltron seems the most obvious place for this one to me. Playing a control build with some equipment and being able to blink her in seems really strong. But. looking through the interactions in the deck it seems like an untapper theme could work pretty well. I'm just not sure what I want to untap that much...

    Roon: I was looking for this guy when I first started playing commander. A blink focused commander that is. I think he is actually going to be more fun in a deck not completely focused on blinking. He is still a strong beater and can remove an attacker/blocker or just anything with too many counters on it..

    Oloro: Pretty solid, as far as I know he is the only commander that can impact the game without ever being cast. 2 life per turn adds up.

    Jeleva: Wow, I never realized it was each player, meaning your cards get exiled as well. I thought it was opponents... The card seems really strong. Not having to connect will be a real plus.

    Nekusar: Yep he's that commander, the one that deck keeps asking for. Back in Urza's block I had that deck in 60 card form. I'll probably build it at some point for old time sakes. And then I will only bring it out against random people who need griefed. Then again he may still not be the right commander for that deck now that I look at Jeleva...

    Prossh: This guy is stupid good. One shotting people if they tap low at the wrong time. If I play him as my commander it will be a deck based around sac'ing him to make lotsa kobolds to cast overrun type spells and win with kobolds! That seems fun.

    Marath: Some of the cards that came out in Ravnica have really turned me off to +1/+1 counters and such (evolve esp). I could quite possibly be convinced to play this guy anyway just by looking at him long enough. Seems to me this could be my commander for a populate deck I've been trying to build. Populate is not a typical token deck because it makes larger tokens. The longer the game goes, the larger tokens this guy can make.

    Gahiji- This guy is my pick for the most timmy of the set. He is a big beatstick that makes my other big beatsticks bigger. Also he is perfect for the beast tribal deck and now people can't cheese their Uril decks as beast decks.

    Shattergang Bros: This is where my current deckbuilding energy is going. These guys can be tribal, voltron, and control, all at the same time. There are a lot of ways these guys can go.

    1. I'm currently thinking about a Populate/Big tokens thing for Marath.