Returning to New Legends

Posted in Command Tower on May 14, 2015

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Modern Masters 2015 Edition is coming soFon and it’s absolutely time to be excited. For starters, we have twelve legendary creatures making a return to us.

Iona, Shield of Emeria | Art by Jason Chan

While not all of them play nicely with Commander (Emrakul, the Aeons Torn I’m looking at you!) many have a place in plenty of decks:

  • Last week I talked about what Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite brings to the table. It still stands, and she’s a powerhouse at making the battlefield a hostile place for everyone else’s creatures.
  • Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder is a token-producing machine that combines well with any deck full of sacrifice outlets or benefits (like, say, Ruthless Deathfang). If you haven’t given him a try, now is an excellent time.
  • Ghost Council of Orzhova can dodge almost any removal spell, big or small, while bringing in a trickle of life.
  • Horde of Notions is a powerful choice for the five-color adventurers out there, and one I’ve seen in action plenty of times doing powerful things with a well-stocked graveyard.
  • Kozilek, Butcher of Truth is my favorite legendary Eldrazi to play with. Since it doesn’t carry the indestructible force and targeted destruction of Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, it’s usually the less-threatening option to cast. The fact you get to draw four cards regardless of if Kozilek makes it to the battlefield or not is a nice way to balance the good odds your monstrosity is going to get blown up shortly thereafter.
  • Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind might have an unfair combo with Curiosity, but it’s all the other times we just deal a little damage as we draw cards that makes him fun. Who doesn’t want the smartest creature on Ravnica to lead our forces?

If you haven’t given any of these options a try before in your Commander decks, now is the time. In fact, new Commander decks are such a fun treat that when I asked you to share a few with me, so many came in that I couldn’t possibly cover them all.

So I’m fixing that.

Deck Styles of the Fresh and Fun

It’s rare to be utterly inundated with emails from you, so it’s clear that building and playing a new Commander deck is a big deal for most of us. Let’s start with Andrew’s Dragon-centric deck:

My newest commander deck was literally only possible with the release of Dragons of Tarkir. That's because it's a Dragons of Tarkir deck! I took most of the Dragon cycles and Dragon-related cards in DTK and slammed them all together in one deck. Since it's a five-color Dragon deck, it is headed by Scion of the Ur-Dragon, the only five-color dragon in existence (let alone the only legendary one). The deck pretty much built itself, but there were a few unfortunate cuts (I couldn't fit in all of the uncommon multicolor dragon cycle) as with every Commander deck.

The deck actually first blossomed in my mind because I couldn't put Sarkhan Unbroken into my Prossh, Skyraider of Kher Dragons tribal deck. I figured that, since we did just get lots of shiny new dragons across all five colors, I should just go whole hog and include the whole pie. There are a couple of non-Dragons of Tarkir cards in here because they synergize so well with the new cards. (Hellkite Charger, say hi to Savage Ventmaw. You might not know it yet, but the Ventmaw is your new BFF.)

Andrew's Five-Color Dragons of Tarkir

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Scion of the Ur-Dragon
Sorcery (1)
1 Crux of Fate
Enchantment (2)
1 Dragon Tempest 1 Crucible of Fire
99 Cards

While I’d find it really hard to build a Commander deck from mostly Modern Masters 2015 Edition, Horde of Notions is definitely the way to go, just like Andrew did with Scion of the Ur-Dragon. I also like how he piled in all of the Dragonlords and the previous versions of them from Fate Reforged. If you’re not sure which legendary creature to use as a Commander, stick one or the other in your deck to feel how it’d work out.

Sometimes the choice isn’t as obvious, but through trial and discovery, it becomes clear as Teak pivoted off the Fate Reforged preview Daghatar the Adamant to try out an Abzan deck:

My latest deck is a Ghave, Guru of Spores deck. It was inspired by a couple of decks that were posted on this column, both when Daghatar the Adamant was previewed and when a more recent deck was shared. The deck tries to provide a consistent source of pressure against my opponents, having all of the +1/+1 counter "lords" from Khans of Tarkir and a plethora of creatures that make good use of producing +1/+1 counters.

As with all decks it is definitely a work in progress, but I love playing it.


Teak’s Ghave, Guru of Spores

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Ghave, Guru of Spores
99 Cards

I’m a known fan of Ghave, Guru of Spores, and getting the most out of +1/+1 counters is always an adventure. Some take a blue-based angle with Vorel of the Hull Clade, but many more seem to enjoy what Ghave brings to the table.

Teak packed in plenty of the notable Abzan options, but one that has risen higher and higher on my list is Anafenza, the Foremost. Plenty of decks in Commander plan to make use of creatures in their graveyard. Anafenza is a powerful way to ensure others don’t get to do that. Her stats and color requirements make her difficult to cast early, but setting her down and protecting her for awhile is a great way to keep reanimation and creature recursion in check.

As someone who uses both reanimation and recursion—a lot—I can confirm she’s a solid threat to others’ late-game value. There are other ways to keep opponents in check that don’t break the game, as David explained with his take on Surrak Dragonclaw:

Commander is my preferred format to get away from really competitive Magic, and my newest deck came about after doing some serious soul-searching following a series of Commander games that made me genuinely frustrated. My local store recently started a Commander league specifically to promote social interaction and fun, and I thought I'd give it a shot. However, in come a couple of uber-competitive players who kill everyone before turn 6 in both rounds—ensuring no one got to play hardly anything from their decks—and scooped up all the prizes for themselves. Even the league organizer was ticked!

This deck, with Surrak Dragonclaw at the helm, is my attempt at stopping those kinds of shenanigans from happening, keeping the game open and fair. The deck's goal is to shut down strategies that would lock down the board, but to do so while not shutting down the game. Instead, it picks on people that try to dominate via control and, hopefully, humbles them.

I have dubbed my creation "Surrak, the Great Humbler" for that reason.

Of course, I also play so that I might win in the end, but I want to do so in a way that doesn't alienate people. Playing the deck with that goal in mind, it's been fairly successful thus far, and it has a quirky synergy to it.

David’s Surrak, The Great Humbler

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Surrak Dragonclaw

One of the difficulties anyone playing Commander will run into is power disparity. Commander is full of, generally speaking, broken things and ways to make them happen consistently. My advice has always been to look at playing not as an exercise in taking over a game as efficiently as possible, but instead in making choices that ensure everyone has as much fun as possible.

Or, if you want to get truly technical, you should redefine optimal play style to create optimal enjoyment for every player in games. Fancy words for making sure everybody has fun.

Sometimes that means dialing back the power of your deck through card choices or plays in a game. Other times it means using pinpoint power to stymie someone who isn’t quite keeping the rest of the table in mind.

David’s deck has powerful tools and ways to run away with the game. But his play style is focused on both keeping him in the running while nudging down others that try to take the top for just themselves.

What you choose to do in games is just as important as the cards you brought. Just because you have a Wasteland doesn’t mean you’re obligated to crunch someone stuck on far less mana. Instead, save it for the Cabal Coffers that comes from the player looking to end the game early.

Mastery is Modern

However you choose to explore the legendary creatures (And all the other assorted tools and goodies!) in Modern Masters 2015 Edition I hope it’s a fun time feeling some of the most powerful commanders and cards in Magic.

This week’s question is a light-hearted one: What’s is the most fun you’ve had while losing a game of Commander?

  • Feedback via email in English
  • 300 word limit to explain the reprinted card
  • Sample decklist (does not count against word limit)
  • Decklists should be formatted with one card per line with just a leading number, such as "3 Mountain" – just a space (no “x” or “-”) between the number and the card name, without subtotals by card type (Submissions that don’t follow this rule will be ignored.)
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)
  • Your Twitter handle if you use it

Join us next week when we celebrate pure, unadulterated power. See you then!

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