Welcome back to the Command Tower! It's been awhile.

Command Tower | Art by: Ryan Yee

It's a treat to take a trip down memory lane and write an old-school card preview article for a new Magic set. I suspect many of you who remember DailyMTG's recurring columns, like Command Tower, Latest Developments, From the Lab, and Making Magic (we still run that last one), may be confused about what all this throwback nostalgia is about.

It's ok: Magic is constantly building the new upon the lessons and learnings of the old. Magic changes precisely because it's supposed to, which is why so many things are different today than when I first started writing about the Commander format:

But as much as things change, many stay the same. Modern Horizons 3 mixes and matches from Magic history, elevates interesting designs to support specific themes, and packs cards that ask as many questions as they answer. Taking the familiar and encouraging the unfamiliar makes imaginative sets like this shine.

That's what stood out to me most about a new legendary Demon: Shilgengar, Sire of Famine.

0109_MTGMH3_Main: Shilgengar, Sire of Famine 0366_MTGMH3_Portrait: Shilgengar, Sire of Famine 0480_MTGMH3_FEModern: Shilgengar, Sire of Famine

Demon: Shilgengar, Sire of Famine (and Sweet Synergies)

Shilgengar, Sire of Famine checks a lot of boxes:

  • Five mana for a 6/6 flying creature? Solid stats.
  • "Sacrifice another creature: get foo" combines a sacrifice outlet (handy for getting a creature off the battlefield) and resource exchange (transferring one resource, creatures, into another—Blood tokens).
  • Foo gets better under an easy condition (we care about sacrificing Angels here).
  • A white-black hybrid activated cost means our commander has an identity that's both (not just black) and they work well for sacrificing things (see Teysa, Orzhov Scion and Cartel Aristocrat).
  • Sacrifice foo, get back all creatures (it's a big effect to Reanimate an entire graveyard, and you get to do it from piling them up with the first ability making Blood tokens).
  • Creatures come back as Vampires (another dimension of kindred synergy that's useful).

A legendary creature like this layers together many abilities into a story that's easy to tell: by sacrificing all sorts of creatures, you end up with a well-stocked graveyard and the Blood tokens to bring them back in overwhelming numbers. As a commander for a deck, you'd look for efficient Angels with high toughness, maybe some Vampires that can help punch hard, and have Blood tokens to spare to smooth out some drawing.

0029_MTGMH3_Token: Blood Token 0010_MTGOTJ_CmdrNew: Angelic Sell-Sword
0009_MTGOTJ_CmdrNew: Angel of Indemnity 0016_MTGLCI_Main: Guardian of the Great Door

Edgar, Charmed Groom Markov Baron

Heck, if you want to get fancy, there's even a solid Vampire Angel floating around to stymie opponents early and fuel turning the corner later: Drana and Linvala.

Drana and Linvala

If you have the Blood Rites Commander deck from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan handy, you have a solid starting point for a white-black back to swap Shilgengar into leading once you track down some Angels to sprinkle in.

But there's so much more to try here.

The direct road is satisfying—picking up a card and getting to do what it speaks loudest about is a fulfilling payoff—but exploring the synergies between is where you can take opponents by surprise. For starters, making piles of Blood tokens can have interesting overlaps. Aside from, well, all that Blood, if you pair it in a deck alongside cards looking for artifacts to show up, you can supercharge an engine that isn't graveyard reanimation:

  • Contraband Kingpin lets you scry through your deck without having to use the Blood tokens at all.
  • Era of Innovation lets you turn mana into energy counters, handy if you want to put new energy cards to work (arriving in Modern Horizons 3).
  • Reckless Fireweaver and Ingenious Artillerist deal tons of damage when Blood tokens show up.
  • Sarinth Steelseeker sets you up with a hand full of lands and an even fuller graveyard.
  • Yotian Dissident piles up +1/+1 counters in a hurry.
Contraband Kingpin Era of Innovation Reckless Fireweaver Ingenious Artillerist Sarinth Steelseeker Yotian Dissident

Most of these cards aren't eligible for a deck when Shilgengar is leading the way, but in a deck with the right colors, this can be serious value that can force opponents to choose between dealing with other cards or leaving you with an engine that can Reanimate in a pinch.

  • White mana symbol Blue mana symbol Black mana symbol Urza, Chief Artificer: A surge of Blood tokens makes it easier to bring Urza out and powers up the creature tokens he creates.
  • White mana symbol Blue mana symbol Black mana symbol Toluz, Clever Conductor: Cards you discard to use Blood tokens get returned to your hand later—and you can even sacrifice Toluz to Shilgengar to make it happen.
  • White mana symbol Black mana symbol Green mana symbol Ghave, Guru of Spores: Ghave is another resource converter (interchanging +1/+1 tokens and Saproling creature tokens) where adding Shilgengar and Yotian Dissident to the mix lets you make Blood tokens for mana as well.
  • White mana symbol Black mana symbol Green mana symbol Karador, Ghost Chieftain: You can put a creature you want to cast again and again into the graveyard and find more with Sarinth Steelseeker around.
  • Red mana symbol White mana symbol Black mana symbol Edgar Markov: You already have a Vampire deck and probably make Blood tokens; this gives you more options for Blood and a handy way to recover from something like Final Showdown.
  • Red mana symbol White mana symbol Black mana symbol Jan Jansen, Chaos Crafter: Like Ghave, Jan Jansen is a resource converter where plugging in another converter (Shilgengar) opens the door to more value (and squeezes even more out of Reckless Fireweaver and friends).
Urza, Chief Artificer Toluz, Clever Conductor Ghave, Guru of Spores Karador, Ghost Chieftain Edgar Markov Jan Jansen, Chaos Crafter

Here's the kicker: These are just the obvious and quick synergies I could find looking at popular strategies, Commander decks, and color pairings. Committing to a Rube Goldberg–style chain of cards, perhaps with interchangeable and redundant components, could unlock far more powerful ways to take advantage of Shilgengar.

This is why cards like Shilgengar, Sire of Famine can find a home in decks you least expect: the synergies of making lots of one thing and turning it into something else will only find more and more opportunities in the long run. Keep your eyes on the 99 cards already in your decks—and the Modern Horizons 3 Card Image Gallery—for even more ways to surprise in your next game.