G'day, cEDH fans, Jake FitzSimons fresh out the gate with a review of Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate.
First things first: this isn't the second coming of Commander Legends. The chase cards are fewer, the power level is lower, and the ultimate impact it will have on high-power Commander games will be a drop in the bucket compared to its predecessor. And that's okay!
Not everyone wanted another set withs and es and s. Thankfully, despite a smaller offering, there are still some interesting cEDH cards. Most exciting, the strongest three in the set are all white! That never happens. I can only think of two sets where white received the best cEDH card ( in MH2 and in ZNR), but I'm sure I'm overlooking another. In any case, I don't think we've ever had three at once. Conveniently, they're also the first three alphabetically, so without further ado...
Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward
The white. That's an oversimplification, but it should give you some idea of what we're looking at here. If you can manage to reanimate with an enchantment like , or , congratulations! You've just created an infinite amount of 1/1 Soldiers! They don't have haste, but they're not going anywhere, so you've got the game in the bag if you can live another turn.
By itself, that's not a good enough combo. There's a reason you don't see much& . If you're going to the trouble of assembling a combo, it needs to win now. Waiting a turn isn't good enough. Thankfully, Abdel resolves this problem in two different ways.
For one,can reanimate Abdel at instant speed, allowing you to create your infinite army on the end step before your own turn. Better yet, the Abdel loop lets you blink anything. If you have a permanent that draws on entry, you can draw your entire deck. If you have a permanent that deals damage on entry, you can kill the whole table. All you need is a single rock (excluding , , ) and you can create infinite mana.
You'll need an outlet in the command zone or a valid way to use that mana to actually turn it into a win, but I see a lot of possibilities with Abdel. If you're looking to understand Abdel better, or you need a refresher on World Gorger Dragon, the gang over at Commander Spellbook have you covered! Scholars of Kaladesh also have a video:
Archivist of Oghma
Remember whenwas printed and everyone was screeching "this should have been WHITE!"? Looks like Studio X heard, and is what they came up with. Despite revolving around the same mechanic, one is a stax piece and one is a value engine.
Let's look at how many tutors a cEDH deck is likely to have. Get ready for some terrible napkin math. With ten traditional fetchlands available and most decks running as many as they have access to, we can presume a dual-color deck will run their maximum of seven fetches, a three-color deck will run nine, and everything beyond that will run ten. Add the possibility ofand , and you can guess that somewhere between a quarter and a third of a cEDH manabase is made up of tutors, with the exception being mono-color decks, they rarely play fetches at all.
That's a solid baseline, and important to keep in mind for cEDH staples list, we see that white has two tutors, blue has six, black has six, red has two, and green has seven. While decks with fewer colors dip into niche/fringe tutors and decks with more colors experience diminishing returns as they become spoiled for choice, there's a broad correlation between color identity and tutor count., but it's only half the story. The rest of the cards drawn by will come from traditional tutors, and we can use similar dodgy math to break it down by color. Going by the
All this to say that cEDH decks of all kinds run a lot of tutors, and the more colors a deck has, the more often they'll trigger. Okay, we've seen the halfling, how about the gnome?
Deep Gnome Terramancer
White's classic catchup mechanic "you do something, I get to do it as well" is thematically appropriate for the color, but it's rarely appropriate for high power play. Usually a card like this would include an "as long as an opponent controls more lands" rider, but wonderfully, it doesn't. This card doesn't just catch you up, it puts you ahead.
Everything above regarding fetchlands applies here. Beyond fetchlands, you also stand to gain when someone searches after a successful, , or . Deep Gnome will also trigger from the occasionally seen or but the majority of the lands entering the battlefield without being played in cEDH come from fetches.
If you playon turn two and someone cracks a fetch before your third turn, I'd almost call that worth it. Two mana for a land with Plains typing straight to the battlefield is already more impressive than any other ramp white has access to. If two fetches are cracked, you're laughing all the way to the bank.
It's also worth remembering just how good extra lands can be in cEDH. They aren't kept in check byor , they don't stop working when a or resolve, and they aren't temporary the way rituals are. You might even say that they're mana the way Richard Garfield intended it, but you'd be wrong because is right there in Alpha. I'm off track.
The only thing to keep in mind with Deep Gnome is how many cards with Plains typing your deck actually has. It's an obvious lock for mono-white and low-colour white decks, but plenty of lists only splash white and carry as few Plains as they possibly can. I think anything more than four total will be enough. But for now, rock and stone.
It's gonna be a pretty firm "no" from me. I love the idea of stealing someone'strigger and comboing over the top of them, but that's an unlikely scenario. It banks on having Aboleth in play, someone else casting Thoracle, and having either or in hand.
What about Dockside, wouldn't it be cool to get your own Dockside trigger when an opponent plays one? No, it wouldn't, because even though you'll get plenty of Treasures to work with, you'll make the Treasures before your opponent does, which means you're likely doubling their final count when the original Dockside trigger resolves. There are other relevant enter-the-battlefield effects in cEDH, but not nearly enough to make a card like this reliable. If I'm looking to cause trouble for an opponent's ETB effects, I'll default toor . If I'm looking to steal them for myself, I'll lean on . strikes me as the worst of both worlds.
We did it, we figured out how to get more value out ofthan we were supposed to.
Obligatory Dockside comment aside, there are a lot of quirky lines thatopens up in blue decks. The simplest I've seen is pairing with to search for a mana-neutral rock. Simply play the rock, use the kitty's effect to blink and get the next mana rock at 1 or less CMC. You can rinse and repeat until you have every cheap mana rock in your deck on the battlefield.
There are, no doubt, lines withas well, but it'll take some time and brewing before the cleanest lines are established. It's not hard to see the potential - needing a spell to blink a creature and having a creature that searches for spells when it blinks is a perfect interaction - but for the moment the associated combos are a bit rough.
Bear in mind that even without a combo that gets you anywhere,will almost always help you pay for your noncreature spells by blinking any mana rock you already have in play. That's not reason enough alone to play it, but it's not bad for a floor.
Altogether, I think being four CMC and requiring both a noncreature in hand and a payoff in play will hold the kitty back. Even though four-mana creatures that require support to do anything can be great (, ) I worry Displacer will prove inconsistent.
Gale, Waterdeep Prodigy
At least one of the new Background commanders was bound to be good enough for cEDH, and I don't thinkhas much competition. The first thing to note here is just how powerful casting cards from the graveyard is. If you've played much cEDH, you've seen what can do, but is the better comparison point. There's not a lot of nuance here: doubling dipping on spells is powerful.
Second is the fact thatgets around timing restrictions. Using an instant to buyback a and cast it at instant speed allows for tremendous flexibility. It also allows for impressive and lines, classic setup cards for cEDH wincons.
As for how to reliably fill the bin, look no further than. Turning your first draw of each turn into a pseudo-surveil effect will give you a healthy looking graveyard in no time. This is all promising and I look forward to what Gale brings to Dimir, although I worry that beyond breaking timing restrictions, he'll feel like Kess with extra steps and one less color.
Cultist of the Absolute
is likely the best Background to choose if you're looking to play , as it puts you in black for the combo and helps your commander into the bin to enable that combo. It's likely a lot better to just run Abdel in the 99 of an existing list though.
A commander that was looking to reliably connect every turn while also producing fodder for the sacrifice could get great mileage out of, but there's nothing I know of that's in the market for that right now. If you've thought of something, let me know in the comments because I really want to like this card.
Delayed Blast Fireball
It's been a hot minute, buteffects have made waves in cEDH in older metas. Any meta overrun with mana dorks, cheap value creatures, and the ubiquitous can be taken down a quick peg with cards like .
What makes DBF so special is that it's completely asymmetrical. We've seen variants of this effect before inand , but the pirate/flying condition can only be taken advantage of by a small number of decks. This is the first completely one-sided , and it's an instant to boot.
Any deck currently in the market for a low-to-the-ground board wipe should investigate DBF. It doesn't have the same universality as, but what it lacks in total wipe power it makes up for by not impeding on your own creatures. Likewise, it doesn't have the modality that does, but plays a lot better in a deck concerned with its own life total.
The "play from exile" clause is pretty much flavor text, with a few exceptions. Acan feasibly tutor it to the top in order to exile it with Mystic Arcanum, in which case they'll clear the board of near everything. Beyond Prosper, , and can take this card up to a five damage wipe, but it's nothing to rely on.
Wild Magic Surge
Imagine ifwas good. Or at least... better. That's , a versatile, albeit wild source of permanent removal. If you're up to date with your color pie theory, you'll know that red has precious few solutions for enchantments. is... fine, but three mana interaction will always feel clunky in cEDH.
What really makesdistinct from Warp is that your opponent is bound to hit something, unless of course you target a permanent that doesn't share a type with any other card in their deck. Knowing when to cast this spell and what to target is going to require some amount of meta knowledge. For instance, removing a in a stax deck can leave you right back where you started if they Surge into a or . Surging a though? You could flip into anything from a mana rock (a great result) to a (a horrible, but hilarious result). To call this card swingy is underselling it.
Where it will shine most is when you simply don't care what they flip into, or when whatever you're removing is the only version of that card in your opponent's deck. For instance, blowing up acould lead to another problem coming out of their deck, but at the very least you're going to be able to play your commander. Blowing up a can even be a clean removal spell, as some decks run her and no other 'walker.
Despite the weird decisions this card will force you to make, it's a solid tool for red decks that lack bounce spells or green enchantment removal.
What if Urza was green and cared about tokens instead of artifacts? That's not a question I've ever asked, butis the answer. Admittedly, Urza is an infinite mana outlet and this isn't, but I've got no doubt there's a lot of untapped potential here.
Green has plenty of efficient token-producers with cards likeand , not to mention all the typical Treasure production that red is capable of. Cards like and become growing sources of persistent mana, and will be even more ridiculous, if such a thing was possible. Speaking of Treasures, I think Jaheira and is a match made in heaven.
Jaheira may also have a place in the 99 of decks that already produce a lot of tokens.will no doubt find even more ways to go infinite with this new Elf.
Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes
My favorite card of the set by leaps and bounds. The second coming of Minsc doesn't look like a cEDH commander, but there's a lot going on under the hood.not only provide consistent card advantage, they work as a sacrifice outlet for the indomitable and most importantly they happen to be an infinite mana outlet. This a first for Gruul in cEDH.
When activating Minsc's -2 to sacrifice Boo, it's possible to target Minsc himself, sending the planeswalker back to the command zone. This nets +1 card, and leaves you in a position to recast Minsc and resacrifice the new Boo token to do it all again. Providing you've assembled infinite mana, you can draw your entire deck and win in any number of ways.
Planeswalkers are historically middling in cEDH, but I think Minsc & Boo have the power and speed to go the distance competitively. In fact, I'm so certain of it that I wrote an article about the commander when it was first spoiled. I've been playing it since, and if you'd like to learn more about what this unique Gruul 'walker can bring to the table, check out my primer!
Raggadragga, Goreguts Boss
Two interesting Gruul commanders? In one set? I'm not convinced Raggadragga has quite what it takes to break into cEDH, but I'm nothing if not intrigued. Mana dork tribal is a sweet concept, and I've always wanted to beat someone to death with an. Beyond encouraging you to run just about every mana-producing creature that's ever graced a cEDH table, Raggadragga rewards you for giving your critters mana abilities they don't normally have.
The easiest, cheapest way to do this is. Paired with Raggadragga (I love saying that name), becomes a mana-producing anthem. does much the same and is much easier to tutor for a Gruul deck. The strongest thing this deck can be doing and the easiest path to victory will be , a surefire way to turn a board of dorks into a guaranteed win. There's just one problem: you can't tutor for enchantments in Gruul. is your only option, and with no inherent card advantage, the likelihood you'll find is depressingly low.
Ultimately I think Raggaddragga lacks the card advantage or mana advantage to keep up with the rest of a cEDH table. If I'm looking to lock down the board and adopt a full "Gruul smash" mindset, I'd rather have the chieftain of the Ghor-Clan, Raggadraggin DN.. The decks operate on a different axis, but the end goal of beating your opponents to a pulp is much the same, and Thar does it better. If you're still interested despite my lukewarm review, you can see a cEDH list right here:
Zevlor, Elturel Exile
has a lot of style, I'll give him that. The idea of getting triple the value out of cards like , , or even just a is an enticing one. I've always wanted to search three players' libraries at once with a single !
Having said that, oneis usually enough. doesn't really need the help, and neither do any of the other Grixis staples that target. Six mana is just too much, even for a payoff this great. And remember, that's all Zevlor does. He doesn't provide consistent card advantage, and he doesn't really enable new combos, certainly nothing more efficient than what Grixis is already capable of.
Like I said in my review of for Streets of New Capenna, the bar for Grixis commanders in cEDH is simultaneously high and low. It's low in the sense that the average Grixis 99 is so obnoxiously powerful that pretty much any commander will do, but high in the sense that the good Grixis commanders are so ridiculously strong that it's hard for a new one to make itself worthwhile.
My guess is that Zevlor will prove similar toin the long run: viable, but only played for a handful of unique interactions and largely outclassed.
Rug of Smothering
, this isn't. I want to like because I like punisher effects and I like making life totals matter in cEDH, but this is simply too little tax for too much mana. Whereas can make combos and sequences impossible to pay for, this sentient carpet gives your opponent the chance to push through if they have a deep enough life total. That may well be enough to stop someone from succeeding with an , but so would and , and they'd stop a whole lot else besides.
The fact that it's a creature with flying could possibly matter for certain combat-centric stax lists, but this glorified doormat just doesn't do enough for cEDH.
And that's a wrap! I'm a tad disappointed with Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate, but only because I'm comparing it to its predecessor. Taken as just another set, it's not too shabby. Best of all, it's another step toward white becoming a truly great color in cEDH. While a lot of good white cards end up too expensive, their quality and quantity is growing at a fantastic rate. I can't wait to jamand into every white list I have. And on that note, has anyone thought of a good ligma joke with Oghma? There's gotta be a good one, I just can't figure it out.
What did you think of the set? What are you most excited for? Is there anything I'm overlooking? Let me know in the comments below!