Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate Set Review – Red
Dragon Cultist | Illustrated by Cristi Balanescu
White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Gold I | Gold II | Artifacts & Lands
IT'S TIME TO WORSHIP THE MAGIC MACHINE!
Perpetual preview season continues with Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate, and the color red has some very interesting stuff going on. Let's see what we've got.
Ancient Copper Dragon
At least they got the color right this time! (*Shakes fist* OLD GNAWBONE!!!)
Have you ever rolled a D20? I just rolled a D20 ten times and only went below 10 three times, and even those hits were 6, 8, and 3. This card is going to be bonkers. Reckless Fireweaver will be everywhere! Give it double strike in your Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder decks, pay for Aggravated Assault, activate Scion of the Ur-Dragon to tutor this up after not being blocked, or do other crazy shenanigans - you've got heaps of mana! No matter what, if you get to hit with this, you'll be swimming in Treasure.
Hubba hubba! I love to see an "attacks or dies" trigger, because if the only way to kill this is through combat, the blocking player better think hard about what it would mean to be on the receiving end of two of these triggers. Balor will slot in great in my new Jaxis, the Troublemaker brew, especially when I've got Vicious Shadows out. Lots of clone effects lately have been able to create copies of legendary creatures as nonlegendary, and that means there are a bunch of players out there ready to make their opponents shake in their boots.
Karlach, Fury of Avernus
The moment I saw the name Avernus, I had a feeling we'd be talking extra combats. I'm not a D&D guy, so my only exposure to Avernus is through Zariel, Archduke of Avernus, and that planeswalker's ultimate is a Seize the Day a turn.
Karlach doesn't need to attack for that static ability to trigger, but with 5/4 stats, getting in for five first strike damage is extremely tempting. Double up on Sun Titan triggers and make the big boy hit for 12. Isshin, Two Heavens as One when paired with a way to grant vigilance to all of your creatures means that you'll get three combat steps, and three combats with Isshin? That's a game-ender, I'd hope!
This set does away with open-ended Partner, instead giving is the possibility of having an enchantment in your command zone as long as it's a Background and your commander is a legend with "Choose a Background". This gives us a bunch of combinations to play with in the command zone while keeping things relatively contained. That said, pairing Karlach, Fury of Avernus with something like Criminal Past or Hardy Outlander could mean you'll be bashing through with a whole lot of damage.
Storm King's Thunder
This scales well to be competitive or a battlecruiser game-ender. Do spellslinger decks, like Mizzix of the Izmagnus or Zaffai, Thunder Conductor, have room for this absolute house? I hope so! Personally, I'm giving this a whirl in my Sevinne, the Chronoclasm Brash Taunter tribal deck right before a Reckless Endeavor and hope to rake in the GGs.
Caves of Chaos Adventurer
Prosper, Tome-Bound is the most popular Rakdos commander ever. However, I have seen more and more people say they are bored with the play pattern. Enter combat-based impulse draw/cast with cards, like Caves of Chaos Adventurer and Mezzio Mugger. Turning Prosper into a value engine based around combat could breathe new life into the deck for those who are bored.
Isshin, Two Heavens as One gets to double the attack triggers on the Adventurer. I need to see "take the initiative" in action to have an idea of how likely it will be to complete a dungeon, but I quite like the ceiling on this beater.
Descent into Avernus
Avernus must be bonkers if this card is any indication. The flavor of going deeper into the dungeon as high risk/high reward is fantastic. A group slug card that'll definitely see play in my buddy Jake Browne's Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor deck. Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis can put the screws to this card and make use of proliferators, like Inexorable Tide or Paradox Haze, to really hurt opponents. There may be an upkeep trigger K&T deck in here somewhere.
It definitely is a dangerous card. You'll be giving away six mana at the first trigger in a four-player pod. This card will appeal to players who love the challenge of politicking their way to a win. I know that whenever I see this card in play, I'll be very excited.
I love to see a way to punish big ramp, just like Coastline Marauders. Another fun card for Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis packing Rites of Flourishing effects. Myriad is so good on this card: send the real deal card at a player who can't do much about an X/4 trampler and roll the tokens over at the others. This gets around Ghostly Prison and Propaganda effects, and if you've got a token-doubler, like Anointed Procession, you'll be slapping opponents for a nice chunk of damage.
Greven, Predator Captain decks can spare an opponent and sacrifice a token to the Captain and draw a nice amount for just 4 life, and Brion Stoutarm decks can fling a token version after combat damage and do it all over the next turn. This puts a heck of a lot of pressure on players with land-based resources.
I am a huge fan of Threaten effects. I jam Captivating Crew in every deck that can make big mana. Creatures in EDH have gotten so good, but by [elThreaten[/el]ing a creature, you miss out on enters-the-battlefield triggers. Enter Firbolg Flutist, who not only steals a creature from your opponent, but also gives it Myriad, which means you'll likely get two extra copies and that means two ETBs. Steal Gray Merchant of Asphodel from someone, get two triggers for a minimum of six life loss for your opponents and 18 life gained for you, assuming you have no other black pips on the battlefield! Steal an opponent's Doomwake Giant and clear the way. Pair with blink effects like Eldrazi Displacer for maximum fun.
Something to remember about Backgrounds is that while, yes, they can be in the command zone, they can also be great in the 99, or rather the 98: Partner commanders both benefit from the Background effects. That means that with both Partners in play, if a creature you control deals damage to a player, you can goad two creatures they control. For each opponent!
Vengeful Ancestor gets extra damage in, while Firkraag, Cunning Instigator decks get to see more more cards in hand. Karlach, Fury of Avernus already wants to get in the red zone and with multiple combats can send potential blockers elsewhere.
Wand of Wonder
This card is why we play the game! A four-mana activation cost isn't a steep price to pay to snag at the very minimum the best spell your opponents reveal. That's already pretty chaotic. You might be able to cast all three! Oh, man! You're casting them. Activate this with a Thousand-Year Storm out, roll a perfect 20, maybe with the help of Barbarian Class. I want to give this a go in my Zaffai, Thunder Conductor deck! Vrondiss, Rage of Ancients decks and Zirda, the Dawnwaker decks will also want to make room for this to add a little zip and pizzazz to the table.
Wrathful Red Dragon
I'm a sucker for any Stuffy Doll/Brash Taunter/Ill-Tempered Loner effect. While it likely won't survive a Blasphemous Act, having this out with a few 5+ toughness Dragons and slamming down a Storm's Wrath can be a real blowout! I'll be jamming this in my aforementioned Sevinne, the Chronoclasm list, but also assume this will see play in Tribal Tribal lists and Dragon tribal lists, especially the new Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm decks that are sure to be popping up all over.
Wyll, Blade of Frontiers
Speaking of Wand of Wonder, make sure to put a Wand in your Wyll, Blade of Frontiers decks. A two-drop commander that can get really big with the first part of Barbarian Class (aka Krark's Other Thumb) stapled onto it that can be paired with a Background? I'd keep an eye on this guy in case dice-rolling becomes more and more prevalent. My favorite Backgrounds for Wyll are Flaming Fist and Raised by Giants.
Deflecting Swat sees a ton of play because it's free, but I think Redirect effects should see more play, especially when there's upside like this. Adding the highest power among creatures you control to the die roll makes me pretty optimistic that you'll likely get a copy of the redirected spell frequently. Your big and beefy Prossh, Skyraider of Kher attacks and gets targeted with a Path to Exile, slap down a Wyll's Reversal and most likely get a copy, target two tokens, and now you've ramped off of your opponent's removal! Spicy!
Legendary Uncommons and Commons
Amber Gristle O'Maul
With the attack trigger costing your hand going to the 'yard, it's tough for me to separate Amber Gristle O'Maul from graveyard strategies. With the Background Veteran Soldier, as long as you're attacking the opponent with the highest life total, you'll dump your hand for three new cards each time. A conditional Anje's Ravager you can have in the command zone is something I don't anticipate many people to brew around, but I'm ready to be surprised.
Here's a Background that we won't see in the command zone often. Partner decks that can consistently hit for 5 will be happy to get one or even two 4/4 flying Dragons at their end step. The tokens themselves don't trigger this, and you'll need your commander out to get the effect, plus it costs five mana. I don't see this beyond a Limited environment.
Ganax, Astral Hunter
Dragons are expensive creatures. Having an ability I can compare to Birgi, God of Storytelling or a tribal Cloud Key already has me on board. Blink effects with Dragons that have great ETBs also means they come down with an extra Treasure. Panharmonicon joins the team, too. Far Traveler might be the most obvious Background choice, but Agent of the Iron Throne also looks combotastic. In the 99, I imagine Ganax will find their way into Tribal Tribal decks where Changelings will pile up the triggers and steamroll on.
This is a bad Curse of Opulence you can have in the command zone. The sweet boy Wilson, Refined Grizzly can spend combats "spreading the love" and getting rewarded for it. Meanwhile, Karlach, Fury of Avernus being able to potentially get an extra four Treasures for doing what the deck already wants to do is pretty nuts, and that's just when it's in the command zone. In the 99, throwing Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh into combat before getting above 0 power and still getting two Treasures is a funny line of play.
Gut, True Soul Zealot
What a beating this card can be. Pair with Agent of the Iron Throne and effects like Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith or Dockside Extortionist to turn your little rocks into beefy skellies that hit hard or take a creature or two down with them. Not to mention, you never have to send Gut into the fray themselves. This will play a lot better than people give it credit.
Livaan, Cultist of Tiamat
Find your cost reduction, like the Ruby Medallion and Cloud Key, or cast spells that naturally reduce themselves, like Into the Story or the March cycle from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty (e.g., March of Otherworldly Light) and get in to combat! Livaan doesn't have to attack, but when you can pair this with Cultist of the Absolute and Dreadhorde Invasion, every turn can be a massacre.
In the 99, Livaan, Cultist of Tiamat can find a home in any deck that likes to smack around a little but links a hard theme, like planeswalkers or enchantress or artifact builds. Picture Livaan in a Veyran, Voice of Duality deck and I dare you to tell me there isn't room for aggro in Commander.
Let's not forget that Livaan doesn't say "target creature you control", which opens things up to a more political build or even a goad all-star.
It's not powerful, but being able to have a sacrifice outlet in the command zone is. Pair with Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward and Dockside Extortionist (surprise) for a Boros blink combo loop finish.
This Background is card advantage and pumps your deck's leader every one of your turns, like a Phyrexian Arena that sets up an attack. Prosper, Tome-Bound is a 1/4 deathtoucher and already avoids blockers. Give your commander another card per turn and potentially make it beefier for a swing. This is like the Bell Borca, Spectral Sergeant ability without needing to be in white. With Partner commanders, you get double Outpost Siege triggers. Solid for not missing a land drop and keeping a train going. As a Background, I'd pair this with Wilson, Refined Grizzly or Livaan, Cultist of Tiamat for some Voltron action.
Uncommons and Commons
Eight mana is a lot, but it's a heck of a finisher when you've got a ton of mana. It trades well as a blocker early game, it's a low-cost Dragon that The Ur-Dragon players will dig, and it can close things out with all the Treasure every card makes these days. Amazing common!
Hold the phone! We've got a new Reckless Fireweaver! Its P/T stats are flipped and it costs one more mana, but I see this as a companion to the Fireweavers and Disciple of the Vaults in today's Treasure-filled landscape. Obviously, Prosper, Tome-Bound loves this, any deck that loops Dockside Extortionist, or a spellslinger deck with Metallurgic Summonings...we're looking at a new staple if you ask me!
This will be solid in any deck that can copy spells reliably. Zaffai, Thunder Conductor, Rionya, Fire Dancer, Mizzix of the Izmagnus - Izzet shells that can reduce costs and slam a Thousand-Year Storm will slap this in guaranteed. Three cards until your next turn and three Treasures? Anointed Procession makes this not only free but nets you a mana even! This isn't the flashiest card on its face, but I guarantee players will find lines that impress the table where this card is a linchpin.
Toss this in your Ognis, the Dragon's Lash decks and enjoy wrecking faces. Why this isn't a Pirate with a name like that, I will never know. But it is a Dragon, so enjoy, The Ur-Dragon players!
Red gets a reference to a Taunting Elf in Taunting Kobold. Comes down at one mana with haste and no power, goading on attack. This is a political tool or a Hail Mary. I really love this card for my Grand Warlord Radha deck. Isshin, Two Heavens as One just keeps getting toys!
What do the creatures on this list have in common: Dark-Dweller Oracle, Magmatic Channeler, Scion of Opulence, Syr Carah, the Bold, and Professional Face-Breaker.
They are the only creatures that have repeatable activated abilities that impulse draw that we have so far. But they only say until the end of your turn. Warehouse Thief joins Breya's Apprentice as creatures that allow you to take until the end of your next turn. This leads to less feel-bad moments when you've already played a land. The Thief is a little more expensive, but you get to sacrifice creatures as well as artifacts. I'll be testing this in Prosper, Tome-Bound and Lyzolda, the Blood Witch.
Wild Magic Surge
A two-mana Chaos Warp that only hits an opponent's stuff and Polymorphs it into something that shares a permanent type sings to the chaos lover in me, but it'll likely usually result in a world of hurt with permanents in decks being so strong. Be careful out there.
TIME TO TAKE THE INITIATIVE!
I am definitely digging a lot of the legends in this set. They're so interesting without being bonkers broken. Who's your favorite legend? What do you think of Backgrounds? Let us know in the comments!