Competitive Commander: Rivals Of Ixalan Additions

Which Rivals of Ixalan cards are going to make the largest impact at your Commander tables? There are plenty to choose from, and Mark Nestico is ready to guide you to 100-card victory!

If there’s one thing I love more than telling people the things they enjoy
suck, it’s checking out previews for the newest and most ridiculous cards I
can jam into my various Commander decks. I’m like that kid who would put
M&Ms in their spaghetti and eat it that way.

There also may or may not be a video of me eating that very dish,
but that’s beside the point.

I had hair in that video.

My point is, I like trying out new things, and exploring whether or not a
new creature or spell could be a huge upgrade in an established deck, or
even better- when something demands that you build a deck around it. That’s
the sweet spot.

So today, we’re going to review some cards that I think may have a huge
impact in various established Commander decks. Not only will we do that,
but we’re also going to check out some new legendary creatures and see if
they pass the test of being a new commander, which could seriously effect
your local pods and 1v1 metagames.

Absurdly Large Dinosaurs

Whoa boy! Makes you glad you’re playing Commander and not playing against
the person at a Sealed GP that opened two of these, right?

Each of these Dinosaurs will make some impact in Commander, although the
only ones I see that would be fully capable of finding its way into more
competitive decks would be Tetzimoc or Zetalpa. When you’re casting
expensive creatures, it’s paramount that there be a respectable payoff. In
a format as diverse as Commander where the removal is plentiful and at the
front of everyone’s mind when they sit down to design their deck, a
creature must have something special about it that separates it from the
thousand other fatties Magic has berthed over the last two decades.

Ghalta, Primal Hunger is the most egregious offender on the list. In
Commander, this will likely cost two green and get smacked off of the
battlefield before it even gets a chance to attack. However, with plenty of
choices out there like Blossoming Defense or all-star Asceticism, there are
ways to make sure Ghalta survives. Green is notorious for double strike,
and if paired with red and something like Regisaur Alpha, it could be a
one-turn KO.

Nezahal, Primal Tide seems like the wildcard of the five. Its abilities are
all extremely strong, but it suffers from being in blue. Most blue mages
are going to be hardpressed to let this thing compete with Consecrated
Sphinx or other costly staples. Saving it at the expense of three cards
also doesn’t seem like the most constructive thing you can be doing, and
lacking any form of evasion isn’t doing it any favors. Being a Reliquary
Tower on a stick is nice and being uncounterable will surely come up, but I
don’t see this thing menacing tables any time soon.

On the surface, Etali, Primal Storm may seem like the weakest one of the
five Dinosaur avatars, but red is also the color with the most ways to give
it haste. Lightning Mauler or Fervor are just a few of the options, and
once this thing gets an attack through, it can get ridiculous quickly. In a
pod with three other players, being able to cast up to three non-land
spells for free could add up to a win. Not having any form of intrinsic
protection will be Etali’s biggest hurdle, but free spells are free spells,
and that’s not something I’d ignore right off the bat.

Zetalpa, Primal Dawn will never, ever be cast for eight mana in Commander,
so let’s get that out of the way before we proceed. Aside from having
hexproof, Zetalpa survives almost all forms of removal including stalwarts
like Damnation or Wrath of God. Her ability to hit for massive chunks of
damage while being nigh impossible to block against due to trample and
double strike give her a lot of range. Like the other Dinosaurs, not having
haste is a problem, but if reanimation is truly our goal, cards like Anger
or Dragonlord Kolaghan can fix that. In Abzan-based reanimator like Ghave,
Guru of Spores or Karador, Ghost Chieftain there are multiple ways to give
her hexproof or haste with something like Concordant Crossroads. Look for
Zetalpa to become a favorite of reanimation players everywhere.

Finally, there is Tetzimoc, Primal Death. For a single black mana, this
creature will allow you to place a Prey counter on any creature. When
finally cast, it becomes a Damnation that will take out all of your
opponent’s best creatures, leave your battlefield alone, and give you a 6/6
with deathtouch that can potentially trade with other creatures. For gutter
wars, Tetzimoc is absolutely ridiculous. The turn before dropping it you’re
able to put Prey counters on as many victims as you can before rocking the
field. In the semi-competitive scene that most LGS’s foster, Tetzimoc is
going to eat a lot of creatures. For my money this is one of the best two
Dinosaur avatars to drop in Rivals of Ixalan.

Puppy Hungry

Rusty Venture’s encounter with a Chupacabra

is not unlike what many players’ will be. Nekrataal was a tournament staple
for years. It makes appearances in many Rock-style G/B/X decks as a
potentially reoccurring way to kill creatures.

For the exact same price, Ravenous Chupacabra eats any creature
your opponent controls.

Elesh Norn? Delicious.

Emrakul? Puppy likes spaghetti.

Almost anything.

Remember when Flametongue Kavu at four was considered broken? Chupacabra
eats that too.

This creature does everything you’d want it to do, and it does it well.
Blinking it with Restoration Angel is absurd, as is figuring out ways to
loop it via cards like Oversold Cemetery or Meren of Clan Nel Toth.

Blue’s New Tricks

There are three cards in blue that I believe will have immediate impacts on
tables all over the world.

Token strategies are immensely popular, and a creature that allows you to
swipe them away from your opponent with gusto is going to be a very, very
good tempo swing for you. Blue is never afraid to hold up mana, so when
deciding if you want to counter that huge spell or drop Crafty Cutpurse
into your opponent cycling a huge Decree of Justice or sacrificing their
Ghave, feel free to steal away all of their tokens and make them your own.

Pirate tribal decks have been starving for a powerful two-drop, and this is
an answer to their prayers (along with Dire Fleet Poisoner in black). I
love the fact that it does an incredible impression of the Iron Sheik and
makes your opponent’s best creature Humble when it attacks, letting your
horde break the lines with more ease.

Ezuri, Claw of Progress decks are out there salivating at the prospect of
attacking with a huge infect creature. Their opponent moves to cast a
removal spell. Nope. Raid has triggered. For a single blue you counter
their spell, and they are left in the dust.

Aside from being a reasonable counterspell at three (you could do worse),
Admiral’s Order is going to give you a better grasp on casting your spells.
To avoid the raid trigger, opponents will attempt to kill your potential
attackers when you move to combat, which won’t stop you from hardcasting
Order, or saving it for later, thus saving the pump spell you may have
played into a potential two-for-one. At its worst it’s a counter; at its
best it’s cheaper than actual Counterspell, which gives it flexibility and
a little mystique that your opponent is going to play around so they don’t
get blown out by it. Aggressive U/X decks are going to love this card for
years to come.

Legendary Flip Enchantments

The power level gap in these cards is chasmic, but that won’t stop them
from getting played. I expect two of them to make splashes at competitive
tables, and the other three will probably sit on the sidelines.

The good:

Journey isn’t just an awesome band from the 80s, but a playable enchantment
card in Golgari and Abzan decks everywhere. These decks are never short on
sac outlets, so playing it into an advantageous situation shouldn’t walk it
into a removal spell. Once flipped, Atzal, Cave of Eternity is an
uncounterable way to reanimate your creatures. That’s going to give control
players fits, and with the wealth of mana these decks are usually packing,
it’s going to build insurmountable advantage.

Tolarian Academy is hella banned in Commander, and flipping Storm the Vault
in dedicated artifact decks is going to be cartoonishly simple. I would
expect this thing to be online by turn 3 or 4 with a lot of consistency.
From there, it’s going to get messy for the table while they attempt to
power through one of the most broken cards in Magic history.

If the good people of the RC are reading, I’d recommend this thing on a
watch list. Friends of mine have already slotted it into their decks, and
it is obliterating people.

Those Sol Ring starts just became significantly more terrifying.

Then…there’s the bad.

The problem with these three legendary enchantments is that once they flip,
is the payoff that great? Profane Procession is eight mana to exile a
creature, and an investment of fourteen mana total to get it to flip.
Spending fourteen mana should either win me the game or put me in a
commanding position. From there, you have to spend four more to get one
creature you exiled out of jail. Tomb of the Dusk Rose? More like Tomb of
the Dud Rose. Sick burn.

Hadana’s Climb is pretty easy to flip into Winged Temple of Orazca, but its
home is something like Ezuri, Claw of Progress, where it is grossly
outshined by other roleplayers. It won’t flip with consistency until turn
4, which is when you want to be casting your commander. In other archetypes
it may be too slow and clunky, while being open to removal more so than
something like Storm the Vault or Journey to Eternity. Imagine getting two
counters on a creature, targeting it with the third one via Climb, and then
having that creature killed. Sad face.

Path of Mettle is a cool card with an interesting design, but it appears to
be slow and very contingent on draws in Boros–a deck that struggles with
sculpting its draws and relies more on raw power battlefields. The flip
abilities of Metzali, Tower of Triumph are also very underwhelming.

Your New Commanders

Remember: these are going to be rated for semi-competitive/competitive

If you follow me on Twitter, which you should, Elenda has captured my
heart. B/W Tokens is historically one of my favorite decks to play, and she
provides a cheaper alternative to Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts. With a ton of
anthem effects, sac outlets, and token producers, Elenda can produce a
bunch of lifelinking Vampires when she dies. Cards like Reveillark or Dread
Return give you easy ways to bring her back for even more tokens. This is
an entirely different deck than what people are used to with Teysa and
gives a change of pace from running the partner combo of Tymna the Weaver
and Ravos, Soultender.

People have been clamoring for a more proactive Simic Merfolk commander
over Prime Speaker Zagana; Tishana, Voice of Thunder; or Thrasios, Triton
Hero. Kumena is certainly that, and comes with a bevy of abilities that
play to the type of aggressive and disruptive deck the U/G Merfolk deck is
trying to be. The addition of a new lord in Merfolk Mistbinder tilts the
scales in favor of Kumena a tad more, given the combative nature and ease
in casting early after you drop a two-mana lord onto the battlefield to
help survive most removal.

Azor is incredibly interesting in that it turns off pretty much all removal
that would target it the following turn. This could lead to a big payoff
turn when it attacks with the potential to draw a minimum of three cards
and gain three life–possibly more if you’ve accelerated your mana–and
even to turn off a potential combo your opponent could have. The cost at
six is slightly prohibitive, but I’m not counting Azor out just yet. I
think there’s a lot of untapped possibility if you go hard on Silence
effects, and all of that could make Azor a Tier 2-3 option for Azorious

To round out the list is Zacama, the multi-colored overlord of the five
Elder Dragons we talked about earlier. As a Naya Commander, Zacama is
competing with some stiff generals in Mayael the Anima, Marath, Will of the
Wild, and Uril, the Miststalker. Luckily, Zacama is much better than
Gishath, Sun’s Avatar, so it will get the nod over that as the G/R/W
Dinosaur commander of choice. This, like Elenda, is an entirely different
deck than we are used to. Zacama has some very powerful effects if it is
cast from the Command Zone or your hand. Untapping all of your lands is no
joke, and if it gains haste it’s a 9/9 which is nothing to joke about.

Your best deck dealing with Zacama is a dedicated ramp deck that focuses
heavily on shoring up the weaknesses of the Dinosaurs that this deck could
play. This will be a very fun general that has a lot of upside. I don’t
suspect it will crack any of the top tables, but it’s also possible there
is a competitive Stax deck out there that goes deep on artifact mana and
then utilizes Zacama’s land untapping to make a gargantuan swing turn

Next week we’re going to discuss a new Commander deck focusing on one of
the legends we talked about today (spoiler alert: it’s Elenda), as well as
updates to my current decks with Rivals of Ixalan cards present in

Tune in for the fun. I’m going to go put down my dinner. My wife made me
this delicious sounding mac and cheese with Reese’s Cups, and well…you
know. I like to mix things up a bit.

I’m sure there’ll be a video.