Dear Azami – A View Of Innistrad From The Command Tower

Sean McKeown reviews Innistrad for Commander, and it looks like a spicy one. Four great commanders, a bunch of ways to produce and enhance tokens, and graveyard interactions€”something for everyone.

Before we get started, I just want to do a quick ‘Public Service’ announcement. If you haven’t read To My Someday Daughter by Geordie Tait yet, you really should go do that.

Also, I felt it appropriate to put together something of a long reply myself, and it can be found here: How It Gets Better. I strongly agree with much of what Geordie wrote, but think it is important not just to pose the question “Do we have a gender disparity in Magic: The Gathering?” but to propose solutions with which to go forward.

With that said, we return you now to your regularly scheduled, highly excitable Innistrad set review for Commander!

Innistrad! A world of horror, where “us against them!” can actually just be “us against the future us!” as the Human tribe can easily be transformed into something less natural by unsavory means. Werewolves, Vampires, and Zombies can all transfer a bit of Tribal love with a simple bite, just like in the Dawn of the Dead movies and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and even being bit by a llama can turn you into a ghost in this low-technology world without antibiotics. The things that go bump in the night are not scary because they are unknown… they are scary because they are known, and wear a once-human face.

We have plenty of new Commanders to consider, and it looks to me like everybody and their mother is building an Olivia Voldaren deck. Myself included! It’s all the appeal of a Memnarch-type Commander, able to dominate the board by repeatable creature theft, without any of that annoying blue mana people tend to justifiably kill you for! No, you won’t ever steal all of their stuff and then Time Stretch three times, but you do get to play some awesome black and red cards to go with her, and if Time Stretch is your ‘weakness’ there are always Wild Ricochets, Ricochet Traps, and Imp’s Mischief to cure what ails ye, and you definitely don’t have to be blue to be a controlling deck in Commander. So let’s take a look at everything this brave new world has to offer us, and see what calls to us in the realm of 99-card problems and their enjoyable solutions.


Geist of Saint Traft

A commander that everyone seems to be getting excited about lately. To be fair, a lot of the excitement overlaps with its presumed overlap with Standard—it looks like a Caw-Blade type of creature, attacking with lots of power and holding a Sword very well, but those are exactly the sorts of benefits that make it exciting as a commander as well.

There aren’t a lot of commanders you can target but your opponent cannot, which is exciting, and there are other neat tricks you can build into the deck to take advantage of the token generation besides just ‘this is like six power for three mana’ (which is, of course, true).

Sundial of the Infinite is another new card just begging to be tried out in Commander that happens to also work very well with these so-called ‘temporary’ tokens, and it is this interesting level of complexity that gets our brains working to try and puzzle out not just what it can do but what we want to do with it, and that is something Innistrad seems to be challenging us with a lot.

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born

A blue and black commander that is a 5/5 for five, gets bigger naturally with its own abilities, and kills a creature of your choice every time he attacks the right player? What’s not to love?

Okay, the ‘doesn’t untap naturally’ clause causes some hesitation, but that’s really just a small thing to work around; plenty of commanders ask for cannon fodder before they turn into anything interesting. Untap him once with a sacrifice, and vigilance can be strapped on him via Batterskull (also a way to untap him!) or whatever else suits your fancy, to attack every turn without ever requiring another sacrifice.

But what if you want to build around the untap and sacrifice part? Instead of trying to just get a good deal, you can use the repeated untapping ability as part of a nefarious scheme, be it on its own or stapled to something else nasty via Necrotic Ooze impersonation, or ‘just’ keep feeding creatures into the thresher until Grimgrin attacks for 21 at a time. Interesting challenges, and lots of different places you can go with it, so no two Grimgrin decks should look alike!

Mikaeus, the Lunarch

The ‘new’ commander we’re already used to seeing, pre-printed as he was in the From the Vaults: Legends set last month, but everyone seemed to be pretty down on him at the time, and I still see a lot of negativity at this creature for no really understandable reason. As a commander, he scales based on your mana available, from two-drop to twenty-drop. He can presumably kill in one hit if you just have the mana to make it happen, and building around a token strategy allows you to benefit from having Ajani Goldmane as your commander in addition to the scaling benefits of his variable size. While I don’t see a lot of people rushing to build Mikaeus decks, I think six months from now, a lot of people will be making Mikaeus decks, so this is not a commander to be underestimated.

Olivia Voldaren

The ‘it’ girl as far as I am concerned, the commander myself and others swoon for, a delightful Vampire commander that is able to outright kill other creatures or better yet just steal them, recruiting them to your side of the beatdown party to turn against their masters. The sheer power Olivia offers alongside the format-staple combination of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth alongside Cabal Coffers is potent, meaning that your commander is your commander, and their commander is your commander at a downright reasonable price.

The limitation of only taking creatures makes Olivia less broken than Memnarch, but ‘less broken’ is a good thing, and you get to play two colors that combine very nicely instead of just boring old blue like Memnarch asks you to, and whether you want to go beatdown, midrange, or even pure control as you do, it guides you down some very different paths as we explore what Olivia Voldaren has to offer. I don’t know about the rest of the cards yet, but I for sure have a new decklist open on my desktop, named “Olivia Voldaren.”


Angel of Flight Alabaster

An odd little Tribal crossover, Angel of Flight Alabaster gives Spirit recursion the same way Wort, Boggart Auntie gives Goblin recursion. Changeling spells and Changeling creatures work just as well as actual Spirits, and the Spirit tribe has more than just Innistrad to work with—Kamigawa Block was very Spirit-laden, and it’s much easier to perform silly Zubera tricks if you have a silly Zubera enabler.

Fiend Hunter

Faceless Butcher is north of ‘good enough’ for Commander play and has definitely put in some play alongside Erratic Portal and other types of recursion simply for the fact that it handles Commanders very easily. Black is a removal-rich color, and while white has no shortage of its own on that front, it is still less plentiful in the accurate pinpoint removal department. Fiend Hunter makes the cut more readily and more easily, especially since white has a much easier time flickering cards and taking advantage of stack tricks besides the usual sacrifice route.

Geist-Honored Monk

A token generator that happens to also reap concrete benefits for the work building around token strategies. There are certainly a lot of token cards you can put in the same deck, since I can think of a whole swathe of them just in white at the five casting cost mark, but yet another solid enabler within a single color helps suggest that Mikaeus, the Lunarch might work out as a mono-white token enabling commander.

Mentor of the Meek

A nice little card drawing machine, note that while two power or less is teensy tiny by Commander standards of titanic flagship creatures engaged in battleship Magic it is not limited by the word ‘nontoken.’ In Standard, this means it can work alongside Puresteel Paladin with living weapon equipment, but in Commander this means token generators like the Geist-Honored Monk above can easily replace themselves with not one but multiple cards.

Add another engine card like Mana Echoes alongside it, and suddenly those cards are free and make more mana and more cards, and while the card so named is usually considered ‘quirkily terrible’ it is exactly those sort of interactions that make Commander what it is, using good cards with those generally considered to be awful to do things you just wouldn’t expect was possible.

Silverchase Fox

I like Kami of Ancient Law and Ronom Unicorn already for their efficiency as enchantment removal and the ability to recur creatures easily, and Silverchase Fox adds the key word ‘exile’ in return for the added mana cost. Considering some enchantments need to die a fiery death that cannot possibly be undone, like Sneak Attack in a deck dedicated to using it well, the extra protection against recursion effects might well be worth the two mana.

Unruly Mob

Another card that happens to not say ‘nontoken’ and benefits from being able to grow considerably in a deck that pops out multiple creatures per card invested. A nice low-cost token-deck card, so that by the time you start generating the friends he’s supposed to work with, he can be around to reap benefits. Sadly, the most common way to get a lot of counters to trigger will probably be ‘lingering on the stack after a sweeper resolves,’ but in a deck that tries to actively use and sacrifice its tokens for a benefit besides tapping to attack as a 1/1 the Unruly Mob can live up to a higher potential than that pessimistic look of mine suggests.

Laboratory Maniac

‘If X, win the game’ is a powerful effect in Commander, even if it is hard in concept to enable the effect. Leveler and Thought Lash are two ways to turn this on cheaply, making the hard part ‘keeping a 2/2 alive,’ showing that you can do it if you try.

Ludevic’s Test Subject

Undercosted 13/13 tramplers are worth exploring, and isn’t a cute and cuddly nightmarish monster worth the time to hatch?


Part mill effect, which can help counteract cards like Sensei’s Divining Top or Vampiric Tutor, and part huge power enabler. Milling an Eldrazi may not be something you can control, per se, but it is something you can expect to happen every so often with repeated use, and the other nonland options you can expect to see in Commander are going to average a very high casting cost compared with ‘normal’ Magic.

Skaab Ruinator

Recursion effects are worth taking notice of, since you can find a way to chase any theme or trend in Commander if you try. A bit of re-use at low price makes up for the small-in-commander size on what is normally thought of as a very efficient aggressive creature, and while it’s not as easily suggestive of a home, that’s a lot of what we like in our Commander cards… finding a way to use it, instead of being told how.

Snapcaster Mage

An exciting card for other Constructed formats, but just a little bit exciting for Commander, which is sad for a creature already being talked up as ‘on the list of best creatures of all time.’ Unfortunately, the usual list cares about casting cost a lot, so the perspective of Commander is a little warped by our Myojin of Night’s Reach and Eldrazi-as-castable-creatures format. Still, it’s access to your graveyard on a creature card you can recur and itself reuse, letting you get a little bit of instant speed Yawgmoth’s Will stapled to a two-drop.


Part Maro, part Thieving Magpie, we have come a very long way from what used to be the creatures normally seen in Magic. Five mana gets you a large body on a flying Ophidian, passing the playability test both in providing card advantage and considerable size.

Undead Alchemist

Weird replacement effects are the bread and butter of interesting Commander ideas, and Undead Alchemist turns your Zombie-based creature attacks into mill effects that use the opponent’s deck as their new life total. While doing so, it also generates a swarm of new token creatures, and it doesn’t really care what causes the cards to be milled. Ambassador Laquatus works just as well as a zombie attack, and Sword of Body and Mind works with the Zombie attack while you’re at it.

Bloodgift Demon

Phyrexian Arena on a five-power flier for five mana is an impressive trick. And in the true spirit of diplomacy, you can pass the effect around if you want to help a friend instead of just help yourself. This new friend is an automatic Commander staple for any deck that can cast it, just like Phyrexian Arena itself is not neglected from any black decks I’ve ever seen.

Disciple of Griselbrand

A small sacrifice enabler that provides a lot of life if you try, and while I usually want more than just life for my time and efforts, a lot of life is tempting if you can get it. Creatures die in Commander all the time, why not profit while you do it with some beneficial sacrifice?

Reaper from the Abyss

So let me get this right, this is how the game is going to be played now: every time a creature dies, I get to pick a creature to kill at end of turn? Every player’s turn, no matter how the creature dies, no matter whether it was a token or a behemoth monster, yours or theirs. Reaper from the Abyss reaps a crop of the living and does so attached to an already-attractive 6/6 flying body for six mana. Admittedly the black mana requirements are a little harsh, in a world where we see a lot of benefits from playing three-color decks instead of monocolor decks, but even that isn’t a big problem to cross.

Unbreathing Horde

Big zombie is big. Zombie tribal enablers have more than a few sets to work with already, but a cheap zombie that is hard to kill with damage and has huge size independently of whether the tribe members have managed to survive or not is a worthwhile member of the tribe.

Village Cannibals

Human tribal, however, is a lot more limited. Humans are plentiful, but have never before actually been a tribe, and unlike the benefit Unruly Mob derives, Village Cannibals doesn’t care who controlled the creature when it dies. So, killing off many a Human Shaman like Eternal Witness reaps bonuses. A little hard to derive meaningful benefits from right yet, but with some more Human-centric tribal cards to come, it’s perfectly believable this may have a home in the future.

Balefire Dragon

When the Dragon hits, he hits hard, and he hits everyone on that side of the table. Attacking as a Flame Wave is very powerful, and getting damage to connect isn’t terribly hard if you try. Sneak Attack and other ways to cheat it out with haste can get an unexpected attack through, while Kessig Wolf Run both pumps power and provides the much-needed trample that gets the Dragon past token blockers. Built-in creature control is exciting to me in Commander, especially as an incidental benefit instead of requiring a mana investment, so I for one am looking forward to giving this guy a spin and see what happens.

Charmbreaker Devils

Free recursion is good. Random recursion is less good, but nonetheless exciting. Just because it is not my flavor doesn’t mean somehow this is not a free card in your hand each turn, and you can plan your moves if you need to with a little work and effort.

Instigator Gang

Significant attacking bonuses are worth paying attention to, and even without flipping Instigator Gang, we’re talking about an extra power to each of your attackers. With the benefit of transforming in time for your attack, you get a massive power boost, the kind that makes Jor Kadeen an attractive commander to chase. It’s a shame it is so hard to get the Werewolves to maintain the state you want them to be in for Commander; your chances of a single opponent playing two spells after someone else plays none on their turn is unfortunately high in this format, since we build for cards flashing through the hand rather consistently.

Ambush Viper

Surprise! This player is protected by Viper! I’ve seen Winged Coatl played with a straight face and wouldn’t be surprised to see that a previously clear attack was SUDDENLY AMBUSHED.

Boneyard Wurm

A very easy size factor to build around, for Commander; getting the right kind of thing in the graveyard happens naturally over a long game without a lot of work. Two mana for a Lhurgoyf that happens to only count your graveyard is a pretty darn good deal.

Daybreak Ranger

Again, it’s a little sad that it is so hard to control whether a Werewolf will flip, or how quickly it will flip back. While you have it, though, this Gray Ogre turns into a 4/4 that taps to fight me right now and thus can provide some easy creature control at a low price.

Essence of the Wild

Hello, exciting new token enabler. So you get a 6/6 for six. It doesn’t have trample, so we’ll keep reading for other interesting abilities. And we’ll find them in a way we haven’t quite seen before! The creatures you play after Essence of the Wild will all be copies of Essence of the Wild. This is a replacement effect, so no double-dipping. You don’t get to Bone Shredder something and get a 6/6 too. But since it’s a static ability, the next token creature you make has that ability and is very hard indeed to withdraw that ability once it’s been spread around a little. Token decks, eat your heart out.

Kessig Cagebreakers

Another mighty token card, following the theme we see recurring all through Innistrad at this point. 3/4 for five is not something to write home about, but the attack trigger of adding a 2/2 Wolf to the attack party for each creature card in your graveyard is an awful lot of power to work with, and no temporary attacking tokens either but permanent additions to Team Go Beat Up That Guy.

Moldgraf Monstrosity

It’s true, I really don’t like the word ‘at random’ on effects I want to capitalize on. But huge size on a trampling body at a good cost is worth paying attention to, and Moldgraf Monstrosity makes up for in immediacy what it lacks in good aim. Returning the two creatures directly into play is a sizable benefit no matter which they are, and all you have to do for it to be worthwhile is to only play worthwhile creatures in the first place.

Also worth noting is that I do not read the tricky words ‘if you do’ on Moldgraf Monstrosity like you see on Academy Rector, making me think that this has a very interesting interaction with cards that pull it out of the graveyard to some other use to get repeated effects out of it. And while it cares about creature cards, it doesn’t care if it is one at the time, so the interaction with Mimic Vat, for example, might be worth building around.


Just like Boneyard Wurm, a sizable addition to the force even if it can technically just come into play and suicide itself, but for that extra one mana you get trample attached to your hefty beater, and a self-mill trigger.

Milling yourself on Innistrad is like drawing extra cards, to at least some degree, and I expect if you want to build for it in Commander you can get the same benefits without altering your card choices too hard to play things that you otherwise wouldn’t. Even without flashing back those cards or otherwise exploiting the resource Splinterfright adds to your graveyard each turn, you have a decent chance of incrementally pumping Splinterfright’s power, plus the occasional amusing interaction with Sensei’s Divining Top to clear the chaff and find more good cards.

Evil Twin

Clones are beloved cards in Commander, and a Clone that can kill the original is a good little extra benefit splashed on top. While it’s not as impressive as Rite of Replication nor as versatile as the Phyrexian Metamorph that is currently living life as Clone #1, an extra little bit of removal and card advantage stapled onto a card is a good little bonus.


Divine Reckoning

Mass removal with flashback is something guaranteed to perk up my attention, and that it leaves one creature per player is not too big of a deal. Sure, sometimes you drop a Wrath effect just to kill one creature per player, but double-use/limited-use mass removal is still a card that gets me excited to add to Commander decks, trying to figure out which exactly is the best one creature to be left with at the end. So far my thoughts are Vish Kal (after feeding him everyone else), Kresh the Bloodbraided (but you can’t play this and use him as your Commander), and Progenitus (because, well, it’s Progenitus, obviously).

Intangible Virtue

Cheap creature pump and grants a useful ability to a subset of creatures that is often played up considerably in Commander. I don’t expect to use it myself, but I am sure it will be well-played.

Spare from Evil

I’m not quite sure where this fits yet. It’s harder to put to good work than Brave the Elements, and it’s likely that the first place you’d reach for this effect would be Reverent Mantra, for the pitch cost. However, in a world of Demons, Dragons, and Saprolings, this is essentially a white Falter, forcing an entire team of unblockable creatures. Someone will want it, maybe Jor Kadeen or Hazezon Tamar, even if it can’t save a creature from removal.

Stony Silence

Another Null Rod effect, to go alongside actual Null Rod and Damping Matrix, both of which are quietly considered for the anti-Top deck. The question has been asked, on and off, whether it might not be better to forego the Divining Top entirely in some decks and focus on these Top-hosers instead, since they can have such a powerful impact on what the opponent is able to do that stymies most Commander card choices.

With there being another way to do it, and with another card type so Idyllic Tutor can assist in the function as well as Enlightened Tutor already does, a mono-white “hate bear” style of strategy that erodes the opponent’s ability to play the game they want to play is very possible… especially with Linvala, Keeper of Silence at the helm, methinks.

Back from the Brink

Graveyard recursion and token creation in a color that doesn’t usually get either. Back from the Brink essentially gives creature cards flashback, and I expect this to pick up rapidly in popularity once people give it a try, it’s like a game-long Yawgmoth’s Will for your creature spells.

Cackling Counterpart

Another low-price Clone to go alongside newcomers Phyrexian Metamorph and Phantasmal Image, and this one has both flash and flashback thanks to being printed on an instant card instead of creature card.

Army of the Damned

How is this card even real? Twenty-six power for eight mana is an absurd amount of power. Oh, they come into play tapped, what a downside. To make up for that, we’ll give it flashback! It’s less of a deal the second time around; at ten mana, it’s less than three power per mana, much more fair.

Storm Herd is awesome but looked at a little warily because its variable nature can mean it’s the most expensive Spectral Procession ever when things are rough, and because killing a mess of 1/1s is much easier than a mess of 2/2s. Army of the Damned is always the same mass of Zombies and works twice instead of once, in case you really, really need to get forty or more power in tokens out of the deal. My only question is this: why did we not take the opportunity that was in front of us, and call this “Army of Darkness?”

Curse of Death’s Hold

“Here, hold this.” “I hate you.” Token strategies run rampant much? Night of Soul’s Betrayal make you sad because it affects your creatures too? Now, we have a solution for that, a version that affects just the one player of your choice. Quite a powerful effect, even if it does only get the little guys.

Endless Ranks of the Dead

Zombies, Zombies, Zombies. Another powerful token generator to be put to work and a self-perpetuating one at that, as it can very quickly run out of hand.

Liliana of the Veil

Have we met a planeswalker who was unplayable in Commander yet? Not that I know of. Liliana fits right into a discard-themed Commander deck, and having seen Unnerve and Syphon Mind until you’re blue in the face out of some decks that consider this the right tactic to beating a table, Liliana of the Veil fits right in to that particular niche even before you account for the other two abilities. It’s a nasty Ultimate, too, even if it only hurts one player… because it really hurts that one player.

Unburial Rites

Reanimation plus flashback, of the far more readily affordable variety than Dread Return usually offers us (and is still played for). It’s a bit of an awkward color combination, fitting right in with Debtors’ Knell in awesomeness but with difficulty to actually play in a deck because of the color restrictions, but a very solid card nonetheless.

Victim of Night

Like Rend Flesh, a high-quality removal spell that hits very nearly everything in a color that usually has to pick something to miss. Not being able to kill a Vampire, Werewolf, or Zombie seems like an acceptable tradeoff to get a monocolor Terminate, where otherwise you’d have to accept ‘black creature’ or ‘artifact creature’ as the glaring weakness of your kill spell, two very glaring weaknesses. Even decks with Vampire, Zombie, or Werewolf commanders will have targets; there are too many good creatures to pass up in Commander that don’t exactly fit a narrow creature tribe.

Blasphemous Act

This might as well say R: Day of Judgment. A low-cost, high-effectiveness Wrath effect for red, for the same sorts of decks that already like Starstorm and Chain Reaction in their removal suites.

Burning Vengeance

An enabler, for flashback-heavy concepts, a pure Johnny card that asks us just what we can do if we really wanted to goof around a little.

Curse of Stalked Prey

Or as I like to call it, “Sucks to be You.” Kind of like how Edric, Spymaster of Trest makes it very profitable to attack not-you, Curse of Stalked Prey makes it quite profitable to pick on that guy over there. Very good for incentivizing people to go wreck some other guy’s stuff, while you get paid for doing the same at the same time.

Devil’s Play

I have never wanted to play Blaze, but I have given serious consideration to almost every other Fireball effect, so to see one with flashback makes me think there is potential to see a home for this appear.

Past in Flames

The red version of Yawgmoth’s Will or Praetor’s Council. While considerably more limited than either—it can only work with instants and sorceries, instead of all the card types—it, again, has flashback so that it can work twice instead of once. The limited use is not ideal, but there is certainly high company in ‘things like this,’ both of those being generally regarded as game-over Commander power staples.


Pure upgrade to Creeping Mold, in a world where people play Rootgrapple with a straight face and no Treefolk. Four mana to answer any (noncreature) permanent is a very affordable price for the utility, and not everything gets to be an instant. Now, you can consider which you think is more important—one mana or being an instant—or you can consider either half of that deal just fine and play both.

Creeping Renaissance

Like Past in Flames, this has considerable potency as a limited-use recursion powerhouse, and unlike Past in Flames, because this doesn’t exile the cards in question, you can actually just keep reusing the same things over and over again as you force the opponent to deal with them. Obviously quite potent when naming creature as your permanent type, there are of course other options as well, such as for the enchantment-heavy decks that want to protect their stuff or a plethora of artifacts or lands that have been used to some beneficial effect.

Garruk Relentless

The third-best Garruk you can play in Commander is still a pretty decent planeswalker. Only accessing the front face, you get free Wolves and the ability to Lightning Bolt a creature, possibly more than one… sacrifice outlets are very common in Commander, and that which does not kill Garruk has to be considered for sacrifice lest they transform Garruk into the nasty half waiting on the other side. Better with proliferate than without, even more so than most planeswalkers, he’s a little lightweight for a Garruk but still a solid, interesting set of abilities to work with and thus build around.

Gnaw to the Bone

I really don’t like life gain. However, this is a lot of life gain, and I have to respect a card that at a very reasonable investment provides you four life for each creature in your graveyard, a resource you can very easily maximize for at low cost if you try to. Gnaw to the Bone is going to find a lot of play in Commander, even if I don’t happen to like it.

Gutter Grime

That… is a lot of token generation. Replacing every creature that dies with a token is a solid but not new thing to get in Commander; there are a lot of ways to do it if you try. However, after the third or so creature replacement, you get some large creature tokens back for your investment, making it quite realistic to want to just make sacrifice fodder in order to pump it and upgrade the first token every bit as much as the last, trading in a small horde for a considerably larger one. Seven 7/7s is going to be better than any reasonable set of creatures you could feed it, making this not just a way to work around sweepers but a strategy enabler by itself.

Parallel Lives

Half of a Doubling Season is still a fair portion of a Doubling Season. While this neglects to double loyalty, +1/+1 counters, or any of those other things, it does happily double your token creature generation, which is a fair share of what Doubling Season is often seeing play for. Either as a second copy for decks that already want that part of Doubling Season or a more budget-friendly replacement if you’re not willing to pay the premium just to double the loyalty of your one planeswalker, this will see automatic adoption on a very widespread basis. I know this isn’t one of the ‘Speculation’ columns, but this in foil is probably worth getting and holding onto for a while.

Spider Spawning

Jon Becker, this one’s for you. Sure, a lot of little tokens is not that big of a deal, but a lot of little tokens twice may be quite the considerable deal, as seems to be a recurring theme with Innistrad. ‘Dead creatures’ is an easy avenue to chase in Commander if you try, and five 1/2 Spiders doesn’t sound like much, but twenty does. Twenty is what you get in the middle of an average Commander deck without working hard to try, so long as you can flash this back before anyone can mess with it. No one Bojuka Bogs the guy with a bunch of creatures but no recursion going on, so if you aren’t touching your graveyard but do naturally fill it, you might want to consider recruiting a whole mess of Spiders.

Grimoire of the Dead

You’ll note if you will that Grimoire of the Dead’s ability that you build to and the ultimate of Liliana Vess are the same. You can’t attack and kill Liliana, and while it takes some time and some work to make the Grimoire fire off, it’s not like you can’t proliferate or find other ways around it if you try, so I expect to see this cropping up from time to time whenever you don’t have to discard to it three times to get it working. Never underestimate the Necronomicon Ex Mortis… after all it’s the Book of the Dead (Of the Dead!) so it means serious business.

Witchbane Orb

Ivory Mask effects are potent in Commander, and the biggest restriction had been that they were white, so not everyone who wanted one could have it. Witchbane Orb solves that problem neatly, for everyone else who might want to, and thus will automatically be a new Commander staple.


Clifftop Retreat, Hinterland Harbor, Isolated Chapel, Sulfur Falls, Woodland Cemetery

You would be downright surprised to hear how hard it is to build a decent two-color mana base for an enemy color pairing. Yeah, for every enemy color combination you have a painland, a Ravnica dual, a bounceland, a fetchland, and an Eventide hybrid land. Every color combination has an original dual land, but plenty of people can’t justifiably afford those for their Commander decks, myself included. And after that, the pickings tend to get rather slim, and not every combination is created equal.

B/G and B/W both have Tainted lands; B/G and W/R both have Lorwyn tribe lands; and everyone has a Tempest painland that comes into play tapped, but it’s not the easy life that allied color combinations have, and you can only stretch that one Ravnica block dual and all the relevant fetchlands so far.

This cycle of five adds a much-needed extra good dual land to the mix for each of the enemy color combinations, for all those pure enemy color decks (like last week’s Vish Kal deck) and enemy wedge decks, which have one allied color combination but two enemies and can always use some more good mana-fixing for The Mimeoplasm or Kaalia of the Vast. It’s a little weird that the set with allied-color tribes has enemy-color duals, but we’ll take a good enemy-color dual land wherever we can, and these are sure to be format staples with plenty of good homes.

Gavony Township

Another awesome land for G/W token strategies, be they Rith, Hazezon, Rhys, or whatnot. Token concepts are very potent in Commander, as are solid lands that work with a format theme that is often riffed upon, so Gavony Township earns much love.

Kessig Wolf Run

The nonbasic from the set that really excites me. Providing a boatload of power plus trample solves an awful lot of problems in Commander, and the fact that this does so without being restricted only to fights your creatures are involved in means this is a serious politicking land regardless of what is going on. It combines awesomely with both big mana engines and large power creation, be it Hamletback Goliath or Cranial Plating.

I’m already excited to put it to work in my weird little decks, just giving a power boost and some deadly trample to Animar, Soul of Elements, and this is a sleeper that I expect to grow steadily in time as we play more and more with it now that we’re allowed to get our hands on them.

Then there is the question of whether you beat Han Solo’s record if you spend less than twelve mana on it… for which I am certainly going to be kicked by the editors. [This space intentionally left blank for Lauren Lee.]

Moorland Haunt

Something for nothing is a good deal, and a 1/1 flier for the price of a little bit of mana and exiling a dead creature is a nice little bonus to add to your mana base. Token generation is powerful, as is turning on Equipment, so this can go into a deck as yet another effective token generator as part of a strong theme that happens to now extend further on your lands or to go alongside a handful of Swords to reap recurring benefits. It’s not really a hard cost to fulfill in Commander, and besides: you’re not exiling a creature card, you’re recycling it.

Nephalia Drownyard

More powerful than Duskmantle, House of Shadow for a similar cost, and perhaps more relevant now that milling yourself can prove so profitable. I wouldn’t expect this one to be used as generically as Gavony Township—you won’t include it just because you’re already those colors—but decks for which this is already on-theme will give it serious play in a way that Duskmantle could never ask for. The worst of a good cycle of lands for Commander, but still pretty awesome in and of itself.

Stensia Bloodhall

Free damage stapled to a land. What’s not to love? Black and red both like having extra win conditions in their mana base, and while it’s doubtful that Stensia will ever go for 40 by itself against anyone, doing that last vital eight is perfectly realistic and affordable by Commander terms. Having tried many things that look like this over the years, from Keldon Necropolis to Leechridden Swamp, Stensia Bloodhall is a solid no-fuss no-muss way to get a little bit of extra damage out of your deck.

And that’s everything Innistrad has to offer us, from the vantage point of the Command Tower. I do have one more thing however to mention before I leave you, on the subject of neat things to do with Commander: Andy from CommanderCast was recently one of our submissions here on Dear Azami, and our discussion about all things Commander (up to and including the rebuild of his Savra deck should soon be available on their brand-new website, CommanderCast.com. I was on CommanderCast as a guest for Season 4, Episode 2, which I believe is scheduled to go up the Wednesday after this article goes live on StarCityGames.com (9/28/11). So if you’re interested, go over and check that out, see if you like what you hear and maybe want to hear more of it as they kick off the new season of weekly podcasts!

And join us back here in two weeks, when we start building around the new Innistrad commanders! Submissions are of course still welcome, but for the next edition of Dear Azami we are going to narrow the choices to look at Mikaeus, the Lunarch, Olivia Voldaren, Grimgrin, Corpse-Born, or Geist of Saint Traft.

Sean McKeown

Want to submit a deck for consideration to Dear Azami? We’re always accepting deck submission to consider for use in a future article, like Andy from CommanderCast’s Savra, Queen of the Goglari deck or Josh’s Elephant-themed Phelddagrif deck. Only one deck submission will be chosen per article, but being selected for the next edition of Dear Azami includes not just deck advice but also a $20 coupon to the StarCityGames.com Store!

Email Sean a deck submission using this link here!

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