Partners: Part One

Commander 2016’s partner commanders promise double the fun! Sheldon Menery kicks off an in-depth look at all the cards in the cycle!

Grand Prix Orlando March 24-26!

In the excitement over the primary legendary creatures in each of the Commander 2016 decks, the partners mechanic has been somewhat overshadowed. The partner commanders provide a modular approach to building three- or four-color decks (and even two-color, if you’d like), a great two-sided menu from which you can build a delicious meal suited to your palate. Most of them also make flavorful additions as one of your 99. The design and development teams did a fine job of making them useful without being broken; it’s up to each builder to find the right combination of two. Let’s take a look at each of them and brainstorm a bit on who we might partner up each of them with.

Akiri’s built-in Cranial Plating suggesting a heavy artifact deck. Equipment, such as a classic like Sword of Fire and Ice or a more recent addition like Sword of the Animist, will simply add to the count, suggesting but not limiting you to some sort of Voltron build. Akiri’s low mana cost will get you battling rather quickly, and other battle-ready cards like Balefire Liege and Odric, Master Tactician will get you dealing damage in short order.

The artifact nature of the deck suggests pairing Akiri with Silas Renn, Seeker Adept (which is natural, since they’re to-gether in the Invent Superiority deck). Your opponents will be too busy fending off your aggressive attackers to worry about taking two from Silas Renn, leaving you to recast any of those artifacts in your graveyard, whether that’s the early Wayfarer’s Bauble, Burnished Hart, or Solemn Simulacrum that you had cast in order to ramp up on mana. Once you have a decent amount of mana, recursive artifacts like Helm of Obedience become juicy targets.

To take Akiri a bit outside the box, I’d pair her with Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper. I have a feeling that I’m going to suggest Ikra Shidiqi with any number of the partners, since I like getting into the red zone. In this case, it makes sense because you want to be aggressive but don’t want to leave yourself vulnerable to counterattacks. The life you can from Ikra Shidiqi’s triggers will mitigate much of the vulnerability. Add a card like True Conviction, and you’re in lifegain heaven.

Bruse Tarl seems to me better as role-player in an aggressive R/W (or R/W/X) deck, like with Aurelia, the Warleader. He doesn’t do much to your other creatures en masse, but what he does to one of them is significant. Double strike on any good-sized commander can lead to 21 damage in just two hits, sometimes in just one. If you want to be super-techy, Bruse Tarl can target himself.

Of the other partners, it seems like Brue Tarl might pair best with Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker. Ishai is the one of the fifteen which will be potentially the largest (hey, your opponents will cast spells), leading to the aforementioned commander damage kills. You’ll have plenty of fliers and can get that extra combat step relatively easily with some time magic, like Time Warp or the battling Medomai, the Ageless, or with extra attack steps from Aggravated Assault or Savage Beating.

Easily my favorite of the partners, due to my previously mentioned love for creature battles. You’re in the colors for Doomgape and Lord of Extinction, so you can deal out large amounts of damage. You might add one of the red partners to give you Malignus or blue for Consuming Aberration. How about adding someone with white so that you can just run Doran, the Siege Tower? Almost forgotten is that Ikra Shidiqi has menace, meaning it’s much tougher to block.

My pairing with Ikra Shidiqi is Ravos, Soultender. This way I can continue to explore my second-favorite clan, Abzan (I’ve previously written about my undying affection for Temur). The deck would certainly include sacrifice outlets like Disciple of Bolas and Greater Good in order to get creatures into the graveyard for future use, with Ravos providing the extra power/toughness bump for additional effect.

I can even imagine Karador, Ghost Chieftain as one of the cards in the deck, although I try to stay away from using my existing commanders in that fashion—and, given that I have three different versions of a Karador deck, I should probably give him a rest. Once again reiterating my love for attacking, I’d find a way to work Campaign of Vengeance into the deck and then use Ghave, Guru of Spores and Avenger of Zendikar to create a large army. Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder helps do some of the same, and you can just slam them into an attack, knowing that you want some of them to die for the cast (so that you don’t lose Endrek Sahr). Add Blood Artist and Falkenrath Noble to go with Grave Pact and Dictate of Erebos, and you’re firing on all cylinders.

Ishai is about getting your opponents to cast spells. It’s not like they’re going to stop just because one of your commanders will get a little bigger. They’re going to cast spells, so you might as well get additional benefits. You’re already in blue, so you can play Mind’s Dilation, Deep-Sea Kraken, and the always-popular Perplexing Chimera (I swear, if I could make a card mandatory in the format, that would be the one). If you want to be nasty, you can add Spelltithe Enforcer since you’re already in white. It’s a little dangerous, but you can make opponents’ spells easier to cast with Helm of Awakening. You’ll probably have at least one opponent in green, so Insight might be an option. You’ll have to add one of the green partners to get Lurking Predators.

I’d pair Reyhan, Last of the Abzan with Ishai and go full-on “+1/+1 counters matter.” It’s a four-color deck, so you’ll need some mana fixing, but you have a veritable smorgasbord of choices to run with. Start with Chasm Skulker. Then move on to Forgotten Ancient, Spike Feeder, Spike Weaver, Vigor, Prime Speaker Zegana—all the favorites. Maybe try old-school cards like Mindless Automaton. Being in black means you’ll have some graveyard tricks up your sleeve, so you won’t have to worry about any of those creatures getting killed. The Ishai/Reyhan pairing is the widest-open of all.

There’d be a temptation to pair Ishai with Kraum, but I wouldn’t want to go too far down the road of making spells easier for my opponents to cast. Kraum’s ability isn’t all that saucy, so I might instead focus on the fact that it’s a hasty 4/4 flier. Any of the other three colors would get you into the types of creatures you most like for red zone adventures.

I’d go back to Bruse Tarl for just some raw aggression. Adding white gives you Stoneforge Mystic; Stonehewer Giant; Nahiri, the Lithomancer; and Steelshaper’s Gift to go get an Equipment you want, slam it onto Kraum, and go to town, dou-ble-striking your way to victory. White also gives you all the cards that like Equipment, such as Auriok Windwalker, Sigarda’s Aid, and Puresteel Paladin. Since you’re also in red, you can put in a Sunforger package for maximum flexibility and control.

Drawing cards is already one of the best things to do in Magic. Getting extra mana because of it can only lead to better things for you. Kydele is blue, already the best card-drawing color, but don’t underestimate the power of green to draw large numbers of cards, such as with Greater Good or Momentous Fall. There are green creatures which draw cards for you, such as Masked Admirers, Elvish Visionary, Regal Behemoth, and Soul of the Harvest. The question is, what are you going to do with all that colorless mana?

“Cast some big, fat Eldrazi” is never a bad answer. Kozilek, Butcher of Truth is at the top of the list. Since Kydele is in-deed Kruphix’s chosen, you have to add Kruphix, God of Horizons to store up that mana for later use. If you want to add Omnath, Locus of Mana for maximum mana storage, be careful. Kruphix replaces mana emptying from your pool; Omnath tells you that green mana doesn’t empty (other colors still do, though). You’ll just need separate methods of accounting for it.

There’s an obvious argument to pair Kydele with Thrasios, Triton Hero. They work reasonably well together, with both capable of fueling the other’s ability. My answer, however, is to pair with Tymna, the Weaver. Once again, I’m getting into battle and having the attackers generate the card draw. Blade of Selves gets us extra creatures to battle with, and we can always run creatures like Thorn Elemental and Tornado Elemental which deal damage whether or not they’re blocked. Green is also a pretty good color for trample.

Thassa, God of the Sea, will do double duty of scrying the right cards for us and making creatures unblockable. We have both black and green, so we can play Soul of the Harvest and Harvester of Souls, drawing cards for creatures both coming and going. Thrasios still has a place in this deck; it’s too good to leave on the sidelines.

I find Ludevic to be one of the most linear of all the partners. The Stalwart Unity deck is a great take on the group hug archetype, turning it into a little bit of You Did This to Yourself, but especially with two-thirds of the Grixis colors, it feels like Nekusar, the Mindrazer can’t be too far behind. Sure, with all other things being equal, players will choose to attack someone other than you in order to draw a card, but if you’re the threat, they’re going to eschew the draw in order to knock you down a peg. Even the Stalwart Unity’s addition of Edric, Spymaster of Trest isn’t going to keep people off your back if you’re too strong. It’s also hard to think of U/R/X decks as defensive. I’d say pass on the idea of letting other people draw and focus on the fact that Ludevic also applies to you.

This is why I’m pairing Ludevic with Vial Smasher the Fierce (noting that we still ended up in Grixis). You don’t care which opponent you’re damaging, just that it’s someone. Kaervek the Merciless will keep the fun going as well. Note that some folks think Kaervek damages the player who cast the spell; as Kaervek’s controller, you can choose any creature or player, regardless of who cast the original.

You can have cards which passively deal damage/cause loss of life, like Palace Siege (choosing Dragons) or Subversion. Triskadekaphobia and Tree of Perdition are especially janky choices for life loss. It makes sense to go with a whole Warstorm Surge (or Pandemonium, if you’re feeling especially daring) package. Sorin Markov’s first and second abilities will get you there, and you’re onto a whole life-draining theme (adding the previously-mentioned and ever-popular Blood Artist). Crypt Ghast for both extort and mana acceleration rounds out your choices quite nicely. Then, just when people are complacent about the possibility of you actually attacking, you drop Glaring Spotlight or Sun Quan, Lord of Wu for the win.

Ravos is second only to Ikra Shidiqi in the list of these partner commanders. The abilities are straightforward, and I love me some graveyard Regrowth action. Alone, Ravos suggests leveraging inexpensive enters-the-battlefield abilities, such as Bone Shredder and Big Game Hunter, with enough graveyard tricks, such as Sun Titan and Doomed Necromancer, to have the repeatability you desire. Controlling other players’ graveyards becomes easy with Agent of Erebos and Angel of Finality. Eldrazi Displacer, fondly known as Blinky the Eldrazi around here, provides some on-the-battlefield reuse (and protection from large attackers).

If I’m pairing Ravos with someone other than Ikra Shidiqi and also resisting the urge to make yet another Abzan deck, I’d likely go with Tana, the Bloodsower, with whom Ravos shares a slot in the Open Hostility deck, going for a full-bore Saproling theme. We’d have access to Ghave, Guru of Spores; Nemata, Grove Guardian; Rith, the Awakener; Ulasht, the Hate Seed; and Verdeloth the Ancient among legendary creatures. Korozda Guildmage, Mycoloth, Selesnya Evangel, Sporemound, Sprouting Thrinax, and of course Thelonite Hermit and all the Thallids stand ready make an appearance.

You don’t worry too much about the nontoken creatures dying, since Ravos will bring them back to create more Sap-rolings. Add a few sacrifice outlets like Goblin Bombardment and some larger creatures like Angel of Despair and Ashen Rider to provide a little battlefield control, and you’re up and running. You’re also in the colors for all the Reveillark, Saffi Eriksdottir, and Karmic Guide shenanigans you want to get into. Having red gives us access to creatures like Stalking Vengeance and Rage Thrower in order to make our creatures dying very uncomfortable for our opponents.

Tune in next time as I cover the other seven commanders with partner and offer up a glimpse of the partners deck which I’d be most likely to build.

This week’s Deck Without Comment is Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcer-ers.

Sheldon Menery
0th Place at Test deck on 12-30-2012
Magic Card Back

Check out our comprehensive Deck List Database for lists of all my decks:


Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers; Kresh Into the Red Zone; Halloween with Karador; Dreaming of Intet; You Did This to Yourself;



Heliod, God of Enchant-ments; Thassa, God of Mer-folk; Erebos and the Halls Of The Dead; Forge of Pur-phoros; Nylea of the Woodland Realm; Karn Evil No. 9


Lavinia Blinks; Obzedat, Ghost Killer; Aurelia Goes to War; Trostani and Her Angels; Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind; Zegana and a Dice Bag; Rakdos Reimagined; Glissa, Glissa; Ruric Thar and His Beastly Fight Club; You Take the Crown, I’ll Take Leovold; Gisa and Geralf Together Forever;

Shards and Wedges

Adun’s Toolbox; Animar’s Swarm; Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky; Demons of Kaalia; Merieke’s Esper Dragons; Nath of the Value Leaf; Rith’s Tokens; The Mill-Meoplasm; The Altar of Thraximundar; The Threat of Yasova; Zombies of Tresserhorn

Four Color

Yidris: Money for Nothing, Cards for Free; Saskia Unyielding;


Children of a Greater God


Animar Do-Over; Karador Do-Over; Karador Version 3; Karrthus Do-Over; Steam-Powered Merieke Do-Over; Mimeoplasm Do-Over; Phelddagrif Do-Over; Rith Do-Over; Ruhan Do-Over

If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987) which is just beginning the saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor, ask for an invitation to the Facebook group “Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”

Grand Prix Orlando March 24-26!