Preparing For War Of The Spark: A Commander’s Guide

With three dozen planeswalkers set to arrive in Commander with War of the Spark, Bennie Smith looks at planeswalker-oriented cards before the big release!

Can you believe it? War of the Spark previews begin this week, and like the rest of the Magic world, I’m incredibly excited to see what’s coming up in the latest Magic expansion! I can’t wait to see what new cards I’m going to want play with in my Standard and Modern decks, and of course cards for my Commander decks.

But as a fan of Commander, I do have a little bit of trepidation because of what we already know about the new set. 36 planeswalkers is a jaw-dropping number, and while some will trickle down to uncommon, that’s still a whole lot of mythic and rare slots taken up with cards that can’t be your commander, assuming that there will be some number of mythic and rare cards that will be instants, sorceries, enchantments, artifacts, and lands. One thing I’m always excited about for a new set is exploring the new legendary creatures we can build Commander decks around, and I’m a little concerned we might have few or possibly even no new legendary creatures! I’ve got my fingers crossed that we will at the very least get legendary versions of the strange four-color Nephilim creatures that showed up way back in Guildpact.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a ton of great cards to put into our Commander decks! At the very least, I expect some quality cards that interact with planeswalkers as a necessity for balanced Limited play, and some of those are bound to make the jump over to Commander. While people who like to run planeswalkers in Commander will be getting some new toys, we’ll also be getting new ways to fight those planeswalkers too.

In the meantime, I thought it would be a valuable exercise to go through cards from our Commander card pool that might be worth taking a closer look at as we move into a brave new world with our very first planeswalker-centric expansion set.

Boosting Planeswalkers

These cards are already good to include in decks where we have a planeswalker as a commander, but I expect War of the Spark to encourage some number of new “Superfriends” strategies. Anticipation along these lines has already been driving dramatic increase in the value of some of these cards, so if you can find copies lingering in the back of your card boxes, break them out for decks or for trade fodder.

Oath of Teferi is incredibly potent, providing an additional activation of your planeswalker abilities each turn without any further mana investment. The Chain Veil basically does the same thing but can go into decks that don’t run Azorius colors, though it costs mana to use and has a bit of a drawback if your opponents can keep your planeswalkers off the battlefield.

Both of these can potentially ramp your planeswalker loyalty unnaturally fast, but we have some other options for that as well—Oath of Gideon and Ajani Steadfast. Of course, nothing ramps planeswalker loyalty quite like Doubling Season! This enchantment’s power is bound to get insane with the release of War of the Spark.


Speaking of ramping planeswalker loyalty, we’ll not want to forget about the proliferate mechanic. I don’t see these too much outside of +1/+1 counters-themed Commander decks and the occasional Superfriends deck, but I expect to see more of them in the very near future. In particular, I imagine Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice covering four colors will be able to take advantage of a huge swath of new planeswalker-centric cards, so keep an eye out for that!

Likes Having Planeswalkers Around

Dominaria had a slew of cards that cared about historic permanents, and we’re about to get at least 36 new planeswalkers that fit that bill. These powerful cards like having planeswalkers on the battlefield, so if the Superfriends style gets a boost, expect these sorts of cards to pick up a lot of new value. In particular I like taking another look at the legendary sorcery cycle that includes Urza’s Ruinous Blast and Kamahl’s Druidic Vow.

Planeswalker Defense

A bunch of new planeswalker cards means players will need a bunch of ways to protect them, so cards like these fit the bill. In particular it’s helpful to remember that Nevinyrral’s Disk and Magus of the Disk destroy a bunch of nonland permanents on the battlefield but do not in any way touch planeswalkers.

I just recently built a new Commander deck with Thantis, the Warweaver as my commander, and I included a fair number of planeswalker cards because Thantis grows in size if any creature my opponent is forced to attack with should point that attack at me or a planeswalker I control. I was going to share the list with you all, but then it occurred to me that after War of the Spark my list will likely change quite a bit, so I’m going to keep that in my back pocket and write about it once we know what War of the Spark will bring!

Planeswalkers As Commanders

With all the new planeswalker goodies we’re likely to be getting in War of the Spark, all the planeswalkers we can use as our commanders deserve another look. In particular I like Aminatou, Estrid, and Lord Windgrace, since they’re three colors and can potentially make use of more of the new support cards. Aminatou and Estrid have a bit of a leg up over Lord Windgrace, since they can both make use of Oath of Teferi.

Anti-Planeswalker Measures

Of course, not everyone is going to want to play a Superfriends-style deck, so for the rest of the Commander world it would do well for us to consider cards we already have available that can interact with planeswalkers. I expect we’ll be getting a bunch of new ones, including perhaps a way to interact with planeswalker emblems, but there is actually a pretty deep selection of cards we already have to handle the planeswalker menace. In particular I was surprised at how many green cards there are that directly destroy planeswalkers!


Last but not least, I’d suggest keeping an eye out for good Commander creatures that have haste, and cards that grant haste. Planeswalkers can struggle in Commander because multiple opponents can and often do each point attacks at planeswalkers to take them down, so any Superfriends strategy will lean heavily onto battlefield sweepers that will keep threats to a minimum. Making sure you have some number of creatures that can attack the turn you cast them can make all the difference between a planeswalker running away with a game and being able to neutralize the threat.


Tell me: What sort of Commander cards are you keeping your eye on as War of the Spark hits the format?

Make sure you follow me on Twitter, since I tweet a lot about Commander! And right now, I’m building a Commander deck with votes from the Magic community over Twitter. Follow the hashtag #TwitterBuiltCMDR.

Do me a solid and subscribe to my channel too! I’m posting Top 5 cards from many of my Star City Games columns as a preview for each article, but I plan on adding other content too. Also, I’ve gotten some cool video editing software that I’m slowly learning, so the video quality will improve as I learn better techniques.

Deck Database

Below I’ve got links to strategy articles and decks I’ve written about going back to January 2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith” and the commander name into Google and it should pop right up. I’ve written a lot about Commander — and Magic in general — so if you want to explore further, the Star City Games article archives have my articles all the way back to January 2000!

Commander Compare & Contrast

Zedruu, the Greathearted with Emma Handy

Nahiri, the Lithomancer with Anthony Alongi

Feldon of the Third Path with The Professor

Commander Strategy

Why You Should Commander Like Me

Let’s Talk About Lands

Who Should I Attack?

Targeted Removal in Commander

Ravnica Allegiance

The Haunt of Hightower, Teysa Karlov, Prime Speaker Vannifar, Rakdos, the Showstopper, Nikya of the Old Ways, Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, Judith, the Scourge Diva

SCG CON Winter 2018

Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow, Grothama, All-Devouring; Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis; Feldon of the Third Path; Ramos, Dragon Engine; Inalla, Archmage Ritualist; Prossh, Skyraider of Kher; Brago, King Eternal

Ultimate Masters

Garna, the Bloodflame

Guilds of Ravnica

Niv Mizzet, Parun, Emmara, Soul of the Accord, Lazav, the Multifarious (decklist in the comments), Tajic, Legion’s Edge, Etrata, the Silencer, Izoni, Thousand-Eyed

Commander 2018

Aminatou, the Fateshifter, Xantcha, Sleeper Agent, Lord Windgrace, Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer

Core Set 2019

Sai, Master Thopterist, Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma, Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire, Chromium, the Mutable


Grothama, All-Devouring


Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle, Grand Warlord Radha, Arvad the Cursed, Muldrotha, the Grave Tide, Slimefoot, the Stowaway, Yargle, Glutton of Urborg, Squee, the Immortal, Firesong and Sunspeaker, Jodah, Archmage Eternal, Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker

Masters 25

Hanna, Ship’s Navigator

Rivals of Ixalan

Azor, the Lawbringer, Etali, Primal Storm, Nezahal, Primal Tide, Zacama, Primal Calamity, Tetzimoc, Primal Death, Zetalpa, Primal Dawn, Ghalta, Primal Hunger


Grusilda, Monster Masher, Dr. Julius Jumblemorph


Vona, Butcher of Magan, Tishana, Voice of Thunder, Admiral Beckett Brass, Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Commander 2017

Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith, Inalla, Archmage Ritualist, Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist, O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami, Mairsil, the Pretender, Taigam, Ojutai Master

Hour of Devastation

Razaketh, the Foulblooded, Zur, the Enchanter (Mummy’s Curse), Djeru, With Eyes Open, The Locust God, Karona, False God (All the Deserts), Nicol Bolas, Neheb, the Eternal


Oketra the True, Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun, Atogatog (Cartouches & Trials), Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons, Samut, Voice of Dissent, Rhonas the Indomitable, Hazoret the Fervent

Kaladesh Block

Yahenni, Undying Partisan, Nicol Bolas, Child of Alara (Five-Color Energy), Rishkar, Peema Renegade, Kari Zev, Skyship Raider, Sram, Senior Edificer

Commander 2016

Breya, Etherium Shaper, Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice, Tymna the Weaver // Ravos, Soultender

Other Commander Decks

Thada Adel, Acquisitor, The Ultimate Golgari Deck, Anafenza, the Foremost (shutting down shenanigans), Momir Vig, Simic Visionary (no green creatures), Kytheon, Hero of Akros (Tribal Gideon), Tasigur, the Golden Fang