Rating The Legendary Creatures In Modern Masters 2017

Where did “The Complete Commander” author Bennie Smith cast his eye when he saw Modern Masters 2017? The legendary creatures, of course! Get his thoughts on every one in the set!

Grand Prix Orlando March 24-26!

I hope everyone has had a chance to draft Modern Masters 2017; it is a lot of fun! Friday Night Magic at Collector’s Heaven last week had a draft and I ended up putting together a super-annoying U/W Blink deck. In my first pack I opened Restoration Angel, a card I already have a playset of, but it is a fine card for my Commander decks and is one of the powerhouses of the U/W Blink archetype, so I picked it. In my second pack I opened up a Marsh Flats, which would normally be a slam-dunk for value. But also in the pack was Mistmeadow Witch, which is insane in the U/W Blink deck!

I actually still have a playset of the original Marsh Flats, so I was torn—(nearly) paying for my draft, or drafting a card that could very well help me win the draft. I decided to go with the Witch, told my friend Ryan sitting next to me “Merry Christmas,” and hoped I hadn’t made a terrible mistake. Thankfully, the Magic gods were smiling, and in my last pack I cracked open a Misty Rainforest, which totally paid for my draft in value, and since there wasn’t any bomb for my archetype in the pack, I went ahead and nabbed that card while still cobbling together a solid deck. I briefly kept my options open for a red or green splash, thanks to the incredible mana fixing, but had enough playables to run straight U/W. I went 3-1, which was good for a prize pack of Modern Masters 2017.

This week I thought it would be good to talk about the legendary creatures found in Modern Masters 2017. Wizards of the Coast has a lot of different audiences in mind when they design sets of Magic cards, and while they do a great job keeping Commander fans in mind, we are certainly not the only ones they try to make happy. Some of these legendary creatures are not the best choices for Commander, so I thought I would offer my take on each one, which are great to build decks around…and which are not.

Bennie Rating for Commander

Ratings start at zero stars for a terrible choice, up to five stars for an awesome choice.

I’m calling these “Bennie Ratings” because obviously everyone has different opinions on Magic cards generally, and Commander cards particularly. Each of you has your own thoughts about what constitutes fun, and the people you play Commander with will inform your choices too.

My view of Commander lines up closely to the spirit of the game as advocated by Sheldon Menery and the Commander Rules Committee – games of Commander should be about maximizing fun for everyone. Yes, technically there’s going to be one “winner” of a game of Commander, but if everyone comes away smiling at the end of the game, then everyone is a winner. This usually means everyone got to participate in the game, there were cool plays and haymakers, and player fortunes rose and fell before the winner claimed victory.

Griselbrand – 0 Stars

Griselbrand is a terrible choice as a Commander because it is banned in Commander. It was legal for a little while, but my fellow Commander writer Sean McKeown went about clearly demonstrating how ridiculous that card is accessible from the Command Zone whenever you need it (Dear Azami – Breaking Rules). It’s worth about $8, though, so if you crack one open from a pack of Modern Masters 2017, you should be able to trade it for a fair number of decent Commander cards for your stash.

Linvala, Keeper of Silence – 2 Stars

Linvala is a powerful card, she’s a beautiful card, and Angel is a very popular creature type. However, few people enjoy trying to play Magic while being stunted by white’s many “rule-setting” cards, and Linvala as your Commander is one that keeps coming back and bringing the misery. Unless your playgroup is particularly cutthroat, I’d recommend trading her away. She’s valued at $15; you should be able to get a good bump of Commander cards.

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius – 4 Stars

The original (Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind) is a bit overpowered around the Commander table and is very easy to build around engines that win the game on the spot. Most Commander groups are going to work hard to prevent you from keeping that version on the battlefield, which can be frustrating for you and aggravating for them. This newer version of Niv-Mizzet is fairer, less scary, with all the same fun Dragon flair as the original. If you crack one open in a pack this spring, I would recommend building something like this:

With the deck half blue, it makes sense that you want a fair number of controlling counterspells; just make sure you use them for good instead of evil. Don’t use your counterspells to lock one player out of being able to play the game. Instead, use them judiciously on things like saving the table from some game-crushing combo. Oh, and it’s fine to use them to save your bacon, too.

For the red half, let us not forget Niv-Mizzet is a Dragon, so I have a fair amount of Dragon flavor peppered in here too. This will often require you to tap out and be unable to cast a counterspell, but c’mon—we are playing a Dragon deck! They are not timid creatures.

I pay tribute to Niv-Mizzet’s beloved Izzet guild with some transformational cards like Rapid Hybridization, Polymorphist’s Jest, and Turn//Burn. Perfect size for Dragon snacks!

Red Elemental Blast and Pyroblast may look a little narrow, but I figured Niv-Mizzet thinks he’s the smartest creature around, so when he says “no” with a counterspell effect, he means “no.” If someone is wants to fire back with another counterspell, a Pyroblast can cheaply and efficiently squash that plan. Besides, with the advent of four-color commanders in Commander 2016, the odds of having blue spells or blue permanents somewhere around the table are quite high. Worst-case scenario, Scuttlemutt can make something blue for you to destroy.

Obzedat, Ghost Council – 3 Stars

There is nothing wrong with Obzedat, Ghost Council—it is a fine Magic card and can certainly serve as the commander of your Orzhov Commander deck. I rate it as average mostly because what it does is not very fun, exciting, or powerful. A 5/5 for five mana is not the best rate for a legendary creature, and the ability to snipe a player for two life while gaining two life isn’t a dramatic swing for you and is mostly an annoyance for your opponents. If I wanted to build a B/W Commander deck, there are certainly more interesting legendary creatures to build around.

Olivia Voldaren – 4 Stars

I keep forgetting about Olivia Voldaren but she’s a really fun card. She has two abilities that play nicely together without being totally insane until the late-game when, you have tons of mana lying around. Vampire is a tribe that has been well supported by Wizards, and B/R covers most of that tribal ground. If you crack her open in a booster pack, you might want to build something like this:

Olivia Voldaren
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 03-24-2017
Magic Card Back

I kept the overall mana curve relatively low. Once Olivia is on the battlefield, you’ll want to keep your mana open for shenanigans. I have most of the usual Vampire tribal suspects in here, but what is really fun is using some of the flavorful anti-Vampire cards from Innistrad like Blazing Torch and Wooden Stake. Combined with Olivia’s ability to turn any creature into a Vampire for two mana, those Equipment cards become quite potent no matter what sort of creatures your opponents are playing!

Bloodsoaked Champion may look a little out of place, but there are some cards that benefit from having sacrificial fodder, and Falkenrath Aristocrat in particular likes to feast on Humans. I figure the deck is aggressive enough that the raid trigger should be easy enough.

Venser, Shaper Savant – 2 Stars

Venser is a low-power, high-annoyance card that I think makes it a pretty poor choice for a Commander. He’s fine as one of the 99 in a blue deck, especially one that dabbles in Wizard tribal. If you have ever been hit by a never-ending stream of Remands in Modern (thanks, Snapcaster Mage), you know how frustrating that can be, so it falls pretty low on my Bennie Rating scale.

Wort, the Raidmother – 4 Stars

Wort, the Raidmother on the other hand is a super-choice for a Commander! She does cool, powerful things that will often lead to haymaker plays, and you could dip into all the great tribal support cards Wizards has made for Goblins. What I really like is how much this makes you want to play the sorcery cards that create tokens, especially Goblins. If you open up Wort, you might want to build something like this:

Yep, I am leaning heavily on having Wort on the battlefield and going crazy with the conspire effects. This might be a little idealistic, but if we are not reaching for our dreams, why are we playing Commander anyway? What is particularly fun about this sort of deck is that we can really jettison playing many of the mana accelerator artifacts that I typically play and just go full-bore sorcery-based mana ramp, since conspire will squeeze out extra value. This opens us up to playing cards like Bane of Progress!

I am particularly excited about casting Rishkar’s Expertise or Seasons Past with Conspire. How about you?

Zur the Enchanter – 1 Star

Then there is Zur the Enchanter, which has the ignominious distinction of just a single star on the Bennie Rating scale. I feel bad about it too, because I positively love playing Zur the Enchanter in my Modern Doran/Zur deck. But Zur is an incredibly powerful card that is very easy to build an oppressive deck around. These decks have been around for a while, and when you reveal Zur as your commander, you can expect that your opponents will mark you as Public Enemy #1 immediately, no matter how much your argue that your version of Zur is friendly or cuddly. Save Zur the Enchanter for Modern, or trade it away for a less hated Commander. But if you insist on building a Commander deck around him, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Which legendary creature from Modern Masters 2017 are you most excited to build a deck around? How would you build one differently from the decks I presented?

New to Commander?

If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):

Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)

Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)

Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)

Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)

Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)

• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)

Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)

Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)

Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)

Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)

Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)

Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)

Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)

Avacyn, Guardian Angel; Ob Nixilis, Unshackled; Sliver Hivelord (Commander Catchup, Part 3)

Keranos, God of Storms; Marchesa, the Black Rose; Muzzio, Visionary Architect (Commander Catchup, Part 2)

Athreos, God of Passage; Kruphix, God of Horizons; Iroas, God of Victory (Commander Catchup, Journey into Nyx Edition)

Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)

Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy (Possibility Storm Shenanigans)

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)

Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)

Karona, False God (God Pack)

Child of Alara (Land Ho!)

Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)

Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)

Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)

Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)

Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)

Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)

Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)

Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)

Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)

Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)

Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)

Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)

Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)

Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)

Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)

Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)

Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)

Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)

Konda, Lord of Eiganjo ( The Indestructibles)

Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)

Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)

Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker ( Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)

Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius ( new player-friendly)

Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)

Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)

Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)

Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)

Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)

Progenitus (

Fist of Suns and Bringers


Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)

Riku of Two Reflections (

steal all permanents with
Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts


Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)

Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)

Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)

Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)

Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)

Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)

Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice ( new player-friendly)

Uril, the Miststalker (my “more competitive” deck)

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)

Vorosh, the Hunter ( proliferaTION)

Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)

Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)

Grand Prix Orlando March 24-26!