The Great Core Set 2019 Commander Update

How many Elder Dragons made the cut? What about the seemingly endless array of Knights? And why will you be saying “Multipass” to yourself all day?

New cards mean new changes to existing decks, always the most exciting post-release fun you can have with your pants on.

And come to think of it, if you’re at home with your collection, even that’s a matter of taste and debate.

While it might have seemed last week that I was a little cool on Core Set 2019 as a whole for Commander, there are still plenty of cards which are going to push out old favorites. As it has been for a long time, finding room will always be the challenge in updating decks, which is not the same as finding some love for the new cards. As I’ve done with the last few deck updates, I won’t have much to say about the card(s) which are coming out, since most of the time the answer is “I needed the room” or “it’s not completely on theme.” If there’s some deeper significance to the removal, I’ll of course mention it. As longtime readers know, I endeavor to put only one copy of new cards into the whole suite of decks. That way, more cards get a chance to shine, and I’m not taking out even more cards that I don’t really want to say so long to.


Into: Karador Do-Over

For: Enduring Scalelord

The question about this Ajani is if you put it into a counters deck or a tokens deck. I’ve opted for the former, because this Karador Do-Over is becoming an Ajani deck. In addition to now four versions of our favorite cat as a Planeswalker, Oath of Ajani is also in there. Maybe I’ll look for other cards that either have Ajani on them or mention him to see if they’re worth really theming this one up. Ajani’s Pridemate if the first stop, as is Ajani’s Welcome.

Into: Obzedat, Ghost Killer

For: Gruesome Encore

Obzedat, since it blinks away, often makes situations right for playing lots of Wrath of God effects. Cleansing Nova is a nicely flexible card that gives extra opportunity when you need to Wrath or utility when you don’t.

Into: Rith’s Tokens

For: Samut, the Tested

The original Rith, the Awakener deck has stayed true to its course for most of its life while slowly letting the Soldier tokens take over. It also has plenty other nontoken creatures for Lena to trigger on, and she’ll protect everyone smaller than she is—which may be relevant when Archangel Avacyn transforms.

Into: Halloween with Karador

For: Gonti, Lord of Luxury

Other graveyards are occasionally problematic for me, since I like the big Living Death from which only I benefit. Also, I like sacrificing creatures to trigger Grave Pact, things to bring back with Sun Titan, and repeatable utility in its many forms. Remorseful Cleric is inexpensive enough to cast with Karador, Ghost Chieftain, and comes back via Reveillark as well. There’s lots to like about a card that’s not particularly splashy but will be quite useful.

Into: Trostani and Her Angels

For: Soul of the Harvest

One of my favorite cards in the set. I might never use its activated ability (which is a little pricey), but more Angels mean more lifegain, and those token Angels gives Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice something to populate.

Not an existing deck, but Knights are out there and coming. Reasonably sure it’s my next project, so if there’s a Knight commander you’d love to see leading a team, feel free to suggest one.


Into: Borrowing Stuff at Cutlass Point

For: Roil Elemental

Getting Pirates to deal damage is what triggers Admiral Beckett Brass, so the ability to make them unblockable is quite useful. More of a role-player than a star card, but that’s what makes decks good—not everything has to be a superstar.

Into: Thassa, God of Merfolk

For: Burnished Hart

Thanks to Mike Stephens who pointed out that I had misread Mistcaller; it only works on nontokens (which is still quite valuable). Fortunately, Mike caught me before I had made plans what deck to put Mistcaller into. It would still have likely been this one, since it’s a Merfolk and all. I really don’t play this deck enough and it’s always fun. That’ll need to change (the playing part, not the fun).

Into: The Mill-Meoplasm

For: Oversold Cemetery

I’ve gone away from self-mill in this deck to milling opponents more frequently, so Oversold Cemetery (which I still enjoy in several other decks) can go in favor of the mill plus potential card draw of Patient Rebuilding. If I’m being honest, Patient Rebuilding seems like a card that three year from now is going to come out for something even newer and more exciting, but that’s the evolution of Commander decks for you.

Into: Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind

For: Psychic Intrusion

Lazav, Dimir Mastermind also likes to mill things so that he can steal their image. The deck has a few cards which pair with Isochron Scepter in order to draw cards, plus there’s the big stuff like Rhystic Study (which was almost the card I took out, until I realized—as annoying as it is—that would a silly move). Deck needs more Chasm Fiend.


Into: Kresh Into the Red Zone

For: Chandra’s Ignition

Obviously there’s a dream play I’m looking for here, and it’s Abnormal Endurance plus Fling. For four mana (sure, it’s two cards), that’s pretty spicy. It goes as another weapon in a deck that might continue becoming increasingly misnamed. It still loves getting into the Red Zone, but its finishing move is almost always some Fling variant to a face.

Into: Karador Version 3

For: Twisted Abomination

The deck needs a little more beatdown capability and having a 6/6 flyer doing that relatively early is just what the (Demon) doctor ordered.

Into: The Altar of Thraximundar

For: Minion Reflector

You obviously have to be careful with Fraying Omnipotence that you’re not also killing yourself somehow, but it’s completely reasonable for this it to lead to a one-shot kill with Thraximundar. Plus, who needs cards in hand anyway?

Into: Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind

For: Supplant Form

Three words: Isochron Scepter Package. I won’t say it’s the only way I’d play the card in Commander, but it’s pretty close.

I know I said I’d do it, but I’m still working up to it emotionally. I’ll get there.

Into: Gisa and Geralf Together Forever

For: Ashen Ghoul

I had to look to see which of the two Zombie decks I have features Patriarch’s Bidding. It’s this one, so it’ll be happy to pick up its second Liliana planeswalker, the other being Liliana, Death’s Majesty.

Into: Zombies of Tresserhorn

For: Monastery Siege

This deck is about Zombies, Zombies, and more Zombies. Now, even if you kill them, they not only come back later in the form of Zombie Apocalypse, killing them generates more and more of them. It’s like some crazy George Romero movie.


Into: Animar Do-Over

For: Evolutionary Leap

I feel like this one can just drop into any appropriately colored deck and be worthwhile. It costs only one mana, and you know you’ll always have the right land to shut down, whether that’s Gaea’s Cradle, Phyrexian Tower, Yavimaya Hollow, Cabal Coffers, Maze of Ith—you get the point.

I had at first thought about putting it into my Saskia Unyielding deck because it’s so savage that you’re not often playing the kind of long game which makes Hunting Grounds worthwhile. That card is definitely better in a deck with Dust Elemental and really cool enters-the-battlefield triggers—which that deck runs as a backup plan.

Alpine Moon goes instead into the Animar Do-Over because there are some lands which shut down the commander pretty well, such as the aforementioned Maze of Ith. The deck also has trouble dealing with decks which cast big spells via lands that produce piles of mana, so it becomes a natural fit.

Into: Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky

For: Sakura-Tribe Elder

Taking the last of the non-Dragon creatures out of this deck has me wondering if there enough cool Dragon cards (and the kinds of things that go with them) to make two Dragon decks. I suppose Merieke’s Esper Dragons applies, but maybe I’ll do something wild like make another deck with the exact same creatures, but then have to pick all new spells. That would indeed be a challenge!

Into: Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky

For: Insurrection

Sarkhan’s Unsealing is a card that won’t get blown up all that quickly the first time you play it. The first time. After that, opponents will dig for their best enchantment removal and destroy this before they hit your Greater Good. You heard it here first. You know, I’ve always wondered about that phrase. Who cares where you heard a thing first, so long as it’s a good thing to hear (like “stay in school, eat your vegetables, play your Fog”)? It also reminds me of my “favorite” argument-settler, “Just sayin’.” So many times, I’ve had a counter-argument prepared, but someone invokes “Just sayin'” and I’m left without the chance to respond.


Into: Karador Do-Over

For: Map the Wastes

I’m a fan of Elvish Rejuvenator because it gets any land, not just basics. The long-term value (especially in a deck like this in which they get replayed) seems like it outweighs the occasional whiff. We’ll see how it works out.

Into: Angry, Angry Dinos

For: Cherished Hatchling

It’s a 10/10 for five, for cryin’ out loud. How am I going to not play it? And why the hell doesn’t this deck have Warstorm Surge in it?

Into: Adun’s Toolbox

For: Archfiend of Ifnir

I initially got locked into a train of thought with this card, thinking that it was good, but also believing it was too small to put into my Dinosaur deck. Then I realized I’m not forced to go tribal with it; then the paths opened up and I found my way to the toolbox deck.

Into: Animar’s Swarm

For: Domri Rade

It’s not a particularly defensive deck, but the speed at which Animar can get a reasonable number of creatures onto the battlefield means that there’s a decent likelihood that we can protect Vivien long enough to get that emblem. Then it’s on.


Into: Merieke’s Esper Dragons

For: Pristine Skywise

It’s an Esper Dragon, so it sure fits the theme. Because it has flash, it also works in a reactive deck since I hold back mana in order to cast instants. Being uncounterable is fine, although it’s not the feature that drew me to the card.

Into: Yidris Rotisserie Draft Deck

For: Plea for Power

A moderately savage early-turn play, and there’s the possibility later in the game (or earlier, if you’ve had some success with Lurking Predators plus Selvala, Heart of the Wilds) to cast it and immediately transform it.

Into: Glissa, Glissa

For: Grave-Shell Scarab

It turns out that if the Glissa, the Traitor engines are running, other players have trouble keeping alive their creatures. Might as well kill everyone a little faster for it.

Into: Zegana and a Dice Bag

For: Mycoloth

One of the problems I’ve had with one of my most fun decks is having large creatures easily chump blocked. Giving them flying will solve some of that problem.

Into: Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky

For: Shockmaw Dragon

Karrthus giving haste to Vaevictus Asmadi is only part of the fun. I’m sure I’ll occasionally get blown out on this card, all three or four opponents upgrading from what I destroyed, but that’s enough of an outlier case that I’ll take the risk. The card makes me wonder if I have room in this deck for Grave Betrayal. Now that would be cool.


Into: Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky

For: Scrabbling Claws

The early mana boost gets more Dragons out. Drawing lots of cards for no mana fuels the fires even faster. Scrabbling Claws is going because the best way to deal with someone’s graveyard is just burn them.


While the raw number of cards coming into my array of decks from Core Set 2019 is smaller than that of many of the most recent sets, it appears as though those which are will have significant impact on the decks. With a few of those Knight cards left aside for future build possibilities, it’ll still take quite a while to swap in the new stuff. It also leaves me to wonder if I should put those cards back where they belong or leave them aside for some kind of “orphans” deck, which is the kind of fun experiment that’s almost always worth the time.

Deck Without Comment will return after release season.

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 Enchantments; Thassa, God of Merfolk; Erebos and the Halls Of The Dead; Forge of Purphoros; 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; Gisa and Geralf Together Forever.

Shards and Wedges

Adun’s Toolbox; Angry, Angry Dinos; Animar’s Swarm; Borrowing Stuff at Cutlass Point; Ikra and Kydele; 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.


Yidris: Money for Nothing, Cards for Free; Saskia Unyielding; Breya Reshaped; Yidris Rotisserie Draft Deck.


Children of a Greater God


Tana and Kydele; Kynaios and Tiro; Ikra and Kydele.


Adun Oakenshield Do-Over; Animar Do-Over; Glissa Do-Over; Karador Do-Over; Karador Version 3; Karrthus Do-Over; Kresh Do-Over; Steam-Powered Merieke Do-Over; Lord of Tresserhorn 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.”