We interrupt digging deep into War of the Spark with breaking news: Modern Horizons has been revealed to be a different sort of set than we may have been suspecting!
Back in the beginning of previews, I was just innocently reading Mark Rosewater’s column talking about the team assembled to bring us
Commander Masters Modern Horizons. At that time, I thought that I’d be seeing a bunch of cards very clearly aimed at the Modern format, but I did have hopes there would be some Commander goodies too. Imagine my surprise when I saw his preview card:
I immediately sat up and took notice. This is not at all a Modern card, outside of some weird Tier 4 Fist of Suns / Jodah, Archmage Eternal combo deck. This is very clearly a Commander card, and it’s something that Commander fans have been craving for many years – a tribal lord that can be used for any sort of obscure creature type you can possibly dream of. And when I saw that my friend Alli Medwin was involved on working on this set, it made total sense as to why we were seeing this brilliant card now.
Three years ago I wrote a column called Salute the General. In it, I talked about being inspired to build a weird and different Commander deck based on conversations I had with Alli:
“Before she went to work for Wizards of the Coast, Alli used to be an active judge for large tournaments up and down the East Coast, but I saw her mostly at the tournaments I went to in my home state of Virginia. Alli was an avid Commander fan and we used to talk about the format whenever we had the time to chat a bit, and there was one cool concept she talked to me about that stuck with me for years. She called it her ‘lord’ deck, and it was chock full of changelings and then filled out with a bunch of tribal lords and other ‘creature type matters’ cards.
“I really liked the concept. When playing tribal decks, they tend to operate very linearly; each tribe with a significant card support tends to have things they do well and do often. By having a bunch of different tribal cards thrown into the deck, all tied together with a bunch of changelings, each of your games would play out quite differently depending on what mix of oddball tribal cards you happened to draw along with your changelings.”
On of the issues I found while building my “lord” deck was that there really weren’t all that many high-quality changelings. You could certainly stretch things by including ones like Skeletal Changeling or Avian Changeling, but they are certainly very low power without a significant boost from a lord card. I solved that problem to some degree by picking General Tazri, which can search up Mirror Entity when you cast it so that all of your various lord cards can become changelings too and start sharing abilities with each other.
In Rosewater’s article, he says something that raises the promise of having the tools to make a proper “lord” deck as Alli envisioned so many years ago:
“Because this set was much looser in parameters than most sets, I realized there was an opportunity to design some cards that players have been asking for forever. As I was designing them, it struck me how many of them were tribal. How were we going to fit all these various tribal cards in one set? And that’s when I flashed back to Lorwyn design.
“It was 2001. We were trying to make a set that supported eight creature types and we were having a huge cohesion problem, especially in Limited. I then pitched to Aaron Forsythe (he was the lead designer of Lorwyn) that we turn the Mistform Ultimus ability into a mechanic. It became changeling (‘This card is every creature type’). That ended up being the glue that made Lorwyn Limited work.
“Just like Lorwyn, changeling could be the glue that held Modern Horizons together.”
So, we’re going to get more changelings! Not including Morophon, only a few have been previewed so far, and while I wouldn’t say those changelings are all-stars, I do imagine there are going to be some not yet previewed uncommons and rares that may very well be Commander-worthy.
Assuming we can get enough changelings to build a Morophon “lord” deck, here are the sorts of cards I’d like to include:
Lords for Changelings
Let’s keep our eyes peeled on previews and our fingers crossed for more changelings and more cool lord cards!
In the meantime though, I thought it would be fun to dig into using Morophon as a commander for various tribal decks. Outside of the +1/+1 boost for the chosen tribe, Morophon gives us two other cool abilities. First, the obvious—giving us the ability to not worry about paying colored mana in the selected tribe’s casting cost. This is a cool expansion to the ability that first showed up on Edgewalker, and more recently on Ragemonger.
What’s cool about this ability is two-fold: not only does it make more expensive members of the tribe free, but it makes creatures of the tribe that cost just one mana or two-colored mana absolutely free! This makes cards that reload your hand with creatures even more valuable than they’d otherwise be.
The other, less-obvious implication of picking Morophon as your commander? Unlocking the full spectrum of tribal cards across all five colors!
Creature Type Matters
For instance, the card-drawing power of Distant Melody and Kindred Discovery is something that has previously just been limited to only legendary tribal lords that have blue in their color identity, but no longer! You want to add powerful card drawing into your Elf or Goblin deck? With Morophon, you can!
Help Cast Morophon
Another thing to keep in mind is there are members of one tribe that help casting cards of another tribe, and so long as these fit into your tribal theme you can help them to play Morophon ahead of curve. I mean, Morophon does cost seven mana, so any ways to discount that will be a big help. If you’re running a Human deck, you could add Kinjalli’s Caller, Otepec Huntmaster, Dragonspeaker Shaman, and Knight of the Stampede!
As an experiment, I decided to take a popular tribe and make it five colors with Morophon as the commander. I went with Goblins, which tend to be more single-minded and aggressive when you pick a monored commander like Krenko, Mob Boss. Let’s take a look!
First up, I picked a bunch of good Goblins. I decided to lean heavily on ones that were low on the mana curve so that with Morophon they’d be free or mostly free to cast. I also wanted Goblins that had various helpful abilities outside of just being aggressive, since this is Commander and games tend to go longer. I’m thrilled to be able to include Ankle Shanker into our Goblin deck, since we can include white spells!
The new card Etchings of the Chosen is a great inclusion here, and replaced Nim Deathmantle as a card I would typically use to help keep Morophon on the battlefield in the face of mass removal. Even though we aren’t going “lord” tribal, we can still make use of some of the more interesting changeling cards like Mirror Entity. I like Shapesharer too, since occasionally there will be something huge or impactful that your opponent is playing that you’ll want to be able to do too.
We’ll run all the usual suspects that we’d otherwise run in a mono-red Goblin tribal deck…but we can also run the crazy powerful Distant Melody and Kindred Discovery! This is the insane tribal genius of Morophon, the Boundless!
The removal options are a little slim when so many slots are taken up with Goblin tribal support, but thankfully we’ve got some options for handling artifacts built into some Goblin cards. Being able to dip into green and black gives us access to Shattergang Brothers, and Morophon gives us access to white, so we can toss in Crush Contraband!
Reload Your Hand
Here we go—ways to reload our hand with lots of Goblins that we can probably cast with Morophon’s ability for hardly any mana at all. Imagine reloading all your dead Goblins with Empty the Catacombs and then deploying them all back onto the battlefield in the same turn.
Not only do I use some of the cards like Stinkdrinker Daredevil to decrease the mana cost of Morophon, but cards like Urza’s Incubator helps cover the colorless side of Goblin mana costs, so in conjunction with Morophon you’ll be able to deploy more costly Goblins for nothing.
Okay, so here’s how the deck looks:
- 1 Goblin Vandal
- 1 Goblin Recruiter
- 1 Goblin Matron
- 1 Goblin Lackey
- 1 Goblin Piledriver
- 1 Goblin Ringleader
- 1 Goblin Chirurgeon
- 1 Goblin Lookout
- 1 Skirk Prospector
- 1 Frenzied Goblin
- 1 Tin Street Hooligan
- 1 Boggart Mob
- 1 Knucklebone Witch
- 1 Mad Auntie
- 1 Mirror Entity
- 1 Shapesharer
- 1 Stinkdrinker Daredevil
- 1 Wort, Boggart Auntie
- 1 Auntie's Snitch
- 1 Frogtosser Banneret
- 1 Wort, the Raidmother
- 1 Goblin Chieftain
- 1 Goblin Bushwhacker
- 1 Goblin Ruinblaster
- 1 Warren Instigator
- 1 Spikeshot Elder
- 1 Krenko, Mob Boss
- 1 Legion Loyalist
- 1 Shattergang Brothers
- 1 Ankle Shanker
- 1 Dragonlord's Servant
- 1 Grenzo, Havoc Raiser
- 1 Wily Goblin
- 1 Goblin Chainwhirler
- 1 Goblin Instigator
- 1 Dark-Dweller Oracle
- 1 Goblin Trashmaster
- 1 Munitions Expert
- 1 Sling-Gang Lieutenant
- 1 Reflecting Pool
- 1 Swamp
- 9 Mountain
- 1 Sacred Foundry
- 1 Steam Vents
- 1 Stomping Ground
- 1 Blood Crypt
- 1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
- 1 Graven Cairns
- 1 Auntie's Hovel
- 1 Fire-Lit Thicket
- 1 Cascade Bluffs
- 1 Crumbling Necropolis
- 1 Grixis Panorama
- 1 Jund Panorama
- 1 Jungle Shrine
- 1 Savage Lands
- 1 Dragonskull Summit
- 1 Rootbound Crag
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Sulfur Falls
- 1 Clifftop Retreat
- 1 Cavern of Souls
- 1 Nomad Outpost
- 1 Mystic Monastery
- 1 Frontier Bivouac
- 1 Path of Ancestry
- 1 Unclaimed Territory
- 1 Luxury Suite
- 1 Spire Garden
- 1 Urza's Incubator
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Terminate
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Black Market
- 1 No Rest for the Wicked
- 1 Empty the Catacombs
- 1 Coalition Relic
- 1 Distant Melody
- 1 Door of Destinies
- 1 Shared Animosity
- 1 Chromatic Lantern
- 1 Stoneforge Masterwork
- 1 Seasons Past
- 1 Cryptolith Rite
- 1 Vanquisher's Banner
- 1 Kindred Discovery
- 1 Herald's Horn
- 1 Heirloom Blade
- 1 Kindred Dominance
- 1 Crush Contraband
- 1 Etchings of the Chosen
What do you think? Are there any cards I’ve overlooked? What creature types are you going to tie together into a tribal deck with Morophon? And if you see any new cards from War of the Spark or Modern Horizons that should find a home here, let me know!
Oh, by the way, I got a token card included in this series of Star City Games Personality Tokens! I am thrilled and honored to get my mug immortalized on this awesome Matrix-inspired token card. Go check out this link to find out how you can get your hands on some!
Wow, it’s just a couple weeks until SCG CON, June 6 – 9! I’m thrilled to be a part of the Commander Celebration, where a bunch of Magic luminaries – including me! – will be playing Commander in the Command Zone for three days. Have you seen the line-up?
- Gavin Verhey (Senior MTG designer, Wizards of the Coast)
- Brian David-Marshall (Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Historian)
- Sheldon Menery (Commander-format creator)
- Scott Larabee (Commander Rules Committee)
- Bennie Smith (author of The Complete Commander)
- Jonathan Suarez (Commander VS crew)
- Stephen Green (Commander VS crew)
- Justin Parnell (Commander VS crew)
- Jeremy Noell (Commander VS crew)
That is a stacked Command Zone, people! Who am I going to see there playing Commander with us?
Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter! I run polls and get conversations started about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun. And keep your eyes peeled to my Twitter feed in the week leading up to SCG CON—I’ll be letting my followers know about cool ways to win some awesome Commander cards from my collection!
Below I’ve got links to 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
Why You Should Commander Like Me
War of the Spark
God-Eternal Rhonas, God-Eternal Oketra, Storrev, Devkarin Lich, Nicol Bolas Tribal, Feather, the Redeemed, Massacre Girl, Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion
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
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
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
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
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
Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith, Inalla, Archmage Ritualist, Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist, O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami, Mairsil, the Pretender, Taigam, Ojutai Master
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
Yahenni, Undying Partisan, Nicol Bolas, Child of Alara (Five-Color Energy), Rishkar, Peema Renegade, Kari Zev, Skyship Raider, Sram, Senior Edificer
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