War Of The Spark Commanders: An Early Look

Planeswalkers may have center stage in War of the Spark, but the legendary creatures of the set deserve their due! Sheldon Menery assesses ten for fitness as commanders!

With a decent portion of War of the Spark previewed, we can already see a few of the intriguing legendary creatures that will be available once the full set is released. Today I’d like to brainstorm a few ideas with the potential commanders we’ve so far seen.

We have a few hints as to what will be important in the set. Proliferate is making a gangbusters return (like with the kind of insane Evolution Sage), so even for cards that aren’t planeswalkers, counters will matter. Get your Contagion Engine, Inexorable Tide, and big kahuna Deepglow Skate while you can. Also read Mark Rosewater’s piece on proliferate in War of the Spark design. We also have a clue that the top of the library or library order will be important (or even more important than it already is), so dust off your copies of Future Sight, Garruk’s Horde, and Vizier of the Menagerie.

And no, Bolas’s Citadel is not getting emergency banned. It will certainly get talked about, though. In the end, it seems like one of those cards that immediately stands up the hairs on the back of your neck, but upon further review doesn’t seem quite as scary. Opinions will vary, and you can bet it will come up in the next RC and CAG joint meeting.

Tomik, Distinguished Advokist

While I expect Tomik, Distinguished Advokist to see lots of play in other formats (it shuts down Life from the Loam, for example), shoehorning it into leading a deck is a bit tougher. Mono-white might be the weakest of the five single colors, and Tomik’s ability doesn’t immediately suggest anything obvious, so we’ll have to reach a little. Lands which activate and attack, like Mutavault and Inkmoth Nexus, could be a start. The way to go with Tomik is to build on the idea of not letting opponents do specific things (without taking them completely out of the game via some kind of STAX build). Hushwing Gryff, Torpor Orb, Grafdigger’s Cage, Tocatli Honor Guard, Crackdown, Aven Mindcensor, Angelic Arbiter, Archangel of Tithes, and Linvala, Keeper of Silence (among others) all change the basics of what happen in the game. It’s not quite You Did This to Yourself, but it’ll get you there.

Fblthp, the Lost

The Homonculus who needs to buy a vowel seems stronger as one of 99, but I’d be willing to give it a chance as a commander. You’ll definitely want some library manipulation to take advantage of his ability. You’ll want to grab Future Sight or Magus of the Future right away. With Fblthp as commander, the first card that came to mind is Jalira, Master Polymorphist. Abilities like Jalira’s, which will let you put it into the command zone if it’s your commander, will yield additional benefits. You’ll get a creature to replace it, plus you’ll be able to cast from the command zone again. Same with Proteus Staff. There’s always the simple version, bouncing it back to your hand with Crystal Shard, Erratic Portal, or Cloudstone Curio.

Massacre Girl

One of the best black creatures to come along in a while, lots of folks are justifiably excited about Massacre Girl, who will soon be wiping battlefields near you. Her best friend is obviously Massacre Wurm; even if the cavalcade of triggers eventually kills it, you’ll have spread around quite a bit of life loss. You’ll get some mileage out of Thornbite Staff as well, using the activated ability to pick off stragglers. Black Market will give you the mana to cast the big spells in the mid- and late-game. Yahenni, Undying Partisan will keep getting bigger as creatures die, keeping it from succumbing to Massacre Girl.

You might also think about Massacre Girl leading a deck with a Vampire sub-theme so that you can play Patron of the Vein and not worry about opponents’ creatures coming back—unless you also want to play Rise of the Dark Realms instead. Then keep your exile work to a minimum. There’s a strong argument to build Massacre Girl with a low creature count, using instead some of the black planeswalkers. The new Liliana, Dreadhorde General will help you replace any creatures you lose with a card, and with a battlefield routinely devoid of creatures, you can get her -9 ability off with much less trouble. This might also be a chance to make Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath work as 1 of 99. Last but not least, a little Sudden Spoiling will go a long way to making sure Massacre Girl does complete work.

Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin

This Krenko, just like his cousin Krenko, Mob Boss, is all about the Goblins. If you choose the new Krenko, you’ll still want to put older Krenko into the deck. Grab a copy of Goblin Warrens and something like Hammer of Purphoros or Fervor to give everyone haste. Consider Rogue’s Passage to make the Tin Street Kingpin unblockable, or go with Goblin King to give him and all your Goblins mountainwalk. Someone will have Mountains, opening up the unblockable attack.

The other direction to take new Krenko is some kind of Voltron build, featuring a great hidden gem, Vorrac Battlehorns, which has quite affordable casting and equip costs. You can also use a classic like Whispersilk Cloak. Then use whichever of Sword of Fire and Ice or Sword of Feast and Famine (and cousins) to buff up Krenko so that you create more Goblins when you attack. Goblin Bombardment is of course a must in any deck where you’re creating a bunch of 1/1s.

Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion

I’ll start out by saying this card is pretty silly. A 5/4 trampler for 2RR is already solid. I imagine it’s going to see some play in Nekusar, the Mindrazer decks.

As a commander, Neheb is a challenge because you don’t have that many “whenever you draw a card” options (like blue does with Chasm Skulker). Obviously, Psychosis Crawler is going to be big for you. Regardless, you should be able to run through a deck relatively quickly, especially if you add accelerants like Memory Jar in order to fill your hand back up if it gets low (meaning more mana). There has to be a scenario in which you draw a bunch of extra cards and then discard them to Neheb’s ability in order to generate enough mana for a big Comet Storm or some such, aided by Pyromancer’s Goggles or Dualcaster Mage. I might also try to build this Neheb with some fat artifacts and Goblin Welder to bring the saucy ones back out of the graveyard. Add Mycosynth Wellspring for further value.

Mowu, Loyal Companion

First card: Forgotten Ancient. Second card: Riskhar, Peema Renegade. Add Spike Feeder and Spike Weaver and friends, Crowned Ceratok, and you’re in pretty strong beatdown mode. Go for the inexpensive to cast and equip Armory of Iroas and Ring of Kalonia and then start getting into the Red Zone. Really ramp it up with creatures that have graft, like the underappreciated Cytoplast Rootkin. Don’t forget Oran-Rief, the Vastwood. Too bad Evolution Vat is outside the color identity. Among the new cards, Jiangg Yanggu, Wildcrafter and any of the best proliferate cards will want to make an appearance.

It’s fair to say that Mowu is somewhat linear, but it can still be fun anyway.

Storrev, Devkarin Lich

With four-mana five-power tramplers being all the rage these days, you’re going to get some hits in with Storrev. Like some of the other legendary creatures we’ve seen so far from War of the Spark, they’ll just as easily be at home in a deck as leading it. Storrev has black in it, so you’ll have plenty of sacrifice outlets to fill up the graveyard, like the always-popular Greater Good. You’ll have to be a little careful, since “that wasn’t put there this combat” means the phase, not just as a result of the combat.

You’ll want affordable utility creatures like Solemn Simulacrum or Burnished Hart early. Fatties like Sepulchral Primordial will pay dividends long-range. Storrev is also nice for creatures with echo, like Bone Shredder, Deranged Hermit, Timbermare, or the techy Multani’s Acolyte.

Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves

Wolf tribal is now a thing, although we might want to hope for a few more decent ones in the set to really round out a deck. Arlinn, Voice of the Pack leads me to believe it’ll happen. Until then, we can probably use Shapeshifters like Chameleon Colossus to fill out the ranks. The lifegain alone is probably worth the cost of the card, especially if you run Kessig Cagebreakers to maximum effect.

Cloudstone Curio is a neat trick with this version of Tolsimir, because the token entering the battlefield will trigger it, allowing you to put Tolsimir back into your hand. You’ll certainly want to pack the original Tolsimir to make your team bigger and let you create a different version of Voja. Sure, it’s smaller, but it’s still a Wolf. Feed the Pack will get you generating lots of Wolf creatures, and you can probably windmill Howl of the Night Pack for quite a bunch. Master of the Hunt (who doesn’t love “bands with other Wolves of the Hunt?”) and Master of the Wild Hunt will keep your motor running, so even if there aren’t that many Wolf creature cards, it looks like there’s already enough to do some tribal justice.

Feather, the Redeemed

We’ve been asking for a while for a Boros commander that doesn’t just suggest the same Soldier or battalion decks, and here’s an answer. While Feather will no doubt have impact in Standard, it will likely be a niche commander in this format. The first glance suggests a deck that leads toward an alternate kind of Voltron build, since Feather is relatively inexpensive to cast and you can make large with spells instead of artifacts.

The first card to go for is Psychotic Fury. Not only does it give double strike for the low cost of 1R, but it replaces itself as well. Shelter does the same with protection of a color of your choice instead of double strike. Keeping around Kor Chant for multiple uses is a grand idea. If there’s lots of targeted removal in your environment, you might even think about Cloudshift to protect Feather. Even if we’re not going full Voltron, Darksteel Plate might be a good idea nonetheless. Whoever The Wanderer is, it will let you play cards like Lightmine Field and Powerstone Minefield and send your bigger, badder Feather into combat safely.

Roalesk, Apex Hybrid

We don’t have to search far for a deck for Roalesk to lead. It could pretty easily replace Prime Speaker Zegana in my Zegana and a Dice Bag (although she’d certainly still have a spot in the 99) or any other Simic +1/+1 counters matter deck.

The thing you’ll have to work around with Roalesk as a commander is that its second triggered ability only works when it dies. That means you’ll have to let it go to the graveyard in order to proliferate, and then figure out a way to get it back into the command zone—like exiling it with Scrabbling Claws (which is what I do with Child of Alara in my Children of a Greater God deck). Like with Mowu, Loyal Companion (who could certainly find its way into a Roalesk deck), you’ll want to start with Forgotten Ancient and go from there. I cannot encourage you enough to play with the wonderful Bioshift, which has been the author of more surprise commander damage kills than I can count. It’s even worked moving counters from other players’ creatures (like Kresh the Bloodbraided) to either prevent them from killing me or to help them kill someone else. For one mana, the card does work.


Even with legendary creatures taking a back seat in War of the Spark to the new planeswalkers, we’ve already seen some in the set that are worth consideration for leading a new deck. Over the next few weeks, we’re only going to see more.

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