This weekend we finally get to buy New Phyrexia booster packs and singles, and I for one am really looking forward to it! I can’t wait to start
trying out all of my new ideas with actual cards. I’ve got Friday night off from work and I’m planning to head up to Richmond Comix as
early as possible for some drafting, Commander, and a look at the singles that they have on sale. My five booster packs that I opened at the Prerelease
yielded a Myr Superion and two Hex Parasites, not too shabby. My friend Josh struck gold this in his prerelease loot, opening a Battleskull and two
Phyrexian Obliterators – a fine start to our New Phyrexia card pool.
Today I’d like to discuss which New Phyrexia cards I believe will have an impact on Commander. Of course, the beauty of Commander is that any new card can make its presence felt in the right deck and environment, especially powered-down formats like Pauper Commander or Standard
Commander. Below I’m going to go over the cards that I think most Commander fans are going to want to have on hand to put into at least one of
Thanks to the cycle of Mythic Praetors, New Phyrexia has a whopping seven new possible Commanders to build decks around! Let’s take a
look at the new crop of deck bosses:
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite: I think Elesh Norn is one of the best of the new class—reasonable casting cost, a decent-sized body and three abilities that kick major ass at
a Commander table. Vigilance is awesome for any large creature to have in multiplayer, and the team boost and opposing creature-shrink has immediate
board impact, even if it doesn’t necessarily crush your opponents out of the game the turn it comes into play. Even if you don’t use her as
your Commander, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is s a solid addition to any White/x Commander deck.
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur: 10 mana is a ridiculous amount to spend on a card. But we’re in the age of Magic now where when you pay ridiculous amounts of mana, you should
get ridiculous effect. It’s not hard to build your deck in such a way that you can ramp up to 10 mana fairly consistently, and few things pay off
as much as this card will. Of course, if you play this card as your Commander, I suspect you’ll be painting a rather large target on your head,
with players justifiably going after either your life total post-haste, or your mana ramp with surgical precision to keep you off 10 mana. Jin-G will
probably be more effective as a card within your 99, something to surprise opponents with during someone’s end step at instant speed. Of course,
sticking it in your deck opens up the Bribery can of worms, but when you put potent cards like this in your deck you’ve got to accept the risks.
Sheoldred, Whispering One: I rank this one right behind Elesh Norn, but it falls down a notch on my scale simply because of its “griefer”-ness. Imagine someone
clears the board with an Oblivion Stone, and the next player drops Sheoldred. If you happen to play a deck without a lot of token-making or chafe
creatures to sacrifice to the Whispering One, this could effectively lock you out of the game until you draw an answer. However, it’s not as
oppressive as Grave Pact with a sac outlet so I still view it as a great card for Commander, with an impressive size and a very nice evasion ability,
two invaluable qualities for a Commander to have.
Urabrask the Hidden: This is definitely one of the spicier choices for a mono-red Commander deck! A nice mana cost, decent-sized body, and two abilities that really tilt
the Battlefield in your favor make this a home-run inclusion as either a Commander or as a high-quality creature for your Red/x deck.
Melira, Sylvok Outcast: At the Richmond Comix Commander League, they recently added house rules changing the poison kill from 10 to 15. I argued against this, but I was in
the minority opinion. In my experience, while it’s pretty easy to kill one player with poison, it is extremely tough to kill multiple opponents
with poison. With normal damage, you can take hits from multiple opponents so that you can either gang up to kill a mutual enemy or maneuver game play
and “steal” kills by sneaking in the last bit of damage. When you’re on the poison plan, you can’t participate in either angle,
and you typically have the rest of the table too nervous about dying out of nowhere to form temporary alliances. Melira adds another layer of
difficulty there, and is a card that can be (and should be) added to any Green/x Commander deck. She also has the nice bonus effect of making your
Persist creatures virtually immortal, and cards like Black Sun’s Zenith one-sided. Melira will probably mostly be used as one of the 99, but I
could see some interesting monogreen builds with her as Commander. Pro tip: you’re probably going to want at least one Eldrazi titan or
Gaea’s Blessing in your decks post-New Phyrexia.
Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger: While he’s not quite the beating that Jin-G is, Vorinclex does provide a pretty potent resource advantage that’s only blunted slightly by
the ubiquitous presence of the broken Seedborn Muse in opponents’ decks. Let’s not even dwell too long on the silliness of having Vorinclex and Seedborn Muse in play on the same side. What’s interesting is the similar space he occupies with Patron of the Orochi, who also
costs eight mana; Vorinclex is 7/6 with trample, while the Patron is a 7/7, no trample, but with the funky Snake offering ability that can allow you to
play him at instant speed. Patron can double your Forests and give all your green creatures psuedo-vigilance or double-tapping during your own turn,
but then can be a pseudo Seedborn Muse by untapping during each of your opponents’ turns. As a Commander I’m thinking the Patron has the
edge, though Vorinclex probably has the leg up when you are choosing which one to put into a multicolor Green/x Commander deck.
Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer: Unless your table is stuffed to the gills with Nevinyrral’s Disks and Oblivion Stones, getting Metalcraft consistently won’t be that
difficult to achieve, in which case this Warrior is an 8/4 first striker! Personally, when I get a copy of Jor Kadeen he’s going to boot Brion
Stoutarm from my Myr deck—what a great lord for a tribal artifact deck. Those cute little Myrs can already get pretty fierce, with Jor Kadeen
leading ‘em, look out!
Shiny And Brand New
The most exciting parts of any new set are cards that let you do something that you’ve never been able to do before, or at least haven’t
been able to do well. This section is dedicated to the new Commander toys New Phyrexia brings to the table.
Karn, Liberated: There’s no doubt that Karn’s going to make a big splash in Commander as a colorless Planeswalker with some pretty potent abilities. The
only thing holding him back is the initial price tag, but once that comes down and more packs get opened…
Blade Splicer, Marrow Splicer, Sensor Splicer, Wing Splicer, Maul Splicer, Vital Splicer: Tribal alert! While the return to Mirrodin made it feasible to build a Myr-themed Commander deck, New Phyrexia has opened up new possibilities for
another artifact tribe, the Golems. There are actually a pretty large number of Golems in Magic’s history (especially after the Oracle changes
that went back and added types to artifact creatures), but now we’ve got six Golem lords to add to the mix. Of course, the Golem tribe
isn’t particularly impressive—there are a lot of vanilla robots in the mix—but it could be a fun low-powered tribal deck, or some
serious style points if you win in a higher-powered game.
Chancellor of the Annex, Chancellor of the Spires, Chancellor of the Dross, Chancellor of the Forge, Chancellor of the Tangle: the Leyline Chancellors are much less interesting in a singleton 100 card format, since the odds of starting the game with one in hand is pretty
remote. The black one is obviously pretty awesome to start the game with if you have a lot of opponents, and his body is just a good quality fat
creature. The blue can be incredible late game. All of the Chancellors are decent enough creatures, though the green one seems pretty mediocre compared
to other green options.
Psychic Surgery: Probably one of the most annoying cards in the set, and you can bet your opponents will not be happy with you when you have it on your side of the
board, but if everyone seems to lean really heavily on tutors and fetchlands it would not be unreasonable to bring this in as behavior modification.
Phyrexian Obliterator: Pretty much an auto-include for any monoblack Commander deck, he’s probably best as a formidable rattlesnake on defense (especially if you also
have a Power Matrix around to send him to the air). A pretty excellent Sword-bearer as well since people aren’t going to want to block him
– and even if they do he tramples, an ability black doesn’t get very often.
Praetor’s Grasp: I just love this card. At its worst it’s a cheap Jester’s Cap for one card, but at it’s best it’s gonna get you something
sweet to cast later on. On top of all that you get the joy of knowing what you nipped while your opponent can only wonder.
Invader Parasite: While he’s fragile, if your opponents tend to play a lot of basic lands he can be a real pain—literally—to deal with if you exile
the right land. Pair it up with New Frontiers to offer someone a really tough choice. Of course, he works great as optimal pinpoint land destruction to
permanently get rid of Maze of Ith, Gaea’s Cradle, Academy Ruins even if he’s got a Crucible of Worlds in play, and you can also go nuts
with that wild and crazy guy Kiki Jiki, Mirror-Breaker.
Beast Within: I will not lie—I’m still waking each morning pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming about this card. I’d have never
guessed green would ever see a reprint of Desert Twister, much less something orders of magnitude better! While I haven’t done it as much lately,
for years I complained that green always got the short end of the stick in terms of clever cards that let you interact with opponents during any step
of the game. Beast Within is everything I could have asked for and more. So, a special thank-you shout-out to Wizards for printing this freaking
awesome card! In Commander, this beauty is going to be the ultimate utility card for any Green/x deck. The only downside to Beast Within is it makes me
a bit wistful for the way these sorts of cards worked a couple years back, when you could “own” a token that was not under your control
(ah, Brand, you were so much fun…).
Hex Parasite: What’s up with all the parasites? I thought New Phyrexia was supposed to be perfection? Anyway, this little guy is going to be quite useful to
have in any Commander deck, though sadly because of deck constraints he won’t be able to be thrown into any deck like he can be in Constructed
tournament formats. Whether he’s munching on Planeswalkers, Spikes, -1/-1 counters on your persist creatures or nibbling through this ice of Dark
Depths, you’ll be able to get plenty of mileage from the little fellow.
Immolating Souleater: When you start the game with 40 life, there are some very interesting things you can do with this fellow in Commander. I’m thinking of cards
like Grafted Exoskeleton, Greater Good, and Eternity Vessel for starters.
Omen Machine: I am the master of accidentally creating mono-permanent decks across multiple formats, and so when I run across one for Commander I think this is
going to be an auto include. Opponents playing counterspells or situationally useful cards are going to hate me for it.
Spellskite: Michael Flores aside, people are starting to catch on to how awesome this card is, and since you read my column you were a week ahead of the curve
(*bows*). As much as I like this in Standard, I think it’s also going to be pretty sweet in Commander. Flagbearers were always cool creatures
back in the day, except when you wished you could turn off its ability, and with Spellskite you’ve got that option. Plus, he’s
much more durable. This guy gives you cover to pay equip costs without getting blown out, he can attack with a fat creature to turn off your
opponent’s Maze of Ith, make Uril the Miststalker decks incredibly sad… I only wish I could play this in any Commander decks and
not just ones with blue.
Redundancies And New Staples
There are many quality, workhorse cards that will be welcome in multiple Commander decks in New Phyrexia, most are pretty obvious so for most
I’ll just have a couple words about.
Auriok Survivors, Puresteel Paladin, Bludgeon Brawl: These cards will play nice in equipment-themed decks, and I’m especially looking forward to living the dream of casting Vulshok Battlemaster
with a Bludgeon Brawl in play and smashing people with their own Sol Rings, Sensei’s Divining Tops, and Mind Stones.
Dispatch: Good ol’ white pinpoint removal.
Exclusion Ritual: Think of it as a Duplicant with a downside and several upsides.
Phyrexian Unlife: Combo-lovers will be breaking this off, beware if you see it hit the board.
Shattered Angel: Isn’t this terrible? Maybe… or maybe it’s good because it’s terrible! I don’t know, it seems to me in large
multiplayer games this could net you quite a bit of life, especially if you accelerate it into play. Certainly fits nicely into an Angel-themed deck.
Suture Priest: Perfect in your token-madness deck to also combat other token-madness decks. Particularly brutal with a late-game Twilight’s Call.
Deceiver Exarch: Standard isn’t going to be the only place people are going to combo this with Splinter Twin, and in Commander you’ve got Kiki Jiki and
Pestermite to toss in the mix.
Phyrexian Ingester: Another Duplicant-esque card.
Phyrexian Metamorph: Copying creatures in Commander is Bennie Approved, and this is one of the best Clone variants ever.
Viral Drake: A reusable proliferate effect can be incredibly useful in most decks with a minimal effort to take advantage of it.
Xenograft: Another Conspiracy is a welcome addition to the shenanigans toolbox.
Entomber Exarch: I love me a gravedigger, and this is one of the best ever made.
Life’s Finale: This is certainly a high-quality creature-sweeper, and will be especially fun in a Geth, Lord of the Vault deck.
Birthing Pod: As much fun as this will be in Standard, multiply it by several orders of magnitude in the Commander card pool.
Brutalizer Exarch: While green can produce some amazing creatures at six, this guy’s flexible utility plucks at my mid-range heartstrings.
Fresh Meat: I can certainly see shenanigans here; just to get the juices flowing, may I suggest Saffi Eriksdotter and Crypt Champion?
Triumph of the Hordes: Out of nowhere, BAM—you lose! If you’re playing green and you’re playing creatures of any size, this is an auto include.
Batterskull: Why yes, this is going to be as awesome in Commander – if not awesomer – than it will be in Standard. Vigilance and lifelink are two
awesome abilities to have in multiplayer. I’m especially looking forward to equipping this to a Thrashing Wumpus.
Etched Monstrosity: 5 drop 10/10 with echo five, you can pay the echo at any time, before you pay echo he’s -5/-5, after you pay the echo you draw 3 cards. Seems
like an auto-include in any five-color Commander deck.
Lashwrithe: Scary auto-include in any monoblack deck, especially on that trampling Phyrexian Obliterator—ouch!
Mycosynth Wellspring: While nowhere near as good as Journeyer’s Kite, it’s certainly another decent way to keep land drops flowing in non-green decks, though
you’ll want to have some ways to sacrifice it yourself for maximum profit (Claws of Gix, Phyrexia’s Core).
Pristine Talisman: Auto-include for any monocolor deck, especially welcome in red.
Sword of War and Peace: Swords are obviously awesome, and in Commander you can do really nasty things like casting Sunder before attacking…
Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to open at least a box of this set, there is so much good stuff! Which New Phyrexia cards are you
most looking forward to adding to your Commander decks?
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me
feedback, ideas, and random thoughts on Magic and life.
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 Primer Part 1
(Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2(Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3
(Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
My current Commander decks
(and links to decklists):
- Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)
- Glissa, the Traitor undying artifacts!)
- Brion Stoutarm (Mo’ Myrs)
- Uril, the Miststalker my “more competitive” deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Konda, Lord of Eiganjo The Indestructibles)
- Vorosh, the Hunter proliferaTION)
Fist of Suns and Bringers
- Savra, Queen of the Golgari Demons)