Everyone’s favorite Ranger and Hamster duo are back, and this time they’re planeswalkers! The first major preview of Commander Legends: Baldur’s Gate hit the air last week, and our opening foray was with a pair of beloved characters. First seen in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms as Minsc, Beloved Ranger who then created the Hamster Boo, the twosome have gotten an upgrade. Well, one of them has.
As half of Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes, our Hamster friend is still relegated to legendary creature status, created as an enters-the-battlefield trigger. Unlike previously, however, he keeps coming back. The biggest part is that the pair can be your commander. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Today we’ll break down the newest planeswalker to stride into the Multiverse. I’ll tell you what I like and don’t about it, and then fire off some ideas on building around them.
At four mana for a three-loyalty planeswalker, Minsc & Boo have a pretty standard rate. As I mentioned, Boo comes in as part of the card’s enters-the-battlefield trigger as a 1/1 with trample and haste, the same as on Minsc, Beloved Ranger. The difference is that at the beginning of your upkeep, he comes back again. Boo is legendary (as any eye-gouging Hamster should be), which means you’ll have to decide on whether to keep the new or old one, assuming the original is still around.
Minsc & Boo have two activated abilities. The first, a +1 ability, puts three +1/+1 counters on a creature with either trample or haste. Obviously, Boo qualifies, making him supremely battle-ready. The second, a -2 ability, lets you sacrifice a creature. When you do, Minsc & Boo deals X damage to any target, where X is that creature’s power.
You don’t need to sacrifice the Boo token (and the nice imagery of Minsc tossing the gnashing Boo at an enemy), but if you do, there’s a benefit. If the creature you sacrificed was a Hamster, you draw X cards. Nice value. There’s an important part of the -2 ability: unlike many creature sacrifice abilities, which sacrifice the creature as part of the activation cost (see Nantuko Husk or Disciple of Griselbrand), you don’t sacrifice the creature until resolution of the ability—which then sets up a trigger.
Sacrificing the creature on resolution means a few things. You’re not initially locked in on what to use, giving you some strategic advantage. Activate the ability and don’t offer up anything else, seeing if any opponents twitch and sacrifice potential targets, just to be safe. When the ability resolves, then you have a choice to make, more like the above sacrifice-related abilities. You decide what to sacrifice. The Minsc & Boo activation is now resolved, and when we get priority, the trigger then goes on the stack, along with anything else that might have triggered on sacrificing a creature. Now you have to decide on the target. This gives the opponent another window to do something, which is where you might get a little tied up.
The triggered ability has only a single target, meaning if that target goes away or becomes invalid (like by getting hexproof), the trigger will be countered. You’re out the sacrificed creature, but if the opponent sacrificed or destroyed their own creature, you’ve had the desired effect. The triggered ability getting countered is mostly relevant if you’ve sacrificed a Hamster in order to draw cards while you’re dealing out damage. If the target is illegal or gone, you won’t draw.
If you really want to draw cards, the best target is an opponent’s face, which seems fitting, as Boo goes for the eyes. It’s much more difficult for an opponent to become an illegal target, since removing them from the game in response isn’t too likely (and if it happens, passing on the card draw isn’t so painful).
While I’m a fan of the flavor of the card, there are a few things that don’t sit right with me. Do take them as minor criticisms; they’re not meant to drag the card, just to point out what doesn’t make sense or where I think design could have done better. As we’ll see afterward, I find that there’s lots of cool stuff to do with the card.
The first among my difficulties with the card is that it’s a planeswalker. I don’t mind that the occasional planeswalker gets the “can be your commander” text. That’s a non-issue here and I’m happy to welcome Minsc & Boo to the family of cards that can lead a deck. The thing is that planeswalkers are tough to design right and this one just feels wrong, especially at mythic rare.
The relative frailty of starting with only three loyalty counters means that it’s not particularly timeless. Even with Boo’s protection and adding a loyalty counter right away, it’ll be easy for opponents to put Minsc & Boo under pressure. You certainly don’t want to have to unfavorably block with your Boo token—that’s for sacrificing and drawing cards. The good news is that the plussed-up Boo will prevent chip damage attacks.
That Upkeep Trigger
The other part is the upkeep trigger to create a new Boo token. It’s fortunately optional, and even if you do create it, you can always just sacrifice the new one, not the buffed-up one. It just seems like a bit of a waste, especially if you’re just getting on the (Hamster) wheel of having blocked with the old one/creating a new one to protect the loyalty counters—which brings us to the final part that rubs me wrong.
There’s no ultimate ability. A mythic rare planeswalker that can be your commander needs to have a big punch. I’d be happier making sacrifices of endless Boos in order to get somewhere. Here, it’s just the -2 ability—which, don’t get me wrong, is really good—but there’s no great payoff at the end, which is what I want out of a planeswalker commander.
I get the argument that, from a design perspective, you want to make sure that planeswalker commanders aren’t too good, since they can keep coming back. Still, Minsc & Boo misses the mark for me on that account. And where’d the white in the color identity go? It would have made more sense if Boo was the white component of the original, so that when they became two separate entities, it’s easy to see how Minsc is the red/green part. Anyway, once again please take these criticisms as small, compared to some excellent upsides of the card, which we’ll explore right now.
Master and Commander
As I mentioned, I don’t mind that it can be a commander. It’s nice to have access to if you’re going to build around it. The problem is that you can’t then play Minsc, Beloved Ranger, which seems like a shame. The combination of the two cards’ abilities is sweet, so you’d need to run the creature version at the helm of the deck. You get the further benefit of adding white to your color identity for some extra flexibility.
While you still run into the legendary issue with both of them creating Boo tokens, that seems more like a feature than a bug. The cool interaction is to make your Boo token bigger with Minsc, Beloved Ranger’s activated ability. Remember that if you’ve already added counters from Minsc & Boo’s first activated ability, the counters apply after the base power and toughness is set, so the power and toughness would be X+3. Then, you can sacrifice the enormous Boo to Minsc & Boo’s second ability, flinging lots of damage at something or someone and drawing a pile of cards.
Since the Boo token will be large, you’ll probably want to attack with it first. That line carries a bit of danger, since you can’t activate the planeswalker ability as an instant. If you attack, Boo will be subject to spot removal. I suspect, however, that the removal would be used in response to activating the ability that makes it a Giant so that you won’t be able to hold priority after that ability has resolved and use the fling function. That means the likelihood is that you’d only run into removal that cares about attacking creatures, like Aetherize.
The Two-Color Approach
If you want to build around the planeswalker as a commander, you have a nice, tight two-color identity to work with in a very aggressive pairing. The line I’d probably take is to use some of the Shapeshifters that are in Gruul to make sure there are other things to sacrifice. Chameleon Colossus, Changeling Titan, Taurean Mauler, and Thornling start things off, but you also get one of my favorite cards, Duplicant.
Do be aware, however, that Duplicant takes on the creature type(s) of whatever it exiles. What I like about Changeling Titan is that there’s always a Boo token around to sacrifice to its champion ability; if there’s not, one will come along shortly. That’s the direction I’d take only if I wasn’t running creatures with good enters-the-battlefield triggers, since Changeling Titan would eventually get us a second iteration.
The Free Creature
What I’d most focus on with Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes as a commander is the fact that we’ll get a creature entering the battlefield each upkeep without paying anything for it. Even if we sacrifice it to the legend rule, it will trigger anything that look for creatures entering. Impact Tremors damage can pile up. Leyline of Vitality gains life. Warstorm Surge also deals damage.
Blasting Station both triggers and is something to sacrifice extraneous Boo tokens to. Path of Discovery will let you explore. Decoction Module gives you energy. We can then build to suit whatever other themes we want to delve into. Champion of Lambholt and Purphoros, God of the Forge are the two biggies here. The former starts to make your team unblockable; the latter just deals out damage.
Along the “creatures entering the battlefield trigger” lines, I’m still a little stuck on using Minsc, Beloved Ranger as the commander to get the white cards—so many white cards. Aura Shards, Authority of the Consuls, Cathar’s Crusade, Mace of the Valiant, and Suture Priest all become available. If you intend to keep the Boo token around, Sigil Captain is an outside-the-box choice, giving Boo two additional +1/+1 counters when it enters, or even just one counter with Good-Fortune Unicorn. Mentor of the Meek will give you the opportunity to draw cards.
The Fling Is the Thing
Back to using just Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes as the commander, we can focus on the Fling ability. We don’t need to go Hamster tribal to do so. While Hamsters may draw us cards, anything large will get good work done. You can halve the table’s biggest life total by sending Malignus to their face. Knowing that you’re guaranteed to have creatures enter the battlefield put Hamletback Goliath into consideration. I’d want us to focus on creatures whose power exceeds their mana value, like Blitz Hellion, Cavalier of Flame, Elder Gargaroth, Gigantosaurus, and more. Grothama, All-Devouring is an amusing sacrifice, since you can have your Boo token attack and fight it. Of course, if we’re going to Fling stuff, we’ll want Stalking Vengeance to deal out even more damage.
Kodama of the East Tree and Kodama of the West Tree slot right into our deck. With the Boo tokens, the former lets us make additional land drops. It’s a little of the same for Kodama of the West Tree, as we’d put counters on the Boo token, then battle with it. That probably leads us down the road of Forgotten Ancient, who can spread counters around and make everyone modified.
Boo might be tiny when he starts, but he can also carry a sword. Haste is important if you want something early like Sword of the Animist, which only cares about the creature attacking. Haste and trample both become relevant if that sword of Blackblade Reforged, easier to equip since Boo is legendary. On top of that, we can pile Xenagos, God of Revels. It’s unfortunate that Boo can’t kill with commander damage, because 21 in a single shot isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.
We could also shift our focus to the +1 ability and creatures other than our Boo token. They’d have to have trample or haste, which is pretty easily accomplished in the colors. Anger and Brawn in the graveyard do the trick. Fires of Yavimaya and Urabrask the Hidden make everyone eligible. Putting three +1/+1 counters on Questing Beast makes it pretty savage. Turning Quartzwood Crasher into a 9/9 means creating even larger Dinosaur Beast tokens. Deus of Calamity becomes even more likely to get through some damage and get rid of a troublesome land. You can get more damage out of activating Ashling the Pilgrim. And even if we’ve focused on the +1 ability, we still have the fling option in our back pocket.
There are plenty of places that the card can go into the 99, and not just with original Minsc. The first one that comes to mind is Kresh the Bloodbraided. If you end up with two copies of Boo, getting rid of one will trigger Kresh. The Fling option will also put counters on a dangerous commander. A super-saucy choice would be to put Minsc and Boo into a deck led by Halana and Alena, Partners. We’d have to first make sure they got haste or trample, using one of the methods I mention above. Then, putting the three counters on Halana and Alena means that they’ll put that many more counters on whatever you target at the beginning of combat. Maybe it’s even the Boo token! As with many strategies involving counters, add The Ozolith for S-tier tomfoolery.
Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes makes a fine commander or slots well into other decks. Either way you run it, the card is a most excellent first look into Commander Legends: Baldur’s Gate. Our beloved duo generates quite a bit of excitement for what else the set will bring.
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