Building With My Commander Legends Previews

Sheldon Menery builds a new Commander deck around his Commander Legends previews, including Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator.

Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator, illustrated by Eric Deschamps
Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator, illustrated by Eric Deschamps

Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor

We’re wrapping Week 1 of Commander Legends preview season, the beginning of the exploration what’s likely to be one of the most impactful sets in the history of the format.  Our friends at Wizards of the Coast (WotC) were kind enough to offer me a host of free previews:  one set alongside my compatriots on the Commander Rules Committee (RC) and one as a content creator myself.  It just so happened that both sets fit together thematically and were all blue, so the only reasonable thing seems to be to build a deck with them (understanding that there might come in the ensuing weeks a few cards that will want to jump into the deck).  First, though we need to talk about the video.

If you haven’t seen it, Commander Community co-host Anthony Alongi put together a get-well piece for me that was featured on the WotC front page, containing some of the biggest names in Commander.  I’m undergoing a course of chemotherapy, and as you can imagine, it’s been beating me up a little.  Getting this video on a day I wasn’t feeling particularly well was a huge boost.  Then, a few days after that, my scan results showed that all the tumors have shrunk by 15-20%.  I attribute it to all the positive energy enhancing the science.  Anyway, it was quite moving, and I know one of the ways I’m going to get through this nonsense is the support of an amazing community.  Now let’s look at the fun stuff.

The RC Set

Siani, Eye of the Storm

The first of our legendary creatures, Siani, Eye of the Storm is pretty straightforward.  You’ll have to attack with it, but when you do, you’ll get to scry X, with X being the number of attacking creatures with flying.  Even if you’re not building with Siani as one of your partners, the blue deck suggests that the deck with have a fair number of flyers.  To be honest, just scrying for one whenever you attack is good enough.  The downside will be that at a certain point Siani is likely to be outclassed in the air (being a 3/2), so you’ll need a plan to either make it unblockable or motivate people to pass on blocking in some other fashion.

Siani is a Djinn Monk, so slotting it into either kind of tribal build is good, whether that’s led by Elsha of the Infinite in Jeskai colors or Inniaz, the Gale Force or Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp in Azorius, or Zahid in mono-blue from the Djinn side.  For Monks, you have Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker; Narset, Enlightened Master; Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest; Taigam, Ojutai Master; and everyone’s favorite, Zedruu the Greathearted

Siani can also lead a deck, either alone or as a partner.  Solo isn’t particularly interesting, but there’s probably lots of mileage with any number of partners which we haven’t yet seen.  I’d want to branch off into an additional color; perhaps Siani might finally be the piece that fits the Izzet puzzle I’ve yet to solve.

Siren Stormtamer

The inexorable call of the Siren is clearly going to be a Commander Legends theme.  Siren Stormtamer, a reprint from Ixalan, fits right in.  Counterspells that other people don’t see coming are fine, but it’s not like people don’t know they exist.  Siren Stormtamer is more of a rattlesnake.  I’d prefer that it could protect a permanent as opposed to just a creature, but that might be asking a little much for an activation cost of just one mana.  Still, we’ve come a long way from Flying Men.

Sphinx of the Second Sun

Okay, what?  Basically cast a 6/6 flyer for six for free (or better!).  This is such a Commander card.  It costs eight mana, it can lead to ridiculous things, and it’s not going to break the game.  Slotting it into Sphinx tribal is fine; just jamming it into your Timmiest deck with blue is even better.  Drawing the card (again, at no cost) is almost lost in everything else.  Especially in blue, in which you’re likely playing lots of interaction, the extra untap is everything.  You know what appreciates that untap?  Lorthos, the Tidemaker.  Really, if you love this format, you love this card.

Warden of Evos Isle

A nice reprint from Magic 2014 and Core Set 2020, Warden of Evos Isle is mana acceleration in a color that doesn’t ramp up particularly well.  If this is a move toward (re)printing things that are good in more narrow applications, I’m all for it.

The Content Creator Set

Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator

Our second legendary creature, Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator, looks like it wants to be tribal, but it doesn’t actually have to be.  Since the trigger is “one or more,” you want to spread it around for each opponent, but you’re not getting bigger advantage from swarms. 

The biggest note on Malcolm is that it doesn’t need to be combat damage.  You can make your Pirates into pingers with cards like Thornbite Staff and still get the Treasures.  In fact, it wouldn’t be all that difficult (adding black, obviously) to put together a deck that just hangs back, makes Treasures, and wins with Revel in Riches

Merchant Raiders

With Merchant Raiders, you’ll want to go full Pirate ham, whether that’s building something new or slotting it into your existing Admiral Beckett Brass deck.  Combat-wise, Pirates can get outclassed in short order, so tapping down creatures for long periods of time is a great way to get through that damage that you want.  Maybe it’s so that you can get your Treasures with Malcolm, or maybe it’s so that you can steal stuff with the Admiral.  It might be a neat trick to keep Cloning Merchant Raiders or even kick a Rite of Replication on it.  If you want to get really techy and have some blue creature destruction, add Siren’s Call

Kitesail Skirmisher

While Kitesail Skirmisher’s triggered ability is okay, the look into the encore mechanic is better.  There is a great deal of design space with the mechanic.  Getting three 3/1 flyers for five mana is decent, plus the ability to give three more creatures flying if you have them, but I suspect there’ll be something with encore that lights your hair on fire.  Anything that triggers when creatures enter the battlefield will like the mechanic.  It seems like more of a Limited thing, but there will be Commander applications. 

Kitesail Skirmisher also works with Sinai, Eye of the Storm.  They both trigger on attacking.  You put Sinai on the stack first and then Kitesail Skirmisher.  The latter resolves first; when the former does, it sees the additional attacking flyer. 

Kitesail Corsair

The reprint of this group, Kitesail Corsair is a Pirate that flies (at least to attack), so there are plenty of applications with the other cards we’ve previewed.  It’s an inexpensive addition to putting you on-curve in your tribal deck. 

Building a Deck with Them

Clearly Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator is one of the commanders.  Partnering with Breeches, Brazen Plunderer is the obvious choice, so it’s the one I’ll avoid.  Malcolm made me want to focus on Treasure tokens right out of the gate, which suggested the alternate win condition of Revel in Riches.  That meant I had to go into black.  Of the early cards we saw, the one that made the most sense was Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor.

Keskit interacts well with creating Treasures to fuel a card draw engine.  While in most cases we’ll want to keep them around as long as possible in order to win with Revel in Riches, there will be situations in which we need more significant answers, so drawing cards is the right answer.  We’ll put in a few artifacts worth sacrificing, like Spine of Ish Sah, Ichor Wellspring, and Mycosynth Wellspring

The first theme to work into the deck is unblockable Pirates.  That way, we’ll generate more Treasures.  Sun Quan, Lord of Wu; Archetype of Imagination (which makes Siani much better); and Thassa, God of the Sea fit in there, as does the inherently flexible Cryptic Command.  After that, it’s just a matter of going down the list of Pirates that we want to play with. 

The second theme is silly things to do with Sphinx of the Second Sun.  We don’t really need to devote too much to it because it’s good on its own.  We’ll get to untap our lands and attackers, although I suspect that blocking isn’t going to happen much.  The obvious one we want is to cast Revel in Riches pre-combat and win post-.  A few other “beginning of upkeep” triggers, like with Phyrexian Arena; Twilight Prophet; Herald’s Horn; and Sheoldred, Whispering One, seem right. 

There’s also the techy Cryptoplasm, which we can make one thing before combat and a different one after.  We already had Thassa in there, and the extra scry won’t hurt.  I like to live dangerously and the mana costs in the deck are pretty low, so I’m rocking Dark Confidant, too. 

Theme three is to play with some cards that folks might not have heard of.  Two of those are Confound and Keep WatchConfound is criminally underplayed in a format that loves Swords to Plowshares and Path to ExileKeep Watch is one of those Hidden Gems that I keep harping on and folks keep sleeping on.  I’ve drawn piles of cards with it in the past and am rarely sad to have it in my hand.  I suspect Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder is more of a known quantity these days and might not count as a Hidden Gem, but it will keep creating stuff to sacrifice to Keskit.  Darkness is another one.  No one expects the black Fog.  The last one is Bone Dancer.  With all the unblockability here, it seems like a techy choice to grab some creatures from other players’ graveyards. 

Although it’s not a theme, we’ll want to play some of the other new, cool cards from Commander Legends.  I like big, splashy things, so Mnemonic Deluge is the first on the list.  Another is Opposition Agent, one of the most talked-about cards in recent memory.  The card can dominate games if you build around it.  When just taken of its own devices, it’s strong and surprisingly healthy for the format.  If there’s a thing that happens over-frequently, like tutoring, then Opposition Agent is good and reasonable defense.  Costing just 2B is pushing the card a bit; I’d be more certain of the good it will do if it cost four instead.  It would be easy to fall into the trap of also trying to put some of the new monarch cards into the deck, but that’s a path to madness.  We’ll save that for another build. 

All that puts us in a space to make a deck.  Here’s a list:

The major part of the deck here will be to control some of the pace of the early-game, curving into and through a few of those Pirates while maybe building that stack of Treasures.  They’ll either enable that Revel in Riches win or fuel some of the bigger things.  Coupling the Thrull tokens made by either Tevesh Szat or Endrek Sahr with Eldrazi Monument will ensure some level of evasion, sabotaging life totals and creating more Treasures. 

This was only the first week of previews (and not even the full week; I included only cards previewed in the first three days).  There will likely be other cards we’ll find from Commander Legends that will slot into the deck, so it’s mostly a starting point.  There might even be one or two that’ll make us rethink how to do the build, which is, after all, a big part of the fun.  Here’s to Week 2 being just as exciting. 

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