Commander Legends: Top Ten Partner Pairs

From flavorful duos to Commander powerhouses, Sheldon Menery ranks his Top 10 partner commander pairs from Commander Legends.

Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist
Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist, illustrated by Jason Rainville

Forty partner commanders.  Seemingly endless possibilities.  That’s the kind of flexibility you have with Commander Legends.  It’s a brewer’s paradise.  With so many choices, what do you do?  You roll up your sleeves and dive in.  Don’t let anyone tell you what the “optimal” choices are.  You get to pick.  You can’t do them all, so you have to narrow the field some.  Here’s what I’d do.

I’m going to pick the ten two-color pairs that resonate most with me.  While there are a number of monocolor builds possible, I’ll stick with the slightly broader selection.  I also won’t repeat a pick; I won’t just pair Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh with four other things, even if that’d be kind of easy to do.  A little restriction breeds creativity.  There will certainly be very good potential commanders left out in the cold here.  That’s just the nature of narrowing the field.

10. Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator and Breeches, Brazen Plunderer

Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator Breeches, Brazen Plunderer

This is the only super-obvious one on my list: a Pirate tribal build with plenty of unblockable creatures in order to trigger Malcolm.  Note that both don’t specify combat damage, just damage of any kind.  That means if we get into unfavorable combat situations, we can use a card like Quicksilver Dagger or Thornbite Staff (there are unfortunately no Pirate Shamans) to continue getting damage in.  Add Curiosity on top of that for some card draw. With the Treasure tokens we’re creating, we can cast the things from our opponents libraries.  The Ghost of Ramirez DePietro is certainly going to make a showing here, even if we don’t do too much with discard.

It might violate the tribe theme a little, but we’ve recently seen Goblin War Drums do some decent work in making blocking way more difficult.  Closer to the Pirate theme, Thassa, God of the Sea can provide some unblockable creatures and the bonus scry might lead us to also playing Eligeth, Crossroads Augur if we don’t mind a little more movement off the tribe.  Of course, Arcane Adaptation would solve a number of problems in that regard, allowing for a broader swath of creature types.

We won’t forget one of the most talked-about creatures in the set, which happens to be a Pirate, Hullbreacher.  The only regret is that because we’re not in black, we can’t have the Revel in Riches alternate win condition.  Maybe playing Copy Enchantment or Estrid’s Invocation could get us there, copying someone else’s.  We’ll absolutely have to play Kukemssa Pirates in order to steal some artifacts. 

9. Miara, Thorn of the Glade and Numa, Joraga Chieftain

Miara, Thorn of the Glade Numa, Joraga Chieftain

The focus here would be an Elf tribal deck that’s not just your normal Elfball.  Numa lets our Elf creatures get larger, to include herself, perhaps focusing on some commander damage.  There are many spicy new Elves in Commander Legends to add in, such as Abomination of Llanowar and Elvish Dreadlord to go along with a fair number of solid reprints, like Immaculate Magistrate and Imperious PerfectAyara, First of Locthwain fits the tribe well and helps fuel Miara’s ability. 

There are some very nasty black/green Elf creatures as well.  Deathrite Shaman gets you off and running early while helping keep opponents’ graveyards in check.  Izoni, Thousand-Eyed will create creatures to churn through our sacrifice engines.  Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord is a fine finishing move. 

Creating a sacrifice engine to go long with Miara’s ability can take the form that suits you.  I’d likely go with a mana engine such as Phyrexian Altar, and then add things that bring extra value.  Savra, Queen of the Golgari stays with the Golgari colors and provides board control when you sacrifice the tokens Izoni made.  Glissa, the Traitor provides even more to that part of the engine when adding inexpensive artifacts to sacrifice and regrow.  Again, go the direction you see fit, such as Nihil Spellbomb for graveyard control, Golden Egg for lifegain and card draw, or Alchemist’s Vial for combat shenanigans.

8. Rebbec, Architect of Ascension and Glacian, Powerstone Engineer

Rebbec, Architect of Ascension Glacian, Powerstone Engineer

Clearly an artifact deck, my build here is full of artifact creatures, starting with Arbound Ravager, Steel Overseer (which I didn’t know until right now comes in a Kaladesh Inventions version), and continuing through all their modular friends.  Curve into a decent battlefield presence, perhaps topping out at Wurmcoil Engine.  Maybe we take it a step further, into Myr Battlesphere (and other associated Myr cards) or Maelstrom Colossus, and then use Ingenuity Engine to help get back the things from the graveyard put there by Glacian’s ability.  One of the few possible colored creatures, Emeria Shepherd, could also help there. 

You’ll want your Urzatron lands – Urza’s Tower, Urza’s Power Plant, and Urza’s Mine – to fuel your artifact army, along with the other usual suspects, such as Grand Architect, Renowned Weaponsmith, and Vedalken Engineer, or the lesser-known Soldevi MachinistShimmer Myr helps out with the Battlesphere as well as the more important property of giving our artifacts flash.  Add Mystic Forge for effective card draw, letting us cast artifacts off the top of the library.  It might be a little too color-heavy, but Future Sight would let us do more of the same. 

We’ll want other methods of bringing back things from the graveyard as well.  Trading Post comes to mind as an extremely flexible card.  It might be a little pricey, but if you can come by an Argivian Archaeologist, it would do the trick.  Daring Archaeologist will return something and then start getting very large as you cast other artifacts.  Hanna, Ship’s Navigator also fits the function. 

7. Alharu, Solemn Ritualist and Sengir, the Dark Baron

Alharu, Solemn Ritualist Sengir, the Dark Baron

Perhaps the spendiest of the pairings (so likely played in a lower-power environment), this one will be all about sacrificing creatures and then doing things with the Spirits which Alharu creates.  In the meantime, Sengir will get large (and therefore deadly) relatively quickly, ticking up for all those sacrifices. 

Since we don’t want battlefield sweepers taking out our somewhat expensive commanders, creature control will have to come via targeted removal or triggers from Grave Pact or Dictate of Erebos.  The good news is that the Orzhov color pair is excellent at returning things from the graveyard to the battlefield, only to be sacrificed again.  A personal favorite is Dawn of the Dead.  You have to be a little careful with it, since you don’t want your creatures exiled, but all that’s required is a cheap sacrifice outlet.  Classics include Devouring Swarm or Attrition, but there’s a strong argument for Yawgmoth, Thran Physician for both the creature control and card draw. 

There are two other creatures with partner in Commander Legends that could go along with this theme as part of the 98:  Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel and Prava of the Steel Legion.  Nadier gets ever larger as you sacrifice your Spirit tokens, then creates more tokens if it happens to die.  Prava buffs the tokens and creates more as a convenient mana sink. 

6. Akroma,Vision of Ixidor and Anara, Wolvid Familiar

Akroma, Vision of Ixidor Anara, Wolvid Familiar

This one is all about letting Akroma do her work in making the rest of the team both large and in charge.  It’s Anara’s job to protect them.  The clear first pick here is Odric, Lunarch Marshal, in order to spread the keyword salad out as far as you possibly can.  Remember to stack the triggers with Akroma first so that Odric resolves first, granting all the abilities that Akroma doesn’t, and then letting her make everyone immense.  On just my last read of the card, I noticed that partner is one of the abilities that gives a buff, so Anara ticks up another one, as would any creatures with partner that you’ve included in the 98.  Kodama of the East tree is a spicy pick here.  If you want to go whole hog, add Kamahl, Heart of Krosa and add a few lands to the battle plan.

With all of the expensive things, you’ll want quite a bit of protection.  Anara into Odric will provide it on your turn, but failsafes like Rootborn Defenses, Heroic Intervention, or Faith’s Reward can protect the team on other players’ turns.  We can consider Darksteel Plate, Lightning Greaves, and/or Swiftfoot Boots for Akroma herself; an investment that large deserves some defense. 

From there, it’s a creature suite that suits one’s individual tastes.  I’d try some version of an Angel sub-theme, especially picking up Sigarda, Host of Herons for extra protection.  There are some relatively inexpensive ones, starting with Angel of Finality, Angel of Jubilation, Archangel of Thune, Archangel of Tithes, and going all the way to Linvala, Keeper of Silence; Shalai, Voice of Plenty; and Sublime Archangel.  There’s a great selection of decently sized bodies that also come with useful abilities in the same package.  Of course, this deck won’t be complete until we top it off with True Conviction.

5. Brinelin, the Moon Kraken and Gilanra, Caller of Wildwood

Brinelin, the Moon Kraken Gilanra, Caller of Wirewood

We all love casting huge spells, so getting extra rewards for them is like having an extra birthday.  A commander that’s a mana accelerant (although some folks would consider Turn 3 a little slow) will lead to big plays.  Unlike many Simic decks, which tend to be tight and value-driven, this one would be all about the splashy plays.  Some other mana boosters, like Selvala, Heart of the Wilds, will get us into the beef of our choice in short order.  Here’s another spot where Kodama of the East Tree would make an appearance.

One of my potential favorite plays would be to cast Lurking Predators off Gilanra.  That gives us a second way to get our huge creatures onto the battlefield.  It wouldn’t be a primary plan, but it’s a nice backup.

One of the creatures that’s not particularly huge that we’ll want to see is Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty.  Getting additional value for spending the mana to cast big stuff will mitigate some of the disadvantage of investing so much mana into a single thing.  My instinct here would be to go in the Eldrazi direction since they’re the biggest and scariest of all monsters.  There isn’t enough support for Giant tribal, although I don’t need too many reasons to play Thryx, the Sudden Storm or Frost Titan.

4. Dargo, the Shipwrecker and Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor

Dargo, the Shipwrecker Keskit, the Flesh Sculptor

Truly leaning into my love of sacrificing things, the Dargo and Keskit pair might be the closest I come to building some sort of combo deck.  It would be all about creating Treasures and creatures to sacrifice.  Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder is an excellent choice, since the sacrifice keeps him around.  Sacrificing three creatures to activate Keskit means being able to cast Dargo for just a single red mana.

I’d also borrow a few ideas from my Thraximundar deck and grab some creatures with evoke, such as Shriekmaw and Ingot Chewer.  We’ll get lots of mileage from Smothering Abomination as well.  It’s a card I find underplayed for no good reason and always creates lots of value when I play it. 

Add a Phyrexian Altar to this pile and we get close to casting Dargo infinitely on a turn, since each time we sacrifice him to an effect, he’s going to pay his own commander tax.  Blood Artist or Zulaport Cutthroat will provide the life drain in order to kill the table.  Don’t even get me started on how crazy a start you might get in this deck with a Jeweled Lotus.  This seems like a deck I’d put together, get some early kills with, and then take apart.  Your mileage may vary.

3. Sakashima of a Thousand Faces and Falthis, Shadowcat Familiar

Sakashima of a Thousand Faces Falthis, Shadowcat Familiar

Clone tribal is fun and flexible, relatively inexpensive to build, and compelling to play.  It’s also been done a bunch of times, so I’d want to find some variation on the theme.  We’re probably still somewhat compelled to at least play all the other Sakashima cards just for solidarity.  After that, it would be about making our commander Sakashima more dangerous to take advantage of Falthis.   

Dimir doesn’t give us big explosions of mana without a great deal of work, so we’ll look for the creatures with value.  The first one that comes to mind is Consuming Aberration, a potentially huge monster for only five mana.  Deadly on its own, when it’s in commander form, it’s a one-shot kill when it can’t be blocked.  People can get caught out when you drop menace on them, so holding Falthis back until the right moment can be a solid play. 

From there, we find a few other high-power, lower-mana-cost creatures for Sakashima to copy.  Lochmere Serpent’s power is higher than its CMC and it has a few other useful abilities.  Clackbridge Troll eventually creates awkward combat steps for the players you haven’t given Goats to; same goes for Hunted HorrorDeep-Sea Kraken was a star early in the format’s development that many have been eclipsed by other creatures but still has plenty of value.  The good is that the number of creatures you have to choose from is limited only by your imagination.

2. Alena, Kessig Trapper and Halana, Kessig Ranger

Alena, Kessig Trapper Halana, Kessig Ranger

While there are some infinite mana combos to be had with Alena involving cards like Umbral Mantle and Staff of Domination, I’m going full Vorthos on this one and telling this story of our Kessig couple.  Since most of the story is undefined, we’ll have to create it ourselves.  What I know is that they end up making an allegiance with Werewolves to fight the influence of Emrakul in their portion of Innistrad.  It’s enough to go on.  We’ll use their combined abilities to help tell that tale.

Alena appears in the flavor text of eight different cards:  Briarpack Alpha, Emrakul’s Evangel, Flowring Lumberknot, Grounded, Hunger of the Howlpack, Loam Dryad, Shrill Howler, and Thornhide Wolves.  Halana shows up in five more:  Grim Flowering, Moldgraf Scavenger, Tangleclaw Werewolf, Thornhide Wolves, and Vorstclaw. There are a few things to pick from there. 

Clearly, Kessig Cagebreakers and Kessig Wolf Run go into the deck for both flavor reasons and playability.  Kessig Prowler might also get us there as we get help from our allies Arlinn Kord and Arlinn, Voice of the Pack.  That gives us the line to go down the whole Wolf/Werewolf subtheme. 

We’ve often said that Commander is the Magic version of a D&D game.  We can have loads of fun heading in this direction, and Commander is the only format in which it can really happen.

1. Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist and Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh

Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh

These two great tastes taste great together.  Any Rograkh deck will like equipment to make our little guy not so little.  From there, Ardenn lets us get around some of those awkward equip costs.  After that, the sky’s the limit on which ones you want to use.

My build here would get help from our Leonin and Cat friends.  Leonin Abunas will make our Equipment harder to deal with.  Leonin Shikari lets us equip, should we need to, as an instant.  Taj-Nar Swordsmith stays in tribe for searching up things if we don’t want to go outside for Stoneforge Mystic or Godo, Bandit WarlordKemba, Kha Regent and Raksha Golden Cub can offer an alternative to equipping Rograkh should we need. 

My tendency would be to lean on the Swords – Sword of Fire and Ice, Sword of Light and Shadow, etc. – due to their high value compared to mana and equip costs, but that feels like ground well-trodden.  Argentum Armor would get some love since it makes Rograkh deadly in short order.  Since we can get around equip costs, Colossus Hammer also seems like a direction to go.  Speaking of +10/+10, there’s no reason to avoid Eldrazi Conscription

For me, the deadliest commander ability is double strike.  Fireshrieker is an inexpensive option.  Embercleave is a little spendier, yet has other appropriate upsides.  I will be endlessly amused by killing people with a zero-mana-cost creature.

We’ll be brewing with legendary creatures from Commander Legends for quite some time.  Starting with these partner pairs is the tip of an immense iceberg.  I look forward to seeing all the combinations that deckbuilders delve into over the next several months.  I predict quite a bit of sauce. 

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