Ixalan brought a lot of really cool goodies for Commander fans, but there’s another thing the release brought that’s not printed on any card. (Well, I guess it’s kinda printed on Jace, Cunning Castaway). I am talking about a rules change to the way planeswalkers work that has some cool implications for Commander.
Starting with Ixalan, all planeswalkers past, present, and future will have the supertype legendary. They will also be subject to the “legend rule,” and the “planeswalker uniqueness rule” is going away.
What does this mean? In short, everything that is true about legendary permanents will now be true about legendary planeswalkers. This means we can now play many planeswalkers that have the same “types” and they can all stay on the battlefield at the same time. One particular planeswalker suddenly got a lot more interesting with this rule change.
Note that this rule change does not mean legendary planeswalkers can be your Commander unless an ability says so. But luckily for us, there is a loophole we can exploit for five planeswalkers, thanks to this cycle from Magic Origins.
Prior to this rule change, it was a little awkward to play one of these and also include other planeswalkers with the same type. Now we can effectively go “tribal” with our planeswalkers and can even have one as our Commander if we choose one of the above creatures. Because of Gideon of the Trials and the emblem he makes, the best of the bunch strikes me as Kytheon, Hero of Akros. Let us get brewing!
Six Gideons in the house! That is not enough to be “tribal,” but with Kytheon so inexpensive, we can count on having a potential Gideon on the battlefield early and often. In addition, white has a few ways to search up planeswalkers and legendary permanents. The first we would nab is definitely Gideon of the Trials so we can go ahead and get that cannot-lose emblem.
It is interesting to note that Gideon has themes common across the different incarnations. Common to all is the ability to turn into a Human Soldier of varying sizes, from a 4/4 to a 6/6 to variable size depending on his loyalty. Then there is the “provoke” ability that forces an opponent or a creature to attack the planeswalker that shows up on a few. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar provides an Anthem effect with an emblem, and Gideon, Martial Paragon’s +2 ability provides a nice boost to your creatures prior to an attack or untaps them after the attack. This along with Kytheon’s triggered ability pushes me towards wanting to play token-producers and a fair number of creatures that can hit the battlefield quickly.
One thing to keep in mind: since “Commander-ness” is tied to the card, that means Commander damage can be accumulated by hits from either the Kytheon, Hero of Akros side or the Gideon, Battle-Forged side. This makes Kytheon unique in the cycle by being a threat for winning with Commander damage.
Since we only have six actual Gideon cards, to push the “tribal” theme I turned to card names and flavor text. These cards actually work pretty well in the deck too. Oath of Gideon makes each of the planeswalker a bit more resilient and even provides a few bodies to help Kytheon flip. I was surprised to see Serene Master show up, since it is a Monk from a previous Commander product, but the flavor text ties it in nicely and Serene Master makes a good defender for our planeswalkers. Celestial Flare is not exactly a high-powered removal spell, but it can sometimes be a lifesaver is someone is attacking with a large “Voltron-style” creature or something big with hexproof.
There are a few artifacts we would want to include in any planeswalker-heavy deck, like Heart of Kiran and The Chain Veil. The proliferate ability of Contagion Clasp and Contagion Engine can really crank loyalty production.
Luminarch Ascension is a subtle helper here, since it punishes players who attack my planeswalkers instead of my life total. I like Spectral Grasp and Vow of Duty because they neutralize a creature from attacking me while keeping them around to bother my other opponents.
Ajani Steadfast can help crank up loyalty on planeswalkers and had me realize there is no reason why I could not dip into more planeswalkers for the deck, so Ajani, Caller of the Pride and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion answered Gideon’s call.
I tapped Devoted Caretaker as a way to defend against the fair number of spells that can target and destroy planeswalkers directly.
Legendary Permanents Matter
With planeswalkers now being legendary, we can make use of a few cards that care about that. Thalia’s Lancers does a fair impression of Djeru, With Eyes Open. Yomiji, Who Bars the Way is expensive but strikes me as a great way to keep your planeswalkers coming back if your opponents keep destroying them. The one card that really jumped in use from this rule change is Honor-Worn Shaku. If you are not turning your planeswalker into a creature, you can use one of its abilities and then tap it to untap Honor-Worn Shaku for extra mana. We can all use extra mana, right?
Bastion Protector is not so much concerned about legendary creatures as it is your Commander, but I like that it boosts both sides of Kytheon, though it will only boost Gideon, Battle-Forged if you’ve turned it into a creature.
Some of our planeswalkers make tokens so I tapped a few other cards to boost that theme. With a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar emblem on the battlefield, a card like White Sun’s Zenith can be a very unpleasant surprise for our opponents.
One thing that is pretty cool about our army of Gideons is that we can cast Wrath of God to destroy all creatures on the battlefield and then turn our Gideons into creatures and attack on a clear battlefield.
I was tempted to include Nevinyrral’s Disk and even Magus of the Disk since they are battlefield sweepers that do not touch planeswalkers, but being mono-white provides more than enough sweepers without dipping into these.
Since we are a mono-white deck, I thought we could make use of some cards that care about Plains. I especially love the recursive power of Emeria, the Sky Ruin and Emeria Shepherd, so land fetch from Oreskos Explorer, Thaumatic Compass and Solemn Simulacrum is welcome. Valor and Quarry Colossus do good work too.
Finishing things off, we have a goodly amount of good-stuff cards. Eldrazi Displacer can do some interesting work with our Gideons; we can turn them into a creature to attack, “blink” them with Displacer, and then we can activate one of their other abilities. Sphere of Safety and especially Teferi’s Protection provide some great defense for our planeswalkers. Mikaeus, the Lunarch can provide a nice boost to our token strategy and can also put +1/+1 counters on our animated Gideon planeswalkers.
Okay, so here is the full list:
- 1 Yomiji, Who Bars the Way
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Devoted Caretaker
- 1 Valor
- 1 Scuttlemutt
- 1 Sun Titan
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 1 Gideon's Avenger
- 1 Gideon's Lawkeeper
- 1 Grand Abolisher
- 1 Mikaeus, the Lunarch
- 1 Serene Master
- 1 Quarry Colossus
- 1 Kytheon's Irregulars
- 1 Emeria Shepherd
- 1 Bastion Protector
- 1 Oreskos Explorer
- 1 Eldrazi Displacer
- 1 Hanweir Militia Captain
- 1 Thalia's Lancers
- 1 Companion of the Trials
- 1 Djeru, With Eyes Open
- 1 Gideon Jura
- 1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
- 1 Gideon, Champion of Justice
- 1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
- 1 Ajani Steadfast
- 1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
- 1 Gideon of the Trials
- 1 Gideon, Martial Paragon
- 1 Wrath of God
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Honor-Worn Shaku
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Rout
- 1 Return to Dust
- 1 Path to Exile
- 1 Luminarch Ascension
- 1 Contagion Clasp
- 1 Contagion Engine
- 1 Phyrexian Rebirth
- 1 White Sun's Zenith
- 1 Vow of Duty
- 1 Soul Snare
- 1 Sphere of Safety
- 1 Blind Obedience
- 1 Celestial Flare
- 1 Darksteel Mutation
- 1 The Chain Veil
- 1 Secure the Wastes
- 1 Call the Gatewatch
- 1 Oath of Gideon
- 1 Spectral Grasp
- 1 Heart of Kiran
- 1 Gideon's Resolve
- 1 Gideon's Intervention
- 1 Teferi's Protection
- 1 Treasure Map
- 1 Conqueror's Galleon
- 1 Thaumatic Compass
- 1 Legion's Landing
What do you think of Gideon tribal? Am I missing anything obvious? How would you go about building your Kytheon, Hero of Akros deck?
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)
Commander Starter Kits 1
(kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 2
(kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 3
(kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):
• Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)
• Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)
• Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)
• Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)
• Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)
• Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)
• Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)
• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)
• Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)
• Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)
• Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)
• Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)
• Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)
• Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)
• Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)
• Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)
• Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)
• Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)
• Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)
• Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)
• Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)
• Karona, False God (God Pack)
• Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)
• Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)
• Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)
• Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)
• Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)
• Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)
• Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)
• Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)
• Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)
• Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)
• Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)
• Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)
• Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)
• Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)