Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate Set Review - Gold: Shards and Ally Colors
Alliances and Shards
Hello, and welcome to Part 1 of the Gold review for Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate. We've split this review season with the Commander's Herald website, so you can check out other reviews over there, including Part 2 of the Gold review!
Just like the previous Commander Legends, we've had an enormous wealth of multicolor legends enter the fray. An entire cycle at uncommon and rare? All of the tricolored combinations? We're once again receiving an enormous number of legends. Will these make the cut? Will they power-creep the previous set? Or are we going to hit the target in the center? Take the plunge into the world of Baldur's Gate, and let's take a look!
Like all the planeswalkers in Battle for Baldur's Gate,currently sits in the top 5 most-built decks from the set, and it's not hard to see why: he provides one of the strongest passive abilities we've ever seen on a planeswalker for this format. Ticking up to seven immediately means our opponents need to send considerable effort to remove Elminster before we can uptap. On the chance that won't be enough, Elminster can likely use available scrying tools to set up a wave of blockers with his -3 ability.
Let's return to his passive ability. For every card we scry, the next instant and sorcery costs X less, where X is the number of cards looked at. That's an insane amount of value, as there is neither a limit to the number of times it can trigger, nor a restriction that this only be during our turn.can generously help push multiple powerful spells across a turn cycle, and that should be frightening. effectively transforms one blue mana into two colorless mana, and there are plenty of other cantrips that will mimic that trade. provides a consistent scry 1 on each of our turns, becoming an indestructible mana rock with upside. is three mana to cast the first time, but then just one mana to cast several more times! From to , we can slam huge spells, like and , for super cheap!
I would also argue that you should includein the deck too, even if it has anti-synergy. Who cares if we lose the scrying bonus when we're consistently drowning our opponents in card advantage? Elminster is going to be a terror among the realms, but I'm excited to have a novel entry into the oft-maligned pool of blue and white legends.
At a glance,may seem a tad fair, but don't let that fool you. This commander is a powerhouse. Jake FitzSimons from Commander's Herald has been singing this pair's praises for cEDH since their initial reveal months ago. If you want some details, reach out to him on Twitter! He'll be able to give you a more accurate depiction of how this commander fairs from that perspective. All I'm aware of is horror stories of a 20/20 gargantuan Hamster bowling over opponents.
From a more casual perspective, the power might require a few leaps of faith. Creating Boo on upkeep and entering the battlefield means our intrepid hero is never too far from his fuzzy friend. From there, we alternate between pumping Boo (or another creature) with three counters or using Minsc's -2 ability. Once we start stacking on other force-multipliers, it gets out of hand.has Boo swinging for seven, and then there are plenty of other boosts, like or . Once the round returns to us, we continue stacking these buffs until Boo is enormous, and then we sacrifice them to deal an enormous amount of damage and draw an equal number of cards. Over the course of two turns, Minsc & Boo together might deal upwards of 20-30 damage.
is now the second planeswalker-as-a-commander to fulfill one of my longest-held wishes for a deck. The first was Jund lands, with , and now we have Dimir theft. I know I'll be focusing on her static ability when I build her. Ripping away cards from opponents has been one of my favorite mechanics ever since entered the fray. Since then, we've seen an influx of cards, like , , and many others, but we've never had a payoff in the command zone... until now!
Beyond her enchantment-esque static ability, she also comes with a pair of linked loyalty abilities. The moment an impactful spell gets exiled, our opponents will likely take notice. Any subsequent turn, Tasha will be able to cast the most explosive spell from her collection for free. We'll want to protect Tasha from attackers, as dabbling in these dark matters will surely pose a threat.and are just a few options we may want to consider.
Among all of the cards released in recent years for this archetype, the one I'm probably most excited for is. Not only was it in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, but it also feels like an item that Tasha would have at her disposal.
brings a level of bluffing akin to . Do I call the pilot's bluff and let them cheat a creature into play? Or do I give them a card? Bane feels like a lost relative to the Obscura crime family as you try to obfuscate your hand. That said, more often than not the correct play will be to "let" the Bane player draw a card. This dampens my excitement, as it strips away a bit of what makes this ability unique. To put it another way, cards like and already exist with the same payoff.
While drawing cards is powerful, we know from the likes ofthat low power or toughness does not correlate with a card's power level. Let's say the Bane player plays a and immediately sacrifices it. What could they put into play? The answer is... quite a bit! Staples like or are easy enough to point out, but the part that you might not consider is how these effect can chain together as these creatures are expendable. That's before we even consider typical anthems effects, like or !
Just like Bane (and Myrkul), Bhaal becomes indestructible when our own death is close at hand. With a well-built deck, I actually think that might be harder than it sounds. If we play our cards right, we should be directing attacks at other players, leaving our own life total untouched. Making Bhaal indestructible could point us towards black's penchant for using life to pay for any and everything.
All of the Dead Three care about the death of our creatures, but Bhaal wants to consistently return them from death., , and plenty of other recursive creatures will need to fill the ranks of the dead. Persist creatures will shine, and is especially keen in this deck. Instant-speed reanimation is worth looking into as well. , for example, could bring back a bunch of creatures, and if we have a sacrifice outlet, we get to Goad creatures right as an opponent wants to attack, or use it during opponent X's combat phase to set up a mass Goad on opponent Y's turn!
I feel a little underwhelmed by Bhaal compared to the other Dead Three, but I know better than to underestimate an aristocrats deck. I'm sure that a Goad-centric commander built on top of that engine will surprise me.
Gluntch wants to give gifts. Gluntch is your friend.
Gluntch is the newest inclusion for the polarizing Group Hug archetype. While many strategies would benefit from a cheap commander, starting the Group Hug engine on turn two or three is a major boon. Choosing a player without creatures shouldn't be difficult early on in the game, and even if you hand out two +1/+1 counters, it'll likely bounce off Gluntch's 0/5 body. Giving a card away early is less troublesome without the resources to use it. If I were piloting Gluntch, I would always aim to give myself two Treasures. In that scenario, a turn-two Gluntch with a mana dork means we're likely powering out a six-mana card on our third turn. However, you could be cheeky and runand feel very happy giving Treasures away!
While Gluntch gives plenty of options to smooth out your game, I imagine most decks will lean towards becoming a pillowfort deck to make sure they don't die from the gifts they bestow. While that's a tried and true strategy, I'm excited to see how Gluntch players surprise me.
If only Gorion also carried the luck of a, then maybe he'd still be with us....
Eulogies aside, Gorion finally gives us an Adventure commander! Whileoriginally filled that role in spirit, he didn't incentivize them over "just good" cards. Unlike his predecessor, focuses you into the archetype from the start. That has its pitfalls: there are only about 40 total Adventures to pull from, but Gorion can make the most of them by copying them! With support like , , and , we already have a few tools to fire up the engine.
I don't often think about the cards as a whole, but Adventures are an instant and sorcery subtype. Spell-slinging staples, likeand other Magecraft effects, will help build our foundation. From there, it's likely up to player choice on how to close games out. Many of the original wave were stapled to french vanilla creatures, so there's not a lot of punch attached to our spells. I do love the idea of running mass bounce spells, like , to create a quasi-Storm deck. Just like each of our stories, it's up to us to point it where we want.
I imagine we'll see a few cards from the upcoming Exit from Exile deck that will also play nicely with his ability, so keep your eyes out for that!
Likein the first Commander Legends, we have a new bad-gifts innovation: . Unlike Blim's painful methods, Mr. Irenicus brings a more seditious angle. Giving away creatures is usually not ideal, but the Shattered One coerces our opponents with so many terms and conditions that the downside is offset. "Tap it" prevents our opponent from a preemptive block. "Goaded for the rest of the game" removes the typical choice of not attacking at all. "Can't be sacrificed" removes a common method of denial. Lastly, two +1/+1 counters means that throwing an attack into a cooperative opponent is going to require tougher creatures. Plus, all of these effects don't require our commander to remain on board. Drawing cards off of our opponents' coerced cooperation is the cherry on top.
There's going to be a clear divide between a many builds for what's given away, like with. Some will give away harmful pieces that actively deny our opponents options, like , , , or . Others will play cheeky value pieces, like , that push the game forwards without tearing down the player who receives it. Either way, watch your back, because this commander has some very new and powerful tricks up its sleeve.
Auras have been maligned for a long time, but Mazzy arrives to renew the defense. Historically, successful Aura-focused decks are usually helmed by commanders that are towering monsters or aggressive accelerants:, , , etc. throws that notion away with her built-in recursion doubling as a powerful engine.
Mazzy has so many possible builds that I imagine she'll be one of the most unpredictable commanders in the format. Is my opponent going to useto throw damage with the help of an opponent? Is she going to go wide with ? Or is she going to try to out-value her opponents using and Enchantress effects to swiftly draw through her deck? I imagine all of these strategies will be represented in some combination. Also, with the increase of "exile matters" cards, Mazzy can also lean into that space with cards like .
Did somebody say Mana Dork tribal? Not only does Raggadragga have the most fun-to-say name in Baldur's Gate, but we also get one of the most unique effects as well. Mana dorks are a staple of many green decks, but the usual suspects are low-to-the-ground:, , and others. Larger dorks, like or , are usually seen in more niche builds. Raggadragga brings the heat, though. Giving our mana dorks the equivalent of on a body that will almost always be hitting the board on turn three? That's wild. That's absolutely wild.
"Well, you can't attack with the boost and make mana."
RAGGADRAGGA SAYS YOU'RE WRONG. We're going to smash with our dorks, and then we're going to fuel spells as well! Untapping our dorks when we launch them at our opponents? How absolutely Gruul. Not only are we swinging with pseudo-vigilance, but untapping gives us access to our mana mid-combat, which leads us to the third line of Raggadragga's text box.
Whenever we cast a spell that we spent seven or more mana on, one of our creatures gets +7/+7, trample, and untaps. This means that we can swing with a mana dork, untap it, tap it for mana, and then cast a spell to buff it and untap it again. That's... just nuts. This deck is going to be insanely explosive.
While Raggadragga is a key component of the deck, it's going to be more resilient than you expect. While mana dorks are easy enough to Wrath away, green has numerous effects to turn creatures into dorks:, , , , etc. We have so many options at our disposal. We have mutlipliers like and too. We even have cheeky wincons, like - remember, lands keep their mana abilities even when they're creatures! Anyways, I'm off to build this deck.
One of my favorite recent trends is the influx of non-Tribal Tribal commanders. Typically, these commanders have two abilities: one that adds a benefit to a specific tribe (or tribes), and an additional ability that is typically more broad. While Raphael can certainly lead a Devil-folk tribal deck, my eyes are affixed to that second ability. For black, putting creature cards (not tokens!) into the graveyard is as natural as breathing. Mill, Dredge, discard, sacrifice, the list goes on and on.continues to be a versatile linchpin of many decks. Here, a single black mana will generate a 1/1 Devil token, which Raphael will buff up!
I've been a vocal fan of Devil tokens for a while, since I love their utility. Sacrifice fodder? Damage sources? Difficult to block? They have it all.in particular has shown that even inconsistent Devil tokens can make a difference. Once we develop an engine to create three to four per turn cycle, we can add in damage multipliers, like , to turn these tiny tokens into a sources of huge damage!
I'll be honest, Azorius commanders have always been a struggle for me, and theis no exception. It's hard to evaluate how often these abilities triggers in a vacuum, but given my limited experience with , it'll happen more often that you expect. This means that The Council will be a steady influx of cards and creatures to match our opponents' pace.
, , and are signatures effects to proc the Council's first ability over and over again. There aren't many tools to litigate additional spells from our opponents to trigger that second ability, but does the job. Don't overlook that the Pilot also benefits, so we also want to cast two spells in a single turn, say by loading our deck with lots of easy-to-play cantrips or with effects like Rebound to help trigger this ability consistently.
Beyond direct synergy,and turn our unassuming 0/8 into the equivalent of a towering 8/8. There's definitely a toughness-matters build available here, and the lack of defender could turn this Council of Four into a surprise Voltron!
has been appropriately named, as I have given him no thought since he was spoiled. That's mostly because of and the deluge of other Maestros commanders we've recently received. How will this Tiefling differentiate itself from the rest?
Copying spells has always been good, and Magecraft alone has ensured its longevity in EDH's growing power. Unlike many spellslingers, Zevlor does it in a way that I personally find very interesting. Basically, it gives our spells Myriad. While a great many spellslinger decks out there devolve into "take a bunch of extra turns" decks, Zevlor pushes for a more unique style with some interesting applications.
For instance,bounces three creatures and draws six cards. draws three cards and we get to peak at all of our opponents' hands. kills the entire table at once. destroys three lands and draws three cards. goes absolutely haywire. gets especially nasty. Do I need to explain ? This list goes on and on, and all the while, makes tons of Treasure and draws tons of cards. While Zevlor's decklist may look similar to other spellslingers at a glance, the instants and sorceries themselves will give this new spellslinger its identity.
I'm not sure what to say aboutthat hasn't been covered by many of the other token competitors in green and white. She doesn't deviate too much from the Selesnya tradition, except that she's objectively the best by making the cutest creature tokens ever. If you block the Rabbit tokens, just know that I will label you as a monster.
However, Cadira isn't without her niche; she creates Rabbits for each token we control, so we're not limited to just creatures, and can benefit from tons of Food or Treasure. We'll also want ways to power through our opponents' defenses.is staple for this effect, but don't neglect other options, like or , to double up on combat triggers. While we build up our herd of Rabbits, Cadira can even exalt herself with or ! Once the fluffle has reached critical fluff, cards like can lead the charge to finish off our opponents.
is what happens when the design team decides that wasn't good enough. We trade a larger body and flying for no combat restrictions and, most importantly, an ability that looks at all creatures that die. Mahadi could easily lead an aristocrats deck and serve well. It's the typical gameplan: sacrifice creatures to generate Treasure to power out bigger plays.
However, I think this reverse-handed devil is selling a more artifact-creature-focused build. Not only will we still get the death trigger for Mahadi, but we can double down on our wincons., , and are quite common in Treasure decks, but I like the angle of using artifact creatures to burn down our opponents quickly.
really highlights why I love this set's pool of uncommon legends. While they may have a muted power level on average, they provide clear and strong themes that you can build around. Caring about the second spell of each turn is a fairly new archetype, so support may be limited. At least the options we do have are solid: , rising all-star , and gives us a few solid creatures to include alongside the already-discussed . Not only that, but is about as close to an auto-include as you can get.
The skill check Oji will need to pass most often is actually being able to fire off two spells on any given turn. Foretell and Rebound can help set up a chain of turns where we always have access to that, and cantrips likeand its ilk can help us plenty. This is where the comparison game will arise, as the payoff is blinking one creature. That may seem a bit lackluster compared to contemporary commanders. Oji won't command the same attention that and may draw, but that's okay. I think the direction of Oji's deck is really interesting, and will only level up over time.
As an added bonus, Oji is also a Way of the Kensei Monk, AKA the best Monk subclass. If you disagree, be wrong in the comments!
I am a huge fan of. I've probably mentioned her in every review since her release. But this time, it's less about my personal enthusiasm for my own deck and more about having a competitor to the dungeon deck. In fact, is currently the only legendary creature that takes the initiative on her own. While I've seen a lot of laments over the benefit of keeping the initiative, those opinions shift once you incorporate it into a dungeon deck. If you can consistently venture, I would argue that Undercity is stronger than my current favorite, . While many of the rewards are similar, the key is that it's two rooms shorter than Mad Mage with a similar payoff.
Why would we play Rilsa over Sefris? A few possible reasons: she's fewer colors, we'll always have access to enter the Undercity, and most importantly, her passive ability is incredibly potent. Giving deathtouch to an attacker means that it's harder for our opponents to hold the initiative in the early game, and by the late game, we're getting supercharged attackers with +5/+0, deathtouch, menace, and first strike. We can even add blink elements or recursive reanimation to trigger Rilsa over and over again!
With other powerful legendary Dragons in competition,may end up serving a deck rather than leading one. Doubling all of our Dragons' powers shouldn't be glossed over, but without a way to grant haste, our opponents have time to respond. While I'm more partial to Thrakkus being in the 99 of or , there's a part of me that takes great joy from the idea of curving into them after a and swinging for 10. Sometimes doubling is all you need, and with access to 40 Dragons with lesser mana value, may be the perfect top-end for a low-to-the-ground draconic aggro deck.
What an Adventure!
Commander Legends: Battle of Baldur's Gate has been polarizing for many, but I'm firmly in love with the set. I'm biased because I'm a D&D nerd and the setting really appeals to me, but I truly believe Wizards did a phenomenal job with this sets design. Uncommon, rare, and mythic rarities all received legends that provide a superb blend of design, simplicity, and complexity to the format. While not in this review,was probably my favorite legend in the set, and she's an uncommon! I think there's a bit of everything for the community in the set, and I'm curious how opinions will form and adjust over time as it has time to stand apart from its predecessors.
Remember to check out the other reviews on EDHREC and on Commander's Herald, and thanks for reading! Drop your top five commanders from the set in the comments, and leave a mention of any decks or 99s these new legends lead towards!