Commander Legends Set Review - Blue
(Mnemonic Deluge| Art by Chris Rallis)
Blue's Clues Time
Welcome to the blue portion of the Commander Legends EDHREC set review! We have many cards to cover and little time, so let’s get started!
Sakashima of a Thousand Faces
Mirror Gallery is one of those cards that has a powerful effect but, because it needs some support to do anything, it's hard to justify including it. Sakashima of a Thousand Faces works around that issue by being readily available as a commander and by providing value when it enters the battlefield.
As a commander, Sakashima is a great support Partner that can enhance another Partner's kit or can even boost a Companion like Gyruda, Doom of Depths. It's worth noting that a three-mana Partner provides a solid curve on turns three and four.
Kodama of the East Tree might be one of the most powerful cards released in the set, and having another copy on the battlefield is just nasty! When this combination is online, whenever we play a permanent from our hand, we get to put into play every other permanent from our hand (as long as they're in descending mana cost order). One thing that's very impressive about this is that we can do it as soon as we cast Sakashima.
Vial Smasher the Fierce is one of those cards that can deal a surprising amount of damage in a match; having two Vial Smashers in play will really turn up the heat while also placing us into a powerful color combination for this type of playstyle.
Tymna the Weaver might seem like an off-the-wall suggestion, but having two Tymnas' draw triggers can be pretty powerful for a more aggressive take on Esper.
Mnemonic Deluge is no doubt a powerful effect; however, given its high mana cost, it needs to be game-ending. For that, we need to examine two main points of contention: how are we paying for it, and which spells are we targeting with it?
We can't reliably wait until we have nine lands to play it. Games very rarely can be played like that, and waiting at least nine turns to play a spell is a fool's errand. Given that, we need a way to either lower its mana cost, cast it for free, or generate an exorbitant amount of mana to pay its cost.
Jodah, Archmage Eternal is a contender for the best commander to play Mnemonic Deluge. Not only do we get that amazing discount, but we also stack our deck with powerful effects that we'd want to play multiple times.
Mizzix of the Izmagnus is always looking for a new big spell to play. We might not have the biggest effects out there, but when we're paying three blue mana for it, Mnemonic Deluge becomes more than worth it.
Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign has plenty of ways to stack Mnemonic Deluge on top of our library, and then cheating it into play becomes only a matter of when. It also helps that plenty of powerful effects, like Time Warp, are already great inclusions.
Now that we've talked about how we're going to pay for it, let's talk about which spells we are copying. Targets do matter; even if we consistently manage to cast it, we still need to have great targets for it! A Preordain copied three times isn't all that exciting, so we either need to set up some kind of combo, like a Reanimator, but for spells; or we need to have generically good, big effects, like extra turns or massive draw.
Expropriate is the default big spell for many of these type of effects, and for a good reason: it's big, dumb, and game-ending. One thing to notice is that the spell that you choose isn't cast, it's copied. That may not make a big difference, but it's something to be aware of.
Reshape the Earth is a newcomer but it's already shown how powerful it is. Copying this bad boy three times basically means that we can grab every land in our deck and put into play, which means Landfall fiesta!
Sea Gate Restoration is the type of spell that greatly improves with each following cast. This might not be the best example, but I think it illustrates a point.
Sphinx of the Second Sun
Now we're starting the portion of the review where we talk about big dumb creatures! Sphinx of the Second Sun is a powerful card, no doubt about it. If we can get it to stick around until after our combat step, then it's paid for itself (with some extra benefits). However, there's still something to be said for a six-mana card that is a lightning rod for removal and has no built-in way to protect itself.
There're plenty of ways to abuse this type of effect, like the following:
With each new combat step we get a new post-combat main phase, this means that we get to untap and draw again. This means that cards like Aggravated Assault and Hellkite Charger are infinite as long as we keep attacking. Upkeep-focused decks will love having another upkeep to trigger their effects. Even control decks can benefit from being able to consistently tap out on their turn and keep counterspell mana up.
Body of Knowledge
Body of Knowledge is a new version of the of the classic Maro. For five mana we get the standard Maro effect, with an upside: whenever it takes damage, we draw that many cards. This change transforms it into a more combo-oriented card, which might just make it playable.
Nin, the Pain Artist will appreciate the the body that Body of Knowledge provides, netting double the number of cards than otherwise would've been drawn with only one or the other. Niv Mizzet, Parun is really strong with Body of Knowledge; after one draw, we get to ping with it until we're satisfied. This board state is pretty easy to assemble because we only need one draw to start the chain, and Niv Mizzet, Parun provides plenty of opportunities for free draws.
Sakashima's Protege is a powerful Clone effect. Its ability might seem a bit risky since it only works on permanents that have entered the battlefield this turn, but the fact that it has flash means that we get to choose when we pull the trigger. Cascade also means that, regardless of the play, we are almost always ahead in mana.
Sakashima's Will is a flexible spell that can be a huge tempo swing in the right hands. The first mode works almost like an Edict effect, in that they get to choose what they're getting rid of, so this requires a bit of work to make it more reliable. The second mode is powerful and possibly game-ending under the right circumstances. To be frank, I see the second mode as the one to consider if the card is worth or not; stealing something potentially valuable is nice, but turning all of your creatures into the biggest thing on the field will certainly be impactful.
Notion Thief and Smothering Tithe are two of the most powerful hosers in the format. The first one very often puts its controller in a commanding position; the second is a strong mana-accelerator and can lead to some extremely explosive turns. Hullbreacher feels like the child of both of these cards, combining some of the best elements of each to make a powerful staple. Being mono-color is also a huge plus because it gives access to many shells that couldn't afford playing either black or white.
Messing with people's draw abilities is exactly what we want to be doing as an Aggro deck, and Hullbreacher being a Merfolk means that it's a much more effective beater in the shell.
While Hullbreacher might seem like a nonbo with Nekusar, the Mindrazer, it gives the deck another deadly angle of attack: card denial by playing Wheel effects. Preventing people from drawing cards while, at the same time, getting us ahead in mana with a fresh set of cards is the definition of game-ending.
Cards with a political side are hard to evaluate in a vacuum. Wrong Turn on paper doesn't do much: for three mana, we give control of a creature to any opponent. However, once we start making deals, this is exactly the type of card that will help us appear cooperative and non-threatening. Even when forgetting the sheer political value of the card, there's still some use for Wrong Turn: by taking taking a high-synergy creature out of its shell, we negate its effects, although I'd still prefer to simply remove it.
Eligeth, Crossroads Augur
Eligeth, Crossroads Augur is a powerful creature: it turns Preordain and Serum Visions into Ancestral Recall! The fact that it has Partner helps Eligeth a lot, giving extra colors to play around and more scrying options. However, we still need to consider that Eligeth is a six-mana creature with no value to be gained on its own (or when playing on-curve).
Kraum, Ludevic's Opus is a strong Partner that can help us find more spells to fuel Eligeth. This is a more convenient combination than synergy-based one, but, nonetheless, it works pretty well with Eligeth.
Eligeth can turn Siani, Eye of the Storm's scry trigger into a massive draw. This allows us to build an Aggro deck that uses this combination to keep drawing cards for each attack.
In the 99, Eligeth is a versatile creature that can support many commanders with scrying abilities.
It wouldn't be a new Sphinx card without an Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign honorable mention. Unesh helps mitigate some of the cost of Eligeth, and being able to dig even more is also very nice.
The Scarab God always appreciate a good utility creature to reanimate. Once we get this combo into play, we get an amazing upkeep draw trigger.
Eligeth transforms Gnostro, Voice of the Crags's mediocre scry ability into a powerful draw, which can help us find more spells. The only question is if it's worth it to add a six-mana creature into a Spellslinger list.
Laboratory Drudge is a powerful graveyard payoff. It doesn't discriminate between creature and non-creatures and between casting and abilities. It also triggers on every end step, so as long as we keep "graveyarding", we get to draw a card. The big question is how consistently can we trigger it? To be worth its inclusion, it must, on occasion, be able to trigger twice per turn cycle. This is where we start having problems, because it's quite hard to be able to get a trigger on our opponents' turn. Sure, there are plenty of instants with Flashback, but we still need the mana to cast them, and they also get exiled afterward. Creatures are easy to put into play from the graveyard on our turn, but doing it on our opponents' is much harder.
Gisa and Geralf have an easy time casting cards from the graveyard. However, we still do struggle a bit to trigger Laboratory Drudge's trigger from our opponents' turn, with the only cards like Haunted Dead to really do the job consistently.
Sevinne, the Chronoclasm will have plenty of spells to trigger Laboratory Drudge. The biggest challenge here is that they will require a lot of mana, and after being cast they are exiled, which will end our graveyard shenanigans eventually.
Court of Cunning
Court of Cunning is a cheap, versatile tool for decks that either want a mill engine or a Self Mill one. That being said, the usefulness of it is a lot lower if we can't keep our Monarch status. For possible shells, Court of Cunning is cheap enough to be played later on together with a board wipe in control decks to provide a somewhat fast clock. We could also use it on Dredge-based decks: these decks might have some trouble keeping the crown but will have no trouble taking it back. Dedicated mill lists might have a bit of trouble slotting it as taking back the Monarch token is harder in a deck doesn't consider combat damage as its main win condition.
Pongify is a blue staple because removing one problematic creature and putting a vanilla beater in its place is a great deal. Amphin Mutineer has a similar effect, but it's exile-based and has the added benefit of being a creature, which means that it can be blinked, reanimated, cloned, Panharmoniconed, etc. The Encore keyword is great here since it provides another chance for the card to get some value. The main drawback of the card, not being able to target Salamanders, is pretty much negligible, but it may matter once in a blue moon.
Uncommons & Commons
Glacian, Powerstone Engineer
Glacian, Powerstone Engineer is over-costed for what we get. After all, we already have two somewhat similar effects in Merchant's Dockhand, and Muzzio, Visionary Architect. However, considering that artifact-based lists tend to have enough extra mana laying around, it's possible that, on lower-power tables, Glacian might have some success. On power level alone, Glacian's ability is quite strong, providing both card selection and self mill, which can be another form of card selection for these decks.
Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith can make a bunch of artifacts to power Glacian, which makes a good combination because we get to play Toggo first, play a few lands, and once we're set up we can play Glacian and start digging.
Silas Renn, Seeker Adept can use the self mill provided by Glacian to have more cards to choose from. Glacian's cost is a bit of an obstacle, but if we invest in mana rocks we might be able to accelerate our game to be able to play both commanders.
Esior, Wardwing Familiar
Esior, Wardwing Familiar is a cheap Partner that has a strong tax effect attach to it. The biggest challenge of the card is that it's too cheap, and the effect is too situational to be worth sacrificing half you commander slots for it. Taxes are a bit ineffective if not built around, because single target removal tends to be extremely cheap, and if we don't have other generic tax effects, our opponents can still board wipe us.
In the 99, Esior is a great support to lists that rely on their commanders for their gameplan. It's cheap, evasive, and disruptive enough to be worth including.
Tax effects need to be layered in order to be effective. Grand Arbiter Augustin IV is a great way to start this shell because we get an asymmetrical taxation while we accelerate. If we can gather enough tax effects to stall board wipes, the only form of interaction left available are single target removal, and this is where Esior's tax effect shines.
Kangee, Sky Warden is a powerful commander that can really speed up the clock of a flyers deck. Esior is an "on tribe" beater that can make it a bit more difficult for opponents to destroy our commander.
Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator
Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator is a powerful combo-centric commander. We very easily get to generate a ton of extra mana per turn, and the best part is that it's not combat-specific, meaning that even indirect sources of damage, like ping effects, can generate Treasure tokens! Malcolm's cheap mana cost allows for an okay three-mana play that can also accelerate us by the forth turn. However, I do think that Malcolm's true nature is really about combo.
Lightning-Rig Crew and Glint-Horn Buccaneer are two of the most powerful combo pieces that we have at the moment. The first allows us to generate three Treasure tokens for each Pirate that we play, and the second goes infinite when it attacks if we have at least two opponents in play.
Breeches, Brazen Plunderer and Malcolm are a great tag team for a Pirate tribal deck. Breeches provides card advantage, and Malcolm gives the mana to cast them.
Sakashima, of a Thousand Faces is another Malcolm, which means that on turn five we can have up to nine mana. The biggest problem with the combination is the lack of combo pieces, but we can work this out by simply going bigger than usual.
Ghost of Ramirez DePietro
Ghost of Ramirez DePietro works very similarly to Silas Renn, Seeker Adept. One big change is that, unlike Silas, Ghost of Ramirez dePietro can only return cards that we put into the graveyard in that turn, which means that we need to have a more proactive plan than Silas, because if we wait we lose our goodies. Ghost of Ramirez dePietro's ability is versatile enough to be worth building around several archetypes, like self mill, Cycling, or even some Reanimator shells, so it's going to be quite fun figuring out how to use this ability.
Ghost of Ramirez DePietro can help mitigating some of the card disadvantage provided by Armix, Filigree Thrasher's ability, which in return can help Ghost of Ramirez connect. Black is also a good color to give more graveyard-based interactions.
Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder gives us two great Cycling colors options and the ability to trigger our commander twice a turn.
Siani Eye of the Storm
Siani Eye of the Storm is a payoff for aggressive flyers lists. While Siani is just cheap enough to be played in an aggressive deck, the fact that we need to overextend for a not-so-concrete benefit makes Siani somewhat dangerous card. We probably want to either include white or red to play with Siani. White gives a more standard flyer base for a more consistent deck, while red is more of a tempo choice.
Kraum, Ludevic's Opus is an aggressive flyer that allow us to keep getting cards in the mid-game. The extra cards that we get from Kraum are a great way to keep up the pressure, especially when combined with Siani's scry trigger.
Tymna the Weaver is an excellent support for Siani, as Tymna already rewards aggression and also gives us access to white.
Siani really shines in the 99 of flyer-based lists. The over-extension feels less forced when we aren't dedicating our commander slot for Siani. We also have better commander options to choose from.
Inniaz, the Gale Force can always appreciate one more utility-based flyer. Getting to consistently scry also helps filtering out more beaters, which makes the triggered ability that much more likely to be relevant.
Alela, Artful Provocateur already has a tendency to go wide with flying creatures, and, together with Siani, we get can get a big scry every turn.
Forceful Denial is a counterspell with card advantage stapled to it. At first sight it might seem strong; however, interaction spells need to be cheap. We can't afford to hold five mana for potentially a dead card in hand, especially when we have access to cards like Mystic Confluence or even cards like Spell Swindle, which have (arguably) a more powerful effect. In the end, unless we are actively benefiting from the Cascade, I don't think it's worth a slot.
Trove Tracker is not a bad card, but it's hard to consider it when we have options like Champion of Wits that do a better job. However, the Pirate tribe is getting some support so there might be a niche for it in the format as a value Pirate.
This concludes my portion of this set review! This set is just crazy! We've got so many new commanders and so many new cards to include. Now I want to hear from you! What are your impressions of the set, and where would you put these new toys? Which cards are you most excited for? What's your favorite Partner combination? Let me know in the comments below!