Commander Legends Set Review – Rare Guild Legends

(Hans Eriksson | Art by Ryan Pancoast)

Stop and Smell the Lhurgoyfs

Hi, friends! This article is going to go through all of the new two-color rare commanders we're getting in Commander Legends. Let's not waste any bread-words getting to the meat of this hefty information sandwich.

Belbe, Corrupted Observer

Walk through this play pattern with me in a four-player game: we play Belbe on turn 2 (or 1 with some fast mana). On turn 3 we cast a Cauldron Familiar or Vicious Rumors. That nets us 5 colorless mana, for a total of 7 or 8 mana on turn 3, to drop something big like a Myr Battlesphere or a Protean Hulk, and even bigger things a turn or two later! We can continuously get ahead by 6 mana every turn we have three opponents with cards like Loyal Subordinate, Sanctum of Stone Fangs, or Cryptolith Fragment. This mana burst reduces as opponents get eliminated, but by that time we'll hopefully have enough lands out to be able to hard-cast our big spells.

Now, our opponents can also get this mana boost, but they will have a much harder time taking advantage of it since their decks won't be built around it. Also note that Belbe gets better when we have four players or more and worse when we have less than four, so choose your games wisely!

We could hypothetically run this deck with Belbe as the only source of ramp, letting our life-draining spells gain us mana, or just use her to get ahead early, ramping at the same time that we establish our board. I would be concerned about coming out too strong in the early game and scaring the pants off all of our other opponents, but that's a good problem to have.

We can make comparisons to Rakdos, Lord of Riots. Rakdos wants to do a lot of damage and then dump a lot of creatures out for cheap. In contrast, Belbe wants to do a little damage and get a consistent six-mana boost. I do really like that Belbe makes finishers like Torment of Hailfire, Exsanguinate, and Bond of Agony have additional early-game relevance. For a place to start brewing, here's my initial Belbe card dump.

Bell Borca, Spectral Sergeant

Bell Borca - what a cool name! Let's start at Bell Borca's last line of text.

At the beginning of your upkeep, exile the top card of your library. You may play that card this turn.

This is impulsive draw in Boros that isn't conditional on Equipment, Auras, or anything else! This is a fantastic boon (have I been playing too much Hades?) to the color combination that opens doors to explore new themes. What other themes would Boros even do? It may seem hard to imagine at the moment because the colors and commanders we typically see put us in a box. Bell breaks the box and opens us up to a lot of possibilities.

Let's back up to the first few lines of text that set Bell Borca's power to cards that are put into exile. We know the options for exile effects in white are numerous, so we have the potential for turning our removal into combat tricks! Imagine Swords to Plowshares on an Ulamog giving our commander 11 power at instant speed. Scavenger Grounds has Bell hitting for the highest CMC in any graveyard. It might be tricky to reliably increase Bell's power, but commander damage could be a viable build-around or back-up win condition.

What about something we haven't seen before: an exile-matters theme? Set this Scryfall search to sort by EDHREC Rank and we can start to see the pieces fall into place. Between exiling our own cards to play and our opponents' cards to remove, we have the tools. The questions remain, though: can it be done, and will it be good? Our commander is a payoff, but we don't have too many others at the moment. A few that come to mind are dodging Possibility Storm by playing cards from exile or punishing opponents for having cards in hand (when we don't need them in hand) with cards like Khorvath's Fury, Black Vise, and Iron Maiden.

Blim, Comedic Genius

Blim is fun. Blim does Rakdos things. Unfortunately, Blim isn't as good at Blimming as Zedruu, the Greathearted.

Zedruu has been the established option for the give-your-opponents-bad-stuff commander. We want to be giving our opponents hilariously bad cards like Aggressive Mining, Steel Golem, and Pyromancer's Swath, which Zedruu's activated ability does nicely. Blim being in Rakdos feels like the right home for this ability, but needing to deal combat damage puts extra hurdles on an already janky strategy. So Blim is going to reside at lower-power tables, and these cards may end up being Stax-y, which may not go over well at those tables. Remember, communication is key.

But let's see what else we can do. We can give Blim a Fireshrieker for double-strike and use a Strionic Resonator to get more triggers. How about we give him an Assault Suit and really cause some mayhem? One fun strategy would be using Threaten effects to take our opponents' creatures and donate them to a different opponent post-combat! Be very afraid of his Harmless Offerings!

Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist

I think I will be in the minority of people that are tickled about Gor Muldrak. It's casual, sort-of group-huggy, and difficult to break. The design here could have had that second ability trigger on each end step and it still wouldn't be broken (again, Assault Suit?). I mean, what do we even do with this? Make sure we have the least amount of creatures and get a 4/3? Give our opponents creatures that can't attack us? It's important to remember that if Gor dies, then our Salamander-proof forcefield also dies.

One application is that Gor can be useful is as an unthreatening commander in a strong color pair. Simic doesn't need a strong commander to hang out at a high power level, and unthreatening commanders have the potential to avoid drawing attention in the early game while they build resources. Facing down a table with Korvold, Chulane, and Gor Muldrak, who are we going to attack first?

Let's try to take advantage of the protection from Salamanders ability. We can use Standardize to give ourselves protection from all creatures until end of turn. Trickery Charm and Artificial Evolution can do that for one creature, and Mistform Mutant, Imagecrafter, and Amoeboid Changeling can do that repeatedly for a limited number of creatures. If we abuse these abilities, we can build ourselves a little Pillowfort combo, or give our creatures evasion for offense.

We also got a handful of new Salamanders in this set, so a Salamander tribal deck may be plausible in the near future or rounded out with Changelings. I love the idea of dropping a Coat of Arms and all of the Salamanders on the table get huge, including the ones we've given our opponents that can't attack us.

Hans Eriksson

This card is 1000% percent flavor, so to fully appreciate Hans, we need to learn about the lore behind him. The first time we saw Hans mentioned was on Lhurgoyf back in Ice Age.

“Ach! Hans, run! It’s the lhurgoyf!”
—Saffi Eriksdotter, last words

Saffi is the sister of Hans, and we can see her portrayed in the background in Hans' art. More than that, the art depicts the exact moment where Saffi and Hans encounter the angry Lhurgoyf. From what I can gather from the flavor text and mechanics, Saffi sacrifices herself to save Hans; however, what exactly happens is unclear. If you know more, let us know in the comments! I've heard mention of a short story written by Will McDermott about the encounter, but I haven't been able to find a copy. The only other time Hans is referenced is on the card Revenant. Hopefully, we'll find out more in the near future.

Note the flavor text for all three cards, in the order of how I imagine the story unfolding.

To briefly touch on Hans' ability, we see an interesting play-off-the-top mechanic that also makes Hans fight our creatures that enter. Again, this is rife with flavor, as it represents Hans fighting the Lhurgoyf. We could imagine leaning into topdeck manipulation and cheating out big creatures while making sure Hans doesn't die, and extra-combat spells to really pop off. Vigor seems like an all-star keeping both creatures alive, and I'd probably make sure I have lots of ways to find it if I build around Hans. We can also make Hans indestructible or regenerate and make sure all of our creatures have more than one toughness.

As a card in the 99 of a creature-heavy deck, I think Hans would be tough to make work. My litmus test is if Hans makes it into a Nikya of the Old Ways deck, and without having lots of ways to keep him alive, I'm not sure he does. Perhaps a fight-club deck like Neyith of the Dire Hunt would have more support built-in for keeping Hans alive.

Kwain, Itinerant Meddler

I don't think Kwain will be incredibly popular as a commander, since Selvala, Explorer Returned is so similar and has less than 800 decks at the time of writing. Though I have to say, I am excited about a Group Hug deck in control colors because it makes it easier to turn Group Hug into its strategic alternative: Political Control. Card draw for everyone, but when we choose, is also more advantageous to us than our opponents, so we could also just take this deck in any direction, such as building around Lifegain, Pillow-fort, Stax, Wizard tribal, and more! Kwain is also a winner in the 99 of Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis and Phelddagrif Group Hug decks. Not to mention, this gets pretty yucky with Hullbreacher and Smothering Tithe.

Building around Kwain as a Group Hug commander, let's lean into providing our opponents with cards with things like Temple Bell and Dictate of Kruphix, but let's also take advantage of white's ability to keep up with opponents on land drops like Oath of Lieges and Keeper of the Accord. Beyond that, we control what gets played with counterspells and Rule of Law effects, we control what attacks us with Pillowforting ourselves with Propaganda effects, and remove anything that comes our way with things like Aetherize and Settle the Wreckage. Get used to saying, "Are you sure you want to do that?" and sitting back and watching the table burn. Then, at the end of the game when it's down to us and one opponent, we'll be ready to finish them off.

Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn

Lathiel provides us another way to weaponize lifegain. I love to see the push towards this design space we've seen lately, such as with Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose, and Liesa, Shroud of Dusk. This deck is going to want to play creatures and turn lifegain into counters. While we're at it, let's turn that lifegain into creatures, too. We can follow this plan and make creatures with things like Crested Sunmare, Resplendent Angel, and Angelic Accord. Since Lathiel and these cards trigger on each end step, let's try to get that trigger as often as possible by gaining life with cards like Soul's Attendant, Soul Warden, and Essence Warden. We can throw a dart at the Selesnya Lifegain theme page and get a lot of ideas of where to start building a Lathiel Lifegain deck.

Lathiel also provides an option for those who might want to build Unicorn Tribal, but don't want to use Emiel the Blessed. We have 25 Unicorn cards in Selesnya colors, several of which have lifegain synergy. Also, Emiel goes infinite with just a flick of that lustrous mane, so if we're looking to build a janky tribal deck and don't want to get targeted by people thinking we're going to go infinite, Lathiel might be a safer choice.

Liesa, Shroud of Dusk

Liesa offers us a medley of Voltron, Group Slug, and Lifegain themes. At first glance, her abilities may seem a bit divergent, and we can certainly lean into one and have the other just be gravy. But where the two converge is if we're looking to weaponize a lifegain strategy by hurting everyone equally while we compensate. Her ability to trade commander tax for life is a phenomenal way to ensure we'll more reliably be able to afford to recast her and regain that life in combat. If we're ever low enough in life that we can't cast her, we're probably losing that game anyway, and I'll go out on my own terms Jimmy Wong-style.

Liesa is the mechanical love-child of Licia, Sanguine Tribune and Kambal, Consul of Allocation. Similar to Licia, Liesa discounts our commander tax and wants to hit hard with lifelink. However, Liesa gets the edge here by having flying and being easier to cast early and reliably. Licia was never an overly popular commander, and I think that Liesa will surpass her.

On her other half, Liesa trades Kambal's life drain for a symmetrical life-loss effect. I like that Liesa feels fairer than Kambal and will probably draw less hate. We can use effects to increase life loss like Wound Reflection and Archfiend of Despair, while preventing life gain with Erebos, God of the Dead and Forsaken Wastes. We can also look to the Orzhov Lifegain page on EDHREC to get inspiration on how to further weaponize our lifegain, such as with Marauding Blight-Priest, Sanguine Bond, and Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose.

Nymris, Oona's Trickster

Ikoria had several goodies that would bolster a Dimir flash deck, and it felt like we were leading up to a flash-themed commander. I really like that this fills our hand as well as our graveyard, replacing our spells on each opponent's turn and letting Dimir lean into the graveyard theme or sub-theme we've seen a lot of support for lately.

There is a wide-open design space for Nymris. To call out the most apparent build paths, we could go flash tribal, Faerie tribal, or a Counterspell theme (as they'll often cantrip). We can also mix and match and work with sub-themes in this deck, particularly with the graveyard.

Flash tribal isn't something that shows up yet on EDHREC. We're getting a periodic release of keyword tribal commanders, so I'd expect to see new themes develop. A deck like this would be filled with key players like Slitherwisp and Cunning Nightbonder, and as a top-end we might see Ancient Stone Idol and Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur. We'd see lots of instants in a build like this as well, and each one drawing us cards with Nymris is a great way to keep our engine going.

Besides Nymris, there are 15 Faeries that have flash. This is a great start to a Faerie tribal deck with Nymris at the helm, and we could easily see rounding that number out with a few non-flash Faeries and other instants.

Looking at the Counterspell theme on EDHREC, most are helmed by Baral, Chief of Compliance and Talrand, Sky Summoner, and we don't currently see the Dimir colors represented. Nymris is a great option to add to that page, as his card advantage helps mitigate the card disadvantage every time we play a counterspell in a four-player pod. Also, access to black gives us finishers that will help Counterspell decks close out the game and put our opponents out of their misery of "nopes".

Zara, Renegade Recruiter

Admiral Beckett Brass currently holds the reign for premiere Pirate Tribal commander with over 1,100 decks. Zara is another option for Pirates, but we lose access to some great Pirates by only being in Izzet colors. I really like that she embodies a Pirate with her stealing ability while not pinning herself down to the tribe like Admiral Beckett Brass.

Zara can do some work at a casual table, but her power level is kept well in check here with the hoops we have to jump through. The main hurdle is her mana cost and that her ability triggers on attack. With that said, let's talk about some of the fun things we can do with this deck.

We might want to see what options we have from our opponents' hands by using Telepathy, Zur's Weirding, or Wandering Eye. We could also know exactly what we're going to play from our opponents' hands by using bounce effects like Into the Roil to put creatures in their hand and then using Zara to smack them in the face. We can keep these creatures around by ending the turn (Sundial of the Infinite) or blinking them with cards like Ghostly Flicker and Thassa, Deep Dwelling. The other aspect I'm drawn to is similar to decks that run Threaten effects, where we sacrifice our opponents' creatures after attacking with them. For that strategy, we'd want to run a handful of sac outlets such as Goblin Bombardment or Fling effects.

A Fine Day

I am floored by the quality commanders in this set. They are great designs that are well-balanced, fantastic flavor running rampant, and enormous flexibility within each commander for multiple build paths. Which ones are you going to build and how are you going to build them? Let us know in the comments below!

Jevin Lortie has been playing magic on and off since Portal. He has a PhD in nutritional sciences, so he always tells people to get a healthy serving of fruits and vegetables – especially ramp-les and draw-nanas.