Commander Legends Set Review - Uncommon Guild Legends
(Kangee, Sky Warden | Art by Dan Scott)
The Gold Standard
Hello everyone! It’s your friendly neighborhood Jesguy here, and welcome to the Commander Legends Set Review for two-color uncommon legends!
Just like everyone else, I've been counting the days until this set's release. There are so many fantastic new legends, Partners, and brand-new cards from this set, I can barely keep track. I don't know about you, but for me, it's honestly been overwhelming! No worries if you and I are in the same boat; let's try and make it a bit easier today while I go over all of the gold uncommons from the set.
Something interesting to note is that aside from cards like Boros Charm and Coiling Oracle, which are both only found in the preconstructed decks and Collector Boosters, all of the uncommon gold cards in the set, proper, are all legendary creatures! There are ten of them I'll be going through in this article, and the majority of them are all super sweet designs.
I don't want to get ahead of myself, though. Before I start gushing about these cards, let's actually get into the actual review!
Kangee, Sky Warden
Kangee is back, and once again takes to the skies in order to command a flying army to peck your opponents to death with!
I like this iteration of Kangee a lot. I have a love for creatures with flying, and Kangee is an effective, simple design. Instead of being bogged down and caring only about Birds like in his first card, Kangee, Aerie Keeper, Kangee, Sky Warden pumps all creatures with flying, and for a flat rate too; no need to spend extra on that Kicker cost for any bonuses!
Thanks to having both vigilance and flying, Kangee will also include himself in his buffs whenever he attacks or blocks, meaning in combat he is always either a 5/3 or a 3/5! Due to Kangee's clean design, there aren't a whole lot of neat tricks or interesting tech for him specifically, though there is a lot for his flying synergies.
If you are looking to construct a Kangee, Sky Warden deck, be sure to check out EDHREC's Flying Theme. There are so many great cards that support fliers, like Sephara, Sky's Blade, Warden of Evos Isle, Jubilant Skybonder, Skycat Sovereign, and more!
While Kangee isn't a robust design, he adds more depth to Azorius as a commander who can helm a deck based around aggression, which is something this color combination often lacks. Kangee is linear, but fun, and is a perfect legendary creature for newer Commander players to start playing with.
Kangee decks can be tuned and tweaked in near infinite ways, and they'll always have new cards to add from each set. Thumbs up from me!
Araumi of the Dead Tide
Let's move from a simple design to one that has a bit more depth.
Araumi of the Dead Tide is one of the coolest legends in the entire set. Araumi can grant creatures in your graveyard Encore, which is one of this set's new mechanics. Encore combines Unearth with Myriad to allow for really cool deckbuilding and interesting lines of play.
Araumi having the ability to grant any creature in the graveyard Encore is incredibly strong and allows for neat interactions. What is also great about Araumi is that their ability scales with the game, making you exile fewer and fewer cards the fewer opponents you have, e.g. not punishing your for actively trying to win the game.
With Araumi, the name of the game is filling up your graveyard and fishing out value. This deck wants abilities that will be potent when we get multiples of them. Gray Merchant of Asphodel can hit the entire table for 21 if you have Araumi out with three opponents, Aphetto Alchemist will give you three options to untap Araumi and chain Encores together, and Stitchers Supplier will dump 18 cards into your graveyard since they will enter the battlefield and die, since the tokens are sacrificed instead of exiled.
There's a huge amount of variance in what kind of abilities you want to include in your Araumi deck, whether it focuses on enter-the-battlefield abilities, untapping, death triggers, or even combat damage abilities like Impaler Shrike!
Araumi is another fantastic uncommon commander and has plenty of interesting interactions and lines of play and are a wonderful addition to Dimir's lineup. If you're like me and are having a hard time playing your Gonti, Lord of Luxury or Gyruda, Doom of Depths decks over webcam due to COVID, I'd suggest taking Araumi for a spin. They aren't a perfect 1-for-1 swap, but you will get a similar experience, and you might be able to scratch that graveyard and ETB value itch you might have.
Juri, Master of the Revue
Unlike the previous two legends, I don't think Juri, Master of the Revue's home is to be at the head of a deck, but instead as a support piece in the 99.
Juri is great in Sacrifice and Aristocrats decks, like Judith, the Scourge Diva, Korvold, Fae-Cursed King or Marchesa, the Black Rose, thanks to his ability to consistently grow and deal massive damage when he dies.
While his ability is good, there are just better legendary creatures to run this kind of deck. There may be some interesting strategies involving commander damage, or damage loops with Juri's death trigger, or even the utilization of Fling effects, but I just don't think Juri can cut it.
Juri, Master of the Revue is a great addition to a lot of lists, but I think they will struggle to lead a consistent deck on their own.
We move from one lackluster commander to another: next up, Tuya Bearclaw!
Tuya is akin to an inverse Syr Faren, the Hengehammer. Instead of pumping another creature, your other creatures end up pumping Tuya.
I looked through Syr Faren's Page on EDHREC, particularly the Power Theme, and couldn't find anything of note for her there. I even looked on Reddit, but there wasn't even a thread for her! I know I'm not a big fan of hers, but that feels downright disrespectful.
I really don't see what Tuya does that can't be done better or more efficiently by other Gruul beaters, like Xenagos, God of Revels or Zilortha, Strength Incarnate. Tuya fits very well into these decks, but she can't even come close to matching them in the command zone.
Tuya is a pass for me. If you want to play with power in green and red, there are plenty of other commanders who can do that job better.
Hamza, Guardian of Arashin
Finally, a breath of fresh air. Here comes Hamza, Guardian of Arashin.
Hamza seems like a great commander. He has a cost reduction ability which can cut into his commander tax late game, as well as cost reduction ability for any of your creatures. The best part is both of these have the same requirement: the number of creatures with +1/+1 counters on them! This means you can streamline your deck and not feel like you need to meet two different requirements to get the most out of Hamza.
For looking like just a big, dumb beater, Hamza has quite a bit of depth. There are two prevalent ways people are talking about building him at the moment:
The first build is the simple and fun +1/+1 Counters build, with cards like Good Fortune Unicorn, The Great Henge, and Cathars' Crusade to go wide and pump your team.
The second is a Modular/Affinity-like build where you use cheap artifact creatures with counters, like Arcbound Ravager, Scrapyard Recombiner, or Stonecoil Serpent, to also go wide and cast your creatures for free.
I've also seen whispers of trying to incorporate Eldrazi into either of these builds in order to have a larger top end, but I am a bit more dubious about that idea.
Overall, there is a lot of room to build Hamza decks, and I'm really excited to see what people come up with. Whether it is the simple beatdown strategy route, or the complicated, brain-melting strategy for artifacts, I am here for it. Hamza brings a little something to the table for everyone.
Thalisse, Reverent Medium
(Check out EDHREC's preview video for Thalisse here!)
While the past five legends have been either hit or miss for me, Thalisse, Reverent Medium falls smack dab in the middle. Overall, she is very balanced; decent stat line for her cost and a very powerful ability to boot! So what is giving me a hangup? My issue with her issue comes down to the way she plays.
She is reminiscent of Akim, the Soaring Wind in the fact that she needs tokens to start making tokens. She doesn't do anything on her own. This means that, quite often, she won't be coming down until you have eight or nine mana so that you can play her and immediately produce some tokens with something like Lingering Souls or Benevolent Offering. Depending on you meta, this could be a big ask. She can be quite feast or famine.
Just because Thalisse takes a bit more work than other commanders doesn't mean that she's bad or unplayable by any means. She has quite a strong upside if you can work towards it!
The best cards for Thalisse are cards that produce tokens for no cost, like Tombstone Stairwell, Smothering Tithe, and Ophiomancer. These spells have the potential to produce tokens each turn, and will then allow Thalisse to trigger every turn as well. Don't shy away from more mana-intensive forms of token generation either, though! Heliod, God of the Sun, Corpseweft, and Mobilization are all great mana sinks that help progress Thalisse's gameplan.
Cards like Blood Artist variants and sacrifice outlets like Ashnod's Altar seem like they're integral to the deck, allowing for an Aristocrats-style build should you choose to forgo simply overwhelming opponents with Tokens.
While Thalisse is a bit linear, I think she is certainly powerful. With enough mana ramp and ways to protect her gameplan, like Unbreakable Formation, she can be a solid commander who pays you off for all the work you put into her.
Captain Vargus Wrath
Captain, Vargus Wrath is one of this set's many nods to Pirate Tribal, and does his best to give the archetype a more aggressive slant.
Commander Legends has been a fantastic set for Pirate support. While I am not sure that Captain Vargus will function better than the combination of Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator + Breeches, Brazen Plunderer, I think this captain has more chops than Admiral Beckett Brass (sadly).
With more and more support coming out for Izzet Pirates, the lack of black doesn't hurt this deck as much as one would think. Cutting a third color allows for the inclusion of more counterspells and instants and sorceries to play around with, more than making up for black's absence. Stripping a third color also streamlines this strategy, making the aggressive play of Pirates much smoother. You won't be stumbling over your mana base as often, which is especially important since Captain Vargus only costs two mana and will want to be played at every opportunity.
When looking at Pirate builds, Captain Vargus Wrath gives your go-wide Pirate strategy more teeth, while Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator + Breeches, Brazen Plunderer gives your Pirate strategy a bit more leverage in the late game thanks to resource leverage. Something else that is important to remember is there are two more Pirate Partners: Ghost of Ramirez dePietro and Dargo, the Shipwrecker. While these two don't have any direct synergy like Malcolm and Breeches, they are still two options that Captain Vargus has to contend with, so don't over look them in your evaluations.
I think Captain Vargus, while linear, provides some much-needed support to a struggling archetype, and can function well as a commander or in the 99 of any Pirate Tribal deck. I'm in favor of this simple and small swashbuckler.
Abomination of Llanowar
Horrible Abomination? Check. A creature made up of a bunch of bodies stuck together painted by Vincent Proce? Check. A card taking the term "elf ball" literally? Check.
Golgari Elves, like Pirate Tribal, was another archetype that was in need of support. While Elves on their own have had quite a few commanders, Golgari specifically has only had Nath, of the Gilt Leaf, which functions more as a Discard commander, and Rhys, the Exiled, which is mediocre at best.
Abomination of Llanowar, much like Captain Vargus Wrath above, needs to compete with Partners for their spot in the command zone. Gilanra, Caller of Wirewood, Numa, Joraga Chieftain, Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel, and Miara, Thorn of the Glade are the four Partners that can take The Abomination's place as the lead in a deck, and all function quite well in that role.
The more I look at the average Elf deck, the less sure I am that they need an Unbreathing Horde in their command zone. More often than not, it seems like a combination of Numa + Miara may get you more value over time and be able to scale you into the late game better. That being said, Abomination does count all of the Elves in your graveyard as well as the Elves on your battlefield, so it can easily threaten to run over opponents with commander damage, too. The decision is up to your preference and to how your deck is built.
In reality, Abomination of Llanowar is just a certified angus beefy beater. While that isn't particularly exciting, it may be exactly what some Elf decks want. I'm a bit unsure of where I land with this one, so I'd love to hear your thoughts, especially if you are an Elf player or if you plan on using Abomination as your commander. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Reyav, Master Smith
I love all of the support Voltron is getting this set, but with all the Voltron Partners and Wyleth, Soul of Steel, I think Reyav, Master Smith may fall a bit short.
If Reyav had been printed prior to this set, I think I may have given him a bit of a harder look. Giving double strike to any enchanted or Equipped creature is nothing to sneeze at, especially at two mana... but between Akiri, Fearless Voyager, the aforementioned Wyleth, Soul of Steel, or Akiri, Line-Slinger paired with Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist or a handful of the other red partners, Boros Voltron is going through a renaissance, and I don't think Reyav adds much to it.
The one thing that Reyav has going for him is that he incentivizes a more go-wide approach to your deck as opposed to stacking all of your buffs onto a single creature. That is an interesting way to turn the usual Voltron strategy on its ear, but I'm not sure if it is enough.
Overall, Reyav, Master Smith is perfectly serviceable in the 99 of any deck with Auras and Equipment, but I don't think he adds much to the command zone when compared to the plethora of options now available.
Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty
I'm not as much of a fan of Cascade as other people, but when Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty was spoiled, my ears perked up.
Imoti rewards us for doing the one thing Magic players are promised whenever someone talks about Commander: playing your huge, splashy spells. Unlike other Simic commanders, she is value with a stipulation, unlike Tatyova, Benthic Druid or Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. She incentivizes your battlecruiser spells in a fun, interesting way instead of being simply mana acceleration like Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle or Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy. She leans into having more "fun" with Cascade than being "broken" with it like Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder or Maelstrom Wanderer. That is good design in my book.
While Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty may be constructed like just any other Simic "goodstuff" deck, the focus on spells that cost more than six mana is great. You can play "fair" Magic with cards like Stormtide Leviathan or Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar, you can get cheeky and cheat with spells that have reduced costs like Dig Through Time or The Great Henge, or you can cast spells that will get you even more value like Rishkar's Expertise. She can be as fair or as powerful as you want her to be.
In reality, yes, Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty is another value-based Simic commander, but she is one that doesn't leave a bad taste in my mouth. I'd much rather spin the wheel and Cascade off of every huge spell than just be rewarded with "draw a card" like on most commanders recently.
Imoti is fun, strong, and she lets you build her however you please, as long as it involves playing huge spells. I don't say this often, but Imoti is a Simic commander I quite enjoy and appreciate the design of!
Well, that's all for today, folks!
Uncommon commanders are some of my favorites. They are often simple, clean designs that don't have 13 lines of text. They are often a great for a newer player or for someone who wants a clear thematic deck to get into the format as well!
While not every one of these cards hit the mark in terms of being a viable commander, they all at least tried. They all had an idea or theme in mind and went with it. Some worked, and some didn't, but that's how it always goes. Not every card can be a home run. Despite being uncommons, nearly all of these commanders added depth to their respective color combinations, and I appreciate that.
Out of the Ten, Kangee, Sky Warden is my favorite, I think Araumi, of the Dead Tide will be the most popular, and I think Tuya Bearclaw was the most disappointing and will be the least popular.
Enough about my opinions, though - you just read 3,000 words worth of them! What about yours? What are you thoughts on these uncommonders? Which stand out? Which do you like? Which ones missed the mark? Which are your favorites? I'd love to hear your thoughts down below!
You can reach me on Twitter (@thejesguy), where you can always hit me up for Magic- or Jeskai-related shenanigans 24/7. Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns? Please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch! Stay safe, wear your mask, and keep fighting the good fight. I support you. No justice, no peace.