With the release of new cards comes the opportunity to improve your decks! I've gone through Hour of Devastation with an eye to improve a few of my Commander decks, and I thought I would share my thoughts to what new cards make the cut.

Lazav, Dimir Mastermind

The deck, like most of my Commander decks, revolves around the commander's ability. The best result I've had so far was a turn four play that saw someone mill Artisan of Kozilek! Annihilator 2 is pretty rough when no one has more than five permanents on the battlefield. One of my opponents even managed to draw the mass removal to kill Lazav, but never had the mana to cast it.

While my version of Lazav has a variety of ways to get creature cards into my opponents' graveyards, mill is the primary method. Milling tends to give me more options for a lower cost, but it does nothing to help me with the cards that are already on the battlefield. When you realize just how many decks use the graveyard as a resource, milling can end up helping my opponents as much as it helps me!

Given the milling downside, I'm looking to add Consign // Oblivion to the deck. The card has obvious downsides: it isn't cheap to cast (seven mana to do both parts) and it gives the opponent the choice of what cards to discard, but the upsides are well worth it. I can break up the cost, bouncing a permanent on one turn, and forcing a discard later. It can be used as an end-of-turn trick, then followed up on my turn before combat. Giving the opponent the choice of what to discard isn't great, but there will be many times, particularly against opponents with smaller hands when you are offering no choice at all. I'm also a fan of the flexibility of the card. Bouncing the worst permanent on the battlefield on one turn, then choosing a different opponent to Victimize with the discard is going to come into play regularly.

I even like that the Oblivion is available for all to see. Everyone knows it is there and could hit them when your turn comes around, so it can affect how they play. It is a nice ploy to encourage players to dump their creatures onto the battlefield to keep from having to discard them. Other players will hold lands instead of playing them to ensure they have something to discard rather than the creature that they don't want to play just yet. This sort of subtle puppetry of your opponents just works beautifully with the Dimir spirit of the deck!

Vorel of the Hull Clade

I just assumed that Hour of Devastation would offer nothing to my Vorel deck. With -1/-1 counters being the theme, it is rare when you want to double those on your own creature. As I went through the cards, the abilities they offered just weren't going to be strong enough to make it in the deck, so it looked like a bust for Vorel.

The card that I was really interested to see for Vorel was Uncage the Menagerie. I know most players are going to see this card as a combo enabler, because the idea that it can find multiple creatures just begs for it to be abused in a combo! While that is likely the primary reason to use the card, I think this is a great card even if you have no intention to combo out. Whether it is a way to get a trio of three-mana creatures or discover if there are six creatures in your deck for six mana to dig out, this card can be a blowout just from the card advantage it offers. The mana curve for my Vorel deck is highest with four-mana creatures, so I expect to be casting this to find four creatures regularly. However, if there is a Vigor that needs to come out and play, I won't hesitate to find only one six-mana card.

My main concern with Uncage the Menagerie is the same as it is for any tutor: what am I going to find. If I discover that I'm looking at the same creatures over and over, it will limit the variety of play in the deck and I have no desire to do that. Part of the joy of Commander for me is the variety one deck can offer from one game to the next. I don't want to lose that and I am worried that finding four four-mana creatures will quickly turn into finding the same four creatures every time Uncage the Menagerie is played. The card is going into the deck, but under a watchful eye.

Tajic, Blade of the Legion

This deck started as a way to use Assemble the Legion, then evolved into a limited Boros Voltron deck. It just seemed that the games where the deck performed, Tajic was killing an opponent with a single swing of commander damage while the rest of the creatures in the deck were taking out another opponent.

One of the limiting factors of the deck, and most Boros decks, has been mana ramp. Boros tends to run more low casting cost creatures to effectively use up their mana every turn, and because it takes the deck so long to get the large amounts of mana to run X spells or larger creatures. Neheb, the Eternal can really help to resolve that problem. The turn Neheb comes out, if Tajic hits for even seven damage, I'll have seven red mana to cast more creatures and more X spells! On later turns, if Tajic hits for damage in the teens or more, the mana that will be available will likely be enough to take out another opponent!

Before I decide to rehash much of the deck, adding in expensive spells and massive creatures, I'll want to see how much mana Neheb, the Eternal actually produces. It may turn into a target for removal. For now I'll rely on Mobilization and Rise of the Hobgoblins as ways to use particularly large amounts of mana.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer

This is my Big Green deck. If you don't currently have a Big Green deck, you've certainly played against them. They ramp out at a ridiculous rate, getting twice as many Forests onto the battlefield as anyone else has lands. Once there they start casting every massive creature and spell that fits into the deck. This is the deck that I tend to loan out to anyone who wants to play and doesn't have a deck on them. It is straightforward and offers plenty of big, crazy plays to whoever is piloting it. I think other people have more wins with this deck than I do!

One of the ways the deck gets more lands into play is by sacrificing lands. Blighted Woodland and Myriad Landscape, Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse are all sacrificed to find Forests. The cards help trigger landfall effects, thin the deck slightly, and some of them find more than one land. I also tend to run cycling lands since there does come a time when drawing another land just isn't what I need. I already have Tranquil Thicket and Slippery Karst in the deck so Desert of the Indomitable just makes sense.

I also find myself running lands that are sacrificed for other reasons. Strip Mine, Wasteland and Ghost Quarter all have their place in the deck. And then you add in the lands that get destroyed because your discourteous opponents simply don't understand that you need Reliquary Tower, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx or Maze of Ith! All of these are reason to run Ramunap Excavator! Reusing Myriad Landscape or Strip Mine turn after turn just makes good sense. Playing that Reliquary Tower or Rogue's Passage from the graveyard right before drawing 10 cards or struggling to do combat damage late in the game with Terastodon is important and the Excavator helps all of that! The Excavator can even get that Yavimaya's Hollow back on the battlefield if you are concerned that someone will try to kill your Naga Cleric.

Finally, I want to add Uncage the Menagerie to the deck. In a deck like this, I suspect I'll be using it as a tutor for specific creatures. The deck isn't running any infinite combos, but certain creatures can be backbreaking and Uncage the Menagerie will help to find them. Much like Vorel, I'll be watching to see what cards I choose to find. If it proves to be the same cards again and again, I'll take it out. I want variety in my Commander games and tutors can often ruin that.

Krond the Dawn-Clad

Krond is my sentimental favorite deck. I've added better and better auras to protect Krond and take advantage of his ability. I've adjusted the mana again and again to deal with his particularly difficult casting cost. I've wrung out as much card draw as makes sense for the deck. Krond is simply not an optimal commander for Selesnya, but there is something about the card that keeps the deck together, and Krond at the helm.

Three cards from Hour of Devastation appeal to me for this deck. The first is Hour of Revelation. Krond often finds itself in a hole, fighting to get back on even terms with other decks. Drawing the Hour and knowing when the bell will toll will allow me to prepare my hand to deal with the setback and maximize the mass removal it offers. I may decide it is too much, since I do rely on permanents beyond lands for some mana, but for now it goes in.

The second card is Appeal // Authority. There are times when Krond is the Voltron commander and the auras just aren't doing enough. Appeal gives him that benefit of even bigger size and the ability to trample over thopters and birds, and even dragons! Authority means that on the next attack, you can simply tap any blockers in the way. Two free swings with Krond should either kill an opponent or put them so close to death that they are playing as your pawn.

The final card is Crook of Condemnation. Krond really doesn't abuse the graveyard very much and has almost no way to handle others who do. The Crook doesn't fit the theme of the deck, but it is a great card to deal with pinpoint graveyard removal or just wiping everything out that it makes sense for this deck and pretty much any deck that isn't utilizing its own graveyard too much.

The question is what to drop? I'm leaning towards Tolsimir Wolfblood, Shaman of Forgotten Ways, and Archon of Justice as underperformers, but I'm not sure. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments and on Twitter!

Bruce Richard