Today we'll be discussing which of the latest Secret Lair drop legendaries from The Walking Dead should be your next commander! No, nothing concerning the controversy surrounding them here, just which of these legal legendaries you should consider brewing once this product ships out in 2021(!).
There's plenty of time to finalize those brews, but only a small window to actually purchase these cards. However, if you, like me, are more into purchasing singles from sets and "special" releases, then this ranked guide to the recently announced characters from The Walking Dead is for you.
At 4 converted mana cost for a 3/4 body in a relevant tribe, there's certainly a potential Humans deck to be made here. However, Commander being 99-card singleton does hurt the amount of effective Humans you'll have on field. Rick, Steadfast Leader acts as a finisher for the deck, giving Humans two of first strike, vigilance, and lifelink—and so long as you control four or more Humans, +2/+2.
There's an extensive list of Humans you should run here: Recruiter of the Guard, Ranger-Captain of Eos, Hanweir Militia Captain, Thraben Doomsayer, Drannith Magistrate, Ethersworn Canonist, Mother of Runes and Giver of Runes being includes I highly recommend. Anything you can do to tutor, hold down, protect, and build upon your Human armies strength is vital to this list. Rick, Steadfast Leader is looking to go the route of Mono-White Stax, so be sure to include Damping Sphere and Trinisphere—with the strategy of this list being a pure beat down package. Don't neglect the Equipment and Aura tutors available in white, and be sure to run as much draw utility as you can: Mangara, the Diplomat and Tome of Legends being the main draw components for this particular brew.
There will be a lot of legwork on your end to get this list to really pop off, but it's entirely doable. Also, I don't often recommend it, but Teferi's Protection will come in handy keeping that precious board state safe from mass destruction and removal.
Unfortunately, Michonne, Ruthless Survivor has a lot holding her back from truly shining. A 3/3 for 5 cmc is rough stat-wise, but with the Walker generation you get 7/7 worth of value on board. There are no keywords aiding her effectiveness as an aggro-mander, only a handful of effects situationally enabled.
For starters, if Michonne, Ruthless Survivor has her trusty katana in hand—or any Equipment for that matter—she forces your opponents to make blocks they may not otherwise make. Whether you actually survive the exchange is a different story. However, her last ability can aid in this assault: should you attack with at least two Zombies ("Walkers"), she gains indestructible. It's important to note only Michonne, Ruthless Survivor gains indestructible, so should those Zombies die during the exchange, bye-bye indestructible.
If you're a fan of Michonne, Ruthless Survivor and want to make this package work, I highly encourage the use of Obscuring Haze and/or Dolmen Gate. Dolmen is a must, as it ensures your Zombie army alongside Michonne, Ruthless Survivor can repeatedly swing each turn. Equipment wise, Sword of Fire and Ice offers protection from common red and blue creature threats with draw and 2 damage to toss about, forcing any non-red/blue creatures to block a 5/5.
Better still is the last announced card from SL:TWD: Lucille, which is Negan, the Cold-Blooded trusted bat on the show. Arguably good on any creature, when paired with Michonne, Ruthless Survivor it forces an additional blocker due to the menace keyword and should one of your Zombies die it has the ability to generate more. Is Michonne, Ruthless Survivor "ruthless"? She certainly can be as an equipped, aggro-mander.
Ramp is one of the most important elements in Commander. Getting to those game-ending plays and spells will require a lot of mana, so having a commander that offers ramp in Mardu is a big deal. However, the way in which Negan, the Cold-Blooded ramps is a bit different…
Let's start with his first effect: when Negan, the Cold-Blooded enters you have the ability to make an opponent sacrifice one-to-two creatures via secret selection. It's a side-game mechanic that's very on theme with the character, and should you be able to outwit your opponent, they have to sacrifice two things. The added benefit being, whenever an opponent sacrifices a creature, you make a Treasure token. If you happen to nab two creatures with Negan, the Cold-Blooded ability, casting him was virtually three mana.
How do you get those sacrifices to happen outside (Negan, the Cold-Blooded) enters-the-battlefield effect? Mardu offers a variety of solutions: Innocent Blood, Liliana's Triumph, Mire in Misery, Smallpox, and Plaguecrafter all being excellent ways to trigger Treasure token generation. There are a variety of solutions to wipe the board clear and ramp here. So what is the plan for all this Treasure? If you're feeling really cheeky, Revel in Riches is an excellent way to not only double down on your Treasure generation, but win the game! Remember, you only need ten Treasures for this upkeep trigger to pop. Practically speaking, finishers like Torment of Hailfire and Comet Storm can close out the game, provided they're pumped enough.
Now the big question is, "What if they don't have any creatures to sacrifice?" Luckily, MTG solved this little problem a while back with a cycle of "Hunted" beasties: Hunted Horror, Hunted Lammasu, and Hunted Dragon are all powerhouse creatures that will smack face and provide us a means of ramp with our sacrifice tech.
Also, one pet card that definitely belongs in this list is the notorious Clackbridge Troll. I absolutely love this Troll. It's not only 8/8 worth of power at 5 cmc with trample and haste, but also generates creatures for our foes to sacrifice and can force this action at the beginning of combat with its triggered ability. The amount of support for Negan, the Cold-Blooded in these colors is what puts him at number three on the list. Don't underestimate the effect ramp has on the game.
Draw is second only to tutoring in Commander. In some cases, it can be even more effective. Having draw in the command zone lends heavily to the success of any brew, so it's a no brainer that with Glenn, the Voice of Calm effective means of draw he ranks so highly. Skulk offers Glenn, the Voice of Calm a means to get in for damage and once there, you'll be drawing cards equal to his power.
Unfortunately, there are no great ways to buff his power once connecting for damage via any combat tricks available in Azorius. Which brings us to the ultimate brew for Glenn, the Voice of Calm, as a stax and Equipment-mander. Skulk is a bit of a red herring, due to the aforementioned problem, but offering Glenn, the Voice of Calm protection through a variety of Swords—Sword of Fire and Ice, Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of Sinew and Steel, or Sword of Truth and Justice—will allow you to get in on any number of opponents and draw three cards off Glenn, the Voice of Calm alone.
Depending on your meta, the stax package for this brew will vary, but I always recommend Aven Mindcensor, Drannith Magistrate, and Hushwing Gryff, so far as creatures are concerned (doubly effective as they can wield any of your pieces of Equipment as well). Another notable addition to this brew would be Sigarda's Aid, as a means to fast track the costs of any of your Equipment.
With the predominant goal of this list being attrition through stax and counter magic, having Glenn, the Voice of Calm as a repeatable draw engine allows you to stay in the game well into the later turns. At 3 cmc, Glenn, the Voice of Calm was very nearly my top pick for "best of" from this set—having such a powerful draw ability in the command zone is huge, and Glenn will be a boon whether there or in the 99.
However—this may be personal bias as I enjoyed his character on the show—Daryl, Hunter of Walkers is my top pick among the latest legendaries as your next commander. Possessing a rather innocuous set of abilities, Daryl, Hunter of Walkers a questionable choice over Glenn, the Voice of Calm for the number one slot. While Glenn, the Voice of Calm has a far better draw ability, being in Azorius only holds him back from truly shining.
Should Glenn, the Voice of Calm have been Simic, it would be a different story. Daryl, Hunter of Walkers in Gruul is completely enabled to succeed at getting effective draw. First up, you give away 6/6 worth of power and toughness at the beginning of your upkeep to one opponent in the form of three Walkers. Daryl, Hunter of Walkers on this very turn can slay a Walker with his second ability. It's the last ability that particularly peeks my interest as a brewer: "Whenever a Zombie an opponent controls dies, draw a card." Daryl, Hunter of Walkers alone sets them up and knocks them down, but what if instead we relied on a board wipe? Say Pyroclasm. For 2 cmc, Pyroclasm will net us three cards and take care of any threats with 2 or less toughness, leaving Daryl, Hunter of Walkers to strike down any creatures remaining from the Pyroclasm with 2 or less health.
Rough // Tumble
Any board wipe becomes a draw spell in this list: Rough // Tumble, Subterranean Tremors, Whipflare, and Firestorm are devastating wipes, and now all net us three cards. Remember, our commander is making the Zombies necessary for the draw, but any additional Zombies that happen to be in play will provide a draw as well. Also note, if you run Aether Flash, said Walkers die upon entering the battlefield, immediately netting three cards before your own draw step.
With this highly effective means of drawing cards, we can work toward a variety of combos to close out the game. Combos I recommend are: Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker + Hyrax Tower Scout or Combat Celebrant, Goblin Sharpshooter + Splinter Twin, Dualcaster Mage + Heat Shimmer or Twinflame and lastly, a niche combo involving high value cards in Commander: Eternal Witness + Dockside Extortionist + Twinflame. Obviously, you can add more play lines and combos, but these are a few I recommend that can be tutored for or happened upon with the multitude of draws you should be amassing.
Lastly, another must play card in the list is Defense of the Heart, as Daryl, Hunter of Walkers sets this enchantment up by himself enabling the triggered effect to search up to two creatures. I'll leave it to you to work out which creatures those should be, but this two-card setup alone allows you to tutor up a combo and go for the win.
I know the chosen method of distribution and exclusivity of these legendaries has been an upset for many. I agree this needs to be rectified in the future, but looking at these cards solely as a brewer and Commander player, I am impressed with how WotC's design team handled them both on a mechanical and thematic level.
Each one of The Walking Dead characters offer interesting ways to brew for and play. The team that designed these cards deserve a round of applause, as their work should not be overshadowed by the controversy surrounding this product. For those willing to be vocal on it, I hope this guide helps you brew for your purchase of Secret Lair: The Walking Dead.