Along came Command Fest Online 2—a weekend of Magic you may have seen me participate in, #TeamCats—and with it a (literal) stream of new information on both Commander Collection: Green as well as Commander Legends.
Here are some quick facts delivered from said stream: there will be 71 total new legends in the Draft Boosters, 41 mono-colored partners(!), and 30 non-partner legends in either dual or triple-color. If you follow the channel or have spoken with me on the partner mechanic, you'll know it's a sore spot. Competitive Commander is plagued by variations of the current range of dual colored legends printed way back in Commander 2016, with players still suffering the four-colored "value soups" they form.
Despite my feelings on the partner mechanic (it's broken and needs rule amendments), there are many positives for new players looking to get into Commander with the 1,540 possible partner combinations being made available with Commander Legends.
So far spoilers have been scant, but as far as the current legends announced are concerned we've got a lot to look forward to. Having new partners introduced only in mono-color pairings means the lists won't get out of hand on the "power scale" and will maintain an identity that's tied to the specific legends at the helm. One of the issues with the partners currently available is that the decks largely play on their own, with the partners being a buffer to draw or an outlet for the list (e.g. Tymna and Thrasios). There's nothing wrong with this, but the decks themselves lose identity and a bit of soul when the chosen commanders don't matter to the overall strategy of the list. Keeping the lists within two colors will make the overall gameplay more in line with what Commander is all about: the commanders.
The first deck tech I featured over on The 99 was for Selvala, Heart of the Wilds. She wasn't my first venture into cEDH or Commander in general, but she epitomized what the game was all about to me: a deck strengthened and enabled by the chosen legend. It was fun slamming Selvala, Heart of the Wilds and storming off with a flurry of "buff" spells and big dumb creatures to enact a win, and Selvala remains a list I update with each new set.
Introduced in Commander Legends we have the "Selvala" effect, but now in red!
Alena, Kessig Trapper gives new players an opportunity to build around all the big dumb creatures in red to storm off in an entirely new way. If paired with Halana, Kessig Ranger you'll also have access to all the valuable "untappers" Selvala, Heart of the Wilds enjoys in green, with the added benefit to remove threats off the board with Halana, Kessig Ranger's triggered ability.
If you do decide to pair Alena, Kessig Trapper with Halana, Kessig Ranger, you'll have access to some real Gruul goodness. Folks say aggro beats aren't a real strategy in Commander, but I've got a three card combo that says otherwise. You're obviously ramping out and playing for gobs of mana should you be on Alena and Halana, so to really abuse all this rampage let's play Thornling + Aggravated Assault.
Use those dorks to help play out the Thornling or even Natural Order it, buff it and give it haste. Use Alena, Kessig Trapper's ability to pay for the Aggravated Assault, rinse and repeat. Should Thornling face too much opposition, use one of your untapped dorks to pay for indestructible. Now Thornling is a one-elemental-shapeshifter army.
I never anticipated we'd get a similar effect again, but here we are; and these are only two of the new 41 available mono-colored legends! Alongside their announcement, we also had Baron Sengir's big reveal in this latest set. Of course Sengir, the Dark Baron will be coming back in mono-black fashion, but with a few new tricks.
Of the announced partners, none pair too well with Sengir, but remember we've got our past partners to pull from as well, and Reyhan, Last of the Abzan is looking like the partner pairing of choice. Though she won't be in Abzan anymore, Golgari is all about dredge and reanimation, two things perfect for fueling the Baron game plan. With any basic engine to loop Sengir, the Dark Baron's death triggers—for instance, Phyrexian Altar + Diregraf Colossus + Gravecrawler—you can make both mana and +1/+1 counters to fuel an army, utilizing Reyhan, Last of the Abzan's ability! Throw those on your Walking Ballista, slam a Concordant Crossroads and swing with an insanely buff Zombie army or give Reyhan the one-two punch necessary to knock out an opponent (just make sure to recast Sengir first for some life gain).
Reyhan, Last of the Abzan was easily amongst the most underplayed partners from Commander 2016, but she and others from the precons will have a chance to shine with the new pairings made available through Commander Legends. If you're like me and were getting tired of the current partner pairings, this upcoming set is sure to shake down the partner tree. As a full-time brewer, I love options. Playing with the color pie in new ways and forming strategies around my chosen commander: that to me is what this format is all about.
Commander is going to break wide open with a whole host of new lists, and I cannot wait to see more diverse pods and Commander decks out in the wild. Add in the draft experience Commander Legends will offer, and there's a ton more to look forward to this year.