The Command Center – Commander Anthology Review

Hello friends. I hope everyone had a great week. I sure did. This week was my church’s Vacation Bible School and our theme for it was superheroes. From 9-12 this past week, I led a group of just-finished first graders from recreation to science to story to arts and crafts to music. It really solidified for me that the current path I’m taking – trying to become an elementary school teacher – is the right one. First graders are such a cool group. They’re no longer babies and they’re very much trying to figure out their place in the world.

Anyways, as for this week, I know everyone has been glued to their computer screens checking out spoilers for Hour of Devastation. I’m been eagerly anticipating the Legendary Creatures myself as I know I’ll be creating deck lists for all of them in the upcoming weeks. I’m also a pretty big fan of the cycle of “defeat” cards as I think they have cool flavor and they all seem like decent sideboard options.

Once the remainders of the spoilers are released, I’ll give a rundown of the set. What should I do for this week in the meantime? Well, recently a Commander product was released. So today, I’m going to break down the Commander Anthology product and give my opinion of the four decks included.

Heavenly Inferno

The first deck is Heavenly Inferno which is the single most expensive deck in the Anthology. All of that boils down to the price of Kaalia. Having only been printed in the Commander’s Arsenal previously and as perhaps the most popular Mardu Commander, Kaalia carries a very hefty $50 price tag. With her ability to drop overpriced Angels, Demons, and Dragons onto the battlefield tapped and attacking, it’s not hard to see why she’s so popular. You can easily make an Angel, Demon, or Dragon tribal decks and just go ham, and since the creature Kaalia puts into play comes in attacking, the best creatures to have in the deck are ones with enter the battlefield effects or deals combat damage effects.

As cool as Kaalia is though, her deck is just not very well built. The only card that draws cards in the deck is Syphon Mind. That, combined with the fact that there are only 21 Angel, Demon, or Dragons in the deck, means that this deck runs out of steam fast. Also, of those 21 creatures, we have clunkers such as Dragon Whelp, Dread Cacodemon (who only wipes the board if he was cast from your hand and so doesn’t work with Kaalia particularly well), Fallen Angel (who is usually only a 3/3 since you don’t want to sacrifice many creatures in the deck), Furnace Whelp, Lightkeeper of Emeria (who you can’t multikick if you put her into play with Kaalia’s trigger), Oni of Wild Places (I understand that you can return something like Malfegor in order to retrigger him with Kaalia’s help but that play is way too slow), Razorjaw Oni (I suppose he can be decent if we’re facing a black deck to stop them from blocking), Reiver Demon (who again only triggers if cast), Serra Angel (once a fantastic creature, Serra Angel is just not at the same power level as most of the creatures in Commander nowadays), Shattered Angel, and Voice of All. That’s quite a bit of chaff.

Now, it’s not all bad of course. Putting Akroma, Angel of Fury, Angel of Despair, Archangel of Strife, Bladewing the Risen, Malfegor, and Oros, the Avenger off of Kaalia’s trigger can lead to some pretty epic moments. I also like the protection suite of Lightning Greaves, Master Warcraft, and Bathe in Light. Also, the cycle of vows is still a pretty cool aspect for a multiplayer game.

While playing with Heavenly Inferno, I found that her reputation preceded her and players killed her on sight. Since she often died, the deck would end up spinning its wheels as with no card draw and it ran out of steam fast. Kaalia is a cool (if not overplayed) build-around Commander but Heavenly Inferno is not a very good deck.

Top 5 cards in deck:

  1. Kaalia of the Vast
  2. Tariel, Reckoner of Souls
  3. Mother of Runes
  4. Malfegor
  5. Bladewing the Risen

Top 5 cards to add:

  1. Rune-Scarred Demon
  2. Balefire Dragon
  3. Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
  4. Lord of the Void
  5. Hellkite Tyrant

Evasive Maneuvers

In 2013’s series of Commander decks, Wizards experimented with and explored the Command Zone. Oloro would sit in it and gain you 2 life a turn and Jeleva, Prossh, and Marath all did things based on how much mana was spent to cast them which meant they became stronger as the game progressed. Derevi, Empyrial Tactician was different though. She has an ability that allows her to be put onto the battlefield for 4 mana meaning that the Commander Tax basically didn’t apply to her because you never just cast her. This fact makes it feel like you’re kinda cheating when you get to just put Derevi onto the battlefield, board wipe after board wipe, while your opponents’ Commanders cost more and more.

Playing with Evasive Maneuvers, I could certainly tell that Wizards better understood how to build a cohesive Commander deck since the previous year’s incarnation. Evasive Maneuvers is all about figuring out how to snowball an advantage by making a board of token creatures to make sure you get multiple tap and untap triggers every turn. Azami, Lady of Scrolls and Skyward Eye Prophets will make sure that you’re never low on things to do. This deck can make a token army fast with the help of Kazandu Tuskcaller, Selesnya Guildmage, Leafdrake Roost, and Presence of Gond. The tokens generated will then help make sure you have multiple untap triggers to either steal your opponents’ creatures with Djinn of Infinite Deceits and Rubinia Soulsinger, build a huge Phantom Nantuko, flicker all of the things with Roon of the Hidden Realm, or deal damage to problematic creatures, planeswalkers, or players with Thornwind Faeries.

One of my biggest qualms with this deck is that, while you can durdle for a long time, it can be hard to find a route to victory. Mirror Entity can certainly help but I would want to see some more ways to close out a game. For example. one possible victory I could see in this deck is Blue Sun’s Zenith fireballing your opponent if you hit somebody with enough tokens to continually untap your Basalt Monolith. Also, while I like flickering cards as much as the next Commander player, I don’t really think the flicker package makes a whole lot of sense in this deck. It just seems like it’s not doing the same thing as the tap/untap package.

Ultimately, Evasive Maneuvers is a sweet deck that allows you to durdle for a long time while building up a token army.

Top 5 cards in deck:

  1. Derevi, Empyrial Tactician
  2. Roon of the Hidden Realm
  3. Conjurer’s Closet
  4. Bane of Progress
  5. Unexpectedly Absent

Top 5 cards to add:

  1. Arcanis the Omnipotent
  2. Willbreaker
  3. Kiora’s Follower
  4. Arbiter of the Ideal
  5. Daring Thief

Guided by Nature

A popular variant of Commander saw players using Planeswalkers as Commanders. and in 2014, Wizards decided to cater to them by making Planeswalkers you could always use as Commanders. Guided by Nature also adds a tribal deck to the Anthology as Freyalise leads an army of Elves. Freyalise was extra cool to players that had been playing for a long time since she was a character that was featured in books dating back to Ice Age.

Guided by Nature is quite possibly the strongest of the four decks right out of the box and does a very good job of having a cohesive plan. Speaking of, the game plan for the deck is pretty straight forward: amass an army of elves and gain a bunch of mana through either Elvish Archdruid or Priest of Titania and then overwhelm your opponent with a barrage of effects such as Overrun, Overwhelming Stampede, Beastmaster Ascension, Joraga Warcaller, or Ezuri, Renegade Leader. This deck also has plenty of card draw thanks to Collective Unconscious, Grim Flowering, Primordial Sage, Soul of the Harvest, and Freyalise’s ultimate.

The only change I think I would make to the deck is to streamline it a little bit more. While it’s nice to own a Titania, I would probably cut it from this deck in favor of more elf synergy cards. This means I would cut Titania, Protector of Argoth, Crystal Vein, Evolving Wilds, and Terramorphic Expanse.

Top 5 cards:

  1. Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury
  2. Titania, Protector of Argoth
  3. Ezuri, Renegade Leader
  4. Praetor’s Counsel
  5. Song of the Dryads

Top 5 cards to add:

  1. Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen
  2. Craterhoof Behemoth
  3. Regal Force
  4. Joraga Treespeaker
  5. Elvish Harbinger

Plunder the Graves

Before I start talking about this deck, I have to admit that I’m biased here. My favorite color combination is Magic is black/green. Playing creatures and killing creatures is the BG way of life and it’s really all I want to do when I play Magic. I also love to send my cards to the graveyard only to get them right back and that’s exactly what Meren is interested in. That’s why when Wizards created this batch of Commander decks and introduced the experience counters, I fell in love with this one.

Meren is a busted Commander. It’s so easy to get experience counters that it takes no time before you’re reanimating a creature from your graveyard at the end of each of your turns. Plunder the Graves is filled with small utility creatures such as Sakura-Tribe Elder, Satyr Wayfinder, Viridian Emissary, Wall of Blossoms, Viridian Zealot, Wood Elves, and Eternal Witness as well as ways to send them to the graveyard like Skullclamp, Korozda Guildmage, Blood Bairn, Phyrexian Plaguelord, and Champion of Stray Souls. Once you’ve sent your utility creatures to the graveyard, you can get them back with Meren of Clan Nel Toth, Diabolic Servitude, and Rise from the Grave.

Maybe it was just the few games I’ve played with the deck but I found that I was constantly without a graveyard because it was so easy to continually bring my creatures back from it. This was fine, except for the fact that it made cards like Spider Spawning, Bonehoard, and Kessig Cagebreakers much weaker. The deck does have cards such as Mulch and Grisly Salvage in order to fuel the graveyard shenanigans, but I think I would want to see more of these effects.

While I certainly have my own personal bias to the color combination and the fact that I find Meren to be the most fun, I think the best deck is Plunder the Graves.

Top 5 Cards:

  1. Meren of Clan Nel Toth
  2. Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
  3. Phyrexian Plaguelord
  4. Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest
  5. Butcher of Malakir

Top 5 Cards to Add:

  1. High Market
  2. Grim Haruspex
  3. Liliana, Heretical Healer
  4. Evolutionary Leap
  5. Birthing Pod

Wrap Up

There you have it. I’ve personally been having a blast getting to play with these decks. I will say that I wish they had worked on the color distribution a little bit. There are 3 green decks, 2 decks that have white and black and only 1 deck that has red and blue. They could have swamped one of the green decks like Guided by Nature for a blue or red counterpart to even them out, but I do understand why these four decks were chosen.

I think Plunder the Graves is the most fun, Guided by Nature is the strongest, Evasive Maneuvers has the most durdle potential, and Heavenly Inferno has the strongest Commander. If you’ve played with Commander Anthology (or with any of these four decks), I’d love to hear your thoughts on them. Until next time, I hope everyone has a great week!

Troy Bishop

Troy Bishop

Troy Bishop prides himself in his Magic accomplishments which include being the 2015 Modern Spring Virginia State Champion, an appearance at Pro Tour Magic 2015, and once equipping an Avacyn, Angel of Hope with Worldslayer. Troy likes to have fun while playing Magic regardless of whether it’s at the kitchen table or playing for the top 8 of an SCG Open. He also wants to be your friend. So, add him on Facebook today.
Troy Bishop

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Published:June 26, 2017

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