Abzan Commander Review
Multi-colour cards are in many ways the backbone of Commander. We love them as our commanders, and we love the power level they bring with them. In our format, the more colours you add to a card, the fewer decks they're allowed to be played in. However, since the printing of the four colour commanders and partners, the shard and wedge cards (three colour combos) have a whole new life ahead of them.
So, with this in mind let's take a look at the three colour cards in Commander and judge their viability in the format with a classic letter grade, starting with Abzan. I'll look at each card's multiplayer effect, its power level, and whether or not it's playable in a multitude of decks or just one. For legendary creatures I'll still assign one letter grade, but also talk about the card's viability as a commander or in the 99.
The grading looks like this:
A: Bombs/broken cards and excellent commanders. A lot of fun with unique design and interaction. Will effect the board in a big way in just about any deck or will allow for a very strong deck to be built around it if it is a commander.
B: Very good cards in most decks or total bombs in only one particular deck. Solid commanders but perhaps not the best in the colours.
C: A playable commander card, not great, maybe you're running it because of budget reasons. This card may be perfectly good in a specific deck yet not playable in others. An average commander, the abilities make for a mildly interesting/fun commander.
D: Not really a playable card in EDH except in some corner cases and specific builds. Generally not good. A commander that has no relevant abilities or is just not very fun.
F: Unplayable in a commander deck or as the commander itself.
Abzan Ascendancy – C
The whole ascendancy cycle is all over the map when it comes to EDH. Some are amazing and some are unplayable. Abzan Ascendancy walks the line and is basically a textbook C. Playable, good in a specific deck (Ghave?), but not really exciting in most decks that could run it. Decent card but you need the sacrifice and +1/+1 synergy to make it work.
Abzan Charm – C
The charm cycle is a lot like the ascendancy cycle, wildly different from shard to shard and wedge to wedge. I actually think Abzan Charm is one of the most playable in that it often exiles a decent creature at instant speed and will never be a dead card in your hand if for some reason your opponents have no creatures you can hit. I doubt the +1/+1 option is worth using ever, but the fact that it's even there is just nice. Modal cards in every format of magic are great. That being said it's not super flashy and there are better versions of the “exile a creature” card.
Abzan Guide – D
The lifegain morph was a beast in limited, but its benefits just don't translate in EDH. Unless you're running some lifegain deck that wanted a morph? For some reason? I can't bring myself to give this card an F but it's close.
Anafenza is a decent commander but her abilities don't exactly inspire an entire deck around her. This isn't to say you can't build a great Commander deck around Ana, you totally can. As a card she is a useful effect on a half decent costed commander with upside which is all fine. She does a lot, but it doesn't add up to that much when you compare her to other commanders just in her own colours. She may be more at home as a card in the 99.
Armament Corps – D-
Not really playable outside of an ETB +1/+1 build that doesn't really exist in these colours? I've never seen it played in Commander.
An underrated card, either of these cards on their own probably get a C-, but smash em both on the same card and they're... mildly better. Modal means it's decent where it may not have been otherwise.
I really had high hopes for the Abzan version of the Fate Reforged hybrid commanders and was totally let down by Daghatar. Three mana is too much to pay to move ONE +1/+1 counter in most formats, let alone the format where Forgotten Ancient does it for free every turn with as many counters as you want. I've never seen him run as a commander and wouldn't understand why you weren't just running Ghave or Anafenza instead.
Doran's ability is completely unique in Magic with only one other card in history coming close, Dragons of Tarkir's Assault Formation. Doran's using toughness to assign damage for ALL creatures has a very fun effect on games and can be built to have a lot of power. Cards like Doran are why the Commander format exists and why it's so popular. He takes cards you wouldn't have ever dreamed of playing and makes them win.
Duneblast – A-
While it's certainly harder to cast than other board wipes in these colours, it does benefit from its upside even more in EDH since we generally like our commanders to live. I really think Duneblast is one of the best in the format despite its big mana cost.
Not surprisingly one of the best Abzan commanders since it was actually designed for the first Commander product back in 2011, Ghave recently got a much needed reprint in the C16 four-colour set. An excellent commander with interesting and powerful abilities Ghave is known for locking opponents out of creatures, running over opponents with massive saprolings or generating infinite mana and pinging enemies to death with Blood Artists. AKA everything you want your commander to do, Ghave does it.
Ivorytusk Fortress – C+
Solid in any +1/+1 deck that can run it, Ivorytusk Fortress isn't much good in anything else, but get it in Ghave and it's almost another Seedborn Muse. Get some mana dorks involved and it's even better.
Simply put one of the best commanders around. Both in power level and fun, Karador is borderline broken yet completely reasonable. Karador embodies Jason Alt's 75% theory in that it will be as strong as the cards you put around it. Use him as a reanimator, a toolbox, or just for some occasional value. Karador is truly one of the greats.
Overgrown Estate – F
What is this card, from another dimension? In what world was this ever good?
*Meanwhile in the Garbage Dimension* - "I just sold another Overgrown Estate on Ebay for $30,000 open up a vintage bottle of Fanta Grape, we're watching all of Adam Sandler's academy award winning Netflix movies!"
Ready // Willing – D
I remember opening this rare in Dragon's Maze and going “This seems unfair.” I was right then and I am right once more. Ready and Willing is an OK effect for a big token deck (which Abzan is good at) but there are just so many other effects batter than it. This doesn't touch power and toughness for example. Really it's a better defensive card than anything else. Overall not something you really care about.
Siege Rhino – C+
The standard behemoth that was Siege Rhino really gets taken down a few pegs in EDH. It's power and toughness are easily outclassed and it's efficient mana cost doesn't mean much around these parts. Ultimately it's not super playable outside of a Karador ETB deck or something similar but it does have potential. Three life to each opponent can add up quickly.
Teneb is a great commander who suffers simply from the fact that a better version of him exists in Karador. But don't let that discourage you from building with him. While Teneb's ability requires a bit of setup, he pulls creatures from all graveyards and can be built very different than his ghost centaur buddy.
Abzan is one of the best colour combinations in Magic and unsurprisingly makes for a great commander deck. Using graveyard and +1/+1 synergies, the cards that sport all of its colours generally carry a high level of power and useful with surprisingly few duds. Stay tuned next week when I review another shard or wedge!
Let me know if you agree or disagree with the Abzan review! Did I underestimate something or miss a killer deck that uses Overgrown Estate? Let me know!