Grixis Commander Review: Part 1
Grixis is the home of zombies and powerful wizards, dragons and evil monarchs. Mechanically it's the home of unearth, dethrone, and all manner of graveyard interaction. Its combination of blue, red, and black results in a powerful group of cards that have unique and interesting effects on the game.
Being able to employ spells one moment, bring creatures back from graveyards the next, and bring some of the biggest, baddest, and most fun commanders available to bear means that Grixis is a force to be reckoned with in any game of Commander.
A quick reminder of how this will work:
We’re looking 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.
She's the pirate lord we didn't really ask for, but are totally OK with having. It's no picnic trying to get three pirates through for damage on one player, even in EDH, but the good admiral is still a fun commander for a much beloved Commander tribe.
Blood Tyrant - B+
Made for multiplayer, the Blood Tyrant is a giant beater with a crazy win-more ability in a format that really wants to actually win more. Sure, I've never actually seen this card get the five counters from a player dying, but if it does, that's one massive, flying vampire soaring at your neck. Fun in Vampire decks, or anything that cares about +1/+1 counters, Blood Tyrant is classic EDH stuff.
Breaking and Entering is a pretty rare case of a split card where as two stand-alone cards, one of them is completely terrible. As a fused spell it's not all bad, and luckily Entering is a serviceable spell. But really, even if you fuse these together you're not getting a great deal. There are better options if you're in a Grixis reanimator deck, so go ahead and skip this.
Crosis's Charm – C+
Easily one of the most versatile charms in the many colour cycles we've seen. Crosis's Charm has two very relevant modes (creature and artifact kill) and a third (bounce) that, while lesser used, can still have a big impact on a game if timed correctly, almost entirely because no one will see it coming. Crosis's Charm isn't quite a B, but it's damn close.
Crosis, the Purger – B-
Crosis him/her(?)self is the Grixis dragon in this cycle, and is probably one of the better options behind Teneb and Intet. Almost like a Nicol Bolas Jr. without the upkeep cost, Crosis sits in a nice little spot of acting as a perfect discard commander or a fine addition to a 99 of the same theme.
Cruel Ultimatum – A
I love the ultimatum cycle and when you talk about Bolas' own, you're talking about the best of them hands down. While it doesn't have the same impact in a multiplayer game as in one v. one, it's still a completely crippling spell to cast on an opponent and can get you back into a game where you were far behind.
Dark Intimations – C+
It's like Wizards wanted to make a more fair and less impactful Cruel Ultimatum, and that's exactly what we got. The Planeswalker bonus part of this card seems like a bit of a pipe dream, even in Commander. So, judging this spell just by its first ability we kind of have a slightly worse Crackling Doom with upside, which isn't bad, but also isn't amazing. Good if you run a lot of Nicol Bolas's though!
Drastic Revelation – D+
At first glance this seems bad. With an empty hand this card says draw four cards for five mana at Sorcery speed – and while Tidings is a OK card at best, this is actually worse than that because of the times when you do have other cards in your hand.
Or is it!? If you're looking at a graveyard strategy, it can actually be better than a simple draw four spell. All of this is to say it sort of evens out in the end into a mildly playable card, but only in certain decks.
Elder Mastery - D+
Nicol Bolas really leaves his mark on these colours in a lot of ways. He even has an aura that does a reasonable impression of him!
I like this card in a thematic Nicol Bolas deck or some discard builds, but outside of those it's not really super impressive.
Elemental Augury – C-
This card feels like it should be green or just blue, but the ability to look at and manipulate the top of your deck can be a powerful one when paired with cards that care about it. That fact that it isn't Scry hurts a bit, but overpaying for Sensei's Divining Top isn't the worst.
Fire-Field Ogre - F
Unearth is a great and underrated EDH ability, but this creature doesn't really cut it in EDH no matter what you're doing.
The original three colour vampire commander is Garza Zol, and she's pretty good. The old school vampire mechanic plus a hasty flyer that draws you cards makes her a solid choice in these colours. The seven mana cost is a pretty big downside, but Garza can still lead a pretty mean deck and have a bit of fun at the same time.
Grixis Charm – D-
Waaaay worse than Crosis' Charm. I just don't think you can play this in Commander.
Grixis Grimblade – D
Of all these Alara creatures and their abilities, deathtouch will always be relevant where as first strike, trample, vigilance, and others aren't so much. Still not really playable, but the fact that it's a zombie makes it conceivable that you'd use it in some deck that cares.
No way, man.
Gwen's ability is actually a pretty mean one and can scare people a lot more than you might think. If someone is holding the one counterspell to protect against a board wipe, or a key combo piece they need to cast next turn, Gwen can totally wreck that gameplan. Or she can make you throw away a land.
A repeatable discard at random is definitely nothing to sneeze at, just be aware of the high variance you'll get on the results. Probably better suited as a 99, though not an awful choice to head a discard-themed deck.
Inalla, Archmage Ritualist – A
When they make cards specifically for commander I guess I shouldn't be surprised when they turn out to be super fun, powerful, thematic, and flavourful to the max. In other words, Inalla is a great commander for a Wizards tribal with an amazing ability in eminence.
Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge – A-
Same thing goes for Jeleva. Just make sure you load up your own deck full of instants and sorceries so that you're never relying on your opponents. I've seen Jeleva decks either run wild over their opponents, or whiff after whiff until they're killed off – rarely in between. So while her ability is great and she is a fun commander, she comes at a real deck building price and gets better depending on who you're playing.
Kederekt Creeper – F
Even deathtouch can't make a 2/3 deathtouch mean something in EDH.
Kess, Dissident Mage – A+
The best commanders are the ones with simple effects that are usable by many decks, and that can employ different strategies. Kess is a perfect example of a card that lends itself to helm control decks, big spell slinging decks, and everything in between. She's a toolbox helper, a focal point, and is as good as the spells you put in the deck. Karador for spells? Thank you, yes please!
I'll be back in two weeks with the Nicol Bolas section of the Grixis review (aka part 2), but in the meantime let us know your favourite Grixis cards and what you think of the ratings so far!