The Humans of C20
This is the fifth part of my analysis series concerning the Commander 2020 preconstructed decks. If you’re looking for the previous parts on the Sultai, Abzan, Jeskai, or Temur decks, you can find them here!
The Temur and Jeskai decks were a welcome surprise after going through the Abzan and Sultai decks. They’re focused and consistent lists with a sufficient number of enablers and a few quality reprints and new cards that will help them hold value as well as help a few cards be a bit more affordable. After these two strong decks, can the Mardu deck offer a tribal deck as good as the previous Edgar Markov vampire list? Let’s take a look at tribal Humans in Commander 2020.
Commander: Jirina Kudro
Colours: Mardu (Red, White, Black)
Core Theme(s): Humans Tribal
With 28 creatures carrying the type Human, the deck maintains a reasonably high level of focus. The remainder of the deck also supports the core plan reasonably well but lacks enough significant sources of card advantage. This type of tribal deck is made by the ability to draw multiple threats a turn or to consistently draw on each threat you deploy through Glimpse of Nature effects. While that type of effect is harder to come by outside of green, there is certainly still the option of Vanquisher’s Banner that unfortunately has not received a reprint in this deck. There are a high number of tribal payoff cards that didn't get included in this deck, therefore it will frequently just run out of gas after a big turn. An unfortunate but fixable problem that could have provided some key reprints in the format.
The mana base of this deck leans much lower on the curve in comparison to the other decks this year, but it's still far from what it needs to be. It hopes to be casting multiple spells a turn without ramping excessively. The Commander itself is meant to be a payoff for casting as many Humans as the deck can manage. However, there’s an over-reliance on cards that cost three or greater. While being lower on the curve, the deck doesn’t quite do enough to snowball into a powerful board. When making modifications to the deck, you’ll want to cut a high number of the three drops and above in favour of cards that create multiple bodies to support the go wide plan of the deck. Adding efficient threats that will help draw you cards or stay on curve (see Humans like Dark Confidant or other more budget-friendly Humans and Shapeshifters) will greatly help the deck out as well.
The mana base is very reasonable in the list. There are much-appreciated reprints such as Path of Ancestry and Unclaimed Territory, but the number of lands that come into play tapped is just too high for a deck that needs to play as close to curve as possible. Taking a turn or two off to fix your mana in this deck is definitely more rough than the other decks. The individual quality of cards is less powerful and the deck requires a critical mass before it starts accomplishing anything powerful. The deck lacks ways to catch up to the other decks effectively and needs to establish a board state early and then use a handful of higher-end cards that allow for synergy.
It is nice to see the signets printed into this list, but the deck will definitely need more lands that come into play untapped. A large percentage of the cards currently cost double white, double black, or double red, making a consistent mana base far more difficult. The biggest priority in the deck is hitting double white on turn two as that is the most likely to come up and with only eleven untapped white sources, Knight of the White Orchid is not very likely to be played anywhere near the curve. This deck could have even used a Caves of Koilos for a nice improvement.
The legendary creatures of this deck are where it all falls apart. The Commander Jirina Kudro is designed with the hope that you’re casting it multiple times in a game to put a lot of power onto the board with all the humans it will be making. Unfortunately, when you’re trying to be as efficient as possible in your tribal deck, two mana for a 1/1 with no abilities is less than ideal. The deck’s only form of ramp is the signets, Sol Ring and Myriad Landscape. Having a lot of mana to put into your Commander isn’t going to be this deck’s strong suit. A similar thing can be said for the Partner Commanders here.
Trynn & Silvar
Trynn, Champion of Freedom and Silvar, Devourer of the Free are two rather underpowered Commanders in a format full of efficient spells. Silvar has mediocre stats, lacks haste, and is just too narrow of a card. The partners would suggest either a voltron or aristocrat style deck but lack the payoff or power that other legendary creatures offer in this colour combination. This partner pairing won’t likely see much play and is a rather huge disappointment.
Kelsien, the Plague
On the less disappointing side of this deck, the alternate Commander Kelsien, the Plague is actually an interesting new pick. Using the old experience counter mechanic from Commander 2015, Kelsien doesn’t care how many times they die. So if you can get a high number of counters, you’re going to have a big Commander with haste printed on it. The potential for this card is quite high with the number of artifacts that can give Kelsien deathtouch. The fact that they only cost three mana is something to be held in very high regard. Most Mardu commanders that offer any sort of power end up higher on the mana curve, so to have a potentially powerful Commander be printed at such a low casting cost is a big deal for this colour combination. Kelsien’s effect offers a strong enough payoff to consider building around and nothing screams playability more to the Commander community than to build around one card. Expect this one to see a reasonable amount of play and hold a modest value.
Similar to the Abzan deck, there’s a real winner for card advantage in white, as well as just a wonderful new addition to the format in general. Verge Rangers is a weaker Courser of Kruphix that grants white decks card advantage by playing lands off the top of their library. In the Mardu colours, you’ll rarely be ahead of your opponents on lands. This is likely the most powerful card to be printed into this deck, and in combination with Cartographer’s Hawk, this set will be a huge boost to white decks in the format. Similar to the hawk, if this card doesn’t see a reprint soon you can expect it to hold a rather high value soon enough. Preorder price at the time of writing is CAD$8.99 and we can assume that price won’t hold once players start getting their hands on it. A strong card in this deck for both value and power level purposes.
Fireflux Squad is certainly an interesting addition. While offering little payoff in the deck out of the box, this card could hold some power in big red decks. Get rid of your early game creature like Generator Servant in exchange for a Blightsteel Colossus seems pretty good. While not likely to make a large splash in the format as deck manipulation is what would make this card especially powerful, I’m sure this will see some play. Xenagos, God of Revels will likely throw another set release party just for this card.
On the less interesting side of red, Frontier Warmonger looks like a pretty middle of the road card. It incentivizes attacks against your opponents rather than yourself, but it will likely just result in a big target being painted on your head. While this can help the deck itself, it’s likely just going to be worse than Iroas, God of Victory. Don’t expect this card to go anywhere.
Titan Hunter continues the trend of dealing damage to players on their end step if they don’t meet a certain requirement. While sometimes they can rack up some damage, they’re usually a rather high mana cost and just don’t impact the board sufficiently. The deck also doesn’t make that many tokens out of the box and would require some significant changes before you just start hurting yourself regularly with this card.
While this deck fails to take much advantage of the card, Call the Coppercoats could be powerful in the right meta. This is definitely dependent on if the decks you see frequently are creature-based or spell/control based decks. At the right table, this card could be explosive in the late game, but it could also just be a waste of a slot. The deck as it currently stands doesn’t take much advantage of it and the ability to cast it with strive may prove to be difficult. I expect green white token decks to take advantage of this card more than most Mardu lists. If the mana cost of this card was lower you could expect it to hold a high price, but it costs a little too much to be in high demand. A potentially powerful card but too niche to become a staple.
Of course, we need to touch on the "free if you control a Commander" card in this deck. Flawless Maneuver serves as that second copy of Heroic Intervention that token decks are dying for. It’s a solid effect at two mana but when it’s free it’s great. Similar to Negate where it’s pretty solid as is, it just becomes nuts when it’s free. The only difference is this supports specific strategies while Fierce Guardianship is just good in any blue deck. Expect this to hold value and see a fair amount of play, just not to the extent of Fierce Guardianship.
Wizards heard that you liked Bloodforged Battle-Axe, so they made it worse. Welcome Sanctuary Blade to Commander, a card that will likely only see play in voltron lists in hopes of further protecting a Commander. After a total of five mana to cast and equip it, it gives whatever creature you end up attaching it to protection from a colour of your choice. While not a bad card, it’s just not as good as most of the two mana equipment you could be casting instead like Sunforger or Lightning Greaves leaving this card in a questionable position. It holds some potential for decks that want an equipment package but that’s a rather niche group.
The last of the new cards for us to go over is the tribal version of Flameshadow Conjuring; Molten Echoes. As it currently stands, this deck would struggle to take advantage of it. Outside of the Commander, very few creatures in the deck have "enter the battlefield" triggers and the deck would struggle to cast enough creatures in one turn to really take advantage of this card. It could potentially be used for sacrifice value, but the deck also can’t really take advantage of that other than Bounty Agent. It holds potential but certainly not within this list. Flameshadow Conjuring barely sees play as it so we can expect a similar fate for this one.
This deck out of the box may not be particularly powerful but it does hold some quality reprints, and Flawless Maneuver will likely hold a large portion of the deck's price for value. Thalia’s Lieutenant, Zulaport Cutthroat, Knight of the White Orchard, Disciple of Bolas, Nahiri, the Harbinger, Terminate, Cleansing Nova, Skullclamp, and Path of Ancestry are all individually inexpensive but add up to a very nice number of reprints. To bring this deck to the same level as the others in this set, you’ll have to upgrade it a fair bit because it’s just not going to do much out of the box. There’s a distinct lack of high-quality finishers or card advantage that will just result in this deck not really doing a whole lot to build its board or close out a game.
Mardoing It All
If you’re pitting the precons against each other, the deck has the potential to hold its own just due to the fact they don’t run many board wipes. The deck doesn’t have much of a capacity to take over the game just on its own because the deck itself is just very clunky. You'll need a much smoother gameplan to deal 120 damage to your opponents. When upgrading the first thing you’re going to want to do is decrease the number of high mana plays that just don’t do enough to justify their inclusions. Titan of Eternal Fire is an incredibly high investment for a card that doesn’t do much, so cut cards like that. Include some of the cheaper creatures available to the tribe like Champion of the Parish or Bloodsoaked Champion to make sure you can take advantage of your Commander and the other payoffs in the deck.
Vanquisher’s Banner is getting further and further away from being a budget card, but it should be an auto-include in tribal decks that are struggling for Glimpse of Nature effects. The mana base is also one of the key components holding this deck back from a more consistent gameplan. Reducing the number of cards that cost two of anyone given colour and increasing the number of untapped sources are going to increase the power of this deck significantly. If you have access to shock lands from Ravnica, fetch lands from Khans and Zendikar or even check lands from Dominaria and Ixalan, you should include them immediately. Taking a turn off for your mana is rough unless you’re ramping, which is why the two mana talismans should also be included. If you have the budget for it, Wayfarer’s Bauble holds potential in this list as well for fixing. When you need to be recasting your Commander multiple times a game, you’ll want as much mana as you can get.
The value of this deck is reasonable, the card quality is middle of the road in underrepresented colours, and there are some good new cards printed into it. I expect this deck to be overhyped but end up not winning too many games. Out of the box it hopes to punish decks with bad mana bases while having one itself. This deck can definitely use some work but the alternate Commander of Kelsien, the Plague looks to be an interesting deck that offers a strong alternative to Queen Marchesa for new Mardu players. Not the best of these new decks but far from the worst that will make most older Commander players happy with their new cards while appealing to tribal themes that newer Commander players will also enjoy.
And that’s the last of the new Commander decks! Next time I’ll be offering an overall set overview as well as comparing the Commander decks side by side a little more as well as some of the overall misses by the decks this year and upgrades from Ikoria itself.