Zendikar Rising Commander Deck Review: The Lands
If you missed the previous breakdown of the other new Zendikar Rising set Commander deck, check it out here: Zendikar Rising Commander Deck Review: The Rogues
Earlier in the year, Wizards released the preconstructed Commander decks of the year with Ikoria that were designed as standard Commander sets. With Zendikar Rising, they’ve released two new Commander decks that depart from the traditional design. The main takeaways from this are the price, only one new Legendary creature for the deck, and the number of newly printed cards. For this set, each Commander deck is $25.99 at time of writing and there are only three unique cards that have been printed per deck including the new Commander. These decks are focused on reprints and meant to be upgraded by the cards printed in the set they’re accompanying. But how do these decks hold up on their own?
Previously we’ve looked at Sneak Attack, a Dimir Rogue list based around the commander Anowon, the Ruin Thief and overall had a very positive response. A strong core theme with great value reprints but a number of questionable inclusions for the deck. Today let’s take a look at the second of the two new decks, the Red/Green/White Landfall deck led by Obuun, Mul Daya Ancestor. Let's see how it stacks up in terms of power level, design, value and upgradability.
Commander: Obuun, Mul Daya Ancestor
Colours: Naya (Red/Green/White)
Core Theme(s): Landfall / +1/+1 Counters
To start things off, the mana in this deck is generally pretty good. The lands offer a diverse set of duals and colour fixing options while there is a reasonable amount of ramp spells in the deck itself coming to a total of roughly thirteen ramp spells for fifty cards dedicated to mana in the deck. Not a bad number until you start looking at some of the individual picks for ramp spells and the lack of quality in them. For starters, the vast majority of the spells are three mana outside of the mana rocks and Khalni Heart Expedition. This makes ramping multiple times in the early turns rather difficult thanks to the mediocre cards. For example, look at Kor Cartographer. A perfectly fine card in a Mono-White deck that needs a second Solemn Simulacrum but an insult to a deck that has Green in its available colours for ramp. The questionable ramp cards continue throughout this list. This doesn’t just stop at the ramp spells either, but also some of the creatures of the deck.
The Rest of the Deck
With a total of 32 creatures in the 99, the deck certainly has some interesting picks to try and round out the list with many of them attempting to support the far weaker theme of +1/+1 counters. Evolution Sage, Abzan Falconer and Armorcraft Judge are just a few examples of cards that are awkwardly thrown in here for the deck to have multiple themes. In reality, the deck should really just be focused on Landfall and enabling the Commander. The secondary ability to grant +1/+1 counters on Obuun is easily the weakest component of the card and will likely be used just to pump itself so granting bonuses for all your creatures with +1/+1 counters will likely just become “give this bonus to Obuun.” Despite this, among the creatures there are some wonderful inclusions that try to keep this deck afloat such as Omnath, Locus of Rage, Rampaging Baloths, Admonition Angel, Emeria Angel and Mina and Denn, Wildborn. Some excellent finishers among these cards but the average creature in this deck are just so far below par.
The spells are an extension of this issue as well. As mentioned before, the quality of ramp in the deck isn’t as high as it could be and there are a high number of just mediocre cards like Crush Contraband which could have easily just been Return to Dust at the same rarity but a high-quality reprint. The same can be said for most of the cards on display here. There were other card options, and they went out of their way to pick lower power alternatives. It’s an unfortunate choice that will leave a lot of players unimpressed but Wizards does love leaving a clear path for upgrading and you can bet there is a very clear path for this Commander.
For starters, the entirety of Zendikar Rising has a heavy focus on the Landfall mechanic itself. With all the dual-faced cards, finishers and enablers you will find no shortage of cards to upgrade this deck on a budget. The biggest disappointment is the general lack of cards from the new set which is a rather large discrepancy from the Rogues deck which had the majority of high quality uncommon and common Rogues from Zendikar Rising.
The Value of the Deck
On the bright side from a value perspective, the deck is still relatively close to the Rogue deck. So many cards are easily a dollar or two but the reprints of Omnath, Locus of Rage and Admonition Angel really stand out across the rest of the deck and cover the value of the deck alone. It also includes the standard Sol Ring and Arcane Signet that helps boost the value nicely. Don’t expect the Commander of the deck itself to hold value, unfortunately. The deck is overall a solid buy from a value perspective, however. It’s a shame they didn’t go a touch further and add Avenger of Zendikar or even just print Phylath, World Sculptor into the deck but it is fine as is.
The New Cards
While they’re maintaining financial value, the new cards printed into the deck are an unfortunate mixed bag. To start off with, the commander Obuun, Mul Daya Ancestor is just a very mediocre landfall Commander. With the number of Omnaths available, the new legend Phylath, World Sculptor or even just something like Tatyova, Benthic Druid all just make for far more powerful Commanders. The key upside to running Obuun lies in the fact it grants you access to the Naya Shard of colours but arguably you’d be better off grabbing an Omnath, Locus of Creation and just going for the 4 colour approach. An unfortunate misfire of a Commander when compared to Anowon, the Ruin Thief, but not an unexpected one.
The other two cards Geode Rager and Trove Warden are also rather disappointing additions. Geode Rager has been made obsolete by simply printing Moraug, Fury of Akoum at the same converted mana cost making it incredibly hard to justify something as week as a 4/3 at the 6 mana slot.
Trove Warden makes for an okay enough alternative to Sun Titan but the fact that it has to die makes it harder to justify. In a format full of Path to Exile, Swords to Plowshares and other exiling effects, this card just likely won’t make the cut. It looks to be an unfortunate rerun of Bishop of Rebirth which hasn’t really done anything in the format.
Upgrading the Deck
So far this deck leaves a lot of negative takeaways. However, if the Commander speaks to you, it's an easy deck to build with a very linear path. Cut the cards that try to heavily play into the +1/+1 counter theme and the mediocre ramp spells. Only keep the stronger payoffs and ramp, then add some cheap ramp cards and budget payoffs from recent sets and you’ll be golden. As mentioned before, the budget upgrades for this deck are endless. In the ramp you can easily include classics such as Rampant Growth, Farseek, Migration Path, Hour of Promise and many more. For creatures and finishers you can add Phylath, World Sculptor, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Radha, Heart of Keld, Liege of the Tangle, Scute Swarm, Tomik, Distinguished Advokist and many more. There are so many options for Landfall cards that the deck out of the box is a disappointing misfire.
In comparison to the Rogue deck, this one falls flat in every regard apart from value. Despite that, for the $25.99 price point, this deck is still a steal for value. On the bright side, the upgrade path is crystal clear to players both new and old so Obuun should be a fun inclusion to the format soon enough. The price points of these two decks really make it hard to complain too much about them. They both feature fun mechanics that highlight some of the most fun cards out of the new set so if you can get the two together, it would come at a strong recommendation with the caveat of expecting to upgrade the lists to your liking pretty soon but neither will break the bank in comparison to the traditional preconstructed decks. For the price of these two together ($49.99 at the time of writing), you’re getting more value than most preconstructed Commander decks.
If these decks do become a new norm for sets going forward, you can expect an overall positive impact on the format. The themes being newer player-friendly also has solid support in the corresponding set leading to easy new Commander builds. That’s it for this preconstructed review! Let’s hope these (and their price point) are appealing enough for Wizards to continue printing. Be sure to take advantage of their wonderful value even if they’re not particularly powerful out of the box.