Grixis Commander Review: Part 2
This week we're getting a second helping of Grixis cards including not three, but four different varieties of Nicol Bolas. Some other awesome commanders like Testuo, Nekusar, and Sedris are being served up here too, so let's get to it and dig in!
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.
How do the strictly Grixis cards hold up in Commander? Let's find out!
Lord of Tresserhorn – B+
In a format where sacrificing your creatures is a bonus and losing two life isn't anywhere near a relevant downside, Lord of Tresserhorn doesn't look like he punishes you much for his massive stats to mana ratio. Even giving an opponent two cards can be a shrewd political move when someone is lagging behind in the game. All of that adds up to a 10/4 commander who packs a serious punch.
Another of the new commanders from C17, Mairsil has a super fun build-around ability of graveyard activated ability madness. Fortunately for his opponents, Mairsil can only activate each of his abilities once each turn, so there aren't any particularly insane interactions. But, through redundancy and sleek deck building it's not hard to have Mairsil become a true monster that dominates games. Just hope your opponents don't play Harsh Mentor.
The original Marchesa caught the eye of many EDH players, myself included! Recurring your creatures for free is such an abusable ability that in my local meta alone this card was responsible for a huge increase in instant speed graveyard hate.
While she gets a lot of flack for having a “solved” deck, there are so many ways to build around Marchesa: Rogues, Vampires, +1/+1, dethrone tribal. She really is one of the best legendaries from the Conspiracy sets, and a big reason as to why we Commander players want to see more Conspiracy all the time.
The only way you can play Mishra in EDH (and have him do anything) is if you use a little card called Possibility Storm. While that's a neat, weirdo deck with only one card allowing your commander to work, what a disappointment one of the most iconic legendary creatures in Magic ends up being for Commander. Future Commander sets: give us a new, more EDH friendly version of Mishra, please!
This card became an almost instant classic when it was released back in 2013, with Nekusar decks popping up in metas everywhere. Attacking from a different angle is something that appeals to a lot of EDH players and Nekusar quenched that thirst for a lot of people.
Nicol Bolas – B
The best of the original Elder Dragons, much respect to the grand daddy of the format, who is the only one of them actually still seeing play. Upkeep sucks, but a 7/7 flyer that rips apart your opponents hand is still nothing to sneeze at.
Say what you will about Planeswalkers in EDH, but this version of Nicol Bolas is solid in Grixis decks. Coming down with a whopping seven loyalty, the God-Pharaoh's abilities that add counters are both solid, with the stealing of a spell and Karn-ing an opponents hand. The -4 is still decent as well; seven damage won't kill larger creatures but it's going to get something while doing some real damage to the face.
Oddly enough it's the ultimate on the GP that is relatively underwhelming, but still extremely powerful. The downside being that, usually if you're about to ult a Planeswalker, your opponents can see it coming. Still, a very solid card that must be answered in any game.
The original Planeswalker version of Bolas is arguably still the best, although the God-Pharaoh is quite impressive as well. That said, stealing creatures and destroying permanents (even if they are noncreatures) will always be strong in Commander.
The planeswalker deck version of Big Daddy Bolas is definitely less impressive than his other two counterparts. He costs more, has less of an impact, and his ultimate, while good, is far from game ending.
A fine addition to any Nekusar deck, but if you're not building around this ability and abilities like it, it's not a card you want to just jam in any deck.
Why is this card not a commander? Why is this not legendary? Prince of Thralls is great in an attrition based deck that kills lots of creatures, or a damage based deck where players eventually can't afford to pay the life. So sad it's not legendary. House rule incoming!
Rise // Fall – F
Split cards are generally pretty decent but in this case, with no fuse ability, Rise and Fall both do not offer you enough of a card in Commander. Unplayable.
Sedraxis Specter – D+
Specters generally don't hold their own in Commander outside of a specifically built discard-themed deck, and this one is no different despite the underrated unearth ability.
I believe the unearth ability and Sedris, the Traitor King are both drastically underrated, and as such I love Sedris as a commander built around that ability. Everyone is always afraid of the way that unearth exiles your cards, but when you build it right that's hardly a thing at all. Give him a try if you've never played it before. Sedris is great.
Sewn-Eye Drake – F
No way man. Someone get this sleepy bastard outta here.
Slave of Bolas – C
A very flavourful card that can have a big impact on games, even in EDH, but is most likely to wind up being used as a fancy sorcery spot removal spell. I'd run it in a Marchesa or Bolas-themed deck, but otherwise it's not great.
So this guy is a legendary but not Prince of Thralls? UNJUST. Don't play this card.
Tetsuo Umezawa – B+
A solid commander with a strong attack-dissuading ability who costs less than four mana? Yes please. Tetsuo is an example of an old legend done right. The no-aura ability seems like a weird protection from Pacifisms (and it is), but I'd say it's more of a big downside because of the potential for Pemmin's Aura and other untapping auras not being an option in his deck. Still a fun commander, especially if you like the old cards!
Thraximundar – B+
Thrax is a pure monster. His haste and sac abilities are so hard to deal with, and at a lot of tables Thrax gets big real fast. The biggest knock on him is his mana cost. At seven mana, Thrax can be prohibitive and without access to green ramping is no picnic, especially after someone deals with him the first time.
Unscythe, Killer of Kings – C+
Unscythe is weird. It's a huge equipment that wants to hit other creatures, but when it's equipped no one will ever block that creature. So you either use the scythe to block or get sneaky and throw this on a Prodigal Pyromancer or something similar, and start pumping out the zombies. So not really at home in a traditional Zombie deck, but it definitely has a home. Wizards love this card, especially the ones that can untap your pingers.
Easily one of the best colour trios in the game, Grixis really does do a ton of things you want to be doing in EDH, and often does them in a fun and unique way. The addition of the Wizards tribal precon added some great commanders to a shard that was already loaded with greats like Nekusar and Marchesa. It's no wonder most commander players you meet have a grixis deck of some sort at the ready when it comes to gametime.