July 4, 2017

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Hour of Devastation's New Commanders

What's the most exciting part of a new set? For me, it's the new legendary creatures available to brew Commander decks around! I'll review each of the new Hour of Devastation legendary creatures from a Commander perspective and how fun they seem as the leader of the deck.

Hour of Devastation gives us seven new legendary creatures. Four of them are mono-coloured, and three of them are two-coloured. I get that within a small set, they can't always give us full cycles of new legendaries, but to leave out Green as the only colour to not get a new Commander? There isn't even any Green in the three two-coloured generals either. Tell us how you really feel, Wizards!

I'm (almost) done lamenting the lack of a Green Commander, so let's get into the discussion. Let's start with the single-coloured creatures.

Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign

Unesh has "Sphinx Tribal" written all over it. It stands to reason that the plane of pyramids and deserts would give us our Sphinx leader. It makes other Sphinxes cheaper and provides a mini fact-or-fiction whenever we land another one. This demands to be brewed around. There's really no other way to go that isn't a huge stretch. Sphinxes are primarily Blue, so I understand why it's only one colour, but I really wish we could have been able to also use White to also include a couple of my favourite Sphinxes, Isperia, Supreme Judge and Medomai the Ageless. Frankly, I think a better Sphinx Tribal deck might be Medomai which doesn't bode well for Unesh, I'm afraid.

Neheb, the Eternal

This is a very intriguing Commander! I'm always very excited when a commander seems to open something up in a colour that hasn't been seen before. Red does get its fair share of ritual effects to get extra mana from things, but this is exciting! In our format, we can do a lot of damage to our opponents before our second main phase. We're going to run a decent number of X spells so that we can, let's say, kick a Comet Storm to do eight or so to two different opponents, attack with some creatures, then with our extra mana (and our one remaining untapped Mountain) surge out a Fall of the Titans for another twenty or so to two opponents. I'm excited to brew a mono-red deck!

Djeru, With Eyes Open

Having a tutor effect on your Commander is a very powerful ability. Being able to tutor up one of the most powerful card types is fantastic, but again, this card suffers by having a single colour in its colour identity. We're only able to tutor up a few Gideons, Elspeths, Ajanis and a Nahiri using Djeru's ETB effect. Those walkers overlap a ton in the area of making tokens. I could also see this deck going in a general "Value" direction, merely using the Planeswalkers as value engines but in that case, we're still likely going wide with tokens. If that's the case, there are probably other commanders I'd rather run instead, and run Call the Gatewatch if it was that important to get one of these Planeswalkers. Hopefully, as they've said, they're moving away from the Gatewatch so we could see a new direction in mono-white Planeswalkers.

Razaketh, the Foulblooded

Razaketh is good buddies with Griselbrand, and I suspect it won't be long before Gris is joined by Raz in the ban zone. As I mentioned, being able to tutor using your Commander is a powerful effect. Some people make the argument that tutors shouldn't be used too much since they make games repetitive and a bit stale. Well, this Demon has the best part of Demonic Tutor, putting it straight into your hand. It also has the best part of Vampiric Tutor, the instant speed part. And the best part of all is that it doesn't cost ANY MANA! Sure we have to pay two of our massive life total, and sure we have to sacrifice a creature, but having Razaketh in your command zone makes it so you have to do very little in the way of setup to get an instant win once you can ramp up to eight mana. Brew around it while you can!

The three two-coloured commanders all come from the story of Hour of Devastation. They're ancient gods that have been long forgotten, but have now returned. This is reflected in some shared card text on all three of them. If any of them die, they go back to your hand during the end step. Without a lot of repeatable graveyard hate, it's very likely you'll never have to pay the commander tax on any of these, so we should be able to count on having them out whenever we want. Let's take a closer look at them individually.

The Locust God

For those of us still wishing for an Izzet thopter general, this is either close enough or infuriatingly close but wrong! That discussion aside, this God feels a bit like a nicer version of Nekusar, the Mindrazer. Instead of automatically punishing my opponents when they draw, I'll automatically build my army when I draw. I imagine we'd run a lot of the same wheel-type effects like Wheel of Fortune. There's an inevitability there, since your tokens will eventually swarm your opponents to death. Seems on theme for locusts. Let's just hope they don't drop a Ghostly Prison. Tough to deal with enchantments in these colours. I don't see the activated ability coming up much, since Blue decks rarely need someplace to sink their mana, but if you needed an emergency thopter - err - insect, it's nice to have.

The Scorpion God

Having the text "draw a card" on a Rakdos Commander is a big deal. This is a colour pair that doesn't draw a ton of cards easily, and this is a decent way to cover that. It's awfully costly to drop these counters down as an investment on future cards. I don't think we can afford to spend half or more of our turns doing that. Recalling though, that we will probably always have easy access to our Commander means we'll take advantage of it enough that it seems worth it. It's probably worth running any proliferaters we can. Contagion Clasp and Contagion Engine are a way more efficient way to get the job done. I'd consider making Throne of Geth work for more value for less mana as well.

The Scarab God

I've saved the most exciting Commander for last. Man, that first paragraph is so spicy. Spicy enough that I'm actually concerned that once people see what this general is all about, it'll draw way too much hate for its own good. You don't need more than a couple of zombies before your opponents mark their "free" damage and watch you scry fairly deep into your deck before they team up on you. That being said, I think that going zombie tribal is unnecessary. The tokens we create will be zombies anyway, so I think a better brew is to leave the zombie half as incidental value. If you want to hear us go way deeper here, check out Episode 102 of the Commander's Brew Podcast where we brew this very deck!

There you have it! The newest commanders from Hour of Devastation! For the record, would it have been so bad to add the word "Legendary" to this green creature? I mean, we already have Odric, Lunarch Marshal. What's the harm?

Majestic Myriarch