Welcome back, readers!
Today we'll continue to delve into possible speculation opportunities for the Commander format thanks to all our new toys from Dominaria. I covered the multi-colored picks here and here; and I covered the black and white picks here. Today we'll focus on the best color in Commander—green—along with red, blue, and artifacts.
Grunn, the Lonely King
Doubling power/toughness is a pretty cool ability, and on Grunn it actually looks like it could be competitive. The biggest problem is that he has no form of evasion, so he can be chump-blocked for days. That being said, green has no shortage of ways to give a creature trample and increase its power (likely making Grunn a one-hit kill).
Note that his doubling ability only triggers if he attacks alone (how else could he be the lonely king), so a deck built around him will likely not include your usual swarm-style creatures. Pump effects normally appear at lower rarities—and thus aren't ideal speculation targets—but there are still a few good options.
In a Grunn deck the "suicide" aspect of Berserk becomes less of a problem, as you can just recast him from the command zone. The Conspiracy 2 reprint obliterated Aerathi Berserker's value, and you can still get copies extremely cheaply. I was already a fan of Aerathi Berserker as a Legacy spec, so the Commander potential just adds upside.
A single-print rare from Rise of the Eldrazi, which was printed eight years ago. Momentous Fall seems like a fantastic way to cash in a large Grunn post-combat, refilling your hand and then some.
Marwyn, the Nurturer
This is my pick for the sleeper commander from Dominaria. I haven't seen a lot of excitement surrounding her, but we don't have a lot of commanders that generate mana (and one is banned).
A close comparison is Selvala, Heart of the Wilds. Selvala can likely generate more mana faster, and also happens to have built-in card draw. However, Marwyn has one important benefit that Selvala does not: she doesn't require mana to activate her ability. And it's very plausible that she could generate more mana than Selvala in the right deck.
It's not that old, but Dark Ascension was sandwiched between two very powerful sets (Innistrad and Avacyn Restored) and a lot less was opened than Innistrad. The best part about this card is that, thanks to the flashback, you can get double usage out of it. And with Marwyn it's actually mana-positive on both ends—i.e. you cast it for four but it'll generate five mana when Marwyn is tapped.
Normally I don't advocate uncommons for speculation unless they are extremely old. However, Shadowmoor is 10 years old at this point and you don't see a lot of uncommons from that block lying around in bulk. It also happens to play absolutely perfectly with Marwyn's ability, allowing her to go infinite with relative ease.
Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar
Multani offers an interesting commander option. You naturally want to play a lot of lands (and spells that ramp you) so you can have a very large threat very quickly. He does come with trample (and reach for some reason) and the right deck could likely make him kill very quickly. However, he honestly seems more like a great support card in something like a Tatyova, Benthic Druid deck than as the commander of his own deck.
If you are hellbent on playing Multani as a general, it seems like Boundless Realms (and of course Scapeshift) are auto-includes, though Realms is the only one that's reasonably priced for speculation purposes.
Squee, the Immortal
It seems that good ol' Squee (who got his first iteration in Mercadian Masques) has become Wizards's de facto red recursion card of choice (if you don't count Zodiac Dragon). This new iteration is similar to the Masques one, except now instead of getting a card returned to your hand from your graveyard (ideally to feed Survival of the Fittest) we now get a basically-impossible-to-kill 2/1.
I honestly don't know if his ability is good enough to build a deck around, but I do think he's a great support card for decks looking to sacrifice creatures for value. He's also one of the few commanders that you're unlikely to ever have to pay the Commander tax on.
I realize I'm digging deep on this one. I didn't even know this card existed before researching for Squee here. Now I have used the Patron of the Moon and Patron of the Orochi before in Commander, so I assumed there was a red one, I just never thought to look for it. But in this case you can cast it for three mana (by sacrificing Squee) and then you can get him back whenever.
Valduk, Keeper of the Flame
I really like Valduk—possibly because I got two in my 2HG prerelease pool, and he provided fantastic aggression at no cost. His ability is very aggressive and there are plenty of playable equipment in Commander. My biggest issue is that red-white is the best color pairing for equipment (providing Puresteel Paladin and a host of equipment searching), so I see Valduk as more of a support card rather than a general.
Okay, so this one does seem like a long shot—I'll admit that up front. But a lot of equipment buffs power, so if you have a Valduk with a fair amount of equipment on him, you can make an army of powerful trample/haste creatures with a good buff. Don't sell the farm on this one, but it's worth keeping an eye on, though arguably the ceiling is pretty low (as tons of Khans was opened).
I'm really not impressed with this legend for Commander. I think Verix is likely to see Standard play (as its earlier brother Broodmate Dragon was a Jund staple for much of its legality), but as a Commander this card seems pretty bland.
Naban, Dean of Iteration
We have a lot of powerful Wizards throughout Magic's history and there's a decent number with enter-the-battlefield abilities (the best known being Snapcaster Mage and Vendilion Clique). Interestingly enough, the trigger is not a "may," so if there's a negative ETB effect it automatically triggers twice as well (like, say, Wanderwine Prophets's champion trigger). Still I think this could make for an interesting commander with some viable speculative options.
While more expensive than my typical spec target (most copies are sitting in the $9+ range), Sower of Temptation has a great ETB ability and is occasionally a Modern sideboard card (thus it has additional potential demand). It's been around the current price for a good bit of time, and should it see a rise in demand (being a Lorwyn rare with no reprint) it's easily a double-up.
Here we have an M14 rare that's lived its entire life in the bulk bin. The biggest issue with playing it in Commander is that because you are limited to picking a single card when it enters, you need that card to be as universal as possible (most likely a counterspell or bounce spell of some sort). Having the option to choose a second spell with Naban gives you more flexibility.
Similar to the Arcanist above, except now you'd get to exile six instants from your deck. Of course, with Kaho you only get to cast each of them once, but six instants should probably be enough. Kaho is a single-print rare from Saviors of Kamigawa, and its current price of $2 could easily double or triple up should it find a home in this deck.
Naru Meha, Master Wizard
Ironically, the mythic blue legendary Wizard seems less exciting than the rare Naban we covered above—though it is definitely still powerful. The problem here is that you're basically adding "Kicker 2UU" to any fun instant/sorcery spells, though Naru does play really well with Naban (triggering twice).
Love it or hate it, Expropriate is one of the most powerful blue sorceries you can cast in Commander (and it often wins you the game, so getting another copy seems like it would be the nail on the coffin). I'm amazed this isn't a $25+ card simply because most competitive blue Commander decks play it, and it's a mythic from Conspiracy 2.
My biggest concern is that supposedly one of WotC's employees tweeted (and then deleted) that this year's Commander decks would be "more competitive," and thus this seems like a card that would be included in one. Still, if it dodges a reprint this card will easily break $20 by this time next year, if not much sooner.
Similar to Expropriate above, this is another of those "copy it and win the game" spells. With only two printings (10 Edition and Odyssey) it wouldn't take much increased demand to jump $5-$8 dollars.
Slinn Voda, the Rising Deep
This looks like a fantastic "build around me" commander. The creature types listed on its kicker ability are all ones that have been scattered throughout Magic's history, and there are a lot of old single-print speculation options. Not to mention that Krakens and Leviathans have typically ended up getting the short end of the stick on playability.
This card has a very relevant ability, buying you an entire turn of safety save for haste and blue creatures. It's a Leviathan and, most importantly, has only been printed once, in Commander 2014. Commander 2014 as a whole wasn't all that well received—the most popular commanders tend to be multicolored—and the blue one was exceptionally weak in terms of value, with the only valuable card being Cyclonic Rift.
It's currently sitting in the $0.5 range so it could easily triple or quadruple up with a small jump in demand. That being said, I don't think Slinn Voda will be so popular as to cause this card to jump up past $3-$4, which means that when you consider your outs this is one of those cards that I wouldn't suggest going too deep on.
We have a rare from Ravnica: City of Guilds with transmute and no other printings. Its ETB ability does allow you to tutor and is a source of card advantage. It isn't limited to searching for creatures, so you can find plenty of Commander playables like Expropriate, the aforementioned Breaching Leviathan, Inkwell Leviathan, Void Winnower, and Darksteel Forge.
Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive
I have a friend who already built a deck around this commander and it's surprisingly good. The key thing to remember here is that Tetsuko's ability works on either one power or one toughness—there are a lot of playable creatures in Magic's history with one of those characteristics.
Normally I don't bring up cards with more than one printing, but Cephalid Constable is a fantastic creature to give unblockability to. It offers a free Boomerang—more if you can pump its power without affecting toughness—and can easily lock out an opponent (or several). Its only printings are from 10th Edition and Judgment, the most recent of which is 11 years old. It's also basically just above a bulk rare in terms of value (sitting below $1) so it has plenty of room to grow and a low buy-in.
Another fantastic creature to make unblockable. Exiling 10 cards from an opponent's deck with each attack is no joke, and serves as a fantastic alternate win condition that is extremely hard to deal with—it even gets around an opponent who is untargetable.
Mike Long's Invitational card doesn't see much Commander play anymore. However, it's a fantastic solution when playing against decks with a limited number of win conditions, or against all-in decks like Sidisi, Undead Vizier that are typically trying to storm off. It has only a single printing in Nemesis (which was way back in 2000) so there aren't a ton of copies floating around.
Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp
Zahid seems more constructed-playable than Commander "build around me," as his ability allows you to cast a powerful 5/6 flyer quickly and cheaply. He could form an aggro deck built around equipment, but I don't see him being too popular on the Commander front.
Traxos, Scourge of Kroog
Thanks to historic counting any artifacts, I could see Traxos leading a very aggressive Commander deck. Traxos can kill an opponent in three unblocked hits (and thanks to trample can likely kill in four even with blocks).
While this is a very recent card, Eldritch Moon as a set had a pretty low power level. At my LGS I still see packs rotting away on the shelf, which leads me to believe that less was opened than of other recent sets. All this means there are fewer of these lying around than a bulk rare from something like Battle for Zendikar.
This equipment serves as a fantastic pump ability. Its downside is negated by the fact that Traxos already has that same negative ability, and it's cheap to cast and equip. It also means that any other power increase allows Traxos to kill in two hits.
So there we have the last of my Commander review for Dominaria. The set itself is a huge boon to Commander players, and a great segue into the Brawl format WotC just created. As always, if you have any other spec targets you think I missed please feel free to comment below.