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M13 Commander: Coat of Monocolors

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Casual Magic, Commander

Editor”s Note: Don”t miss other great casual content on Legit MTG like our M13 Cube review and a look at the new cards in the MTGO Cube.

In the last 20 years there have been 494 legendary creatures released. Tenth Edition (the last core set before the current naming convention was adopted) did include 10 legendary creatures, but all were reprints from past Magic expansions. M13 marks the return of legendary creatures to the core set. But more than that, M13’s commanders are all new cards. These five commanders are all begging to lead 99 other cards into battle and determine who will reign supreme.

One of the best and worst parts of building a Commander deck is the available card pool. Except for the small banned list, any card ever printed is a potential candidate for a Commander deck. While more options is sometimes great, there are over 12,000 different cards.

The fundamental difference between Commander and other Magic formats is the commander itself. A deck’s commander is a legendary creature that determines the colors allowed in the deck. The colors of the chosen legendary creature, plus any additional mana symbols in the rules text, determine the “color identity” of the commander, and limits the colors of cards that are allowed to be included in the deck.

A common saying of Magic head designer Mark Rosewater is “Restrictions breed creativity.” The act of choosing a commander is the first restriction placed on the available card pool. The five commanders from M13 are all monocolored. Only cards that are of a matching color or colorless can be included. Choosing a monocolored commander immediately cuts the available cards by almost 80 percent (leaving about 2,500 options). More than enough.

To Arms!

Odric, Master Tactician, is a soldier from the plane of Innistrad. At his best when leading a group of creatures in combat, Odric looks for allies in Magic’s long history of strong soldiers. Thankfully, M13 has cards that continue to support this strategy. Captain of the Watch, Captain’s Call and Crusader of Odric are the obvious inclusions from the newest Core Set. The deck is designed to capitalize on Odric’s triggered ability, maintaining a focus on the combat phase. Cast dudes, lots of dudes, turn them sideways, win.

Another focal point of the deck is both flavorful and less susceptible to creature removal. Equipment will give the efficient soldiers the ability to trade with bigger creatures, draw out opponent’s removal spells, or just kill opponents faster. If manaflood becomes an issue, equipment will serve as this deck’s manasink when necessary. (Editor”s note: Odric available here!)




Odric, and his soldiers, are ready for battle. The pump effect provided from Honor of the Pure and Crusade make the 32 white creatures a force capable of doing serious damage. The equipment is plentiful, and able to be shared amongst the soldiers.

Magical Christmas Land …

Every deck has a best-case scenario, where the right cards came down in the right order, and nothing was disrupted. This is rare, but it can create stories that last a lifetime . For example, Crusade on Turn 2, Crusader of Odric on Turn 3, Turn 4 Odric, Turn 5 Captain’s Call, followed by the backbreaker, Captain of the Watch on Turn 6. The odds of drawing the opening hand and cards for this aggressive start is almost zero, but if it does, the soldiers have dealt 38 points of damage by Turn 6, and 39 additional points on Turn 7. That’s better than getting two front teeth!

… and other presents

This deck, like most of the other four decks, does not include some of the Commander “staples,” such as Sensei’s Divining Top, Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of Fire and Ice and Sol Ring. These cards are very powerful, but not always the most fun to play with or against. Hardcore Commander players consider these auto-includes, so this is the first place to start, as you customize the deck to fit your play style and your playgroup.

But in addition to some staples, a few flavorful cards also did not make the cut:

1) Cavern of Souls: (AKA “Pure Upside”) The creature type to pick is a no-brainer, and the colorless mana the land produces when a non-creature is being cast will not hurt this single-color deck. If a copy of the card is accessible, sleeve it up!

2) Coat of Arms/Caged Sun/Door of Destinies: White has efficient enchantments (which are less fragile than most artifacts) that only pump Odric and his soldiers. No reason to help opposing armies in this battle.

3) Kor Firewalker: As this soldier demonstrated during his time in Standard, protection from red can be a valuable asset against the ever present mono-red aggro or goblin deck..

4) Elspeth Tirel/Elspeth, Knight-Errant: As a soldier herself, Elspeth would assist Odric and his army will decimate any opposing forces, especially in the unlikely event Knight-Errant reaches her ultimate.

5) Throne of Empires, Crown of Empires, and Scepter of Empires: Armies are always doing the bidding of somebody, and Odric’s leader might happen to sit on a Throne, wearing a Crown, and holding a Scepter. In a singleton format like Commander it is hard to get three artifacts on the battlefield at the same time. But if accomplished, dealing three damage to a player, creating five white soldier tokens, and gaining control of an opponent’s creature might just be worth it.

Under the Sea

Talrand, the Sky Summoner is the General of the next classic tribe, merfolk. Except for a short hiatus, merfolk have been a Magic staple. Alpha had a merfolk lord, Lord of Atlantis, as well as a vanilla merfolk creature, Merfolk of the Pearl Trident. While the latter would only make a Commander deck for nostalgia, the former pumps the rest of the merfolk in play. Unless playing a mirror match, this “anthem on a stick” will make the army of seamen a daunting force to be reckoned with. (Editor”s note: Talrand available here!)

In addition to Talrand, there is another M13 merfolk that will support the Sky Summoner, Master of the Pearl Trident. A throwback to both Alpha mermen, Master of the Pearl Trident only pumps merfolk fighting with him. Why the change? Wizards R&D has changed how most “lords” work. Instead of pumping all creatures of a specific type, current lords pump only creatures under your control. The flavor of the original model was logical, because all merfolk are excited to be in the presence of the wondrous and majestic Lord of Atlantis. However, gameplay is more straightforward when merfolk fighting against a powerful merfolk lord, like Master of the Pearl Trident, are doing their best to stay and fight instead of swimming away in fear.

The primary aspect of this Talrand deck focuses on his triggered ability, which is also one of blue’s strengths: spells. Every instant or sorcery spell you cast with Talrand on the battlefield results in an additional 2/2 flying drake token. There are a number of ways to approach this ability, with this version is going all in. In order for this to be a viable strategy, Talrand must be protected. Keep him in play, cast a bunch of cheap instants and efficient sorceries and win with a flight of drakes and a few merfolk. The deck can play like an aggro deck or a “draw go” control deck depending on the draw and opposing decks.

There are 108 merfolk that are playable in a mono-blue Commander deck. Because the tribal component of this deck is secondary, the creature count is a lot lower than most Commander decks. A LOT lower. 108 has been whittled down to 11. The key merfolk include:

  • Augur of Bolas: Currently serving Talrand, this merfolk almost always draws a card when entering the battlefield.
  • Coralhelm Commander: “Build your own” merfolk lord. Starting as a 2/2 for two, quickly changing into a 3/3 flyer for four. Two mana later, and he starts boosting the other merfolk in play.
  • Sage of Fables: Eleven of the 13 creatures are wizards in addition to merfolk. This allows the Sage to pump them and draw extra cards. If the proliferate engine is in place, the card advantage will quickly get out of hand.

As previously mentioned, keeping Talrand on the board is a keystone of the deck. Otherwise the instants and sorceries included are flat out bad. To online slots ensure there is regularly one (or two) ways to keep Talrand from being a target, the full gamut of protectors are included. Eight artifact equipment (Champion”s Helm, Darksteel Plate, and newcomer Ring of Evos Isle) and three enchantments help keep the Sky Summoner in play.

Once Talrand can be played and protected, the drakes will fill the sky. A 2/2 flying creature for one blue mana is great value regardless of the spell’s effect. Additionally, most of these spells are cantrips, keeping your hand full and helping find more ways to keep Talrand safe.

Magical Christmas Land …

The tertiary goal of this deck is proliferate. This is the only realistic way Tamiyo, the Moon Sage will reach her ultimate, but if Inexorable Tide is in play, a couple of one-mana cantrips will result in an emblem. An emblem that will result in a constant ability to make ALL the 2/2 flyers. Drakes every turn, filling the skies, and taking out the opposition.

… and other presents

Eleven cards working to protect Talrand might be a bit excessive, some considerations for more variance:

1) Phantasmal Image: The ability to copy the best creature on the board is fantastic for two mana. The fragility of Image is compensated by the extreme versatility.

2) Standardize: Instantly change all of the 2/2 flying drakes into 2/2 flying merfolk. With one of the lords inplay, the flight of 2/2s become at least 3/3s, easily finishing off an opponent.

3) Rootwater Hunter: While not always a powerhouse, a merfolk pinger can pick off creatures wounded in battle or kill opponents unable to stabilize fast enough.

4) Inundate: Bouncing all non-blue creatures can be better than a wrath effect, or serve as a Plague Wind for three less mana, great late game finisher.

5) Propaganda: Forcing opponents into making a choice, tie-up mana or attack somebody else, this card will make you a target of experienced players, while keeping newer players from attacking you.

There can be only one

Black is the color of selfishness, amongst other things. Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis introduces exalted to black. Over the course of history, very few Overlords have ever been accused of being good at sharing. Nefarox is no exception. He wants all the glory and all the riches won in combat for himself. Exalted rewards this selfish nature by only having an effect when one creature attacks alone. (Editor”s note: Nefarox available here!)

Black demons have also demonstrated selfish tendencies over the years. Lord of the Pit is the most notable demon with a drawback from Alpha. Unlike most lords from the first set, Lord of the Pit did not boost the power or toughness of any creatures. Quite the opposite, he required a creature to sacrifice every turn or he would damage his summoner for wasting his time. Thankfully Nefarox doesn’t require a creature sacrifice in the same fashion. Grixis’ Overlord is a flying demon that forces the defending player to sacrifice a creature when he attacks solo. He takes his sacrifice from his enemies, not his allies.

Nefarox and the demons he chooses to include will require the use of many expendable minions. Phage the Untouchable and Bone Shredder are a few of the potential “sacrificees.” Body Snatcher, another minion, is one of the few methods of “cheating” an expensive demon onto the battlefield. Just ensure Phage is not the only creature in the graveyard when Body Snatcher dies! Servant of Nefarox and Knight of Infamy are also along to pump the solo attacker, or sacrifice as needed.

Magical Christmas Land …

This is a most unusual black deck. It cannot tutor at will, and this deck will play differently every game. The only present Nefarox wants every game is Reassembling Skeleton. As long as he stays out of exile, he will serve as the ideal sacrifice outlet. Two more mana and he can be sacrificed again, on the same turn.

… and other presents

Unfortunately, there is one demon that will not aid Nefarox in his quest to rule Grixis and the rest of the Multiverse. As is now common knowledge, Griselbrand has become Griselbanned in Commander. Drawing seven, 14, even 21 cards is a little unfair and can completely eliminate the variance implied in a format with 100-card decks. In this vein, some of the other powerful cards in Commander have been left out. Necropotence, Vampiric Tutor and Dark Confidant are all powerful cards that can be added if playing against more cut-throat decks. Other potential changes:

1) Damnation: Literally, the black Wrath of God. An efficient creature-sweeper, punishing opponents that play out their creatures while taking out demons that have gotten out of control.

2) Pox: This is a playgroup-dependent card. Removing one-third of all resources from every player will affect both the state of the game and the attitudes of those playing the game.

3) Sorin Markov and Sorin’s Vengeance: This two-card combo can eliminate decks with pesky lifegain. If Cabal Coffers is in play, both spells can be cast as early as Turn 9.

4) Exsanguinate: This is card often reads, “Win the game. Make opponents mad.” If Cabal Coffers is involved, this card makes more enemies than friends.

5) Demonic Tutor: This card is both flavorful and powerful, and is probably the first change most players would make. Turning all cards into a two-of, can make you the target of the table, as Demonic Tutor is most frequently used to find a combo piece or game finisher.

Multiplying Like Rabbits Goblins

Krenko, Mob Boss is the new leader of goblins. He lives on Ravnica, but he’ll tell any goblin what to do and when to do it. Krenko’s ability to double the number of goblins you control is very aggressive, very “red.” The goblins created by Krenko are 1/1 tokens. Giving online slots these tokens, and Krenko for that matter, haste is the best way to fight through sweeper spells. Enchantments like Boggart Shenanigans also help punish opponents that play mass creature removal spells. (Editor”s note: Krenko available here!)

Aggro decks can be self-limiting in multiplayer games of Commander. Dealing 80 or 120 total damage to two or three other players, before running out of resources, can be impossible. Exponential goblins is one way to overcome this challenge. For this to work, protecting Krenko is important. This deck is not as all-in as the blue merfolk deck, but having Swiftfoot Boots or Champion’s Helm in play and ready to equip before casting Krenko can net more goblins on the battlefield than rushing him out on turn four every game.

War’s Toll is another enchantment that changes how the rest of the table has to play. Barring an Omnath, Locus of Mana in play, forcing opponents to choose when to tap their lands will severely limit the ability of some decks.

Magical Christmas Land …

A nine-mana reset button, Worldfire has the makings to be the Griselbrand of M13.

But Worldfire resets the game in an aggro decks favor. All permanents gone. All hands gone. All graveyards gone. All players at one life. This deck is not designed to combo off a Worldfire, but to use Worldfire like an EXTREME Blasphemous Act: reset the board, without falling behind due to lack of card draw. A hasty green or white creature or an inability to find a mountain will put Krenko in dire straits after casting a Worldfire. But successive Mountains and a timely Goblin Bushwhacker will start eliminating the remaining opposition.

… and other presents

Other red cards that could improve Krenko’s chances (and a Mob Boss is always in favor of improving his odds):

1) Blood Moon: Mana disruption can occur in two ways: mana destruction (Ruination or Shivan Harvest) or mana alteration (Blood Moon). Nonbasic lands are prevalent in most Commander games, and turning a dual land like Overgrown Tomb into a Mountain can be just as devastating, without the negative social repercussions of straight land destruction.

2) Vicious Shadows: Punishing mass creature removal and card draw, this is probably a strict upgrade to Boggart Shenanigans, just not as flavorful.

3) Wheel of Fortune/Wheel of Fate/Reforge the Soul: Card draw is a consistent problem for this deck. Mass card draw requires a delicate balance: wreck well laid plans or refill the opposition’s threat light hands.

4) Confusion in the Ranks: In a deck with low-impact creatures, Confusion in the Ranks can result in wondrous trades. Two 1/1 red goblin tokens enter the battlefield and the turn ends with a Primeval Titan and a Consecrated Sphinx assisting Krenko.

5) Goblin Lackey: As a 1/1 for one mana, he’s small for most Commander games, but his ability to get expensive goblins onto the battlefield quickly makes up for his size.

Always and Forever

Yeva, Nature’s Herald rounds out the M13 legendary creatures, and thankfully is a member of one of the most prolific tribes in all of fantasy, elves. By giving all green creatures flash, Yeva take advantages of the fact most elves are cheap to cast. Waiting until one or more opponents have had their turn, increases the information available to Yeva. Is the land Civic Wayfinder searches a major necessity, or will the elf searched for by Elvish Harbinger be more important? Yeva waits, ponders, and gathers as much information as possible before acting. (Editor”s note: Yeva available here!)

Flexibility is gained by giving flash to the elves fighting with the Nature’s Herald. The ability to play all creatures on an opponent’s turn can gives the same surprise factor that instants regularly provide. Because of this, Yeva is going to use the Genesis Wave variant Primal Surge. Ten mana is attainable in most green decks, especially green elf decks. To ensure Primal Surge has the maximum effect, it is the only nonpermanent in the deck. While this limits the deck from the typical green mana acceleration spells, drawing this card with access to 10 mana will be GG.

There is one important fact to be aware of. When resolving Primal Surge, each permanent enters the battlefield individually, then the next card on top of the library is exiled and may enter the battlefield. Once a sufficient number of elves are in play, and Concordant Crossroads is in play, STOP the ability. Leave an unneeded permanent in exile and just win. Don’t try to “win more” with Primal Surge. “Winning more” with this 10-mana sorcery will almost always result in a great story for the opponent that had the blowout. After a card has been left in exile, and Primal Surge is finished, the rest of the abilities that triggered when the gluttony of permanents entered the battlefield are added to the stack and resolve.

Magical Christmas Land …

Joraga Treespeaker, Turn 2 level up, Turn 3 Elvish Archdruid and Gaea’s Herald, Turn 4 Concordant Crossroads, then flashing in Yeva. Turn 5 Primal Surge and win. Craterhoof Behemoth is definately a friend of the elves.

… and other presents

The permanent-based deck is unique and leaves out a number of quality green cards. Yeva can herald a deck that is based on rarely playing non-land cards on her turn, remove Primal Surge and the enchantment suite, and replace with instants and additional elves. Same deck backbone, completely different play style. However, if the permanent-based deck is intriguing a few potential changes:

1) Caller of the Claw: Flash this elf creature following a mass removal spell and the army of 2/2’s that replace the fallen elves will result in a dominating board state.

2) Elvish Branchbender: Make use of another resource, land. Turning a forest into an attacking creature with power and toughness equal to the number of elves assisting Yeva can have a game ending impact.

3) Elderscale Wurm: The newest wurm creature and Platinum Angel-variant wrapped into one. Maintaining a life total of at least seven, this wurm’s hefty size can push through late-game board stalls when the army of elves are forced to hang back.

4) Coat of Arms/Door of Destinies: Elf decks are fairly common, and when two elf decks are battling it out, a well timed Coat of Arms will eliminate tapped-out competition. A poorly timed Coat of Arms can lead to being blown out in the matchups.

5) Voice of the Woods: Voice of the Woods can be cast, immediately tapped with four other elves, and have a 7/7 creature with trample in play. Functional card advantage, and likely creature advantage if early in the game.

The End of the Beginning

Five new legendary creatures in a Core Set, each dripping with flavor and asking to be built around. With Commander’s vast card pool, there are a number of ways to take these tribal leaders. Will they be able to beat the Commander’s currently fighting for dominance? Only one way to find out… PLAY MAGIC!

Tom Lloyd III

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