September 24, 2020

Zendikar Rising Commander War Chest Considerations

The Commander War Chest is the best way to play Commander. You can find out more about the format here.

Zendikar Rising has arrived! I love looking over new sets to see what I can add to the Commander War Chest. I’ve spent a medium amount of time reviewing this set and I’m ready to talk turkey. Like last time, I still haven’t had time to play the War Chest since COVID. This means rather than hard cuts, these will be recommendations.

More like Landfail, Amirite!?

This set has a few mechanics that don’t mesh well with the structure of the War Chest. Take Landfall for example. Even though you’re guaranteed a land drop, because of the Landset feature, your lands are limited. Also, the War Chest does not use fetch lands. Which is a big way to trigger Landfall efficiently. Most Landfall cards did not make it into my Chest, but you can try them in yours if you like.

It’s Not A Party if Noone Shows Up

The other mechanic that misses is the Party mechanic. Here are the counts for the relevant creature types:

Cleric = 6
Rogues = 5
Warriors = 11
Wizard = 27

We don’t need to talk more about this right? We’ll only be considering Party cards, if the card is good without the Party text on it. Spoiler alert, there are none.

Modal Double-Faced Cards (MDFC)

Now we’re talking! This is a new mechanic from Zendikar Rising which features cards that are both a spell and a land. You can pick which side to play as you play the card. These are a big deal in traditional Magic where mana issues are a problem. Even though we don’t have the same mana issues in the War Chest, we still want these.

They extend our mana cap without diluting the spell libraries and make x-Spells better. I’m going to try to fit as many of these in as I can. Alright, it’s time to jump into the cards.

White

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Angel of Destiny: I love that this triggers at the end of turn. It allows you to play it and knock someone out of the game on the same turn. I could see this replacing Herald of the Host which is outclassed by most cards in the Chest.

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Emeria’s Call: This is an easy swap. It adds utility at the cost of Instant speed. I like the depth that Sorcery speed decisions bring to the table. Also, it’s worth noting that this card is a better target for things like Spelltwine and Memory Plunder.

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Ondu Inversion: We’re losing the Exile clause for the ability to play Ondu Inversion // Ondu Skyruins as a land. I like this trade-off. Too many Exile effects can be harsh for Reanimation strategies. This is me turning that knob to make way for some new technology.

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Skyclave Apparition: I’m sad because I have a very nice-looking foil Protective Sphere in my War Chest, but I’ve found that card to be lacking. I’m excited to add this Oblivion Ring with a twist.

Blue

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Thieving Skydiver: This is an excellent card. At its worst, you can get the Monarch going early with the 2/1 body. You can also play it for three mana and steal a Jeweled Amulet. Thieving Skydiver scales well and has the potential for splashy plays in the late game. I can’t wait to see it in action.

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Glasspool Mimic: This is a nice role player that fits with blue’s clone theme. I hate to lose the Nascent Metamorph but Glasspool Mimic // Glasspool Shore is a better card.

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Silundi Vision: Impulse is a more rounded card. For example, it allows people playing Simic to dig for a creature in the Green Library. Silundi Vision, on the other hand, digs deeper and can be a land. My guess is that this is a downgrade and I’m OK with that. Blue is powerful, so I don’t mind the slight power down in this slot.

Black

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Agadeem’s Awakening: I’ve made my case for MDFC above so it’s no surprise that I’m including one that’s on theme. Figuring out what to cut was the hard part. We don’t want to cut another x-spell because they’re part of the payoff for including MDFC’s in the first place. We also don’t want to cut a land; even though I had my eye on Memorial to Folly. In the end, I cut one of my pet cards.

Bloodchief’s Thirst: I don’t mind this card and I want to keep it on my radar. I’m not adding it to my chest now, but I will if two-mana Commanders become an issue. I could see adding this in place of something like Eat to Extinction.

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Drana, the Last Bloodchief: I like this card, it supports the Reanimator theme and has a slight +1/+1 counter ability. Fitting it in the black library is tough, my instinct is to cut Isareth, but I’m not crazy about raising the curve of Black. I’ll try it in the Isareth slot, for now but I have a crazy idea for this card.

I’m considering adding the “Partner” keyword to Drana and putting it in the Commander Pool. With Commander Legends dropping soon, I’m looking forward to getting my Partner Commanders rounded out.

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Feed the Swarm: This was the easiest swap of the set. We get to add some Enchantment removal in Black, while also downgrading an Instant into a Sorcery!

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Hagra Mauling: This is another clean swap. We lose flashback but gain another land to boost Exsanguinate and other x-spells.

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Lithoform Blight: This is a great addition to the War Chest. Premium land hate is hard to come by since we don’t like destroying them in the War Chest. Lithoform Blight gives an answer to a problematic Maze of Ith or Utility land.

Red

Leyline Tyrant: Because we use a Landset this card will not be as strong in the War Chest as it could be in a Mono-Red deck. The card could be good to store some extra mana and possibly build up a threatening fireball. I didn’t name a card to replace because I haven’t tested the cards, that I have my eye on: The Akroan War and Surly Badgersaur.

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Magmatic Channeler: I like looting/ rummaging effects in the War Chest because it gives players more agency. This card brings an aspect of rummaging and plays very well with the shared libraries in the Chest. It’s also an early body that can snag the Monarch. I looked to replace a more expensive Red card with this, but it seems too close to Humble Defector to ignore. We lose the political angle, but we gain the discard and a bigger body.

Moraug, Fury of Akoum: I’ve ignored Landfall cards but this one is too good. A single Landfall trigger could be enough to end the game. I don’t think there are enough “take another combat step” cards in Red, so rather than replace a card, I’ll just add this one.

Relic Robber: This is a nice turn-two play with Jeweled Amulet. It gets things going and adds some soft pressure to the board with the 0/1s that ping their controller. I also like that the 0/1s can be used as sacrifice fodder, or even attack in the right circumstances.

Shatterskull Smashing: This is a serviceable card, that wouldn’t make the cut if it didn’t have a land stapled on the back.

Green

Ancient Greenwarden: I’m going to pass on the seven-mana Crucible of Worlds. I only added it here because it’s such a Commander superstar and some might be tempted to add it.

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Ashaya, Soul of the Wild: I’m not sure how this creature will pan out but Nylea, Keen-Eyed has been lackluster. I’m excited to get something fresh in this slot and the fact that Ashaya blunts Cyclonic Rift is a nice bonus.

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Bala Ged Recovery: This is a short and sweet replacement. The flexibility that is worth the extra mana.

Inscription of Abundance: Out of all the Inscriptions in the set, this one seems best suited for the War Chest. The Fight mode can act as a Doom Blade, while the counter mode supports the light counter theme in Green.

Scale the Heights: Adding this is a no-brainer. The question is whether it should replace Explore or not. I’ve seen some problematic games that involved Mina and Denn and Explore. There’s a strong case to push the mana cost of Explore up by one, but I want to play more games before I do that. This will get added without removing anything for now.

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Tangled Florahedron: Ramp is one of the staple themes for Green, and Elvish Visionary hasn’t had much of an impact in the games it’s showed up. I’m happy to make this swap.

Turntimber Symbiosis: I like this card. It should hit consistently when playing it on the Green library. I’m also excited to see what wild things happen when tried on some of the other libraries. It also has some incidental counter support which is nice.

Colorless

Lithoform Engine: This is the kind of crazy artifact I like to include in the War Chest. It can make great stories without being too powerful. Maybe I’ll be eating my words on the “not too powerful” part but until then, this goes in. The Colorless library needs quite a few cards to be on par with the other libraries, so I’m happy to add this.

Myriad Construct: This is a slam dunk! Since everyone’s Landset has at least 7 non-basics this has the potential to be massive. I also like that it supports the token strategies.

Skyclave Relic: Let’s throw this in the pile with the other interesting three-mana rocks. Someday we’ll have to cut some of these, but that day is not today.

I haven’t been this excited to see how a set impacts the War Chest in a while. Hopefully, this article gave you some ideas for your own War Chest! Thank you for reading.

<3 JM

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