Welcome back, friends! It’s time for the final installment of my review for Commander Legends 2 here on Cardsphere. In the first article we looked at all the mono-colored commanders as well as the backgrounds, and in part 2 we covered the multi-colored commanders. Today we’ll look at all the cards from the set that I’m excited to throw into the 99, and then we’ll close with final thoughts on the entire set. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get moving before the green slime gets us.
It wouldn’t be a Dungeons and Dragons set without some dragons, right? There are many in this set, spread across all rarities and power levels. But the ones that people really have their eyes on, at least from the non-legendary set, are the mythic elder dragons. Each color has one, but the most sought-after among them is the red one,
Ancient Copper Dragon. Why? Because it makes a potentially ridiculous amount of treasures, of course.
Ancient Brass Dragon is a powerful reanimator, and
Ancient Silver Dragon draws a massive number of cards.
Ancient Bronze Dragon dishes out +1/+1 counters, and
Ancient Gold Dragon makes an army of faeries. The white and green elders are the least attractive of the bunch, but will still find homes in many commander decks.
There are a few other, younger, dragons in the set worth mentioning.
Astral Dragon has a powerful enter-the-battlefield (“ETB”) ability of making two token copies of any noncreature permanent and turning them into dragons. So if you’ve ever wanted to beat up your opponents with flying
Sol Rings, today is your day.
Brainstealer Dragon gives us an
Etali, Primal Storm that doesn’t need to attack (although the spells aren't free), with some excellent life loss tossed in for fun. And
Emerald Dragon gives green another way to counter abilities, which is frequently relevant in Commander games.
Dragons aren’t the only creature type stirring up excitement for the set. If we take our eyes from the skies and look to the depths below, we’ll find the
Aboleth Spawn, a card that is going to be okay in some pods, and amazing in others. Or if you’re looking for something more hellish, we’ve got some fantastic new demons with
Bothersome Quasit, and
What’s more terrifying than dragons and demons? That’s right. Kittens.
Displacer Kitten is easily one of the most powerful cards we’ve seen for blink and ETB strategies. Also on the small side is
Deep Gnome Terramancer, a fantastic card for white catch-up ramp. White also has
Archivist of Oghma, one of the most popular cards from the set, and it’s easy to see why. Searching libraries happens frequently, from tutors to fetch lands, and the Archivist is going to do a lot of work, especially in the more competitive, tutor-heavy pods.
On the more aggro side, we’ve got
Battle Angels of Tyr, quite possibly the most powerful creature white has ever printed at 4 mana value (no, I didn’t check, just trust me). Having Flying gives it and its Myriad copies a great chance of connecting and triggering their catch-up effects.
Death Kiss, a great name for a creature (certainly in the running if I ever get another cat), is another great creature for forced combat. We’ve also got
Firbolg Flutist, and
Gnoll War Band all showing the power of Myriad.
Owlbear Cub may sound non-threatening, but Mama’s coming, and this card is going to do serious work in the late game. Also keep an eye on
Nefarious Imp, and
Tomb of Horrors Adventurer.
Most of the enchantment love for this set was given to the backgrounds, but there’s still a few others worth discussing. First up, we have the token-killing enchantment
Banishment. Very meta-dependent, but if you’re frequently being overrun by treasure decks or
Scute Swarms, then this may be your answer. Next up, we’ve got an upgrade on
Phyrexian Arena with
Black Market Connections. It’s basically whatever you need the most that turn, which isn’t always another card. And that versatility makes this card fantastic.
Endless Evil is like a mix of
Progenitor Mimic and
Croaking Counterpart. Great for making multiple copies of a creature that you only want for its abilities.
Font of Magic will be hot for Partner spellslinger decks.
Stoneskin is great not only as a combat trick, but also for pumping up your “toughness matters” decks.
And last, we have
Legion Loyalty, which, although heavily costed, is about as powerful as you can get in an aggro deck.
Over to the trinkets and toys.
Altar of Bhaal is incredibly abusable in token decks, where you’ll have extra creatures to exile to bring back powerful creature cards.
Campfire gives us a really great way to get around the commander tax. If rolling dice is your thing, check out
Vexing Puzzlebox and
Wand of Wonder. And if you’ve been looking for a version of
Elvish Piper that doesn’t get summoning sick, or die when damaged, or is cheaper to activate than
Quicksilver Amulet, then
Monster Manual is here to help.
The set has several great equipments, including
Ghost Lantern, an extremely efficient way to pump one of your creatures in an aristocrats deck, while also having the versatility of the adventure spell for recursion.
Pact Weapon gives us a
Lich effect as long as it’s equipped.
Robe of the Archmagi can draw a silly amount of cards in the right deck. And
Trailblazer’s Torch can be really good on a creature with Deathtouch, especially if you can put a
Lure effect on it.
Budget players like myself have a hard time finding cards outside of blue to nix our maximum hand size, with
Reliquary Tower and
Thought Vessel constantly going up in price despite numerous reprints. But we’ve finally got our answer with
Decanter of Endless Water, soon to be a budget Commander staple.
And let’s not forget the powerhouse vehicle of the set,
Nautiloid Ship. Not only does it
Bojuka Bog someone, but it also can steal stuff that it exiled!
Instants and Sorceries
Time to show some love to the non-permanent spells in Battle for Baldur’s Gate. Let’s start with the board wipes! First up is
Blood Money. Most comparable to
Decree of Pain, except you get treasures instead of cards drawn, and sadly it ignores creature tokens. I’ve always liked
Decree of Pain, except that it’s a very expensive spell to cast, and you usually end up with a ton of cards in hand that you end up just discarding.
Blood Money costs one less, and gives you mana to spend, so it’s not “wipe and discard” like Decree. Then we’ve got
Cloudkill, which will feel right at home with your high mana value (“MV”) commanders. I’d probably run this in any deck with a commander at 5 or more MV where I don’t have the budget for
Damnation. Also keep in mind the benefit it has of being able to remove indestructible creatures.
Then we’ve got a couple of potential board wipes, with
Delayed Blast Fireball and
Barroom Brawl. Delayed needs to be cast from exile to get its power boost, but that doesn’t mean it has to be foretold, any exile effect will do. Brawl may not be a great card, but it’s a very fun card, and gets my award for biggest effect-to-card-name flavor win for the set.
For single removal spells, we’ve got
Contraband Livestock, a soon-to-be budget all-star, which costs one less than
Generous Gift, and is sure to be more affordable than
Swords to Plowshares or
Path to Exile. And last we have
Wild Magic Surge, an update on
Chaos Warp that destroys the permanent instead of shuffling it into the library. It can also be used to turn one of your permanents into something much better, a la
The set has a couple of decent new ramp spells.
Jaheira’s Respite might not get you many lands if opponents aren’t swinging with large armies, but the
Fog effect tacked on gives it an extra boost of power, especially if someone’s coming in for lethal. Then
Venture Forth takes
Search for Tomorrow to the next level by giving it a repeatable effect, like last year’s
Rousing Refrain. And we’ve also got
Majestic Genesis. Although ramp is not its main goal, it will most definitely get you some lands. A new take on
Genesis Wave, but with a set cost and no cards going to your graveyard, I’d expect to see this in a lot of high MV commander decks.
Making copies is a big theme in this set, whether it be copying permanents or spells. We’ve got two great spells for making token copies, with
Elminster’s Simulacrum giving us a creature for each opponent who has one, and
Irenicus’s Vile Duplication can give us a copy of our commander, or any other legend we control, which is always a plus. Then there’s
Storm King’s Thunder, which is incredibly mana-hungry, especially considering you’ll still need the mana to cast the spell you’re copying, but still has the potential to be game-ending with the right spell.
Then we’ve got a few combat tricks.
Candlekeep Inspiration can turn a thopter army into a thopter death squad.
Overwhelming Encounter upgrades
Cone of Cold frees up your creatures to waltz in for some big hits. And
Spectacular Showdown is like Battle Royale on a Magic card.
Gale’s Redirection and
Wyll’s Reversal both say, “LOL, you thought.”
Eldritch Pact can either draw you a bunch of cards or potentially take someone out of the game. And
Lae’zel’s Acrobatics is so good, I almost don’t want to mention it. It may be the most powerful spell blink decks have ever seen, and good luck resolving all those ETB triggers twice without losing your mind.
Alright, we’ve talked about all the new cards worth mentioning, so how are the reprints in this set? The most important ones, easily, are the lands. The “crowd” lands from Battlebond are finally returning, and not a moment too soon, because they were way too expensive. I’m of the opinion that
Bountiful Promenade, and all the other crowd lands, should be in every Commander pre-con (hire me, WOTC!). Also, we got
Reflecting Pool back! A fantastic addition to any deck needing mana fixing.
Blade of Selves is a no-brainer, given all the Myriad cards in the set. A much needed reprint, given how high the cost was. Also welcome is
Kindred Discovery, the best of the Kindred cycle, and an auto-include in any blue deck that cares about a creature type.
And we gotta talk about the fact that they put
Jeska’s Will in a freaking PRE-CON! I don’t think anyone would have predicted such a powerful card would find a home in a pre-con, but I guess Wizards is very interested in selling these decks, especially since the prices are going up.
There’s nothing in Commander Legends 2 reprints that are anywhere near the value of the three biggest reprints from CL1, which were
Scroll Rack, and
Vampiric Tutor. But we can talk about that more when we discuss my final thoughts for the set. Speaking of which…
It’s almost impossible to review Commander Legends 2 without comparing it to the first Commander Legends. While they’re very different sets, their goal is the same; a set solely for Commander players full of powerful new legends and other spells that is also a great drafting experience. So to really examine the quality of this set, we have to ask ourselves, "does this set live up to Commander Legends 1, a milestone set that is still having a huge impact on the format?"
I haven’t had the chance to draft the set, but from what I’ve heard the draft environment is a lot of fun, with many people complimenting the Initiative mechanic as a worthy successor to Monarchy. So the draft part of it appears to be successful. What about the constructed part? Is this set up to the challenge of following in the footsteps of CL1 after what CL1 did to the format? Sadly, no. Here’s why:
First, let’s talk about the background problem. Backgrounds, while fun, simply aren’t as good as partner commanders, with their lack of versatility being my main sticking point. A big part of why the partners from CL1 are so popular is that they could all play with each other, and also be used with the original partners from Commander 2016, so you weren’t necessarily limited to 2 colors and there were so many strategies available. Backgrounds, however, can only be played with the “Choose a Background” creatures from this set, which are all mono-colored and a large number are combat-focused. The partner commanders from CL1 also had some very significant standouts that took the format by storm, such as:
Sakashima of a Thousand Faces;
Krark, the Thumbless; and
Kodama of the East Tree. I don’t see any of the backgrounds, or background creatures, having that effect. Granted, some of the creature/background commander combos can probably do very powerful things, but in general most of them aren’t terribly strong. And, perhaps most importantly, we can’t ignore the fact that the backgrounds literally do NOTHING if your creature commander is not on the board.
I mentioned the reprint quality earlier, so let’s go there next. Currently the highest valued reprint in CL2 is
Jeska’s Will, which is actually in one of the pre-cons, not the main set. After that it’s the Battlebond lands (
Reflecting Pool, and
Bramble Sovereign. A lot of cards that were previously sitting in the $20-$30 range are now comfortably under $10, or even close to $5, thanks to their reprint here. Do any of these match the power or dollar value of
Mana Drain, or
Scroll Rack? No. But that doesn’t mean the set doesn’t have reprint value, because it definitely does. We don’t have the big bombs, but we have to appreciate that cards like
Blade of Selves,
Kindred Discovery, and many many more, are now more accessible to people with less disposable income. So from a reprint standpoint, I’m more than satisfied with Commander Legends 2.
The challenge with reviewing a set before people have really played with it is that you can’t tell which cards are going to be sleeper hits, and which ones are going to fall flat after much fanfare. For instance,
Jeska’s Will didn’t blow up right away. Then Game Knights showed how powerful the card was on their videos, and it exploded, becoming one of the most popular cards in the game. So it’s on me as a reviewer to guess, based on my understanding of the game, the meta, and people’s interests, how each card will fare in public opinion. Yet despite all the variables, I think it’s easy to see that Commander Legends 2 isn’t as powerful as its predecessor. There’s no
Jeweled Lotus in this set, or anything even remotely close. There’s nothing as oppressive as
Hullbreacher (now banned) or
Opposition Agent, although I am hearing rumblings about
Displacer Kitten. And there are no commanders as strong as
Sakashima of a Thousand Faces or
Kodama of the East Tree.
Here’s the thing though; I believe this power drop is by design. I also believe that it’s a good thing. Lessons were most definitely learned with Commander Legends. CL1 was very pushed as far as power level (you know a set is pushed when at least a dozen of its cards become cEDH staples), and the designers know that, while pushed sets do sell cards, ultimately too many of them are bad for the game. That isn’t to say that Commander Legends 2 doesn’t have power. It does. Cards like
Ancient Copper Dragon,
Archivist of Oghma, and
Battle Angels of Tyr are going to be widely played and popular cards. And
Displacer Kitten looks ready to pounce on the cEDH community. Who knows what cards may suddenly take hold of the format once people get to start playing them?
So there are definitely some format staples in this set for the 99. For the zone, though? I’m not so sure. I think
Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm will easily be the standout commander of the set due to the immense power of doubling your dragons. Undoubtedly we'll see many decks built for other commanders, because we all love new, shiny things. But many of the commanders that are at the top of the charts on EDHREC currently are going to fall out of favor quickly.
Myrkul, Lord of Bones is far too costly.
Tasha, the Witch Queen, as I mentioned in my last article, is too fragile to be a good commander.
Raggadragga, Goreguts Boss, on the other hand, may continue to grow in popularity, as people tend to fall in love with powerful niche commanders. And others may rise in the ranks as well. I think it’s possible for
Alaundo the Seer to catch on, as well as
Jan Jansen, Chaos Crafter. Time will tell.
On a personal level, I’m not sure that I can say that this set really speaks to me. And that's not just because I don’t play D&D. The story of every set is new to me, so I don't think that matters. I think the backgrounds taking up such a large part of the set is disappointing. There’s not a lot I want to build for backgrounds, except
Wilson, Refined Grizzly +
Shameless Charlatan. But that may change once I see what other people do with the commanders. Honestly, I hope it does. I hope this set speaks to a lot of people and makes a lot of commander players happy, even if it’s not doing much for me at this moment.
That’s it! We made it through THREE articles of review for Commander Legends 2. So what did you think? Are you loving this set? Do you disagree with every single thing I said? Let me know! Come find me on Twitter at @AndyZupke and chat me up. You can also catch my budget content group Scrap Trawlers on YouTube and Twitch.
Until next time, take care. And play lots of games!