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Rivals of Ixalan Commanders

Happy Tuesday MTG peeps,

Today we will address the Dinosaur in the Room and see what the newest Magic: the Gathering set, 'Rivals of Ixalan' delivers for potential Commanders.  This is quite obviously a rather important decision to make.  Although your Commander may very well be the most important card in your deck, we would suggest that if you are building your very first list (we built our first when the format was still called Elder Dragon Highlander), that you may be well served in deciding on your individual playstyle and choose your colour(s) first.  After this, you can then decide upon your Commander to support your strategies.  This is a suggestion however, and there is no reason for you to choose your Commander first, especially one that strongly suggests to build around it.  Perhaps you already have a solid deck-list and are entertaining the idea to replace and existing Commander which has not been performing to expection. 

Before we get into our opinions on the potential of our pool of Rivals of Ixalan Commander choices, it may be of use to see how well the previous Ixalan set had done.  In our own (perhaps limited) opinion, there were only two clear winners from Ixalan which went on to become popular Commanders.  Here is the list -

# 1 : Gishath, Sun's Avatar - NAYA.  Designed for Dinosaur tribal and good at dropping dinos onto the battlefield.

# 2 : Admiral Beckett Brass - GRIXIS.  Designed for Pirate tribal. Pirate lord which steals your heart.

# 3 : Tishana, Voice of Thunder - SIMIC.  Seeing some tribal Merfolk builds, but quite a few simply being inserted as support into existing Simic lists like Ezuri and Kruphix.

Did not really become favourites with the Commander community, but certainly acceptable in a supporting role :
• Vona, Butcher of Magan, Orzhov
• Kopala, Warden of Waves, Blue
• Captain Lannery Storm, red
• Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle, white

Given the popularity contest winners from Ixalan, it stands to reason that dino and pirate tribal will continue to reap the benefits of further members joining its ranks in Rivals of Ixalan.  The big question however, will these two cards be eclipsed by the new hotness ?

There are a cycle of five Elder Dinosaurs presented with Rivals of Ixalan, one within the colour wheel.  These dinos are big, like really big.  Unfortunately these will unlikely be picked up by players to be a Commander.  With the exception of Zetalpa and Tetzimoc, which may have a sliver of a chance of being promoted to General, these will be best used in a supporting role.

• Zetalpa, Primal Dawn 
• Nezahal, the Primal Tide 
• Tetzimoc, Primal Death
• Etali, Primal Hunger 
• Ghalta, Primal Hunger 

Zacama, Primal Calamity - NAYA
This Elder Dinosaur does have a shot of being a Commander, but looks look further.  NAYA colours of red, green and white with a CMC of 9.  Solid 9/9 body with vigilance, reach and trample.  When this enters the battlefield, all your lands untap which is a big deal.  There are three decent activated abilities to pinging a creature, gaining life and nerfing an artifact / enchantment - again, not too shabby.  There may be some players interested in a mana ramp deck with Zacama at its head (or is it heads?), but we think it safe to have this included, along with Zetalpa, Etali, and Ghalta in a Gishath tribal build.

Azor, the Lawbringer - AZORIOUS
The competition is fierce in white / blue.  The popular Commanders are Brago, Grand Arbiter and Bruna.  So what does Azor bring to the table?  A 6/6 flying Sphinx for six mana and two abilities.  What appeals to us is the ability to shut down your opponent's instants / sorceries until your next turn.  If Azor sticks the landing, this will present a big evasive threat.  The second activated ability to gain life and draw cards will also endear Azor to Commander players.

Elenda, the Dusk Rose - Orzhov
We have been fans of black / white tokens for years now and are enthusiastic to give Elenda serious consideration.  Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts and Teysa, Orzhov Scion are the popular Commanders for B/W tokens.  Elenda could also be a consideration for more traditional gain and drain lists perhaps as well.  For now, our only hesitation is that a rather frail 1/1 body will make her an easy target for a turn or two.

Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca - SIMIC

We have two Simic Commander decks at the moment - Experiment Kraj and Momir Vig, Simic Visionary.  We really desperately want to build a Merfolk tribal list, and Kumena is the closest card we have seen to do that.  Our wishlist also includes a Bant (white, blue, green) Commander so that we could also roll in Sygg, River Guide and some of our fav supporting spells in white.  An anthem effect with Radiant Destiny and high token production with Parallel Lives would be ideal in a Bant Merfolk list.  Anywhoos, We have good feelings that there is now enough card support and interested players to propel Kumena past in popularity fo at least Edric, Spymaster of Trest to eventually rival that of Ezuri, Claw of Progress. 


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