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Raging Levine – Theros Commander Set Review, Part 2

Hey there everyone! Ready for round two of the ol’ set review? I know I am. Just as a reminder, this week we’re reviewing the red, green, colorless, and multicolored cards in Theros with an eye toward their playability in Commander. As before, I won’t be giving the cards any type of rating. I’ll just be discussing what I think of them and how they might fit into decks or create new awesome situations or decks in Commander. Let’s get back into it with my favorite color of cards to play in Standard after rotation: red cards!

Ember Swallower
[draft]Ember Swallower[/draft]

This little mini-[card]Wildfire[/card] doesn’t impress me too much for Commander. You end up with a 7/8 with no trample and no evasion, and everyone loses some lands, but I don’t think this does much for your board position. Maybe this kind of effect is a way of keeping [card azusa, lost but seeking]Azusa[/card]-type decks in check, but at the end of the day I think it’s too slow and too symmetrical to work out even in that regard.

Fanatic of Mogis
[draft]Fanatic of Mogis[/draft]

Just like the aforementioned [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card] (although those of us in the know call him by his true name, Gary) this crazy creature is ready to dole out pain to each of your opponents in equal measure. This might clear out your opponents’ life totals if your devotion to red is high enough, but if it’s not, it might simply make your life a living underworld. Pair this with cards like [card]Magmatic Force[/card] to really make it insane!

Hammer of Purphoros
[draft]Hammer of Purphoros[/draft]

Giving your creatures haste is probably my favorite part of this card. Making some Golems out of land doesn’t really excite me, but being able to fire them off at opponents right away because I have what amounts to [card]Fervor[/card] with upside isn’t too terrible in the end. I can see wanting this in Hazezon or Rith to haste up my tokens.

Portent of Betrayal
[draft]Portent of Betrayal[/draft]

If you really, really need another [card]Threaten[/card] effect, I guess you could do worse. Scrying is always nice in the late game to avoid those awkward times when you draw a Mountain and need actual business. While this may not be the best source of that particular effect, it’s worth having this one for that reason. Commander’s tendency to go long often makes cards like this better than the “original versions” – if you can afford to pay one more mana for Act of Treason to scry a little, then you probably should do so.

Purphoros, God of the Forge
[draft]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/draft]

The mini-[card]Pandemonium[/card] effect is really strong, in my opinion. From [card]Molten Birth[/card] all the way up to [card]Goblin Offensive[/card], there are ways to generate lots of tokens and shock the table out. Krenko lovers, this is your God. If you are making piles of Goblin tokens, being able to damage the table and even pump your team with excess mana will give you an edge as long as you still control creatures. Purphoros himself will stick around through Wraths and give you some power over the table even after a board wipe.

Purphoros’s Emissary
[draft]Purphoros’s Emissary[/draft]

If you want to make your Commander hard to block, this could be the card for you. Bestowing it on someone like [card]Thraximundar[/card] or another Commander that wants to play 21 with your opponents will really make it tough for your opponents to keep you in check. All in all, this is not the best deal, but it’s not the worst either. You might think you’d prefer something like [card]Goblin War Drums[/card], and this might be the case most of the time, but the upside of Bestow is something to consider here.

Satyr Rambler
[draft]Satyr Rambler[/draft]

He may be doin’ the best he can, but I don’t think he’ll make a living in Commander. I hope he’ll understand.

Stoneshock Giant
[draft]Stoneshock Giant[/draft]

Once this giant becomes even more giant, you have an 8/7 with a side order of [card]Falter[/card]. Not the most impressive deal anyone’s ever made, but again, the flexibility is what this card is about. Maybe this is a Commander for Pauper decks? Beyond that I don’t exactly see it being an all-star, though.

Stormbreath Dragon
[draft]Stormbreath Dragon[/draft]

This is what I’m talking about! Another “each opponent” effect – it seems like R&D was very sensitive to multiplayer games, which I really appreciate. [card]Sudden Impact[/card] is something that can really tag greedy players in the late game if they’re not ready for it, and being able to blast the whole table lets you get around pesky players who give themselves hexproof or similar. Plus you get a 4/4 flying hasty dragon that turns into a 7/7! It can’t be [card path to exile]Pathed[/card], [card swords to plowshares]Swordsed[/card], [card pacifism]Pacifismed[/card], [card soul snare]Soul Snared[/card], or any of that business. Great!

Titan of Eternal Fire
[draft]Titan of Eternal Fire[/draft]

This is a pretty straightforward card. More humans mean more blasting people or creatures. If you don’t have humans, this titan is pretty bad. Very linear design. Hooray for humans!

Anthousa, Setessan Hero
[draft]Anthousa, Setessan Hero[/draft]

This is one of the prerelease promos, so it should be easy to pick up. The bad news is that it isn’t really that great. You get an okay deal on a 4/5 with an effect that is marginal in Commander. Unless you build your deck around it with a ton of [card]Giant Growth[/card] effects or buyback spells, I wouldn’t expect to experience much success with this one. Just play a [card]Rude Awakening[/card] and move on.

Arbor Colossus
[draft]Arbor Colossus[/draft]

Now this is what I call value! You get a 6/6 reach for 5 (likely in a one or two color deck) and you can shoot something out of the sky next turn if you want to upgrade that quickly. You can wait if you want too! I think this will see quite a bit of play at Commander tables. The reach really puts the card over the top in my opinion.

Artisan’s Sorrow
[draft]Artisan’s Sorrow[/draft]

I can definitely see myself playing this. Adding scry to the [card]Naturalize[/card] effect really makes it easy to play a card like this and feel okay about it. After all, you’re getting some card selection with it. It’s not the most exciting card in the world for sure, but it does its job admirably and sometimes that’s all you need.

Boon Satyr
[draft]Boon Satyr[/draft]

We discussed this briefly in the last review, but I think this will be a strong effect. An instant +4/+2 that ends up being a 4/2 if its host dies isn’t awful, but there’s not much else to say that I didn’t say already.

Bow of Nylea
[draft]Bow of Nylea[/draft]

Ah, Bow of Nonsense. I don’t know why you do what you do or if this thing about the seasons is really true, but in any case the card is still good. The things I’m most excited about are the deathtouch for my attackers (which makes my green tramplers much better) and the last mode of the activated ability. The other abilities are fairly marginal in Commander, but the overall flexibility might make it decent.

Centaur Battlemaster
[draft]Centaur Battlemaster[/draft]

If you want to make an enormous creature, you can do that. That’s about all this is – a possibly enormous creature. Nothing more. If you want to pile enchantments on it, then it could be very good. If you are playing an Aura-heavy Bant strategy, I would consider this as a target even in spite of its lack of hexproof or other protective abilities.

Fade into Antiquity
[draft]Fade into Antiquity[/draft]

Just mentioning this because of how accessible the graveyard often is in Commander. Exile that [card]Greater Good[/card] and be done with it!

Karametra’s Acolyte
[draft]Karametra’s Acolyte[/draft]

Hooray! More obnoxious ramp cards for the mono-green decks I don’t personally like! Seriously, though, this is going to be a reasonable one if you can get permanents to stick. I honestly don’t mind this one too much for that reason – you can make it a glorified [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] by keeping its controller’s board in check.

Mistcutter Hydra
[draft]Mistcutter Hydra[/draft]

If you need a mana sink in the late game and you want to stick it to people who play those pesky counterspells, this is a strong choice. Blue players, don’t be surprised if Omnath spends some turns building up mana only to fire an enormous Hydra off at you. Here comes my hasty 20/20 with pro-blue!

Nemesis of Mortals
[draft]Nemesis of Mortals[/draft]

This just seems like it would go well with Karador thematically. A 10/10 that you might be able to both play and monstrify for a total of GGGG is nothing to scoff at, in my opinion, even if it lacks trample. You can make someone live under the Abyss or spend a premium spot removal spell to deal with this just by doing what your deck already wants to do, which is fill the graveyard.

Nylea, God of the Hunt
[draft]Nylea, God of the Hunt[/draft]

Giving trample to the usual suspects like [card]Terastodon[/card] and [card]Sylvan Primordial[/card] or new arrivals like [card]Nemesis of Mortals[/card] is strong, especially since Nylea is indestructible, and the ability gives you a mana sink, which is important in Green because you’ll often have way too much mana and not enough to do with it. I just wish she gave herself trample! I can see this being a strong Commander for the reasons I just mentioned.

Polukranos, World Eater
[draft]Polukranos, World Eater[/draft]

Speaking of mana sinks, if you can pay Polukranos enough, it’ll eat all the worlds you want it to eat. You will have to pay quite a bit, but you can make Polukranos large enough to survive most of the things you’ll want it to fight. If you feel like you need more removal in your green-based decks, this should be at the top of your list. I know I’d rather play this than many of my other options (various Masticores come to mind…)

Reverent Hunter
[draft]Reverent Hunter[/draft]

Just here to say that I understand why this isn’t an Elf, but from a tribal standpoint I’m a little sad all the same.

Sylvan Caryatid
[draft]Sylvan Caryatid[/draft]

If you need more [card]Birds of Paradise[/card], then this is no joke. Hexproof keeps it safe while you ramp up to your new enormous friends. Of course, you could just play any number of [card]Rampant Growth[/card] variants instead. Maybe this could be a good friend for Ruric Thar so that you don’t have to take 6!

Anax and Cymede
[draft]Anax and Cymede[/draft]

If you’re into the Jor Kadeen style of aggressive Boros Commander decks, Anax and Cymede should be something you consider strongly. Target them with [card]Psychotic Fury[/card] or a similar effect, pump your team, and make blocking impossible. Throw this in a deck with cards like [card]Legion’s Initiative[/card] and [card]Spear of Heliod[/card] to really take control of the red zone. Just get your [card]Ghostways[/card] and [card]Rootborn Defenses[/card] ready, because the [card]Day of Judgment[/card] will come eventually!

Ashen Rider
[draft]Ashen Rider[/draft]

Reanimate this. Sacrifice it. Reanimate it again. Pull it back with the [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] for piles of value! Karador will love this one, especially if you have ways to sacrifice it like [card]Greater Good[/card], [card]Perilous Forays[/card], and similar. It even beats down for a not-insignificant amount of damage! I’m willing to spend a little more mana and add this to my repertoire alongside [card]Angel of Despair[/card].

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
[draft]Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver[/draft]

I guess you could [card]Time Ebb[/card] something, exile it, and then make it your own with Ashiok’s –X, but other than that, I’m not that impressed. I like that it exiles the cards because it avoids that whole pesky graveyard thing, but it can’t defend itself particularly well if it doesn’t hit the right kind of creatures quickly enough, so I think we’ll have to see this on the battlefield to find out how good it really is.

Daxos of Meletis
[draft]Daxos of Meletis[/draft]

I wrote a Spoiler Spotlight about this – check it out!

Destructive Revelry
[draft]Destructive Revelry[/draft]

This is fine. It’s an instant, which is an edge over [card]Hull Breach[/card], but [card]Hull Breach[/card] can get that two for one that we all love and want so much.

Horizon Chimera
[draft]Horizon Chimera[/draft]

This card is already part of some hilarious combo with [card]Fathom Mage[/card] and [card]Archangel of Thune[/card]. I admit that drawing your deck and gaining tons of life can be great, and it might not even win you the game, though it’s overwhelmingly likely to let you do so in short order. It also gives you some extra incidental value off of cards like [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card], but really I think this is mostly a combo piece. (I know there are other combos with this too – feel free to educate each other in the comments!)

Medomai the Ageless
[draft]Medomai the Ageless[/draft]

Sounds like a fun Commander to me if you can sneak it through, although most people seem to get rather complainy about extra turns. If your friends don’t mind it too much, then you can sneak this one through a few times to get an extra turn once in a while. At the end of the day, most decks can kill a 4/4, so it’s not really as oppressive as it might seem.

Pharika’s Mender
[draft]Pharika’s Mender[/draft]

A [card]Gravedigger[/card] that can also get something like [card]Deadbridge Chant[/card] back? Sign me up! This is the kind of creature I’d like to sacrifice and bring back over and over. There are definitely some grindy loops to be had with this, [card]Eternal Witness[/card], and lots of other Golgari cards. Your turn might take an hour, but you’ll get so much value!

Prophet of Kruphix
[draft]Prophet of Kruphix[/draft]

Prophet of Crispix: [card]Seedborn Muse[/card] on one side, [card]Vedalken Orrery[/card] on the other. (I can’t help it; I’m a cereal jokester.) Sounds strong, and it is. Animar decks, Momir Vig decks, and similar will all enjoy this as an addition. [card]Seedborn Muse[/card], [card]Vedalken Orrery[/card], [card]Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir[/card], [card]Alchemist’s Refuge[/card], and [card]Winding Canyons[/card] can all be great friends to create redundancy in a deck with the Prophet.

Psychic Intrusion
[draft]Psychic Intrusion[/draft]

You’ll always know what sweet spells your opponents have in their graveyards, and frequently you’ll cast this to grab something you already know about and cast it, but sometimes you’ll hit an upgrade in their hand. Exiling the card doesn’t hurt either, as it stops your opponent from recurring it. You can even sandbag the card for later, which I think adds value as well.

Reaper of the Wilds
[draft]Reaper of the Wilds[/draft]

This creature is already a strong deal with just its activated abilities, but when you consider the scrying, you’re going to be happy with this one. Golgari is well known for sacrificing and recurring creatures, and if you’ve got something like [card]Viscera Seer[/card] to start the engine and a [card]Phyrexian Reclamation[/card] or other bit of fuel to keep it going, you’ll be in good shape.

Spellheart Chimera
[draft]Spellheart Chimera[/draft]

If you drop a lot of instants and sorceries in your yard, you can make this Chimera hit hard, but with three toughness it’s probably only getting one hit in. Make it good!

Steam Augury
[draft]Steam Augury[/draft]

If you thought [card]Fact or Fiction[/card] was a great way to collude with someone else at the table, try [card]Steam Augury[/card] out! You split the cards into piles, and then you hope your partner in crime gives you the 5 pile and not the 0 pile. Even if that’s not how it ends up working, at least you fill up your graveyard and grab some good cards in the process!

Triad of Fates
[draft]Triad of Fates[/draft]

This card is slow, make no mistake, but if you want to blink things and draw cards, the Triad can make that happen for a price. They can also exile some creatures permanently. If you don’t mind giving your opponents the upside of [card]Oblation[/card] every once in a while, then exiling their creatures might not be bad, but I’d like to reiterate: this card is slow! Unless you have some way to untap it and fire off the ability again on the same turn, it’s probably not as brilliant as you’d like it to be.

Tymaret, the Murder King
[draft]Tymaret, the Murder King[/draft]

This card does an okay impression of [card]Lyzolda, the Blood Witch[/card], and I think he would be better in a deck with her as the Commander than he would being in charge himself. He can be supplemental and continue to be a recurring source of value rather than having to be relied upon himself. He can even be sacrificed to Lyzolda and then come back!

Underworld Cerberus
[draft]Underworld Cerberus[/draft]

Speaking of Lyzolda, this would go well with her, don’t you think? Get those creatures back and sacrifice the again! Plus it’s a serious force while it’s on the battlefield. Good luck blocking it! (Although, once it does get blocked, those creatures it kills will end up back in the hand of the player that owns them anyway.)

Xenagos, the Reveler
[draft]Xenagos, the Reveler[/draft]

Even less exciting to me than Ashiok. It just makes some 2/2s and dies most of the time. You might -6 it once, but just play [card]Genesis Wave[/card] instead and be happy.

Akroan Horse
[draft]Akroan Horse[/draft]

This is going straight into every Zedruu deck. I’m fine with my opponents getting some soldiers too because this enables us to gang up on the one person that is the biggest threat at the table. That’s who gets the horse!

Burnished Hart
[draft]Burnished Hart[/draft]

This will be seeing play in many, many decks. A card that grabs two basic land and is conveniently a creature for easy recursion? I can’t see that being bad. It’s colorless, which is really convenient, because it gives everyone the ability to ramp up.

Colossus of Akros
[draft]Colossus of Akros[/draft]

It’s big. It gets bigger, and then it bashes. It even reaches the coveted size of 20/20. If you’re ramping and you want to go big, this might be good if your playgroup frowns on the Eldrazi.

Pyxis of Pandemonium
[draft]Pyxis of Pandemonium[/draft]

This card is way too much fun and no mistake. [card]Lantern of Insight[/card] and other ways of seeing your top card and the top cards of other players will certainly make this even more interesting, but honestly this card is just about going crazy and loving it. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
[draft]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/draft]

I think this is definitely worse than [card]Cabal Coffers[/card], but if you can get something like [card]Primalcrux[/card] to stick, you’ll be making mana like there’s no tomorrow. At best, this is getting you double-digit returns. At worst it’s a colorless land. If you don’t mind a swingy card in your manabase, try it out!

Scry Lands
[draft]Temple of Abandon
Temple of Deceit
Temple of Mystery
Temple of Silence
Temple of Triumph[/draft]

This cycle will be seeing play on Commander battlefields for a while. If you don’t need the mana right now, having the extra card selection will really help you get to a place where you can use the mana well.

Okay! That’s all I have for this week. Next week we’ll talk about some social Commander issues and build a sweet deck. See you then!

-Eric Levine
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