Have you seen Battlebond? Who am I kidding? How could you miss it? Battlebond is working double this season to earn its nickname as “Commander Masters.” Between the sweet reprints like Land Tax, Seedborn Muse, and of course, Doubling Season and the awesome new casual oriented cards like partners and the land cycle, it’s not a difficult argument to win.
As a reminder, your mileage will vary on how useful you find cards to be, especially in a format like Commander. I play with a much more competitive slant, and as such, my review will be looking at things from a relatively high power level. I prioritize things like efficiency, competition, and raw power over things like price, flavor, or “new card hype.” Keep this in mind as you read and adjust my power rankings accordingly. Any particular card that you want to hear more about? Leave a comment and let me know so that I can dedicate more time to it!
Let’s do it, partner.
Regna, the Redeemer + Krav, the Unredeemed
I do appreciate that you can curve these one after the other on 5 and 6. But I don’t like the mana activation required for Krav’s ability. If you play Krav on 5 and Regna on 6, you will still not be able to generate tokens unless you have a previous free life gain source. Granted, I can see how ridiculously broken Krav’s ability would be if it allowed multiple free uses per turn, but I would have much preferred a tap-to-use or a twice-per-turn clause instead. As cool as it is to have this duo in play and a Disciple of Bolas in the command zone, this just seems like so much more work than Tymna the Weaver to assemble card advantage.
Sylvia Brightspear + Khorvath Brightflame
Knights and Dragons? An unlikely duo. Maybe the Knight can tame the Dragon and ride it? Hm, I’m not a great Vorthos. A dual tribal deck does seem like a novel and fun idea. And maybe Dragons and Knights are a great pair since their haste + doublestrike will make quick work of your foes. Plus, having two generals doesn’t hurt this duo’s cause. Khorvath is unfortunately pretty bad but as a 99 inclusion I think Sylvia’s best home would be in a Kaalia of the Vast or The Ur-Dragon deck. She could put in work as an enabler for some sweet Dragon plays that will leave the table scorched. Leave your Khorvaths at home.
Okay, this card can’t get Omniscience or Pattern of Rebirth, but that’s fine because it can get you Jace! Or Ugin, Karn, or Nicol Bolas if you’re bold enough. This is a slam dunk Commander card that I expect to see play for a long time in super friends decks. If your deck is full of planeswalkers, you will be happy to have a creature in play that discourages attacks as well. So planeswalk, don’t run, to include this card!
Play of the Game
Getting other players at the table to help you pay for this spell really would be the play of the game. The effect is certainly strong/unique and it’s not out of the realm that you can cast it solo even if it eats a few of your own mana sources. This is a great way to remove everything pesky, including planeswalkers, and the exile clause it very welcome against graveyard-matters and indestructible cards.
This spell doesn’t have a large enough impact on the game, even if you play it politically (pumping other boards) to force bigger attacks on your creatureless enemies. It’s been sanctioned.
Additionally, there are many decks that have a +1/+1 counter theme and although leaving up open mana for this is annoying, there is serious payoff for this cheap enchantment. You + this card = together forever.
Will Kenrith + Rowan Kenrith
Planeswalkers with partner? Sign me up! These two are actually very powerful late-game generals and give you a solid color identity to make use of their abilities. In 1v1 Commander variants I suspect these two to be even more powerful, since there will be fewer creatures to attack them and their abilities can focus in on a singular target. I wish that one of these planeswalkers cost 5 mana instead, but I’m sure that was tested and proved to be a bit pushed. 6-mana planeswalkers must have immediate impact on the board and provide game-ending value if left unchecked. Will is especially potent as a value engine, so I will always try and land him first. But ultimating Rowan first and then ulting Will will (ha!) result in two Will emblems. Both ultimates give you nice incentive to grind toward them (which luckily doesn’t take long) but they don’t win the game on the spot, sadly. In the end, I predict that you will see a lot of this power duo in the command zone, ready to unleash Izzet trouble on the table.
Zndrsplt, Eye of Wisdom + Okaun, Eye of Chaos
Okay. I will openly admit I have a soft spot for Homunculi (not of the FMA variety, however) so I may be a bit biased on this duo. On a cuteness scale, they’re hard to beat. Even with as few eyes as these two, you must’ve seen the price spikes on cards like Frenetic Efreet, Krark’s Thumb, and Chance Encounter, right? Well, this is why. Flipping coins is a lot of fun and Zndrsplt and Okaun both provide excellent incentives for coin flips. They come with a built-in method of initiating coin flips, as well as a relatively strong payoff for winning them. At the Battlebond prerelease, my opponents had one of each of these in play after ramping into them. After giving their team trample, they won four coin flips, making Okaun massive and crushing us on the spot. We were dead from 30 life on turn 5. It was wild. Zndrsplt may have the better payoff of the two cards from coin flip wins, but I would always include Okaun as well just because the “flip coins until you lose” ability is so insane. You know if you’re the type of player in the market for coin flips.
Toothy, Imaginary Friend + Pir, Imaginative Rascal
Generals that love this duo include Vorel of the Hull Clade, Ezuri, Claw of Progress, Prime Speaker Zegana, and the list goes on. Cards like Fathom Mage, Hadana’s Climb, Master Biomancer, and Zameck Guildmage all make excellent includes in decks that abuse Pir and Toothy. Curving Pir right into Toothy sounds like a great way to set up some excellent card and board advantage. While they wouldn’t make the command zone for me, there are many counters-matter decks that make excellent use of these two in the 99. So, don’t count them out.
At first, I likened this card to a slow and vulnerable Show and Tell. But the upside this card has over Show and Tell is that it doesn’t let your opponents do it also! Arcane Artisan is a sweet way to sneak large, uncastable creatures into play and can be used alongside the likes of Elvish Piper and Quicksilver Amulet.
This spell is not the game plan I want to pursue. It costs way too much mana for the effect and if you have someone else who wants to assist you in casting it, you are doing other people favors. A solid include for group hug decks though, if that’s your jam and jelly.
Out of Bounds
As I am prone to do, I was quick to dismiss this spell as unplayable, but upon further consideration I think it may have a home in some control decks. Especially if the environment is more competitive minded (and thus possesses a better threat assessment than your average EDH group) there is the chance that multiple people will assist you in stopping someone from doing something drastic. After all, nobody wants the table to lose the game right then and there. There may be enough solid counterspells in the format already to exclude an unreliable spell like this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I see it pop up every now and again. I wouldn’t be afraid to assist in casting this spell for another player and I wouldn’t be afraid to say “nope.”
Well, well, well… what do we have here? Is that a blue Imperial Recruiter-like creature? By gosh, it is! Spellseeker, aptly named, has a similar restriction to cards like Trinket Mage, but this one can go find lots of powerful tools for any given situation. Some spicy targets include:
- Counterspells: Mana Drain, Flusterstorm, Pact of Negation
- Combo Pieces: Flash, High Tide, Dramatic Reversal
- Card Draw/Filter: Brainstorm, Chart a Course, Ancestral Vision
Oh wait… Spellseeker can get cards of any color?
Demonic Tutor, Pyroblast, Surgical Extraction, Summoner’s Pact, Swords to Plowshares… the list goes on and on. Spellseeker is also a Wizard, so Inalla, Archmage Ritualist decks and Riptide Laboratory rejoice! I predict this powerful 3-drop will be the top played nonland card from Battlebond in Commander from casual to competitive. Mark my words!
I like this card slightly more than Regna’s Sanction, but it still feels too situational for a 5-mana sorcery spell even though it features my favorite little cuties. I would have been all over this if it was an instant.
Virtus the Veiled + Gorm the Great
Virtus hits hard and I would probably slot him into some aggressive decks. Gorm isn’t great, and not even worth playing in your deck with the off-chance of fetching up Virtus. Aggressive decks (the only type of deck that would want Virtus) should have plenty of better ways to push him with cards like Rogue’s Passage and Whispersilk Cloak. To me, playing these two together is a trap. Don’t let the veil cover your sight!
Archfiend of Despair
No doubt that this is a powerful Demon, but the 8 mana required to summon him is a hefty price. I would much rather summon a Razaketh, the Foulblooded or Sheoldred, Whispering One. Don’t underestimate how fast Archfiend of Despair can kill your opponents, though. It does trigger at the end of each turn and you can get a nice discount by plopping him into play with Kaalia. Also, these Demon names are starting to sound a bit like throwing the dartboard at “evil” sounding words.
A solid addition for a Warrior tribal deck. Other than that, I think this card almost gets there, but not having any form of evasion renders this slightly worse than Ohran Viper (a card that already struggles to see play).
When this card was first spoiled, I was stunned to think about how broken it would be with cards like Ad Nauseam or Spoils of the Vault. Upon further reflection, I had a reversal on my evaluation. You don’t really need this to pair with Ad Nauseam or Necrologia because they are quite good at what they do already. I’m sure that there is a good place to add this Stunning Reversal, but I doubt that it will see mainstream play even at competitive tables.
Welcome to the winning team, indeed. Thrilling Encore is an exciting effect that can catch a whole table offguard. At the Battlebond prerelease my teammate cast Inner Demon, wiping a large portion of the table’s creatures (including a True-Name Nemesis), and I cast Inner Demon, reanimating everything under my control. Liliana would truly be proud. The stories that Thrilling Encore can enable are many players’ reasons why they enjoy the format. I suggest giving it a try even if it’s just a temporary spot in your deck. Remember to always carry two board wipes.
This is a solid value spell. Nothing crazy, but getting back a Snapcaster Mage or Eternal Witness with this while simultaneously shrinking all opposing boards is a nice little package deal for 3 mana. Decks with heavy creature themes should consider Fleshbag Marauder/Merciless Executioner instead, but there are many decks that should have a home for the maneuver.
I can see this spell enabling crazy fun shenanigans as well as busted spiky combos. Bonus Round is the perfect spell to cast before a High Tide (despite being double-red) or before a Time Warp effect. Decks like Riku of Two Reflections, Wort, the Raidmother, and Mizzix of the Izmagnus should all make room for this fun and powerful spell, and will appreciate the low mana cost. Just be careful of your timing. Bonus Round does affect any player casting spells for the turn’s duration.
Honestly, this card should just be named Nekusar’s Fury.
Najeela, the Blade-Blossom
Najeela beats the newly printed Jodah as the lowest cost 5-color general in the format, so that is huge. She comes down swinging and she doesn’t relent easily. Even her tokens trigger her ability themselves, causing her to snowball if left unchecked. This fierce Warrior is the reason you are seeing cards like Druids’ Repository, Phyrexian Altar, and Nature’s Will spike in price. Sword of Feast and Famine, Cryptolith Rites, and Bear Umbra also work nicely with her. Having a 5-color general be such an efficient combo piece herself hasn’t happened since General Tazri and I suspect her to compete with Tazri as the best 5-color general in the entire format. I’m working on a Najeela specific spotlight article, so let me know down in the comments if you’re interested in that.
Oh—if only this card let me play the lands. Many players will appreciate the chaos of cards like this, but I am not one of them. I’ll stick to Lurking Predators.
Riku of Two Reflections’ little baby brother! Decks like Riku, Animar, Soul of Elements, and Karador, Ghost Chieftain will slam this right in since it provides lots of repeatable value for a relatively low cost. Greater Good, anybody? It has solid stats for its cost as well, but I sure do wish it was an Elf.
The green Mulldrifter? This card is quite nice in decks that can spread counters around. No, it’s not the powerhouse it is in Two-Headed Giant, but giving counters in exchange for drawing cards is surely a solid deal. It’s great in a group hug deck especially since it doesn’t require payment to draw cards. Do note that it doesn’t draw multiple cards for putting multiple counters on something at once.
Not gonna lie—I have no idea what to do with this big blob. It’s quite the Timmy card, so the Spike in me is uninterested in giving my opponent cards.
More like Pir’s WHAM! Amiright? Why can’t this cost 3 mana?! It would be the strongest card from the set if it were, but even at 4 mana this card is pretty nice. This is a bit like Reap and Sow except that it comes entwined for the cost of just one half of that spell. Snagging a Gaea’s Cradle, Tabernacle, or Strip Mine from your deck on a whim is just filthy. Best-case scenario, Pir’s Whim sets back the rest of the table on some mana development and ramps you further ahead. I can imagine a big target on my head after casting this spell.
Yes, it’s a reprint. Yes, you should get one. I love Doubling Season and if you intend to be a life-long Commander player you will appreciate the lowered price on this green staple. Pick one up ASAP!
Archon of Valor’s Reach
Baby Iona, is that you? Seriously, the Archon can be a rage-inducing creature once it hits play and it certainly comes down a lot earlier than the Shield of Emeria. It’ll be easier to handle since it can’t shut off both instants and sorceries and because it’s universal it may even come back to haunt you at times. In the end, this is a fine hatebear style creature that should be annoying to play against, but not too annoying.
Brawl Last One Standing
If your deck doesn’t have access to enough wraths and you want another one this one is a fine, if very unexciting, addition. It’s worse than Toxic Deluge and Damnation but probably in the same realm as Crux of Fate, Languish, and Black Sun’s Zenith.
Najeela Warrior decks, get your tribe ready. Also, do a quick check on your general’s creature type. If it’s a Warrior and you’re looking for more cheap haste enablers, here you go. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. The artwork seems like it may have been a bit rushed, though.
“Behold my tower, cower before it’s power!”
Yes, I know it’s a lot worse than that fish bowl thing from Kaladesh, but that’s not the point!”
Bountiful Promenade, Luxury Suite, Morphic Pool, Sea of Clouds, Spire Garden
Battlebond introduced an amazing cycle of lands for Commander and I expect these to be played for years to come. Obviously, we all wish that these were fetchable and hopefully one day they will print some that are. I think they missed a great opportunity there but in the meantime, I hope they finish this cycle soon, especially since enemy colors desperately need more fixing options. Notably, if you’ve done such a good job dispatching most of the table that you’re left with just one opponent, you will have to settle for these being a Guildgate. But I think that’s a fair trade-off.
Well now that we’ve huddled up, that wraps up Battlebond. I love the choices of cards that were selected for reprints in this set, as well as the new cards added to the vast pool of Commander goodness. Many of my top picks from this set have casual appeal while at the same time aggressively costed enough to make even the more competitive EDH players happy.
Top 5 Cards from Battlebond
What are your favorite cards from Battlebond? Do you appreciate the direction Wizards has taken with so many more sets being geared toward Commander? Let me know in the comments. I do read them all, and be sure to throw out any particular cards you want me to spotlight. Thanks so much for tuning in, and until next time, the name’s Bond… Battlebond.