A core set is returning for the first time since Origins in 2015. If you’re anything like me, it sounds ludicrous to you that flip Jace is already turning 3! That makes M19 a set with a lot to prove, so will this core burn molten or just fizzle out? We’ll learn today! But before that, let me know right now what you think my favorite M19 card for EDH will be! Whoever guesses my number one (listed at the bottom of this article) first is the smartest EDH player in all the land. It’s been proven.
Battlebond came and went in what seemed like a blink of an eye and left quite a few goodies in its wake. And in just one short week we will already have access to a brand-new set chock-full of EDH goodies, in Commander 2018. That leaves a short period of time for us to soak in the glory of M19, so let’s get to it.
*Because of the massive number of Brawl-legal generals I will also briefly discuss my favorite cards in the set for Brawl in this article.*
Remember, my set reviews come from my perspective—a perspective focused on more competitive builds. I will prioritize efficiency and raw power over most other aspects of card. Just because I don’t find a card particularly interesting or good doesn’t mean you won’t. Now, let’s disCOREver M19 and all it has to offer.
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
This cool cat doesn’t really resonate with me. His ultimate is too low impact for an EDH table and his ability is just a worse Order of Whiteclay. Easy pass.
Cleansing Nova is a strict upgrade over Purify and a mana cheaper than Austere Command. While it doesn’t have the mode flexibility of Command, 5 mana makes this spell much more competitive. If you already enjoy Austere Command you can say hello to another copy with this printing. This will be a solid addition for many white decks because it allows you to remain flexible and pinpoint the biggest issue on board at any given time.
While I wouldn’t recommend this for most casual decks, Isolate should make waves in 1v1 Commander variants and cEDH. These variants are more brutal, and the focus is mana efficiency so 1-drops litter the format. Flexible there, despite how narrow it appears at first glance.
Lena, Selfless Champion
Lena will be a great addition to token decks since it both provides extra bodies and acts as a payoff for going wide. Legendary creatures that sacrifice themselves can often be tempting as Commanders because their sacrifice is seen as less of a downside as it’s mitigated by the ability to recast. But don’t be fooled—Lena is much better as part of the 99. She’s too expensive to re-cast and mono-colored. A double no-no whammy. If only she counted tokens as well. This applies to Brawl as well.
If you enjoy Hero of Bladehold then here is another similar effect for redundancy. I predict this card to be better for Cube than EDH, though. Also, Cats! Meow.
Loxodon Line Breaker
Remorseful Cleric is a shoo-in for decks like Karador, Ghost Chieftain and Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. This gets added to the list of great graveyard removal creatures such as Scavenging Ooze, Loaming Shaman, and Angel of Finality. A thumbs-up from me!
Good News: This card is a great payoff for life gain.
Bad News: Life gain doesn’t offer much in Commander. I would just be sure to include this in specific decks that have consistent and repeatable ways of gaining life. Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice, and Karlov of the Ghost Council should get excellent mileage from this Angel.
Sai, Master Thopterist
I am sure there are Eggs-like decks that can make use of Sai as either an artifact enabler or an infinite mana sink for the win. He’s mono-colored and too lackluster to start him in the Command Zone, but he should make an excellent addition to Sharuum the Hegemon, Sydri, Galvanic Genius, and Breya, Etherium Shaper decks.
Brawl: With Padeem rotating out soon, this makes a fine replacement for artifact-heavy decks. I’d love to throw him into a deck with Tezzeret, Artifice Master at the helm or maybe a Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain deck if enough cheap artifacts make the rounds in Standard (which is unlikely).
Tezzeret, Artifice Master
Ehhhh… I want to like this card, but the bar for planeswalkers is so high in Commander, especially when considering multiplayer games. Planeswalkers need to be impactful in multiplayer games because it’s that much more unlikely they live to your turn. There are bound to be creatures lying around and planewalkers are damage magnets. 5 mana is so much for a planeswalker that hardly protects himself, takes a long time to ultimate, and doesn’t add loyalty to draw cards. Granted, he does have the ability to draw two cards per turn, so if you have a way to protect him, that’s a an enticing reward. I have been sadly unimpressed with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria in multiplayer EDH and I suspect that Tezzeret won’t fare much better. This Tezzeret is not the one I’m seeking.
Brawl: I am sad to see Tezzeret the Schemer on the way out but luckily this bad guy will be there to take his place. Hopefully, there will be a sufficient amount of cheap, playable artifacts to make Tezzeret, Artifice Master a worthy payoff since simply having him as your general isn’t rewarding enough to justify playing handfuls of bad cards.
Too steep a cost, too small a body. Not a fan even in a dedicated graveyard deck that can churn through cards. I have a bone to pick with this one.
Almost! So close! This spell just needed a way to hit lands (I know, I’m evil) and it would have provided a nice addition to the long beloved Pox strategy. In the meantime, I will stick with Death Cloud and friends.
Graveyard Marshal is almost good enough to find a fringe home in some decks since it provides an army of bodies and costs a relatively low amount. But it is unable to interact with any opposing graveyards, so I believe Mr. Sutcliffe here will be relegated to serving his days in Zombie tribal decks only.
Isareth the Awakener
Part Feldon, part Alesha, Isareth is an interesting creature that has potential to resurrect something every turn. Her limitations come in the need to attack and having to sink mana into her ability. With the former, deathtouch is somewhat helpful in enticing players to let her through since her 3/3 body is pretty fragile on its own. As a keyword, deathtouch is a nice rattlesnake mechanic that can work both offensively and defensively depending on the abilities and creature size it’s paired with. Because Isareth exiles, you can’t rebuy the same create over and over again for fun shenanigans. As a result, I think she’ll be better served as a utility creature rather than a build-around.
Brawl: Isareth’s ability is more unique in Brawl, where the pool of available cards is significantly smaller. As far as mono-black options, she’s probably the best of the bunch (or at least close to Liliana, Death’s Majesty), especially when considering how mediocre Bontu, the Glorified is. Major nitpick is the corpse counter clause. Minor nitpick is that I wish she brought the creatures back as a Zombie to play into the tribal theme of the set.
Liliana, Untouched by Death
I mean, it’s pretty obvious where this card belongs. This Liliana is untouched by subtlety, that’s for sure. Despite this, I am not even sure she even earns a spot in Zombie tribal decks since she is so low impact for a card that is just attacked to death.
Brawl: In stark contrast to regular EDH, this is a strong build-around walker to be your general. I would have a hard time not placing Death’s Majesty at the forefront, but the M19 Lili can have a swing at it. Costing 5 is a world apart from 4, and you should be able to follow her up nicely with some defensive measures to ensure her longevity on the battlefield.
This is a fun card. Usually, alternate win condition cards like Biovisionary and Mechanized Production end up being gimmicky and bad. Don’t get me wrong—Liliana’s Contract is pretty gimmicky and bad too, but the base rate of drawing 4 cards for 5 mana isn’t terrible. Sure, this isn’t at Necropotence or Ad Nauseam’s power level, but not everyone needs every card to be at that level. For Brawl, there are 10 Demons legal in the format. Get those thinking caps on! It might be time to make a deal with a Demon.
Bridge from Above Open the Graves
Sacrifice decks rejoice! This card refills your board with more fodder and is much easier to set up than Bridge from Below. 5 mana is a lot (a common theme of this article), so I don’t expect to see it often outside of dedicated sacrifice decks.
This card is a great little graveyard enabler that comes down early, is somewhat abusable, and has a fine worst-case scenario. I expect Stitcher’s Supplier to be a staple in many graveyard decks going forward, especially since the body can come in handy over cards like Grisly Salvage or Mulch. It even has the right creature type to boot.
Until my last gasp, I won’t let this card into any of my Commander decks.
Apex of Power
I can’t help but feel too many knobs were turned on this spell to reduce its power level. In a format where astronomical mana costs get you spells like Omniscience and Enter the Infinite, I am not at all interested in this very fair 10-mana spell. Once you realize how it doesn’t work with what you want it to how you want it to, it becomes easy to leave this one in the bulk mythic pile.
Much like Krav, the Unredeemed from Battlebond, Dark-Dweller Oracle suffers from the mana requirement in its activation cost. What you end up with is a Grizzly Bear with far too much mana needed to sink into it to generate any real value. I wouldn’t dwell on this Goblin for too long.
Easily dismissed for the exact reasons as the last card. I’ve noticed WotC increasing how often they put mana requirements on activated abilities in the last couple sets. On one hand, this is good. They’ve realized free activated abilities can run wild on formats, so they do this in an attempt to balance the card and keep it from being broken. On the other hand, without pushing the card even a tiny bit, it won’t make the cut in such a competitive format (competitive in this sense meaning large card pool and selection).
Twincast, Fork, Reiterate, Reverberate, Howl of the Horde, and now Doublecast. Be cautious of how many of this effect you add to your deck since you will always want to ensure you have valid cards to copy. Wort, the Raidmother, Melek, Izzet Paragon, and Riku of Two Reflections will appreciate a spell like this even though it is on the weaker end (sorcery speed and only copies your spells).
A Goblin lord that costs 4 mana wouldn’t normally pique my interests, even for Goblin tribal decks. But the payoff for having expendable Goblins (in other words, any Goblin, really) here is worth it. Repeatable disruption for the strongest card type in the format is great, so this master is far from trash.
Lathliss, Dragon Queen
I am supremely pleased that the trigger to get additional Dragons is free. Having a mono-red color identity is a steep cost to playing Lathliss as your general, but this queen can feel at home in decks like The Ur-Dragon and Scion of the Ur-Dragon.
Brawl: Sadly, there isn’t the critical mass of needed Dragons to make this viable as a Brawl general. M19 sure helps, but there would have to be dozens of Dragons in the new Ravnica block for me to consider Lathliss here.
Y I K E S. Tibalt, is that you?
Seriously though, I wouldn’t even include this in a Dragon tribal EDH deck. Sarkhan is low impact and attackable. You’re better off playing a Worn Powerstone and calling it a day.
This is an interesting build-around for “go big” decks. It’s comparable to the power level of something like Warstorm Surge and comes down early like Pandemonium without the drawback. Decks like Mayael the Anima or a large creature-based Maelstrom Wanderer build can make use of this.
Though this card has two lines of flavor text for Commander, this is the first true 2-drop lord for Elves. Most Elf tribal decks should be throwing the Clancaller right in despite the frail body.
This is a perfect moment for me to mention a theme I’ve found in M19. Multiple cards such as Elvish Rejuvenator, Vivien’s Invocation, and Militia Bugler allow you to “search the top X cards” for something. While at first glance these effects may seem appealing, we’ve all been Aven Mindcensored before. It feels pretty gross and even worse when you’re inflicting it on yourself.
Specifically speaking of Elvish Rejuvenator, the card falls somewhere between Wood Elves and Farhaven Elf. Wood Elves is the best in decks with duals/shocks. Farhaven Elf beats the competition in lower-budget, multi-colored decks. Elvish Rejuvenator reigns supreme in mono-green decks where you have a higher upside of hitting powerful utility lands such as Gaea’s Cradle and Yavimaya Hollow but don’t need the fixing provided by the other two. While the “look at top 5” is reliable enough to hit a land, it isn’t reliable enough to fix you.
Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma
“Oh, you want a legendary Urza card? We thought you wanted a legendary Ursa card!”
Mono-green decks are blessed with many phenomenal generals to choose from. Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Ezuri, Renegade Leader, Omnath, Locus of Mana, the list can go on and on. For a mono-green creature to be my general it needs to be more than just the first legendary Bear to make the cut. When analyzing this creature as an inclusion in the 99, however, I can bearly contain myself. Decks that ramp out large creatures get a nice discount here and the added trample certainly doesn’t hurt. I can see this replacing (or fitting alongside) Surrak, the Hunt Caller nicely. Goreclaw also fits unbearlievably well into Mayael, the Anima, Surrak Dragonclaw, and Maelstrom Wanderer decks.
Brawl: Carnage Tyrant, Gigantosaurus, Gishath, Zacama, Pelakka Wurm, Sifter Wurm—you name it. Goreclaw has oodles of goodies to reduce the cost of in Standard. Also, if you’re lucky enough to own a copy of Colossal Dreadmaw in your collection, Goreclaw can make that a sweet 4-mana play.
It’s uncommon to see such a rare card.
This Dinosaur is an excellent addition to green’s card advantage suite. Not referring to a particular color or timing restriction is one of Runic Armasaur’s greatest selling points. This could have been printed solely as a blue/instants hoser five years ago. All forms of Commander, casual through competitive, are loaded to the brim with interactions that will trigger this card. Sakura-Tribe Elder sacrifice? I’ll draw a card. Crack your Wooded Foothills? I’ll draw a card. Runic Armasaur doesn’t seem flashy at first, but I predict you could draw cards off this at a comparable rate to Tireless Tracker or even Mystic Remora. Just keep vigilant for those triggers. I just really wish this triggered off of Sensei’s Divining Top! I’m putting my Arms up for this one.
Vivien is an interesting mix of green planeswalkers past. Her first ability is arguably better than Garruk, Caller of Beasts’ and her second is certainly better than Freyalise, Llanowar Fury’s. Her ultimate resembles Domri Rade’s, but it’s a bit worse and harder to pull off. Overall, Vivien is solid, but not exciting. 5 mana planeswalkers need to be exciting for me to include them in my decks (another M19 common theme) and her ultimate isn’t even game-breaking after Doubling Season. Some decks may enjoy her, but I will be leaving her on the bench.
Brawl: Having a planeswalker be your general in Brawl is undeniably great. Even if they are attacked to death, you can mitigate that by recasting them later on a friendlier board. Vivien is good at finding additional lands, which should make recasting her easier as the game goes on. As part of the 59, Vivien is a solid and impactful 5-drop and with both Nissas rotating soon she should make a great addition. You have to blow up those Immortal Suns somehow.
Naturally, don’t order this card.
Arcades, the Strategist
Doran, the Siege Tower move over, there’s a bigger, badder butt building basher on the scene. Arcades has given hope to all the Rolling Stones and Wall of Shards lovers of the world. It’s quite a straightforward Elder Dragon to build around so I’ll leave you to it.
The three biggest drawing points to Arcades are:
- Drawing cards off defenders. This is a serious payoff because it allows you to refuel and never run out of steam. Arcades holds this over Doran.
- Making defenders deal damage equal to their toughness is a serious buff to their attack stats. Allowing them to attack means you can reasonably kill people with them.
- Three colors. Being a 3-color general is a huge win in my book since it gives you access to the best defenders ever printed. Sad that you can’t play Flamewright or Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast in your Arcades deck.
Brawl: There isn’t a large enough pool of strong defenders in Standard to build around this card, which is a shame since Brawl doesn’t have access to another Bant general.
No thanks. I’ll wait to see what Modern-Bash Ogre and Legacy-Bash Ogre have to offer, thanks.
Chromium, the Mutable
There are just far too many sweet Esper generals in Commander for me to be messing around with Chromium. Mutable is fitting, since it doesn’t have a say. But, if you’re tired of looping Sharuums or your wrist is hurting from jotting down Oloro’s life total changes, I suppose you can freshen things up with this instant-speed beatstick.
Brawl: Heeeello Esper legendary in Standard. If you want to play the three best colors in Magic without dabbling with icky Jodah, Chromium is the general for you. Approach of the Second Sun? Check. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria? Check. The Scarab God? Check. All these insane cards can go into one, nice little control deck. I expect to be brewing with Chromium immediately for Brawl, so if you’re interested in a deck list, let me know.
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
He flip around and come right back!
Grixis has a plethora of amazing generals to lead your deck. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager is unique because it is the first multi-colored planeswalker that can be your commander. While I do appreciate the planeswalker side of this card, as well as the lack of commander tax for the flip side, I do think this Dragon is a bit too low-impact compared to other options. Kess, Inalla, and Jeleva feel far more like “Elder Dragons” to me.
Brawl: I didn’t think we needed a fourth Grixis general for the format, but here we are. Nicol Bolas easily jumps to the top of my list of Standard-legal generals and for good reason. Plopping right down for 4 mana allows you to resolve him early in the game when many shields are down. Plus, you have the option of flipping him later to run away with the game. I do wish his ability was instant-speed just to add to the blowout potential. This is the perfect type of finisher in Brawl—he comes down early and easily establishes control once he flips and sticks.
Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner
Palladia must like pineapple on her pizza since, you know, she likes to ruin things. If you want hexproof, Uril the Miststalker is better. If you want a big beater, Zacama, Primal Calamity is better. If you want better utility, Marath, Will of the Wild is better. In fact, Palladia-Mors isn’t even the best Naya-colored Dragon general! Rith, the Awakener, I’m looking at you, buddy.
Brawl: Naya already has options in Gishath, Sun’s Avatar and Zacama. Palladia-Mors having hexproof is nice, but you really need ways to protect her once she loses that ability. After all, you’re going to want to deal lots of damage with her. I shall dub her, Palladia-Less, the Ruined.
Enchantress decks should appreciate another “lord” to go along with their suite. I do wish this creature was an enchantment himself.
Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire
Do you like Chaos Warp? Look no further than Vaevictis Asmadi! Get yourself a lifetime supply of Chaos Warp today for the low, low cost of 3BRG. If you want additional lifetime supplies just play two colorless extra per supply. Cast now in the next 10 minutes and you also get the bonus upside of saying “Vaevictis Asmadi” a lot, and that sounds pretty sweet.
Brawl: The obvious Brawl comparison for this card is Darigaaz Reincarnated. Personally, I am not a huge fan of that card outside of Dominaria Limited, so I’d stick to the direst of dire bois if you want a Jund general. The effect is quite random and if you go after people’s lands it’s likely to backfire, sadly.
I have no doubt that this effect can be enabled in some fast and broken way. But the 1/1 flying Bat payoff isn’t worth all that trouble. A unique, Johnny card to keep in mind for the future.
Whew, thank goodness they didn’t reprint Manalith again. Here is a strict upgrade with awesome art, a flavorful feel, and… oh wait… my sources are telling me that… oh yes, there it is… yep, seven cards down the page on the spoiler… Manalith again…
“Well, Arcane Lighthouse didn’t do anything, so let’s make another Arcane Lighthouse and hope it does some good work against everyone’s favorite MTG mechanic, hexproof!”
Yes, yes, it’s a Standard-legal Arcane Lighthouse, but still, it’s not illuminating the way for me. Play one of the dozens of better colorless utility lands instead.
At its core, M19 is an interesting set for Commander that introduces a bunch of new legendary creatures, as well as a few solid roleplayer cards. Let’s take a look at my top 5 inclusions for both Brawl and regular Commander.
Commander Top 5
Brawl Top 5
Not a bad haul, I must say. What are your favorite cards from Core Set 2019? Are there any new generals you are interested in building around? Let me know in the comments. Thanks so much for tuning in, and until next time, keep holy the Arcades Sabboth.