Partner

With the spoiling of Commander 2016 came the advent of a new mechanic—partner. This allows you to have not one but two commanders, and gets around the issue of trying to create four-color legendary creatures in order to have a four-color deck (an issue also solved by the five four-color legendaries spoiled with the decks).

My first reaction is violent denial of WotC’s right to change the rules of my pet format. How dare they come up with this two Commander rule? Who do they think they are? It’s one Commander, and ninety-nine cards. That’s the way it’s always been.

Of course, this isn’t the first time WotC has messed with the Command Zone. In Commander 2013, the Commanders interacted with the Command Zone—all in different ways, which rubbed my OCD the wrong way. And then Commander 2014 had the Planeswalker Commanders, which I surprisingly had no problem with—probably because when I first started playing, I was under the impression that Planeswalkers could be Commanders, so the idea wasn’t completely foreign to me. And I really liked the Experience counters from Commander 2015.

Of course, none of those actually changed the number of cards in the library, or messed with the mechanics of casting your Commander. Still, isn’t part of the fun of Commander its versatility? If it had never changed, we’d still be limited to the original Elder Dragons, and no two people could have the same Commander—or general, as it was called back then. Commander damage wouldn’t be limited to combat damage, and you wouldn’t be able to die to your own Commander.

Those of you who follow my blog might also remember my rant about the new tuck rule from about a year ago. But so far, that rule has only benefited me—I’ve yet to encounter a situation where I wished my opponent couldn’t send her Commander to the Command Zone rather than the hand or library.

So—what’s the likely outcome of this Partner mechanic? Gut reaction aside, it’s actually pretty cool. You can mix and match the Partner Commanders to get different color combinations, or even use Partners of the same colors to have an alternate Commander you can access at will. That’s pretty cool. So. What options do we have?

Silas Renn, Seeker Adept—Deathtouch; whenever he deals combat damage to a player, you may cast target artifact card in your graveyard this turn. (Blue/Black)

Vial Smasher the Fierce—Whenever you cast your first spell each turn, deals damage equal to the spell’s CMC to an opponent chosen at random. (Red/Black)

Tana, the Bloodsower—Trample; whenever she deals combat damage to a player, create that many Saproling tokens. (Red/Green)

Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa—Flanking; creatures your opponents control without flanking or reach can’t block creatures with powers two or less. (Green/White)

Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker—Flying; whenever an opponent casts a spell, put a +1/+1 counter on it. (Blue/White)

Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder—ETB or attack, target creature you control gains double strike and lifelink until end of turn. (Red/White)

Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix—T: Add C to your mana pool for each card you’ve drawn this turn. (Blue/Green)

Ravos, Soultender—Flying; other creatures you control get +1/+1; at the beginning of your upkeep, you may return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand. (White/Black)

Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist—At the beginning of each player’s end step, that player may draw a card if a player other than you lost life this turn. (Red/Blue)

Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper—Menace; whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to a player, you gain life equal to that creature’s toughness. (Green/Black)

Akiri, Line-Slinger—First strike, vigilance; +1/+0 for each artifact you control. (Red/White)

Thrasios, Triton Hero—4: Scry 1, then reveal the top card of your library. If it’s a land card, put it onto the battlefield tapped. Otherwise, draw a card. (Blue/Green)

Tymna the Weaver—Lifelink; at the beginning of your postcombat main phase, you may pay X life, where X is the number of opponents that were dealt combat damage this turn. If you do, you draw X cards. (Black/White)

Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus—Flying, haste; Whenever an opponent casts his or her second spell each turn, draw a card. (Red/Blue)

Reyhan, Last of the Abzan—ETB with three +1/+1 counters; Whenever a creature you control dies or is put into the command zone, if it had one or more +1/+1 counters on it, you may put that many +1/+1 counters on target creature. (Green/Black)

So, first thing I notice—the enemy color combinations each get two Partner Commanders, and the allies only get one. That upsets my sense of order. The second cycle of enemy Partners aren’t adding anything to the possible color combinations.

The second thing I notice is that most of the Partner Commanders really aren’t worth running without the back-up of a second Commander. Akiri is okay, but it gets way better with Silas Renn’s ability to return artifacts to play. Kydele is fine for mana-ramp, but it’s Thrasios that will help you draw the cards to make it worthwhile—or you can use Kydele’s ability to pay for Thrasios’s scry. Reyhan is pretty good, but why would its command zone clause be relevant unless you’re also running Ishai?

Also—the fact that these Partner Commanders open more opportunities for four color decks, without needing to come up with more four-color cards—a prospect which is extremely difficult—makes me quite happy. When there’s only one option for a certain deck archetype, anyone who wants that archetype is forced to play the same deck—and part of the fun of Commander is that any deck is viable. With the Partner Commanders, plus the four-color Commanders, we now have seven different ways to make each of the four-color combinations. That’s way better than having a single way for each combination, which is what it would have been had they not come up with the Partner mechanic. So, really, the only way it could be improved—is to create more cards with Partner, in order to provide more options.

Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic about this new mechanic. It opens up new deck archetypes that have thus far been unavailable in sanctioned play, while skirting the problem of trying to design multiple four-color legendary creatures. I look forward to seeing what kinds of decks people build around these new commanders.

(Please comment below with your commanders and archetype if you plan to create a Partner commander deck.)