The Ten Most Awesome Legendary Commanders, According to Gatherer – Part Two
My first name’s not ‘Baby’. It’s John-Michael. Mr. Gariepy if you’re nasty. And this is part two of the Ten Most Awesome Legendary Commanders! In part one we looked at the tenth through sixth most awesome Legendary Creatures in the game and found what it takes to be the very best, like no one ever was. This time, we’re tackling the top five cards. Just remember before you yell in the comments: This ranking system is based on the highest ranking cards according to Gatherer as voted by the players. That means if you disagree, you are wrong. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
Honorable Mention: 19th Place Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
Poor red. It tries. But, except for a technicality, it doesn’t rank in the top ten. Jaya Ballard is the highest ranking red Legendary creature, and it doesn’t pop up until card number nineteen. Even more embarrassing is one of the reasons she must have rated so high: Jaya’s first ‘task’ is the ability to destroy a blue permanent, and there are six blue Legendary Creatures high-fiving in this top ten list (Memnarch doesn’t count, but his color identity makes seven).
It’s not that Wizards doesn’t print tier one cards in red. It’s just, in order to be a top contender for most awesome Legendary Creature, you need more than power. The top ten Legendary Creatures are versatile pieces of hardware that jack into a deck and turbo boost it. Most powerful red cards are that: Powerful. They don’t ask questions. They don’t belabor you with options. They either point at the opponent or turn sideways. Jaya is a pleasant exception to this rule, supplying us with a touch of versatility, a bit of thinking, and a natural discard outlet, if that’s what you’re into. In the end, though, Jaya deals damage in a color that already deals damage, and I guess that more Magic players would rather play a game of Kick-the-Ouphe than overkill their opponent.
Best Comment, by Paladin85: “Jaya > Chandra. Jaya makes Jace cry in the playground every time shes on the board for 1 measly red mana.”
Number Five: The Mimeoplasm
Last week, when I compiled this list, The Mimeoplasm was numero uno in Gatherer. This week it sits somewhere around number one hundred. What happened?
Well, The Mimeoplasm was reprinted in Commander’s Arsenal, and, since that printing is very new, there were only five votes on it at the time, all of them five star ratings. Instead of averaging all ratings a card ever received in all of its printings, I think Wizards adds the average ratings of each printing together, then divides by the number of printings. In other words, Wizards took The Mimeoplasm’s first printing with a respectable 4.679 rating and combined it with the recent printing’s perfect 5.000 rating and got a number that beat every other card in the running.
This week, two more people voted on the new printing, and someone didn’t give it a 5 star rating. The Mimeoplasm plummeted, averaging 4.527 between both printings. I had a good idea this would happen, but I wasn’t sure. It isn’t like 4.679 is a bad rating… that’s the same rating as card number seven, Memnarch. Still, I should have given Honorable Meniton to The Mimeoplasm and a pass for being ‘too soon to tell’. I’m giving it spot five because I don’t want to bump up card number eleven, Isamaru, Hound of Konda, into the five spot. That would feel weird, and I don’t want to be called on for favoritism. My love for that card is well documented in Isamaru in Commander – Hounding the Opposition.
Besides, The Mimeoplasm deserves to be in any ranking it wants. Compare it to the staple graveyard recursion card Rise from the Grave.
Rise from the Grave puts any creature from a graveyard into play. The Mimeoplam exiles any two creatures from any number of graveyards and smooshes into one super-creature for the same Commander-friendly converted mana cost. That’s a game breaker, and it doesn’t even factor how crazy The Mimeoplasm gets when you pull together a perfect two creature combo, like, say, Phyrexian Dreadnought and Triskelion.
Best Comment, by ROBRAM89: “Since when is he a ‘the’?” “You’re twice the ‘the’ he ever was!”
Number Four: Visara the Dreadful
Visara the Dreadful came to the party with her dress on, a loaded shotgun stare and no bubblegum. Subtlety? That’s for Commanders who don’t know how to cast
Terror… Dark Banishing… Murder… better than Murder every turn? We waited twenty years for Wizards to print Murder, an instant speed creature kill spell with no gimmicks, and Visara the Dreadful featured that as an activated ability ten years ago? [Alextfish has reminded me in the comments that card did, indeed, exist ten years ago. It was called Terminate. Whoops. That said, destroying any creature without restriction was, and still is, far from the norm.]
I love how straightforward this woman is. She shows up on the battlefield and says “You know what your problem is? Your opponent has too many creatures! Here, let me kill them for you. It will only take a few turns.”
Visara’s other ablity, flying, can also be funny. Imagine fighting on the field of battle, watching helplessly as Visara eviscerates your brothers and sisters in arms, one by one. Then she flies away. You’re happy to be alive… but then it dawns on you that you weren’t important enough to kill. Oh, sure, Visara could cut you in half with a stare, but there are Planeswalkers to take down. She could kill you, just in case… but no… you aren’t, nor will you ever be a threat. Better to just ignore you. Visara needs to do laundry later. Gore doesn’t just slide off party dresses, you know.
Best Comment, by IHATEYOURARTWOrK: “If this card is ever reprinted not only will I quit playing magic but I will also create my own card game called ‘I hate Visara the Dreadful’ filled with different ways to kill this card. Taking that into consideration, I would not recommend reprinting this card unless you want a horde of angry moocows knocking on your doorstep.
Sir Jackson Beck Esq. Commander of the Golden Moocows”
Number Three: Arcanis the Omnipotent
Visara casts Murder every turn. Arcanis casts Concentrate. I know that Concentrate feels like a staple blue card draw spell, but it was printed in Odyssey and Eighth Edition and never again. Harmonize was printed five years ago, we haven’t seen a card give us three cards for four mana for a little while, and I think modern magical sensibilities is pushing the casting cost of that spell up to . That makes Arcanis a six casting cost card which taps to cast a five cost sorcery every turn. And of all the four to five casting cost spells that Arcanis could cast, it’s one of the most useful spells for every deck in existence. That thing you’re doing? Do more of it.
If you activate Arcanis once, you get value out of him. Twice and you drew six cards for a considerable discount. If you were playing against a Team Visara opponent who activated her ‘get back stare’ three times, you could still pull ahead. It would hurt, but you could do it. If that opponent, instead, fielded Arcanis, the Omnimpotent and tapped him three times, you should, under no circumstance, win that game. That player just nine for zero’d you. If you win that game, there can only be one of two reason why: 1). Your opponent decided to stop trying, or 2). Your opponent is looking to get a little sumthin’ sumthin’. Take a good look at that player and think real hard about how important winning is to you.
Do I even bother to mention you can return this card to your hand? You can return this card to your hand. It’s expensive, but, hey, bonus ability. Plus, with many opponents, you won’t need to. They’ll see that the card protects itself and ignore it, focusing on the cards you’re drawing instead. A single Terror could waste two of your plays and make you draw three less cards, but, no. If Terror doesn’t kill something, what good is it?
Best Comment, by LordRandomness: “Why are we bothering with combos? Here’s one for you: combos with being turned sideways.”
Number Two: Akroma, Angel of Wrath
What is going on with Onslaught Block? It just swept slots number 2, 3 and 4 on this list!
I remember the day that people stopped snickering at Akroma, Angel of Wrath’s titanic casting cost and kitchen sink full of abilities. Pro Tour Venice, 2003, saw Akroma fly out of Osyp Lebedowicz’s hands and into the red zone, snatching him a cool $40,000 in the process. Confused players who didn’t follow the latest deck tech were baffled. What reanimation was Osyp using? None? Then how did he cheat Akroma onto the board? He didn’t? You mean that Akroma is such a good card that Osyp accelerated into her, playing Rampant Growth into Explosive Vegetation then hard casting Akroma to win the tournament? Wait, what? He wasn’t even playing green? Man, that must be a crazy counterspell suite that allowed him to hold the game until… wait, what? White/Red? Osyp played a controlling White-Red deck, waited until there were eight lands in front of him, then dropped Akroma to win game after game? What?!
Mark Rosewater said before that Invasion marks the third age of Magic, where big spells were not only powerful, but playable, and they weren’t trumped by broken cheap spells. It’s true that a number of powerful, expensive cards like Rith, the Awakener saw play, but not until Pro Tour Venice was New Magic here to stay. Game players, not just Magic players, but lovers of games everywhere rejoiced. Magic could be fun and competitive at the same time. You no longer needed to choose between casting flashy spells and winning the game. The flashy spells were not only a viable option, but were, for the time being, the way to win.
If you aren’t intimidated by Akroma’s eight mana, you get value for cost. She’s become such a popular card that wizards printed two direct homages to her: Akroma, Angel of Fury, an alternate reality de-morphing angel-type pocket monster, and Sphinx of the Steel Wind, who belongs to an alternate reality where Akroma is a part-human, part-lioness, riddle-talking machine, I suppose. So why is Akroma, Angel of Wrath still tops and not one of those two?
Well, I suppose it’s about need. Mono-White needs Akroma. Everything about the early stages of most white decks lead to this card. White begins the game with some of the best creatures, then switches into a mid-game full of combat tricks and trumps. Mono-white’s traditional end game involves forcing the opponent to over-commit, wiping the board, then following up by swamping the table with yet more small efficient creatures. It works, but it’s a cobbled together end game strategy that wins by not losing. What if, instead, you could fire a giant white Angel at your opponent? What if, while your exhausted late-game control opponent was tapped out, you could tap your lands, slap Akroma on the battlefield, and force your opponent eat six? White’s split of the color pie doesn’t offer many haymakers. There are a few, though, and when most players have eight Plains and need to KO the opposition, they want to top deck Akroma.
Best Comment, by continue: “My God… it’s full of awesome…”
Number One: Sliver Queen
I know there’s bound to be a few new players confused with this card. This is The Most Awesome Magic Commander out of all the Legendary Creatures in the game? Admittedly, 5/5 for five is pretty good… oh, hold it. I forgot this creature was a 7/7. Really? It’s only one less power and toughness than Fusion Elemental?
I’m getting off topic, though. A 7/7 for five is good, and the ability to put a 1/1 creature on the board for three… wait… two mana? How come I’m remembering Sliver Queen all wrong?
Originally, I was going to compare this card to Selesnya Guildmage, a 2/2 for two, that puts a 1/1 saproling into play for four. I planned to say “Sliver Queen is efficient for its casting cost, but so isn’t Selesnya Guildmage. So what makes Sliver Queen special?” But Sliver Queen isn’t efficient for its casting cost. It’s a spectacular bargain. was hard to cast in 1997. But today, it’s just a different cost that requires more color fixing. For your trouble, you get a creature with a power and toughness two clicks better than its converted mana cost with the ability to grind creatures onto the table. That’s an awesome card before I mention…
Or any of the other 72 Slivers (or clones, or changelings. Normally, we hand wave those cards away, but as bad as Changeling Sentinel is, I don’t think a 3/2 Sliver with vigilance for four is such a weird choice for this deck. At least it makes more sense as a Sliver than as card #37 in a Goblin deck, say).
Speaking of Goblins, how many Goblin decks do you know that consist of land and 100% ‘Creature – Goblin’? Sure, goblins like goblins… but most players add a few burn spells, and maybe some artifact destruction, or maybe a surprise, like Act of Treason. Goblin players take advantage of all the goblinish synergy between their cards, but it’s rare when they don’t grease the machine with a few well-placed instants and sorceries. Sliver players, though? Slivers players often toss together a deck of 100% Slivers and land. Every non-Sliver in that deck is a wasted opportunity. Why would you pack a Shatter when you could run Harmonic Sliver? Having problems with your opponent’s counters? Don’t play Mana Leak, play Root Sliver. Overrun? No, no… you’ll get more value out of Might Sliver.
And, now that I think about it, I think this is why I devalued Sliver Queen in my mind. She seems so peripheral to the Sliver deck. Any time an opponent played Sliver Queen against me, the damage was done, and I didn’t care what her stats were. She was a big creature with twenty-five little abilities. If my opponent hit me with her I was dead… but the same could be said about any two other Slivers. I suppose she could help her owner recover from after a global sweep… but most of the Sliver players I know are greedy. That’s why they play Slivers in the first place. Greedy Sliver Players cast all their different Slivers as fast and as often as they can. In Greedy Sliver Player’s hands, Sliver Queen hits the table as soon as possible, and, when the board gets swept, they pout while they’re Sliver Queen heads to the yard, with no way to get her back.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Sliver Queen is a great card. You could play her by her lonesome and she would still be a great card. You could put her in a deck with a humble number of business Slivers and swarm the board with your Sliver hoard as efficiently as the Greedy Sliver Player, but still save a game plan for when that strategy doesn’t work. Just Sliver Queen and six other Slivers for spice and thirty non-Sliver cards. Man… now I want to make that deck.
Best Comment, by novasun:
The wonderful thing about slivers
is slivers are wonderful things
their bodies are made out of sinew
they’ve got muscles on top of their wings
they’re hasted, trample, shroud, and shadow
but the most wonderful, [wonderful,] thing about slivers is
there is more than one!
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