White Chocolate and Caviar!
Marmite and Nutella!
Shrimp Paste and Mangoes! Wait, no that doesn’t sound very appetising…
Weird food combos aside, this week I’m taking a quick dive into the latest returning mechanic shaking up the world of Commander with Partner! A mechanic first printed in Commander 2016, then vanishing until its sister, “Partner With” was printed in the set known as Battlebond in mid-2018, before finally making a resurgence in the upcoming Commander Legends (2020) set!
Unlike its sister mechanic, “Partner With” which limits your choice of Creature pairing to a particular pair and nobody else, Partner works like a Barbie doll – mix the tops and bottoms any way you like. Each piece is unique and has its flavour and style, but some pairs overlap colour schemes, some pairs don’t flow cohesively and some pairs lend themselves to strong, complementary synergies.
For this article, I’d like to look at and bet on potential colour pairs from Commander Legends that’ll shake-up both casual and competitive Commander pods alike. I’m discounting pairs containing The Prismatic Piper as he doesn’t offer that great of a deck-building advantage, and I’m also not considering pairs with older partners from the Commander 2016 decks. Sifting through the remaining possible 1560 pairs will definitely remain a challenge, so let’s begin!
Along with my analysis of these partners, I’ll be offering a miniature deck tech with suggested card pairings and combos for the deck!
Akroma, Vision of Ixidor + Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh: Soup Strategy
In our first pair of partner commanders, we offer up a fan-favourite selection of the first EVER 0 costing Commander – Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh – partnered with the original champion of keyword soup, Akroma, Vision of Ixidor!
For the uninitiated? Soup strategy relies on cards that possess a flurry of Magic’s mechanics, to buff or share these keywords among other Creatures. Common all-stars in this front are Odric, Lunarch Marshal, Kathril, Aspect Warper and Rayami, First of the Fallen.
With Akroma’s ability to buff fellow keyword soup creatures, she can turn even the measly 0/1 Rograkh into a decent-sized 4/5 first strike, menace, trample just by heading to combat. Pairing them with other equipment or enchantments that give them additional keywords makes them so much more potent and threatening. Potential deck inclusions could be: Basilisk Collar for Lifelink and Deathtouch (and +2/+2 when Akroma’s out), Aerial Responder as an early game life gain outlet and Akroma’s Memorial just to send a message late game.
But unlike Odric or the other aforementioned Commanders, this partner pairing gives us access to red, a colour known for its explosive fast plays and powerful targeted and area-of-effect removal spells to open a path for a swift and decisive victory.
As for the Soup strategy, it gives us the added boost of cards like Embercleave, Bloodmark Mentor, Goblin War Drums, Ferocity of the Wilds and Fervor to help give your Creatures multiple relevant keywords to boost their power mid-game and during the late game. Other notable mentions include Kari Zev, Skyship Raider and Homura, Human Ascendant as a great means of providing Akroma with targets for her abilities.
Unlike most Red-White decks, this Partner combo wants to be active in more of the mid and late game as opposed to relying on an aggro strategy to burst your opponents down. Rograkh can still be quite a menace in the early game but playing him with no way to protect him or buff him is just adding a sitting duck in the middle of a pack of hungry wolves.
Look to utilise white’s abilities to pump out Soup-strategy Creatures early game with Aerial Responder, Healer’s Hawk or Fiendslayer Paladi as a means of establishing a difficult board to attack into. Then set up your mid-game pieces using what ramp white has at its disposal, such as Cartographer’s Hawk and Pearl Medallion to race your opponents to Akroma.
But don’t just play Akroma without a way to protect her! Consider cards like Bastion Protector, any of the Swords from Double Masters/Modern Horizons and Darksteel Plate to defend against board wipes and targeted removal.
Alternatively, seek to use pressure mid-game through equipment like Sword of the Animist, Forebear’s Blade or Loxodon Warhammer or Enchantments like Concerted Effort to buff up Rograkh and start hitting opponents for Commander Damage early on.
Boros lacks solid card draw and Mana ramp, so look to invest in cards like Smothering Tithe and Oketra’s Monument to get your Creature cards out early along with card draw spells like Endless Atlas, Book of Rass and Mangara, the Diplomat to refill your hand when you start to run out of gas.
Ultimately, this deck appeals to those who wish to challenge themselves to design an archetype never thought possible until this pairing was released. In a colour pairing lacking strong card draw support and ramp capabilities, having a Mana curve leaning towards the high end can prove fatal, but I feel that this partner pair will certainly make a splash in more casual battlecruiser pods.
Krark, the Tumbless + Eligeth, Crossroads Augur: The Machine Gun
Oh! What a devilish pair these two make up. Though falling in Izzet colours, this partnering of Eligeth, Crossroads Augur and Krark, the Thumbless don’t seem to have much synergy with each other at first glance…
…Until you realise that Eligeth gives you access to multiple Ancestral Recall effects for the same converted Mana cost. And with Krark’s duplication ability, he can give you significant card advantage for a Spell-slinger strategy. Combine that with Izzet’s plentiful spell damage effects to burn your opponents on your way to victory!
As always, picking up your instant and sorcery payoffs is key to securing victory, since attempting to Lightning Bolt your opponents to death is a little difficult, especially in Commander where everyone starts with 40 life.
All-stars such as Guttersnipe, Thermoalchemist and Electrostatic Field are a must. Other possible inclusions are Niv-Mizzet, Parun for additional card draw and Talrand, Sky Summoner/Murmuring Mystic to generate a small token army to pave your way to victory.
To capitalise on Krark’s coin-flipping mechanic, consider running the Battlebond pair of Zndrsplt, Eye of Wisdom and Okaun, Eye of Chaos, and cards such as Chance Encounter, Fiery Gambit and Krark’s Other Thumb mostly for coin-flipping payoffs but also to synergise with our own Commander’s ability, allowing us to re-roll bad coin flips to change our outcomes.
As for spells worth rerolling, I’d have a gander and say that our early game should be filled with ways to get Krark out quickly and efficiently, then padding our late game with more game-changing spells. Rituals like Pyretic Ritual, Seething Song and Mana Geyser would be appropriate for the deck as a means of early game ramp through Krark, whilst late game we could attempt to go for extra turns with Part the Waterveil, Temporal Mastery and Time Warp or through casting huge spells like Aminatou’s Augury, Blatant Thievery and Expropriate.
But enough about Krark! We also need support for our other Commander, Eligeth, Crossroads Augur! Eligeth plays more into a late-game strategy with turning Scrying in drawing cards, which helps us with our spell casting, since we’re less threatened by graveyard removal like Tormod’s Crypt or Bojuka Bog. Simple spells like Preordain and Serum Visions can functionally become the banned Ancestral Recall, and triggers from cards like Jace’s Sanctum, Thassa, God of the Sea and Oath of Jace basically give us free card draws instead of Scrying.
If we want to get even more card draw through Scry effects, we can also opt to take up a small Jace Planeswalker package, such as through Jace, Mirror Mage or Jace, Unraveler of Secrets. Alternatively, look to pick up a copy of Ral, Storm Conduit or Saheeli Rai in addition to boost your spell copying and Scrying capabilities.
Unfortunately, this also means that Eligeth is a prime target for removal, so protecting our Commander is key in this instance. Cards like Dive Down, Displace and Cyclonic Rift offer ways for us to avoid both targeted removal and board wipes without having to run the pesky Darksteel Plate.
Izzet has less Land ramp as opposed to other colours, but excels at cost reduction effects and Artifact ramp. Consider investing in a Goblin Electromancer or Mizzix of the Izmagnus as a means of reducing the cost of your spells, or perhaps head down the Artifact route and pick up a Talisman of Creativity along with Fellwar Stone, Mind Stone, Thran Dynamo and the recently reprinted Thought Vessel!
Siani, Eye of the Storm + Eligeth, Crossroads Augur: Flyers/Sphinx Tribal
To avoid sounding like a broken record, I’ll appeal mostly to Siani in this portion of my write-up, though I will include possible alternatives to cards mentioned in the previous pair of Partner Commanders.
Being in mono blue restricts the number of flyers we can run to a large extent, and unfortunately, mono blue isn’t the most well-known for their ramping capabilities.
However, Siani’s synergies with Flying creatures can possibly give us an advantage overall, allowing us to Scry away bad potential draws and filter the top cards of our Libraries for the optimal play. Hence Miracle cards like Devastation Tide, Temporal Mastery and Vanishment]] are potential inclusions in the deck, alongside other Scry spells such as [c]Tamiyo’s Epiphany, Scour all possibilities and Fated Infatuation.
As for flyers, the deck can run both cheap utility Creatures as well as late game flying bombs to take out problematic opponents. Cards like Spectral Sailor and Siren Stormtamer offer us card advantage in the early stages of the game, as we try to control the board state and protect ourselves till the late game, where we can play our bigger creatures like Windreader Sphinx, Faerie Formation and Prognostic Sphinx.
This build would rely heavily on Artifact ramp in the form of Caged Sun, Extraplanar Lens and Sapphire Medallion. Since Siani needs to attack to trigger itself, we can opt for a bit more equipment in the sense of Sword of the Animist, Basilisk Collar for protection and Bident of Thassa to get draws off of our attacking flyers.
To reinforce the Sphinx archetype, I’d recommend cards like Sphinx of Uthuun, Sphinx Ambassador and Enigma Thief. Pair them alongside Warden of Evos Isle and Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign, which can help reduce the cost of our more expensive flyers, and to top it all off, Atemsis, All-Seeing can give us an alternative win condition if we can survive until the late game.
Sakashima of a Thousand Faces + Tormod, the Desecrator: Gyruda/ Clone Tribal
An interesting pair of Partners and the return of a mechanic that hasn’t been seen since Kamigawa block. Sakashima opens up the possibility of clone tribal in Commander, since they can now copy the abilities of Legendary Creatures without incurring the wrath of the Legend rule.
As such we can trigger the enter-the-battlefield (ETB) abilities of cards like Gyruda, Doom of Depths, which will be used as a Companion, and later cloning it or other Legendaries without having to sacrifice one of them!
Tormod’s first official iteration acts as a sort of win-more card, allowing us to net additional value off of Gyruda’s triggers, since every time something leaves our graveyard, we get a big Creature and a smaller 2/2 Zombie!
In order to exploit Gyruda’s mill effects to its greatest, the deck would aim to run multiple clone effects like Clone, Dance of Many, Clever Impersonator, Spark Double and Phantasmal Image. However, due to the Companion restriction of Gyruda, we can only run cards with even Converted Mana Costs (CMC), so cards like Doppelganger won’t work here.
Simultaneously, we’ll want to run other Creatures worth reanimating that’ll swing the game in our favour when Gyruda hits the field. Stuff like Grave Titan, Stormtide Leviathan or Noxious Gearhulk can easily turn the tide of battle when they hit the ground after Gyruda’s ability resolves. We can also use generic reanimation spells like Dance of the Dead and Dread Return to return Gyruda should it die before we can clone it.
Commander Legends is a set that focuses on both Draft and Commander, so some partners are designed specifically to act as threats in limited environments only as opposed to regular Commander games. As such, their partner pairings will rarely appear in regular games save for fringe deck building challenges or perhaps new players just starting out.
Ultimately, these Partner pairs open up the possibility of 2/3 colour partner pairs originally thought not possible! It’ll be interesting to see if any Commanders climb their way to the top of the EDHREC’s most-played Commanders list, or even stand a chance at dethroning the famed Thrasios/Tymna pair for best competitive Commander deck.
But what I feel really pushes the mould for this set is the added presence of Uncommon Commanders, which can make for a much more affordable experience for newer players to dive into the commander format (and also those select few playing Pauper decks with Uncommon Commanders; kudos to you too!)
Cheers, and may your pulls for Commander Legends always yield a eweled Lotus!