Gavin Verhey of Wizards of the Coast divulged a little secret: 21 Commanders were planned to be included in Commander Legends but were taken out before the set was released. These cut Partner Commanders are “unofficial,” since they’ve never seen play in public, but at the same time, became pseudo “official” once they were revealed by WOTC.
Being the overachiever that I always am, I shall attempt to bring these creations to life at the Commander table, to see how viable, broken and synergistic these planned but cut Partner Commanders would have been.
To keep this series relatively short and sweet, I will only be analysing 10 out of the 21 commanders presented in that episode, putting greater focus on their functional ability as a commander and how well the card depicts the abilities of the actual legendaries lore-wise. Like my analysis of best Partner Commander combos/pairings, I will dive in-depth into how one might potentially build around and use these commanders, as well as their popularity given the Commander format’s constantly expanding roster.
Cut Partner Commander No. 1: Who Was Lin-Sivvi, Recruiter?
Lin-Sivvi herself was amongst the most skilled warriors of the Vec, and following the disorder that resulted from Volrath‘s disappearance, she led a group of rebels into the Stronghold with Eladamri, hoping to destroy the Predator. The plan failed, but Sivvi and Eladamri used Belbe‘s personal portal to get to Dominaria along with Starke‘s daughter, Takara, whom they rescued from the dungeons of the Stronghold. Her only printing as a card is as Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero, where she can search your library for allies and even revive fallen ones for a small fee.
Legendary Creature – Human Rebel
1W, Tap: Search your library for a creature card with CMC equal to or less than the number of +1/+1 counters among creatures you control and put it into the battlefield, then shuffle your library.
We’re starting with a legendary creature that’s powerful enough to give Hamza, Guardian of Arashin a run for his money. A built-in tutoring effect combined with one of the set’s most pushed mechanics of +1/+1 counters causes Lin-Sivvi to hold her own even in the face of the other Partner commanders from Commander Legends.
However, the main thing holding her back from going all-out is her requirement to tap to activate her ability, which does impact the pace at which you’ll be spitting out creatures from your deck in the early game. She’s effectively a sitting duck for the first turn she comes in, and unless you have some form of protection or Haste-enabling effects like Swiftfoot Boots, Lightning Greaves or Fervor, she’ll be a magnet for removal spells, causing you to waste valuable tempo and mana to recast her again.
Another major drawback lies in her reliance on +1/+1 counters to fish out your creatures from your deck. Unless you already have a small creature with one or two +1/+1 counters on it, her ability pulls out an Ornithopter without any counters on your field, and a mana dork like Birds of Paradise at best in the early game.
However, given the amount of support the archetype has received in recent years, especially with cards like The Ozolith and Felidar Retreat, it’s possible a 3 colour build with her and Reyhan, Last of the Abzan could be created that utilises Green’s affinity for counters using cards like Corpsejack Menace, Conclave Mentor, Winding Constrictor and the ever-impressive Doubling Season.
Such a build would probably utilise early plays like Pelt Collector and Gyre Sage to generate counters fast, then work their way up through either manually adding +1/+1 counters using cards like Juniper Order Ranger, Renata, Called to the Hunt or proliferating them using cards like Evolution Sage and Pollenbright Druid.
Lin-Sivvi’s ability to tutor out creatures from the Library straight to the Battlefield allows for some Flash shenanigans as players can utilise her ability to bring out major game-changers like Shalai, Voice of Plenty on their opponent’s turns to give their creatures Hexproof at “Instant speed.” Another possible combo-oriented route would maximise her ability to tutor out creatures using untapping effects like Village Bell-Ringer, Ivorytusk Foretress, and Seedborn Muse to untap Lin-Sivvi each turn and cheat out creatures from your library at instant speed, dodging various forms of counter Magic.
Ultimately, in terms of popularity, the +1/+1 counters theme is saturated with a plethora of Commanders to choose from, and for a white Partner Commander, it’s certainly doing better than the Uncommon edition added to CMR in the form of Alharu, Solemn Ritualist or Keleth, Sunmane Familiar. I’d expect her to garner a lot of support if she was actually printed in Commander Legends.
Cut Partner Commander No. 2: Asmoranomardicadalstinaculdacar
Asmoranomardicadalstinaculdacar, hereby abbreviated as Asmor, is a recurring character who appears in multiple flavour texts of different cards, but is most famous for having written the proverbial “Underworld Cookbook.”
Legendary Creature – Human Wizard
At the beginning of your end step, each player chooses one for themselves:
*Destroy target permanent you own
*Discard a card
*Lose 2 life
Asmor summoned a Lord of the Pit named Vincent but ran out of stuff to feed it. Being a great cook, she escaped being eaten herself by entering into his service as a chef for seven years and seven days. She was finally freed, only to find herself hunted by all the creatures that she describes as delicious in the book.
The card itself does little to reference her final torments after she was freed, but it does appear to illustrate a certain degree of suffering for all players at the end of your turn. Allowing opponents to pick their poison is quite a weak choice since players would almost always opt for the loss of life rather than destroying a permanent they own or discarding a card instead.
However, we can force our opponents between a rock and a hard place by running other cards that synergies with a life-loss strategy, such as Sulfuric Vortex and Everlasting Torment, before doubling up with a Discard sub-theme with cards like Tinybones, Trinket Thief, Waste Not and Megrim.
Hitting our opponents with this one-two combo forces them to eventually switch from the choice of loss life to either discarding cards or destroying their own permanents. Though they could just keep refilling their hand with cards through draw spells or recurring permanents to their battlefield, we can use effects like Syphon Mind, Plaguecrafter and Liliana, Waker of the Dead to force them to deplete their hand of valuable cards and sacrifice the creatures they love so much.
Further torment arrives in the form of Graveyard hate and Artifact removal such as Bojuka Bog and Vandalblast, allowing us to force their hand into destroying their lands and discarding high value cards.
Another thing about low life totals: It becomes exceedingly easy to just delete a player from the game using life-loss cards such as Court of Ambition, Cut // Ribbons or Torment of Hailfire and watching them scramble to find a counter spell worthy of your time. Even the mightiest opponent will kneel before a Changeling Outcast when they’re at 4 life, so why not make them kneel when they’re at 40?
Though she’s a fan of torturing your opponents, it seems that she’s fighting with many other (and much more popular) Commanders for a place at the helm of your deck. Rakdos, Lord of Riots leads the charge of loss-of-life Commanders, especially with his incredibly powerful payoff allowing him to free-cast certain large eldritch abominations based off how much life your opponents have lost this turn.
Another mono-black contender rises from his home of the fae, Rankle, Master of Pranks. His modal effects only trigger on combat damage, but you do get to choose the mode (and more than one, at that!) for each player as opposed to letting them decide for themselves.
Cut Partner Commander No. 3: Pivlic, Reviving Imp
Another interesting Partner Commander! This time without any prior card reference for us to hunt for lore-wise. But given his ability to bring back creatures from the dead, I’d say he’s a pretty good apprentice necromancer for his species!
Legendary Creature – Imp
When Pivlic, Flying Imp leaves the battlefield, return another target creature from your graveyard to your hand. If that creature was your Commander, return it to the battlefield instead.
What caught my eye in his text isn’t the limitation on his Graveyard recursion ability, but rather the manner in which he may do so! His ability triggers when he leaves the Battlefield as opposed to when he dies, so it can trigger multiple times should you wish to utilise a Blink spell on him, allowing you to return multiple creatures from your Graveyard to your hand with one cast.
As always, he lies in the limbo of Green/Blue – Black recursion decks, and sadly, he’s outclassed to hell by a plethora of Commanders. Perhaps his modal affinity through the Partner mechanic may be his saving grace should he see print, but as for now, he must compete with the likes of Meren of Clan Nel Toth, an expert Graveyard recursion Commander in Golgari colours, able to return almost any creature directly from the graveyard to the battlefield if you have sufficient experience counters.
Chainer, Dementia Master and Chainer, Nightmare Adept also excel in the field of Graveyard recursion, actively reanimating cards at a flick of the wrist, with a much less limited requirement to reanimating said creature.
However, should you really wish to build around Pivlic, considering the possibilities, a Partner in either White or Blue colours would make the most sense, to exploit his ability through blink effects. If we’re headed into white, Ravos, Soultender offers us a possible secondary recursion effect, whilst buffing our other creatures in the process.
Alternatively, Blue gives us The Ghost of Ramirez Depietro, who allows us to refill our hand with previously discarded or milled cards of interest in our pursuit of a stacked graveyard. In this case, we might want to run cards like Gyruda, Doom of Depths, Stitcher’s Supplier and Doom Whisperer to fill our graveyard through self-Mill before sending them back to the battlefield through cards like Geth, Lord of the Vault or Zombify/Reanimate.
I wouldn’t expect him to see much play if he was printed, since he relies heavily on supporting colours to maximise the use of his effect. And even then, returning cards to your hand is much slower than returning them to the Battlefield.
Cut Partner Commander No. 4: Bruenna, Neurok Commander
Legendary Creature – Human Rogue
Whenever a creature deals combat damage to an opponent, draw a card.
2U: Target creature can’t be blocked this turn
Partner gives this commander access to a haven of treasures with its ability, and gives a powerful draw outlet to its partners. Its evasive ability can be used in tandem with Commanders struggling to get through due to blockers or weakened stat lines.
As a Commander, it can partner up with Ikra Shidiqi in Sultai colours to create a combat-damage based draw spell deck, utilising creatures with Shadow or Skulk to trigger the draw effects of Bruenna, and the Lifegain of Ikra.
Infect also presents a plausible game plan with the evasive abilities of Bruenna, through Necropede, Blighted Agent and Blightsteel Colossus. However, you’ll need to protect both Bruenna and the creatures from removal, either using equipment like Lightning Greaves and Darksteel Plate or through bounce/flicker spells like Ghostly Flicker.
Another possible partner is Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder, which incentivises attacks because of his ability to give creatures Double Strike and Lifelink. Using the card draw ability, you can easily refill your hand through 2 or 3 combat steps, circumventing the lack of card draw in Boros colours. In this build, you would want to use cards like Angel of Destiny, Augury Adept or Cephalid Constable to maximise their combat damage trigger abilities alongside those effects of your commander.
As part of the 99, Anowon the Ruin Sage can utilise the relevant Rogue creature type alongside his abilities to hit opponents for terrifying amounts of damage and mill, and coupled with the already evasive rogues he sides with, you’re sure to get value off of Bruenna every combat. The Locust God decks can also use the redundancy of an additional Coastal Piracy to draw more cards and generate even more egregious value chains the turn they come in.
Part 2 analysis for cut Partner Commanders is being pruned and polished as you read this, check back later for the link!