This started out, at first, as an attempt to make a Halloweeny Commander deck. Then it became an examination of two Halloweeny Commanders side-by-side. Then four. Then six. Then I realised that I have no business trying to make decks for all these, certainly not in a month.
So instead: let’s look at some commanders and grade them by their Halloweenyness.
Before we start on the list, some basic ground rules. One, I like Commander games that are a little varied – not inconsistant, but I don’t like it when every single game plays out the exact same. Decks that can change gears or adapt are good, and super-cutthroat combo engines aren’t as exciting to me. I’m also considering how much these games can make the play state feel like a horror movie, so while there are certainly some spooky commanders, like Obzedat, they don’t really do anything to encourage you to make a spooky deck. Expect body horror (like melding), or swarms of zombies. Not just horror in the vein of big stompy monsters that are scary.
Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice is kind of in the opposite space; she’s well known, but between four colours and a mechanic list that says ‘works well with cards‘ she kind of works as an all-purpose Good Stuff commander. Super-friends, rainbow lands, grow creatures – Atraxa just fits in good decks that are doing lots of different things and doesn’t really do anything to follow through on the horror theme.
Rating: FLEXIBLE IN A CREEPY-HOT BONELESS WAY?
Some deaths are abrupt, and violent.
Some are slow.
Some are insidious and menacing and creeping.
Sometimes, you bleed to death.
Skitters is a rare commander in that they can win remarkably fast. Two hits will get you most of the way,
Skitters sends a message, though. If you’re using Skitters as a commander, there’s not a lot of reason to use non-infect sources. You don’t need any heavy hitters or late-game damage dealers, since you have an evasive threat that’s also hard to kill, and it doesn’t care about how much life people have, and you’re in mono-black so you can beat the snot out of combo as hard as you want.
Skitters does work alongside Proliferate well, along with cards like Contagian Clasp and Throne of Geth. You can even use it as a controlling threat – hit a player for one or two, then slowly proliferate away what they have left.
Rating: IT FOLLOWS
The Eldrazi Titans
The Eldrazi titans are both very limiting in deck-building options, since mono-colourless decks tend towards one particular form, plus they’re cards that show up a lot in commander as all-purpose haymakers. You will probably face an Ulamog every day if you play this format regularly, even if just as one of the 99.
While there’s certainly variety, it’s more a variety of type than not being sure what your opponents are going to do to get to the inevitable end game of something silly. You don’t get to see the monster and overcome it, usually – your opponent stumbles (through your fault or theirs) and the thing never happens.
Rating: WALKING DEAD ZOMBIES LEVELS OF OVEREXPOSED
Tymaret has the name of a GWAR cover band. He’s also mana intensive, definitely on the low end of powerful. His ability to sacrifice creatures from the graveyard is definitely interesting, and his ability to recur himself is pretty strong – if you want to keep paying for it.
He’s also in a good tribe for lords and hordes. You can make a pretty spicy red-black trash zombies deck around Tymaret, go wide, then use his ability to feed the board into your opponent’s face.
Still, there’s not a lot of things he can do that other commanders don’t do just as well, or better, and the red isn’t doing much of the lifting in this deck. Definitely worth putting in a red-black or mardu aristocrat deck, but you’ll spend more time making him work than focusing on making the board state feel scary for your opponent.
That said, he has a halloween mask, so that’s cool.
Rating: PG CUT OF AN R-RATED JASON MOVIE
The Unspeakable. I wanted talk about the Unspeakable as a horror commander, but the special spell ritual to summon them doesn’t work in Commander without a bunch of unnecessary jiggery pokery, and the creature you get for your effort is just very modest by the standards of Commander. There aren’t Arcane spells worth recurring every turn – they just don’t do enough, and it’s not even like the rest of what the Unspeakable offers
Don’t worry, I’ll talk more about the Unspeakable on this blog soon.
Rating: DOESN’T WORK
Some Halloween movies are about creeping horror, or lurking terror. Some of them you watch with the lights out and hold to yourself because there might be something like that out there.
Then there are the Halloween movies about blood and carnage and heavy metal and enormous dreadful monsters. And that’s the kind of thing Bladewing the Risen is about.
Bladewing the Risen is a gas-up card. A commander that you get to the point where you can cast him, and then he arrives and everything happens. You can get elder Kolaghan out of the bin and serve for eleven on the spot. You can get the younger Kolaghan and serve for twelve next turn, or you could get the Tyrant’s Familiar, hit your opponent and wipe the board all at once – you don’t need a lot of dragons to make Bladewing the Risen win the game, if you can just maintain a board presence.
Red black is a great colour pair to play if you don’t have to really bother with a win condition. Spend your time blowing up the board, constantly, remove everything, make your plan to clear the board, refill your hand, dump cards in your graveyard and then Bladewing it up.
Rating: INCREDIBLY METAL
I’ve written about Chainer in-depth in the past. He’s a great Nightmare Lord, a horrible agent of a horrible organisation, and he has a nasty little beard. Bonus, he does something a lot of other proper villains should do, which is killing him tends to end the story, as the rest of the evil stuff just fails when he’s gone.
Let’s pretend for a moment that Muldrotha doesn’t deeply anger me, since there’s literally no reason she needs to have two of her three colours.
(Muldrotha could be mono-green or green-black, with no change to her rules text and she’s only blue because of lore reasons and a character’s lore should be reflected on her card)
Anyway. Muldrotha is a good halloween commander, because in addition to belonging to three colours that can do creepy well ( even though she shouldn’t be ) she does represent the horror of nature. It’s the lurching horribleness of the places outside of civilisation that do not care about humanity, and about what we see as any kind of important. Muldrotha is inevitable and apathetic and she will knock you on your ass and she won’t care about what you think is important.
Muldrotha can blow up the world, over and over again, she can wreck all your stuff, she can even counter important spells with Glen Elendra Archmage, protecting herself off-turn and keeping you from trying to take the game away from her.
Rating: JOTUNN, JOTUNN, JOTUNN