The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander deck boxes have been revealed for a while, with information helping us to speculate on exactly what each Commander might do. For example, we knew that the Ahoy Mateys Commander deck had an emphasis on putting Pirate cards into the graveyard and bringing them back bigger. However, this didn’t tell us exactly how the new Commander might help in this regard. Would the Commander allow you to loot away Pirates from your hand? Maybe could it have an enters-the-battlefield effect that brought back a Pirate from your graveyard to the battlefield?
Well, we now have the answers to these questions. Each Commander deck comes with 100 cards, including two new foil legendary Creatures, eight new rares specific to each deck, and some accessories such as tokens, a Spindown life counter, and a deck box. While most of the specifics have not been revealed, the primary Commanders have been. This helps give further guidance on the strategies associated with each deck and how they might play out in practice. Let’s take a look at each of these new Commanders one by one.
Admiral Brass, Unsinkable
The first Commander is Admiral Brass, Unsinkable for the Ahoy Mateys Commander deck. The goal with Admiral Brass is obviously to fill your graveyard with Pirates to bring back into play. Interestingly, this ability will happen at the beginning of your combat step every turn cycle. While Admiral Brass does mill four cards, it’s best not to rely on this ability to hit a bunch of Pirates. Instead, using cards like Entomb to plan out your Reanimation package can be very valuable.
No matter how small the Pirate you bring back is, it will be returned as a 4/4 with Haste. Dockside Extortionist is definitely one of the premier targets, and there will likely be more heavy hitting Pirates revealed in short order. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a looting theme as well. Not only is looting very on-brand for Pirates, but getting to draw and discard cards at low cost is a great way to fuel your graveyard for Admiral Brass.
Clavileno, First of the Blessed
Clavileno is a very interesting Commander. The idea here is to fill your deck with lots of Vampire Creatures, not Demons. Then, whenever you attack with one or more of these Vampires, you can choose one of them to become a Demon in addition to its other types. If that Creature dies at any point, you get to draw a card and generate a 4/3 Vampire Demon Flier. What’s nice about this ability is that attacking with a single Vampire each turn comes at almost no cost. Either your opponent takes the damage, or your Creature dies, netting you a card and a 4/3 Flier.
In this sense, cards like Sanctum Seeker can have a large impact on the game over time. Draining each of your opponents every time you attack with a Vampire is great, and getting left with presumably larger Fliers that are ready to attack and trigger Sanctum Seeker again is even better. Of course, in many instances, your opponents will not block your smaller Vampires, so you may have to do some of the work yourself to convert them into bigger Creatures and draw cards. As a result, adding free sacrifice outlets like Phyrexian Alter and Ashnod’s Alter is not a bad place to start. This Commander is very cheap and is a very solid typal payoff.
Hakbal of the Surging Soul
Hakbal of the Surging Soul is a neat Merfolk typal payoff that, much like Clavileno, benefits the more Creatures of the requisite type you play. The difference here, though, is that you are not required to attack to reap the rewards. Instead, at the beginning of combat on your turn, each Merfolk you control Explores. Then, if you do have a chance to attack with Hakbal, you can either draw a card or put a Land from your hand onto the battlefield.
Because every Merfolk you control gets to Explore, there’s a good chance you will end up with a decent chunk of Lands in your hand. Of course, you can choose to leave a powerful non-Land card on the top of your library and buff your squad instead. Getting to draw a bunch of cards, even if they’re Lands, is very powerful though, so it might be worth putting some of those non-Land cards in the graveyard.
Then, if you have a way to put extra Lands into play, such as with Burgeoning, Exploration, or even Walking Atlas, things can get out of control very quickly. As long as you can flood the board with Merfolk and make use of excess Lands, Hakbal seems like a great choice for a Commander.
Pantlaza, Sun-Favored is the Commander for the Dinosaur-based Commander deck, Whenever it or any other Dinosaur enters the battlefield under your control, you get to Discover X, where X is that Creature’s toughness. Discover works similarly to Cascade, where you reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a non-Land card with mana value X or less. In this case, X is based on the Creature’s toughness that enters the battlefield, not the mana value of the card cast.
Additionally, unlike with Cascade, you have the option to put the revealed card into your hand. You are not forced to cast the revealed card, so if you reveal something like a removal spell that doesn’t have a target, you can simply save the card for later. Pantlaza encourages you to play cards with high toughness as well as high mana value, so that you can get the highest rebate on mana when you cast a spell for free off of the Discover ability.
Importantly, this ability does trigger only once each turn, so it’s difficult to generate a ton of value at once. Notably, though, if you have a way to put Dinosaurs into play on someone else’s turn, you will still get the trigger. Using a card like Maskwood Nexus to create Dinosaurs at Instant speed can keep the card advantage flowing.
Each of these Commanders are capable of generating a ton of value, so long as your decks are built around them. These are some strong typal payoffs, so whether you are looking to build a new typal Commander deck or upgrade a previously established one, consider utilizing one of these powerful cards as your general.