Most new Magic sets have a few standout cards that look like a shoe-in for existing cEDH decks. The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, though, not only has some really interesting cards that not only can easily be slotted into existing decks, but may alter the commander landscape just a bit thanks to one card in particular.
Bird is the Word
The current cEDH meta is one of intense interaction. If you have four players all keeping either a five or six card hand, you are looking at something like four to eight pieces of interaction among the table. That means, on average, it’s extremely unlikely that anyone is going to “just win” in the next few turns.
What is much more likely is that everyone is going to play a creature or two that are allowed to resolve and not die on the spot. Many popular commanders fall into this category, and it’s part of the reason that cards like Tymna The Weaver and Thrasios, Triton Hero are so popular. Sure, they give you access to colors, but they also cost very little mana and are generally allowed to exist because they don’t threaten to immediately end a game.
In flies Francisco, Fowl Marauder. Look, it can’t block! It has a damage trigger that only works on Pirates, and since it has zero power, it can’t even trigger itself! Surely this creature is allowed to live, and that is why it’s going to see play.
The current “best deck” which has won many different events lately is Tymna The Weaver paired with Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus. So, you can partner Francisco with Kraum for a Grixis deck as just one open option.
Another popular suggestion is Francisco with Akiri, Line Slinger. Because this deck typically runs auras and equipment, it’s quite easy to present both Francisco and Akiri as exceedingly low mana threats that will generate value while pressuring the board. The lack of blue is always a concern, but non-blue decks do show up and can win, especially in a meta where small creatures are allowed to exist.
However, the most likely pairing is Francisco with Malcolm, Keen Eyed Navigator. This team gives you a flying value engine that can easily happen on turn three in 100% of your games. It might not seem like it, but generating a Treasure and exploring every turn is enough value to put you ahead at a high interaction table. Malcom keeps your options open every turn while also growing from explore triggers and ramping from treasure. While you’re in only two colors, they are the best two with Demonic Consultation and Thassa’s Oracle available as the absolute most efficient win con in the format, alongside all the best free counter spells.
It’s not terribly rare for decks to sneak in cards like Combat Research or Curious Obsession when you have a cheap, evasive body that virtually guarantees free card draw. Francisco works extremely well with these cards, and I would be surprised if the bird does not show up in lists that include these cards.
The Magic Word
In a long line of Silence effects, Permission Denied is a slightly harder to cast Negate with a tremendous upside. There’s a little bit more to unravel as well.
Many commonly played cards like Deflecting Swat don’t exactly stop Permission Denied, as the secondary effect still stops all your opponents from casting more non-creature spells anyways. For this reason, you are sure to see this card integrated into many competitive white/blue decks right away.
No More Words
Certainly Grand Abolisher sees piles of play, and this is a three mana version that can be tutored with multiple effects like Green Sun’s Zenith. But that’s not all.
This thing is also a Warrior, so it’s an easy include in the very popular Najeela, the Blade-Blossom. Will it see play outside of Najeela though? Certainly in any deck that already runs Abolisher or Ranger-Captain of Eos. Kutzil is a potential add if the secondary effect is relevant at all.
It seems like Dauntless Dismantler is getting a lot of hype and Charismatic Conqueror is getting none. Let me try to sell you on the Vampire just a bit.
Giving your opponent a choice means they can make the wrong one. This works on both artifacts and creatures, so it’s a much wider application. Generating a 1/1 lets you gain value from Skullclamp, Ashnod’s Altar and any good ETB or graveyard triggers. The table can use the Conqueror to gang up on another player. To me, those are compelling reasons to consider it.
Finally, Dismantler is a virtual three mana, not two, because the main point of the card is blowing up those tapped Treasure tokens before they can be used, and you cannot do that at strictly two mana. I think the Conqueror actually has a lot going for it and time will tell if either card sees play.
An Obvious Include
This card is popping up on everyone’s radar and for good reason, it’s solid as heck! What strikes me is that another card existed long before, Nimble Obstructionist, which is comparable. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, but a Stifle that cannot be countered without special interaction strikes me as a bit better than one that can, so how are people going to be convinced to play the Tidebinder when they wouldn’t play the Bird?
Well, for starters you get a 3/2 beater on top of the deal, not instead of, as is the case with Obstructionist. Furthermore, one of the best strategies in Commander at large is to keep something in play but useless rather than remove it. Thus, Tishana’s Tidebinder offers a juicy payoff when it works.
So, that is what it comes down to, a safer piece of interaction or a riskier one with a bigger potential reward. It’s not a stretch to convince a table that letting your Merfolk resolve to stop a Tymna the Weaver from ever going off is the right play.
Dark Horse Vote
At an affordable twenty cents, Kellan, Daring Traveler is ultra budget. But is this card not good?
The Adventure side is going to be one green mana make three to four Map tokens. Generating that many permanents for one mana seems extremely good and can be used for all sorts of plays. A card like Krark-Clan Ironworks would love turning one green mana into eight colorless, for example.
Then, you get a 2/3 for two that can draw you a card when you attack. Of course, you can quite easily stack your deck thanks to your Maps. For sheer value, I think it’s hard to ask for more from a card. Keep in mind that both white and green love token doubling!
A Good Mix
The Lost Caverns of Ixalan has a variety of cards that could see play at all levels and in multiple formats. cEDH has incredibly strict requirements for cards to be even considered “playable,” but event after event proves that the format is more open than it would first appear.
From as recent as Wilds of Eldraine, we are seeing cards like Talion, the Kindly Lord make multiple strong appearances and even win an event. The cEDH meta is shifting faster than ever, and new cards are absolutely making an impact.
Don’t only follow the trends, though, try new cards out! Local metas vary widely, and what may make sense at one shop does not work at all elsewhere. As always, if players are reacting to what you are doing, you are doing it right!