Commander Legends is a unique Magic: The Gathering set as it’s the first entirely focused on Commander as a format. If you’d have told players that one day you’d be able to play a draftable Commander format people wouldn’t have believed you. Things like that have existed in some people’s cubes forever, but most people have never really entertained it as something that could happen.
Not only is Commander Legends real, it’s quite a bit of fun, too. There was always a risk that a draftable Commander set would get something wrong. Drafting is normally a 40-card format, while Commander uses 100, so the two don’t seem like natural bedfellows. Thankfully, it’s been handled well, and results in a set that’s refreshingly different.
There are a few special rules for this set that you’ll have to keep in mind if you’re going to draft it, which makes sense given that you normally make a 40-card deck when drafting - rather than a 100-card one.
The first thing you need to keep in mind when drafting Legends is that you get to take two cards every time you pick a card. You’re going to end up with the same amount of cards overall, but it’s an idea that means you’re more likely to stick to your commander’s colour identity.
The smaller decks make things a little bit more consistent than you’d expect from a Commander game.
You’re likely going to pick up a commander or two during your draft, but if you don’t you can add two copies of The Prismatic Piper to your deck with no issue. The Prismatic Piper is a common legendary creature with Partner, which means you can have two as your commander if you want. They allow you to choose a colour - or two, if you have two - so that you can play cards with colours on them. You can do this for free and not have to draft them; these cards are there to make sure everyone can play at the end of the draft.
On taking two cards, rather than being a 40-card minimum, you need to aim for a 60-card deck. This means you’re building a Brawl-sized deck instead of a Commander one, but it makes sense given how time-consuming drafting a full 100-card deck would be. Despite Commander being a singleton format, you can actually break that rule here and have multiple copies of a card if you draft them. Having more than one of a card in your Commander deck isn’t something you can normally do, and the smaller decks make things a little bit more consistent than you’d expect from a Commander game.
Other than all of that, everything is the same as it would be in Commander or Draft. As long as you can keep all of that in mind, you shouldn’t have to think too hard while playing this format. Well, no harder than usual at least.
The mechanics in both the draft and the games themselves make for an entertaining experience. Getting to pick two cards at each point feels kind of like you’re cheating. It’s the same kind of low-level rebellion you’d feel when you’re off of work for legitimate reasons. It’s what you’re meant to do, but it’s not what you normally do, and it feels kind of forbidden.
The games themselves are fun, but there are some caveats because of the way Commander as a format is.
Matches can often end without any real action.
Due to players starting at 40 life points, not to mention the fact that games are meant to be played in groups of four, matches can often end without any real action. There are decks and cards in the format that will crush opponents and end lives, but it seems to be far more likely that you’ll end up with stalemates all-round. This happens in normal Commander games too, but you normally have cards or combos in your deck to prevent these situations.
It also makes playing aggro very hard to do. Again, that can be the case in normal four-player games of Commander, but it’s exacerbated by the fact that you’ll never have a perfect deck, and if you stand out too much, somebody is going to kill you.
However, it does give players a good chance to experiment with styles of decks and commanders that they may not have used before. Commander decks can be a bit of a pain to build due to the sheer number of cards you’ll need; drafting decks like this allows you to play around before you commit to building something you might not like. You can, of course, try decks out in other ways, but this is a lot more lively than most of those.
In terms of the set itself, there’s an awful lot to like about Commander Legends.
For starters, there are some much-needed reprints, as seems to be the norm nowadays with every MTG set release. This particular set has Vampiric Tutor in it, which is one of the best tutor cards around but also one that had become far too pricey. There’s also Mana Drain, a counterspell which, again, had become rather expensive, but will be a lot more reasonable thanks to its inclusion in this set.
Then you’ve got new cards such as Hullbreacher and Opposition Agent. These two aren’t legendary, so they can’t be your commander, but they’re both incredibly powerful in their own right. Hullbreacher is a three-mana Blue creature that lets you turn opponents’ card draws into extra mana for yourself, which is kind of obscene. Opposition Agent is also three mana, but this time is a Black creature, and it lets you control opponents when they’re searching their libraries. You can then cast their spells to your own benefit.
While playing Commander Legends as a draft can be a little rough sometimes, the actual set itself is incredibly good.
There’s also the rest of the bond land cycle for Commander players. These lands give you access to two mana colours, and enter the field untapped as long as you have two or more opponents. It’s a cycle we saw started in Battlebond back in 2018, and it’s nice to see it being completed now. These are premium lands as far as Commander is concerned, and should be on everyone’s shopping list.
We’ve got new commanders, too. Among the 71 new legendary creatures in Commander Legends there are plenty of cool cards, but there are two which we think are really exciting. First up is Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh. This is a Kobold Warrior with First Strike, Menace, Trample and Partner - more on that in a second. It’s only a 0/1, but it costs zero mana, which makes it potentially absurd in the right decks.
The other commander that we think is really intriguing - that’s not a slight to the rest, they all seem like great cards - is Obeka, Brute Chronologist. Obeka is a four-mana 3/4 creature that can tap to allow the active player to end the turn immediately. This might not seem powerful, but it means you can basically counter every spell on your turn if you want to, or offer other players help if they can do something nice for you. It’s a powerful effect, and the kind of exciting new commander that we think could help a whole slew of new decks.
Let’s talk about partners. These are commanders that allow you to have two commanders instead of one, and there are loads of newcomers in Commander Legends. Each opens up an almost uncountable number of new combinations, and there is sure to be something for everyone amongst them. We really like Kodama of the East Tree, which is a six-mana Green creature that lets you put extra permanents into play whenever you play a permanent. It’s the kind of silly ability that can be broken easily, and we can’t wait to see it in action.
While playing with Commander Legends as a draft can be a little rough sometimes, the actual set itself is incredibly good. It fits into an exciting niche because not every card needs to be a pure powerhouse to be of value.
We generally want something interesting like a new deck archetype, or a card that does something strange, not always something competitive or powerful, and that makes this set a treasure trove of cards no matter what you’re looking for. The potential for new deck archetypes is one thing, but just having access to new toys to mess around with is enough to make Commander Legends a set that’ll keep players happy.