Scott takes a look at three of the more overlooked legendary creatures from Streets of New Capenna, and sees how they far as Commanders!
Streets of New Capenna has arrived, and with it comes a slew of fantastic new commanders to build. Many of them are proving to be fast favorites as well as powerful options; the heads of the New Capenna crime families, like Jetmir, Nexus of Revels and Raffine, Scheming Seer, are already showing their ability and popularity as casual commanders.
There are a number of legendary creatures that are flying under the radar at the minute, however, as well as some unique builds that can give a deck a whole new identity. Today I’ll be looking at three legendary creatures, and I’ll show you how these lesser-known names and builds can make for a unique and enjoyable new experience!
Toluz, Clever Conductor – Cycling
Toluz, Clever Conductor might work on the trains of New Capenna, but her real talents lie in cycling. Her exile effect that applies to cards you discard is perfect for a cycling deck, as you effectively get a Shadow of the Grave that you can play from the command zone.
As with most cycling decks, the usual engine cards are present. Fluctuator makes cycling significantly cheaper (and often free), Curator of Mysteries helps to filter through non-cycling cards and keep the train running, and Teferi’s Ageless Insight turns every cycled card into a Divination. These are the typical cards you expect to see in every cycling deck, as they’re the very core of the game plan.
There are plenty of payoffs for cycling, like Drake Haven and Faith of the Devoted. There have been some recent additions to the strategy too, like Feast of Sanity and Dying to Serve. These increase your threat density, and help you close the game quickly.
Perhaps one of the most powerful cards in the deck is Bone Miser. They trigger on every cycled or discarded card, and provide you with either mana, a zombie token, or another card, depending on what you discarded. The mana and card draw can really help you to keep chaining cycling cards, or pay for the mana costs on your payoffs, like Drake Haven.
Toluz really comes into her own when you can sacrifice her reliably, allowing you to return all of the cards you just cycled and discarded back to your hand. Viscera Seer is a great sacrifice outlet, allowing you to set up your next draw at the same time as sacrificing Toluz. Dimir House Guard is a little more pricey to cast, but they can also be transmuted for whatever you need at the time, like Cast Out, Queza, Augur of Agonies, or Teferi’s Ageless Insight.
Since you’ll be sacrificing Toluz regularly, her commander tax will start adding up quickly. To circumvent this, you have cards like Malakir Rebirth and Brought Back. These will get Toluz back immediately, keeping the cycling train going!
One of the most synergistic cards with Toluz is Tormod, the Desecrator. Every time you cycle a card with Tormod and Toluz on board, it will trigger Toluz and exile the card from the graveyard, triggering Tormod’s ability. Every card that’s cycled in this way will give you a token, allowing you to amass an enormous army of zombies in no time!
There are a number of ways to win the game with Toluz, and you can easily adjust and adapt to suit any situation. If the token beatdown from Tormod or Drake Haven aren’t enough, Toluz’s friend Queza, Augur of Agonies can give you that extra bit of reach to whittle down life totals. The added life gain will keep your life total healthy while you’re executing your plan too, which is crucial against more aggressive decks.
If you can’t attack, or if an opponent has gained infinite life, Approach of the Second Sun is ideal as your alternate win condition. With the amount of cards you draw, you’re bound to be able to recast it as soon as the very next turn!
Finally, Atemsis, All-Seeing is another win condition that works very well in this deck. As you’re filtering through cards at blistering speeds, you can easily sculpt a hand that will kill an opponent when you deal combat damage with Atemsis. This is a little less reliable than Approach of the Second Sun, but it’s definitely a win for those that want the bragging rights!
Here’s the deck list for Toluz, Clever Conductor. This deck comes courtesy of my good friend Ralph (@themmtg on Twitter); they’ve been trying to find the right cycling commander for a long time, and they think that Toluz may be just that.
Zur the Enchanter is the usual choice for a cycling commander in these colors due to his ability to tutor for the many different payoffs, like Drake Haven or Faith of the Devoted. As cycling decks are generally very consistent by nature, I think Toluz may have an edge over Zur. Her Shadow of the Grave effect may require some setup, but it’s generally much more valuable than a tutor for cards that you won’t usually have issue finding.
Jinnie Fay, Jetmir’s Second – Mono Green Tokens
There are a number of multicolor legendary creatures in New Capenna, and some of them have hybrid mana that allows them to be cast using just one color. In theory, this means you could build an entire deck around one of these legendaries that’s only the one color, and you can still function perfectly. To prove this concept, this is my Mono Green Jinnie Fay Tokens list!
Jinnie Fay, Jetmir’s Second is a great commander, letting you turn any token into either a dog or a cat token instead. The cats have haste, while the dogs have vigilance; this lets you choose between a more aggressive or defensive choice, depending on your current situation.
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to token generation in green, thanks particularly to the recent uptick in treasure generation. Old Gnawbone can turn the excess treasure it generates into an enormous board in no time at all, and Bootleggers’ Stash effectively gives each land you control “Tap to create either a 2/2 green cat creature token with haste or a 3/1 green dog creature token with vigilance”. As Jinnie Fay’s ability isn’t mandatory, you can choose between the treasures or creatures, giving you even more adaptability.
While Rhys the Redeemed isn’t technically allowed in a mono-color deck thanks to the hybrid mana rules, this is one of the only mono green decks where you can include them. Their first ability is fine as a way to keep generating dogs or cats, but the real power here is in their second ability. Doubling the number of tokens can be very powerful, especially when you can make tokens with haste to ambush opponents.
As you’re generating cats and dogs, you can add payoffs for each one and choose what you’d like to take advantage of. Qasali Slingers is effectively an Aura Shards for your cat tokens, and Feline Sovereign can help you decimate opposing artifacts and enchantments.
Elemental Bond will trigger whenever you have a dog token enter the battlefield, which will keep your hand stocked throughout the game. Your cat tokens will also trigger it if you have Feline Sovereign on board, rewarding you even further!
Since there are a number of treasure generators in the deck, Academy Manufactor is a must include card. With Jinnie Fay on board, you can make three creatures for each treasure that would have been generated. With Bootleggers’ Stash, for example, that’s up to nine power every time you tap a land!
Winning the game can be pretty easy with a huge army of tokens, but there are still some additional ways to help close out the game if needed. Beastmaster Ascension can be activated immediately very often thanks to the number of tokens you’ll be making, and is guaranteed to end the game in short order.
Infinite life combos are the bane of aggressive decks, so Strixhaven Stadium is your way to win on a different axis. It’s often a “set and forget” win condition in decks like this: you can continue your usual game plan, and your opponents will have to deal with it or risk losing out of nowhere!
For an additional way to win, Scurry Oak combos are a good choice. Ivy Lane Denizen grows your tokens with +1/+1 counters, so it’s already a great addition to the deck. When you play Scurry Oak while it’s on board, you go infinite by placing all +1/+1 counter triggers from Ivy Lane Denizen onto Scurry Oak. This makes infinite squirrels, and an arbitrarily large Scurry Oak!
Here’s the deck list for Jinnie Fay, Jetmir’s Second. It’s a unique take on a multicolor commander that’s made possible thanks to her unusual mana cost. If you’re looking for a sweet and explosive take on a great new commander, then this is the deck for you!
Mr. Orfeo, the Boulder – Power Matters
Mr. Orfeo, the Boulder only came to my attention when I played with him at Prerelease in my LGS. Before that, I saw virtually nobody talking about him. He has been compared to Xenagos, God of Revels, but with no way to give haste in exchange for gaining black in his color identity. Despite this comparison, I think he has what it takes to stand tall as a great commander for a power-matters deck.
Creatures with naturally high power will give you the biggest benefit with Mr. Orfeo’s ability, and some of the highest power-to-cost ratio creatures are the Ball Lightning-like creatures. Lightning Skelemental, Arc Runner, and Groundbreaker all give you some serious power for a very low cost. They might sacrifice themselves at the end of the turn, but when Mr. Orfeo turns three mana into twelve damage, you’ll be alright with that tradeoff.
You can also use these high power creatures to your advantage in other ways. Ghalta, Primal Hunger can come down very quickly with just one or two creatures on board, and doubling her power is frightening indeed! Kresh the Bloodbraided can take great advantage of the self sacrificing creatures, and Terror of the Peaks is a cheaper Warstorm Surge that can also attack, so naturally it fits perfectly in here.
You’re also flush with card draw options that care about power. Hunter’s Insight can easily put a tenth of your deck into your hand if a single creature gets through unblocked, and maybe even more if you’re set up right. The same can be said for Disciple of Bolas: since many of the high power creatures sacrifice themselves at the end of the turn, you can just sacrifice them to her instead and refill your hand!
You’ve got a fantastic suite of support cards that will guarantee that your enormous threats connect reliably, as well as ensuring they always have maximum impact. Rhythm of the Wild gives you the option of granting haste or adding a +1/+1 counter to your creatures, while also ensuring they can’t be countered. The new Invigorating Hot Spring from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty does a similar job, but it’s limited in its effect and can’t protect against counterspells. Haste is crucial to making sure you get the most from your creatures though, so it’ll do the job nicely nonetheless.
If you’re concerned about your high power creatures trading in combat, then Zilortha, Strength Incarnate is exactly what you need. They’re like the inverse of Doran, the Siege Tower, treating toughness as being equal to power for the sake of applying lethal damage. This means a 3/3 will not be able to trade with a Ball Lightning, which will give you the opportunity to deal damage and still sacrifice them for value later!
Having redundancy in Mr. Orfeo’s ability can get scary very quickly, so Wulfgar of Icewind Dale is perfect for the deck. You may not have many attack triggers, but it will trigger Mr. Orfeo’s ability again, effectively quadrupling a creature’s power (or doubling another creature instead). When you pair this with an Unleash Fury, you’re looking at a whopping 48 damage from a single Ball Lightning!
Massive threats that can pressure life totals don’t normally need additional ways to win, but there is a lot available that can help you steal wins out of nowhere. Tainted Strike can take a player out immediately with just a single attack, making it a fantastic and memorable surprise!
If you absolutely, positively want to kill everything on the table (including your opponents), then Chandra’s Ignition is the way to go. Any of your enormous beaters are going to be enough to wipe the board, and lower life totals enough to possibly just take out a few players at the same time!
Finally, if you want to use all parts of the buffalo, Fling effects are perfect here. They can be used for that extra bit of reach to close the game, and can be used to get value from creatures that are being targeted with removal. Essence Harvest is particularly good, as it can be a massive life swing in your favor, which could be all you need in a racing situation.
Here is the deck list! Mr. Orfeo, the Boulder is the kind of commander that can show that aggro strategies are not only playable in Commander, but are to be feared. If you love attacking with creatures that are so large it feels fitting to make dramatic sound effects as you tap them, then Mr. Orfeo, the Boulder is the commander for you!
These are just three of the many different commanders from Streets of New Capenna, and there are still several where we’re yet to see their full potential. I hope this has given you some inspiration to take a look at them, and maybe build a deck of your own!
What new legendary creatures are you looking to play with? Are there any commanders that catch your eye? Let me know on Twitter, I’d love to hear what you’re excited about! Happy brewing!
Scott is an Irish content creator and the Head of Budget Magic for the Izzet League. He focuses on affordable decks in Pioneer, Modern, and Pauper, particularly ones that stray from the mainstream. When he’s not writing about his favorite decks, he can be found talking incessantly about them on Twitter and on The Budget Magic Cast.