Commander Collection: Black’s Contents Are To Die For

Kristen Gregory Commander, Products

Commander Collection: Black was recently announced on the Magic Showcase 2021 livestream. The second in the new Commander Collection line, Commander Collection: Black contains eight iconic black Commander cards along with a double-sided token, all with new unique artwork, packaged in a stylish box. 

Like Commander Collection: Green, the Black edition will be available in both non-foil and traditional foil versions, with the foil version being exclusive to WPN Premium stores. There isn’t a solid release date yet, but given Commander Collection: Green was originally scheduled for early September 2020 (and was pushed back to December of that year due to supply issues), we have a good feeling this product might be available before the holiday season starts. 

What’s In Commander Collection: Black?

Commander Collection: Black contains the following cards:

  • Liliana, Heretical Healer // Liliana, Defiant Necromancer
  • Ghoulcaller Gisa
  • Ophiomancer
  • Phyrexian Arena
  • Reanimate
  • Toxic Deluge
  • Sol Ring
  • Command Tower

Each card has new artwork and flavor text (where applicable), and also included is a double-sided token: on one side is a 2/2 black Zombie, and on the other, the much sought after 1/1 black Snake with deathtouch — a token Commander players have wanted ever since Ophiomancer’s first printing in Commander 2013!

Liliana, Heretical Healer / Liliana, Defiant Necromancer

Kicking things off, we have the iconic black planeswalker, Liliana. Liliana, Heretical Healer is a classic Aristocrats card, seeing play both in the 99 and leading decks of her own. It’s not difficult to trigger the flip from creature to planeswalker, and repeatable disruption mixed with reanimation is a nice tool to have. The symmetrical discard needn’t be symmetrical, either — you can happily discard something scary like Sheoldred, Whispering One only to cast Reanimate on it straight after.

What I love about the Zombie token included in Commander Collection: Black is that it depicts Liliana’s brother, Josu Vess. Josu suffered tragically when Liliana tried to cure him from a terrible affliction. The source of the cure had been corrupted, and Josu was driven insane. It was at this moment that Liliana’s spark ignited. She struggled to escape, and ended up on Innistrad. 

Josu ended up a zombie, and later a Lich, imbued with dark powers by the Cabal. Getting to see Josu on this Zombie token is a delicious flavor win. You can check out the origins of Liliana & Josu here, with the resolution of their story here and here.

Ghoulcaller Gisa

Speaking of Innistrad, the other headlining legendary creature is Ghoulcaller Gisa. Gisa is a powerful game piece for not only Zombie decks, but any kind of black-based Reanimator strategy that likes to pull larger creatures in and out of the graveyard. Think Meren of Clan Nel Toth; Dina, Soul Steeper; even Skullbriar, the Walking Grave

She does tend to excel in creating Zombie swarms, though, and I’ve had a lot of fun with her in Varina, Lich Queen. Her new artwork is also pretty savage!

Ophiomancer

Ophiomancer is one of those classic Commander cards that just gets better the more players there are in a game. Because you get to make a Snake token each upkeep as long as you control no other Snakes, it’s possible to trigger this repeatedly if you have a sacrifice outlet. 

There are endless opportunities when it comes to Ophiomancer, whether you’re in a tokens deck, an Aristocrats deck, or just running value pieces like Razaketh. Deathtouch Snakes are just good blockers, too. But the card really shines when combined with free or cheap sacrifice outlets for the tokens, or with ways to ensure Ophiomancer always triggers, like Divine Visitation. You’ll instead get an Angel token every upkeep, which is honestly everything I want to be doing in a game of Magic

The artwork on both Ophiomancer and her token is another hit — and those hits keep coming.

Phyrexian Arena

Another Commander staple (who would have thought, in a Commander Collection?), Phyrexian Arena has been popular for a long time. Getting to draw an extra card every turn is a solid effect for three mana in black, and one life is all but forgettable. With some commanders — like Vilis, Broker of Blood — you’ll actually appreciate paying the life, as it’ll net you an extra card. The artwork this time takes us right into the heart of Phyrexia with some truly evocative work from Vincent Proce.

Just try not to get caught under a Narset, Parter of Veils like Ashlen on this episode of Game Knights. War of the Spark… what a set. 

Reanimate

Before I wax lyrical about how Reanimate is just never bad in EDH — and yes, that is a moon in the artwork — I’d like to just point out the obvious. Nils Hamm is a delight, and this spooky moonlight version of Reanimate is gorgeous. Nils is responsible for iconic artwork like Baleful Strix, and this Reanimate is instantly a favorite of mine when you consider composition and color. The flavor text asks us to consider Baron Sengir’s words: is death really a small price to pay? 

The answer is yes, 1000% yes. Reanimate is fantastic. For one mana, you can grab the juiciest target you can find in all graveyards, and all you have to do is pay a little life to get it. Three life for Ophiomancer? Cool. Eight life for Archon of Cruelty? Now we’re talking.

This card isn’t just good in Reanimator decks, though. I’ve used it (and Animate Dead) to great success in my Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale Equipment Voltron build

Toxic Deluge

The hits keep coming, and Toxic Deluge rounds out the black reprints in this collection. It’s a brilliant closer, as it manages to combine a much-needed and heavily played reprint with awesome new art and flavor text. Sitting comfortably within the Top 100 most played cards on EDHRec, Toxic Deluge is one of the most efficient and versatile board wipes in the format. Sure, it costs life, but you’re getting an incredible effect at just three mana. This spell gets around hexproof and indestructible, and makes short work of problem creatures like Avacyn, Angel of Hope

The card depicts the hemisphere-spanning cloud of death that Yawgmoth became during the Phyrexian invasion. The death cloud wiped out Dominaria’s defenders, after which Yawgmoth was able to resurrect them to fight for Phyrexia. It’s metal as anything, and I’m here for it. 

Sol Ring & Command Tower

It wouldn’t be a Commander Collection without a unique Sol Ring and Command Tower. The Sol Ring depicts an emerging dark power, imbuing an ancient artifact, with spooky candles and skulls. It’s just generic enough to fit into any black deck, which is exactly what we want out of a black-oriented Sol Ring.

The Command Tower, meanwhile, features flavor text from fan favorite Davriel Cane. It’s safe to assume this tower is on Innistrad where Davriel resides. If you’d like to learn more about Davriel and the excellent Brandon Sanderson novella Children of the Nameless, you can find a summary here.

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Commander Collection: Black is another hit in the Commander Collection line, as far as I’m concerned. It ticks all of the right boxes: flavor, power, and solid reprints. For more on the products to come later this year and in 2022, check out Tom’s recap of the recent Magic Showcase. Or, if you have a little longer, why not check out the full recording below?