Kaldheim has finally landed, and with it come two new preconstructed Commander decks! These are an excellent on-ramp to the format, and a brilliant starting point for many fantastic builds. Today, I’ll be taking you through the Phantom Premonition deck, an Azorius flicker deck with flying and foretell subthemes. If the Elven Empire deck is more to your liking, you can read our upgrade guide for it here!
New Commander Cards
There are a whopping eight new cards from Phantom Premonition, which is a notable increase over the three we saw in the Zendikar Rising and Commander Legends decks.
Ranar the Ever-Watchful is the new Azorius commander. They give you a discount on the first card you foretell each turn, and reward you for exiling either cards from your hand or permanents you control. While this is obviously meant to be this set’s foretell commander, there aren’t quite enough impactful cards with the mechanic to have a concise build. Their second ability is fantastic, however, especially considering how many exile effects that both blue and white have access to.
Sage of the Beyond is not just a great way to reduce the cost of foretold spells, but also a number of other mechanics from Magic’s history. Flashback, retrace, and adventure spells are other types of spells whose costs this creature can reduce. Ethereal Valkyrie gives spells foretell, which can be especially useful for setting up a critical turn later in the game. These two cards work well by themselves, and their flexibility means they can easily be used in a multitude of different decks.
Stoic Farmer is the latest attempt to give ramp to white, and unfortunately, it really falls short. Kor Cartographer is in the preconstructed deck and is a better overall card, as it guarantees ramp every time you cast it. Farmer might see some play in decks that lean exclusively into foretell, but even then, there are many better options available.
Tales of the Ancestors is another foretell card that I don’t anticipate seeing much play. Blue decks generally tend to have a lot of cards in hand, and don’t need the help all that much, so you’d likely be using this to help an opponent as much as yourself. The fact that it’s a sorcery means its impact is limited, too; once you foretell this, you have to wait a full turn cycle to play it. As with Stoic Farmer, unless you’re reliant on foretell, you’ll find better options elsewhere.
There are some powerful new foretell cards in the deck, however, and they are strong enough to need no additional foretell support. Hero of Bretagard is a great payoff for any deck that utilizes exile effects, such as Brago, King Eternal or Aminatou, the Fateshifter. Gaining indestructible is a huge boon, especially when you end up going all-in on this card.
Spectral Deluge is a great asymmetrical board wipe, and will likely see a lot of play. Foretell works wonders here; hiding and guaranteeing your board wipe is extremely valuable in a format with so many wheel effects, and three mana on a subsequent turn is a fantastic rate for such a strong spell.
Finally, Cosmic Intervention will be used as a potent protection spell for some time to come. Keeping two mana up to save your board from destruction is a small price to pay, and it can even be used in conjunction with more unfun cards, like Armageddon. There will be many times you’ll be able to cause a blowout by casting this, so I certainly wouldn’t sleep on it.
Phantom Premonition is the first Azorius preconstructed deck that Wizards have released, and it’s certainly an interesting one. It’s a great choice for anyone thinking of entering the Commander format, or for anyone that would like to start building a deck based around either value creatures or exile effects.
As the foretell mechanic is brand new in Kaldheim, it’s limited by the number of cards in the set. While there are some decent foretell cards, there aren’t quite enough to focus the entire deck around them. If foretell were to return in another Standard-legal set or Commander product down the line, then it would prove more beneficial to make a solid build around it; as it stands, you’re a few cards short of a decided foretell-themed deck. It’s not surprising that this deck is more focused on flying creatures than the new mechanic itself.
When it comes to value for money, Phantom Premonition is excellent. At the time of writing, the value of its contents is around $100 — which, for a sub-$25 price tag, is a much safer investment than GameStop stock. While the deck is full of Commander staples like Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, Sun Titan, and Ghostly Prison, a large portion of its value comes from the new cards. The eight new cards are currently valued at about $25 in total, so it’s significantly better value to buy the precon instead of just getting the singles.
In terms of power level, Phantom Premonition is roughly on par with the last few preconstructed offerings, albeit slightly stronger than the ones from Commander Legends (Reap the Tides and Arm for Battle). They would fit nicely with any of the preconstructed decks from the past year or so, but may struggle slightly against some of the older options.
Upgrading Phantom Premonition
If you were to sleeve the deck and play it right out of the box, it will play surprisingly well. The game plan is fairly focused: play Ranar the Ever-Watchful, then use mechanics like foretell and flicker effects to generate a small flying army.
When upgrading a deck, I tend to focus on one one specific game plan to build up; if it’s trying to do too many things, it can end up feeling clunky and inconsistent. I decided to focus on the flying aspect of the deck, which could be tailored to work with both Ranar’s token-generating ability and flying creatures with solid “enter the battlefield” abilities. This leads the upgraded version to follow a distinct two-step game plan: use value creatures to control the early game while Ranar incidentally makes tokens, then deploy anthem effects to close out the game quickly with your token army.
To sum up, the main focal points in this upgrade are:
- Use flicker effects to trigger Ranar’s ability
- Cast powerful flying creatures that benefit from being flickered
- Play anthem effects to pump your team and close the game
Anything in the deck that doesn’t fit with or compliment one of these points will be swapped out from something more suitable.
Flicker & ETBs
In order to make the most of Ranar’s token-generation ability, you need to exile a lot of permanents. There’s no better way to do this than by flickering some creatures, and there are no better creatures to flicker than ones with great ETB triggers! Cloudkin Seer is a great example of a creature you’ll want to flicker often, and it’s also a flyer (which will become relevant soon). Yorion, Sky Nomad is known for being a ridiculous flicker engine, and its looping capability with Charming Prince is too good to pass up.
In addition to these value creatures, cards like Ephemerate and Illusionist’s Stratagem give you more ways to eke out value while building up your board. Archaeomancer can also retrieve these spells to be cast again, giving you even more repeatable loops!
Ranar’s Aerial Army
Once you’ve generated enough spirit tokens, you can turn them all into sizable threats. Cathars’ Crusade is a frightening enchantment that can get out of control fast. Let’s say you’re looping an Archaeomancer and another creature with Ghostly Flicker, for example. If Ranar is on board, you’re making two tokens and putting four +1/+1 counters on every creature you control for each loop you complete! As most of your creatures have flying, Gravitational Shift works wonders. Not only will your team be significantly more damaging, but the majority of opposing forces will be greatly hampered as well.
And just in case you didn’t get enough value yet, Reconnaissance Mission and Bident of Thassa will keep the cards flowing through combat. Bident of Thassa is especially useful, as you can force opponents into awkward or even dangerous attacks.
The ramp in this deck is surprisingly good, considering Azorius isn’t well-known for its ramp spells. All of the mana rocks are efficient, and Kor Cartographer is particularly effective with your flicker effects. I’ve added Wayfarer’s Bauble as a replacement for Stoic Farmer, as it’s guaranteed to ramp you every time.
The removal in the deck is fairly respectable, with cards like Curse of the Swine contributing to the exile effects on offer. Some obvious includes were missing, however; I’ve added Fiend Hunter and Amphin Mutineer as excellent flicker targets, giving you even more ways to permanently deal with specific problems. Winds of Abandon is a real all-star in this deck, as the overload effect will generate an entire army with Ranar on board. It does have its drawbacks, but the benefits are more than worth it here.
The main issue with the mana base of most preconstructed decks is the number of tapped lands, and that’s no different here. By switching them out for the likes of Nimbus Maze or Prairie Stream, your mana will be significantly improved. Adding a Reliquary Tower is reasonably important, too; there’s no point in gaining this much value if you can’t hold onto it! Some incidental land hate is a sound addition to most decks, too, so Field of Ruin will fit that role while providing a small amount of fixing.
As with most decks, it’s usually a good idea to include at least one infinite combo to prevent games from going on too long. Even if you can’t tutor for the pieces, it’s worth knowing there’s an emergency button in the deck. For this deck, you have a classic infinite combo: Peregrine Drake and Deadeye Navigator. Together, they generate infinite mana; you can then use it to cast spells and draw into your deck for your copy of Sage’s Row Denizen, which will eventually mill your opponents out.
The Full Upgrade
The total cost of this upgrade is roughly $50-60. This is around the sweet spot in Commander: the power-to-dollar ratio is at its highest around this price point, with mostly diminishing returns after this point. If you like this deck, you can buy all the upgrade singles at the same time as the preconstructed deck, saving you time as well as money!
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.