Just the other day Magic: The Gathering released the five main commanders coming with Commander 2020 spoilers. This latest release marks the first of set-specific Commander releases, starting with an Ikoria-themed set. While we only have three of the new secondary commanders — Kelsien, the Plague; Zaxara, the Exemplary; and Tayam, Luminous Enigma — they are a pretty impressive bunch! Among them include some returning mechanics to the Commander format and the possibility of some neat tribal synergies.
Commander 2020 is bringing back experience counters
Returning to Magic: The Gathering are Experience counters. First seen in Commander 2015, these counters are given to players rather than creatures and are used to track a commander’s growth during a game. The latest card to use these counters is Kelsien, the Plague.
This Human commander has vigilance and reach, and while it starts as a 2/2, it gets bigger the more experience counters a player has. Experience counters are tricky since they are placed on players, not the commander. Players get experience counters from Kelsien by using his ability to pick off creatures. They can also be increased through proliferating and other commanders that give experience counters.
At three mana, Kelsien can come down quickly and aggressively. If players have a reliable way to un-tap him, like Thornbite Staff or Umbral Mantle, Kelsien can quickly dominate a game.
Zaxara, the Exemplary
Commander 2020 spoilers introduce this Sultai hydra as a pretty stacked commander. It has deathtouch, ramps up mana, and makes additional creatures every time its controller casts a spell with X in its casting cost.
Zaxara, the Exemplary is better used to double up on powerful X-casting cost spells than as a hydra tribal commander . Cards like Blue Sun’s Zenith and Villainous Wealth will all do great in this style of deck. Turning every spell cast into a 2-for-1 is just pure value. Add a Doubling Season into the mix and your army of hydras gets bigger and bigger.
Tayam, Luminous Enigma
Tayam, Luminous Enigma is a weird commander. Each creature that enters the battlefield under your control gets a vigilance counter. Then players can remove three counters from any number of creatures to mill three and return something from the graveyard that costs 3 or less mana.
This card feels like it wants players to jump through a lot of hoops to get something small into play. Taking advantage of the vigilance tokens might be the best way to go, leaving its activated ability as a secondary plan. Going wide with a lot of creature tokens and overwhelming opponents while leaving your creatures able to block can be a powerful tactic. Unfortunately for Tayam, it might be a card better left in your deck and not as your commander.
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