Getting excited about this weekend's Prerelease and new cards somehow got me thinking about old cards, cards that we don't see that often—more specifically the Legends set. The Elder Dragons were the genesis of the format, but with a few exceptions, we don't see too many commanders from Legends itself. I'd like to run down the list of legendary creatures from Legends and suggest what to do with each of them as commanders.
The first thing we can do is discard the vanilla ones. Sure, you can make a Cat deck with Jedit Ojanen, but other than tribal things, there's really nowhere to go with them. We can toss Barktooth Warbeard, Jasmine Boreal, Jedit Ojanen, Jerrard of the Closed Fist, Kasimir the Lone Wolf, Lady Orca, Sir Shandlar of Eberyn, Sivitri Scarzam, The Lady of the Mountain, Tobias Andrion, and Torsten Von Ursus. We're also going to discard Princess Lucrezia and Riven Turnbull, six- and seven-mana creatures that tap to make one of a color.
Some of the rest are going to be rather thin on ideas, but we'll see where they go. We could do full articles about a few of them and there are multiple directions to go with many of them, but I'll mostly hone in on single ideas.
Adun Oakenshield: I already have an Adun deck, but it was more about the fact that I wanted to have Beasts deck, Jund was the appropriate wedge, and there aren't that many Jund Commanders. I already had Kresh and Karrthus, so Adun was the one. If a cool new guy that goes better with Beasts comes out, I'll swap out Adun.
If I were to build an Adun deck from scratch, I'd want to take serious advantage of his ability to regrow creatures, so it would be a creature-heavy deck. Survival of the Fittest is an easy card to take advantage of, and it would fit here. It'd be a little mana hungry, but you could search-pitch-Regrow-cast any dude you want. Self- or mass-mill and dredge suggest themselves for putting lots of guys in the yard. That might lean you toward Living Death as a Plan B, but that's hardly a sin.
Angus Mackenzie: I've already suggested an Angus deck, which I've not yet assembled. Fellow RC member Scott Larabee built it online, but he hasn't told me much about how it's played. This is one of the Legends commanders that actually gets built a fair amount, and the obvious strategy is Turbo Fog.
Arcades Sabboth: It's unfortunate that the guy that makes toughness better can't do direct damage (generally a red ability) or give minuses (generally Black). Clone and copy effects would be cool here since your guys would survive combat with their guys. You can do damage to fliers with things like Hurricane and Silklash Spider, so once again your guys are more likely to survive than theirs.
Axelrod Gunnarson: His eight-mana cost makes him a little difficult to work with. I'd try Nemesis Mask and Fire Whip style cards and then add Basilisk Collar or Gorgon Flail. Quietus Spike would provide an unpleasant choice for defending players. Maybe even Blight Sickle or Everlasting Torment. Unfortunately, all the good Lure effects are green, although there is Melee from Ice Age. I'd put the underplayed Scythe of the Wretched on him for sure.
Ayesha Tanaka: The theme she suggests to me is "hate your artifacts, love mine." You'd think it would be a pretty narrow ability, but you could potentially blank every Oblivion Stone and Nevinyrral's Disk. Equipment becomes expensive to activate since they'll have to do it twice. I'd then run a little Artificer Tribal subtheme (Stoneforge Mystic and Arcum Dagsson are both Artificers) and go to town from there with Grand Architect and a bunch of blue creatures.
Bartel Runeaxe: He's nearly vanilla, but he's Jund and he's a Giant. That means some ramp into tribal fatties. There are 80 Giants in Jund colors, so we'd have lots of choices. Boldwyr Intimidator would be one of the must-includes. Turns out that Cowards can't block Warriors.
Boris Devilboon: A Zombie Wizard that makes Demon tokens? I think there wasn't a continuity department back in Legends days. There are ten other Zombie Wizards (actually thirteen, but three of them have blue in their color identity), so there's a mini-theme. The best thing I can think of here is to use Gauntlets of Chaos to give away Boris so that you can get something, you know, good.
Chromium: Rampage once again suggests "must block," but we're still in the wrong colors for that. I think I'd focus this one on getting commander damage kills because that'd be pretty techy with one of the original five. The usual suspects like Whispersilk Cloak and Lightning Greaves suggest themselves. I wouldn't normally be inclined to run Hatred in a deck, but why not? We have the life gain of white to make up for the loss.
Dakkon Blackblade: This is one there are already decks out there for. In fact, Todd, one of my original Virginia group guys, used him, and I'm pretty sure he still has the deck. Getting extra lands into play with Esper colors isn't all that easy. Land Tax is obvious. I'm lately a big fan of Mycosynth Wellspring in non-green decks as well as the classic Armillary Sphere, and I'd definitely run them both here. I'm pretty sure Todd's deck is built around control elements and just plopping down Dakkon late game, and that's probably the route I'd take as well.
Gabriel Angelfire: Now we have a rampage guy in green, which we'll need to ramp into his awkward cost. We have Lure and the like at our disposal, so we can slap Shield of the Oversoul on him and battle! Since we're going all in on enchantments, we'll use Skull of Orm and/or Replenish to bring them all back in case they get destroyed. This might be a deck where we can play the Hidden enchantments from Urza's Saga (like Hidden Ancients). And since we're going with crazy Saga stuff, we might as well include Soul Sculptor.
Gwendlyn Di Corci: She's not half bad for her mana cost. A discard deck is what's obvious, but that's also likely to draw you more hate than you want. Based on the art, I'd want to do a Dimir plus red deck with Bribery, Threaten, and the like (ooh, Legacy's Allure!). War Tax and Propaganda would be in there as well. If I didn't already have two Grixis decks, I'd seriously think about building this.
Halfdane: This is one of the few guys in this set that seems aggressively costed. All of the colors in Esper have some big enough guys of their own in case the opponents are all playing smaller guys. I'd stay away from the obvious Clone effects, although I'd definitely include Riptide Mangler.
Hazezon Tamar: Probably the Legends creature that actually sees the most play in the format, although mostly in Rith decks to pile on the tokens. I've also certainly seen it played as the commander. I'd pair him with bounce effects like Stampeding Wildebeests and Stampeding Serow, maybe even Umbilicus. You can stack the triggers with Hazezon's own first and then the bounce effect so that he leaves play before the Sand Warriors are created. Just don't play him with Changelings.
Hunding Gjornersen: More rampage without green. If you put a gun to my head and told me I had to build a deck with this guy, I'd at least consider letting you shoot me.
Jacques Le Vert: Now this guy is something since we get bigger back ends on our green guys and the ability to deal direct damage with red. Aether Flash would play a role. It occurs to me that I could change my Beasts deck from Jund into Naya with Jacques. It already has Contested Cliffs, and I could add some of the fight mechanic cards like Daybreak Ranger and Ulvenwald Tracker. There are only fifteen black cards in the deck, and none of them are all that significant to the theme. There are only eight white Beasts, but I could get style points for playing a Homelands card: Beast Walkers. Banding!
Johan: A moderately expensive Naya guy that gives all your dudes vigilance if he doesn't attack, he's nice if you've built a little army before dropping him. I don't see much here besides a pretty standard strong creature base. I'd then throw in equipment that has the creature tap as part of the activation cost, like Surestrike Trident.
Lady Caleria: If we can get her to stick around, the nice tap-only ability would be good with deathtouch stuff, like the aforementioned Basilisk Collar. We could pair her with Nightshade Peddler. Lace with Moonglove would let us kill something and replace itself. There's no red for the "must attack" stuff like Grand Melee and Avatar of Slaughter, but Lady Caleria would allow us to play the very interesting Oracle en-Vec. We could play Magnetic Web if I could actually figure out what it does.
Lady Evangela: I'm liking the ladies here. She's a Cleric, so I'd take the opportunity to run some of the stuff in my old B/W Clerics deck in Standard. I'd feature Rotlung Reanimator, Cabal Archon, Celestial Gatekeeper, Dark Supplicant, and perhaps Ancestor's Prophet. There are 229 Clerics to choose from in the colors, plus seventeen Changelings, most notably Mirror Entity.
Livonya Silone: She's a little narrow, and like many of the creatures on this list, she's a Human Warrior, so there isn't too much tribal build-around. There are 38 legendary lands, many of which are frequently played, but quite honestly, I'd rather be Wastelanding them instead of attacking because of them. Unfortunately, she's not in blue, so we can't easily Donate one of the terrible ones like Gods' Eye, Gate to Reikai to an opponent.
Lord Magnus: Okay, all the guys in this set that let you block landwalkers aren't that good. But at least Lord Magnus lets you play Erhnam Djinn with no downside! Clearly the super-style points play here is to include Aysen Highway.
Marhault Elsdragon: Of the rampage commanders, this one's okayish since we have green for the Lure effects and he's in Kessig Wolf Run colors. He's also an Elf, so we can explore that tribal theme. I'd like him better if he were 6/4 instead of 4/6, but whattaya gonna do?
Nebuchadnezzar: This is the guy I'd play the discard theme with and make into a meaner deck than I normally would. I'd probably still keep it a little low key (no Myojin of Night's Reach or anything). Since we're in black, I'd run Reanimate effects, and since we're in the good Ninja colors, I'd run most of the Ninjas. I'd certainly play with Field of Dreams or Telepathy. I like most the fact that he can blank Tutors.
Nicol Bolas: To build this deck, I would finally read one of the Magic novels and dig out all the research on everyone's favorite Elder Dragon. I'd then build the deck with every element of the back-story that I could. He would be the commander of the Grixis Mean Deck that I've talked about building with cards like Everlasting Torment and Spiteful Visions. I can already feel myself coming under Nicol's dark sway.
Palladia-Mors: A Naya commander with trample? The deck practically builds itself. To go outside the box, I'd make up some story about Palladia-Mors helping out the Kithkin. Brigid, Hero of Kinsbaile could wreck the weenie token hordes. Maybe we could bring in Gaddock Teeg to help with the noncreature stuff so that Figure of Destiny could run wild. Or maybe I'm just starting to get punchy.
Pavel Maliki: The first cards that come to mind with Pavel are Braid of Fire and Initiates of the Ebon Hand. When you have a commander that pumps up his own power, you have to think about getting to 21 damage. Rakdos colors make for aggressive strategies, and I'd play that up, using a fair amount of creature hostility to clear the way for Pavel instead of using moderately tired ideas like Whispersilk Cloak.
Ragnar: I'd use Ragnar to make a Nordic-themed deck. Adarkar Valkyrie, Snow-Covered Lands, and all the Snow mana stuff are a starting point. I might try to find other legendary creatures to represent the major gods, like Odin, Freya, and Thor (and have Eric Klug mod the Odin card to look like Anthony Hopkins).
Ramses Overdark: Aaron Forsythe made an awesome version of Ramses a few years back. I'll see if he still has his list. Certainly, you make the deck all about enchant creatures. Despondency, Launch, and Fallen Ideal leap right to mind. I think the one I'd really want is Fool's Demise. I'd get the guy on my side and the enchantment back. False Demise, Shade's Form, and Unhallowed Pact nicely round out the things of that ilk to put into the deck. Ramses is an Assassin, and there are quite a few nice ones, like the classic Royal Assassin, to help fill out the deck.
Rasputin Dreamweaver: Mana ramp in U/W! Since we're playing blue, we can run Copy Enchantment and hope someone else is running Doubling Season. Sure, we can't put more than seven counters on him, but we'd make sure he's always full. The theme I'd run is dreams. There are about 40 playable cards in the colors with Dream in their name. Theft of Dreams is a nice (not to mention inexpensive) card from Portal Second Age which does the same thing as Tamiyo's second ability for the low, low price of 2U. Dreamscape Artist is a real hidden gem.
Rohgahh of Kher Keep: Winner of the "highest percentage of H's" award, Rohgahh is all about the Kobolds. Braid of Fire will help you pay the upkeep cost and fuel those X damage instants that we all love, like Fault Line and Comet Storm. You get to play Kher Keep to make an army of Kobolds for Rohgahh to buff up. Don't forget Roc and Scourge of Kher Ridges. Since we're playing weenies, I thought of Hellrider. Then I realized Hellrider deals the damage. With that realization came the idea that you can kill someone pretty quickly by giving Hellrider infect. Hellrider's damage isn't even targeted, so giving yourself hexproof won't even help.
Rubinia Soulsinger: Kind of Merieke with green instead of black, Rubinia doesn't have that dark side, so she won't kill the controlled creature when she untaps. If I were to make a "steal everything" deck, this would be it. She's a Faerie, so there's an opportunity to make a Faerie deck that not everyone hates. I would include sacrifice outlets like Altar of Dementia, Birthing Pod, and Greater Good so if the creature stolen with Rubinia wasn't as good as something else, I could just get rid of it without giving it back. Momentous Fall is also quite good for that. We could also manage some trickery with Helm of Possession.
Sol'Kanar the Swamp King: I once had a Sol'Kanar deck built, but it was just Grixis good stuff. If I were to rebuild it, I'd capitalize on his Swampwalk, not his life gain, and go for commander damage kills. The obvious thing here is Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, a card that I don't often play because 1) so many other people do and 2) I don't want to do the work for other people using Swamps and Cabal Coffers.
Stangg: The only moderately effective way to make Stangg work is with Warstorm Surge and/or Pandemonium. He and the Stangg Twin are so vulnerable that I don't expect they'll stay around too long. If I were to include Pandemonium, I'd probably also include Witchbane Orb to keep from getting domed myself.
Sunastian Falconer: I was going to include him with Princess Lucrezia and Riven Turnbull, but he produces two mana instead of one and "only" costs five. He's a 4/4, so he can do some work by himself. Who am I kidding? He belongs up with them.
Tetsuo Umezawa: Another one of the few good mana cost-to-power/toughness ratios in the set, Tetsuo rattlesnakes attackers. You obviously have to play Umezawa's Jitte and Toshiro Umezawa, so maybe we give it a Samurai subtheme so we can play one of my favorite cards, Fumiko Lowblood. We could also run the cute combo of Ronin Cliffrider and Death Pits of Rath. Just like with Ramses Overdark, we can play Fool's Demise in order to steal away something good. Since we're old schooling it, we could make nice use out of Opposition and Icy Manipulator.
Tor Wauki: The B/R version of Lady Caleria with more access to wither and infect. Now we have the red that lets us play Grand Melee and Avatar of Slaughter. Wait—that's a nonbo unless we give Tor vigilance, which we might with Batterskull. I might play the must attack stuff with Crawlspace so even if creatures have to attack, they mostly have to attack someone other than me.
Tuknir Deathlock: Hey, at least we get flying in R/G. That doesn't happen that often. In fact, in those two colors only Dragon Broodmother, Viashivan Dragon, and Windreaper Falcon unconditionally have Flying.
Vaevictis Asmadi: We have to take advantage of the green here so we can ramp up into him, especially since we have pump abilities. I think I might try a slightly tweaked version of my Karrthus and His Dragons deck with this member of the original five. One of the changes I'd seriously consider is Darksteel Plate because recasting him gets burdensome and doesn't have the upside that recasting Karrthus does.
Xira Arien: The other finalist to pilot the Beasts deck when I made the eventual switch to Adun, Xira isn't flashy, but she's effective. Even if you have Thousand-Year Elixir or Magewright's Stone, which I'd certainly include, no one is going to target her with one-for-one trades. There are way too many other juicy targets. She'll stay around until someone wipes the board. After that, we have all the joys of Jund, which generally means a creature-heavy deck but also has its choice of excellent board control cards like Plague Wind—which we'll draw into with Xira.
Although some of the potential commanders in the Legends set are even less optimal than I had originally considered, there are some of them that suggest interesting decks and card choices. I hope I've given you some Chaos-Embracing ideas to get those creative juices flowing.