The legends that we get come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours. I could use this as an opportunity to go on about fairness and equality and string along a huge metaphor for the real world, but I’m not going to do that. In Magic, all colours are not created equal. More than that, all colour pairings are not even close to equal. In fact, some are so far apart in power and design levels that they may as well not even be playing the same game.
Somebody brought this up on Mark Rosewater’s Tumblr a short while ago, in this post.
The gist of the complaint is that Rakdos and Boros legends tend to be boring and linear, while Simic and UGx legends are amazing. MaRo’s response was “let me know what kind of commander you’d like to see for different two-color combinations”.
I took this to the team’s Slack, and we discussed it at length, throwing out multiple ideas and discussing them. There were enough good ideas floated, and enough options, that I would like to share them. Note, these are all fake, and completely made-up, and not legal in any way, but if you manage to convince your playgroup to let you proxy these in actual games, please please PLEASE let me know how they play out.
First, let’s look at Boros. The first entry is one of mine, and it is the one that I brought to the group to start the conversation:
Holand, Temperamental Philosopher 2RW
Legendary Creature – Dwarf Wizard
Creatures you control have “T, discard a card: draw a card”
1W, T: Exile target artifact or enchantment
XR, Discard X cards, T: Holand, Temperamental Philosopher deals X damage divided any way you choose among any number of target creatures or players.
Holand, Temperamental Scholar’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of cards in your hand.
* / *
There is a lot going on here, I know. I like text-heavy cards and lots of things to keep track of. I approached this with the idea to play on white and red’s individual strengths, while not forcing an aggro strategy. Yes, there is burn here, and yes, this creature can get very huge in combat. But white/red does not have a lot of natural positive card draw, so you have to work at getting him big. It leverages the unity of creatures that white likes while also pushing the recklessness and lack of foresight that red is famous for. To get the big effect, you have to sacrifice your own advantage. This is awesome, and I would play this in red/white.
Our second Boros option also loots for cards, and leans a little more white than red mechanically, but is all red in flavour.
Jimmy the wrathful. 3RW
R: draw a card, then discard a card at random and put a counter on Jimmy.
W: Choose 1: destroy all creatures or enchantments.
If Jimmy has 5 counters on him, he is indestructible and has haste.
3 / 5
I like this as well, though he’d be in the 99 more than leading a deck for me. Having a flexible wrath on board is never a bad thing, and the fact that he doesn’t tap is awesome. Decent stats and a fair CMC makes this pretty solid.
Then Cass started running with this, and wants to see a few things.
Dudemar, Boros Interesting Non-Aggro guy 2RW
When Dudemar enters the battlefield, destroy X target artifacts or enchantments, where X is the current ‘general tax’.
2RW, Sacrifice Dudemar: Draw two cards, then discard two cards.
He forces you to sacrifice him, gives you some value, but then gives you more value as the game wears on. And he doesn’t have to attack. But then Cass went even further, with a flip card.
Dudemar 2.0 1RW
Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under an opponent’s control, Dudemar 2.0 deals 2 damage to it.
RW: Flip Dudemar 2.0
Creatures entering the battlefield under your opponents control don’t cause abilities to trigger.
RW: Flip Dudemar
1 / 2
I LOVE this. The ability to flip as needed at instant speed is what sells this. Neither option is too oppressive, which is nice. The Torpor Orb effect is stronger than AEther Flash, but both are good in a pinch. This is the kind of card that makes you process the game on the fly, and make tight decisions based on imperfect knowledge. I like it.
Then we started talking about effects that leveraged the command zone, which is the flagship mechanic of the format. My entry on this was a Boros legend:
Indecisive Boros Guy – 1RW
If you cast Indecisive Boros Guy from the command zone, when it enters the battlefield destroy all artifacts. They can’t be regenerated.
If you cast Indecisive Boros Guy from your hand, when it enters the battlefield destroy all enchantments. They can’t be regenerated.
‘Commander tax’ applies to Indecisive Boros Guy when casting it from your hand.
1 / 3
This would never, ever happen. There’s too much to track here to make this viable, but damn how fun would this be? I intentionally left out a way to self-bounce, because that’s not in red/white’s wheelhouse. You have to work at this, which I like.
Then Cass pushed things out a bit, making you have some tough choices.
Dudemar 3.0 – This Time, It’s Serious 1RW
If Dudemar 3.0 is cast from your hand, exile him when he enters the battlefield. If Dudemar is not placed in the command zone, each player discards their hand and draws seven cards.
That’s scary. That’s a great wheel effect, but you can only get it once. Very cool.
Moving on to Rakdos, we tried to get away from the standard targeted removal and burn damage that the colour pair is stuck in. The first entry was this:
Mama Carnex RB
Legendary Creature – Orc Witch
Sacrifice a creature you control but do not own: search your library for a card with converted mana cost equal to the sacrificed creature’s power, reveal it, and put it in your hand.
RRBB: Gain control of target creature until end of turn, untap it, it gains haste until end of turn. You lose X life, where X is that creature’s converted mana cost.
2 / 2
I really wanted to push the witchcraft side of things here. Stealing and sacrificing for power is great, but it should also come with a steep cost. The more power you get, the more it costs you. This one, more than any other here, is one that I wish was real. This would absolutely be my deck.
Jimmy the grave lord 2BR
BR unearth target creature from a graveyard, when it comes into play deal 3 damage to target player and you take 2.
This was a quick post, I think from somebody’s phone, but it’s interesting. You get the recursion, at a cost, with some burn attached. Serious build-around potential.
Cass went to Rakdos with another Dudemar:
Dudemar the Second, Rakdos Non-Reanimator Guy
When Dudemar the Second enters the battlefield, search your library for a card where X = the current “general tax”, reveal it, and put it on top of your library. This may only be played at any time you may cast a sorcery.
2BW: Sacrifice Dudemar the Second: Deal 3 damage to target creature.
There’s a lot here, and I like the tutor effect stapled on. I also like that you can sacrifice it for a Lightning Bolt to increase the commander tax, making the tutor effect better.
My second Rakdos entry was an odd little guy, more for flavour than anything:
Bad Reputation Guy 2BR
Legendary Creature – Human Warrior
First Strike, Trample
When Bad Reputation Guy is on the battlefield, he is non-legendary.
6 / 2
I LOVE Myriad, and would love to see it on a legendary creature. But that obviously doesn’t work without stretching the rules a bit. So, why not make it non-legendary when in play?
The final Rakdos entry was a play on Faerie Artisans, which is the best blue card in CMDR16.
I dare you guy 3RB
Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under an a opponent’s control without being cast, you may put a token onto the battlefield that is a copy of that creature.
4 / 4
It keeps token and reanimator strategies fair, which is nice. Show and Tell is suddenly all about you, and it is a ‘may’ effect so no Phage shenanigans.
All of these step outside the norm for their colours, but still dwell completely within the colour pie. The Boros legends are not all ‘raaargh attack!’ and the Rakdos legends are not all twirly-mustache bad guys. But they are all distinctly Boros or Rakdos. And we were just throwing out ideas as they came to us, without really thinking too much about it. Obviously, balancing would need to happen and none of these would be printed as-is, but it was really not hard to come up with distinctly Boros creatures that did not push attacking as the only way to win.
If we can do that in a conversation where we also talk about pumpkin beer and bad hair metal, why can’t the people who get paid to design cards for a living do it?