Welcome, warriors of the wastes, to this week’s segment of Points of Synergy! This time around, we find ourselves face to face with the not-dead (not undead) form of the Abzan Khan, Anafenza the Foremost!
One things I love about sitting down to pick commanders apart is the differences seen when picking apart two representations of the same commander. I’ve seen it before, with Akroma, or Avacyn, and those were interesting; but the transformations the khans took between timelines are quite astounding!
A stark contrast to her mono white, small body In the Dragons timeline, Khans Annie boasts a beefy statline across 3 colours, Anafenza the Foremost is a commander that wants to come down quickly and deliver harsh lessons to opposing faces as soon as possible. While her restricting cost makes turn 3 the most likely turn you’ll cast her, she can come down earlier, and in the early turns a 4/4 with so much upside can be devastating. What upside, you ask?
1) Whenever Anafenza, the Foremost attacks, put a +1/+1 counter on another target tapped creature you control.
Following (or preceding?) the counter theme set up by the Kin-Tree Spirit, Annie’s presence is mostly felt through beefing up your creatures. Where she strikes a difference is twofold: she’s in three colours, which is infinitely more abusable (things like Primal Vigor or Corpsejack Menace synergies nicely), and she cares that your creatures are tapped – not attacking, but tapped. This adds some interesting play to how you pilot her; she could easily just attack alone and buff an Elvish Mystic that you’ve hung back. She could attack with others and beef a fellow attacker up before they make contact. As long as she’s attacking, she doesn’t particularly care who benefits, as long as it’s your guys, and they’re doing something (even not dying, if they can regenerate). This is a pretty hefty upside but, does she have anything else going on?
2) If a non-token creature an opponent owns would die or a creature card not on the battlefield would be put into an opponent’s graveyard from anywhere, exile it instead.
…oh, right. An often overlooked piece of Anafenza’s toolkit, she comes with the static ability to Rest in Peace opposing creatures. That is absolutely huge. Perhaps I’m biased, running Karador, Sharuum and The Scarab God, but I often find that whoever controls the graveyard zones is often the victor. I run hate in every deck that wants it, from Rest in Peace to Nihil Spellbomb, and the fact that Anafenza does this passively on an above curve beater confounds me. It switches off reanimated decks or graveyard based combo decks (unless they filled the yard before she arrived, and even then Protean Hulk and the likes are bricked while she’s around), this ability opens up a lot of Synergy for her and makes for an uncomfortable amount of pressure otherwise.
All of these combined make Anafenza the Foremost above average for commanders I’ve covered this series, I’m really quite impressed with the young lady.
As you can see, that’s an impressive skill set. But, what can we do with it?
Let’s start with that exile clause. An excellent recent piece of tech for Abzan Annie comes in the form of Processors, such as Wasteland Strangler. Coming in from Battle for Zendikar block, the eldrazi of Ulamog’s brood are known now for their interaction and reuse of the exile zone. Keeping exile piles well stocked allows you to make good use of the Processors, using opposing creatures as fuel for your fire. If Anafenza hangs around, the creatures you process will even return to exile! This is important, as it allows repeatable processors like Void Attendant to loop, going infinite for as long as you have the mana to pay for it. While you may think the pool of Processors is shallow (and it is when you don’t include blue: I quite like Blight Herder, though), the synergy definitely exists for future printings and the grinding out of every last bit of value is incredibly satisfying.
Another recent piece of tech (you may notice a theme here), is Rishkar, Peema Renegade. Covered in one of the First No Cash Commanders, Rishkar’s explosive potential lends himself well to the Abzan Khan. He has a ton of angles, and it really seems like a match made in heaven. First off, he contributes to the counter subtheme aspect of Annie by distributing a couple of counters onto your guys. This makes them bigger, interacts with counter synergy like Doubling Season, and is all around a good time. Then, he goes and does something dumb, like turning EVERY creature with a counter (whether he gave them the counters or not), the ability to tap for green. With a decent setup, this is a monstrous gear shift in tempo for the deck, and he’s often able to at least pay for himself with the mana he nets you, with more left over to ramp out something else. All this, and the ability to make any creature a dork conveniently allows them to tap without attacking – just the thing if you’re suiting up a small guy to start swinging alongside Annie that isn’t quite there yet!
One final (and still incredibly recent, the last year or so has been VERY kind to Anafenza) is Reyhan, Last of the Abzan. Aside from being flavourful, his static ability allows you some control over the counters you’re steadily accumulating. While adding extra counters to the pot himself, he allows free movement of them once their associated creatures die – perfect for beefing Anafenza up with her ability. He can also spot against damage based removal in conjunction with a sac outlet, piling counters from fodder high onto the valuable targets. Take that, Blasphemous Act!
As a quick aside as it’s related to Reyhan, I’d like to point out the small yet tangible synergy with Herald of Anafenza. This card combos with Annie and Reyhan in quite a few ways; it’s use of the Outlast keyword (for incredibly cheap) allows it to tap, letting the fragile 1/1 make itself a target for the counter ability without swinging. In doing so, it also gets a counter from the Outlast activation, starting it on the road to becoming a Reyhan counter battery! It’s token generating ability is also relevant, too. That token can swing with Annie with impunity, growing as it repeatedly swings. Eventually it’ll either eat a block or become removed, freeing up Reyhan to do his thing and slap some counters around! Synergy falls off slightly without Reyhan as you can see, but it’s still a delicious interaction.
That just about covers it for Anafenza the Foremost, guys! What do you think? Did I do it justice? Feel she falls short? Make sure to let me know, we love hearing from you! If you like what you see, be sure to like us on Facebook to be kept up to date on new content. For now though, Unmistakable out.