Howdy guys, Unmistakable here for another edition of Sowing Salt. This one has been floating around for a while, and with the addition of a few small Legendaries in Conspiracy 2, this seemed like as good a time as any.
To clarify before I say anything else; I don’t play Tiny Leaders. When it rolled around, I was sceptical, saw what it did to prices of old cards, thought ‘You know what, this isn’t for me’ and returned to tinkering with my EDH decks. As such, I can’t comment on the Tiny Leaders meta (as with most people besides the handful who maintain a Tiny Leaders deck), and for the purpose of this article, ‘Tiny Leader’ is the short hand for ‘Legendary creature of Converted Mana Cost 3 or less’ as I think we can all agree that the shorthand is greatly preferred.
So, we’re in the glorious format of EDH; you have access to huge ramp, big spells, and the most efficient tutors the game has to offer. Why are you limiting yourself to a small commander? Why play Leovold, Emissary of Trest when you could just play Damia, Sage of Stone? I hope this is a no-brainer: different strategies. Cheaper legendaries often (Read: not always) have weaker abilities, but they make up for it in being an easily achievable mana cost for longer. Decks can rely on the commander more as all of these commanders can come down turn 2 (turn 1 in most cases, too), allowing high impact commanders to warp the game to their plan quickly. While Gaddock Teeg is probably more popular in the 99 of a Captain Sisay deck, but somebody who wanted to build around a turn 1 Teeg warping opponents out of the game would run him out of the command zone. Repeatability of the effects are also necessary. A Sisay deck tooled to working under a Teeglock is suddenly really small when compared to the big decks once they deal with it. A Teeg deck can tool for it as Teeg is a huge, repeatable effect. Anyway, enough of my rambling. On to the honorable mention:
Athreos, God of Passage: This week the honorable mention is close to my heart; Athreos is probably my favourite design of the Therian Gods; if my stuff dies, you better pay the ferryman. A powerful static effect on an indestructible body, Athreos is a great choice for a commander. Why isn’t he higher? Purely because the other options are better. Want to play your deck as control? Could splash blue for Cyclonic Rift and go Oloro. Reanimator? Could, but you miss out on great reanimation targets like Terastodon and Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur. Instead, I like him as an apostles build. A deck with 60 Shadowborn Apostle has a lot more longevity when your commander charges 3 life per creature. You end up either gaining advantage through cards or life, and eventually you’ll be able to drop your demons.
5) Leovold, Emissary of Trest: A new guy in at 5, he’s this far down as he is currently unproven, but has boundless potential. Both Crazy and I have talked about this fellow in depth, and I’m convinced he can go the distance. A chunky body for 3 mana (not the biggest, but very close), this guy puts a powerful effect onto your opponents as soon as he resolves. Every sorcery speed cantrip and every Windfall effect gets turned off, anything that doesn’t deal with permanents straight away become straight up unplayable (off the top of my head Martial Law or Glare of Subdual fade even deeper into the corners of marginality); all of this neatly tied up in one 3 mana package. These kinds of commanders are rare (but not unique, there are a couple more on this list) to have such a game warping effect, and these often become icons of their kind and popular to use. You heard it here first.
4) Doran, the Siege Tower: Speaking of powerful static effects, meet the king of Badonkadonk, the guy to make Indomitable Ancients a terrifying turn 4 play. This guy was good enough to show up in constructed back in Lorwyn (being the progenitor of the nickname Junk for Abzan, shorthand for Junk in the Trunk), and he carries a brave legacy into EDH. When he hits, your deck gains the boon of an Assault Formation stapled to (effectively) a 5/5 for 3. Just the statline on a 3 mana creature would be terrifying, but he spreads it to your Wall of roots played previously, that Sapling of Colfenor you have in your hand, everything. He allows you to cheat on your deck building by playing cheap creatures with a terrible power line but great toughness and then making them monstrous. An iconic and unique effect, it’d be a travesty to not include him.
3) Gaddock Teeg: Probably my personal favourite on this list (definitely the only one I use), Gaddock Teeg is absolutely disgusting. As a commander or in the 99, a Gaddock Teeg is something that needs to be planned for. Him hitting the table turns off most usable boardwipes in EDH (barring things like Toxic Deluge or Pernicious Deed) and can straight up turn off win cons (storm can’t really function without Tendrils of Agony). If your opponents aren’t unhapoy to see a Teeg, they have a plan to deal with him. If not, set up a tent in his hobbit hole, this game just got a lot smaller. For card pairings he partners quite well with inhibitive hatebears like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, or splashy effects like Void Winnower (effectively locking spells out, unless they have 1 and 3 mana spells).
2) Vorel of the Hull Clade: The silver medal this week goes to one of the most interesting commanders out of Return to Ravnica block; Vorel’s doubling ability (and the fact it doubles all types of counters) have created a following of players eager to johnny out. The merfolk can double your hydras (or quadruple or more with a Doubling Season effect), though personally I’m a huge fan of Darksteel Reactor. Beyond that he can play a political game, boosting opposing creatures to help win combat, or dash the hopes of anybody thinking about playing Dark Depths fairly. Flexible and interesting, Vorel is a strong contender. If one were to look into building this fantastically fishy freak of nature, they’d need look no further than staples such as Kalonian Hydra or Primal Vigor. I’d even go so far as to suggest Thousand-Year Elixir, as his ability (and his ability to abuse thereof) are quite essential to his success. Absolutely love this guy though.
1) Jhoira of the Ghitu: …though he’ll never best the Queen of Mean. Remember, as this is small dudes in a big format, Jhoira gets all of her goodies. Decree of Annihilation, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, Time Stretch, Jhoira does it all and she does it cheap (my kinda girl). She has the reputation to match, so I’d recommend going full Jhoira or not at all; even nerfed people will never let her live. That being said, I have had a crack at brewing budget Jhoira before, which may come up in a future no-cash commander. A very fun commander, she has also done me well before in the past at the helm of a chaos deck (this deck predates Keranos and if I did it all again I’d use him. It’s also absolute trash tier) as her ability to float the large, unwieldy chaos spells such as Warp World or Eye of the Storm as early as turn 3 is a very desirable trait. Besides bombs, she synergises with things like Fury Charm or Paradox Haze to get your guys out quicker; in the knife fight, I’m backing the one with the shotgun.
Thats it from me for this week folks! Agree with my choices? Feel free to leave feedback as your opinion is much welcome. For now though, Unmistakable Out.