Commander is Recent History
Partner commanders are a relatively new concept when looking at Magic’s history. Introduced in Commander 2016, Wizards of the Coast created 15 commanders that had the partner keyword.
These commanders were very popular and many have seen reprints since then. When Commander Legends was released, Wizards expanded upon the mechanic even further. With Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate slated for release in the coming months, there is no doubt that more partners will be printed.
The beauty of partner commanders is the unique combinations that can be achieved, both in color identity and in theme. They do, however, also have their limitations.
Rohgrakh has all the keywords a combat-based theme needs, a converted mana cost of 0, but a power of 0. He was literally designed to be a Voltron commander. Ardenn was designed to be the support for these commanders, allowing you to forgo equip costs at the beginning of combat and dump all your auras and equipment onto the battlefield. Attaching them to a commander, likely Rohgrakh, just makes sense.
There's is nothing wrong with that. After all, how can you not love that efficiency? However, if you are anything like me, you crave something unique and different. You want more support for commanders that have all of the potential but not much of the payoff.
The following are a few of the commanders I think deserve some partner support.
Now, these are my opinions and there may be some commanders that you would have liked to see or some you might not agree with. Overall, though, these commanders have so much potential and just need a partner that pushes them to a more viable level.
Rohgrakh, Son of Rohgrahh
I know, I just sang praises for Rohgrakh and Ardenn as partners. But, I think there is so much more potential for the little guy. Outside of the Ardenn pairing, Rohgrakh is not utilized for his keywords and cost.
The other pairings seem to be more focused on the payoff of combat phases and damage but do little to take advantage of Rohgrakh himself.
Boros equipment is a very popular archetype, and for good reason, but I feel that Rohgrakh was just pigeonholed into this theme and has had very little movement away from it.
Seriously, though, how fun would it be if you played a spell slinger theme with Rohgrakh alongside has a partner that lets you double the spells, specifically instants that buff your creatures. Swinging out with a 0/1, that would likely go unblocked, and then buffing him up like crazy and taking an opponent out? That is possible, he just needs support.
Obviously, this is still very niche, but there is an absolute plethora of options for this commander. While he is still solely a Voltron-based commander, there are more ways to work that archetype than just equipment.
I think of creatures like Uril, the Miststalker and Champion of the Flame who get buffed based on the enchantments attached to them. A Gruul enchantress/Voltron pairing would be a lot of fun. It would also fit into traditional Gruul archetypes with the stompy nature of Voltron.
Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel
Now, I do have to say that Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel is a bit of a pet card of mine. When I first saw what Nadier did, I was really excited to use him in a Chatterfang, Squirrel General deck I was in the process of building.
The fact that he gets buffed when any token is sacrificed and then creates a number of elf warrior tokens equal to his power when he leaves the battlefield is a huge payoff in any Aristocrat's strategy. However, his partner pairings are pretty limited.
There aren’t any partners that can be used as sacrifice outlets and the only partner that can consistently make tokens throughout the game is Malcolm, Keen Eyed.
Alharu, Solemn Ritualist is another interesting option but would create a whole other set of restrictions to build around.
This means you either have to build entirely around Nadier, which can be difficult given his converted mana cost, or relegate him to the 99 of your deck. I personally feel, that if given the right support, he could be an absolute house.
This really leads to the next pairing I would like to see.
Abzan Elf Tribal
Continuing from Nadier, I think a card with colors and abilities like Rhys, the Redeemed would be an incredible pairing for Nadier. Throughout Magic’s history, the main colors associated with elves have been green, white, and black. Thus far, Commander pairings have only allowed for Golgari and Selesnya decks.
It would certainly be unreasonable to take Rhys, the Redeemed and slap “Partner” at the bottom. Yet, there are definitely ways Abzan elves could happen. Whether it be through a more restrictive mana value or a more costly activated ability, the archetype feels poised to happen.
Looking back on the current elf commanders that can be partnered, we have mono-green, mono-black, and a random Gruul commander. If we had partners in Orzhov (which is a pretty big ask) or Selesya colors (which is not a big ask), Abzan Elves could be a reality.
General Support for a Wider Variety of Color Pairings
When looking over the list of commanders with the partner keyword, there are some colors and pairings that have much less support than others.
The commanders with different color pairings are much fewer in number than the mono-colored commanders. Of course, this makes sense. It means building a four- or five-color deck isn't a piece of cake.
Still, it would be nice to see the list of partners expanded with more multi-color commanders to add more variety to the metas we see at our tables. I can understand that Wizards might fear the power creep these types of commanders might produce, but Commander as a format relies heavily on self-regulation. In theory, that should resolve concerns of power creep.
For now, though, it could explain why the partner mechanic doesn't support more pairings. There are ways to fix this moving forward. Doing so could help support new archetypes and bring a new level of fun to the format.
What do you think about the partner mechanic? Do you wish it supported more commanders and more archetypes? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!
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