Word of Command #10 - Swearing an Oath of the Ban List

In this edition of Word of Command, we discuss the ban list update accompanying Oath of the Gatewatch, the removal of the partial Paris mulligan, the removal of the contested Rule 4, and some new cards of interest. Don't miss your chance to swear this oath before the shadows come over us!

Another set released, and another ban list update to go with it. Breaking a current trend of "no updates," this update comes in with three fairly large changes:
Ban List Update - 1/18/2016

  • Prophet of Kruphix is banned.
  • The Partial Paris mulligan rule is removed.
  • "Rule 4" (off-color mana becomes colorless) is removed.

This is a large change all at once, so we'll cover some of the impact below, but don't hesitate to share and discuss your views on this update in the Discussion of the Official Multiplayer Ban List thread. After discussing the ban list changes, we'll go over some of the exciting new Commander options, and then cover some of the more interesting Oath of the Gatewatch highlights.

Prophet of Kruphix

Prophet of Kruphix is an undeniably powerful card. With about 47% of decks able to run the Prophet doing so, according to Scoeri's Statistical Breakdown, this will be a large update for a number of people, but the overall impact should likely still be slight. Blue and green value bounce/blink will remain a powerful contender in the metagame, with plenty of card draw, value, and flash enabling shenanigans. It simply won't get as much so quickly, in a large burst.

Keep in mind that similar options still exist with the powerful Seedborn Muse, when paired with other flash enablers, such as Winding Canyons or Alchemist's Refuge. It simply will be less consistent, and more easily disruptable. You can discuss this, and other replacements in Kisoji's What Has Replaced Your Prophet of Kruphix?

Partial Paris Removal

The Partial Paris has long been a subject of controversy, with some groups adoring the ability to guarantee high-land hands, while others have criticized its capability to sculpt powerful opening hands, giving unneeded guarantees of card draw sources and mana, allowing players to cut both a bit short in their lists, even perhaps unintentionally.

Well, that's no longer a problem. Switching over to the standard multiplayer rules means that you now get one free mulligan, and then normal full Paris mulligans after that. Once everyone is done mulliganing, each player with less than their starting hand size gets to scry 1.

Once again, the majority of people should be largely unaffected. A few people who have intentionally or unintentionally shorted lands, ramp, or draw, may want to up their counts a bit, as these changes may throw off your expected early game performance. In general running a tighter curve and more ramp will be more important than ever. Big, swingy cards will see a decrease in performance and running a faster curve should be rewarded by these changes. A good base to work from is to start with 40 lands, 10 draw, and 10 ramp, then adjust from there based on your estimated mana needs.

"Rule 4" Removal

The infamous "Rule 4" previously replaced any mana that would be generated off-color into colorless mana. There were a few odd interactions with this rule, such as Celestial Dawn locking out non-white players when Donated, but the rule held some flavor in limiting your Commander's capabilities to his or her own color identity. The advent of colorless mana however, has pushed the number of odd interactions simply a step too far in the eyes of the rules committee, entirely changing the concept of how the colorless-matters are supposed to work.

This means that everyone who's been planning to freely use off-color mana in order to power up Eldrazi Displacer or other colorless cards, you're actually going to have to work for it and build a proper manabase for it. Thankfully, this means we won't be seeing a giant influx of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth into non-black Commander decks alongside Chromatic Lantern, just to power up colorless sources.

On the other side both blue and black theft decks get to rejoice over this change. While there are a limited number of activated abilities that require a large amount of colored mana, other effects like Havengul Lich and Praetor's Grasp have gotten quite a bit better. You can discuss Havengul's new capabilities in this thread. Even blue and green get to enjoy this change, being able to put more colors into converge spells like Bring to Light. Sen Triplets got a slight boost in effect, and black decks will also get to enjoy reanimating Deadeye Navigator, among other things. On the more amusing side, Muse Vessel becomes a potential addition to several colors that have limited abilities, such as red or black, in order to grab some potential enchantment removal. Or simply because it's fun.

Of course, you still need to actually be able to produce your off color mana, and since you can't add mana symbols outside of your color identity, you're limited to "any color" sources, or type-shifting your own lands. All-color lands, like City of Brass or Mana Confluence may get more popular, but the real star will be Exotic Orchard, which will now always allow the theft decks access to opposing colors. I also expect Chromatic Lantern to become the all-star here for decks that seek to include the use of some of these effects, as it fixes everything at once, and Fellwar Stone also bumped up a few points.

This change has several people excited, you can discuss your views with others on this newfound freedom of mana in the Cards That You're Excited for Now That Rule 4 Is Gone?

New Commanders

Oath of the Gatewatch has given us seven new commanders, and while some are less exciting than others, all of them have unique build options for Commander. From finally receiving our five-color Ally commander in General Tazri, to a new Eldrazi powerhouse in Kozilek, the Great Distortion, the new commanders run the gamut of strategies and colors to choose from. Below, we'll talk about a few that caught our eyes, but don't let that stop you from building the others.


Ayli makes a good sacrifice based deck. There are a lot of creatures that generate good value if you can move them quickly, like Academy Rector. Generally speaking lifegain for no purpose is not very good, but you can also offload excess life for things like Necropotence.
Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim reviewed by bobthefunny

As an efficient 2 drop deathtoucher, Ayli sets a good example out the gates. Add in that she's a sacrifice outlet available in your command zone, and can help buffer your life and keep you in the game in a pinch, and a lot of potential builds open up for her. She may even take over several decks from Ghost Council of Orzhova, which used to be the previous command zone sacrifice outlet for several decks. She does come as a high target though, as many people will want to keep your life total low enough to prevent the at-will Vindicates that she can dish out, a drawback not to be taken lightly.

The simplest build for Ayli would be a fusion hybrid between Karlov of the Ghost Council and Teysa, Orzhov Scion, making use of enough life gain to activate her ability, and utilizing tokens as removal. You don't need to heavily focus on lots of lifegain, since her own ability can get you to the needed point. Inclusion of a few of the bigger scale lifegain cards, like Gray Merchant of Asphodel or Exsanguinate will likely be useful, however. There is also the standard WB value of having a sac outlet in the command zone, and Ayli will be a good choice to run sac for profit effects.

Several decks will benefit greatly from an inclusion of Ayli in the 99. Her true value will shine in high life decks like Karlov, Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, and Abzan hybrids with Trostani, Selesnya's Voice. She will probably replace Disciple of Griselbrand as a sacrifice outlet in several lists, and may make an inclusion as an all around good sacrifice outlet for many decks. Even as a toss-in, she's an aggressively costed creature for good equipment carrying, that also holds the ground well in the early game with the deathtouch.

Khanth has started a brainstorming thread for Ayli if you're looking for more ideas, or you can look through Kahboom0225's competitive list, or SengirVampire's budget list for additional inspiration.


Mina and Denn could have potential as an Elfball commander. You lack the lord effect, but can do some land bouncing shenanigans with things like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Gaea's Cradle, somewhat akin to Legacy Elves.
Mina and Denn, Wildborn reviewed by Airithne

Mina and Denn have a variety of build paths that you could take. At a glance, one of the most obvious routes would be a landfall themed deck, similar to Omnath, Locus of Rage, to get multiple landfall triggers in a single turn, while taking advantage of lands such as Temple of Abandon or Khalni Garden. They also have the potential for an Azusa, Lost But Seeking style of deck, using the extra land drops to ramp into large threats, and taking advantage of the ability to grant trample to close out games. A third potential option lies in a token or even elf tribal focused build, and using Mina and Denn's ability to bounce and reuse lands like Gaea's Cradle or Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to generate large amounts of mana and fuel bombs like Craterhoof Behemoth or Genesis Wave.

As part of the 99, Mina and Denn work extremely well in "lands matter" strategies​ by both giving you an extra land drop each turn, as well as allowing you to reuse lands with activated abilities or enter the battlefield effects. They'll be right at home in Omnath, Locus of Rage and Borborygmos Enraged decks. Even without a land theme, both the extra land drop and the ability to grant trample at will make her a valuable addition to many strategies commonly found in R/G/x decks. They likely won't replace Oracle of Mul Daya as a staple, but they will work well in conjunction with her.

I've started a deck for Mina and Denn, so I'm also looking to gather some ideas in a discussion thread I started.


Jori En is an interesting spellslinger commander in that her ability promotes casting several spells over a longer period of time, rather than the sudden burst of storm, or the more stagnant responses of control. This makes her an ideal tempo commander, and adds a value oriented approach to the spellslinging style.
Jori En, Ruin Diver reviewed by ISBPathfinder

For the colors, Jori has good stats as a 2/3 Wizard for three mana. The low cost will allow you to get your commander into play quickly and help for recasting late into a game. For the most part this style of commander will most often stand in the back acting as a Phyrexian Arena style of card to the deck. You can however try to bank off of the tribal aspects to give wizard synergy in cards like Azami, Lady of Scrolls and Sigil Tracer.

What is great about Jori is that unlike many of the existing UR commanders Jori is not a niche commander with a primary focus build. While it can be argued that Jori's abilities encourages low curves and chaining spells, you're not limited to storm tactics with this commander. In general, most builds should probably take advantage of cheap and efficient draw effects like Brainstorm, Preordain, and Ponder as they are solid cards on their own and they generate that extra value for you off of your commander. Another small gem would be Sensei's Divining Top. While typically a good card, it gains extra value here as it enables Jori by bouncing each round, giving you the option of a one mana spell to cast every turn to help trigger Jori's ability.

Jori can also have decent value in the 99 of some spellslinger decks. While not necessarily exciting on her own, she provides ongoing advantage, free of charge. Since she's easy to trigger on the turn you drop her, she immediately replaces herself, and then provides continuous ongoing advantage. Even if you only trigger her once or twice a turn cycle, that's still fantastic value to progress through your deck.

If you're interested in building Jori En, Groovelord has started a brainstorming thread, and Kriggy has a Duel Commander list that you could look through for ideas.


There is almost no downside to Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. He prevents recursion, makes constant threats, gets bigger, has lifelink, and is reasonably costed.
Those Other Guys

Though we didn't get to cover all of the available new commanders, plenty of options exist for each of them. General Tazri may be a bit more linear of a build for five-color allies, but choosing which of the right allies will make the most impact could lead to interesting play decisions. Kozilek, the Great Distortion has been discussed at quite a bit in Juwdah's Kozilek, Butcher with Juice primer, and provides good card draw in the command zone, trading out annihilator for better board protection. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is a bit more linear as a commander, but provides a lot of good utility in the 99. As a commander he lends himself most readily to a form of Mono Black Control, either able to build a fast army on every board wipe, or he can turn into a massively powerful finisher, all while his lifelink fuels your life-for-profit abilities. Finally, Linvala, the Preserver is perhaps the least exciting out of the gates, but having a source of extra life buffer in the command zone can help keep you in the game. Plus, she'll be easier to trigger in a multiplayer game. The new Eldrazi Displacer also goes a long way to increasing her value.

Oath of the Gatewatch Highlights

Every time a new set comes out, a fair number of cards get to be hyped up before we truly filter out what's useful from what isn't. Oath of the Gatewatch is a bit more exciting than most sets, since colorless cards can be included into any Commander deck. This allows for a larger pool of potential staples. We're not going to give you a rundown of each potentially playable card that may make it into fringe decks, such as Oath of Jace in a Brago, King Eternal deck, but the mods here will highlight some of the major contenders that are being discussed or have a fighting chance for staple status. You can also discuss the cards that you're excited about in the What Has Oath Brought You thread.


Mirrorpool is fantastic. It gains value in protecting your spells and creatures. Interactions with Sun Titan verge on ludicrous, and other forms of land recursion are also strong.

Mirrorpool is a card that already has some contradictory bids from the mods as to whether it will become a staple status or is over-hyped. On one side, it's a colorless land that opens up two effects to colors that typically wouldn't receive them, and copying spells and creatures are both powerful effects. On the other side, it requires a lot of untapped mana to be effective, and fights for limited slots for colorless producing utility lands in deck construction. While copying a game breaking sorcery spell like Exsanguinate or Tooth and Nail can provide protection from counterspells, keeping up three mana and the Mirrorpool may be asking a lot. On the other hand, the creature copying ability is likely to be more useful, since you can split that payment into a future turn. It can also be used to "save" utility commanders, like Riku of Two Reflections, from spot removal by creating a quick duplicate.


Endbringer is vastly underestimated right now. It seems like a great card for responsive decks. The versatility of that card is amazing, it just does so much for the mana as well as being stat efficient.

Endbringer was a point of contention between the mods. On one side, Endbringer is considerably over-hyped as a possible draw engine. Mind's Eye draws cards for cheaper, more easily, faster, and in greater quantity. On the other hand, Mind's Eye doesn't come with a 5/5 body to deter would-be attackers, an ability to outright prevent attacks or help some through, and even the pinging can add up over time. Even drawing a single card per round from a Sol Ring will prove effective; just don't expect to be drawing a card per player unless you dedicate for it.

Warping Wail

Warping Wail is our lovely colorless charm. While the Eldrazi Scion token mode has been a bit over-hyped as a ritual effect, as you're better off running a real mana rock instead, it brings value in its other modes with effects that colors typically do not receive. Exiling creatures with a power or toughness of 1 is quite limiting, but that mode may see more play in Duel Commander, where smaller, more aggressive starts can be deadly. The power in multiplayer comes in giving non-blue colors access to another limited counterspell. While it won't stop all popular Wrath variations, many decks are sure to appreciate another way to stop at least a large portion of them.


Thought-Knot Seer can be better than Clique sometimes. You actually need to kill it to get a card, and you can't get your card back.
Thought-Knot Seer

Thought-Knot Seer is sure to be an aggressive curve drop for Duel Commander decks. While it loses Vendilion Clique's flash and flying, the 4/4 body is aggressively costed, with a Clique-like ability to help disrupt the opponent. On top of that, unlike the Clique, they actually need to work a bit harder to get there card back. While less impactful in multiplayer, Thought-Knot will have some amusement in disrupting one player, while helping out another.

Eldrazi Displacer

Eldrazi Displacer certainly loses out a lot of value with this rules update, as many people were hoping to abuse this mini-Deadeye Navigator with off-color mana rules. With those expectations slightly lowered, this power-house still remains an excellent machine as even a limited Deadeye Navigator remains exceptionally powerful. Another comparison could be made to Mistmeadow Witch, which can also remove blockers, but while the Witch is better defensively for protecting from wrath effects, the Displacer is better at abusing enter the battlefield combos, especially if you can make the required mana from blinking, such as with Rasputin Dreamweaver or Workhorse. It also allows a non-blue list to now have access to a repeatable blink effect, which is nothing minor either. You'll need to build a bit more around having your colorless sources, but the rewards from this guy are worth it.


Chandra, Flamecaller may not fit in to every deck, especially in triple colored decks, but she does a lot of work for mono-red, and even two-color. All three of her abilities are useful, and her zero is fantastic.
Chandra, Flamecaller

Six mana may be a lot to invest, but a repeatable draw and hand-cycling effect is quite potent. Chandra, Pyromaster sees play to make use of red's temporary draw, and while this new version is more expensive, a number of lists will appreciate being able to cycle through a greater selection of cards, as well as being able to hold onto them for the future.

Stone Haven Outfitter

White decks are always looking for ways to draw cards. Even if you don't include a heavy Equipment theme, it's difficult to envision a white deck not making use of at least some of its powerful equipment support to fetch such powerhouses as Skullclamp or Sword of the Animist to shore up some defenses. Stone Haven Outfitter adds another avenue of value on those, as well as other equipment. After all, as Sheldon said, that creature wielding a Blade of Selves is likely to die. Why not draw a card off of it?

Sifter of Skulls

Pawn of Ulamog has been a handy helper in plenty of "sacrifice matters" styles of decks. He provides extra bodies to chump or power up Cathars' Crusade effects, more bodies to profitable sacrifice for Fecundity effects, self-sacrificing minions to power Grave pact at will, and a burst of mana for combo decks seeking to loop Living Death. Sifter of Skulls fits right into that same slot with a mana cost more, but minions that can attack without outside assistance as well.

Void Shatter

Dissipate and Faerie Trickery get a new incarnation in counterspells that exile, which is highly valuable in Commander. Although you can't get Void Shatter with Merchant Scroll, the ability to hit Changelings, Bitterblossom, and Oona may make Void Shatter the new go-to second place for this effect.


Wastes gets its own merit on this list for making colorless decks quite a bit less of a logistic nightmare to build. As many users have said in the past, it was certainly possible to build a budget colorless land base; but now it's made considerably easier, as well as providing so level of protection from non-basic land hate. It gets a further thumbs up from me for allowing the colorless land ramp options like Burnished Hart and Solemn Simulacrum to actually have value in a colorless deck, and gets a secondary thumbs up for adding an easy way to search up colorless sources now for those decks that will need it. You won't see it go overboard, but if any deck really wants to have on-demand access to colorless mana, we may see one or two added into a list to have a search target.

Brewing Your Own Oath

While every set has its fair share of hyped cards, Oath of the Gatewatch is looking to have an above-average impact, with at least the new choices of commanders making an appearance in our lists. Several cards are setting up to be worthy contenders, and time will tell if they manage make it into staple status or not. We couldn't cover all of the cards released here, or cover all of the commanders in depth, and we know that many cards we didn't cover will see play in more specialized decks. Let us know what you're excited about brewing, and what cards we didn't mention that you think will be auto-include in certain decks!


  • To post a comment, please or register a new account.
Posts Quoted:
Clear All Quotes