Here we go with another three colour Commander review, this week featuring the most aggressive colour combo, Mardu.
Mardu is the (now) home of Vampires, Goblins, other tokens, and anything Kaalia gets to play for free. A powerful combo when it comes to creatures and removal, yet lacking in the two most important categories of ramp and card draw. As a result, Mardu decks can be tricky to get rolling in a big game but once they have a board presence, look out.
Oddly enough with a colour wedge filled with removal spells, exile effects, and board wipes, you don’t see many Mardu control decks. It’s generally more swarmy token styles or big monster attacking decks that you’ll see in these colours.
How does Mardu and its cards hold up in the game of EDH? Read on to find out!
A quick reminder of how this will work:
We’re looking at each card’s multiplayer effect, its power level, and whether or not it’s playable in a multitude of decks or just one. For legendary creatures I’ll still assign one letter grade, but also talk about the card’s viability as a commander or in the 99.
The grading looks like this:
A: Bombs/broken cards and excellent commanders. A lot of fun with unique design and interaction. Will effect the board in a big way in just about any deck or will allow for a very strong deck to be built around it if it is a commander.
B: Very good cards in most decks or total bombs in only one particular deck. Solid commanders but perhaps not the best in the colours.
C: A playable commander card, not great, maybe you’re running it because of budget reasons. This card may be perfectly good in a specific deck yet not playable in others. An average commander, the abilities make for a mildly interesting/fun commander.
D: Not really a playable card in EDH except in some corner cases and specific builds. Generally not good. A commander that has no relevant abilities or is just not very fun.
F: Unplayable in a commander deck or as the commander itself.
Ankle Shanker – C+
Ankle Shanker is only good in aggressive, creature filled or token making decks. It’s a very specific card that is honestly pretty bad about 75% of the time… but I LOVE it. You know a card is cool when it combines two abilities that just kill anything that gets in front of it. You need to be aggressive to get this card’s full potential. But, if you are, get an Ankle Shanker on your team.
Butcher of the Horde – D+
Butcher is a classic example of a multicolour card with a bunch of abilities that don’t really add up to much when it comes to Commander. It’s not that it doesn’t do anything. It does provide you with a decent sacrifice outlet, but you can find that in less colours and for cheaper. Not a terrible option, but you’ll generally want something cheaper or with a better effect. Maybe a demon deck wants this, but not much else.
Crackling Doom – B-
It’s hard to say anything bad about a three mana spell that takes your opponents’ biggest threats off the board, then kicks them in the butt for an extra two damage to boot! If you’re in Mardu and you run targeted removal, consider swapping a Murder for one of these.
Edgar Markov – A
I’m not the biggest fan of Eminence because I think your commander should have to be cast before it has an effect on the game. That being said, I can’t deny the power of having a card sit outside of your deck and just generate advantage throughout the game. Not to mention the fact that Eddie himself has decent stats and some solid abilities. You’d obviously only ever have him star in a Vampire deck, but despite that limitation this Edgar is right on the MARK-ov.
Fervent Charge – D
A +2/+2 anthem for only attacking creatures is actually probably better than Ankle Shanker, but way less fun. I think you’d rather just have a +1/+1 anthem all the time? Still, Fervent Charge is half-decent in an aggressive token strategy I guess?
Hide // Seek – D
Just like in the actual playground game, I really like the Hide side and I hate the Seek part. Hide is a solid effect. All it needed was for Seek to be playable and, well… it isn’t. Cards like Seek aren’t completely useless in Commander – in fact if you can get one that exiles multiple cards I’d say it’s outright good. But just targeting one card will rarely do anything at all in our format. So again, like the game, this card is purely being judged on the Hide portion, which is decent, but there are better options.
I don’t know anything about Kaalia because she costs $50 and I’ve only ever seen people playing her at GPs to win money in Commander pods. I sort of hate that, but Kaalia is obviously very good so whatever, she gets an A.
Licia gives Karlov a run for his money when it comes to life gain voltron commanders, but without the added option to exile creatures at will. But just because she isn’t quite as good as another commander that doesn’t mean she isn’t good at all. In fact, Licia is a very good commander with a unique ability to reduce her mana cost that makes her very affordable and perhaps better as a pure voltron option. I like Licia a bunch and while she’s not super flashy, she seems like a general who can put in some serious work.
Mardu Ascendancy – F
The slowest Goblin making enchantment in the world isn’t even really worth it in Goblin token decks. Don’t even worry about this one.
Mardu Charm – F
Like the Ascendancy of the same name, Mardu Charm is pretty underwhelming with some options that aren’t really relevant when it comes to EDH. That’s a bummer, because most of the three colour charms are welcome additions to their decks. This one just doesn’t stack up.
Mardu Roughrider – D-
Outside of an Orc tribal deck, Mardu Roughrider really isn’t worth the card slot.
Mathas, Fiend Seeker – B+
Mathas is a completely unique commander with a super fun ability that you can build around in a bunch of different ways. It isn’t about raw power with Mathas, but more about creativity and making his bounty ability work for you in the best way, which is sort of what EDH is all about.
Besides being a totally jacked dragon, Oros is the Mardu version of the big three colour dragon cycle. These guys are wildly different when it comes to power level and sadly, Oros is near the bottom on that power scale. Dealing three damage to each creature isn’t terrible, but when you (for some reason) avoid the colour that it would have the biggest impact on, you definitely hurt the effectiveness in a big way. If this could wipe white tokens it would be a lot better. Still, Oros is alright, just nothing to wrote home about.
Ponyback Brigade – D+
The Khans morph commons are so great in Limited, but that greatness doesn’t translate to Commander at all. This one may be the best of the bunch, but for all the work you have to put it, you can do better.
Queen Marchesa – A
I guess when you get your Planeswalker friend to assassinate the ghost king of your plane you get a lot younger and better looking. At least that’s what happened to Marchesa, so it’s sort of all we have to go on when it comes to that exact scenario. QM is a great card for pillow fort, group thug, or just Mardu decks that want to draw cards. She’s an excellent commander. Long may she reign!
I wish WOTC would take Tariel and put this ability on a smaller more reasonable creature. Obviously the random reanimation ability is good, but seven mana for your commander is downright prohibitive. Aside from the mana cost (and the money cost too), Tariel is actually a very fun commander that is powerful but doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of your foes the way some others do, which is a good thing.
Zurgo Helmsmasher – B+
The default “I just need Mardu colours and don’t care bout the commander” commander is definitely Zurgo. He’s cheap, he has a fun smashy ability, and he’s tough to get rid of. What’s not to like about this guy? Zurgo is great when it comes to aggressive decks and can swing either way between voltron or tokens/creatures going wide.
Despite Mardu’s shortcomings, they have a lot of great commanders and interesting cards to play around with. A lot of aggressiveness means lots of creatures and damage spells.
I’d be very interesting in finding out who the best Mardu control general is. Tariel? Queen Marchesa? Let me know what you think in the comments below! Until next time!