The Characters of Commander 2016
Commander 2016 will likely be out by the time you read this, and that’s great for a lot of reasons! First new 4 color cards in over a decade, first GOOD 4 color cards I would argue, partner is a cool mechanic, lots of new staples in lots of different colors, and so much more. But that’s not why you read my articles; I’m a story guy, so let’s talk story. Commander 2016 features 20 new legendary creatures, some recurring characters, some brand new, but many of them represent characters and settings known before now and can give us a glimpse into those worlds and potential future returns to them. So let’s spend some time getting to know them.
Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis
As made popular by the card Guardians of Meletis, Kynaios and Tiro are the founders of the Theros city-state of Meletis, and also Magic’s first openly gay couple. Ages ago before Meletis exists as it does, the area was ruled by a tyrannical archon named Agnomakhos. Using leonin as his soldiers, Agnomakhos ruled the area for generations, ruthlessly expanding his empire as far as he could manage.
Kynaios and Tiro, brought together by love, fought against the archon. Granted magic by the God Ephara , they united the people of the region and defeated the monster and drove his leonin soldiers out of the area. The leonin of Theros have long since been bitter and distant over this dispute, but the humans of the region founded the polis of Meletis on the empire’s ruins and chose Kynaois and Tiro as its’ first kings.
The Kings aren’t important so much for their relevance to magic’s ongoing story, as they’ve been dead for centuries; but rather what they mean as characters to the audience. Wizards has made commitment to inclusivity and diversity a cornerstone of their endeavors, and having a gay couple be the face of a mass market product like that is a bold statement from any company about their efforts.
A native of Innistrad’s coastal province of Nephalia, Ludevic is a fan-favorite character since Innistrad’s original release years ago. Possibly the most well-known mad scientist of the plane, Ludevic was prominently featured in flavor text in both blocks and has been a hotly requested character since the beginning.
He is well-known among his contemporaries as a master of necro-alchemy; the use of dead tissue to perform maniacal acts, a widely-practiced and widely-criticized school of magic on Innistrad. Ludevic is most well-known for his monsters, which he creates primarily for his own amusement and to study the psychological effects they have on the people of Innistrad.
A family friend of the Cecanis, Ludevic has recently been known to collaborate with the son of the family, the Sticher Geralf. Geralf has often looked up to Ludevic as a visionary of his field, but disagrees with his methods, Ludevic seeing it as an amusement, whereas Geralf considers it more of a science, sickened after years of ‘dueling’ with his sister Gisa.
Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus
The previously unknown ‘masterpiece’ of Ludevic, Kraum is a frightful two-heaed skaab that flies powered by galvanic membranes. A frequent side of the port town of Selhoff, the creature is regularly seen flying from rooftop to rooftop, cackling madly. It is not quite known how the creature thinks, or what the purpose of its creation was; but Ludevic has spent more than a decade trying to repeat his work of genius.
Sidar Kondo of Jamuura
Sidar Kondo was a tribal leader during the Mirage War. An expert soldier and horseman, Kondo had the knack for showing up always when he was needed. During the Weatherlight Saga, the parents of Gerrard Capashen, fearing for his life, sent him to live with their friend Kondo and his son Vuel. Vuel and Gerrard had a falling out over time, and Vuel killed Sidar. After this, he went on to become Volrath, a soldier of Phyrexia.
Sidar Kondo is significant because of his great important in Magic’s story is matched by his obscurity. He has never been mentioned in the title or flavor text of any Magic card. This obscurity ultimately doomed him from getting a card during Time Spiral block but he finally has one now!
Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder
Yidris was born on the Alaran shard of Grixis. An Incurable, a race of mutant ogres suffering constantly from their affliction, Yidris was doomed to lead a painful life in one of the worst places in the multiverse. And then the Conflux happened. Seeking an ailment to his affliction, Yidris wandered the newly repaired plane. He was driven into the Maelstrom, a storm of mana at the plane’s nexus, by knights from the shard of Bant. Rather than consuming him, the storm stabilized his condition and he has become an incarnation of its power.
Yidris is vexing as a character because he is now the THIRD legendary character to be an embodiment of the Maelstrom Nexus, including the Child of Alara and the Maelstrom Wanderer; Yidris offers a greater degree of potential characterization for such a concept, being the only of these beings that is a person rather than an elemental given form.
Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix
An oracle of the Theros God of Horizons, Kruphix; Kydele lives with him on his island at the end of the world, proclaiming his words and actions to the people of Theros. Kydele is significant because she is among the only mortals of the Plane to truly understand how Theros really works. One of Kruphix’s gifts is that of Omniscience, if anyone on Theros comes by a piece of knowledge, Kruphix comes to know it as well. What makes this particularly interesting is when Planeswalkers come to Theros, Kruphix instantly knows of the worlds they have visited and what they have seen there.
This understanding of Theros and its true nature surprised Kruphix, but it did not frighten him. What frightened him was what frightened all Planeswalkers: Threats to the Planes themselves. The Eldrazi; unfathomable, alien, entities, wandering to a plane and stripping it bare, only to move onto the next like a meal. Nicol Bolas; arrogant and ruthless, seeing the Planes of the multiverse as playthings to stroke his ego. Phyrexia; a machine of madness and death, unsatisfied until all Planes knew of the Great Work, to turn all life everywhere to a machine.
To Kruphix, these threats to the existence of Theros itself made the squabbles of the gods seem small and petty. And at Kydele’s request, he shared this burden of knowledge with her.
Thrasios, Triton Hero
A new character from Theros, Thrasios is a Triton explorer. An oddity among his people, he chooses to live amongst the humans of Meletis. Claiming to receive the blessing to Thassa herself, Thrasios lives as an explorer and archaeologist; studying signs of history among the ocean floor of Theros.
His most significant discovery is the lost city of Olantin, which was sunk by the Sun God Heliod for offending him (as seen on the From the Vault Wrath of God flavor text). This is important because on Theros’ return, the knowledge of Heliod’s violence against mankind can be used against him, as Ajani is spreading word of the murder of the Sun God’s Champion, Elspeth, among the people.
Vial Smasher, the Fierce
A goblin of the dragon timeline of Tarkir, Vial Smasher is named for her tendency to use bottles of dragonfire in battle. She is of interest because goblins in positions of importance in the dragonized Tarkir are rare, as they are usually used as emergency rations to the dragon overlords by the other races.
In the Khans timeline of Tarkir, she went by the name Ankleshanker, for exactly the reasons you expect. She was among the few friends the Planeswalker Sarkhan Vol had among his mother clan, the Mardu.
Saskia, the Unyielding
Saskia is the only survivor of a raid conducted on her village. As per her people’s custom, she erected a stone monument for each person killed in the raid, but because she was the only survivor it took nearly 10 years of her life to finish. Word of her act spread to neighboring villages, and a host of warriors came to watch her finish the deed. As soon as she was done, she led the warriors in revenge against their enemies.
Saskia is a bit of an odd case here, as she is a new character and her setting is as of this writing unknown. Some suspect that due to her signature blue tattoos that she hails from the Balduvian region of Dominaria, where such things are common. Others suspect she may be from a new Viking-like setting teased at in Future Sight or Planechase such as Ir, Valla or Kaldheim . Until her setting is revealed, we can only speculate.
Tymna the Weaver
Tymna was a soldier of Meletis before a tragic chariot accident left her blind. Afterward she mastered the magic of the Fates. Now she uses her magic to write the destiny of the people of Theros.
Honestly, I got nothing. The Triad of Fates has no role in any of the articles or books of Theros, and adding another to their number does nothing until their exact role is discerned.
Ravos is an oracle of the Theros god of passage, Athreos. Knowing full well the fate that waits for all mortals, the death of his lover in battle still destroyed him. He struck a bargain with Athreos for service in return for seeing his love once a year. He plots in secret to rescue her, and in the meantime defies the god by escorting people back to the land of the living.
I anticipate that Ravos will be hugely important in an eventual Return to Theros. As someone who knows the ins and outs of the underworld, and someone who is currently plotting a rescue from the underworld; Ravos is likely to run into Elspeth who is trapped there, or Dack Fayden who is wandering into the underworld to fight against the machinations of Ashiok.
Tana, the Bloodsower
Abandoned in the woods as a child, the elf Tana was taken in by the sentient saprolings that dwelled there. Greatful to her caretakers, Tana would attack travelers in the woods to feed to her would-be ‘parents’, eventually becoming told of as a legend of a vengeful forest spirit.
Like Saskia, Tana is a bit hard to peg down because she’s a new character from an unknown setting. The use of sentient fungus has me thinking she might be from the same setting as Ghave, Guru of Spiores; but other than that she’s up in the air.
Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice
Atraxa is the joint effort of four of the five Phyrexian praetors working together towards the compleation of one of the final Mirran angels to resist the Phyrexian warmachine; Urabrask ultimately declined to participate.
The idea of the praetors working together towards a common goal is rather unsettling, as their division was one of the things keeping them from being a threat towards other worlds. If the factions really are working together, the odds of them learning how to pierce the veil between worlds grows ever closer. And in the meantime, they have a weapon as fierce as Atraxa to inspire their minions and lash out at whatever may remain of the Mirran resistance.
Ikra Shadiqi, the Usurper
Ikra was an advisor to the Sultai khan Tasigur. In the history where the dragons took control of Tarkir, Ikra was instrumental in the Sultai’s downfall as she betrayed her khan to the Dragonlord Silumgar. For her treachery, Silumgar appointed Ikra as his first dragonspeaker.
Reyhan, Last of the Abzan
After Sarkhan saved the life of the Spirit Dragon, Ugin; the dragonstorms that birth dragons on Tarkir increased exponentially. To save his people from the dragons’ wrath, the Abzan khan Daghatar swore allegiance to the Dragonlord Dromoka. This did not sit well with some of their number, and Reyhan claimed the title of khan for herself and took all those that would follow with her.
She would meet with her fellow Khans at what would come to be known as the khanfall, when the khans were ambushed by the combined forces of the Ojutai and Silumgar dragonbroods. She died at the toxic breath of Silumgar, while her fellow khans escaped.
Much like Ikra, Reyhan represents the distant past of Magic’s story, and is unlikely to be relevant going forward unless we get some kind of significant Kamigawa-esque flashback.
Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker
Ishai is the personal attendant of the Dragonlord Ojutai. Though Ojutai preaches stoicism and detachment, Ishai’s years of dedicated service have earned her a special place among Ojutai’s many heralds. Her words and actions have the same weight as Ojutai’s own, as she has earned his trust.
Being a high-ranked member of the Ojutai, Ishai may yet come into conflict with Taigam. Tasked with preserving the teachings of Ojutai, Taigam was an ambitious, power-hungry man in the Khan timeline of Tarkir, and is incredibly jealous of Narset’s meteoric rise to the rank of master.
Breya, Etherium Shaper
Breya is an artificer from the Alaran shard of Esper. After the Conflux, she was exploring the wilds of Jund and discovered carmot, a stone necessary to craft new Etherium. She then did the unthinkable, and was the first known person since the mad sphinx Crucius to create new etherium. She celebrated by replacing most of her organic body with her own etherium, discovering in the process that her long stay in Jund had granted her new magical abilities.
Breya is interesting as a character because of the nature of the Tezzeret novel, Test of Metal. In the years since its release, the canonicity of the novel has been repeatedly called into question. In the novel, Tezzeret learns how to make new etherium, but doesn’t go into specifics into how. Breya knowing how to craft the substance makes her a potential rival to Tezzeret’s power, but also allows her to serve a similar function that he might have as Esper’s savior, the crafter of new etherium, should we return to Alara.
A sherpa of sorts on Zendikar, Akiri struck out on her own after her traveling comrades were killed by Eldrazi. Using her expertising in the kor traditions of line-slinging and equipment, Akiri wanders around Zendikar to protect travelers from the Eldrazi brood.
Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder
Bruse Tarl is a herder of Zendikar, well known for his colorful expletives he directs at his cattle. As the Eldrazi brood closed onto his livestock, Bruse organized the local nomads against them.
A fan favorite due to his humorous flavor text, Bruse was a surprising choice for a commander card given that what he was known for was his colorful dialogue rather than martial or magical prowess. Now that the Eldrazi have been defeated, the future for Akiri and Bruse are somewhat up in the air; though Zendikar is a world of mystery and adventure, so there’s plenty of potential.
Silas Renn, Seeker Adept
Heir to the Esper House of Renn, Silas joined the Seekers of Carmot at a young age. The Seekers are an organization dedicated to discovering the mythical substance of carmot and unlocking the secret to creating new etherium. A rival to Tezzeret, Silas used his family’s connections and his own natural magical talents to quickly rise through the ranks to master. For his efforts, he was granted the first etherium heart produced.
Like Breya Silas is interesting because of his relation to the Tezzeret novel. In the novel, he was killed by Nicol Bolas, but since then large swaths of the novel have been rendered un-canon. If Silas is showing up in this set, it might mean that he is alive in the current story, and we might get to run into him story if we return to Alara. There would be no love lost between him and Tezzeret, but Tezzeret has become much stronger in the interim and he might have become match for his old rival.
I hope you enjoyed the rundown of your soon to be favorite commanders. Stay tuned for more stories of your favorite Magic characters and locations.