March of the Machine is bringing a huge number of exciting new cards into Magic: the Gathering. From Battle cards, to Legendary tag teams, to double-sided Praetor Sagas. Amongst all of these new additions, some of the most discussed are the cycle of five double-sided compleated legendary characters from Magic’s past. Every color has its own Completed Character, that transforms into a dual color Phyrexian on its reverse side. This means that as Commanders, these characters can be used at the head of two-color decks. Let’s have a look at each of them, and discuss whether they make good commanders and what sort of decks they might lead.
Heliod, the Radiant Dawn/Heliod, the Warped Eclipse
Heliod, the Radiant Dawn was one of the very first cards previewed for March of the Machine and it’s easy to see why. The fact that the Phyrexians were capable of compleating a God made them appear very threatening and got everyone hyped about the battles to come in the upcoming set. As a Commander, the new Heliod is also pretty exciting, with a decent front side and a very powerful reverse.
Heliod, the Radiant Dawn is a four mana 4/4 that returns one of its controller’s enchantments from the graveyard to their hand. Since Enchantments are, arguably, the most difficult card type to destroy there’s no guarantee that you will actually have any in your graveyard on turn four when this Commander comes down. It may be worth running some enchantments that sacrifice themselves to provide beneficial effects like Soul Snare, Seal of Cleansing, and Mystic Remora so that Heliod will have something to fetch. This isn’t essential though, as the front side of Heliod is not what you’ll be building your deck around
It’s the reverse side of Heliod that makes the card interesting. For three mana and a Phyrexian Blue, this Therosian God can be transformed into Heliod, the Warped Eclipse. Heliod, The Warped Eclipse allows its controller to cast spells as though they had Flash (in other words enabling them to be cast at Instant Speed) and makes all spells cast during the opponent’s turn one mana cheaper for every card that your opponents have drawn in that turn.
This means that you’ll never need to play any cards on your own turn again, In fact, you are actively discouraged from doing so as every opponent will draw a card during their turn making your cards one mana cheaper if you cast them on another player’s turn.
Counterspells are also harder for your opponents to anticipate in Heliod, the Warped Eclipse decks. Since you’ll be leaving all of your mana up all of the time, they have no way of knowing if you’re holding onto a counterspell, or looking to cast another kinds of card altogether.
This card combos beautifully with wheel effects like Windfall and Game Plan. Since Heliod provides a discount for every card drawn by every opponent, you will functionally only have to worry about the colored mana in your spells casting costs once you’ve got a wheel spell to go off, due to the huge discount Heliod will provide you with.
Other effects that make opponents draw cards, while also benefitting you, like Faerie Mastermind, and even Secret Rendezvous work great in this deck.
Combo these card draw effects with powerful, but costly cards like Time Stretch, Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, or (if you’re feeling particularly devilish)Expropriate and you’ll be setting yourself up for a win. Eldrazi Titans and Huge Artifact Creatures also work wonderfully in Heliod, the Warped Eclipse decks since they don’t have any colored pips in their mana cost and can be played for free after you get a wheel spell off.
Rona, Herald of Invasion/Rona, Tolarian Obliterator
Rona, Herald of Invasion is the Blue card from this cycle. The front face of this card is a two-drop, with Merfolk Looter’s effect that also untaps whenever you play a Legendary creature. This provides a neat ability to dig through your deck in the early game, even though it doesn’t provide any real card advantage. You can use this to stuff your graveyard with powerful creatures to reanimate later on.
Rona becomes much more powerful when she transforms into Rona, Tolarian Obliterator. For five mana and a Phyrexian Black, she gains a huge +4/+2 stat boost, going from a 1/3 to a 5/5. Rona, Tolarian Obliterator has Trample, alongside a powerful ability to play cards without paying their cost. When the compleated Rona is dealt damage, the controller of the source which dealt damage to Rona exiles a card at random from their hand. Rona’s controller may cast that card without paying its mana cost, or else simply put it into play if it is a land.
What is notable about this effect, is that it also benefits Rona’s controller if they deal the damage. They get to exile one of their own cards and then cast it for free. Because of this, it is good to play Rona alongside cards that can damage her like Pestilence, Cuombajj Witches, and Prodigal Sorcerer that deal targeted damage.
Use these self-damaging cards, alongside powerful creatures like Archon of Cruelty or Hullbreaker Horror who can either be cast for free using Rona, Tolarian Obliterator’s effect, or discarded and reanimated after being dumped into the graveyard by Rona, Herald of Invasion.
Ayara, Widow of the Realm/Ayara, Furnace Queen
Of all of the cards on this list, Ayara, Widow of the Realm probably has the most synergy between her two sides. Ayara, Widow of the Realm is a sacrifice outlet that rewards you for sacrificing expensive Creatures or Artifacts by damaging an opponent and healing you, equal to the Mana Value of the sacrificed card. Ayara, Furnace Queen , her reverse side, then allows you to reanimate Artifacts and Creatures from the graveyard for a single turn.
The implied play pattern is clear. Sacrifice expensive cards to Ayara, Widow of the Realm, and then return them to play using Ayara, Furnace Queen . Coveted Jewel is a paticuarly good card to sacrifice. Its beneficial enter the battlefield can be triggered twice, whilst its downside is negated as both sides of Ayara get rid of it before opponents have a chance to attack you.
Effects like Entomb and Unmarked Grave can load your graveyard with good targets for Ayara, Furnace Queen to reanimate.
It’s just a shame that this Commander has no way to freely transform back and forth between her two sides.
Etali, Primal Conqueror/Etali, Primal Sickness
We have already written an entire article specifically about Etali, Primal Conqueror. To summarise, this incredibly powerful Phyrexian dinosaur is an absolute game-ender. Its reverse side is able to destroy opponents in a single attack if it gets through unblocked.
Etali, Primal Conqueror is a seven mana 7/7 with Trample that allows its controller to cast the top card of each players’ deck for free once it enters play. It can then be transformed for 9 mana and a Phyrexian Green into Etali, Primal Sickness an 11/11 Indestructible Trampler, that distributes a Poison Counter for every point of damage that it deals.
Some decks with Etali in the Command Zone want the big Dinosaur to attack as their win-con. As such, the game plan should focus on ramping as quickly as possible, in order to get the dino into play and transformed. You’ll want access to all of the typical ramp cards like Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and Solemn Simulacrum. If you played during Ixalan block, Dinosaur support cards from that set are also useful here, most notablyKnight of the Stampede and Otepec Huntmaster. Another Ixalan block card that can’t go wrong in this deck is Growing Rites of Itlimoc.
Some players want to win with this deck by using the Poison Counters produced by Etali, Primal Sickness. Another, equally valid, strategy is to recur Etali, Primal Conqueror’s powerful enter the battlefield ability to play a bunch of powerful free cards. This can be done using effects like Splinter Twin, Delina, Wild Mage and Jaxis, the Troublemaker. Although, in most instances, these cloned copies of Etali will die immediately, they will have the opportunity to trigger their enter the battlefield effect before they go.
Polukranos Reborn/Polukranos, Engine of Ruin
Polukranos Reborn has possibly the least exciting front side out of any of these cards. For three green Mana Polukranos is a 4/5 with Reach. While these are pretty great stats for the cost, the card is functionally just a medium-sized threat, capable of defending against attacks from fliers, until it transforms.
The reverse side, Polukranos, Engine of Ruin gives you much more to brew around. A 6/6 with Reach and Lifelink, the Phyrexianised Polukranos causes any non-token Hydras you control to create two 3/3 Hydra tokens when they die, one with Lifelink and one with Reach. Polukranos, Engine of Ruin presents a rival to Gargos, Vicious Watcher to serve as the definitive Hydra tribal Commander. The discount which Gargos provides is significant, especially for Hydras with X in their mana cost, but Polukranos, Engine of Ruin’s ability to generate tokens also shouldn’t be underestimated.
While Polukranos, Engine of Ruin does have access to White, which Gargos does not, this isn’t a color that provides access to many new Hydras at all. It does, however, give Green access to White’s powerful suite of board wipes and removal spells such as Swords to Plowshares, and Wrath of God.
Overall Polukranos decks should be constructed as most tribal decks would. You will want lots of powerful members of the tribe, like Voracious Hydra and Hydra Omnivore alongside some support cards like Vanquisher’s Banner and Herald’s Horn.
Since many Hydras also generate +1/+1 counters, it couldn’t hurt to also work some +1/+1 counter synergies into the deck like Hardened Scales and Conclave Mentor.
This concludes our look at this exciting cycle of double-sided compleated Commanders. All five of these cards have a great deal of potential for fun, and open up some exciting brewing possibilities.
Read more: MTG March of the Machine Commander Decks Buyer’s Guide