You’ve all heard by now about the surprise inclusion of brand new Transformers Universes Beyond Magic cards that will be inserted randomly into the upcoming Brother’s War expansion set. Unlike the silver-bordered Transformers cards released years ago, these new ones will be legal in Commander, as well as Legacy and Vintage.
All these Transformers cards come with new terms including More Than Meets the Eye, which is essentially an alternative casting cost that lets you play the back (i.e. transformed) side of the card. The flipped back is often a Vehicle that is automatically crewed on your turn, thanks to another new mechanic called Living Metal. The part about constantly flipping these Transformers in Commander format is not something we’re particularly looking forward to.
The back side of the card can also flip back to the Robot/Creature side through the term “Convert.” It’s a huge pity that they were unable to use the term “Transform” as that makes a lot more sense in a Transformers release. Subsequently, the robot/front side of the card can then Convert again to the back side after a specific trigger.
Arcee, Sharpshooter/Acrobatic Coupe (5/10)
Arcee is arguably the most recognisable female Transformer from the 1st generation, and it’s only fitting that she gets her own card. Built with red and white, Arcee’s focus is placing and using +1/+1 counters whenever she is targeted by spells from any player.
There are a ton of single-Mana spells in red and white that target your Creatures, most often seen in Voltron-style decks helmed by Feather, the Redeemed. Arcee, Sharpshooter slots in just nicely into such decks, or can even become a replacement Commander.
Casting Arcee is cheap, with only 2 Mana needed to cast as Vehicle side, and can get the wheels turning early by casting spells the next turn and placing +1/+1 counters on her.
However, her ability is somewhat counterproductive. Whenever you cast a spell that targets one or more of your Creatures, the +1/+1 counter is placed on Arcee, Acrobatic Coupe, which is great, but she immediately Converts back to the Robot half that no longer receives +1/+1 counters. You’d have to activate her ability, remove one or more +1/+1 counters, then she gets to Convert back.
Unless you go through the trouble of specifically placing more +1/+1 counters on her through different means, Arcee, Acrobatic Coupe will always only be a 3/3, while Arcee, Sharpshooter will likely only deal 1 damage each activation. That’s way too little value as a Transformers Commander and would be a far cry to replace other red white Commanders like Depala, Pilot Exemplar or Feather, the Redeemed.
Prowl, Stoic Strategist/Pursuit Vehicle (7/10)
Ever watchful, Prowl is the vigilant Autobot Transformer that changes into a police car. In his Magic card version, Prowl is a mono white Transformers Commander that grows bigger as more Creatures or Vehicles enter the Battlefield. Both front and back sides are interesting, with the front Prowl, Stoic Strategist able to Exile a tapped Creature or Vehicle (even the opponent’s). Players can recast any of these Exiled cards, but you’ll get to draw a card, plus it slows down the opponent’s game.
After Converting/Transforming, Prowl, Pursuit Vehicle can then continue to grow into a very big Vehicle as more +1/+1 counters are placed on it. Even though Prowl will Convert again whenever the 2nd counter is placed, this isn’t such a bad thing.
The best sequence of actions would be to cast 2 Creatures in your 1st Main Phase, Convert into Prowl, Stoic Strategist, and then attack as a 5/5 Creature that can Exile up to 1 other tapped Creature or Vehicle. If you like, you can Exile your own Creature with an Enter the Battlefield trigger (e.g. Charming Prince), recast it, and then get to Convert Prowl again.
Prowl, Stoic Strategist does show some potential as a Commander, and in white you can always rely on cheap Creatures that will help Prowl with the +1/+1 counters. Perhaps a better option would be to insert Prowl as part of the deck with Optimus Prime, Hero or Ultra Magnus, Tactician as the leader. That will do well since both of those Transformers care about casting more Creatures for team combat synergy.
Jetfire, Ingenious Scientist/Air Guardian (4/10)
Jetfire, Ingenious Scientist is a mono blue Autobot that also utilises +1/+1 counters to generate colourless Mana to cast additional Artifacts. Unless you’ve got ways to place +1/+1 counters on Creatures, you’re enticed to cast the Vehicle side Jetfire, Air Guardian first, as a 3/4 flyer that can Adapt 3 to become a 6/7 Flying Creature
You’re effectively paying 7 Mana to get that 6/7 Flying robot, but you do have the option of removing those +1/+1 counters for colourless Mana. It is a lot of trouble just to get that little bit of Mana, especially when mono blue Commander decks are often stacked with Mana rocks such as Mana Vault, Sol Ring or even a Thran Dynamo if all you need is colourless Mana.
We could imagine Jetfire, Ingenious Scientist being useful in an Adapt deck that plays around with +1/+1 counters, but your Creatures would have to be Artifacts as well since Jetfire’s ability does not apply to non-Artifact Creatures. While there might be an infinite combo lurking somewhere, it would be difficult since Jetfire, Ingenious Scientist Converts after using the Mana ability, and an additional 3 blue Mana is needed to Convert back.
Ultimately, Jetfire feels like a clunky Commander card which will have little use other than being a big Flying Creature.
Blitzwing, Cruel Tormentor/Adaptive Assailant (6/10)
Triple changers are great in Transformers, and Blitzwing has always been a standout, being able to change into either a tank or plane, both great for combat. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the Vehicle side Blitzwing, Adaptive Assailant has a nice combat-related ability. At the beginning of your combat phase, Blitzwing, Adaptive Assailant gets either Flying (like a plane) or Indestructible (somewhat like a tank) so that it can swing in for some damage. When it connects, you have to Convert it to Blitzwing, Cruel Tormentor.
As a Commander, the robot side Blitzwing, Cruel Tormentor makes more sense since it has a nice triggered ability of making an opponent lose double the life lost that turn. Think of Warlock Class or Archfiend of Despair. The unfortunate downside here is that you can only select one opponent, and isn’t a “hit all” ability. That lowers his power level quite a bit.
The fine play here would be to cast his Vehicle side first for 4 Mana, attack the next turn and when it automatically converts, Blitzwing, Cruel Tormentor will trigger. If you choose the same opponent that Blitzwing, Adaptive Assailant had connected with, that player will lose at least 3 more life. If you build a deck revolving aristocrats such as Blood Artist and Cruel Celebrant, that additional life loss will make a bigger dent.
Blitzwing’s impact isn’t groundbreaking, there are definitely better mono black Commanders out there that cost less than 6 Mana (Sheoldred, the Apocalypse being the latest hype Commander). But it is definitely playable within certain decks that like draining the opponents life.
Rachet, Field Medic/Rescue Racer (5/10)
Everyone’s favourite Transformer medic also makes an appearance as a Magic: the Gathering, and no prizes for guessing it uses Lifelink as a way to bring back Artifact cards from the Graveyard onto the Battlefield. Rachet needs to be in a deck with lots of Artifacts, and in white that often falls into Equipment or Vehicle categories.
Since Ratchet, Rescue Racer‘s conversion can only happen once each turn, so that easily rules out any infinite combos for this card. The front side Ratchet, Field Medic does share kinship with Lurrus of the the Dream-Den, since it can attack and gain 2 life, thus returning an Artifact card up to 2 Mana Value.
But as a Transformers Commander, the mono white colour identity is rather limiting. You could play a kind of Modular deck using Artifacts such as Arcbound Fiend and Arcbound Slith, since you get to shift those +1/+1 counters around when they die, and then Ratchet, Field Medic can bring them back. The Modular support for white is lacking though, so don’t expect a high power rating for this one.
Soundwave, Sonic Spy/Superior Captain (7/10)
Soundwave is the silent but cunning warrior of the Decepticons, well known for his pet cassettes Ravage and Laserbeak, both of which make a fond appearance in these Magic cards.
As much as it’s fun to send Lazerbeak out on a mission, we’re not convinced on how strong Soundwave’s abilities are. The deck would have to run a lot of tokens to make use of Soundwave, Sonic Spy‘s 2nd ability, that lets you cast Instant or Sorceries in the opponent’s Graveyard for free. That really is only worth it if you can deal enough combat damage via the tokens.
The back side of the card is not a Vehicle, but has the distinct ability to create both Ravage or Laserbeak, both of whom are tokens that will help trigger Soundwave’s free spell ability. However, not only does it cost 5 to cast Soundwave, Superior Captain, you still have to cast an additional spell before the cassette tokens come into play.
Building Soundwave, Sonic Spy as your Transformers Commander can be done, it just needs a strong focus on token Creatures, forsaking the midrange and control aspects that white, blue and black decks are well known for. The fact that there are only 2 cassette tokens and that they are legendary also take away a little of the groove and power.
Megatron, Tyrant/Destructive Force (8/10)
The self-serving leader of the Decepticons Megatron receives a commendable representation in his Magic card as a Transformers Commander, making use of Sacrifice triggers and opponents’ loss of life to gain an advantage. Megatron, Destructive Force is a cheap 4/5 Vehicle for 4 Mana, and when it attacks, you can Sacrifice an Artifact to deal damage to a target Creature. It can’t target a player, but any excess damage is dealt to the Creature’s controller. Megatron clearly doesn’t waste his ammo.
That’s when Megatron transforms into Megatron, Tyrant, a massive 7/5 that prevents opponents from casting any spells during combat, removing their ability to play combat tricks. With a red, white and black colour identity, that should work to your advantage as you can have Megatron, Tyrant as a Commander, and fill your deck will nice Instants like God’s Willing or Infuriate to gain an upper hand.
Being a 7 power also makes Commander damage a viable strategy for Megatron, Tyrant. Just like the other Universes Beyond candidate Blanka, Ferocious Fiend, Megatron could deal half or even more than half of the 21 damage needed to knock out someone. Combine him with Jeska, Thrice Reborn and it’s an instant kill.
The other question is what do you do with all that colourless Mana in the postcombat Main Phase? There are a lot of options, but 1 of which can be used to cast Equipments and attach them to Megatron or other Creatures. Commander’s Plate or any of the other notable Swords are great options. Another alternative is to use all that Mana for burn spells that have X in their casting cost. Banefire, Fireball and even Crackle with Power can deal a lot of damage.
Cyclonus, the Saboteur/Cybertronian Fighter (6/10)
Galvatron’s capable right-hand Decepticon is a rather strange one in the Magic world. Cyclonus is the only Transformer who has a higher More Than Meets the Eye cost than the robot side, with Cyclonus, Cybertronian Fighter costing an expensive 7 Mana to cast. It’s a decent 5/5 Flying Vehicle, but most importantly you get an additional Beginning Phase if it can deal combat damage.
Since the Beginning Phase includes the untap and draw steps, you’re getting more Mana, Creatures get to untap, and also gain an additional card. If you have cards that have an Upkeep cost or benefit, those will trigger as well.
Cyclonus’ additional Beginning Phase is an amazing ability, even better than the one from Sphinx of the Second Sun because not only is Cyclonus cheaper to cast, you can still cast Sorceries or other Creatures in the postcombat Main Phase. Things then take a nose dive as you’re force to transform to Cyclonus, the Saboteur, a 2/5 Flyer that can only convert back when his Power is 5 or greater. One way to do that is to Connive each turn, but that’s such a slow process that they might as well have left the ability out.
As a Transformers Commander though, Cyclonus, the Saboteur isn’t half bad since he only costs 4 Mana and are in blue and black, classic colours for control. If you’re using cards such as Dark Confidant or Phyrexian Arena, then working towards the transformed Cybertronian Fighter can just give enough value to be worth the hassle.
Ultra Magnus, Tactician/Armored Carrier (9/10)
Moving from the Decepticons to the Autobats’ trusty second-in-command, Ultra Magnus is a fan-favourite Transformer for being steadfast, tactically smart, and a strong combatant. His red, white and green colour identity is perfect for big, aggressive Creatures, and his card abilities clearly reflect that.
The robot side costs a hefty 7 Mana, so it’s likely you’ll be casting Ultra Magnus, Armored Carrier first. And it’s a wise choice because it’s the only Transformers card with Haste, and it just so happens he has an attack trigger as well. While we would have been happy with a +1/+1 buff or First Strike, Ultra Magnus actually gives all of them Indestructible. That means you shouldn’t have any fear for attacking, even if some of them would have died in combat.
What makes Ultra Magnus even better is that he can easily transform into the robot side Ultra Magnus, Tactician, a 7/7 behemoth that even has Ward 2. That’s going to make it extra difficult for the opponents to get rid of.
Subsequently, when Ultra Magnus, Tactician attacks, you get to put an Artifact Creature onto the Battlefield, for free and attacking! This really brings back memories of Kaalia of the Vast which does the same for angels and demons. Here, you can think more along the lines of Blightsteel Colossus, Meteor Golem, or a Triplicate Titan.
Ultra Magnus looks so far to be the strongest Commander and the Transformers, with its only downside being he lacks the protection capabilities that come in blue.
Blaster, Combat DJ/Morale Booster (4/10)
While it may seem strange that a red and yellow coloured Transformer Commander would become a red and green (and not white) Magic card, it makes more sense when you take into consideration Blaster’s Modular capabilities. Blaster, Morale Booster costs 3 Mana, 2 less than the robot side, and has the unique ability of transferring its 3 +1/+1 counters onto another target Artifact.
That sounds nice, except that you can only move it to an Artifact Creature, which means all your big and monstrous green and red Creatures are out. Then there’s the activation cost of paying X to move X counters. Effectively, you have to pay 6 Mana just to give a Creature a +3/+3 boost. Only being able to use it as a Sorcery makes it doubly bad.
The robot side Blaster, Combat DJ offers a little more. Other nontoken Artifacts and Vehicles have Modular 1, which means they come in with a +1/+1 counter and can move them to another Creature when it dies. It’s decent insurance against targeted removal spells, but its weakness is when a board wipe is cast, there’s nothing to move the counters to.
Blaster, Combat DJ is not particularly great as a Commander, since when you have 5 Mana, you should already have your Vehicles and cheap Modular Creatures out. The Artifact Creature limitation also means plenty of green Creatures that normally can make use of +1/+1 counters (Pelt Collector, Kalonian Kydra etc.) will just be less useful. Instead of being a morale booster, Blaster is rather disappointing as a Transformers Commander.
Optimus Prime, Hero/Autobot Leader (9/10)
As the undisputed face of the entire Transformers franchise, you would expect his Magic card to be among the most powerful – so how does he lead?
Turns out, pretty darn well. His Jeskai (red, blue, white) colour identity gives a lot of flexibility between power and control, but his key abilities lies in the ability to Bolster his comrades, and also being virtually unkillable unless you have an Exile spell.
For some reason, Optimus Prime’s Bolster ability isn’t restricted to Artifact Creatures (unlike many of the other Transformers here), meaning he is much more useful in regular Commander decks and not one specifically built around Artifacts. The 6 and 5 casting costs of the front and back side respectively are also reasonable and not much different, meaning you could choose to cast the robot side first, despite having lower Power and Bolster effect.
There really isn’t that many weaknesses to both sides of Optimus Prime. Just watch out for certain Exile spells like Swords to Plowshares or Vraska’s Contempt that would make recasting Optimus more expensive (the Commander tax applies to both sides), or other annoying blue cards like Capture Sphere that doesn’t kill him but does prevent attacking and blocking.
Nevertheless, Optimus Prime is the 1 of the best all-round Commanders among the Transformer cards. He’s in popular colours, has great stats, an unrestrictive ability, and is virtually unstoppable. We’re ready to roll out.
Transformers predates Magic: the Gathering, backed by great stories, hours of childhood memories and a legion of diehard fans. While it may seem a little strange inserting them randomly into a full Magic set release, the Artifact theme does tie in somewhat with the Brothers War storyline, and being able to use these Transformers cards in Commander will make for some interesting battles. Who’s ready for Soundwave vs Chun Li?
The original version of this article can be read at tapandsac.com.