Is Orcish Bowmasters Still Commander’s Boogeyman?

We’re just Boromir living in a Bowmasters world.

We’ve now been sitting with The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth for two months and its effects on the competitive (cEDH) and casual Commander metagame have been quite pronounced. Several new cards have been making impacts on the format, some more flashily than others. The One Ring prevents my favorite Temur Pirates strategy from winning the game while drawing obnoxious amounts of cards. 

The One Ring

Market Price: $71.36

Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff
Boromir, Warden of the Tower

Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff fits right into several of what are already the best decks in cEDH, helping them cast their spells even more effectively with an onslaught of Treasures. Other cards have quickly become roleplayers in specific decks as well, giving them percent gains they hadn’t had before. But, these cards were pretty obvious even post-release. We knew these Tales of Middle-earth cards would perform and take slots up in our lists. The card that we were all worried about, for one reason or another, was Orcish Bowmasters. On release, I went on the record claiming that I didn’t think it was the best card in Tales of Middle-earth. Honestly, I still don’t. Lotho is just too cracked. But Orcish Bowmasters has a much different effect on the format overall, one that dictates even your deck building decisions before you attend a competitive Commander tournament. Let’s take aim and talk about it.

Orcish Bowmasters Impact in Commander

Orcish Bowmasters (Borderless)

Universes Beyond: The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth

Orcish Bowmasters (Borderless) - Universes Beyond: The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth - Magic: The Gathering

First off, I’ve both heard and seen nothing but nearly universal praise and success for Orcish Bowmasters in the competitive Commander tournament scene. This isn’t that surprising as it’s been making waves in other competitive formats, including practically defining recent Legacy Challenges and setting a floor for what creatures could reasonably exist in the most recent Modern Pro Tour. 

Taking a look at EDHTop16, the Orc Archer made a home in nearly every one of the top-performing decks that can play it, including Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus // Tymna the Weaver, Tivit, Seller of Secrets, and even Dihada, Binder of Wills. The controlling Tivit builds can make great use of it to survive through the mid-game, picking off pesky Esper Sentinels, mana-generating creatures, powerful Commanders, and more. Tymna // Kraum can not only use it as a control piece but as a huge game-ending threat thanks to a large number of Wheel of Fortune-style effects (which result in you achieving 20+ damage to the table in addition to having a 21/21 Amass Token). I was most shocked to see it present in Dihada, a deck that is all about winning the game as quickly as possible through Underworld Breach. However, with thought, I realized that it solves nearly all of your problems, giving you an outlet through which to kill almost every single Stax creature that might hold you down with ease.

Dihada, Binder of Wills
Tivit, Seller of Secrets (Extended Art)
Kraum, Ludevic's Opus (Foil Etched)

Market Price: $10.47

The one major deck that I haven’t seen it in is Najeela, the Blade-Blossom builds that focus on winning quickly. This makes sense, as it doesn’t solve any problems that the deck may have. They usually aren’t locked out of Najeela through Drannith Magistrate (which also turns off Underworld Breach), but if need be they have plenty of other ways of figuring things out.

Whether you need a huge payoff for a Wheel effect, more bodies on the board to assist with or prevent combat damage, or a consistent outlet to both control the board and discourage extra draws, Orcish Bowmasters has been able to do it all. But how should that affect the way you’re building your decks?

Building With Orcish Bowmasters in Commander

Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy

Market Price: $13.97

Tayam, Luminous Enigma
Winota, Joiner of Forces

If you’re looking to add Orcish Bowmasters to your Commander list, it’s important for it to actually solve a problem for you. While it may look like an all-encompassing value piece that is a must-play in every Black deck that possibly could play it, I don’t think it is. Why do I say this? It doesn’t win you the game, accelerate your mana, draw cards, Stax out most opponents, or actually meaningfully impact the game beyond removing other creatures and creating a big creature itself. I get it, those last two things are incredibly powerful effects, especially versus several of the more popular decks in the format. There are definitely reasons that all the top decks, as I expounded upon above. They all play it, if they need to.

Competitively speaking, if you’re often facing off against Najeela, Malcolm, Tayam, Kinnan, or Winota, it could be a powerful tool in your bag of tricks to knock these decks down a peg. Especially with the recent obvious power of Tayam, Luminous Enigma in the Mox Masters series of tournaments and Kinnan’s resurgence into the Top 16s, including it just to battle against them is a reasonable inclusion.

It’s also powerful enough at the floor to slot into most one or two-color competitive (and casual) Commander decks, just from an overall lack of playables. However, it’s always important to keep your main plan in mind. If given the option for your specific deck, would you rather draw Orcish Bowmasters off the top of the next best proactive spell? Killing creatures is great — but as always in cEDH — being proactive and forcing your opponents to answer what you are doing is often better than being reactive. Solving creatures is a great role for a piece in your deck, but it still isn’t something that will directly cause you to win or lose the average match. Is your deck more like Najeela, wanting every draw to be gas off the top, farthing your win-now game plan? Are you even more turbo, like Dihada, needing Bowmasters to ensure you never run into a hatebear? Or is your deck more like Tivit, hoping to make it through the early game, needing to control the board to slow down their opponents? These are the things you must consider before blindly inserting it into your deck

Also, for what it’s worth, the Bowmasters-in-response-to-Wheel of Fortune scenario is so good that if your deck is on three to four Wheel effects, you should just slot it in no matter the plan. Oops!

Building Against Orcish Bowmasters in Commander

Thrasios, Triton Hero (Foil Etched)

Market Price: $16.31

Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh (Foil Etched)
Jaspera Sentinel

All I’ve said above is, hopefully, a common thought among competitive (and casual) Commander brewers everywhere. What doesn’t seem to be as much of a consensus is how people should be reacting to Orcish Bowmasters now being a bonafide staple in our way of playing Magic. Some think that it shouldn’t impact your brewing at all, where sticking on all the traditional mana-generating creatures and continuing to register Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator and Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy in events. Others, such as Sam Black in a recent article, are so concerned about its power that they are making what could be described as sub-optimal choices to protect themselves against a single activation.

In the aforementioned Sam Black article, he specifically chose to use Jaspera Sentinel in his Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh // Thrasios, Triton Hero deck to make mana over other possible dork options, specifically because of a worry of Bowmasters. Honestly, if there’s anybody I trust to make unique card choices that I can trust in a deck, it is Sam Black and I think the reasoning is sound. If you absolutely need to ensure that you get mana for your Rograkh, these are the things to consider. Is an Orcish Bowmasters coming down and pinging your dork, Ragavan, or Stax piece something that could entirely upend your game? Plan accordingly, both before and during the tournament. On game day, don’t overextend creatures you need into Black decks that may have Flash-speed Bowmasters ready to ruin your day.

Tymna the Weaver (Foil Etched)

Market Price: $39.51

Underworld Breach
Drannith Magistrate

Market Price: $19.37

Be careful of when you’re deploying your very important Commander (again, most notably Kinnan, Najeela, Tymna, and Malcolm as they’re all build-around options that only have two toughness), lest your mana and tempo be stuffed by an Orc Army.

Before game day? Honestly consider if you want to be entirely stymied by a single two mana value creature that your opponents are going to be playing a lot of. One of the best ways to plan against the Orc Archer is to just play a deck that doesn’t have to worry about it too much. Being stack-focused is already one of the best ways to win competitive Commander games and it comes with the added benefit of not having to care if your opponent has an Orcish Bowmasters in play, saving the danger to your health total before you cast Ad Nauseam. I would say that another way to avoid having trouble from Bowmasters is to draw fewer cards but uh— drawing cards is simply very good. 

Well, is Bowmasters Commander’s Boogeyman?

As I started researching for this article, Commander Rule Committee Member, Spike Feeder, and good friend Jim Lapage posed the question to his audience about how Orcish Bowmasters had been impacting their games, both competitively and casually.

Look, I swear I’ve had this article on my calendar for actual months. It’s just a coincidence! This Twitter (or now X) thread, from many different mouths, does drive home many of my feelings about Orcish Bowmasters as a whole. In normal Commander games, it has barely pierced the public consciousness, either from self-selection, a lack of card supply, the increasing price of the card, or a lack of Wheel-focused strategies in Black.

From a more competitive-focused perspective, players espoused much of what I wrote out here. It’s a great card that belongs in many decks — but not all — and is something worth considering in your own deck-building process. This is to say; it ended up in a great spot. It’s a solid new staple that isn’t oppressive and even happens to tap down on that pesky card Drannith Magistrate. An all-encompassing format boogeyman it is not, and I can’t complain about that.