The War Report: Commander 2020 Deck Lists

As I mentioned recently, spoilers for the next MTG set is coming very soon. We’re also getting Commander 2020 sets a bit earlier in the year than usual. At this point we know that Ikoria’s release was pushed back to May rather than this month, so we can also assume we won’t see these decks on shelves until then either as they are set to release simultaneously. Whatever the case, we have seen the full deck lists released, plenty of new YouTube videos covering new builds and ideas, and now it’s my turn to throw down my two cents.

My first observation is that there are finally five decks again, rather than the four deck sets of the past couple of years. It’s also nice to see consistency between the precons, in that each is a three color shard, which I think is probably the sweet spot for most decks.  We also know due to others’ diligent work, that there are a total of 71 brand new cards included in these precons, which is the most new cards ever introduced with a Commander product, though that record might again be broken with the draft set later this year. Whatever the case, The Command Zone guys also broke this down further, letting us know that each of these decks have a good chunk of value in them just off of the reprints. One more important note, there’s plenty of good mana rocks included in each deck including the newish Arcane Signet that is in high demand and was limited to being printed into last year’s Brawl decks. Lastly, the deck I am the most drawn to and interested in buying first is Timeless Wisdom, aka the Cycling deck.

Face Commanders:

Because the cycling deck is my favorite of these doesn’t mean I’m not interested in others. I’m kind of over Mardu and another deck with boring humans in it doesn’t really appeal to me. I’m also sort of turned off by the Mutate themed deck, as the mechanic seems sort of pointless. The Keyword Soup Abzan deck is also sort of meh. I find the Temur deck the next most interesting, Instants matter is definitely a thing but I’m more interested in the Snake sub-general so I’ll likely buy both of these immediately. There are plenty of new cards in each though, so I assume buying them all would be the smartest bet just to get a lot of gas. Whatever the case, I love this time of year because when we get all of these new commanders out in the wild the meta changes for a while and brings new and interesting ideas to the table. I’m not going to go over any reprints besides the ones I’ve already mentioned because there are simply too many new cards that deserve to be highlighted, good or not. I should notate that because there is an identical number of new cards per color, I’ve split them up that way but these are all spread about the decks as all of the colors are represented equally between the five decks. I also arranged them so that the cycles of cards are highlighted in the middle of each gallery. Those new cycles are: 1. A free to play spell as long as you control your commander and 2. A mono colored Partners With Legendary creature. Their partners will be highlighted with the other Multicolor cards. There is a cycle of “impetus” that are auras that goad the enchanted creature while buffing it as well, but really these won’t see much play so I don’t have further comment. Let’s dive in.

New Cards:

White:

The free spell for white is Flawless Maneuver, and it is a 3 CMC spell that you can cast for free if you control your commander. This one gives your creatures indestructible until end of turn, which can help you to save blockers/blocked creatures or protect from a boardwipe (including one you might do to yourself). I think it’s a strong card for white. The Partner here isn’t as good, basically giving you tokens for attacking, but not until end of turn. Honestly the best card here is Dismantling Wave, which blows up multiple artifacts/enchantments on the cheap, but then can be cycled and is a boardwipe. I love modular cards, and in a deck that can cheat cycling costs, this is basically a free or cheap wipe. I like Cartographer’s Hawk as well because it’s ramp, but it is a bit situational. I think bird tribal people run it automatically. Otherwise, it’s sort of situational. I think mono white decks will use it.

Blue:

Wait, a FREE counterspell? Yeah, Fierce Guardianship will allow you to counter any noncreature spell (which are usually the best targets for counters) as long as you control your commander. That’s powerful, especially for higher tier decks that partially rely on their general to win. It’s going to see play for sure. The partner here is also pretty interesting as he pairs with a card that exiles opponent’s cards and then he lets you play those for any color of mana. I think they could be a powerful deck by themselves, but also fit into a number of other strategies. Probably my favorite card here otherwise is the Crystalline Resonance, because it’s an enchantment with a payoff for cycling, where you can copy other goodies on the board and use it in different ways.

Black:

Being able to exile for free is pretty damn good, especially because white is the only color that usually exiles on the cheap (with downsides). The only real downside to this card is having to pay four mana for it if you don’t control your commander. The partner is kind of boring, but card draw in black is always paid in blood, so I guess it’s on theme. With its partner it can do things but I don’t really care for it. I do really like the Netherborn Altar, especially for commanders that can get really expensive to recast (say, Vilis after he’s died a few times?). It’s functional jank. Species Specialist could be good black card draw as well, but it’s limited to one type. Ghave might like it.

Red:

The red free spell is pretty powerful as well. Control your commander, and you can cast Deflecting Seal for free, and with that you can choose new targets for a spell or ability. This is instant speed disruption that could potentially stop game winning combos. The partner here is probably one half of the two I like the best, this one is actually good in any deck that cares about discarding cards, and it will likely find a spot in a wheeling deck I’m playing on building after these cards find their way into my hands. I’m not really into the other cards, but you can see what they do above.

Green:

Green’s free spell is equivalent to a fog, which is probably less desirable than the other color’s spells, but still will find its place in certain decks. The partner here is fine for +1/+1 counter synergy, but is less appealing by himself than with his partner who would push him out of a mono green deck. He could still be functional in a mono green counters matter deck. I really like Curious Herd, as it is the next Dockside Extortionist, except for the fact that he only counts one player’s stuff in order to give you 3/3 tokens. I think populate decks will like this card. Glademuse also looks strong in draw go decks, mainly because you’re already planning on casting spells on other players turns, so you might as well draw a card. This is symmetrical though, so I guess it’s a bit of a group hug card.

Multicolored/Colorless:

Next up is the rest. The multicolored cards here are the alternate commanders for the decks, along with the dual colored Partner With creatures that pair with the mono colored ones we already covered. Of the pairings, I like the mono red that is paired with Shabraz the Skyshark. Not only is this un-set level ridiculous, it’s also a very effective pair. I don’t think it’s something I’m going to use only because its colors are off for what I want to use the mono red guy for, but it’s still cool. My secondary favorite is Ukkima, Stalking Shadow, but I ultimately don’t want to use its partner either, instead wanting to put Ukkima into my Yuriko deck because it is unblockable and can be used with ninjitsu to get more value of it’s leaves the battlefield trigger. Of the subgenerals, I’m most interested in Xyris, the Writing Storm, because it’s essentially The Locust God with the addition of green. I love my Locust God deck, but being a 6 CMC commander is sometimes hard to ramp into without green, and green would push that deck over the top. The Locust God is actually included in that precon, so apparently WotC sees the same thing I do. You’ll see that build soon, because I think my original game plan for that deck will work even better even without The Locust God in the command zone. The new artifacts are mostly blah except for the Twinning Staff, but I’ll leave that card for someone else to break. The only new land is Nesting Grounds which is actually pretty good for all of the new keyword tokens as it allows you to move those around. Overall these sets look really good and though it’s unlikely I’ll buy them all, I’m definitely grabbing at least a couple.

Up next, Spoilers for the booster set.

TWR: Commander 2019 Spoilers: The Face Cards

As of August 1st, spoiler season for the new Commander 2019 preconstructed decks has begun. Gen Con is going on, and Wizards is there — information was promised at a panel yesterday, and supposedly there will be more information given today as well. Next week we’ll get the full deck lists one at a time for four days. My plan as I laid out in yesterday’s post, is to report on the new information each day we get it, so today’s post focuses on what we learned yesterday, and I’ll have more to report after the panel later this afternoon (probably tomorrow’s post). That also means next week I’ll have four posts about the individual deck lists as well. With that said, let’s dig into yesterday’s reveals:

So far, we’ve been shown the box art, names of each deck and the face cards. Each of these new commanders has its own signature spell or companion creature similar to the cycle from last year’s product (you’ll know by the name of the card). So we have the Sultai Faceless Menace deck led by Kadena, Jeskai Mystic Intellect featuring Sevinne, Naya Primal Genesis with Ghired at the helm, and finally the Rakdos Merciless Rage deck sporting Anje. Firstly, I’m surprised by the fact that there are three 3-color decks and one that is only two, but I guess it makes sense given these keywords’ prevalence in those colors. Anyway, let’s take a closer look at the new generals:

Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer is a four CMC 3/3, which isn’t too impressive on its own. This is the commander of the morph keyword deck, so of course its other text has to do with the morph mechanic. The first creature you cast face down (via morph) each turn costs 3 less to cast, meaning you can cast that one for free, as the morph rules texts reads that you can cast this creature face down for 3. One free creature per turn isn’t terrible, and then those cards can be flipped in order to abuse other mechanics or surprise with an attacker or blocker. It’s an interesting enough mechanic, but it’s also one that I’ve never really cared much about. It is nice to get that free cast though, and as a bonus you get to draw a card for any morph creatures you play. I can see this being a pretty reliable card draw engine, but I don’t seem morph being a mechanic that will win you games.

The flashback keyword commander, Sevinne, the Chronoclasm is a five CMC 2/2… and that’s just bad. It is essentially indestructible which is nice, and it’s other rules text is only so-so. Basically anytime you cast one of your flashback spells from the graveyard you get to copy it. So there are a ton of copy spell effects in these colors, so I’m sure this can be a pretty decent storm deck given a good amount of mana, but it’s still pretty boring. I’m hoping there are some good cards in the deck otherwise, because this was the deck I was banking on being the one that I would buy first.

Ghired, Conclave Exile is our populate keyword commander. A five CMC 2/5, his stats are okay for the cost, but he does have an ETB effect that gives you a 4/4 with trample so you are actually getting 6/9 on the board for five, so that’s not terrible. As a bonus, if you can give him haste,  you can immediately attack and populate (make a copy of a creature token you control) giving you another 4/4 that’s tapped and attacking. Haste will make this a more aggressive deck, and you actually have access to green so ramping into him isn’t terrible. I have too many decks brewed already that utilize token strategies, but this one is probably the most interesting commander so far. If you’re making other big tokens, you can continue to make more of them each combat, but it’s pretty slow at going wide. I’m curious to see what else is in the box.

So Rakdos is kind of bad in my mind. I didn’t really like the madness mechanic back when it was in standard (and I was still playing standard back then). The thought of always discarding cards doesn’t feel like card advantage to me, but I guess that’s the point of madness, because madness cards typically cost less when they are discarded than if you cast them from hand, so in that way this commander fits the them well. Anje Falkenrath is a 1/3 for three CMC that comes with Haste. You can tap her to loot (discard and draw), but when you discard a card,  you can untap her. This can be broken. If they make the appropriate amount of good madness cards (as I remember it, there weren’t too many good ones in the past) this might be one of the best commanders of the bunch.

Overall I’m not really that interested in any of these face cards, and I remember sort of feeling that way last year as well. However, I do remember last year having some awesome alternate commanders though, so I’m banking on some awesome cards still appearing in these decks. Let’s take a look at the other spoilers we’ve had so far (by the way, Seedborn Muse was reprinted as well):

Nothing too exciting here either, though each plays well with its commander, so they make sense to be named after them. Here’s hoping for some new cycles, some good reprints and some alternate commanders that are better than these face cards! We’ll touch base as more information becomes available.

The War Report: Magic Game Night

Some new products coming down the pipeline have been announced by Wizards of the Coast outside of the normal scope of things. The next major set, Guilds of Ravnica is set to release in October, and the rest of that block won’t be out until next year. Otherwise, we have a few supplemental products coming out and one in particular caught my interest.

Magic Game Night is a box set (like Explorers of Ixalan that released last year) that comes packed with five 60-card decks (one for each color) and accessories like life counters, etc. This is clearly a product intended for new players, as if you take a look at the decklists, there aren’t really any money reprints (aside from Ghalta) and most of the cards are coming out of the current standard sets. There’s nothing amazing here, but I do believe that veteran players can get some value out of this box set as well. If you read the comments on the above linked article (or even in my conversation with my playgroup) you’ll see a bunch of negativity here. Comparisons to Explorers of Ixalan and the fact that it had “better” reprints in it, that there aren’t any valuable or powerful cards in the box and other negative comments are abound. For the MSRP of $40, I think there’s a ton of value here for anyone, and I think I’ll pick this up when it comes out in November, if for no other reason than there won’t be any majors sets to invest in for a couple of months at that point. What really interests me though, is the five new cards included in the box:

Honestly, it’s just the red and black cards that I want, so perhaps I’ll only buy the singles, but as I said there is other value in the decks, cards that are EDH staples and would find homes in other decks. These new cards aren’t amazing, but I like the fact that they are multiplayer-matters cards (perfect for EDH) and the Goblin Goliath and Rot Hulk want to go in existing EDH decks of mine. Krenko loves goblins with good effects, and this one is not only a large body but should in most cases create three 1/1 tokens for you. It has the activated ability to give double damage to a single source as well, which could make a big difference. The Rot Hulk on the other hand wants to go into my Zombie EDH deck, as it will in most cases recur three zombies from your graveyard straight to the battlefield. It’s also a 5/5 with menace and I have a ton of lords in that deck that could make him huge!

I sort of like the other three cards. The Angel would probably be best in a Knight deck, as it will create some 2/2’s with vigilance but you’ll have to spread out your attacks before casting it. A little on the slow side. The Avatar is good ramp, but it helps everyone at the table. I’d put it in my Selvala group hug deck I suppose. And the Sphinx is okay, being 7 cmc it would fit into a Yennett build who cares about odd cmc, and it’s a 5/5 flier so that’s okay. You should get at least a couple cards off of its ETB, and it has the bonus activated ability to make thopters, so it could fit into artifacts decks as well. Overall I like these new cards and it’s a shame there aren’t more.

I would encourage you to check out the deck lists that I linked to above before buying this product, but if you’re new to Magic it’s a great way to get a large chunk of cards all at once, and tuning these decks wouldn’t take much effort. If you’re a veteran I’d still say there’s value to be had here. I intend to grab one for myself.