TWR: Commander Legends Spoiled

With 2020 being labelled “the year of Commander,” we’ve seen a ton of new options for the format at many steps along the way. We had the official Commander 2020 releases earlier in the year at the same time as Ikoria (which also added some spice to the format), there were new commander decks released with Zendikar Rising, and finally we have arrived at the first-ever draftable booster product dedicated to EDH:

An exciting time, indeed. This product comes with a number of layers as well, which has become par for the course with recent releases. There’s the “standard” booster box, which contains packs of 20 cards with two guaranteed legendary creatures per pack, also notably zero basic land cards. Then there’s the “collector” booster, which contains less packs, costs more money, but comes with a ton of foils (including 3 guaranteed “etched” foils which are a new thing in the set), full-art renditions, and otherwise “premium” cards. Lastly, there were two additional commander precons which follow the same formula as those released with Zendikar Rising. Each contains a new legendary creature which is the face card, and two additional new cards designed specifically for the product, along with a bunch of reprints. The value isn’t really there with these two, while those from Zendikar Rising actually had some valuable reprints. I didn’t buy those, and have no intention on buying these, but let’s take a look anyway.

New Commander Precons:

Reap The Tide:

The first deck was criticized for having a commander that does the same exact thing an existing commander does, while simultaneously being the same color pairing and being more expensive to cast. This is also a mythic rarity, while Tatyova was uncommon and is ultimately better overall. The new cards aren’t great either. The hydra allows you to potentially pump up a commander, but unless it’s an animar deck, this probably isn’t doing a whole lot for you. The kraken on the other had is decent removal, as it has a landfall trigger that goads opponent’s creatures. However, it costs 7 CMC and that’s just too slow. It’s also not an “I win” card so it’s probably not worth your time.

Arm For Battle:

The second precon isn’t exactly exciting either, but I do like the commander better. Boros has had a bunch of commanders that care about equipment, and this guy does the thing in a different way. He’s obviously bred for a voltron strategy, but you can just incidentally included him in an Akiri, Fearless Voyager deck and draw two cards off of a single equipment attached to him due to her ability. He also innately has trample, so beefing him up is in your best interest to clear a path. The new cards are slightly better here too, with the enchantment being decent protection for your commander at instant speed, and the equipment being alright as well. It’s not a huge buff, but it does have a low CMC. It also has a Brash Taunter effect tacked on, so it ends up being pseudo-evasion or a weaker double-strike.

Important Reprints:

Moving on, we have some important reprints that in many cases haven’t seen one in years. Scroll rack, Vampiric Tutor, Staff of Domination, Rings of Brighthearth and Fyndhorn Elves have all been lacking reprints, with the Elves going all the way back to Ice Age! Despite that, the Elves haven’t been expensive to purchase, but seeing them thrown in the common slot means you should get enough of them to fill out your mana dork packages nicely. The others I’ve mentioned here have all crept up in price, so the reprints should bring them back down to reasonable levels. Others have seen reprints but are still expensive — I’m looking at you Mana Drain. Swords to Plowshares gets its first new artwork in many years, and though Generous Gift is only a couple of years old, it’s a white staple and needs to see more play.

Partners:

Next we’re going to take a look at the new partners in the set, and I’ve broken them down into their rarities.

Mythic:

The mythic partners are probably the best in the set (outside of those super sweet etched foils of the original partner commanders — damn I want a Tymna and a Thrasios). Honestly though the only one that really speaks to me is Sakashima. His prior iteration was pretty good as it is, but getting the ability to copy legends and not have the legend rule apply is super spicy. I’m probably going to find a way to use him at some point, but for now I’m waiting til my box arrives to see what I pull. I have seen the new Akroma in action on Game Knights and it was pretty spicy but I just don’t really see it being all that reliable in realistic pods. The planeswalkers here are pretty lame. I do like Kamahl, but only because I have a mono-green stompy deck that would really like to slam him down and get the buffs on every combat.

Rare:

In the rare slot, there’s more of the same. Kodama of the East Tree will likely see some play, and I expect there to be some coin flip decks running Krark. But otherwise I’m not impressed by any of these, nor do I see myself using any of them.

Uncommon:

To be honest, there’s not a lot here either in the uncommon slot. I think these were all mostly created for the draft experience, and though I’m getting a box of the set, I don’t really fancy drafting. I’ve done it a few times and it was never that great of an experience. I prefer limited sealed like you do at pre-release, but oftentimes you just get hosed by the guy who got all the god packs. I’m aware that drafting takes a “certain set of skills” but it’s really just not for me. I’m sure we’ll see some of these floating around but I don’t really see anything I’m very excited about when it comes to partners overall.

New Legendaries:

Outside of the partners, there are still quite a few normal legendary creatures, and they are all multi-colored. It was refreshing to get more multi-colored commanders after initial spoilers looked like we might be getting a bunch of mono-colored stuff like we did with the partners. The real benefit of new partners means that new combinations can be made with the old ones, and in that sense they’re cool, but I really like some traditional 2-3 colored commanders and there are a few here that are worth taking a look at. Of most interest in the community is Obeka, Brute Chronologist, and I must admit I am fairly interested in building my first Grixis deck in high, but have not yet decided for sure if I will. She combos well with the red extra turn spells, which are cheaply costed but come with the downside of losing the game on the next turn. Obeka’s ability stops that lose the game trigger from happening, and as such can take infinite turns quite readily, but she still dies to removal and that can still lose you the game. Archelos, Lagoon Mystic is also turning heads because he has some built in stax effects in good colors for the strategy, but I’m betting most casuals are excited to finally have a legendary turtle for their tribal deck. For me personally, I’m interested in the the Abomination of Llanowar, a literal “elfball” along with Liesa, Shroud of Dusk as a potential Angel tribal build, something I’ve been attempting for a long time but haven’t ever had much success with. Also probably a good place to slot in that new Akroma.

My Chase Cards:

Finally, we get to what I’m really into. And these are the cards that I’m hoping to pull from my box. Jeweled Lotus, Opposition Agent and Hullbreacher are probably the most powerful and desired cards from the set. While these cards will see play in casual pods, I think their true viability comes in high to cEDH level games. Jeweled Lotus can power out mono or two colored commanders quite quickly, and though it’s limited in its use I can’t see a reason not to run it unless your commander is 4+ colors. Opposition Agent literally steals your opponent’s tutor, but you grab their best card from their deck. Then, while its on the table if anyone is dumb enough to tutor you’ll get to do this again. At that point it’s more of a stax piece, but it’s still an amazing card. Ditto Hullbreacher. The Smothering Tithe effect in Blue (did blue even need this??) is amazing, but it’s also similar to a Notion Thief. Creating treasures on opponent’s card draw is good enough, but this guy also just straight up shuts off the draw and gives you treasures. Another amazing stax piece, further fueling the mid-range disruptive meta we’ve been seeing as of late. Otherwise I want the etched voil versions of the above cards (but would be happy with the OG partners as well). Yuriko doesn’t have any alternative art, and though her and my Derevi are both already foil, I really like the new look of these. Ditto that on Zur, with which I ran the original art, then finally splurged to get the judge promo foil artwork, and now it’s even cooler with the etching. There are of course many other cards and reprints in the set that I didn’t discuss here, but these were the major talking points for the set. I was lucky enough to get a box pre-ordered for me for my birthday which recently passed, and the set officially released today so I will be receiving that in the mail soon enough. I can’t wait to slot in some new cards!

TWR: Commander Collection Green

The year only has a few months left in it, but that’s enough time for Wizards of the Coast to squeeze in a ton of products — some we’ve known about for a while, like Commander Legends and some that were announced but little else was revealed. Today we’re able to advance our knowledge of one of these products a bit further. Introducing Commander Collection: Green.

A product that I feel most closely resembles the Signature Spellbook series, the Commander Collection series will assuredly provide needed reprints and fancy alternate art for powerful cards in the color, and more specifically, those that are legal in Commander. The spellbooks were awesome, and I have picked up the three that have released, while assuming that there will be at least two more, as Green and Black have yet to be represented. Ditto this product, I’ll assume going forward that we should get at least four more encompassing the game’s five colors. We now know that this product will release in the beginning of December, and while it is similar to the spellbooks, one key difference emerges: There is a “premium” version, which contains the same cards with the same artwork, but all of them are foil. Who knows what retail will run for that, but given the price gouging happening with all of the collector and VIP products over the course of the year, I assume the premium version will be a bit pricey. The regular version will hopefully retail in the ballpark of $30-40 which seems fair given the contents. Speaking of the contents, let’s get to that:

So I understand the inclusion of Command Tower and Sol Ring since those are staple cards that go in nearly every EDH build, but honestly I think they could have been other cards instead. Since the theme is green, they made a thematically green artwork for both of these cards that are cool (I’m all about the alternate art stuff to stand out from the crowd) but I still think a Nature’s Claim or a Song of the Dryads might have been the better cards to include. Otherwise we have some really great gems here. Worldly Tutor hasn’t been reprinted in ages, ditto that for Sylvan library and though I own them I’d like more copies that are guaranteed (rather than digging through packs or paying a lot for the singles). Bane of Progress is a great card, as is Seedborne Muse, and though I’m not huge on Omnath, he is a signature green commander. Freyalise is an interesting include, mainly because she’s only had 2 printings so I suppose she could use the reprint but I also don’t think she’s that important of a card in the color. Sure, my mono-green stompy mid deck uses her to throw out some dorks or for removal but she’s still sort of run of the mill. A mono Garuuk might have been more on point. Either way I’m not complaining, I love the new art and I think this is a solid product, I just hope it isn’t pushed out of my price range by the time it comes around.

Spoilers for Commander Legends have begun as well, so I’ll have more thoughts to share about that product soon. I also have a bunch of other drafts in the works, just needed some downtime as of late. Until then.

TWR: Double Masters Spoilers

The World of Magic: The Gathering is a strange place. Not only does Wizards of the Coast seemingly pull new product ideas out of their asses, but some of their newer offerings are beginning to feel a bit like a cash grab. The secondary market is making things worse to be fair, but creating products that appeal to a wide audience and then selling them at an already high MSRP (which technically doesn’t exist for them anymore, but they’re still selling to distributors at particular price points for particular products, while those distributors then mark up to sell to an LGS, who then marks up to sell to you) lends itself to that concept. We’ve seen a pattern of core sets and normal standard rotation sets along with supplemental products for years, but the inclusion of themes and collector’s boosters have artificially inflated the prices of some boxed products. They’ve even taken a chunk of the secondary market for themselves by releasing products like Secret Lair which are just new-art reprints of sought after cards which they sold for what typically ended up being more than the cards were worth. I occasionally splurge to get some bling for a favorite deck, but when said bling becomes prohibitively priced (packs and sealed products that are randomized are gambling, after all) with a risk attached, I’m probably out. I’ll save some coin and buy singles.

So this pattern has persisted as we’ve been seeing these supreme collector’s items with each new set, and though secret lairs have slowed down for a while, we then had a hubbub about shortages in printing of Jump Start, which was already in high demand before release. This is all old news, by the way, but I have yet to comment. So this set is considered an “unlimited print run” which means as long as there’s demand, they will continue to print. WotC has already said that there will be more of Jump Start coming down the pipeline, but that didn’t stop some eBay from grabbing up the product, and then marking up the boxes because of the shortage. Reportedly, some customers even had orders cancelled stating that they didn’t have enough product on hand (despite taking preorders) and then immediately relisted for more money. This set in particular is on par with a standard set though, so it’s not worth the $200+ that people are charging for a box, while you can grab a box of Core 2021 right now for $99. As such, people are stupid for falling for these price gougers, but also it’s sad that it’s happening. Enter the next elephant in the room:

We haven’t had a “masters” set in a couple of years. The last one was Ultimate Masters, and it was hailed as one of the best masters sets in years. I rather enjoyed the reprints I was able to get my hands on. Despite the fact that we have Commander Legends coming later on this year which is specifically made for EDH players, masters sets have always provided needed reprints for eternal formats. As such, I was excited for Double Masters despite the fact that it’s a terrible name. When we started getting promos, it became clear that there were a large number of needed reprints of cards that have become really expensive to buy singularly — this set has proved once again that the idea works, but they didn’t stop at simple reprints, instead there is something more for that collector with deep pockets (maybe you?).

Typical masters sets have more expensive packs than those in standard sets. This is presumably because there are more “chase cards” that are worth more money, despite the fact that reprinting cards costs exactly 0% more for WotC to produce compared printing new cards. There is usually something “premium” to draw you to one of these sets, and though it wasn’t a masters set, I’d argue that Mystery Boosters did this right. They reprinted OG art and added a foil in each pack and those foils were cards that were separate from the normal list of cards in the packs, along with being the first foil printing for those cards. That’s a cool little “gamble” while you’re really chasing the other cards in the set. Whatever the case, masters boxes are only 24 packs instead of the 36 packs that come in standard sets. So we’ve accepted paying more and getting less, and it’s probably too late to go back on that. But I remember sets back in around 2017 that were like $7 a pack instead of $4 a pack, while more recent sets were +/- $10 a pack. Typical box price of Ultimate Masters was between $200-250. This set, mainly because people know this is “limited print run” has already begun to spike, and boxes are over $300. The only real difference? Well, nothing really. There are two rare slots per pack, that’s something I guess. They have the box toppers, but I’m actually unsure if those are even part of buying a box of Double Masters due to another product that was also announced, which is this sets’ “collector booster.”

The VIP Edition is one pack of cards. It’s something like 33 cards, but you’re getting a chunk of full art lands (which are also reprints), still get foil commons and uncommons, and then you get box toppers. To be fair, the box toppers are awesome, and the ability to grab full art, showcase, or alternate art cards in regular packs in nearly every set this year has been pretty cool. But at the same time, the VIP booster costs like $100 for 33 cards while for $300 you get 360. Which is ridiculous to think you’re paying $1 per tiny piece of cardboard. Whatever the case, I’m really happy to see the reprints here. I need cards like Dark Confidant, Blightsteel Colossus, and a couple of the swords. I need a Mana Crypt and a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I’m hoping the prices plummet enough to grab some singles, but with box prices what they are I can’t justify the gamble. Anyway, rant over. I do want to share the box toppers because they’re gorgeous, but otherwise that’s all I have for today.

Boxtoppers:

Mythics:

Rares:

Fancy Lands:

(Only in the VIP edition)

Izlain out.

TWR: Jumpstart Previews

It seems that 2020, despite being a pretty shit year by real life standards, has actually been a pretty great year for Magic: The Gathering. Not only did we get Theros: Beyond Death early on, we then got Commander 2020 and Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths released at the same time (which was planned, as some of the cards contained in the precons were also from the new set so that made sense. Those products’ release dates were pushed back, and because of that it’s not been long and we already had Core Set 2021 spoilers with a release this week, and another new set called Jump Start that is coming down the pipeline soon. We also still know about Commander Legends and Zendikar Rising coming later in the year, and that’s if they don’t spring any more surprises on us. Whatever the case, I realize I just went over the Core Set 2021 spoilers a couple of days ago, but since we have already seen the full set for Jump Start, let’s dive right in, shall we?

Jump Start is a set that is aimed at new players, much like the core sets are. What seems to be different here is a smaller selection of new cards, with a huge swathe of reprints, some being pretty juicy. There’s not a ton of new cards that are very exciting, and honestly there’s only some reprints that even affect me, but newer players can bolster their collection rather quickly with these two sets, and veterans can most likely pick up some reprints of things they need for a bit cheaper due to the extra printing. I’ve broken down the cards into colors, highlighting the new cards for each, along with some of the more important reprints (cards that have creeped up in price and should be looked for to grab for a discount).

White:

New Cards:

Honestly I can’t say that there is anything here that I am dying to have. Quite honestly, most of the new cards are pretty meh for me personally, but I know a handful of people who are excited by some of the new cards so I still thought it was worth sharing. You can check them out individually and see if there’s anything that appeals to you.

Reprints:

On the reprint side of things, I’ve actually wanted a copy of Linvala for a long time, and she was getting a bit expensive, so this probably means grabbing her as a single shouldn’t be too difficult. Otherwise there are some decent staples being reprinted, notably Path to Exile and Cathars’ Crusade.

Blue:

New Cards:

The new blue legendary Bruvac has mill players losing their minds. There’s already a two card combo with him that essentially allows you to mill one person out entirely, or perhaps that could be you if you’re going for the labman/Jace/Thassa’s finish. Otherwise there’s some jank here that I’m not entirely amazed by.

Reprints:

Rhystic Study has needed a reprint for a long time now, as it’s been increasing in price for a while and is basically a staple in any deck running blue. Get your copies while you can! The others are just some cards that were a few bucks and should probably come down in price a bit.

Black:

New Cards:

I rather like the Witch of the Moors. It’s kind of high CMC but the effect is worth it in decks that want these types of effects. Tinybones is the other new Legendary creature people have been going crazy for, but I don’t think it’s as great as its made out to be. We’ll see how people break him before we really judge.

Reprints:

A ton of good reprints here! I own most of them, but this is a great time to get a copy of Sheoldred which I’ve wanted for some time. Otherwise you’re looking at a ton of cards that are useful in many different black decks that had all seen an increase in price. This set, if nothing else, is bringing down singles prices for the masses.

Red:

New Cards:

I’m somewhat interested in the new Goblin, as I do like making adjustments to Krenko when I can. He’s not the most exciting, but he does buff the team and sometimes that’s good enough. I also like the Chaos Rider for my burn deck, but otherwise the rest is pretty ho hum.

Reprints:

Speak of the devil, Krenko himself got a reprint in the set, along with some other red staples for the EDH format. I own all of these cards already but sometimes having an extra copy or two is worth it. If I wasn’t already buying a box of Core 2021 I might consider a box of this set as well just for value.

Green:

New Cards:

Green seems to have gotten the least amount of love in this department, but there are some decent cards here. Green doesn’t seem to need much help these days, so there’s that.

Reprints:

Some great reprints to be had in the color though. Craterhoof has gotten really expensive, which some of these other cards aren’t too bad but should still come down in price a bit. I’d like a copy of Selvala, only because I don’t own her and she seems pretty good from what I’ve seen.

Colorless/Lands:

New Cards:

I skipped over multi-color because there was like five cards in the whole set and they were all reprints and not very good. When moving onto this category, we get a new cycle of lands that are essentially dual tap lands, but instead of being locked into two colors, they are locked into one and you get to choose the other color. It’s decent for fixing, and probably only really useful in a 5 color deck, but it’s still better than a straight up guildgate, in my opinion. I’ll have to see them in action to really make a determination on their worth.

Reprints:

A couple of decent artifact reprints that were becoming a bit of money. Then we get some reprints of some decent specialized lands, with Riptide Laboratory being of most interest to me simply because I don’t own it. Still, overall a good selection of reprints in this set, so if you are looking to expand your collection, this is probably a good place to do it.

TWR: Core Set 2021 Spoilers

Magic: The Gathering’s next set just saw its prerelease weekend, and will release for retail this coming Friday. Once again we’re back to the summer months and that means a new Core Set. Core Sets were a thing for a long time during Magic’s history, then went on a hiatus for a couple of years, and then came back strong. We saw a bunch of goodies in Core 2019 and Core 2020, but both of those sets paled in comparison to what’s coming with Core 2021.

This set also marks the first time that a core set received the collector booster treatment, which seems to be the new standard for all sets. We have normal boosters, theme boosters and collector boosters, along with boxes of each and the ability to still open up alternate art/border cards in normal packs. So far I haven’t bothered with buying any collector packs, and theme packs are mainly for people just starting out so I avoid those as well, but I’ve still managed to pull some showcase cards regardless. So here’s what we know about the set, let’s take a look at a selection of cards that I’ve found interesting.

Buy-a-box Promo:

Normally I’m not too interested in the buy-a-box promo cards, and honestly this one is more of the same. A big change did come down with this card being spoiled though, as it is part of the first set to include the creature type “dog” and as such all “hound” creature types were since errata’d to say “dog” instead. Dog tribal might be a thing now, if you’re into that sort of thing. Cat tribal was already a thing, but now with this commander you can do some sort of combination tribe. If that’s your thing, have at it. I’ve preordered a box but have found that when I’ve done so in the past off of Amazon I don’t receive the promo card, but it is what it is.

New Planeswalkers:

It’s been a while since we’ve seen more than a couple of new planeswalkers in a set, and this time we get one for each color. Basri is the only “new” planeswalker, while the others you’ll already know from past sets. However, all of them are pretty decent additions to certain decks, and I would really like a copy of that Teferi, as would most people I’d assume. Garruk also looks pretty nice for my mono-green deck as does Liliana for my zombie deck. Either way, new planeswalkers are always nice toys to play around with.

Shrine Cycle:

I’m not really into this, but once this cycle of shrines was spoiled, people were jumping on the shrine tribal bandwagon. Much like gates-matter decks (typically helmed by Golos as he can tutor for them) this would require all six of these shrines along with the five others that existed in Kamigawa, and even then I don’t see it as much of a deck, nor do they really feel like a win-con in themselves, just value engines that take far too long to get out onto the board to really make a difference. In Battlecruiser jank decks can work, but if you want to play decks with any sort of consistency, this is probably not the route you want to take. The Green and Blue ones are probably decent enough on their own but even then they’re not amazing.

Reprints:

There are a bunch of good reprints in this set and I think that has probably brought the hype levels up a bit. I’ve only singled out a few, but right off the bat you have a reprint of OG Ugin, which is already pretty expensive and sought after. Next is Grim Tutor, which hasn’t seen a reprint in probably 20 years and was a super expensive card as a result, and though it’s not as good as Demonic or Vampiric Tutor, it’s just a step behind and better than most other options. Azuza is a card that’s gone up in price a bit, and Heroic Intervention was getting pricey for a while as well. I really like seeing the reprint of Fabled Passage, and I think they should continue with it and Prismatic Vista so that we can have strictly better Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse cards. Or just an additional two fixing lands per deck. With that said, let’s look at the new cards I found most interesting:

White:

Honestly white didn’t do so hot in the new card department, but they did get some nice reprints so it’s probably a trade off. A new dog adds to the tribe, while Nine Lives is a funky enchantment that you could theoretically give away and cause someone to lose the game with. Mangara is card draw, but its so conditional it’s likely people just don’t attack you, but you’ll probably get a few draws off of their additional spells per turn. Finally, a cleric that taps to make Angels, which could be pretty decent in the right deck.

Blue:

Blue did a little better with new cards. Teferi’s enchantment gives extra card draw and a ton of decks will run it. Barrin is good in wizard tribal for shenanigans. See the Truth is great if you can recur/cast it from the graveyard. And finally, a couple of new counterspells that could be decent fits in many decks.

Black:

Black sees a few interesting new cards, my favorite being Vito, who is Sanguine Bond on a creature, and will help with consistency in many aristocrats decks. If you have a bunch of deathtouch sources, the Blightfang will definitely help do some damage. The standard bearer is pretty good too if you know a bunch of stuff is going to die (board wipe) and you can flash it in to draw some cards. Lastly, Witch’s Cauldron is a decent sac outlet that will draw some cards, and that’s sometimes the best thing to do during a turn.

Red:

I’m really loving some of the new red cards. Double Visions simply let’s you copy spells for free. The two new goblins are instant adds to my Krenko deck, as they both have amazing abilities that I think can be exploited. Fiery Emancipation is also pretty amazing, in that it triples damage, so it’s going straight into my Torbran deck where it will find the most use. The dragon is kinda meh, but if you have a deck that uses them it might be a good fit.

Green:

Not a lot going on in green, but I did really like the Elder Gargaroth, as it’s an undercosted 6/6 with three keywords and attack/block triggers. Simply busted and it’s going into my mono-green deck post haste. Garruk’s Uprising is a better version of cards that do the same thing, if you’re playing big green beaters, it’s going to draw you cards and also give your creatures trample, which is amazing. Jolrael is an interesting new commander that will probably see some play but I’m not super interested.

Multi-Color:

I highlighted cards here that I think will see play, but honestly the only one I’m interested in is the new Radha. I already run both of her other versions in my Gruul deck, but I feel like she might actually be worth running as the commanding in place of Klothys, and that’s my plan as soon as I get a copy. Otherwise some generically decent cards on display here.

Colorless/Lands:

Only one new land was introduced and it’s only good if you’re playing any of the creature types listed on it. It’s also only good for adding +1/+1 counters, so unless you’re already doing that theme it’s probably not worth a slot in your deck. The new Chromatic Orrery however, could find itself in multiple decks. I know it wants to go into Golos immediately, as it will allow me to cast things for free with a simple tap of the artifact.

Overall I think the set looks really good and I’m glad I have a box on the way. I’ll have to discuss another set that is releasing shortly as well, called Jump Start, that I didn’t think I’d bother writing about but it turns out after spoilers there are somethings worth mentioning. I’ll be back soon.