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