2020: A Big Year for Commander
Since its "official" inception in 2011, Commander has grown to be one of the most popular formats in the game. It was always weird that one of the largest subgroups only got one official product per year. This is about to change, however, as Wizards will give Commander players a treat in 2020!
More of Everything
Both the initial video from the Command Zone and the article later posted on the Wizards website talk about all the new goodies that will come to our beloved format in 2020. Let's briefly summarize what exactly they mentioned:
Second Quarter of 2020
- On April24, with the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, come a whopping five new Commander preconstructed decks.
- The decks follow the set's themes and feature reprints as well as 71 new cards for Commander.
- It will be possible to play Commander at the Prerelease.
Third Quarter of 2020
- Wth the release of Zendikar Rising, we'll get two more Commander preconstructed decks.
- Both decks will contain three new cards.
- We will also receive a set called Commander Collection: Green, which will resemble the Signature Spellbook series. This set will contain of eight cards, all reprints with new artwork.
Fourth Quarter of 2020
- Commander Legends will contain 70 (!) new legendary creatures and a ton of reprints.
- This set is also specifically made for Draft, and boosters contain 20 cards.
- Cards in this set can be from different planes and timelines throughout Magic's history, as well as new locations.
- Commander Legends also comes with two preconstructed decks.
Phew, that is a lot to take in. I'm very happy that Wizards finally recognize that Commander is one of the most popular ways to play Magic and is providing more products to the format's fans
The Preconstructed Decks
The major change to the Commander preconstructed decks, besides there being more than one offering per year, is that they are tied to a regular set release now. Gavin Verhey mentioned a problem that was the impetus behind this change and that I also felt was unfortunate in the past: He talked about the fact that Kaladesh had had the unique energy mechanic, but that there weren't enough cards to support this mechanic in Commander.
Having the preconstructed decks tied to sets allows Wizards to explore the mechanics of that set further. This means that plenty of new mechanics and themes will be introduced to Commander that simply weren't supported before. Think of all the things that were hot in Standard, not strong enough in Modern or Legacy, but interesting enough for Commander if only they'd had more support. Some cool examples I can think of from recent sets are emerge, miracle, surge, energy, Vehicles, cohort, Adventure, adapt, and there are so many more.
Commander Collection: Green
The Signature Spellbook collections intended to fill the gap that From the Vault left behind. While it isn't a terrible product that included some decent reprints, I think it had an inherent problem. The series tried to please everybody at once, and then ended up pleasing nobody. If you look at the two spellbooks that have been released, they include reprints for Commander such as Mystical Tutor, True Conviction, Blackblade Reforged, some reprints for Modern/Legacy such as Path to Exile, Rest in Peace, and Brainstorm, in addition to reprints that nobody really wanted like Threads of Disloyalty or Martyr's Bond.
This product isn't executed very well: it's only relevant for people who play more than one format and are interested in cards with a special frame. And while this isn't necessarily a small group, the product restricts itself in design by being bound to a single character in the multiverse. All in all it's an okay supplement, but I think Wizards can do better.
Commander Collection: Green has all the potential to do better. By saying that it's designed for a specific format, you're already eliminating the problem of trying to please everybody at once. Commander players love to "pimp" their deck with premium versions, and I can already think of great reprints that this set could include. I'm looking at you—Oracle of Mul Daya, Bloom Tender, Craterhoof Behemoth, Mirri's Guile, and Sylvan Library.
Finally, Commander Legends. An actual full-on Magic set dedicated to Commander. This is everything we ever wanted and more. In previous articles I wrote about how Commander precons are great for new players, but more seasoned Commander players get their real value from "innovation sets" such as Conspiracy, Modern Horizons, and Battlebond. Having a set that revolves solely around Commander sounds like Christmas, and the only downside I can see is that we'll have to wait another year before we finally get our hands on this product.
The fact that this is an actual set, opposed to a preconstructed deck, also means that Wizards can safely insert high-end reprints without having to worry about increasing the MRSP too much. And oh boy, are we in need of some quality reprints for Commander.
While I'm very happy that the format is doing well and the community keeps growing, it does have some serious implications on the demand of specific cards. Over the past two to three years, we saw certain Commander staples slowly creeping up to the point where they're out of reach for most casual players. This is very much against the spirit of the format. Hopefully Commander Legends will give Commander players old and new the much needed reprints we've been asking for but never got in the preconstructed products.
The Reprints We Need and Deserve
I'd like to spend the remainder of this article to speculate a bit on cards that I would expect to see reprinted in 2020. While this is all pure presumption, there are some cards that Wizards have neglected over the years:
Scroll Rack was originally from Tempest (1997) and has only been reprinted as a promo in the Commander's Arsenal (2012) and as a Kaladesh Invention (2016). This makes this colorless staple very hard to get and is the reason for its price tag of at least €32.
Rings of Brighthearth is a staple in every deck that revolves around activated abilities, including planeswalkers. Aside from the Kaladesh Invention, the card saw only one printing in Lorwyn (2007), and demand only increased with the continuous release of powerful legends and planeswalkers, resulting in a price tag of €25–30.
Bloom Tender has only been printed once back in 2008's Eventide and has been a popular commander card from the beginning. The card saw a massive spike with the release of the four-color commanders in 2016, and has kept its value ever since, sitting at around €35 for an English near-mint version.
Oracle of Mul Daya is a card that makes the heart of every green Commander player beat faster. Unfortunately, it has not seen a reprint since its original appearance in Zendikar, back in 2009. An English near-mint copy of this lovely Elf sets you back at least €20.
Mana Reflection is another gem from Lorwyn block, more specifically Shadowmoor. While there have been some additional iterations of this ability, for example Zendikar Resurgent, there still is no card that doubles mana quite as effective as this 6-mana enchantment. Its power level and scarcity are thus linked to a €19 price tag.
Vedalken Orrery was first printed in Fifth Dawn back in 2004. It was never an expensive card until recently, when The Command Zone started putting it in every deck they played. With only one reprint in the original Conspiracy in 2014, Vedalken Orrery is slowly creeping up to the €20 mark.
Vampiric Tutor might be the single best and most efficient tutor in the game. For that reason it is, besides Commander, only playable in Vintage, where it's restricted. Vampiric Tutor saw its last reprint in Eternal Masters in 2016 when it hovered in the €20–25 price range for a while. Recently it spiked and now sits comfortably in the €40–50 range, which makes it inaccessible for a lot of players.
Speaking of Eternal Masters, I have not seen a Commander staple increase in value nearly as much as good old Mana Crypt. I remember buying these for around €35 a couple of months after Eternal Masters released. The very same version of Mana Crypt today would set you back an astonishing €140 at least.
Wizards loves reprinting Exotic Orchard in their preconstructed decks. There is, however, a much better card that functions very similarly, Reflecting Pool. Originally printed in Tempest (1997), then Shadowmoor (2008), and reprinted most recently in Conspiracy (2014), an English near-mint Reflecting pool costs something between €8 and €12. While this isn't as outrageously expensive as the other cards I mentioned, it's still a lot for such a staple land.
A very recent addition that should be printed more is Arcane Signet. €7 is a bit much for a simple mana rock, but I'm sure we haven't seen the last of this card.
I don't want to spend to much time on this, but I still think it needs to be addressed: enemy-colored fetch lands!
2020 Can't Come Soon Enough!
All in all, 2020 is going to be a very exciting year for us Commander players, and I can't wait to start brewing with the new legendary creatures. It's good that Wizards will step up their Commander game, because I still believe that the preconstructed decks from the past two years were a bit of a letdown.
What do you think about the new cards? What cards absolutely need a reprint that I forgot to mention? Let me know in the comments! As always, thanks for reading and until next time!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.