Hey friends! Welcome back to another Commander article here on Cardsphere. Today we're going to look back at the year 2020 and pick out the 99 best new cards that can't go in the Command Zone. You're going to see some obvious inclusions, and some cards that I thought went under the radar. Some are my favorite cards of the year, and some you'll never see me play. Let's begin!
Theros: Beyond Death
Kiora Bests the Sea God,
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove,
Allure of the Unknown,
Theros 2: Elspeth's Boogaloo brought us back to one of my favorite planes. We saw the return of the mono-colored gods from the original block with fun new abilities, and the addition of Magic's version of the Titans. Also back, Sagas! Like the kraken-releasing
Kiora Bests the Sea God. Green got a ridiculous mana tripler with
Nyxbloom Ancient, because poor green really needed the help. And we got
Thassa's Oracle, a powerful alternate win-con, popular (or unpopular, depending on who you ask) with the more competitive EDH crowd.
The "Beyond Death" part of the title was no joke, as we saw a ton of great cards for graveyard synergies, with the much-loved Escape mechanic, showcased on the powerhouse red enchantment
Underworld Breach. We also got one of the best Equipment cards ever printed,
Shadowspear. This was a great set, and WOTC can go back to Theros any time they want, as far as I'm concerned.
Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths
Bastion of Remembrance,
Back for More,
Song of Creation,
Whirlwind of Thought,
The Ozolith, the Triomes,
Ikoria and Commander 2020 were released at the same time, and have the distinction of being the first sets released during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the lockdowns, paper EDH carried on, but moved mostly over to webcam with the use of the Spelltable platform. Spelltable gave us a way to keep slinging cardboard safely, while also offering special features like commander damage tracking and a card lookup system that you can activate simply by clicking on a card on the screen. And it also made on-line CommandFests possible!
Now let's talk about the cards from Ikoria. This set was chock full of flavor and crazy new mechanics, like Companion, which was so strong in 1v1 formats that they had to errata the ability to weaken it. In EDH, however, Companions never really took off because their deck requirements are harder to adhere to in a 100-card singleton format. Still, you do see them pop up now and then, and, as a fan of "building with restrictions," I think Companions are great and I'm happy to sit at a pod with one.
Ikoria finished the 3-color Ultimatum cycle originally started in the Alara block, with my favorite being
Emergent Ultimatum. And to help us mana-fix for all the 3-color cards in the set, we got the Triomes, lands with 3 basic land types and Cycling. While I don't usually get excited about lands that enter tapped, the Triomes were so powerful as fetchable tri-color lands that I fell in love with them right away.
Of course I have to mention Mutate, one of the most confusing mechanics ever created, but also one of the coolest. Mutate gave the set so much flavor and fun interaction, and provided us with some of the coolest alternate art we've ever seen on Magic cards. But you're not likely to see the mechanic outside of dedicated Mutate decks.
Ikoria took some huge chances with its game-changing mechanics. Even if everything didn't quite stick the landing, I'm still a big fan of this set and its weird cards.
Call the Coppercoats,
Fierce Guardianship and the other "free" spells
Commander 2020, was released in tandem with Ikoria, and brought in all of the flavors and mechanics of that set, aside from Companion. It also brought back the "Partner With" mechanic from Battlebond for one Partner pairing for each of the 5 decks. The decks were all 3 colors (although for some reason they didn't feel the need to include the fantastic new Triomes) and each deck included a single spell that is free to cast if you control your commander. The most popular of these was
Fierce Guardianship, a counterspell (yawn).
Aside from the "free" spells, the new non-legendary cards of Commander 2020 just haven't taken hold in the EDH community. There are a few good ones, though. I like
Netherborn Altar as a way of getting around the Commander tax, and
Dismantling Wave is some great removal tech. But there were also several of the new cards that just felt like filler destined to rot in bulk bins. The Impetus cycle of cards, such as
Shiny Impetus, had 3 inclusions in each deck. This felt like incredibly lazy design, as, although the cards are okay, they didn't actually synergize with any of the decks they were included in. And the less said about the awful
Bonder's Ornament, the better.
Commander 2020 did give us some great legendary creatures. I've gotten beat up by both
Kathril, Aspect Warper and
Otrimi, the Ever-Playful on several occasions.
Kalamax, the Stormsire is a fun addition to the spell-slinger strategy, and wheel decks got a huge boost with both
Xyris, the Writhing Storm and the Partner pairing of
Brallin, Skyshark Rider and
Shabraz, the Skyshark. But aside from some cool new commanders and the powerful, but also boring, free spells, Commander 2020 was kind of a dud. Thankfully, it wasn't the only Commander product this year.
Core Set 2021
See the Truth,
Teferi's Ageless Insight,
Peer Into the Abyss,
Ever since the Core Sets started back up with Core Set 2019, we've been seeing them provide far more goodies for the EDH format than one might expect from what are considered to be largely reprint sets for new players. Each year we've been getting powerful legendary creatures and some fantastic new non-legendary additions for our favorite format. I'm happy to say that this year's Core Set was no exception.
Core Set 2021 delivered several fun and exciting new cards, including my favorite card of the year,
Brash Taunter. We got ramp for all occasions with
Chromatic Orrery, and an incredible tool for any red deck with
Fiery Emancipation. We also got a spell doubler with
Double Vision and a draw doubler with
Teferi's Ageless Insight.
The set also gave us some stellar new legendary creatures, like
Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose,
Radha, Heart of Keld, and
Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse. While it didn't top Core Set 2020 (the best Core Set since Alpha, in my opinion,) Core Set 2021 still gave us plenty of great cards for the best format. Thumbs up from me.
Oh, Jumpstart. This set had so much potential to be a hit, with awesome new legendary creatures, a few fun new cards, a ton of hot reprints, and an awesome new deck-building premise. Alas, the pandemic caused serious production issues and the product was scarce upon release. Several of the new cards blew up in price due to huge demand and low supply. Even now, despite the supply issues mostly receding (I can literally just go to my local Target and buy it) the values on the chase cards have held fairly steady.
All that aside, there weren't really that many new non-legendary cards in the set worth mentioning. The hottest non-legend was
Allosaurus Shepherd, with a price occasionally hitting nearly $100. This set was really exciting in preview season, mostly due to all the cool reprints, a few powerful commanders, and those sweet basics. As far as new non-legends, well, I guess that wasn't really the selling point. At least some people got to enjoy the set on Arena.
Valakut Awakening // Valakut Stoneforge,
Agadeem's Awakening // Agadeem, the Undercrypt,
Feed the Swarm,
Malakir Rebirth // Malakir Mire,
Forsaken Monument, the Pathways
Zendikar 3: Omnath Saves Christmas took us back to the world of adventure and cup lands. Landfall came back in a big way, as did Kicker, but the set also had some new tricks to show us. The biggest of which were the modal double-faced cards, or MDFCs. These cards have two sides, which wasn't new, as we've been seeing those since Innistrad. But what is new is that you can play either side. Previously flip cards had to be played on the front side, then flipped in play. But the MDFCs changed that. Each MDFC has a land on the backside, and either a land or a spell on the frontside. In the case of the Pathways, this set's functional dual-lands, you got one color mana on the front, and a different color mana on the back.
We also got the Party mechanic, which looks at 4 creature types: wizard, cleric, rogue, and warrior. While a fun concept, Party is unlikely to have much effect on the format unless we see it again in future sets.
Your favorite four-armed elemental came back.
Omnath, Locus of Creation was the fourth iteration of the popular commander, and added another color, as it has been doing with each new version. This was the first 4-color commander printed since Commander 2016. When Omnath was first previewed, I had hoped there would be more 4-color commanders in the set, but Omnath 4 stood alone.
We got some really powerful new "lands matter" cards, like
Ashaya, Soul of the Wild and
Scute Swarm, and we also got some pretty sweet cards from the sea with
Ruin Crab and
Charix, the Raging Isle. And I can't not mention
Forsaken Monument, a card designed for artifact lovers like myself. A very solid set.
Archon of Coronation,
Keeper of the Accord,
Sphinx of the Second Sun,
Court of Ire,
Court of Bounty,
Reshape the Earth,
War Room, the Crowd Lands
The last set of the year, Commander Legends, is also the first set in booster packs designed specifically for Commander. Wizards marketed 2020 as the year of Commander, and while I'm sure events going on in the world changed many of their plans, they were still able to release this gigantic love-fest for us singleton players.
Commander Legends gave us over 70 new cards that we can put in the Command Zone, including 40 new mono-colored Partners, two of which are planeswalkers. There are so many new commanders and partner combinations in this set that you could literally ignore every commander that came before it and just spend your life brewing around this set. I don't recommend that, even slightly. But it's possible, and I've got my eye on at least a dozen options that I want to build.
Not only did we get a plethora of new potential commanders, many of which are fantastic, we also got quite a few new non-legendary cards that are going to affect the format for a long time. Some cards like
Opposition Agent immediately caused much grumbling in the Commander community. These cards are extremely powerful, as they can very efficiently shut down your opponents' plans. Perfectly fine for the more competitive crowd, but not so much for the casual.
For the more regal players, the Monarchy is back! Commander Legends put a lot of focus on this fun, game-changing mechanic, with all 5 colors getting opportunities to wear the crown. In particular, each color got its own Court, a cycle of enchantments, like red's
Court of Ire, that give you the Monarchy and an effect at each upkeep which is enhanced if you're the Monarch.
Cascade also came back, with some really fun commanders like
Averna, the Chaos Bloom and
Imoti, Celebrant of Bounty, and also a laugh-out-loud card that has four instances of Cascade,
Apex Devastator. But that wasn't enough. The set also gave us a new mechanic, Encore. My favoriate of these is
Rakshasa Debaser, a demon cat that snatches creatures out of your opponents' graveyards.
Despite the set not having a cohesive look or feel since all the characters were spread out over all the planes in Magic's lore, Commander Legends was still a flavor home run due to it bringing in so many characters throughout Magic's history. Several of the legends were only previously mentioned in flavor text or stories, and many have been requested by the EDH community for years.
Also, can we talk about how awesome
Commander's Plate is? Because I love it. I feel like it was made just for me, and I think many people got that feeling from cards in this set. Commander Legends is a huge success, and a wonderful way to close out the year.
Ups and Downs
That's it for 2020 my friends! I think it's fair to say that we got a lot of amazing new cards this year. I only wish there were more hours in the day so I could spend more time playing with them all.
This year was rough for a lot of people. It's hard for me to complain, since I didn't experience the financial hardships or loss of loved ones that so many other people had to endure because of the pandemic. But COVID took away some pretty big parts of my life this year, as it did for many. Playing Magic over webcam, streaming with Scrap Trawlers, and being given the opportunity to write these articles for you have all has put some sugar on top of the bitter pill that was 2020.
I'm truly thankful for all of you that come here to read these articles. I hope you're all doing well and staying safe. Here's to a better 2021! Take care, everyone. And keep playing games!