Commander as a format has grown for the last few years as the most popular casual format in MTG. Zendikar Rising will bring the commander players some more new products as the classic Planeswalker decks will be replaced by affordable and beginner-friendly commander decks making the format clearly the most supported casual format by Wizards. The brand new decks you can preorder from here. In this article, we will also look into the products and reprints released in the special year of 2020 in the commander players’ point of view.
The year 2020 has been exceptional in all aspects. International pandemic did put the international transports to a complete halt in the early spring and Magic-tournaments and events were canceled one after another. The restrictions for meetings closed gaming areas locally and our gaming area at Poromagia has also been closed the vast majority of this year.
As tournaments and competitive formats are veering towards Magic Online and MTG Arena the regular casual formats and especially commander have still kept their interest on paper - at least since the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths with the Commander 2020 decks. Gaming has moved from open gaming areas to people's homes and games of smaller groups can be considered fairly safe if the amount of people involved is low and people will take care of safe distances as well as good hand hygiene.
On the single card market, there has been a lot of movement and even though the year has been challenging for the players on many aspects there has been a lot of nice new products as well as well awaited reprints for commander players. This year's commander season started pretty much from the Theros Beyond Death released in January. The set brought back the enchantment theme and also gave us some new legendary god creatures to put on the helm for our commander decks! Idyllic Tutor got its well-needed reprint making it more accessible for players. Competitive EDH got a huge meta warping tech as a return to Theros introduced the cards Thassa’s Oracle and Underworld Breach.
After Theros the international situation with COVID-19 was declared as Pandemic and at least for me, the tabletop magic games stopped for a fair amount of time. Mystery Booster was released on the very date that our gaming area got closed because of the corona concerns. Even though the Mystery Booster got released in the eye of the storm so to say it was a well awaited set with a huge amount of cards to put in your commander deck. One of the most anticipated reprints was the Mana Crypt that had been printed last time in Eternal Masters. Also, Rhystic Study got a second print (if we don’t count the very limited Commander’s Arsenal print), and also some other cards like Carpet of Flowers and Aura Shards got printed in the set as well. The Mystery Booster rose to become a fan favorite both for drafting and just pure booster cracking.
Commander 2020 decks were released exceptionally during the spring of 2020 instead of the regular August. First time ever the decks came out on the same date as the next standard set, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths saw the daylight. Thematically they fit well to the basic set and the first time it was not a big deal to find suitable upgrades for your commander decks as you could find them very easily from the Ikoria base set.
Commander 2020 decks introduced a cycle of cards that you can cast for free if you control a commander creature. From these cards, the blue and red ones have already been very popular, and possibly all of them will be considered as commander staples also in the future.
Summer has usually been the time when Magic releases are not so particularly impressive normally giving us a beginner-friendly core set for standard. This year though both the Core Set 2021 and Signature Spellbook: Chandra were pretty much packed with content for the Commander players with their load of good and needed reprints as well as some nice new cards as well. The Chandra Spellbook boards ie. Fiery Confluence, Pyroblast, and Past in Flames inside its collection of cards. Core Set 2021 includes reprints like probably the best planeswalker in EDH Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Azusa, Lost but Seeking, and Solemn Simulacrum. In addition to these, the Massacre Wurm and Containment Priest were also printed, also making the latter one legal in standard and modern formats for the first time.
After the Ultimate Masters released in 2018 Wizards announced that it will be the last masters set for at least some time. This promise wasn’t pretty well kept as in spring 2020 the Double Masters was announced to be released during the summer of the same year. Double Masters held its name pretty much having everything players wanted as a double: rare or mythic slot was doubled as was the foil slot thus making the possibility to hit the jackpot more plausible than ever. For the most demanding players, there was the VIP Edition available offering two of the borderless box toppers as foils plus a variety of common, uncommon, and rare/mythic foils partnered with full art lands - which of some would also be foiled.
It was clear that with these specifications the set was about to be popular and that is what it was. The biggest upside for this set lies inside the boosters: the set brings an ultimate amount of reprints for all formats, accessible for all the players. The single card prices were lowered by the high offer thus making the cards affordable for players. More of the good commander cards in this set you can check out from our previous Double Masters article!
The marathon for great commander products in 2020 has not even reached its final peak. The spoilers for Zendikar Rising are already at a good pace. In Zendikar Rising the old Planeswalker decks will give way to new, even more, affordable commander decks especially for beginners to start their career with the commander format. Wizards have clearly noted that the commander as a format has become more or less the standard casual format people are willing to play and that makes it a great decision to unify the product lineup to match these needs. The decks will be priced at around 20€, so these should be easy to get for every player willing to start commander.
After Zendikar Rising, there will be two commander exclusive products called Commander Legends and Commander Collection: Green. The Commander Legends is a set that is designed to be played also as a limited format thus giving new and old players an opportunity to enjoy the best parts of Commander in a whole new environment. This also gives way for older players who haven’t played the commander before to test the format in a way that balances the possible deck building imbalance that might have originally kept them away from the format! The spoilers for Commander Legends are starting after the Zendikar release. Some cards were spoiled in a live stream and at least the partner-mechanic will return - this time not as strong as it originated in 2016. At least I am waiting for the spoilers and for me, this might even be the most anticipated set for the whole 2020.
Commander Collection: Green will be released as a normal and a full-foil edition and the latter brings the first foil print of Worldly Tutor to the market making it probably the most wanted card from this product overall. The other cards in the set are also pretty much tailored for the commander players’ needs so if you are into the green color you should definitely check this product out!
All in all: The Commander format seems to be doing better than ever in 2020 and new commander playable cards are coming from all directions. As the public gaming areas remain a bit harder to reach at the moment the games probably have started to happen in more restricted environments such as people’s homes with smaller groups or via webcam. In the future, we hope that the situation will get better and the reopening of gaming areas will take place. But until that happens take care of your hand hygiene, restrict the size of your playgroup, and take care of your welfare!
Pekka "Löhis" Löhönen