Core set can be a dispiriting time of the year for Commander players, although this last set gave me more than I generally expect. Still, a cycle of fairly boring (if powerful) legends and a big dumb planeswalker isn’t enough grist for the mill. Which is why I was so looking forward for the eventual announcement of From the Vault: Annihilation, a product that seemed tailor-made for the format of Wraths.


And then they released the list. It is, at best, underwhelming. At worst, it’s the Duel Decks: Knights vs Dragons, a low point in a product line that suggests we will never again see the daring inclusions of the earlier iterations. This may be it going forward, and that is sad.


Anyway, here’s the list:


Armageddon; Burning of Xinye; Cataclysm; Child of Alara; Decree of Annihilation; Firespout; Fracturing Gust; Living Death; Martial Coup; Rolling Earthquake; Smokestack; Terminus; Upheaval; Virtue’s Ruin; Wrath of God


I’m not going to give a total breakdown of why this is, on the whole, an underwhelming assortments of rares, but I’ll break them down into a few basic categories. The first category is the cards that aren’t fun in EDH. That’s Armageddon, Cataclysm, Decree of Annihilation, Smokestack, Terminus, and Upheaval (banned!). Then there are the ones that lose power in Commander. That’s Burning of Xinye (single opponent not all opponents), Child of Alara (doesn’t work well as a general), Firespout (a worse Anger of the Gods), and Virtue’s Ruin (specific color hate is weird). Finally, there are the decent, but not amazing inclusions. This is Fracturing Gust, Living Death, Martial Coup (Alara foils are relatively easy to acquire due to foil packs), Rolling Earthquake (I don’t exactly see a ton of demand for this previously expensive but otherwise generic card), and Wrath of God (just in Commander 2013, and had a player reward foil that makes this one look totally boring).


You’re free to disagree with individual valuations on that, and it might be true that this gives some foil options to the powered cubers who really wanted a foil Rolling Earthquake or Upheaval, but on the whole I think we can agree that this is nowhere near the optimal product list for something that initially seemed such a cool idea.


But let’s be constructive, not destructive. I’m going to tell you the 15 cards I would have included if I had editorial control, in color order because why not. Drumroll please!!!


In my head this is accompanied by a person making drum noises with their mouth.

In my head this is accompanied by a person making drum noises with their mouth.


Austere Command – Lorwyn – $35

This EDH staple hasn’t seen a vanity printing yet, and that’s a shame. The second best command (although the red one’s the only one that’s not bonkers), this card is currently a $35 foil. It’s one of those cards Commander players think of when someone says “Wrath.”



Elspeth Tirel – Scars of Mirrodin – $30

I think it’s useful to use these types of products to showcase the breadth of Magic. Elspeth Tirel is the wrathiest planeswalker in that sense. Sure, Gideon, Champion of Justice exiles the world, but that’s significantly less fun than a mere board sweep. Plus, Gideon’s a cheaper card, having been printed in the set before last. Elspeth Tirel is a $30 foil from the dark days of New Phyrexia’s rise. It would be a solid reprinting, and it would definitely see play.


Final Judgment – Betrayers of Kamigawa – $10

Another card that’s begun to see more and more play, Final Judgment gets rid of everything. Someone looping a Bloodghast? Exiled. The ramp deck just dropped Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre? Exiled. Worried about someone doing broken things with Mikaeus, the Unhallowed? Exiled. This is a card that would see play.


Ravages of War – Portal: Three Kingdoms – $400

If you’re going to include an Armageddon effect, universally regarded as one of the least friendly things to do in EDH and generally not seen outside of cube, at least put in the one collectors are salivating over. Ravages of War is one of those ridiculous P:3K cards that command a huge price tag because half of them are broken and none of them were printed enough. And that’s without even mentioning the fact that P:3K cards didn’t have natural foils. This would have been big.


Scourglass – Shards of Alara – $4

Not every inclusion can be a $400 card, though. I get that. But instead of those marginal cards being things like Child of Alara or Decree of Annihilation, why not promo-foil out a utility player in any of the white machine builds? It would be a prime candidate for alternate art, and it would gracefully hold down the lower end of the set.


Aether Snap – Darksteel – $3

Speaking of cheaper inclusions, Aether Snap is an interesting card that doesn’t see nearly enough play. It was the original planeswalker sweeper, and it’s a good inclusion to balance out Elspeth Tirel, who basically has the opposite effect. Not only that, but it’s a part of black’s color identity that is often overlooked, and that alone means it would be a sweet highlight.


Damnation – Planar Chaos – $100

This was the card everyone was clamoring for in this set, and it’s the most glaring exclusion on my list. Regular versions of this card are $50, and natural set foils (as opposed to the textless player rewards version) command twice that. It’s played in Modern from time to time, and it’s the best version of that effect in that color for EDH. It still shocks me that they left it out. (And look at that art! It would be such a great foil.)


Dread Cacodemon – Commander 2011 – $5

It’s always a good move when they add Commander cards into these sets. None of the Commander-only cards have foil counterparts, not even most of the generals. Supplemental products like From the Vaults sets have slowly been rectifying that. Now, this card isn’t amazing, but I’m sure it would make someone’s day if they foiled it out.


Living End – Time Spiral – $25

Instead of Living Death, which already got a promo foil and only sees play in Commander, why not do Living End? That would be a major bonus for Modern players. Living End is a viable deck in the format (if not amazing), and since most its creatures come from Alara block it’s pretty easy to foil out (at least not the lands; Alara block had weird foil packs that were awesome, but it means it’s really easy to get foil Alara commons). Give Commander players better cards than Living Death and give Modern players something to salivate over as well.


Ruination – Stronghold – $1

Did you know that Ruination doesn’t have a foil? It’s true, it’s only been printed twice: Stronghold and Commander 2011. Instead of showing red’s land-hate by including something awful like Decree of Annihilation, which I have only seen played once in a Dick Deck (you know the archetype), choose this forgivable land destruction spell. It highlights what red can do without being awesome, and I’ve always thought its weird Easter Island art would look great in foil.


Bane of Progress – Commander 2013 – $2

Let’s not let Commander 2011 have all the fun! I like Bane of Progress, it’s a useful effect tied to a scaling body for a reasonable mana cost. Since it’s only been printed once, it’s ripe for a foiling, and it might even see play in Legacy one day (it seems like a good fit for Elves).


Whirlwind – Urza’s Saga – $1.50

Yet another card printed too soon for a foil, Whirlwind would have been a great inclusion for several reasons. First, I think any card that hasn’t previously been in foil is going to appeal to the collectors and the cubers, even if they’re on the edge when it comes to power (like Whirlwind clearly is). Second, the card is super flavorful; it could be an example of early top down design, although I doubt it is. Finally, it shows a side of green’s color identity: green hates fliers. What better way to show that than including the green Wrath of God?


Fracturing Gust – Shadowmoor – $20

Okay, I think this was a good card to include. It’s been seeing borderline play in Modern, and it’s an all-star in Commander where it’s a good way to get back into a game. I’m glad they reprinted it, even if I’d not go out of my way to procure a copy.


Kozilek, Butcher of Truth – Rise of the Eldrazi – $150

First off, it’s absurd to make a product called “Annihilation” and not include any cards with annihilator. And if you are going to include an annihilator, there wouldn’t be a better one than Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. It currently is the most expensive foil of the three legendary eldrazi. I mean, sure, a natural foil Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is worth about $100 more, but you can get a promo foil Emrakul for $35. And the From the Vault: Legends Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre is a steal at $40, considering it sees play in EDH. Kozilek deserves another foiling like her brethren, and this could have been a great vehicle to see that happen.


Oblivion Stone – Mirrodin – $50

Finally, we get to o-stone. Currently seeing play in Modern thanks to Red/Green Tron, it would be nice if that deck got another four of that could be filled with From the Vault foils (to join with Grove of the Burnwillows from FtV: Lands). As everyone knows, the FtV foiling process warps cards pretty bad, and if you only have one or two foils they can really stand out. Putting more of the same type of foils in, though, means you’re less likely to cut to the same card every single time. I mean, Firespout is going to do the same thing for the deck, but without seeing play in EDH and other formats as well… let alone the fact it hasn’t been universally adopted by Tron ever since Wild Nactl went bust. The point is it’s a card beloved by casual and competitive players alike, and to me that screams “reprint me!”

NPH sigh

Wouldn’t that make for a fun product? I think so. At times I feel like one of the teeming masses crying out for better cards, while Wizards plays the part of Rorschach and whispers, “no.” This goes back to my other argument about the decline of Wizards’ product lines over time. It’s a shame, it’s happening, and hopefully we’ve now reached peak suck.


Jess Stirba doesn’t agree with Rorschach’s absurd right-wing views, but the character does make for good quote sometimes.

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