While I have never played an actual game of Legacy, I find the format engaging due to its resemblance to the kitchen table Magic of my youth, just with higher stakes. What this normally means is that I find myself listening to Legacy content—like Leaving a Legacy, brought to you by Hipsters of the Coast—as way to scratch my nostalgia itch. A few weeks back Leaving a Legacy had an episode with Gavin Verhey on to discuss the Legacy relevant cards that had seen print during the last year. This got me thinking about the same topic, but with Commander.

Today I will be looking through all the sets at printed new Commander legal cards from from Commander 2017 to Core 2019 to talk about what has been injected into the format in the last year. I will waste no more time.

New Dawn of Tribal

In hindsight, last year’s Commander product was a very good compliment to the Standard environment. Cats had been getting tribal pieces in Amonkhet block. Ixalan block not only brought us white Vampires in bulk, but also had enough of a tribal theme to give us “pick-your-own” tribal cards. Wizards were pushed in Dominaria. And Dragons got a big push in Core 2019. I have talked at length about my feelings about the generals brought to us here, but of the non-legendary creature cards I saw have the biggest effect on the format, it would have to be Hammer of Nazahn and Disrupt Decorum.

It’s hard to sum up how great the Goad mechanic is. Coming out of Conspiracy: Take the Crown the mechanic does a lot to create interaction in the game and push creatures to attack when they would normally sit back. Disrupt Decorum pushes Goad to the logical next step, affecting all the creatures in play that your opponents control. The times I have seen this cast, the game spirals into chaos and the person who cast it is normally left in an excellent position.

Hammer of Nazahn is one of the best equipment we got in the last year, while also sneaking under some people’s radar because it was in a preconstructed deck that not as many people were excited by. I was already happy with a second copy of Darksteel Plate, but being able to attach all future equipment as they come into play—the feature a lot of people get wrong—changes the way I look at equipment and only improves Stoneforge Mystic.

Lastly, while I personally got a lot of mileage out of the Kindred cycle, I was let down how little showing they’ve made in my metagames. While Kindred Discovery has really taken off with The Locus God, I think the other pieces of the cycle have cool designs that fit into so many tribal decks.

Dinos and Pirates and Sunbirds, Oh My!

Ixalan was a fantastic block if you were looking to build further off of the tribal themes Commander 2017 kicked off. We finally got pirates into the game en masse and dinosaurs have become the medium sized green creatures of the last year. While I think impactful cards came out of both of those tribes, some of the biggest highlights exist as utility spells.

Sunbird’s Invocation might be my favorite non-legendary spell of the last year. Every time I cast it, something exciting happens, and I’m rarely ever finding that it was a six mana spell that didn’t do anything. When I first looked it over, I had a similar response to how many people look at Omniscience: “why wouldn’t I just hard cast the spells if I already have this much mana?” But over time I realized how much help it does by digging and letting you select the best spell for the situation, while being balanced by how much mana you’re putting into spells.

On rare occasions, Magic R&D will pump out a new version of Mana Drain. The last one I recall is Plasm Capture, which really landed with a thud. Spell Swindle might be the layman’s Mana Drain, while also being a great counterspell effect for Commander. The ability to have access to the extra mana right away, while also not having to use it all at once is a great twist on the mana recycling counter spell.

Truly Blessed

On the heels of Ixalan, we got two early staples for Commander in Rivals of Ixalan: Etali, Primal Storm and Path of Discovery. Both of these should really go into any deck that support them and I’ve seen them a lot in 2018 in the hands of players looking for these effects. Etali is great as a build around legend, but also just fun to have surprise the table and steal spells off the top of players’ libraries. In a four-player game it always hits something.

Path of Discovery on the other hand is not nearly as splashy. Repeatable explore looked unimpressive, but does a sweet job of delivering card advantage in Green. The fact that explore lets you put the card into your graveyard means you’ll likely to never face a bad top deck if you have creature tokens flowing or just have the ability to blink your creatures.

Wrapping up this block’s selections, Tendershoot Dryad and Riverwise Augur are either seeing fringe play or have gone unnoticed by many. I have seen Tendershoot Dryad change the tide of games when left unchecked, but it is the flickering of a Riverwise Augur acting as a repeatable Brainstorm with legs that has impressed me the most. Less than 400 players on EDHrec have deemed this worthy of a place in a deck, and that number should be higher.

Returning Home

Dominaria did this wonderful job of balancing the new exploration of a plane that had seen its share of world ending events and the nods to old lore for established fans. Admittedly, my own baggage mean this wasn’t the return to a plane I was hoping for. That said, I was pleased to see deep lore cuts like Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive. Tetsuko promised to be its own new style of low to the ground deck, recontextualizing the way you looked at your blue and artifact creatures in terms of power and toughness. But I think the real place for her is in the other 99, where she can help any combination of ninja, thopter, or Master of Cruelties sneak through for damage.

The first time I looked at Jodah, Archmage Eternal, I knew it was an amazing ability to have on a general. But as time has gone on and I’ve built around him, I realized just how much fun he can be without defaulting to five color good stuff. This is where I fell in love with Sunbird’s Invocation, because of course, in Jodah, all the spells cost five mana. At present, he is the best thing to happen to my Commander experience in the last year.

Finally, there is Final Parting, a spell that I still see great futures for that just hasn’t been used by enough people yet. The ability to set up your own Gifts Ungiven-style tricks by grabbing your reanimation spell and the target all in one card seems great. Or just grab a sweet spell and Entomb a dredge spell on top of it. Either way, I hope for bright futures for this story card.

Guy Love, Between Two Eyes

When Battlebond was announced I was foolishly not expecting that anything especially notable was going to come out it for Commander. While it’s always nice to see something surface during previews, I thought the two-headed product was going to be Oath of the Gatewatch part two. Instead, we got the reemergence of partner, but fixed to not create infinite more combinations; and a wonderful ally cycle of lands like Bountiful Promenade that were basically original dual lands for Commander with the drawback of not having the basic land types. This might have been good enough, but I think the most notable new card for Magic as a whole will prove to be Arena Rector. This card will only improve as more planeswalkers get printed and I see no sign that planeswalkers will stop seeing print any time soon.

But if one partner duo has made the most impact locally, it was Okaun, Eye of Chaos and Zndrsplt, Eye of Wisdom bringing support to a coin flipping themed deck and making it undeniably possible. Having played against the deck, it’s not overpowered but it makes games exciting, while threatening to chalk up wins. Overall, I think Battlebond was a proven success.

Core Set 2019

Magic needs core sets to help keep the answer cards in Standard; so when it was announced that core sets were coming back after a two year gap, I was pretty content. Core sets gave us Adaptive Automaton, Swiftfoot Boots, and Mystifying Maze, so it seemed safe to assume that more role player staples were likely incoming. It might be too early, but I think that there is no question that Arcades, the Strategist made waves upon being previewed. Helping to legitimize defender centric decks along with the existence of new elder dragons was a nice change to the shard lineup available while also calling the attention of new players to the format.

I think the real influence of the set will require time to mature, but Sarkhan’s Unsealing has really made a strong showing in my Shattergang Brothers Eldrazi deck, triggering one of the two abilities off the majority of my creatures. Alongside the Unsealing, there is Vivien Reid, who most commonly acts as my removal of choice. In top-deck situation where an enchantment or artifact is not holding me back, she also acts a way to grab one of my creatures in the top four of my deck. She’s underplayed at moment.

The last year of Commander is the first time in a long time where nothing got banned and nothing really felt like it ought to be banned. I look forward to seeing how Commander 2018 is amplified by the upcoming Ravnica revisit. I think Saheeli, the Gifted plays far better than it read for me. And Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow is proving to be potent, but I wonder if she might be a flash in the pan as people start including generic answers to her strategies.

I for one think Commander is in a great place, bannings don’t need to happen, but it’s a sign that big things have happened. My plan is to make this into a long term series, digging back and looking at the Commander landscape between product releases.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH, the story of Magic and the EDH community in his down time. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.
Pet Deck – Shattergang Eldrazi

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