This week on Legion’s Landing, Kristen takes us through a snapshot of good Commander cards to pick up for budget prices as Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths pre-order season commences.  Like last time, she’ll be going into both dirt-cheap cards and ones that around $5 right now. Prices are correct as of the date of publication.

Every quarter, I review the latest Standard set and make my recommendations for cards to pick up. The series is aimed mainly at budget conscious players, and so ignores the obvious high ticket items and tries to enable players to make confident low-end purchases that will grant a big impact to their deckbuilding. We took a short detour for a bonus entry of Budget Blitz for Mystery Booster back in March, but now, Ikoria is here, and it’s time to consult our trusty Cartographer’s Hawk and make sense of things.

Thanks to Commander 2020 releasing alongside Ikoria, this’ll be a bit of a Monster-edition, so buckle in.

Budget Blitz: January Review

Usually at this point in the article, I’d be going over the change in card prices over the last quarter. There’s no big picks to shout about like Embercleave this time, though; thanks to the pandemic, the singles market has started to slow down, and card prices aren’t moving like they were this time six months ago.

Most of the cards discussed last time around have stayed flat, though there is a little upward movement on Idyllic Tutor. This card will go back up when people stop opening Theros, so I’m not too disappointed in my prediction there. Heliod’s Intervention, though, is seeing quite a bit of demand on the EDH side of things, hovering around 1.5x and 2.0x where it was at release. It’s highly splashable and instant speed, so it’s no wonder. It’ll be a format staple for some time to come.

As predicted, the Theme Booster cards from TBD tanked pretty quickly. What I hadn’t predicted, however, was just how far they’d tank. Makes you wonder just how many of these things were printed. Either way, take this knowledge forward—Theme Booster-only cards should be avoided on release for at least a little while.

Outside of main set cards, we looked at picking up Brawl decks, and thus Arcane Signet. Despite the pleasant surprise of a reprint in C20, the Signet hasn’t dipped below the low of $6. It still might, but on such a playable card, it’s pretty unlikely. Sol Ring doesn’t track below the $4-5 mark, and that has been printed every year since 2012, with additional printings in things like Anthologies and Mystery Booster. Korvold, Fae-Cursed King himself, however, has dropped off in price. I expect this is because of interest in C20, but unless they print a strictly better Jund sacrifice General (shudder) then I think he’ll eventually head back up again.

Ikoria—Cheapest of the Cheap

Due to the inherent power-creep that Ikoria has thrust upon us, there’s actually a bunch of cards available for dirt cheap this time around—nearly double that of in the previous set. First up, let’s look at the cheapest of the cheap. These are mainly uncommons and commons at $1 or less, and foils should be relatively cheap if you’re so inclined.

  • Kogla, the Titan Ape is perhaps the splashiest card here, though between lack of Flash and a less relevant second ability, it’s not at the top of Standard lists right now. Pre-ordering for just $1, this card is a standout EDH powerhouse. It can remove a utility creature, and then offers repeatable artifact and enchantment removal on a fairly resilient body. Granting it indestructible is a fairly easy hoop to jump through, and all in all, it’s a fantastic creature to add to non-White Green decks.
  • Heartless Act may look a little underwhelming given the abundance of counters in Ikoria, but for me, it’s a huge sleeper. Long term in Commander I see this hitting more targets than Go for the Throat, the current premier black removal spell. If you don’t have access to White and spells like Path to Exile and Anguished Unmaking, Heartless Act is a fantastic card which can sometimes be a combat trick in a pinch, or a way to remove -1/-1 counters from creatures you control. Foils aren’t worth much more than the $0.70 baseline, so get them while you can.
  • Speaking of alternatives to expensive white-based removal, Dire Tactics is a sound option. Even if you don’t control a Human, paying some life for unconditional exile at two mana is fantastic. If you have humans? Even better. I’d consider playing this because it’s cheap and damned efficient. It’s fifty cents, too!
  • Migration Path is strictly better than Explosive Vegetation, and I’m looking forward to Dana Roach having to write a follow up to his great article. Adding Cycling makes this very playable, and is an easy upgrade to many decks for $1.
  • Bastion of Remembrance is a way more resilient Zulaport Cutthroat that comes with a body, for fifty cents. Putting this effect on an enchantment means a lot for aristocrats decks, who will now be able to sacrifice their boards and bounce back even quicker. Foils of this will trend upwards as time goes by, so if you’re likely to play it, grab one when they’re cheap at only $3 for a foil.
  • Back for More offers instant speed reanimation and a fight spell for six. Whilst expensive, this card can do a lot of work in most GBx decks, who love EtBs, recursion, and removal. It’s a windmill slam in something like Polukranos, Unchained, but can find a home in plenty of places. I expect to be blown out by this spell at casual tables more than once.
  • Perhaps even more of a blow out is Ram Through. This instant speed fight spell pours over trample damage to an opponent’s face. Honestly? This is going to be player removal most of the time. I already enjoy running Squall Line as Green Burn in my Rhonas, the Indomitable deck, and a spell like Ram Through is very strong in Commander. I reckon you’ll be able to leverage this to take out more than one player in a turn in the right deck.
  • I could go on, but I’ll wrap it up here: Primal Empathy is everything Simic Counters decks want; Skull Prophet will slot into many self-mill GBx decks; Mysterious Egg is a snap include to Atla Palani, Nest Tender; Proud Wildbonder grants Xenagos, God of Revels even more potency.

Ikoria: Five Dollar Shake

With Collector Boosters impact on the market now a known quantity, it’s a lot harder to find many rares that are around $5 that will trend upwards—there’s simply too many copies in the wild after the set releases. The impact of the pandemic on paper Standard play is also relevant here: there will likely be less demand for cards than usual. That said, we’ll still have a look over some of the more exciting cards to try and bolster our decks with meaningful upgrades.

  • Eerie Ultimatum seems the most powerful of the new cycle of Ultimatums. The fact that this doesn’t exile on resolution, and is in the three best colors for recursion, means that you’ll likely be able to cast this multiple times a game. It’s going to be an EDH staple until the end of time for Abzan and four to five color decks, including in one of the most terrifying places: Sliver decks. It’s preordering at $4, and it’ll be sure to win you games.
  • Emergent Ultimatum is similarly powerful, and is preordering for $3. What makes this powerful is the combo potential to win games by just casting it—chances are you can engineer things to make the choice impossible for you to lose. What’s more, this is a card to watch for Pioneer, Modern, and Standard. With the new Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy and some mana dorks, this can be cast turn 3! If it does make waves in formats outside of Commander, expect the price to trend upwards.
  • Drannith Magistrate is the answer to all of the most broken Commanders coming out early—stopping anyone from casting their Commander at all. It’s a very relevant hatebear for the format that likewise restricts opponents cheating in other ways too. It’s only $3 and might be just what you need to stop “that player” from going off.
  • Titan’s Nest offers a great reward for being in Sultai Colors. It essentially gives non-X spells in your hand Delve, which is very powerful. Being able to add to a giant creature card like Craterhoof Behemoth or a spell like Omniscience with cards in your graveyard is very strong, and the added bonus of card filtering once a turn is worth the $3 in decks that want it.
  • There are two cards above $5 that I’d like to touch on, as I think they might have the potential to be more expensive as time goes on. The first is General Kudro of Drannith, currently at $6 preorder. I’d stretch to this one if you want him for an aristocrats build, as the chance this sees play in Humans decks in other formats is non-zero, and that’s if he doesn’t see Standard play at some point, which I think he will.
  • The second is Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Whether as a Companion, in the 99, or as a Commander, this card is easily good enough for the Commander format. The ability to cast things from the graveyard is incredibly strong. If this card sees play in Standard or other formats, the price will definitely hold true with the potential to go up. It’s currently $7 to preorder.

Commander 2020: New Budget Cards

We’re not done yet—oh no. C20 releases alongside Ikoria, so let’s take a look at what to grab singles wise from the latest Commander product. Cards like Fierce Guardianship, Deadly Rollick, and the Commanders themselves aren’t worth the price to pre-order; it’s better to just look at grabbing a copy of the deck they’re in. There are some of other cards at $10 or less than could be good pickups if you’re not interested in the decks they’re in, though.

  • Manascape Refractor is perhaps the most exciting artifact in the set, and can be had for as low as $8 right now. We’ve sung its praises already as our preview card, but I really do think it’s that good. If you’re playing bonkers lands, or your friends are, it’s bound to do work, and from now until the end of time, it’ll be on people’s minds whenever a strong land is printed.
  • Species Specialist is a $4 card that slots into an aristocrats tribal deck, and has applications outside of that. Ignoring for a moment the absolutely stellar fact that this will trigger from tokens, it can also name an opponent’s tribe, ensuring you’ll always be able to get value.
  • Call the Coppercoats is one of the best token spells we’ve seen. It’ll nearly always be more efficient that Increasing Devotion the first time around. If you have a way to capitalize on such a large army materializing, like Impact Tremors, you’ll be laughing. It’s $5 and worth every penny.
  • Verge Rangers is to White what Courser of Kruphix is to Green. It won’t let you play extra lands, but it does let you play them from the top of the library, hitherto unheard of in White. A great many decks will want this, and if it isn’t reprinted in Commander Legends, I can see demand outstripping supply. It’s currently $7.
  • Finally, Molten Echoes is an enchantment that will likely feature in many a combo when it isn’t just on duty as a value card. It’s in the Mardu Humans deck, but I can see a lot of tribal Wizards decks wanting a copy of this for starters. If Mardu isn’t your thing, it might be worth spending $3-4 on a copy of this.

Commander 2020: Budget Reprints

Some reprints are created more equally than others, and despite the lack of a meaningful land cycle reprint, Commander 2020 brings with it some fairly notable reprints.

  • Karametra, God of Harvests is one of the most playable Gods in EDH, and despite the Stargazing Secret Lair, her price has been resilient. With this year’s reprint, her steady drop from $10 should be guaranteed. Right now she’s pre-ordering for $8, and if you’ve been waiting to get one, now may be the time. She’s in the Symbiotic Swarm deck.
  • Skullclamp is a card that needs constant reprints to keep the price in check. It’s a format staple, and seeing in in the Ruthless Regiment deck after a reprint in Mystery Booster is honestly pretty great. Hopefully it stays around $4.
  • Shared Animosity is the classic case of short supply, rather than high demand. The reprint in Explorers of Ixalan helped, but seeing it reprinted again here is pretty great. You can bolster your tribal decks with this $4 enchantment, and I particularly like it in tokens based tribal—think Kykar, Wind’s Fury or Edgar Markov.
  • Arcane Signet, as discussed earlier, is included in this product across all four decks. It’s $6 and is a new staple, and $6 might end up being the new buy-in price for this.
  • Path of Ancestry had previously only seen one printing in C17, but has now dropped a little to $5 with a printing in C20. It’s a great tapland to include in most creature-based decks, and I like the idea of picking up a few extra here.

Choices, Choices

If there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that there’s a lot of value to be had in these latest products. Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths and Commander 2020 both offer some stellar new cards, and outside of the clear chase cards, have a lot of value spread throughout. While the Triome land cycle might be a little outside of your price range, there’s plenty of stuff on offer to sate your interest for now. It’s likely that in the next six to eight months the prices on many of these cards change, particularly if the lockdowns and limits in place on social distancing are lifted.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is the effect social distancing and lockdown will have on the initial flow of singles. Outside of the US, many players may find it difficult to not only open prerelease product, but also to sell it. The social distancing means fewer cards are likely to be sold and traded player to player, or on sites like Cardmarket with people unable to freely visit post offices as often as they’d like to. If this has an impact at all, I believe it will be that card prices from the pre-order period through to release will see less of a change than usual in territories that open less product than the US.

Really, it’s hard to say, and so whilst I usually end these articles with some thoughts on the market and what cards to invest in, I don’t think there’s enough information to make an informed prediction. I also don’t feel comfortable advising people to focus on investments right now, even if investing during an economic downturn is generally a good move if you have the extra capitol.

Instead, celebrate the fact that the latest set brings with it plenty of powerful budget options, and Commander decks with the best reprint equity in years. What are you looking forward to picking up? Let me know on Twitter!

Based in the UK, Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up.

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