Kristen shares what she thinks are the most impactful cards from Core 2021 for Commander. What will shake up the format the most?

It’s time again for another set, and Core Set 2021 is a good one. The cards in the set have brewers excited, whether it be for constructed formats or Commander. It’s been a while since Standard has had cards as powerful as Azusa, Lost but Seeking and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and it’s great to see these cards reprinted for Commander.

Today I’d like to give my thoughts in which cards from Core Set 2021 have the potential to have the most impact on the Commander format. We’re talking powerful cards that many decks want to play—whilst I do love cards like Liliana’s Standard Bearer for Zombie or Aristocrat builds, it’s not quite up there as being a game-changer, as these decks already have plenty of ways to draw cards.

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

Another set, another Teferi. Let’s get one thing out of the way first: if you still needed any more reasons to not allow Planeswalkers as Commanders, this is surely enough. Do whatever you like with friends, but the rules are there as a reason, and they’re needed to help keep this card (and others) in check.

Thanks to multiplayer, this new Teferi can be activated in each player’s turn. That means by the time you untap, he could be on seven loyalty. It’s only once more around the table to activate the game-winning ultimate. When you consider that any deck wanting to pull this off will likely have plenty of ways to ensure it happens—from proliferation, to protection, to being able to activate loyalty abilities more than once a turn—it’s easy to see how this thing can do serious work in Commander.

With a card like Oath of Teferi in play, you’re now up to two activations per turn, which is as many as eight activations in one turn cycle. You can potentially ultimate before you untap with very little effort. It’s a very strong card, and even just looting a few times and phasing out somebody’s Commander is a strong effect for four mana. I expect this card to see a lot of play.

Mangara is one such individual affected by the chronological issues that plagued Dominaria and the rest of the Multiverse. Now seen in a new light, Mangara, the Diplomat is a fantastic EDH card for White based decks. White ramp and draw remain high on the wants-list for many players, and giving White some much needed draw power is a huge boon to mono-White decks.

It’s also a very flavorful card in political builds, such as Queen Marchesa, and the incidental lifelink is a nice bonus. Whilst the first clause that triggers when being attacked may come up less often, the two spells a turn one should give you a steady stream of cards. I really like this design, as flavorfully it just works.

All of this time distortion is enough to give you Double Vision, and this enchantment is a pretty bonkers upgrade for spell-slinging builds. It’s obviously great as a slam-pick to go into Kalamax, the Storm Sire, but I see this as having big potential in a lot of decks that like to have fun with instants and sorceries. From Niv-Mizzet, Parun, to Kess, Dissident Mage, Kykar, Wind’s Fury to Riku of Two Reflections, this card has a lot of potential to enable some devious lines of play. Curving from Doubvle Vision into Thousand-Year Storm is an exciting prospect, and I’m looking forward to twincasting some spells.

I’ll Take the Combo to Go

Vito is a great addition to Edgar Markov decks everywhere, with his ability to lower the curve of Edgar decks wanting to run the Sanguine Bond & Exquisite Blood combo—there’s a great run down of this in one my recent deckbuilding articles. Being able to swap out Defiant Bloodlord for a three drop with a relevant mana sink ability is pretty huge.

Vito should see play elsewhere, though, as his ability is one that can be taken advantage of in many lifegain based decks. Revival // Revenge from Guilds of Ravnica is even more of a solid play with Vito now, as it’s able to quickly finish off an opponent who starts on half or more life than you when you play the card. Say you’re on 15, and an opponent is on 30. Revenge doubles your life to 30 and halves the opponent to 15. This will trigger Vito (or Sanguine Bond), and make them lose the amount you just gained. Doubling your life is lifegain, so you’ll be able to drop them to 0. It’s pretty neat, and being able to do it for less mana is a boon.

Basri’s Lieutenant appears to be a relatively unassuming card at first glance. Sure, it looks pretty good in a Knights-based deck, and maybe even an equipment one, given it has good protection and the ability to replace itself. Where it gets really interesting, though, is when you consider the sheer amount of cards that can combo with it.

Add just one other card that ensures creatures enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter—whether that be from Master Biomancer, Cathars’ Crusade, Juniper Order Ranger, Good Fortune Unicorn, or Path of Discovery—plus a sacrifice outlet, you can go infinite pretty easily. Whether you’re milling with Altar of the Brood and Altar of Dementia (cards Abzan loves anyways), or have a more direct way of taking advantage of it, there’s plenty of things to do here. The Ozolith can help you generate infinite +1/+1 counters in this way; and with Anointed Procession or Parallel Lives, you’re looking at an army of epic proportions.

Dial it up to Eleven

I’ve already drawn some attention to Unleash Fury in my recent budget article for Core 2021. I’m convinced it’s a sleeper, and if you’ve ever played Voltron—or Xenagos, God of Revels—I think you might agree. Being able to double the power of a creature at instant speed is a relatively fresh effect in a two mana Red spell, and I’m off the opinion it’ll steal as many games as that obnoxious of surprises Tainted Strike.

One of the biggest disadvantages of Sunforger is the fact you lose the +4/+0 buff when digging out Boros Charm for doublestrike in a pinch when you need to delete someone. Having a way to double the power and save Boros Charm for later is a welcome addition, especially as you may have already used Boros Charm at this juncture. It’s also cheap enough to have in hand to bump your Commander into Commander Damage range a turn sooner than an opponent suspects. You’ll have to respect this trick going forward, and I know I can’t wait to rack of up K.O.s with it.

Terror of the Peaks is a truly terrifying card. Many dragon-based decks are already able to amass a punishing engine with the likes of Sarkhan’s Unsealing, Dragon Tempest, and Scourge of Valkas. Throwing this into the mix too? Not sure I want to be on the receiving end of that thanks, Boss.

Beyond just dragon decks, this card can do a whole lot of work. Any deck with token generation of sizeable bodies, like Rampaging Baloth, will enjoy this card; stompy-style decks in general are primed to take advantage of it. It’s also a great enabler in Rakdos decks that love to dole out damage, particularly in an Aristocrats-style build. Strapping Grafted Exoskeleton onto it is hilarious too, and I’ll bet you can eliminate more than one opponent in this way.

Fiery Emancipation is so much more than just a card that Anthony Kiedis might be able to work into a song about California. This enchantment is packing some serious wallop, and when combined with existing effects that already double damage, has given the kinds of decks that might want to include Terror of the Peaks a brand new tool to raze things to the ground.

I imagine the “math is for blockers” attitude pairs up pretty nicely with Fiery Emancipation and any other effects you have in the deck, as going over 40 seems like child’s play. Simply casting Blasphemous Act on top of Stuffy Doll, Boros Reckoner, Truefire Captain, or the new Brash Taunter is enough to almost level a player with a total of 39 damage! If you add in another effect you’re suddenly in knock-out territory. Not that you’ll need the extra firepower, as being able to cast a six mana enchantment usually means most opponents will be on less than 39 life already.

It’s Understood Reprints are Good

For playgroup emancipation, if nothing else. A reference more crowbarred than Kiedis’s mustache, I know, but hear me out. Reprints are the great equalizer. In an era where the lack of Fetchlands prevents people from playing five-color decks at higher power levels, and from even trying out lands-based builds like Tatyova, Benthic Druid and The Gitrog Monster; high-quality reprints are necessary to keep players on an even field. Even with the social contract, access to premier spells and effects is often a bigger factor in how decks perform.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is perhaps one of the most impactful boardwipes in EDH. It’s one of the only times I’ll acquiesce to Tempt with Discovery—having the chance to grab Ancient Tomb and go straight into an Ugin to sweep up whatever’s been cast feels pretty great. I’ve never seen it be underwhelming—except maybe once when I finally got to ultimate him, and got to put seven lands into play. I think I still won that game, but it felt very disappointing.

Ugin is playable in any deck that can get to eight mana, and can clear up the board very easily, with the added bonus of tailoring it to your needs. If you have a six drop in play you want to keep, then simply set X to five. Ugin gets really good in decks with mana rocks and equipment, as oftentimes, you’ll get to keep most of your board, too. The price on Ugin should drop handily with these reprints, and I think giving it to more players is a net positive for the format.

Massacre Wurm is another great card that’s finally seeing a reprint, and one that will also help get it into the hands of more players. Massacre Wurm is the kind of card that slots into a fair few archetypes, from Aristocrats to Control, and one that helps some of those decks achieve a higher level of consistency. I know I’m excited to finally get one to put into Massacre Girl, and I’m tempted to grab more than one while they’re in steady supply.

The final card I’d like to draw attention to today is one that is increasingly relevant in Commander: Heroic Intervention. It’s cheap, efficient, and playable in any deck playing Green. It can help protect a board full of creatures, or a combo you’re attempting to set up. It’s a card that is ideal for reprinting, as it can help budget and rookie players have more skin in the game. Being able to cast one of these in response to a boardwipe always feels great; and when you’re just starting your EDH journey, it can sometimes swing a game in your favor that otherwise seems pretty unwinnable.

In Closing

Core Set 2021 is a fantastic set for Commander. Even aside from the more general application of the cards I mentioned today, there’s a bunch of great cards for more particular archetypes available too. From great reprints like Azusa, Lost but Seeking and Grim Tutor, to fun build-arounds like Nine Lives, and even potentially fun Commanders like Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse, there’s sure to be something for everyone. I’m really high on the set from a Commander perspective, it has to be said.

Let me know what you think on Twitter to continue the conversation.

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.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.