Hello once again from Playing to Win. I know it’s been a hot minute since the last article, but with the current state of the world I’m sure everyone is slowing down a ton more than they thought they would. I just want to take this moment to say don’t worry about being productive, focus on being kind to yourself and others and take care of your community.
I’m starting with Commander 2020 because it’s a little less daunting and, since it’s focused specifically on Commander, is more directly in line with this series. I’m focusing on the best use case for each individual card, so an Excellent for casual might not be an excellent for cEDH. I’ll be sure to specify the area I think cards will do well in. I’ll be moving on to the main Ikoria set at a later date. Now to the review!
The commanders for this year are definitely broad on their format spectrum applications, and I think most of them are going to be solid casual commanders. I’ve debated what kind of rating system to use, and whether to use one at all since I think these systems are very limited and ineffective, but do serve the purpose of being a quick reference point. I’ve decided to go with a simple Fail, Pass, Excellent system.
[card]Jirina Kudro[/card] – Jirina is a reward for playing humans, something players have been asking for for a while. The token ability is a bit weak, and while the buff is certainly powerful, it doesn’t add utility or evasion of any kind, and most humans are quite small and easy to block with the large creatures typical of EDH. The closest comparison point in my opinion is [card]Edgar Markov[/card], since they both want lots of small tribal creatures. Humans have probably the most individually powerful cards like [card]Dark Confidant[/card] or [card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card], but Vampires have far stronger tribal synergy (there are so many Vampire lords) and Markov has a much stronger ability in eminence token generation. A very casual commander, a middling Pass.
[card]Kelsien, the Plague[/card] – A new experience counter commander is exciting. The execution less so. Kelsien only ever deals 1 damage, so while deathtouch can turn them into a killer, it’s only through those interactions that you gain regular value. I really wish it had dealt additional damage that scaled with more experience counters. Being in Mardu means the two other experience generators you get are [card]Daxos the Returned[/card] and [card]Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas[/card] both of whose triggers don’t particularly synergize with a Voltron/pinger build. Weird ability combination that’s hard to utilize, not the best colours, that’s a Fail.
[card]Silvar, Devourer of the Free[/card] / [card]Trynn, Champion of Freedom[/card] – A large evasive kitty and a cat food generator. The synergy on these two is obvious and simple but effective. All in all, they don’t give you a real direction to push your deck towards and neither is particularly exciting, plus they’re both pretty expensive for what you get out of them. This is a Fail but I would accept some arguments for a low Pass.
[card]Kalamax, the Stormsire[/card] – A perfectly strange mix of spellslinger and voltron that focuses on copying instants, this is quintessential Temur. Limiting his own copy trigger to the first spell a turn is an obvious sign that WotC recognizes the potential for broke-ness here. This is certainly a fun and very bizarre new archetype, but is limited by that previously mentioned “first” clause, so his power is highly capped. Another middling Pass but at least this one is interesting.
[card]Xyris, the Writhing Storm[/card] – Xyris rewards you for your opponents doing things they want to do, but also has that second ability which pushes you to some kind of group hug build. Wheels are your best friend here, and there are lot of uses for those Snake tokens. I think the best wincon focus should be on [card]Impact Tremors[/card] style cards like [card]Warstorm Surge[/card] and [card]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/card]. A good Pass here.
[card]Pako, Arcane Retriever[/card] / [card]Haldan, Avid Arcanist[/card] – A Temur partner version of [card]Etali, Primal Storm[/card], Pako actually has built in haste and grows larger with more cards, so that’s a pretty strong start. Adding Green and Blue seems like a recipe for spice until you read “noncreature spells” and Haldan forces you to pay for them. This makes it difficult to take best advantage of being in Green, and with neither partner actually doing anything without the other, they become mediocre if either of them dies a few too many times. There’s enough there to build around in casual Commander, but it’s very fragile. A low Pass.
[card]Kathril, Aspect Warper[/card] – An Abzan variant of [card]Rayami, First of the Fallen[/card], this is a very powerful casual commander that rewards keyword soup and gets quite big. Kathril also protects itself very easily and has plenty of evasion options, so this should be an incredibly threatening monster to fight. I suggest looking to [card]Odric, Lunarch Marshal[/card] lists for good keyword enablers. A good Pass.
[card]Tayam, Luminous Enigma[/card] – Tayam is a very interesting small reanimation engine fueled by Abzan’s very strong counters themes, and even fuels itself thanks to the specifics of keyword counters on it’s ablity. This has some (admittedly unknown by me) loop/engine potential that might be big once discovered, though 3 mana to reanimate plus needing counters is a big limiter. In the future, keep an eye out for cards that push Tayam past the breaking point, and for other players out there to figure out the puzzle that is that reanimation ability. As is this is pretty strong casual but I could see taking it for a spin in cEDH if things pan out. A good Pass with potential for Excellence.
[card]Yannik, Scavenging Sentinel[/card] / [card]Nikara, Lair Scavenger[/card] – A partner pair that is ultimately more of the same Abzan counters stuff that WotC defaults to. Yannik lets you potentially reuse ETB abilities, but not often. And sure you can draw cards off Nikara but this feels very uninspired after seeing Tayam or knowing more powerful versions of this exist. It’s nice that they both have keyword abilities to fuel Kathril, so points for that. All in all, boring and worse than others at their job. Fail.
[card]Gavi, Nest Warden[/card] – Cycling is back! We finally have a real competitor to the popular Cycling Zur archetype, and this one actually mentions the word cycle. Getting a free cycle every turn is quite powerful as evidenced by [card]Fluctuator[/card] and [card]New Perspectives[/card] and the free token is nice, but again like Kalamax, we are capped in how often this triggers and thus the power we get. Losing the mass reanimation angle from Cycling Zur is a big loss, but having a commander and deck finally built for cycling makes this a better prospect than it might seem. [card]Laboratory Maniac[/card] and friends are probably the most reliable wincons for this. Expect to see her a lot since cycling is quite popular. Pass.
[card]Akim, the Soaring Wind[/card] – Jeskai tokens is another popular archetype typically focused around Birds or Spirits, and this is a new reward for them. Akim’s ability to grant double strike is powerful, and notably his token generation does not need *creature* tokens to trigger, so he works off Treasure tokens from [card]Smothering Tithe[/card] or similar. Once again, WotC has limited us with how many tokens can be created. This seems like a good casual general. Pass.
[card]Shabraz, the Skyshark[/card] / [card]Brallin, Skyshark Rider[/card] – Absolutely hilarious. I love sharks, so this wins points from me just for existing. Shabraz gains you life and gets big, while Brallin pings from discarding (probably because of all those cards your drew). Wheels once again seem quite powerful, and Brallin has potential with [card]Curiosity[/card] effects to draw through the deck at end step, not dissimilar to Gitrog dredge loops, but that kills off a trigger instead of playing another card. Shabraz is a powerful midrange threat against slower decks like Stax or Control and Brallin has potent combo potential. This pair of partners is the first really intriguing one we’ve seen from a cEDH perspective and I think will actually have an impact on cEDH, which makes me incredibly excited. Elder Shark Highlander. The first real Excellent from me, I might have to build this.
[card]Otrimi, the Ever-Playful[/card] – Mutate is incredibly weird y’all. It has very unusual functionality rules wise and gameplay wise. Part of the reason I delayed this review was the Commander Rules Update that had been announced since the future of Flash in the format was uncertain, and I wanted my review to reflect its status at this time. The other reason is mutate. I had absolutely no idea how to evaluate it, and I think most people didn’t. It’s one of the strangest things Magic has done. So I wanted to play with it on Arena to get a better feel for how it actually works and what it means to play with mutate. Now that I have some experience I think I can safely say mutate is still weird. It’s a strange combination of bestow and ETB-esque abilities. Notably if you try to mutate onto a creature but that creature dies your mutate monster simply enters the battlefield (but doesn’t get its mutate trigger) so it’s hard to get completely 2-for-1’d. I think mutate should be viable on its own with powerful enough effects (many of which can be found in the main Ikoria set) that should be treated similarly to ETB creatures wherein instead of adding a body, you upgrade an existing one. The downside is flicker and reanimation effects serve no purpose other than spreading out bodies, but regrowing them to hand is better than it would be for ETB creatures. This is a really long section but I really wanted to flesh out my thoughts on mutate before discussing Otrimi. Otrimi has an amazing mutate rate, as 4 mana for a “hasty” 6/6 trample is quite powerful. And like I mentioned above, getting to regrow mutaters is stronger than you might think. If you want to build around mutate, there are enough good ones that I think you can do so without it feeling like a gimmick theme from previous sets or Standard legal expansions (like energy or investigate), especially since you can mutate onto any non-human creature (very easy in EDH especially when built around). I think it’s safe to say mutate won’t be showing up in cEDH, and its presence in casual is largely dependent on how effective the individual cards are. Only time will tell but I’m going give this a middling Pass.
[card]Zaxara, the Exemplary[/card] – Finally a commander for [card]Villainous Wealth[/card]. If you have enough mana to dump 5 or more into an X spell every turn or so, you should be able to build a big enough army to start running over your opponents. Zaxara also goes infinite with [card]Freed from the Real[/card] so it has potential to show up in cEDH in Scepter/Freed infinite mana lists, but I don’t know how much those decks need another mana maker as opposed to another copy of Freed. At least the option is there, and it might matter to some decks. A solid Pass.
[card]Ukkima, Stalking Shadow[/card] / [card]Cazur, Ruthless Stalker[/card] – Ukkima is the the card I’ve seen probably the most hype for on social media, though that may just be the community segment I’m familiar with. Ukkima is a great wincon in [card]Food Chain[/card] lists because you no longer need to draw out your deck or play another card to win, Ukkima simply drains your opponents on its own. Compared to decks like Food Chain Korvold, access to Blue is huge as you get more card draw and counterspells. Plus [card]Misthollow Griffin[/card] means you don’t lose out on a FC enabler by cutting red. Really interested to see how this impacts cEDH as a blue 3c FC deck. As regular cards neither is particularly exciting so I expect this to be weirdly better in cEDH than in casual. A strong Pass with potential for Excellent.
[card]Avenging Huntbonder[/card] – This is a pretty solid attacker for the Humans deck and the Kathril/Odric keyword soup lists. It has potential as a good top end in aggro decks though I’m not sure how much they wouldn’t rather have more value generation like [card]Sun Titan[/card] or similar. A solid Pass because of its strength in decks with synergy, but the high cost and low utility make it probably Fail in a vacuum.
[card]Call the Coppercoats[/card] – Talk about value. This is easily one of the most efficient token generators they’ve ever printed. You’re already breaking the average if you’re getting four tokens per opponent, and it’s very very easy to get far more than that. At instant speed and a cheap casting cost plus strive cost, this is absolutely a brand new format staple for so many archetypes. Also of note is that the tokens are Human Soldiers, so they have relevance for two different tribal decks. Slam dunk Excellent.
[card]Cartographer’s Hawk[/card] – Repeatable white ramp is something the colour has been needing for a long time. This is a very solid start. Returning the hawk to hand every time is a bit annoying, but is quite cheap to cast so it’s not difficult to keep playing this out. Having to wait two turns to use your ramp land is a pain, keeping this from being Excellent but it is a very strong Pass.
[card]Dismantling Wave[/card] – Wow. I love this effect. Spot removal that hits one per player is incredibly powerful on its own, so this is already a good card. The cycling ability costs a lot but turns into an uncounterable cantripping [card]Fracturing Gust[/card], which is quite potent especially because that’s just the bonus mode on an already playable card. I think many players underestimate the strength of artifact/enchantment boardwipes, especially as more and more powerful noncreature permanents get printed. Very Excellent rate.
[card]Flawless Maneuver[/card] – This cycle is probably the most exciting aspect of this product. Talk about tons of power. Maneuver is one of the strongest in the cycle because having your commander out is actually incentive for other players to cast boardwipes. In a way, you can use your commander as bait to cast this card and wipe your opponents out with their own spells. Strong in almost any deck that cares about keeping its creatures alive. Excellent.
[card]Herald of the Forgotten[/card] – This is a powerful ability, that’s for sure. The problem is that it is attached to an eight mana creature who cannot abuse blink effects. It’s also super vulnerable to graveyard hate, though mileage on that may vary since it seems like an underutilized effect in many metas. This is a solid Pass for cycling decks, and may find its way into individual mono-white decks that take advantage of cycling to make up for poor card advantage in the colour.
[card]Martial Impetus[/card] – This cycle is very similar to the Vow cycle from the original Commander decks, and all of them are at least a Pass if you have regular Voltron decks in your meta. Unlike the Vow cycle you’re guaranteed to get value because these auras goad their creatures. This one in particular seems strong in aggro decks because it incentivizes your opponent to swing with more creatures to get the full effect, which both hurts their target and leaves them with less blockers for your own creatures. A Pass for aggro.
[card]Verge Rangers[/card] – This card would be a laughable Green card, since it’s just in many ways worse than [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card]. But guess what, this isn’t a Green card. White decks can absolutely use this effect in as much quantity as they can, and the 3/3 first strike is a very nice body in a lot of situations. Excellent (by White’s standards).
[card]Vitality Hunter[/card] – This is a very interesting monstrosity ability. Granting permanent lifelink to even two other creatures will be a huge swing in life totals during a game. The low casting cost and monstrosity cost also really make this card shine. Strongest in life matters decks like Ayli, this can also just be a solid beater in aggro decks as well because of the ability to help win races or trigger things like [card]Well of Lost Dreams[/card] that many white decks run to generate card advantage.
Overall I’m giving white an Excellent rating for two reasons: the overall quality of the card pool is incredibly high thanks to incredible variants of effects already in the colour, and the two very playable ramp spells that we finally get. This is the kind of push white needs from WotC.
[card]Crystalline Resonance[/card] – This is a very interesting card. It does not have the “first” clause like many of the commanders in the set, so its very easy to change it multiple times a turn. The most obvious uses are protecting itself from removal, or turning into mana rocks to generate additional mana each turn. Because this card is completely useless unless you’re cycling regularly, it has no ability to see play outside of a dedicated cycling deck. If you don’t have a variety of permanent types to copy, this should also probably just be any one of the regular clone creatures. Middling pass.
[card]Decoy Gambit[/card] – Like most punisher cards, giving your opponents a choice means you’re almost never going to get the effect you want. And if this draws you three cards each time it’s still worse than many other draw spells, and is almost guaranteed to never be removal unless it’s absolutely unimportant. It’s just never gonna do what you want. Fail.
[card]Eon Frolicker[/card] – A weird way to get aggro players to beat up on someone else for a turn. A solid body and protection for yourself is okay, but it doesn’t help make up for the likely additional mana and resources your opponent will generate, not to mention it does absolutely nothing to protect your board. If you play this into a boardwipe you’re gonna feel like a fool. Fail.
[card]Ethereal Forager[/card] – Ah delve, what a fair mechanic. This card seems most suited to spellslinger lists because that’s what its ability wants. But I cannot really think of a spellslinger list that wants an attacking body, even if it generates value. Not to mention many spellslinger lists make use of higher boardwipe counts to make up for lower creatures, and this seems like an awkward tension point. Cool card, questionable use case. Uncertain Pass.
[card]Fierce Guardianship[/card] – Absolutely stupid good. Instant cEDH staple and really good in casual as well. Free counterspells are incredible, you should play them if your deck allows for the conditions. This is up there with [card]Force of Negation[/card], especially since it is still quite castable at just three mana. Competing for best card in the set, easy Excellent.
[card]Nascent Metamorph[/card] – This seems super unreliable. Getting to choose opponent each time means you have control of the potential pool, which is a strength, but you’re still relying on random chance to hope this doesn’t just eat the dust for no value. Seems incredibly risky. Fail.
[card]Psychic Impetus[/card] – I’m not certain why a blue deck would want this card. Scry 2 is solid, but is not worth playing a very questionable [card]Propaganda[/card] variant that only works once. Fail.
[card]Souvenir Snatcher[/card] – That is an expensive mutate ability. Solid in a mutate deck but quite overcosted as a vacuum card because has multiple fail states. Not being able to steal artifact creatures is a big negative. Pass for mutate decks, otherwise a Fail.
[card]Tidal Barracuda[/card] – Spicy. Reminiscent of [card]Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir[/card], granting your opponents flash is not terribly punishing because of the second ability, and might actually encourage opponents to fight more often on opponents turns. Potentially playable in cEDH as another turn protection creature, though at the risk of enabling your opponents to start winning at instant speed unintentionally on other players turns. I think it’s worth experimenting with. Excellent for casual, potential Pass for cEDH.
Overall I think Blue is a Fail this year. Most of the cards are situational and questionable at doing their job, and the few generically good cards aren’t enough to pull up the rest of the colour’s weight. That’s okay though because Blue constantly gets good cards and has decades of strong backlog to carry itself.
[card]Boneyard Mycodrax[/card] – A strong threat for graveyard decks that can also turn any future creature into a timebomb, making it a questionable target for opposing spot removal. Solid casual threat on par with other easy to enable LLurgoyf-esque cards, so it’s a Pass.
[card]Daring Fiendbonder[/card] – Fiendbonder’s entire destiny is to die to some chump blocker and then later on protect a single important creature. Seems like a huge investment, and at sorcery speed no less. A pass for certain Voltron decks, a Fail in a vacuum.
[card]Deadly Rollick[/card] – Black needs more good exile removal, and this is certainly playable. Not hitting walkers is technically a negative, though meta variations might make that point moot. Has potential as a removal spell in cEDH since there are many black commanders in the pool and the number of cheap black partners really ups the reliability. I could easily see this in Thrasios/Tymna or Thrasios/Vial-Smasher lists because they so regularly have a commander out and they can be cast early. Also very find to hard cast in casual. Excellent.
[card]Dredge the Mire[/card] – At worst you generate three mediocre bodies for four mana, which is a decent rate. At best you’ve been carefully sculpting out your opponents yards with cards like [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card] and can get back some super powerful creatures. Takes luck or effort to be truly worth it. Middling Pass.
[card]Mindleecher[/card] – A good “dragon” body that generates good value even if only mutated once. The problem is, unlike many other modern theft cards, it does not colour fix for you. This is a much worse card the less colours you have and in mono-black should be [card]Gonti, Lord of Luxury[/card] first. Excellent for mutate decks and Pass for other decks depending on colour identity.
[card]Netherborn Altar[/card] – Another card to enable Phage and Haakon for the eleven people in the world who really want to build those commanders. Also just very good for expensive commanders that become difficult to recast after a few trips back to the Command Zone. The lifeloss adds up quickly, but has hilarious synergy with [card]Villis, Broker of Blood[/card] since you can activate the altar with Villis on board just to lose a bunch of life for free. Also has some use in lifegain decks just as a way to spend your additional life. A Pass.
[card]Parasitic Impetus[/card] – Probably the worst of the cycle, this only really has potential for decks that want to gain life in multiple instances like [card]Karlov of the Ghost Council[/card]. Fail.
[card]Species Specialist[/card] – Most obvious place is in tribal decks where it’s easy to draw tons of cards. Also useful in metas dominated by tribal decks or just green decks with lots of mana elves. Strong Pass in a vacuum and Excellent for tribal.
[card]Titan Hunter[/card] – A decent punisher ability on a very expensive body. The sac outlet is a nice touch but isn’t particularly rewarding. Overall just costs too much to not do anything. Fail.
Overall I’m giving Black a Pass. Really all over the place, the good cards are good and the bad cards are average. Decent overall.
[card]Agitator Ant[/card] – A strong aggro tool, both growing your own creatures and pushing opponents to attack each other. It doesn’t have a great body or evasion, so it’s likely this needs to target itself the first time in order to ensure its own survival. Middling Pass.
[card]Deflecting Swat[/card] – I’d call this a better [card]Misdirection[/card] by a mile. It doesn’t cost another card and is easily hard cast. Plus as a near counterspell in red, many players simply won’t play around it. Swat has no downside and is easy to cast for free. I expect to see this in many Vial Smasher lists as well as other cEDH decks. Absolutely Excellent.
[card]Fireflux Squad[/card] – This probably fits into Etali decks, as well as token lists for its strong synergy there. Being able to attack and flip the turn you play it is a huge upside. Definitely wants to be in an aggro or big creature deck. Solid Pass.
[card]Frontier Warmonger[/card] – Free damage on your opponents, free incentive to your opponents to attack each other. Also very effective planeswalker removal. Happens to be a warrior for Najeela and might be cEDH playable in her tempo lists just as a massive enabler for beating face and making sure Najeela is harder to block to death. Excellent.
[card]Lavabrick Floodgates[/card] – Part mana rock, part boardwipe. It’s unlikely to trigger in a reliable way, though it might be more easy than I think if you have one opponent who is far enough ahead that other players want to wipe them too. Until then it acts as quite strong mana ramp, though the potential to lose Floodgates to itself makes that also unreliable. A weird Fail that is very close to a Pass if it wasn’t so uncertain.
[card]Molten Echoes[/card] – Incredibly strong tribal reward. This is definitely more suited to combo or aggro tribal variants that just want critical masses or more copies of specific effects. This also grants pseudo-haste so you’re guaranteed to be able to “use” your creatures immediately. Pass.
[card]Shiny Impetus[/card] – Decent ramp, though losing the creature means the coins stop flowing. Probably doesn’t get there, though good in decks that want to attack since you can just stick it on your own creatures. Low Pass, likely a Fail.
[card]Spellpyre Phoenix[/card] – This is a very potent cycling reward, and guarantees card advantage and an easy way to recur itself. The five mana cost is a big barrier to too much easy value. Absolutely worthless outside dedicates cycling decks. Pass for cycling decks.
[card]Surly Badgersaur[/card] – A weird kind of self [card]Waste Not[/card] variant, this seems very powerful in wheel decks. With the right luck this can chain together multiple wheels a turn with the Treasure tokens it generates, and can also function as removal. Also seems very good in madness lists as another way to generate value, I’m not sure how much [card]Anje Falkenrath[/card] needs a creature like this in either cEDH or casual. Strong Pass for the right decks.
Red gets a similar Pass to black as the good cards are good and the bad cards are average, though definitely the colour as a whole is more narrow this time.
[card]Capricopian[/card] – This is a solid rate hydra, but the ability to allow your opponents to send it another way is worrisome. It also lacks trample so it’s hard to see it doing anything but get chump blocked by the wrong player. I guess your opponents can get into some kind of redirection war if they all left open tons of mana but that’s a weird scenario I don’t think you can count on. Fail.
[card]Curious Herd[/card] – Wow. This won’t make as many tokens [card]Call the Coppercoats[/card] but it does still make a solid amount of tokens. And if there’s a player in your meta who is like me (one of my nicknames is Captain ManaRocks), it can be easy to generate four or more tokens off this with regularity. Plus many games will simply see an opponent or two end up with several artifacts on board. Plus these are 3/3s not measly 1/1s. Strong Pass.
[card]Glademuse[/card] – This sort of rewards you for playing counterspells and flash stuff, but is really a grouphug card. Since grouphug generally doesn’t seek to win the game I tend to rate those cards poorly, especially ones that seem poised to reward your opponents more than you. This is a Fail from me, but I know lots of people will consider this a Pass since it fits their style.
[card]Obscuring Haze[/card] – Wow that’s still strong. The entire cycle seems better now that we’ve gone through each of them. This classically fogs, but also completely imbalances combat in your favour and also doesn’t specify combat damage so it can stop weird instances of tons of non-combat damage, like fight cards or Purphoros when he’s a creature. Definitely has a ton of good use cases and is also just a fog which is never terrible in a pinch. Excellent.
[card]Predatory Impetus[/card] – That’s so much mana. Not the rate for Voltron decks and far too expensive to probably play on opponents creatures, even with the light Lure ability since the ridiculous +3/+3 pump makes it that much harder to kill. I don’t understand what this card wants to do. Fail.
[card]Ravenous Gigantotherium[/card] – Super expensive, though it can easily turn your floaters and tokens into removal or even a potential assymetrical boardwipe. This is strongest in blink and token strategies, and likely too hard to enable in ramp decks since you won’t have as many creatures you want to just throw away. Strong Pass.
[card]Sawtusk Demolisher[/card] – Another four mana 6/6 trample mutater, the body is quite good. The [card]Beast Within[/card] trigger is very strong, essentially acting as a mono green [card]Nekrataal[/card]. The ability to tutor and regrow this creature make it far stronger because of it being green. Excellent in mutate decks, strong Pass in a vacuum.
[card]Selective Adaptation[/card] – Clearly designed for the Kathril deck, this card really wants to you diversify your creature abilities. Kind of awkward in regular green ramp lists because so many big green creatures tend to just have trample. You’d have to rely on a second or third colour for more diversity, so this mono-green looking card actually is more like a multicolour spell. Excellent in Kathril and Rayami, potential Pass in individual decks with a high count of keyword diversity.
[card]Slippery Bogbonder[/card] – A pseudo-counterspell in green for stopping spot removal. Also moves counters around to potentially buff that creature. Clear knockout Excellent for Rayami and Kathril, middling Pass elsewhere.
Green seems super polarized this year. The good cards are incredible (either in a vacuum or for the decks they’re designed for), and the bad cards seem terrible. I’ll give a Pass because of the high density of strong Passes and Excellent ratings only being slightly brought down by the Fail cases.
[card]Cryptic Trilobite[/card] – I have absolutely no idea what to do with this card. It seems to want to be put in decks that already have [card]Training Grounds[/card] and friends, but also is much harder to abuse. Unlike Training Grounds it can fuel the costs of non-creature abilities, so it has that going for it. A Fail overall, might be a middling Pass in certain individual lists.
[card]Bonders Ornament[/card] – Another strictly better [card]Manalith[/card], though this is just barely better since that draw ability costs so much mana and even risks drawing your opponents a card if they decided to include equally terrible cards in their deck or are just playing the pre-con like you are. I’m good, thanks. Fail.
[card]Manascape Refractor[/card] – This really rewards utility lands, but also gives you more copies of [card]Cabal Coffers[/card] and [card]Gaeas Cradle[/card]. At the literal worst it’s basically another Manalith but the ceiling is so high and easy to enable. Excellent.
[card]Sanctuary Blade[/card] – A decent Voltron equipment, but it’s still no “Sword of X and Y.” The ability to change the colour if needed is better than it seems at first, since you can surprise opponents with sudden protection or evasion. Pass.
[card]Twinning Staff[/card] – Between this, Riku and Kalamax, is there enough to really generate a whole new copy archetype? Only time will tell. Excellent if the deck turns up, expensive Fail in a vacuum.
[card]Nesting Grounds[/card] – Just a solid utility land that is viable in a variety of decks. Counters, superfriends, other weird archetypes (charge counters perhaps?). Cheap to activate too. It’s free real estate. Solid Pass.
This is an exciting year for Commander. Between all the Standard sets and Commander Legends coming this year, we’re gonna have a lot to contend with, and there was the risk this product got lost in the middle. But there’s a ton of exciting new cards and a surprising amount to be had for cEDH. It’s unfortunate that so many of the new cards are self-capped, making it hard to maximize them and thus push a Playing to Win mentality, but there’s enough depth for this year to still have a good number of new options. Also there’s a flying shark.
What are you most looking forward to from Commander 2020? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter. Until next time.