I was going to start this article with a bit about how 2020 hasn’t been the year that we expected but I think we’re all sick of hearing about ‘these unprecedented times.’ So, let’s get right into it! This weekend saw a virtual celebration of everything commander with Channel Fireball hosting a two-day extravaganza of commander news, content and gameplay.
Now, I’m sure for a lot of you who would have attended the event in person it is a disappointment not to be in the convention hall jamming games, checking out the vendors and meeting your favourite content creators. But as someone based in the UK, it has been an absolute pleasure to be able to experience the event as a fan and a player.
“What’s in Commander Collection: Green?”
The weekend kicked off with some big announcements from Gavin Verhey, Ari Nich and Jules Robins, lead designers from Wizard’s R&D team. Ari revealed all 8 cards that will be found in Commander Collection: Green coming out on December 4th:
- Seedborn Muse
- Omnath, Locus of Mana
- Bane of Progress
- Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury
- Worldly Tutor
- Sylvan Library
- Sol Ring
- Command Tower
Available in foil and non-foil versions, this is an excellent set of commander staples, all with brand new art and a homage to a popular green legend. Worldly Tutor depicts Yisan, Seedborn Muse has elements in the style of Azusa and Sylvan Library now shows Reki, the History of Kamigawa (which I am a huge fan of). I initially found the inclusion of Sol Ring and Command Tower to be a waste of two slots that could have been taken up by other much requested staple reprints, such as Dryad Arbor or Parallel Lives. However, after some reflecting, I think these are actually an excellent include and am excited to see future versions in the commander collection series. With new green themed art, you can add an extra splash of colour and stand out at your FNM games among a sea of your usual sol rings and command towers!
“Please tell us white is getting some help?”
Good news for white players, it’s getting a buff! I must admit, seeing ‘powerful white cards’ as a key bullet point of the panel did make me laugh but it is good to see that players’ concern for the colour are being taken seriously and some key elements will be coming to white. The panel explained how white would soon be seeing more card draw, ramp, win conditions, permanent protection/recursion AND more persistent threats. It is important to note that these additions will be slowly rolled out over several years, so don’t expect to see Mangara at every table of your LGS just yet! One thing that really stood out to me was the line “Some changes for white will be a shift in philosophy, others are things we’ve said we can’t print and are now saying we can.” It’s clear that a colour is in need of help when WOTC will openly announce that they are essentially saying ‘f*** it, just make it work!’
“Get to Commander Legends already!!”
Now the highlight of the weekend was the barrage of information we were given on Commander Legends, coming November 6th. A draft set of 361 cards (not including lands) containing 165 new cards, each pack will contain 20 cards and guarantees 2 legends and a foil. Gavin has stated that commander draft boosters will be more expensive than a normal booster but cheaper than a masters booster. As it stands, a box of 24 boosters is available for pre-order at $125.
The set is designed to be drafted with 3 packs per player in a pod of 8 and then played in pods of 4, with players taking two cards per pack and building 60 card decks. Like commander; you start with 40 life, can win with 21 commander damage and must stick to the colour identity of your commander. HOWEVER, (and yes, it’s a big however) it is NOT a singleton format, you may play multiple copies of the same card in your deck. The reasons given for these big differences to EDH was that 100 cards took far too long to draft during testing and that even at 60 cards it is still difficult to draft enough cards in your chosen colours to build a worthwhile singleton deck. In terms of power level, it seems that these commander draft decks are 1 or 2 levels below the regular commander precons.
As excited as I am to draft this set, there is much bigger news. Partner is back! Of the 71 new legends in this set, 41 of them are mono coloured partner commanders, the other 30 legends without partner are all two or three colours. This means that there are now over 1,540 possible partner combinations in EDH, opening up endless possibilities for new deck brewing. However, this does mean that we are not seeing any new 4 colour commanders as soon as we expected. Bummer!
Among these new legends are a lot of new characters, as well as plenty of characters that the community has been asking for in legendary form. The first of which sees the return of everyone’s favourite Baron, Sengir! Now a black 4/4 flyer with partner for 6 mana. Sengir, the Dark Baron has two awesome abilities; gaining two +1/+1 counters whenever another creature dies and allowing you to gain life whenever a player loses the game. And OG Magic fans can rejoice as a special preview event version has been created with alternate art from the original Sengir creator himself, Pete Venters!
It’s not just Rare and Mythic legends that we’ll be seeing in this set, many of them will also be in the Uncommon slot (and even 1 at Common). Back in 2016, WOTC posted a story online titled ‘Under the Silver Moon’, a story of two connected hunters; Halana and Alena. The duo is a heavily requested fan favourite and finally receive their own cards in Commander Legends. Halana is green 3/4 with reach and partner for 4 mana, her ability allows you to pay 2 generic mana whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control to deal damage equal to its power to any creature. Alena is a red 4/3 with first strike and partner for 5 mana, her ability allows you to tap her for an amount of red mana equal to the power of your biggest creature. They don’t have to be partnered together but clearly have that big Gruul energy that would be great when paired together.
There is one stand-alone legend at common rarity and it exists as a safety net for the drafting environment. The Prismatic Piper is a colourless 3/3 with partner for 5 mana and it allows you to choose its colour before a game if it is your partner. During testing the R&D team found that on very rare occasions, players didn’t draft two colour-appropriate commanders to partner together. So, this pauper commander was created to be included like basic lands during a draft, is found in 1 out of 6 draft packs and doesn’t take up a legendary slot within the pack.
“Wait, no reprinted legends?”
One surprise that was dropped on us was the addition of 32 popular legends from Magic’s history that aren’t in the set but will occasionally appear in draft packs in a brand-new foil etched treatment and special frame! It is near impossible to describe these new foils but to give you an idea they are much more like the surface of real metal than your normal foil, I really do advise heading to Gavin Verhey’s Twitter to see a little video of these bad boys because they are beautiful! And the odd draft pack isn’t the only place they can be found as (yep, you guessed it) there will be collector boosters with this set. Containing foil etched cards, as well as extended art versions of cards from the set, even including some common and uncommons such as command sphere and command tower. These boosters will be the only place we see the extended art cards and will only contain 15 cards so it is important to note that THESE ARE NOT FOR DRAFTING!
“Surely, we’re getting the fetch lands in this set, right?!?
Just as the panel was wrapping up Gavin dropped one final surprise with the announcement of the final 5 enemy lands that we have been waiting for since the original 5 from Battlebond. These dual lands that enter tapped unless you have two or more opponents were created for Commander Legends BEFORE Battlebond and have been held onto for the perfect set. These lands can also be found in the collector boosters. Although it wasn’t definitively said that there won’t be more than one land cycle in Commander Legends, it is extremely unlikely that we will see them here. And with the announcement that we will see them at some point this year, it is becoming more and more likely that they will be released in a stand-alone premium product and not in boosters like we all want and need.
“What does the future hold?”
As well as being thoroughly excited by the products due for release, it was an absolute pleasure to see all of the gameplay that took place over the weekend. Watching Magic personalities and content creators jamming causal games on Twitch was greatly entertaining, especially with the donation system set up for charity allowing donators to shuffle players graveyards into their decks or pick a player to tutor for a card.
However, the highlight for me, was seeing the sheer volume of commander games being battled out on the Channel Fireball Discord. With plenty of games going at any given time and a system to group players based on their power level created such a community buzz and allowed people from all over the world to jam some games with like-minded individuals. What this has shown me is that even a global pandemic can’t stop the gathering. A format made by the people for the people is every changing and forever adapting to players’ wants and needs. Regardless of circumstance, EDH finds a way!