Even though we can all agree that 2020 is a giant dumpster fire, there are lots of good things that Magic brought us this year. WotC promised that 2020 would be the year of Commander, and they most certainly delivered on that promise. Today I’m going to run through my top ten favorite new cards of 2020. Full disclosure: I’m an aggressively casual player. You’re not gonna find Jeweled Lotus, Opposition Agent, or Hullbreacher on this list. Tune back in the next few weeks for my top ten reprints and my top ten commanders of 2020 as well! Without further adieu, here we go!
Wilt is WotC’s latest rendition of a strictly better Naturalize. I’ve replaced all of my copies of Return to Nature with Wilt. As nice as Return to Nature’s modal graveyard hate is, I love Wilt’s cycling ability better. There’s nothing flashy about Wilt, but cycling for a mere two generic mana means you always have the option to either fire it off or cycle it with the same amount of mana.
You thought I was gonna say Thassa’s Oracle, didn’t you? I think this card is quite underrated in Commander. You likely won’t see it used a counterspell all that often. Force Spikes and Mana Leaks don’t really have a place in a format of big mana, but I think you’ll be able to “gotcha!” someone every now and then with the “twice X” counter tax. What I really love about Thassa's Intervention is the first mode. Digging X cards deep and picking the best two at instant speed is no joke; more often than not you'll find something useful and clear out a mana pocket all at the same time. Thassa’s Intervention isn’t terribly efficient for either mode, but like most modal cards it’s the flexibility that makes the card worth running.
Ikoria brought MTG its very first tri-land in the truest sense of the word. The Ikoria triomes have three basic land types, meaning they can be found with the Onslaught or Zendikar fetches. The five existing triomes are for the wedges of the color pie (Mardu, Temur, Abzan, Jeskai, and Sultai), and hopefully we’ll see shard triomes in the near future. I’m not holding my breath since we still haven’t seen the enemy bicycle lands to complete the cycle started in Amonkhet. The triomes enter tapped, but like the Amonkhet bicycle lands these triomes can cycle away in the late game for 3 generic. Three is pricey for a single cycler, but at least it’s not a dead draw when you’re flooded or just don’t need any more mana in the late game. I’ve got Savai Triome in my Mardu Humans deck and it’s never been a card I’m entirely unhappy to see. I’d pick up a few of each while Ikoria is still in Standard.
10. Thieving Skydiver - Zendikar Rising
I’m a big fan of Anowon, the Ruin Thief, and Thieving Skydiver has been nothing less than a workhorse in that deck for me since I built it. There’s nearly never going to be a time where Thieving Skydiver is a dead draw. In the early turns you can steal any of the 0, 1, or 2 CMC mana rocks, and Greaves or Boots. In the later turns, you’re stealing big ticket items like altars, swords of X & Y, Aetherflux Reservoir, Panharmonicon, Bolas's Citadel, and The Great Henge. Oh, let’s also not forget that commander all-stars Golos and Breya are both artifact creatures. What’s better? The kicker clause on Skydiver is permanent. Your opponent doesn’t get their stuff back when Skydiver dies or leaves the battlefield. Once this trigger resolves, your opponents’ need to waste their removal on their own stuff or steal it back. Either way, it’s a 2-for-1 in your favor. Thieving Skydiver is efficient and scalable artifact removal in blue, and I expect it to become a staple in the next year or two.
9. Mythos of Snapdax - Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths
This would have easily been white’s best card this year if it came with the Adamant mechanic from Throne of Eldraine that gave you a “kicker” effect if you spent at least 3 mana of a certain color while casting the spell. Instead, Mythos of Snapdax is forced into a Mardu color identity with its “kicker” effect. Either way, this is a spectacular board wipe if your colors can support it. Casting Mythos of Snapdax without the Mardu “kicker” effect is still potent, but with that kicker it’s a 4-CMC Tragic Arrogance. You get to leave everyone else with their worst stuff while you still have your best. I have absolutely wrecked people’s boards with Mythos of Snapdax, and very often resolving this card will seal your win or rocket launch you back into a game. Handy tip: Mythos of Snapdax doesn’t target your opponents’ stuff (or yours!), so it gets around both hexproof and shroud. Plus, since this card makes everyone sacrifice permanents, you get around those pesky indestructible creatures. Great board wipe that you should be running as your colors allow!
8. Village Rites - Core Set 2021
This is a strictly better Altar’s Reap and I won’t be at all surprised to see it become a black staple within a year. One single black plus a creature is a small price to pay for two cards at instant speed. It’s card parity for you since you’re down the creature plus Village Rites in order to draw two, but most black decks have ways to turn creature deaths into advantages. You can also always hold this up to respond to an opponent’s removal spell and turn your targeted creature into two cards. I love everything about Village Rites, right down to the artistic homage to Village Cannibals. Rites has a slot in every black deck I own, and it should be in every black deck of yours as well.
7. Bala Ged Recovery / Bala Ged Sanctuary - Zendikar Rising
Bala Ged Recovery is the first modal dual-faced card on this list. We get a 3-CMC Regrowth on the front and a tapland on the back. As we’ve discussed earlier on this list with Thassa’s Intervention, Bala Ged Recovery is inefficient on both of its modes but its modality makes it quite playable. This card is a tapped green source in the early turns, and in the later turns you get your best card back for 3 mana; that’s an Eternal Witness without the 2/1 body. This is another instant staple, and something I’m putting into each green deck I can. I’m a big fan of flexibility, and I love that WotC gave us a lot of that this year. Bala Ged Recovery is already sneaking up towards the $2.00 range, so grab your copies now!
6. Heartless Act - Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths
As mana curves have gotten smaller this year (even on the casual side!), I have been trimming the fat and looking for cheaper, more efficient removal. Murder has fallen by the wayside, and I was looking for an heir apparent that wasn’t Doom Blade or Terror; I simply run into too many black creatures nowadays that my old standbys are now a liability. In comes Heartless Act, a 2-mana instant speed removal spell that’s earned its way into my regular rotation next to Go For the Throat and Victim of Night. Heartless Act either kills a creature without any counters on it, or removes three counters from a creature. Unless you’re regularly running up against Ghave or Atraxa, Heartless Act will be unconditional removal 9 times out of 10. Even if there’s a counters deck in your meta, Heartless Act can still shrink creatures at instant speed. I run this in my Hapatra deck both as removal and a way to grow my creatures if they have too many -1/-1 counters on them. Fun tip: if your opponent turns their Gideon planeswalker into an indestructible creature, you can use Heartless Act to remove loyalty counters from it. Expect this versatile removal spell to see a lot more play in the wild in the future. Get copies for cheap while you can; this will be a $3 removal spell when Ikoria rotates out of Standard.
5. Bastion of Remembrance - Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths
Zulaport Cutthroat is one of my favorite cards of all time, so when I saw it functionally reprinted as an enchantment in Bastion of Remembrance I nearly lost my mind. Even when you’re not in an aristocrats strategy, Bastion of Remembrance is still a great card to have as wrath protection. As an enchantment it is resilient to removal, and even if Bastion does get removed you’ve still got a 1/1 Soldier token out of the deal so your opponents will always be at card disadvantage. Any deck playing Zulaport Cutthroat should absolutely consider Bastion of Remembrance. It’s a redundant copy at its floor, and a second or third aristocrat with resiliency at its ceiling. What a great card. Black didn’t need help in the value department, but I’m happy all the same to see Bastion get printed.
4. Valakut Awakening / Valakut Stoneforge - Zendikar Rising
Hot take: this is red’s best card draw spell since Wheel of Fortune. That’s right. Better than Faithless Looting, Cathartic Reunion, Thrill of Possibility, and Reforge the Soul. Valakut Stoneforge comes down in the early turns as a tapped red source, and in the later turns Valakut Awakening turns a grip of dead cards or mana flood into instant speed cyclers. What’s more? This card replaces itself! All of the other staple red draw spells sans Wheel of Fortune put you down at least one card. Valakut Awakening gives you an amount of cards equal to the cards you put on the bottom of your library plus one, so your floor is paying 3 mana to cycle just Valakut Stoneforge and that’s not bad! But 3 mana at instant speed to dump three or four dead cards and draw as many fresh ones all while still keeping the cards you wanted is outrageous value. Move over Wheel of Misfortune. No red deck goes without Valakut Awakening; it’s just that good.
The most hateful of white hatebears has come to roost. Drannith Magistrate is simply a killer in EDH. If this guy comes out on turn two against Atraxa, Kenrith, Yarok, Muldrotha, or Korvold, you’ll have made one enemy and two friends right off the bat. Keeping the scary commanders at bay forces the pilots to approach the game differently, and the mere existence of Drannith Magistrate has proven the necessity for deckbuilders to pack more and more single target removal. Drannith also serves as a lightning rod; if you can force someone to use removal on the Magistrate to get their commander on the field, that’s one less Swords to Plowshares you’ll need to worry about. I don’t think this guy is busted, but I understand the feelbads. I won’t be surprised if he gets the ban hammer in a few years, but until then don’t sleep on Drannith Magistrate. Keeping your opponents’ commanders off the field will win you more games.
2. The Pathway cycle - Zendikar Rising
I never knew I wanted dual lands that were also flip lands, but 2020 is full of surprises. I was skeptical at first, but I think the Pathways have proven their mettle to me. Sure, you can’t fetch them and they realistically only tap for one color, but having this come down on turn 4 or 5 when you’re flooded on one color is just as good as dropping in a shockland. You rarely want a Pathway in your opener, but drawing into them turn 3 or later will almost always be welcome. The Pathways have made me consider running the Ravnica bouncelands for the first time in forever, and made Cloudstone Curio even better than it already was. For the time being, these are the best budget duals for casuals by a country mile. At the time of printing, they’re between $1.00 - $4.00 for the regular art and between $2.00 and $6.00 for the borderless full art. Whatever edition you choose, buy as many of these as you can while they’re in Standard. The Pathways are here to stay.
1. The Battlebond enemy duals cycle - Commander Legends
We all suspected they were coming and we’re happy they did. You don’t need me to tell you how good the Battlebond lands are. A dual that enters untapped as long as you have two or more opponents? Yes, please. It can’t be fetched, but who cares? Now that the cycle is complete, every multi-colored deck should be running whichever ones they can. Just like the Pathways, buy these while Commander Legends is being opened. As the release of Kaldheim inches closer and closer, your window to buy the enemy Battlebond lands at their cheapest prices gets smaller and smaller. No one knows the next time any of the Battlebond lands will be printed. Get these format staples soon before they start to rise.