Hello folks! I hope that you are having an amazing day today!
I know that a lot of folks are looking back at 2020 with the eye of gratitude that it's leaving us. Sure, the year had its share of challenges. But there were a lot of great things that happened! In MTG, we got some great sets like Commander Legends, Ikoria: Lair of the Behemoths, and Zendikar Rising. We had a bunch of fun sets! And fun cards to boot!
And that's where I want to turn my eyes... what cards from this year were the best of the best? Which ones really sang for Commander? What hyped up cards actually hit it out of the park? Which underhyped cards outshone themselves? Today we'll be looking at the best of the best. I'm also going to give you two more cards than normal, as I normally do 3 honorable mentions, but today? FIVE! There are a lot of good cards in the conversation this year after all.
Let's get this thing started!
Honorable Mention #1 - Chromatic Orrery
Hello fans of massively powerful mana rocks like Gilded Lotus. Our good Chromatic Orrery returns five mana on paying it's seven mana cost - no coming into play untapped, which means you only lose two mana on the turn you drop it. It's also great at tapping to draw cards and can draw a lot of said cards as your colors under control increase. In a 3-, 4-, or 5-color deck, it improves in value as you can use any color of mana for any color of mana, like colorless mana from a Sol Ring. That's nasty good. It's better than Gilded Lotus for that reason, since it only taps for one color of mana. As a valuable mana rock with a powerful color washing ability, this is basically a bigger and better Chromatic Lantern, and it also can draw cards if you don't need that mana in the end game and serves as a mana sink and a mana rock in one card. What's not to love?
Honorable Mention #2 - Skyclave Relic
Hello fans of Manaliths. This Darksteel Ingot arrives to the party indestructible, and you can kick it for three more mana to net two more Ingots for a total of three mana of whatever you need, all indestructible. It's better than Darksteel Ingot because you can kick it. It's also better than Gilded Lotus because it's indestructible and makes any color of mana rather than all three needing to be the same mana, and it separates it up into three bodies for removal purposes so two will survive targeted removal. It's one of the best mana rocks that have ever been printed for Commander. Period...
Honorable Mention #3 - Rambunctious Mutt
The only common on our list is this good boy who loves to break things on arrival. He is the Acidic Slime or Restoration Sage of White. He's incredibly strong in multiplayer where you are looking for value, and he's in White, which gives you access to blinks and can set you up for many future returns. From mid-range to control to blink decks, this Mutt is pretty good. It's also the token common on our list today!
Honorable Mention #4 - Shadowspear
Shadowspear was a big hit! It's cheap to drop and equip, and you'll net a nice boost with trample, lifelink, and size which is good for its cost. But the real reason it's here? It can strip protections from foes' stuff like hexproof and indestructible for a single mana activation. It's big fat answer to cards like Heroic Intervention and Rootborn Defenses. With this out and the mana up and ready to be used, they won't even bother to cast it! And this slides into any deck, no matter the color! Good stuff Shadowspear! One way you know this was big? How many copies are registered over at EDHREC.com? A massive 13,554... in less than a year!
Honorable Mention #5 - Shark Typhoon
Shark Typhoon has two valves you can turn that make it pretty strong and flexible. First, you can cycle it and make a big nasty dork at the end of the turn with flying, very similar to Decree of Justice. It replaces itself and it's hard to counter as well, so it's strong in that way. However, you can just cast it. You'll net a nasty trigger for your creature light decks that will net you a big Shark beater as you drop that Force of Will or Wrath of God. This bad boy is good in both versions, which increases its power at the kitchen table.
Hello! Here's your Lotus Petal maker! This Merfolk Pirate is nasty good with the flash and the cheap vibes going on. It's great to lock out all of the other possible card drawing with this bad boy out until answered. Basically, no one is playing their Brainstorms and Opts until this is answered. It's doesn't handle every card draw because there are some corner cases where someone is drawing a card without drawing a card, like Fact or Fiction, where you put cards into your hand without drawing them. But most are locked out. You can encourage the drawing with effects like Howling Mine, Prosperity, and Wheel of Fortune or Memory Jar. Great stuff; great card. Enjoy the Lotus Petals of Love.
9. Ancient Greenwarden
Is 2020 the Year of Land? We have three great cycles of lands from the Pathways to two that will chart above. We have nasty land rampers at #6 below. We had another run of landfall. Ramp is big in Standard and resulted in many bans (like Omnath's fourth appearance). Oh, and don't forget Greeny here either! Lil' Greeny is the same cost as Primeval Titan and has a similar 12 total power and toughness with a single keyword. It's a powerful Crucible of Worlds walking around with all of the synergy that offers. And you get double triggers when lands arrive? 2020 is the Year of Land after all!!!
8. Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools
Tevesh Szat is the first planeswalker ever to make one of my lists based on his ultimate ability which breaks the game, but rather slowly... and doesn't do you're the courtesy of winning quickly. He'd be less powerful if he didn't have partner, and the ability to add Simic with his partner which will include 27 sources of Blue, Black, Green or colorless proliferate out of 33 (legal ones, the 34th is silver bordered) in print. It's also the color of Doubling Season. Tevesh Szat is no fool and stealing all battlefield and command zone leaders is just nasty good and gives the game to the player of Tevesh Szat. This guy is truly nasty!
7. Manascape Refractor
This bad boy fits into any deck with its colorless fun times. Would you like to have a copy of every one of your lands' abilities? You can tap it for any color you have available already like a Reflecting Pool. You can use every non-basic ability you have, such as activating it for a Maze of Ith or a Volrath's Stronghold. You can abuse your land's big mana makers like Gaea's Cradle or Serra's Sanctum and get another activation. You can sacrifice it to Wasteland a key non-basic land your foe has. That's nasty, right? Right! But that's only part of the story... Did you see the rest of it? Manascape Refractor doesn't just work for your own lands' abilities! It does the same for every land out there. In a four-player game, this is not just a Reflecting Pool but a Fellwar Stone, and every non-basic ability your foes need, and you can tap to use them! Just use any color of mana with its final ability! This thing is waaaay too strong not to take seriously.
6. Reshape the Earth with a shout out to Nylea's Intervention
Reshape the Earth is a stupidly powerful spell. For nine mana, you search your library for any land (not just any basic) and then you toss them all onto the battlefield. Filthy! Ten ramped lands, nine mana. You can easily get 20 mana from those lands from the Urzatron's three lands for 7, Temple of the False God and Ancient Tomb for 4, Gaea's Cradle, and more. It's very simple to win the game from there, and it's not like modern ramp decks have an issue with the nine mana entrance fee. It's also a nasty combo kill with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle or Field of the Dead. If you get Field of the Dead and 9 other lands, then you'll get 10 triggers and 10 2/2 Zombies which is enough to deal 20 damage in one nasty swing...
A shout out to Nylea's Intervention which still gives you a ton of any lands in an X spell form, but makes you work to drop them, which is as easy as Manabond... but it can also serve as Whirlwind if you are facing a bunch of flyers.
5. Lithoform Engine
Lithoform Engine is a swiss army knife that fits into a while lot of decks. It's first ability copies a ton of abilities, from those that trigger on entering the battlefield to the abilities of planeswalkers. The 2nd ability will Fork a spell you control, which very flexible as you can double up on removal or card draw very effectively. And the final ability will Clone any permanent spell giving you an extra copy. Let me give you one example of a commonly played dork and how good this is:
Consider Solemn Simulacrum. You just dropped it, and now it arrives and trigger's it's land fetching ability. Tap the Engine and 2 mana and copy it and get another land. Later, the Simulacrum dies and puts its death trigger on the stack. You can tap the Engine and another two mana to copy it and draw two cards rather than just one. Imagine your Simulacrum is on the stack, and you have four mana available. Tap it and now you get two Simulacrums, with two triggers. You now have two bodies to swing, block, and later you can get two death triggers when they die, and three if you use this when they do so. Nasty! And that's just with the common Simulacrum! Imagine its power with something much better! Even a humble Mulldrifter is four cards with an Engine and two extra mana. Strong stuff!
4. The Free Instant Cycle
When making this cycle, WOTC forgot one of the cores about MTG cards. Don't make them free, and if you do... do not make them this powerful. The only one in the cycle that's not broken is the Fog one Obscuring Haze. More Fogs? Sure. But free Negates with Fierce Guardianship? That's the wrong card. Counters should never be this free, it's not even the card disadvantage of Force of Will or Force of Negation! Since it was printed, Fierce Guardianship has been registered over at EDHREC.com a total of 18,034 times! That's when you know something went wrong...
3. The Player Check Cycle
A cycle of lands that always arrives untapped and ready for the party is sexy-keen-cool. Getting untapped lands without jumping through any hoops is so good that this cycle is clearly one of the best in the year for Commander specifically or multiplayer generally. You don't have to pay anything to get them untapped, and the only downside they have is that if some of your foes are dead and you are down to 1:1 they arrive tapped. By that time the game will be in its end stages and you won't care about the tappery. Enjoy this cycle of awesomeness!
2. The Triome Cycle
Land cycles can be a bit hit or miss at times, but the Triomes? A massive hit! Just a three-land type land was something we hadn't had before and that made them amazing with their fetchability. Sure, unlike the Shock Lands, they don't have the option to arrive untapped for a cost, but the fact they each make 60% of the colors of mana as well as being synergetic with fetchlands and land grabbers alike is incredible. I love them! They would make this list at this spot without the cycling ability! With it? They are even better as you can cycle them late game as you draw unnecessary land and then net another card instead. This cycle is nasty!
1. Teferi, Master of Time
Getting a higher ranking than two sick cycles of lands??? And the Fierce Guardianship cycle? Teferi, Master of Time must really be brokenly and... and he is! If you drop him in a four-way Commander game you'll get 4 loots and 4 loyalty every spin of the turn wheel. It's very easy to get him to ultimate and net those two extra turns. The massive digging he does is just brokenly good. He's very powerful in a two player game, but in casual Commander? He is one of the best planeswalkers ever printed for multiplayer, period, end of the conversation.
And there you go! What did you think of my list? Anything in here that I missed or that you loved? Anything you forgot about? I'd love to hear more about it!