Hello all! I hope that you are having an awesometastic day today! Are you staying safe? Are you having fun? Preferably in that order! (They aren't mutually exclusive)
We received the full spoiler for Core Set 2021 last week and I wanted to take a deep dive into my choices for the best cards from the set for Commander and similar multiplayer formats. What cards are going to be awesome at the kitchen table? What are the probable casual hits and all stars from the set?
Ready? Here are my top (new) cards!
Honorable Mention #1: Silversmote Ghoul
We'll start with this bad boy. Black and other colors gain life all the time, often by draining it. Did you gain at least three life from your Gray Merchant of Asphodel? Great! You get a free Silversmote Ghoul. You don't have to spend any mana at all, it's a free body. Sacrifice it for a card and keep on, or just use it for creature things like attacking, blocking, and grabbing a piece of equipment. Either way you get mad value over time without spending any mana at all.
Honorable Mention #2: Angelic Ascension
Meet your new Swords to Plowshares or Path to Exile. Like the latter, this is card disadvantage. You swap one spell for your foe's but gave them a land, here you give them an Angel. But the cheap cost and exiling effect make it pretty good. You can target a nasty planeswalker, making it much better for formats and metagames where they are heavy. We don't have a lot of White removal for 'walkers, so this is pretty important and I suspect it'll make an impact. Just like Swords to Plowshares, there are going to be times when you want to turn this against your own stuff for the disadvantage. Instead of life or a basic land, you can upgrade to a 4/4 flyer. You may want to use this on the lethal attack of a planeswalker you control or on a utility creature like Birds of Paradise that's no longer pertinent. It's a very flexible removal spell and tool.
Honorable Mention #3: Twinblade Assassins
Deathreap Ritual. It may not look like it, but this has Morbid, but it only triggers on your turn. Twinblade Assassins is basically a creature version of Deathreap Ritual, which is heavily played in Golgari sacrifice builds for card drawing fun times. However, as a creature, this has more synergy for those builds than Deathreap Ritual did. And this isn't some small creature with a cool ability. This a beefy 5/4 for five mana that can swing and win games with a cool ability, so don't sleep on Twinblade Assassins.
Now let's turn to the top ten proper.
#10. Animal Sanctuary
When I saw this, I thought of Swarmyard from Time Spiral. Why? Both are lands that help multiple tribes. It loves Rats and Squirrels and such, and this enjoys Dogs and Cats. There are multiple tribal draft themes this can break into so it's valuable as a target in drafts. It's also showing off the Ghostbusters' quote "Dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria." I also enjoy just how flavorful the card is. What tribe are included? Exactly the same that are in an expected Animal Sanctuary! Maybe you might want Rhinos or Apes or something but there's only so much space!
The Menagerie has arrived.
#9. Kaervek, the Spiteful
Just like Twinblade Assassins are a living Deathreap Ritual, so too is Kaervek, the Spiteful a walking version of the four-mana Night of Souls' Betrayal. That ability affected all creatures including your own, and this one affects everything else but the big K proper. This is an awesome ability, as you can kill any X/1s as well as indestructible X/1s like Darksteel Myr. It's great in Rakdos alongside burn and other winnowing -X/-X effects. Kaervek is also very good as a potential leader of a Mono-colored Black Creatureless Commander brew! Don't forget this attacking and blocking Night of Souls' Betrayal.
#8. Barrin, Tolarian Archmage
This is a great example of power creep. From Man-o'-War to this, we've come a long way. This one will bounce any creature... or planeswalker! You can bounce an annoying 'walker that slipped through your counter shield and then Counterspell it on return. You can do the same for an annoying creature. And this doesn't have the modern templating of "return target creature an opponent controls" as you can bounce your own thing. Did someone drop a Pacifism on your precious creature? No longer! Did you need another go of that precious enters-the-battlefield trigger! All right! Did you want to reload a planeswalker's loyalty counters after they've dropped to one. Sure thing!
Would you like to draw a card each time you self-bounce something of your own? All right! Let's so that too! Welcome back Barrin! This time a Human and a Wizard!
#7. Llanowar Visionary
Three mana. 2/2. Ramp for a Green. And draw a card on arrival. It's everything that Green wants! It keeps the cards flowing. It ramps you a full turn. It can swing and block with the best of them. It's an Elf for your Elf builds. There's nothing here not to like. I'd love to drop a one-turn mana maker like Llanowar Elves on the first turn and then this the next and draw a card and tap for 5 mana on turn three. Enjoy!
#6. Chandra, Heart of Fire
There are so many ways to take advantage of this Chandra! She can draw you three cards a turn if you don't mind swapping your hand. She can Shock anything to help the burn of your build. Both of those are positive abilities to help grow her loyalty to your cause, so you don't need to run back and forth between a plus ability you don't want and a minus one you do. You also have one of the most powerful game-winning ultimate you've seen. Burn them down! If they have 10 life left, you can get any number of Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, Lightning Strike, Incinerate, and more to kill this turn. Win one for the cause, Chandra!
#5. Chromatic Orrery
Synergy matters. This card makes a lot of mana and then can use it for all the colors, much like a super Chromatic Lantern. It's better than Gilded Lotus or similar things that only tap for 1 mana as you can spread the colorless into the various colors as needed. In fact, you can get all five colors from it. It can also be used to grab a card or five here and there as well. It's amazing the more colors your deck has and it'll sing at three-, four- or five-color Commander decks. Which is a lot of Commander decks!
#4. Rambunctious Mutt
Our highest charting common is this good boy. Who's a good boy? You are! He gives you something unique - a White creature with the Reclamation Sage or Acidic Slime ability to pop an enchantment or artifact upon arrival. He's bigger than Acidic Slime although without deathtouch. Note that unlike those effects this one cannot be turned against the owner's things. I cannot destroy my own Land Tax. This may matter in rare cases. I might want to destroy one of my things, but it's rare. For example, I may want to pop my own Solemn Simulacrum to draw a card. Or to recur it with the Living Death in my hand. It's rare but it does happen. Also note that it cannot have its targets changed. Some effects in Blue can shift the target of something and it can turn your Removal Puppy into a self-destroying Dog of Destruction. However, both of those are pretty rare, and 99 times out of 100 you want to destroy your foe's thing anyway. Destroy away my Mutt Friend, destroy away.
#3. Shipwreck Dowser
This is also better than a classic ability. Five mana often had the "Fetch a Sorcery or Instant" of Izzet Chronarch. This has morphed into a Mono-Blue ability occasionally and Shipwreck Dowser is the best version of that ability. Check it out! You get a 3/3 instead of a 2/2. You also add the massively valuable prowess into a build that's likely to be heavy with the sorts of spells that'll trigger it. Enjoy your new fetching friend!
But it's not even my top uncommon!
What is? Great question...
#2. Pestilent Haze
This! The new take of Infest. Like Infest it costs three mana and drops -2/-2. As we already saw above with new Kaervek, you can kill anything with an X/2 toughness as well as answer smaller indestructible bodies. It's also useful at answering already damaged creatures. It can really hurt a lot of creatures. There are Standards in the past where Infest was played. Will this be another?
That's not all this bad boy has to offer! You can also use it to strip out two loyalty counters per 'walker which is brilliant against multiple planeswalkers. It's a powerful answer to a big problem in 'walker-heavy environments from Standard to Commander. As well as many other kitchen table formats. The flexibility to answer one or the other as needed makes it a powerful tool for deck-builders.
It's not my top choice though...
#1. Teferi, Master of Time
Let's set aside my normal method of writing up one of these slots. Instead of doing the conversation first and the proof second, let's just do the proving.
Imagine a four-player Commander game.
- Player 1 plays Teferi, Master of Time. They use its first ability to +1 and Loot. 4 loyalty
- Player 2 - During his or her upkeep, Player 1 uses Teferi, Master of Time to use its first ability to +1 and Loot. 5 loyalty
- Player 3 - During his or her upkeep, Player 1 uses Teferi, Master of Time to use its first ability to +1 and Loot. 6 loyalty
- Player 4 - During his or her upkeep, Player 1 uses Teferi, Master of Time to use its first ability to +1 and Loot. 7 loyalty
In one set of turns, Player 1 drew four cards, discarded four cards, and has a 7 loyalty planeswalker to answer.
- Player 1 uses Teferi, Master of Time. They use its first ability to +1 and Loot. 8 loyalty
- Player 2 - During his or her upkeep, Player 1 uses Teferi, Master of Time to use its first ability to +1 and Loot. 9 loyalty
- Player 3 - During his or her upkeep, Player 1 uses Teferi, Master of Time to use its first ability to +1 and Loot. 10 loyalty
- Player 4 - During his or her upkeep, Player 1 uses Teferi, Master of Time to use its first ability to +1 and Loot. 11 loyalty
On turn six, Player 1 has looted eight times, and has enough loyalty to use Teferi's ultimate and keep him alive! You are about to take two turns on turn six. That's game changing. The ability to loot every turn in the game until Teferi is answered is rough. Answering a 'walker gaining four loyalty each turn starting on turn four is rougher. Many won't have anything out that early. At least one will be mana hosed, and the other setting up mana. One might have a creature out and it may not be able to race Teferi. It's nasty and powerful and the sort of effect that bends the game.
And there we are! Was there anything in here that you liked? Anything that I missed? Just let me know!
Have a great and safe day in equal measure!