I started writing an article about my New Year's resolutions for Magic. I was going to tell you how I plan to be more generous, work harder on my articles, build more new decks, and spend less time contemplating my turn. It was going to be an introspective look at what I see are my flaws and my plans to improve. It would be an opportunity for you, kind readers, to see yourself in some of my limitations and consider how you too could be a better Magic player to those around you.
Then I thought about how much more fun it would be to write an article about the Top 10 Commander cards for this year and have everyone tell me how wrong I am!
Just a quick comment before we get started. I didn't include any legendary creatures. This year there are several great legendary creatures. Pir, Imaginative Rascal and Toothy, Imaginary Friend and Arcades, the Strategist are just a couple, but most of them just weren't good enough to crack the Top Ten. Many great commanders are cool niche cards that I can't wait to finally build a deck for, but outside of that deck, I'm not really sure just how good they are. Estrid, the Masked is another great card, but outside of that particular deck, I think it is lacking.
With that caveat/warning in place, here we go!
10. The Immortal Sun
I know artifacts are pretty vulnerable in Commander, and this one costs six, but I love it! Superfriends decks are filthy in my meta and probably yours too, given how popular Atraxa decks are and this beauty shuts them down. However, I'm reluctant to run a card that is there only to shut down something an opponent is doing, since that can often mean you have a dead card in your deck. The joy of The Immortal Sun is even without an opponent running Superfriends, you get to draw an extra card, your spells cost less, and your creatures are bigger. All you have to do is not run a planeswalker in your deck and that really isn't that hard to manage!
9. Generous Patron
The card points you in a direction that makes you think it is lousy. When you play it, you are led to believe that you should put the two +1/+1 counters on creatures your opponents control so you can draw two cards. First off, that really isn't so bad. Giving a massive creature one more power and toughness is often irrelevant. Doing the same to a 0/4 defender or even a 1/1 token often works too. You can also give the counters to a player you know will attack elsewhere. There are plenty of cards that love it when your opponent has creatures with +1/+1 counters; Kulrath Knight and Experiment Kraj are a couple of examples.
It should also be remembered that this says counters, not +1/+1 counters. Putting -1/-1 counters works too. Virtually any counter you can put on an opponent's creature works. Get creative, get cards.
8. Divine Visitation
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I have a deep, unabashed love of this card! This card makes hundreds of other cards so much better. Whether your Khalni Garden now makes a 4/4 angel or a mass of goblin or soldier tokens become angel tokens, this card is spectacular.
When I initially saw the card, my gut reaction was that it made almost every deck that made a token better, but this just isn't true. Decks that make token copies are much worse. Many theme decks use the specific type of token for other things. In a super-tuned Goblin deck, seeing angel tokens instead of goblin tokens may not be a good thing. That being said, there are so many cards that are made so much better by Divine Visitation (Army of the Damned, Carrion, Darien, King of Kjeldor), that it should probably be higher on this list than number eight!
7. Huatli, Radiant Champion
I just finished talking about token decks and Huatli is the next on the list! This planeswalker is perfect in the typical Selesnya-style Commander deck. Most Selesnya decks play out a bunch of smaller creatures and ramp spells to get to a point where they can play big creatures and crush the board. Then someone plays mass removal, and the Selesnya player has to rebuild, but now has no cards to rebuild with. Huatli jumps in and helps in two different ways. You can use her minus ability to make one of those small creatures into something huge before the mass removal hits, giving you the reach to take players out. Huatli doesn't stay out for long using this plan, but she gives you the reach to finish someone. The other option is to get her loyalty count up there (usually one plus effect is enough) to hit the ultimate. Then when the mass removal hits, you play out a creature or two you've been holding back, and draw into more creatures. The emblem gives the Selesnya player the reach to recover quickly and start hammering again.
Oh, and she is a solid commander in Brawl too.
6. Helm of the Host
This card didn't live up to the hype. The cost to cast and five more to equip, all to get a copy of a creature you control just wasn't enough. Then you add on that you can only make the copy at the beginning of combat on your turn, and there were just too many restrictions...
Oh please! This card was hyped so much you would have thought it was free and you could sacrifice it for three mana of any color! The card wasn't going to live up to that hype but don't be fooled, this card is freaking awesome! You can equip smaller creatures with enter the battlefield triggers to get more land (Sakura-Tribe Elder sorta), draw more cards (Mulldrifter), or pull cards from your graveyard (Gravedigger). You can equip bigger creatures with more impressive ETB triggers. You can copy cards that are great in combat but will likely die if you attack with them, so you attack with the copy instead. You can copy your commander! You know that card you built your whole deck around? Wouldn't you like another copy of that card but with haste? Copy Atraxa and proliferate twice! Copy Captain Sisay and search for two legendary permanents! Copy Lazav, Dimir Mastermind and have two copies of a creature that just died! Copy Firesong and Sunspeaker and deal 3 damage to a creature or player twice! Copy Ol'Buzzbark and get more +1/+1 counters on your creatures!
5. Beast Whisperer
Beast Whisperer has quietly moved up the ranks for a lot of Commander players. Green decks cast creatures and Beast Whisperer gives you cards for doing it. I am finding that I want this card in virtually every Green deck I play. I am a big fan of Lifecrafter's Bestiary and I think the Whisperer may be better. Paying one more up front and never having to have a spare Green mana to cast a creature is better. There are upsides and downsides to the Whisperer being a creature, but in a color that can easily get creatures out of the graveyard, I'm okay with many of the downsides. In the end, just play both and be more likely to be able to draw a card when you play a creature spell!
4. Treasure Nabber
Only the people who have never seen Treasure Nabber in action will think this is too high. Some people will be reluctant to tap their artifact mana when it is out. They are forced to slow their development. Some people are running Green and have hardly any artifact mana to tap. Most people see the card and are okay with you borrowing their stuff, as long as they get it back to use on their turn. And that is the key to the card! You will get access to a lot of mana fairly early in the game. You can use it to load your hand with cards and play plenty of your own artifact mana so you are ready for the long game. Treasure Nabber glides below the radar because it helps you and doesn't really hurt anyone. Treasure Nabber means that you are practically guaranteed at least one Sol Ring or Signet every turn in the early and midgame.
3. Assassin's Trophy
Eliminate any target for two mana, at instant speed. I know this is card disadvantage in multiplayer games. I'm using a card to get rid of one other card, and the other players are losing nothing. I know this is just destroying and not exiling. Get over it. This kills a planeswalker for two mana, whenever you want! Your buddy playing an annoying enchantment? Gone. This is removal with essentially no restriction! And on top of all of that your opponent gets a basic land and shuffles their library. So when a player stacks the top of their library, you can wreck it.
2. Windgrace's Judgment
Remember how I described Assassin's Trophy as card disadvantage in multiplayer games? Remember how your opponent would get a basic land because they lost their best permanent?
Now you can pick off the best nonland permanent each opponent controls, all for the low low price of only five mana. It is still instant speed, so you can wait until you absolutely have to have it gone. Windgrace's Judgment also says for "any number" of opponents, so if you are working with one player, you don't have to target any of their permanents if you don't want to! This card is a multiplayer beatstick and will make its way into every deck I have that can cast it!
1. Battlebond Duals (Bountiful Promenade, Luxury Suite, Morphic Pool, Sea of Clouds, Spire Garden)
If you play Commander, these are original dual lands. Yes, I know they don't have the basic land types, so you can't search for them. I get that is a drawback. However, these lands don't come into play tapped, and you can use them to tap for two different colors. When most Commander games end in ten turns, it means that you only get ten chances to tap a land for mana. When it comes into play tapped, you are losing ten percent of the value of that land. When you realize that you might not see a particular land until four or five turns into the game, then you are losing 20% of its utility if it comes into play tapped.
These are essential in Commander decks that can use them. They are the best gift Wizards gave to Commander players all year and too many players are ignoring just how good these lands are. Wizards will print the enemy half of this series before these get reprinted, so don't expect to see them again for years. Get them now! You will not be disappointed.
I hope you enjoyed our walk through the best and brightest of 2018 for Commander players. I'm confident 2019 will bring even more goodies for us to love. I wish all of you a very Happy New Year! Here's hoping it will be even better than the last!