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Davie's Favorite (Commander) Things

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It's the holiday season - such as it is in 2020 - and back in the olden days of the 2000s, right around now we'd be seeing the "Favorite Things" episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, in which Oprah would give away thousands of dollars of stuff to her studio audience.

Sadly, I have no iPads or trips to Australia to give you. You don't get an iPad and you don't get an iPad and everybody gets no iPad!!!

But let's imagine I was Oprah - or the Magic equivalent, at least. If I had a "Davie's Favorite Commander Things" episode, here's what I would give away to you all.

"Battlebond" Lands

Rejuvenating Springs
Training Center
Undergrowth Stadium

So named because the first half of the cycle debuted in Battlebond, I believe strongly these are the best dual lands in Commander. Unless you're playing one in the late game when you're down to a single opponent, they are functionally identical to the original dual lands at a fraction of the dollar value.

But if I was Magic Oprah, I wouldn't just give you all a full cycle of these lands. I'd give you reprints of the full cycle in every supplemental product ever printed, ever again, and in every Commander preconstructed deck, and in the token slot of every Standard set. (OK, fine. Not sure the last one is a good idea.)

The storm is closing in on Wizards of the Coast as it relates to the Reserve List. More and more we're finding fewer and fewer reasons for it to still exist. The average Commander player would need to save up for months to be able to afford a single copy of Gaea's Cradle or an ABUR dual land. At the same time, Wizards continues to largely screw the pooch with fetchlands.

Misty Rainforest
Scalding Tarn
Verdant Catacombs

Wizards promised meaningful reprints of fetchlands in 2020, and we sort of got that. A... sigh... Secret Lair announcement did nothing to bring prices down, but Expedition reprints in Double Masters managed to help. A little. For now.

Because we've seen this movie before, we know prices will go back up before too long. But there's a real easy way for Wizards to kill two birds with one stone: Reprint the Battlebond lands into absolute oblivion. Commander players would be able to get as many as we wanted, and correspondingly, I believe the demand for fetchlands would go down significantly. We don't need them nearly as badly in a world where the Battlebond lands are plentiful and dirt cheap. And we wouldn't need ABUR duals at all.

So, of course, I don't expect this to happen. If only I had Oprah powers.

"Hidden" Amonkhet Block Gems

I don't know how real this is, but it's always been my perception that Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation get a bad rap, or at the very least, don't get their due respect. Obviously there are some heavy hitters in the block, all of which are quite familiar to Commander players:

Anointed Procession
Ramunap Excavator

Glorybringer
Torment of Hailfire
The Scarab God

Believe it or not, though, there were a LOT of other cards in Amonkhet block. I know! So weird, right? Like, remember these?

Mirage Mirror
Cruel Reality
Supreme Will
Vizier of the Menagerie

Now maybe you're thinking, "Hey, idiot, we know all these cards!" I bet most of you do! But how many of them appear in your Commander decks? Do any of them?

Mirage Mirror is a prime example of a card that has a case for inclusion in absolutely any deck. It can do so much to create chaos in a Commander game. If you need to draw some cards, make a copy of someone's Rhystic Study. Playing a token deck and feeling jealous of your opponent's Gaea's Cradle? Get you one! At just three mana to cast and two to activate, the potential for delightful nonsense is endless.

Cruel Reality is a card I rarely see played outside my own Daxos, the Returned deck and I don't really understand why. I'm a huge fan of curses overall and this one can be a doozy in the right deck. It's also an interesting card to enchant yourself in a sacrifice-heavy deck - sure, 7 mana for a sac outlet isn't optimal, but my Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest deck will take all the sac outlets it can get.

I've always liked Supreme Will. Nothing will ever beat Force of Will and Counterspell for the best, most efficient counter spells in Blue, but this one is worth a look, especially in budget decks. The counter mode is going to work most of the time - chances are you won't use it unless you know your opponent can't pay the three - but the second mode is very intriguing, too. In the late game, a chance to filter your next draw could make all the difference. Choices are always good in Magic.

And then there's good old Vizier of the Menagerie. I love this card. I've loved it since the moment it was previewed. Being able to look at the top card of your library is nice enough, but also having the ability to cast that card if it's a creature and fix your mana for creature spells... that's VALUE. Plus, I really dig the art.

Puzzles!

I've expended many words in these articles lamenting the kinds of commanders Wizards has pushed on us lately. You know the ones - "cast your commander, do the thing, ???, profit".

Chulane, Teller of Tales
Korvold, Fae-Cursed King
Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy

There's nothing inherently wrong with these cards, and there's certainly nothing wrong with players who run them. It's just that there are SO MANY legendary creatures in Magic, and some of them can be a lot of fun - if you solve the puzzle they present.

Sisters of Stone Death

Like these ladies. I've given them a sidelong glance more than once, and to be sure there are drawbacks - the absurdly high CMC first and foremost. Eight is a lot, especially when this is a commander that wants to attack and does not have haste. They're also not in Red, which means no access to extra combat steps. But this is Magic. There is always a way. Maybe you can solve the puzzle of Sisters of Stone Death, perhaps in a way no one's ever quite done it before; if you do, let me know.

Here's one we'll try to solve together:

Depala, Pilot Exemplar

Dwarves and vehicles. Dwarves or vehicles?

This is another commander I've always wanted to try and make into a thing. There are a lot of interesting possibilities - the question for me has always been, how do we make it all work? Depala, Pilot Examplar will help fill your hand with dwarves and vehicles, but she's Boros, so how are we going to pay to cast all those cards? Do we need to pay at all, or can we cheat the system? And what are we going to do with those vehicles and dwarves once they hit the board?

Tell you what. I'll spend some time on that this week, you spend some time on it, and we'll see what we come up with in next week's article.

My Favorite Deck

Confession time. Daxos, Blessed by the Sun is my signature deck, the one most people identify with me. But it's not my favorite.

That's Horseyman.

Sun Quan, Lord of Wu

I will always love this dingus of a deck most of all. I put my heart and soul into it, it makes me smile when I play it, and having it perform well always makes me feel so very satisfied. We've gotten a few new toys for Horseyman since we last visited with him. So here he is, new and improved. Feel free to take him out for a nice gallop.


Hope

Saving the best for last, I'm giving you some of my hope. I'm an optimistic guy by nature, often to a fault, but I do genuinely feel hopeful about the immediate future of Commander as 2020 comes to an end.

As we discussed last week, we've survived the "Year of Commander" with the foundations of our format intact and, to my eye, not under any direct, imminent threat. Commander is healthy. Commander is still growing. Commander is doing very well.

For sure, 2021 will have its headaches and nonsense. There will be plenty more product, more Secret Lairs ugh, more things designed specifically with Commander in mind. There will be more waves of high-powered cards and strategies that prompt hot take after hot take on social media. There will be calls for bans on cards that should, and would, not be banned.

But we had all that this year, to a fairly extreme degree, and we're still here. No single card or product or mechanic has mortally wounded the format. We're still playing games, building decks, and coming up with new ways to amuse ourselves and annoy our friends. None of that will change when December 31st gives way to January 1st.

At the same time, I've got a different kind of hope in mind as well. I have hope that Wizards of the Coast will be able to show that it's making progress on things like its highly disappointing track record on BIPOC and transgender employees - first in hiring some, and then in treating them with the kind of equity such employees have said they didn't receive in the past. I have hope that in 2021 we'll start to see more Black artists making Magic cards. I have hope that in 2021 Wizards will realize that shilling us rainbow-tinted product every June is no substitute for actually doing right by marginalized players, creators and would-be staffers. I have hope that in 2021, Magic will become a more welcome, safer place for players of all ages, genders, races and backgrounds.

2021 will be a good year for Magic. I really do hope so.

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