Now that AFR has been legal for a few weeks in paper and before we jump into Innistrad in a couple weeks, it’s time to make another top ten list for Commander. As a reminder, these lists are my expectations for which cards from the set will make the most long-term impacts on the format as a whole.
Also, like I have done before, I will split this list into two top five lists: Top Five Non-Commanders and Top Five Commanders. I do this because different cards will be popular for different reasons. In order to explain further, let me get started with the first list.
The first list, as I said, is the five best cards that are not Legendary Creatures from the set. Let me know if I missed some important ones, or if the ones I included were not good afterall.
#5: Share the Spoils
In addition to being incredibly useful in the new Planar Portal precon, this card is a fun include in dozens of Commander decks. Chaos and Group Hug strategies will both like the card because of how it random benefits everyone.
However, this card can also be powerful in decks that don’t rely on that characteristic. Red decks, for example, have been receiving more and more tools that they can use to generate card advantage. I think that this card is another one of those tools. It’s certainly not the best option, but it can be a good one, especially if the players like the chaotic nature of this card.
This card is probably the easiest include for this top ten list. It obviously calls back to Gaea’s Cradle, one of the most powerful and expensive cards in the format. Additionally, it is an Elf, which is the tribe that wants a Cradle effect the most. Even in the worst case scenario, the Druid always taps for at least one green. In the best case scenario, you can make enough green mana to likely win you the game. In any case, I expect this card to see plenty of play in Commander in the future.
The first of many white cards on our list today is Guardian of Faith. This card does a decent Teferi’s Protection imitation. Despite the fact that it doesn’t Phase Out all of your permanents and doesn’t give you protection from anything, this card can still be great.
Thanks to the fact that this has Flash, you can use it as a Fog effect, casting it after you declare blockers. Not to mention, the card is easily the best anti-Cyclonic Rift tech available in the format, not even mentioning mono-white. Thanks to these pieces of utility, decks that need these effects will be very happy to include Guardian of Faith.
This card is certainly one that should have existed a long time ago. White has always been the best color at Flickering creatures. This is why it is strange that cards like Conjurer’s Closet and Thassa, Deep-Dwelling were not white cards. Fortunately, with Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, all has been made right with the world, and white can flicker a creature at their end step.
This ability has endless applications. Any of your creatures that have enters-the-battlefield abilities can trigger every turn, eventually drowning your opponent in value. Thanks to cards like these, the general population of Commander players are finally starting to see how good white is becoming.
Despite the progress that white has made, the top non-commander card from this set is green. For just one more mana than Reclamation Sage, this card deals with up to four Artifacts and Enchantments that you don’t control. Since you get to choose first, each of your opponents can choose to target the same card that you target. If this happens, you only get to destroy that one artifact/enchantment, making the Druid a more expensive Rec Sage. However, the potential to politic or otherwise hit more than one target makes it the best non-commander card on this list.
And now on to the Legendary Creatures. I’m going to give a short description of what their decks should do, to maybe give you an idea of why I expect these commanders to be so great. One common characteristic among most of these cards is that their decks allow for lots of diversity in deckbuilding or gameplay. This typically leads to more popular commanders.
This card is on this list for two reasons. 1) I expect many people to want to play with the adorable little Boo token. 2) Minsc is basically a sac outlet in Naya colors.
Typically, Naya commanders are about generating a ton of mana to cast big creatures. There has not ever been one that lets you sacrifice a creature for free before. If you are unclear on how Minsc can sacrifice creatures, let me explain. If, when you activate his ability, if you choose zero for the value of X, target creature you control becomes a 0/0 Giant in addition to its other types. Since the creature won’t have any toughness, it will immediately die. Even though Minsc doesn’t explicitly say “sacrifice” anywhere on the card, he functionally can sacrifice your creatures.
This opens up an archetype historically cornered into red/white/black to green as well. Even though you can only activate Minsc as a sorcery, you should still be able to loop sacrifice combos.
Volo is both a beloved character from Forgotten Realms lore, and an interesting commander in this set. This card’s ability to copy creatures opens up two main deckbuilding ideas that I can think of.
First, someone could try to build a deck full of creatures that don’t share creature types with other creatures. You could play obscure creature types like Zubera, Eye, Mercenary, Assembly-Worker, Sable, Tetravite, Survivor, Lhurgoyf, Brushwagg, etc. This build requires you to be careful about which creatures you include, and could be a fun puzzle for an ambitious deckbuilder to figure out.
Second, you could fill the whole deck with Clone effects. When you cast cards like this, if you don’t have a Shapeshifter on the board, you get two copies of it. Then, it enters the battlefield and becomes a copy of whatever creature you want. When it becomes a copy like that, it loses the Shapeshifter type and exchanges it with whatever creature type it copied. This means that when you cast your next Clone, Volo will copy it again.
I should mention that in the second build should also include a bunch of graveyard removal for yourself, since Volo cares about creature types on the battlefield as well as in the graveyard. Either one of these ideas seem interesting, and I think a lot of players will enjoy the challenge. Each deck will have variety, which is an important characteristic for the longevity of a commander.
Similar to Volo, Xanathar is a deck that could play out with a lot of variance despite the decks being built in a similar way. For example, most Xanathar decks probably want to be made up of mostly ramp spells. You will want to have access to as much mana as possible so that when you finally untap with Xanathar, you can cast a bunch of an opponent’s spells from the top of their deck.
Other than ramp spells, you will probably want to include enough Counterspells to protect Xanathar for one turn around the table. It would feel bad to have to cast him multiple times before getting to use his ability once. Similarly, you probably want Lantern of Insight and other similar cards so you can make an educated guess about who’s deck you want to steal from. Along with Lantern, you should have Codex Shredder effects to mill away cards that you don’t want to or can’t use from the top of your deck.
The other great thing about this deck, is that you could build it on any budget. You can include all of the expensive Mana Crypts and Mox Diamonds, or you could settle for Millikins and Corrupted Graftstones. Either way, the power level of your deck will adapt to the power levels of your opponents’ decks, since you will be playing their cards.
In my opinion, Oswald is probably the most important commander in this set. If it weren’t for a powerful five-color commander, he would definitely be my number one on this list. The thing that is most exciting about Oswald is that he is a mono-white commander that generates tons of value. Anyone who has ever played a Birthing Pod-style deck knows how effective it can be to search up a card repetitively. He has the ability to be one of the, if not the most, powerful white commanders currently in the game.
My only fear for Oswald is that there will be one objectively most powerful version of the deck that everyone will play. This will mean that people will lose interest in the commander and it doesn’t get to make an impact on the metagame in a meaningful way.
Finally, we have the Dragon Goddess, Tiamat. She represents another notch in the belt of five-color Dragon players. Commander already has The Ur-Dragon and Scion of the Ur-Dragon that are popular Dragon commanders and Tiamat has to compete with them if she is going to see play. Fortunately, I think that there are good reasons for people to choose her over the Dragon commanders we already have.
While all of the current commanders give Dragons some important utility, Tiamat in a way adds all of that and more. When she enters the battlefield, she lets you tutor for the utility Dragons that you need. My favorite thing to do with her, though, is to search for Morophon, the Boundless and four other five-color Dragons to cast for cheap. However, there are so many Dragons in Magic, that the possibilities for what to get with Tiamat are endless. Thanks to the popularity of Dragons in Commander, she will definitely be the best Legendary Creature from this set.
The End of an Adventure
There you have it. Feel free to let me know if I missed a card or two from this set. This is the first of what we can assume is many IP crossovers to come. Do you like it? What IP would you want to see next in Magic? Let us know in the comments below. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram if you want to contact me on any of those platforms. Additionally, I have a podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. It’s called the Gathering: My Thoughts podcast.
Lastly, feel free to check out more Magic articles from CardGameBase.com