This year in Commander

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Without a doubt, 2019 was a great year to be a Magic player. We saw heaps of new players join Magic communities worldwide. It seems as though they were ushered in on the back of MTG Arena. They were hooked with a myriad of colorful, and loud, advertisements across all major social media platforms. Something the internet is particularly good at. And, with enough new products to choke a horse, it’s a great time to be a Commander player, in particular.

My name is Ryan Peneff, from Saskatoon, SK. Along with Brando Quiring, I host Commander Cookout Podcast, or CCO Podcast as we like to call it. We can be found right here on Face to Face Games, every week. We focus on the fun, entertaining and casual side of the Commander format. Today, I’d like to bring some of that same content to you in written form. Just imagine a my voice in your head, instead of in your earhole. Do not Google that!

I’d like to look back at 2019 and the growth it brought to Commander as well as highlight what’s ahead in 2020. By looking back on the triumphs — and the failures — we can start to put a mental picture together. A framework for the future of Commander. Mostly, we’ll be focusing on recent products and card availability. So, let’s get to it!

2019 in Commander 

The year that was 2019 saw a ton of new products.  For today, let’s focus on the ones that had a very pointed and direct influence on Commander. To me, those products were: Core Set 2020, Ravnica Allegiance, War of the Spark, Throne of Eldraine, Modern Horizons, Signature Spellbook: Gideon and Commander 2019. What a line up! A ton of great things can be said here. There is, however, some negative as well. Let’s start with the good.

Each of the aforementioned products, in its own way, helped build the Commander format in 2019. Commander is now, arguably, the most widely played and successful format in Magic. A lot of that is based on the successes of products that were launched this year. Our time on Ravnica injected additional shock lands into the format. Alongside many new multicolored legendaries, this helped make multicolor decks accessible and more affordable. Ravnica gave us, what feels like a bottomless pit of planeswalkers to test in all of our decks. Core Set 2020 realized more legendary creatures than any other core set before it. Even the set designed specifically for the Modern format gave us tons of Commander staples. All of that was capped with the 2019 Commander pre-constructed decks launching at Magic Fest Las Vegas. A Commander specific product line that Wizards has regarded as their most successful ever. While we don’t have any specific evidence to support this, other than their word, C19 was certainly better than C18!

That all being said, 2019 felt like it had a ton of products. Especially considering that more than half of those products were launched after the halfway point on the calendar. A back-weighted schedule. While a ton of products aimed specifically at Commander players is always welcome, players had been left to put together annual budgets and financial plans to be able to access all the great new things. The player base, and their wallets, felt stretched. As such, many people are now feeling the divide between other, more competitive formats, and Commander. The onslaught of Commander products in the back half of 2019 and upcoming in 2020 has many people feeling like they won’t have the time, energy or budget to do everything. To that, I would recommend that players spend their time and money on products that speak to them. In 2020, decide what type of Magic player you’d like to be. Focus on what you’d like to get out of the game. I truly believe that, with a new product almost every month in 2020, there isn’t time to do it all anymore. No longer do we see four products, and their associated Tournament Packs, per annum. Anyone who played in the 90’s will know what I mean! You can still enjoy multiple formats. You can still easily obtain all of the regular Standard releases and Commander products. But, don’t be afraid of skipping some of the supplemental stuff. Let’s take a look at what I’m referring to, now.

Looking ahead to 2020, it appears that the product release schedule is going to take a similar line to that of 2019. Gavin Verhey, of Wizards of the Coast, announced a new suite of Commander products on October, 30, 2019. Although, the annual Commander preconstructed decks for 2020 have been moved up to April, our wallets might still feel the burn in the latter half of the year. After Theros Beyond Death, launching January 24th, and Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths in April, we’re going to be bombarded from June onwards. We’ll be returning to Zendikar and have access to the new EDH cards that are baked directly into sets, of late. We’ll be receiving two additional Commander decks with Zendikar, as well. We’ll see Core Set 2021 shortly thereafter.

Finally, we’ll have the largest Commander product launch in the history of Magic the Gathering: Commander Legends. With what seems to be a trend towards a monthly product by the end of next year, and a specific focus on Commander, I don’t think anyone is complaining. As a player base, we simply have to decide what products are ones that we’d like to sink our teeth into. It’s important to note here that this is Wizards covering all their bases with new product releases. This is not meant to wring enfranchised players out. The supplemental precons that are going to be tied to set launches starting in 2020 are aimed at new Commander players. All new players introduced to the game during the current Standard set now have the opportunity to pick up on EDH immediately. Commander is a difficult way to learn to play Magic. The set-specific EDH decks have been incorporated to make it easier and more affordable. Again, if the product doesn’t speak to you, stick to singles.

The final new product that I’d like to touch on today is Commander Legends! An all new, all Commander, draft experience. It’s slated to launch in Q4 of 2020. For the first time ever, players will have the opportunity to draft Commander decks from twenty card booster packs! Whatever that means. I’m speculating that it’ll be similar to Commander Cube, if you’re

familiar with that. Either way, this is an unprecedented product that has — apparently —  been in development for multiple years. With foils and legendary cards in every booster and a grand total of more than seventy new legendary cards in the set, we’re surely in for a wild close to 2020. This is Wizards of the Coast leaning all the way in to the Commander format like nothing they’ve ever done before. This product existing signals that Commander has not been a beneficial, and profitable portion of Wizard’s 2019, but also a top tier priority in 2020 and beyond. An excellent place for the 100-card format to sit.

As an enfranchised player of the format, and Magic: the Gathering in general, my hopes are that we see tons of much needed reprints and new versions of classic characters whose old cards stunk. I would like to see interesting multiplayer abilities on cards like we have gotten in other Commander products, Battlebond and Conspiracy sets. I would like to avoid extremely overpowered or hyper-efficient Legendary cards that were too powerful to put into Standard set releases. I think that might be a disservice to the format. Especially if the 2020 Commander products are aimed at a newer, or less experienced, player demographic. Cards like Edgar Markov where the dials were cranked up, just a little too much. I think that might be a disservice to the format. Especially if the 2020 Commander products are aimed at a newer, or less experienced, player demographic.

I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open for more info on everything highlighted today leading up to preview season for Theros Beyond Death. Join me later this month as I delve a little bit deeper into each of these products. We’ll be taking a closer look at Gavin’s announcement, the five pre-constructed decks that are launching with Ikoria and all other supplemental Commander products in 2020. Thanks for joining me today. I hope you’re as excited for Commander in 2020 as I am. Remember, you don’t have to be an accountant to enjoy Magic. Just focus on what makes you happy within your budget. The rest will fall into place.

If you’d like to get in touch, feel free to get after me on Twitter @CCOPodcast. You can catch Commander Cookout Podcast wherever podcasts are found, or right here on Face to Face Games.