History, Restapled - Paragons of Virtue

03 Oct
by Steve Heisler

Welcome back for another History, Restapled, a Commander-focused column that attempts to validate a newer card’s status as a staple by looking at how cards that are similar, synergistic, or competing have fared in the past financially.

I’ve been writing this column on a bi-weekly basis for about six months now, and I realized, admittedly late, that it might be worth going over what sorts of staples readers can expect.

Staple Varieties

The selections found in this column usually cover a range. Sometimes they’re undeniable super staples for every deck, sometimes they shine bright under a popular archetype or commander but wouldn’t serve as an auto-include in just any deck of that color. Occasionally I feature a card that has previously been anointed as a staple but happens to be quite cheap at the moment of writing. 

All sorts of cards are worthy of being considered, but it occurred to me, after engaging with some readers, that the term “staple” is throwing some people off. They come expecting the next Smothering Tithe, but see Kellan, the Fae-Blooded and wonder why a card barely playable outside Equipment and Aura decks is being called out.

Most importantly, I’m usually evaluating cards for mid-power decks that win turns seven-nine or so - the kind where players can substitute pet cards or synergistic all-stars for staples and the deck would still shine.

So I’m going to start being more explicit about each card’s subtype of staple - staple of an archetype or a color, undeniable super staple, or not a staple - and you’ll see that reflected at the bottom of each write-up.

Serra Paragon

White picked up this card advantage engine in Dominaria United, and it was featured in numerous lists of best cards from the set. But its price has dropped as its popularity continues to wane, falling from $19 on release to $4 at what appears to be a fairly linear rate. Shamefully, the card appears in only 2% of available decks, according to EDHREC.

It’s a shame because, with a tiny number of deck building considerations (mostly slotting things like Evolving Wilds and Fabled Passage for basic Plains), Serra Paragon soars. It flies and blocks like a champ and enables one Sevinne's Reclamation a turn in addition to its Angel creature type and enablement of incidental lifegain. At minimum, you replay a fetchland and it baits a removal spell away from your commander. The rest presents huge upside, especially given all the white weenies keen to sacrifice themselves: Selfless Spirit, Cathar Commando, and Remorseful Cleric leap to mind.

Give it a shot. The card feels like Aerial Extortionist in that it plays better than it looks - and it already looks good. The exile clause is rarely relevant other than disabling infinite combo shenanigans, which is music to my ears, and at $4 it’s not much more than Emeria Shepherd, which, somehow, can be found in more decks.

STATUS: Mono-white staple with potential for impact in multi-color decks

Malleable Impostor

If your deck wants Clones, you can’t do much better than Malleable Imposter for $1. Stunt Double also has flash, but costs $3. Spark Double gets around the legendary rule, but is limited to creatures or planeswalkers you control and runs at $4. Phantasmal Image is only two mana but contains the fragile Illusion clause and costs almost $5. 

Malleable Imposter also grants flying, and while it can only target creatures your opponents control, there will likely be plenty of options. Sakashima of a Thousand Faces this is not, but Malleable Imposter serves better keyword soup than most of its competition for a fraction of the price.

STATUS: Staple of Clone and Faerie decks

Coppercoat Vanguard

Humans are one of the most popular typal themes, and, with the exception of Jerren, Corrupted Bishop, every Human typal commander on EDHREC includes white in its color identity - not to mention the 300+ commander options that are both white and Human. 

As a two-drop providing a power boost and ward , the latter of which is quite potent in a format where mana efficiency is key, decks qualifying for Coppercoat Vanguard’s inclusion would be foolish not to run this card. March of the Machine: The Aftermath was a tiny set that wasn’t drafted like its non-subtitled predecessor, so I feel this card is worth grabbing while it’s pennies, not dollars.

STATUS: Staple of Humans decks; high potential in any white deck with a Human commander

Serra Paragon
Malleable Impostor
Coppercoat Vanguard

Wilds Child

There’ll be more on Wilds of Eldraine in future columns after prices settle a bit. The set introduced so many killer Commander cards that it will be hard to keep up. Thanks, as always, to folks interacting with me on Reddit and Twitter - hoping for more, including learning about any cards people have their eyes on or might be speccing. Hope to see y’all in two weeks!

Check out these other articles:

Modern Times - A Dynamic Format by Corey Williams

Steve Heisler
Steve Heisler

Steve Heisler is a writer and pop culture journalist covering comedy, games, television, film and the tech industry. His work has been published in Rolling Stone, GQ, Variety, The AV Club, Fast Company and the Chicago Sun-Times. He began collecting Magic cards during Fourth Edition and plays Commander and Modern primarily. He also enjoys tennis, the Dark Souls family of video games and supporting live comedy. He lives in Chicago with his cat, Rosie.

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