Commander Cards From Recent Sets That You Should Be Playing

05 Dec
by Steve Heisler

Welcome back for another History, Restapled, a Commander-focused Magic: the Gathering 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.

Now that we’ve all become sufficiently lost in Ixalan’s caverns, it felt right to revisit a few cards from recent sets that haven’t yet been mentioned - from new super-staples to strong situational contenders.

Horn of the Mark

As a colorless, repeatable card draw source requiring very little effort to pop off, Horn of the Mark rightfully got a lot of attention upon its release, but has somehow failed to make as big of a splash as was theorized. It’s surprising considering how solid the card plays at most low- and mid-power tables - even some higher ones sitting just below cEDH levels. 

At times, I’ve drawn three creatures in a turn simply sending chumpster tokens or mana dorks to their death late in the game or quickly picking up a new threat after a board wipe leaves an opponent or two open. In most decks, the effect is better than simple card draw, too. It’d probably be fine if it only picked up creatures with mana value three or less, or something; but nope, it’s any creature. Such a powerhouse card in only 1% of decks, according to EDHREC.

Horn of the Mark is also impossibly cheap - even the new version that looks pretty dope in foil. You could probably pick up a playset for a dollar. Similar options at two mana are pricier, including Archivist of Oghma ($5), Chivalric Alliance ($4.50), Dawn of a New Age ($2.50), Faerie Mastermind ($9) and Up the Beanstalk ($3.50). Now’s the time to swap one of those out for a Horn and see what all the fuss was about - and wonder why the fuss didn’t continue.

STATUS: Card draw staple in combat-based decks; mostly a staple in others, too

Horn of the Mark
Horn of the Mark (Extended Art)
Horn of the Mark (Showcase Scrolls)

The Battle of Bywater

It doesn’t look like much, but The Battle of Bywater is one of the best new removal spells for weenie decks (mono-white has no shortage of them). One dollar and three mana gets you what’s often a one-sided board wipe, leaving behind a hefty collection of artifacts in its wake. And yes, not many decks care about Food tokens, but certainly every deck cares about life totals, and this card produces enough tokens to mitigate even the most rapidly accumulating damage. Plus, the art is giving me the appropriately high level of derp I crave.

For how narrow these sorts of cards can play, many great ones are getting up there in price. Retribution of the Meek is somehow a $7 card despite lacking as much playability, and Elspeth, Sun's Champion is holding $3 of value after numerous reprints. Others like Dusk // Dawn and Slaughter the Strong remain cheap and offer a different take on the effect, but they hardly overshadow The Battle of Bywater. Cheap redundancy is always a good thing, particularly if it provides more advantage to decks with tiny creatures requiring a leg-up.

STATUS: Archetype staple

The Battle of Bywater
The Battle of Bywater (Extended Art)
The Battle of Bywater (Showcase Scrolls)

Jirina, Dauntless General

I’m not convinced many cards from March of the Machine: The Aftermath will see reprints in the near future. The mini set is constructed as too specific of a story addendum and doesn’t slot into the kind of draft that happens on a mass scale. Packs were pretty expensive, too - surprisingly so. There were few incentives for players to open too many packs.

Still, the cards were all bangers; some of my favorites of the year are in Aftermath. And even if I’m not in love with a particular card, I can definitely appreciate its design, and many solid ones are widely available inexpensively.

Jirina, Dauntless General isn’t a flashy game-ender, but provides repeatable, reliable value in a way I think will surprise players. I had initially dismissed it because I read the word “Humans” in its text box. (The propensity to falsely reject cards in this fashion is a recurring block in my deckbuilding.) Ignore that for a second and replace the word with, “Your commander,” and now the card is a two-mana graveyard hoser with additional board wipe insurance for your best creature that puts itself in the ‘yard to be recurred. That’s a card every Commander deck helmed by a Human that’s Orzhov colors and above would love. Hell, until a few months ago, Bastion Protector, a card from 2015, was $4-5 in value, and at one point reached the surprising heights of $30.

On top of all that, Jirina protects the other creatures in your deck that are incidentally, or purposely, Humans as well. Pick this card up while it’s only $0.50. Absent a reprint, I could see it climbing to $4-5 in the not-too-distant future.

STATUS: Near-staple in any deck whose commander is a Human

Jirina, Dauntless General
Jirina, Dauntless General (Showcase)
Jirina, Dauntless General (Extended Art)

The Year That Was

Our next entry will cover some of the best cards to hit Commander in 2023, a task that has never been attempted in the history of the internet (or MTGfinance subreddit). Stay tuned!

Other articles to check out:

MTG Anime Cards, and Poison in the Upcoming Fallout Set

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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