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Commander Review: Core Set 2020 | Part 1| White, Blue, Black


Core Set 2020 has been fully revealed, which means it's time again for a Commander Review! Let's see what new cards are best suited for Commander:

 

WHITE

 

Ajani, Strength of the Pride

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Ajani, Strength of the Pride is one of the most powerful board wipes ever printed, masquerading as a planeswalker. Lifegain decks like Oloro, Ageless Ascetic frequently sit at silly high life totals, and in those decks you'll cast and immediately ultimate Ajani 99% of the time, exiling all artifacts and creatures your opponents' control, for just four mana. Holy. Bananas. That's insane. THIS IS INSANE!

Ajani has other abilities too. His +1 helps set up his board wipe, his -2 puts down a blocker. They're okay, but they don't hold a candle to that ult. I imagine many scenarios where I could play Ajani on an empty board and start using his first two abilities, but instead opt to hold onto him and wait to ruin my opponents' careers with a surprise board wipe. Alternatively, you can play him out into that empty board as a deterrant -- assuming you can protect him from removal, because not getting to ult him would be a travesty.

It's true that this board wipe is conditional. Crucially, this board wipe can't get you out of a bad position if you're behind and beaten down, so it doesn't outright replace Wrath of God even in a Lifegain deck. But when it works, oh boy does it WORK! If my Lifegain deck has two board wipe slots and tutors to fetch them, one would be an unconditional wipe like Wrath, and the second one would be Ajani.

I can't imagine a White Lifegain deck not wanting Ajani, Strength of the Pride. Trostani, Selesnya's Voice, Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, literally any White Lifegain deck should strongly consider this.

 

Angel of Vitality

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Fixed Serra Ascendant is still a solid inclusion in Lifegain decks. Angel of Vitality is going to do the most work alongside incremental lifegain like Soul Wardens which are staples in most Lifegain decks already, doubling the healing gained from them. All while being a decent creature either as a blocker or attacker. Nice!

 

Bishop of Wings

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

The Angel tribe is a high-cmc, clunky, and -- let's face it -- rather weak tribe, which strikes me as odd considering how iconic and popular the tribe has been since the beginnings of Magic. All the other most popular tribes, like Dragons, Vampires, and Zombies, are showered with high-power tribal synergy cards, but the Angel tribe has remained mostly neglected. They sorta have this half-baked Lifegain theme going on but it's been lacking a cohesive direction, and it's sorta just ... there.

Bishop of Wings is a new Angel Tribal synergy card, and it's great to see a 2cmc card for the tribe since our top-end is fully stuffed with Angels already. It further advances the Lifegain theme of the tribe and synergizes very well with cards like Angelic Accord and does most of the heavy lifting to trigger Resplendent Angel (just add Angel of Vitality!). Probably the most abusable Angel-related thing you can do with Bishop of Wings is combining it with Divine Visitation and a free sac outlet like Phyrexian Altar: sacrifice an Angel, which triggers the Bishop to make a Spirit token which becomes an Angel token thanks to Visitation, giving you infinite life and infinite mana. Add Blood Artist or some other fourth card to win the game. Not bad!

Bishop of Wings is absolutely a staple in Angel Tribal. The combo potential gives the tribe a much-needed finisher, and it's supporting the Lifegain theme which really is the only thing the tribe has going for it.

 

Brought Back

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Brought Back follows the white trend of recurring stuff the turn it died, like Second Sunrise and Faith's Reward. This is the cheapest version of this effect yet, getting two target permanents back from the graveyard. You can use this as protection against removal, or purposefully sacrifice permanents for value and immediately get them back. The flexibility here, and the fact that it only costs two mana makes Brought Back very interesting to me. Sacrifice decks like Teysa Karlov will enjoy sacrificing creatures for value and immediately getting them back to do it again. Any White deck running a bunch of fetchlands (Arid Mesa) can pop two of them on a single turn and immediately get them back, basically acting as a 2cmc Skyshroud Claim. And again, you can always use this to protect your most important permanents from removal.

Brought Back is a solid card. I expect to at least try it in any Sacrifice deck and perhaps some Mono White or Boros lists as well.

 

Cavalier of Dawn

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Generous Gift / Beast Within is an excellent card because your typical Commander game will have threats of all kinds that you'll need to deal with. It makes sense then that having this spell attached to a creature is also excellent, even if you can't target lands. Being on a creature means it's easier to abuse with Blink (Brago, King Eternal) and trigger doubling (Panharmonicon), plus White has more ways to recur creatures than instants (Emeria, the Sky Ruin). At 5CMC, I'd run Cavalier of Dawn in quite a few decks even if that was its only triggered ability.

But it's got another trigger! When it dies, you get back any artifact/enchantment. Sweet! This can work well in Sacrifice decks, like Teysa Karlov. Cavalier of Dawn is going to do some serious work alongside Nim Deathmantle, sacrificing it to get back artifacts/enchantments and then returning it to blow up more stuff!

 

Loxodon Lifechanter

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Loxodon Lifechanter is an interesting card. If you have a board full of creatures, especially big butts like Doran, the Siege Tower, you could end up gaining some amount of life -- though this is strictly "win more" territory, like a bad, conditional version of Resolute Archangel. But the loxodon comes with the ability to dramatically increase its size and lay a huge smackdown, which is cool, but yikes that six mana cost to activate!

If the 5's in the mana costs were, I dunno, 3's, I could see myself playing around with this. Maybe in Brion Stoutarm or something. But it just costs too much mana.

 

Sephara, Sky's Blade

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I've long been enamored by White Flyers as an archetype, probably because one of the first cards I owned was Radiant, Archangel, and how much I enjoyed playing Battle Screech with her back in Vintage Masters. Sadly, Radiant can't really keep up with today's commander options, so I was so delighted when Sephara, Sky's Blade was revealed!

I adore everything about Sephara, Sky's Blade. I love the art, the huge flying lifelink body that can 3-shot people with commander damage, and the indestructibility for your team reminiscent of Avacyn, Angel of Hope. But most of all I love the alternate cost! You can cast her for just one white mana! This super cheap cost allows us to really go deep with building around her; we can give her indestructible and start turning Wrath of Gods into one-sided board wipes. We should definitely add some Flying Matters cards, like Radiant herself! We could go Angel Tribal, and that's a fine direction, but personally I'm much more inclined to go with a Tokens theme aka Battle Screech and Emeria Angel, though I guess we can call it an Angel deck if we transform all our 1/1's into Angels with Divine Visitation, right?

Ahhhh! I can't wait to brew with this! This is my favorite pet card out of White! My childhood nostalgiaaaaaa!

 

Starfield Mystic

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Starfield Mystic is an excellent new inclusion in any White Enchantress deck. It's essentially the white version of Herald of the Pantheon, growing the Mystic when enchantments are destroyed rather than gaining life when they're cast. The Mystic gets a bit better with enchantments that want to be sacrificed, like Seal of Cleansing or even Hyena Umbra, but you're really running this for the cost reduction and the rest is bonus. I've always liked Herald of the Pantheon in my personal Tuvasa the Sunlit Enchantress deck and I'm happy to run a second copy of it. Starfield Mystic is even more important in Orzhov Enchantress aka Daxos the Returned since you don't have access to Green's amazing mana fixing like Wild Growth and friends, so this is reeeeeally helpful there.

 

BLUE

 

Agent of Treachery

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Agent of Treachery costs seven mana. That's a lot. That's an overloaded Cyclonic Rift right there, so the expectations are high. And I think this rogue reaches that expectation. Its ETB trigger steals any permanent, permanently. I think the closest comparison would be Blatant Thievery, which yes steals one thing per opponent which is better, but Agent of Treachery also draws you three cards during your end step if you're controlling 3+ stolen things! That starts closing the gap to Blatant Thievery, which in my opinion is one of the strongest generic spells Blue has to offer (alongside the aforementioned Rift), so that's already exciting.

But in the right deck, Agent of Treachery can get disgusting; all we gotta do is blink it! Brago, King Eternal will have tons of fun with it! And you can recur it with Reveillark! Whee!

Blink decks will like this. Theft decks, like Sen Triplets or Zedruu the Greathearted will love this. I know I plan on making room for this card in my own Zedruu deck!

 

Atemsis, All-Seeing

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I was trying to think of what jank ways we can sculpt a perfect hand with six different converted mana costs, but then I realized that we're in Blue, so we can just draw a truckload of cards and just naturally fulfill Atemsis, All-Seeing's trigger requirement without jumping through hoops. Draw tons of cards, probably have a Thought Vessel or Reliquary Tower in play, and then drop down Atemsis when we can ruin an opponent's day. Definitely run Lightning Greaves / Swiftfoot Boots, and if you're feeling fancy you can run pings like Psionic Gift since Atemsis' trigger is any damage, not just combat. Looks pretty easy to pull off, just needs a lot of mana and card draw.

The shell I'm thinking of for Atemsis, All-Seeing would be a Control/Combo deck looking to win in generic Blue ways like Archaeomancer + Time Warp + Ghostly Flicker infinite turns or infinite mana + Blue Sun's Zenith, with Atemsis as just a backup plan. I'm personally not interested in going all-in with Atemsis because I dislike decks that focus on killing one opponent at a time since I don't like making a player sit out of an ongoing game.

I'm most excited to run Atemsis not as a commander, but as part of the 99 of Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign. Atemsis is one of the best Blue Sphinxes available to Unesh and with all the card drawing the deck does, we should randomly get to use Atemsis' trigger every so often.

 

Cavalier of Gales

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Cavalier of Gales is ... not great in Commander. You get an ETB Brainstorm, and yes Brainstorm is a great card, but the death trigger is pretty bad and it's actually a drawback that it's shuffled into our library instead of our graveyard where we might possibly recur it. Overall I don't think this card is worth its 5cmc. Its casting cost will be enticing to Blue Devotion decks though, helping fuel Master of Waves, so Thassa, God of the Sea Devotion will want it. That's about it.

 

Drawn from Dreams

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Drawn from Dreams is most comparable to Dig Through Time since they have the same effect, but Dig is instant speed and has a variable mana cost. Dig Through Time has high power variance, reaching its greatest potential in Self-Mill (Sidisi, Brood Tyrant) and Wheel (The Locust God) decks that quickly and consistently fill up their graveyard so they can cast it for just UU. In those decks, Dig Through Time is significantly better than Drawn from Dreams. In a generic deck that doesn't fill the graveyard at a fast pace, Dig and Drawn are much closer in power level, though Dig still is a little better due to instant speed and the lategame potential of still being cast for two mana instead of four.

That's not to say that Drawn from Dreams is bad. It's worse than one of the best card draw options in the entire format, but I actually think it's quite good and I expect to run it in some of my decks. It's certainly better than Concentrate, which fulfills the exact same role at the same cmc. In a generic Blue deck that needs 8-10 card draw spells, I can definitely see myself running Drawn from Dreams in one of those slots. 

 

Flood of Tears

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

No, this isn't Cyclonic Rift. Considering how absurd Rift is, I'm glad we aren't seeing anything that directly competes with it. Nonetheless, Flood of Tears is an excellent twist on Blue's bounce wipe. Ignoring Rift, I'm a big fan of Coastal Breach as a generic wipe, Devastation Tide in decks that can consistently set it up for the miracle cost (Mystical Tutor), and now Flood of Tears looks amazing in decks with very high CMC permanents. Braids, Conjurer Adept immediately springs to mind, as does Jodah, Archmage Eternal. I imagine casting Flood of Tears to bounce everything, then immediately drop down Omniscience. Oh man, now I really want to do that!

 

Masterful Replication

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Masterful Replications just screams "fun jank" to me. This is a card I expect Seth to have tons of fun with. Some cool ideas I read about:

  • On your upkeep, cast it to copy the artifact enchanted by Mechanized Production in response to its trigger to win the game (assuming you have six other artifacts in play).
  • Copy Ugin's Nexus with X other artifacts in play. Choose one of the X artifacts to keep and sacrifice the original Nexus plus other artifacts due to the legend rule. Take X extra turns.
  • Copy Blightsteel Colossus. You monster.

Obviously this is an auto-include in Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer, but any Artifact looking to up their jank game should consider this.

 

Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer would have been far more interesting if she had a starting loyalty of 4 instead of 2. If that was the case then I'd recommend her in decks that ran counter doublers like Doubling Season and Deepglow Skate to get that sweet ultimate immediately. As is though, her ultimate takes another turn to set up, which is still fine, but outside of that her two other abilities are rather lackluster in Commander. I think the most diehard Bird Tribal decks will run her simply because the token she produces is a Bird, but even there it's not a stellar option.

 

Portal of Sanctuary

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Nerfed Crystal Shard is still a fine pickup in a bunch of Blink decks. Portal of Sanctuary also bounced back auras, which is particularly sweet in some versions of Brago, King Eternal that run ETB auras like Unquestioned Authority for the extra card draw. I'd be happy to run this in a Brago deck.

What I really love about this card though is the art! Wow, Randy Vargas! I fully intend to get a foil copy of this card just so I can stare at it in my collectors binder.

 

Scholar of the Ages

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Scholar of the Ages costs a silly amount of mana, but to my knowledge its the first Archaeomancer variant that can grab any two instants/sorceries. Nucklavee is the only thing that comes close but it's much more restrictive. There might be infinite looping combos with Scholar of the Ages that Archaeomancers can't pull off. I don't know if those will be good enough to justify Scholar's whopping 7cmc, but it might, especially if you're adding Black to just Reanimate it instead of paying its cmc. Possible inclusion for Inalla, Archmage Ritualist maybe?

 

Spectral Sailor

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

One of the best Flying Men variants ever printed. Flash means you can still hold up countermagic the turn you intend to play this. The activated ability is just a nice bonus. This is an auto-include in Edric, Spymaster of Trest, and being a Pirate means it's a new staple for Admiral Beckett Brass as well.

 

Tale's End

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

How often have you ran Trickbind in Commander? Never? Okay, but what about Disallow? I know I do, at least sometimes. It's pretty deece. So where does Tale's End rank in terms of playability? It's cheaper than Disallow, but narrower on what you can counter, but Commander is full of legendary spells to target with this (including one in each command zone!). I think Tale's End will end up being just as good, and just as played, as Disallow; it's good, not quite Counterspell, but still solid in just about any deck. 

 

Winged Words

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Winged Words is a great new card draw spell for decks with lots of flyers. Bird Tribal like Deretti, Empyrial Tactician and possibly even Talrand, Sky Summoner might run this deck as their own Night's Whisper.

 

 

BLACK

 

Blightbeetle

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Are you sick of +1/+1 Counter decks? Pir, Imaginative Rascal & Toothy, Imaginary Friend causing you headaches? Slide in Blightbeetle and watch them cry! Well, at least until they get rid of it, but that's same savage hate at 2cmc!

 

Blood for Bones

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Blood for Bones is a far worse Victimize, but it's also going to be far more affordable. It's not a terrible Reanimate effect, putting one creature into play and one in your hand (could even be the creature you sacrificed). Not a bad card inclusion for something like Teysa Karlov or any Sacrifice deck really. Not the best, but definitely playable.

 

Cavalier of Night

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Cavalier of Night seems like a perfect inclusion in any Sacrifice deck, like Meren of Clan Nel Toth or Teysa Karlov. Creature removal is always relevant, and Sacrifice decks will undoubtedly have a good creature to recur with its death trigger. Even the lifelink is a nice bonus in Black which often uses the life total as a resource (Necropotence). Heck, the BBB casting cost even fuels the most played devotion card, Gray Merchant of Asphodel. This is amazing value for 5cmc.

 

Dread Presence

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Dread Presence is amazing value in any Mono Black or even 2C Black decks. Both triggered options are always useful, drawing you cards or sniping targets while gaining you life to draw more cards! My Mono Black decks lean heavily on land ramp via cards like Wayfarer's Bauble and Solemn Simulacrum to fuel black's most powerful ramp cards like Crypt Ghast and Cabal Coffers, and that same land ramp works perfectly with Dread Presence as well. It's tempting to run fetchlands (Polluted Delta with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth) for even more triggers!

Excellent card. I'm putting Dread Presence in all my Mono Black decks, no doubt.

 

Knight of the Ebon Legion

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Knight of the Ebon Legion looks like another auto-include in Edgar Markov decks. The cheapest Vampires are always the best in that deck, and 1cmc is about as cheap as you can get. This is basically a Stromkirk Noble; Noble is better on turn 1 because it can start getting counters on itself immediately, but if you cast this on a later turn you can still grow the Knight without even attacking.

 

Rotting Regisaur

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Rotting Regisaur might see play in Graveyard decks as a way to dump Reanimate targets into your graveyard quick and efficiently, while also beating down with an impressive 7/6. It's a Zombie, so it might do fine in Zombie Tribal. Also if Madness ever gets more support I can see it being a nice Madness enabler too.

 

Scheming Symmetry

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Symmetrical Imperial Seal! Holy crap! This card has insane potential. I'm more than happy to use this card by itself as a political tool: if someone is archenemy at the table, you could offer to target a player that can tutor up a board wipe, for example. But you can break the symmetry too by stopping your opponent from searching (Stranglehold), milling the card they tutor (Ashiok, Dream Render), or forcing them to shuffle (Soldier of Fortune). Yes, Soldier of Fortune, it's your time to shine!

I plan on running Scheming Symmetry in a lot of decks.

 

Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord is yet another instant staple for Vampire Tribal. His ability to sacrifice a vampire to pick off small utility creatures works wonderfully in Edgar Markov, which easily provides the cannon fodder. His -3 ability is ridiculously good, letting you cheat into play something big like Patron of the Vein for a huge tempo boost. This is amazing value for a 3cmc planeswalker.

 

Vilis, Broker of Blood

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Vilis, Broker of Blood, like legendary demons before him, is simply begging to be abused. Black is all about spending life as a resource. Reanimate him to get him on to the battlefield for B and draw 8 cards. Vampiric Tutor becomes a half-priced instant Demonic Tutor that draws you an extra card. Necropotence gets even more disgusting than it already is. Simply put, Vilis is gonna draw you a TON of cards! The activated ability is just a nice bonus.

I think Vilis, Broker of Blood isn't a great commander. You really want to cheat him into play rather than pay 8cmc to get him out of the command zone. I much prefer him in the 99 so you can Entomb / Faithless Looting him into the graveyard and then Reanimate him.  Kaalia of the Vast will love cheating into play from hand as well. I'm definitely looking forward to putting him in my Selenia, Dark Angel deck!

 

Yarok's Fenlurker

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I've been impressed with Burglar Rats in Black Blink decks, like Gonti, Lord of Luxury and Aminatou, the Fateshifter. Yarok's Fenlurker is slightly harder to cast in multicolor decks but otherwise a superior rat, exiling instead of just discarding. This is a great new inclusion in all Blink decks, including the new Yarok, the Desecrated. I'd also add it to my Warped Devotion deck which I wrote about here.

 

Next Up: Part 2! Red, Green, Multicolor, Colorless, Lands!

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of my Core Set 2020 review. Let me know what you think: do you agree with my reviews? Any cards I missed, or any cool interactions I should've mentioned? What are you looking forward to the most from this set? I'll be back with Part 2 soon! Thanks for reading!


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