2020 will be a year people won’t soon forget. A tumultuous year, people have adjusted and taken up hobbies new and old. One particular hobby has been Magic the Gathering (MtG). The world famous trading card gaming has had a strong year for players despite cancelled events and delayed releases. As Wizards of the Coasts (WotC) has stated “2020 is the year of Commander”.
Commander has recently become MtG’s most popular format. The hundred card-singleton format has grown stronger in 2020 with the introduction of the webcam service Spelltable, the limited format Commander Legends and a large pool of new cards aimed to appeal to Commander players.
Commander has always been the most popular format amongst my multiple play-groups. A format that, in my opinion, encourages creativity and self-expression. So with 2020 here and gone, I present in my opinion the ten most exciting MtG cards for Commander that came out for 2020.
Special Mention: The Five Legends from Unsanctioned
Before the top ten, a brief mention of five cards that came out early in the year. As a fan of MtG’s comedic silver-border cards, I was ecstatic when WotC announced the single-box product Unsanctioned. The “off the shelf” fun of combining two thirty card silver-border decks has been endlessly re-playable for my girlfriend and I in between board games and streaming. But, a grand surprise hidden in Unsanctioned was the inclusion of five new silver-border legends for Commander players. Silver-bordered enthusiasts have had a small selection of commanders in the past. From Unstables ally-colored legends, mono-colored creatures throughout Unglued and Unhinged, to the Naya colored Grimlock. Unsanctioned offered exciting new enemy-colored legends for the comedic Commander player. Personally, my new favorite deck came from this Unsanctioned cycle. My Alexander Clamiton deck started as a wacky underpowered Persistent Petitioners list, but since has turned into one my favorite and most explosive decks I have. Whether you're a Commander player wanting to roll dice or a squirrel enthusiast, 2020 finally gave the Commander you’ve been searching for. But now it’s time to talk about the real winners of 2020.
Number 10: Araumi of the Dead Tide
It's always been a delight to see a new Commander at Uncommon, especially if they are as unique as Araumi. For the past few weeks I’ve been participating in Channel Fireball’s Commander Boxing League. For four weeks, players would open a sealed box and build a standard Commander deck from their pool. Every game I played was a blast, and from my games the most explosive Commander I saw was Araumi.
When Araumi previewed there seemed little excitement for the merfolk wizard. There was some discussion of how powerful she could be but much smaller interest compared to other cards on this list. Now seeing Araumi in action it's clear I will be seeing her much more. When your opponent encores a Meteor Golem and destroys three permanents you feel the advantage you once had has disappeared. Araumi provides far more than the basic reanimate strategy, instead a more value-based approach that aims at reanimating targets with powerful enter the battlefield or death triggers. On top of interesting restrictions requiring players to exile other cards as a resource, and becoming less powerful the fewer opponents a player faces. Expect to see an Araumi across the table in future games.
Number 9: Krak, the Thumbless
A lot of cards on this list were chosen because of the fan excitement behind them and the card filled a unique niche that was in need of more cards or Commanders. Krak, the Thumbless is one of these said cards but falls slightly short of others much higher. The flavor text goblin has been a beloved, but mysterious, character since his thumb premiered during the original Mirrodin block. When Commander Legends finally gave the thumbless gambler fans were ecstatic for a new coin flip commander.
Plenty of discussion, since Krak’s preview, has centered around what is the best partner pair. Is he a new coin flip focus commander replacing Okaun and Zndrsplt, or a new spell-slinger commander similar to Mizzix? Either way, Krak was an exciting new addition to the format. And yet, these very reasons are why Krak is lower on my list then other Commander Legends creatures. To finally have Krak printed is fantastic, but discussion around him has been focused on strategies that already have strong Commanders. Krak may offer a new coin-flip strategy, but I predict I’ll be seeing more of Okaun and Zndrsplt then a Krak-pairing. Still, Krak is a long awaited character that has generated plenty of Commander fanfare.
Number 8: Bruvac, the Grandiloquent
Mill was finally key-worded this year! Long since a community used slang, mill has always been a niche strategy with its cult-fan base. With its new key-word statues, mill received its most focused Commander yet from Jumpstart. Bruvac, the Grandiloquent mills and that's all mill players wanted.
Possibly the most niche Commander on this list, mill players rejoiced when this card was previewed. Which is a grand thing, Commander is all about casual play and mill is the most casual strategy if there was one. Finally, mill players have a strong Commander option and powerful tool to take out even a hundred card deck.
Number 7: Tinybones, Trinket Thief
Jumpstart was a blessing for Magic players. Even during the quarantine, the casual limited games offered on Magic Arena gave brief but thrilling games. The set had tons of breakout legends, but the biggest one of them all has to be the tiny skeleton.
Tinybones, Trinket Thief was an immediate hit amongst the Magic community. The cute little skeleton in the art won over fans, but the power behind the card sealed the deal. Discard themed decks have a history of Commander choices ranging from the recent Kroxa to original Nicol Bolas. Tinybones, however, offers a new approach that aims for opponents to constantly have enough cards to discard in order to profit from Tinybones’ draw ability. Of course, Tinybones punishes opponents that find themselves empty-handed, but this little thief excels at providing a command zone ability to draw from others' discard.
Tinybones not only became an icon for Magic, but a lovely new option for discard themed players throughout Commander.
Number 6: Lithoform Engine
Most of the cards on this list have been exciting new creatures that can helm a Commander deck. However, not every card this year has been a legendary creature, some cards were exciting new additions to the ninety-nine of many commander decks. Number five and six of this list are in my opinion the best cards of ninety-nine this year.
In recent years, WotC has made it a habit of releasing powerful artifacts that influenced the Commander format. Paradox Engine to Bolas’ Citadel, WoTC has been pushing powerful artifacts. With the release of Zendikar Rising, Commander players saw a new artifact that is sure to become a mainstay of many decks. Lithoform Engine offers far more versatility than the standard card. Whether you are doubling enter the battlefield triggers or your slinging spells, Lithoform Engine offers a powerful doubling effect. As of right now, Lithoform Engine is going for a median price of 11.81 but I don’t see that lasting long.
Number 5: Battlebond Enemy Lands
Commander Legends not only offered exciting new Commander options, more of which will be mentioned, but finally completed a cycle of powerful lands for Commander. Since the release of Battlebond, players have been pleading for a completion of multiplayer-based dual lands. Now with their release, Commander players, for the time, will have a cheaper option of duals.
Number 4: Archelos, Lagoon Mystic
Of course when it comes to the top Commander cards of 2020 I have to mention the turtle. Archelos, Lagoon Mystic sparked similar excitement from the Magic community as Tinybones. But whereas Tinybones offered a new take on a popular strategy, Archelos gave players a unique, and controversial take on Sultai.
Many MtG players discussed whether the Sultai turtle thematically felt Sultai or of a White card. Either way, the Lagoon Mystic offers Commander players a unique control and ramp strategy. I even got to try the turtle out first hand in the Commander Boxing League and can say that the card certainly offers a powerful and exciting Sultai Commander.
Number 3: Obeka, Brute Chronologist
As I’ve said previously, to me the best part of new Commander options are cards that create new deck strategies. Obeka, Brute Chronologist is certainly unique. Never before have players had a Commander that wants to profit from ending the turn. Players can now have the unique Sundial of the Infinite in their command zone.
Obeka offers players a unique strategy that aims to negate end of turn triggers and profit. With Obeka on the field a player can further abuse cards like Glorious End, Sneak Attack and Kiki-Jiki. On top of that, the Magic community has fallen in love with Obeka's design and her ability to punch time. Obeka is on the top of my list of Commanders I’m excited to build.
Number 2: Yurlok of Scorch Thrash
Obeka is amongst the top three of this list for its unique ability based on a niche, but powerful, artifact. Whereas Yurlok of Scorch Thrash is higher for its ability to bring back a rule of Magic’s past. When players saw this Viashino Shaman the reaction was electrifying. Mana Burn was back! Yurlok created a deck that never existed before and creatively in Jund. Jund, a color combination that in the past primarily has had aggressive and aristocrat strategies.
Yurlok is exactly what I love about Commander. A casual and niche strategy that appeals to specific players. I can’t wait to play against Scorch Thrash decks in the future.
Number 1: Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh
Of course with 2020 being such a challenging year, in my opinion the best Commander card of the year has to be the little Kobold that could. When Rograkh preview, the Magic community exploded with love as much as they did for Tinybones. But where Tinybones was for the discard themed Commander player, Rograkh is a lovely addition for tons of strategies.
This zero mana cost commander has been discussed in strategies ranging from voltron to storm. The ability to cast a zero mana Commander is an exciting challenge to find the most busted combos. When Partner was announced for Commander Legends, many players worried about the return of broken Commanders such as Tymna and Thrasios. Instead we received a godsend with this little warrior, begging to find paired with another legend that brings forth his strengths.
I got the experience of playing with Rograkh in the Commander Boxing League. Partnered with Akroma, Vision of Ixidor, it was a blast to boost this little guy with swords and auras to monstrous size. The community fanfare and endless possibilities behind this Commander makes it my number one Commander card of 2020.
2020 is past us. It was a challenging year, but for Commander players out there it was a great year of growth. There may have been some unpopular decisions. Yet, Commander saw the release of some the most exciting cards yet.
With 2021 here hopeful we will see even more exciting cards. Prepares Kaldhelm will give us exciting gods for our decks, or maybe Forgotten Realms will finally bring Dungeons and Dragons legends to eager fans. Either way, it's going to be hard to beat 2020, the year of Commander.
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