Commander 2017 is here, and it's absolutely awesome. These sets have been hit or miss in the past, but there's a ton of positivity surrounding the latest release. And after a few years where the Commander products were overprinted, last year's decks contained a handful of cards that have more than doubled in the months since. There are almost certainly some good specs hiding inside Commander 2017—we just have to find them.
Before we jump in, let's take a look at those breakout cards from Commander 2016. Can we find a pattern that we can use to analyze this week's previews? Well, here are all of the cards from the set that currently retail for $7 or more:
- Atraxa, Praetors' Voice - $20
- Vial Smasher the Fierce - $12
- Chromatic Lantern - $12
- Breya, Etherium Shaper - $9
- Conqueror's Flail - $8
- Reyhan, Last of the Abzan - $8
- Ravos, Soultender - $8
- Crystalline Crawler - $7
- Deepglow Skate - $7
- Thrasios, Triton Hero - $7
What do these cards have in common? First off, three of them — Chromatic Lantern, Conqueror's Flail, and Crystalline Crawler — are both colorless and good in lots of different decks. It doesn't matter what themes you're building around: if you're playing at least three colors, these cards are fantastic additions to any deck.
Deepglow Skate and Reyhan, Last of the Abzan are more specific, but they're still playing with a theme that's incredibly popular in the Commander world: +1/+1 counters. Ravos, Soultender is fantastic in any sort of deck that uses the graveyard a lot. Thrasios, Trion Hero is a cheap two-drop that works with pretty much every U/G deck ever made. Ditto for Vial Smasher the Fierce in R/B. (Vial Smasher sees some play in Legacy, too.)
Last, Atraxa, Praetors' Voice and Breya, Etherium Shaper were the top two build-arounds in the set. These cards are harder to predict in advance, but they're worth trying to figure out early on if we can. In fact, demand for Atraxa was so high that the deck instantly sold out in many stores, and a lot of ancillary cards spiked due to the sheer number of Commander junkies who wanted to optimize their Atraxa lists.
Where does that leave us as we analyze Commander 2017? Here are my four goals:
1) Try to find the breakout build-around. There might not be an Atraxa in Commander 2017, but if there is, we need to know about it ASAP.
2) Pay special attention to artifacts. If a card is good in half of all the Commander decks that exist, demand is going to start outstripping supply really quickly.
3) Look for cards that are proactively good in the most popular Commander archetypes. Anything having to do with counters is a slam-dunk.
4) Ignore narrow support cards. Arahbo, Roar of the World is only good in a deck with a bunch of Cats, and anyone who wants to build a Cat deck is just going to buy the entire box set. So who are you planning to sell your spec copies to?
To the cards!
The Ur-Dragon - $7.99
The Ur-Dragon is sweet, but there aren't too many ways to build around it: you're either playing Dragon tribal, or you're probably not playing The Ur-Dragon. I guess it might stick around the $5 range just because it's neat, but anyone who wants this card is going to buy the whole Dragon deck—they're not going to be trading for your single copy.
Arahbo, Roar of the World - $5.99
Arahbo, Roar of the World suffers from the same problem. If you're building a Cat deck, you're gonna want the entire set. If not, what are you doing with Arahbo? It's only good with the rest of the Cats in tow. I highly doubt this one ends up over $2 long-term either.
Inalla, Archmage Ritualist - $5.99
Inalla is incredibly powerful, but the three most expensive cards in Commander 2017 all have the same problem: they're not very good outside their respective precons. If you're looking for good spec targets in this set, look elsewhere.
O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami - $4.99
Some existing five-color decks will want O-Kagachi, but it's hard to get excited about a card that you can't really build around. People like Commanders that come with a built-in plan of action. O-Kagachi doesn't really do that, which makes me think it'll struggle to find popularity.
Kess, Dissident Mage - $4.99
Oh man, this is more like it. Looking for a breakout Commander pick? I'm pretty sure we're about to see a lot of spell-centric Kess decks showing up at tables near you. There's no way it's correct to build any Grixis Commander deck without Kess, right? Expect it to be $10+ at some point soon, and grab a few copies now.
Mairsil, the Pretender - $4.99
I don't think that Mairsil is quite as good as Kess, but I expect both cards to see a lot of interest beyond the Wizard tribal deck. I'm not quite sure what the best cards to target with this are yet, but I've heard buzz surrounding Aetherling; Arcanis the Omnipotent; Deadeye Navigator; Thousand-Year Elixir; Chainer, Dementia Master; and Torchling so far. There are also a couple of arbitrarily large combos floating around with Glided Lotus. Not only do I expect Mairsil, the Pretender to remain in the $5 range, I expect to see at least a few ancillary spikes over the coming days.
Ramos, Dragon Engine - $4.99
You know what I can do with WWUUBBRRGG? Slam that Door to Nothingness shut on all of your faces. There are going to be some cases like this where Ramos is awesome, but the card's price is going to depend on how excited people are to build around it. I'm predicting a fall to bulk mythic status for now, but if people start getting excited about Ramos, I'll re-evaluate things.
Teferi's Protection - $4.99
I'll be shocked if Teferi's Protection stays below $10 for long. Not only is this the exact card that every combo deck wants, it's an instant that will occasionally just win you the game against an opposing battlefield sweeper or alpha strike. I'll try to find a home for Teferi's Protection in every white deck I have, and I expect this to be one of Commander 2017's breakout cards.
Licia, Sanguine Tribune - $4.99
Whoa, a lifegain commander! This is absolutely the sort of card I could see a lot of people building around, especially since most of the good lifegain cards are in Licia's colors. My worry is that the payoff just isn't there, though: at the end of the day, Licia is just a big body that's really expensive to cast if you aren't gaining life. I'll be cautiously monitoring this one.
Mathas, Fiend Seeker - $4.99
I love that Mathas only costs three to cast, and the ability seems quite strong, especially in a two- or three-player game. I'm not sure that any of these Mardu wedge cards are going to be ubiquitous enough to draw the kind of demand needed to raise the price, but Mathas is probably my favorite of the three Vampires. Every Mardu-colored deck is going to at least consider running this, right?
Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist - $3.99
Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist is fantastic. Not only is she a beloved character, but this is a cheap and powerful card that is excellent with Equipment and merely pretty good in all other attacking situations. I bet this will end up being one of those $7-$8 legendary creatures by this point next year. Grab yours while they're still just $4.
Edgar Markov - $3.99
Will Edgar Markov be the favored build-around in Commander 2017? Vampire tribal is pretty narrow, but people love Mardu Tokens and the fact that this has a command zone ability makes it quite powerful. I'll be monitoring community interest for sure, but right now I think it'll probably fall into the same camp as The Ur-Dragon and Arahbo.
Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith - $2.99
Tutoring up Equipment is pretty darned good, and any Equipment deck is going to want Hammer of Nazahn alongside this creature. There might be better commanders if you want to build a Voltron-style Equipment deck, but Nazahn might be the commander of choice for go-wide Equipment. I bet Nazahn will end up in the $3-$5 range at least.
Wasitora, Nekoru Queen - $2.99
Cat Dragons! I love the little tokens, but the power level is a bit low here. I suspect that this will be one of those $0.50-$1 cards that's beloved by a tiny group of Commander players and ignored by the rest.
Taigam, Ojutai Master - $2.99
It's going to be hard to have Taigam attack and survive, but it's an easier proposition in a multiplayer format like Commander. More often, I suspect that Taigam, Ojutai Master will be used as a way to keep the shields up against countermagic. I can't see this becoming a ubiquitous inclusion in W/U decks, but it'll have enough interest to stay in the $2-$3 range.
Fractured Identity - $2.99
Fractured Identity is a fun and silly card, but it's not actually good outside of some corner-case situations with Zedruu the Greathearted or in group hug-style decks. I can't imagine it becoming a format staple, but it will lead to some incredible stories. I'm calling this a future bulk rare, but I've seen some other people calling this one of the set's potential breakout cards, so you might want to do some more digging on this one if you're tempted by it.
Boneyard Scourge - $2.99
Boneyard Scourge is awesome in either a Dragon or Dragon Reanimator deck, but it doesn't have much utility beyond that point. I can't see enough broad interest to imagine a price spike, and I suspect that the card will end up in the $1-$2 range.
Bloodforged Battle-Axe - $2.99
I'm kind of baffled by how to evaluate Bloodforged Battle-Axe. On the one hand, it's just a dang Bonesplitter. On the other hand, so many weird shenanigans are possible if you build around it. My initial reaction is that Bloodforged Battle-Axe is just too slow and underpowered for most decks, but I could be completely wrong about that. For what it's worth, the Commander subreddit seems pretty (bone)split right now. I'll take a wait-and-see approach.
Path of Ancestry - $2.99
Path of Ancestry is an auto-include in all tribal Commander decks, and it's fairly decent as long as you have at least a few other creatures that share a type with your Commander. If it were a rare, we'd be talking about one of the most expensive cards in the set. (Common, in this case, means that there's one copy in each of the four decks). I think $3 is a pretty reasonable floor for this, and it might end up closer to $6-$7 once these things leave print. I just can't imagine too many people removing them from their decks, which means that demand is gonna outstrip supply pretty quickly.
Scalelord Reckoner - $2.99
Scalelord Reckoner is only good if you're playing a deck that has a lot of Dragons and a lot of white mana. There isn't a lot of overlap there. I bet this one ends up in the bulk bin.
Kindred Discovery - $2.99
Enters the battlefield or attacks? Yum! Kindred Discovery is pretty close to an auto-include in every blue tribal deck out there. I wouldn't be surprised if this card ends up in the $7-$8 range eventually.
New Blood - $2.99
New Blood is a delightfully flavorful card, but it doesn't have a home in any deck without a critical mass of Vampires. Give this one a pass.
Bloodsworn Steward - $2.99
I like Bloodsworn Steward. There are plenty of commanders with a tap ability that could really use haste, and it's also terrific with the sorts of commanders that need to attack in order to trigger some nifty bonus. Oh—and straight-up aggro commanders love this card, too. It's probably not going to break out, but the $3 price tag feels fair to me.
Kindred Summons - $2.99
Kindred Summons is only good if you've got seven mana and a bunch of creatures of the same type on the battlefield (plus more in your deck). I guess there will be some tribal ramp decks that want this, but its applications are pretty narrow. I don't see how this one stays over a buck long-term.
Vindictive Lich - $2.99
I'm not sure this card is great in Wizards, but it kicks butt in any sort of Zombie Reanimator looping strategy that can keep sacrificing and recurring Vindictive Lich over and over again. $3 seems a tiny bit high—this is four mana, after all—but it's a card that should remain in demand for quite some time.
Taigam, Sidisi's Hand - $2.99
Five mana is a lot, but a card-filtering commander that fills your graveyard and provides some incidental removal will be somewhat popular for U/B "good stuff" decks. There are other cards I like better in the short-term, but Taigam, Sidisi's Hand may end up being one of the more expensive cards in the set a few years down the line.
Hammer of Nazahn - $2.49
Indestructible is one of the best abilities in Commander, and Hammer of Nazahn's first ability makes it an auto-include in any deck with a critical mass of Equipment. It's probably not going to see much play beyond that, but that should be enough to keep it in the $3-$4 range.
Alms Collector - $1.99
I wish Alms Collector were smaller and cheaper to cast. Alas, a reactive four-drop utility creature is only going to be good in hatebear-style decks. It's good enough to stay in the $1-$2 range, but I don't see a ton of upside here.
Stalking Leonin - $1.99
Don't underestimate the value of a good rattlesnake card, but I'm not sure that Stalking Leonin really qualifies. If the player with the Leonin chose you, after all, you're going to lose a creature eventually—so what you have to lose by attacking now? That said, Stalking Leonin gets re-set by bounce without giving your opponent their creature back. I think it'll have utility beyond the Cat deck. It has a chance to end up in the $5 range, but there are other cards in Commander 2017 that I like a lot more.
Territorial Hellkite - $1.99
Territorial Hellkite's "drawback" isn't that bad in Commander, though any players who tune their decks for both duel and multiplayer will have to cut this one. It's pretty good as far as undercosted beaters go, and I can imagine it showing up in some angry red decks in addition to Dragon tribal. I'm not super-excited, but it should stay in the $2-$3 range.
Hungry Lynx - $1.99
Hungry Lynx is my favorite card in Commander 2017. The flavor is awesome and perfect and I love this little kitty to death. It's not especially good, though, especially outside of a dedicated Cat deck. It might stay $1-$2 just out of sheer adorableness, but the power level just isn't there.
Fortunate Few - $1.99
Fortunate Few is one of the cooler cards in the set, but it's going to be very, very difficult to get this thing to resolve in your favor. People who love to play multiplayer politics are going to want a copy, but that won't be enough to raise the price. It'll settle in the $0.50-$1 range.
Herald's Horn - $1.99
Urza's Incubator is still expensive despite being reprinted in Commander 2015. The fact that Herald's Horn is an uncommon (it'll show up in more than one Commander 2017 deck) limits its ceiling a bit, but most tribal decks will at least consider running Herald's Horn. I expect it'll end up in the $4-$5 range eventually, though it's the sort of thing that could easily be reprinted in Conspiracy or even a normal Magic set.
Mirror of the Forebears - $1.99
I don't like Mirror of the Forebears quite as much as Herald's Horn. You have to activate it every turn, and it can't randomly start turning into your opponent's best creatures unless they have the creature type you mentioned. It's interesting enough to stay above $1, but I don't see it becoming a Commander staple.
Magus of the Mind - $1.99
Mind's Desire is a beloved casual card, and Magus of the Mind is going to slot right into my shenanigan-heavy Riku of Two Reflections deck. The $2-$3 range seems right for this, though it has a shot at some higher-level upside.
Kheru Mind-Eater - $1.99
In addition to the Vampire decks, any deck based on playing off an opposing library is going to want Kheru Mind-Eater. It's still a 1/3 at the end of the day, though, and I don't think there will be enough interest to keep this card over $1 for long.
Patron of the Vein - $1.99
Great design work here. Patron of the Vein is pretty good without any other Vampires, but it gets absurd if you're pumping your entire army every time something else dies. At six mana, I don't think this will quite get there outside the Vampire precons, but the fact that it shuts down creatures going to the graveyard is notable.
Izzet Chemister - $1.99
I'll probably run this in my Storm-based Commander deck, but for the most part this thing is going to die before it lets you cast anything. The current retail price seems about right to me.
Qasali Slingers - $1.99
Reclamation Sage is going to be better most of the time, but I've run an Indrik Stomphowler in my day and Qasali Slingers is usually going to be better than that old Beast. I doubt that Qasali Slingers makes an immediate jump in value, but it's worth monitoring for the future. If a few more Cats become Commander staples, we might be onto something.
Balan, Wandering Knight - $1.49
Balan, Wandering Knight feels underrated to me. Most Equipment decks are already white, and this card's activated ability is awesome. I can imagine a bunch of people wanting this card for their existing brews but not wanting to spend a bunch of money on all the other Cats. I'm guessing Balan will eventually end up closer to $5 than $1.
Traverse the Outlands - $1.49
Is five mana too expensive for a ramp spell? Not in Commander. Casting this for five or six lands is pretty easy, and all the big-mana green decks are at least going to consider this. At just $1.50, there's some real upside here. Grab a set now.
Shifting Shadow - $1.49
Whoa, a powerful Polymorph variant in Red! I don't see an immediate home for this in Legacy, but it's one of the few cards in Commander 2017 that might make the leap into Constructed play at some point. It's a $0.50 bulk rare if it stays in the casual ream, but I might grab a couple of sets in the unlikely case that this ends up being an actual thing in some competitive format.
Crimson Honor Guard - $0.99
Crimson Honor Guard is a below-average beater with a mediocre ability. Future bulk rare.
Disrupt Decorum - $0.99
Disrupt Decorum is actually pretty awesome. This is a great way to throw a wrench into everybody's plans, and you don't even need to set up for it. Any red deck looking to deal a bunch of damage (read: all of them) is at least going to consider this card. It could end up as a low-end staple, and I like it better than a lot of the cards that are currently going for $3.
Kindred Charge - $0.99
Creature tokens! If only they didn't disappear right away and/or this card cost less than six mana. Some players will still find a way to make this work, though, and nothing that makes this many tokens should be pre-ordering at $1. Grab a set.
Heirloom Blade - $0.99
Heirloom Blade is fine, but you're probably not running this unless your tribal deck is fairly aggressive or it plays around a lot with Equipment. I don't hate the card, but there's not a ton of upside at $1.
Kindred Boon - $0.99
I'm not sure how many decks want Kindred Boon, but it's a pretty good card in any white-based tribal deck. If you're going to invest in this, don't forget to grab a few copies of Myojin of Night's Reach and Myojin on Cleansing Fire—both cards play pretty well with Kindred Boon, especially in a multiplayer game.
Galecaster Colossus - $0.99
Galecaster Colossus will win games, but it's too expensive to run outside of a dedicated Wizard deck. Future bulk rare.
Portal Mage - $0.99
Portal Mage is super-fun, but it's the sort of card I rarely think to run outside of a preconstructed deck. Future bulk rare.
The Curse Cycle - $0.25
The Curses are all fine, but they're not powerful enough to become staples. I bet all of them will end up over $1 at some point, but none of them have the gas to make it too far beyond that. I'm staying away.
Mirari's Wake was the big one here: even though it was reprinted in Conspiracy, it was still a $15-$20 card. Lightning Greaves has been reprinted in Commander sets before, but it always seems to end up in the $5-$7 range. Zendikar Resurgent was a popular long-term spec that probably won't be relevant for a couple more years now. Cultivate and Qasali Pridemage were creeping up toward $3, and this reprinting should act as something of a safety valve.
Captivating Vampire had snuck up to $7, so it's nice to see a reprint here. Ditto for Sanguine Bond. Door of Destinies and Black Market had both been printed in Commander sets before, but they were still sort of expensive. Swords to Plowshares has been reprinted a billion times, but this latest one should prevent that casual staple from gaining value any time soon.
Utvara Hellkite was getting up there in price, and Scion of the Ur-Dragon would have exploded in value had it not been reprinted in this set. The two Tarkir block Dragon lands were popular long-term specs, but it'll take quite a bit longer for them to pay off now. It's worth noting that Cultivate and Lightning Greaves are both in this deck as well, which means that it may be a while before they return to their pre-Commander 2017 retail price.
Marchesa, the Black Rose and Nin, the Pain Artist were both sneaking up there in price—if they hadn't been reprinted here, they probably would have broken $10 by next summer. Chaos Warp and Decree of Pain both have recent reprints, but that didn't keep them from staying in the $5 range. Harbinger of the Tides is a cheap rare, but it was one of my picks for Modern speculation last week. At this point, I'm staying away.
Overall, this is a pretty underwhelming group of reprints. More than ever, WotC is selling these decks on the strength of the new cards and saving their reprint bullets for future Masters sets. Luckily, they hit those out of the park this time around. The finance and speculation community was reacting with disappointment on Friday, but most of my friends who actually play a lot of Commander are thrilled with this set. Even without any big-ticket reprints, I still expect Commander 2017 to be a fine purchase at current retail.
Interesting Cards That Weren't Included
Unsurprisingly, there will be some spikes as people look for cards to supplement their decks. Zirilan of the Claw was bought out a few months ago, since it's a Reserved List card and we knew that it wasn't going to be reprinted. Riptide Laboratory and Patriarch's Bidding were bought out on Friday—they were obvious spec targets that people were holding off on buying until we knew whether or not they were going to be reprinted. Both of those should end up in the $20-$25 range. These other cards may or may not spike in the coming days, but I'll be monitoring all of them closely.
This Week's Trends
There was very little upward movement in Standard last week. Not only was the community focused on Modern, but we're getting ever closer to a major set rotation. Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Hazoret the Fervent both gained a tiny bit of value, but that was about it. Meanwhile, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; Heart of Kiran; and Hour of Devastation all fell off a little.
In Modern, Vengevine was the big gainer of the week, breaking $20 for the first time since last fall. This spike is due to Julian Grace-Martin's fantastic deck from last week's SCG Tour® event in Syracuse. Julian had a rough end to his Day 2, and Vengevine will probably start dropping off again if this was a one-and-done. Of course, it's also possible that Julian or someone else will continue to tune R/G Vengevine to the point where it becomes a Tier 1 deck in Modern. If that happens, this is a $50 card. I'm not buying at current retail, but I'll certainly be checking to see if anyone finds a way to give this deck another gear.
Also gaining value in Modern this week: Runed Halo, a sideboard card in Jeskai Control, Hexproof, and a few other decks. It doesn't see a ton of play, but it's a solid answer to a ton of decks and there just aren't that many copies of these out there. I can imagine Runed Halo ended up in the $30-$35 range by this time next year if it isn't reprinted.
There were a bunch of Reserved List/Old School spikes this week, including Ali from Cairo, Planar Gate, Mana Matrix, Guardian Beast, In the Eye of Chaos, and Island of Wak-Wak. As long as there are a small handful of people interested in these cards, it doesn't really matter how good they are. Any card printed in the pre-The Dark era has a chance to spike for any reason at this point. I'll probably write an article exploring this phenomenon pretty soon.