Welcome back, readers!
Last week I went over my Commander picks for green, blue, black and red from the Eternal Masters set. This week I'll be covering white, gold, artifacts and lands.
Before I begin I feel I should include a small disclaimer. I've been playing a lot of Sheriff Commander, which may affect how I view specific cards. As I really enjoy and even now prefer this style of Commander it has definitely skewed some of my viewpoints on specific cards.
Something like Xantid Swarm from last week may be a lot less useful in a big game of regular Commander where your goal is to eliminate everyone. But it can be really amazing in any form of team Commander, where more powerful general answers (like say City of Solitude) might hinder your teammates as well.
Since I don't know what type of Commander every reader plays I will take precautions to highlight the fact that some of my picks may be much more suited for a team environment than the "every man for himself" environment. Now let's get into the picks.
I've seen this card chosen as a commander before (though not often). It's a very good support card in other decks though.
Protection from one's own color is actually not all that common and the ability to grant protection to other creatures is a powerful ability, especially when you couple it with the ability to turn spells or permanents that color. As long as you have three open mana you can blank any removal spell cast by an opponent---if that spell happens to already be white it only costs you two.
Many might not know that the original Kamigawa printing of this card is still sitting in the $7 range. With the shortness of the EMA print run, now is your best time to pick up a copy or two for personal use. With the ceiling already set at $7, the EMA printing might be able to move up a bit from its current position around $2.
2. Enlightened Tutor
As I said last week, tutors are key to any singleton format and enchantments and artifacts are often incredibly powerful in Commander. This is the card I've had the most requests for from fellow traders and I imagine it'll eventually match the price of the originals (around $15).
The opinion on the new artwork on all the tutors seems to be pretty evenly divided between the "give me the original classic artwork or nothing" and the "this looks more accurate than a random person looking back at you" groups. I personally prefer the original, but it's probably because I have a lot of fond memories of casting it with my small group of high school friends back in the day (always tutoring up my one copy of Survival of the Fittest).
I know this is just a common so I don't suggest buying tons of them, but for those unaware this card only has two printings. The first was in Urza's Saga (at uncommon) and now this Eternal Masters printing. It's not really a kill spell, but it can serve as solid disruption (similar to Sudden Spoiling) or set up a creature to die that normally wouldn't (say one with indestructibility). This is the first and only foil printing, and foil copies are what I'd focus on.
4. Karmic Guide
This Commander staple is part of a good number of infinite recursion combos and is just powerful in general. Foils of this one are already close to the judge foil price and both have the new artwork. I like picking this one up to even out trades, but I will say that because of its ubiquity in so many Commander decks I do have the feeling that WoTC will keep including it in Commander product whenever they feel it could fit.
5. Monk Idealist
This is a more niche card that only tends to show up in enchantment-themed decks. But it is the first foil printing and at his current price under $3 he's not a bad pickup.
Keep in mind that niche cards are a double-edged sword. It may be more difficult to find the person who wants to foil out their W/x enchantment-heavy Commander deck. But it's just as awkward for WoTC to include a card like Monk Idealist in any set that doesn't feature a decent number of enchantments. That isn't to say they won't, but it'd be weird to include him as a "throw-in" in a set without at least a few decent enchantments for him to get back.
This card has also been supplanted by the more generic-sounding Auramancer, which has appeared in Core Sets where they wanted this effect. For Commander purposes, of course, players may want both.
6. Mother of Runes
I know she sees a lot more play in Legacy (specifically Death and Taxes and Maverick builds), but good ol' Mom is still a very powerful Magic card. The ability to turn off pinpoint removal or make a creature unblockable (against any decks with only a common color of creature on the battlefield) is the kind of versatility you want in your Commander deck.
Add in the fact that the new artwork is a Terese Nielsen and you have yourself a solid investment target. Foils are already 8-9 times the regular price.
7. Swords to Plowshares
Many Commander players shy away from pinpoint removal, as you quickly run out of cards when you keep trading one-for-one against multiple players. That said, this is the gold standard of removal and it can keep the really dangerous commanders off the table for the low cost of one white mana. The life gain is pretty irrelevant in a 40-life format compared to giving them another land via Path to Exile.
8. Unexpectedly Absent
This is one cards designed for Commander that looked like it had potential in Legacy but never really succeeded in either. However, with as much deck shuffling that goes on in both formats (Legacy via fetchlands and Commander via tutoring) this is still a very potent removal spell. People also forget that it can hit any nonland permanent.
Its "downside" can have political benefits too. While it might seem like a temporary answer, if whatever you're targeting is threatening enough, you end up the "hero" at the table and make the other player become the number one target.
9. Wrath of God
There's a reason this card keeps returning to the $4-$5 range despite having so many printings. It's just that good. In Commander you want as many x-for-one trades as possible and Wrath can allow for really big x's in that category. The no-regeneration clause is often critical in Commander since some of the hardest-to-kill creatures can regenerate (of course Wrath doesn't help against indestructibility).
1. Armadillo Cloak
A lot of players shy away from creature auras in Commander because if they do kill your target it's a two-for-one. However, giving a creature trample and pseudo-lifelink is surprisingly powerful. The old-school wording also means that sometimes you can double up on the lifegain.
Again this is more of a niche card as there are plenty of GWx Commander decks that won't run this. But it's still a solid card and casual players' love for lifegain and auras has bouyed its price in the past.
2. Baleful Strix
This is again more of a Legacy/Vintage card but it still has applications in Commander. On the surface it's a two-for-one (cantripping and trading with any creature it blocks thanks to deathtouch). But Commander loves its recursion, and being both an artifact and a creature means Strix can be recurred in a million ways.
3. Bloodbraid Elf
While Commander tends to be a format with a much higher average mana cost than most other eternal formats, good ol' BBE is always a two-for-one (unless you have no spells with CMC 3 or less left in your deck). Haste is also powerful. It doesn't find a home in every GRx deck, but it is does appear now and again.
4. Brago, King Eternal
Brago actually makes for a pretty interesting commander, providing a mass blink effect every time you damage an opponent. He tends to be the actual commander in the decks that want to run him (alongside lots of enter-the-battlefield creature effects).
The regular version is under $1 but the foil is near $10. It probably helps that his only previous printing was in Conspiracy which by most counts was a pretty underwhelming set. (I actually liked it a lot, but I think a lot of people were turned off by paying the full cost of a draft and then getting one slightly longer game out of it rather than a full tournament).
5. Dack Fayden
Dack is another of our Legacy/Vintage all-stars that sees occasional Commander play. A lot of people see him and only think of his looting ability, but the ability to permanently steal artifacts (i.e. the owner doesn't get them back when he leaves the battlefield) is very powerful in Commander. Stealing someone's Nevinyrral's Disk before they can activate it is particularly satisfying.
6. Deathrite Shaman
With the amount of graveyard shenanigans that goes on in most Commander games, a mana producer that can also exile cards in graveyards and provide additional life swings is always a welcome addition to any GBx deck.
7. Extract from Darkness
This is another Conspiracy-only reprint that is actually very good in Commander. While milling out is not a typical Commander win condition (unless it's infinite) the ability to recur a creature from anyone's graveyard is always powerful. I don't see enough demand to warrant investing in regular copies, but the foils are still plenty cheap right now and would again be a decent spec as a trade throw-in.
8. Glare of Subdual
This is again more of a niche card that sometimes makes the cut in GWx token decks. It actually serves as a pretty good pseudo-prison card, though its inability to hit lands doesn't mean the opponent is completely locked out.
9. Maelstrom Wanderer
Finally we have another good commander for decks. As I mentioned with BBE earlier, cascade provides guaranteed card advantage (at the cost of not knowing what that card is going to be most of the time). Wanderer gives us two extra cards and is a tri-colored legend with the two best colors in the format (blue and green).
A lot of people seem to like this new artwork and I expect a lot of demand for it moving forward. If you don't have a personal copy (and think you might ever want one) I'd pick yours up now. Outside of specialty product, I don't see cascade coming back to Standard (and thus a mass reprinting) ever again.
10. Sphinx of the Steel Wind
While this guy has been largely replaced by Griselbrand in Legacy Reanimator builds, he's still a very powerful option for Esper Commander players (especially since good ol' Grizz is banned in Commander). He has the benefit again of being both an artifact and a creature, and can serve as a solid threat on both offense and defense (thanks to vigilance, lifelink, and protection from red and green).
The biggest challenge with him as a speculation opportunity is that honestly WoTC keeps putting him in products, so his price never gets a chance to really recover before he gets hit with another reprint. Hopefully this is the last for a while.
A very powerful one-for-one removal spell in BWx decks. Its overall versatility means it finds a home more often than not in those colors. The artwork is also gorgeous. Interestingly enough this is one of only a handful of cards that has had multiple judge foil printings (with different artwork).
Void is a card that is often either very good or simply mediocre. It does act as a very specific/limited board wipe and can even hit a few cards in hand. This card is often in the 95th-105th position for a RBx deck (i.e. it either barely makes the cut or barely misses it).
This is only the second reprint (with the first being a Timeshifted one) and the first with new artwork. I wouldn't aggressively pick these up, but again board wipes are board wipes so it's not a terrible throw-in to even out a trade.
1. Ashnod's Altar
This artifact leads to quite a few infinite combos in Commander, serving as both a sacrifice outlet and a mana generator. This is a first-time foil and foils are already around $28-$30. I love picking up extra copies of this to even out trades. Before this printing I never had more than one copy in my trade binder for long (as people always need more of them for new decks).
In Commander this card often acts like a targeted removal spell that sticks around. It can be blinked or recurred to kill another creature. It's a great, colorless answer to indestructible creatures or creatures with death triggers.
The EMA copy is by far the cheapest (with the Mirrodin and Archenemy copies sitting around $8). I honestly won't be surprised to see this guy trend upward after a while to match his counterparts (especially since I personally really like the Commander's Arsenal/EMA artwork a lot).
3. Isochron Scepter
While any imprint cards can be risky (as you set yourself up for a two-for-one if they destroy it before you get to activate it), there are enough powerful two-or-less instants that repeatedly casting them via Scepter can be backbreaking. I've personally played against Scepters imprinting Counterspell, Memory Lapse and Mana Drain (different games obviously), and it can be a huge pain to deal with.
4. Mana Crypt
The second most expensive mythic in the set (behind Force of Will), this is a Vintage all-star that also finds a home in a lot of Commander decks. After all, if people almost always make room for Sol Ring, then a Sol Ring for zero is also a pretty obvious inclusion, life loss potential aside.
The fact that the previous printings of this card were as a book promo and a judge promo means that the supply has always been extremely limited. I don't see the EMA printing as being nearly large enough to satisfy demand. If you want one get it now.
5. Nevinyrral's Disk
The original colorless board wipe. A lot of mono-colored EDH decks like to run this card to answer permanents they can't normally handle (like black versus artifacts or red versus enchantments). It does keep getting reprinted over and over and its price seems to be stuck around $1.50-$2. But prior to the Commander 2013 and 2014 printings this was a $5 card.
Disk may not get back to that price but foil copies from EMA are sure to command a strong premium. The only other foil option is From the Vault: Relics and a lot of people don't like the FTV foiling process. That means the EMA version will likely become the de facto "best foil version," so its current $6-$7 price may well rise after EMA packs run out.
6. Sensei's Divining Top
Colorless Ponder. This card is a staple in almost every EDH deck (I know I usually make sure to find room for them) as it continually helps you filter your draw and allows you to "float" cards on top of your library in the face of any sort of heavy hand disruption. This is definitely a Legacy staple as well as the backbone of UWx Miracles builds, and getting bumped to rare means that there aren't going to be nearly as many opened as players who want them for decks.
My only concern with this one is if WoTC decides to add a few to the upcoming Commander 2016 decks. The card filtering could be important in four-color decks without access to expensive dual lands, to make sure they hit their colors in a timely manner. Its biggest detractor is that it can add a ton of time to games if players continually Top with shuffle effects (like we do in Legacy).
7. Winter Orb
You tend to see this card played more in "griefer" decks (or decks that are prison style and tend to make opponents hate playing against them), but it is incredibly powerful and punishing in a format where you want to cast big things turn after turn. Winter Orb is one of the best ways to slow the game to a crawl and if you happen to have a way to tap it at the end of an opponents turn you can make its effect one-sided.
8. Worn Powerstone
Another good ol' mana rock that helps ramp people quickly in any color. EMA is the first time we have a foil option available and it already commands a huge premium (it's currently sitting around 17x the cost of a regular). Don't pass foil copies in draft.
This is also the kind of card that may get left over as draft leavings by non-Commander players so it's definitely worth picking up if you see them abandon it on the table (though it's important to make sure they actually don't want it first).
1. Maze of Ith
Maze of Ith used to be a huge boon in the old Legacy Maverick decks of 2011-2014, but it's also a very good land in Commander. It provides a colorless way to repeatedly blank a creature's attack and it's actually not legendary so if you can find ways to copy/clone it you can have multiples.
While this card's demand (and price) are primarily driven by Legacy players, there are tons of broken lands that are legal (and played often) in Commander. Having an uncounterable (for the most part) way to deal with them that also taps for mana when needed means that it's a solid "spell" land in any deck that can handle a few colorless sources.
This concludes my list of Commander cards from EMA. As you can tell, there's a ton from this set for Commander players to love. We got some sweet new first foils, a few really expensive reprints, and a good bit of generally fun-to-play cards in the set. While Modern players may have felt left out in the cold on this set, us Commander players should be very satisfied with it.