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Insider: Best Specs for the Rotation Box: Commander

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With the release of Hour of Devastation, we are quickly approaching our next Standard rotation. People are beyond sick of the format-defining staples like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and ready to turn those older cards into money to buy Ixalan cards when they arrive this fall.

This offers us a great opportunity to turn some of the more popular Amonkhet block cards into Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad block cards that will continue to see gains for the years to come. In this article I'll discuss the Commander cards that I think fit the mold, using EDHREC to supplement my own anecdotal information about their popularity among players.

Anguished Unmaking

anguished unmaking

Anguished Unmaking is the most played card in Commander from the four rotating sets according to EDHREC. At first that doesn't make a lot of sense. It's a single-target removal spell that has a life payment—not exactly the most casual-friendly card. What it is, however, is an instant-speed version of the much more expensive Maelstrom Pulse and Vindicate.

While cost is not always the limiting factor (more people play Demonic Tutor than Diabolic Tutor), it can affect how much a card is played overall (Diabolic Tutor still appears in 27% of decks that play black).

Currently you can find Anguished Unmaking as low as $2 and buylists as high as $1.75. That's a pretty small spread for a card that isn't in high competitive demand and is also right about to rotate. Compare this to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar:


The arguably best planeswalker in Standard is falling rapidly, but Anguished Unmaking is trending down much slower. This is definitely a card that can and probably will eventually get reprinted in a Commander set at some point in time. So if you wanted to get some now, I'd recommend the foils. Especially the Game Day promos which have historically never been reprinted because Wizards doesn't reprint full-art cards except Zendikar basics.

Tamiyo, Field Researcher

tamiyo field researcher

Bant Tamiyo, Field Researcher is much like the original Tamiyo the Moon Sage, as it's a planeswalker in a small set that has a game-breaking emblem. This card hasn't really sunk to true bulk levels yet because it's also a frequent inclusion in some off-the-wall Doubling Season Modern decks.

Basically, because she can ultimate when you have a Doubling Season, and because she gives you an Omniscience emblem, she will always be popular. Due to her colors, relative obscurity, low-print-run set, and being in the same set as a Modern-playable planeswalker (Liliana, the Last Hope), I think she will be a slam-dunk pick in a few years after the Commander players have soaked up all of the supply.

Eldrazi Titans

ulamog kozilek emrakul

The playability of each of the titans in competitive formats can be debated until the cows come home. The point is not what we think about them but what other players think about them. These titans cost significantly less money currently than the original titans and as such cultivate a lot of appeal. Over time, they will rise because they're popular in 60-card-plus casual decks as well as Commander decks.

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is the most flexible as it gives any color access to removal of any permanent type and kills people rather quickly. Kozilek, the Great Distortion is the most popular colorless general by a long shot. Colorless Commander decks were very expensive and difficult to make for a while before Wastes was printed, so there are still a lot of players who haven't ventured to make one yet.

Emrakul, the Promised End's lack of play may be due to her high price while she was Standard-legal. The effect is powerful and her buy and sell price has started to finally gain some ground. I think she will be the most popular titan in the long run because the original (Emrakul, the Aeons Torn) is banned in Commander. All of these cards can easily reach $20 or more in 3-5 years if they don't end up in a Masters set.

The Gitrog Monster

gitrog monster

The Gitrog Monster is the second most popular Golgari Commander of all time! It's pretty unique and will not likely eclipse Meren of Clan Nel Toth because she's much easier to build.

I expect this to be a slow gainer until a card is released that accidentally combos with it and makes it very popular again. We see this more often with old cards getting popular because of new Commanders, but this card is so combo-oriented that it is more likely to be the card to spike than the combo pieces.

Non-Titan Eldrazi

conduit of ruin void winnower

These are by far the most popular new Eldrazi outside of the titans and its not hard to see why. Conduit of Ruin is a self-contained combo that can find you a titan and help cast your creature spells for cheaper. I have yet to meet a player that didn't enjoy tutoring for his biggest creature and casting it for less. It's already a bulk rare but it will be buylistable for $1+ in a year or two.

Void Winnower, despite how many jokes and memes it encourages, is a very solid finisher. For nine mana you are likely to lock a lot of people out of important spells for a large portion of the rest of the game, and it makes most creatures unable to block. This isn't a bulk mythic and it doesn't see any competitive play, so the demand must be from casual players. I find it hard to find a place they can reprint a card as weird as this but, as always, foils are safer.

Geier Reach Sanitarium

geier reach sanitarium

You might be confused why this card is here but it's actually currently the most played card in the entire set of Eldritch Moon. I believe this is because it's a super budget version of Mikokoro, Center of the Sea. It also has some synergies with odd Commander-specific stuff like Captain Sisay, Thalia's Lancers, etc. Ultimately this card may not find a perfect home but if you find them in people's bulk it's worth holding onto them as they mature.

Zendikar Resurgent

Image

The most similar card to Zendikar Resurgent is Mana Reflection.


Obviously there is a big difference between a Shadowmoor rare and an Oath of the Gatewatch rare in terms of supply, but it also shows that there is a demand for this style of effect. The longer we go without a Mana Reflection reprint the more often Commander players are going to turn to Zendikar Resurgent as a budget replacement.

Once again it's not terribly difficult to get these from competitive players who think they're bulk rares and let them mature over the next few years like Dictate of Erebos. The more I think about it, the more I think the comparison of Dictate of Erebos and Grave Pact is a lot of the same shades as Zendikar Resurgent and Mana Reflection.

Greenwarden of Murasa

green warden

For comparison, Eternal Witness is the fourth most popular card in Commander after Sol Ring, Cyclonic Rift, and Swords to Plowshares. This is effectively two Eternal Witnesses stapled together. It's not as powerful in recursion strategies because it has to get exiled to get the second card, but as the price of Eternal Witness grows I believe this will be the preferred substitute.

Copies of this card are available for under $1, so I can't imagine a way that this spec goes horribly awry unless it's included in a Commander deck in the next two years.

Mind's Dilation

minds dilation

My final card is a pet card of mine but also one that's much more popular than you might expect in Commander. Right now there are only 3600 decklists on EDHREC that include Mind's Dilation but it's just slow to catch on. It's got a great effect that scales with more people and can win a game by itself pretty easily. It's the kind of card that has to get popular via word of mouth and will take a while to catch on, but when it does you'll wonder why it's $5.

Finally, I think there are a lot of cards that will continue to decrease in price and be easy to find as players liquidate cards from rotating sets. Keep a sharp eye out for good trade and buy opportunities. The cards above are some that I am personally targeting and I think you will have a lot of success with.

One thought on “Insider: Best Specs for the Rotation Box: Commander

  1. I don’t know if I’d say that zendikar resurgent’s closest kin is Mana Reflection…Resurgent ONLY adds one additional mana from lands…Reflection doubles it (which for most lands that produce 1 mana is the same), however, for lands that product more than 1; reflection is much better..reflection also effects mana rocks and mana dorks..which resurgent doesn’t…all that being said I still like Resurgent as a pick..oath of the Gatewatch wasn’t as heavily cracked as BFZ and the fact that Resurgent has a built in constant “Gimpse of Nature” does make it a house in commander.

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