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Insider: The Death of Commanders

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June 6th 2020 we got a pretty major change in the Commander realm. The following rule regarding commanders and dying changed as of 6/6/20:

If a commander has an ability that triggers on it dying or going to exile, it will trigger before heading to the command zone. 

Why is this a big deal?

Previously when a commander died players were given the choice of either having it go to the graveyard. This would trigger dying abilities, or having it go to the command zone which did not trigger dying abilities. Players had to decide whether the commander dying was worth having their commander in a zone which prevented the commander from being easily replayed, sort of a commander jail if you will.

This meant that some legendary creatures with "dies" triggers have fallen by the wayside as the extra hurdle required to now move the commander from the graveyard to exile, which would allow the player to shift the commander into the command zone, was too much effort. By allowing the commander to see the graveyard and then go into the command zone several commanders suddenly became a lot more viable.

What has already jumped?


Child of Alara requires it to actually go to the graveyard in order to get the "blows up the world" trigger. It used to be a semi-popular commander for 5 color control builds as a "rattlesnake" that would discourage people from attacking the owner for fear of losing all nonland permanents, but it has been usurped by many other 5 color commanders, falling to 15th on the list of most popular 5 color commanders according to EDHREC.com. Now, while not all the ones above it are for control builds, the point is more that Child of Alara prior to this rule change was still more often a 1 shot use. This new rule means that for those who like to see the world burn, they can keep blowing it up for the low cost of 2 additional mana each time.

 


The other big winner from this rule change is Elenda, the Dusk Rose. Vampires are already popular commander archetypes, but most went with Edgar Markov's Coffin // Edgar Markov's Coffin as the commander of choice for the extra color and because jumping through hoops to get Elenda, the Dusk Rose from your graveyard back to the command zone required additional cards that watered down the deck.

Unfortunately, the speculation ship on both Child of Alara and Elenda, the Dusk Rose has already sailed as both cards have more than doubled in price.

What else benefits?

The Kamigawa block dragon cycle all become more playable as commanders as you abuse their death triggers.


The soulshift mechanic from Kamigawa block can actually be finally used, as none of those legendary creatures tend to be played much, though given that it's basically a limited Raise Dead I doubt this change will cause a major upturn in demand for these creatures.


A few other commanders that become better with this rule change:

  • Marchesa, of the Black Rose as she can put a +1/+1 counter on herself, and thanks to her delayed "death" trigger you should be able to bypass the commander tax.
  • Tuktuk the Explorer deck to make a bunch of 5/5 colorless golems.
  • Roalesk, Apex Hybrid is a card that could be a sleeper. The ability to proliferate multiple times can be extremely powerful in the right builds and with a pretty low buy in could easily become a much more popular commander in a G/U planeswalker or poison build. The biggest challenge with this card is that it's competing with Atraxa, Praetor's Voice for best Planeswalker based deck commander and Atraxa, Praetor's Voice allows for more planeswalkers thanks to the additional 2 colors and she proliferates without needing to die.

While it may not big a huge deal, both of the legal original Eldrazi titans have useful "when X is put into a graveyard" triggers that shuffle your graveyard back into your library. Unfortunately, both already have pretty high buy ins and high commander demand, so growth due to this change is likely minimal.



Conclusion

This rule change will likely have a pretty significant effect on commanders moving forward and it's very possible there are some other cards that may prove to be much more powerful thanks to this rule change. As well, this may open some design space for Wizards as new commanders are conceived.

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