I've got to be honest—I didn't even realize that Adventures in the Forgotten Realms had its own set of Commander decks until about three weeks ago, when my editor asked me to write up a buyer's guide. It's certainly possible that I've been overly distracted by the nice summer weather and the ability to see my friends again for the first time in 18 months, but I honestly don't think WotC did a very good job of publicizing this set of decks. Adventures in the Forgotten Realms already feels like it's coming in right on the heels of Modern Horizons 2, and now we've got four more decks to talk about? That's a lot of new cards to drop on us in the middle of summer!
There's another reason why the AFR Commander Decks are flying under the radar right now: supply issues. WotC is still having supply chain and printing issues due to the ongoing pandemic, which means that some stores haven't received their full allocations of these decks yet. Amazon also hasn't shipped their mass orders yet (at least as of this writing), which means that there's less day-one supply than usual. As we learned with sets like Jumpstart in 2020, it can take months for these supply chain issues to resolve themselves and for widespread availability to really kick in.
Hmmm… so we have a set that's likely to end up being under-advertised, under-sold, under-opened, and (at least temporarily) under-printed. Oh—and it's targeted at Magic's most popular format. Is it possible that this set of Commander decks is actually full of financial opportunity? I certainly think so, and I'm going to use the rest of this article to see if I can get you to agree.
Financially, singles from Commander releases tend to follow a pretty predictable pattern.
Powerful cards that tie into each deck's main theme tend to start at a fairly high price, but they usually drop off pretty fast after that. Anyone who wants these cards tends to buy the whole deck, because it provides a good jumping-off-point for deck building. These cards can surge in price over time (think The Ur-Dragon), but that generally happens once they're out of print. You should have plenty of time to buy in in the meantime. Months, if not a year.
Marquee reprints also tend to follow a similar curve. They start a bit high due to price memory, drop pretty hard once the set reaches peak supply, and then start to rise again. Two or three years later, many of them are just as expensive as they were before they were reprinted. People tend to overestimate the supply of these decks, and the best reprints tend to hold their value well—especially if they've survived a previous reprint or two. The key here is to try to pick them up somewhere between when they hit their post-price-memory drop and when they start to tick back up again.
Lastly, we have powerful role-players that can fit into multiple existing decks. These are the cards that end up being underpriced at first, even when everyone can plainly see how good they are. Think Dockside Extortionist, though most of these cards won't be quite that good. The thing about these cards is that nobody who buys these decks to play is ever going to take them out of their precons, but all the dedicated Commander players are still going to need multiple copies for their other decks. Since the only place to get these cards is inside 100-card precons, the balance of supply and demand can get pretty weird. How weird? Well, there were a few months back in 2020 when Fierce Guardianship cost almost exactly as much as the deck that contained it. That's pretty wild!
Hmm. I wonder if any of these AFR Commander decks have potentially powerful role-players that are being underrated right now? Let's see if we can find some!
we're not looking at reprints yet; we'll get to those cards a little later. Right now, I want to focus exclusively on brand new Commander cards that have the potential to see play in multiple existing decks and archetypes. The closer to Dockside Extortionist or Fierce Guardianship, the better. I'll be using a combination of EDHREC data, Commander subreddit chatter, current pricing data, and my own analysis to zero in on a handful of cards with real potential.
Before we get to the cards, though, it's worth noting that there are no true equivalents to Dockside Extortionist or Fierce Guardianship in this lot of decks. In fact, very few cards in this round of Commander decks are selling for over $5 right now. Much like Adventures in the Forgotten Realms proper, these decks feel like something of a deliberate powering-down of the Commander precons.
That said, there are still plenty of cards here with solid potential, and many of them are being slept on due to their lack of being Dockside Extortionist. Financially, however, this might actually be a good thing for bargain-hunters and speculators. If there isn't a $40 card to soak up all the value in a given deck, all that value has to go somewhere. That means we might see more $5-$20 cards than in the past few rounds of Commander precons, which were incredibly top-heavy and thus didn't have too many cards rise in value beyond the top three or four heavy hitters.
Let's get to the cards!
In a normal run of Commander decks, Klauth, Unrivaled Ancient might have slipped through the cracks. In this batch, however, Klauth is likely to end up being one of the set's key chase cards. While I'm not normally very high on seven-mana ramp spells, Klauth can be cheated into play any number of ways and wreak lots of havoc once you get in a single attack. There are multiple infinite combos on the table here, as well as the ability to simply play out your entire hand post-combat.
The EDHREC numbers look great as well, with Klauth, Unrivaled Ancient clocking in as one of the most popular Commander cards in all of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. I'm quite high on its long-term potential and recommend snagging a copy soon. The price is still pretty reasonable.
You don't need to run any other "exiled spells matter" cards to make Prosper, Tome-Bound work, which is why I'm interested. Not only does this Tiefling "draw" you an extra card each turn, it also generates Treasure tokens—and you know how I feel about those right now. I'm not sure I'd run Prosper as a Commander, but it's a powerful utility card that I'd at least consider in all of my Rakdos decks as well as all of my Treasure-based decks. It might not be quite powerful or on-theme enough to truly command a ton of long-term value, but I'm somewhat intrigued.
Remember how I systematically underrated Treasure tokens in my Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set review, and most of the set's top chase cards play with that theme? I'm not going to do it again here. Commander players adore building around Treasure, and Grim Hireling is both a powerful Treasure generator and kind of a janky way to turn Treasure into removal. If your Treasure deck runs black, you have to at least consider the Grim Hireling. Don't sleep on this card. It might be the most underrated card in the whole set right now.
Druid of Purification has some real potential in bigger multiplayer games. The wording on the card is a bit confusing, but the upshot is that you are never at risk of losing any of your artifacts or enchantments, you get to kill the artifact or enchantment that is causing you the most trouble, and you can potentially use politics to clear a few more problematic artifacts or enchantments as well.
The fact that this card has an enters-the-battlefield effect that can be re-bought with flicker effects isn't escaping me either, and I would argue that Druid of Purification is pretty close to a must-play in decks like Bant Flicker, especially if you're regularly engaging in four or five-player free-for-alls. There's some real long-term value here, and this is probably the new card in this set with the single broadest base of appeal.
Double strike is one of the best keywords in the game, and there are plenty of aggressive decks with enough incidental Auras to at least consider running Holy Avenger. I'd also expect all "Auras matter" decks to strongly consider this card, even if it's the only piece of Equipment they run. That's not a super widespread base of appeal, I admit, but there's going to be some secondary market interest in this card. Equipment also tends to hold its value pretty well.
This might be too much of an "on theme" card—why not simply buy the Aura of Courage deck if you want Mantle of the Ancients?—but considering how many people already have pre-built Aura decks, I'm going to include it here anyway because it's a must-play in any deck with a significant number of Auras. I might never pick up this particular Commander deck, for example, but I still need Mantle of the Ancients for my Uril, the Miststalker brew and my Voltron Enchantress deck. There are so many other Aura decks that want this card, too. I expect Mantle of the Ancients to be worth $5-$10 in a few years, and I'd grab copies ASAP.
This card is similar to Mantle of the Ancients in that it's a must-play in any deck that runs a significant number of Auras. Phasing is one of the few great ways to protect these creatures without losing all of their Auras, and Robe of Stars is a cheap way to get that protection online. Considering how useful this card is in pretty much any deck that really wants to protect one key creature, I wouldn't be shocked if it ends up being even more popular than the last two cards we just talked about. I'm in on several copies, and I think Robe of Stars is being pretty significantly underrated.
A lot of Commander decks are built around X spells, Hydras, or both. Neverwinter Hydra slots right in, especially since it has both trample and a powerful protection ability. I don't expect this card to ever be worth huge money, but it's the exact sort of card that folks are going to want without buying the entire deck. Its price should at least remain stable from here.
Zombies are great! Death Baron was a very expensive card for quite some time, and giving your entire Zombie army deathtouch is incredibly good. The fact that Wand of Orcus can also make a ton of Zombies helps as well. Don't forget: we're less than two months away(!) from another set that will likely bring a bunch of sick new Zombies to the game, including the potential for an exciting new Zombie commander. Wand of Orcus is going to be in demand for sure.
Four mana is kind of a lot to pay for spot removal in Commander, but the fact that this gives you a little bit time to play that creature yourself is somewhat intriguing to me. I can't see Hurl Through Hell becoming a future format staple, but it might end up closer to $5 than bulk.
Fevered Suspicion looks like the bulkiest of bulk rares, but it's honestly pretty good if you're regularly playing four or five-person games. Blatant Thievery is a somewhat similar card, and that sees a decent amount of play. I don't think it'll ever be worth more than a couple of bucks, but it could be a $2-$3 card with moderate demand.
With an almost bizarre lack of value in AFR Commander's new cards, it's possible that most of the expensive cards in this set will end up being the reprints. While these cards usually crash pretty hard from their price memory figures, that depends entirely on some of the above cards rising in price. If that doesn't happen, then these cards won't drop.
Speaking of price memory, I wanted to list all the key reprints in the set as well as their previous price tags. That way, we can see just how much (or how little) things have changed since the reprint was announced. While it can be tempting to believe that the cards with the biggest drops will experience the biggest eventual rebounds, that isn't necessarily true. In many of those cases, this is only the first reprint that card has ever received, and that usually means that the price won't ever return to its pre-reprint value. In fact, the cards that dropped the least are the most likely to maintain a stable price tag, because those are the cards where demand has continued to chug along regardless.
There's quite a bit to talk about here. First off, there are zero mythics on this list. Zero. The highest-profile mythic reprint is something like Scourge of Valkas or Dragonmaster Outcast, neither of which topped $3 before these decks were announced. WotC was clearly not interested in using Commander precons as an outlet for reprinting exciting chase mythics.
Second, let's talk Heroic Intervention. This is one of the most reprint-resilient cards out there, as it has already survived a high-profile reprint in Core Set 2021 without much loss of value. The same thing is happening here, telling me that demand is remaining incredibly strong for this Commander stalwart. Feel free to grab your copies anytime—it'll be back above $10 before long.
Other than that, we've got a whopping nine cards settling in the $5-$7 range, despite starting at wildly different price points. Lightning Greaves is a $6 card despite already being a $6 card, for example, while Kindred Summons has dropped all the way down from $30. That's a pretty large range!
What this tells me is: we're already starting to move past the price memory portion of this Commander series' life-cycle. While I expect some of these cards will keep dropping a bit, I can't imagine that too many of them will end up losing more than another 25-30% of their value, if that. I'd strongly consider picking some of these cards up in a couple of weeks, once the supply increases a little bit more.
Even though there aren't any chase cards in this round of Commander decks, it's still worth seeing how each of them stacks up relative to each other. Are some of them chock full of value while others are basically just dead zones? Are any of them worth buying on sight at normal retail prices? Let's go through the decks one at a time and find out. As per usual, I'll be adding up every card that currently sells for at least $1 on the TCGplayer marketplace. I'll be ignoring everything else.
Let's start off with the cheapest deck of the lot. $39 in value is about as low as these things ever get this close to set release, so I'd expect to see plenty of copies of Planar Portal on the shelves at your local shops once WotC gets their supply chain moving again. This low value also tells me that there isn't much room for any of these cards to keep dropping in price. Key spells like Disrupt Decorum, Prosper, Tome-Bound, and Grim Hireling could be close to their price floors already, in fact.
I was surprised to see Aura of Courage this low, considering the fact that it has so many of my favorite cards in it! Truth be told, this deck as well as the next two are all kind of in the same price range, though, so I'm not sure it really matters much that this one is a couple of bucks cheaper. Add in another decent card, and it would shoot right up to #1.
Regardless, I think Aura of Courage is actually a solid pickup. Most of the equity is tied up in pretty safe reprints like Heroic Intervention, Puresteel Paladin, and even Utopia Sprawl that are likely to hold their value long-term. The new cards are things like Robe of Stars and Mantle of the Ancients, both of which I love. This isn't a must-buy at retail—none of these are—but if you're looking for a deck to buy and play and eventually sell? Aura of Courage is a solid choice.
You can see why so few shops appear to be buying these decks in bulk and cracking singles, right? There just isn't much money in it, even for larger stores on razor-thin margins. That's part of why I expect some of these cards to rise in price: if very few people actually crack these decks open, there will be a singles shortage eventually.
Regardless, Draconic Rage has some pretty solid cards in it. You know how I feel about the top three on this list already, and I expect Druid of Purification to really take off at some point. A lot of these other cards are also pretty safe, and the Dragons theme means that this deck is the safest bet to hold value as a sealed product to be re-sold later. As with Aura of Courage, I feel solid about buying this one and holding it.
Dungeons of Death is somehow the most expensive of the lot, but I still don't love it. It's full of new cards that I'm lower than most people on, and there's not really much room for Phantasmal Image or Lightning Greaves to gain value. As with all of these decks, Dungeons of Death is fine to buy if you want to play with it, but I wouldn't pick it up as a quick flip. The money just isn't there, and I don't expect that to change.
Let's go through the most popular new commanders from these decks and see if we can come up with some potential specs to buy as people look to modify their preconstructed decks. EDHREC is the best place to go for this kind of analysis, because it lets us see which new Commanders are sparking the most interest as well as which cards synergize best with them.
Prosper, Tome-Bound isn't just one of the better cards in the set, it's currently the most popular new Commander according to EDHREC. If I were modifying this deck right now, I'd strongly consider adding Jeska's Will, Dauthi Voidwalker, Valki, God of Lies, Stolen Strategy, Birgi, God of Storytelling, Dockside Extortionist, Revel in Riches, Academy Manufactor, Opposition Agent, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, and Goldspan Dragon. You know, the red and black "Treasure matters" cards.
These cards have all been pretty hot lately regardless, so I'm not sure how much more short-term upside there is here. You can see some movement on this Jeska's Will price chart, though, so I'd at least snag that one ASAP. It looks like it's on its way back up toward $20.
Revel in Riches is also worth a look. Don't forget that this is not just about Prosper, Tome-Bound—all of AFR is conducive to building Commander decks around Treasure tokens. The result? Cards like this become far more important and demand starts to rise:
There aren't a ton of amazing additions to make to a Sefris of the Hidden Ways deck, other than some of the other venture cards from AFR, but I've got a few to talk about. For example, Tortured Existence is a Stronghold card (that's also on The List) that works pretty well with Sefris and gets high synergy marks on EDHREC. Because of its age, I wouldn't be shocked if someone tries to buy it out and force a spike toward the $5-$8 range. I'm not sure I'd bet on that—demand doesn't seem to be on the rise yet—but it's certainly well within the realm of possibility.
Also solid with Sefris of the Hidden Ways: Sheoldred, Whispering One, Priest of Fell Rites, Master of Death, Doom Whisperer, Esper Sentinel, Oriq Loremage, Sepulchral Primordial, and Champion of Wits. I'm not sure if any of these cards will see enough additional demand to spike, but I'll at least keep my eyes on them for a bit. If one of them starts to surge—which hasn't happened yet—I might consider jumping in on one of the others.
There are actually quite a few interesting cards that combine well with Galea, Kindler of Hope. The issue here is always going to be what to include and what to cut. Spells that EDHREC likes for Galea decks include Imprisoned in the Moon, Hall of Heliod's Generosity, Sterling Grove, Sigarda's Aid, Noble Hierarch, Hammer of Nazahn, Shadowspear, Halvar, God of Battle, Stoneforge Mystic, Sythis, Harvest's Hand, Sanctum Weaver, Armored Skyhunter, Leonin Shikari, Stonehewer Giant, Eidolon of Blossoms, and so many more.
Will any of these cards actually see a surge in value? It's possible, but we're still really early in the process. For example, take a look at Hammer of Nazahn price chart over the past few months. The price has been pretty unchanged, but look at the demand spikes over the past four days. That's purely natural demand, and definitely related to these Commander decks hitting shelves:
I can't guarantee that any of these cards will spike, but if you're in the market to build this deck? Grab your copies ASAP. They certainly aren't going to be dropping in price any time soon.
Wulfgar of Icewind Dale is one of the more interesting cards in the set, and there are a lot of interesting cards that it synergizes well with. Druids' Repository, Captain Lannery Storm, Grand Warlord Radha, Pathbreaker Ibex, Drakuseth, Maw of Flames, Elder Gargaroth, Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin, Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma, Rhythm of the Wild, Mage Slayer, Aggravated Assault, Scourge of the Throne, Beast Whisperer, Hellrider, Ilharg, the Raze-Boar, Kalonian Hydra, and so many more cards fit the mold of "smashy Gruul cards with fun attack triggers."
Of all the popular Commanders in this section, Wulfgar of Icewind Dale is probably the best-suited for a total rebuild. That means we might see the most price spikes here, as the others only need smaller additions here and there. If Wulfgar proves exceptionally popular, we could be talking about these cards in my newsletter for the next three or four weeks.
Will the demand show up, though? It's unclear. You can see some uneven spikes starting to form, like on this chart for Grand Warlord Radha, but it's not too cohesive yet:
Perhaps we're early, or perhaps we won't see a lot of secondary spikes from these decks at all. After all, the stuff I said in my intro is all still true. These decks are somewhat underpowered, they've flown under the radar, and they haven't been well-publicized—especially considering we're in the dog days of summer, when interest in Magic approaches its yearly lull. As with the Galea, Kindler of Hope cards, I'm not sure I'd speculate on any of these spells, but if you want to build around Wulfgar of Icewind Dale yourself? Now is the time. Don't wait.
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