These days, the release of Commander decks every winter has become tradition. Pour over spoilers, identify awesome combos or new deck ideas spawned by the newest batch of commanders, and then wait impatiently for the decks to release.
It's almost like… Christmas. I guess that would explain why the decks could out so close to the holidays every year. Go figure.
Commander 2016 was no different. Four-color has been somewhere Magic has been waiting to go ever since the Nephilim were introduced forever ago, and the question was – what would those combinations look like?
It turns out they looked incredibly powerful, and yet unique. From the cascading value engine that is Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder to the group hug of Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis to the Breya, Etherium Shaper that finally gave players a way to combine their Esper artifacts with their red ones to the Atraxa, Praetors' Voice that made everyone you know build their Superfriends deck, Commander 2016 has felt like a runaway success to me in a way that previous iterations approached but haven't matched. People love playing with powerful cards, and Commander 2016 has that in spades.
So what have players been buying?
In case you wanted empirical evidence of the popularity of Atraxa, Praetors' Voice, here it is. The eldrazi spokesperson headed up the only sealed deck to make it into the top 25, and Breed Lethality arrived at No. 13 on our list. You may be surprised to hear that Atraxa herself didn't crack the top 25, but only because players were too busy just buying the entire box, Deepglow Skate included.
Remember when I mentioned powerful cards? Well, Commander 2016 really upped the ante on this one – Wizards is no longer just designing powerful cards and letting them find their way in multiplayer, they are designing for exactly the Commander decks these new ones would encourage. And in a deck revolving around proliferating counters, nothing does the trick quite like Deepglow Skate. This card is truly absurd, and I expect it to be a staple of the format basically forever. And, conveniently, players were able to purchase it alongside their Atraxa and another 98 cards thrown in for value.
That Rebecca Guay is really good at creating Magic art.
Look, I admit I'm not really an art guy when it comes to cards. I use the picture as a reminder of what the card does, and I rarely actually even look at the art on the cards well enough to discern what's happening. I can appreciate great art when I see it blown up on my screen, but once you put the Magic frame around it my brain enters a completely different mode of evaluating what's in front of me.
But even I can understand how awesome these lands are. Specifically, I love the Swamp and Plains that Guay did for this set. And I'm far from alone – all five of her lands landed in the top 10 of our list, with that Swamp and Plains making the final list at No. 3 and No. 2, respectively.
This is a set with some of the most powerful commanders we've ever seen, and staples all over the place (have I mentioned how silly Deepglow Skate is?), but half of the top 10 is taken up by basic lands.
Yeah, we learned that Rebecca Guay is a hell of an artist.
In a bit of irony, a Commander set built for four colors actually didn't put a single card with a colored mana cost into the top 20. You have to go all the way to No. 21 before you find the first, in Stonehoof Chieftain.
Colorless staples dominated the list. Lightning Greaves and Chromatic Lantern both cracked the top 20, while Commander's Sphere finished at No. 10 and Sol Ring took down the top spot on our list.
It may seem odd that Sol Ring, a card printed in every Commander product ever printed, overtook everything else, but it does make sense. These decks come with multiple options for Commanders, and after tinkering some of them don't make sense together in the same deck. For instance, your Atraxa Superfriends deck doesn't really need Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker in it, but the Dragonspeaker is actually a very powerful card in its own right, and demands its own deck to be built around it. It's important to realize that when a player purchases a Commander 2016 box, they aren't just buying one full Commander deck – they're buying the starting pieces to two or three individual decks, and when viewed in this context the Sol Ring purchases make a lot of sense.
Another cards that flew completely under the radar during preview week was Ash Barrens, all thanks to that little second line of text: Basic landcycling.
Not everyone can include the full fetch lands-dual land (or shock land) mana base for all their decks. So many players just shuffle up Commander at their kitchen table, and while it may not be the technically optimal mana base, there are often quite a few basics included. And Ash Barrens ties it all together, giving players the best of all worlds. It can be played for colorless mana when needed, but for the tiny cost of one mana can fix colors for the rest of the game. Cards like Naya Panorama were already common sights around the kitchen table, and Ash Barren proudly joins the ranks of great color-fixing lands.
I hear it's pretty important in Pauper too. All of which explains why a forgotten-about land finished at No. 7 on our list.
I heard you liked some Commander 2016 decks with your Commander 2016. After all, the only thing better than buying one deck (which, let's be honest, was probably Atraxa) is buying all the decks!
That would be why the full set of all five Commander 2016 entered our list at No. 4, being outsold by only a pair of Rebecca Guay lands and the ubiquitous Sol Ring. Like I said in the beginning, Commander time every year has really become a holiday for players. Commander is a huge part of Magic at the local level, and dedicated players wait all year to pick up these decks, often times saving to purchase all five at once. It's hard to argue that it's a bad idea, since Wizards distributes the power cards across all five decks, and each year the five decks all have something unique to offer.
Remember, Commander 2017 is just 10 months away. Until then, proliferate away.
Thanks for reading,