You might have heard that 2020 is going to be “The Year of Commander.” Whoever said that isn’t wrong. If you’re a fan of the format, next year is going to make you pay attention, as there will be a large amount of Commander product coming our way. If you missed last week’s announcement, we’re here to share what’s in store for 2020 in chronological order.
Five New Commander Decks
Every year since 2011, Wizards of the Coast has released a Commander-focused product. We’ve come to expect a collection of 100-card decks with new Commanders and clear themes. But next year, there are a few changes coming that you need to know about.
First, the 2020 Commander release will feature five decks instead of four. Second, this won’t be another late summer release; the product drops on April 24th, along with Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. And third, we won’t just have one major Commander release in 2020: we’ll be getting tons of new Commander products throughout the year.
Before we get to that, though, let’s talk about that spring set tie-in. The Ikoria Commander decks will include cards from the world of Ikoria, AND there will be 71 new cards that you’ll only find in these five decks. (The cards aren’t Standard-, Pioneer- or Modern-legal, just like the contents of previous Commander decks). That’s more new cards than we’ve ever seen in past Commander decks!
Like other Commander products, the Ikoria Commander decks will feature reprints from throughout Magic’s history. From Gavin Verhey, “Those [reprint] cards are mostly just there to help make a couple themes work. (Imagine, for example, if Kaladesh had done this: if we had an energy Commander deck, you would definitely want a couple energy cards from the main set also in your deck.)” The theme of Ikoria is “building your own monsters,” so expect to see some crossover between the Commanders and the set itself.
However, while these new Commander decks will be joining the roster of Ikoria products, we’ll be losing other products, such as Planeswalker Decks. But for me personally, tying Commander product to a set release is a welcome change. The late August Commander releases always felt awkward to me: they were right before a big set release (usually the first big set of a new block), so Commander didn’t get enough breathing room. While I would prefer the old November release time (just in time for the holidays), there’s something new coming in that release spot…
When we revisit Zendikar in Fall 2020, we’ll be getting even more Commander decks! Two new decks will accompany the release of Zendikar Rising, but unlike the Ikoria decks, these will only feature three new cards each (presumably some new legendary creatures). Once again, these will take the place of Planeswalker decks on the product roster. (Don’t worry, Planeswalker Deck fans – they’ll still be there for Core Set 2021!)
Wizards’ decision to make more Commander decks instead of Planeswalker Decks makes sense. New players want to play what their friends are playing; if their friends are playing Commander, then the new player wants to play Commander, too. I don’t know if the power level of these Zendikar Rising decks will be a little lower for “newer” players, but we’ve been told to expect some good reprints. We also haven’t heard if these will also replace the Brawl decks that just started with Throne of Eldraine, so stay tuned, Brawl fans!
For the past two years, we’ve been treated to the Signature Spellbook series with Jace and Gideon. Next year, Wizards will start releasing a similar product called Commander Collection, starting with Green.
This set of eight cards will feature brand-new art and comes in foil and non-foil versions. I see this as an absolute win because Commander players who already liked Signature Spellbook can get even more cards they need. We don’t know what this will cost yet, but I imagine that it should be about the same price as the Spellbook series, at last for the non-foil version.
Legends, Legends, Everywhere
So far, we’ve talked about new products that Magic players will mostly recognize: preconstructed Commander decks and premium card collections. But there was one more announcement last week that will change the way we play Commander.
In Q4 2020, Wizards will release Commander Legends: a draft-focused set, much like Conspiracy and Battlebond, where you can draft a Commander deck. Uh, yes please! In this set alone, there will be 70 new legends, and that doesn’t include any old favorites that may show up. For those of you with Commander Cubes, or just love having Legendary Creatures, this is the motherlode. But that’s not all: each of the packs will include 20 cards, with two legendary creatures and a random foil in every pack. This seems like the Masters set that casual fans have always wanted.
Wizards hasn’t explained how Commander Legends draft will work yet, but since we still have a year to go before the set’s release, that’s fine by me. What we do know is that, like all the other 2020 Commander products, Commander Legends will include reprints that can be from any other set. Plus, there will be two Commander decks that will be released as well, both with three new cards, just like the Zendikar Rising Commander decks.
This coming year is a huge year for Commander. Now that you know what’s coming, you’ll have some time to consult your budget and decide which products you want to buy. Personally, I’m really looking forward to Commander Legends since I want to see how WotC builds a limited format around legendary creatures. Is this the place for the Future Sight mechanic Grandeur to return? One can only hope.
Expect some new information as we get it, and keep an eye on CardKingdom.com as these product releases draw closer.
Robby Rothe, Jr., also known as MTG Color Pie, has played Magic since Revised and written about Magic design for more than 10 years. As a Melvin, he was one of the final 101 finalists for the Great Designer Search 2. Robby is also an unabashed Commander enthusiast and embraces the casual side of the game.