It’s that time of the year again — time to say goodbye to four Standard sets. Throne of Eldraine, Theros Beyond Death, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, and Core 2021 will all be rotated out come September.
This year, rotation is on Friday, September 17, 2021. After that date, the above sets will no longer be Standard-legal.
With the loss of these sets from Standard — and from being opened en masse — it’s a good point to review what great Commander cards we had last year.
Prices tend to move after rotation, and not always down. With Commander as the most popular way to play Magic, there’s no guarantee that a lack of Standard demand will let a card cool off.
Without further ado, here’s the cream of the crop.
The Year of Showcase Frames
A quick note before we get into it: 2020 was the year of the showcase frame, and the sets we’re losing from Standard all experimented with cool alternate-art treatments. From Throne of Eldraine’s storybook frames to Theros Beyond Death’s stargazing ones, there’s a little something for everyone.
My advice with the showcase frames is to check out the versions of cards you love to play. The most popular cards in Commander are likely to be the ones whose showcase versions will be more expensive to pick up down the road.
The same goes for Secret Lairs. Plenty of singles are available right now, but that might not be the case later on. I personally loved the Theros Stargazing Secret Lair, and so I ended up ordering it. If you only liked one or two cards, be sure to check which singles are available.
Throne of Eldraine
Kicking things off with ELD, we have Fabled Passage. Fabled Passage is a great budget fetch land option. While it won’t grab a shock land, it’ll fix your colors, and allow the land to come in untapped when it matters. It was reprinted in Core Set 2021, and I don’t see this card being reprinted again anytime soon. With less interest from Standard, it may be a good time to grab a couple for your EDH decks.
Green Cards Are Good
There are three things in life that are certain: death, taxes, and good green cards. The Great Henge is one of the most universally powerful green cards I’ve seen for a very long time. It’s pure value, and it can improve the odds of any deck that plays creature in Commander. It also has some incidental lifegain and some +1/+1 counters synergies. It’s also hard to reprint, given it’s a “named” place; it’ll have to wait for a Masters set or a return to Eldraine. Both seem quite a ways off, so if you’re looking to play this card, the best time to grab one was yesterday. The next best time is today.
Questing Beast is a little more affordable, and can arguably offer a lot of versatility. It excels in decks that care about fight spells, like Neyith of the Dire Hunt, or deathtouch, like Fynn, the Fangbearer. It can also helm your deck, if you’d rather. It’s a great way to deal with pesky planeswalkers, and a solid creature to have access to.
Return of the Wildspeaker is an awesome Magic card. Getting to draw cards at instant speed is always the best way to draw cards, and packaging it with the option of a team-wide buff instead makes this card a slam dunk. It’s the first of many cards on today’s list that have modal applications, which are perfect for Commander.
UB Missing Out
If you haven’t picked up these black and blue cards, you might well be missing out.
Rankle is a solid, evasive body whose repeatable effects scale well in multiplayer Magic. It’s a fun little card to politic with, and one that I can see going up a little in the future. The value of cards in the set will probably shift a little after rotation due to the fact some of the value is tied up in Standard cards, and some of it in banned cards.
Drown in the Loch is another great one to pick up this month. While it’s rotating out of Standard, it’s still seeing play in Modern, and will probably continue to for the foreseeable future. It’s also solid in Commander; like Return of the Wildspeaker, having access to both modes is sweet.
As far as the rest of the set goes, I’d probably lean toward these other blue and black cards. Mana rocks that “do stuff” are responsible for some of the power creep we’re seeing in EDH, and Midnight Clock is a great way to restock your hand in blue decks. Wishclaw Talisman is a repeatable Demonic Tutor, and the downside can be mitigated by making deals. It’s perfect for fun-filled games of Commander. Mirrormade, meanwhile, is perfect for Enchantress decks or even artifact decks that want to have extra copies of their best permanents. It can copy an opponent’s, too, so why not build your own Rhystic Study or Smothering Tithe?
Theros Beyond Death
The two cards that can fit in basically any deck in THB are two of my current favorites. First up, Shadowspear brings unparalleled access to lifelink and trample at a bargain mana value. The mode to remove hexproof and indestructible is also really useful.
Soul-Guide Lantern is a piece of graveyard hate that any deck can run. What makes it so good is the fact it comes in and immediately does something, effectively giving you two shots for one mana. Along with Scavenger Grounds, you have no excuse not to pack these tools.
Green Cards are Still Good
Over on the green side of things, the cards are still strong. Nyxbloom Ancient proved to be quite the conversation starter when THB dropped, and it’s been a way to help close games in big mana decks ever since. It’s also pretty hard to reprint, being an enchantment creature from Theros.
While Nyxbloom’s popularity may wax and wane a little, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove is a solid Commander card that most five-color decks will want access to. It fixes your mana, gives you an extra land drop, and helps turn on all manner of payoffs from Valakut to Emeria.
We can’t cover Theros without covering an enchantress. Setessan Champion is closer to Kor Spiritdancer than Verduran Enchantress; it’s both an engine and a payoff in one card. Suiting the Champion up with Auras is always a good time, and there are worse things to do than grab a foil while they’re cheap.
You’re so Enchanting
The God cards from the set are pretty universally good, at least in the Esper part of the color pie. Heliod offers a nice win condition with Walking Ballista for mono-white decks; Thassa is a key piece in any flicker deck; Erebos is an amazing source of card draw that doesn’t even require mana. The showcase versions of these Gods are really sweet, too.
Elsewhere, there are some power enchantment cards in the set, too. Elspeth Conquers Death is fairly close to staple status in white now, particularly as it offers removal and recursion in one card. If we’re talking true staples, though, Underworld Breach has to be the one. It’s going to be popular in Commander basically forever, and it’s currently still more than accessible. Rounding things out here is Idyllic Tutor. It took quite the price drop after the reprint, but I don’t expect it to stick around at this lower price forever — now is an ideal time to grab one.
Calling an Intervention on These Puns
I can’t promise whether these puns will improve or not, so strap in, because I’m not stopping anytime soon.
Before we leave Theros, I’d like to shout out the white and black Interventions. They sit perfectly in that modal space for Commander, offering some very powerful effects. Heliod’s Intervention in particular always feels great to cast.
Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths
As we move to Ikoria, we see perhaps the most universal appeal in the form of lands. Lands are always good — we love lands. Triomes aren’t the fastest lands in the west, but they are invaluable mana fixing in three-plus color decks — mainly because they’re fetchable. As is the way with lands, they’ll creep up in price as time goes on, so it might be worth grabbing a few now.
The Ozolith is a monster of a card for one mana, and I haven’t played a game yet where it wasn’t correct to nuke this thing from orbit. It offers unparalleled value to +1/+1 counter decks, and it’d be a shame not to put one in your deck.
Bonders’ Enclave, on the other hand, offers some much needed extra card draw in the mana base. There are a bunch of excellent commanders that natively have four power or greater, and this land ensures you have something to do when you’re otherwise out of cards.
Green Cards are… Still Good
Green cards… yup. Ikoria has ’em. Though, they’re not quite as format-warping as usual.
First up, Vivien. This Vivien has been consistently great in Commander for me. I’ve used her to grab a Scavenging Ooze to keep me alive, an Eternal Witness to rebuy a key game piece, and sometimes just to have an extra fatty on the board to rumble with. She also makes 3/3 Beast tokens with reach (it’s almost always correct to pick reach), so she protects herself very, very well.
Kogla offers an incredible deal. For six mana, you can remove a creature, and then proceed to systematically remove artifacts or enchantments every. Single. Combat. This card is truly pushed in all of the right ways, and is a solid addition to any green deck.
Gold, Always Believe in Your Soul
Ikoria also had some extremely potent multicolor spells. While all the cards in the Ultimatum cycle were playable, it’s the Mardu and Abzan ones that you’re going to see the most. A completely one-sided wrath is just what you want in Commander these days. And what do you want after one? A one-sided reanimation spell that gives you back everything in your graveyard (except duplicate basic lands beyond the first instance). These two cards are slam dunks.
Again, the Mythos cycle has varying levels of playability, but it’s Mardu and Abzan that win out here. Mythos of Snapdax is a Tragic Arrogance for four mana, and you can choose which cards opponents have to sacrifice. Mythos of Nethroi is just solid removal.
Rounding things out, we have two of the strongest commanders of the year. Popular at both EDH and cEDH tables, Kinnan and Winota are arguably the most potent and deadly options for Simic and Boros. Foils are a decent thing to pick up as this set goes out of print.
We can’t visit Ikoria without talking about the beasties. My picks here are Luminous Broodmoth, a great recursion piece in white decks, and Shark Typhoon, an overperformer in any Spellslinger build. What makes Broodmoth great is the breadth of commanders that love its effect. Orah, Skyclave Hierophant comes to mind. Shark Typhoon, meanwhile, is always online — you can merely cycle it for a blocker if needed.
As far as companions go, there are two that really stand out to me. Lurrus of the Dream-Den is the most popular, and slots right into Orzhov decks that like to durdle or combo, regardless of whether he’s a companion or in the 99. Jegantha (or “Jeggy” as we’ve come to know him), is a key player in five-color decks like Sisay, Weatherlight Captain.
Core 2021 brought with it a much needed reprint of all-star removal spell Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Don’t leave home without one, kids — it’s that good. If you haven’t picked any up by now, I’d probably do so. It’s a catch-all solution to most problems in EDH, and for everything else, there’s Vandalblast.
The other big ticket colorless card in the set is Chromatic Orrery. There’s a bunch of things you can do with this, but again, I like running it in decks like Sisay, Weatherlight Captain the most. What it offers outside of five-color is the opportunity to filter your mana into any color, enabling all manner of combo finishes.
This set has proven to be really sweet for multiplayer-focused cards. Both Mangara and Teferi — two of the more desirable mythics in the set — get better in Commander with more turns in a turn cycle. There’s also the hidden gem Ghostly Pilferer, who, at the very least, draws you cards when people play their commanders. Rachel Weeks of the CAG has big praise for this little ghost with the most.
Elsewhere, black got hooked up with a way to draw cards in the face of a board wipe (or just mass sacrificing your own board), and a redundant copy of the Sanguine Bond/Exquisite Blood combo in Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose. Vito is excellent, and with Crimson Vow releasing in November, he’s poised to go up in price.
Red-y, Steady – Cook!
Speaking of getting hooked up, it feels like this core set really delivered on red cards. You want finishers? Take Fiery Emancipation, which turns up the heat to eleven. Triple damage is enough to ensure nothing survives, and I’ve really enjoyed casting an Enlightened Tutor in response to Etali, Primal Storm’s trigger to ensure I can power this thing out.
You want combo cards? Brash Taunter is here for you, too (as is Conspicuous Snoop, to be fair). Brash Taunter exists to put the fear of God into anyone brave enough to go to the combat step against you, and has some sweet combos with various popular game pieces. Blazing Sunsteel from the RW Commander Legends precon is a great place to start.
Without a doubt, though, Terror of the Peaks is my star pickup this rotation. For five mana, getting Warstorm Surge on a body is just excellent. It doesn’t matter whether you’re comboing with Terror or just getting ETB value, the card is just solid. It’s also a prime example of a Commander card that will only go up in the years after it rotates, as it has wide appeal.
Green Isn’t the Only Color
While green wasn’t the highlight of this set, it did get some cool cards. The reprint of Heroic Intervention helped to soften the price — especially with an additional reprint in the Aura of Courage AFR Commander deck (check out our upgrade guide here!). Now’s a great time to grab one of the best green instants in Commander.
Elder Gargaroth is just a value card, and if you’re looking for a curve filler, you could do a lot worse. What I’m personally more interested in is Garruk’s Uprising, though. It’s a great source of card draw in green, and a lot more accessible than Guardian Project, which continues to rise in price.
Jump-start Your Return to Paper Magic
One final thing before we close things out today: it’s a great time to look at Jumpstart. This set was a bit of a casualty of the pandemic, with print run issues and a delayed rollout to stores.
With many of us gearing up for a return to paper Magic, it might be an idea to grab a box to play with friends while they’re still available. They won’t be around forever, and they have some amazing EDH cards, like the infamous Allosaurus Shepherd, plus some reprints of Oracle of Mul Daya and Craterhoof Behemoth, among others.
Rotation is always an ideal point to review what cards you missed over the past couple years of releases. With so many options when it comes to Magic product these days, it’s easy to miss picking up every card when they release. I hope this article has been of some help when it comes to prioritizing what might help your next EDH brew! Let me know on Twitter if I missed anything noteworthy.
Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up. As a member of the Commander Advisory Group, Kristen lives and breathes Commander. When she’s not playing Magic, she works as a freelance writer and editor in the UK.