It’s that time again — rotation 2022 — which means it’s time to say goodbye to four Standard sets. Zendikar Rising, Kaldheim, Strixhaven: School of Mages, and Adventures in the Forgotten Realms will rotate out come September.
This year, rotation is on Friday, Sept. 9. 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 opportunity to review the 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 a lack of Standard demand will let a card cool off.
Unlike last year, we now have popular paper format Pioneer looking to apply demand to rotating Standard cards. It might be time to grab a few greats while the getting is good.
Lithoform Engine kicks things off, offering a copy for basically everything you’d want to copy in a game of Commander. While it’s not the most obvious inclusion, plenty of decks enjoy it — and it’s unlikely to see a reprint any time soon.
Our first land cycle today is the Zendikar Pathway lands. Pathways are fab for two-color Commander decks, offering flexibility for lists that are heavy on pips. They are also certain to see continued play in other formats.
Riverglide Pathway and Blightstep Pathway already see frequent use in Pioneer, and lord knows Izzet and Rakdos EDH decks can be pretty color intensive.
The second, and perhaps more impactful cycle, are the Zendikar Rising Modal Double Faced Cards. MDFCs are perhaps the most timeless addition to your Commander collection, and I can’t think of a deck I play that doesn’t happily include them in the ninety-nine.
From Glasspool Mimic’s bonus clone to Malakir Rebirth’s ability to save your creature; from Valakut Awakening’s mini-self-wheel to Silundi Visions’ option to dig for a useful spell — so many of these cards come in clutch. All of these effects can fit into your mana base, and that is enough reason to up your land count (most players don’t run enough).
UW ARE CONFUSING ME
Next up, a couple of blue role players. Confounding Conundrum is a hate piece I wish was in white, but in blue it will have to do. Players ramp way too much in EDH, and punishing it is always a great feeling. It’s also a way to ensure the game doesn’t speed away from you.
These next two creatures seem eternally playable, and I run them a lot. Thieving Skydiver featured in my Commander Cards That Overperform piece; go read up on the many applications of this stellar merfolk, and consider adding it to your blue decks.
Skyclave Apparition, meanwhile, answers most things you care about removing in the early to mid game, and it buys you enough time to find more suitable removal later on. It can be flickered, recurred with Sun Titan, sacrificed to deny the token… It’s perfect.
TOO GRUUL FOR SCHOOL
Red and green cards do the heavy lifting in ZNR. Leyline Tyrant lets you delay your pseudo storm turns if you need to, or even store mana by cracking treasures that might be in danger of destruction from opposing removal. It’s most at home in Neheb, the Eternal, of course, but plenty of builds love it.
Moraug, Fury of Akoum is likely to be one of the stronger extra combat creatures we’ll see for some time, and one of the most flexible. Fetch lands obviously help it out immensely, but that’s not the only way to get the most out of it. Whether in Temur or Boros, Moraug is ideal for combat based decks.
The green mythics are just as fun and playable, and with the sheer quantity of cards released these days, it’s the mythics you most want to keep an eye on. Ancient Greenwarden is a slam dunk in any landfall deck while Ashaya is a value piece at worst and a huge ritual in token or go wide decks.
Speaking of tokens and going wide, Scute Swarm is a landfall finisher you’re going to want to grab if you like playing lands decks. It’s a must answer threat that gets out of control quickly.
Finally, we have Omnath, Locus of Creation. While banned in Standard, it’s still more than playable in Modern, Legacy and Pioneer — and as we saw recently, in Commander.
Omnath is here to stay as the premier landfall Commander, and you might want to grab it if you’re thinking of building it soon.
Over to Kaldheim now, and we’ll start with a universally sweet little card: Pyre of Heroes. This thing can slot into any number of decks, whether as a redundant Birthing Pod or as a non-green Birthing Pod.
As with ZNR, Kaldheim has a set of pathway lands finishing the cycle. As with the previous set, it might be a good plan to get a few.
Perhaps more intriguing, though, are the snow lands. Fetchable dual typed lands are always playable in Commander, even if they come in tapped — and the Snow Duals are great options, especially for enemy color pairs that traditionally have had fewer options.
Snow Basics are also a great pick up here, while they’re super cheap. Even if you don’t want to build a full snow deck, it’s good to have a nice half-and-half ratio when playing Field of the Dead.
FORETELLING A SHIFT IN WHITE’S FORTUNES
Kaldheim was the plane that really set in motion a new breed of white cards. Efficiently costed with splashy effects, these cards have seen a lot of uptake from Commander players everywhere.
Glorious Protector is an underappreciated tech against board wipes, especially as it helps avoid exile or bounce wraths. Black got a good foretell spell, too, in the form of Haunting Voyage. If you aren’t on the Living Death plan, and you’re on a tribal build, it’s a great second copy of Patriarch’s Bidding.
Halvar is a house. Double strike is one of the best keywords, and getting it lower on the curve is always a boon. When it’s bundled with free equips and the option to play a decent equipment on the back, well, this is a pretty pushed package.
There’s a chance that Search for Glory isn’t the only mono white tutor for legendary cards we’ll see, but at such a low price, it’s hard to say no to a little more consistency in your decks. Grabbing a Planeswalker, a creature, or even Urza’s Ruinous Blast adds much needed flexibility.
Tutors are perfectly fair in EDH, especially because they enable toolbox strategies and help you find answers for roadblocks. Varragoth, meanwhile, is a repeatable Imperial Seal, which is quite a bit better. I still need to pick one up myself.
Very much a creature focused set, KHM offered a lot of tribal payoffs. Orvar is a popular Commander that’s sure to age well, given the unique aspect to its game plan. Reflections of Littjara, on the other hand, lets you double up on your creature spells. From Slivers to Dragons and Merfolk to Birds, you’re sure to find a home for it.
Elsewhere, Magda has proven herself an absolute powerhouse. Just as at home in Dwarf tribal as she is leading cEDH combo decks, she’s sure to bolster your collection.
Speaking of powerhouses, Tyvar Kell is basically an auto-include in Golgari elves, with nearly half of all Lathril decks on EDHRec running him. Definitely worth it if you think you might build elves one day.
Angels remain a popular tribe — and given we’re heading to Dominaria again soon, I expect them to receive a lot of support/interest. Firja’s Retribution is still sitting pretty low, which is a crime given how powerful it can be. Orzhov or Mardu angels might not be as popular as Boros, Selesnya or mono white, but all it takes is one good Commander.
We’re still only part way through KHM, a set rich with great Commander cards. Birgi, God of Storytelling is one such card. Whether in the Command Zone or in the ninety-nine, she’ll help you live your pseudo-storm — or even real storm — dreams.
Goldspan Dragon is an iconic Dragon at this point, and one that has yet to find a home in Pioneer. This is good news for fans waiting for rotation, in theory — but it all depends on Commander demand.
Tibalt’s Trickery is a bit of a color pie stretch, and we’re unlikely to see this type of effect very often. If you run combos in your red decks, it’s a solid way to protect them.
GREEN IS STILL GREAT
A familiar refrain last year was that green cards are good. In that respect, nothing much has changed. While technically a gold card, I’m including Esika here because… well, because I can. Esika is an attractive five color Commander for “Oops, all Gods!”, sure, but you can do any number of things with Esika leading a deck.
While it’s clear that Vorinclex will hold a steep price (being a Praetor and a green mythic), Toski is also likely to remain popular. It’s a solid card draw engine in green, is hard to remove, and also can’t be countered. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Rounding things out for KHM, Koma, Cosmos Serpent is a force to be reckoned with. If you can’t answer it, this card takes over games. If an opponent clones it or has free counterspells? Well, you’re pretty screwed. The world serpent ends games, and if you’re looking for a finisher in these colors, it’s among the best.
STRIXHAVEN: SCHOOL OF MAGES
Strixhaven pivots hard from the tribal, lands and creatures the first half of the year brought. Instead, it concentrates on spells, value and cool new designs.
Wandering Archaic is the poster child for this theme, and it’s a card that feels amazing to play and brutal to play against. Getting bonus ramp and draw is sweet, but the real power in this card is getting to copy opponent’s counterspells. It’s a similar gameplay pattern as Hullbreaker Horror, in a way, making it a timeless EDH card.
Mana rocks are in big demand, though usually at two mana. For a three mana rock to be playable, it has to offer something powerful. Strixhaven Stadium does exactly that – it can make a player lose the game.
Archmage Emeritus is card draw for wizard decks and spell slinger decks. Need I say more?
Burn finishers used to be Earthquake, Jaya’s Immolating Inferno or Comet Storm. While the latter still works pretty well in a Zirda deck with Basalt Monolith, it’s hard to ignore how powerful Crackle with Power can be.
The average Mana Geyser for fifteen lets you choose X as 5, dealing 25 damage to each of up to 5 targets. That’s a really low investment to finish off multiple opponents, and when you add in other mana generation from treasures or Neheb, the Eternal, Crackle makes a case for being the strongest burn finisher around.
Golgari — or Witherbloom as it’s known in STX — had some fantastic options. Culling Ritual is perfect for dismantling and profiting off of players’ tendencies to be aggressive with their curves. Punishing fast mana never felt so good.
Witherbloom Command is a modal spell good in any stage of the game, and one that will surely see Pioneer play at some point. It’s the kind of spell that makes me want to build a GB deck just to enjoy casting it.
HOT FOR TEACHER
Extus isn’t technically a teacher, but just let me have that one. A double striking 2/4 for four is already great, and the magecraft trigger on Extus is actually insanely strong. It’s possible to create some obnoxiously strong loops with this card, and that’s ignoring the back half.
Valenin, Dean of the Vein comes down on turn one to annoy all of the graveyard decks, proving to be quite the effective hatebear for one mana. Valentin has a back half, too, but again — it’s arguably not as relevant.
Witherbloom’s Dragon, Beledros, is one of the more attractive mythics in the set. There aren’t many ways to untap all of your lands in Magic, let alone doing it without paying mana. Ten life is nothing in Commander; Beledros is going to be a solid curve topper and Commander for quite some time to come.
STX brings a number of non-rares that are seeing widespread adoption. Solve the Equation is a sweet enabler, and much more accessible than Mystical Tutor. Plumb the Forbidden is probably mine and many others’ most played black card this year, and for good reason: it’s two mana to profit off of a board wipe or cash in some tokens.
Storm-Kiln Artist is likely to go the way of Pitiless Plunderer, as it fits in just as many decks. Unlike the Plunderer, it wants to be played in UR or BR pseudo-storm, alongside the previously mentioned Birgi from KHM.
We can’t mention Strixhaven without mentioning Dragon’s Approach, though. More than just an in-joke heralding the next set, Dragon’s Approach joins Shadowborn Apostle and Relentless Rats as members of the unrestricted club. Apostle doesn’t stay down, even through a reprint, so expect Approach to head the same way. Foils of any of these cards will be good to pick up right around now.
ADVENTURES IN THE FORGOTTEN REALMS
Treasure Vault heads up AFR’s offerings, and it’s a card you should be adding to your collection if you don’t have one by now. It’ll only get better with time. Turning excess mana into treasures will never be a bad thing.
ON THE WINGS OF LOVE
AFR had a bunch of attractive cards for players who love certain archetypes. One such archetype, Dragons, enjoyed a burgeoning prelude to a year of more Dragons. The vanguard of this was, no doubt, Old Gnawbone, a delightfully busted Magic card and arguably the set’s Great Henge. Inferno isn’t to be slept on either, finding a home in plenty of builds.
Commander players also love Angels, and The Book of Exalted Deeds is yet another way to slam down Angel tokens into play. It’s so good, it gets removed every time I play it.
Magic players love value, too, whether in the form of mana or card advantage. Xorn gives you more bang for your buck in treasure decks, which seem to get more popular by the day.
Lolth protects herself well, can build up a nice reserve of loyalty and is a card draw engine. I think she’s pretty underrated in EDH right now, to be honest.
IN A CLASS OF THEIR OWN
We’re on the final stretch now, and closing out with some real role-players. Fighter Class is the Stoneforge Mystic we have at home, and for as long as Stoneforge remains a lynchpin of the Hammer Time Modern deck, Fighter Class will be the go to option for more casual brewers.
That does the card a disservice, though – in EDH, it’s nearly always correct to run both.
Teleportation Circle gives white decks a competitively costed version of Conjurer’s Closet that curiously also flickers artifacts. Worst case scenario, you flicker a mana rock to give you access to more mana.
The ceiling? Well, it’s pretty high, and gives Boros and Orzhov good stuff decks a real leg up. Whether you flicker Solemn Simulacrum, Dockside Extortionist or Archon of Cruelty, you’re in for a good time.
The standard sets this year had a bunch of different frame treatments, from Strixhaven’s Spellbook cards to Adventure in the Forgotten Realms with its retro D&D cards — we even got expedition lands again in Zendikar Rising. While all of those are considered desirable to different players, and worthwhile rarities to collect, I’d like to draw attention to something else as we bring this article to a close.
MDFC cards are hard cards to reprint, especially when they’re so plane specific. While we could get a Secret Lair down the line, it’s currently pretty unlikely we’ll see something like MDFC Masters.
While that’s an easy solution in theory, in practice, it’s very unlikely to happen. Wizards of the Coast designs their reprint sets to be curated draft environments, and having more than a handful of MDFC cards in a set would make for a bizarre and borderline unplayable draft environment.
For those uninitiated, a set with flip/transform/MDFC cards requires players to reveal the double faced to the table as they draft it so that more than the players adjacent can see the card has been drafted. This is a fair solution, but it really puts to bed the idea of a Masters set with MDFC cards doing much to reprint the swathes of good MDFC cards we got in 2020-2021. For comparison, Shadows Over Innistrad had 33 transform cards, and Eldritch Moon only 15.
In short, that makes MDFC cards a pretty good pick up across the board once sets rotate out of Standard. While we might see some more vague ones put into Standard sets going forward, such as the Pathway lands, it’ll be hard to slot in Malakir Rebirth or Halvar, God of Battle unless we return to Zendikar or Kaldheim and the printers are configured for double faced cards.
I hope this guide to 2022 Rotation has proved useful. There are plenty of great Commander staples going out of print, and while some may see a reprint in the short term, it’s probably going to be a while before we see them again. The cards I’ve highlighted today are the best of the bunch, and they’ll be sure to buff your brews.
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.