Nothing beats the ease of ordering singles when you’re looking for the perfect card for your deck. But what if you like to open boosters for the rush? What if you want to draft with friends, or enter a Commander Boxing League? Kristen gives her thoughts on which recent Magic sets are the best to crack for Commander staples.
None of us started playing card games without cultivating a love of opening boosters, and even the most astute among us aren’t immune to the urge to crack some packs from time to time. It’s fun, and if you want to spend some of your Magic budget on cracking packs, then who am I to stop you?
That said, if you do want to open some boosties, there are better boxes to look at — particularly as a Commander player. You want the most bang-for-your-buck. You want cards that’ll be good for many years, in many decks.
There’s also some consideration here on which sets are fun to draft, and which sets might be good to play in a Commander Boxing League — a super-sealed format in which you build a Commander deck from a full box of boosters! It’s a lot of fun, and a great excuse to open some sealed product (other than for the dopamine rush).
Regardless of your reason for getting them, here are five booster boxes I’d recommend.
The Brother’s War
First up, let’s revisit The Brother’s War, the Fall 2022 Standard Set. It’s on this list for a number of reasons, not least because it doesn’t feel like a Standard set. It feels pretty damn extra.
BRO has plenty of powerful cards that see play in multiple formats. It has a pretty stacked Mythic slot with Commander all-stars Myrel, Shield of Argive, Portal to Phyrexia, Awaken the Woods and Cityscape Leveler. It also brought back Meld cards, a fan-favorite first debuted in Eldritch Moon.
Whether you’re going mono-green stompy with Titania, Voice of Gaia and Argoth, Sanctum of Nature to create Titania, Gaea Incarnate or you’re picking Urza or Mishra and their signature artifacts to create Urza, Planeswalker or Mishra, Lost to Phyrexia, there’s a lot to love in this set, and a lot of it is pure fun.
Even the less desirable Mythics still offer new toys to existing archetypes: Platoon Dispenser is card draw for white tokens decks, Sarinth Greatwurm is another landfall payoff, and… ok, well, In the Trenches is pretty mediocre — but you get my drift.
If BRO was only held up by good Mythics, it wouldn’t be on this list. There’s a variety of great white cards in Loran of the Third Path and Tocasia’s Welcome, some great reprints like Diabolic Intent and Fauna Shaman, and a rare land cycle too (even if it’s one of the least exciting ones).
Brother’s War has a slot in boosters for Retro Frame Artifacts, and a rarer showcase treatment of blueprint style Schematic Art Retro Frame cards, too. These feature reprints of iconic artifacts from Magic’s storied history. There’s everything from classic format all stars Burnished Hart, Swiftfoot Boots and Foundry Inspector right up to heavy hitters Mox Amber, Wurmcoil Engine, Aetherflux Reservoir and Helm of the Host.
With retro artifacts in each booster, and more chances to hit them in Set and Collector boosters (and serialized ones too, if that’s your jam), I don’t need to tell you that this set is a great one to crack for both Commander Boxing League and for expanding a collection — particularly if you’re a relatively newer player.
Both Altar of Dementia and Ashnod’s Altar are reprinted in the retro slot, along with Chromatic Lantern, Caged Sun and Inspiring Statuary. All are great cards to brew with. BRO was also heralded as an above-average draft format with diverse interactions and a cube-lite feel.
While this article is espousing the values of different sets for cracking packs, I might also have convinced myself (and maybe you!) to order a few singles instead. Don’t worry — Card Kingdom has you covered for that, too.
From artifacts, we move on to lands, the other mainstay of Commander. No matter what deck you build, you want access to good artifacts and good lands. Where better to go than Zendikar Rising, the set that debuted Set Booster packs?
While the sheer number of options when it comes to buying Magic product can be confusing, it’s hard to argue against Set Boosters being pretty great for getting cards into players’ hands. Many packs will have two or even three rares or mythics, and you can get a card from The List (which varies in potential from set to set).
But what does Zendikar Rising have to offer us Commander players? In a word? MDFCs.
Okay, I lied, that’s not a word — it’s an acronym. Modal Double Faced Cards were introduced in ZNR with arguably the strongest and most sought-after variant: MDFCs that have spells on one side, and lands on the other. If you’re like me, even despite picking up plenty of these when the set came out, you’re bound to have run out of the more premium ones for your Commander decks.
I dislike the notion that there are must-include cards in Commander decks, because that only matters if you’re actively min-maxing your decks. As it stands, though, MDFCs are an easy upgrade to basically any deck, and they drastically reduce the number of dead hands, both by providing you with a land drop when you need it and a spell when you don’t.
The Mythics are splashy, sure (reanimation, protection, card draw, removal and digging for a creature), but even the uncommons are incredible. Putting a Regrowth, a Feign Death, or a Stave Off on a land as an option is incredible, especially in Commander.
Commander is a format about playing as many modal cards as possible to give you breathing room in any situation. The ZNR MDFC cycle is forever playable and (unless Wizards changes how they approach reprints) hard to reprint outside of Zendikar or a Masters set.
As for the cards in the set, if you love landfall, then you’re in luck. Our favorite jelly-baby Omnath has a four color iteration seeing plenty of play both in Commander and 60-card formats. Then there’s Moraug, Ancient Greenwarden, Scute Swarm and Lotus Cobra, plus some individual stars like Skyclave Apparition to go along with the Pathway land cycle.
If you’re wanting to crack a Collector Booster box, you can also open up Expedition lands, which return as one of the rarer treatments in modern Magic product.
Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty
While Zendikar Rising was generally enjoyed as a draft format, it’s hard to argue against Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty being one of the best options in recent years. I had a hoot playing it, both Sealed and Draft, and I have a box of it in the cupboard to draft at a later date. Being the Emperor of Booster Draft aside, what does NEO offer Commander players?
Well, first up, Lands. We’ve got a rare land cycle that says “Hold my Sake” to ZNR’s MDFCs. The channel lands are inspired and powerful designs, each offering a hard to interact with effect.
Green’s Boseiju, Who Endures is undoubtedly the strongest and remains the most expensive card in the set, but they’re all more than playable in the right decks, particularly as they come in untapped if you choose not to reserve them to be channeled.
Speaking of Lands, NEO has a beautiful Full-Art basic land cycle. When every set these days gets full-art basics they are indeed less special, but when that’s the case, only the most unique and desirable full-arts hold any long term value and demand.
I’d say NEO’s Ukiyo-e Japanese lands are both unique and desirable, and they look amazing in foil. Many TCG players love Japanese culture, which is exactly the reason these lands came about.
From a gameplay perspective, I also want to note how they are really intuitive to stack, with the symbol and text left aligned. Looking across a table at these lands makes it easy to see what mana an opponent has open (unlike those awful black and white Innistrad ones).
NEO has solid playables, too. The mythic Dragon cycle and the rare March cycle offer plenty of Commander power, and the set has many cards that absolutely slap. The Wandering Emperor, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Farewell, Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant, Kodama of the West Tree; even Invoke Calamity and Invoke Justice are solid role players in Commander.
With many cards available in Samurai, Ninja, Neon Soft Glow and borderless Anime arts from some of Japan’s iconic artists, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty will go down as an all-time classic Magic set.
March of the Machine
March of the Machine might be the new kid on the block, but it’s a stellar set. Much like BRO, MOM has joined the family of cube-lite draft formats, but you can still go draft it in stores.
So, what’s the draw for Commander? Well, this set, more than any since Commander Legends, is arguably a GOAT-ed Commander Boxing League set. So much so that you might even decide it’s too good!
MOM not only has plenty of Commander playables in the main set, but it also has the Multiverse Legends slot. This slot has reprints of legendary creatures from across Magic’s past sets, with everything from OG Praetor Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite to Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Aurelia the Warleader to Ikoria’s Companion cycle, now in the Ikoria comic book style frame.
There’s something for everyone in MOM, and it’s a particularly great set for newer Commander players who want to get their collection started. No matter what you open, you’re going to come away with new decks to brew and exciting cards to use for upgrades — and maybe even a Serialized card if you strike it lucky.
Modern Horizons 2
To round things out, I wanted to suggest a more premium set: Modern Horizons 2. Jokingly called “Commander Masters” at release (a joke that will only get more confusing with time), MH2 is stacked with Commander cards.
It has the Evoke Elemental cycle, it has Urza’s Saga, it has Esper Sentinel, it has Archon of Cruelty. It has Cabal Coffers, Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth, Imperial Recruiter and Mirari’s Wake. It has my favorite white finisher Serra’s Emissary, it has one of the best new board wipes in Damn and format menace Academy Manufactor. There’s even uncommons like Tireless Provisioner, Liquimetal Torque and Timeless Witness.
If that wasn’t enough for you, MH2 has one of Commander’s heaviest played land cycles: Fetch lands. As the rare land cycle, you’re sure to hit a few, especially in a Set Booster box, and you’re always going to be happy to see them.
If you didn’t get a chance to draft the set when it came out (because it is a premium priced draft format) and you’re wondering if it’s worth drafting now? I can say that it’s a very well received format, with plenty of complexity, overlap and synergies. The bombs are not only at rare and mythic, and provided you read up on the archetypes before you go in, you’ll have a lot of fun drafting a deck.
It’s fun to open booster packs, but if you want to crack some packs, consider what set is best for you and your needs. Do you want to draft it? Do you need lands for your Commander decks? What about to play in a Boxing League?
Hopefully today’s article has given you some ideas — even if that’s just reminded you of a few singles you wanted to pick up. Thankfully we’ve got you covered either way at Card Kingdom.
Kristen is Card Kingdom’s Head Writer, and member of the Commander Advisory Group. Formerly a competitive Pokémon TCG grinder, she has been playing Magic since Shadows Over Innistrad, which in her opinion, was a great set to start with. When she’s not taking names with Equipment and Aggro strategies in Commander, she loves to play any form of Limited.