This year has been quite eventful for Commander. There have been more cool new cards in 2022 than you can shake a stick at, but some have stood out more than others as great additions to the format. With the year rounding to a close, I want to talk about the cards I am thankful for that have had a positive impact on Commander in 2022.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to define “Commander cards” as either cards those that are in Commander products or cards that are very clearly pushed for a Commander audience that see, overall, less appeal in 60 card formats. If I didn’t? Well, we’d be here until next year, too!
A New White Staple
This white Saga from the start of the year does it all. It draws a Plains, it can ramp you, it can recur rattlesnakes, it enters as an enchantment to trigger enchantress and it makes tokens. This is everything white wants to do, all rolled into one card.
I’ve said it before, but this card really is the sum of its parts. Because it does a little of everything, it’s firmly placed to become a staple for white decks that want some consistency.
“Less Annoying” Blue Interaction
Blue gained both a protection spell and a fog effect in one card from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.
March of Swirling Mist is incredibly flexible. I’ve used it to phase out a Darien so we can collectively get some attacks in. I’ve used it to protect my Karlach and phase out someone’s blockers in Karlach/Sword Coast Sailor.
Blue has been in need of an effect like this for quite some time. Casual players dislike games going long, and this puts some blue decks at a disadvantage, owing to a lot of blue’s removal suite being designed to stall out or set back. I much prefer this to the second or third bounce wrath, and I hope it sees more take up.
White Card Draw that Just… Works
What makes green so powerful in Commander is it gets to draw cards for taking game actions; playing lands, playing creatures. Green decks rarely run out of cards.
White decks can, however, struggle. White card draw too often requires excessive hoop jumping, and that’s why I’m very excited for Rumor Gatherer to set a new standard in the format.
White makes token creatures very easily, and so with Rumor Gatherer, you can finally be rewarded for taking game actions you were already going to take. What’s more, you get scry and draw for fulfilling requirements, which I can get behind. Also, Elf Wizard? Radical typing.
Bennie Bracks takes the concept and tunes it up to mythical proportions… quite literally. Though I am a little annoyed it’s at mythic (much like Archivist of Oghma being at rare), it’s still a positive step forward.
Serving Old Tribes
For the longest time, Grixis vampires players have had to endure the hardship of using Marchesa, the Black Rose as their Commander of choice. It’s been a truly difficult number of years — getting strong recursion in the Command Zone, and combo potential, is really unfair. She’s not even a Vampire.
Evelyn is now here to fix that and give a true tribal option to appease those who want to keep their deck tribal. She gives some decent card advantage to boot.
Syrix, likewise, asks Phoenix tribal players to ditch Purphorus, Bronze Blooded and Chainer, Nightmare Adept to take the one, true option: a Rakdos Phoenix. I know, personally, at least four people who are over the moon that they can now build a tribal Phoenix deck.
I love seeing new Commanders that fill old niches, especially when they answer an issue with theme or flavor. Hopefully, one day soon, we get the tribal angel Commander we deserve.
I like rituals. I think they’re fun (not you), and they enable some decks to take really big turns. Taking big turns is really important in Commander these days, especially because your decks needs to do so in order to catch up from behind.
Spiteful Repossession ties a ritual to both being behind — which is healthy! — and to progressing the game state by dealing damage. I don’t love that it makes treasures, but given that it works predominantly when you’re behind? I’m okay with that.
There is a way to punish treasures, too, though. We need way more of these, as I’ve explained in my state of the format article. Sardian Avenger is a sweet option, given it is also a very strong attacker with great keywords. I’m grateful we’re seeing more cards that punish treasure. More, please.
New Options for Frustrating Commanders
Before I actually get into this one, let me make it clear: Lord Windgrace and Zur the Enchanter are perfectly fine. If you want to run them, go ahead! It’s been my experience, and many others, though, that these Commanders overwhelmingly lead to insular and soft-lock (or even hard-lock) predominant playstyles.
This isn’t fun for the table, and so players who want to do Jund lands or Esper enchantments with their favorite Commanders are often bullied off the table by aggressive removal for fear of what their decks “might” do.
Soul of Windgrace and Zur, Eternal Schemer fix this by offering still fairly breakable and powerful effects, but ones that don’t tread quite so close to the line when it comes to playing control. I love that these exist, because I’d much rather sit across from them than the alternatives.
Even More Cool Card Draw
I covered card draw that rewards you for taking game actions already, but white isn’t the only color that’s getting hooked up outside of green, for once.
Shanid, Sleepers’ Scourge is a respectable Mardu Commander for players who just want to jam midrange value with their favorite Legends. Shanid also fits right into legendary tribal lists of all kinds and offers evasion for your board, which is honestly super important to finishing games in a timely fashion (especially for these midrange decks).
Hostile Negotiations is a really fun minigame, and any deck that plays in the graveyard is happy to play a “draw 6” for four mana at instant speed. Both of these cards are absolute wins, and I love that they exist.
Much Needed Effects
White has been crying out for a Reclamation Sage for as long as I’ve been playing Magic, and probably longer still. It’s an effect well within the color pie for white, and though we also got Cathar Commando fairly recently, that’s not a 2022 card.
Loran is, in a lot of ways, better than expected. She hits Legendary typing so can be grabbed with Search for Glory and she also offers political leverage. It’s clear she was aimed at Commander, and she’ll settle in nicely.
Demolition Field has been needed for a while. Field of Ruin has been begrudgingly played for the longest time in decks that care about triggering Landfall. If you have Moraug, Tatyova or other payoffs, getting to get a land while wasting someone else’s is a cost you’re willing to pay. Thankfully, Demolition Field now doesn’t ramp the other two players incidentally.
CLB also gave us effects that monocolor decks have been crying out for. White has always struggled along with Marshal’s Anthem, and to say Ascend from Avernus has been long overdue is an understatement. It’s card like this — and Wild Magic Surge, for mono red — that allow mono color decks to sit down more comfortably with three to five color decks and not feel like they’re bringing a knife to a gunfight.
Cheap, Impactful Equipment and Rocks
Anytime you can shake up the status quo by printing a card that isn’t strictly better than another and isn’t an instant staple? You’re onto a winner.
Two Handed Axe does what some of the more expensive equipment don’t: win games. Plenty of Commanders can be lethal using this, and it can come out of nowhere to help deal massive damage.
Relic of Legends is a great reason to play a three mana mana rock, and I’m all for getting people off of only playing two mana rocks. It can generate a bunch of mana easily in legendary decks, and it gives people playing midrange legends a mana generation tool that fits their gameplan.
Rounding things out, I just want to say I’m thankful for exciting Commanders. Want an Azorius deck that has a win-con and isn’t just control? What about a Golgari deck that cares about multiple card types and wants to draw cards while lowering life totals?
How about a way to play that Boros Midrange deck you enjoy despite needing a bit more card advantage? You can do all of this and more, now. Heck, you can even play Maze’s End in a deck that isn’t five colors.
This year, we’ve had some really inspired designs, and I’m thankful they’ve given us some great experiences in 2022. Though we’ve also had some that we didn’t need (which I’ll cover next time), overall, it’s been a great year for Commander.
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.