I am basically sick of waiting to know more about Commander 2016. At this point, we should have heard something, anything. Sure, last time some dingleberry snapped a picture of the RW deck and posted a pic online which let us know quite a lot of information. We learned that the deck was only Boros meaning we’d be getting the 5 “enemy” color pairings. Kalemne himself told us we’d see the experience counter on that card at the very least and likely at least one commander per deck. It also told us that Wizards hadn’t figure out how to make Boros not boring.
I want to get a real jump on Commander 2016 since we should be able to reasonably work some things out based on what we’ve seen in the past and the success we had working things out beforehand for Commander 2015. We basically proved last year if we approach things logically we can have a relatively high degree of success in predicting what will happen (broad strokes – we’re not going to guess the abilities of the new creatures in the decks but we may be able to guess at the sorts of strategies they will employ). Using the themes for each 2-color combination that Wizards likes to use from a Magic wiki article we correctly guessed that the Golgari deck would deal with the graveyard, the Orzhov deck would deal with enchantments, the Simic deck would deal with +1/+1 counters and the Izzet deck would deal with Instants/Sorceries. If that sounds pretty obvious, you’ve never been on any forum where EDH players discuss their predictions. They were sure the Izzet deck was going to be artifact-based. Why did they think that? Because they assumed Wizards would give them what they have been missing, not what they’re going to do predictably.
I’ve been looking at a different wiki page these days and I think there’s some information we can glean from it. First, though, I should deal with how I came to the conclusion that we’re on the right track.
Why Allied 2-Color Decks?
How many different combinations of 5 decks can they even do?
- Between 1 and 5 five-color decks
- 5 four-color decks
- 10 three-color decks
- 10 two-color decks
- 5 one-color decks
So far they have done Commander sealed product a few times
- 2011 – “Khans block” three-color decks
- 2013 – “Shards of Alara block” three-color decks
- 2014 – One-color decks
- 2015 – “Enemy color” two-color decks
It seems pretty obvious based on 2011 and 2013 being the three-color decks back-to-back and how reluctant Wizards has been to tackle the four-color decks that we’re going to get “allied-color” two-color decks. This fits their pattern of doing the batches of five back-to-back and it leaves the four-color decks for 2017. Again, I have no confirmation but I’m very confident that we’re going to get the “allied-color” decks this time around. Confident enough to see if there is any loose money to be scooped up before the people who are waiting for confirmation get wise.
Operating under this assumption, I’m going to do what I did last year, writing an article for each of the five entries into the wiki article regarding the different themes of each deck and which cards are likely to be reprinted giving us ample time to dump the copies or otherwise prepare ourselves. Not all reprintings are created equal, though and sometimes knowing what’s likely to be reprinted could help us figure out which cards pair well with those likely reprint targets but are unlikely reprint targets themselves and are therefore good pickups. It sounds more exhausting than it is. We went through this last year and we nailed quite a few cards simply on the basis of their price and a vague correlation between their effect and the themes of the two-color guilds represented by each deck.
I’m going to go much more in depth for each of the five themes much like I did last year, giving each of the five decks a deep look to see if we can’t figure out cards likely to be reprinted, which doesn’t make us a ton of money. I would like to try and make some money at some point, so this week I am going to just poke around a little bit and see if there are any safe cards that are likely to experience upside on the vague basis of the color wheel. I think there is a non-zero amount of opportunity and I think applying the same logical approach we’ve adopted up to this point is going to serve us well.
The wiki about allied-color guilds is a little vague for some of the combinations. Nearly all it said about Boros was “combat” which doesn’t seem like something that’s exclusive to Boros, but what do I know? I’m a Simic guy. That said, I suppose I know a few things since we were able to make the very simple leaps in logic to predict that we’d get a Golgari graveyard deck, an Izzet spells deck, an Orzhov enchantments deck, a Boros beatdown deck and a Simic +1/+1 counters deck. If we have to guess what we’ll get this time around, the wiki page actually isn’t that bad. My guesses?
- Azorius fliers
- Rakdos hellbent
- Gruul fatty ramp
- Selesnya tokens
Finally, my “safe” pick for Dimir is that we’ll get some sort of “unblockable” creature deck, potentially with ninjas if we’re super lucky. My ballsy pick is mill, but mill is pretty terrible in EDH, not because it doesn’t work very well since your opponent’s starting life total is 92, lots of people run Eldrazi and you have to concentrate on milling one person while the rest of the table just kills you. Wait, did I say not for those reasons? Well, I meant for those reasons, but also because every card in the deck will need to be devoted to the strategy and that seems unlikely. People like mill, so I can’t rule it out given the fact that we could get some cards like Nemesis of Reason and Consuming Aberration which technically get better with mill but can actually do some damage.
If you look at the relevant planechase decks for guidance, we see what could be. The Selesnya deck was voltron last time, but the Dimir one was ninjas which I see coming back and the Gruul one was devour-based. I don’t see the decks being built around mechanics like the planechase decks were (cascade, devour, totem armor, ninjitsu) and instead being built around the things those colors do vaguely well. The Dimir one could very well give us some sweet new ninjas although Planechase makes that seem sort of unlikely. Can the Dimir deck really ignore mill entirely?
Can the way the Born of the Gods gods fit thematically in with how we suppose the color wheel is supposed to work at the intersections of these two color combinations tell us anything about future upside?
Near its very bottom, Phenax can only benefit from basically any card that makes mill more viable in EDH. That’s trickier than we may think because making mill viable in EDH means giving us more creatures like Consuming Aberration that get bigger the more you mill them which in turn lets you fuel Phenax, or Eater of the Dead which goes infinite. Speaking of which –
Those spikes and subsequent declines are copies getting concentrated in the hands of dealers. People who had tons of boxes of old The Dark lying around suddenly felt like rummaging through them during that brief few days when this card hit $10 on the strength of the very few copies that were lying around. People finally figured out this card was dumb with Phenax and people bought out the internet – very slowly. Remember the piece I wrote last week about how EDH players give us approximately a million years to pick up the cards they’ll want before they spike? I’m going to put an arrow on the graph that indicates when Phenax was released.
Talk about ample time to get one’s act together. This was a weird tangent to get onto, but I can’t tell which of my thoughts deserve a paragraph and which are only funny to me at this point. EDH finance really is too easy sometimes, but it’s only because it’s so much harder to figure out card interactions sometimes and almost no one is publishing “tech” articles or tournament reports for EDH and there is no urgency like there is with standard. This is good as far as I’m concerned. The more gradually a card spikes, the more likely it is to find price equilibrium sooner.
If we get anything that benefits a mill deck in the Dimir deck, even a card that is seemingly agnostic to the concept and only accidentally good in mill or specifically in how it ineracts with Phenax (basically the only viable EDH general where milling them is your win con rather than doing something like Lazav or Szadek shenanigans or the Mimeoplasm or Sidisi where you mill yourself. Hell, even Bruna is a “mill” deck if you think Traumatizing yourself to find goodies to strap onto your beatface angel is a “mill” deck.) we could see some real upside for the cards in the deck, but Phenax specifically. I’ll address the other cards more specifically later.
Karametra doesn’t seem like she has as much upside at the helm of a deck based on getting new tokeny cards from Commander 2016 since she triggers on casting but she has always been a strong albeit inexpensive commander. She has a lot of upside, but I feel like others do as well and it may take a lot of nudging to get her to go up. I’m not super excited about anything to do with her, but that obviously could change. She sure is good in a Trostani deck and I expect Trostani to go up and also the cards in her deck, provided Trostani herself isn’t reprinted. I’m betting heavily we get a token theme or subtheme. Trostani encompasses two of Selesnya’s key abilities – tokens and lifegain so I think there is a strong possibility we’ll see her reprinted in the deck but the cards in her deck like Parallel Lives and Giant Adephage could experience some upside. I’d say pass on Karametra potentially.
The sentient Blood Clock has mostly defied my expectations. It’s been flat for so long you have to wonder why the distance from its printing hasn’t put upward pressure on the price or lack of demand hasn’t put downward pressure on it. This is kind of an annoying commander to play against, but Rakdos seems like a better choice, or Olivia. This theoretically goes in more decks as part of the 99 than almost any of the other gods, though, which could account for the price. However, most of them aren’t Rakdos-specific and therefore Rakdos goods aren’t likely to influence his price much. I’m pretty bearish, here.
It’s hard to know what to expect from the Azorius deck. They’re almost certain to have one of the Legendary creatures be a reprint so it’s up to us to figure out if it’s Lavinia, Grand Arbiter Augustin, Ojutai, Isperia or any number of cards. Personally, I think we could see some sweet new bird tribal cards. I remember reading that the future future league expected Pride of the Clouds to define Standard and it was a bulk rare almost immediately. Could more fliers be the theme? I don’t know that it matters with respect to Ephara. This is a very cheap creature despite going in quite a few decks, especially ones like Brago where it’s pretty easy to get her to trigger almost every turn, drawing you x cards per cycle where x is the number of players. This has a ton of room to grow but, like Mogis, there isn’t much movement on the price. Do we have any reason to expect movement?
How about yes? It’s a bit hard to see, but Xenagos is on the move.
Equally effective as a Commander or part of the 99, Xenagos is almost certain to have a ton of new cards to interact with. Players have been waiting for a Gruull Hydra Commander and while they don’t always get what they want (Like an Izzet artifact commander), it seems fairly likely the Gruul deck will have ramp and fatties and Xenagos will be put in that deck when it’s out and the cards from it will go in existing Xenagos decks. Since the price is already on the move and I’m estimating it has the most upside based on his abilities coinciding perfectly with nearly every Gruul contingency we can reasonably expect in Commander 2016, this is my pick. I have a lot of confidence in this card and since it’s already on the way up, it’s hard to lose here.
I’ll start looking more in-depth at each likely deck theme and the cards likely to be reprinted next week. Until then, I feel like Xenagos and maybe some of the cards with a high affinity rating with him are going to go up when we start getting cards spoiled. We don’t know what’s in Commander 2016 for certain, but we’ve been right before taking a logical, analytical approach and I don’t expect it to fail us, now.