It’s finally here; what was promised to us way back in 2011. A new set of Commander decks has arrived, complete with new toys to play with and to spend a lot more money on.
Commander has really taken off, enjoying a growth period that Wizards really wants to encourage. They’ve shown their eagerness to push Commander by releasing cards in each expansion, such as Theros, that are perfect for the format. If you’re new to 100-card decks, buy any of these new product and have a blast.
For more experienced players, the retail price of $150 for all five decks is a big cost. Is it worth it?
Before I get to the discussion, let’s see if I did well in some of my predictions a few weeks back.
I never would have thought Sol Ring would come around again, but I’m strongly in favor of Swiftfoot Boots being reprinted over and over. I’m impressed that they gave us new Zombie and Bird legends, and enable new strategies using the Command Zone.
I was right about a Naya beast legend, wrong about Angels and Sphinxes (ugh, Sharuum *again*?) and totally wrong about fetchlands. C’est la vie.
Perhaps the big surprise is the Portal:Three Kingdoms reprints. These cards have popped up before: Cao Cao and Sun Quan in FTV: Legends, Xiahou Dun as a judge foil, Loyal Retainers and Diaochan, Artful Beauty in Commander’s Arsenal, and now three legends (Hua Tuo, Honored Physician, Kongming, “Sleeping Dragon”, and Lu Xun, Scholar General) plus three spells (Spoils of Victory, Strategic Planning, Borrowing 100,000 Arrows). None of these are overpowered legends, though I can easily see someone building a control deck around Lu Xun.
I would expect the prices of these reprints to stay reasonably low. Their original incarnations won’t budge much (see Loyal Retainers,) but these will be available.
As I mentioned last time, the price spikes in the sealed Commander sets from 2011 is due to both the Legacy playability of the cards as well as the sheer value of the rest of the cards. For example, in the 2011 Heavenly Inferno deck, Kaalia of the Vast, Sol Ring, and the Command Tower make up the MSRP, while everything else is a bonus.
There is a lot of value in the five 2013 decks, and the flag bearer is the Grixis deck, since True-Name Nemesis and Baleful Strix are in there. Those, plus Thraximundar and Sol Ring, easily put you over MSRP.
True-Name Nemesis alone is pre-ordering for around $40. That is more than the MSRP. More than any other card in this set. I can’t see it holding this price for long, not when big box stores like Target get product. Scavenging Ooze is the historical example, and that hit a high around $40 before tapering off and getting reprinted.
It doesn’t seem like you can go wrong buying the Grixis deck and moving the singles, especially while the hype and demand is at its peak. With the price of Nemesis and Strix being so high, this looks to be the chase deck and might well depress the price of everything else inside. I’d get rid of everything I could immediately. Sell into the hype, as Jason Alt likes to say.
Again, everything is gravy… if you can move it.
As someone who bought eight of the first decks, allow me to toss this stone from my glass house: I will be trading for specific singles this time around, not buying complete decks. The reason is because aside from some of the brand new cards, I don’t need anything from these sets. I’ve still got most of those cards sitting in a box.
I know, I know. I could buy the deck that has what I want and trade away everything else.
The problem is that it took me 18 months to find someone who wanted to trade for my Commander Sol Ring. It sat in my binder forever! I preach patience but really, that drove me crazy. It is possible to extract the value from the decks, but the process is not a fast one. Keep in mind that lots of other people will be trying to do the exact same thing, and Wizards has indicated that they will reprint these decks if the demand is there.
So this weekend I’m going to start trying to trade for a few select cards. I suspect that the Legacy chase cards will be True-Name Nemesis, Unexpectedly Absent, and Sudden Demise. Unexpectedly Absent is fantastic if you have WW open and they use a shuffle effect; cast it for zero in response and put whatever on top of their library, which results in them being forced to shuffle it away. Keep an eye on Angel of Finality, because it’s cheaply costed, an effective beater, and has a very relevant ability. You’re paying two colorless more than Rest In Peace and getting a 3/4 flyer!
If you don’t want to spend the cash on the decks, you’ll be fine. If you’re a Curse player, you’ll be able to trade for the new ones cheaply. If you want one of the new legends, you’ll found one before too long. If it’s the last two 8-drop forces you crave, they won’t be difficult to find.
Before you run out and spend your cash for the value stuffed into these decks (and there’s good value!), do yourself a favor and evaluate which cards you want. Singles may be the better path for you.