I wasn’t expecting to get a new Commander set so fast, but here we are! Now that full spoilers are out for Commander (but not for the main set) I figured it would be a good time to get cracking on the set reviews as there is already a lot to cover. Obligatory if you think I missed a card or didn’t evaluate something properly let me know in the comments below! Let’s get into it.
Sanctuary Blade seems to be a callback to the sword cycle, and it compares favorably. The first thing I notice with this card is that it costs 2 to play, and 3 to equip which ends up being more annoying but is understandable considering what it does. Instead of getting a trigger that happens when you hit your opponent, you get the parts of the swords that most people hate the most. Protection from a color is much stronger when you get to choose, and it can lead to more uninteractive games. This feelbad is much tamer when you don’t get a 2 for 1 for hitting the opponent, and protection from one color isn’t as hard of a hoser. Ultimately, I see this card as a weaker version of the swords that has a less interesting effect and creates more nongames then it encourages. Grade C+
Every time I see XX Walking Ballista flashes through my mind, and I get scared/excited. Cryptic Trilobite is no Walking Ballista (for better or worse) and has much more in common with Hangarback Walker. The main gimmick of this card is quite interesting, however. Removing a +1/+1 counter to gain two mana has a lot of potential to do busted things. Just on curve, this thing creates a ludicrous amount of mana, allowing you to reach 5 mana on turn 3, and nine on turn 5. It is very easy to interact with but is huge for super ramp decks. If your cube plays with +1/+1 counters in any way, I would consider this an auto-include. In a normal cube, it is pretty swingy but can create for fun games of Magic when they cast a huge Eldrazi way ahead of curve. Grade B+
Edit: I was just informed that this card can only use the mana for activated abilities. That is so much worse, and I am sad I misread it because I was pretty excited for this card before. Grade C–
Did white just get ramp? Almost. Cartographer’s Hawk is conditional in a lot of different ways, and these hurt the playability of the card in cube. Needing your opponent to have more lands means you’ll never get ahead of them, but will at least be able to remain at parity. You also don’t get to use the ramp it provides until turn 4, which is a really long time. The bounce to hand to search for a Plains is also not optional, which makes this a poor 2/1 flyer when you need to kill your opponent quickly. The card does a unique thing in white, and I think this is a great card for commander but is much less impressive in a 1v1 cube environment. Grade C–
Following the theme of white gets worse green cards, we have Courser of Kruphix who is now exploring the ranges. A 3/3 first strike is ok in cube, and it is pretty splashable being only one white pip. Getting to play lands off the top (even with the restriction) is nice, but not an effect that will outright win you the game. I feel like Verge Rangers will curve very nicely in 1, 2, 3 drop, Armageddon but is otherwise a decidedly average card. It doesn’t do anything powerfully, and just gives white a way to play slightly more lands per game and draw some gas. I think it’ll play fine but it will be hard to tell whether this card won you the game or not. Grade B-
As black has taught us many times in the past, underpaying for a huge flyer always comes with a cost. Four mana for a 5/5 flyer is pretty decent (although God-Eternal Kefnet has shown that we can get a similar stat line with upside), and the downside could easily lose you the game. Letting your opponent get to turn 5 or 6 means that this card gave your opponent an extra card, and let them cast 2-3 very powerful spells while all you got was a 5/5. Protection from the opponent is good, but if they resolved a Grave Titan on their second turn you’re screwed. In multiplayer, this is obviously very political and can be fun, but in cube, this is a death sentence. Grade F
Leyline of Anticipation is one of my favorite cards, simply because casting things at instant speed is really fun. This is Leyline of Anticipation with a Teferi effect (sort of) stapled onto it and a cute little 3/4 body. This card will set up interesting decision points for you, letting you choose to either react on your opponent’s end step or cast your cards without fear of interaction. Your opponent meanwhile will get hampered by this card, even if they get to cast a creature on their end step rather than a main phase. As much as I like this card, I will admit that it is underpowered relatively speaking and should only be considered if you have a flash section in your cube. Grade B-
I love graveyard decks that try their best to dump as many creatures into their yard as possible. This is the perfect payoff for that deck. 3 mana lets it come down after your Stitchers Supplier and Satyr Wayfinder, and scavenge means milling it isn’t a bad thing either. This is a narrow card for cubes that have a dredge archetype, but for those cubes Boneyard Mycodrax can be a signal for a really fun deck. Grade B
Repeatable Polymorph is a fascinating ability to have and sounds really fun to play with. A 4/3 body is not impressive, but at least you are guaranteed one activation with it. This card wants to be in a deck where there are only fatties, polymorphs, and tokens but by being a creature it messes with the other polymorph/oath of druids effects. I think that this is a fun option for lower-powered cubes, but for more competitive environments you can pass on this. Grade D
I know people are up in a tizzy about this card being a pie break, but for the cubes that want to play this card it’s pretty great. You would only put this in your deck if you have a lot of flash/instant effects, which is exactly what UG wants to do based on last years cards. Giving your opponent value is the biggest downside of this card, and there is a good chance you’ll untap only for this to eat a Swords to Plowshares in your upkeep. This card is overall only ok, and while it can be cool in certain decks/cubes (like 2HG cube) it’s pretty weak. Grade C
Mutate Within that gets you a 6/6 trample for one more mana seems like a pretty good effect. The tradeoff is you have to give up one of your creatures, but if Sawtusk Demolisher ends up getting removed you’ll still get the other creature back. (Edit: I did not understand Mutate well enough. If they remove your creature with this on the stack, you’ll still get a 6/6 but no trigger. If they remove them while they are together, both get killed. I apologize for the confusion). If you’re casting this as a Colossal Dreadmaw, something really bad happened with your game and it should not be considered for that failure case. I’d definitely play a 4 mana 6/6 that removes my opponents permanents, and if I were to give it another keyword such as haste it’d be ridiculous. Grade A
Kalamax, the Stormsire
It’s hard to get a three-color card that is playable and is something that people will want to play/splash for. Out of all the three color cards in the Commander set, none have made me say “I’d cube that” besides Kalamax, the Stormsire. The way I evaluate three-color cards is based on whether you’d splash for it depending on your guild. If you’re playing Izzet and this pops up, it’d be so hard not to play. Gruul would care less about this card, and Simic depends on the deck. I’ve stopped playing three-color cards in my cube, but if I were to go back I’d be hard-pressed to not play this guy. Grade B+
These cards are kind of weird. Nikara is like a more conditional Midnight Reaper, but with Yannik she performs much better. Yannik is the weird one. Oblivion Ringing your own creature to redistribute its power doesn’t do much on its own, but with a Menace creature, those +1/+1 counters become more powerful. These cards play really well with each other, but individually are pretty weak. I like that aspect in partner cards, and it’s a good draw to going into 3 color. These aren’t the best Abzan cards, but they are more flexible than a lot of other options and are pretty unique in what they do. For these partner cards, I’d recommend putting them in the same sleeve and allowing it to be a double pick when players come across them.
Cazur on his own is pretty bad. But Ukkima is a great card to pull people in, and drawing a free card is nice, even if the card is only ok. Ukkima has a lot of play to it, whether it’s an aggressive hard to deal with card, a nasty flicker target, or the target of auras/mutations. Cazur, at the very least affects all creatures you control and of course, works great with Ukkima. Sultai is a hard slot to overcome, as there are a lot of powerful options, but this is a neat pair that I like.
Commander sets used to be pretty good for cube, but as time has gone on the pickings they have for cube are getting less and less exciting. That is ok, not every card printed is designed for cube, and Ikoria is already looking to be a really fun set. If you have a multiplayer themed cube there are tons of cards from the Commander decks that become a lot more attractive, but overall Commander 2020 doesn’t change a lot for cube.
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3 thoughts on “Ikoria Commander 2020 Cube Set Review”
“The tradeoff is you have to give up one of your creatures, but if Sawtusk Demolisher ends up getting removed you’ll still get the other creature back.”
I don’t think that’s how mutate works. Only if the target is killed while mutate is on the stack. Once on the battlefield, they die together.
You are correct. Mutate has been a difficult mechanic for me to understand and I got it wrong here. Thanks for pointing it out.