Commander Masters for the Casuals

(Cyclonic Rift | Art by Chuck Lukacs)

Just a Casual Cyclone

I first picked up Magic from a few friends back in the Return to Ravnica block when the Bloodrush and Cipher mechanics made their debuts in our wonderful game, and cards like Snapcaster Mage and Swagtusk Thragtusk were terrorizing local game stores and making their way onto top eight decklists.

Being the know-nothing Magic player I was (and probably still am), I saw Cyclonic Rift and immediately fell in love. I had a Dimir mill deck that used Cipher in conjunction with various unblockable creatures, especially Deathcult Rogue, to trigger Consuming Aberration. At its minimum, Rift was a way for me to get rid of larger threats while I tried to chip away at my opponent's life with small, unblockable creatures. At its best, the Overload was essentially a game-winner that cleared a path for Consuming Aberration to deal lethal damage. Eventually, Rift became an auto-include in all of my blue decks.

After graduating college a few years later, I sort of fell out of the game after moving away from my friends for work and not always having a place to play in person. Fast forward about half a decade, and the friends that originally got me into the game convinced me to jump back in, which happened to be shortly after Innistrad: Crimson Vow was released. I came back to what was essentially a completely different game.

Finders Buyers

In the process of looking through my collection, I stumbled upon those old Rifts, wondering if those had ever caught on. As it turns out, they most certainly did. The card had hovered between $2 and $4 for the entire duration it was in Standard, but had shot up north of $35 by the winter of 2021 due to it being outrageously powerful in multiplayer formats.

A common notion I've noticed both in my playgroup and in games with others is that unless the game is specifically outlined as either precons/jank or cEDH in the rule-zero conversation, the vast majority of games fall into the category of "I just want to have the most fun I can possibly have for the money I put into it."

Some games set that monetary investment low and focus on budget builds. However, budget games don't make up the majority of "mid-power" games simply because people naturally gravitate towards fun cards, and cards that lots of people find fun typically don't stay cheap (though the definition of 'cheap' obviously varies from person to person).

That's what I want to talk about today: the casual reprints. This isn't a list of hyper-budget picks for decks trying to stay under $50, but a handful of Commander Masters (CMM) reprint cards that casual players who aren't adhering to a strict budget might be interested in buying now that the price (should) come down as more and more of this set is opened. If a card feels sufficiently fun, many players will splurge to make their decks more interesting or powerful as long as the price is right. It's "finders buyers" for casual, cost-effective EDH.

Please note that this article's prices were accurate at the time of writing, but you'll need to check out your favorite online vendor or LGS for the most up-to-date pricing by the time you read this.

The Usual Suspects

Here's an example to demonstrate what I'm talking about:

Doubling Season

I'm not really interested in talking about a Doubling Season reprint bringing the price down from $65 to (maybe, hopefully, eventually) $50, since that's not a casual card and that's not a casual price. Few mid-power players are going to spend $50+ on a single card that, while undeniably powerful, is still just one card in the 99 that requires a tutor to be able to play it with any sort of regularity, and could potentially slingshot their deck past the rest of the group because of its added power level.

Spectator Seating

Meanwhile, I do want to talk about a card like Spectator Seating. A dual land that comes in untapped 99.9% of the time in Commander, and in colors that nearly always need as much help with the mana base as they can get, Spectator Seating should be one of the first nonbasic lands included in any deck with red and white. Earlier this year, it was hovering right around $10, which isn't terrible for a card that's every bit as good as a Plateau in this format, but is high enough to warrant a cut since it's not fetchable. That said, some casual players aren't going to be running fetch lands.

Currently, Spectator Seating is sitting around $7 with plenty of potential to drop below $5 as more of CMM is opened. If it dips below $5, this card deserves the status of "auto-include" in any eligible deck that isn't rigidly bound to a one-dollar-per-card-or-less budget. Spectator Seating currently appears in 23% of eligible decks, and 50-60% of decks for the most popular Boros commanders. The card deserves to be in 40%/80% of decks, respectively, if that price falls below $5.


The Medallions

With only two previous printings in Tempest and Commander 2014, the Medallion cycle are somewhat pricey artifacts for cost reduction. Sapphire Medallion has spent most of this year around $28, but currently sits at $17. Of course, $28 is too much for a one-mana cost reduction, but $17 makes this a more reasonable addition to blue decks. Green decks will be less concerned about Emerald Medallion simply because of how much ramp that color has, but with it now sinking below $10, it's still worthy of consideration to replace a three-mana ramp spell like Cultivate if you aren't running a Landfall strategy.


Sword of the Animist

Sword of the Animist is a card that seems good when you read it, but plays even better than it sounds. If you're able to equip it to a creature in an Isshin, Two Heavens as One deck, letting you grab *two* basic lands every time you swing, this card becomes a damn cheat code. Very few people will prioritize destroying this Equipment early in the game, and by the time they're willing to pay the mana to destroy the Sword, it's already put you at an incredible advantage.

It's been very stable in the $12-14 range for a long time partially due to its seven prior printings (including Ring of Barahir from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set). So why is Sword of the Animist on this list? Well, for the first time ever, it's been downshifted to uncommon rarity.

As a result, it's tanked all the way down to $5 (!) and could dip down to $3 or lower since this will likely be opened in large quantities with CMM. This card was still absolutely worth the money at $12 for non-green decks, but it would have been considered a more premium Equipment that you could replace with a cheaper ramp spell. However, a $5-or-less price tag makes this card a must-have for any deck that has a remote interest in the combat step.

Angelic Field Marshal

A near-staple of Angel decks, Angelic Field Marshal is a rock-solid card that can significantly raise the potency of your board state. Vigilance is obviously a powerful keyword, especially in decks with lots of fliers to take advantage of that evasion without leaving yourself open to a return strike.

However, is it powerful enough to command the $12 price tag it's carried for most of 2023? Probably not. For that money, you could just run Brave the Sands, which costs less than a dollar. This gets you the vigilance plus the ability to block multiple creatures all stapled onto an enchantment, which is much harder to remove than a creature.

However, the price for Angelic Field Marshal now sits at $5, which is a much better value and makes it a practical inclusion for even non-Angel token decks.


Neheb, the Eternal

Neheb, the Eternal is a really fun commander that encourages you to utilize the combat step and cheap, efficient burn spells to give you extra mana to cast bigger, more devastating spells in your second main phase. However, he also plays really nicely in the 99 for a number of commanders, including Firesong and Sunspeaker, Toralf, God of Fury, Heartless Hidetsugu, or basically any Minotaur typal deck. At the $24 price tag, he's most worth the money as a commander, but was probably a little too expensive for the 99 in decks if they didn't have a way to consistently get him on the board.

Neheb currently sits at $12 and is absolutely worth the price of admission to have him in the 99 of pretty much any combat or burn-focused red deck. Pair him up with some red X-cost spells like Crackle with Power and Fireball and you can quickly put all of your opponents on life support. Add in a damage multiplier like City on Fire and you might just win the game on the spot.


Heroic Intervention

Heroic Intervention has long been the green player's favorite protection against the inevitable board wipe that would otherwise completely cripple them. One big barrier to running Heroic Intervention was the price tag, which came in at around $18 for much of this year. Hexproof and indestructible for your entire board at instant speed for just two mana is a very powerful effect, but it's difficult to justify spending almost $20 on a card that still doesn't protect you from a Farewell.

However, Heroic Intervention is now down to just $9 and could theoretically go lower. At that price, it's absolutely worth including in just about any green deck, especially green or Gruul stompy decks that don't typically have much protection for creatures or a good way to reanimate creatures in the case of a Wrath.


Finale of Devastation

Finale of Devastation is one of the most famous overrun-effect win conditions in Commander, and for good reason. X-spells in green are invariably powerful, but going to find any creature you want in your library, slapping it on the field, then doing a Craterhoof Behemoth effect if X is greater than 10 (which is very easy in green) just for fun is an outrageously powerful effect. More often than not, the game is going to end in the next combat step after a Finale is resolved.

The kicker with trying to run Finale of Devastation was the price tag, which hung steady at a whopping $40 for most of 2023. That price put it well out of range for most casual decks. Since the announcement of its reprint in Commander Masters, Finale's price has fallen all the way to $25. In casual settings, we typically see the best cards in a given deck top out at $15-$20, but $25 for a card that's frequently a win-con by itself and isn't a *fart noise* win condition like Thassa's Oracle or Laboratory Maniac is money well-spent.


Honorable Mentions

I'd like to note a couple of "honorable mentions" that aren't quite in the average casual player's purview (outside of specific situations), but are worth keeping an eye on, as they could eventually make it there if enough of Commander Masters is opened or they get another reprint in the near future.


Archfiend of Despair

An absolute hammer in decks that want it, Archfiend of Despair has been consistently hanging around $47 for most of 2023. As of right now, it sits at $18 and could potentially sink under $15 by September. $47 is an extremely steep price to pay for a card that isn't an immediate game-ender by itself, but $18 at least puts it in the conversation for decks that can consistently drain life every turn. That's probably still too high to make it a particularly common finisher for decks that don't plan to center around it as a win condition, but if the price ever gets to $15 or less, it absolutely moves into that category. If you're running any sort of Reanimator deck that has lots of Blood Artist effects and can easily cheat this card onto the field, the current $18 price is certainly worth it.


Purphoros, God of the Forge

Anyone who has played a game where someone resolved a Purphoros, God of the Forge knows what kind of powerhouse he is. If your red deck is making tokens, you need him. Purphoros spent most of 2023 around $25, but he currently sits at about $15, and could flirt with $10 in the near future. At that price, Purphoros is virtually an auto-include in any token-based deck that can run him. An auto-include at $15? Yep. Purphoros is that good. The only reason this card is an honorable mention instead of in the main list is because it was already worth the price at $25, even for casual players. Now it's just an even better deal.

Casual Masters Closeout

In the end, what defines a "casual" game is largely up to you and your playgroup, what limits you set for yourselves, and what constitutes good value for a particular card. If you're ready to take a bigger swing and go after The Great Henge now that it's down under $40, go for it! It's a great card and you'll have a ton of fun with it. If you still need another Song of the Dryads reprint to get it under $2 before you jump on it for your green Enchantress deck, that's cool too! Magic can be an expensive hobby, but finding the cards that are actually worth it to you can make your deck building and gameplay experience much more enjoyable. What will your playgroup's decks look like after these reprints? What other CMM cards did I miss that fit this casual criteria? Let me know in the comments below. Until then, add some of these cards to your cart, and I'll see you next time.

Since first dipping his toes into Commander a couple of years ago, Levi has consistently made a point to avoid making a whole bunch of green decks to the point of completely overcorrecting and becoming a Jeskai player. When not actively deliberating his identity in Magic, you can find him playing drums in a cover band, writing and talking about Iowa State athletics, or embarrassing his fiancée in public with outrageously dumb jokes.

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