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Set Prospective

Commander 2021

May 9th, 2021Jett Crowdis

This article is one of our set prospectives, a series in which we survey the Cube community about the cards they intend to play in their cubes from a particular set. Our survey is conducted between the set’s full-spoiler and official release and is meant to measure and document Cube designers’ first impressions of new cards.

Commander 2021 is a supplemental set, so we decided to release its survey along with the one for Strixhaven: School of Mages. The set is surprisingly powerful but intensely focused on unrestricted Cube designers — only two Pauper designers are testing any cards from this set!

This prospective, along with Strixhaven’s, marks the first where we have integrated survey results with the Cube Map. Click here to see the locations of cubes for respondents of this survey. For any card within the survey results, click on its number of testers to see which cubes are trying it out!

Results

This is a light set for most cube designers — most are only testing three cards.

Filter by rarity:
Card TestersRank 
Laelia, the Blade Reforged89/1192.5
Pest Infestation76/1192.7
Triplicate Titan51/1192.1
Incarnation Technique29/1192.0
Paradox Zone25/1192.1
Combat Calligrapher22/1191.9
Ruin Grinder12/1191.6
Inkshield12/1191.7
Fain, the Broker11/1192.0
Cursed Mirror10/1191.7
Angel of the Ruins10/1191.8
Veyran, Voice of Duality9/1192.4
Osgir, the Reconstructor8/1192.1
Keen Duelist7/1192.0
Digsite Engineer7/1192.1
Cards being tested by fewer than 7 respondents not shown.

The processed data from the survey is available on Github.

Individual Card Discussion

The two highest rated cards from last year’s commander decks were ranked nearly twenty spots behind the highest in its companion set, Ikoria. Not so for Commander 2021 — both of the above cards rate higher than any card in Strixhaven, including the pseudo-Strixhaven standout, Abundant Harvest.

Laelia, with an average rating of 2.5, is incredibly powerful. She offers repeatable card advantage with a very strong floor and will easily win the game if unchecked. While the three drop slot is crowded in power-motivated cubes, Laelia easily competes with Rabblemasters and may indeed be better. If average rating were a true reflection of power level, the community might be underrating her, but some designers may give her a lower rating after reasoning that she is too strong in their environments.

With an average rating of 2.7, Pest Infestation is among the highest rated popular cards ever surveyed, beaten only by Usher of the Fallen and by some Adventure cards when the survey was much smaller. With a Reclamation Sage floor, Pest Infestation is scaleable and downright backbreaking for values of X higher than one. Additionally, because it does not require X targets to cast, it can freely be cast in a Secure the Wastes mode, giving lifegain in aggressive matchups, board presence in midrange mirrors, and disruptive interaction against control. In terms of power level, this card is a house, and the community’s opinion may reflect this fact.

With average ratings around 2.0, these are the community’s “maybes” of the set. All are being tested by about 20% of the Cube community, except for Triplicate Titan, which is being tested by 40%. This higher popularity is likely due to its utility as a Tinker and cheat payoff in higher power environments.

Incarnation Technique offers a reanimation spell for slower cubes or those that wish to enable Eldrazi recursion. While Demonstrate is significantly less effective in two player games, this card’s ability has utility in matchups where the opponent is creature-light.

Paradox Zone is a new snowballing threat in Green. The community’s lukewarm feelings towards it likely have to do with its speed — depending on the environment, a five mana 2/2 may not be an effective stabilizer. Still, if unchecked, it will provide game-winning value. Combat Calligrapher does a Hero of Bladehold impression, trading some board synergy for a quicker return and a more evasive body. Because it can generate an Inkling the turn it is played, many designers lukewarm on combat Baneslayers like Hero are interested in the card, despite its lower survey rating.

Conclusion

Most designers tested nothing from Commander 2020, while Commander Legends had a handful of powerful, yet polarizing cards. Commander 2021 breaks from this tradition and has more to offer power-motivated designers with two extremely powerful cards in Laelia and Pest Infestation, as well as some lower powered options.

Commander products, thanks to the format for which they are designed, have traditionally contained flashier, more expensive effects or specific mechanics that do not port to Limited or two player formats. But Wizards has noted that it considers Cube when designing Magic product. Whether the popular Cube cards from this set were designed with Cube in mind is a mystery, but Wizards is known to take more design risks at the Commander power level. One set does not make a trend, but Commander 2021 could represent a departure from the lower power level design of Commander 2020 for two player formats. Only time will tell!

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