Set Prospective

Commander Legends

December 2nd, 2020Jett 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.

The Commander Legends set prospective is here! For this set, we have 104 respondents. 82 of these designers have cubes not restricted by rarity, while 16 and 6 designers have Peasaner and Pauper cubes, respectively.

Results

Commander Legends, despite being a very large set, offers relatively little to the majority of our respondents. This is best indicated by the decreased number of responses—only 104 compared to nearly 200 for the Zendikar Rising survey1.

Unrestricted Cube designers are only testing a median of 6 cards from Commander Legends, and no card has an average rating above 2.5. Zendikar Rising, by comparison, had a median of 13 cards tested and 4 cards rated above 2.5. Pauper and Peasant designers, however, benefit from several notable downshifts .

The lack of excitement for the set is both because Commander sets tend to have a lower average power level for 1v1 play and because many cubers dislike Monarch, a central mechanic in the set.

The processed data from the survey is available on Github.

Filter by rarity:
Card TestersRank 
Court of Grace52/822.4
Fall from Favor40/822.3
Hullbreacher35/822.4
Opposition Agent28/822.3
Magus of the Order20/822.0
Court of Bounty19/821.7
Court of Ire19/822.0
Court of Cunning19/822.1
Emberwilde Captain17/821.8
Wheel of Misfortune17/822.1
Sweet-Gum Recluse13/822.1
Archon of Coronation10/822.2
Necrotic Hex9/821.8
Court of Ambition8/821.8
Kamahl, Heart of Krosa8/822.2
Amphin Mutineer6/821.8
Prava of the Steel Legion6/821.9
Slash the Ranks6/822.0
Tormod, the Desecrator6/822.0
Three Visits6/822.4
Cards being tested by fewer than 6 respondents not shown.
Single Card Discussion
A Royal Pain?

While Monarch incentivizes players to attack each other in multiplayer, it is incredibly polarizing in 1v1 play. The ceiling on Monarch cards is nigh-unbeatable, but the floor is aybsmal in that casting them when behind can be beneficial for your opponents. Accordingly, many Cube designers dislike the mechanic. For designers that support Monarch, cards like Palace Jailer and Custodi Lich are successful because they function as removal and make it easier to maintain the Monarch.

While Court of Grace doesn’t function as removal, it is the highest ranked card of the set with an average ranking of 2.4. The fliers that it creates can win the Monarch back if it is lost, and the 4/4s will quickly end the game when ahead. The other Courts don’t fare as well—the next most highly rated is Court of Cunning with an average rating of 2.1. While it can be played on turn 3 and kills relatively quickly, some Cube designers note that it does not contribute to defending the Monarchy. Others simply dislike its lack of interactivity and give it a low ranking because it is unlikely to stay in their cubes.

Every other Court is rated 2.0 or lower. Court of Ire suffers from being a 5 mana play that does not immediately affect the board, despite its otherwise flashy effect. Similarly, Court of Ambition and Court of Bounty rely heavily on being the Monarch, and the Cube community generally seems to agree they may not be worth their investment.

Not your average hatebears

These are the three highest ratest cards behind Court of Grace, and they represent mana-efficient cards that function at a variety of different Cube power levels.

The strength of Hullbreacher and Opposition Agent depend partially on the density of card draw and search effects present in one’s Cube. With an average rating of 2.4, some are excited for Hullbreacher, particularly its interactions with cards like Timetwister. Opposition Agent’s ability is less reliable, but its slot in Cubes is less contested, so it still has an average rating of 2.3. With the help of some Scryfall regex and LuckyPaper’s guide to using regex magic, you can easily assess the number of cards in your cube that interact with these cards. In my own cube, for example, Hullbreacher interferes with 60/450 cards, while Opposition Agent interferes with 40/450.

Fall from Favor is among the cheapest ways to gain and defend the Monarchy ever printed. It can be played on turn 3, when the opponent may only have one creature, and it can be splashed. The Cube community gives the card an average rating of 2.3, indicating that some are lukewarm on including it in their cubes. This is likely a combination of designers disliking the play patterns of monarch and those that think the card may not survive at the highest power levels.

Three Visits, while a reprint, bears mentioning because its price has decreased significantly. If you’re looking to boost the efficiency of your Ramp archetype, it is a fantastic option.

The contentious cubeables

These three cards, with average rankings around 2.0, are the maybes for unrestricted Cube designers this set.

Sweetgum Recluse, in addition to triggering trypophobia, offers a flash threat for green decks, and its enter-the-battlefield ability mitigates the drawback of Cascade—hitting low cmc spells. If cast main phase, it also has signficant synergy with green Planeswalkers that make tokens, like Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. Nevertheless, it faces fierce competition as a 6 cmc green ramp spell, and its lower ranking indicates that designers are suspect it will survive testing.

Unlike its reserved list counterpart , Wheel of Misfortune is partially a “punisher” card, one that gives the opponent agency over its effect. This card functions best in aggressive decks, where you can name a number far higher than your opponent can risk naming. In these decks, it may even be better than Wheel of Fortune, which always refills your opponent’s hands and gives them the chance to stabilize. Yet Wheel of Misfortune may simply be worse than more reliable aggressive cards, as indicated by the Cube community’s lukewarm average rating of 2.0.

The community is likely suspect of Magus of the Order because it suffers from the same drawback as its cousins —needing to untap. Still, a portion of the Cube community supports Elvish Piper-like cards, and the larger body and effect of Magus of the Order has some interested.

Pauper Cubes

This set is a boon to our six Pauper Cube respondents, who curate environments centered on Commons. Fiery Cannonade and Eyeblight Massacre are new downshifts for a format where Wraths are at a premium. Likewise, Fleshbag Marauder is a downshift that supports grindy midrange decks or aristocrats archetypes.

Fall from Favor, Crimson Fleet Commodore, and Azure Fleet Admiral pose important questions for Pauper cube designers: should you include Monarch? Monarch is not new to Pauper, but these three cards are substantially better than previous options, which already see substantial play. Pauper as a format is based more on value and midrange grinding, so some designers may choose to avoid these new Monarch cards.

Peasant Cubes

As curators of stronger environments centered around commons and uncommons, our 16 Peasant designers seem to have fewer qualms about the Monarch mechanic. Feast of Succession is incredibly pushed for an uncommon, and Fall from Favor is the highest rated card among these designers. Yet fewer than 50% of designers are choosing to test Fall from Favor, indicating a dislike for the gameplay of cheap Monarch enablers. Coastline Marauders and Halana, Kessig Ranger are less powerful (average rating 2.3 and 2.2, respectively), but they are popular among designers as efficient creatures that offer long term value.

Conclusion

Despite the grandeur and flashiness of the format it was designed for, Commander Legends has more to offer rarity restricted Cube designers than those with Unrestricted cubes. In fact, many Unrestricted designers are testing no cards from Commander Legends, especially if they dislike the Monarch mechanic.

Those that choose to support Monarch have found strong options in Court of Grace and Fall from Favor, while others have disruptive options in Opposition Agent and Hullbreacher. The printing of the latter has inspired some to support a “Wheels” deck that uses Narset, Parter of Veils, Leovold, Emissary of Trest, and Hullbreacher to lock opponents out with Wheel effects .

Peasant and Pauper cubes have found an incredible number of cubeable cards from downshifts and new printings, though many continue to avoid the Monarch mechanic.

Here are my own thoughts:

Choosing whether to support Monarch cards is now an important decision for cubes of all power levels.

Monarch as a mechanic was not designed for 1v1 play, and it warps gameplay. While it is possible to introduce Monarch into a game and lose as a result, the player with Monarch cards has a distinct advantage in getting to choose when it is introduced. The number of times that I have played a blank Palace Jailer just to obtain Monarch tells me that cards like Azure Fleet Admiral may actually belong in power-optimized cubes. Furthermore, Commander Legends, with Fall from Favor and Court of Cunning, introduces cards that initiate the Monarchy as early as turn 3, when it is far harder to overcome its snowballing effects.

Designers will need to consider if they have a limit to the amount and type of Monarch cards they allow in their cubes. You may exclude the three cmc Monarch enablers because they lack interactivity but choose to cube Custodi Lich, which offers a more interesting and interactive effect for a higher mana cost. Regardless of your personal boundary, you should assess whether your playgroup likes the gameplay that comes along with Monarch and design accordingly.

We are beginning to see the effects of Wizards designing with Pauper in mind.

In 2018, Gavin Verhey mentioned that the Pauper format “would be a consideration in set design moving forward.”

With downshifts like Fiery Cannonade, Eyeblight Massacre, and Fleshbag Marauder, we are now beginning to see the effect of WOTC’s new focus. This is fantastic news for Cube designers, who are safe from the effect of these cards on constructed formats.

Commander cubes are becoming more popular.

This set, as the first draftable Commander limited environment, has inspired many to begin building Commander cubes, and I am excited for this facet of the Cube community to grow! See below for a number of resources related to building Commander cubes.

Resources for Building a Commander Cube
Community Reviews and Discussion

  1. This is why we don’t allow respondents to submit “empty” surveys if they are not testing cards—the total number of surveys is already a sufficient indicator of how the community feels about a set.

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