2021 was a wild year in more ways than one. Aside from the obvious stuff happening in “real life”, the Magic world has seen a lot of upheaval, and that includes the Commander universe. I did a quick Scryfall search to see how many new Commander-legal cards were released in 2021, and apparently, there were 1,811 such cards. That sounds like a lot, right? Well, yeah, it is. I’m not the first person to make this point by a long shot, nor will I be the last, but let’s take a quick look back in time and see how the numbers on this search come out in a few different years.
|Calendar Year||Commander-Legal New Cards|
Obviously Commander wasn’t a thing in some of these earlier years, and things were a bit different in terms of supplemental product releases, but that’s an incredible spike in releases. 2016 is actually the first year where that number broke 1,000, and while we came in slightly under that in 2017, it’s been 1000+ each year since 2018. 2020 only saw 1,201 such cards, so it’s safe to say things are really off the charts this year in particular.
Let’s be realistic: this isn’t stopping any time soon. With Magic having such a wide audience full of people who like playing in various ways, and with Universes Beyond on the horizon, Magic’s release cadence is likely to stay at this level or get more frantic for some time as long as people keep buying the products. I’m not necessarily here to make a judgment on that, but it is a lot of cards, and you’ve already decided how you feel about this anyway, right? That’s not a dig – it’s just what human brains do.
With that in mind, I wondered if I could build a serviceable Commander deck using only cards that were printed for the first time in the year 2021. No reprints, just new cards. With that in mind, I have a few restrictions I’ll be putting on this.
First, we’re not going to build a five-color deck, because that just seems like a cheat. It’s too easy to make those non-thematic value-fests, so let’s skip that. I also won’t be building a tribal deck because that also seems too easy, especially if I pick one of the tribes that have been done in a recent preconstructed deck.
Finally, I won’t be building anything that too closely resembles a preconstructed deck from this year. Oh, and one exception to the prohibition on reprints: Snow-Covered basic lands are allowed. It would be a little silly not to allow that kind of basic resource considering the existence of Kaldheim.
Let’s start as organically as we possibly can by picking a Commander. I’ll take a look at some of my favorites this year and make a decision!
I know this is the leader of a preconstructed deck, but I think when combined with the UG noncreature token cards of Modern Horizons 2, we could take things in a bit of a different direction.
Finding ways to make the life payment worth our while could be interesting, and the steady stream of Pest tokens certainly gets my attention. This might be too generic, though.
I like that we’re not required to get too Vampiric here – instead, we can just get aggressive.
There’s some solid potential in trying to assemble a Gruul Ramp shell that powers this out and uses it to slam even more heavy hitters.
I’m not sure if this or Adrix and Nev would make a better Commander for the tokens deck I mentioned, but either way, both would be included for sure.
Going three colors gives us some extra wiggle room, and I like the idea of using 2021’s cards to steal creatures from the past.
Our final contender is Xanathar, who also lets us access some more cards we ordinarily wouldn’t get to use.
I took a quick look at the available cards for each of these color groupings, and I made a decision: we’re going to build two totally different decks in separate color combinations. Today, you get to see my take on 2021-only Adrix and Nev as well as 2021-only Florian! Happy holidays, y’all.
2021 Adrix and Nev Commander by Eric Levine
Since the Adrix and Nev precon is somewhat unfocused, I decided it was okay to make the deck about going wide with tokens of all types, from the Food/Clue/Treasure trifecta to just little 1/1s. Based on some napkin math, this deck comes in under $150 and has a lot to offer.
Did you know there were a bunch of totally reasonable mana rocks printed this year? Ornithopter of Paradise is solid, with Honored Heirloom, Letter of Acceptance and Replicating Ring all totally solid as well. Liquimetal Torque may only make colorless mana, but it’s good enough to play when it just costs two.
We have a few ways to generate Fractals in the Strixhaven cards, with wide token bases also coming from cards like Filigree Attendant, Tovolar’s Huntmaster and Koma. With so many ways to make tokens, Chitterspitter also acts as an all-star. We can draw cards by hitting with tokens using cards like Toski, Bearer of Secrets and Curiosity Crafter, and cards like Ulvenwald Oddity, Blossoming Bogbeast and Glorious Sunrise can take our team over the top.
Our creature/noncreature balance (26 to 35) makes Fae Offering a great way to jumpstart our collection of Clues, Food and Treasures, and we have Wavesifter, Tireless Provisioner and Orchard Strider available to help out as well. Rise and Shine can turn our many inanimate objects into a game-wining attack force!
The draw power of this deck is amazing – in addition to Toski and Curiosity Crafter, we have Memory Deluge, Graven Lore, Winged Portent, Behold the Multiverse and Thirst for Discovery. I’m really excited by the possibilities here.
2021 Florian Commander by Eric Levine
The Adrix and Nev deck is prepared for a long game. Florian here is not interested. He’s here to double-spell his face off! This deck comes in closer to $250, with a lot of that value concentrated in Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Goldspan Dragon. That said, you can shave the expensive cards and build budget Florian quite easily with just 2021 cards, to say nothing of how simple that is with the full Commander card pool.
Florian loves cards that hit everyone, so cheap enablers like Duskwielder, Voldaren Epicure and the oft-forgotten Vermin Gorger work wonders. Fans of AFR Limited will enjoy the Vampire Spawn appearance as well! We have some amazing midrange threats in the four and five slots, with Ebondeath, Dracolich, Ill-Tempered Loner and Quakebringer being some of my favorites.
Laelia, the Blade Reforged is a standout in this deck – between Florian himself and cards like Flameskull, Graveyard Trespasser and the old “Tibalt’s Trickery myself” plan, there’s some fun to be had. Bloodbraid Marauder is amusing too, but it’s a real reach – it’s hard to get it going in this deck. Dauthi Voidwalker and Author of Shadows provide some graveyard hate while keeping our yard safe for Ebondeath, Dracolich and Death Tyrant, and all of our mana rocks – Ebony Fly, Cursed Mirror and Crowded Crypt – provide extra value. And how good is Wand of Orcus? Answer: So, so good. You don’t even need to be a Zombie deck to love this card.
Worried about wraths? Well, the inherent card advantage of Florian is a big help, but our recursive threats and Mask of Griselbrand should do a lot of work as well, and when you’re facing a big wrath, don’t forget to cast your Rise of the Dread Marn afterwards!
2021 had a ton of great cards, and parsing them all as a Commander content creator was a heck of a task. That said, for the average discerning purchaser of singles, I think having a wide offering is great – just make sure you pick and choose according to your budget! That way, you can keep having fun with Magic for the long haul. See you all in 2022!