The Best Commander Cycles in Magic

Ross Gloekler
February 23, 2024


Hello and welcome back. Today’s article is inspired in part by the Fallout spoilers happening now and a conversation I came across while existing.

Many times the Commander preconstructed decks that come out now, with the exception of the mana base sometimes (they are getting better), are better than the many prior iterations. A lot of players have realized this if they have been invested in the format for long enough. I think some of us even remember the precon Meren of Clan Nel Toth came in and how out of the box it was amazing.

While the new shiny stuff is usually very good, there are still cards that have stood the test of time, and power creep, to still be cards you see in commander decks today. Those are some of the cards I want to discuss.



Sun Titan (Magic 2011 #35) Frost Titan (Magic 2011 #55)

Grave Titan (Magic 2011 #97) Inferno Titan (Magic 2011 #146) Primeval Titan (Magic 2011 #192)

One of the quietly iconic cards in Commander Sun Titan. Not only has it just been reprinted in the Commander product for Murders at Karlov Manor, it stills makes many a list today. The answer for this is simple; it’s a repeatable recursion ability that is great in its color identity.

Each of the Blue, Black and Red Titan see play in decks that support their playstyles. While not generically as good as Sun Titan, Frost, Grave and Inferno Titan are all cards with decent retriggering abilities.

The last, Primeval Titan, was so wapring in the format when made that it actually got banned, and remains banned today. Unlike the other four who recurred, stunned, made tokens or removed things respectively, this titan gave you two lands of any kind when it entered the battlefield or attacked. Games would devolve into who gets it, copies it, kills it, or steals it because getting two lands of any kind, especially repeatedly, could put a player much further ahead than everyone else quickly.



Azorius Signet (Dissension #159) Dimir Signet (Ravnica: City of Guilds #260)

Rakdos Signet (Dissension #165) Gruul Signet (Guildpact #150) Selesnya Signet (Ravnica: City of Guilds #270)

Little introduction needs to be done about these mana rocks. Even in their Standard days, these artifacts made a huge impact. In Commander, they’re no different, and continue to be included in various lists across thousands of decks.

Their strength lies within both their casting cost and their color fixing. It’s been well established that 2 MV artifacts that give mana are good, no denying that. We only have to look at Arcane Signet (unrelated to the Ravnica cycle) to know this. In fact, it took Arcane Signet to finally put the Ravnican signets into second place for the 2 MV slot in many decks, and then the Talisman cycle being finished to put them into an arguable third.

Despite some cards now being “more powerful” than the signets, they remain an excellent choice for 2 color and up decks, especially if they want a certain mass of artifacts. I don’t think anything that isn’t immediately broken could replace them at this point and they are played with the aforementioned other cards often, not excluded.



Valor (Judgment #32) Wonder (Judgment #54)

Filth (Judgment #66) Anger (Judgment #77) Brawn (Judgment #107)

Reaching all the way back to Judgment, we have the incarnations Glory, Valor, Wonder, Filth, Anger and Brawn. Not to be confused with the newer cycle of incarnations from Modern Horizons II, most of these give a keyword bonus while in the graveyard and you control a basic land of the specified type.

LIkely you’ve seen Wonder or Anger giving Flying or Haste respectively. Brawn also made it into some early precons, giving Trample. Filth as far as I know hasn’t ever and it gives swampwalk, which means your creatures cannot be blocked if the defending player controls a swamp. Pairs nicely with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.

Glory and Valor are a bit harder to come by and I have to admit, have been outclassed. Their effects are less impactful than the others these days, but having somewhat hard to remove protection from a color or first strike might be worth an inclusion in some decks if they’re graveyard centric.



Sword of Truth and Justice (Modern Horizons #229) Sword of Once and Future (March of the Machine #265)

Sword of Sinew and Steel (Modern Horizons #228) Sword of Forge and Frontier (Phyrexia: All Will Be One #244) Sword of Hearth and Home (Modern Horizons 2 #238)

Another famous cycle of artifacts that took nearly 20 years to complete, the various swords that give protection from two colors, a +2/+2 buff, and added on hit effects are some of the most iconic equipment in the game.

While not every sword is generically good, with the Sword of Feast and Famine being arguably the best of the ten (or eleven, depending on how you feel about the Sword of Dungeons and Dragons being included), every single one can do serious work in the right deck. I know from experience most people don’t want me to hit them with the Sword of War and Peace when I play my Xyris deck, which has a “hand size matters” subtheme.

If that’s not convincing enough, despite multiple reprints of some swords, the better ones still command a large price tag.



Enlightened Tutor (Mirage #14) Mystical Tutor (Mirage #80)

Vampiric Tutor (Visions #72) Gamble (Urza's Saga #188) Worldly Tutor (Mirage #255)

I don’t think anything can beat one mana besides free. While not in the same set together, the tutors Enlightened Tutor, Mystic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Gamble and Worldly Tutor have made it into many a deck over the years and continue to see play.



Adarkar Wastes (Dominaria United #243) Underground River (The Brothers' War #267)

Sulfurous Springs (Dominaria United #256) Karplusan Forest (Dominaria United #250) Brushland (The Brothers' War #259)

These lands do have stiff competition these days, but they are reliable when you need the colored mana and still there when you don’t. Having also been reprinted a bit the cost of most of them has gone down a lot, especially with the introduction of more basic-type tapped lands. That’s what really puts them on this article over those. While you can use fetches to grab the other lands, these don’t take a turn to come online. They are always dependable on the draw.



There were a number of single cards that could also be in the article like Cyclonic Rift or Path to Exile, but I wanted to keep it to cycles this time. In that regard, I also stayed away from cycles that had some number of good cards and some number of “bad” cards like the Charms or Commands, with the notable exception of the Incarnations, which I think are all nifty.

You can let me know in the comments below if you felt like I missed a cycle that wasn’t obvious, or if you think I should have put some single cards up for consideration.

Until next time, consider that power creep has finally caught up with Lightning Helix.