Why Eternal Format Bans are Good for Commander Players
“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection--thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.
If you don’t care about bans in other formats because you’re a Commander or kitchen table player, then you are missing out. No, I’m not saying you should start playing Standard or Modern or some other format that has bans and cares about diverse competitive meta-game environments. I actually enjoy not having to fret about all those particulars. However, when it literally pays to have your ear to the ground about bannings, well now I suspect you’re willing to listen. What do these formats have to do with Commander? Nothing. Nothing at all, except that they can help drive the prices for cards up or down. Sure, Commander drives the prices on some cards too. When a card like Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath gets banned, well, it’s time to start thinking about picking one up. The beauty of this is that cards that were perhaps out of your budget will usually tank enough to make it into your dream deck. It’s hard to say exactly when this time is, but I have a few guidelines that might help you decide when to pick up some banned list beauties.
Looking at the card prices of other banned and restricted announcements is the place to start. If we look back to the Companion nerf-ban, then we can get a decent idea about what cards tend to do when they’re part of a Standard set and get banned in other formats. I’d like to look at Lurrus of the Dream-Den first. This card was preselling for anywhere from $14-20 each. Then it dipped shortly after release to around $6 or so. Then everyone found out how incredibly powerful Lurrus was in nearly every format. It went up over $25 each! Then the rules change struck; Lurrus and the rest of its companions were left having to pay rent. In two weeks Lurrus dropped back down to under $5. This implies that we can get a good deal on cards that were powerful, but are no longer played in the popular formats that were previously driving demand for them. Standard is a powerful driver of demand in the Magic the Gathering market. If a deck is popular in Standard, then the rares and mythics in it will usually be up around $20-40 each. However, when those cards are also popular in Modern, Historic, and Pioneer…well, you get the idea. Demand goes up and supply can’t keep pace. So, if you’ve been like me, wishing you had a big greedy titan on your team, then the time to pick up Uro is coming.
What cards might you get for the best deal? Uro, obviously comes to mind, but others were banned as well. Have you seen that Omnath, Locus of Creation is no longer a thing in Historic? Well, that means the price on that thing is going to dip a bit too. Historic doesn’t seem to drive prices too much for now, but every little bit helps. I suspect that Omnath will hit a new all time low in price within the next two weeks. So, that’s exciting.
Speaking of dips, Field of the Dead has been struck down in Modern along with Tibalt's Trickery, Simian Spirit Guide, Mystic Sanctuary, and of course my soon to be BFF Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. This really just means that if you haven’t cracked a Tibalt's Trickery yet, then you can probably pick up that super fun spell for way cheaper than you might have a few weeks from now. Field of the Dead getting whacked is the card I’m more excited about. Field of the Dead is a solid value in Commander and tends to be super strong in decks that sacrifice or ramp or do both. The Simian Spirit Guide and Mystic Sanctuary are relatively cheap as is, so I’m not overly excited about their relative price points. Yet, as I’ve said, I suspect that Uro will be dropping shortly. I suspect that Uro’s drop in price will actually only be a temporary thing. Uro will become a much sought after Commander card for pretty much the next decade. Blue-green is all about ramp, card draw, and big creatures. Uro checks all those boxes. That’s just silly, and I honestly wonder why it’s taken so long for that thing to get banned in other formats.
Now, Legacy banned a different blue-green card that I’m just as excited to see take a slight dip in price as well. I’m speaking of course about Oko, Thief of Crowns. Legacy gave the boot to Dreadhorde Arcanist, Arcum's Astrolabe, and Oko. I’m hoping this drives Oko’s price down to his most affordable yet. Oko was preselling for $20-30, ballooned up to nearly $55 for awhile, and eventually dropped down to $13-15 around May or so of last year. He’s been steadily on the rise again, but I think this will be another dip for him and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his price drop below $15 again. I feel that this will be one of the best times to pick that card up. It’s powerful like Dack Fayden was when he was first printed. Planeswalkers are trickier for Wizards to reprint, so he’ll probably creep up in value over time. I’m looking forward to turning my friend’s indestructible creatures into lame 3/3’s sooner rather than later. This wouldn’t be the Uro article without mentioning him in this paragraph as well. He escaped the ban in Legacy, so that means that Uro is legal in the big three: Vintage, Legacy, and Commander. Those three areas will likely determine the demand for Uro, and I suspect most of that will come from the Commander community. I don’t follow Vintage and Legacy like I used to, but unless something major shifts, then I suspect Uro just doesn’t have the legs to drive much demand in those formats. Oko, Thief of Crowns will be the sweetest Legacy ban to snap up in the next two weeks or so. Arcum's Astrolabe is already cheap enough, so it’s not overly exciting. Dreadhorde Arcanist is also plenty cheap as is, but maybe it becomes an oddball bulk rare; who doesn’t love casting a Wheel of Fate for free! Overall, the changes to Legacy mean we can probably snag one of the strongest planeswalkers ever printed for a solid price.
Lurrus of the Dream-Den was my example of choice as a card to follow, not only because it fits the average price curve that occurs post ban, but because it has also seen an interesting change with the recent rules announcement. The unbanning of Lurrus in Vintage means that premium versions of that card will start commanding a premium price. Vintage players actually own the Power Nine. Most Vintage players own at least one or two pieces of power or at least a few cards that are worth 2-3 times the most expensive Standard deck you can muster. What’s my point? The point is that these players want premium versions of these new “cheaper” cards. They tend not to enjoy shuffling a $5 rare if they can shuffle a $20-30 version of it instead. If you’re a Commander player that tends to foil out your deck with alternative versions and only the rarest basic lands, then you know the idea. This bit of flexing is common-place, and those of you that still have a few of those fancy versions hanging around can soon unload those cards for an opportunity to get even more cards. If you’ve got an extra extended art or foil Lurrus of the Dream-Den hanging around, then soon will be the time to trade it into your local store or your friend to pick up a few of those cards you’ve had on your collector’s list.
Pore Over the Pages - Magali Villeneuve
I like to read about the other formats and hear about the decks that are popular, but only because they help me stay informed about prices and synergies. I don’t catch everything, but I know how to get caught up on what I’ve missed. This new switch to banning cards whenever needed is a great thing for Commander players. We get to watch cards go on sale much more often, and that’s a nice thing. So, next time there’s a banning, I’ll be here to help you through it, but in the meantime, don’t be shy about reading about those other formats. Keeping your ears to the ground can pay off. When you hear about broken new decks and crazy new combos, then you should start thinking about just how you can benefit from when they get hammered into oblivion. Or as I like to think, exiled to the dream halls of Commander.