23, Dec, 23

Ixalan Uncommon Breaches Best Competitive Commander Cards of 2023!

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Competitive Commander is both monolithic and diverse, a paradox at times. The minimum bar to entry into a cEDH deck is typically quite high. However, 2023 is something of a stand out year, for one set in particular. Not only are there many new entrants to the 99, there are also new Commanders with excellent potential. Using MTGTop8 as an aggregator of tournament results, some new cards saw considerable play throughout this year. We’ll be looking at cards under a particular lens. First, how much the card shows up in any cEDH deck at all? Second, are these decks achieving excellent placement in the top eight? Finally, are the cards in tournament winning decks that feature a large number of entrants? First up, some of the best new commanders over this year.

The not so Kindly Lord

Talion, the Kindly Lord is, in one way, the biggest stand out of 2023. This card has what it takes to win an event from the command zone alongside multiple top 8 finishes. It has been rapidly incorporated into multiple top decks. cEDH decks run piles of one and two cost spells. Furthermore most creatures are small, so Talion is guaranteed to give you a large advantage. Should you play it as a commander or in the 99? The numbers say there are better commanders out there. That being said Talion has elbowed its way into many winning decks even at a cost of four mana.

The Naya Commander?

Shalai and Hallar

Achieving multiple top 8 finishes, one at a Mox Masters event in June, Shalai and Hallar offers up an aggressive Naya option. With cheap removal and combat damage, you apply pressure quickly. On top of that, your commander fits into multiple easy infinites. Cards like Heliod, Sun-Crowned, War Elemental andThe Red Terror are all wincons.

The deck is punching well above its weight based on just a few, great results. There is lots of future potential as well. The current meta is full of small creatures that already cannot beat a Flying, Vigilance 3/3. The lack of blue and black is a concern, but there are more options than ever to fight counter magic and removal than ever. Modest results don’t lie. Shalai and Hallar is fighting in a sea of four and five color decks and still can win. This looks like potentially the best budget cEDH deck of the year.

Mono Red Potential

Mono-red is no stranger to cEDH, having by far the most potential of any single color. Slicer, Hired Muscle // Slicer, High-Speed Antagonist and Magda, Brazen Outlaw are legitimate choices alongside many other nearly as strong commanders like Krenko, Mob Boss. Showing up at a decently sized event and making top 4, could Solphim, Mayhem Dominus be the next new red star? Certainly it’s a powerful threat, virtually halving an opponents life total. Actually playing against a mono-red cEDH deck can be a considerable challenge.

Cards like Blood Moon, Magus of the Moon and Ruination can completely shut down most four and five color cEDH decks which tend to not run a single basic land. If you don’t get your moon effects you can always kill an entire table with Solphim and Price of Progress or Heartless Hidetsugu.

It’s clear from past results of other mono-red cEDH decks that this archetype is viable. Furthermore, life is most certainly a resource but one that Solphim attacks extremely fast.

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Last and not Least

Atraxa, Grand Unifier | Phyrexia: All Wi

Seeing an absolute metric pile of play in multiple formats, Atraxa, Grand Unifier is certainly the most powerful, most played new cEDH commander of 2023. The card should need little introduction. The plan is simple. Play the best spells in four colors. Once everyone is out of resources from countering and removing threats, cast Atraxa to refill your hand. It’s a winning proposition and statistics don’t lie, this commander top eights a lot of events. However, the actual first place standing of the card is not as good as other commander combinations. This goes back to the overall current cEDH meta game. Low casting cost partner commanders give you an early advantage that snowballs later. This is something that a seven mana commander simply cannot do. That being said, the Grand Unifier formula is only one year old and still being refined. If the deck can include a little more early game support it will win a lot more events.

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One set to Rule Them all

Orcish Bowmasters

Nearly all top placing cEDH decks are running Orcish Bowmasters and The One Ring making The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth the 2023 MVP of cEDH. Furthermore, an extremely high amount of winning decks are also running Lorien Revealed, Delighted Halfling, Boromir, Warden of the Tower and Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff. From there, the concentration of cards from LotR goes down, but honorable mention goes to Gandalf the White and Stern Scolding among others.

One thing is abundantly clear, LotR introduced a massive number of powerful cards that are seeing play in multiple formats. The set’s impact on Commander, and other formats, is clear and pronounced.

Lost Caverns has Instant Success

Featured in a significant number of high placing decks, Dauntless Dismantler is another excellent effect in white that primarily stops Treasure from going off. Having more ways to stop Dockside Extortionist is always nice, and on top of that, it also slows down virtually every cEDH deck as they all rely on artifact mana. Printed just one month ago, the Dismantler appears to be an instant staple in many decks.

Also in white, Get Lost has been in fewer decks than Dauntless Dismantler but has just as many top finishes. The three most important permanents to remove are creatures, enchantments and then Planeswalkers. Get Lost does it all, at instant speed, for only two mana.

Kutzil, Malamet Exemplar showed up in a big way at the December Mox Masters event and also did even better soon after release in the Lotus Series I. Essentially another copy of Grand Abolisher, this gives decks another way to deal with mostly blue interaction.

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The Rule of Two

Wilds of Eldraine is roughly two cards deep, Beseech the Mirror and Agatha’s Soul Cauldron. March of the Machine: Aftermath, Filter Out and Nissa, Resurgent Animist. March of the Machine has Faerie Mastermind and Invasion of Ikoria.

Phyrexia: All Will Be One has turned out to be less impactful than it would have first appeared with even Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines tapering off over the year. It turns out five mana is a lot and one mana, when talking about Minor Misstep, is not relevant enough. Will Soulless Jailer see an uptick in win-rate next year?

Additionally Doctor Who‘s cEDH success is extremely limited. Sure there is the occasional Everybody Lives! here and there but not many cards from this set have found a place in tournament winning decks.

Few other 2023 cards are making enough lists and placing high enough in recent big events to have weathered the storm.

Still, there are plenty of cards that are cEDH playable that occasionally also top eight. For example Etali, Primal Conqueror at Mox Masters May 2023. However, outside of a few smaller events or a great one time run, many cards are simply not consistent enough. Additionally, there are many cards like Mycosynth Gardens that sees play in a medium amount events but are not really winning very much.

Now and the near Future

The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is the most recent full set. But the Lord of the Rings holiday release, although small, has some stellar cards. In particular Legolas’s Quick Reflexes gives green an incredible piece of interaction for only one mana. The card is incredibly flexible and does several things all at once. It is completely irreplaceable and virtually unstoppable. All that for one mana makes it a no brainer for every green deck.

Not every set is full of the powerful and low mana cards that every cEDH deck wants. The sets of 2023 have had way more than their fair share. Will 2024 continue the trend? Will the Commander ban list receive an update? We’ll find out in the new year.

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