2015 Commander Year in Review

Posted in Command Tower on December 10, 2015

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

The end of the year is closing in and it's easy to get wrapped up in everything else that's going on. Between travel plans and celebrations welcoming 2016, everything seems to speed up for a leap into the new even as we take time to look back.

Ugin's Nexus | Art by Sam Burley

Although we can't redo the year we've just completed, we can consider everything we've learned. There's always something incoming on the Magic horizon, but recalling what we've seen before, and how it can fit into the future's promise, is something we can all appreciate.

From changing history to seeing it for the first time, these are the standout moments for Commander from 2015.

Fate Reforged

The year was off to a Commander bang with ten new legendary creatures: more wedge-color awesomeness and ally color Dragons. Aside from the double cycle of leaders, Fate Reforged included a nonbasic land in every pack. While rare lands are obviously exciting and powerful, the benefit of having the dual lands you need for any multicolor Commander deck can't be overstated.

One of the decks I enjoyed from the start of year was based around Tasigur, the Golden Fang. The tournament staple is a powerhouse in any deck that can run him in Commander, and took the Sultai Brood to the height of popularity—at least for a while.

Mitch's Tasigur, the Golgari Fan

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Planeswalker (1)
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
99 Cards

Tasigur is tremendous here, and the ability to put things into the graveyard and get them right back out makes him a one-card engine of value. Thanks to delve, it's also easier to bring him back to the battlefield a few times, making him resilient to removal and fun to build around.

Get greedy and he'll pay off for you in spades.

Dragons of Tarkir

Dragons of Tarkir had yet more legendary awesomeness, but also introduced us to powerful staples. Den Protector, the cycle of Commands named after the Dragonlords of Tarkir, and more topped off a set packed with Commander fun.

This deck built around fighting with Atarka and tools stood out as a new consideration for me:

Frank's Atarka Fight Circus

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Atarka, World Render
Instant (2)
1 Sarkhan's Triumph 1 Krosan Grip
99 Cards

Go. Fight. Win. Red and green are a powerful duo, and thanks to the love from cards like Dragonlord Atarka and Sarkhan's Triumph, making a deck of flying, fighting doom is officially a solid way to build an aggressive Commander deck.

Magic Origins

Magic Origins brought us even more commander options, like the Constructed-playable Pia and Kiran Nalaar and super-tricky Hixus, Prison Warden, as well as plenty of staple effects to consider. There were updates to classic effects as well, like The Great Aurora shuffling everything up on a whim and Hangarback Walker presenting one of the most efficient token-making-to-take-over-a-game packages seen on one card in a while.

For me, some of the brightest spots in here for Commander are cards like Knight of the White Orchid (getting a reprint), Pyromancer's Goggles (for burn shenanigans), Sword of the Animist (aggression plus mana ramping in one cheap package) and Abbot of Keral Keep (efficient enough for competitive play too), and together these one-theme options helped reinforce faster strategies for older commanders:

Thomas's Anax and Cymede

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Anax and Cymede

Modern Masters (2015 Edition)

Powerful cards have a place in Commander, and sets focused on powerful things like Modern Masters (2015 Edition) give us opportunities to explore new strategies in our decks. Aggressive white-red decks, swarming the battlefield with artifacts, or even just ramping into a five-color powerhouse all worked in the format and could feed similar Commander decks.

Here's a brief list of sweet Commander staples that returned to print in the set:

This list isn't comprehensive, but it covers the variety of Commander cool you'll find in sets that fall outside of Standard.

Battle for Zendikar

Our return to Zendikar was for dire reasons, but it gave us a treasure trove of goodies. A new colorless commander option with new build-around-it legendary creatures to choose from offers exciting new ways to battle. Awaken is a mechanic that gives us utility effects that scale up to a later game when we have enough lands hanging around.

But above all, Battle for Zendikar gave us great lands. The new cycle of lands keying off controlling basics meant even more options for ally color decks. Lands with spell-like effects attached—Blighted Woodland and Skyline Cascade, for example—provided utility without sacrificing access to mana.


And thanks to you, we recently covered just what the highest highs were. If you're catching up on Commander this year, our look at the latest tools and tricks from Battle for Zendikar is where you'll want to start.

Commander (2015 Edition)

I'm not going to give a paragraph to Commander (2015 Edition), since we just gave it an entire article about the piles of new cards we got. It's a release designed just for us, so if you haven't taken a look yet, now's your chance!

Bonus: I think Meren of Clan Nel Toth is among the strongest new commander choices of the year. Give her a try soon!

Wrapping and a Bow

It's been an incredible time to play Commander, and I couldn't be happier with all of the amazing options and legendary choices we've been presented with. Oath of the Gatewatch previews are looming at the end of the month to ensure that even as we pop a cork on closing out 2015, we'll have plenty to be excited about for 2016 already.

I hope you've had just as much fun this year as I have. I'll see you as the battle on Zendikar gets way more intense.

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