Commander 2019 Financial Set Review, Part 1

Commander 2019 was too massive for just one financial set review article! Chas Andres covers the Faceless Menace and Primal Genesis decks, plus This Week’s Trends!

Welcome to Part 1 of my Commander 2019 financial set review. If
you’ve never joined me for one of my Commander reviews before, get ready
for something a little different. When I review a set like War of the Spark, Core Set 2020, or even Modern Horizons, competitive playability is always going to be my
primary concern. Commander 2019, on the other hand, needs to be
considered primarily from a casual perspective.

Since the new cards from Commander 2019 aren’t going to be legal
in either Standard or Modern, a card needs to be Legacy-playable for me to
even consider it as a competitive spec. This does happen from time to time
True-Name Nemesis says hello – but it’s quite rare, and the easiest way
to lose money on a Commander spec is to get too caught up in how “good it
is.” Some of these cards are powerful enough that they could easily become
$30+ staples if they were legal in Modern, but that doesn’t matter if they
don’t fit the play patterns of Commander. Remember: powerful cards aren’t
necessarily more expensive than less powerful cards. The only things that
really matter when it comes to value are supply and demand.

That doesn’t mean that all the cards from Commander 2019 are
doomed to be dollar rares. Commander is almost certainly the most popular
Magic format in the world, full stop, and the best cards from these decks
can be worth quite a lot of money despite seeing little or no competitive
play. Teferi’s Protection (from Commander 2017) sells for $45
despite the existence of a judge foil printing. Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice is
$40. Kaalia of the Vast is sold out at $30. I can go on.

Speaking of the cards from older Commander sets, let’s kick this article
off by taking a look at all the non-reprints from Commander 2018
that rose in price over the past year. Here’s the full list:

Commander 2018 Risers

This is a really interesting list of cards. At the risk of overfitting
trends to a small amount of data, I’ll try to come up with three potential
reasons why these cards may have increased in price while others did not:

1. Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow; Xantcha, Sleeper Agent; and Arixmethes,
Slumbering Isle were almost certainly underrated as potential commanders
due to their rarity. Over the years, I’ve noticed a tendency for non-mythic
rares to be underpriced during Commander preview season. In fact, literally
all the cards on the list we just looked at were rares. Zero of them were
mythic rares. People tend to value mythic rares higher in a vacuum because
they’re usually a lot scarcer, but that isn’t true when it comes to these
preconstructed decks. Every mythic rare in Commander 2018 was just
as rare as every non-mythic rare. So why were they cheaper? It’s unclear.

To that end, the best mythic legendary creatures from these 2018 decks were
pre-selling in the $8-$12 range, while the best non-mythic legendary
creatures were kicking around in the $2-$3 range. It shouldn’t be much of a
shock that most of them met somewhere in the middle.

2. Retrofitter Foundry, Endless Atlas, and Ancient Stone Idol are all
artifacts. Artifacts can fit in literally any Commander deck, which means
that demand is naturally going to be a lot higher for these than for cards
with more deck limitations. “Commander artifacts are underpriced” is
actually a trend that goes back several years, and it says a lot that even
these fairly mediocre artifacts increased in value more than better cards
with a stricter color identity. I’m definitely going to be a lot more
aggressive about speculating on Commander artifacts this time around.

3. The rest of these cards are all multi-deck role-players. Cards like
Whiptongue Hydra and Windgrace’s Judgment are worthy inclusions in nearly
every deck that can cast them. Much like the artifacts, these cards go up
in price because a lot of people need them for a lot of different decks.
For example, very few people are just going to go out and buy Lord
Windgrace as an addition to their existing deck – if they want to play the
card, they’ll buy the entire box set. Plenty of people wanted Windgrace’s
Judgment for their existing Golgari and Jund Commander decks, though, and
they are willing to drop $5-$6 on a copy of that card instead of worrying
about buying the full deck.

With that in mind, let’s analyze all the cards in Commander 2019,
one deck at a time. I’ll be covering Faceless Menace and Primal Genesis
today, and we’ll talk about Merciless Rage and Mystic Intellect next week.

Not only do I want to look at each card individually, searching for
interesting spec opportunities, but I’m going to examine the deck as a
whole to determine how good the overall value is. Lastly, I’d like to see
if we can figure out some existing cards that might increase in price once
these decks hit shelves and people start to modify them around their
favorite new commanders. These secondary spikes are some of the most
lucrative spec opportunities of the year, and I want to make sure that I
cover them in greater detail this time around.

To the decks!

Faceless Menace

Let’s begin with a look at the relevant reprints in Faceless Menace. Here’s
every card that’s currently selling for $1 or more on Star City Games:

Total – $58

Even though there are a lot of $1-$3 cards here, this is a really nice base
of value for a deck that is selling for $35. There simply aren’t too many
cards on this list that are ever likely to sell for less than current
retail because most of them are cheap staples that have already been
reprinted several times in recent years. Cards like Command Tower,
Thespian’s Stage, and Myriad Landscape are going to be at least $2 going
forward, and all of these other lands are solid at $1.

Perhaps most importantly, this deck has Seedborn Muse, a card that will
undoubtedly rebound at some point and end up back in the $10 range. It’s
just that good in Commander. Heck, even Tempt with Discovery rebounded
after its reprint in Commander 2016. Even though there aren’t any
super-high-value reprints in here, Faceless Menace already provides us with
some solid long-term value before we even get to the new cards.

Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer – $6

Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer has already become one of the most popular new
commanders in the set, and I can’t imagine she’s ever supplanted as the
best “morph matters” Commander. Ixidor, Reality Sculptor and Dream Chisel
both spiked in price once Kadena was previewed, and there are likely going
to be a few more secondary spikes as well. We’ll cover them at the end of
this section.

As for Kadena herself, she suffers from the Lord Windgrace problem. If
you’re going to build a Kadena deck, why not simply drop the $35 on
Faceless Menace and get a whole bunch of other cards as well? That should
keep demand for this specific single card a bit lower than some of the
other, more versatile cards in Commander 2019.

Of course, Lord Windgrace himself is a $6 card, so it’s not like Kadena is
overpriced at current retail. I also suspect that this thing will spike to
$15-$20 the next time a set with a morph mechanic is announced, especially
if it’s a couple of years away and this deck is out of print, so it’s not
like buying in at $6 is a bad long-term plan. You might be able to snag
these in the $4-$5 range if you’re patient, but it won’t go any lower than

Volrath, the Shapestealer – $5

Volrath is another big hit for me. Sultai is one of the most popular wedges
in Commander, and the fact that Volrath combos with pretty much any
counters – not just -1/-1 counters – gives this card some nice versatility.
Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice is a $40 card, and even though Volrath isn’t quite
that exciting, it plays in the same space as Atraxa…and probably fits into
literally every Atraxa deck out there already. Two to three years from now,
I’d expect Volrath to be a $10-$15 card. Yet another reason to pick up a
copy of Faceless Menace.

Rayami, First of the Fallen – $3

Rayami is fine, but it’s neither a unique enough card to build around nor a
powerful enough piece of utility to hold my interest for long. I can’t
imagine too many folks seeking it out regardless, and the fact that you
need to be in Sultai (or four- or five-color) to run it limits demand as
well. Future $1 card.

Kadena’s Silencer – $3

Kadena’s Silencer plays well with Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer, but I can’t
imagine wanting to play this in a deck that isn’t centered around morphs.
Because of that, I think its demand outside the Faceless Menace deck is
going to be pretty limited. Future bulk rare.

Scroll of Fate – $3

Scroll of Fate is going to be at least $5 when we check in on it next year,
if not higher. As we learned earlier, it’s best to never sleep on artifacts
from the Commander sets, even mediocre ones.

Scroll of Fate will slot right into a whole bunch of Commander decks.
Brago, King Eternal; Marchesa, the Black Rose; Roon of the Hidden Realm;
and Aminatou, the Fateshifter love this card, where it will help cheat a
lot of silly things onto the battlefield. We might even see another
Phyrexian Dreadnaught spike as people dream on this combo in Legacy, though
the chances of any Phyrexian Dreadnaught deck actually paying off are as
slim as ever.

At any rate, snap these up now at current retail. You’re unlikely to lose
money here.

Road of Return – $2

Road of Return has the sort of versatility that I look for in a Commander
spec, but I’m not sure it has the necessary power level. It’s nice to cheat
your way out of paying the commander tax if your commander has died several
times already, but Road of Return has the look of a card that I’m going to
cut from my 100 every time for not being either powerful or synergistic
enough with anything. Future bulk rare.

Grismold, the Dreadsower – $2

Grismold, the Dreadsower could be this year’s Xantcha. It might not be the
most exciting legendary creature to build around in Faceless Menace, but
the fact that you only need the two Golgari colors to play it instead of
all three Sultai colors makes it a lot more versatile than the other
commanders in this deck.

Grismold isn’t an auto-include in every token deck, but it’s worth
considering in quite a few of them, including all the Abzan decks that rely
on death triggers. It’s also an auto-include in any deck that runs Ghave,
Guru of Spores, who’s a pretty popular commander. I don’t think we’re
looking at a $7-$8 card here, but $3-$4 at some point seems likely to me.

Pendant of Prosperity – $2

Pendant of Prosperity seems like a narrower artifact than most. It’s going
to find a home in Mairsil, the Pretender and Zedruu the Greathearted decks,
but it’s far from an auto-include. Getting to draw a bunch of cards is
nice, but you’d better be playing with at least four to five people.
Otherwise, you’re giving one opponent a pretty serious advantage.

That said, I underestimated too many artifacts in last year’s Commander set
review. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one ends up in the $3-$4 range at
some point simply by virtue of the fact that it’s a rare that can slot into
literally every Commander deck on the planet. $2 is a fine buy-in if you’re

Gift of Doom – $1.50

I wasn’t expecting to see too much new design space for morph in this set,
but Gift of Doom is a fun new twist on the mechanic. I can’t wait to fool
someone with this in combat, and I’m glad that I won’t have to face it in
Draft or Sealed.

That said, cards like this are only good when you’ve got a critical mass of
things to cast face-down. Most Commander decks aren’t going to want Gift of
Doom, even though it’s very good with Kadena. Future bulk rare.

Sudden Substitution – $1

Sudden Substitution is a pretty neat card. Play your cards right, and
you’ll be trading one of your tokens for an eight-plus-mana spell or
swapping a few of your opponents’ things around in order to create a
favorable battlefield for you. Even still, I’d rather play a less
situational spell most of the time, and I have to imagine that this one
ends up on the cutting room floor more often than not. Future bulk rare.

Thieving Amalgam – $1

At seven mana, Thieving Amalgam is pretty expensive to cast. On the other
hand, I’m pretty sure it’s the only Ape Snake in the history of Magic, and
that has to count for something, right?

In all seriousness, Thieving Amalgam actually seems quite good. In a
five-player game, it’ll make you four 2/2s every turn that it survives, not
counting the fact that you’ll probably be able to flip one of them every
now and then. The four-point life swing every time one of your manifested
critters dies is pretty solid, too, and things can get nutty if you can
blink your 2/2s or gain control of a lot more of your opponents’ creatures.
Thieving Amalgam seems like a solid $2-$3 card to me, and I suspect it’ll
be one of the lower-value cards on next year’s gainers list.

Leadership Vacuum – $1

Leadership Vacuum is going to show up all over the place, especially in
more casual playgroups where people rely on six-plus-mana commanders as
their deck’s main engine. The fact that this card can get back your own
commander if it’s stolen is pretty nice, too, and the fact that it draws
you a card at the end is icing on the cake. This is an uncommon, so it’ll
show up in several of these decks, but it’ll still be a $2-$3 card at some
point in the future. Probably not next year, though.

Voice of Many – $0.50

I’ll pass on Voice of Many. Even though you get a 3/3 attached to your card
draw spell, I’d rather just run Harmonize so I can avoid those awkward
games where this thing draws me one other card at best. It’s worth
considering if you can blink it a lot, but I don’t think it’ll ever be
worth more than half a dollar.

Scaretiller – $0.25

Someone will build a wacky engine around Scaretiller and, say, Freed from
the Real in order to go infinite with land recursion. If it were a rare,
I’d consider endorsing it. As a common, though, it’ll be readily available
to those who want it – especially because I suspect it’ll be one of the
first cuts for anyone who isn’t building around it.

Potential Secondary Spikes

We’ve already talked about Ixidor, Reality Sculptor and Dream Chisel, both
of which are now over $10 thanks to Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer. These two
are likely at the height of their value right now, as I suspect a lot of
the existing copies were bought up by speculators and will be re-entering
the market over the next couple of weeks. If you’re holding, I’d sell ASAP.
If you’re interested in a copy for personal use, I’d suggest waiting
another couple of weeks.

Whisperwood Elemental and Primordial Mist are probably the next two
morph-related cards set to spike. Both are dirt cheap right now, and both
are fairly low supply – Whisperwood Elemental because it’s a mythic rare,
and Primordial Mist because it’s from a Commander set itself. I
don’t see either getting too far above the $5-$6 range, but that’s still a
growth rate in the 200-300% range.

Muraganda Petroglyphs looks like another potential spec for this deck,
since it’s quite good when you’ve got a lot of face-down creatures on the
battlefield. It was only printed once, in Future Sight, so it can
easily end up as a $15-$20 card.

Primal Genesis

Let’s move on to Primal Genesis. Here are the relevant reprints in the new
Naya deck:

Total – $54

In theory, this deck is only a few dollars short of Faceless Menace. In
practice, far too much of its value is tied up in $1.50 mythics that are
only a whisper away from being bulk mythics. Garruk, Primal Hunter is a
worse flagship card than Seedborn Muse, though Lightning Greaves is a nice
consolation prize; that card is always going to be worth at least $5.

Much like Faceless Menace, Primal Genesis has a few $2-$3 lands that should
remain desirable for quite some time, but this is overall a less inspiring
group of reprints. Good thing the new cards make up for that.

Ghired, Conclave Exile – $6

Ghired, Conclave Exile is exactly what we needed as a Naya Tokens
commander. I’ve heard some people claim that it’s underpowered, but they’re
sort of missing the point. If you’re going to play a typical Selesnya or
Abzan-style go-wide tokens deck, Ghired isn’t that great. Ghired isn’t
about that type of play pattern, though. It’s about making the largest
token possible and copying it over and over again. This is something new,
and I think players will respond well to it.

As with Kadena and Faceless Menace, the entirety of Primal Genesis is built
around Ghired. Because of that, there won’t be much demand for this card on
its own. $5-$6 seems fair to me, but if you’re looking to pick this card
up, just spend $35 and nab the whole deck.

Marisi, Breaker of the Coil – $5

Marisi isn’t a clear build-around like Ghired, but it’s one of the best
generically good Naya creatures in the game. It’s amazing against other
creature-based decks, and it’s even better against techy, creature-light
decks that are full of little utility critters. I can’t imagine building a
Naya deck without at least seriously considering Marisi, which means that
it should be in higher demand than Kadena. My guess is that this one is
also stable in the $5-$6 range, though I like its long-term profile a bit
more due to its versatility.

Atla Palani, Nest Tender – $4

Atla Palani might be the cheapest of the three Naya commanders in this
deck, but it’s also the most powerful. It also has the longest thread on
the Commander subreddit, as well as a few splinter threads taking the deck
in several different and interesting new directions. If there’s going to be
a breakout Commander in Primal Genesis, this is it.

We’re going to cover all the cards that might spike as a result of Atla
Palani hype at the end of this section, but for now let me say that long
term, I expect this to be the most expensive of the three cards we’ve
looked at so far. I’d still rather focus my speculation energy on some of
the cheaper cards that are better utility spells and will thus have more
overall demand, but buying Atla Palani for $4 is fine if you want one.

Full Flowering – $3

Full Flowering seems a little overpriced to me, both in terms of mana cost
and in terms of retail value. I get that XGG would probably be too good,
but having to pay twice for X means that you really need to have a lot of
mana on the battlefield before Full Flowering is all that great. I’m sure
that there will be some token decks that want to run this, but it’s far
from an auto-include. My guess is that this is a $1 rare by this time next

Ghired’s Belligerence – $3

Ghired’s Belligerence seems like a better version of Full Flowering. Not
only is this XRR instead of XXR, but it can target any number of creatures
for free while also giving you multiple populate triggers. Granted, you
actually do need to have targets on the table before this card does
anything, a problem that Full Flowering doesn’t have, but I’m still
probably running this in every token deck I can fit it in.

The downside? Color identity. Most token decks don’t run red, so you’re
basically limited to Naya decks. That should be enough to keep this card in
the $3 range, though its upside is pretty limited by virtue of red being
the worst color in Commander.

Selesnya Eulogist – $2.50

Selesnya Eulogist is fine, I guess, but I’d rather run Scavenging Ooze most
of the time. I might be underrating this card – after all, “tokens matter”
is the most popular theme in all of Commander – but there are a few cheaper
cards in this deck that I like a lot more. You probably won’t go wrong
pre-ordering these for $2.50, but there are better spec opportunities just

Song of the Worldsoul – $2.50

Six mana is a ton for this effect, but I still think Song of the Worldsoul
will find a home in many token decks. Again, token-related cards tend to
gain and hold value better than most, and this spell has already increased
from $2 to $2.50 during the preorder period. That tells me that people
really want to build around Song of the Worldsoul, no matter the cost.

It’s possible that the mana cost will do this card in eventually, but I’m
bullish. This looks like a $5-$6 rare to me. It just might take a few years
to get there.

Ohran Frostfang – $2

Oh, hey, another card I love. Token and Elf-style decks need something on
the top end other than just an infinite number of Overrun effects, and
Ohran Frostfang is a pretty solid alternative plan. All your creatures
either become killing machines or card drawing machines, and both effects
are pretty great in Commander. Five mana isn’t a lot for a card that
absolutely needs to be dealt with as long as you’ve got a battlefield
presence, and I’ve seen a bunch of hype for this Snake on the Commander
subreddit already. Much like last year’s Whiptongue Hydra, I think most
green decks will at least consider running Ohran Frostfang. That bodes well
for its future price.

Doomed Artisan – $1.50

Doomed Artisan reminds me of Ophiomancer, a card that’s worth $20 now. Did
you know that Ophiomancer was so danged expensive these days? I sure
didn’t. I don’t think I’ve even thought about Ophiomancer in at least a
year, if not longer. But that’s the nature of Commander finance these days
– ignore it at your own peril.

At any rate, Doomed Artisan’s tokens don’t have deathtouch, but they can
get out of hand in an awful hurry. This thing both makes and grows its own
army, and cheap cards that make tokens without having to expend mana every
turn tend to be pretty highly sought-after by Commander players. I don’t
think Doomed Artisan will be $20 next year, but $3-$5 seems reasonable to
me. This card is a lot better than it looks.

Tahngarth, First Mate – $1.50

Tahngarth, First Mate is an iconic piece of Magic lore, and he has a cool
ability. It’s not very easy to build around, though, nor is it all that
powerful unless you’re strapping a ton of Auras onto Tahngarth before you
send him on a trip around the table. This card has its uses, I suspect, but
it’ll still be a future bulk rare.

Tectonic Hellion – $1.50

Ugh. If I’m ramping up to seven mana, I don’t want my payoff to be a card
that might destroy two of my lands. I guess this might be worth playing in
a deck with a bunch of mana rocks, but destroying one player’s lands in a
multiplayer game is also a great way to get a massive target on your head.
I’m out on this one for Commander.

On the other hand, Tectonic Hellion is one of the best cards in this set
that might actually show up in Legacy. Reanimating this sucker and
attacking with it on Turn 2 or 3 is a great way to end the game. I don’t
know if this will actually make the cut, and it’s not like Reanimator is
super-strong in Legacy these days regardless, but I’d at least consider
picking up a few of these if you’re a Legacy mage.

Idol of Oblivion – $1.50

Say hello to one of the most underrated cards in Commander 2019.
Idol of Oblivion is an artifact, and it’s pretty much an auto-include in
every deck that’s based around making tokens. Those are literally the #1
and #2 things that I look for in a Commander spec. There’s going to be a
lot more demand for this than there will be spare copies, and this will be
a $5-$6 card by this time next year.

Commander’s Insignia – $1

Commander’s Insignia feels underpowered to me. Even with a one-mana
commander and a token deck, you’re better off playing a cheaper Anthem
effect most of the time. It’ll show up now and again, I suspect, but I
can’t imagine the demand will be enough to keep this card from becoming a
future bulk rare…

…until, of course, WotC prints a zero-mana commander that can enter and
exit the command zone at will or something, at which point this card will
spike to $10.

Cliffside Rescuer – $0.50

Cliffside Rescuer is useful in decks that can recur it a bunch, as well as
any deck that’s based around a Voltron-style commander who really needs to
live if you’re going to have a shot at winning the game, but at uncommon I
suspect there will be enough copies out there to keep this one at or under
the $1 mark.

Potential Secondary Spikes

Let’s start with Ghired, Conclave Exile. Godsire is the clear spec here, as
it has only been printed once, at mythic rare, way back in 2009. It’s one
of the best ways to get a massive token on the battlefield, and I’m pretty
surprised it wasn’t included in this deck. Godsire is still in stock at
$7.99 as of this writing, but I expect it to be sold out by the time you
read this. $15-$20 seems like this card’s future price point.

Atla Palani seems like it’ll be the cause of the most secondary spikes. It
can get pretty wild with Ashnod’s Altar and Thornbite Staff, two uncommons
that are already pretty expensive. Thornbite Staff could end up back above
$10 again, and I’m already seeing most copies disappearing from the

I’m also betting on a Worldspine Wurm jump. Not only can this card create
some pretty silly loops with Atla Palani, it’s a fantastic card to pair
with Ghired, Conclave Exile. I suspect that anyone looking to keep both
cards in their Primal Genesis deck will want to add the Wurm.

Skullclamp seems like another obvious addition to this deck, though that
card has been printed enough times that I can’t imagine it’ll jump more
than another $1-$2. Nesting Dragon seems like a more lively spec, since
it’s on flavor as well as incredibly powerful. I’d also strongly consider
adding Cream of the Crop to any Atla Palani deck I built, and that card
seems due for another jump as well.

I’d recommend Mana Echoes, but it’s already wildly expensive. Perhaps
Umbral Mantle as another Thornbite Staff replacement? Honestly, I think
we’ll be seeing dozens of spikes due to this one, and I’ll be paying close
attention to its EDHREC page over the coming weeks.

This Week’s Trends

As is usual for August, the Standard market continued to decline this week.
I can’t find a single Standard card that gained more than $1, and even
those gains feel more like statistical noise than meaningful trends. On the
other side of the ledger, cards like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria; Chandra,
Awakened Inferno; and Search for Azcanta continue to drop as rotation
approaches. I’ll write a whole column on pre-rotation buys in a couple of
weeks, but for now you should hold off until the market hits bottom. We’re
not quite there yet.

There isn’t much going on over in the world of Modern, either. A few
staples like Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Wrenn and Six; and Horizon Canopy are
down a bit, but that seems like it has more to do with the seasonal lull
than anything having to do with the future of the Modern metagame. As with
Standard, I’m staying away from Modern for the next couple of weeks. I’d
like to see what WotC chooses to ban at the end of the month before buying
in at the very least.

There was one interesting Modern spike this week, though – the Lorwyn rare Knucklebone Witch. The card has started to show up in
more and more Modern Goblins lists, and it’s begun to climb from bulk rare
status up toward the $10 mark. This card can easily sustain a $10 price tag
as a one-of or two-of, but it’ll really get out of hand if folks start
running it as a full playset. I’m not sure how likely that is, but I can
say that this spike is totally legit and not likely to reverse itself.

With so few cards moving due to competitive play right now, the only real
action in the world of Magic finance right now is in the world of
Commander. We’ve already talked about the Ixidor and Dream Chisel spikes,
and my guess is that even more Commander staples will spike over the next
couple of days as people start to piece together their new decks. If you
want to take action, navigate over to the

EDHREC page for the Commander 2019 Commanders

and see how people are brewing up their new decks. You’re looking for high
synergy or top cards that have only been printed once or twice, preferably
a long time ago. Those cards tend to spike first and stay high the longest.