Tolarian Community College Presents: Many Magic: The Gathering players ask the question: Commander Anthology is another installment in what has become a new line for Wizards of the Coast: the Anthology series, where former pre-constructed and supplemental products are reprinted in a box set, to allow those who may have missed buying these the first time around a second chance at acquiring them. But is this Commander Anthology the superb selection Duel Deck Anthology was? Or, like the Planechase Anthology, is it too much money for an odd hodge-podge of cards? Let’s take a look! But, before we begin, a little context: when the first pre-constructed Commander decks were made, the format was still gaining popularity in the mainstream. Wizards’s release of these five supplemental Commander decks was, if anything, the company testing the waters to see if this judge-favorite format had widespread appeal. As such, these five decks were something Wizards of the Coast had never done before: taking a fan-made format, changing the name for legal purposes, and endorsing and encouraging its play, not only by selling pre-made decks for it, but by designing unique, just for Commander, cards to be included in those decks. Little did Wizards of the Coast know, but Commander would soon thereafter transform into one of the game’s most popular formats. A super money maker for the corporate suits, and, possibly, one of the best decisions of product creation that Wizards of the Coast ever made. The popularity was so big that the decks sold out fast, due, no doubt, in part to the fact that many of the exclusive cards were wanted for gameplay in Legacy formats. And, although all future Commander products received a very high print run, the original five Commander decks became incredibly hard to come by; their exclusive commanders and cards at outrageously high prices, and, except for the lucky few that grabbed the decks early when they were initially on the shelves, something that only those with the most disposable of incomes had access to on the secondary market. The parallels here to Duel Deck Anthology are numerous: the first four Duel Decks received similar small printings, were very expensive and hard to find on the secondary market, and taking and collecting them in an anthology that sold for essentially what the cost to buy them off the shelf would be is an excellent item to offer players. So doing the same here with all five of those first-gen Commander decks in an anthology that simply costs what buying them at MSRP would have been? A stroke… of… genius. Uhh, unfortunately,
(exasperated sigh) Wizards of the Coast only included one of these first-gen Commander decks and opted instead to include a selection of one deck from each of the first four years. (cough, cough) OK! So this more than anything is the biggest misstep I see here: instead of including all five of the originally underprinted, and difficult to get ahold of, Commander sets, something I think that would have been incredibly welcome, only Heavenly Inferno was chosen from year one, with Evasive Maneuvers selected to represent year two, Guided by Nature for year three, and Plunder the Graves for year four. This creates a very difficult position for anyone who already owns one of these Commander decks. What if I bought Plunder the Graves, and maybe also Guided by Nature, as they are fairly recent, but I don’t have and I want Heavenly Inferno? My options are to spend the $164.99 for Commander Anthology and then try and sell off the Commander decks I don’t want, an arduous process for sure. Or perhaps I could try and buy the individual Commander deck I want from someone doing just that, trying to sell theirs. Except that, in this example of Heavenly Inferno, that’s the chase deck, least likely to be sold individually, and, when it is going to be sold individually, it’ll be at a high price. After all, if I were to purchase Heavenly Inferno today, it would cost as much as the Commander Anthology itself, at $169.99. Obviously, that price may be subject to change when Anthology hits shelves tomorrow, but it demonstrates how I am not likely to grab the deck for $34.99. What’s more, the other Commander decks command a significantly cheaper price, with Evasive Maneuvers selling today for less than MSRP at $31.95, Guided by Nature still a costly $64.99, and Plunder the Graves a bit more reasonable at $44.99. Add to that the fact that Commander decks have an MSRP of $34.99, but the Anthology has an MSRP of $164.99, despite only containing four decks. $34.99 times 4 equals $139.96, which is what the MSRP of this should be ideally. Yes, it includes four life keepers, I’ll get to those in a moment, but the price of any of these decks is arbitrary anyway. So how the heck did they come up with $164.99 for this? No idea. Seems unreasonably high, since it’s only four Commander decks. Now, to look at this from a few different perspectives, whereas the total value of buying each of these four decks for MSRP is $139.96, the total value if I wanted to buy these today at the going rate, sealed, would be $311.92. So if you go on eBay and Amazon, the lowest you could buy these four decks for is that. And, interestingly, the total value if I wanted to buy all 400 cards individually would be approximately $313. However, out of these 400 cards, only three are worth $10 or more: Kaalia of the Vast; Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury; and Stranglehold. Now, not counting those, if we look at all the cards worth $5 or more here, there are eight. And, not counting those, if we look at all the cards worth more than $2, there are twenty-two. And, not counting any of these, if we look at the cards worth more than $1 each, there are seventeen. For a total value of $198.86 when we only add up cards worth a dollar and up. So we have a wide variety of cards that have usefulness in Commander, or just can be used as effective trade fodder on various levels. There’s also a few things you can only get with the Commander’s Anthology. Included in the Commander Anthology are four life keeper countdown dials, which allow you to track your life total from anywhere between 1 and 99, very useful for Commander games, where life totals can swing in one direction or another rather rapidly. This dial has only been offered once before, in the extremely limited and hard to get Commander’s Arsenal, and so this is really the first time that they are going to be widely available. They click for each number and stay in place, not spinning unless you want them to. There’s a low to moderate weight to them, but they don’t fall over easily, and, even if they do, there’s a red marker to make sure there’s never any question as to what your life total is. (chuckle) I really like these, and getting four of them is just lovely. I can pass them out to each of my opponents at game night, although, not to belabor this, but five decks with five life keepers since Commander is thought of as, optimally, a five-player format, would have been better, but, hey, nonetheless, getting four of them, great, and, just individually, I really like these; they’re great! In addition to all of this is the fact that your commander card is foil; albeit, the foiling process is rather dark and dull this time, not at all like it was in Commander 2016. They did not bother to foil the other alternate commanders included in each deck, as they did with 2016. So while it is exciting to get a Freyalise or Meren in foil for the first time ever, I sure wish they’d put a bit more effort into this. But, and yes, there’s a but, if you have a few of these decks already, there’s still a lot of value here, but not as much. You’re left with great trades in those decks that you already contain and the ability to sell off them, possibly at a reduced price, and so this’ll still be something you can buy and make use of, but it does get awkward if you already own one to two of these decks. For those players, I’d say, yeah, this is an acceptable C. Overall grade: well, an A and a C even out to a B, but, I’m going to say with the added lifekeepers and foil commanders, I’ll toss a plus in there. B+. But that does not at all negate the fact that these really should have been just the first-gen of Commander decks. Remember that I’m giving away a brand-new Commander’s Anthology to a subscriber! Just be subscribed to the channel and click the link below in the description to enter. And this program was made possible thanks to a sponsorship from Card Kingdom, as well as the Patreon support of viewers such as you. So, thank you!