MTG – Is it worth it to buy a Commander 2018 deck for Magic: The Gathering?
[TCC intro music] Many Magic: the Gathering players ask the question: Is it worth it to buy a Commander 2018
pre-constructed deck? Once the star jewel of Wizards of the Coast, this year’s line has had a significant shake-up in both price and contents, begging the question more so than ever if the now $40 price tag for this once perfect product is still worth it, and if so by how much? So is this price part of a plan for providing players with powerful Commander cards, new and old, or just callously cashing in on a popular product? Let’s take a look! Commander 2018 pre-constructed decks contain
exactly the same basic components of previous Commander decks. One oversized foil card of the main Commander,
100 individual Magic: the Gathering cards that comprise a complete, ready-to-play out of the box deck.
Of those 100 cards, three are premium foils, the primary Commander, and two alternative Commanders. The reason I stress that the contents have not changed; same number of cards, same number of foils, same everything, is that with the $5 price rise we must turn only to the quality of the cards themselves. And no I don’t mean the quality of the cardboard itself nor the foiling processes. I and many Magic: the Gathering players have long since given up on that. Pre-constructed products in particular often have numerous quality assurance issues. Last year, for example, the foils were so bad in the Commander pre-constructed decks that anyone wanting to play with
‘Kess, Dissident Mage’ in a Legacy deck had to make do with proxies.
There were no acceptable copies universally. So that, along with the ever variable cardboard quality, is just par for the course at this point. No. When I speak of quality, I speak of the cards themselves, in terms of their mechanics and gameplay. How good are these new Commander cards?
How powerful are the included reprints? How well are both constructed together? After all, Wizards of the Coast justified this price increase by claiming it would allow them to make the most powerful pre-constructed Commander decks ever, packed full of great cards new and old. But something is gone amiss. These are far from the high quality
we’ve seen in past years. For starters, in my evaluation and play testing,
the decks are not evenly balanced, with ‘Adaptive Enchantment’ being the most powerful of the four, by I feel a noteworthy margin. I found this to be true when playing these decks against established Commander decks as well. Now, of course this will vary
play group to play group, game to game, as Commander is one of the most diverse and unpredictable formats in Magic, so please use these rankings only as a guideline for consideration. Both the ‘Exquisite Invention’ and ‘Subjective Reality’ decks are relatively close in power level, and I’d say they are the most balanced of the four,
although I personally found better success with the ‘Exquisite Invention’ deck, but not by a significant margin. ‘Nature’s Vengeance’ is the weakest of the four,
and in my evaluation the most linear. It’s a basic Jund-em-out style ramp strategy,
can be scary when it gets going early, but lacks significant pay-off and synergy. Compared to previous years, this is extremely disappointing. The 2017, 2016, 2014, 2013 decks are overwhelmingly better, and I can see no option where, had I no pre-constructed Commander decks, that I would purchase the 2018 offerings over
any of the previous years with perhaps one or two debatable exceptions. The only reason to purchase these new offerings
is simply that next to none of the old decks can be found for $40 or less any more. So even with the price increase these are the cheapest offerings. Do not, I repeat, do not pay above MSRP
for any of the 2018 Commander decks. Once you start going above MSRP, you could pick up decks from previous years instead. But hey, Commander is a format where the weakest deck often takes second place, so I guess you can be assured of a steady slew of second-place victories with these lackluster cards. So in terms of overall power, I feel very strongly this year is one of, if not the biggest duds, not justifying the $5 price increase. Not that I understand logically how printing better cards would require a higher purchase price. But since we’re talking price, what about financially? If you were to purchase the individual cards for each of these Commander decks the total cost to assemble them yourself would be above $40. ‘Adaptive Enchantment’ is actually the cheapest of all four, costing $66.92, building ‘Nature’s Vengeance’ from scratch would run you approximately $69.13, ‘Exquisite Invention’ comes in next at $71.75,
no big difference here so far, whereas ‘Subjective Reality’ would cost $101.58, clearly standing above the other three in terms of financial value anyway. But remember, that’s what it would cost you to purchase these cards individually, not sell them. You cannot, I repeat, you cannot go out and spend
$40 on the ‘Nature’s Vengeance’ deck and then get nearly $70 in sales back. That is not possible. Why not? Because the overwhelming majority of these cards are… bulk. Bulk cards are worth less than $1, are usually never played in any refined deck lists and oftentimes include cards valued merely at 10 to 50 cents. But that value is meaningless if you own these cards.
You can’t reliably sell a 35 cent uncommon. 100 of these bulk cards may add up to over $40, but even getting that $40 back is going to be difficult with these decks. Out of all four of them the most expensive
single card is ‘Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow’, the exceptionally popular new Commander from ‘Subjective Reality’. Yuriko is going for a whopping $17.99. Looking further into the ‘Subjective Reality’ deck, the three Commanders are going for
$11.89, $6.99 and $6.49 respectively. But besides these, only four cards from the deck are worth over $3. ‘Magus of the Balance’, ‘Geode Golem’,
‘Silent-Blade Oni’ and ‘Entreat the Dead’. There’s five cards in the $2 to $2.99 range, and a handful — 14 to be exact — of $1 to $2 cards. The remaining 73 cards in the deck are priced below $1 each and essentially bulk. The most expensive card in ‘Exquisite Invention’ is ‘Treasure Nabber’, Valued currently at $10.25, while the three Commanders of that deck are only $7.99, $3.99 and $1.99 each. Besides those cards, only three are worth more than $3 each, and just barely — look at those prices. Four are in the $2 to $2.99 range, and there’s only 10 cards currently selling for $1 to $2 from this deck. The most expensive card in ‘Nature’s Vengeance’ is
Lord Windgrace himself at $8.80, with the alternate Commanders being $2.99 and $2.29 each — ick! and besides these, only three cards from the deck are worth over $3 each, Four are in the $2 to $2.99 range, and 10 $1 to $2 cards. In the fourth deck, ‘Adaptive Enchantment’, we see that
‘Estrid, the Masked’ herself is at only $6.99, While the alternate Commanders are $4.99 and $3.99. Besides these, there are five cards from the deck worth over $3 each, while only three cards are in the $2 to $2.99 range, and a meager eight cards at $1 to $2. The only value here is in the new ‘made-for-Commander’ cards, and that value is likely to drop with time. There are next to no reprints of value in these decks.
Price may have increased but reprints of value has decreased dramatically, and that is such a shame because Commander is a format where there are so many cards desperately in need of reprints and there are cards that don’t see play anywhere else. They’re not played in Modern,
They’re not played in Legacy, they’re played in Commander and they have super-high price tags, they’re begging to be reprinted, these Commander pre-cons are a great place for them, and it adds value and it adds reason to buy these. Not just for a brand new player to Commander but for existing players to purchase, upgrade, to get the cards they need for the decks they want to play. That system is one where everybody wins. Final conclusion, the 2018 pre-constructed Commander decks are the worst in the product line’s history. All value and interest is tied up in the Commanders themselves, and they are the primary reason to purchase these decks. The decks are not well balanced. They are weaker than previous years, and there is less of a roadmap for upgrades… no real reprints of value. Nevertheless, they still remain the cheapest and easiest way for a brand new Commander player to sit down with a fully functioning Commander deck. There’s also a lot of interesting legendary cards scattered throughout, and thus these singles indeed may be a hot buy for established Commander players itching to brew up a new deck. Grade: B-minus. Eww, B-minus… that’s the grade they give you in grad school when you’re failing — ewww… Do not pay above MSRP for any of the 2018 Commander decks, period. If you can get any pre-constructed decks from previous years for the same or near cost, do so instead. If all you want is ‘Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow’ to build a kick-ass ninja deck then by the singles you need. And, it, and if you want to sit down and start playing Commander and don’t know where to begin, then yes, you can absolutely buy one of these and play it with friends right out of the box. Hey, you might even take second place! And this video is brought to you by my and many other people’s local game store: Card Kingdom. A brick-and-mortar pillar of this community. As well as the Patreon support of viewers such as you. These are the people that keep Tolarian Community College going and growing strong. So, thank you.