Let's talk Eldraine! Can it stand the test of time?
Throne of Eldraine was released on Australian shores on October 4th, 2019. That's almost an entire year ago now, and its impact on Standard has not really wavered since. Since its release, there have been three mainstream-series packs, with a new supplementary set, Jump-Start, releasing very recently. Although, with powerhouses like Uro, Nature's Wrath released from the recent Theros set and Shark Typhoon (yes, really) doing mad work in Standard, Throne of Eldraine chase cards seem to be finally taking a break from the spotlight. Oko, Thief of Crowns has been locked away for good in Standard, so he must prove very powerful in a vaccuum, but how do Eldraine cards compare in an Eternal format like Commander, with every card ever printed being available?
If your answer was, "Ew no, obviously" then you're probably correct! Can cards like Outlaw's Merriment (a mythic rare by the way) compare to cards like Assemble the Legion (a rare from seven years ago)? No! Do The Royal Scions stack up against Dack Fayden from Conspiracy? Of course not! When comparing cards with effects that directly parallel each other, it's easy to make complaints and look down on newer, less problematic cards. Phyrexian Arena still stands uncontested as the best in its field, but that doesn't mean Colossal Majesty can't offer green some of those benefits, even if it's more situational.
Let's talk about some cards that are less comparable to their past variants, cards that Eldraine almost pioneered into Magic altogether!
Questing Beast. This is a real doozy. This is one of those cards that has a huge text box full of crazy effects and insane triggers that totally equate to "Hit big, hit hard, and never get punished for it". Between being insanely-costed at only four mana for a 4/4 creature with Vigilance, Deathtouch and Haste, it also comes with built-in evasion, stopping your opponent from chumping it with a Goblin/Elf token, or a sneaky Elvish Mystic they dropped for the turn two Cultivate. It also comes strapped with a No-Fog-Allowed passive effect, making your combat damage unpreventable! If all of that wasn't enough, Questing Beast can deal the damage it deals to opponents to their Planeswalkers! Planeswalkers aren't inherently super oppressive in Commander, as they can and will be run down by three players' worth of combats, but having answers to a sneaky Sisay, Weatherlight Captain deck or Atraxa, Praetor's Voice deck (who primarily use Planeswalkers as their win condition) is a smart option.
Lastly, and it's no surprise with its encyclopaedia of a text box, Questing Beast has 1 more word tucked away on its face; Legendary. This is interesting, "This can be a Commander!" immediately comes to mind, but this point might be a bit deeper than expected, as upon further investigation it seems to be a form of "Nerf" (that is to say, a powering-down of the original design) to what Questing Beast could have been. Imagine 3 or 4 of these in Standard, a format with a starting-life total of twenty, smashing into your face at the same time, every turn, right after War of the Spark releases. You're just trying to keep Saheeli, Sublime Artificer alive for some janky combo, and some combat damage prevention. The Beasts don't even care. The Servos can't block, they're hitting you for upwards of sixteen damage a turn, you're desperately trying to resolve Planeswalkers to no effect, and to top it all off they aren't even tapped, so they're still available to block! Deathtouch on top of that, so you can't be too aggressive, and Haste so that the more copies of Questing Beast that they draw, the more instant value they generate. Yep, definitely not fair to allow more than 1 on the field at any given time.
Is Questing Beast a good card? No, it's an insane card! Should Questing Beast be my Commander? Depends. If you're truly having huge problems with Planeswalkers in your pod, Questing Beast can be a truly viable option to crack out when the Atraxa's and Roalesk's are running rampant. Unfortunately, fog-like effects are not super popular in Commander, as combat is almost always secondary compared to auto-wins or combos like Laboratory Maniac or Mindcrank/Duskmantle Guildmage. Although fogs aren't super relevant, having answers to cards like Constant Mists and/or Glacial Chasm is very important against Land-heavy decks. My personal advice: Play a really consistent, aggressively combat-heavy deck like Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma or Xenagos, God of Revels, and chuck one of these amazing beaters in the 99! If you can get away with Green Sun's Zenith, Chord of Calling and/or Finale of Devastation in your budget, you're never going to have problems finding it, and it can answer the kind of cards those deck can auto-lose to, mentioned above.
Out of the Legendary Artifact cycle released in Eldraine, the immediate card that stands out the most is The Great Henge. I could go on and on about how obviously Eternal this card is, but it would be rather redundant. Great Henge is going to see plenty of play for a long time. It's card draw, it's ramp, and its cheap. Play it. Let's talk about Embercleave.
Flash in red is unique, that's for sure. Cost reduction in red? Even crazier. This card is strange from start to finish. It wants you to be attacking with multiple creatures, but it buffs a single target. A lot of the buzz is around "Voltron" strategies, utilising Emberleave as a four to six mana costed win-condition. Embercleave may operate under those conditions effectively, but it's definitely designed with a "go wide" token strategy in mind. Attack with twenty 5/5 Elemental tokens, cast Embercleave on 1 of the unblocked attackers, dealing an additional chunk of damage! Giving Trample at flash speed in a red deck is also wild! Blocked attackers or no, Embercleave will force your opponent to think carefully about what and when to block. With voltron strategies, token strategies and even artifact synergies making great use of this card, Embercleave is a great investment for red players everywhere. I personally play a copy in my Feather, the Redeemed deck, and it never ceases to be an impactful threat.
Faeburrow Elder is another insane powerhouse in commander. Although it released in Throne of Eldraine, Elder is actually very reminiscent of a card released in 2008, Bloom Tender. Bloom Tender has been a huge threat in multiple formats, proving over and over again that the insane amount of mana it can generate in a single turn pushes it clean over the power limit of most cards in the whole game.
Printed in 2008, there is some logic behind Bloom Tender's success that can be attributed to the game is was designed for, and the game we play today. Tender was printed in a different time, and over the course of its life has become stronger and stronger (keep in mind that Bloom Tender has been a strong card its whole life) as 4 and 5 colour strategies become more and more viable. Commanders like Kenrith, the Returned King (another Eldraine powerhouse) and Golos, Tireless Pilgrim are injected into the game regularly in our current release cycle, so it's no surprise that Tender, and in extension Elder, are both going to continue to be all-stars for a very long time. Even 3 colour decks can make simple use of Faeburrow Elder, but being in Selesnya colours (white-green) Elder can prove a little limiting. Definitely a keeper.
Oko, Thief of Crowns. How long did you expect to get through this article before this monster had his turn in the spotlight?
It's definitely a useful ability, being able to soft-remove a commander by neutering it down into a 3/3 Elk, but his ultimate ability is hard to justify for an entire turn of sticking power and Food has proven almost entirely irrelevant in Commander, especially considering that most Simic (blue-green) decks usually utilise different strategies. Oko is arguably a neat addition to any deck that can play it, but it's a card that more often than not proves how different Standard can be to Commander.
My last card is actually an entire cycle. Castles. Eldraine is a plane littered with Human, Elf and even Giant cities with European inspiration all throughout. These monuments to civilisation, dubbed Castles, are some of the strongest mono-colour nonbasic lands available. While varying in power, none are by any definition "bad".
Even small effects, like Castle Ardenvale, which creates a 1/1 body for four mana, are hyper relevant when you consider that they are coming in untapped incredibly often, and generate coloured mana. This is really huge.
Castle Garenbrig actually offers an additional mana (four mana cost, and the initial tapping itself) for those building stompy, creature-based strategies and Embereth can potentially double the power of an attacking Goblin, Thopter or Servo horde. These lands, while not as ultimately powerful as something like the Battlebond land cycle, are auto-includes in mono coloured decks, and show promise for even 2 colour decks.
Castle Vantress seems like the best in the cycle, Scry 2 being awesome on a land, but they're all awesome cards to hold onto, or if you haven't picked them up yet, some of the more budget options for powerful land bases, an important asset to any commander player's arsenal.
Throne of Eldraine proves that even entire sets dedicated to the Standard can support Commander. As an Eternal format, Commander players are consistently looking for new pieces to add to decks that are sometimes over a decade old. There will always be a player who sees any card and thinks, "Oh yeah, that's the good stuff", and while Eldraine doesn't offer much to Commander compared to sets like Core Set 2021 or Battlebond did, it's proven that it does offer some very relevant cards to the game of Commander that will be played, or at the very least remembered, for a long, long time.