Hi Commander enthusiasts! Today I’m starting up what I hope to be a regular feature here on the blog: Commander Staples!
What is a ‘Staple?’ Generally speaking, it’s a fundamental contributing part of something. A common way to look at staples is with people’s food intake. Many people rely on carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice, etc as a foundational part of their diet. These food items are known as Food Staples, or Staple Foods, because they are so integral.
Food Staples and Commander Staples are both fundamentals, but they have some other wrinkles in common, too. It’s interesting to note that they are both non-essential, as decks and diets can absolutely be built without them, and that they are filler to some degree. Food Staples will keep you alive, but Humans require a balance of nutrients/vitamins/minerals to function at peak. Similarly, Commander is often about things like theme, synergy, playstyle, etc., not just smashing my Staples into yours. Staples make those sort of concepts go, and make it easier to have them work in the greater chaos of Magic the Gathering. But if your deck is all about Ponies, or a particular movie, it’s unlikely that a lot of Staples will show that off. Something like Sol Ring is played in a very high percentage of Commander decks, but how many themes have a ring, let alone a burning, sun-themed (or solo/alone/loneliness-themed) ring?
It doesn’t matter, because Sol Ring is a Staple. What it does is more important than what it is. Nearly every deck needs as much mana as they can get. It can be played in literally every deck. It pays out double what it costs on the same turn it’s played. It can be played turn one, and pays for a surprisingly awesome amount of powerful cards, like Lightning Greaves or Signets. Also turn one.
Even if every CMC in your entire deck is a coloured mana symbol, Sol Ring can help with Commander Tax, activation costs, and paying for the costs of opponents’ cards like Rhystic Study or Smothering Tithe. The Commander format, and other Staples, can definitely dictate how a Staple is defined.
Taking Sol Ring and other Staples to another level strategically is sometimes a matter of looking at what’s easy to ignore. Sol Ring is an artifact, which is obvious but probably gets the least attention of all its qualities, and because of that, plays nicely with cards that want to sacrifice artifacts for value, turn them into creatures (or even equipment), or untap them a lot.
Again, that may seem obvious, but this kind of thing helps mitigate the downside of Sol Ring, which is that it’s a lousy topdeck late in a game when you need a powerful spell. If you’re already using artifacts for some sort of juice, drawing a late game Sol Ring becomes fuel for a bigger play, and not just a couple extra mana you may not need.
Is there a reason to not play Sol Ring, or other Staples? Plenty, although Sol Ring is tough to argue on things like cost and availability. Decks that want to destroy or tax artifacts might not want it. Theme decks can make an easy case against it. Some people take pride in not playing it, because they think it’s either too strong or unbalanced or makes things too easy. Maybe you play regularly against a deck that steals it from you each and every game like clockwork. Your experience and meta will ultimately decide, but Staples like Sol Ring will make a strong case for themselves. It’s part of being a Staple.
From a financial/collector standpoint, Sol Ring is really easy to get. It has been printed in every Commander precon to date, and I expect that to be the norm. However, there is no end to demand for these things. Despite heavy printing, they maintain a cost of about $3-5 US. Canada is similar, but we can expect to pay at least 10% more, depending on the card. Many Commander players start out by buying a precon, and a part of the reason why this is such a good idea is that you’re guaranteed a Sol Ring.
Finally, Staples can be a great place to put your bling, so to speak. If you like to get shiny cards, or alt-arts, or any kind of showy option for both you and your opponents to appreciate, why not get those versions of cards you’ll play a lot? There are some very expensive Sol Ring options out there. Like these.
The prices might shock you, but those things are going to spend a lot of time on the field getting turned sideways and looking good doing it. Commander is, after all, a singleton format. You really only need one, and if you have multiple decks, can move it around to whatever you’re currently playing.
I have a Revised Sol Ring that I got signed by Mark Tedin at a Grand Prix a few years back (the one pictured as the article header is not mine, but similar). It usually goes in the deck I play in Commander Challenges, or take to casual Commander night. I have other Sol Rings, but that’s the one I want both myself and others to see. It’s cool and it tells a story. Oh yeah, and it taps for 2 mana.
So in summation, a Staple is a powerful card that goes in a lot of decks. It might not go in every deck, but it’s usually a consideration, even if it doesn’t fit any theme the deck is try to do. Staples are often multi-dimensional, or at least have some sweet tricks beyond the normal patterns of play. Staples play into the uniqueness of the format, and rise to it. If you’re looking for worthwhile cards to get for a wide range of Commander decks, Staples are the place to start, and can also be the best way to express yourself and how you play the game. Thanks for reading, and check back for more coverage on the Staples of Commander!