Monday, 16 December 2019 12:07

10 cards you should be playing in Commander (but aren’t)

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There are myriad cards that players can consider when building a deck for Commander. There are myriad cards that players can consider when building a deck for Commander. WOTC/MAGIC UNTAPPED

One of the best things about Commander (a.k.a. “EDH”) is the fact that it’s a legacy format.  That is, player are (within limits) able to use any card ever printed in the history of Magic: The Gathering.  Thanks to this, EDH players see all sorts of cards over the course of a play session.  Some, of course, appear more often than others (we’re looking at you, Sol Ring) and some, well, not quite so much.

While the odds of a player running something along the lines of Rakalite or Sorrow’s Path are rather slim, there are myriad cards that rarely make their way into people’s decks that just might deserve a little consideration.  Many of them are, thankfully, on the budget friendly end of the spectrum.

Below are ten such cards:

 Surprise Deployment

Surprise Deployment (12¢)

An often overlooked card out of Planeshift, Surprise Deployment can be the ultimate “gotcha” card.  Acting almost like a psudo-Through the Breach in white, Surprise Deployment is more than a card with great artwork.  It’s also a card that can really catch an opponent off guard.

While it’s too bad that it only allows for non-white creatures to be brought in (sorry False Prophet), sneaking in something with deathtouch (eg: Plague Engineer), a cool death trigger (eg: Wurmcoil Engine), a nice ETB effect (eg: Peregrine Drake), or a combination thereof (eg: Grave Titan) all seem like good ideas.  Plus, at worst, you’ll put in a surprise block to foil an opponent’s plan.  Even better, you might even take their attacking creature out of the picture in the process.  Also, if yours lives, you get it back to cast again later.

After all, who doesn’t like the element of surprise? (On a related note, why hasn’t Wizards printed a card called Surprise Elemental by now?  I mean, it kind of writes itself!)

 Primal Order

Primal Order (61¢)

An often forgotten card from an often overlooked set, Primal Order can be a straight-up EDH win condition for mono-green strategies.  How so?  Well, it puts players who play non-basic lands on a clock by dealing one damage to those players during each of their respective upkeeps for each non-basic land they control.  And, since non-basic lands are not only popular in EDH but a down-right necessity for most thanks to the format’s heavy multi-color lean, there's a very good chance your opponents will have quite a few.

When played in a mono-green deck, there are very few non-basics that are must-runs.  Even then, the self-inflicted damage will be minimal compared to that which your opponents will receive.

Sure, Primal Order might make you a bit of a target, but that can easily be handled by the prepared player.


Flickerform (49¢)

Despite a literal paragraph of rules text on the card, Flickerform is a surprisingly simple card.  For 2WW, you get to flicker the enchanted creature along with all other cards (ie: auras and equipment) that are attached to it with all of the above returning back to play at the beginning of the next end step.

It’s better than cards like Cloudshift in that the former lets you keep all of the goodies on said creature when it returns unlike the latter, which loses them.  It’s a great way to protect creatures from an untimely demise and is really key with Voltron strategies.  Come to think of it, it’s just useful in general.

Sort of like…


Vanishing (31¢)

Flickerform’s blue older brother, this card from Visions is very close to the same in effect as with Flickerform.  Due to how phasing works, however, while everything attached to said creature remains with it, what you lose are enter-the-battlefield effects.  With blinking and flickering, ETBs trigger.

With phasing, the creature never technically leaves the battlefield and, thusly, cannot make for bonus ETB triggers.  Still, it’s quite useful and nice (just ask draw-go players who rely on Rainbow Efreet as a win condition) – even if the creature doesn’t come into play until its controller’s next upkeep phase (unlike flickering, which brings the creature back at the end of the turn).

 Wrap in Vigor

Wrap in Vigor (44¢)

Are you looking for a cheap and efficient protection spell for every creature you control?  If so, then Wrap in Vigor just may be that card.

While it doesn’t protect your creatures from every single board wipe ever printed (eg: Wrath of God), it does protect against a fair number of them including Day of Judgment, Blasphemous Act, Cleansing Nova, and so on.  When somebody wipes the board or swings in to clear out your defending forces, you can save your entire team for a nice and neat two mana.  This can, quite possibly, put you way ahead of everyone else and really shift momentum in your favor.

While it’s not quite as good as the more recently printed Heroic Intervention (which costs the same and does more), it’s a much more budget-friendly option and can act as a quasi-second copy in the singleton EDH format.

 Thran Turbine

Thran Turbine ($1.85)

Because who doesn’t like free mana, right?  It’s an artifact with a casting cost of one that adds two colorless mana to your mana pool during your upkeep.  The catch, however, is that that mana cannot be used to cast spells.

That’s not really an issue in EDH, though, as the mana can be used to pay activated ability costs such as those found on popular commander cards like Scion of the Ur-Dragon, Varina, Lich Queen, Breya, Etherium Shaper, or Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (assuming you have the extra G available, of course), as well as a number of non-commander permanents with activated abilities or card upkeeps that Thran Turbine can fire off for what might as well be free.

While Thran Turbine’s ability may be restrictive, it can be very powerful in the right kinds of decks.

 Read the Runes

Read the Runes (47¢)

It’s a fantastic card draw spell with a lot of upside that people dismiss because of the last half of the card’s rule text.

While discarding cards and/or sacrificing permanents for each card drawn sounds like something that’s best avoided, it’s not nearly as cataclysmic as one might think on the surface.  Seeing as the cards are drawn before they’re discarded, players get to keep the best possible hand before ditching what’s unwanted or unnecessary (such as excess basic lands) and also gives players the opportunity to get out of a jam or fire off leave the battlefield triggers by letting them sacrifice their own permanents.  Furthermore, Read the Runes is aggressively costed – especially so seeing as it’s an instant.

In our opinion, it’s strictly better than Prosperity (which is played much more often) and can be a nice complement to other, more popular draw spells such as Blue Sun’s Zenith and Pull from Tomorrow.

 War Cadence

War Cadence (28¢)

While the power and popularity of cards like Propaganda and Ghostly Prison are well known, there’s a often forgotten variation of those cards found in red.  While the aforementioned tax players on a per-creature bases for attacking, the Mercadian Masques enchantment War Cadence taxes them for blocking.

Perfect for (and against) aggressive strategies, defending players have to pay X for each creature with which they’d like to block.  This means that they cannot block at all if they are tapped out or simply cannot afford the tax, or they’re blocking extremely inefficiently.  Any red-running deck that goes wide (even just a little bit) should be running this card 100% of the time.

Judging by its lack of popularity on EDHrec (it's used in less than 1% of all EDH decks), however, that seems to be far from the case.

 Island Sanctuary

Island Sanctuary ($2.72)

Who doesn’t like a Moat-like effect on the cheap?

While Island Sanctuary has the drawback of you skipping your draw phase to make it work, there are many ways (really, any card drawing engine) around that.  Plus, let’s point out that Island Sanctuary only affect creatures which are attacking you and your (or any one else’s) creatures attacking anyone else in the game, leaving you an unavailable target for anyone without flyers (not terribly uncommon) or Islandwalk (seriously, when will this be a problem?).

After all, who needs fair Magic?

 Feroz's Ban

Feroz’s Ban (25¢)

The second card from Homelands to make our list, Feroz’s Ban is a global affect that can really slow down player’s strategies.

Sure, the thing is a hefty cast at a whopping six mana, but there are ways to cheat it in and mana acceleration isn’t exactly hard to come by in the EDH to begin with.  And, really, it’s not so much for the creatures players may be looking to cast from their hand as Feroz’s Ban (in terms of EDH play) is acting more as a pre-tax for everyone’s commander.

Essentially, the card sets everyone’s commander back a bit by costing it as if the tax for bringing it out the second time around was already being applied.  And, for some commanders, that’s all it takes to make them a non-factor.

So, what are some of the more uncommon cards that find their way into your EDH decks?  Tell us what they are and why in the comment section below.  Your card and rationale just might find its way into one of our future lists.