Some cards seem like they should be staples in EDH, and yet never quite catch on. Kristen runs down her list of cards you should play more!
I’ve been on a bit of a roll with EDH recently. I completed building Shalai Voice of Plenty, Zara, Renegade Recruiter, Isshin, Two Heavens as One, Hofri Ghostforge, Massacre Girl and Ayli the Eternal Pilgrim all in the last month. I’ve also finished sorting my collection, and I’ve played a lot of great games of Commander on Spelltable recently.
Given I’m feeling pretty satisfied with my recent deckbuilding and gameplay experiences, I wanted to share some of that joy with y’all – so what about highlighting some of my favorite cards that I never really see played across the table?
My Favorite Cards You Should Play More
I feel like it’s good to be subjective from time to time as an EDH writer, because a lot of our work can fall into the marketing side of things, especially for new sets. There are also fewer chances to hear about personal experiences with the amped up release schedule of Magic these days, and so this felt like a great little palette cleanse before we get stuck into Streets of New Capenna.
Bolt Bend is probably my favorite card to cast in Commander right now, and always feels like the most powerful in my deck. It can do pretty much anything, from redirecting a removal spell, to stealing a card draw spell, to bouncing a game-changing ability to another player.
I’ve made some incredible plays with this card; two that stand out are redirecting a Bojuka Bog when I had a handful of recursion, and most recently, when my good friend Marcus directed Sorin Markov’s downtick at me to set my life at 10. Let’s just say he wasn’t best pleased when Bolt Bend resolved.
Bolt Bend is currently in 2% of eligible decks on EDHRec, which feels criminally low. This card is not an unknown quantity at this point, with plenty of content creators singing its praises. What strikes me as most wild about how underplayed it is is that Deflecting Swat is in 13% of decks, suggesting that maybe the people who upload decklists have a reasonably high income. If Swat makes it into 13% of decks, though, I’d argue Bolt Bend should be in at least as many, because it’s less than 1% of the price of a $43 Deflecting Swat.
Is EDHRec data clogged up by precons? Potentially. Or perhaps it’s tilted toward competitive and cEDH players, where Swat shows up more frequently. Either way, people should be playing Bolt Bend more. It wins games.
So if we entertain the hypothesis that EDHRec is clogged by precon and precon upgrade decklists, then surely Cursed Mirror – red all-star and one of the best cards in the Lorehold Legacies precon (one of the most popular Strixhaven precons) – should be pretty highly played, right?
Wrong. It’s in only 3% of eligible decks, lagging behind Archaeomancer’s Map from the same precon that finds itself in 6% of decks. While Map does answer a lot of problems that white faces as a color, this discrepancy makes no sense to me. Cursed Mirror is a disgustingly powerful card and one I can’t seem to find enough copies of.
I’ve made many a tempo-warping play with Cursed Mirror, with my favorite currently being to copy someone else’s Nyxbloom Ancient for a turn. Any deck that cares about EtB effects or attack triggers should be playing this card – and that’s basically any deck that isn’t trying to combo, but even then, some that are comboing still want this rock.
Archon of Cruelty
Considering Deflecting Swat is in so many decks, It’s hard to say whether price is really a barrier to people who put their decklists online. There’s certainly a notable contingent of uploaders who have to have their decklist as perfect as possible in order to avoid the banal cries of “Why aren’t you playing X card?!”, but we’re in the land of hypotheticals here, talking about biased data, so let’s not pretend that my assumptions are worth more than the next person’s.
That said, I’m assuming most people can’t afford to play Archon of Cruelty, because it’s in only 2% of eligible decks, and doesn’t even show up on the page of Top Black Cards. Eight mana spells should finish the game, and Archon does a great approximation of that for players who prefer creatures to instants or sorceries. It’s a huge tempo swing, is one of the best cards to reanimate or otherwise cheat into play, and works overtime in some of the more popular decks of recent times, like Isshin, Two Heavens as One.
I’ve personally found this card to be a real beating, and I’m playing it in multiple decks: Isshin, Chainer, Nightmare Adept, and Liesa, Forgotten Archangel, where it regularly helps me close out games. When even Sangromancer is in more decks on EDHRec there’s something amiss.
Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate
This article is at risk of becoming a commentary on the usefulness and biases of using online deckbuilding aggregators, but stick with me, because this one will really make you laugh: Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate is currently in fewer decks than Zendikar Resurgent. The seven mana enchantment is one I would consider as virtually unplayable in the current climate, while Vivien can perform an approximation of Tooth & Nail for only five mana.
Vivien lets you play creatures from the top of the deck, she makes sizeable token blockers that mostly come with reach to keep her in play, and she can tutor out any number of sweet creature combo pieces that are regularly played. Some of the things Vivien can set up are:
- Aurelia, the Warleader & Delina, Wild Mage
- Purphoros, God of the Forge & Saffi Eriksdotter
- Temur Sabertooth & Dockside Extortionist
- Loyal Retainers & Saffi Eriksdotter
- Pathbreaker Ibex & Urabrask, the Hidden
- Rionya & Combat Celebrant
- Avacyn, Angel of Hope & Serra’s Emissary
- Bruna & Gisela to build Brisela
That’s honestly just scratching the surface; I love playing this card. Most recently I saw a player had By Invitation Only on top of their library, so I used Vivien to enable me to dig Sigarda out of my deck by casting a more expensive Angel.
It’s only fair to pivot discussion to a dirt cheap and widely played card if we’re truly investigating the concept of underplayed cards here, which it looks like we are. Harrow is mostly better than Cultivate and Kodama’s Reach in more decks than the relative ratios on EDHRec would lead you to believe. Harrow currently sits at 14%, versus Kodama’s Reach at 35% and Cultivate at 49%. I’m not sure that this ratio is correct, because way more of the near 50% of green decks benefit from Harrow.
Harrow has a few things going for it. First off, it can be played at instant speed. This is valuable when holding up interaction and card draw. Second, it brings the two basic lands in untapped, which lets you perform other actions after ramping. It also enables cards that care about sacrificing permanents, and it can help decks that play around in the graveyard to stock up on lands or just cards in the yard. Let’s face it – that’s most decks.
You could say that Harrow is more comparable to two mana ramp as it only leaves you up one land, but the fact of the matter is that two and three mana are far more different than Cultivate and Harrow. Whether you’re playing Harrow with Korvold or Flagstones of Trokair, or whether you have activated abilities or a lot of instants, or you just want to hold up interaction – play more of this card.
Seasons Past & Reconstruct History
Seasons Past is in just 2% of decks, with Reconstruct being slightly higher at 5% of eligible decks. I’ve kinda cheated here and grouped them together, because I think they functionally do the same thing; you’re just paying a little more in green because you get to return creatures and lands more easily, and you get the chance to do it all again.
What they both do, however, is enable explosive turns, and that’s what’s important in casual EDH these days. While cards like Eternal Witness and Regrowth are great because they’re cheap, I value them less and less as the format seems to speed up. It’s often better to recover wholesale from a boardwipe or sustained removal by taking part of a turn off to grab a fistful of cards than to grab one piece of the puzzle and hope to recur that creature again. It’s also why I’m pretty high on Remember the Fallen and the new Season of Renewal in decks that like that effect; I play them in Syr Gwyn and Sigarda, Host of Herons respectively.
At the end of the day, grabbing a Boros Charm or Bolt Bend plus a way to draw cards, ramp, or remove a problem permanent with Reconstruct History is often the floor, and the ceiling is a lot higher. With Seasons Past, the branches push right out of the canopy.
Speaking of good Boros cards, Duergar Hedge-Mage sees practically no play at only 2% of decks, which is frankly absurd when you look at the more popular Boros Commanders. Hedge-Mage is in around 4,000 decks. The sum total of Depala, Pilot Exemplar, Hofri Ghostforge and General Ferrous Rockric decks exceeds that, and it should be in practically every one of those decks plus a good proportion of the other Boros decks on the list – and that’s without looking outside of Boros in Mardu and Naya.
I’ve been flickering this guy with Teleportation Circle way too much recently, and it feels every bit as disgusting as it sounds. With Ephemerate being such a good card in Boros decks, people really should consider hedging their bets by adding this Dwarf to their builds.
Author of Shadows
Author of Shadows is in only 1% of black decks, and I think that’s rather low. Admittedly, it isn’t in the usual mana range for aristocrats decks, and it’s on the high end, casting wise, for GY hate, but I’ve never not seen this card do a lot of work.
Of course, the natural pairing for this is a full-bodied Living Death, but even if you’re not reaching those lofty heights, you can still stand to gain value from this thing. Getting to cast a spell from those exiled is the dessert to Author’s main course, and I recommend a protection spell like Heroic Intervention, or a hand refill, unless you need a removal spell. I love recommending Dire Fleet Daredevil, but I think it’s finally breaking through to more regular play now. Author could stand to see a little more love, especially when it takes pages from Dire Fleet’s playbook.
Erebos, Bleak-Hearted: or What in Heliod’s Name is Going On Here?!
Erebos is currently in only around 2% of decks, which feels pretty low. It’s especially low when you look at how many of the best aristocrats decks are running him; Teysa and Liesa are around 16% with Meren coming in below even that.
I won’t stop championing ways to draw cards that don’t cost mana, especially when they can be abused with tokens. To see Erebos so low in deckbuilding truly pains me, especially when Liliana, Dreadhorde General is so popular – and so expensive. While Liliana is also removal, it’s also way easier to remove from play, costs two mana more, and won’t stick around that long. Erebos performs arguably the most important part of that card – drawing cards for free. While losing life is a very real drawback, decks that want this card have no problems padding out their life totals, and decks that want Liliana quite often want Erebos as well.
If there’s one card I want to see played more today, it’s this one.
And Now For Something More Fun: Vernal Equinox
Vernal Equinox is in only 800 decks, and for once, I completely understand why. It’s a symmetrical Vedalken Orrery for enchantments and creatures, which can really backfire on you. That said, it’s also some of the most fun I’ve ever had in games of Commander. Vernal Equinox allows for a lot more stack-fu in games dominated by permanents, giving the players who predominantly play creatures more to do and more decisions to make.
While it can help others more than you, that’s also a boon in many ways, and one of the reasons I run it in my Sigarda, Host of Herons enchantress build. It’ll stick when a Vedalken Orrery won’t, and provided you can ensure it’s still benefiting you more than anyone else, it’ll give you a second copy of Sigarda’s Aid that can sometimes drop in a Mirari’s Wake end of turn.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour through some of my favorite cards. I play all of these in my EDH decks, with some of them making it into more than one build. They bring me a lot of joy, and also a lot of wins!
In a way we’ve also looked at how hard it can be to make sense of decklist aggregators; the data is inherently biased in different ways for different cards, considering some of the percentages differ for different reasons. Of course, these examples were biased in themselves, and born from assumptions that I know what I’m talking about and my opinion has some weight. Your main takeaway should be that while consulting numerous sources can provide relevant information, you should value empirical decision making higher. Your meta is unique to you, so get out there and play some games!
Let me know if you’ve had some wild plays with today’s cards on Twitter.
Kristen is Card Kingdom’s Head Writer, and member of the Commander Advisory Group. Formerly a competitive Pokémon TCG grinder, she has been playing Magic since Shadows Over Innistrad, which in her opinion, was a great set to start with. When she’s not taking names with Equipment and Aggro strategies in Commander, she loves to play any form of Limited.