Everyone’s experiences with Commander are as unique as the decks they play. No matter whether you play cEDH or your favorite deck is Crab Tribal, two of your games will never play out exactly the same way. There’s an enjoyable feeling of transience to every game for me, knowing that each game you experience is unique. I also try to make sure that my decks are never exactly the same as someone else’s; this gives me a real sense of “owning” the deck in every aspect, right down to the individual elements.
This approach to deck-building often leads me to seek out and discover some obscure and unusual cards. Today, I’ll be showing you some of my favorite finds from my travels through the depths of Commander. You might find that one card you’ve been looking for, or something that might spark the inspiration for a brew!
As Magic is at its best when it’s at its most inclusive, I want to make sure that players at any budget can find some real gems here. As such, all cards listed will be under $5 at the time of writing.
White isn’t exactly brimming with forms of card advantage, but it definitely has more options than most people think. All you have to do is to look for it in different ways. Enduring Renewal is one of those unconventional ways to gain value. It’s a unique card, with many different applications.
It can fit into aggressive decks as a way to commit to the board with little concern for mass removal, it can be used in Aristocrats strategies to keep the value engine running, and it can even fill a role in specific combo decks. I run it in Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle as a way to go infinite with a sacrifice outlet and a zero-mana creature like Ornithopter. While it does make you play with your hand revealed, your opponents will likely know its contents, anyway: either your hand will be empty from flooding the board with reckless abandon, or you’ll be filling it with your on-board creatures while you loop them endlessly for value!
Removal is a field in which white truly excels. From Swords to Plowshares to Wrath of God, you will never be short of ways to deal with creatures. But sometimes you want your cards to have more use than just creature removal, and this is where Captured by the Consulate comes in.
This aura prevents a creature from attacking instead of killing it outright, which can be invaluable against Voltron strategies. It also acts as a form of protection, allowing you to redirect subsequent removal spells toward that creature instead. This is especially useful if you have creatures that are key to your game plan. It doesn’t prevent blocking or activated abilities, but removing a threat while forcing another player to also waste a spell on it is fantastic!
Blue is infamous for its removal, or more specifically, its lack of it. Many blue-heavy decks run a couple of bounce spells like Into the Roil to keep problematic permanents at bay, generate tempo, or even protect a creature in a pinch. Being able to kick Into the Roil to draw a card is nice, but blue certainly isn’t lacking in card draw.
In most of my decks, I use Run Away Together instead. This innocuous common from Throne of Eldraine is really a sleeper card in multiplayer formats; bouncing two threats for two mana is a welcome effect in many mono-blue decks, and protecting a creature while dealing with another is also a great use. It can even be used as a political tool: I’ve earned favor from players by removing a threat while allowing another player to replay their Wall of Omens. As a fan of modal spells, particularly in singleton formats, this is an auto-include in most of my decks.
One of the biggest weaknesses of aggressive decks is the constant need for battlefield presence. One good board wipe, and you can be set back to the stone age. When I take my Anowon, the Ruin Thief deck out for a spin, I always have to be careful about how much I commit to the board for this very reason. When I went searching for an answer to this issue, I was shocked to learn that Teferi’s Veil exists, as well as how easy it is on both your mana and your wallet.
Two mana to protect your creatures from sorcery-speed board wipes is a blessing, and at just a dollar, it’s a steal. This would fit beautifully into other aggressive decks like Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive, but it also has a sweet interaction with Sedris, the Traitor King. As the creatures you reanimate with their ability are phased out at the end of combat, they never get affected by the exile clause, meaning they will simply phase back in the following turn.
There are plenty of ways to protect your commanders in black, from giving indestructibility with Rush of Vitality to instant reanimation with Kaya’s Ghostform. However, most of them have some sort of drawback. They might be single-use effects like Undying Evil, or they may require repeated resource investments, like with Skeletal Grimace.
Blessing of Leeches is a fantastic choice that you can use repeatedly for zero mana, at the low cost of one life per turn. Regeneration isn’t ideal for commanders that always want to be attacking, but for generals that just need to be on the battlefield to succeed, there are few better ways to maintain their presence. Playing this at instant speed is also the perfect way to blow players out, especially if you’re using it to protect Syr Konrad, the Grim from a board wipe.
There are two types of players: those who play with Blood Moon, and those who hate it. While it can be useful in slowing down or punishing decks with greedy mana bases, it often makes you into the first enemy of the table. Eventually, someone will destroy it, but no one will forget how miserable you made the first few turns. In my opinion, the best use of Blood Moon is to turn off the abilities of utility lands like Maze of Ith and Field of the Dead.
Blood Sun is perfect for anyone that wants to punish decks that rely heavily on fetch lands or utility lands, but you don’t want to paint a target on your back. It’s great at reducing the disparity between higher-end and more budget-focused decks, and it draws a card to minimize the resources used to do so. While it is a more “fixed” version of Blood Moon, that doesn’t mean you can’t run both if you’re feeling particularly punishing!
A lot of red decks run Pyroblast, Red Elemental Blast, or both, and for good reason: blue is incredibly powerful, and blue players shouldn’t get to have all of the fun! We’ve seen other red cards printed recently that also challenge spells on the stack, the most notable ones being Bolt Bend and Deflecting Swat. While both are brilliant additions to red’s limited suite of tools, we can always benefit from more options to choose from.
Shunt is a bulk rare from Darksteel that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. The ideal targets for this would be something like a Time Warp or Blue Sun’s Zenith, but when saving a creature from removal or joining in on counter wars is the floor on a card, it’s worth a slot in your deck. This is a real sleeper, and a steal at less than fifty cents for a copy!
Squelch is a pet card of mine; nobody plays around it, it replaces itself, and it can really knock someone’s game plan off-course. Squelch is actually a color-shifted version of Bind, a rare from Invasion that sees just as little play. The reason I’m focusing on Bind here is because blue counterspells are a dime-a-dozen, and your opponents are likely to expect them.
Countering an activated ability on its own is nothing particularly special, but when it also draws a card, suddenly Stifling a fetchland feels even better than it should. There are countless targets for Bind in the format, too: countering equip abilities, stopping a Maze of Ith from saving a player from lethal, neutralizing a lethal Aetherflux Reservoir activation, preventing a Planeswalker from activating its ultimate… The list is endless.
One of the more niche uses for protection spells like Malakir Rebirth or Undying Evil is that they can be used as a political tool in a pinch: “I’ll save your commander if you promise to take out one of the other players first” is something I’ve heard from several players running black decks, but very rarely from a green pilot.
Reincarnation gives green players an exceptional tool: you can use it to save your own creature or a prospective ally’s commander, but you can also use it in more interesting ways. This card lets you return any creature from that player’s graveyard to their battlefield, not just the one that died, meaning you can use it to reanimate a much bigger threat, too. As you get to decide what creature comes back from that player’s graveyard, it can give you some powerful leverage in a volatile situation.
I make no efforts to hide my love and affinity for the Izzet League. They fly by the seat of their pants, approach everything with just enough information to get started, and use their improvisational skills to luck their way through the rest. And there’s no time when I feel more aligned to this ethos than when I’m casting Invent.
This niche uncommon from Guilds of Ravnica is close to being my favorite card of all time. It’s an unbelievably flexible spell, with so many applications no matter what you’re facing. Invert can be used to wreak havoc in a combat situation, as switching the power and toughness of two creatures can spell disaster for both sides. It can also be used to either reduce or increase damage, whether it’s used defensively or offensively. Invent, however, is where the real possibilities open up. You can grab cards like Treasure Cruise and Fact or Fiction for extra value, fetch up removal like Mizzium Mortars and Run Away Together, or even tutor for other tutors like Fabricate and Whir of Invention.
Invert // Invent can also reduce the amount of effort needed to pull off a combo. For example, Ral, Storm Conduit deals infinite damage with Doublecast and Expansion // Explosion, and it just so happens that you can grab both of them with Invent!
Commander decks are the most fun to play when you make them yours. There’s a rite of passage in Magic that happens when another player has to ask you to read or explain a card you’re playing that they’ve never seen before. Those that have experienced that feeling know both how satisfying it is, and how it inspires you to make it happen again. Whether you’ve yet to have this experience or you’re looking for it after a while, hopefully these hidden treasures will help you achieve it!
Scott is an Irish content creator and the Head of Budget Magic for the Izzet League. He focuses on affordable decks in Pioneer, Modern, and Pauper, particularly ones that stray from the mainstream. When he’s not writing about his favorite decks, he can be found talking incessantly about them on Twitter and on The Budget Magic Cast.