I hope you kept the gift receipt, because Kristen would like to return these cards for a refund. Commander got a bunch of great new cards in 2022, but there are some additions to the format we didn’t really need.
When it comes to cards that honestly weren’t really needed for the Commander format, it’s useful to zone in on some criteria. Obviously a bunch of commons and uncommons don’t count, and neither do the vast majority of cards printed for Standard. I could mention any number of powerful haymakers, or Lord Xander, but those cards were printed as much for 60-card formats as for anything else, and they’re incredibly subjective. I can’t just pick “unfun” or highly-pushed cards.
Instead, I’ve tried to be subjectively…objective. These are the cards the format didn’t need, in my totally unwarranted and unasked for opinion. I’d be happy to wrap them and send them right on. Not for me, thank you. If you want to see the cards I think were stellar gifts this year, you can check this piece out.
Who Asked for this?
One with the Kami is such a weirdly specific card, and it opens up a bunch of combos with hitherto unplayed gems Ashnod’s Altar, Skullclamp, Phyrexian Altar and Lightning Greaves. In case that was too Bri’ish for you, that was sarcasm.
I’m struggling to recall a Commander or archetype that would want to play this card over the many existing win conditions available because, in a vacuum, it’s not the most playable card outside of combos. There are easier ways in green to amass tokens, and they’re usually much stronger than 1/1 colorless spirits.
It’s fine for “weaker” cards to exist, but this one doesn’t really offer much that makes me want to run it. Ignoring Chishiro decks (which are mostly precon lists), only 84 people run it in Ivy decks. So yeah, I don’t think I’m the only one.
Kodama Didn’t Fall Far from the East-Tree
You know what? I like this card. Like many of the cards on this list, I run it. And you know what? It’s been every bit as absurdly powerful as I figured it would be. I run it in my Sigarda enchantress build and it gets me two to three lands a turn. That might not seem like much, but consider for a moment that that is the floor of the card. In +1/+1 counter oriented decks, it’s entirely possible this thing pulls all of the basics out of your deck in a couple of turn cycles.
There’s a chance it becomes a pattern in this article, but I’m really not a fan of putting the enabler and the payoff on the same card — even more so when it’s a Legendary creature that can be put in the zone… and especially when it’s only three mana. Being able to block and also give the rest of your creatures that want to connect the ability to connect pushes this over the edge.
Yes, it’s answerable by removal. But so is Kodama of the East Tree, and that one’s crazy powerful. too. This thing Ent kidding around.
Staple jokes are a little worn out by now, so I’ll go with Instant Crush instead. If you got lucky opening Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, you might have opened a Boseiju, Who Endures. The whole cycle of channel lands is honestly incredible, but players around the world all want the green one because it’s a very hard to counter disenchant that’s also a Ghost Quarter effect. It answers so many things you’re essentially playing a worse version of your green deck if it isn’t running this card.
“G.O.A.T Staples,” as I like to call them, are obviously pushed on the Commander playerbase and are generally quite unhealthy if they’re too widespread in application.
Forsaken Monument for colorless decks? Love it. A free disenchant in the mana base that needs a stifle to counter it? Eh. There’s a reason cards like Smuggler’s Copter got banned from Standard — ubiquity. Ubiquity is boring.
It’s the payoff. It’s the enabler. It enables… pain. The Paynabler — and you best start using that one — is less the glue that holds the deck together and more the *googles*
Chlorine Triflouride that ignites completely on its own, regardless of the other cards in the deck.
Professional Face-Breaker is our Paynabler of 2022, and though I love playing with it, it’s a card that ends up being kill on sight due to how out of control it can get. Treasures are ubiquitous now, and you don’t need a Dockside Extortionist to enjoy the spoils of war.
I think dropping Menace off of Face-breaker might have saved some face. But either way, I dislike cards like this. We’re likely to keep getting more of them, though. It’s the hallmark of modern card design.
Dihada, Binder of Wills is a paynabler that… is hard to dislike, honestly. Mardu midrange decks have been crying out for some of the consistency UGx decks have had access to for years at this point. And you have to hand it to Dihada! She does fix that problem.
The problem is she fixes it a little too well. Guaranteed ritual, graveyard filling and/or card draw in the Command Zone is very powerful, and what frustrates me the most is she edges out so many other, older Orzhov, Boros and Mardu Commanders that were already on life support, offering the fast-food equivalent of consistency for the low low price of four mana.
But It Just Feels… White
Like mayonnaise, beige British food and aversion to all things spicy, Gala Greeters feels a bit white. Sadly, treasure generation is no longer part of white’s color pie, so this card exists in green instead. It’s a good job, really, as green was crying out for more mana generation and fixing at a low mana cost. Putting it on an elf makes a niche tribe more relevant, too.
Yeah idk, Gala Greeter just seems unnecessary. Maybe I’m just not ready for green to care about artifacts.
99 Cuts for my Atraxa Deck, but this Ain’t One
Brokers Ascendancy isn’t played in Standard at the moment, and it’s easy to see why. It’s hard to cast on curve and you need it on curve to really get the most out of it. It’s ostensibly a Commander oriented card, and at that, obviously pushed for Atraxa and other superfriends/counters decks.
If you like to do a lot of admin work in your games of Commander, you probably won’t pass up on playing this. Me? I’ve already started passing up Cathars’ Crusade because I literally can’t be bothered to tick up my dice constantly. I’m lazy. Sue me.
I think what’s most boring about this card is it wasn’t really needed? There’s just so much competition in the noncreature, nonland section of decks that can play this card that ultimately it’s six of one and half a dozen of another. Well, seven by the time we reach the end of the article, I guess. Fitting, given seven is the number EDH players detest the most.
Terastodon, Your Job is Safe
This was never going to be a constructed card, was it? The fact you can’t blow up lands means it’s way harder to use aggressively, and the fact that the tokens it creates have Flying means you can end up walling yourself off from good attacks if you choose poorly.
It’s fine in draft, I suppose. But when you’re channeling Nasty Terasty, you can’t help but invite comparisons.
Terastodon is much more flexible and barely sees play as it is, compared to years past. Maybe one day, if we get a dedicated Bant Clues Commander (partners don’t count), Soul of Emancipation might see play. Until then? No thanks.
Color Pie? What Color Pie?
I love the Color Pie. It’s a great balancing tool that gives every color and combination of colors a unique feel — at least until you get to four or more color decks, which I’d argue aren’t nearly as cool as decks using less colors.
One thing blue has historically struggled with is mass creature removal, and I’m sorry to say The Phasing of Zhalfir kinda misses for me. Ixidron is on theme for blue, and not truly getting rid of the original creatures offers a really nice touch. Curse of the Swine is very strong, but it’s unlikely we’ll see something that strong again.
I think the main issue here is R&D are listening way too much to players who think control is a net-negative to the Commander experience, are shying away from bounce wraths and instead opting to give blue tools in other parts of the color pie so as to sit better in the social/casual nexus of Commander. While this annoys me, that annoyance is tempered somewhat by the fact white is getting hooked up in a similar way with cards that help it play in that social/casual area of the metagame.
Honestly, though? Out of Time feels more blue than The Phasing of Zhalfir. I think you could have switched the colors and removed the creature tokens from the latter and it’d work just fine.
Speaking of questionable removal… Haywire Mite has come to say goodnight to Caustic Caterpillar. While you can’t hit creatures with Mite, you can hit Theros Gods who are offline and exile them. I mean, the whole exile thing is what makes this card so busted.
It’s also one whole mana cheaper than Caterpillar, when all’s said and done. As much as I think exile removal is important in the format, giving it to green in the form of an easily recurable, cheap artifact with upside seems a bit much.
I’m just not sure who this is for. If you’re optimizing around the lifegain triggers to combo, I’d say there were better Commanders. If you want to build a flavorful build, there are also way better options — at least in my opinion, which is known to be wrong.
It’s uninspired and could have had… a payoff. OK, I’m a hypocrite, but I said it. The card is just a bit boring.
“But Kristen, it’s not designed for Commander.”
OK, then why is it Legendary, then?
Jodah’s Technicolor Dreamcoat
Coat of Jodah is a powerful effect. If that was the only ability printed on Jodah, he’d still be pretty cool. But it turns out The First Sliver is a popular magic card, so Jodah naturally follows in its footsteps.
Admittedly, it’s not quite as powerful as giving legendary spells cascade, but it’s still bonkers given he turns all Legendary spells into… two. Now, this is easy to build around, too, because you ensure your mana rocks/ramp are nonlegendary, meaning you’re going to get haymakers or value cards every time.
I think what makes Jodah so difficult to clock is he will be used mostly for casual decks, meaning his raw power and consistency at those tables is going to be a force to be reckoned with. I generally dislike five color commanders that give too much free value, and unfortunately for me, Jodah just cinches over that line.
It’s hard to say what kind of pod this card sits best in. I play it in the 99 of my Sisay, Weatherlight Captain deck, where it adds oodles of value and helps with infinite mana combos with Najeela and Selvala.
One More Time
In an era where we see so many new cards, and an era where the average player has five or more Commander decks, it’s easy to dismiss the initial hype around Plaza of Heroes. By now, you’ve either seen it played and not be relevant during the game or not played at all.
I’m in the latter category; I haven’t seen one hit the table yet. I think for that reason, many have cooled off on this land — but I think they’re wrong.
Plaza of Heroes is another Instant Crush, and it’s going to be at home in more Commander decks than even Arcane Signet, thinking objectively. Modern Commanders are greedy about being built around and want to be on the field.
They’re absolutely worth protecting, and shoving an effect into the manabase — like the fantastic Sejiri Shelter and Malakir Rebirth — is just another way to eek out more spells than just the 60 or so nonland cards in your deck.
Moderation is the Cure to Bothersome Design
All things are best in moderation when it comes to Commander. Removal, board wipes, Fogs, Counterspells — you name it, it’s more fun when it isn’t recurred ad nauseam. One thing I got tired of pretty quickly this year was putting Goad on literally everything, without having a way to punish the Goader.
Playing in pods in the middle of the year that featured a combination of Breena, Goad based Commanders and some of the new, absurd go-wide payoffs like Jetmir was some of the most on-rails Magic I’ve ever played, and I didn’t care for it.
There needs to be some kind of hatebear that punishes Goad. I don’t care what it does. Ideally, it would allow Goaded creatures to attack the Goader, and have something else tasty like “Damage can’t be prevented” tacked on, too. I just want some way to interact that’s cheap and/or onboard.
Goad leads me onto my last gripe, which is the Initiative. This has been talked about at length online, and I’m not about to sit and both-sides it, because this is my column and because these are cards I’m a bit sick of. It’s completely subjective, so sit down.
Commander has a problem in 2022, and its complexity creep. It’s already a high order making sense of a format with so many cards and combinations of abilities, and adding extra things to keep track of can be hugely fun-dampening for some players.
I have ADHD, and I hate having to think about the different modes on the Undercity or on other dungeons. Why should I have to keep one at hand to try and preempt what’s going to happen later in the game?
I played a game recently where the Goad part of Undercity ended up deciding the game. It just so happened the dungeons player missed it, but I guarantee there would have been some salt had we lost because we didn’t remember what an outside-the-game game piece might have triggered maybe.
This is probably more of a Spelltable issue than a paper one, but even then, complexity creep is something to keep an eye on. If I wanted to play a board game, I’d pick up something else. The closer Commander gets to Planechase, the less likely I am to want to play.
So, those are the cards and effects I personally think the format could have done without this year. What are yours? Let me know 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.