10 Commander Cards That Overperform

Kristen GregoryCommander

This week, Kristen covers some EDH cards that tend to overperform. These Commander cards aren’t quite staples, but are perhaps worth another look. 

Like many of you reading this, I play a lot of Commander. One thing I love about the format is the sheer number of cards you have to choose from when building a deck. There are plenty of format staples, sure, but then there are the other 99% of cards that don’t always make the shortlist alongside Sol Ring, Jeska’s Will and Cultivate. Today, I’d like to cover some cards that don’t always make it into the 99, but when they do? I’m convinced they overperform, and I’ll tell you why.


As someone that plays a lot of Boros-based equipment decks, Thieving Skydiver terrifies me. Naturally, when I’m playing blue decks, Skydiver is a slam-dunk include, because I’m acutely familiar with the kinds of decks this thing works so well against. This wily Merfolk has many applications:

  • Take an opposing Mana Rock to ramp yourself while also putting the opponent at a mana disadvantage. This tempo swing is huge when it involves a Sol Ring, and you might get even more value if the opponent then uses their spot removal to remove their own Mana Rock!
  • Taking a Lightning Greaves or Swiftfoot Boots – this one is always a great play, because you simultaneously open up whatever creature the opponent was protecting to be removed, whilst also getting some free protection for your own key piece. Double the value, twice the fall.
  • Taking a Sword of Feast and Famine, or Sword of the Animist, or basically any value equipment can give you not only an initial tempo swing when you cast the Skydiver, but more tempo gains the following turns if you can retain control of the equipment you stole. The auto-equip to Skydiver helps with managing your mana, too, and you can also use the trigger to auto-equip your own equipment in a pinch.
  • Taking an engine piece or combo piece can stop a deck from comboing out, or from powering through their game plan. Taking an Ashnod’s Altar or Panharmonicon can really throw a wrench into an opponent’s plans. 


So for the longest time, exile-based removal felt absolutely necessary, because most graveyard removal was symmetrical, slow, and took up slots in the deck that you otherwise wanted to use on other cards. I’d say the format has changed, though. First off, we’ve gotten access to some incredible asymmetrical graveyard hate attached to useful cards like Unlicensed Hearse, Nautiloid Ship, Stonespeaker Crystal and Soul-Guide Lantern. The other compounding factor here is that the format has sped up a little, with games ending closer to turn 8 than to turn 10. Naturally, you’ll want to get as many 2-for-1s as possible in a shorter game, and getting to remove a Smothering Tithe and someone’s Commander is a pretty good deal for four mana. 


You can’t always have a Teferi’s Protection or Heroic Intervention or Counterspell in hand, and, rather than filling my deck with too many redundant reactive effects, I do enjoy having some on-board tricks. I recently opined about how Deathless Angel feels great again, and, for similar reasons, I’d like to suggest you run a bit more Stamina. Stamina gives a creature Vigilance, which is always nice, but it also can be sacrificed to regenerate your creature. This is board wipe protection I can get behind, and, if nowhere else, it should see more play in enchantress lists.


Since release, I’ve used this fog a bunch, and I’m convinced it’s one of the better ones out there – if for no other reason than nobody likes to play against Constant Mists. Getting rid of an opposing graveyard at instant speed is a great way to interact, and it’s even better when they don’t see it coming. It’s also a way to ensure you don’t deck yourself in longer games. I had a game recently where this was super relevant as I was down to about five cards in my library; one of them was Blessed Respite.


Selfless Spirit is somehow in fewer decks than Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, All That Glitters, and – more egregiously – Unbreakable Formation. While part of that is due to cost – with the Spirit recently reprinted in Commander decks for Baldur’s Gate – I’m hoping that more people pick this guy up now. What makes Selfless Spirit so good is that there will always be a board wipe in Commander, and it’ll usually be around turn 4-6. Holding up mana on those turns requires a decent amount of guesswork, and also has the risk of losing you tempo if you aren’t a deck that plays primarily on the stack. 

Spirit doesn’t require mana, and comes down early. It’s evasive, wears equipment well, and can get you your combat damage triggers. It’s everything I want and more, and it can be recurred easily. 


Speaking of recursion, Brought Back is always unexpected, and always memorable. What makes it so good is that you’re usually able to fire this off right at the end of a turn in which a player has board wiped; they will have spent their remaining mana, in all probability, and so this isn’t likely to be countered. What’s more, it can beat out a reactive trick because in those moments when you cast Blacksmith’s Skill or Boros Charm, a player will want to blow you out with single target removal so that you don’t get to benefit from the board wipe more than other players. With Brought Back, this can’t happen, because the permanents aren’t there in the first place. It’s in those finer details of how to play a card, and why, that these seemingly medium cards can overperform. 


You can keep your Dockside Extortionists, your Jeska’s Wills and your Ruthless Technomancers, because there’s a far cheaper way to generate a bunch of mana. In fact, this thing is only $0.69, which is pretty nice. 

Burnt Offering can be used in multiple ways. If you’re wanting to wrath, you can trade in a fattie for anywhere from five to eight mana, giving you much more to do with your turn after you wipe the board. It can also be cast in response to a wrath, giving you free mana to cast spells and do other cool tricks. It’s also great used in a similar way to Ruthless Technomancer. Commanders like Chainer, Nightmare Adept and Dargo, Shipwrecker take this card from good to excellent. 


At first I figured this card was pretty good, and I resigned myself to testing it and probably putting it in my more casual or budget equipment decks, as it couldn’t possibly outshine some of the more busted pieces, right? Wrong.

Two-Handed Axe is deliciously powerful, and it’s just innocuous enough to be underestimated. It’s not as in your face as Blackblade Reforged, but it’ll often reach a similar damage output in the right deck. Doubling a creature’s power on attack gets better with extra combats, and so does double strike, and playing this with Aurelia, the Warleader is getting me all sorts of excited. If you’ve tagged someone with Aurelia for three Commander damage, attacking with this once is six, and again is twelve… that’s the magic 21, and that’s without double strike or any other buffs.

Let’s not forget how good double strike is as a combat trick, either. It can punish blocks, and it can punish not blocking. Getting double triggers from combat damage last minute is *chef’s kiss*


Friends have joked I must run four copies of this card because of the times I’ve decided to spend my Mystic Sanctuary or Archaeomancer trigger on getting it back. Submerge is a free spell without the free spell price tag, and it works overtime. There’s rarely a game where you can’t cast this for free, and what makes it so good is that it replaces the opponent’s draw step. Totally Lost effects are good in some draft environments for precisely this reason, but paying five mana for this effect in Commander is bad. Paying zero mana? That’s a great deal.


And finally, a card that I never see anyone else playing: Legion’s Initiative. This is a funky weird card that sees quite low play, and the reason I think it should now see some interest is because it gets around all of the pesky Goad that’s going around these days. Goad is super frustrating, and sometimes you just want to slap the player trying to orchestrate things. Legion’s Initiative lets you do that, because it flickers your team and brings it back at the start of the next combat with haste.

So, on top of being a board wipe savior, and a source of pseudo vigilance (and a cheeky little buff), this thing can get around some frustrating effects like Goad or having your stuff tapped down/frozen. That’s pretty neat.

So there you have it – 10 EDH Cards I think overperform, given the opportunity. They might sometimes be the 101st card, but you should give them a go. You might be surprised.