The Dark is one of Magic’s oldest sets. It released on Aug. 8, 1994 and was the game’s fourth expansion. There are two cards from the set that see heavy play in Commander — Elves of Deep Shadow and Fellwar Stone.
These two cards provide a great mana boost very efficiently. While they certainly deserve to be the two most heavily played cards in The Dark, there are some hidden gems in the set that should be played at a higher rate than they currently are. These are all cards you should seriously consider including in your Commander decks.
While we’re on the topic of fast mana in The Dark, let’s start with a look at another card that can give you some serious ramp. Gaea’s Touch is a more expensive, more narrow version of Exploration. It lets you play an extra land every turn, but only if that land is a basic Forest.
However, it also comes with a bit of additional upside — you can sacrifice it for two green mana. That’s right, it gives you a green ritual effect!
That ability is actually a pretty nice alternate mode to have, as if you draw your Exploration in the late game it tends to be a dead card. That’s not true of Gaea’s Touch, though, which can always do a little something. And even if you do find it early, you can always sacrifice it for value once your hand is empty of lands.
Obviously enough, the total package still isn’t enough to be better than Exploration, which costs half the mana and doesn’t restrict what kind of lands you can play. However, Gaea’s touch can give you a powerful second option for the “extra land” effect if you’re playing a Mono-Green Commander. In that type of deck, the Forest restriction isn’t a very big deal.
Ashes to Ashes
For only three mana, Ashes to Ashes allows you to exile two target nonartifact creatures. That’s an incredible rate for a card that always produces a 2-for-1. It does also do 5 damage to you, but that’s a deal I’m OK with every day of the week.
While it’s worth consideration in any black deck because of its efficiency, there are a few Commanders that can turn that downside into a big upside, making this card even more powerful.
For example, Greven, Predator Captain gets a huge stat boost on the turn you cast Ashes to Ashes, Willowdusk, Essence Seer can hand out more +1/+1 counters, and Vilis, Broker of Blood can turn that lost life into cards.
Dancy of Many
Dance of Many was the first time Wizards of the Coast printed a card that can make a token copy of a creature. In the years since 1994, 198 more cards have been printed with that effect, so it is a notable distinction!
In addition to being the earliest card with this type of effect, it’s also still the most efficient way to do it. However, it does come with some downsides.
First, you have to pay two blue mana every upkeep, or Dance of Many gets destroyed. Additionally, your opponent destroying the Enchantment also destroys your token. That second part isn’t the biggest downside, since you’re not really going down any cards when that happens.
Even with the mana tax every upkeep, Dance of Many is worth considering in decks that like to abuse Enter the Battlefield abilities, tokens, or Enchantments.
For example, Dance of Many is tutorable by Zur, the Enchanter. Dance of Many is definitely the kind of Enchantment you want in your toolbox, as there are board states where it’s capable of generating a completely insane creature.
It’s also a good fit with Yarok, the Desecrated, who can double Dance of Many’s ETB. Once you’re getting two tokens, that upkeep tax is much more palatable.
City of Shadows
We’re going to close things out with a couple of nice utility lands. City of Shadows lets you exile a creature you control to put a charge counter on it, and it can tap for one colorless for each storage counter on it.
One important thing to note. While the only printing of the card does use the word “sacrifice,” the oracle text does not, so it isn’t going to trigger anything that gives you a sacrifice payoff. The City is also a land that can’t produce mana the turn you play it.
Still, even once we take those problems into consideration, City of Shadows is a powerful card in the right deck. This is because it gives you a free, hard-to-interact-with way to give up creatures.
Personally, I’ve used the City in a Yasova Dragonclaw Deck. She lets you temporarily steal opposing creatures, so having an outlet to get rid of those creatures for good is a powerful thing, especially when you’re upgrading the City every time you do it.
Safe Haven is another quirky utility land in The Dark. This one can never produce mana. As strange as that seems today, it was actually something they did all the time in the early days of Magic. It’s certainly a downside, but Safe Haven has a very useful ability.
It can exile creatures you control, and during your upkeep you can sacrifice it to return all the creatures it has exiled to the battlefield. Like City of Shadows, you can potentially use this to permanently get rid of creatures that you steal, but this has more utility than that.
If nothing else, it gives you a land that can help save your creatures from sweepers. You can use the Haven ahead of your own sweeper, or in response to an opponent’s. Then you’ll be more than ready to rebuild your board once the dust settles.
You can also use it to exile your creatures that you cheat into play temporarily with cards like Zirilian of the Claw and Sneak Attack. If you exile those creatures with the Haven, and on a later turn you can put them into play permanently.
While there’s also Endless Sands, which doesn’t come with the downside of being unable to produce mana, Safe Haven has one big advantage over it: this land sacrifices for free.
Those are my picks for five super underrated Commander cards in The Dark. I hope I introduced you to a few obscure cards that will upgrade your deck! Do you think I left out any unheralded cards from The Dark? Let me know on X.
Jacob has been playing Magic for the better part of 24 years, and he especially loves playing Magic’s Limited formats. He also holds a PhD in history from the University of Oklahoma. In 2015, he started his YouTube channel, “Nizzahon Magic,” where he combines his interests with many videos covering Magic’s competitive history. When he’s not playing Magic or making Magic content, he can be found teaching college-level history courses or caring for a menagerie of pets with his wife.