With new gods, a God-Pharaoh, old demons, and Crucible of Worlds on a stick, Commander is getting a handful of fresh, powerful spells when Hour of Devastation drops on Friday. While it’s easy to chase the new hotness, it’s also never too early to start speculating about sleeper cards. Here’s my shortlist of Commander cards that are flying slightly under the radar.
I’m a huge fan of copy effects. I find that they help to make Commander games more balanced, whether we’re venturing into unknown playgroups or playing at the kitchen table with our friends.
Mirage Mirror is one of the most flexible copy effects we’ve seen, but of course, your mileage may vary. It’s no Clever Impersonator, but it is resilient to most permanent-specific removal, and it represents extra copies of each of the Titans, adding decent combat and damage-based triggers when you need that something extra.
There’s not a lot of room between free value and red creatures, but we’ll take what we can get. Wildfire Eternal embodies the nitty-gritty, grindy value I’m fond of, while also setting up a better sub-game than the seldom-used Oracle of Bones. Getting a free Chaos Warp or Faithless Looting is still good for red players, who can now maintain better board presence and apply more pressure. I expect to see it floating around more in Jori En “Spells Matter” decks where its value can be exploited, but it may also find a home in Melek, Jeleva, Tymaret, and Rakdos, Lord of Riots.
There are plenty of good counterspells in Commander, but Countervailing Winds is another nice one. It’s flexible for multicolor decks, cycles away if it’s not effective, and gets better as the game goes on.
HOUR OF PROMISE
Hour of Promise seems to embody Hour of Devastation as a whole. From every perspective I can examine —storytelling, set design, and gameplay— Hour gives us a mega-dose of the things we love about the game. Just as the characters in the story are tested and pushed to their limits, we as players must wrangle with some challenging interactions.
Hour of Promise is a great example of this. The card is useful as a utility spell or a combo-grabber, and it practically dares Johnny/Jenny players to maximize its value with Deserts. Hour of Promise is an efficient card that also enables some shenanigans – and in my mind, that makes it a very solid Commander playable. I genuinely love it, and will proceed to cast as many copies as I can get my hands on!
This isn’t Pariah, or Pariah’s Shield, but it’s very close, and very cool. Having a Fog-adjacent (or damage-preventative) ability makes Saving Grace really compelling. This is a nifty trick for the Cho-Manno/Oketra deck, as well as Uril, the Miststalker, and Tajic, Blade of the Legion. Essentially, any deck with tough, indestructible creatures to play will make Saving Grace a bigger nuisance than anticipated.
Commander’s always kept Zombies in style. Picking up where Amonkhet left off, Accursed Horde adds another element to any army of the undead. It fortifies combat positions where damage is important and protects the Embalmed and Eternalized.
Driven//Despair is a sweet Magic card, particularly for lovers of Dimir Cutpurse, but also because it provides an embarrassment of card advantage riches in Black-Green. It’s useful in the early game or late game, when you’re ahead and when you’re behind. It’s relevant in wide or narrow combat. We can even control how it’s played, casting Driven to draw cards early, and casting Despair to end the game later. I may just have to add it to my Top Split Cards list.
Quality meat-and-potatoes for decks that like to Proliferate, or those that don’t have much access to card draw and selection.
I like both halves of this card, but I’d love if they were swapped. Copying a spell first and then punishing a big X spell later is more intuitive to a typical game of Magic. That said, I like the challenge of deciding which half of this card is going to be necessary.
Hour of Devastation is full of graveyard hate, but Scavenger Grounds is the crown jewel, and my pick to have the biggest impact on Commander for years to come. The card is to graveyard hate what Reliquary Tower is to hand size, and has the potential to outclass format favorites like Tormod’s Crypt and Relic of Progenitus. Heck, I think it could be even better than Bojuka Bog in Mono-Black! With Desert support via cycle lands, Scavenger Grounds provides one- and two-color decks with extra opportunities to remove threats. I can even see it slotting into 3+ color decks as better utility. Best card in the set for anyone setting their life total to 40.
Chance is a little bit expensive, but this feels like a card Boros wants. Leave is sneaky-good, too. Protecting powerful threats is something players don’t realize is important in Red-White. Often, the cards you need to win are very specific, even if you’re playing a more aggressive deck.
In a sea of new graveyard hate, God-Pharaoh’s Gift will look like a tough card to justify, but I swear it’s one of the better new cards for Commander. One of the oldest format struggles is the reluctance to commit to playing creatures when removal has always been more important. God-Pharaoh’s Gift not only rewards creature-heavy decks, but also has the potential to make Boros Aggro and other White-Weenie variants significantly more relevant. God-Pharaoh’s Gift is going to be a cool trick for utility Commanders, making them combat-relevant, as well as for high-cost Commanders trying to stay in play and avoid command zone tax.
Be still my heart! No set review would be complete without showing off the latest in instant Magic card sentimentality. Hoopoe isn’t going to have many applications outside of Limited, where it’s pretty good, but if I know anything, that won’t stop any fun-loving Magic player I know from playing it anyway. I am totally down with Simic Pretty Birds.
Header design: Chris Rowlands
Header image: “Hour of Promise” by Jonas De Ro