It’s easy to focus on the power and speed creep of Commander. While there are many great new gems, some old Commander cards age like a fine wine. Kristen has some picks worth revisiting.
Most Magic articles look forward — to new sets, new cards and new decks. Yet, Commander is an eternal format, and as such, it has a huge card pool going right back to Magic’s humble beginnings in the 1990s. While it pays to seek out new upgrades and strategies, having one foot firmly entrenched in the past will serve you well. Some cards have aged like moldy bread, but many others wax and wane in playability.
Today I’m going to highlight the ones I think might be back in vogue.
I can’t do that without giving an example of what I mean, so let’s kick things off with one that everyone knows: Viridian Revel.
If you didn’t know, Viridian Revel is an enchantment from way back in Scars of Mirrodin. It just so happens that in today’s treasure token heavy metagame, it’ll trigger pretty darn often. Chances are you’re aware of this, but if you aren’t? You should consider it. Card’s good.
Anyway, on with the rest of the picks.
Treasure for Treasure
Trash for Treasure, the one shot spell that mirrors Daretti’s -2 ability, isn’t played too often. I think we need to reframe Daretti a little in 2023, though — because it’s less Trash for Treasure and more Treasure for Treasure.
Between Treasure, Clues, Blood, and Scrap (?!), there have never been more ways to leverage Daretti. I’ve enjoyed using him in Dihada to bring back Parhelion II, and if that’s all you use the -2 for, then that’s still plenty good.
Countless graveyard decks love this card, and I’m confident more decks should run him for the card draw. Coming down and immediately going up to five loyalty is the sweet spot in EDH, and for the most part, he’s not a planeswalker people lose their minds over, which always helps.
It’s a handy answer to treasures that you can almost certainly leverage if you’re playing an artifacts deck in Green that uses lands and mana dorks to ramp instead of cheap rocks and treasure. It can also slot in an enchantress deck as a hate piece that is, at the very worst, four mana to draw a card in most circumstances.
Song is a little better than that, though, given it also hoses equipment. If you have a lot of Voltron and a lot of treasure in your metagame, then it can do a surprising amount of work for you.
If you don’t want to play a weird, old hoser card, then you have other options. As Scott points out, it’s good to have a plan for players making oodles of treasure. I see a lot of Thalia, Heretic Cathar and a lot of Authority of the Consuls, but comparatively little Blind Obedience.
It’s a pretty feels-bad kinda card for those playing mana rocks, but honestly? It slows down treasure decks a lot. Manglehorn is another option that should see way more play given just how popular treasure is these days. It even comes in and blows up a thing!
A Certain Draw
Drawing cards is the best part of Magic, and though Alms Collector will never quite work as well as you’d think (because people tend to draw single cards a lot of times), there are other ways to take advantage of the Enchantress or Aristocrat deck at the table. Friend of my discord, Mateus, suggested Psychic Possession, and I have to agree with them.
Psychic Possession sees very little play, in my experience, and it’s such a great way to draw cards. Provided you’re already running some decent enchantments — or other players at the table are — there’s every chance this sticks around.
It’ll stick longer than a Rhystic Study, anyways… And if an opponent has one? Sticking this on them will ensure that everyone pays the (1).
I love messing around with Oblivion Sower, especially in my Cosima landfall deck. In that deck, one of my mini-games is to cast a Tasha’s Hideous Laughter (or three) and then slam this thing to get a whole bunch of lands into play (hopefully). While the “magical Christmas-land” line is the ceiling of this card, I don’t actually think you need to be playing it with extra synergies to work.
Plenty of cards nowadays exile opponent’s cards, like Etali and Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor. You’re also keeping on top of exiling graveyards, people are dredging away lands to cast spells and many of your opponents will be using red’s impulse draw effects.
Hell, sitting down across from a Prosper deck? They’re going to enable this really easily. Six mana for a 5/8 that can ramp you by a number of lands in any color is an underrated effect.
Get in the Bin
People take some really big turns in Commander these days. They can go from having nothing in play to a board wide enough to dispatch multiple players.
Mass reanimation, mass token making; it’s all pretty scary if you’re durdling along and have missed a land drop. Making use of the extra cards languishing in your hand by exiling one to cast Force of Despair for free is a good way to leverage that resource disparity, and it’s an answer to huge board states out of nowhere that people don’t use nearly often enough.
I’ve seen more Rout, recently, and it’s used to great effect whenever it crops up. Alongside the classic Settle the Wreckage and the sadly over-expensive Angel of the Dire Hour, white has access to more of these effects — but they can be situational.
Other colors can meddle with things, too, and Force of Despair is a card I want to try out again. At its floor, it’s a situationally free spell that can nug a Commander or other haymaker, which is always worth a look.
OK, Baba Lysaga doesn’t specifically, but she does have a suite of very important creatures that have multiple types on them that she would rather get back to recast. My point is, Tortured Existence was already a good card before my friend Rich pointed this synergy out.
There’s now a bunch more creatures that can leverage the zone change, which is exciting and should make you want to play this card. It’s also a great way to get around graveyard removal.
Ah, Ground Seal. This little piece of tech is surprisingly playable, even through your own recursion. Let me walk you through it.
In my Miirym list, space is tight, but I wanted to have some way to trip up graveyard decks while I got set up. When I looked at the recursion effects I was packing, it dawned on me that Ground Seal was a perfect fit.
Seasons Past? Doesn’t target. Kairi, the Swirling Sky? Doesn’t target. Road of Return? Still castable for the other mode. Have a think about how your deck interacts with the yard and see if Ground Seal is right for you.
No, I don’t think you will
Commander damage can be scary. So can combos that involve Commanders. So can value engines that involve Commanders. Gideon’s Intervention answers all of those things, and it does so at four mana, making it exceedingly fair.*
I’ve used this in my Sigarda enchantress deck to stop Aurelia combos, to stop Zacama wrecking everyone’s collective faces and plenty of times to just name Blasphemous Act — a card I see at least 1.5 times per game.
What makes this card so great is that, unlike Nevermore, it can name on-board effects that are already threatening you.
*People will still moan when you play this card. You just have to learn how to subsist off of the negative energy.
Speaking of telling people “No”, Hushbringer is trying to read in the library. Stop trying to EtB!
Given how popular the new Elesh Norn is likely to be, you have to ask yourself whether it’s worth giving this meddlesome Faerie another look. There are plenty of strategies that can subsist off of static effects entirely, from aggro-based decks to voltron decks to control decks and the rest.
This thing wears equipment very well, for example. And while it does turn off your Stoneforge Mystic, it’s unlikely to stay in play the whole game, so don’t worry.
I wrote recently about the state of the format, and I think the speed creep with treasure is here to stay. Running more hatebears is one way to interact with that speed.
I’d Tap That
I’ve been running Thundermaw Hellkite in my Sylvia and Khorvath dragon-strike deck for a while now, and though it hasn’t come up yet, I’m waiting for the day I can slam this bad boy, knock the opposing Thopters and/or Spirits out of the sky and swoop in for the win. While that’s currently still a pipe dream, I don’t fault my logic at all.
Commander has gotten faster, and people like to sit behind walls of blockers while assembling their wins. Rachel Weeks has found success breaking up these stalemates with Angel’s Trumpet — and she has the right idea, too. There’s not the time anymore to repeatedly raze the board to the ground before you have your attackers removed, so what should you do?
Well, one option is to make board wipes asymmetrical — making your stuff indestructible, playing Teferi’s Protection or trying wipes like Ruinous Ultimatum. The other option is to embrace the ability to tap the opponent’s blockers. Tapping creatures is often something people never see coming because the format has grown around exile removal being the preferred option.
Bond of Discipline is another great blowout. But while it can be powerful, it’s a one time effect. Subjugator Angel is arguably better because it’s flickerable, and Ensnare can be a real blowout considering it can be played for free. Even Urabrask, Heretic Praetor is deceptively pivotal to the way games play out.
Likewise, untap effects can be devastating, too. Surprise blockers can really blow out an opponent, especially if life totals are low across the board and you’ve laid a trap for them to walk right into — especially when you can do it for the low cost of one mana. I’m about to give Adeline another build, and I think I want to play this one.
I hope you found today’s article useful. Looking back at older cards for niche gems is always fun, but you might want to cast your net a little wider and reconsider cards that have seemingly “dropped off” for their new synergies. Let me know your picks on Twitter.
Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up. As a member of the Commander Advisory Group, Kristen lives and breathes Commander. When she’s not playing Magic, she works as a freelance writer and editor in the UK.