Sorcery spells have long had a bad rap in Commander because they can’t be used as an instant response. That said, count how often you use an instant at sorcery speed (it’s more often than you think). So in an effort to prove this card type’s value, Kristen has a selection of sorceries sure to satiate your salacity.
Before we start, let’s get one thing out of the way first. I don’t need to tell you to play Blasphemous Act, Three Visits, Toxic Deluge or Demonic Tutor. Jeska’s Will or Living Death; Reanimate or Austere Command. They’re all amazing spells that pull their weight, time and time again.
Many players still find it hard to justify playing sorceries, though, especially those not in that “S-tier.” I’d argue a lot of that is linked to threat-memory, particularly for players who have been playing the format for more than five years. While you can’t use sorceries reactively — which gives them some tactical shortcomings — I’d argue the Commander format’s recent shifts allow sorceries to reclaim some space.
The average player holds up mana to protect their own board, and they’re less likely to fire off their scant removal spells to interrupt you casting a sorcery that doesn’t directly mess with them. Plus, new sorceries do a lot. Before we check out some new classics, let’s revisit some sorcery spells that have aged like fine wine.
COMMANDER SORCERY SPELLS THAT AGED PERFECTLY
Declaration in Stone
Dec-in-Stone is a fantastic spell that doesn’t see nearly enough play. I dug one out earlier this year for my thematic Nahiri, Forged in Fury deck, and was pleasantly surprised at the utility it offered.
If you’re already fine playing Winds of Abandon as a sorcery-speed Path to Exile, then consider that Dec-in-Stone makes the opponent spend their mana to get the resource in exchange. What makes this a cut above Get Lost or Fateful Absence is the ability to wipe out a token army.
Tokens are everywhere these days, and if your deck is lacking ways to deal with them, you can find yourself overrun in no time at all. A two mana, one sided wrath is exceptionally efficient considering it doubles as a removal spell, too.
Ravnica at War
One of the reasons I get mad at people for not running enough wraths is the fact that there are now so many wraths to choose from that you can always find an asymmetrical one to suit your deck. When you can play cheap ones (Blasphemous Act, Toxic Deluge) and asymmetrical ones (Ruinous Ultimatum, Crux of Fate), there’s really no excuse.
Ravnica at War is worth a slot in your mono-white deck, and maybe in some two color white decks that have minimal multicolor permanents. I fired this off in Adeline last week and removed two Commanders plus two Theros gods for four mana.
That’s a steal. Plus, it gets through hexproof/shroud/indestructible. Try it out in mono white and you won’t go back.
Replicate does double-duty. First, it means an opponent who steals the spell from you is limited by how much red mana they have (where Vandalblast and By Force wouldn’t hamper them so much). Second, Replicate means you are only really hampered by a phasing spell or a Whirlwind Denial, meaning you should be able to get rid of some key stuff at least.
I’m beginning to really enjoy screwing everyone over in the developing stages of the game. Punishing greedy hands or over-extending is a natural part of Magic, and it’s time to bring it back to Commander.
While justifying an Anger of the Gods is a lot harder, there are some more modal approaches. Into the Fire is nice, for instance, as it lets you do a sorcery speed Valakut Awakening instead of a Pyroclasm.
You should really try out Deafening Clarion, though. It’s a nice three damage to get rid of setup creatures, but it also gives you a big swing later in the game, clawing back some life to take another turn. Plus points for fitting into Naya Dinos, by the way (great enrage triggers).
Destroying lands remains important in Commander, especially if you’re wanting to get in with combat damage on big creatures — or you’re scared of opponents racing past you.
Sure, it’s isn’t instant speed like Generous Gift, but I’m still super high on it. I’ve been screwed by good lands one too many times.
Cut to Ribbons
Four damage to a creature at sorcery speed for two mana is not the best rate, especially when you’re in black and can do a lot more with your removal. That said, there have never been more early game creatures that I want to Cut up.
Having Ribbons in the back pocket is clutch, too. It can allow you to terminate one or more players at the table and go on to swing for lethal at another. It’s often forgotten about, and the prevalence of card draw and self-mill means you won’t have many issues getting this into the yard if you need to.
Sometimes modality is worth a step down.
Speaking of steps, it’s time to Step Up! Step Up! One and all, for I am about to show you a magic trick. I will exchange this… sandwich, for a Darksteel Forge! Madam’s pocket treasure for… The Immortal Sun! Or how about sir’s investigation paperwork for the real culprit: Blightsteel Colossus.
Yeah, with the sheer frequency decks generate food, clues and treasures, playing Role Reversal just to swap artifacts alone is worth it. It can exchange other permanent types too, of course, but the floor is how we judge a card — even one that’s ostensibly a “fun” card.
Big stuff gets cheated into play alarmingly quickly these days, too, so the gap between having stuff you’re happy to give up and the “good stuff” hitting the field is narrower than ever.
If you’re playing casually, you should play fun cards like this. They make for great stories.
Harvest Season is a real layover from the times where Commander was slower and played at instant-speed as often as possible; the times where you could tap out and play Vedalken Orrery without feeling like you wasted a turn.
Honestly though? Card’s cracked. It’s so ridiculously strong.
If you’re either playing (or making) mana dorks, or constantly swinging with tokens, why aren’t you playing this?
Why are you playing Cultivate? We might be about to enter a winter of discontent, but this content indicates the fruits of some good, hard labor.
Speaking of ramping a whole bunch, getting to fire off a Traverse the Outlands used to be super risky. Single target removal as a tempo play was a lot more prevalent if you wind the clock back a few years. But increasingly, you’re going to play games where either you have multiple chonky creatures as this resolves, or your opponents will tap out.
Obviously this gets better with certain Commanders: Sigarda, Uril, or heaven forbid… Ghalta. If your average power is in the five plus range, and/or you run anthems or +1/+1 counters, then you really should be playing Traverse the Outlands.
Go big, or go home.
Enlightened Tutor is instant speed and puts something on top your library for a mana less. Steelshaper’s Gift gets an equipment for a mana less. But Open the Armory gives you a hell of a lot flexibility for that two mana at sorcery speed.
What I love about Open the Armory is it lets you run a suite of powerful Auras in a deck that otherwise wouldn’t consider them. A cheeky Darksteel Mutation or Imprisoned in the Moon go a long way to solving big problems on the board. Getting a ramp piece like Utopia Sprawl or Fertile Ground is great when you’re struggling for mana.
Some of the best ways to augment a creature in the game are Auras, and even in a deck that splashes a few Auras and Equipments, getting a tutor that can find Bear Umbra or Mantle of the Ancients can be a huge tempo swing.
While you might be in black and have access to Demonic Tutor… you also might not. Open the Armory is excellent and has aged really well.
The general heuristic of taking an instant over a sorcery will always be advisable, and you are prone to “blow outs” when casting any splashy sorcery. That said, the juice is absolutely worth the squeeze on many of the more flexible or powerful sorceries in the format.
Consider what you can gain from playing sorceries that aren’t necessarily your first pick staples. You might find some sweet synergies you never knew you could pull off.
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.