The Commander Toolbox

The Commander Toolbox: 30 Cards to Own for Building Any Deck

Kristen GregoryCommander

Kristen is here with 30 cards any Commander player should have in their collection. With this toolbox of universal cards to own, you’ll be able to add consistency and power to whatever EDH deck you choose to build!

For every cry that the format is becoming “homogenous”, there are just as many asking about what singles it’s best to pick up. While I personally find it fun to run pet cards and lesser played gems, it’s safe to say that there are a good number of strong Magic cards I wouldn’t want to leave home without. 

Today I’ll cover 30 powerful staples that can fit in any deck. They’re a mix of colorless, artifact and land cards, and if you’re looking to start building a Commander Collection – or just spend wisely on a few cards you’ll play a lot – then this is the article for you.

30 Cards To Own for Building Any Deck

We need to start off with the biggest staples there are: Sol Ring and Arcane Signet. Chances are if you’ve been playing Magic for more than a month you’ll have sourced these, but even if you haven’t, you’ll be pleased to know that they’ve been appearing regularly in newer preconstructed Commander decks. As divisive a card as Sol Ring is – it can swing fast starts, and requires the table to be able to handle them – it’s a card that you’re most of the time going to want to run in your deck. Arcane Signet is also fantastic, especially for Commanders of three, four, or even five colors. 

If you’re just starting out on your Commander journey, why not take a look at what precons we have available at Card Kingdom? There’s sure to be something to tickle your fancy.

Next up are two cards that can help make your life easier. Every deck wants mana rocks, and so Thought Vessel is high up on there on rocks I like to include. It makes your life easier on two fronts; firstly, it lets you keep the extra cards you draw, but it also removes decision making at the end of a turn, which can help you navigate longer games before burnout hits.

Alongside Thought Vessel, I’d say it’s good to pick up a copy of Reliquary Tower. When you want one, you generally want the other. Bursty draw and repeatable draw is big in Commander these days, and going over seven cards in hand is easy. The only decks you might not want to run these two are reanimator decks, but otherwise? Easy includes. 

Rounding out the mana rocks, I’d like to suggest two that I think will always make the shortlist: Chromatic Lantern, and Thran Dynamo. While your two and three mana rocks will largely be deck dependent – signets, talismans, maybe Liquimetal Torque if you have a lot of shatter effects – these two rocks will always have reasons to be included. 

Chromatic Lantern is one of the best options when you have a budget oriented manabase, but even with a perfect manabase, I love having the option to make life more comfy. In decks with a lot of colored pips (looking at you, Orzhov) having this rock in play is a blessing.

Thran Dynamo, on the other hand, is a really safe rock to play. For the four mana you invest in it, you’re immediately getting three of it back, making it quite easy to sequence; you’ll hardly notice you took the turn to spend four mana on a mana rock. With access to five mana, you can play this and another four drop, and go into the next turn with potentially ten plus mana. 

Utility Lands

Next up, utility lands to put into the manabase. I was gushing over Scavenger Grounds three years ago when I started writing content, and I won’t stop now. It’s free to include, it stops shenanigans, it comes in untapped, and it taps for mana. There’s no better option for keeping on top of graveyards, other than Soul-Guide Lantern, which is the card I’ll always take second to Scavenger Grounds.

Just as every deck needs graveyard hate, you’ll also need a way to get rid of annoying utility lands across the table. Ghost Quarter is my pick here, as it’ll be able to target any land, even basics, and even your own. In a pinch, it’ll fix your colors – and be able to ruin someone else’s. While getting rid of basics is rarely optimal, some decks are greedy, and this can help prune named basics – like Snow-covered Swamp or Swamp – in Field of the Dead decks. 

Next up is Inventors’ Fair. In many, many decks, this thing is a land that can tutor one of your best cards. Having a tutor on a land is practically unheard of, and the requirement to activate this is quite reasonable. You’ll need treasures, clues, food, equipment, mana rocks, or artifact creatures to be part of your strategy. After you’ve gotten a good density, this land can be a tutor for Sword of Feast and Famine, Mycosynth Lattice, or even Blightsteel Colossus

While Inventors’ Fair is a little more specialized than some of the other cards we’ve covered, the next two are back to being generalized all stars. War Room excels in one or two color decks, offering a source of card draw in the manabase to prevent stalling out. While other options like Geier Reach Sanitarium and Bonders’ Enclave are good too, War Room is probably the most universal and easy to activate.

Fabled Passage is a strictly better Evolving Wilds/Terramorphic Expanse, and I would encourage people to consider running some amount of fetch lands, even slower/cheaper ones, as they can be recurred fairly easily, help to fix mana, and can trigger certain abilities for sacrificing permanents or permanents leaving play. 

Equipped to Succeed

The cornerstone of any nutritious equipment deck, Sword of the Animist and Mask of Memory are staples I find it incredibly hard to not run, especially in non-green decks, and especially in decks that let me play cheap evasive bodies. Sword of the Animist was far less of a known quantity five years ago, but the fact its price won’t stay down nowadays belies the fact it’s just a solid, solid card.

Mask of Memory remains one of the better options for card draw for decks not in green or Simic, and I love putting it on small evasive beaters. It sets up reanimator plays nicely, and lets you pitch unneeded lands to dig for better cards. 

Moving on, we have one of the best Swords which I ranked recently. Sword of Hearth and Home gives protection from white, which includes Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares; it gives pro green, which is Beast Within, but also the ability to attack past big stompy green creatures. It also grants ramping and enters-the-battlefield value, and the ability to take back stolen creatures. It’s a stellar, stellar card, and one of the few swords of the cycle I’m happy playing in non-equipment focused decks. 

It’s funny. A year or so ago I’d have dismissed the idea that Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves were auto–includes, as they don’t protect from board wipes. Fast forward to today, and games are decided more often on the single-target removal played, and timely use of cards like Heroic Intervention. These two pairs of shoes have gotten a lot better again, and most decks will run at least one of them. 

The rest of the equipment you need in your collection all happen to cost just a single mana. First up, Skullclamp. Skullclamp is incredible, and not least because the change to the Commander dying rules a couple years back now means it’s worth attaching it to your Commander, as you’ll get to draw even if it ends up back in the command zone. This thing really excels when you can make tokens, and given that it’s so easy to make bundles of Soldiers, Spirits, Plants, Thopters and the like, you’ll easily find a way to cash these tokens in for sweet, sweet value. It’s a truly busted Magic card. 

Shadowspear is one of the best pieces of equipment printed in the past two years, and that’s saying something, given we’ve had Sword of Hearth and Home. For such a low mana investment, lifelink and trample is incredible, and can help swing games with ease. It’ll come into play off of an Urza’s Saga, too, which is sweet. Don’t forget that activated ability, either; it can really mess with people. 

Rounding things out, I want you to pick up a copy of Commander’s Plate. Chances are most of your decks won’t be five color good stuff, and if that’s the case, this card can give you the breathing space you need to win games. It can excel in many more decks than purely Voltron, acting as a strong protection piece. 

Ugin Genie – He’s Outrageous!

While Ugin may not scream and bawl, he is outrageous value – in either configuration. 

The original Ugin costs a hefty eight mana, but it’s one of the best eight mana spells in the game. It’s a board wipe you can sequence into or make one sided by playing bigger stuff, it leaves your mana rocks around, it can Lightning Bolt, and it can eventually do a silly-good ultimate ability. Provided you can cast an eight mana spell, this thing is easy to slot into many different builds.

Six-mana Ugin – or New-gin, as I like to call him – is similarly powerful. Providing card advantage and a Vindicate of sorts, it’s a flexible catch-all answer for most issues you’ll face in a game. On top of that? The cost reduction can let you have an explosive turn, dropping all of your equipment or mana rocks into play. I love this card. 

Speaking of free value, Wandering Archaic continues to perform for me. Whether you’re copying a ramp spell, a draw spell, a removal spell, or just taxing spells by two mana, this thing pays dividends. The best bit is that it lets you double-up your opponent’s counterspells, effectively giving you some protection from counters too. 

Finally, I’d like to cover two cards that unlock multiple strategies and win conditions: Altar of Dementia, and Ashnod’s Altar. These cards are always good in EDH, and always will be, because they give a free sacrifice outlet. Sac outlets that don’t cost mana can be taken advantage of to perform loops and combos, and so picking up one or both of these is an excellent way to kickstart your collection.

Altar of Dementia gives you self-mill to fill your graveyard, and mill as a win condition. Ashnod’s Altar, meanwhile, gives you mana. Both can protect from exile removal on your creatures, too, which is nice to have. 

Pushing the Boat Out

Not all of the cards I’ll recommend today are on the low end budget wise. These final six are ones that are firmly in the treat-yo-self category. They’ll make fantastic additions to your collection, power up decks a lot, and are great to consider for high-power or even cEDH deckbuilding.

The first card on the list is the hands-down best Sword of X&Y, Sword of Feast and Famine. It untaps your lands to let you have explosive turns, or to combo. It gives you incredible value, and it’s the most expensive Sword for a reason. You really can’t go wrong with this one. It features highly in extra combat decks, which I had the rundown on last week

Next up are two lands that it’s hard not to justify in any deck wanting to go fast. Ancient Tomb might cost 2 life to use, but life matters less the faster you’re going – or if you play some life gain. It could really do with a reprint to be sure, but for now you’re paying top dollar for one of the best lands in the format. 

Urza’s Saga gets better the more 0 and 1 mana cost mana rocks and utility artifacts you run. It’ll grab Mox Opal, Mana Crypt, Sol Ring, and Shadowspear, to name a few. It can make a creature, and it’s an enchantment for what it’s worth. It’s universally powerful. 

Phyrexian Altar is the other altar responsible for most of the shenanigans in the format. Unlike Ashnod’s Altar, it produces colored mana, which means it can do even more broken things, depending on who you ask. Commander Spellbook has 613 combos listed, and here I am enjoying using it with Sneak Attack and Living Death in Chainer!

Rounding out the most expensive options for your EDH Toolbox are the two fastest mana rocks in the format. If you’re playing cEDH, or high-power decks with expensive Commanders? You’re going to want to look into these two rocks. Mana Crypt, though stupid powerful, is the very epitome of a casual card – you can use it to cast big dumb spells as much as you can to race to an early win. Jeweled Lotus is equally polarizing, but ultimately, I believe, a fair card. It helps power out expensive Commanders, but does only this – without jumping through hoops involving Doubling Cube, it can’t cast any other spell. 

And there you have it – 30 Magic cards that every Commander player would benefit from owning. They can be played in any deck, no matter the colors, and they’re sure to stand the test of time as solid investments for your collection. What cards do you swear by? Let me know on Twitter.