It’s the end of another year, and I’d like to take this moment to cover a few cards that I believe are underplayed Commander gems. Seeing as the latest Innistrad sets are a little too new to call out what’s underplayed, I’ll kick things off with Commander Legends.
In a format that’s more and more about huge tempo swings, I think many people are still shy on Apex Devastator. It’s four free spells from your library stapled to a 10/10 beater for ten mana. While ten might seem like a lot, it really isn’t – especially with cards like Jeska’s Will, Smothering Tithe and Dockside Extortionist running around. Is it “fair” to run this out on turn five off of Jeska’s Will? Probably not. Will it win you the game? Potentially. The mythic aspect is what’s keeping it out of decks, but it’s not too expensive to pick up.
A bit of a controversial one as we kick things off, but I do think Opposition Agent is underplayed. While I do think the card would be a lot more reasonable if it was an “until end of turn” ETB effect, it’s an important safety valve for tutors, and the fact it also hits land ramp is something I actually think people whine too much about. If lands are taboo for blowing up, then I don’t see what’s wrong with nerfing Cultivate. As ever, this one is pod dependent; durdly social tables are not the place for Opposition Agent, so save it for the more tuned pods.
Feast is a card I’ve never not seen do a lot of work. A Languish that gives the monarch is maybe slightly overcosted at six – and could have happily been five – but I think it’s absolutely fine at six mana, anyway. There’s a lot of tempo loss in playing symmetrical board wipes nowadays, and getting some card advantage from doing so goes some way to ameliorate this.
Burning-Rune Demon is a card I’ve never seen anyone talk about, let alone cast, and I can’t say I’ve read a decklist that includes it, either. There is the chance that I’m making a terrible evaluation here, but I like to think I’m usually on the money. This six-mana tutor is really quite good, and in decks that care about the graveyard, where the tutored cards end up matters very little. The political side of this card is massively underrated; you can choose an opponent who is also invested in removing a problem permanent, and show them removal for it and a creature you’d like to reanimate.
Cosima, God of the Voyage is in only 14% of Lands decks? And there are only 300 or so dedicated Cosima decks? That’s pretty wild to me, as she’s probably my favorite monocolor commander of the year. It’s partially because there are better things to be doing in mono-blue (if you want to focus on fast consistent wins, that is), but I do think Cosima can offer a lot, particularly if built around. On average, dropping her on turn three nets you a good five to seven cards when you finally bring her back, and in a Temur or Simic Lands build? That could easily be double.
Reidane, God of the Worthy is probably my favorite white card this year. Yup, she beats out Esper Sentinel, Fateful Absence, Adeline, Resplendent Cathar and Teleportation Circle. Reidane does it all. She slows down the nonsense in the format that can start to pick up around turns three to four, and she stops early board wipes before you can draw into interaction. Valkmira on the reverse is also surprisingly relevant – I’ve used it to stem the bleeding late game many times, and on just as many occasions, negated damage from tokens decks completely. Blocking infinite 1/1 tokens with this is certainly a rush.
Rounding things out for Kaldheim, Spectral Deluge is incredibly versatile and easy to cast. Being able to bounce your opponents’ boards for only three mana is excellent, especially given it can be used in different ways – either to push through damage or as a preventative fog.
Fervent Mastery is an interesting one, and I’ve yet to play with it myself, but it has me scratching my head about whether I should be building around it more to take advantage of its unparalleled ability to see the cards you want. Every time I’ve played against it, it’s helped that player win the game, and I think the secret to playing it is to make it so that the discards are never bad for you.
In practice, this means waiting a little until you have lands in play and a game plan, and it means building your deck with recursion in mind. I’ve seen this most in Izzet Storm builds, but Rakdos and Boros decks are very clearly missing out on building around this card. It’s so enticing to me that I’m going to try my next Aurelia build with this card included. Reconstruct History is just one enabler available to help it work.
Most discourse around Fracture is that it’s a harder-to-cast Disenchant, but honestly, cards aren’t particularly hard to cast these days. We have countless dual-color land cycles, Treasure, and card draw, and so I don’t think that argument is worth much. Disenchant with upside – sniping planeswalkers – is a slam dunk. Play this card.
Aside from the heady thrill of having ten mana to cast this before Living Death, Author of Shadows has many other applications, none of which can be considered sub-par. Graveyards are in constant need of pruning in EDH, and having a reason to play a GY removal card as good as “you get the best card out of the total opposing yards” is reason enough. Grabbing a Heroic Intervention with this in Rakdos feels great.
Damn, this is a spicy card. Lifelink is good in Commander, and it’s been good for a while. Voltron decks aside, so many commanders these days get incidentally large: Umbris, Cosima, Wulfgar, and Old Stickfingers are just a handful. If you have nothing better to do, gaining life is worth the mana.
MODERN HORIZONS 2
Now before you roll your eyes, hear me out. I know Ragavan is underplayed because he costs a bomb, but I really do think people are sleeping on him in Commander. Sure, he can slot into a Pirate deck or even lead a mono-red build, but I actually love him for Equipment decks. He’s a low drop to wear your Sword of the Animist or Goldvein Pick, and when he connects, he nets you even more value. That’s not to mention how, late game, you can dash him in for two mana, equip all of your Equipment, and swing out of nowhere. He can wear Blackblade Reforged for the cheaper cost, and that’s something worth considering.
Speaking of low drops, Obsidian Charmaw never costs five mana, and most of the time, it only costs two. Two mana for a Wasteland plus a 4/4 flyer? It’s a no brainer, but I’ve yet to see this card played enough outside of Dragon tribal, and even then, it’s pulling lower numbers than it should. There’s always a good land to destroy – you’re telling me Maze of Ith doesn’t have you pulling your hair out?
When all’s Said and Done, Modern Horizons 2 had some stellar Commander cards. Said // Done is one such card, and one I would like to see a lot more of. In a set dominated by powerful rares and mythics, I feel this one has flown under the radar a little. What makes this card so great is that it promotes healthy play patterns. Looping Archaeomancers can be oppressive, especially when the “correct” play is often to recast a card like Cyclonic Rift. I much prefer recursion in more casual games to be one-shot, and Said // Done does that. It also provides a useful second mode that can be a fog or a way to get damage through. I like it a lot.
ADVENTURES IN THE FORGOTTEN REALMS
Adventures in the Forgotten Realms powered down Standard, and so it has fewer underplayed cards than most sets this year, given the clear divide between playable and not playable. Despite that, I think people are sleeping on You Happen On a Glade and You Find the Villains’ Lair.
Both provide instant speed card draw for three mana with very relevant second modes: returning a permanent to hand or countering a spell. While the card draw isn’t straight up Divination, getting to draw two lands or cast Faithless Looting at instant speed is well worth the card slot.
Vengeful Ancestor from the Gruul Commander deck is a card I’m very high on right now, and I think more people should be playing it. Goading is very powerful given how explosive and fast combat decks can – and have – to be, these days, and getting to send a strapped up creature somewhere else can really preserve your life total. It’s also an excellent blocker if you need it.
As we draw to a close, I’d like to discuss another card with a healthy play pattern: Bucknard’s Everfull Purse. This card is a little chaotic and a little unpredictable, but not in a way that ever gets out of hand. It adds some much-needed spice to games, given it messes with the ebb and flow. In earlier turns, it slows things down as players put mana into the purse. As it hits the mid game, we see more haymakers and splashy turns, but not in a disgusting kind of way like other Treasure generators. It’s a lot of fun and I’ve had a lot of laughs in games where this card shows up.
So, there’s my underplayed EDH cards of 2021. I’m sure there are cards you might suggest too, so let me know on Twitter. Have a wonderful holiday season, and I’ll catch you in the new year.
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.