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Underplayed and Unappreciated

Six Cards That You Should Be Playing in Commander

By Marlon Egolf

I often have people ask me what deck I’m currently playing in standard or extended, or both. It makes sense that someone who plays a lot of Magic Online, as I certainly do, would be grinding away with various decks in head to heads or daily events or online ptq’s. The truth is that I haven’t played a single match of extended or standard since late last August, when I played in an irl ptq with Naya Shaman. That was the last standard deck that I enjoyed playing, and nothing I’ve seen since then has piqued my curiosity. And don’t even get me started on extended. I loved the old extended format when the sets went back seven years, but now extended is just a mash-up of the past few years of standard, with Valukut/Scapeshift thrown in for good measure. I’m sure that I’ll eventually play another sanctioned constructed match, but for now I couldn’t care less.

That’s all well and good, but the problem here is that I’m still heavily addicted to Magic, and I need something to occupy my time so that I can further put off looking for a job. There’s drafts obviously, but triple Scars is wearing very thin, and often I don’t have the time to sit in one spot for an entire draft. So what does a modo addict in my situation do? I decided to focus my efforts on the format that provides the most fun and deck building options, without having to adjust for a particular metagame or matchup. Of course, I’m speaking of Commander.

I’ve read my share of Commander articles and seen a good amount of decklists, but there are some cards that people are constantly passing over, and I can’t figure out why. Maybe people aren’t aware of them, or maybe it’s just assumed that they’re not good enough to make the cut. Well, I’m here to fill you in on some of these gems, and to use my Jewish powers of guilt to shame you into putting these all-stars into your commander decks where they belong.

*Disclaimer: I play a lot of green decks, so most of these cards are green.*

Panglacial Wurm

You’re deep into a hard-fought game, out of cards in hand and out of threats, and you haven’t drawn anything useful in a while. You draw your next card, look at it scornfully, drop the freshly drawn fetchland into play and pass. You opponent is low on life, but he’s got a couple guys in play, and you clearly have nothing. So obviously he swings in. You crack your fetchland, seemly getting a head start on thinning your deck. Your opponent gets a look of confusion as you tap seven lands as you’re searching. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a big ass 9/5 materializes into play – the ultimate trap card. He eats one of your opponents attacking men, and then during your turn swings in for the win.

Stupid little story aside, NO ONE ever sees this guy coming. Ever. Even if you’re not ambushing an attacker with a fetchland, you can still turn that late game Sakura Tribe Elder into a 9/5 trampler (plus the land, of course). Yeah, he kind of sucks to draw naturally, but still, it’s not like he’s a 4/4 if you play him from your hand. He’s still a 9 power trampler for seven mana. You know how many other trampling dudes are that big for that cheap? Two: Doomgape and tournament staple Jukolmorder. The fact that you can play this giant guy from your library just for using one of the million search effects already in your deck is what puts him over the top. Give him a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Tornado Elemental

This is the card that I’m most confused about. I have yet to see this guy’s name in any decklist, and yet I couldn’t imagine ever cutting him from any of my green decks. Do you people not know how good this guy is??? Do you not like killing fliers, is that it? Tornado Elemental is basically Whirlwind with a giant body attached. Seriously, he kills pretty much everything:

Meloku, the Clouded Mirror and all his tokens? Check

Sharuum, the Hegemon? Check

Consecrated Sphinx? Check

Scion of the Ur Dragon? Check

Zur the Enchanter? Check

Akroma Angel of Wrath? Check

Akroma Angel of Fury? Check

Admonition Angel? Check

Baneslayer Angel? Check

Exalted Angel? Check

Angel of Mercy? Check

Angel’s Herald enchanted with Flight??? Check!

CRISS ANGEL????????????????

Ok, so maybe not everything. But you get the picture.

I can’t tell you how many times Tornado Elemental has singlehandedly saved the day for me. I’d have to estimate that I fetch him with Tooth and Nail anywhere from 30-50% of the time I cast it. And if his Windstorm ability wasn’t enough, he was also given the best and rarest form of evasion this side of shadow. You can block him all you want, but Tornado Elemental is dealing you six. Just accept it and move on, although you’ll have to do so without any of your pathetic little fliers.

Ancient Tomb

So let me get this straight; Temple of the False God is a Commander staple, but a land that does the exact same thing with out the “five land” restriction sees almost zero play? Huh?

I’m the only person I’ve ever seen play this land, and I honestly hope it’s because I just haven’t been paying attention. A land that taps for two mana and comes into play untapped is HUGE. And don’t try to act like the damage it deals is a problem; you have forty life in this format, take advantage. Commander is often about who can do the most ridiculous things the fastest. I consider Ancient Tomb to be the best card in any of the decks that I play it in, which is all of them.

Tomb can lead to some ridiculous openings. Drop it on turn two and slam a three drop a full turn before your opponents expect it. Turn two Cultivate off two lands? Seems good. There’s also the dream start of Tomb, Sol Ring, Coalition Relic. I hear turn two Memnarch is decent.

Attunement/Land Tax

These two cards make a pretty sick combo, but even without the savage combo potential, they’re both still good on there own. Land Tax is the better of the two, and a turn one Tax tends to make your opponents alter their play so the your don’t get the additional three lands every turn. This  strategy is often futile, since the decks that play Tax usually rely on artifact acceleration instead of land search, so eventually someone will Cultivate and your Land Tax will be active. One mistake I see players making with the Tax is to get three lands no matter what, even if that means they’ll be discarding at the end of the turn. Commander decks have a good amount of non-basics, so there’s a limit to how many basic lands you can pull out of your deck before you run out. Land Tax is “up to” three basic lands, so if you have a full hand you should only be getting one or two from your deck each upkeep.

Attunement is much less popular of a card than Land Tax, but it can perform a vital roll in any graveyard based deck. In a deck like Sharuum the Hegemon, Attunement often puts several good reanimation targets into the bin, and takes no mana to activate. Commanders such as Sedris the Traitor King and Hanna, Ships Navigator also make good use of the graveyard. Not to mention, sometimes you just have a bunch of crap in your hand that you don’t card if you get rid of in order to see some new cards. Obviously, Attunement works in that situation as well.

So while I think these two cards are both solid individually, it’s the combination of the two that allows for completely broken things to happen. An Attunement in play can turn an active Land Tax from a Lancestral Recall to a literal Ancestral Recall every single turn it’s active. Another good thing about the combo is that it’s generally not something that other players will consider “unfun”, so there’ll be less bitching and moaning than with other sick two card combination’s.

Realms Uncharted

I think this card is a victim of its original hype when it was first released, so I’m not really surprised that most people don’t even give it any consideration. Many people initially thought it was going to be the second coming of Gifts Ungiven, which it clearly is not. What is is though, is an instant speed source of green card advantage that can smooth over land-lite draws while tutoring for some of the best lands in the format.

There are so many different land in Commander that the piles you can create should be helpful at any stage of the game. If it’s early, a pile containing Temple of the False God, Ancient Tomb (which you’re obviously playing after reading this article), and then two broken lands (Maze of Ith, Gaea’s Cradle, Wasteland, etc) should put you in a position to have some good mana acceleration early or some busted lands later. If you’re far into the game, grabbing some man lands and hideaway lands will usually provide a decent boost. One of my favorite tricks late in the game is to add a random fetchland to the pile, which of course I’ll get. That gives me a perfect way to flash out my Panglacial Wurm on an unsuspecting attacking biatch. Realms is never going to be a bomb, but it provides enough solid utility that I’m always happy to include it in my green decks.

I’m sure there are a ton of other cards out there that I haven’t discovered, but that’s the great thing about the Commander format. There are so many deck building options that it’s hard to nail down the perfect set of cards. Hopefully the few I’ve touched on will prove as ideal for you as they’ve been for me.

Thanks for reading,

Marlon Egolf

5 Responses to “ Underplayed and Unappreciated| Six Cards That You Should Be Playing in Commander ”

  1. Wcl
    February 22, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    I agree realms uncharted is an underplayed card that is still really strong in green based decks. Not to mention the fact that you are most likely playing either life from the loam or crucible of worlds, making the drawback near nonexistent if you draw them.

    Another thing to add, though far more mainstream, any deck running land tax should, should, should run scroll rack. It’s decent without the tax and huge card advantage when land tax is active.

  2. Bertissim0
    February 22, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    The biggest problem with your underplayed cards is that they’re green and not blue. :=)

    Thada Adel should be on your list.

  3. daggius
    February 22, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    no one plays commander brah


  4. Matt
    February 23, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Commander is fun. I have Tornado Elemental in my green decks already, that Wurm looks fun too.

  5. merl2pearl
    February 23, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    @ Bertissimo

    So you’re saying that I should put a heavily played general in an article about underplayed cards? sweet logic